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4 implications of the latest Astana Agreement on Idlib, Syria

What looks like a ‘sell out’ is actually a far more nuanced move on the part of the effectively Russian led Astana Group.

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The Astana Group has concluded a meeting whose primary result was the establishment of a new so-called ‘de-escalation zone’ to cover Idlib Governorate. While the agreement was made jointly with Russia, Iran and Turkey, in respect of Idlib, Turkey is going to take the lead as Turkish forces and proxies already have a substantial presence in Idlib, following on from Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield.

Many are commenting that this development is somehow a ‘surrender’ to Turkey and its jihadist proxies. This has clearly concerned many who seek a full restoration of Syrian sovereignty. As the full restoration of Syrian sovereignty over the entirety of its territory is the only just and legal resolution to the conflict, it is important not to see the developments at Astana as something which will forever threaten such a thing from occurring in the future.

In the broader sense, however, the new Idlib de-escalation zone is about something more strategic and wide reaching.

The fact that Syria, the so-called ‘opposition’, Russia, Iran and Turkey all agreed to the new de-escalation zone, means there is far more than meets the eye in respect of the latest agreement. As with all previous zones established by the Astana Group, the United States and its western/Gulf Arab allies were not involved.

Here are the major implications regarding this controversial de-escalation zone: 

1. Legitimising an anti-Kurdish Turkish presence in Syria 

While Turkey maintains occupational troops and proxies in Syria (against the letter of international law), Turkey’s withdrawal of support for so called opposition forces in Syria, is a fact that is not going to change. Even the Arab states of the Persian Gulf who have spent substantial sums of money on trying to overthrow the Syrian government, now admit that President Bashar al-Assad isn’t going anywhere. Furthermore, Israel’s clear panic over the fact that the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party will remain in power in Damascus, is a de-facto admission on the part of Tel Aviv, that Israel also didn’t get its wish in Syria.

The war against terrorists in Syria is one which Syria is on the cusp of winning outright and no one is so foolish as to not understand this. While America’s neo-con Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley once again uttered the infamous ‘Assad must go’ mantra, history shows that if anything, this will do more damage to Nikki Haley’s ambitions than to those of Syria’s President.

If anyone assumes that Erdogan is more foolish than Nikki Haley, they are making a wildly incorrect assumption.

Meanwhile, more moderate voices in Washington including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and to a degree Donald Trump, have all but conceded that Assad has won. During the election campaign, Trump indicated his desire to see Assad beat the terrorists and at an emotional level, it does not seem Trump has changed sides.

The next big question-mark for Syria therefore, is not ‘Assad’ versus the jihadists working for regimes whose mantra had been ‘Assad must go’, rather the issue is Syria versus the Kurdish proxies of the United States.

READ MORE: Syria, Turkey and the Kurds–A Devil’s Triangle that only Russia can navigate

Of all the major powers which are part of the Syrian conflict, legal or otherwise, Turkey is without a doubt the most anti-Kurd. Turkey sees the presence of a would-be semi or fully-independent Kurdish entity anywhere along its borders as a grave threat to its national security. To this end, Turkey has stated that it will not allow an independent Kurdish entity to form on its borders in a clear warning to the United States.

This has the potential to put Turkey completely at odds with the United States, should the US come out and unambiguously call for a Kurdish state in Syria, something which looks increasingly likely as this would be the only way that the US could maintain a presence in Syria without facing tremendous opposition on many fronts.

As many nationalist Kurds seek to create a Kurdish entity on Syrian territory which hugs the Turkish border from Iraq to the sea, Idlib is geographically well placed to launch attacks upon or otherwise stop any would-be Kurdish march west.

With Turkey now having a legitimised presence in Idlib, Turkey can do the lion’s share of the fighting against the Kurds without a great deal of ambiguity over its position. This would allow Syria to concentrate on working with her international partners like Russia, China and Iran on rebuilding the infrastructure of the majority of Syria, while allowing Russia to remain formally agnostic on the Kurdish nationalist issue.

2. Policing the un-policeable 

While most eyes have been on Deir ez-Zor and to a degree Raqqa, Idlib has turned into an actual civil war, not between the dwindling number of armed Syrian extremist Sunnis and the government, but a civil war among terrorist groups.

For months, various factions of al-Qaeda, the FSA and Muslim Brotherhood as well as sub-factions of each group have been fighting and killing one another in manners which are incredibly violent. Just yesterday, a so-called judge from an al-Qaeda faction was brutally murdered by members of a rival Salafist terror group.

