TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S NEW YEAR, NEW ENGAGEMENT WITH RUSSIA
BuzzFeed News reports, “The Trump administration is beginning the New Year with a flurry of high-level engagements with the Russian government,” citing U.S. officials. This includes “the first meeting between Moscow’s top general and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander since the US severed several channels with Russia during the Ukraine crisis in 2013.” BuzzFeed News notes, “The spate of Pentagon and State Department meetings come as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election draws closer to President Trump’s inner circle.” Citing U.S. and European officials, BuzzFeed News reports, “Later this month, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe or SACEUR, is set to meet with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces, in Baku, Azerbaijan.” Last February on the eve of the Munich Security Conference, Gerasimov met with the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford in Baku also. BuzzFeed News adds, “Other meetings planned for January and February include talks on the Ukraine crisis between Vladislav Surkov, one of Vladimir Putin’s top aides, and Kurt Volker, the special envoy for the Ukraine crisis; discussions over longstanding irritants in US-Russia relations between Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department, and Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister; and conversations related to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).”
From BuzzFeed News.
INITIAL TALKS OVER TRUMP INTERVIEW IN MUELLER INVESTIGATION
NBC News reports, “Anticipating that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will ask to interview President Donald Trump, the president’s legal team is discussing a range of potential options for the format, including written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down”. Quite the cop-out if that happens. NBC News notes, “The discussions were described by one person with direct knowledge as preliminary and ongoing.”
From NBC News.
MUELLER INVESTIGATING IVANKA
The Los Angeles Times reports, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is “exploring the involvement of the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who did not attend the half-hour sit-down on June 9, 2016, but briefly spoke with two of the participants, a Russian lawyer and a Russian-born Washington lobbyist. Details of the encounter were not previously known.” The Los Angeles Times adds, “It occurred at the Trump Tower elevator as the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and the lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, were leaving the building and consisted of pleasantries, a person familiar with the episode said. But Mueller’s investigators want to know every contact the two visitors had with Trump’s family members and inner circle.” The implication is clearly that there may have been some deeper acquaintanceship with Ivanka.
From The Los Angeles Times.
STEVE BANNON BOWS TO THREAT OF POLITICAL IRRELEVANCE
Soviet show trial-like former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon gave a lengthy statement to Axios where he walked back everything he said about the Trumps and apologized. Among other noteworthy about faces, Bannon wrote, “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.” Barf. He kowtowed to the Great Lunatic as well, “President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president’s efforts to make America great again.” Bannon now claims, “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.” Then the full ring kiss: “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.” If only Trump had bestowed upon himself several honorifics that could be added in closing after such puckered-up-to-Trump’s-posterior words. What a street fighter, that Bannon!
TRUMP CAMP DIGITAL DIRECTOR: JARED + QUSAY APPROVAL REQUIRED
Business Insider reports, “The digital director of the Trump campaign said Friday that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and son Eric Trump ‘were joint deputy campaign managers’ whose ‘approval’ was required for every decision before the 2016 election.” Brad Parscale’s tweet read in full, “Truth: Jared Kushner and @EricTrump were joint deputy campaign managers to @realDonaldTrump. Nobody else. Not one person made a decision without their approval. Others just took credit for this family’s amazing ability. I’m done with all these lies. They will be embarrassed!” That all bodes well for all of our chief protagonists! Did Moscow hire this man directly as a chaos agent? If you turn to some aspect of your old KGB playbook, surely it is in there!
From Business Insider.
GOP SENATORS REFER CHRISTOPHER STEELE FOR CRIMINAL CHARGES
The New York Times reports, “More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two influential Republicans on Friday made the first known congressional criminal referral in connection with the meddling — against one of the people who sought to expose it.” Who doesn’t want to be complicit among the Russia Party Republicans in obstruction of justice? The New York Times adds, “Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior committee member, told the Justice Department that they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in a dossier, and they urged the department to investigate.” The New York Times notes, “President Trump and his allies have demanded that the Justice Department reopen its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Clinton Foundation. F.B.I. agents have begun interviewing people connected to the foundation about whether any donations were made in exchange for political favors while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state.” If you are following along in the Soviet playbook, next is to jail the opposition, or at least send them fleeing into exile. The New York Times reports, “The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the referral. But Fusion GPS characterized the recommendation to charge Mr. Steele as a smear and an attempt to further muddy the inquiry into Russia’s interference.”
From The New York Times.
