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Donald Trump’s achievement: getting through his first year as President

Trump has successfully withstood the most sustained attempt to eject a newly elected President from office in US history

Alexander Mercouris

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As 2018 begins Donald Trump has reason to be satisfied.

He has survived his first year in much better shape politically than might have been expected, seeing off the single most sustained attack on a newly elected President that the US has witnessed since Abraham Lincoln’s first year.

Newly elected US Presidents can normally expect a honeymoon in the first six months following their election, with support for them tending to tail off towards the year’s end.

In Donald Trump’s case the pattern has been the reverse.  Not only are his ratings improving but his position in Congress looks stronger now than it has ever been before.

Though talk of impeachment is still there, with the Republican Party in Congress now finally closing ranks behind him its prospect, even if the Democrats win control of Congress in the autumn, is starting to melt away.

In order to understand how this has happened the reasons for Donald Trump’s problems in his first year as President must first be explained.

Donald Trump won the Presidency as an outsider running against the US’s political class.  He did so by highlighting the growing problems of ever larger numbers of Americans and the growing disconnect between them and the political class, which has increasingly turned its back on them.

Nothing is more calculated to infuriate professionals than to be beaten by an amateur at their own game, and the mere fact that Donald Trump won the President as an outsider would have sufficed to make him a host of enemies in Washington.

However the manner of his victory – with his calls to “drain the swamp” and have “crooked Hillary” “locked up”, together with his emphatic rejection of ‘identity politics’, criticism of interventionist wars, and calls for a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin (the US political establishment’s bête noire) – in other words by his total rejection of the orthodoxies of the US’s political class – was horrifying, calling into question the whole political and ideological construct within which the political class operates and casting doubt on its legitimacy.

In view of this a pushback against Donald Trump was inevitable, and one fact more than any other gave it an extra spur.

This was that Donald Trump won the election in the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, falling behind his opponent Hillary Clinton by as much as 3 million votes.

There has been much discussion about this – far too much in my opinion – but the key point about it is that the fact that Donald Trump cannot show that a majority of Americans backed him in the election has exposed him to attacks on his legitimacy and has emboldened his opponents.

This is what lies behind the challenges he has experienced in his first year.

They began on the very first day of his Presidency with a row about the size of the crowd which attended his inauguration.

Contrary to what is often said, I do not think this was a trivial episode, and I am sure Donald Trump did not see it that way either. That is why he and his officials insisted in defiance of all the evidence that the crowd was bigger than it really was.

Trump has come in for much ridicule for this, but this overlooks the reason why the question of the size of the crowd was brought up in the first place.

It was in fact yet another attempt to highlight the fact that he lost the popular vote in the election so as to insinuate – again – that he is not the legitimately elected President of the United States because the majority of the American people did not vote for him.

Given that the issue of the size of the crowd was being used in that way, Trump’s insistence that it was larger than it was becomes fully understandable as a defence of the legitimacy of his election to the Presidency.

Soon after that attack more followed.

Within just two weeks of the start of Donald Trump’s Presidency a series of political and judicial attacks were launched against his ‘travel ban’ Executive Orders, even though these Orders fulfilled pledges he had made during his campaign.

Of all the attacks Donald Trump has experienced since his election the attacks on his ‘travel ban’ Executive Orders are the ones which have troubled me most.

This is not because I agree with the policy set out in the Executive Orders.  On the contrary I think it is harsh and cruel.  However I have never had the slightest doubt that Donald Trump has the constitutional authority as President to make these Orders, and I have been dismayed that no less a person than the Acting Attorney General of the United States not only argued otherwise but sought to sabotage them, and that several federal court judges have done the same, citing as grounds arguments wholly lacking in legal merit which read as if they were lifted straight out of the editorial pages of certain newspapers.

That it has required the Supreme Court to intervene to state what is legally obvious is deeply disturbing, and shows just how politicised the federal court system in the US has become.

The US constantly preaches to the world and to itself the importance of judicial independence, judicial impartiality and the separation of powers.  Indeed the whole US Constitution is based on these principles.

The grossly partisan way certain courts have behaved in the battle of the Executive Orders shows that in the US these principles are in danger of becoming a fiction.

