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Faith, power, money: Conflicting agendas in Ukraine Church politics

One of the most contentious and significant controversies in the world today is also one of the least-well understood.

Jim Jatras

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In part, this is because it involves matters of faith and church governance, the importance of which many people, especially some of a secular mind who scorn mere “religion,” tend to underestimate.

That is a mistake, certainly with respect to the storm that seems on the verge of plunging Ukraine into a new cycle of violence. That may happen if, as seems quite possible, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople recognizes an “autocephalous” (completely self-ruling) Orthodox Church in Ukraine over the objections of the Russian Orthodox Church, of which the Ukrainian Church is an integral part.

This question is often misreported in the Western media as Constantinople’s response to a request from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for autocephaly. This is inaccurate. The only Ukrainian Orthodox body recognized as canonical by the rest of the Orthodox Christian world – even including Constantinople at this point – is the autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church under the authority of Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev, which is not asking for autocephaly.

So who is making such a request? People who have no authority to do so. This means first of all Ukrainian politicians, starting with President Petro Poroshenko (whose own Orthodox affiliation is subject to question), who evidently calculates that midwifing an independent Ukrainian national church completely divorced from Russia will enhance his re-election prospects next year. Not to be outdone, his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko also is in favor. These proponents of autocephaly are explicit that their goals are political. “Shortly, we will have an independent Ukrainian church as part of an independent Ukraine. This will create a spiritual independence from Russia,” Poroshenko told the Washington Post.

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Also asking for autocephaly is so-called “Patriarch Filaret” Denysenko and his supposed Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the “Kiev Patriarchate,” which is recognized as canonical by exactly nobody. Denysenko, who was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1997, hopes that will change soon. Patriarch Bartholomew has dispatched to Ukraine two envoys (“exarchs”), one each from the US and Canada, to meet with Denysenko, possibly even to consecrate his “bishops” to give them supposedly valid status.

Unfortunately, there is also involvement from another direction by people whose agenda is entirely political. Western governments see a geopolitical opportunity in exacerbating an ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine and pitting Constantinople against Moscow. Doing so, they believe, will undermine Russia’s geopolitical “soft power” through the Orthodox Church and further alienate Russians and Ukrainians from one another.

As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College, “The real goal of the quest for autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow. ”

The Western proponents are as crassly honest about the political aspects as the Ukrainian politicians. The German ambassador in Kiev, not known to have any particular theological acuity, opined in July, that autocephaly would strengthen Ukrainian statehood. The hyper-establishment Atlantic Council, which hosted Denysenko on a recent visit to Washington, notes“With the Russian Orthodox Church as the last source of Putin’s soft power now gone, Ukraine’s movement out of Russia’s orbit is irreversible.”

Likewise the US State Department, after a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal church matter,” last week reversed its position and issued a formal statement“The United States respects the ability of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.”

While avoiding a direct call for autocephaly, the statement gives the unmistakable impression of such endorsement, which is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example“US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” The State Department’s praise for the Ecumenical Patriarchate reinforces that clearly intended impression.

There may be more to the State Department’s position than meets the eye, however. According to an unconfirmed reportoriginating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox archdiocese (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government is aware of the theft of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from the budget for the construction of the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in New York (This is explained further below).

The warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

Again, it must be emphasized that this report is unconfirmed, though one doesn’t see mainstream American media falling over themselves trying to track down the facts. The official statement of the Greek archdiocese does not report a personal one-on-one meeting between Pompeo and Archbishop Demetrios, but the message could have been communicated between subordinate personnel on both sides.

What lends the report an air of believability, however, is the depth of the scandal to which it refers. As few outside the Orthodox Christian community may recall, only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed on September 11, 2001, and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed in the attack. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. The humble little church reportedly housed icons and relics donated to the parish by Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, none of which were recovered.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed to the effort. A major role was played by the archdiocesan women’s organization, the Ladies Philoptochos, who undertook it as a “sacred mission”“Together let us rebuild Saint Nicholas for all future generations, and for the many millions of people who will visit every year the new World Trade Center, the National September 11 Memorial Museum and our National Shrine, the only house of worship at Ground Zero.” By the end of 2017, almost $37 million had been raised and construction on this unique Orthodox Christian presence was proceeding apace.