FUSION GPS HANDS OVER BANKING RECORDS
CNN reports, “The financial records that Fusion GPS fought for months to keep out of the hands of Congress have been turned over, according to a new court filing.” Maybe next they can investigate Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele’s underwear drawers because it is similarly irrelevant and all the American people seem capable of understanding are peepees and weewees. CNN notes, “TD Bank ‘has produced all remaining responsive documents’ to the House Intelligence Committee under the terms of a confidential settlement, a lawyer for the House wrote Friday afternoon.” Ok we understand money too as that is the only thing that gets to talk these days, especially if it’s dark, Russian or dirty money.
CIA DIRECTOR POMPEO SAYS RUSSIA TRYING TO UNDERMINE ELECTIONS
Reuters reports, “The head of the Central Intelligence Agency said on Sunday that Russia and others are trying to undermine elections in the United States, the next major one being in November when Republicans will try to keep control of Congress.” Reuters adds, “CIA Director Mike Pompeo told CBS that the Russian interference is longstanding, and continues. Asked on ‘Face the Nation’ if Moscow is currently trying to undermine U.S. elections, Pompeo responded: ‘Yes sir, have been for decades.’”
NSA DIRECTOR ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
Business Insider reports, “National Security Agency director Adm. Mike Rogers announced he is retiring this spring”. Obama had wanted him to stay on, if possible, as he was overseeing aspects of the Russia investigation over the objections of then CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who urged his removal to account for leaks and disclosures that occurred on his watch at the NSA. Obama ignored the recommendation.
From Business Insider.
T REX SAYS RUSSIA JUST NEVER COMES UP WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
CNN reports, “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the ongoing investigation into alleged cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia has had no impact on his work with overseas counterparts.” Remember, it is not a lie if you believe it to be the case? T Rex told CNN, “It has had no impact,” adding, “I’ll say that it’s had none.” Alrighty, got that? As CNN notes, “Tillerson elaborated: ‘It never comes up in our conversations or in my bilats or my dialogues with world leaders elsewhere,’” because diplomacy is always based on saying everything one is thinking or one’s state is since when, T Rex? Most bizarrely, “The domestic issues around the Russia involvement in our elections are not part of our dialogue elsewhere,” T Rex said. On what planet besides a highly delusional Trumpistani elite one could that possibly be true? Russia hacked our election and the political systems of many of our allies as well. T Rex called it “a domestic issue,” for which our state and country seem to be doing precious little to prevent from happening again. T Rex also called it “a difficult year with Russia,” the understatement of the century. According to CNN, “When he does talk to the Russians, Tillerson said he raises the issue of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election campaign, stressing that it brings them no benefits.”
NATO INTERCEPTS OF RUSSIAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT UP IN 2017
The Baltic Times reports, “NATO fighter-jets guarding the Baltic skies last year conducted more intercepts of Russian military aircraft flying close to the borders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia than they did in 2016, but fewer than in 2015.” Citing figures from Lithuania’s Ministry of Defense, The Baltic Times notes, “NATO’s jets last year intercepted around 130 Russian aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea. The Alliance’s aircraft were scrambled about 110 times in 2016, down from some 160 times in 2015 and 140 times in 2014.” Additionally, ABC News reports, “U.S. Air Forces Europe has released previously unseen video of two intercepts of Russian fighters that occurred last fall over the Baltic.”
MANAFORT + FIRTASH ALLY AKHMETOV HAS CYPRUS ASSETS FROZEN
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “A court in Cyprus has issued an order to freeze $820 million in assets held by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, as part of a legal battle with a rival over the ownership of fixed-line telecoms group Ukrtelecom. The court’s decision against Akhmetov and nine others was handed down on December 27, the London-based newspaper reported on January 5, adding the Ukrainian oligarch can appeal the decision until January 8.” Recall, Akhmetov is an ally of Dmytro Firtash, a one-time business partner of the indicted former campaign manager for Trump, Paul Manafort.
RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT REJECTS NAVALNY’S APPEAL
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “The Russian Supreme Court has upheld its decision to reject an appeal by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny against a decision to bar him from running in Russia’s 2018 presidential election.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “A lawyer for Navalny said the politician will appeal to the presidium of the Supreme Court and could take the case on to the Constitutional Court if need be. Previously, Navalny’s lawyers have said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.”
