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James Comey – a necessary sacking

James Comey’s dismissal was a justifiable act sacking an incompetent FBI Director who botched the Hillary Clinton email investigation and who has disastrously mishandled the Russiagate probe

Alexander Mercouris

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It is curious to see Democrats, who had no good way to say for former FBI Director James Comey during the election because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton emails debacle, fiercely criticize his sacking which they are linking to Russiagate.

The White House denies Comey was sacked over Russiagate.  With hindsight Comey did make one serious error over the course of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.  This was not his decision to reopen the investigation in the run up to the election when some of Hillary Clinton’s emails were found in a computer in the possession of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Hillary Clinton aide and confidante Huma Abedin.  Rather it was his decision to announce the closure of the original investigation instead of leaving that to Loretta Lynch, Barack Obama’s Attorney General.

During his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee Comey said he took this extraordinary step because Loretta Lynch had compromised herself by being seen talking in public to Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton’s husband.  Whilst that might have been true, it is debatable whether it was wise or proper because of that for Comey to intervene.  Arguably he should have left the matter to Loretta Lynch and Barack Obama to sort out.

The matter is made worse because the decision to drop the investigation was arguably wrong and premature.  There appears to have been at least a case to answer and the decision whether or not to prosecute should arguably not have been made by a police investigator but by a prosecutor ie. by the Justice Department.

That Comey knew at the time that he was wrong to close down the investigation and to meddle in work which properly speaking belonged to the Justice Department is shown by his decision to hold a news conference directly after he made his decision in order to explain it.  Needless to say the explanation satisfied no one, with Republicans angry that the investigation was shut down prematurely and Democrats angry at the criticisms Comey felt obliged to make of Hillary Clinton during the news conference.

Apparently the whole episode shook confidence in Comey within the FBI, and it would not be surprising if many agents there are happy to see him go.

However inevitably the Democrats are claiming that the real reason Comey has been sacked is because of Russiagate, and as I write this the liberal media is full of comparisons with the so-called ‘Saturday Night Massacre” in October 1973 when the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General both resigned rather than carry out President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox (Cox was finally fired by Solicitor General Robert Bork).

The comparison is completely misplaced.  In this case far from the Justice Department resisting the President’s order to fire Comey, it is upon the recommendation of the Justice Department that Comey has been fired.

Having said this, there is no doubt relations between the President and Comey have deteriorated to breaking point, and it is not difficult to see why.

The simple fact is that either through incompetence or fear Comey has botched the Russiagate investigation.  Not only did he not insist on the FBI examining John Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers – choosing instead to rely on the conclusions of CrowdStrike, which is a private company – but in 9 months of investigations the Russiagate has failed to produce any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians whatsoever.  Notwithstanding this the investigation is continuing with no end in sight.

By contrast whilst the Russiagate investigation is going nowhere, with no reason to think it will ever go anywhere because no evidence of wrongdoing or impropriety by any US citizen has ever been discovered, Comey has quite obviously been resisting the President’s demands to investigate the leaks of classified information to the media by former Obama officials and by officials of the US intelligence and security services, even though this most definitely is a crime.

To compound the problem, there is the greater fact that despite earlier denials it is now confirmed that US citizens like Carter Page against whom there has never been any evidence of wrongdoing were placed under surveillance during the election period by the FBI under cover of the Russiagate investigation.  As I have repeatedly said, and as others are now saying, this is the true scandal of the 2016 election.  The treatment of Carter Page in particular has now tipped over into outright persecution.

All this would be bad enough, but it has become increasingly clear as a result of Comey’s testimony to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that he suffers from an alarming ignorance of Russia, which is the country whose alleged espionage activities he is supposed to be investigating.  Thus during his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee it turned out for example that he was ignorant of basic facts about Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company and the export arm of its gas industry.

The result is that instead of the Russiagate investigation being based on actual knowledge of Russia, it depends to a dangerous degree on the usual set of paranoid assumptions widespread about it in the West which it turns out Comey himself shares, and which has led Comey to give credence to the fantastic assertions contained in the Trump Dossier whose compiler Christopher Steele has admitted relies on information, which is both unverified and which has already on occasion been shown to be wrong.