In this sense, unless one was going to wage total war form the air on Idlib, something which could produce the deeply negative effect of killing civilians, Syria and Russia seems partly content for the terrorist factions of Idlib to continue killing each other before cleaning up the proverbial mess.

It is not clear if Turkey wants to get its hands dirty in this mess. It would appear that Turkey wants to save its soldiers and jihadist loyalists for a fight with the Kurds. This after all is a fight which actually matters most to Turkey. In this sense, Turkey’s proxies in Idlib, are best thought of as mercenaries who will fight whatever battle Turkey asks them to fight, so long as various agreements regarding funds and supplies are maintained. As many are ethnic Turkmen, there will be no love lost between Themistocles and Kurds.

In this sense, while perhaps Turkey along with her Astana partners may attempt to go after some of the warring factions of jihadists, in the short term, it is likely that Turkey will merely try to contain the jihadist civil war in Idlib, making sure that it doesn’t spill over into other areas of interests to Turkey and her Astana partners.

3. Strengthening Russo-Turkish cooperation at the expense of America’s relationship with Turkey 

As the United States continues to grow further from Turkey, Russia seeks to continue to display symbolic victories of the Ankara-Moscow partnership, whose success has defied not only expectations but also history.

Coming shortly after the completion of the S-400 defensive missile system sale from Russia to Turkey, the Idlib de-escalation zone is in this sense, a geo-political signpost of Russo-Turkish partnership, one whose long term geo-political implications are more far reaching than they are in respect of the situation on the ground in Syria.

4. The first step in Syria-Turkey reconsecration

In many ways, the most long term development to come out of the latest Astana talks, is that Turkey and Syria have quietly taken their first small step towards reconciliation.

With Syria signing off on the agreement, it means that Syria has quietly legitimised a Turkish presence in Syria, one which is clearly not aimed at regime change, but one which will certainly become one that fends off Kurdish nationalist advances, something that is in the interests of both Turkey and Syria.

While both Presidents Assad and Erdogan are insistent that they do not seek dialogue with one another, this agreement paves the way for such a thing in the future. Ultimately, the two will have to speak again. However, this process will be slow and gradual. It will almost certainly only be possible with the intervention of countries which can speak with both Assad and Erodgan. Such countries are of course Russia and Iran. In this sense, the latest Astana talks have quietly accomplished this goal.

CONCLUSION: 

In the short term, the Idlib de-escalation zone will not change the overall realities on the ground in Syria. At the moment, several jihadist terrorist groups are too busy killing one another in Idlib to meaningfully impact the salutation in the wider Syrian conflict.

In the medium term, Turkey now has something of a legitimate mandate to attack Kurdish forces in Syria without having to invoke the Caroline Test or having to specifically coordinate such military moves against the Kurds with Damascus.

In the long term, Turkey and Russia have yet again solidified the fact that their partnership can produce more visible results than what remains of Turkey’s alliance with its fellow NATO members.

Finally, the fact that Syria has agreed to the creation of the de-escalation zone in Idlib, means that the gradual process of reconciling Erdogan’s Turkey with Assad’s Syria, has quietly taken its first small step.

As both Assad and Erdogan will almost certainly be in charge of their countries for the foreseeable future, it will be essential for some sort of reconciliation to eventually occur. While the world is arguing over the short term effects of the latest deal to come out of Astana, they have ignored the most important long term development, which is actually a good thing, as it avoids the kind of publicity that could make any gradual Turkish-Syrian reconciliation regress.

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Terry Ross
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Terry Ross

Seems that pragmatism is winning in Syria. This is something that the US has not learned as it has traditionally resorted to brute military force and economic arm twisting.

RoseCShade
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RoseCShade

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KindraKCurrie

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niveb
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niveb

It is impossible for any state desiring to be sovereign to ally itself with the USA. The US ruling class expects its ‘allies’ to submit to it when required. The rulers of many countries-Jordan for example, Poland and the UK- are quite happy with such an arrangement that guarantees them powerful assistance in maintaining power domestically should those that they exploit revolt. The US sees its relationships with Latin America as the model for the rest of the world. It forgets that the basis of its dictation in Latin America was always racist-the rulers that it propped up and defended… Read more »

