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Descent into absurdity: FBI looks to Walter Mitty figure to prove collusion between Trump and Russia

Focus on a fantasist like Carter Page to prove collusion between Trump and Russia shows how detached from reality Russiagate has become.

Alexander Mercouris

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That the supporters of Russiagate have not given up, but that they are running out of material to keep the scandal going, is confirmed by yet another article based on anonymous leaks published by CNN.

The article begins with a portentous paragraph

The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump’s campaign associates and the Russians.

(bold italics added)

Sharp-eyed observers of the Russiagate scandal will note that the words “trying to infiltrate” represent a significant retreat from previous claims made during the Russiagate scandal.  These alleged an active campaign of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The classic formulation of that claim appeared in the Trump Dossier, which the BBC has admitted is the ‘frame-narrative’ used by the amateur sleuths (including Representative Schiff) who are driving the Russiagate investigation.  Here is how the BBC describes that claim

In the report (ie. the Trump Dossier – AM), Steele spoke of an “established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin… an intelligence exchange had been running between them for at least 8 years.”

Members of the Obama administration believe, based on analysis they saw from the intelligence community, that the information exchange claimed by Steele continued into the election.

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.

The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”

This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.

Of course if the Russians were “trying to infiltrate” the Trump campaign, then there cannot have been an “established operational liaison between the TRUMP team and the Kremlin… an intelligence exchange……running between them for at least 8 years” as the Trump Dossier claims.  Why infiltrate what one is already actively colluding with, and has been colluding with for 8 years?

Putting that aside, the claims about attempted Russian infiltration of the Trump campaign centre on an individual called Carter Page, a US businessman with a background in banking and the oil industry who has long established business connections with Russia, where he was based for a time as a Vice-President of Merrill Lynch focusing on Russia’s energy sector.

Carter Page is a supporter of a rapprochement between the US and Russia, and has long established contacts in Russia, mainly of a business nature.  These extend to various Russian officials, one of whom the US intelligence community has identified as a spy. However US officials admit that Carter Page may not have realised this man was a spy (see below).

Carter Page was also for a time connected to the Trump campaign, though as will become clear his actual connection to the campaign was tenuous at best.

Even on the strength of the information provided in the CNN article the whole chain of inference constructed around Carter Page to prove collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia on close scrutiny however instantly collapses.

Firstly the article admits that there is no evidence that Carter Page had any knowledge that any of the Russians he was meeting with were spies, or that he did anything illegal or treasonous during his meetings with them, or even that he colluded with them on behalf of the Trump campaign in any way

These officials made clear they don’t know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him. Because of the way Russian spy services operate, Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents.

Secondly, it seems that Carter Page had no real role in the Trump campaign and had only a minimal connection to it, making it impossible for him to have been the point-man between the Trump campaign and the Russians, much less someone who could have carried out collusion with the Russians on the Trump campaign’s behalf.

The CNN article shows what a marginal figure in the Trump campaign Carter Page actually was, and the bizarre way he became attached to it, and deserves to be quoted on this point at length

