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EU Monetary And Economic Failures

The monetary, financial and political weaknesses of the EU are about to be exposed by the forthcoming global credit crisis.

The Duran

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Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com:


This article assumes the combination of end of credit cycle dynamics and the rise in trade protectionism in 1929 is a valid precedent for gauging the scale of a developing global credit crisis today, as described in my earlier article published here. Then, it was heavier tariffs coinciding with a less destabilising inflation cycle than we face today, a combination that saw stock markets collapse. Today, we have the additional factors of far greater monetary inflation, far higher levels of government debt, low savings coupled with record consumer borrowing, and unbacked fiat currencies likely to lose purchasing power instead of gold-backed currencies which increased their purchasing power.

Declining international trade has already become evident in only a few months, and prescient observers detect early signs of a rapidly developing global recession. In response, the ECB has announced it will target lending to non-financial businesses with its TLTRO-III programme from September onwards.

The larger problem is the crony capitalists in the EU have captured the EU institutions, including the ECB, and will demand ever-accelerating monetary inflation. I have chosen to examine the consequences for the Eurozone, which is one of the more vulnerable economic and political constructs likely to be exposed in the severe economic downturn the world faces today.

The monetary failure

Last week, the ECB announced the reintroduction of targeted long-term refinancing operations for the third time. TLTRO-III is scheduled to start from next September. The idea is to make yet more money available for the banks at attractive rates on condition they increase their lending to non-financial entities.

The policy is justified because the ECB sees growing signs the Eurozone economy is stalling, possibly badly. The weaker Eurozone economies are moving into outright recession, and Germany’s motor exports appear to have dramatically slowed, putting a constraint on her whole economy.

The ECB’s reintroduction of TLTRO is an offer of yet more monetary and credit inflation, despite the evidence that unprecedented waves of monetary inflation in the last ten years have failed in all the objectives for which they were designed, except two: governments have continued to get the funds to spend without meaningful restraint, and insolvent banks have been preserved.

Only two months after its asset purchase programme officially ended, the inflationists are at it again. But one wonders why the ECB bothers to delay TLTRO-III until September. If it is such a good thing, why not introduce it now?

There is another explanation, and that is the ECB is intellectually adrift with no economic compass. We do not know how many economists and monetary specialists are employed in the Eurosystem, which includes the ECB and the regional central banks, but they are certainly not economists, otherwise they would understand money. They may be technicians, which is not the same thing. If they were economists, or more precisely properly schooled in the human sub-science of catallactics (the theory of exchange ratios and prices) they would more fully appreciate the consequences of monetary inflation. They would understand Bastiat’s broken window fallacy: it’s not what you see, but what you don’t see. They see the supposed benefits of inflation but appear blind to the strangulating burden imposed on ordinary people who make up the productive economy.

The destruction and transfer of wealth from Eurozone savers to debtors and from the general public to the banks, government and large corporations are the principal and hidden consequences of monetary inflation. Monetary stimulation is progressively destroying Eurozone economies, which coupled with high taxes and excessive regulation has turned the Eurozone into one massive economic zombie. Any student of catallactics learns this early on. Yet, state-employed economists ignore the mathematics of dilution and are unaware of the changes in relative values people place on an unbacked currency, when they finally realise what the central bank is doing to it.

The ECB’s functionaries are similarly ignorant of catallactics as are their confrères in the other major central banks, but that must not excuse them from ignoring the contradictions inherent in their actions. They wield power, and that has responsibilities. Instead, they are trying for a third time a policy, that even if it appears to briefly succeed, emasculates the Eurozone’s economy even more.

Pumping yet more credit into the Eurozone is as effective as giving adrenalin to a dead horse. Lack of credit is not the problem. Put simply, there is a global momentum of economic contraction evolving, which any business and lending banker would be foolish to ignore. There is a developing crisis, the consequence of earlier monetary inflation in the credit cycle. Economic actors may not understand the origins of the crisis, but we can be certain they are becoming acutely aware of its looming presence. And as the crisis rapidly develops, those that require additional loans will already be insolvent.

The signal sent by the ECB to lending-bankers is likely to be misinterpreted when credit contraction is the looming threat: if TLRTO-III is the smoke, there must be a fire, possibly out of control. Better surely to call in existing loans to businesses rather than waiting to be repaid from profits unlikely to materialise. An encouragement to lend early in the credit cycle is more effective and less likely to be misunderstood than a similar encouragement later in the credit cycle. This is why a renewed TLTRO policy will almost certainly fail.

