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CONFIRMED: Senators call for DoJ/FBI to investigate ‘Trump Dossier’ author Christopher Steele

Republican Senators say”significant inconsistencies” in ex British spy’s statements to authorities

Alexander Mercouris

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The Russiagate has taken an extraordinary twist with confirmation that two Republican Senators – Senator Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, have written to the US Justice Department requesting that Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the Trump Dossier, be investigated because of “significant inconsistencies” in the statements he has made to the authorities.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has disclosed the request in a tweet

Senators Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s letter to the Justice Department, addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, reads as follows

Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Director Wray

Attached please find a classified memorandum related to certain communications between Christopher Steele and multiple US news outlets regarding the so-called “Trump dossier” that Mr. Steele compiled on behalf of Fusion GPS for the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee and also provided to the FBI.

Based on information contained therein, we are respectfully referring Mr. Steele to you for investigation of potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, for statements the Committee has reason to believe Mr. Steele made regarding his distribution of information contained in the dossier.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.  If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Davis or DeLisa Lay of Chairman Grassley’s staff at (202) 224-5225.

Note that to the best of my knowledge this is the first official confirmation from the US government that Christopher Steele himself provided the Trump Dossier to the FBI.

Note also that this is merely a request that the Justice Department and the FBI undertake an inquiry into certain of Steele’s actions.  It is in no sense a statement that Steele is guilty of any offence.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 – the provision in the US Code referred to in the letter – reads as follows

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party’s counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.

(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to—

(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a matter related to the procurement of property or services, personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch; or

(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.

Given that the memorandum attached to the Senators’ letter is classified and has not been disclosed it is impossible to say what are the “statements” which Christopher Steele has made which are being referred to, or what the “significant inconsistencies” in those statements are, or why Grassley and Lindsey Graham think there may be grounds to suspect breaches of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

Most are interpreting the Senators’ letter to mean that the Senators are saying that there are grounds to believe that Christopher Steele has misled the US authorities about his contacts with journalists.  Whilst that is the most likely interpretation of the letter, a careful study of the letter’s very careful wording does however leave open the possibility that the memorandum attached to the letter touches on the contents of the Trump Dossier

What suggests that the Senators may have concerns about the contents of the Trump Dossier are certain statements they have made following their sending of the letter.

Here is what Senator Grassley is reported to have said

I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review.

Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI.  If the same actions have different outcomes, and those differences seem to correspond to partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the up-and-up.

“Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely. In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.

Note that this comment appears to leave open the possibility that Steele may not have been fully truthful to the FBI.

Lying to the FBI is of course the offence for which Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos have been indicted.

Here is what Senator Lindsey Graham is reported to have said

After reviewing how Mr. Steele conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier and how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier, I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter

Lindsey Graham has previously made known his concern about the way the Trump Dossier has shaped the Russiagate inquiry, and he has all but confirmed that information drawn from the Trump Dossier was used to obtain from the FISA court surveillance warrants which made possible surveillance of members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 Presidential election.

Lindsey Graham’s comment following release of his and Senator Grassley’s letter to the Justice Department – specifically his words about the Justice Department “ignoring stop signs in its use of the Trump Dossier – suggests that it is concerns about the content of the Trump Dossier and the uses to which it was put which has at least in part triggered the Senators’ letter.

Needless to say the Democrats and others who believe or have a vested interest in the Russiagate conspiracy theory have reacted badly to Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s letter.

Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has issued this statement

I think this referral is unfortunate as it’s clearly another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.

I’ll continue to stand strong against any efforts to undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, as well as the ongoing congressional investigations. Getting to the bottom of what happened remains a top priority for me, as I hope it does for everyone on the judiciary committee.

