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Review of Donald Trump ‘Fire and Fury’ book

Wolff’s book says nothing of value but does show that Russiagate collusion claims are wholly without substance

Alexander Mercouris

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The furore over the last week about Michael Wolff’s book about the first months of the Trump administration might mislead some people into thinking that something important actually happened.

This could not be more wrong.  Wolff’s book – which has now appeared on the internet in electronic format- is not even a punctuation mark in the history of the Trump Presidency.  It is a blank space which will be forgotten in a few weeks.

The book tells us precisely nothing of any value about the Trump Presidency save for one thing, which has not been reported anywhere that I know of because it is so completely contrary to what so many people have been saying about Donald Trump and his rise to the Presidency for so long.

This is that the book shows that the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians which are the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry must be untrue and that no one in the White House takes them seriously.

To regular readers of The Duran this is no revelation at all.  We have been saying this very thing right from the start.

However a sensationalist book widely hailed by the neoliberal media establishment as the definitive account of the first months of the Trump White House, and written by Michael Wolff – a neoliberal journalist who proudly proclaims that his aim is to bring down Donald Trump – in effect confirms it.

It does so moreover on the basis of privileged access Wolff says he was granted to the White House,.

The book cites no evidence to back the collusion allegations and confirms that within the White House they are viewed as preposterous and untrue

One of those who thinks this is Steve Bannon, who was at the centre of the Trump campaign, and who would if there had been collusion with Russia presumably know about it.

That all but confirms that the allegations are untrue.

The book does have a chapter entitled “Russia”.  However it turns out to be principally about the Flynn affair.

To the extent that this chapter discusses the collusion allegations at all it says quite clearly that they are seen within the White House as a construct concocted by Donald Trump’s enemies and are considered by everyone working in the White to be preposterous and untrue.

Other than this important fact about Russiagate what else does Wolff’s book tell us?

Here it is important to say that for all Wolff’s boasts of privileged access his book derives from three sources (1) information provided by an angry and embittered Steve Bannon; (2) gossip on the part of White House staffers; and (3) a certain measure of invention by Wolff himself.

Bannon’s information is what provides Wolff’s book with its substance.  That should not however be taken to mean that what Bannon is quoted as saying in the book is necessarily true.  On the contrary many of the things Bannon says are demonstrably untrue.

Wolff’s book shows the extent to which Bannon has come to think of himself as a political strategist of genius who managed practically single handed to win the election for Donald Trump.

Thus if one is to believe Bannon the Trump campaign was floundering in August 2016 when Robert Mercer donated $5 million to the campaign and persuaded Trump to appoint Bannon to a senior post in the campaign.  Bannon then supposedly managed to bring order and direction to the campaign despite Trump’s incompetent meddling and that of his family.

This is a travesty.  By August 2016 Donald Trump had won the Republican nomination, seeing off every Republican challenger in a bitter contest which had lasted for months.  All this happened before Bannon joined Trump’s campaign.

Though Donald Trump’s poll rating thereafter fluctuated, all the conditions which eventually led to his victory by August 2016 were already there.

The high likelihood is that Trump would have won the election even if Bannon had never joined his campaign, and it is Trump not Bannon who must take credit for this.

Wolff claims Trump was elected contrary to his own wishes and became depressed as it became clear that he had won.

This is nonsense.  Throughout the campaign Trump worked tirelessly to win first the Republican nomination and then the Presidency.  It beggars belief he would have done so if he had not wanted to win.

Wolff says that following the election the Trump transition descended into chaos because the wise advice of Bannon and others for a strong chief of staff to be appointed was not followed.

There is even a hint that the “strong chief of staff” Bannon wanted was none other than Bannon himself.  The book claims (implausibly) that Bannon was actually briefly considered for the role.

In the event Trump divided authority between Bannon, the new chief of staff Reince Preibus (a colourless functionary proposed by the Republican Party’s Congressional leadership), his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Kushner’s wife Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

This view of the chaos in the early months of the Trump White House clearly derives from Bannon and not surprisingly at this point Bannon’s all too obvious hostility to Kushner and Ivanka (“Jarvanka”) becomes all too clear.

Though they had worked closely together during the campaign and had for a time been close friends, following the election Bannon and Kushner rapidly became rivals for Trump’s ear, with Bannon clearly resenting Kushner’s greater access to Trump.

The result is that Kushner is represented by Wolff – obviously drawing on Bannon – as a bungling out of depth amateur, whilst Ivanka is represented as treacherous and scheming, with ambitions to succeed her father as President.

The result of this division of authority was supposedly chaos, which was supposedly made worse by Donald Trump’s supposedly eccentric leadership style.

Much of the sensational material in the book is simply gossip intended to highlight Donald Trump’s supposedly eccentric leadership style in order to give flesh to Bannon’s criticisms about the division of authority in the White House.