The inability of bureaucrats, with their heads buried in spreadsheets, to appreciate the role of human psychology is not the ECB’s only failing. Its executives do not even understand what interest rates represent, thinking it is simply the price of money. This is why it believes in keeping interest rates suppressed as a means of increasing credit. Earlier in the credit cycle, rate suppression does generate some credit expansion, mainly in financial rather than non-financial activities, because lower interest rates lead to higher prices for financial assets. That is basically a spreadsheet, almost non-human function. Large industrial corporations are opportunist, borrowing to fund buy-backs and to take over weaker rivals. Smaller and medium-sized business borrowers are usually offered credit only later in the cycle, when it is a mistake to accept it.

Consequently, in a zombie economy, such as that of the Eurozone, the only borrowers are wealth-destroying, socialising, debt-entrapped governments, taking full advantage of the Basel accords, which rates them for lending banks’ purposes as riskless borrowers.

More on the true role of interest rates

Interest is not the price of money. It is a reflection of the difference between future values compared with present values. It has its origin in the human expression of time-preference. When a businessman agrees loan terms with a banker, they should reflect existing time-preference, so as to defer some consumption sufficient to fund investment. Anything else is a distortion with Bastiat-like consequences. Central banks have destroyed the basic function of capital intermediation based on time-preference by replacing savers with money and credit inflation as the principal source of investment capital.

This was wished for by Keynes in his General Theory, published in 1936. He wanted to see savers euthanised (his word) and for the state to provide the necessary capital to businessmen. He expected the entrepreneur to accept state direction of capital. Entrepreneurs “who are so fond of their craft that their labour could be obtained far cheaper that at present” should move from a risk-based approach to business to a socialising function.

Keynes’s wish is granted posthumously, and ordinary people in the Eurozone and elsewhere are paying for it. Economic strangulation and wealth destruction are the consequence. Functionaries such as Mario Draghi and his fellow directors at the ECB are fully committed to pursuing these Keynesian objectives. Having promised their political masters economic salvation on Keynesian principals, they have delivered instead the Keynesian dream, but at the expense of the economy.

Yet, the deferral of TLTRO-III to September suggests that in the back of their collective minds, the panjandrums at the ECB suspect they may be on a path to perdition. Or perhaps it is the influence of the few sound-money men left at the Bundesbank, across the road in Frankfurt, whose families suffered two currency destructions in the twentieth century and vowed never again.

But even they have been silenced. The protests against the ECB in the German and European courts are in the past. If, as this writer expects, the global economy proves to be on the edge of an abysmal credit crisis, there will be no meaningful objection to a further acceleration of monetary inflation to the point where the euro becomes worthless. If so, Mario Draghi will be identified by future generations as a latter-day Rudolf Havenstein, who famously printed the Reichsmark out of existence.

Unlike the Reichsmark, the euro is a cut-and-shut of a number of fiat currencies with very different time preferences. A knowledge of catallactics would have advised against its creation, proof if it was needed of institutional ignorance in matters of money and exchange. If its origin had been one currency, we could expect its demise to follow the path of all fiat currencies in the past. A single state granting itself the sole right to issue the medium of exchange can never resist the temptation to use it as a source of finance until its destruction. But the euro is a compromise between states with track records of widely different rates of inflation. What suits Germany does not suit Italy. The euro could face a quicker destruction, simply by the Eurozone falling apart.

However, Germany and a few Northern states like her appear trapped, this time through TARGET2 imbalances whereby the Bundesbank is owed approaching a trillion euros by the system. Inflation of money and credit, ultimately the cause of these imbalances, has taken the ECB beyond a point of no return. Inevitably, at some future point, ordinary people will replace their wishful thinking, that the ECB and the national central banks have control over the purchasing power of the euro, with a growing realisation that they don’t. And when they awaken to that reality, they will dump all euros surplus to their essential requirements.

We know that attempts by the authorities to side-step successive credit crises ultimately fail, and it is in that light we should look at TLTRO-III. We must conclude that it is a diversion, window dressing for the shop-front of a failing ECB. It will achieve nothing, because the banks do not want to lend to non-financials, with the exception perhaps of the most credit-worthy large corporations, the corporations that have the political class in their pockets. It is not just the ECB following economically destructive policies, but an unholy alliance between big business and politicians, which is what Brussels and the ECB is all about.

