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The case against Michael Flynn: Lying to the FBI about asking Russia’s help to protect Israel (full analysis of indictment and Flynn’s guilty plea)

Botched attempt by Kushner and Flynn to block UN SC Resolution 2334 on status of Jerusalem lies behind case against Flynn

Alexander Mercouris

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The indictment and guilty plea of General Flynn represent what I suspect is the high water mark of the Russiagate scandal.

A few weeks ago, following the indictments issued against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, I speculated that Flynn would be the next person to be indicted, and so it has proved.

Flynn’s guilty plea has come with an apparent agreement to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Inevitably this is giving rise to speculation that Flynn has “flipped”.  Is that speculation warranted?

Firstly, it needs to be said that the indictment against Flynn and his guilty plea have absolutely no bearing on the allegations of illegal collusion during the 2016 Presidential election between the Trump campaign and the Russians which are at the centre of the Russiagate scandal.

Instead they concern what is purely a ‘process crime’: that Flynn falsely denied to the FBI that he had asked Russian ambassador Kislyak for Russia to react with restraint to the sanctions imposed on Russia in December 2016 by Barack Obama, and – much more interestingly – that he also falsely denied having asking Kislyak for Russia’s help to block or delay a vote on a Resolution in the UN Security Council.

The indictment does not say what this resolution was.  However the timing strongly suggests that it was Resolution 2334 passed on 23rd December 2016, which declared Israeli settlement activity unlawful, declared all Israeli settlements built since the 1967 Six Day War illegal, and which specifically ruled out recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Note that the indictment refers to a conversation between Flynn and Kislyak on 22nd December 2016, the day before the vote in the UN Security Council on Resolution 2334 took place.

At the time the UN Security Council voted for resolution 2334 I wrote a lengthy article for The Duran in which I said that though I happen to agree with every point made in Resolution 2334, I still thought the decision to put Resolution 2334 to the vote on 23rd December 2016 was wrong since it was transparently a device by Barack Obama to box in and embarrass his successor, the soon-to-be President Donald Trump

Firstly, it should be said that Resolution 2334 is unlikely to have come to the vote so quickly without the US quietly giving the green light to it, and making it known that it would not veto it.

As it happens when Resolution 2334 was first proposed it would have been open to Obama and his administration to ask for voting on it to be postponed until the new President had taken office, on the grounds that it was inappropriate for an outgoing administration to decide US policy on such an important Resolution when it was known that the incoming President had a different view.

Indeed that is arguably what Obama should have done.  This is an important Resolution (I attach the full text below) and given how controversial it is and its possible effect on future negotiations where the US plays a key role, there is a strong case for saying that the Obama administration should either have asked for voting on the Resolution to be postponed until after the new President had come into office, or – if that was impossible – should have consulted with President elect Donald Trump and his transition team to decide how the US would respond to it.

In the event we know from Trump’s angry reaction that he was not consulted, and there seems to have been no attempt to seek a postponement.

Obtaining a postponement looks as if it was perfectly possible.  Some countries on the Security Council – Malaysia and Venezuela especially – might have wanted to press ahead immediately.  However Egypt, which had initially proposed the Resolution, effectively disowned it, possibly under Israeli pressure, but more probably in order not to antagonise the incoming administration of Donald Trump, whilst the US’s allies, Britain and France (both Security Council Permanent Members) and Japan and New Zealand, would undoubtedly have gone along with a US request.

As for Russia, which is considering a Middle East peace initiative involving Israel and the Arabs of its own, its ambassador Vitaly Churkin in his comments to the Security Council made clear that he had expected a request for a postponement and would have supported it.  This is how the UN Press Office reports his comments

VITALY I. CHURKIN (Russian Federation), explaining that he had been puzzled by the process around the resolution and by the haste with which it had been “pushed” to the vote, agreed  with other speakers that settlement activities undermined the chances for a two-State solution, as did acts of terror and incitement to violence.

(bold italics added)

Since that was Russia’s position it is a certainty if a request for a postponement had been made that China also would have supported it.  In that case, with all the Great Powers agreed, it is a certainty that voting on the Resolution could have been postponed until after Inauguration Day.  That a postponement did not happen is a sure sign that Obama did not want one, and that despite the US abstaining on the vote he actually wanted the Resolution passed……

As for why Obama wanted such a Resolution passed in the closing weeks of his Presidency, the answer unfortunately almost certainly has little to do with Middle East peace, and everything to do with Donald Trump.

It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that Obama’s overriding objective during the closing weeks of his Presidency is to do whatever he can to undermine Donald Trump’s legitimacy and authority as the US’s next President, and to lock Trump in to Obama’s existing foreign policy positions.

Thus Obama has colluded in the paranoid campaign which alleges that Donald Trump owes his election to Russia; he has sought to nominate German Chancellor Angela Merkel as his true successor and guardian of his policies instead of Donald Trump; and he has cut across Trump’s known wish to improve relations with Russia by having US and EU sanctions against Russia increased and extended.

By allowing UN Resolution 2334 to pass, Obama is doing more of the same.  He knows that Trump wants closer relations with Israel and is contemplating recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, so Obama allows a Resolution to slip past the UN Security Council that says that doing that would be against international law.

No wonder Trump – like Benjamin Netanyahu – is furious, and is making the fact known with angry comments about the UN.

Speaking for myself, on the specific issue of east Jerusalem, I happen to agree with Obama, and with Resolution 2334.

Though I understand the importance of Jerusalem not just for Israelis but also for Jewish people generally, Arabs and Muslims have at least comparably strong feelings about this issue, and given the overriding importance for the world of securing Middle East peace, it is wrong and unreasonable for Israel to try to remove the question of east Jerusalem from the negotiating table by deciding its status unilaterally.

There is of course vastly more which can be said about this subject, and about Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Territories and the Arab-Israeli conflict generally, but as this is a huge subject I will not discuss it here.

The point is that Obama’s constant campaign to box in and undermine his successor, even on issues where Obama might actually be in the right, is nonetheless petulant and wrong.

What makes it even worse in this case is that Trump, Netanyahu and probably the Russians almost certainly all believe that Obama is the true author of Resolution 2334.

