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Grassley’s, Lindsey Graham’s referral on Steele: did US media, Clinton campaign provide content for Trump Dossier?

Heavily redacted referral memo suggests US media, Clinton associates, had a hand in producing Trump Dossier

Alexander Mercouris

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Hot on the heels of the publication of the GOP memorandum (discussed by me here) has come another potentially even more extraordinary development in the Russiagate scandal.

This is the publication of a massively redacted version of the referral sent by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requesting that the Justice Department consider whether a criminal prosecution of Christopher Steele, the compiler of the Trump Dossier, should be brought.

The Senators’ referral or memorandum is so heavily redacted (whole paragraphs have been entirely blacked out) that it is exceptionally difficult to follow, and any analysis of it must be treated as strictly provisional pending release of a less heavily redacted version.

However what can be read from the Senators’ memorandum is disturbing enough.

Moreover it is now clear that over and above the lies Christopher Steele is alleged by the GOP memorandum to have told to the FBI about his contacts with the media, the Senators’ concerns and their referral to Rosenstein extend to the content of the Trump Dossier itself.

In order to show how this is so I am going to set out the Senators’ memorandum in its entirety.  Given that the published version of this document is so incomplete, it seems to me that it might potentially distort it even further if I simply published extracts from it.

MEMORANDUM

FROM:

Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on the JudiciaryLindsey 0. Graham, Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime ~nd Terrorism,U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

TO:

The Honorable Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of JusticeThe Honorable Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

RE:  Referral of Christopher Steele for Potential Violation of 18 U.S. C. § 1001

(1) As you know, former British Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele was hired by the private firm Fusion GPS in June 2016 to gather information about “links between Russia and [then-presidential candidate] Donald Trump.”  Pursuant to that business arrangement, Mr. Steele prepared a series of documents styled as intelligence reports, some of which were later compiled into a “dossier” and published by BuzzFeed in January 2017.  On the face of the dossier, it appears that Mr. Steele gathered much of his information from Russian government sources inside Russia.  According to the law firm Perkins Cole, Mr. Steele’s dossier-related efforts were funded through Fusion GPS by that law firm on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Campaign.

(2) In response to reporting by the Washington Post about………….the Judiciary Committee began raising a series of questions to the FBI and the Justice Department about these matters as part of the Committee’s constitutional oversight responsibilities.

(3) The FBI has since provided the Committee access to classified documents relevant to the…………… As explained in greater detail below, when information in those classified documents is evaluated in light of sworn statements by Mr. Steele in British litigation, it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false statements.

(4) In response to the Committee’s inquiries, the Chairman and Ranking Member received a briefing on March 15, 2017, from then-Director James B. Corney, Jr.

(5) ………….

…..………….

(6)………….

….………….

(7) Similarly, in June 2017, former FBI Director Corney testified publicly before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he had briefed President-Elect Trump on the dossier allegations in January 2017, which Mr. Corney described as “salacious” and “unverified.”

(8) ………….

…..…………

(9)………….

……………..

(10)………..

……………..

(11)………..

…………….

(12) But there is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one which bears on his credibility.

(13)………..

……………..

(14)………..

……………..

(15)………..

……………..

(16)………..

……………..

(17)………..

……………..

(18) However, public reports, court filings, and information obtained by the Committee during witness interviews in the course of its ongoing investigation indicate that Mr. Steele……provided dossier information……..to numerous media organizations prior to the end of…….October 2016.

(19) In Steele’s sworn court filings in litigation in London, he admitted that he “gave off the record briefings to a small number of journalists about the pre-election memoranda [i.e., the dossier] in late summer/autumn 2016.” In another sworn filing in that case, Mr. Steele further stated that journalists from “the New York Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo News, the New Yorker, and CNN” were “briefed at the end of September 2016 by [Steele] and Fusion at Fusion’s instruction.” The filing further states that Mr. Steele “subsequently participated in further meetings at Fusion’s instruction with Fusion and the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Yahoo News, which took place mid-October 2016.” According to these court filings,”[t]he briefings involved the disclosure of limited intelligence regarding indications of Russian interference in the US election process and the possible co-ordination of members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian government officials.” In his interview with the Committee, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS confirmed this account by Mr. Steele and his company as filed in the British court.

