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A case of entrapment? How the Deep State brought down Michael Flynn

Trump’s National Security Adviser downfall was engineered in the shadiest of circumstances

Alexander Mercouris

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The single most important fact about the destruction of Michael Flynn – a decorated US soldier who has served his country in battle and who is a Lieutenant General of the US Army – is the shocking way it was brought about.

To understand what happened it is necessary to go back to the events of last December and January and to note their sequence.

The timeline

On 28th December 2016 Flynn was telephoned by Russian ambassador Kislyak over an open line.  Kislyak asked Flynn what the new Trump administration’s policy would be with respect to the sanctions US President Barack Obama had announced that day.

Seemingly unknown to Kislyak and Flynn the FBI was recording the call.

On 29th December 2016 Flynn telephoned Mar-a-Lago for instructions.  He spoke to a senior official of the Trump transition team who was almost certainly Jared Kushner.  This official told Flynn that the incoming Trump administration did not want to see the situation between the US and Russia escalate and asked Flynn to say this to Kislyak.

On 29th December 2016 Flynn telephoned Kislyak over an open line, told Kislyak the incoming Trump administration did not want to see the situation between the US and Russia escalate, and urged Russia to respond to Obama’s sanctions with restraint.

Apparently Flynn asked Kislyak that whatever retaliatory action Russia took in response to the sanctions should be on the same scale as the sanctions so as not to escalate the situation further.

It is now universally accepted that Flynn gave Kislyak no promise that an incoming Trump administration would lift the sanctions during this call.

Once more, seemingly unknown to Kislyak and Flynn,  the FBI recorded the call.

On 31st December 2016 Kislyak telephoned Flynn again and told Flynn that in light of the incoming Trump administration’s request for restraint Russia had decided to take no action for the time being in response to Obama’s sanctions.

It is not known whether on this occasion the FBI recorded the call but it is likely that it did.

In early January 2017 the FBI prepared a secret report about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak based on its recordings of these conversations.  It seems that this report incorporated transcripts of these conversations.

We know this report exists because its existence was disclosed by the Washington Post in an article dated 13th February 2017.

A copy of this report was forwarded by the FBI to the Justice Department and was shared by the FBI with the rest of the US intelligence community before the inauguration.

On 8th January 2017 Flynn attended with Donald Trump a meeting with the chiefs of the US intelligence community including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey.

During the meeting Trump and Flynn were provided with the classified version of the January 2017 ODNI report which alleged Russian meddling in the US Presidential election of the previous year.

The ODNI report specifically alleged that Russia had hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, stolen emails from the computers, and arranged for publication of the emails by Wikileaks.

The ODNI report also included as an appendix the series of reports compiled by Christopher Steele which has come to be known as the Trump Dossier.

At the meeting with the intelligence chiefs Trump – presumably on Flynn’s advice – was dismissive of the conclusions of the ODNI report, and angrily denied the allegations about his personal conduct made in the Trump Dossier.

On 11th January 2017 Buzzfeed published the Trump Dossier.

On 12th January 2017 an article by David Ignatius based on information provided by a “senior US government official” appeared in the Washington Post which disclosed that Flynn had spoken on the telephone to Kislyak on 29th December 2016.  This is what Ignatius’s article says about this call

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts.

These words show that the “senior US government official” who was David Ignatius’s source was fully informed of what Flynn had said to Kislyak on 29th December 2016.

It is universally acknowledged that the “senior government official” committed a criminal offence under the FISA Act by disclosing to David Ignatius information about Flynn which was obtained from classified intercepts.

On 15th January 2017 Vice-President Pence after obtaining from Flynn an account of his conversations with Kislyak went on television’s Face the Nation and said the following

MIKE PENCE: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation…He had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.

JOHN DICKERSON: So did they ever have a conversation about sanctions ever on those days or any other day?

MIKE PENCE: They did not have a discussion contemporaneous with US actions…But what I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.

There is no doubt Flynn lied to Pence.  I say this because some of Flynn’s defenders persist in saying that Flynn may have simply forgotten the part of his conversations with Kislyak which was about the sanctions.