That ought to be a very worrying fact, and it is a matter of still greater worry that so few Americans seem concerned about it.

If Donald Trump’s political opponents have not hesitated to use the courts and elements of the Justice Department’s bureaucracy to try to obstruct the implementation of his policies, they have also not hesitated to obstruct the appointment of officials to his administration.

The process of Senate confirmation of candidates for senior posts in the administration has been spun out to a ridiculous degree, with many middle ranking positions still unfilled.

This is not because the candidates Donald Trump is nominating are unfit for office.  It is because it is Donald Trump who is nominating them.

That this sort of behaviour is utterly self-destructive ought to be obvious.  The United States cannot function properly without a government yet some people in Congress appear to be so hostile to Donald Trump that they are prepared to sacrifice the efficient operation of the US government in order to conduct their feud with him.

It is however the Russiagate scandal which eclipses all other attacks which have been made against Donald Trump in his first year.

The origins of Russiagate go back to 2015 when Donald Trump up-ended US political class orthodoxy in the most radical imaginable way by speaking well of Russian President Vladimir Putin and making clear his wish for better relations with Russia.

In doing so Donald Trump had the courage to doubt one of the central charges the US political class regularly makes against Vladimir Putin: that he carries out extra-judicial killings (ie. murders) of his Russian political opponents.

Worse still, it turned out that the American people were not only unfazed by what Donald Trump had to say about Putin, but his talk of wanting a rapprochement with Russia was actually striking a positive chord with them.

To a US political class which to a disturbing degree has internalised hostility to Russia and for whom the demonisation of Vladimir Putin has become an article of faith, this was well nigh unbelievable heresy, so shocking that there had to be some ulterior motive behind it.

The result was a series of investigations which were launched in the first instance privately in the autumn of 2015 to try to find the ‘hidden link’ between Donald Trump and Russia which would explain his supposedly extraordinary behaviour.

These investigations gained critical mass in the early summer of 2016 when Hillary Clinton and her campaign hit on the story of Donald Trump’s supposed connections to Russia as the silver bullet which would kill off his campaign, divert attention away from the ugly revelations in the DNC and Podesta emails, and deliver Hillary Clinton the Presidency.

Accordingly at some point in July 2016 the private investigations of Donald Trump’s supposed Russian connections expanded into an official investigation by the FBI based on the Trump Dossier, a grotesque compilation of salacious gossip about Donald Trump and members of his campaign team paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign and put together at the request of Fusion GPS by the ex British spy Christopher Steele.

The result was that from July 2016 until the inauguration on 20th January 2017 members of Donald Trump’s campaign and transition teams were placed under surveillance by the FBI, with the US intelligence community publishing an extraordinary statement a month before the election which all but said that the Russians were trying to swing the election to Donald Trump, and publishing a further Intelligence Assessment on 8th January 2017 – after the election and shortly before the inauguration – which without providing any evidence again all but said the same thing.

This was accompanied in the last weeks of the transition period and the first weeks of the new administration by a flood of leaks from the Justice Department, the FBI, other sections of the US intelligence community and from former members of the Obama administration, which also sought to delegitimise Donald Trump and destabilise his administration by also insinuating that he owed his election to the Russians.

The media, which in the United States as in all other Western countries has now become the servant of the political class, picked up and magnified these unsupported claims to an extraordinary degree, treating the Russian role in Donald Trump’s election as “proved”, ridiculing Donald Trump’s denials, and labelling anyone expressing any doubt about the claims as a “Kremlin stooge” or a “conspiracy theorist”.

The resulting scandal has resulted in two very dangerous moments for Donald Trump.

The first came in February 2017 when with weeks of his inauguration he was forced to ask for the resignation of General Michael Flynn, his National Security Adviser and the person who was spearheading his attempt to mend relations with Russia.

Flynn was felled in part by his own mistakes but mainly by a concerted and in part illegal campaign of leaks and bureaucratic traps which in the end successfully brought him down.

Flynn’s resignation created a gap within the administration’s foreign policy team which has never been properly filled, but more critically it gave an appearance of reality to the conspiracy allegations at the heart of the Russiagate scandal, which gave the scandal extra life.