Obama has a constant habit of trying to deflect criticism from himself by working through others whilst keeping his own intentions secret.  This enables him to blame others for his own mistakes – as he did for example when he managed to transfer the blame for the Libyan debacle onto Hillary Clinton – or to reverse policy quickly if his existing policy runs into criticism or opposition –  a good example being the way he let last September’s Kerry-Lavrov agreement over Syria unravel when it became clear that the Pentagon and the neocons in the State Department and the CIA opposed it.

It is this habit of Obama’s of constantly failing to commit himself publicly, and of working as much as possible from behind the scenes, which in large part explains why internationally he has become so mistrusted.

The case of Resolution 2334 is a case in point.  The full story of how this Resolution suddenly materialised before the UN Security Council just a few weeks before Donald Trump was due to become President may never be known.

However, given Obama’s history and the fact that he undoubtedly wanted the Resolution to pass, there has to be a suspicion that he got his diplomats to arrange for a friendly country – probably Egypt – to sponsor the Resolution, so that it could be passed without his having to take responsibility for it.

If Obama really did act in this way – arranging moreover for the US to abstain on a Resolution which he privately supported in order to cover his traces even further – then Trump’s and Netanyahu’s anger becomes even more understandable.

Ultimately Obama’s attempts to box in his successor will probably fail, and whatever one’s views on specific issues such as that of east Jerusalem, it deserves to.

In the case of Resolution 2334, the status of east Jerusalem is far too important to be played with in this way.  It is one thing for Obama to speak out against Donald Trump’s intended policy on this issue if he think it is wrong.  It is quite another for Obama to use his remaining weeks as President to try to sabotage in advance his successor’s policy on this and on any other issue.

Obama has had eight years as US President to fashion US policy on east Jerusalem.  He could have supported a Resolution of the sort the UN Security Council has just passed at any time during his Presidency.  A good possible moment might have been shortly after his reelection in 2011, when he would have had less reason to appease Israel’s supporters in the US than he had had previously.

Had Obama supported such a Resolution before, he might have been able to build on it to work for Middle East peace.  As it is, almost certainly because Obama finds Middle East peace-making too risky and too controversial to engage in, he has allowed efforts to achieve a peace settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict to stagnate during his Presidency.  At a political level that was probably wise because none of the efforts of previous Presidents to achieve Middle East peace have borne fruit.  Nonetheless it is what a President who genuinely cared about this issue would have done.

Instead, acquiescing in or actively engineering a Resolution like Resolution 2334 at the very end of his Presidency in order to spite his successor – and possibly Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as well – is a small minded and spiteful act, which is all but guaranteed to lead nowhere……..

Unfortunately it is the sort of small minded and spiteful act which is all too typical of this President, and which shows why Obama’s conduct of foreign policy has in the end fallen so far short of its promise, and has been so generally unsuccessful…

Reading through the tea leaves it seems that someone in the Trump transition team – almost certainly Jared Kushner – incensed by Obama’s actions, asked Flynn to speak to the Russians to see whether there was any chance they might be persuaded to use their influence in the UN Security Council to get the vote on Resolution 2334 either delayed until after President elect Trump took office or blocked altogether.

The result was to set in train the now famous series of telephone conversations between Flynn and Kislyak over the course of one of which Flynn also asked Kislyak for Russian restraint in response to Obama’s December 2016 sanctions against Russia.

That this is indeed what lies behind this whole affair is confirmed by recent information that Special Counsel Mueller’s team is looking into Kushner’s contacts with Israeli diplomats, and that Kushner has recently been interviewed by Mueller’s team for 90 minutes about information which would supposedly ‘exculpate’ Flynn of illegal dealings with the Russians.

What does any of this have to do with the Russiagate collusion allegations?

The short answer is absolutely nothing.

To those who say that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller in order to prove those allegations, and that Flynn’s conduct amounts to treason, I would point out that there is nothing in the indictment that makes the least reference to those allegations, and that in his statement which he released today Flynn categorically denied those allegations and that he had committed treason.

After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, it has been extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of “treason” and other outrageous acts.  Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for.

(bold italics added)

This is not a confession that Flynn engaged in illegal collusion with the Russians or that he was involved with other people in the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team in carrying out such collusion.  On the contrary it is a categorical denial that he did or was.

Personally I would go further and say that it is also a denial by Flynn of any knowledge of any illegal collusion taking place since I cannot see how Flynn can call accusations against him “outrageous” and “false” if he knows that they are true of other people he was working with.

To my mind what this episode best shows is the extraordinary inexperience and amateurism of the people who made up Donald Trump’s transition team.

Kushner and Flynn should have known that asking the Russians to postpone the vote in the UN Security Council on Resolution 2334 was to ask the Russians the impossible.

Though Vitaly Churkin – Russia’s ambassador to the UN Security Council – made known Russia’s unease at the way the Obama administration had railroaded through the vote on Resolution 2334 before the transition in Washington had taken place, given Russia’s longstanding position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict there was never the slightest chance that Russia would act either to delay or to block the vote on Resolution 2334.

As to the legal implications of all this, Kushner may have been foolish and amateur in getting Flynn to talk to Kislyak in this way but I cannot see that any crime was committed by it.  The suggestion Kushner will be prosecuted under the Logan Act for inappropriate dealings with the Israelis looks to me incredibly farfetched.

The only potential point of concern for the Trump administration concerns the extent of Donald Trump’s knowledge of Kushner’s and Flynn’s activities.

It is surely likely that Jared Kushner discussed with Trump what he proposed to get Flynn to do, and it may be that Trump’s attempt to talk Comey out of pressing the case against Flynn stems from Trump’s embarrassment that Flynn landed himself in trouble because he acted on the instructions of his son-in-law.

To those looking to construct a case against Trump for obstruction of justice there might just be a glimmer of an argument here, and it may be that this why Mueller has chosen to indict Flynn for his false statements about his conversations with Kislyak rather than over his failure to register properly his lobbying work for Turkey under FARA and to declare properly the payments he received from RT.

However against that no one, least of all Comey himself, has ever said that Trump actually ordered Comey to drop the case against Flynn.