What truth is there to any of this?

A measure of confusion is unavoidable where the new President is so inexperienced and is obliged to build bridges to the leadership of his party in Congress with whom he is unpopular.

To the extent that it was worse in the early months of the Trump administration than it should have been, the fault for this does not lie with Donald Trump but with his opponents.

The key point which Wolff ignores is that Donald Trump faced the single most sustained attack any newly elected President has faced in modern US history.

Parts of the bureaucracy were openly working against him, sabotaging his policies, leaking against him to the media, and placing people in his campaign and transition teams under surveillance on spurious charges of colluding with Russia.  There was even talk of his impeachment before he was even elected.

In the weeks leading up to his inauguration an attempt was made to persuade members of the Electoral College not to elect him, and on 8th January 2017 – twelve days before the inauguration – he was presented with an ‘intelligence assessment’ which all but said that he owed his election to the Russians and which included a salacious dossier which alleged that he had indulged himself in an orgy in a hotel room in Moscow.

Within days this dossier was published by the media, the Justice Department was sabotaging his ‘travel ban’ Executive Orders, the head of the FBI refused to deny false rumours that he was under investigation, strategically placed leaks brought down his National Security Adviser, and the fact that his campaign was under investigation was publicly confirmed to Congress.

Even details of his first meetings with Russian President Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov were maliciously leaked and spun in the media to cause him the greatest possible damage.

To expect the early days of any administration faced by this sort of attack to progress with clockwork efficiency is to expect the impossible.  To blame Donald Trump because things did not go altogether efficiently because of all this is to turn reality on its head.

Yet that is precisely what Wolff does.  If one were to use his book as a guide for the events of the first months of the Trump administration one might easily conclude that the Russiagate affair was a sideshow, not the all-consuming scandal holding Washington in its grip which it has been for the last 18 months.

Since it has attracted so much attention I will here say something about the one episode in the book which has been most widely reported.

This is Bannon’s comment about the meeting between Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which Bannon calls “treasonous”.

The Guardian – one of the most fervid supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – reports Bannon’s words in this way

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

These words show that Bannon does not really believe that Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were engaging in treason when they met Veselnitskaya.  Rather what Bannon is saying is that by meeting Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower without lawyers present and without first tipping off the FBI they were exposing themselves to that claim.

In other words Bannon is saying that Donald Trump Junior, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner are stupid and incompetent (“that’s the brain trust they had”) and cannot be trusted to do anything right by themselves unless Bannon himself is involved (“any information could then be dumped down to Breitbart”).

Instead of being evidence that the meeting with Veselnitskaya was “treasonous”, Bannon’s words are therefore just another example of Bannon’s self-aggrandising and his all-too obvious hostility towards members of Donald Trump’s family.

Bannon’s real view of the Russiagate affair is provided in another passage in the book, which  – of course – has attracted no attention

As for Bannon, who had himself promoted many conspiracies, he dismissed the Russia story in textbook fashion: “It’s just a conspiracy theory”.  And, he added, the Trump team wasn’t capable of conspiring about anything.

Wolff reports one other highly cynical comment of Bannon’s about Trump’s attitude to Russia which has also attracted a measure of attention but which is more interesting in what it says about Bannon’s attitude to Trump than in what it says about Trump’s attitude to Russia

“What has he gotten himself into with the Russians?” pressed Ailes.

“Mostly,” said Bannon, “he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a shit about him. So he’s kept trying.”

This comment does not corroborate the Trump Dossier as some desperate people are trying to claim.

On the contrary it says that Trump has no connection to Russia and that his wish to mend relations with Russia stems from his wish to get Putin and the Russians to take him seriously and to agree to meet with him.

That not only argues against the Russians having done anything to help Trump get elected; it actually contradicts what the Trump Dossier says about the deep and longstanding links between Donald Trump and Russia.

In truth what this comment shows is the depth of Bannon’s contempt for Donald Trump, who at the time Bannon is supposed to have made this comment (early January 2017) was the US’s President elect and Bannon’s boss.

All in all Wolff’s book is a nasty book made up out of gossip and malice spiced up with a certain amount of fact,

It draws heavily on the reminiscences of an angry and bitter man – Steve Bannon – who has an exaggerated idea of himself.

To try to use this book to carry out a psychological diagnosis of Donald Trump – which is what some people are doing – is offensive and absurd.

The book’s principal importance is that at a time when the Russiagate conspiracy theory is imploding it shows how insubstantial and fabricated it always was.

Other than that it is of no value, and I doubt it will change opinions of Donald Trump one jot.

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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative


The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.


Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.

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Via Zerohedge


Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Via Paul Craig Roberts…


Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50932.htm

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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