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Beautifully insightful, Mr. Garrie. Some hilarious bloopers snuck their way in, however. My favorites: 1. Themistocles and Kurds and 2. Syria-Turkey reconsecration. And some caveats. One that goes back to previous articles, Is the US really supporting the SDF/Kurds or will they drop them?, is, to my mind, by no means clear. Nikki Haley’s, as I see it, incantation, “not with Assad”, is basically code for “I support official Israeli policy, which wants a Syraq Kurdistan. This week there was a lot of on-the-ground confusion about the SDF. The blockade of Deir Ezzor was lifted by the SAA, and *then*… Read more »

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

“If they are not determined to stay, they will have to leave and say, “look, we did our best…, and it just wasn’t good enough. Assad won, so the Russians won, and without going for all-out war, we were not able to stop them.”” The US will NEVER say in ANY way that they were beaten, “lost, were not good enough”. It is not even in their vocabulary. How in the world could the “indispensable” nation with the “world’s greatest military” lose to the small SAA and its allies? They wont stand for the humiliation! Plus, because they are fighting… Read more »

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Fair enough as an assessment, Gonzugal. There are aspects of this that I don’t think are appropriate to discuss publicly, such as what you suggest with what the US would have to tell Israel concerning Syria. I don’t understand why the US would have to say anything: the facts on the ground speak for themselves. And, while there are many,many crazies in Israel, there are not as many stupid people. You do seem to agree, however, that neither US nor Israeli invincibility is a law of nature. Speaking of nature, I am reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Maelstrom” story: two… Read more »

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

Interesting illustration of your point. Thank you.

“They can “accomodate” to the new natural phenomenon, but they cannot escape the maelstrom, no matter how much they scream and threaten.” And like the “second brother”, they survive….only to come back and fight again, or by trying to set up a client state (Kurds) to do their bidding and continue the war for them.

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Chuckle… — I guess I need a different image again. “Come back and fight again”: sure, that is theoretically possible if the “boxing ring” remains the same. The way I see it — of course, it might still take some time, but not too long, to see the shape of the new universe, even though it is already far more than just an “idea” –they — US, Israhell et al. — will not even exist as they are in the new universe. Just imagine and trace back the long succession of empires: first, we know that they always collapse, but… Read more »

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

“they — US, Israhell et al. — will not even exist as they are in the new universe”

I will change an expression in my response: “From your keyboard to gods ears” 🙂

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

Al-Qaeda in Idlib denounced the establishment of the de-escalation zone and vowed to continue fighting against the country’s army. Make their day, by turning them to dust.

samo war
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samo war

world peace is mafia ?

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Curious Bedfellows: The Neocon And Progressive Alliance To Destroy Donald Trump

The neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via OffGuardian.com:


The Roman poet Ovid’s masterful epic The Metamorphoses includes the memorable opening line regarding the poem’s central theme of transformation. He wrote In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, which has been translated as “Of shapes transformed to bodies strange, I purpose to entreat…”

Ovid framed his narrative around gods, heroes and quasi-historical events but if he were around today, he would no doubt be fascinated by the many transformations of the group that has defined itself as neoconservative.The movement began in a cafeteria in City College of New York in the 1930s, where a group of radical Jewish students would meet to discuss politics and developments in Europe. Many of the founders were from the far left, communists of the Trotskyite persuasion, which meant that they believed in permanent global revolution led by a vanguard party. The transformation into conservatives of a neo-persuasion took place when they were reportedly “mugged by reality” into accepting that the standard leftist formulae were not working to transform the world rapidly enough. As liberal hawks, they then hitched their wagon to the power of the United States to bring about transformation by force if necessary and began to infiltrate institutions like the Pentagon to give themselves the tools to achieve their objectives, which included promotion of regime change wars, full spectrum global dominance and unconditional support for Israel.

The neocons initially found a home with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, but they moved on in the 1970s and 1980s to prosper under Ronald Reagan as well as under Democrat Bill Clinton. Their ability to shape policy peaked under George W. Bush, when they virtually ran the Pentagon and were heavily represented in both the national security apparatus and in the White House. They became adept at selling their mantra of “strong national defense” to whomever was buying, including to President Obama, even while simultaneously complaining about his administration’s “weakness.”

The neoconservatives lined up behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, appalled by Donald Trump’s condemnation of their centerpiece war in Iraq and even more so by his pledge to end the wars in Asia and nation-building projects while also improving relations with the Russians. They worked actively against the Republican candidate both before he was nominated and elected and did everything they could to stop him, including libeling him as a Russian agent.