A lawyer for Fusion GPS – the firm which on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign commissioned the research which led to the Trump Dossier – has made this statement on behalf of his client

After a year of investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the only person Republicans seek to accuse of wrongdoing is one who reported on these matters to law enforcement in the first place. Publicising a criminal referral based on classified information raises serious questions about whether this letter is nothing more than another attempt to discredit government sources, in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation. We should all be skeptical in the extreme

The difficulty the Democrats and Fusion GPS face in dismissing the Senators’ letter is that neither Grassley nor Lindsey Graham are obvious Trump loyalists.

Grassley is a famously independent Senator who has no personal attachment to Donald Trump and who has no special reason to back him.  Here is what CNBC had to say about Grassley as recently as 4th January 2018

Grassley is not a Trump toady. First off, he took his time in his decision to eventually put the Trump judicial nominees on the fast track.

Second, Grassley handled another incident last month with a prudent level of independence. When Trump critics were rightfully questioning some of his judicial nominees who did poorly in their congressional confirmation hearings, Grassley didn’t rush to defend the nominations.

And he did clearly and publicly tell the White House to rescind the nominations of the two most egregiously embarrassing judicial nominees.

Those nominees did step aside, and there wasn’t a nasty Trump tweet or anything else in response. Grassley literally forced the Trump team to adjust course, and he did it without starting World War III.

What’s in it for Grassley? It’s hard to find anything. He was just re-elected in 2016 to his seventh term and he’s 84. He also comes fromIowa where the polls say President Trump’s support has very much eroded. That means his support for the president could make the next year or so a nightmare back home. Finally, the hint of disastrous scandal that swirls around the Trump team could stain Grassley’s reputation by association.

But all of the above just adds to Grassley’s value for the White House.

He doesn’t have to help Trump in these endeavors, but he is. He has more to lose than to gain, but he persists and now with the FBI scrutiny, he’s taking it to a new level.

As for Lindsey Graham, he is one of the most extreme anti-Russia hawks in the Senate and is an implacable opponent of Donald Trump’s wish for a rapprochement with Russia.  He was also until just a few months ago one of Donald Trump’s most trenchant Republican critics in Congress.  He was also someone who pulled out all the stops to prevent Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination.  Here is one of his tweets from 3rd May 2016

In view of this, if people like Grassley and Lindsey Graham are saying that Steele has questions to answer then it defies logic to say that it is wrong for Christopher Steele to be asked those questions.

In saying this I of course admit that I have been a skeptic about the Trump Dossier all along.  On 11th January 2017 – immediately after it was published – I called it a clever fabrication.  On 31st March 2017 I said that its account of Russian government decision making was absurd.

The great mystery for me is how it came to pass that the FBI, the Justice Department, the US intelligence community, the Obama administration, many members of Congress, and most of the media, ever came to give any credence to this bizarre dossier.  That it took so long for its credibility even amongst Republicans to collapse frankly astonishes me.

In light of this the fact that there are now calls for Christopher Steele to be asked questions about his actions does not surprise me, and though I have no intention of anticipating the results of any inquiries into his actions I am not surprised that calls for such inquiries into his actions are now being made.

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Donald Trump open to lifting Russian sanctions

Comments in interview with Reuters indicate that the doors are not entirely slammed shut between the US and Russia regarding sanctions.

Seraphim Hanisch

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On Wednesday August 22, the latest sanctions set against Russia by the US go into effect. These sanctions have already exacted a toll on the Ruble sending it into the high sixties against the dollar last week. At the time of this writing the ruble has only slightly improved from the worst level since the announcement, and this round of sanctions is the most painful since the Ruble hit a crippling level of 83 to the dollar in late 2015.

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However, US President Trump indicated once again that the US is open to working with Russia and to making a deal which would ease sanctions in place.

This report, by both RIA Novosti and TASS offer some detail:

President of the United States Donald Trump would be ready to consider the possibility of lifting the US sanctions on Russia if Moscow begins taking joint steps with Washington, including on Syria and Ukraine, he said this on Monday in an interview with Reuters.