This is impossible.  It is now established that the calls between Kislyak and Flynn on 28th, 29th and 31st December 2016 were principally about the sanctions, and that Flynn sought instructions from Mar-a-Lago because of these calls.  It is inconceivable that when Flynn spoke to Pence two weeks later he had forgotten all this.

On 24th January 2017 the FBI interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak.

It seems the FBI was asked to interview Flynn either by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates or by FBI Director James Comey.  The interview was held under the aegis of the ongoing Russiagate inquiry.

It seems that Flynn was not told during the interview that the FBI had recorded his conversations with Kislyak and knew what he had said during them.  At any rate if Flynn was told that the FBI had listened in to his conversations with Kislyak then he was not shown the transcripts of these conversations that the FBI had made or the FBI’s secret report about his conversations with Kislyak which the FBI had made in early January (see above).

During the interview Flynn repeated the same lie to the FBI that he had previously made to Pence and which he had since repeated to many others: that the sanctions announced by Obama in December had not been discussed during his conversations with Kislyak.

On 26th January 2017 Acting Attorney General Sally Yates complained to White House Counsel Donald McGahn about Flynn.

Yates told McGahn that by lying about his conversations with Kislyak to Pence Flynn had compromised himself, exposing himself to blackmail by the Russians, and that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak looked like they might be unlawful.

A series of conversations between Yates and McGahn followed between 26th January 2017 and 30th January 2017 (the day Trump sacked Yates from her job) over the course of which Yates disclosed to McGahn that the FBI had interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak.

On 30th January 2017 – the day Trump sacked Yates because of her refusal to defend his travel ban Executive Order – Yates called McGahn and agreed to McGahn’s request that the Justice Department’s files on Flynn be made available to the White House staff.

It is now conclusively established that there was nothing unlawful about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak (see below) whilst Yates’s claim that Flynn had exposed himself to blackmail by the Russians by lying to Pence and others about his conversations with Kislyak is too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

McGahn’s reported initial reaction to Yates’s complaint – “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice whether one White House official lies to another White House official?” – was the correct one.

On 8th February 2017 Flynn again denied to the Washington Post that he had discussed the sanctions with Kislyak.  He then contradicted himself the following day when he admitted to the Washington Post through a spokesman that “he couldn’t be certain that the topic [of the sanctions] never came up.”

On 13th February 2017 the Washington Post disclosed in a lengthy article details of Yates’s warnings to McGahn about Flynn.  The Washington Post’s article is packed with information about the secret discussions which took place within the US intelligence community about Flynn

The current and former officials said that although they believed that Pence was misled about the contents of Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, they couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition

(NB: these words strongly suggest that by 14th February 2017 US intelligence was aware that Flynn had also spoken to another senior Trump transition team official – almost certainly Jared Kushner – on 29th December 2016 – AM)

Two officials said a main topic of the relevant call was the sanctions. Officials also said there was no evidence that Russia had attempted to exploit the discrepancy between public statements by Trump officials and what Flynn had discussed…

After the sanctions were rolled out, the Obama administration braced itself for the Russian retaliation. To the surprise of many U.S. officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Dec. 30 that there would be no response. Trump praised the decision on Twitter.

Intelligence analysts began to search for clues that could help explain Putin’s move. The search turned up Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn,

From that call and subsequent intercepts, FBI agents wrote a secret report summarizing ­Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak.

Yates, then the deputy attorney general, considered Flynn’s comments in the intercepted call to be “highly significant” and “potentially illegal,” according to an official familiar with her thinking.

Yates and other intelligence officials suspected that Flynn could be in violation of an obscure U.S. statute known as the Logan Act, which bars U.S. citizens from interfering in diplomatic disputes with another country.

At the same time, Yates and other law enforcement officials knew there was little chance of bringing against Flynn a case related to the Logan Act, a statute that has never been used in a prosecution. In addition to the legal and political hurdles, Yates and other officials were aware of an FBI investigation looking at possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia, which now included the Flynn-Kislyak communications.

Word of the calls leaked out on Jan. 12 in an op-ed by Post columnist David Ignatius. “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut U.S. sanctions?” Ignatius wrote, citing the Logan Act.