It bears repeating that nothing Flynn said to Kislyak – or which he might have been asked by Kushner to say to Kislyak – amounted to a criminal offence, a fact all but admitted by the indictment itself, which makes no charge about it.

On the contrary as Ty Cobb – Trump’s lawyer – has correctly said, the only crime for which Flynn is being charged – lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak – is the same one for which he was previously sacked by the White House.

My guess is that over the next couple of weeks the focus of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation will increasingly become Kushner.  Doubtless it will be about his dealings with Kushner that Mueller will be asking Flynn questions, with Mueller wanting to know how and why Kushner came up with his cack-brained idea of asking the Russians to block Resolution 2334.

However there is no evidence of any illegal collusion by Kushner with the Russians either before the election or after it, and it bears repeating that everything that has been discussed in this article and which has arisen from Flynn’s guilty plea and indictment happened after the election.  It cannot therefore have any bearing on the Russiagate collusion case against the Trump campaign, or the claims that the Russians meddled in the election to help Donald Trump.  On the contrary, the fact that the Russians turned down Kushner’s and Flynn’s suggestion that they act to block Resolution 2334 if anything argues the opposite.

Indeed if the entirety of the case against Kushner turns on steps he and Flynn took however incompetently to try to protect Israel – as I strongly suspect – then given the political realities in Washington I doubt it will go anywhere.

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Clinging to Collusion: Why Evidence Will Probably Never Be Produced in the Indictments of ‘Russian Agents’

Mueller’s indictment against 12 GRU agents who allegedly carried out the DNC hack is fact free and does not support charge of collusion against Trump campaign.

Joe Lauria

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Mueller's indictment against 12 GRU agents who allegedly carried out the DNC hack is fact free and does not support charge of collusion against Trump campaign.

This article was first published by Consortium News and is republished with permission.

The indictment of 12 Russian ‘agents,’ which included no collusion with Trump’s team, is essentially a political and not legal document because it is almost certain the U.S. government will never have to present any evidence in court, reports Joe Lauria. 

Charges against 12 Russian intelligence agents for allegedly hacking emails from the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential election were announced by the U.S. Justice Department on Friday at the very moment President Donald Trump was meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and just days before a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

A central claim of Russia-gate has been that the Russian government with help from the Trump campaign stole emails from the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign and then gave those emails to WikiLeaks for publication to damage Clinton’s quest for the White House.

Until Friday however, the investigation into the allegations had produced no formal indictment of Russian government interference in the election. Like previous U.S. government accusations against Russia for alleged election meddling, the indictment makes assertions without providing evidence. Indictments do not need to show evidence and under U.S. law, indictments are not considered evidence. And it is highly unlikely that the government will ever have to produce any evidence in court.

Friday’s indictments do not include any charges against Trump campaign members for allegedly colluding with the Russian government to carry out the hacks. That has been at the core of allegations swirling in U.S. media for two years. If the alleged co-conspirators “known” to the DOJ were on the Trump team, the indictments do not say. There is only a hint that “unknown” persons might be.

In announcing the indictments at a press conference Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said: “The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet. There’s no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.”

The indictment alleges that Russian agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, communicated on Aug. 15, 2016 with “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of the Trump campaign, mostly like advisor Roger Stone, who has spoken about communicating with Guccifer 2.0. The indictment says Guccifer offered to “help u anyhow,” apparently indicating that Stone did want Guccifer 2.0’s help.

Clinging to ‘Collusion’

The lack of evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia has never stopped Democrats and their media outlets from believing unnamed U.S. intelligence sources for two years about such collusion. “Collusion” is the title of a best-selling book about the supposed Trump-Russia conspiracy to steal the election, but such a charge is not to be found.

The indictment excluding collusion also undermines the so-called Steele dossier, a work of opposition research paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign masquerading as an intelligence document because it was compiled by a former MI6 agent. The memos falsely claimed, it turns out, that Trump’s people started colluding with Russia years before he became a candidate.

But even after Friday’s indictments failed to charge anyone from Trump’s team, the Democratic media continued to insist there was collusion. A New York Times story, headlined, “Trump Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton. Were They Listening?,” said Russia may have absurdly responded to Trump’s call at 10:30 a.m. on July 27, 2016 to hack Clinton’s private email server because it was “on or about” that day that Russia allegedly first made an attempt to hack Clinton’s personal emails, according to the indictment, which makes no connection between the two events.

If Russia is indeed guilty of remotely hacking the emails it would have had no evident need of assistance from anyone on the Trump team, let alone a public call from Trump on national TV to commence the operation.

And as Twitter handle “Representative Press” pointed out: “Trump’s July 27, 2016 call to find the missing 30,000 emails could not be a ‘call to hack Clinton’s server’ because at that point it was no longer online. Long before Trump’s statement, Clinton had already turned over her email server to the U.S. Department of Justice.” Either the indictment was talking about different servers or it is being intentionally misleading when it says “on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”

GRU HQ, Moscow.

Instead of Trump operatives, the indictments name 12 Russians, allegedly agents from the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. The agents “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury (collectively the ‘Conspirators’), to gain unauthorized access (to ‘hack’) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the 29-page indictment says.

“Starting in at least March 2016, the Conspirators used a variety of means to hack the email accounts of volunteers and employees of the U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton (the ‘Clinton Campaign’), including the email account of the Clinton Campaign’s chairman,” the indictment says.

Obvious Timing

The timing of the announcement was clearly intended to embarrass Trump as he was meeting the Queen and to undermine his upcoming meeting with Putin on July 16. The indictments may also have been meant to embarrass Russia two days before the World Cup final to be held in Moscow.

Pressure was immediately brought on Trump to cancel the summit in light of the indictments, which may have been the main goal in the timing of their announcement. “Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement less than an hour after the indictments were announced. “President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections,” Schumer said.

With no apparent irony, The New York Times reported, “The timing of the indictment … added a jolt of tension to the already freighted atmosphere surrounding Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin. It is all but certain to feed into the conspiratorial views held by the president and some of his allies that Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors are determined to undermine Mr. Trump’s designs for a rapprochement with Russia.”