Trump said that the question of lifting US sanctions on Russia was not brought up during his recent meeting with Vladimir Putin, however, he stated a condition for its possible withdrawal. “I would consider it if they do something that would be good for us. But I wouldn’t consider it without that,” he said.

Trump added that at the meeting the parties talked about Israel, Syria, Ukraine, Crimea, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

The United States began imposing extensive sanctions against Russia in 2014 after the reunification of Crimea with Russia. Restrictions were subsequently expanded and updated many times, they concern both individuals and legal entities. In the following years, Washington found many other reasons for imposing sanctions against Moscow, including alleged interference in the presidential election of 2016, alleged involvement of Russian officials in violation of human rights. So far, there has been no substantive discussion on the removal of restrictions from Russia.

The Reuters interview had more to say about this:

ON HIS RECENT MEETING WITH RUSSIA’S PUTIN

“It was only Fake News that criticized. … We had a very good, I guess, close to two-hour meeting. We had another good meeting with a lot of our representatives there. We talked about Israel, we talked about insecurity for Israel, we talked about Syria, we talked about Ukraine.”

“I mentioned Crimea, sure. I always mention Crimea whenever I mention Ukraine. Putin and I had a very good discussion. It was a very — I think it was a very good discussion for both parties. I mentioned the gas pipeline going to Germany.”

ON WHETHER PUTIN ASKED TRUMP TO LIFT U.S. SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

“No, he did not. He never brought it up.”

ON WHETHER HE WOULD CONSIDER LIFTING SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

“No. I haven’t thought about it. But no, I’m not considering it at all. No. I would consider it if they do something that would be good for us. But I wouldn’t consider it without that. In other words, I wouldn’t consider it, even for a moment, unless something was go — we have a lot of things in common. We have a lot of things we can do good for each other. You have Syria. You have Ukraine. You have many other things. I think they would like economic development. And that’s a big thing for them.”

This interview was held the day before the new sanctions were to go into effect. President Trump actually made no direct reference to the new sanctions, but this series of statements brings up an interesting thought.

President Putin has been silent on the matter of sanctions, even though the lower level government officials have spoken out about the injustice that is a fact, given the nature and cause of the sanctions. But an anonymous observer offered the interesting thought that, contrary to appearances, the American president may be trying to project the image of “strength against Russia” that is vital for him to pass through the midterm elections without losing the House.

If he loses the House to the Democrat Party, the new House leadership would almost certainly bring impeachment proceedings against the President. While this, like Russiagate, would be an absolute farce, it would have the effect of severely impairing the President’s agenda. While the House remains in GOP hands, this at least will not happen. The source mentioned that with such a strategy in place, if the midterms went the GOP’s way then Trump would be able to lift the sanctions later.

While this seems to be a very speculative thought, it is interesting that it was suggested only hours before the Reuters interview became publicly known. It would seem possible that this was a very gentle signal of willingness on the part of the American President to continue seeking better relations with Russia.

One thing is certain: a lot of policy is riding on the outcome of the midterms. How they go will shape US policy and foreign policy very strongly. This is truly a critical election approaching – for the US and for the world.

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Denmark As A Model For American Socialists?

In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high.

The Duran

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Authored by Lars Hedegard via The Gatestone Institute:


Here are some facts to consider before American “democratic socialists” look to Denmark for guidance, as Senator Bernie Sanders did during the 2016 presidential campaign.

First of all, Danes actually pay for their brand of socialism through heavy taxation. In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high. If you receive public support and are of working age and healthy enough to work, the state will require that you look for a job or it will force a job on you.

The willingness of all the Danes to pay high taxes is predicated on the country’s high degree of homogeneity and level of citizens’ trust in each other, what sociologists call “social capital.” By and large, Danes do not mind paying into the welfare state because they know that the money will go to other Danes like themselves, who share their values and because they can easily imagine themselves to be in need of help — as most of them, from time to time, will be.