—–INDICTMENT ROCK CITY—–
I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
The Syndey Morning Herald reports, “It was a chance romantic encounter by George Papadopoulos that set in train the events that led to the Australian government tipping off Washington about what it knew of Russian hacking efforts to swing the US presidential election.” That’s almost sexy until you recall it is George Papadopoulos at the center of this tale. Now the plot thickens without even a monologue into the camera! The Sydney Morning Herald writes, “a woman in London with whom Papadopoulos became involved happened to know Alexander Downer and told the Australian High Commissioner about Papadopoulos, a newly signed staffer for Donald Trump. Downer, being a canny diplomat, followed it up and arranged a meeting with the young American, who was mostly living in London at the time,” The Sydney Morning Herald adds. Of course, “What followed was the now infamous May 2016 conversation over many glasses of wine at the swanky Kensington Wine Rooms, during which the 28-year-old Papadopoulos spilled to Downer that he knew of a Russian dirt file on the rival Clinton campaign consisting of thousands of hacked emails.” The Sydney Morning Herald notes, “Downer, insiders agree, was doing his job, though it’s understood he didn’t send an official cable to Canberra reporting the conversation until July after Wikileaks published the hacked emails. Canberra then shared the conversation with Washington. It was well aware it was in the fraught position of telling authorities under a Democratic administration that a staffer from the Republican nominee’s campaign had foreknowledge of the Russian hacking. But most experts have said the government did the right thing and is unlikely to have damaged the relationship with the now-Trump administration.” Don’t be sure of that, the regime is petty, venial and pathetic.
STAY WITH ME
Business Insider spoke with Simona Mangiante, the fiancé of, in her words, “the first domino to fall in Russiagate,” George Papadopoulos. They were connected originally through LinkedIn with Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who was a mutual acquaintance with connections to Russia. Mangiante told Business Insider of her interview with the FBI, “The interview lasted about two hours, and they asked a lot of questions about Joseph Mifsud”. Business Insider recalls, “the London-based professor who told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of ‘thousands of emails.’” Business Insider adds, “Mangiante said she first met Mifsud when she started her job at the European Parliament in 2009. He described himself as someone who worked ‘to connect people from different governments,’ she said. When her contract was up in September 2016 with the European Parliament in Brussels, Mangiante wanted to move to London. Scouring LinkedIn, she noticed that Mifsud’s organization was looking to hire people with experience working for the EU.” As Mangiante tells it, “I knew something was wrong from the first day I arrived there,” adding, “It all felt very artificial. I had worked in real diplomatic environments and this didn’t feel that way at all. I never even had clarity about who [Mifsud] actually was.” Mangiante told Business Insider, “Not even George really knew anything about him”. Business Insider notes, “Mifsud has been filmed speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club, a think tank based in the Russian city of Veliky Novgorod that is close to President Vladimir Putin and hosts him every year for a keynote address. Mifsud also wrote three pro-Russia articles that are featured on Valdai’s website. Beyond that, not much is known.” One question: why isn’t she leaving Papadopoulos?
From Business Insider.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI IN CONGRESSIONAL INTERVIEW THIS WEEK
Bloomberg reports, “Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, will be interviewed next week by lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election,” on the House intelligence committee. The day this week is “still being set,” however.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
FAKE POTUS IN THE OFFICE BY 11AM THESE DAYS
Axios reports, “President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more ‘Executive Time,’ which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.” That means much of his morning is dedicated to triggering liberals and mind-blowing covfefe on Twitter, which may include threats of nuclear war that can be likened to penis size comparisons. You know, “Executive Time”. The Axios reporter notes, “The schedules shown to me are different than the sanitized ones released to the media and public.” Of course the White House insists he is as hard working as Uzbek woman with plow during cotton harvest, which you can choose to ignore if you have any brain cells left at this point in our sojourn into the abyss of antidemocratic, illiberal Trumpistan.
HOW TO FIX THE FAKEBOOK + UNHACKING YOUR BRAIN
Washington Monthly runs a piece by an early Facebook advisor and friend of “Mark and Sheryl,” as well as mentor to Mark, Roger McNamee. In it he observes the way to unhack our brains from social network comes from colleague Tristan Harris and “is based on experience with cults”. “When you want to deprogram a cult member, it is really important that the call to action come from another member of the cult, ideally the leader,” The Washington Monthly notes, therefore, “the chief executive officers of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others—not just their lawyers—must testify before congressional committees in open session.” McNamee believes that “would go a long way to puncturing their carefully preserved cults of personality in the eyes of their employees.” Precisely why they always send their lawyers rather than appear themselves in open, public session. As for regulatory fixes, “it’s essential to ban digital bots that impersonate humans,” and “the platforms should not be allowed to make any acquisitions until they have addressed the damage caused to date, taken steps to prevent harm in the future, and demonstrated that such acquisitions will not result in diminished competition,” McNamee adds. Additionally, on the premise of greater transparency, “the platforms must be transparent about who is behind political and issues-based communication,” “the platforms must be more transparent about their algorithms,” and “the platforms should be required to have a more equitable contractual relationship with users.” As for consumer protections, “we need a limit on the commercial exploitation of consumer data by internet platforms”. McNamee believes, “There should be a statute of limitations on the use of consumer data by a platform and its customers,” which seems impossible to enforce in reality. The author would also like to see a revival of “the country’s traditional approach to monopoly.”