Significantly during his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee Comey admitted that it was he who insisted on the unverified (and unverifiable) Trump Dossier being attached to the classified version of the ODNI report into the Russian hacking allegations, which was given in January to President Obama and to President elect Trump, even though Comey must have known that doing so would sharply increase the possibility that the Trump Dossier would be made public by the media.

It is not surprising therefore that President Trump, the senior officials of the Justice Department, and the rest of the Trump administration, have lost confidence in Comey.  Frankly, with Comey in charge, I had begun to wonder whether the Russiagate investigation would ever be brought to an end, with Comey in order to cover up his previous errors having a personal stake in keeping it going indefinitely.

If the decision to fire Comey was justifiable and necessary, it will nonetheless provoke a political storm, with the Democrats claiming that it is intended to abort an investigation that was “getting too close”.  The question is whether the President and the administration can resist the storm.

My best guess is that they can.  It bears repeating again that 9 months after the Russiagate investigation was launched no evidence has come to light even of a crime being committed, much less of anyone having perpetrated a crime, or of any crime being covered up.

I say this because the various “crimes” of which President Trump’s former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn is accused – under the Logan Act and for failing to disclose financial payments from various agencies in Turkey and Russia – have no direct connection to the central allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which forms the heart of the Russiagate scandal, for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

In light of this I cannot see how any claim that the investigation was “getting too close” is remotely sustainable, and I doubt the Democrats will in the end be able to sustain it.

Hopefully with Comey gone it will now be possible for his successor to take a fresh look at this mess, to sort out fiction from fact, and to bring the investigation back on track.  If so then I have no doubt the investigation will be brought to an end quickly, hopefully after all the supposedly ‘secret evidence’ about which we have heard so much is finally exposed to the light of day.

 

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US Pressures Germany To Ditch Huawei Over ‘Security Concerns’

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

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Via Zerohedge


First it was Australia, New Zealand and Japan, now the US is pressing the German government to refuse to use equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as Europe’s largest economy seeks to build out its 5G infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, a US delegation met on Friday with German Foreign Ministry officials in Berlin to talk about the security risks presented by Huawei’s equipment, which the US says is vulnerable to spying. The meeting in Germany follows a report from late last month claiming the US had launched an “extraordinary outreach campaign” to warn its allies against using Huawei equipment (while its vulnerability to Chinese spying has been cited as the reason to avoid Huawei, it’s also worth noting that the US and China are locked in a battle for who will dominate the global 5G space…a battle that Huawei is currently winning).

Germany is set to hold an auction early next year to find a supplier to help expand its 5G network. The Berlin meeting took place one day after Deutsche Telekom said it would reexamine its decision to use Huawei equipment.

US officials are optimistic that their warnings are getting a hearing, though any detailed talks are in early stages and no concrete commitments have been made, according to one of the people.

The US pressure on Germany underscores increased scrutiny of Huawei as governments grapple with fears that the telecom-equipment maker’s gear is an enabler for Chinese espionage. The Berlin meeting took place a day after German carrier Deutsche Telekom AG said it will re-evaluate its purchasing strategy on Huawei, an indication that it may drop the Chinese company from its list of network suppliers.

France is also reportedly considering further restrictions after adding Huawei products to its “high alert” list. The US has already passed a ban preventing government agencies from using anything made by Huawei. But the telecoms equipment provider isn’t taking these threats to its business lying down.

U.S. warnings over espionage are a delicate matter in Germany. Revelations over the scale of the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence, including reports of tapping Merkel’s mobile phone, are still fresh in Berlin five years after they came to light.

Huawei is pushing back against the accusations. The company’s rotating chairman warned this week that blacklisting the Chinese company without proof will hurt the industry and disrupt the emergence of new wireless technology globally. Ken Hu, speaking at a Huawei manufacturing base in Dongguan, cited “groundless speculation,” in some of the first public comments since the shock arrest of the company’s chief financial officer.

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. In an editorial published Sunday, the Global Times, an English-language mouthpiece for the Communist Party, warned that China should retaliate against any country that – like Australia – takes a hard line against Huawei. So, if you’re a German citizen in Beijing, you might want to consider getting the hell out of Dodge.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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