Then – poof! – in December 2017 suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds. Resumption would require on-hand an estimated $2 million. Despite the archdiocese calling in an audit by a major accounting firm, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating. There have been calls for Archbishop Demetrios’s resignation.

This is where we get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Fener district. Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Vatican, the World Council of Churches), the financial lifeline is Greeks (including this writer) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to this writer’s sources. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine. It’s an open question how much the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s shaking down the Greeks in the US to pay for extravagant boondoggles like the 2016 “Council” contributed to the financial mess at the New York archdiocese, which in turn may have opened them up to pressure from the State Department to get moving on Ukraine.

Finally, while the Ukraine controversy does largely involve politicians’ agendas and a struggle for supremacy between Constantinople and Moscow, it is not entirely devoid of moral and spiritual significance. It should be noted that among the most ardent nominally Orthodox advocates of Ukrainian autocephaly are groups of American academics like the purveyors of moral and sexual LGBT and genderqueer ideology “Orthodoxy in Dialogue” and the hardly less revolutionary “Orthodox Christian Studies Center at New York’s Fordham University.

Orthodoxy in Dialogue recently issued a call – accompanied by a pairing of an Orthodox cross with LGBT rainbow symbolism – to bishops in all US Orthodox jurisdictions to curtail their anti-abortion witness and adopt the immoral sexual agendas that have wrought havoc in the Western confessions, a call that should receive a sharp condemnation from the hierarchs.

No one – and certainly not this writer – should accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the fake patriarch Denysenko of sympathizing with such anti-Orthodox values. But the converse is not true. These advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay”marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Kiev, Odessa, Podgorica, Sofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such “European values.”

Ukrainians especially need to ask themselves why Western governments are so happy to cheer on developments that could plunge the Orthodox Church into worldwide schism, and Ukraine into another round of fratricidal violence. The unedifying behind-the-scenes machinations, many details of which remain under wraps, should give them further pause.

Via RT

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Walter Dublanica
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Filaret was expelled from Moscow for having fathered a child out of wedlock. Trying to make Ukrainian Orthodox different from Russian Orthodox is nonsense. Both liturgy’s are identical Church Slavonic. Time to stop the nonsense of trying to separate two people who are identical. The word Ukraine means borderland, nothing else.

Martha
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Martha

Divide and conquer.

Joseph
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Joseph

Sounds more like a land and property grab by the UOCKiev to me….
I could be wrong but it could be as simple as this.
What is going on is very spiteful by the EP to rub sand in the MP eyes.

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CIA Director and NYT Accidentally Expose Skripal Poisoning Hoax – DUCKGATE (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 189.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning, inadvertent, admission by the New York Times and CIA Director Gina Haspel that much of what we know from the Salisbury-Skripal poisoning is pure fabrication and manipulation.

‘Duckgate’, as it is now being dubbed, was used to trick US President Trump into expelling 60 Russian Diplomats over false photographic evidence presented to him by Haspel, as it was provided to her by UK authorities.

The manipulation of POTUS Trump, courtesy of CIA Director Haspel, the UK government (and accidentally documented on by the NYT), has now blown open some serious holes into the entire narrative that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by Russian agents with the deadly Novichok nerve agent.

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Via The Blogmire…


(SEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM)

Well this is interesting.

I had intended to put up a new thread for people who want to continue commenting on the Salisbury and Amesbury cases, as the last piece I did on it has reached an unmanageable 1,500+ comments. But just as I was about to do so, I was alerted to an important piece over on the Moon of Alabama website, entitled, “CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump“.

The gist of the piece is as follows. Back in April 2018, the Washington Post published an article about the decision taken by the United States to expel 60 Russian diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning. According to the authors, the day after the decision was made, President Trump reacted in anger when he found out that the French and the Germans were expelling just four diplomats each:

“The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on. The President, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.”

Mr Trump, it seems, believed that he had been misled by officials, as the piece goes on to say:

“Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. ‘There were curse words,’ the official said, ‘a lot of curse words.’”

Whether Mr Trump was misled about the magnitude of the expulsions is impossible to say without a transcript of that meeting. What does seem certain, however, is that he was misled in another, far more important way, as Moon of Alabama goes on to point out.