The next day, a Trump transition official told The Post, “I can tell you that during his call, sanctions were not discussed whatsoever.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in a conference call with reporters on Jan. 13, said that the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak had “centered on the logistics” of a post-inauguration call between Trump and Putin. “That was it, plain and simple,” Spicer added.

On Jan. 15, Pence was asked about the phone call during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Citing a conversation he had with Flynn, Pence said the incoming national security adviser and Kislyak “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

Before the Pence statement on Jan. 15, top Justice Department and intelligence officials had discussed whether the incoming Trump White House should be notified about the contents of the Flynn-Kislyak communications.

Pence’s statement on CBS made the issue more urgent, current and former officials said, because U.S. intelligence agencies had reason to believe that Russia was aware that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions in their December call, contrary to public statements.

The internal debate over how to handle the intelligence on Flynn and Kislyak came to a head on Jan. 19, Obama’s last full day in office.

Yates, Clapper and Brennan argued for briefing the incoming administration so the new president could decide how to deal with the matter. The officials discussed options, including telling Pence, the incoming White House counsel, the incoming chief of staff or Trump himself.

FBI Director James B. Comey initially opposed notification, citing concerns that it could complicate the agency’s ­investigation.

Clapper and Brennan left their positions when Trump was sworn in, but Yates stayed on as acting attorney general until Jan. 30, when Trump fired her for refusing to defend his executive order temporarily barring refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries — an action that had been challenged in court.

A turning point came after Jan. 23, when Spicer, in his first official media briefing, again was asked about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Spicer said that he had talked to Flynn about the issue “again last night.” There was just “one call,” Spicer said. And it covered four subjects: a plane crash that claimed the lives of a Russian military choir; Christmas greetings; Russian-led talks over the Syrian civil war; and the logistics of setting up a call between Putin and Trump. Spicer said that was the extent of the conversation.

Yates again raised the issue with Comey, who now backed away from his opposition to informing the White House. Yates and the senior career national security official spoke to McGahn, the White House counsel, who didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.

On the same day that this article appeared – 13th February 2017 – Flynn was forced to resign.  White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the next day – 14th February 2017 – explained the reasons for Flynn’s resignation in this way

We got to a point not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, where a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change … The issue here was that the President got to the point where General Flynn’s relationship – misleading the Vice President and others, or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation. That’s why the President decided to ask for his resignation, and he got it.

On 14th February 2017 Trump spoke to FBI Director James Comey about Flynn in the Oval Office.  According to Comey Trump said to Comey the following

I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.  He’s a good guy.

Trump denies having said these words.

Setting out the timeline in this way solves all the mysteries about the Flynn affair including why he lied to Pence, the FBI and others about his conversations with Kislyak.

It also incidentally shows why the case against Flynn has ended with a plea bargain.

Flynn committed no crime by talking to Kislyak

Firstly, it needs to be said clearly that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were in no sense improper or unlawful as Yates and other have suggested, and that no criminal offence was committed by them or during them.

The Special Counsel’s statement – which sets out the entirety of the case against Flynn, including those parts of the case against him to which he has not pleaded guilty – shows that he has never been accused of committing an offence under the Logan Act, and has never been investigated for any criminal offence arising from his calls with Kislyak.

The Special Counsel and his team clearly do not think that there is a case against Flynn under the Logan Act and the whole issue of the Logan Act conjured up by Sally Yates is now exposed as a red herring.

Flynn’s 24th January 2017 interview with the FBI

Secondly, the FBI’s conduct of its interview with Flynn on  24th January 2017 is very difficult to understand.

The article in the Washington Post of 13th February 2017 shows that there were serious doubts even on the part of Sally Yates that Flynn had committed a crime upon which he could be convicted

Yates and other law enforcement officials knew there was little chance of bringing against Flynn a case related to the Logan Act, a statute that has never been used in a prosecution.

(bold italics added)

Why if there were doubts that a crime upon which Flynn could be convicted had been committed did the FBI interview Flynn at all, especially when it already had in its possession all the information it needed to decide the question?

Why did the FBI ask Flynn what he had said to Kislyak when it already knew what he had said to Kislyak?

If the concern was that Flynn was compromising himself by lying about his conversations with Kislyak, why not simply ask him why he was lying?