(20) ….……..

….…………..

(21)…………

………………

(22)…………

………………

(23) Mr. Steele conducted his work for Fusion GPS compiling the “pre-election memoranda” “[b]etween June and early November 2016.”  In the British litigation, Mr. Steele acknowledged briefing journalists about the dossier memoranda “in late summer/autumn 2016.”  Unsurprisingly, during the summer of 2016, reports of at least some of the dossier allegations began circulating among reporters and people involved in Russian issues.  Mr. Steele also admitted in the British litigation to briefing journalists from the Washington Post, Yahoo News, the New Yorker, and CNN in September of 2016.  Simply put, the more people who contemporaneously knew that Mr. Steele was compiling his dossier, the more likely it was vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, in the British litigation, which involves a post-election dossier memorandum, Mr. Steele admitted that he received and included in it unsolicited – and unverified – allegations.  That filing implies that he similarly received unsolicited intelligence on these matters prior to the election as well, stating that Mr. Steele “continued to receive unsolicited intelligence on the matters covered by the pre-election memoranda after the US Presidential election.“

(24) ………….

……………….

(25) One memorandum by Mr. Steele that was not published by Buzzfeed is dated October 19, 2016. The report alleges…………, as well as……….. Mr. Steele’s memorandum states that his company “received this report from……US State Department,” that the report was the second in a series, and that the report was information that came from a foreign sub-source who “is in touch with….., a contact of….., a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to….. .” It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.

(26)…………

……………..

(27)…… ….

…………….

(28) On September 23, 2016, Yahoo News published its article entitled “U.S. Intel Officials Probe Ties Between Trump Adviser and Kremlin.”  That article described claims about meetings between Carter Page and Russians, including Igor Sechin. Mr. Sechin is described in the article as “a longtime Putin associate and former Russian deputy prime minister” under sanction by the Treasury Department in response to Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.  The article attributes the information to “a well-placed Western intelligence source,” who reportedly said that “[a]t their alleged meeting, Sechin raised the issue of the lifting of sanctions with Page.” This information also appears in multiple “memoranda” that make up the dossier.

(29) In sum, around the same time Yahoo News published its article containing dossier information about Carter Page, Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS had briefed Yahoo News and other news outlets about information contained in the dossier.

(29)…………

………..…….

(30)..………..

……………..

(31) Accordingly, we are referring Christopher Steele to the Department of Justice for investigation of potential violation(s) of 18 U.S.8. § 1001.

(all italics and bold lettering in the original; paragraph numbers added)

I have added paragraph numbers to make it easier to find my citations from the Senators’ memorandum.  I have also deleted the very extensive notes and references that can be found at the bottom of the pages of the original Senators’ memorandum.  These are probably as important as the text of the Senators’ memorandum itself.  However in its present heavily redacted form they make the Senators’ memorandum appear even more difficult to follow than it already is.  The notes and references can be found in a PDF of the original of the Senators’ memorandum, which can been seen by following this link.

The most important words in the Senators’ memorandum are in my opinion these

…….On the face of the dossier, it appears that Mr. Steele gathered much of his information from Russian government sources inside Russia…..

(from paragraph 1)

……..Simply put, the more people who contemporaneously knew that Mr. Steele was compiling his dossier, the more likely it was vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, in the British litigation, which involves a post-election dossier memorandum, Mr. Steele admitted that he received and included in it unsolicited – and unverified – allegations.  That filing implies that he similarly received unsolicited intelligence on these matters prior to the election as well, stating that Mr. Steele “continued to receive unsolicited intelligence on the matters covered by the pre-election memoranda after the US Presidential election.“

(from paragraph 23)

One memorandum by Mr. Steele that was not published by Buzzfeed is dated October 19, 2016. The report alleges…………, as well as……….. Mr. Steele’s memorandum states that his company “received this report from……US State Department,” that the report was the second in a series, and that the report was information that came from a foreign sub-source who “is in touch with….., a contact of….., a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to….. .” It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.

