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First big defeat for Donald Trump as Michael Flynn exits

The scandal that has ousted General Michael Flynn from the post of National Security Adviser is absurd and concocted. Though there were probably other reasons for his going – including his apparently poor performance in the post of National Security Adviser – his resignation is nonetheless a heavy blow for President Trump.

Alexander Mercouris

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General Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Adviser is by far the biggest blow President Trump has suffered since his inauguration.

As I have written previously, this is a completely concocted scandal.  The most General Flynn is accused of is telling Russian ambassador Kislyak that Russia should not overreact to the sanctions President Obama imposed on Russia during the height of the Clinton leaks hysteria in December.   Even the ‘anonymous officials’  who claim to have seen the transcript of the tapes of his conversations with Kislyak admit that he did not tell Kislyak that President Trump would cancel the sanctions.  Instead all Flynn did was call for was restraint.

I cannot see how this could possibly have threatened US national security.  Nor do I see how – just three weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration – it could be considered to be ‘undermining’ President Obama’s foreign policy, which Donald Trump was publicly criticising anyway.

It seems that back in January that was also the FBI’s view, and that it was reporting that after checking the transcripts of Flynn’s telephone conversations with Kislyak, that it could find nothing illicit in them.  That is obviously right, and in any sane world that would have been the end of the whole affair.

Yet on the strength of these calls Sally Yates as Acting Attorney General apparently advised the White House that General Flynn might have committed an offence under the Logan Act and initiated an FBI investigation of General Flynn’s actions, saying he might have opened himself up to blackmail by the Russian government.

It should be said clearly that this is totally absurd.  Town Hall has provided a comprehensive refutation of the claim that there has been an offence under the Logan Act and as I cannot improve on it I here reproduce it

[T]he Logan Act dates to 1799, when a state legislator with no ties to any administration tried to assert himself as personal negotiator for final peace with France. The anti-Jefferson Federalists did not like this private initiative, so passed the Logan Act to make private ventures intent on negotiating personal treaties over international feuds a crime. The bill was whipped out in days.

And in the 200 years since, not a single individual has ever been prosecuted under the act, not one. And its constitutionality is widely doubted in any event, even by Democrat legal scholars. Funny how precedent and constitutionality matter when they work for a party, and not at all when they work against it.

The folly of casting anyone – let alone General Flynn, an incoming National Security Advisor – as violator of this important-sounding, but utterly obsolete and toothless Logan Act would be funny enough, if it were not being dressed up in congressional outrage, with somber questions like – yes – “what did he know, and when did he know it?” Watergate already, really?

To compound the absurdity, if General Flynn violated the Logan Act by talking to the Russian ambassador, then Barack Obama as a candidate in 2008 did so on a far greater scale.  As Town Hall also says

In July 2008, independent of any policy conversations by staff, candidate Obama went to the Middle East and Europe and spoke extensively, one-on-one, about policy with leaders from Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, France, Germany and Britain. As a candidate, not as a president-elect.

Without thought of violating the Logan Act, Mr. Obama conducted substantive conversations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s Prime Minister Elud Olmert, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair and opposition leader David Cameron. In short, in an effort to transparently promote his presidential candidacy, with all manner of topics, candidate Obama flew straight into the Logan Act…..

To cap the irony and Obama counter-example, before assuming office and not president-elect, Mr. Obama spoke of peace and how to end world conflicts on July 24, 2008, in a speech at the Victory Column in Berlin, before an estimated 200,000 people. But no talk of Logan Act. None.

It has been suggested rather portentously that the true reason General Flynn resigned was not because of the conversations he had with Kislyak but because he lied about these conversations to Vice-President Pence, and that a furious Pence has taken umbrage and has insisted that Flynn must go.

This is only marginally less absurd.

Firstly since General Flynn did nothing remotely wrong either by holding the conversations with Kislyak or by what he is reported to have said during them, what he said about them to Vice-President Pence really shouldn’t matter.

Secondly, it is overwhelmingly likely that General Flynn – as he says – simply made a mistake.

As a former intelligence officer General Flynn surely knows that Kislyak’s telephone conversations are monitored by US intelligence.  Indeed it is a virtual certainty that as the former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency he has actually seen transcripts of Kislyak’s conversations and of those of other Russian officials.

Given that that is so Flynn would surely have known when he reported to Pence that US intelligence had been listening in to his conversations with Kislyak and that any lie he said to Pence would be quickly discovered.  Since he didn’t in fact say anything remotely improper to Kislyak he wouldn’t have had any reason to lie anyway.

Most likely Flynn thought he was being asked whether he had told Kislyak that the Trump administration would lift the sanctions, which he denied doing because he didn’t do so.  In the confusion this was mistaken for a denial that the subject of the sanctions was even discussed, when it was in fact touched on, though only in the most innocuous way.

In the rush of events this sort of thing occasionally happens, and in his resignation statement Flynn all but says that this is what happened.  It is by far the most plausible explanation for the whole affair, and no-one who is not completely paranoid or who is not pursuing an agenda would think otherwise.