Crony capitalists love inflation

It is a good rule of thumb to reckon that GDP is split 20% in favour of large businesses and 80% in favour of small and medium-size enterprises. The 20% employs armies of lawyers and lobbyists for the explicit purpose of influencing politicians and for the implied purpose of restricting competition. It is not widely appreciated that the European Union is a partnership between these crony-capitalists and the political class.

Europe has a long history of powerful industrial dynasties supporting the political class. This crony capitalism, the true source of much social discontent, is a feature of governments everywhere, but it is perhaps embedded in the EU more deeply and insidiously. An important part of this relationship is the profits generated through monetary inflation.

The most outstanding example pf profiteering from inflation was probably that of Hugo Stinnes in Germany, who a hundred years ago was a passionate supporter of the Reichsbank’s inflationary policies. Stinnes used inflation to build further his pre-war empire based on coal, shipping and electricity generation. By 1923 Stinnes’ interests consisted of roughly 4,500 enterprises, producing nearly 20% of Germany’s industrial output. By borrowing in depreciating Reichsmarks he obtained through exports foreign currencies backed by gold, with which he was able to pay off his heavily devalued Reichsmark debts. He earned the soubriquet Inflationskönig. Stinnes died in April 1924, and his empire collapsed shortly afterwards, though a much-reduced Hugo Stinnes Schiffart GmbH still exists.

Stinnes understood how to benefit from inflation, as do the establishment businesses in the Eurozone today. Large corporations, very often with their own finance arms, have direct or indirect access to the ECB’s largess, borrowing at close-to-zero rates to finance their ambitions. Compared with the relatively sound German mark, today’s large German manufacturers must love the euro.

While big business gains its financing advantages against its smaller competitors, the bulk of any economy is not the large crony-capitalistic organisations, but the small and medium size businesses that make up 80% of any economy’s GDP. For banks these are risky customers, relatively so compared with lending to large corporations. As Stinnes discovered, the relationship between big business, the banks and SMEs effectively transferred wealth from the latter to him through monetary debasement.

As surely as the end of the 1920-23 inflation killed off the Stinnes empire, the end of monetary inflation in the Eurozone will kill off the large European multinationals. But now that the crony-capitalists face a contraction in global trade, they are likely to agitate for yet more inflation. They will say they need a competitive euro to offset declining world markets, so the ECB must take steps to ensure the euro depreciates more rapidly against the US dollar. They can only dream of the profits and power earned by Stinnes from hyperinflation, before Hjalmar Schacht ruined everything for him by stabilising the new mark. But they are making a mistake: borrowing euros to earn fiat dollars to eventually pay off devalued euro debts is not the same as borrowing Reichsmarks to accumulate gold-backed foreign currencies.

The major banks are in trouble

Despite the ECB’s subsidy of the Eurozone’s banking system, it remains in a sleepwalking state similar to the non-financial, non-crony-capitalist zombified economy. Gone are the heady days of investment banking. There is now a legacy of derivatives and regulators’ fines. Technology has made the over-extended branch network, typical of a European retail bank, a costly white elephant. The market for emptying bank buildings in the towns and villages throughout Europe must be dire, a source of under-provisioned losses. On top of this, the ECB’s interest rate policy has led to lending margins becoming paper-thin.

A negative deposit rate of 0.4% at the ECB has led to negative wholesale (Euribor) money market rates along the yield curve to at least 12 months. This has allowed French banks, for example, to fund Italian government bond positions, stripping out 33 basis points on a “riskless” one-year bond. It’s the peak of collapsed lending margins when even the hare-brained can see the risk is greater than the reward, whatever the regulator says. The entire yield curve is considerably lower than Italian risk implies it should be, given its existing debt obligations, with 10-year Italian government bonds yielding only 2.55%. That’s less than equivalent US Treasuries, the global risk-free standard.

Government bond yields have been and remain considerably reduced through the ECB’s interest rate suppression and its bond-buying programmes. The expansion of Eurozone government debt since the Lehman crisis has been about 50% to €9.69 trillion. This expansion, representing €3.1 trillion, compares with the expansion of the Eurosystem’s own balance sheet of €2.8 trillion since 2009. In other words, the expansion of Eurozone government debt has been nearly matched by the ECB’s monetary creation.