Russia Denies

Meanwhile, back in Washington … (ABC screenshot)

The Russian government on Friday strongly denied the charges. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry called the indictments “a shameful farce” that was not backed up by any evidence. “Obviously, the goal of this ‘mud-slinging’ is to spoil the atmosphere before the Russian-American summit,” the statement said.

The Ministry added that the 12 named Russians were not agents of the GRU.

“When you dig into this indictment … there are huge problems, starting with how in the world did they identify 12 Russian intelligence officers with the GRU?” said former CIA analyst Larry Johnson in an interview with Consortium News. Johnson pointed out that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was not allowed to take part in the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on alleged interference by the GRU. Only hand-picked analysts from the FBI, the NSA and the CIA were involved.

“The experts in the intelligence community on the GRU … is the Defense Intelligence Agency and they were not allowed to clear on that document,” Johnson said.

“When you look at the level of detail about what [the indictment is] claiming, there is no other public source of information on this, and it was not obtained through U.S. law enforcement submitting warrants and getting affidavits to conduct research in Russia, so it’s clearly intelligence information from the NSA, most likely,” Johnson said.

CrowdStrike’s Role

The indictment makes clear any evidence of an alleged hack of the DNC and DCCC computers did not come from the FBI, which was never given access to the computers by the DNC, but instead from the private firm CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC. It is referred to as Company 1 in the indictment.

“Despite the Conspirators’ efforts to hide their activity, beginning in or around May 2016, both the DCCC and DNC became aware that they had been hacked and hired a security company (“Company 1”) to identify the extent of the intrusions,” the indictment says.

Dimitri Alperovitch, a CrowdStrike co-founder, is also a senior fellow at the anti-Russian Atlantic Council think tank.

The indictment doesn’t mention it, but within a day, CrowdStrike claimed to find Russian “fingerprints” in the metadata of a DNC opposition research document, which had been revealed by DCLeaks, showing Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief. That supposedly implicated Russia in the hack.

CrowdStrike claimed the alleged Russian intelligence operation was extremely sophisticated and skilled in concealing its external penetration of the server. But CrowdStrike’s conclusion about Russian “fingerprints” resulted from clues that would have been left behind by extremely sloppy or amateur hackers—or inserted intentionally to implicate the Russians.

One of CrowdStrike’s founders has ties to the anti-Russian Atlantic Council raising questions of political bias. And the software it used to determine Russia’s alleged involvement in the DNC hack, was later proved to be faulty in a high-profile case in Ukraine, reported by the Voice of America.

The indictment then is based at least partially on evidence produced by an interested private company, rather than the FBI.

Evidence Likely Never to be Seen

Other apparent sources for information in the indictment are intelligence agencies, which normally create hurdles in a criminal prosecution.

“In this indictment there is detail after detail whose only source could be intelligence, yet you don’t use intelligence in documents like this because if these defendants decide to challenge this in court, it opens the U.S. to having to expose sources and methods,” Johnson said.

If the U.S. invoked the states secret privilege so that classified evidence could not be revealed in court a conviction before a civilian jury would be jeopardized.

Such a trial is extremely unlikely however. That makes the indictment essentially a political and not a legal document because it is almost inconceivable that the U.S. government will have to present any evidence in court to back up its charges. This is simply because of the extreme unlikelihood that arrests of Russians living in Russia will ever be made.

In this way it is similar to the indictment earlier this year of the Internet Research Agency of St. Petersburg, Russia, a private click bait company that was alleged to have interfered in the 2016 election by buying social media ads and staging political rallies for both Clinton and Trump. It seemed that no evidence would ever have to back up the indictment because there would never be arrests in the case.

But Special Counsel Robert Mueller was stunned when lawyers for the internet company showed up in Washington demanding discovery in the case. That caused Mueller to scramble and demand a delay in the first hearing, which was rejected by a federal judge. Mueller is now battling to keep so-called sensitive material out of court.

In both the IRA case and Friday’s indictments, the extremely remote possibility of convictions were not what Mueller was apparently after, but rather the public perception of Russia’s guilt resulting from fevered media coverage of what are after all only accusations, presented as though it is established fact. Once that impression is settled into the public consciousness, Mueller’s mission would appear to be accomplished.

For instance, the Times routinely dispenses with the adjective “alleged” and reports the matter as though it is already established fact. It called Friday’s indictments, which are only unproven charges, “the most detailed accusation by the American government to date of the [not alleged] Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election, and it includes a litany of [not alleged] brazen Russian subterfuge operations meant to foment chaos in the months before Election Day.”

GRU Named as WikiLeak’s Source

The indictment claims that GRU agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, (who says he is a Romanian hacker) stole the Democratic documents and later emailed a link to them to WikiLeaks, named as “Organization 1.” No charges were brought against WikiLeaks on Friday.

Assange: Denied Russia was his source. (CNBC screenshot)

“After failed attempts to transfer the stolen documents starting in late June 2016, on or about July 14, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, sent Organization 1 an email with an attachment titled ‘wk dnc linkl.txt.gpg,’” the indictment says. “The Conspirators explained to Organization 1 that the encrypted file contained instructions on how to access an online archive of stolen DNC documents. On or about July 18, 2016, Organization 1 confirmed it had ‘the 1Gb or so archive’ and would make a release of the stolen documents’ this week.’”

WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange, who is in exile in the Ecuador embassy in London, has long denied that he got the emails from any government. Instead Assange has suggested that his source was a disgruntled Democratic Party worker, Seth Rich, whose murder on the streets of Washington in July 2016 has never been solved.

On Friday, WikiLeaks did not repeat the denial that a government was its source. Instead it tweeted: “Interesting timing choice by DoJ today (right before Trump-Putin meet), announcing indictments against 12 alleged Russian intelligence officers for allegedly releasing info through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.”

Assange has had all communication with the outside world shut off by the Ecuadorian government two months ago.

Since the indictments were announced, WikiLeaks has not addressed the charge that GRU agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, were its source. WikiLeaks’ policy is to refuse to disclose any information about its sources. WikiLeaks’ denial that the Russian government gave them the emails could be based on its belief that Guccifer 2.0 was who he said he was, and not what the U.S. indictments allege.