From Washington Monthly.
THE CHIEF STRATEGIST VANISHES
The Washington Post writes, “Friends, I regret to say, I still remember Steve Bannon. This is, I am sure, a glitch. I do not think I made him up. I could swear that, for a while, he was President Trump’s chief strategist. Trump has issued a statement to say that he was ‘a staffer’ who worked for him ‘after I had already won the nomination, which is, I guess, a way of describing your chief strategist, a person you put on the National Security Council, whose picture even appeared on the cover of Time magazine.” Stalin used to have his rivals erased from photographs after they were summarily executed or disappeared from public life. The Washington Post cheekily observes of Bannon, “I could swear he was a significant figure. He was always talking to the media, and other people talked about him, too. Recall, “On Wednesday news broke that he had given a quote to Michael Wolff calling the meeting in Trump Tower with ostensibly dirt-bearing Russians ‘treasonous’ and insisting that soon, on television, Donald Trump Jr. would be cracked open like an egg.” As a result, “now he is vanishing.” The Washington Post notes, “Trump boasted that he would surround himself with the best people, and he made Steve Bannon his chief strategist?” In Trumpistan, “Disappearances like Bannon’s happen regularly. One morning, you are the president’s chief confidant and blood brother. The next, it turns out that you were just a low-level staffer. Then it turns out that you didn’t even go there. You wake up one morning and your fingers are gone. Then your torso starts to fade away. Soon your screaming voice is only audible to AM radio listeners and the occasional Fox News viewer in that frozen moment after the channel has changed.” The Washington Post wryly concludes, “Probably someone is just fiddling with the timeline, trying to fix it. Maybe what I remember is a past that no longer exists. Maybe this is why people disappear from the White House memory at a rate previously reserved for Soviet official portraits”.
From The Washington Post.
“60 MINUTES” TAKES ON RUSSIA’S CHIEF PROPAGANDIST
CBS News interviewed Margarita Simonyan, the director of Russian state-run RT, who was given the job at the age of 25 for some as of yet still unexplained reason. It led to some surreal exchanges reminiscent of press conferences with Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. For instance, Simonyan complains, “Should we close American media in Russia because they’re all anti-Putin and they wage campaigns against him every single day? Should we close them? You tell me,” but “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl reminds her, “No one’s closing you. No one’s closing you.” Then hilariously Simonyan counters, “What they’re doing is destroying our reputation. Should we do the same thing here in Russia to all the American media? They’re all anti-Putin. Should we do that? Probably should, shouldn’t we?” Reality check: Russian state-run RT has no actual journalistic or news gathering reputation, it’s a profligate series of lies and conspiracies most of the time and truth be told, no one is shutting them down, rather they have been requested to register as a foreign agent – a big, big difference! Also what is Glenn Greenwald, Sean Hannity, Stephen Cohen and their other proxies, trolls and concocted fake freelance journalists like Alice Donovan? Simonyan told Stahl, “There’s nothing illegal that we did. There’s nothing murky. There’s no weird activity that we’re involved in. Nothing,” which seems implausible given leaked documents and the accounts of former correspondents for the channel who went to federal authorities over what they had experienced while employed by Russian state-run RT.
From CBS News.
TROLLING ROBERT MUELLER
Wired reports, “pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts tracked by the group Alliance for Securing Democracy has spent the last year spreading chaos and discord about topics as diverse as NFL players refusing to stand during the national anthem and Al Franken’s alleged sexual misconduct.” Wired adds, “in the month of December, by far the most popular articles shared by the trolls aimed to undermine Mueller and the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russian interference. In fact, 16 percent of the articles shared by those accounts between December 9 and December 31 were related in some way to the so-called deep state, the bulk of which aimed to discredit Mueller. That’s a lot of tweets, considering the site analyzes some 20,000 tweets a day.”
—–TOWARDS A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXCHANGE—–
THE CDC WISHES TO INFORM YOU + YOUR FAMILY OF HOW TO PREPARE
CBS News reports, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has scheduled a briefing for later this month to outline how the public can prepare for nuclear war.” How thoughtful! On the CDC’s website, a notice about the briefing states, “While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps. Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness”. Is it not enough the envy the living already have for the dead since the very stable genius was sworn in on the Patriotic Day of Great Devotion? CBS News adds, “The notice went on to say that most people don’t know that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is ‘crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation.’” Oh? The more you know. Isn’t that something? Are they out of their fucking minds?
From CBS News.
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