Bond prices, such as that of Italian 10-year debt yielding 2.55%, are therefore meaningless in the market sense. This has not been much of an issue so long as asset prices are rising and the global economy is expanding, because monetary inflation will keep the fiat bubble expanding. It is when a credit crisis materialises that the trouble starts. The fiat bubble develops leaks and eventually implodes.

Now that the global economy has stopped expanding and is on the brink of recession, under these changing conditions the monetary, systemic and economic dangers facing the Eurozone are rapidly rising. This is a problem beyond the ability of the ECB to contain. Politicians and their institutions in Brussels seem unaware of the approaching storm, but when they do become aware, they will turn to group-think for protection. Like fish in a tightening bait-ball, they actions are set to accelerate their own demise.

The start of EU disintegration

There can be no doubt that the ECB has so far only managed to prevent a financial and systemic crisis materialising because of the background of a worldwide monetary and credit expansion inflating financial asset prices. A global background of rising asset values was necessary for the consequences of the Greek financial crisis to be absorbed without destabilising the whole caboodle. If it had happened during a global credit crisis the outcome would have been different.

Inevitably, at some stage the euro’s purchasing power will begin to fall under the weight of accelerating monetary inflation and the demands from crony-capitalists for a competitive exchange rate. Rising bond yields will be the inevitable outcome, requiring yet more QE from the ECB. It takes little imagination to realise that in an environment of rising bond yields and falling asset values the Italian government and its economy will be exposed to intractable difficulties. The difference from the on-going Greek crisis is Italy’s economy is nearly ten times the size of that of Greece. So far, aided by inflating markets, there has not been a full-blown crisis. In a vicious bond bear market of the scale likely to accompany the next credit crisis, Italy alone could crash the whole Eurosystem.

That could happen by the end of this year, because when things go wrong the pace calamities usually accelerates. Today, the EU is threatened with Brexit, which at the time of writing is yet to be resolved. But there’s a significant possibility Britain will leave the EU without a comprehensive trade deal and without paying all the money allegedly owed to the EU. The money will have to be made up by the other members, principally by Germany, France, Italy and Spain, being the largest remaining economies. Furthermore, the UK’s economic policy is bound to focus on being a competitive regional entrepôt for global trade, enhancing her economic performance relative to a stultifying EU. Existing political tensions within the EU are certain to escalate as the EU falls behind, and Brussels, hooked on profligacy, for the first time faces budget cuts.

It is becoming increasingly obvious to independent observers that the EU supra-national socialising model is failing structurally, politically, economically and financially. The next credit crisis, which appears to be evolving from the seeds of today’s events, looks set to end the European dream.

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regolo gelliniJohn Nolan Recent comment authors
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John Nolan

Why don’t the pollies, the public, the media, etc., realize that it is the banks who are the cause of all enomomic catastrophes, seeing they, the upper echelon thieves, have stolen the public’s ownership of our money, make capital out of nothing, loan it to the governments, the public, at unpayable rates of interest, (they never make the interest, do they?) and now, technically, own the world.
Wake up people, especially those who pretend to have all the answers, as the greatest economic crunch is now taking place. Who gave the FED.,ownership our money?
I didn’t vote for that, did you?

regolo gellini
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regolo gellini

I have a question : Italy has a big debt that has been bought by 70% by italian borrowers the rest abroad. The private savings of the italian families amounts to the double of the external debt. Italian families have very little debts contrary to UK and France. 80% of the families own their own house.
Italy has two big problems, a terrible buraeucracy and four regions in the hands of mafia organisations that have already infected also the North of the country.
With all this in mind, can Italy survive the next EU crisis ?

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Trump witch hunt dots connected: CNN to Steele to John McCain (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss documents released which show that Christopher Steele admitted to using posts by ‘random individuals’ on the CNN community website ‘iReport’ in order to back up his fabricated Trump dossier.

President Trump took note of Steele’s use of CNN citizen journalist posts, in a twitter tirade that blasted the British ex-spy for running with unverified community generated content from a now now-defunct ‘iReports’ website as part of his research.

Trump the proceeded to rip into late neocon Arizona Senator John McCain, tweeting that it was “just proven in court papers” that “last in his class” McCain sent the Steele’s dossier to media outlets in the hopes that they would print it prior to the 2016 US election.