Those indictments claim that the Russian military intelligence agents adopted the personas of both Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks to publish the Democratic Party documents online, before the Russian agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, allegedly supplied WikiLeaks.

The emails, which the indictment does not say are untrue, damaged the Clinton campaign. They revealed, for instance, that the campaign and the Democratic Party worked to deny the nomination to Clinton’s Democratic Party primary challenger Bernie Sanders.

The indictments also say that the Russian agents purchased the use of a computer server in Arizona, using bitcoin to hide their financial transactions. The Arizona server was used to receive the hacked emails from the servers of the Democratic Party and the chairman of Clinton’s campaign, the indictment alleges. If true it would mean the transfer of the emails took place within the United States, rather than overseas, presumably to Russia.

Some members of the Veterans’ Intelligence Professionals for Sanity argue that metadata evidence points to a local download from the Democratic computers, in other words a leak, rather than a hack. They write the NSA would have evidence of a hack and, unlike this indictment, could make the evidence public: “Given NSA’s extensive trace capability, we conclude that DNC and HRC servers alleged to have been hacked were, in fact, not hacked. The evidence that should be there is absent; otherwise, it would surely be brought forward, since this could be done without any danger to sources and methods.”

That argument was either ignored or dismissed by Mueller’s team.

The Geopolitical Context

US enabled Yeltsin’s reelection.

It is not only allies of Trump, as the Times thinks, who believe the timing of the indictments, indeed the entire Russia-gate scandal, is intended to prevent Trump from pursuing detente with nuclear-armed Russia.  Trump said of the indictments that, “I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia. I think that we would have a chance to have a very good relationship with Russia and a very good chance — a very good relationship with President Putin.”

There certainly appear to be powerful forces in the U.S. that want to stop that.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Wall Street rushed in behind Boris Yeltsin and Russian oligarchs to asset strip virtually the entire country, impoverishing the population. Amid widespread accounts of this grotesque corruption, Washington intervened in Russian politics to help get Yeltsin re-elected in 1996. The political rise of Vladimir Putin after Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999 reversed this course, restoring Russian sovereignty over its economy and politics.

That inflamed American hawks whose desire is to install another Yeltsin-like figure and resume U.S. exploitation of Russia’s vast natural and financial resources. To advance that cause, U.S. presidents have supported the eastward expansion of NATO and have deployed 30,000 troops on Russia’s borders.

In 2014, the Obama administration helped orchestrate a coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine and installed a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. also undertook the risky policy of aiding jihadists to overthrow a secular Russian ally in Syria. The consequences have brought the world closer to nuclear annihilation than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

In this context, the Democratic Party-led Russia-gate appears to have been used not only to explain away Clinton’s defeat but to stop Trump — possibly via impeachment or by inflicting severe political damage — because he talks about cooperation with Russia.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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Full text joint news conference by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin

US and Russian Presidents agree to disagree on Ukraine, answer questions on Mueller probe, discuss arms control and Syria, commit to improving relations

Alexander Mercouris

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US and Russian Presidents agree to disagree on Ukraine, answer questions on Mueller probe, discuss arms control and Syria, commit to improving relations

This is the official text of the the joint news conference by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Presidents of the United States and Russia, following their summit meeting in Helsinki as published by the Kremlin’s website.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

The talks with President of the United States Donald Trump were held in a candid and business-like atmosphere. I think they were quite successful and beneficial.

We reviewed the current state and prospects of Russia-US relations and key international issues. It is obvious to everyone that our bilateral relations are undergoing a complicated period but there is no objective reason for these difficulties and the current tense atmosphere.

The Cold War ended long ago, the era of acute ideological confrontation belongs to the distant past, and the situation in the world has fundamentally changed.

Today both Russia and the United States are facing completely different challenges – the mechanisms of international security and stability are dangerously out of balance, there are regional crises, the spread of the threat of terrorism and cross border crime, crime in general, growing world economic problems, environmental and other risks. It is possible to cope with all this only by working together. I hope we will come to this same understanding with our American partners.

Today’s talks reflected the shared desire of President Trump and myself to correct the negative situation in bilateral relations and map out initial steps to improve them, restore an acceptable level of trust and return to the former level of cooperation on all issues of mutual interest.

As a major nuclear power, we have special responsibility when it comes to international security. I consider it important, as we discussed, to get the dialogue on strategic stability and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on track. We made a note with a number of concrete proposals on this matter available to our American colleagues.

We believe that continued joint efforts to fully work through the military-political and disarmament dossier is necessary. That includes the renewal of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, the dangerous situation surrounding the development of elements of the US global missile defence system, the implementation of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, and the topic of deploying weapons in space.

We are in favour of continued cooperation in the sphere of combating terrorism and ensuring cybersecurity. Notably, our special services are working together quite successfully. The most recent example of that is the close operational interaction with a group of US security experts as part of the World Cup in Russia that ended yesterday. Contacts between the special services should be made systematic. I reminded the President of the United States about the proposal to reconstitute the anti-terror working group.

We covered regional crises extensively. Our positions do not coincide on all matters, but nonetheless there are many overlapping interests. We should be looking for common ground and working more closely, including at international forums.

Of course, we talked about regional crises, including Syria. With regard to Syria, restoring peace and harmony in that country could serve as an example of successful joint work.

Of course, Russia and the United States can take the lead in this matter and organise cooperation to overcome the humanitarian crisis and help refugees return to their hearths.

We have all the requisite elements for effective cooperation on Syria. Notably, Russian and American military have gained useful experience of interaction and coordination in the air and on land.

I would also like to note that after the terrorists are routed in southwest Syria, in the so-called “southern zone”, the situation in the Golan Heights should be brought into full conformity with the 1974 agreement on the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces.

This will make it possible to bring tranquillity to the Golan Heights and restore the ceasefire between the Syrian Arab Republic and the State of Israel. The President devoted special attention to this issue today.

I would like to emphasise that Russia has a stake in this course of events and will adhere to exactly this position. This will constitute a step towards establishing a just and durable peace on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 338.