(paragraph 25)

The wording in paragraph 1 appears to cast doubt on the extent to which the Trump’s Dossier really is based on Russian sources (…….On the face of the dossier, it appears that Mr. Steele gathered much of his information from Russian government sources inside Russia…..);

The wording in paragraph 23 appears to say that because information from the Trump Dossier was being published by the media at the same time that the Trump Dossier was being compiled Christopher Steele, pressure increased on Steele from people who had thereby learnt of the Trump Dossier’s existence to include in the Trump Dossier information Steele has himself admitted was ‘unsolicited’ and ‘unverified’. It seems that some of this information was in fact included in it.

It is not at all clear who these people who the Senators say gave Steele this ‘unsolicited’ and ‘unverified’ information were, but the wording of the entirety of paragraph 23 suggests that some of them at least were people working in the US media.

If so, then the US media had a hand in the creation of the Trump Dossier.

The wording in paragraph 25 has attracted the most attention, with suggestions – eg, from Byron York – that the ‘unpublished entry’ of 19th October 2016 may refer to the compilation I have previously referred to as the ‘second Trump Dossier’ the existence of which was revealed by the Guardian in a recent article.

There are strong reasons to think this is correct.

The Guardian has said that Steele provided this ‘second Trump Dossier’ to the FBI in October 2016.

That corresponds closely with the date of the ‘unpublished entry’ referred to in paragraph 25, which is dated 19th October 2016;

Paragraph 25 says the this ‘unpublished entry’ refers to a report which was ‘the second in a series’.

This shows that there was more than one report and that they formed a series, which clearly points to the existence of a second dossier.   That plausibly is the ‘second Trump Dossier’ referred to by the Guardian.

Though paragraph 25 is heavily redacted, it seems that the report upon which Steele based his unpublished of 19th October 2016 entry was sourced to “a friend of the Clintons”.

That closely matches Cody Shearer, the person whom the Guardian says was the person who was responsible for the ‘second Trump Dossier’.

Byron York has set out the convoluted way in which the report from the ‘second Trump Dossier’ reached Christopher Steele

According to the referral, Steele wrote the additional memo based on anti-Trump information that originated with a foreign source. In a convoluted scheme outlined in the referral, the foreign source gave the information to an unnamed associate of Hillary and Bill Clinton, who then gave the information to an unnamed official in the Obama State Department, who then gave the information to Steele. Steele wrote a report based on the information, but the redacted version of the referral does not say what Steele did with the report after that.

Byron York has also dropped a heavy hint about who were the people involved

Published accounts in the Guardian and the Washington Post have indicated that Clinton associate Cody Shearer was in contact with Steele about anti-Trump research, and Obama State Department official Jonathan Winer was a connection between Steele and the State Department during the 2016 campaign.

What paragraph 25 says, especially when it is read in combination with paragraph 23, gives rise to deep concern.

Paragraph 23 says that as news that Steele was compiling the Trump Dossier spread he came under growing pressure to include in it “unsolicited” and “unverified” information from a variety of different sources.

Though given the way in which the Senators’ memorandum has been redacted it is hard to be sure, it looks as if the unpublished entry of 19th October 2016 was one of the products of this pressure, with a ‘friend of the Clintons” (Cody Shearer?) directly implicated on this occasion as a source.

Moreover it seems that the US State Department – which was once headed by Hillary Clinton – was somehow involved.

The Senators do not hesitate to spell out the implications of this

It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.

Beyond this there has to be the obvious concern of this having given rise to a feedback loop, with Steele’s own disclosures being reported back to him in a way which might make it appear that they were being independently reported to him.

By way of example, the article in the Guardian claims that the ‘second Trump Dossier’ somehow corroborates the first Trump Dossier.