When Trump was elected, it, therefore, seemed that the reign of the neocons had ended, but chameleonlike, they have changed shape and are now ensconced both in some conservative as well as in an increasing number of progressive circles in Washington and in the media. Against all odds, they have even captured key posts in the White House itself with the naming of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Bolton’s Chief of Staff is Fred Fleitz, a leading neocon and Islamophobe while last week Trump added Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to the National Security Council as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Goldberg is an alumnus of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is the leading neocon think tank calling incessantly for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint. Glenn Greenwald reports that, based on polling of party supporters, the Democrats have gone full-Hillary and are now by far more hawkish than the Republicans, unwilling to leave either Syria or Afghanistan.

The neocon survival and rejuvenation is particularly astonishing in that they have been wrong about virtually everything, most notably the catastrophic Iraq War. They have never been held accountable for anything, though one should note that accountability is not a prominent American trait, at least since Vietnam. What is important is that neocon views have been perceived by the media and punditry as being part of the Establishment consensus, which provides them with access to programming all across the political spectrum. That is why neocon standard-bearers like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been able to move effortlessly from Fox News to MSNBC where they are fêted by the likes of Rachel Maddow. They applauded the Iraq War when the Establishment was firmly behind it and are now trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency because America’s elite is behind that effort.

Indeed, the largely successful swing by the neocons from right to left has in some ways become more surreal, as an increasing number of progressive spokesmen and institutions have lined up behind their perpetual warfare banner. The ease with which the transformation took place reveals, interestingly, that the neocons have no real political constituency apart from voters who feel threatened and respond by supporting perpetual war, but they do share many common interests with the so-called liberal interventionists. Neocons see a global crisis for the United States defined in terms of power while the liberals see the struggle as a moral imperative, but the end result is the same: intervention by the United States. This fusion is clearly visible in Washington, where the Clintons’ Center for American Progress (CAP) is now working on position papers with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

One of the most active groups attacking President Trump is “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” founded by Bill Kristol in January 2018, as a component of Defending Democracy Together(DDT), a 501(c)4 lobbying group that also incorporates projects called The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin. Republicans Against Putin promotes the view that President Trump is not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin” and calls for more aggressive investigation of the Russian role in the 2016 election.

DDT is a prime example of how the neoconservatives and traditional liberal interventionists have come together as it is in part funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire co-founder of eBay who has provided DDT with $600,000 in two grants through his Democracy Fund Voice, also a 501(c)4. Omidyar is a political liberal who has given millions of dollars to progressive organizations and individuals since 1999. Indeed, he is regarded as a top funder of liberal causesin the United States and even globally together with Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. His Democracy Fund awarded $9 million in grants in 2015 alone.

Last week, the Omidyar-Kristol connection may have deepened with an announcement regarding the launch of the launch of a new webzine The Bulwark, which would clearly be at least somewhat intended to take the place of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. It is promoting itself as the center of the “Never Trump Resistance” and it is being assumed that at least some of the Omidyar money is behind it.

Iranian-born Omidyar’s relationship with Kristol is clearly based on the hatred that the two share regarding Donald Trump.

Omidyar has stated that Trump is a “dangerous authoritarian demagogue… endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust.”

He has tweeted that Trump suffers from “failing mental capacity” and is both “corrupt and incapacitated.”

Omidyar is what he is – a hardcore social justice warrior who supports traditional big government and globalist liberal causes, most of which are antithetical to genuine conservatives. But what is interesting about the relationship with Kristol is that it also reveals what the neoconservatives are all about. Kristol and company have never been actual conservatives on social issues, a topic that they studiously avoid, and their foreign policy is based on two principles: creating a state of perpetual war based on fearmongering about foreign enemies while also providing unlimited support for Israel. Kristol hates Trump because he threatens the war agenda while Omidyar despises the president for traditional progressive reasons. That hatred is the tie that binds and it is why Bill Kristol, a man possessing no character and values whatsoever, is willing to take Pierre Omidyar’s money while Pierre is quite happy to provide it to destroy a common enemy, the President of the United States of America.

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Nancy Pelosi tries to deplatform U.S. President Trump over the wall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 170.

Alex Christoforou

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In response to Pelosi’s disgusting act of censorship, Trump trolled the Speaker of the House in epic fashion by forcing the cancellation of a trip to Afghanistan, Brussels and Egypt by Nancy Pelosi and her massive entourage.

