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Manafort indictment: Mueller’s best (and last?) shot

Indictment fails to touch on collusion allegations central to the Russiagate scandal

Alexander Mercouris

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As widely predicted, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate probe has now formally indicted Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in what the media is calling the ‘first indictment’ in the Russiagate investigation.

Manafort was warned at the time of the search of his home that he would be indicted so the news of the indictment is not surprising.

The timing of the indictment does however raise some interesting questions.

It comes after what was in all other respects a disastrous two weeks for the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy with the revelation that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign financed the ‘research’ which resulted in the Trump Dossier, and with mounting claims that (as I had previously suspected) the now notorious meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was indeed a sting set up by Fusion GPS, the intermediary company used by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign to fund the Trump Dossier.

In light of this there has to be some suspicion that the decision to press charges against Manafort and one of his aides now was intended at least in part to distract attention from the revelations and to regain control of the Russiagate narrative, which has been increasingly falling apart.

What reinforces this suspicion is that news of the indictment was leaked – disgracefully – to the media over the weekend even though the indictment had been sealed by a Federal Judge.

On the face of it that is a serious contempt of court, and if it was done by someone working for the Special Counsel’s team or for the Justice Department then it is or ought to be a very serious matter.  The depressing reality of the Russiagate affair is however that its partisans have never shown much respect for these important procedural safeguards, and nor have they ever been held to account for not doing so.

Turning to the actual charges against Manafort, Zerohedge has now published the complete indictment which can be found here.  

In my opinion the major points about the indictment are:

(1) that there is no reference in the indictment to collusion between Manafort and the Russians or between the Trump campaign and the Russians during last year’s Presidential election.

Importantly there is no reference in the indictment to the central claim made by supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory: that the Trump campaign (including presumably Manafort) colluded with the Russians to release the emails which were allegedly stolen by the Russians from the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers and which were published by Wikileaks.

(2) All the charges against Manafort are of an essentially financial nature and appear to centre on Manafort’s well-known dealings with the former government of Ukraine.

The portentous language about Manafort engaging in a ‘conspiracy against the United States’, which will doubtless be seized upon by the Russiagate partisans, appears to concern exclusively Manafort’s attempt to conceal his allegedly corrupt activities from the US authorities, including from the US tax authorities.

For what it’s worth my opinion is that the single most serious item in the whole indictment and the one which Manafort will have the most difficulty in explaining away is the claim that he doctored documents to conceal his activities.

(3) It is possible that buried deep in the various financial dealings outlined in the indictment there are dealings between Manafort and individuals or companies in Russia. That however is not obvious and so far as I can see the indictment does not actually say this.  It would anyway be a matter of doubtful relevance to the Russiagate collusion allegations even if it were true.

(4) Though Manafort like everyone else is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and though proving the charges in the indictment in a court of law may not be at all easy – it is important to remember that we have not so far heard Manafort’s side of the story – I for one am perfectly willing to accept that these charges may be true.

However the charges do not seem to have any direct bearing on the Russiagate collusion allegations, which were the allegations which caused the Russiagate investigation to be set up in the first place, and that does beg the question of why Mueller is bringing the charges rather than simply passing the case on for further investigation to the FBI

Briefly, the answer is that from the moment he took over the inquiry Mueller has focused on Manafort whose complicated financial dealings have made him an obvious target.  The idea clearly was to put pressure on Manafort to get him to talk about the collusion allegations.

The fact that Mueller has now been obliged to bring formal charges against Manafort shows that this strategy has so far failed and looks increasingly unlikely to succeed.  Manafort has not only failed to ‘crack’ but continues to deny publicly the collusion allegations and to insist that he has done nothing wrong.

To have done nothing in the face of this defiance would have made the earlier threat to bring charges look like a bluff, and it was to avoid that happening – which would have destroyed the credibility of the inquiry – that made Mueller act by issuing the indictment.

An important point to understand is that legally speaking the effect of the indictment is to transition the Russiagate inquiry as it relates to Manafort from an investigation of Manafort into a prosecution of Manafort.

That means that Mueller’s investigators can no longer question Manafort about the matters that make up the indictment (save in very exceptional circumstances) because by charging Manafort they have committed themselves to proving in court their charges against Manafort on the existing evidence.

Whilst technically that does not mean that Manafort cannot be questioned on the collusion allegations – which are not part of the indictment – the extent to which that can happen is now open to doubt.  Personally I would not be surprised if on the advice of his lawyers Manafort henceforth refuses to answer any further questions put to him by Mueller’s investigators on any subject at all.

If so then that effectively ends Manafort’s role in the Russiagate inquiry.

Cases like the one which has just been brought against Manafort are unfortunately far from unusual in the notoriously sleazy world of top end political lobbying and influence-peddling, which is the world in which Manafort chose to do his business.

Though his business has made Manafort a very rich man, at the back of his mind he must have always known that he was running serious risks by engaging in it.  In a sense those risks were an occupational hazard which Manafort accepted in order to make himself the very rich man that he is now.

It is unfortunately also the case that cases like the one which has just been brought against Manafort rarely attract much attention, and usually end with a plea-bargain in which the accused admits to some of the lesser charges and agrees to pay a large sum of money to the authorities in return for a lighter sentence usually involving payment of a large fine.  That I suspect is how this case will end.

Mueller may still entertain hopes that Manafort will agree to admit to collusion with the Russians during the election as part of a plea-bargain.  However that is most unlikely to happen.

Not only would that require Manafort to admit to something which never took place – which is always something very difficult and problematic to do – but Manafort’s lawyers would almost certainly advise him against doing it since it would involve him admitting to something far more serious than what he has been charged with in the indictment.  Even in return for an offer of immunity that would be a very risky thing for him to do.

In this particular case there is the added complication of the very high possibility of an eventual Presidential pardon.

Ultimately the reason a case is being brought against Manafort is not because of his past financial dealings but because he has been placed in Mueller’s crosshairs as a result of the Russiagate collusion allegations.

That must make an eventual Presidential pardon a very real possibility and Manafort and his lawyers will not want him to jeopardise that prospect by admitting to something which is extremely serious and which is anyway untrue.

The indictment against Manafort is therefore a predictable outcome of the tactics Mueller has been following over the course of the Russiagate inquiry.

Though there may be other indictments pending – for example one against General Flynn – none of the other individuals named in the Russiagate scandal appears to have a past anywhere near as complex as Manafort’s.

Ultimately it is not in Mueller’s interests to fire off a volley of indictments on marginal issues which do not touch on the central Russiagate collusion allegations, since doing so will in the end only serve to damage the credibility of his inquiry by making it look even more like he is running a witch-hunt.  Already there are attacks on him alleging precisely that in connection with the charges he has now brought against Manafort.

Since the Manafort indictment looks to have been the best shot in Mueller’s locker, the fact that Mueller has now been forced to shoot it means that from now on he is going to start looking increasingly short of ammunition.

If so then this indictment, though it will doubtless dominate the headlines for a few days, is in truth a further sign that the Russiagate scandal is drawing to a close.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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