Whenever politicians propose tax cuts, they are met with vehement opposition: So, you want to cut taxes? What part of the welfare state are you willing to amputate? And that ends the debate.

Danes, in contrast to American socialists gaining ground in the Democratic Party, are increasingly aware that the welfare state cannot be sustained in conditions of open immigration. A political party agitating for “no borders” could never win a Danish election. Danes do not suffer from historical guilt: they have not attacked any other country for more than two centuries and have never committed a genocide.

Moreover, there is an even deeper truth to ponder: Denmark is not really socialist but constitutes a sui generis fusion of free-market capitalism and some socialist elements. Denmark has no minimum wage mandated by law. Wages, benefits and working conditions are determined through negotiations between employers and trade unions. 67% of Danish wage-earners are members of a union, compared to 19% in Germany and 8% in France. Strikes and lockouts are common, and the government will usually stay out of labor conflicts unless the parties are unable to agree.

It is uncomplicated for enterprises to fire workers, which gives them great flexibility to adapt to shifting market conditions. To alleviate the pain, the state has in place a number of arrangements such as generous unemployment benefits and programs to retrain and upgrade redundant workers.

Danish companies must make ends meet or perish. They generally will not get handouts from the government.

Denmark is more free-market oriented than the US. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is number 12, ahead of the United States (number 18). Venezuela is at the bottom, one place ahead of number 180, North Korea.

Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark’s respected pro-free-market think tank CEPOS, comments:

“Very high taxes and the vast public sector clearly detract in the capitalism index and reduce economic freedom. But Denmark compensates by protecting property rights, by low corruption, relatively little regulation of private enterprise, open foreign trade, healthy public finances and more. This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark’s relatively high affluence.”
Trish Regan recently claimed on Fox Business that Danes pay a “federal tax rate” of 56% on their income. This is misleading. The 55.8% is the levied on the marginaltax for the top income bracket, only on the part of their income above DKK 498,900 ($76,500). Any income under DKK 498,900 is taxed at lower rates. And the 55.8% marginal rate does not represent a “federal” or “national” rate. It represents the total of all taxes on income: national tax, regional tax, municipal tax and labor market tax. It does not, however, include Denmark’s 25% value-added tax (VAT), paid on all purchases.

Regan also claimed that Danes pay a 180% tax on cars. While it is true that there was once a maximum tax of 180% on care in Denmark, the vehicle tax rates have been lowered in recent years. Today, the first DKK 185,100 ($28,400) of the price of a gas- or diesel-powered car is taxed at 85%, and if the car’s price is above DKK 185,100, the remaining amount is taxed at 150% — which is of course bad enough.

Denmark’s total tax burden amounts to 45.9% of GDP, the highest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As pointed out in the Fox Business segment, all education for Danes is tuition-free, all the way through to a Ph.D. Not only that; the state will, within certain time constraints, pay students to study. For students at university level no longer living with their parents, the monthly cash grant comes to almost $1,000 per month. No fewer than 325,000 students out of a total population of 5.6 million benefit from this generous arrangement setting the state back to the tune of DKK 20.9 billion or 1% of GDP (latest 2018 figures just in and supplied by Mads Lundby Hansen). Denmark even pays student support to 20,000 foreign students.

Attempts by fiscal conservatives to cut down on payments to students have been successfully resisted by the vociferous and influential student organizations; at present it would appear impossible to muster anything like a parliamentary majority to limit the student handouts.

Fox Business is right that a great many Danes are on public transfer payments. Government figures from 2017 indicate that 712,300 Danes of working age (16-64) — not including recipients of student benefits — get public financial support. But Regan’s claim that most Danes do not work is ludicrous. According to Statistics Denmark, 69.9% of Danes aged 16-64 are active in the labor market.