The immediate result was to harden the already strong hostility to Donald Trump in Congress, with many Republicans now convinced that there might be something to the Russian conspiracy allegations after all, making the possibility of impeachment appear for a time a very real one.

It was the bad feeling caused by the Flynn affair which in my opinion lay behind the strongly negative reaction to Donald Trump’s entirely correct and fully justified sacking of the FBI’s scheming and incompetent Director James Comey, and to the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel.

It was also the Flynn affair which led to the second dangerous moment in Donald Trump’s Presidency, the passing by Congress in August of its bizarre anti-sanctions legislation targeting Russia.

This was undoubtedly intended by Donald Trump’s Congressional opponents to be an impeachment trap akin to the equally unconstitutional Tenure of Office Act which in 1867 nearly felled Andrew Johnson.

The plan was that Donald Trump would veto the legislation, exposing his ‘loyalty’ to Vladimir Putin and Russia, Congress would then override his veto – just as it once overrode Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Tenure of Office Act – so that with with Trump discredited and his support in Congress shot to pieces Congress would move to impeachment as soon as a convenient pretext arose.

In the event Donald Trump showed much more political skill and agility than his opponents had reckoned on, sidestepping the impeachment trap they had laid for him by signing the legislation into law instead of vetoing it whilst making clear his belief in written provisos that the legislation is unconstitutional, thereby preparing the ground for a future challenge to the Supreme Court.

Since then events have begun to move in Donald Trump’s direction.

The reason is that the main thrust of the attack on him – the Russiagate scandal – has turned out to be a grotesque and gigantic misfire.

The evidence to back the collusion claims with Russia which Donald Trump’s opponents staked so much on in order to bring him down stubbornly refuses to appear, and the longer the scandal continues the more obvious it becomes that that it is not appearing because it is not there.

The result is that instead of Donald Trump being exposed as a Russian stooge, it is his opponents and the US security agencies who are being increasingly exposed as conducting a witch-hunt against him.  Moreover it has also become increasingly clear that this is a witch-hunt which has repeatedly tipped over into gross impropriety and sometimes into outright illegality.

The point has now been reached where even former Republican opponents of Donald Trump’s are now calling for the appointment of a new Special Counsel to investigate the actions of his accusers.

Though this has not yet been noticed by the wider US public, it has transformed the situation in Congress.

Whereas in July many Republicans in Congress were worried that their President would turn out to be a Russian stooge, now only an irreconcilable hardline minority of anti Trump Republicans in the  Senate believes it or pretends to believe it.

The result is that whereas in the first half of the year Donald Trump was desperately short of support in Congress, making it all but impossible for him to get legislation passed, now with the Republican Party in Congress rallying behind him not only is the danger of impeachment receding but he has finally scored his first big legislation win in the form of the tax reform bill, which is now set to become law.

Here I ought to say that I happen to think that the tax reform bill is as wrong on economic grounds as I think the entry policy contained in Donald Trump’s ‘travel ban’ Executive Orders is wrong on moral grounds.  However politically speaking it is Donald Trump’s success in getting the tax reform bill through Congress which is what matters.  The point is that whilst Donald Trump did not have sufficient support from Republicans in Congress to get it through six months ago, he has that support now.

The result is that with the Republican Party in Congress closing ranks behind him, with doubts about Robert Mueller’s and the FBI’s conduct of the Russiagate inquiry growing, and with the economy looking strong, Donald Trump starts 2018 politically much stronger than he has been at any time since he was inaugurated President.

Even his approval ratings are rising, so that according to one poll they now stand at the same level as Barack Obama’s at this stage in Obama’s Presidency.

Donald Trump has paid a price for his survival in his first year.

He has lost his two most important lieutenants – Flynn and Bannon – and has been obliged to surround himself with a Praetorian Guard of generals who behave more often as his captors than as his servants.

The result is that the belligerent foreign policy of confronting everybody everywhere all the time which Donald Trump pledged during the election to reverse has not only continued but has intensified.

As for the project to mend fences with Russia, at least for the moment it has been kicked into the long grass.

Given the forces stacked against him at the start of 2017 Donald Trump will consider that an acceptable price to pay.

The key point is that he has survived and grown stronger after the most sustained attack ever experienced in modern US history on a newly elected President.

