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FBI’s Russiagate strategy: Stonewall until next year’s Congressional elections

FBI plays for time as credibility of Trump Dossier on which Russiagate investigation based collapses

Alexander Mercouris

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The news that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe plans to retire next year comes as no surprise following his disastrous showing in his testimony to Congress a week ago.

The FBI’s problem – and the key problem of the whole Russiagate probe – is that the evidence on which it was launched and upon which it continues to be based – Christopher Steele’s Trump Dossier – cannot be verified because it is untrue.

However admitting this fact would be tantamount to admitting that there is no case for Special Counsel to investigate – which would lead to calls for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation to be terminated – and would lead to questions about the FBI’s conduct during the 2016 election.

Not only would that be disastrous in itself – with questions being asked about why the FBI undertook surveillance of Hillary Clinton’s opponents on the strength of a Trump Dossier paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign which the FBI cannot verify – but it would lead to questions about the FBI’s attitude not just towards Donald Trump but towards Hillary Clinton as well.

Not only did the FBI clear Hillary Clinton of charges relating to her misuse of a private email server whilst Secretary of State – a serious matter in itself and one made worse by the admission that the first draft of FBI Director James Comey’s statement into the matter referred to her “gross negligence”, wording which actually meets the legal threshold for bringing a prosecution – but the FBI failed to undertake its own investigation of the alleged hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, relying instead on the opinions of an expert – Crowdstrike – who was paid by the Hillary Clinton funded DNC.

Coming on top of the revelations of FBI lead investigator Peter Strzok’s anti Trump text messages to his lover Lisa Page – text messages which together with Strzok’s sacking Mueller kept secret for six months – this conduct during the 2016 election by the FBI does suggest bias on the part of the FBI in favour of Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump.

Though it has taken them many months to grasp this, Republicans in the Congress and the media have now started to do so, though it should be said that there continue to be a small number of Republican Senators whose personal antagonism towards Donald Trump is so intense that it blinds them to the truth.

The result of the broader Republican realisation of the grossly partisan nature of Russiagate scandal  – and that Donald Trump is not therefore a Kremlin stooge – is however a rallying behind Donald Trump by Republicans in Congress and in the media, of which the recent tax reform bill is the first product.

Not only does this make an impeachment of Donald Trump now extremely unlikely – even if the Democrats win control of Congress a successful impeachment will require the support of Republican Senators – but with the Republicans for the moment still in control of the committees of the House and Senate which are investigating Russiagate, all the indications are that 2018 could see the Republicans going on the offensive, and the Democrats and the FBI being thrown onto the defensive, as the focus of the Russiagate scandal shifts away from the collusion allegations to the things the Hillary Clinton campaign and FBI were doing.

The driving force behind the Republican counter attack is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Devin Nunes.  The Washington Times reports the sort of investigations he is now setting in train

What is unfolding for the House intelligence committee is an investigation that has broadened from supposed collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Driven by Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, the committee is examining the following:

• Who funded the dossier and how its information was spread by paymaster Fusion GPS and then used by the FBI.

• The Obama administration’s “unmasking” of the identities of private citizens caught up in surveillance of foreigners.

• Recent misconduct inside the Department of Justice and the FBI.

It is unsurprising that in the face of this counter attack FBI officials deeply implicated in the Russiagate probe like FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe are choosing to retire.

It is also unsurprising that FBI General Counsel James Baker – a Comey friend and loyalist – has been transferred to other duties now that it has become known that he was in contact with the Mother Jones reporter who interviewed the Trump Dossier’s compiler Christopher Steele and who gave credence to Steele’s work.

In passing, the lawyers of Alexey Gubarev – the Russian businessman who has brought a libel claim against Buzzfeed because it published the Trump Dossier in which he is named – say that they have ascertained the identity of the official who leaked the Trump Dossier to Buzzfeed, even though a US judge recently refused Gubarev’s request for an order that Buzzfeed disclose his or her identity.

If Gubarev’s lawyers are right and they have correctly identified this person then it is only a matter of time before his or her identity is made public, with potentially very embarrassing consequences, and not just for the individual in question.

The Washington Times sets out the FBI’s problem

Sources speculated to The Washington Times that it would be embarrassing for Mr. McCabe to condemn a political opposition research paper on which his agents based decisions to open a counterintelligence investigation and interview witnesses. Some press reports said the FBI cited the dossier’s information in requests for court-approved wiretaps…..

“This is really problematic for the FBI and DOJ right now,” said the source familiar with the congressional investigations. “They realize stonewalling is not going to work anymore, but they haven’t decided on a new strategy to manage the deluge of information spilling out about top officials’ conflicts of interest, their use of the Steele dossier and their own connections to Fusion GPS.”

In fact it is not difficult to see what the FBI’s – and the Democrats’ – strategy now is.

It is to stonewall until the Congressional elections in the fall of 2018, in the hope that these will give control of Congress – and by extension of the Congressional committees looking into Russiagate – to the Democrats,  thereby enabling the Democrats to close down the Congressional probes the Republicans are now launching into the actions of the FBI.

In the meantime Mueller, having draw a blank on the collusion allegations, will continue to fish around for anything else he can use in order to justify keeping his investigation going.

Recent reports speak of Mueller rummaging though bank records in Cyprus shortly after he asked for similar information from Deutsche Bank, despite these enquiries with foreign banks appearing to have little or no bearing on the collusion allegations between the Trump campaign and the Russians which Mueller is supposed to be investigating.