How can Denmark pay for its comprehensive welfare state, which includes free medical care regardless of the severity of your condition? Regan claims that Denmark is “heavily in debt.” Not so. As it turns out, Denmark is among the least indebted countries in the world, even when compared to other Western countries. The Danish government’s gross debt stands at 35.9% of GDP. Compare that to, e.g., The United Kingdom (86.3 %), The United States (108%), Belgium (101%), Canada (86.6%), France (96.3%), Germany (59.8%), The Netherlands (53.5%), Italy (129.7%), Spain (96.7%) and even Switzerland (41.9%).

Comparing Denmark to the US, Madsen notes that the latter has a problem with fiscal sustainability that may necessitate tax increases. Denmark enjoys what he labels fiscal “oversustainability” (“overholdbarhed”).

At a time when socialism appears to be popular among certain sections of the American population, its proponents would do well not to cite Denmark as a model. The Danish fusion of free-market capitalism and a comprehensive welfare state has worked because Denmark is a small country with a very homogeneous population. This economic and social model rests on more than 150 years of political, social and economic compromises between peasants and landowners, business-owners and workers, and right- and left-leaning political parties. This has led to a measure of social and political stability that would be hard to emulate in much larger and more diverse counties such as the United States.


Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Speech Society, is based in Denmark.

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Ron Paul: Protectionism Abroad and Socialism at Home

One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians.

Ron Paul

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Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians. For example, government interference in health care increased health care costs, making it difficult or even impossible for many to obtain affordable, quality care. The effects of these prior interventions were used to justify Obamacare.

Now, the failures of Obamacare are being used to justify further government intervention in health care. This does not just include the renewed push for socialized medicine. It also includes supporting new laws mandating price transparency. The lack of transparency in health care pricing is a direct result of government policies encouraging overreliance on third-party payers.

This phenomenon is also observed in foreign policy. American military interventions result in blowback that is used to justify more military intervention. The result is an ever-expanding warfare state and curtailments on our liberty in the name of security.

Another example of this is related to the reaction to President Trump’s tariffs. Many of America’s leading trading partners have imposed “retaliatory” tariffs on US goods. Many of these tariffs target agriculture exports. These tariffs could be devastating for American farmers, since exports compose as much as 20 percent of the average farmer’s income.

President Trump has responded to the hardships imposed on farmers by these retaliatory tariffs with a 12 billion dollars farm bailout program. The program has three elements: direct payments to farmers, use of federal funds to buy surplus crops and distribute them to food banks and nutrition programs, and a new federal effort to promote American agriculture overseas.

This program will not fix the problems caused by Tramp’s tariffs. For one thing, the payments are unlikely to equal the money farmers will lose from this trade war. Also, government marketing programs benefit large agribusiness but do nothing to help small farmers. In fact, by giving another advantage to large agribusiness, the program may make it more difficult for small farmers to compete in the global marketplace.

Distributing surplus food to programs serving the needy may seem like a worthwhile use of government funds. However, the federal government has neither constitutional nor moral authority to use money taken by force from taxpayers for charitable purposes. Government-funded welfare programs also crowd out much more effective and compassionate private efforts. Of course, if government regulations such as the minimum wage and occupational licensing did not destroy job opportunities, government farm programs did not increase food prices, and the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies did not continuously erode purchasing power, the demand for food aid would be much less. By increasing spending and debt, the agriculture bailout will do much more to create poverty than to help the needy.

Agriculture is hardly the only industry suffering from the new trade war. Industries — such as automobile manufacturing — that depend on imports for affordable materials are suffering along with American exporters. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (who supports tariffs) has called for bailouts of industries negatively impacted by tariffs. He is likely to be joined in his advocacy by crony capitalists seeking another government handout.

More bailouts will only add to the trade war’s economic damage by increasing government spending and hastening the welfare–warfare state’s collapse and the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. Instead of trying to fix tariffs-caused damage through more corporate welfare, President Trump and Congress should pursue a policy of free markets and free trade for all and bailouts for none.

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