It is good that efforts to gradually solve the problem of the Korean Peninsula have begun. This became possible largely because President Trump got personally involved and pursued dialogue in the spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation.

During the talks we openly discussed Russia’s concern over the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue. The US knows our position. It remains unchanged. To underscore, due to the nuclear deal Iran has become the country most heavily inspected by the IAEA. This guarantees the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme and facilitates the consolidation of the non-proliferation regime.

Returning to our discussion of the Ukrainian crisis, the importance of observing the Minsk agreements in good faith was noted. The United States could be more resolute in insisting on this and could motivate Ukraine’s leaders to engage in this work.

We paid special attention to the economy. Obviously, there is interest in cooperation in the business circles of both countries. The US delegation was one of the biggest at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in May. It consisted of over 500 US entrepreneurs.

To develop trade and investment, President Trump and I agreed to establish a high-level group that would unite captains of Russian and American business. Business people better understand how to go about mutually beneficial cooperation. Let them consider what can be done and make recommendations.

Once again President Trump touched on the so-called Russian interference in the electoral process in the United States. I had to repeat what I said many times before, including during my personal meeting with the President: Russia has never and will never interfere in US domestic affairs, including the electoral process. We are ready to examine all concrete materials that may be presented, for example, in the framework of the cybersecurity working group, the establishment of which we discussed during our meeting in Hamburg.

And, of course, it is time to unfreeze Russian-US ties between civic organisations and in the cultural and humanitarian sphere. As you know, recently we received a delegation from the US Congress, which was considered almost a historic event, when it should be a regular occurrence.

On this note, we have proposed that the US President think not only on practical issues but also on the philosophy underlying long-term bilateral relations. It would be useful to involve experts on the history and nuances of Russian-US cooperation in this process.

Our idea is to establish an expert council composed of influential Russian and US political analysts, academics, prominent former diplomats and military officers, which would work on finding points of convergence and ways to put bilateral cooperation on a sustainable positive trajectory.

In general, we are satisfied with our first full-scale meeting. Let me say once again that before this, we had only met briefly at international forums. President Trump and I had a good conversation. I hope now we understand each other better, and I thank Donald for this.

Of course, numerous problems remain. We have not managed to clear all the blockages, which would be impossible in one meeting. But I believe we have taken an important first step in this direction.

In conclusion I would like to note that our Finnish hosts helped to create the working atmosphere during the talks. I thank to the leadership of Finland, the Finnish people and residents of Helsinki for what they have done. We know that we have caused a lot of inconvenience for people in Helsinki and we apologise for this.

Thank you for your attention.

President of the United States Donald TrumpI have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open and deeply productive dialogue. It went very well.

Before I begin, I want to thank President Niinistö of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit. President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did. I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup. It was really one of the best ever, and your team also did very well. It was a great job.

I am here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility. A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world.

The disagreements between our two countries are well-known. President Putin and I discussed them at length today. But if we are going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we are going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests. Too often in both the recent past and long ago we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table.

We have also seen the benefits of cooperation. In the last century our nations fought alongside one another in the Second World War. Even during the tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue. But our relationship has never been worse than it is now.

However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything. As President, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct.

Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia forges the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world. I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As President, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.

During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt that this was a message best delivered in person. We spent a great deal of time talking about it, and President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.

We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation. I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearisation of North Korea, and after today I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem. They are going to work with us, and I appreciate that commitment.

The President and I also discussed the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism. Both Russia and the United States have suffered horrific terrorist attacks, and we have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace. Last year we told Russia about a planned attack in St Petersburg, and they were able to stop it cold. They found them, they stopped them, there was no doubt about it. I appreciated President Putin’s phone call afterwards to thank me.

I also emphasised the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East.

As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one. Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS. We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area.

We also agreed that representatives from our national security councils will meet to follow up on all of the issues we addressed today and to continue the progress we have started right here in Helsinki.

Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process, but we have taken the first steps towards a brighter future, and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought. Our expectations are grounded in realism, but our hopes are grounded in America’s desire for friendship, cooperation and peace, and I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that also.

President Putin, I want to thank you again for joining me for these important discussions and for advancing open dialogue between Russia and the United States. Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia and the United States for the greater good of all. And this was a very constructive day, these were very constructive few hours that we spent together. It is in the interests of both of our countries to continue our conversation, and we have agreed to do so. I am sure we will be meeting again in the future often, and hopefully we will solve every one of the problems that we discussed today.

So again, President Putin, thank you very much.

Question: I have a question for the President of the United States.

During your recent European tour, you said that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and other projects make Europe hostage to Russia. You suggested saving Europe from this dependence by supplying US liquefied gas.

This past cold winter proved the viability of the current energy supply system in Europe, at a time where the United States was forced to buy additional liquefied gas, including from Russia, to cover the heating needs of Boston.

So, my question: is your idea more of a political nature? Might it lead to a situation where a gap could develop in Europe’s energy supply system which would impact primarily the consumer countries?

And a second question, if I may. Before the meeting with Mr Putin, you called him a rival, but left hope that, perhaps, you would be able to take these relations to a friendly plane. Did you succeed?

Donald Trump: No, actually, I called him a competitor, and a good competitor he is. And I think the word ‘competitor’ is a compliment. I think that we will be competing when you talk about the pipeline. I am not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interests of Germany or not, but that was a decision that they made. We will be competing. As you know, the United States is now – or soon will be, but I think it tactually is right now – the largest in the oil and gas world, so we are going to be selling LNG and will have to be competing with the pipeline. And I think we will compete successfully, although there is a little advantage locationally. So I just wish them luck, I mean, I did discuss it with Angela Merkel in pretty strong tones, but I also know where they all are coming from and they have a very close source, so we will see how that all works out. But we have lots of sources now, and the United States is much different than it was a number of years ago, when we weren’t able to extract what we can extract today. So, today we are number one in the world at that and I think we will be out there competing very strongly. Thank you very much.

VladimirPutin: I would like to add a couple of words to that.