In a letter addressed to Pelosi, U.S. President Trump told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi…

“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.”

“I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is appropriate.”

According to a congressional aide, Pelosi and several other politicians were already on buses preparing to leave the U.S. Capitol when the U.S. President cancelled their trip.

Trump suggested that Pelosi fly commercial to Afghanistan and elsewhere should she wish.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how Nancy Pelosi is trying to censor Trump and prevent the U.S. President from delivering the State of the Union to the American people, in what is clearly another liberal left deplatforming ploy.

Instead of debating the issues about the wall and immigration with fact, logic, and policy positions, Pelosi (out of fear) is trying to silence Trump and squash debate and political discourse.

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Via The Gateway Pundit

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday asking him to postpone the State of the Union Address to a Joint Session of Congress scheduled for January 29.

Pelosi cited security concerns over the partial government shutdown.

Pelosi said both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now – with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs. Therefore, they would not be ready for the speech.

Pelosi posted her letter to Trump on Twitter, saying, “Today, I wrote to  recommending that we delay the State of the Union until after government re-opens, as the , the lead federal agency for  security, faces its 26th day without funding.” (Text version of letter below tweet.)

The Department of Homeland Security refuted the Speaker’s claims — The Secret Service is ready for the SOTU.

And on Thursday FOX News reported that Speaker Pelosi was using “all kinds of security” manpower for her pricey trip with Democrats to Belgium and Afghanistan.

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BuzzFeed pushes fake Michael Cohen news, as real news breaks on HUGE conspiracy against Trump at FBI and DOJ (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 169.

Alex Christoforou

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According to Zerohedge, in an almost unprecedented event – having rarely commented on stories related to the special counsel’s investigation – Robert S. Mueller III’s office put out a statement firmly disputing the reporting of the news site BuzzFeed reported that the president instructed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about his push for a Moscow real estate project

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” the special counsel’s office said.

As The Hill reports, BuzzFeed had released a statement earlier Friday defending the reporters behind the story and saying that it “stands by this story 100%,” and for his part, Cohen adviser Lanny Davis refused to confirm or deny the report during an interview with MSNBC on Friday afternoon.

President Trump retweeted a few social media reactions…

And then made his own views clear:

Meanwhile the real election collusion bombshell had nothing to do with Russia, Moscow hotels, or Michael Cohen, and everything to do with bullet proof evidence that DOJ official, Bruce Ohr, warned all the higher-ups at the FBI and DOJ (Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe, etc…) that the Steele dossier was connected to Hillary Clinton, and was extremely biased against Donald Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how BuzzFeed pushed out a clear, fake propaganda story on Trump, Cohen, and more stupidity about Moscow hotel deals, as real reporter, John Solomon broke a massive story, with solid evidence and facts, that show the FBI and DOJ knew that the Steele dossier was a complete work of fiction, and knowingly hide that fact from FISA courts.

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Authored by John Solomon, via The Hill

When the annals of mistakes and abuses in the FBI’s Russia investigation are finally written, Bruce Ohr almost certainly will be the No. 1 witness, according to my sources.

The then-senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official briefed both senior FBI and DOJ officials in summer 2016 about Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier, explicitly cautioning that the British intelligence operative’s work was opposition research connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and might be biased.

Ohr’s briefings, in July and August 2016, included the deputy director of the FBI, a top lawyer for then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a Justice official who later would become the top deputy to special counsel Robert Mueller.

At the time, Ohr was the associate deputy attorney general. Yet his warnings about political bias were pointedly omitted weeks later from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant that the FBI obtainedfrom a federal court, granting it permission to spy on whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to hijack the 2016 presidential election.

Ohr’s activities, chronicled in handwritten notes and congressional testimony I gleaned from sources, provide the most damning evidence to date that FBI and DOJ officials may have misled federal judges in October 2016 in their zeal to obtain the warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page just weeks before Election Day.

They also contradict a key argument that House Democrats have made in their formal intelligence conclusions about the Russia case.

Since it was disclosed last year that Steele’s dossier formed a central piece of evidence supporting the FISA warrant, Justice and FBI officials have been vague about exactly when they learned that Steele’s work was paid for by the law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

A redacted version of the FISA application released last year shows the FBI did not mention any connection to the DNC or Clinton. Rather, it referred to Steele as a reliable source in past criminal investigations who was hired by a person working for a U.S. law firm to conduct research on Trump and Russia.