The main emphasis of Mueller’s inquiry – and of the Democrats in Congress and in the media – however now looks to be the contacts which took place – in the main after the election and apparently on Donald Trump’s personal orders – between Russian ambassador Kislyak and General Flynn, with Mueller seemingly looking for ways to cobble together some charge against some senior official in the Trump administration on the strength of them.

The 2016 election shows that in the present volatile and highly polarised atmosphere in the US it is not easy to predict the outcome of US elections.

Donald Trump’s Republican base is said to be firmly behind him, something even Roy Moore’s failure in Alabama appears to show.

If so then expectations of a Democratic landslide in the Congressional elections in 2018 may turn out to be wrong.

However the usual trend in the US is for Congressional elections held midway through a President’s first term to show a big swing towards the opposition party.

Most expect this pattern to recur in 2018, in which case the possibility that the Democrats could gain control of Congress following the elections next year is a real one.

If so then the time available for Congressional Republicans like Devin Nunes to take the battle to the FBI may be short.

Whilst the incentive to do so is strong – it is difficult to imagine anything that might hurt the Democrats more in advance of the Congressional elections than a revelation of the sort of things which were actually happening during the 2016 election – the time window to do so will soon begin to close.

For the sake of their party as well as for the sake of the proper functioning of the political system of the United States it is to be hoped that Congressional Republicans like Congressman Nunes use the short time which may be available to them wisely.

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Photos of swastika on Ukrainian mall stairway creates a stir [Video]

Ukrainian nationalist press in damage-control mode to explain away the Nazi sign, but they forgot the name of the street the mall is on.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the aspects of news about Ukraine that does not make it past the gatekeepers of the American and Western news media is how a significant contingent of Ukrainian nationalists have espoused a sense of reverence for Nazis. The idea that this could even happen anywhere in the world in an open manner makes the claim seem too absurd to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when the Nazi swastika adorned streets and buildings in Europe. Right?

Well, maybe, wrong.

This was seen in Kyiv’s Gorodok (or Horodok, if you insist) Gallery, a shopping center in that city, located on Bandera Avenue.

The pro-nationalist news service UNIAN wasted no time going to press with their explanation of this incident, which admittedly may be accurate:

Children and teenagers who participated in the All-Ukrainian break dance festival held in the Kyiv-based Gorodok Gallery shopping mall were shocked to see a swastika image projected onto an LED staircase.

The mall administration apologized to visitors, explaining saying that their computer system had apparently been hacked.

“The administration and staff have no relation to whatever was projected onto the LED-staircase, and in no way does it support such [an] act. Now we are actively searching for those involved in the attack,” it said in a statement.

According to Gorodok Gallery’s administrative office, it was not the first time a cyber breach took place.

As reported earlier, Ukraine is believed to be a testing ground for cyberattacks, many of which are launched from Russia. Hackers have earlier targeted critical energy infrastructure, state institutions, banks, and large businesses.

This time, it appears, hackers aimed to feed the Kremlin’s narrative of “Nazis in power in Ukraine” and create a relevant hype-driving viral story for Russian media to spread it worldwide.

The Gorodok Gallery also apologized on its Facebook page and said that this was a result of hacking.

But what about the street that the mall is on? From the self-same Facebook page, this is what we see:


To translate, for those who do not read Ukrainian or Russian, the address says the following:

23 Steven Bandera Prospekt, Kyiv, Ukraine 04073

This street was formerly called “Moscow Avenue.” Big change, as we shall see.

Steven Bandera got his birthday designated as a national holiday in Ukraine last December. He is known in Ukraine’s history for one thing. According to the Jerusalem Post:

The street where the shopping mall is located is named for Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who briefly collaborated with Nazi Germany in its fight against Russia.

His troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews.

Several Israeli papers picked this bit of news up, and of course, the reasons are understandable. However, for the West, it appears possible that this news event will largely go unnoticed, even by that great nation that is often called “Israel’s proxy”, the United States.

This is probably because for certain people in the US, there is a sense of desperation to mask the nature of events that are happening in Ukraine.

The usual fare of mainstream news for the West probably consists of things like “Putin’s military seizes innocent Ukrainian sailors in Kerch incident” or, “Ukraine’s Orthodox Church declared fully independent by Patriarch of Constantinople” (not that too many Americans know what a Constantinople even is, anyway), but the overriding narrative for the American people about this country is “Ukraine are the good guys, and Russia are the bad guys,” and this will not be pushed aside, even to accommodate the logical grievance of Israel to this incident.

If this article gets to Western papers at all, it will be the UNIAN line they adhere to, that evil pro-Russia hackers caused this stairway to have a swastika to provoke the idea that Ukraine somehow supports Naziism.

But UNIAN neglected to mention that the street name was recently changed to Stephan Bandera (in 2016), and no one appears to have hacked this. Nor does UNIAN talk about the Azov fighters that openly espoused much of the Nazi ideology. For nationalist Ukrainians, this is all for the greater good of getting rid of all things Russia.

A further sad fact about this is the near impossibility of getting assuredly honest and neutral information about this and other similar happenings. Both Ukrainian nationalists and Russian media agencies have dogs in the race, so to speak. They are both personally connected to these events. However, the Russian media cannot be discounted here, because they do offer a witness and perspective, probably the closest to any objective look at what is going on in Ukraine. We include a video of a “torchlight march” that took place in 2017 that featured such hypernationalist activity, which is not reported in the West.

More such reports are available, but this one seemed the best one to summarize the character of what is going on in the country.

While we do not know the motive and identities of whoever programmed the swastika, it cannot really be stated that this was just a random publicity stunt in a country that has no relationship with Nazi veneration.

The street the mall is on bears witness to that.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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