I spoke with the President, including on this topic. We are aware of the President’s position. But I believe that we, as a major oil and gas country – and the United States is also such a country – could work constructively to regulate international markets, because we are not interested in a sharp drop in prices below the lower limit. Our producers, including the United States with its shale oil and gas, will be affected by this.

The profit margin of production comes to naught below certain levels. We are not interested in excessively high prices either, because they can kill refining, engineering and other branches of the economy. We have things to discuss and there is room for cooperation. This is my first point.

Second, with regard to Nord Stream 2, the President expressed concerns about the possible end of transit across Ukraine. I assured him that Russia is willing to keep this transit in place. Moreover, we are willing to renew the transit contract, which expires next year, if the dispute between economic agents is settled in the Stockholm Arbitration Court.

Question: Mr President, you tweeted this morning that it is US “foolishness”, “stupidity” and the Mueller probe that are responsible for the decline in US relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular, and if so, what would you consider that they are responsible for?

Donald Trump: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish, I think we have all been foolish: we should have had this dialogue a long time ago. A long time, frankly, before I got to office. And I think we are all to blame. I think now the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia, and we are getting together, and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it is nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping – because we have to do it ultimately, that is probably the most important thing that we can be working on. But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it has kept us apart. It kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore – so far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign – and they are going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her – and I am not even saying from the standpoint…we won that race, and it is a shame there can be even a little bit of cloud over it. People know that, people understand it, but the main thing – and we discussed this also – is zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous what is going on with the probe.

Question: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well… Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election given the evidence that US intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a US grand jury?

Donald Trump: We, I’m going to let the President answer the second part of this question, but, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which, frankly, they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is for Republicans. We won the Electoral College by a lot – 306 to 223, I believe – and that was a well-fought battle. We did a great job, and, frankly, I am going to let the President speak to the second part of your question, but just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time: there was no collusion; I didn’t know the President; there was nobody to collude with; there was no collusion with the campaign. And every time you hear about all of these twelve or fourteen, it’s stuff that has nothing to do – and frankly, they admit – these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they are saying well, maybe that does. It doesn’t. And even the people involved – some, perhaps, told mysteries, or in one case the FBI said there was no lie, and somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign, and that is why I am President. Thank you.

VladimirPutin: Regarding whom you can believe and whom you can’t, you shouldn’t believe anyone. What makes you think President Trump trusts me and that I fully trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America. I defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have converging interests, and we are seeking common ground. We have issues that we disagree on so far. We are seeking options to settle these differences and make our work more constructive.

We should not rely on the momentary political interests of some internal political forces in our countries but on facts. Tell me at least one fact that proves collusion during the election campaign in the United States. This is total nonsense. We did not know each other, the President just said this. It is only natural that the Russian public developed a certain attitude towards the candidates. There is nothing unusual about this.

While a candidate, Mr Trump spoke of the necessity to restore Russia-US relations. Naturally, the Russian public developed a liking for this candidate, and different people expressed this attitude in different ways. Isn’t it natural to have a liking for a person who wants to build relations with our country? This is normal.

We heard accusations against the company Concord. As I understand it, this company hired American lawyers, and the accusations against it just fell apart in a US court. Just follow what happens in US courts. This is what you should base your view on, not on rumours. This is the first thing.

Second, as for the 12 alleged Russian intelligence officers, I don’t know about this yet. I have to find out what it is you’re talking about. The President also asked me this question.

What can I say? Generally, we talked about this, but now it occurs to me what I can suggest. There is the Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters of 1999. By the way, this has proven effective. We initiate up to 150 legal proceedings in Russia at the request of other countries. Several years ago, our former nuclear industry minister was extradited by the United States to Russia and received a sentence in court here. It is an effective treaty. The treaty provides concrete procedures for cooperation.

We can suggest that your relevant commission led by US Special Counsel – what is his name, Mr Mueller or Meller? – should send us, in compliance with this treaty, an official request for interrogating the people that he believes to be guilty of committing a crime. Our Prosecutor-General’s Office and investigative agencies can interrogate these people and forward the relevant materials to the United States.

Moreover, we can take another step to meet you halfway. We can allow US official representatives, including those from the Mueller-led commission, to be present at the interrogation. Certainly, in this case, we will be seeking reciprocal steps from the United States. We’ll expect the American party to interrogate the officials, including the US intelligence officers, who are suspected of committing illegal acts in Russia, in the presence of our investigation officers.

I mean the high-profile case, involving [Bill] Browder’s Hermitage Capital company. According to our investigative officers, a group of people – Mr Browder’s business partners – who illegally made over $1.5 billion in Russia did not pay taxes either in Russia or the United States but transferred this money to the United States. They contributed $400 million to Ms Clinton’s election campaign. This is official information included in their reports – $400 million. Well, it was up to them, they might have done this legally, but the gains were ill-gotten.

We have grounds to suspect that US intelligence officers supported these illegal transactions. This is only one step forward. We can talk about expanding our cooperation. You’re welcome, there might be options that are provided for in the appropriate intergovernmental treaty.

Question: My first question is for Mr Trump in English. Mr President, would you please go into the details of any possible specific arrangements for the US to work together with Russia in Syria, if any of this kind of arrangements were made today or discussed?

If you allow me, a question for President Putin in Russian too. As the subject of football was touched upon several times today, I will ask my question in the language of football. Mr Pompeo said a little earlier that when it comes to discussing coordinated activities in Syria, it’s Russia’s ball now. Mr President, is this true? If so, how did you take advantage of having possession?

Donald Trump: Well, I guess I will answer the first part of the question.

We’ve worked with Israel long and hard for many years, many decades. I think that never has any country been closer than we are. President Putin also is helping Israel, and we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu. And they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. So, in that respect we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel, and Israel will be working with us, so both countries would work jointly. And I think that when you look at all the progress that has been made in certain sections with the eradication of ISIS – we’re about 98–99 percent there – and other things that have taken place that we have done and that, frankly, Russia has helped us within certain respects. But I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.

One little thing I might add to that is the helping of people. The helping of people – because you have such horrible…if you see…and I have seen the reports, and I have seen pictures. I have seen just about everything. And if we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter on a humanitarian basis. And that’s what the word was, really: a humanitarian basis. I think that both of us would be very interested in doing that, and we will do that. Thank you very much.

