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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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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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