A case of entrapment?

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the interview on 24th January 2017 was a set-up.

By this time Flynn had been lying for weeks.  The FBI must have known that if it interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak without disclosing to him the full extent of what it already knew the strong likelihood was that Flynn would repeat to them the same lie he had previously said to Pence and which he had also been saying to many other people.

That of course is precisely what happened, and it is difficult to avoid the impression that that was the intention all along and that that was why the interview was set up in the way it was.

Put that way Flynn’s interview with the FBI looks like a straightforward case of entrapment.

Why entrapment?

Why however might Sally Yates’s Justice Department and the FBI want to entrap Flynn in this way?

Possibly some people in the US intelligence community, in the Justice Department and in the FBI really did fall for Yates’s farfetched and paranoid claims that Flynn had exposed himself to blackmail by the Russians.

However I have to say that I find these claims so farfetched that I cannot truly believe that anyone genuinely believed them.  To me they look like a cover story to conceal what was really going on.

Besides, as I have said, if those really were the concerns that drove the FBI’s actions then the FBI’s conduct of the interview on the 24th January 2017 was most peculiar (see above).

Revenge for Flynn’s skepticism about the January ODNI report?

The sequence of events which I have set out above provides what I suspect is the explanation.

On 8th January 2017 Flynn – whose relations with the US intelligence community were already very bad – appears to have angered them further by calling them out on the fact-free nature of the ODNI report.

I have already said that the 8th January 2017 meeting between Trump and the heads of the US intelligence community had the whiff of blackmail about it.

Given that this was so, it is hardly surprising that when it became clear that neither Trump nor Flynn would back down a campaign to discredit them was launched.  As was to be expected the first shots in this campaign were fired within days.

Reports published to embarrass Trump and Flynn

The Trump Dossier was published on 11th January 2017 in order to embarrass Trump.

On the following day – 12th January 2017 – a report drawing on classified information about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak on 29th December 2016 was published in the Washington Post by David Ignatius.

I do not believe that the publication of these two reports on successive days was a coincidence.

On the contrary both these publications look to me like retaliation for Trump’s and Flynn’s refusal to buckle in the meeting with the intelligence chiefs on 8th January 2017 by accepting the ODNI report in its entirety.

Flynn bungles his response

Trump – a hardbitten veteran of the US building industry who has probably had experience of being blackmailed before – obviously knows how to deal with this sort of thing, and he handled the publication of the Trump Dossier with aplomb, going immediately on the offensive and forcing an apology out of James Clapper.

Flynn – who almost certainly has no experience of being blackmailed and who as a soldier has no idea how to handle such things – blundered, and lied about his conversations with Kislyak to Pence and others when he actually had no need to.

Probably Flynn thought that since he had done nothing wrong a simple denial would shut the whole matter up whilst an admission would only lead to more questions.  It was a foolish mistake, which set Flynn up for the trap which followed.

Dissension within the US intelligence community about what to do

The Washington Post article of 13th February 2017 shows that there was dissension within the US intelligence community and the Justice Department about what to do.

Comey – as had happened before – initially dragged his feet.  However – as had also happened before – under pressure from the others he eventually agreed to play along.

The trap?

The result was that Flynn was lured into an interview with the FBI, not told that the FBI already knew everything that he had said to Kislyak, and was tricked into saying the same lie he had previously said to Pence.  Probably Flynn, who did not have a lawyer with him, did not know that lying to the FBI is a criminal offence.

In passing I should say that I do not take seriously the claim in the 13th February 2017 Washington Post article that the US intelligence community only stumbled on the recordings of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak by accident when they hunted through the intelligence material “in order to explain the mystery” of why the Russians had not reacted to Obama’s December sanctions.

There was never any “mystery” about why the Russians had not reacted to Obama’s December sanctions.  The Russians made it perfectly clear that they did not react to the sanctions because they had hopes for better relations with the US when the new Trump administration took over.

I would add that I also do not believe that the FBI records the Russian ambassador’s conversations and then simply files the recordings away.

Again this looks to me like a cover story to hide what was really going on.

Summary of the Flynn affair

This has the look of an exceptionally sordid affair.

