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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




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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou



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.



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



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.

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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