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Via The Daily Caller

A federal court unsealed 43 pages Thursday of a deposition that former British spy Christopher Steele gave as part of a lawsuit over his infamous anti-Trump dossier.

To the disappointment of many observers, the full deposition was not unsealed in Thursday’s motion. Instead, portions of Steele’s interview, which he gave in London on July 13, 2018, were unsealed in separate court filings submitted in the lawsuit.

Steele’s full deposition totaled 145 pages. The portions published Thursday focus mainly on questions about the dossier’s claims about Aleksej Gubarev, a tech executive who Steele alleges took part in the hacking of Democrats’ computer systems.

Gubarev has vehemently denied the claim and sued Steele and BuzzFeed News, which published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, who handled the lawsuit, ordered a slew of previously sealed documents to be made public Thursday. Ungaro dismissed the lawsuit on Dec. 19 but did not weigh in on whether the dossier’s claims about Gubarev were accurate.

It is unclear whether Steele’s entire deposition will be released. A source familiar with Steele’s interview tempered expectations of any bombshells in the document, saying that Steele avoided going into detail about his efforts to create the dossier and his sources.

A deposition given by former State Department official David Kramer was perhaps the most enlightening document contained in the dump.

Kramer, a longtime associate of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, was BuzzFeed’s source for the dossier. Kramer shared the dossier with at least 11 other reporters, including CNN’s Carl Bernstein. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Gave Dossier To A Dozen Reporters)

Kramer obtained the dossier in late November 2016 after visiting Steele in London. Steele acknowledged that Kramer and McCain were picked as conduits to pass the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey. McCain met with Comey on Dec. 9, 2016 and provided all of the dossier’s memos that had been written up to that point.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” Kramer said in the deposition when asked why Steele and his business partners at Fusion GPS wanted McCain to meet with Comey.

Via Washington Examiner

Former British spy Christopher Steele admitted that he relied on an unverified report on a CNN website for part of the “Trump dossier,” which was used as a basis for the FBI’s investigation into Trump.

According to deposition transcripts released this week, Steele said last year he used a 2009 report he found on CNN’s iReport website and said he wasn’t aware that submissions to that site are posted by members of the public and are not checked for accuracy.

web archive from July 29, 2009 shows that CNN described the site in this manner: “iReport.com is a user-generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked, or screened before they post.”

In the dossier, Steele, a Cambridge-educated former MI6 officer, wrote about extensive allegations against Donald Trump, associates of his campaign, various Russians and other foreign nationals, and a variety of companies — including one called Webzilla. Those allegations would become part of an FBI investigation and would be used to apply for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

During his deposition, Steele was pressed on the methods he used to verify allegations made about Webzilla, which was thought to be used by Russia to hack into Democratic emails.

When asked if he discovered “anything of relevance concerning Webzilla” during the verification process, Steele replied: “We did. It was an article I have got here which was posted on July 28, 2009, on something called CNN iReport.”

“I do not have any particular knowledge of that,” Steele said when asked what was his understanding of how the iReport website worked.

When asked if he understood that content on the site was not generated by CNN reporters, he said, “I do not.” He was then asked: “Do you understand that they have no connection to any CNN reporters?” Steele replied, “I do not.”

He was pressed on this further: “Do you understand that CNN iReports are or were nothing more than any random individuals’ assertions on the Internet?” Steele replied: “No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”

When asked about his methodology for searching for this information, Steele described it as “what we could call an open source search,” which he defined as “where you go into the Internet and you access material that is available on the Internet that is of relevance or reference to the issue at hand or the person under consideration.”

Steele said his dossier contained “raw intelligence” that he admitted could contain untrue or even “deliberately false information.”

Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS was receiving funding at the time from the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm.

The series of memos that Steele would eventually compile became known as the “Trump Dossier.” The dossier was used in FISA applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

When asked whether he warned Fusion GPS that the information in the dossier might be “Russian disinformation,” Steele admitted that “a general understanding existed between us and Fusion … that all material contained this risk.”

Steele also described his interactions with Sen. John McCain’s aide, David Kramer, whose own deposition showed that he provided BuzzFeed with a copy of the dossier and had spoken with more than a dozen journalists about it.