It is now all but certain that he will continue to the end of his term, with at least a possibility – especially if the economy remains strong – that he will be re-elected in 2020.

Donald Trump’s political space is increasing.  The test of his Presidency will be how he uses it.

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VIPS Fault Mueller Probe, Criticize Refusal to Interview Assange

The bug in Mueller’s report released on Thursday is that he accepts that the Russian government interfered in the election. Trump should challenge that, says VIPS.

Consortium News

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Via ConsortiumNews.com:


MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment

April 16, 2019

Mr. President:

The song has ended but the melody lingers on. The release Thursday of the redacted text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” nudged the American people a tad closer to the truth on so-called “Russiagate.”

But the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president. And that melody will linger on for the rest of your presidency, unless you seize the moment.

Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth, apparently in the lack of any disinterested, independent forensic work. Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC (through a cutout).

We brought the lack of independent forensics to the attention of Attorney General William Barr on March 13 in a Memorandum entitled “Mueller’s Forensic-Free Findings”, but received no reply or acknowledgement. In that Memorandum we described the results of our own independent, agenda-free forensic investigation led by two former Technical Directors of the NSA, who avoid squishy “assessments,” preferring to base their findings on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method. Our findings remain unchallenged; they reveal gaping holes in CrowdStrike’s conclusions.

We do not know if Barr shared our March 13 Memorandum with you. As for taking a public position on the forensics issue, we suspect he is being circumspect in choosing his battles carefully, perhaps deferring until later a rigorous examination of the dubious technical work upon which Mueller seems to have relied.

Barr’s Notification to Congress

As you know, the big attention-getter came on March 24 when Attorney General William Barr included in his four-page summary a quote from Mueller’s report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Understandably, that grabbed headlines — the more so, since most Americans had been convinced earlier by the media that the opposite was true.

There remains, however, a huge fly in the ointment. The Mueller report makes it clear that Mueller accepts as a given — an evidence-impoverished given — that the Russian government interfered in the election on two tracks:

Track 1 involves what Barr, echoing Mueller, claims “a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA)” did in using social media “to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.” A careful look at this allegation shows it to be without merit, despite Herculean efforts by The New York Times, for example, to put lipstick on this particular pig.  After some rudimentary research, award winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter promptly put that pig out of its misery and brought home the bacon. We do not believe “Track 1” merits further commentary.

Track 2 does need informed commentary, since it is more technical and — to most Americans — arcane. In Barr’s words: “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election.”

We are eager to see if Mueller’s report contains more persuasive forensic evidence than that which VIPS has already debunked. In Barr’s summary, the only mention of forensics refers to “forensic accountants” — a far cry from the kind of forensic investigators needed to provide convincing proof of “hacking” by the Russian government.

But They Were Indicted!

Circular reasoning is not likely to work for very long, even with a U.S. populace used to being brainwashed by the media. Many Americans had mistakenly assumed that Mueller’s indictment of Russians — whether they be posting on FaceBook or acting like intelligence officers — was proof of guilt. But, as lawyers regularly point out, “one can easily indict a ham sandwich” — easier still these days, if it comes with Russian dressing.

Chances have now increased that the gullible folks who had been assured that Mueller would find collusion between you and Putin may now be a bit more circumspect — skeptical even — regarding the rest of the story-line of the “Russian hack,” and that will be even more likely among those with some technical background. Such specialists will have a field day, IF — and it is a capital “IF” — by some miracle, word of VIPS’ forensic findings gets into the media this time around.

The evidence-impoverished, misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 6, 2017 had one saving grace. The authors noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” Forensic investigators can follow a trail of metadata and other technical properties. VIPS has done that.

A “High-Class Entity?”

If, as we strongly suspect, Mueller is relying for forensics solely on CrowdStrike, the discredited firm hired by the DNC in the spring of 2016, he is acting more in the mold of Inspector Clouseau than the crackerjack investigator he is reputed to be. It simply does not suffice for Mueller’s former colleague James Comey to tell Congress that CrowdStrike is a “high-class entity.” It is nothing of the sort and, in addition to its documented incompetence, it is riddled with conflicts of interest. Comey needs to explain why he kept the FBI away from the DNC computers after they were said to have been “hacked.”

