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Flynn affair: a tale of lying and incompetence; not of conspiracy or collusion

Flynn helped Israel, asked Kislyak for restraint on sanctions, lied about both, and was consulting Kushner

Alexander Mercouris

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Shortly after the indictment against Michael Flynn and his guilty plea were published, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team published a statement setting out the facts behind the indictment.

This statement shows that the discussions between Kislyak and Flynn on the subject of the sanctions announced by Barack Obama on 28th December 2016 were much more extensive than Flynn had previously admitted to.

It turns out that Kislyak telephoned Flynn shortly after the sanctions were announced to ask what the Trump administration’s policy would be with respect to the sanctions.

Flynn in response called a “senior official of Trump’s transition team” – almost certainly Jared Kushner – to ask what response he should give to Kislyak.

The wording of the statement at this point becomes a little obscure, and reads as follows

The PTT official (ie. Kushner) and FLYNN also discussed that the members of the Presidential Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.

That suggests that Kushner did not discuss Flynn’s call with other members of the transition team but simply told Flynn what he thought their opinion would be.

Flynn then called Kislyak back and in the statement’s words

….requested that Russia not escalate the situation and only respond to the US sanctions in a reciprocal manner.

That shows that Flynn did not tell Kislyak either (1) that the Trump administration would lift the sanctions; or (2) that Russia should not respond to the sanctions.

Instead he asked Kislyak that the Russian counter-sanctions should go no further than a symmetrical response to the sanctions that Obama had announced.

The sequel is that Kislyak informed the Kremlin of Flynn’s request, and Putin as is well known responded by announcing no counter-sanctions at all, which was better than what Flynn and Kushner had expected or asked for.

Kislyak then telephoned Flynn on 31st December 2017 to inform him of this.

The statement then says that Flynn informed “several members of Trump’s transition team” – ie. not just Kushner but others including conceivably Trump himself – about the Russian decision, which Kislyak had told him about.

These interactions show that not only were Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak much more extensive than he admitted to Vice-President Pence or the FBI, but that several people within the Trump transition team including Kushner and conceivably including Donald Trump himself were aware of them.

Though it is now clear that Flynn did indeed lie about his discussions about the sanctions with Kislyak (about which more below) and that one other member of the Trump transition team – almost certainly Kushner – was involved in the discussions, and that other members of the Trump transition team were told about the discussions after they took place – including quite possibly Donald Trump himself – it is important to say again that none of this in any way touches on or proves the allegations of illegal collusion during the Presidential election between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On the contrary all this was standard diplomacy, with the sequence of calls initiated by Kislyak, who was doing his job by trying to find out what the new administration’s intentions were in light of Obama’s sanctions announcement, and with Flynn and Kushner acting entirely appropriately in order to advance Donald Trump’s publicly announced policy of seeking better relations with Russia.

Given that none of this was at all improper – neither the Special Counsel’s statement nor the indictment says it was, and needless to say there is no reference in either the Special Counsel’s statement or the indictment to the Logan Act preposterously conjured up by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates – I am at a total loss to understand why Flynn felt the need to lie about it.

I am also at a total loss to understand why Flynn lied about his lobbying work on behalf of Israel to block Resolution 2334, which I discussed in my previous article.

The statement confirms that it was about Resolution 2334 that Flynn called Kislyak on 22nd December 2016, and that he did so at the prompting of a “very senior official of the Trump transition team”, who again is almost certainly Jared Kushner.

The statement also makes it clear that Flynn also contacted several other foreign governments – not just Russia’s government – in an attempt to get Resolution 2334 blocked.

Leaks moreover now confirm that the effort to get Resolution 2334 blocked was actually initiated by no less a person than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who contacted the Trump transition team and asked them to lobby against Resolution 2334 on Israel’s behalf

Whilst this was unorthodox diplomacy, to put it mildly, it is scarcely conceivable that anyone in Washington would seriously criticise Kushner or Flynn for it given how controversial the Obama administration’s decision to abstain on Resolution 2334 was, and given that Kushner and Flynn were both acting at the request of no less a person than the Prime Minister of Israel in doing what they did.