The FBI claimed it was “unaware of any derogatory information” about Steele, that Steele was “never advised … as to the motivation behind the research” but that the FBI  “speculates” that those who hired Steele were “likely looking for information to discredit” Trump’s campaign.

Yet, in testimony last summer to congressional investigators, Ohr revealed the FBI and Justice lawyers had no need to speculate: He explicitly warned them in a series of contacts, beginning July 31, 2016, that Steele expressed biased against Trump and was working on a project connected to the Clinton campaign.

Ohr had firsthand knowledge about the motive and the client: He had just met with Steele on July 30, 2016, and Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the same firm employing Steele.

“I certainly told the FBI that Fusion GPS was working with, doing opposition research on Donald Trump,” Ohr told congressional investigators, adding that he warned the FBI that Steele expressed bias during their conversations.

“I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected,” he added. “So, yes, of course I provided that to the FBI.”

When pressed why he would offer that information to the FBI, Ohr answered: “In case there might be any kind of bias or anything like that.” He added later, “So when I provided it to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information, I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware.”

Ohr went further, saying he disclosed to FBI agents that his wife and Steele were working for the same firm and that it was conducting the Trump-Russia research project at the behest of Trump’s Democratic rival, the Clinton campaign.

“These guys were hired by somebody relating to, who’s related to the Clinton campaign and be aware,” Ohr told Congress, explaining what he warned the bureau.

Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented both the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election, belatedly admitted it paid Fusion GPS for Steele’s work on behalf of the candidate and party and disguised the payments as legal bills when, in fact, it was opposition research.

When asked if he knew of any connection between the Steele dossier and the DNC, Ohr responded that he believed the project was really connected to the Clinton campaign.

“I didn’t know they were employed by the DNC but I certainly said yes that they were working for, you know, they were somehow working, associated with the Clinton campaign,” he answered.

“I also told the FBI that my wife worked for Fusion GPS or was a contractor for GPS, Fusion GPS.”

Ohr divulged his first contact with the FBI was on July 31, 2016, when he reached out to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and FBI attorney Lisa Page. He then was referred to the agents working Russia counterintelligence, including Peter Strzok, the now-fired agent who played a central role in starting the Trump collusion probe.

But Ohr’s contacts about the Steele dossier weren’t limited to the FBI. He said in August 2016 — nearly two months before the FISA warrant was issued — that he was asked to conduct a briefing for senior Justice officials.

Those he briefed included Andrew Weissmann, then the head of DOJ’s fraud section; Bruce Swartz, longtime head of DOJ’s international operations, and Zainab Ahmad, an accomplished terrorism prosecutor who, at the time, was assigned to work with Lynch as a senior counselor.

Ahmad and Weissmann would go on to work for Mueller, the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia probe.

Ohr’s extensive testimony also undercuts one argument that House Democrats sought to make last year.

When Republicans, in early 2018, first questioned Ohr’s connections to Steele, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee sought to minimize the connection, insisting he only worked as an informer for the FBI after Steele was fired by the FBI in November 2016.

The memo from Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) team claimed that Ohr’s contacts with the FBI only began “weeks after the election and more than a month after the Court approved the initial FISA application.”

But Ohr’s testimony now debunks that claim, making clear he started talking to FBI and DOJ officials well before the FISA warrant or election had occurred.

And his detailed answers provide a damning rebuttal to the FBI’s portrayal of the Steele material.

In fact, the FBI did have derogatory information on Steele: Ohr explicitly told the FBI that Steele was desperate to defeat the man he was investigating and was biased.

And the FBI knew the motive of the client and did not have to speculate: Ohr told agents the Democratic nominee’s campaign was connected to the research designed to harm Trump’s election chances.

Such omissions are, by definition, an abuse of the FISA system.

Don’t take my word for it. Fired FBI Director James Comey acknowledged it himself when he testified last month that the FISA court relies on an honor system, in which the FBI is expected to divulge exculpatory evidence to the judges.

“We certainly consider it our obligation, because of our trust relationship with federal judges, to present evidence that would paint a materially different picture of what we’re presenting,” Comey testified on Dec. 7, 2018. “You want to present to the judge reviewing your application a complete picture of the evidence, both its flaws and its strengths.”

Comey claims he didn’t know about Ohr’s contacts with Steele, even though his top deputy, McCabe, got the first contact.

But none of that absolves his FBI, or the DOJ for that matter, from failing to divulge essential and exculpatory information from Ohr to the FISA court.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

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