And former National Intelligence Director James Clapper needs to explain his claim last November that “the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” What forensic evidence? From CrowdStrike? We at VIPS, in contrast, are finding more and more forensic evidence that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked by the Russians or anyone else — and that “Guccifer 2.0” is an out-and-out fraud. Yes, we can prove that from forensics too.

But the Talking Heads Say …

Again, if Mueller’s incomplete investigation is allowed to assume the status of Holy Writ, most Americans will continue to believe that — whether you colluded the Russians or not — Putin came through for you big time. In short, absent President Putin’s help, you would not be president.

Far too many Americans will still believe this because of the mainstream-media fodder — half-cooked by intelligence leaks — that they have been fed for two and a half years. The media have been playingthe central role in the effort of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex to stymie any improvement in relations with Russia. We in VIPS have repeatedly demonstrated that the core charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election are built on a house of cards. But, despite our record of accuracy on this issue — not to mention our pre-Iraq-war warnings about the fraudulent intelligence served up by our former colleagues — we have gotten no play in mainstream media.

Most of us have chalked up decades in the intelligence business and many have extensive academic and government experience focusing on Russia. We consider the issue of “Russian interference” of overriding significance not only because the allegation is mischievously bogus and easily disproven. More important, it has brought tension with nuclear-armed Russia to the kind of dangerous fever pitch not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Russian provocation was real — authentic, not synthetic.

Sober minds resolved that crisis more than a half-century ago, and we all got to live another day. These days sober minds seem few and far between and a great deal is at stake. On the intelligence/forensics side, we have proved that the evidence adduced to “prove” that the Russians hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails and gave them to WikiLeaks is spurious. For example, we have examined metadata from one key document attributed to Russian hacking and shown that it was synthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”

Who Left the Bread Crumbs?

So, if it wasn’t the Russians, who left the “Russian” bread-crumb “fingerprints?” We do not know for sure; on this question we cannot draw a conclusion based on the principles of science — at least not yet. We suspect, however, that cyber warriors closer to home were responsible for inserting the “tell-tale signs” necessary to attribute “hacks” to Russia. We tacked on our more speculative views regarding this intriguing issue onto the end of our July 24, 2017 Memorandum to you entitled “Intelligence Veterans Challenge Russia Hack Evidence.”

We recall that you were apprised of that Memorandum’s key findings because you ordered then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to talk to William Binney, one of our two former NSA Technical Directors and one of the principal authors of that Memorandum. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney by explaining the genesis of the odd invitation to CIA Headquarters: “You are here because the president told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

On the chance Pompeo has given you no report on his meeting with Binney, we can tell you that Binney, a plain-spoken, widely respected scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. Pompeo reacted with disbelief, but then talked of following up with the FBI and NSA. We have no sign, though, that he followed through. And there is good reason to believe that Pompeo himself may have been reluctant to follow up with his subordinates in the Directorate of Digital Innovation created by CIA Director John Brennan in 2015. CIA malware and hacking tools are built by the Engineering Development Group, part of that relatively new Directorate.

Obfuscation’

A leak from within the CIA, published on March 31, 2017 by WikiLeaks as part of the so-called “Vault 7” disclosures, exposed a cyber tool called “Marble,” which was used during 2016 for “obfuscation” (CIA’s word). This tool can be used to conduct a forensic attribution double game (aka a false-flag operation); it included test samples in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, and Russian. Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima, to her credit, immediately penned an informative article on the Marble cyber-tool, under the catching (and accurate) headline “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.” That was apparently before Nakashima “got the memo.” Mainstream media have otherwise avoided like the plague any mention of Marble.