In an article in today’s New York Times about the head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, an extraordinary piece of information is revealed — albeit unwittingly, it would seem, by authors who probably have no idea of its significance. Pointing to that same meeting mentioned in the Washington Post article, in which Mr Trump was persuaded to expel 60 diplomats, here is the NYT’s account of what took place:

“During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the “strong option” was to expel 60 diplomats.

To persuade Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the conversation, officials including Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack.

Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives [my emphasis].”

If you’re late joining the party, and don’t understand what is so extraordinary about this, let me spell it out plainly and unambiguously:

Firstly, there were no dead ducks as a result of poisoning. None. Zilch. Nada!

Secondly, there were no children sickened by nerve agent. None. Zilch. Nada!

Yet even though there were no dead ducks, and no sick children, Mr Trump was apparently persuaded by the head of the CIA to expel 60 diplomats after being shown pictures of dead ducks and sick children.

In addition to the extraordinary nature of this revelation, there is also a huge irony here. Along with many others, I have long felt that the duck feed is one of the many achilles heels of the whole story we’ve been presented with about what happened in Salisbury on 4th March 2018. And the reason for this is precisely because if it were true, there would indeed have been dead ducks and sick children.

According to the official story, Mr Skripal and his daughter became contaminated with “Novichok” by touching the handle of his front door at some point between 13:00 and 13:30 that afternoon. A few minutes later (13:45), they were filmed on CCTV camera feeding ducks, and handing bread to three local boys, one of whom ate a piece. After this they went to Zizzis, where they apparently so contaminated the table they sat at, that it had to be incinerated.

You see the problem? According to the official story, ducks should have died. According to the official story children should have become contaminated and ended up in hospital. Yet as it happens, no ducks died, and no boys got sick (all that happened was that the boys’ parents were contacted two weeks later by police, the boys were sent for tests, and they were given the all clear).

And yet despite the fact that no ducks died and no children were made sick, the director of the CIA (a.k.a. the Canard Invention Association), allegedly using information given to her agency by the British Government, showed the President of the United States pictures of dead ducks and sick children, apparently from Salisbury, to persuade him to take extreme action (Note: You can read more about the duck feed and all the other holes in the official story here). In other words, Mr Trump was lied to, and in a big way, and with potentially huge consequences.

I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the claims made in the New York Times piece, since the purpose of inserting the bit about the ducks and the children was to cast Gina Haspel as a strong leader, rather than to cast doubt on the Skripal story. My guess is that Mr Trump might be quite interested to know that he was misled, either by the director of the CIA and/or the British Government. It might even make him wonder this: if no less a person than the President of the United States was given a false version of events, what are the chances that the rest of the story stacks up?

As ever, someone got some ‘splaining to do.  Discuss among yourselves.


PS. An aside. The Independent, which is apparently a publisher of news, has picked up on this storyhere. In their piece, they basically repeat what was said in the New York Times about how Gina Haspel persuaded Mr Trump using the dead ducks and sick children pics. But here’s the thing. Whilst it doesn’t surprise me that writers in the likes of the Washington Post or New York Times might not know too many details regarding the Salisbury case, the Independent knows full well that there were no dead ducks and no sick children. And so since they are writing about it, they must know that either the CIA director or the British Government, or both, knowingly misled the US President. Yet they say nothing about this in their piece. Why? Simply because they are not journalists, but stenographers, and they have no intention of informing their readers of what is true and what is real. I’m not sure how they live with themselves, but somehow they manage.


UPDATE: The Guardian has published an article (18th April), in which the director of public health at Wiltshire Council, Tracy Daszkiewicz, was asked to comment on the New York Times report. Here is what she said:

“There were no other casualties other than those previously stated. No wildlife were impacted by the incident and no children were exposed to or became ill as a result of either incident [my emphasis].”

So according to Ms Daszkiewicz, not only were no children made ill (which we already knew), but nor were any exposed to the substance. How does this accord with the official narrative? In that scenario, Mr Skripal gave bread to three boys, one of whom ate a piece, less than half-an-hour after his hands had become contaminated. In which case, they would undoubtedly have been exposed to it. Then again, if he wasn’t contaminated at that time … well, that would agree with Ms Daszkiewicz’s assessment, but it would have another consequence involving cans and worms!

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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