A soldier with a record of honourable service but who is inexperienced in the world of Washington intrigues was goaded into and trapped into lying about a series of telephone calls he carried out as part of his service to the President elect of the United States.  This despite the fact that nothing he did or said during those calls was wrong.

As a result he has been driven out of public life, his reputation has been publicly trashed, and he has been forced under threat of bankruptcy, and of imprisonment of himself and his son, to plead guilty to a minor process crime.

Is this the way the United States treats its soldiers?  It seems it is.

Reasons for the plea bargain

Ever since Flynn’s guilty plea there has been huge speculation that Flynn has offered Mueller incriminating evidence against other people in the Trump administration in return for his indictment on a minor charge.

However the ABC story of the last few days all but confirms that such evidence as Flynn has given Mueller has no bearing on the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which are at the centre of the Russiagate case.

The facts actually show why Mueller might also be anxious to end the Flynn affair with a plea bargain, irrespective of what information Flynn has to offer him

What would an American jury make of the facts as I have set them out once their full implications had been explained to them by Flynn’s attorney over the course of a trial?

Would James Clapper, Sally Yates and James Comey – all neck-deep in this affair – really want to be cross examined about their precise roles by a trained advocate before an American jury?  I doubt it.

I can very easily see how a trial of Flynn might have ended in a debacle, with the conduct of the Justice Department and the FBI coming in for serious criticism.

Given that this was so, it is no surprise that Mueller agreed to a plea bargain to bring the case to an end.

A conspiracy to lie?

It remains possible that more may come out of the Flynn affair.

The most difficult part of this affair for the White House is that it is now clear that several people in the Trump transition team including almost certainly Jared Kushner were aware of what really happened during the conversations between Flynn and Kislyak.

That means that they would also have known that what Flynn said to Pence was a lie and that Pence’s statement about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak was untrue.

Notwithstanding this knowledge they took no action to correct this untruth but allowed it to stand for a whole month.

That is already very bad, but unfortunately there has to be a possibility that behind it there is something worse.

This is that Flynn discussed in advance with Kushner and others what he would say to Pence, and that they agreed with him that he should lie to Pence, setting in train the sequence of lies which ended with Flynn lying to the FBI.

That would be potentially a very serious matter, and if Trump himself was involved then conceivably it might even be an impeachable one.

Already there are some people who are floating this very possibility, seizing on some loose wording in one of Donald Trump’s tweets to insinuate that very thing (for the record I don’t see that the wording of this tweet implies that at all; on the contrary it seems to me to do the opposite).

There is however no evidence at the moment of such a conspiracy, and there is nothing to suggest it either in the indictment or in the Special Counsel’s statement, as I would expect there would be if anything like that had actually happened.

For what it’s worth Trump’s public statements and those of his lawyers strongly suggest that Trump was not involved in any way in Flynn’s lying, and that Flynn did not agree with other people in the Trump administration that he should lie whether to Pence or to anyone else.

There is no reason for the moment to go behind Trump’s statements and those of his lawyers on this question.

However this part of Mueller’s investigation now bears careful watching, even if this is a possibility which has no actual bearing on the Russiagate collusion allegations which are supposed to be the investigation’s focus.

A case of Kompromat?

Putting aside this last unfortunately by no means farfetched possibility, the overriding truth of this affair it that it has all the hallmarks of an ugly case of entrapment carried out as an act of revenge.

Americans like to contrast what they claim is the integrity of their system with the supposed corruption of Russia’s.  Yet here we have a case where it looks as if the US’s security services engineered the downfall of one of the US’s most senior officials by manipulating the flow of news so as to obtain what the Russians call kompromat against him.

A country where that sort of thing happens can no longer call itself the Shining City on the Hill.

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The mainstream media does not want you to think [Video]

It is difficult to tell if recent reports like this really represent a realization for the media, but this interview rings true nonetheless.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Several recent stories on Fox, Breitbart, and here on The Duran all address the increasingly obvious bias of the mainstream media with regard to news reporting. We discussed on The Duran how Chris Wallace of Fox News refused to hear details from White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller about why the recently declared National Emergency is in fact legitimate.