Mr. President, we do not know if CIA’s Marble, or tools like it, played some kind of role in the campaign to blame Russia for hacking the DNC. Nor do we know how candid the denizens of CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation have been with the White House — or with former Director Pompeo — on this touchy issue. Since it is still quite relevant, we will repeat below a paragraph included in our July 2017 Memorandum to you under the sub-heading “Putin and the Technology:”

“We also do not know if you have discussed cyber issues in any detail with President Putin. In his interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, he seemed quite willing – perhaps even eager – to address issues related to the kind of cyber tools revealed in the Vault 7 disclosures, if only to indicate he has been briefed on them. Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack. Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”

As we told Attorney General Barr five weeks ago, we consider Mueller’s findings fundamentally flawed on the forensics side and ipso facto incomplete. We also criticized Mueller for failing to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

Political Enemies & Mainstream Media (Forgive the Redundancy)

You may be unaware that in March 2017 lawyers for Assange and the Justice Department (acting on behalf of the CIA) reportedly were very close to an agreement under which Assange would agree to discuss “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” in the leak of the DNC emails and agree to redact some classified CIA information, in exchange for limited immunity. According to the investigative reporter John Solomon of The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, learned of the incipient deal and told then-FBI Director Comey, who ordered an abrupt“stand down” and an end to the discussions with Assange.

Why did Comey and Warner put the kibosh on receiving “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” [read Russia]? We won’t insult you with the obvious answer. Assange is now in prison, to the delight of so many — including Mrs. Clinton who has said Assange must now “answer for what he has done.”

But is it too late to follow up somehow on Assange’s offer? Might he or his associates be still willing to provide “technical evidence” showing, at least, who was not the culprit?

You, Mr. President, could cause that to happen. You would have to buck strong resistance at every turn, and there all manner of ways that those with vested interests and a lot of practice in sabotage can try to thwart you — with the full cooperation of most media pundits. By now, you know all too well how that works.

But you are the president. And there may be no better time than now to face them down, show the spurious nature of the concocted “evidence” attempting to put you in “Putin’s pocket,” and — not least — lift the cloud that has prevented you from pursuing a more decent relationship with Russia.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)

Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

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Ukraine’s president-in-waiting Zelensky vows to end conflict in Donbass with ‘POWERFUL INFOWAR’

Zelensky vowed to “act within the Normandy format,” referring to the French-German-Russian-Ukrainian talks on war in Donbass, saying that “we will continue the Minsk process, we will restart it.”

RT

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Via RT…


Comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelensky, set for a landslide win in Ukraine’s presidential vote, stayed true to character at his first press conference, dropping some flashy promises but refusing to go into boring detail.

Shortly after claiming electoral victory, Zelensky held a Q&A session with reporters at his campaign HQ in a Kiev business center. While the official results of the elections have yet to be announced, multiple exit polls suggest he secured more than 72 percent of votes.

Zelensky addressed the media in an easy-going manner. He spoke in a mix of Ukrainian and Russian, switching between the two languages, sometimes in one sentence. He also talked English a bit. But if the press hoped to shed light on the policies of the incoming president and his team, the conference actually generated more questions than answers.

Bringing the civil war in eastern Ukraine to an end appears to be one of the top priorities for Zelensky.

Promising to announce some kind of a plan shortly, he asked the reporters for help in the upcoming “infowar” that he says would help end the conflict, which, since 2014, has been raging between Kiev’s troops and the rebel self-proclaimed republics.

We will launch a very powerful information war to end the war in Donbass.

He then vowed to “act within the Normandy format,” referring to the French-German-Russian-Ukrainian talks on war in Donbass, saying that “we will continue the Minsk process, we will restart it.”

Next up, Zelensky did not rule out – even if half-jokingly – that the outvoted president Petro Poroshenko could gain a government post if the public “asks so.”

Do you want me to appoint him? Then I will ask society… If they tell me that they want to see Petro Poroshenko in one post or another – maybe, I don’t know.

Zelensky added, though, that he would like to try “new people” first. But the very team of the soon-to-be president still remains a mystery, as he’s refusing to provide any names, be it the new administration, the judiciary, or the country’s military.

“We have very serious acting generals who have authority in the army, you will definitely see them. I have no right to give the names of these people now, as there is an agreement with the generals,” Zelensky said cryptically, likewise not revealing his candidate for prosecutor general.

For now, Zelensky and his Servant of the People party – notably named after his own comedy show where he played a schoolteacher-turned-president – are promising to introduce the team “in the near future.”

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The Triumph of Evil

What is going on is that American oil companies want to recover their control over the revenue streams from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:


Today (April 17) I heard a NPR “news” report that described the democratically elected president of Venezuela as “the Venezuelan dictator Maduro.” By repeating over and over that a democratically elected president is a dictator, the presstitutes create that image of Maduro in the minds of vast numbers of peoples who know nothing about Venezuela and had never heard of Maduro until he is dropped on them as “dictator.”