Given that this is so, it is nothing short of bizarre that Flynn felt the need to lie about it to the FBI also.

Lastly, I express my incredulity that at a time when the Russiagate scandal was already raging Michael Flynn – a highly experienced intelligence officer who had recently headed the Defense Intelligence Agency – appears to have been unaware that Kislyak’s conversations on open telephone lines were being tapped by the FBI and that everything he said to Kislyak was therefore being listened to and recorded.

Had Flynn been straightforward about his dealings with Kislyak and told the FBI and Vice-President Pence the truth then after a brief storm the whole affair would have quickly died down.  Flynn would in that case probably still be Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser now.

The only explanations I can come up with for this strange behaviour are (1) that Flynn – by all accounts a driven and difficult man – found it easier to lie to Pence and the FBI than to tell the truth; and/or (2) that he was protecting or thought he was protecting Kushner; and/or (3) he felt he had to lie about his dealings with Kislyak because given the hostility of much of the bureaucracy that was the only way he could do his job of improving relations with Russia.

If it was the second then Flynn has not protected Kushner by his lying but has instead landed Kushner in trouble, and if it was the third then Flynn was simply wrong.

What I would say about this strange behaviour is that it does at least explain Trump’s decision in February to insist that Flynn resign.

With Kushner and presumably other people within Trump’s team including quite possibly Trump himself knowing the truth about the things Flynn had said to Kislyak, Flynn’s position would have become completely untenable once the extent of his lying to Vice-President Pence and the FBI had become known.

What of the suggestion some are making that Flynn’s lying was intended to hide some other darker secret, specifically the illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the Presidential election earlier that year?

It is difficult to see how this could be so.  Why would Flynn think that lying about perfectly legitimate discussions he had with Kislyak about the sanctions and about his lobbying on behalf of Israel would conceal illegal collusion during the election between the Trump campaign and Russia?  What do any of these things have to do with each other?

As it happens Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak provide further grounds for doubting that any illegal collusion took place, or that the Russians possess leverage over Trump, or that the Trump campaign had any special connection to Russia.

Not only is it clear that no reference to collusion or to any special connection between the Trump campaign and Russia was made during any of the calls, but the outcome of the calls was negative in both directions: the Trump transition team did not promise Kislyak that the incoming Trump administration would lift Obama’s sanctions and Kislyak did not promise that Russia would block Resolution 2334.

As it happens the one positive thing that came out of the calls was Russia’s as it turns out temporary decision not to respond to Obama’s sanctions.  If anybody benefitted from that it was the United States.

There has been some talk that Michael Flynn feels let down by Kushner and Trump.  If so then it is not difficult to see why.

All Flynn’s interactions with Kislyak were undertaken on behalf of the Trump transition team and after consulting with Kushner, whilst his lobbying work against Resolution 2334 was actually carried out on Kushner’s instructions.  The moment his conduct came in for criticism Trump and Kushner should have come to his defence.

Flynn should not have been exposed to questioning by Vice-President Pence and by the FBI, and he should not have been left swinging in the wind when all he did was loyally carry out the President elect’s policies.

That he was is further proof of the amateurism and inexperience of Trump, Kushner and of the people around them, and of their ignorance of the things that need to be done to contain an affair like this.  A more professional and experienced administration like for example Ronald Reagan’s would have had no difficulty containing the fallout from an affair like this.

As it is the Flynn affair has been a source of great embarrassment and confusion upon which the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory have fed.  In my opinion it gave Russiagate a whole extra year of life.

Thankfully, now that the Flynn affair has been largely cleared up, that should end, increasing the likelihood that – as Trump’s lawyer Ty Cobb says – the Russiagate affair is drawing to a close.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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