This piece revealed that the media is very actively trying to control and direct what information they want the public to hear, rather than truly reporting the news, or interviewing people to get their takes on things, and to perhaps fully interview all sides in a controversy and then let the American public decide for themselves what to think.

This used to exist in more gentlemanly debate programs in some fashion, such as with the TV debate program Point Counterpoint, but now, the bias of the reporter or of the network is the primary operator in determining the outcome of the interview, rather than the information that is available about the story.

This has helped create a news and information culture in the United States that is truly insane. As examples, consider these paraphrased headlines, all occurring within the last few years:

All of these are probably familiar to most readers. Many of them are still repeated and acted on as if they were real. But the articles we linked to behind most of these ledes are examples of the disproof, usually 100% disproof, of these. They are hoaxes, or reports built on circumstantial evidence without any proof, or in the worst cases, pure slander and propaganda.

One reporter for CBS news, 60 Minutes anchor Lara Logan, discussed this in an interview with retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland, for his own podcast program, which was picked up by the MediaIte website. The video of her interview is quite lengthy but starting at about 02:14:00 there is a particular segment that the MediaIte writers called to attention. We include this segment in the video.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: The video is unrestricted in regards to language and there is some profanity. Parents, please listen first before letting your children watch this video.

A major point Mrs Logan makes here is that 85% of the employ of the mainstream media in the USA consist of registered Democrats. She also speaks forcefully against the use of stereotypes, and suggests the best place to start is actual facts. This means that most journalists are coming into this work with a bias, which is not set aside for the sake of the facts of the story.

Probably the most key point comes at 2:18:20 in the video is how Lara Logan is taught the way to discern whether or not someone in journalism is lying to you:

“Someone very smart told me a long time ago, that, ‘how do you know you are being lied to?’, ‘how do you know you are being manipulated?’, ‘how do you know there is something not right with the coverage?’, when they simplify it all, and there is no gray. There is no gray. It’s all one way.

“Well, life isn’t like that. If it doesn’t match real life, it is probably not. Something is wrong.”

Lara Logan then pointed out the comparison of the mainstream media’s constant negative coverage of President Trump against the reality of his work, that, regardless of one’s own personal bias, it does not match that everything the President does is bad. She also highlighted the point that one’s personal views should not come into how to report a news story.

Yet in our days, it not only comes into the story, it drives the narrative for which the story just becomes an example of “proof” that the narrative is “true.” 

Tucker Carlson talked vividly about the same characteristic on his program Monday night on Fox News.

He points out that the 3,000 yearly shooting in Chicago get very little news coverage, but that is because these are not as “useful” as the Jussie Smollett story is.

This is an example of using an event or a person’s actions to satisfy a politically biased propaganda narrative, rather than report the news.

This is not occasional, as the list of news headlines given above show. This is a constant practice across most of the mainstream media. Probably no one who gives interviews on the major networks is exempt, for even Mr. Carlson often resorts to cornering tactics when interviewing liberals in an apparent attempt to make the liberal look ridiculous and the point of view he espouses to look vindicated through that ridiculousness.

While this is emotionally invigorating for the Carlson fan who wants to see him “eviscerate” the liberal, it is very bad journalism. In fact, it is not journalism at all; it is sensationalism in a nasty sense.

It also insults the viewer, perhaps without them knowing it, because such reporting is the same as telling the viewer “WE ARE IN CONTROL!” and that the viewer must simply go along with the narrative given.

It is very bad when what should be information reporting, policy discussion, or debate becomes infected with this. Ideas, the product of (hopefully) rational and discursive reasoning, are pushed aside by pure emotion and mass sensationalism. Put metaphorically, it is the new look of bread and circuses, keeping the masses entertained while anything else might be happening.

Sometimes the motive for this is not so sinister. After all, we have a 24 hour news cycle now. In the 1970’s we didn’t. And in those times, the calibre of news reported was much higher. Reporting was far more careful. The Pulitzer Prize winners  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did their incredible exposé on the doings of President Richard Nixon under the directorship of the Washington Post editor, which demanded triple-checking of everything, making sure that all information was factual, accurate and genuine. While the story was indeed sensational, more importantly, it was true.