Nicolas Maduro Moros was elected president of Venezuela in 2013 and again in 2018. Previously he served as vice president and foreign minister, and he was elected to the National Assembly in 2000. Despite Washington’s propaganda campaign against him and Washington’s attempt to instigate violent street protests and Maduro’s overthrow by the Venezuelan military, whose leaders have been offered large sums of money, Maduro has the overwhelming support of the people, and the military has not moved against him.

What is going on is that American oil companies want to recover their control over the revenue streams from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves. Under the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez, continued by Maduro, the oil revenues instead of departing the country have been used to reduce poverty and raise literacy inside Venezuela.

The opposition to Maduro inside Venezuela comes from the elites who have been traditionally allied with Washington in the looting of the country. These corrupt elites, with the CIA’s help, temporarily overthrew Chavez, but the people and the Venezuelan military secured his release and return to the presidency.

Washington has a long record of refusing to accept any reformist governments in Latin America. Reformers get in the way of North America’s exploitation of Latin American countries and are overthrown.

With the exceptions of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, Latin America consists of Washington’s vassal states. In recent years Washington destroyed reform governments in Honduras, Argentina and Brazil and put gangsters in charge.

According to US national security adviser John Bolton, a neoconservative war monger, the governments in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua will soon be overthrown. New sanctions have now been placed on the three countries. Washington in the typical display of its pettiness targeted sanctions against the son of the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. https://www.rt.com/news/456841-bolton-russia-venezuela-threat/

Ortega has been the leader of Nicaragua since for 40 years. He was president 1985-1990 and has been elected and reelected as president since 2006.

Ortega was the opponent of Somoza, Washington’s dictator in Nicaragua. Consequently he and his movement were attacked by the neoconservative operation known as Iran-Contra during the Reagan years. Ortega was a reformer. His government focused on literacy, land reform, and nationalization, which was at the expense of the wealthy ruling class. He was labeled a “Marxist-Leninist,” and Washington attempted to discredit his reforms as controversial leftist policies.

Somehow Castro and Ortega survived Washington’s plots against them. By the skin of his teeth so did Chavez unless you believe it was the CIA that gave him cancer. Castro and Chavez are dead. Ortega is 74. Maduro is in trouble, because Washington has stolen Venezuela’s bank deposits and cut Venezuela off the international financial system, and the British have stolen Venezuela’s gold. This makes it hard for Venezuela to pay its debts.

The Trump regime has branded the democratically twice-elected Maduro an “illegitimate” president. Washington has found a willing puppet, Juan Guaido, to take Maduro’s place and has announced that the puppet is now the president of Venezuela. No one among the Western presstitutes or among the vassals of Washington’s empire finds it strange that an elected president is illegitimate but one picked by Washington is not.

Russia and China have given Maduro diplomatic support. Both have substantial investments in Venezuela that would be lost if Washington seizes the country. Russia’s support for Maduro was declared by Bolton today to be a provocation that is a threat to international peace and security. Bolton said his sanctions should be seen by Russia as a warning against providing any help for the Venezuelan government.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo and vice president Pence have added their big mouths to the propaganda against the few independent governments in Latin America. Where is the shame when the highest American government officials stand up in front of the world and openly proclaim that it is official US government policy to overthrow democratically elected governments simply because those governments don’t let Americans plunder their countries?

How is it possible that Pompeo can announce that the “days are numbered” of the elected president of Nicaragua, who has been elected president 3 or 4 times, and the world not see the US as a rogue state that must be isolated and shunned? How can Pompeo describe Washington’s overthrow of an elected government as “setting the Nicaraguan people free?”

The top officials of the US government have announced that they intend to overthrow the governments of 3 countries and this is not seen as “a threat to international peace and security?”

How much peace and security did Washington’s overthrow of governments in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and the attempted overthrow of Syria bring?

Washington is once again openly violating international law and the rest of the world has nothing to say?

There is only one way to describe this: The Triumph of Evil.

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” — William Butler Yeats

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