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An end to chaos in the White House? General Kelly takes over

General Kelly forces out Anthony Scaramucci as the President’s new chief of staff looks to impose order on a chaotic White House.

Alexander Mercouris

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Just six days ago I wrote an article for The Duran in which I said that if President Trump is to avoid seeing his administration unravel he has to stop destabilising it himself, with bad decisions negating good decisions and with President Trump himself prosecuting public feuds against top people in his administration like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The decision to force out the newly appointed Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci – who was supposed to start his job on 15th August 2017, meaning that he been effectively sacked from his job before it technically even started – is a sign of the chaos at the heart of the administration.  However potentially it could also be a sign that things are finally being brought under control.

Turning first to Scaramucci, in my article of six days ago I referred to him on the strengths of things I had heard and read about him as an “accomplished communications director”.

Few things I have written about someone have turned out to be so wrong so quickly.  Far from being “accomplished” Scaramucci – “the Mooch” – in the brief time he was in post did more damage to the administration than any other single official President Trump has appointed.

Not only has Scaramucci behaved in a way totally inappropriate for a person in his position – for example through his uninhibited use of bad language – but he has acted in a way that went far beyond his remit, publicly intriguing against other members of the administration – such as the President’s chief strategist Steve Bannon – and generally acting as if he was the person who was ultimately in charge of the White House and by extension of the whole US government.

That this was a megalomaniac stance for someone who is simply a communications director to take ought to have been obvious, and made it only a matter of time before the President fired him.  Having said this, though Scaramucci’s sacking – talk of him having “voluntarily resigned” should not be taken seriously – was undoubtedly correct and appropriate, the President can be justly criticised for appointing such an obviously unfit person to a senior post.  The best that can be said about this sorry affair is that at least Scaramucci was sacked quickly before he did even more damage.

As for Scaramucci himself, the one good thing that does seem to have come from his appointment is that it seems to have precipitated the removal of two other senior White House officials who were frankly not up to their jobs: chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House spokesman Sean Spicer.

Neither of these officials – both of whom appeared to be closer to the Congressional leadership of the Republican Party than to the President himself – seemed to have the President’s trust, and in the case of Priebus he seems to have been little more than a rather ineffective administrator and not the tough manager and enforcer of the President’s decisions that the President’s chief of staff needs to be.

For the President the whole point of retaining Priebus – whom he inherited from the Republican National Committee when he became the Republican Party’s candidate for the Presidency – was Priebus’s established links to the Congressional leadership of the Republican Party (amongst whom the President is disastrously short of friends) which was expected to help pilot the President’s legislation through the Congress.

In the event Priebus failed even in that.  Not only have the President’s repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare – something which the Republican Party is in theory in full agreement about – so far failed because of the failure of the Republican Party in Congress to unite on key votes, but the President must be privately furious that the Republican Party in Congress chose instead to unite with the Democrats to force on him a sanctions law that is obviously designed to torpedo his policy of seeking better relations with Russia.

The President’s tweets – always a reliable indicator of his state of mind – have made clear in recent days his growing frustration at the logjam in Congress, which is also holding up the confirmation process for his remaining appointments.

Given that Priebus was failing to manage the White House effectively, and was unable to get the Republican Party to unite behind the President’s legislation, it is no surprise the President finally gave up on him.  According to the London Times – unusually well informed because its proprietor Rupert Murdoch is close to the President – as long ago as May the President was looking to replace him, and had approached General Kelly as far back as then to take over as chief of staff.

That appointment has finally been made, and it seems that two of the conditions Kelly set for accepting the job were firstly that all White House officials – including Jared Kushner and Steven Bannon – should be subordinated to him and report to the President solely through him, and secondly that Scaramucci should go.

Scaramucci’s sacking was therefore the result of General Kelly’s appointment as the President’s new chief of staff, just as Scaramucci’s appointment appears to have been the event which precipitated Priebus’s removal, and which caused Sean Spicer’s departure.

If General Kelly is able to take effective control of the White House and make of it a properly functioning political operation then the chaos of the last two weeks will have been worth it.  He does come to the job with some reasons for thinking that he might succeed in doing that.

