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Donald Trump: New York Times ‘made up story’ about Trump – Russia contacts

President Trump accuses The New York Times of inventing sources for its story of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Alexander Mercouris




US President Donald Trump is making what is perhaps the most serious accusation against The New York Times in its recent history, which is that it at least in part fabricated its story of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence of  13th February 2017 by attributing it to briefings provided to The New York Times by anonymous officials who don’t exist.

In what looks to me like an attempt to divert attention away from this accusation, The New York Times’s various media allies are talking up claims that the White House supposedly breached rules by talking to the FBI about The New York Times story.

Supposedly these rules, which exist in order to protect the FBI’s independence in its conduct of investigations, were breached on 14th February 2017 (the day after The New York Times published its story) when Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff, contacted the FBI to obtain information about The New York Times story and to see whether the FBI might be prepared to publish a rebuttal (it declined to do so, but “greenlighted” Priebus to do so instead).

I am no expert about these rules.  However I find the claim that they somehow prohibit the White House from seeking information from the FBI about a story like The New York Times story frankly bizarre.  It would mean that whilst The New York Times is allowed to talk to the FBI about a story involving the White House, the White House is not allowed to talk to the FBI about a story involving itself.

That strikes me as not only absurd but as inherently unfair.  It would mean that whilst the White House can be crucified every day by stories planted in the media as a result of ‘anonymous leaks’ given to the media by members of the FBI, it is prohibited from talking to the FBI directly about such stories, and is prohibited from obtaining from the FBI directly the information it needs to refute them.

The rules in question clearly exist in order to prevent the Executive Branch from meddling in the conduct of FBI investigations.  There is no evidence Priebus or anyone else in the White House sought to meddle in any FBI investigation.   As the White House says, Priebus did not speak to the FBI about any FBI investigation but about a New York Times story which sought to harm the White House.

I would add that the rules appear to be a matter of customary practice rather than law.  On any interpretation of the rules Priebus did not therefore break the law.  So far as I can see he acted throughout in an entirely reasonable way.  Presumably if he had not done so, then the senior officials of the FBI he spoke to (Director James Comey and Assistant Director Andrew McCabe) would have refused to speak to him.

Like so many of the other supposedly wicked actions of the Trump administration, this one looks to me to have been spun out of nothing.   In this case it appears to have been done in order to draw attention away from the serious accusation against The New York Times that the President is making.

The President’s accusation against The New York Times is concrete and very serious.

And I want you all to know we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake. Phony. Fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. And I said give me a break because I know the people. I know who they talked to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they say, oh, nine people, they have nine sources. They make up sources.

(bold italics added)

President Trump is here directly accusing The New York Times of either completely fabricating a story or – which is scarcely better – of puffing it up to make it appear more credible than it is by inventing more sources for it than actually exist.

That is an extraordinarily serious allegation to make against any newspaper.  It is particularly serious when it is made against The New York Times, which promotes itself as “the paper of record”.  It would mean that in this case “the record” has in part been made up.

Moreover in making this charge the President says that he has actual knowledge of who the leakers might be because the members of his campaign team who the FBI is investigating have told him who the investigators are, and that he knows that there cannot be nine of them as The New York Times says.

I would add that whilst I obviously do not know this for a fact, I suspect the President knows (or thinks he knows) more about this affair than he says.

Like many other people whenever I read a piece in the media or elsewhere that cites anonymous sources I often wonder who these sources are and whether they actually exist.

Sometimes I am quite sure that the sources are made up.  Some years ago I read a piece about the conflict in the northern Caucasus which repeatedly cited multiple anonymous sources to support some pretty remarkable claims.  I suspect there was in fact only one source but that the writer (a well known journalist) wanted to give the impression there was more than one to give his piece more credibility.

A more famous example is the book that Alexander Litvinenko, the former FSB agent who was poisoned with polonium in London, co-authored about the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings.  The book backed its claims of Russian state involvement in those bombings with just too many anonymous sources for me to find it in the end credible.

However there are other writers who regularly cite information given them anonymously whose record of reliability is such as to put the existence of their sources and the accuracy with which they are being reported beyond doubt.  Well known examples are the two veteran US investigative reporters Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh.  That does not incidentally mean that the sources are always right, or that Parry and Hersh always put the right weight on them.

Until very recently I would have placed The New York Times in the same category as Parry and Hersh.  No less a person than the President of the United States is however now challenging The New York Times by saying it has made up its sources when publishing a story alleging contacts between members of the President’s team and the agents of a foreign power.   He is also saying that The New York Times’s word and that of other media allied to it about the existence of their sources cannot be relied on unless the identity of the sources is published.

I cannot recall a more straightforward and serious challenge to The New York Times’s journalistic standards and integrity.  I look forward to seeing what it will do to rebut it.

In the meantime I would say that the attempt to divert attention away from the President’s challenge by conjuring up yet another bogus story about Reince Priebus’s conversations with the FBI does not look good.

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.


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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou



The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran



Via RT

Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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