Why then has Flynn been forced to resign?

There is a possibility that, disproportionate though that would be, Vice-President Pence might indeed have been genuinely angry about the mix-up, and might – despite receiving an apology from Flynn – have been so angry with Flynn that he insisted that Flynn should go.  It is becoming increasingly clear that Pence is a key figure within the Trump administration, and if he is indeed as angry with Flynn as some reports suggest, then Trump may have felt that he had no option but to let Flynn go.

I have to say however that my own view is that the explanation that Flynn was forced to go because he lied to Pence looks to me like a cover story to hide the true reasons why Flynn had to go.

I suspect these are (1) that Flynn is still the subject of the FBI probe launched by Sally Yates; and (2) that there were increasing doubts about Flynn’s fitness for the role of National Security Adviser.

Turning first to the FBI probe, Sally Yates’s warnings to the White House that Flynn might be blackmailed by the Russian government because of what he said to Kislyak on the telephone, and the claim that he might have violated the Logan Act, are for the reasons I have discussed previously absurd.  As I have said media reports that circulated in January were saying that the FBI after checking the transcripts of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak could find nothing illicit in them.  Nonetheless it seems the probe Sally Yates ordered is still continuing.

In passing I should say that I find it impossible to believe that Sally Yates herself genuinely believes that the warnings she is supposed to have given the White House about Flynn are anything other than absurd.  What they in fact show is not that there is a serious case against Flynn but – as was also shown by Yates’s refusal to defend the ‘travel ban’ Executive Order in the courts – that as Acting Attorney General Yates was actively working against the President and the administration she was supposed to be serving, in this case by making farfetched claims against one of the President’s advisers.

The problem is that absurd though the FBI probe Sally Yates launched is, once launched it cannot be stopped by Presidential order, since doing so would be an abuse of Presidential power.

The result is that Flynn and the whole administration risked being distracted for weeks or months by constant sniping by the Democrats and the administration’s enemies within the US bureaucracy whilst the probe was underway.  It is therefore understandable that Trump’s two closest political advisers – Preibus and Bannon – apparently both concluded that the administration simply could not afford this, and decided that Flynn would have to go.

I would add that the recent media attacks on Flynn are grounded on the fact that an FBI investigation is underway.  Had there not been such an investigation it is difficult to see how the media attacks on Flynn could have gained traction.  Indeed it is doubtful they would have happened at all.  Given that were it not for these media attacks Flynn would still be President Trump’s National Security Adviser, Flynn’s ouster is Sally Yates’s parting gift to an administration she clearly deeply opposes and was working against.

Having said all this, Donald Trump and his team would probably have stuck with Flynn had there not also been serious concerns about his performance as National Security Adviser.

By most accounts Flynn is an abrasive personality, who makes enemies easily, and there have been numerous reports of his poor management skills in a job where such skills are essential.  The fact that he obviously failed to take proper notes of his conversations with Kislyak – relying instead on his memory – is just one example of his sloppy approach to paperwork, something which incidentally must have dismayed Pence the lawyer.

Flynn also clearly has an obsessive streak, as shown by his pathological hostility to Iran, which is obviously inappropriate for someone who is the President’s most important adviser on national security questions.

There is also another possible problem with Flynn, which may have worked against him.  This is his habit of self-promotion as shown by his extraordinary appearance in the White House briefing room to read out his statement about Iran.

In the 1970s, in the age of Kissinger and Brzezinski, the President’s National Security Adviser ran US foreign policy, ousting the Secretary of State and the State Department from that role.  Unsurprisingly Kissinger and Brzezinsky were media stars, far outshining the Secretaries of State of the period (William Rogers, Cyrus Vance and Edward Muskie).

In the 1980s under Ronald Reagan a successful effort was made to re-establish the Secretary of State’s and the State Department’s primacy in managing the nation’s foreign policy, with the National Security Adviser once again relegated to an advisory role.  Since then no National Security Adviser has achieved anything like the power or prominence that Kissinger and Brzezinski once had.

It is not impossible that the very public role Flynn was carving out for himself alarmed some people within the foreign policy and national security bureaucracy, with fears that Flynn was seeking to make himself Donald Trump’s Kissinger or Brzezinski.  If so it would not be surprising if the bureaucracy united against him to see off the challenge, with even senior officials like Tillerson and Mattis in that case probably wanting Flynn to go.

Whatever the reasons for his going, Flynn’s departure is however a serious blow for Donald Trump.

It is a much more serious blow than the court decisions on the ‘travel ban’ Executive Order, which I expect the administration to reverse or overcome.

Losing Flynn by contrast shows weakness, and has given Donald Trump’s many enemies – including those in the bureaucracy – their first blood.  They will now be hungering for more.

Trump and his advisers presumably calculated that the damage that would have been done by holding on to Flynn would have been greater than the damage that was done by letting him go.  Time will show whether they are right.  Much will depend on who Trump choses to replace him.

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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