Firstly, as might be expected of a Marine General who has commanded troops in the field and who has run large departments like Homeland Security, Kelly appears to be a capable administrator.  His insistence on a proper chain of command in the White House is a sign of that.

Secondly, Trump – like many civilians – is in awe of the military, and has surrounded himself with them.

It is striking that the top officials with whom Trump appears to get on with best are either successful businessmen or generals.  The senior official he is said to be most at ease with, and who has his fullest confidence, is General Mattis who is his Defense Secretary, with whom Trump regularly has private dinners.  Trump is also said to have got on well with General Kelly whilst Kelly was head of Homeland Security.  Undoubtedly he will have appreciated Kelly’s loyal and effective support to him during the battle over his ‘travel ban’ Executive Orders.

However against these factors which point to General Kelly’s possible future success, there are other factors which point towards possible failure.

Firstly, for General Kelly to succeed the President has to give him his loyal and unstinting support.

That means first and foremost the President reining in his own impulses.  He must stop conducting public feuds against members of his own administration like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and railing publicly at his officials when things go wrong, which in politics they often do.  Should he ever turn on Kelly in the same public way that he has recently turned on Sessions the damage will be disastrous.  Unfortunately the President’s impulsive personality means that there is no guarantee he will not do so.

Secondly, the President must learn to communicate with his staff and with the members of his administration – including with people like Jared Kushner and Steven Bannon, and with others like Attorney General Sessions and the new head of the FBI – through Kelly, observing the chain of command which his new chief of staff is setting up, and whose existence is essential for the successful management of any large organisation like the White House.  The damage done to the President by his decision to have personal contacts with former FBI Director James Comey – who it is now clear was throughout his contacts with the President in fact intriguing against him – ought to teach the President of the danger of acting in any other way.

Unfortunately personal contact with officials is very much the President’s style.  It is the style he has become accustomed to in his business dealings, and which he has tried disastrously to bring with him into the White House.  Will the President now put it aside and listen to General Kelly, respecting the chain of command his chief of staff is creating?

Thirdly, it will require other senior officials in the White House – which means people like Kushner and Bannon – who have become accustomed to having direct access to the President being prepared to work with Kelly and to accept their subordination to him.  That will be a new experience for them, and given that some of them – Steve Bannon for example – are strong personalities, it is an open question to what extent they will accept it.

Fourthly and lastly, managing this proud, inexperienced and impulsive President and his fractious team will also require a difficult mix of both forthrightness and tact on General Kelly’s part.  The forthrightness is known to be there in abundance.  Is the tact?

Whether Kelly will succeed in bringing order to the White House and to the administration remains to be seen.

His appointment does however further signal the unprecedented influence of the military in this administration.  Kelly now joins two other generals – Generals Mattis and McMaster – at the heart of the US government.  Not only is the President’s most trusted senior minister – Defense Secretary Mattis – a general, but both his chief of staff and his National Security Adviser are now generals as well.

Compare that with Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia, where none of the top officials who are permanent members of Russia’s Security Council, are military officers.  That by the way includes General Shoigu, Russia’s Defence Minister, who despite holding a military rank is by training a civil engineer not a soldier.

Whether this rise of the generals to the top of the US government is a good thing remains to be seen.  Peter Lavelle once said on a Crosstalk programme I attended that generals historically have been better at executing policy than at making it.  Not only is that true but generals’ history of political effectiveness tends to be poor.

Others might point out – sourly but also correctly – that given the generals indifferent performance in recent wars – in none of which have they managed to win a “victory” – their current rise to prominence looks hardly deserved.

The fact however remains that things cannot continue to go on inside the Trump White House in the way that they have been doing for much longer without irreparable damage being done.  To be clear, the erratic and chaotic state of things in the White House is far more politically dangerous to the President than the synthetic and overblown Russiagate scandal, which is now clearly falling apart.

The coming of General Kelly is probably this administration’s best – and last – chance to put things right.  Certainly the President seems to think so

 

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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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