How Page’s name became associated with the campaign is a reflection of how minimal the Trump operation was last year, as establishment national security figures avoided an association with the insurgent operation.  As Trump prepared to meet with The Washington Post editorial page in March 2016, the campaign was under pressure to name national security advisers. Staffers produced a list of names for Trump to refer to, according to a US official close to the campaign. Trump mentioned Page, in part because he had a Ph.D. listed next to his name, the official said.  Trump had never met Page. Sam Clovis, co-chairman of the campaign, helped gather the names that the candidate used.  Campaign officials say there’s no indication Page ever attended any national security meetings at Trump Tower. They insisted he played a junior role and was not an influential figure.  But in a letter Page wrote to the House Intelligence committee offering to testify, Page describes more interactions with the campaign.  “For your information, I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Cafe, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year.”  A US official with close ties to the campaign says Page’s claim he spent time on the fifth floor is meaningless since the campaign no longer used that floor starting in early July. The official also says the places he listed as visiting are public spaces visited by millions of people a year.
This account points up an important aspect of Carter Page’s personality, which has been the source of much confusion and trouble.  This is his habit of self-aggrandisement.  He seems to have fooled Trump into appointing him a foreign policy adviser on the strength of his having a Ph.D, when he doesn’t have a Ph.D.  This is how Carter Page’s Wikipedia entry explains this
Page was one of five people named as foreign policy advisors by Donald Trump in March 2016, and was also attributed by Trump as having a PhD.[19] It is unknown at this time whether Trump was mistaken as to Page’s credentials or if Page falsified them in applying for an advisory position with the Trump team. There is no evidence, as confirmed by Trump campaign staffers, that Page had ever met or briefed Trump.[3]
In addition, as the extract from the CNN article I have quoted shows, instead of frankly admitting that he had only a minimal role in the Trump campaign – saving everyone a great deal of trouble – Carter Page persists in pretending otherwise, and passes off visits to public spaces within Trump Tower as ‘proof’ of this.
This makes it impossible to take Carter Page seriously, and makes it difficult to see how he deserves the attention he is getting.  Moreover Carter Page’s proclivity for self-aggrandisement makes the whole thesis the Russians used him to “try to infiltrate” the Trump campaign – much less that they succeeded in doing so – look immediately fanciful.
 In truth Carter Page comes across as a something of a busy body who briefly managed to fool the Russians last year into thinking he was closer to Trump than he really was.  On the strength of this he was able to wangle an invitation to give a talk to Moscow’s New Economic School at a time last summer when the Russians would have been anxious to know what candidate Trump’s policies towards Russia actually were.  The article provides information from a source in the New Economic School showing how this happened
…..a spokesman for the school told CNN that Page’s ties to Trump helped secure the invitation.  “The organizing committee for the commencement last year thought that he was a colorful and interesting character,” said Denis Klimentov, a spokesman for the New Economic School. “It was partially supported by the fact that The Washington Post, the newspaper, back in the spring of 2016, cited Carter as one of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy advisors.”
 (bold italics added)
Carter Page followed this up with a second invitation in December, after Trump had won the election, when the Russians would have been even more anxious to find out what now President-elect Trump’s policies towards Russia were, and when they would have been especially anxious to hear what someone who they clearly still thought was one of the President-elect’s key foreign policy advisers would say.
That this is what the Russians still thought Carter Page was at the time of his second visit is shown by this comment of Leonid Reshetnikov, the Director of Russia’s Institute of Strategic Studies, quoted by CNN in the article
“It’s quite possible that Trump’s advisor is a pragmatist and a realist.  This is probably not an ordinary visit. He has probably received some instructions from the President-elect. I don’t think that meetings at the highest level will take place, but (the possibility) cannot be excluded.”
 In reality Carter Page had no ‘instructions’ from President-elect Trump, it seems he and Trump had never even met, and – needless to say – no “meetings at the highest level” took place.  Once the new administration was formed it quickly became clear Carter Page had no role in it and was not close to Trump at all and did not speak for the new President.  At that point the misapprehension the Russians had about him would have ended, and they lost interest in him.
 There is not a scintilla of evidence in any of this of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  On the contrary the fact the Russians mistook a Walter Mitty figure like Carter Page for an important adviser of Trump’s shows how poorly informed about Trump they actually were.  That does not speak of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  On the contrary if anything it shows that no such collusion was taking place.
That the FBI is now giving so much attention to Carter Page, at precisely the point the Russians have lost interest in him, is a sure sign the Russiagate investigation is running into the sand.  Further confirmation of this is provided at the end of the CNN article
 The FBI and other US agencies have been combing through information obtained through that FISA as part of its ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.  Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. But there is not enough evidence to show that crimes were committed, US officials say.
Part of the problem for investigators has been that they lost their opportunity to conduct the investigation in secret after several leaks last year revealed FBI was looking at people close to the Trump campaign. After those reports, people that the US was monitoring changed their behavior, which made it more difficult for US officials to monitor them.
 (bold italics added)
 In all the ocean of words which have been written about the Russiagate scandal, these must be the most comically self-serving.  The same people who have spent months leaking information about the Russiagate investigation in order to destabilise the Trump administration are now complaining that their own leaks are causing the investigation to fail.
 No words could sum up better the complete absurdity of this whole affair.

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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