Given that Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS had been working hard throughout the summer and autumn of 2016 to spread information drawn from the Trump Dossier far and wide across the US media landscape, and given that top members of the Clinton campaign (including Bill and Hillary Clinton) would of course have known about the information which appeared in the Trump Dossier, it is entirely likely that the ‘second Trump Dossier’, instead of corroborating the Trump Dossier is actually based upon it.

Something very like that – of information originating with Steele being used to ‘corroborate’ information originating with Steele – is after all what the GOP memorandum says happened with the 23rd September 2016 story which appeared in Yahoo News.

The FBI mistook this story as providing independent corroboration of the information in the Trump Dossier, and told the FISA court this when they used information from the Trump Dossier and from the Yahoo News story to apply on 21st October 2016 for a surveillance warrant against Carter Page.

In fact the September 2016 Yahoo News story did not corroborate the Trump Dossier since it was based on information drawn from the Trump Dossier provided to Yahoo News by Christopher Steele.

In summary, the Senators’ memorandum appears to paint an alarming picture in which the Trump Dossier far from being based on information provided to Christopher Steele by his network in Russia was actually a kind of collaborative effort, with lots of people across the US media and in the Clinton campaign involved in producing it.

That would explain why its entries so closely followed the news cycle.

Some of these people perhaps were not fully aware of what they were doing, but there has to be a concern that some of them – especially those involved in the Clinton campaign – were, and of course Steele himself would have known all along what was going on.

I say all this in part because the convoluted way in which the ‘second Trump Dossier’ reached Steele looks frankly like an attempt to create ‘distance’ between associates of the Clintons and Steele.

The reference to the State Department suggests that elements of the US bureaucracy were involved, and certain comments Representative Nunes has made in an interview with Fox News suggest that more revelations about the involvement of the State Department are on the way.

In passing, involvement by the State Department might explain the reference in the Trump Dossier to the Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin.

An article by the BBC dated 30th March 2017 – which revealed that the Trump Dossier was providing the ‘frame narrative’ for the Russiagate investigation – claimed that the single reference to Kalugin in the Trump Dossier was being treated by US intelligence as a reason for taking its claims seriously.  This despite the fact that the Trump Dossier had misspelled Kalugin’s name as “Kulagin”

……sources I know and trust have told me the US government identified Kalugin as a spy while he was still at the embassy.

It is not clear if the American intelligence agencies already believed this when they got Steele’s report on the “diplomat”, as early as May 2016.

But it is a judgment they made using their own methods, outside the dossier….

Steele’s work remains fiercely controversial, to some a “dodgy dossier” concocted by President Trump’s enemies.

But on this vitally important point – Kalugin’s status as a “spy under diplomatic cover” – people who saw the intelligence agree with the dossier, adding weight to Steele’s other claims.

Based on what the Senators’ memorandum tells us, there now has to be at least a possibility that Steele got the information about Kalugin not from his sources in Russia but from the State Department. That might explain why he got the spelling of Kalugin’s name wrong.

If this is all correct, then it paints a most ominous picture.

It would mean that the US news media has been busy ever since the summer of 2016 reporting news about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which it had itself a hand in creating.

There also has to be concern that something more sinister was going on, and that what we are looking at is an intentional campaign of disinformation orchestrated during the Presidential election by people involved with the Clinton campaign.

I say this because – as the Senators point out – the DNC and the Clinton campaign not only paid for the Trump Dossier but people connected to the Clintons were also feeding information to Steele, some of which may have found its way into the Trump Dossier.

The very heavily redacted nature of the Senators’ memorandum means that conclusions about it such as those made in this article must be tentative.

However on any analysis the facts set out in the heavily redacted version of the Senators’ memorandum which has now been published are worrying enough.

Given the extent to which the Justice Department and the FBI have already been compromised by Christopher Steele’s activities it is now obvious that they cannot be expected to conduct what now looks certain to be a criminal investigation which may touch on their own conduct.

Appointing a second Special Counsel to carry out a proper investigation is now essential.

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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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