Now we have a lot of sensation, but very little to zero truth. As an example, every one of the ledes linked above is not proven to be true, in fact the truth in many of these stories is the opposite of what the headline says.

This would not be much of a problem if the media lies were not absorbed and reacted on by their readers, listeners and viewers. But the fact is that there are a significant number of consumers of mainstream media news that do react to it. The Covington High School incident showed this in perhaps the most frightening way, with open calls for violence against teenagers and high school students, requested by professionals, people that are supposed to be adults, such as Kathy Griffin, Reza Aslan, and GQ writer Nathaniel Friedman, who called for these kids to be “doxxed”, which as we reported, is an action that can be deadly.

We are in the times where the love of many has gone cold, and all is about expediency and selfishness. While there are a few outlets and a few journalists that still retain interest in recording and disseminating the truth, the reality is that most of what is out there is tainted by the drive for attention and sensationalism.

The media that engages in such behavior is actually hurting people, rather than informing and helping them.

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Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

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Nearly assassinated by his own fighters, al-Baghdadi and his caliphate on its last legs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Islamic State has been rapidly losing territory over the last two years in Syria and Iraq, due to efforts by Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US and their Kurdish allies.

The jihadist caliphate has lost most of its forces and resources, leading it to go into hiding.

Al-Masdar News is reporting that Daesh* leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation’s foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources. Baghdadi reportedly survived the alleged coup attempt, with his bodyguards taking him into hiding in the nearby desert.

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Meanwhile European leaders are shocked at US President Trump’s ISIS ultimatum. Via Zerohedge

After President Trump’s provocative tweets on Sunday wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them,” the message has been met with shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe”.

Possibly the most pathetic and somewhat ironic response came from Denmark, where a spokesperson for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Copenhagen won’t take back Danish Islamic State foreign fighters to stand trial in the country, according to the German Press Agency DPA“We are talking about the most dangerous people in the world. We should not take them back,” the spokesperson stressed, and added that the war in Syria is ongoing, making the US president’s statement premature.

Germany’s response was also interesting, given a government official framed ISIS fighters’ ability to return as a “right”.  A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said, “In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called Islamic State have the right to return.” She even added that German ISIS fighters have “consular access” — as if the terrorists would walk right up to some embassy window in Turkey or Beirut!

Noting that the Iraqi government has also of late contacted Germany to transport foreign fighters to their home country for trial, she added, “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”

France, for its part, has already agreed to repatriate over 130 French Islamic State members as part of a deal reached in January with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are holding them, after which they will go through the French legal system. However, French Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez still insisted that the west’s Kurdish allies would never merely let ISIS terrorists walk out their battlefield prisons free.

“It’s the Kurds who hold them and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them,” Nuñez told French broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday. “Anyway, if these individuals return to the national territory, they all have ongoing judicial proceedings, they will all be put on trial, and incarcerated,” he said, in comments which appeared to leave it up to others to make happen.

And representing the Belgian government, Justice Minister Koen Geens charged Trump with blindsiding his European allies with the demand, which included Trump underscoring that it is “time for others to step up and do the job” before it’s too late. “It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” Geens said during a broadcast interview on Sunday, according to the AFP.

Meanwhile in the UK the issue has recently become politically explosive as debate over so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum continues. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She’s now given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone.

Conservatives in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have argued that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”

Identified as French nationals fighting within ISIS’ ranks, via Khaama press news agency

The UN has estimated that in total up to 42,000 foreign fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS — which appears a very conservative estimate — and which includes about 900 from Germany and 850 from Britain.

SDF leaders have previously complained about the “lack the capacity” for mass incarceration of ISIS terrorists and the inability to have proper battlefield trials for them. Recent estimates have put the number of ISIS militants in US-SDF battlefield jails at over 1000, though Trump put the number at 800 in his tweet.

However, even once they do return to Europe it’s unclear the extent to which they’ll be properly prosecuted and locked in prison by European authorities.

For example, another fresh controversy that lately erupted in Britain involved a 29-year old UK woman who traveled to join ISIS, and was convicted for membership in a terrorist group upon her return to Britain. She was jailed on a six year sentence in 2016, but is now already walking free a mere less than three years after her conviction.

 

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