“I provided copies of the December memo to Fusion GPS for onward passage to David Kramer at the request of Sen. John McCain,” Steele said. “Sen. McCain nominated him as the intermediary. I did not choose him as the intermediary.”

When asked if he told Kramer that he couldn’t “vouch for everything that was produced in the memos,” Steele replied, “Yes, with an emphasis on ‘everything.'”

When asked why he believed it was so important to provide the dossier to Sen. McCain, Steele said: “Because I judged it had national security implications for the United States and the West as a whole.”

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Trudeau’s Top Bureaucrat Unexpectedly Quits Amid Growing Corruption Scandal

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

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Via Zerohedge


Since it was exposed by a report in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this month, the scandal that’s become known as the SNC-Lavalin affair has already led to the firing of several of Trudeau’s close advisors and raised serious questions about whether the prime minister was complicit in pressuring the attorney general to offer a deferred prosecution agreement with a large, Quebec-based engineering firm.

And according to the first round of polls released since the affair exploded into public view…

…it could cost Trudeau his position as prime minister and return control to the conservatives, according to the CBC.

Campaign Research showed the Conservatives ahead with 37% to 32% for the Liberals, while both Ipsos and Léger put the margin at 36% to 34% in the Conservatives’ favour.Since December, when both polling firms were last in the field, the Liberals have lost one point in Campaign Research’s polling and four percentage points in the Ipsos poll, while the party is down five points since November in the Léger poll.

Meanwhile, as the noose tightens around Trudeau, on Monday another of the key Canadian government officials at the center of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has quit his post.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, the highest-ranking position in Canada’s civil service and a key aide to Justin Trudeau, announced his retirement Monday. Trudeau named Ian Shugart, currently deputy minister of foreign affairs, to replace him.

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

“It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties,” he said, citing the need for impartiality on the issue of potential foreign interference. According to Bloomberg, the exact date of his departure is unclear.

As we reported in February, Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, quit following allegations that several key Trudeau government figures pressured her to intervene to end a criminal prosecution against Montreal-based construction giant SNC. Wernick was among those she named in saying the prime minister’s office wanted her to pursue a negotiated settlement.

Wernick has since twice spoken to a committee of lawmakers investigating the case, and during that testimony both defended his actions on the SNC file and warned about the risk of foreign election interference, as “blame Putin” has become traditional Plan B plan for most politicians seeing their careers go up in flames.

“I’m deeply concerned about my country right now, its politics and where it’s headed. I worry about foreign interference in the upcoming election,” he said in his first appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, before repeating the warning a second time this month. “If that was seen as alarmist, so be it. I was pulling the alarm. We need a public debate about foreign interference.”

Because somehow foreign interference has something to do with Wenick’s alleged corruption.

Incidentally, as we wonder what the real reason is behind Wernick’s swift departure, we are confident we will know soon enough.

Anyway, back to the now former clerk, who is meant to be non-partisan in service of the government of the day, also criticized comments by a Conservative senator and praised one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers.

Wernick’s testimony was criticized as overly cozy with the ruling Liberals. Murray Rankin, a New Democratic Party lawmaker, asked the clerk how lawmakers could “do anything but conclude that you have in fact crossed the line into partisan activity?” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said he seemed “willing to interfere in partisan fashion for whoever is in power.”

Whatever Wernick’s true motives, he is the latest but not last in what will be a long line of cabinet departures as the SNC scandal exposes even more corruption in Trudeau’s cabinet (some have ironically pointed out that Canada’s “beloved” prime minister could be gone for actual corruption long before Trump). Trudeau had already lost a top political aide, Gerald Butts, to the scandal. A second minister, Jane Philpott, followed Wilson-Raybould in quitting cabinet.

Separately, on Monday, Trudeau appointed a former deputy prime minister in a Liberal government, Anne McLellan, as a special adviser to investigate some of the legal questions raised by the controversy. They include how governments should interact with the attorney general and whether that role should continue to be held by the justice minister.

As Bloomberg notes, the increasingly shaky Liberal government hasn’t ruled out helping SNC by ordering a deferred prosecution agreement in the corruption and bribery case, which centers around the company’s work in Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya. Doing so would allow the company to pay a fine and avoid any ban on receiving government contracts. That decision is up to the current attorney general, David Lametti; of course, such an action would only raise tensions amid speculation that the government is pushing for a specific political, and favorable for Trudeau, outcome.

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