Question: Excuse me, but for now no specific agreements, for instance, between the militaries?

Donald Trump: Well, our militaries do get along. In fact, our militaries actually have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years, but our militaries do get along very well and they do coordinate in Syria and other places. Ok? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: I have already mentioned that we spoke about humanitarian cooperation. I discussed this issue with the President of France, Mr Macron, yesterday and we agreed to step up these efforts with European countries, France included. On our part, we are ready to provide military transport aircraft for humanitarian cargoes. President Trump and I spoke about this as well, and I believe there is room for improvement here.

What is important? Now large numbers of refugees are concentrated in countries bordering on Syria, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan. If we help these people return home, the migration pressure on European Union countries and other countries could be reduced multiple times over. I consider this to be extremely important from all standpoints: both from the humanitarian standpoint, and that of solving the refugee problem.

On the whole, I really agree with the President. Our military cooperation is going quite well. I hope that they will continue to be able to come to agreements just as they have been. We will keep working in the Astana format as well, I mean Russia, Turkey and Iran. I also informed Donald about this today. We are willing to link these efforts with the efforts of the so-called small group of countries to make this a broad process and for us to have the greatest chance of success.

As for the ball being on our side where Syria is concerned. The President just mentioned that we successfully organised and hosted the World Cup. As for the ball… I would like to pass the ball to the President, all the more so because the US will host the World Cup in 2026.

Donald Trump: That’s right, thank you very much, we do host it, and we hope we do as good a job. That is very nice. That will go to my son Barron, there is no question. In fact, Melania, here you go.

Question: Thank you. A question for each president. President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin? Would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?

Donald Trump: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I have been wondering that, I have been asking that for months and months, and I have been tweeting it out, and I have been calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know. Where is the server and what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it is Russia. I have President Putin – he just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I do not see any reason why it would be.

But I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC. Where are the servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia, they would not have been gone so easily. I think it is a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.

So, I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer: he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. OK. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Let me add a couple of words to that.

I have worked in intelligence too, and I know how these dossiers are compiled. This is my first point.

My second point is that I consider Russia to be a democratic state. I hope you do not deny this to your country, the United States of America, either. Is the United States a democratic state? If so, then the final ruling in a dispute of this kind can only be made in court, not an intelligence service.

The company I mentioned, Concord, and one of our restaurateurs are being accused of interference. However, they do not represent the Russian state. Even if that is the case, I can imagine. So what? I have given you examples. You have many people, including those with major billion-dollar fortunes, such as Mr Soros. He interferes everywhere he can, but what is this? Is it the position of the American state? No. This is the position of a private person. So it is in this case.

There is a trial in a US court, and the court is always the final instance. Let them figure it out, we will see. This applies to private individuals only, not to the state. I have already spoken about the latest accusations against the alleged employees of our special services. There is an intergovernmental agreement. Go ahead and send an official request. Let the Mueller Commission send us a request, we will do our part and provide an answer.

We can expand this cooperation, as I already mentioned, but only on a reciprocal basis. We, then, would also expect the United States to provide access to the persons we believe are the special services employees. Let’s discuss these matters in substance rather than use Russia-US relations as a bargaining chip in the domestic political strife in the United States.

Question: A question for President Putin, thank you. Two questions for you, sir. Could you tell me what President Trump may have indicated to you about officially recognising Crimea as part of Russia? And secondly, sir, do you, does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?

Vladimir Putin: President Trump sticks to a well-known position on Crimea. He speaks about the illegal nature of annexing Crimea to Russia. We have a different perspective on this. We believe that we held a referendum in strict compliance with international law and the UN Charter. This case is closed for Russia. This is my first point.

My second point is with regard to some compromising materials. I heard about us allegedly collecting dirt on Mr Trump when he was in Moscow. Colleague, when Mr Trump came to Moscow, I was not even aware that he was there. I respect President Trump as head of the United States, but when he came here as a businessman, I was not even aware that he was in Moscow.

Over 500 high-ranking US businessmen came to the St Petersburg Economic Forum. I do not even remember their names. Do you think we are doing intelligence work and collecting compromising material on each one of them? It is hard to imagine bigger nonsense. Please get this rubbish out of your head.

Question: A question for President Putin, thank you. Two questions for you, sir. Could you tell me what President Trump may have indicated to you about officially recognising Crimea as part of Russia? And secondly, sir, do you, does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?

Vladimir Putin: President Trump sticks to a well-known position on Crimea. He speaks about the illegal nature of annexing Crimea to Russia. We have a different perspective on this. We believe that we held a referendum in strict compliance with international law and the UN Charter. This case is closed for Russia. This is my first point.

My second point is with regard to some compromising materials. I heard about us allegedly collecting dirt on Mr Trump when he was in Moscow. Colleague, when Mr Trump came to Moscow, I was not even aware that he was there. I respect President Trump as head of the United States, but when he came here as a businessman, I was not even aware that he was in Moscow.

Over 500 high-ranking US businessmen came to the St Petersburg Economic Forum. I do not even remember their names. Do you think we are doing intelligence work and collecting compromising material on each one of them? It is hard to imagine bigger nonsense. Please get this rubbish out of your head.

Donald Trump: I have to say if they had it, it would have been out long ago. And if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days, and I was in Brussels watching it, it was a disgrace to the FBI, it was a disgrace to our country, and you would say that was a total witch hunt. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

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Hidden agenda behind Greece’s unfriendly move against Russia

On July 11, Greece said it would expel two Russian diplomats and barred the entry of two others.

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Geoffrey Pyatt, former US ambassador to Ukraine and current US ambassador to Greece.

The formal reason is alleged meddling in an attempt to foment opposition to the “historic” name deal between Athens and Skopje paving the way for Macedonia’s NATO membership. Moscow said it would respond in kind.

Nothing like this ever happened before. The relations between the two countries have traditionally been warm. This year Moscow and Athens mark the 190th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 25th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Hellenic Republic. They have signed over 50 treaties and agreements.

The Greek people’s positive attitude towards Russia is well known. It had been widely believed that Athens trusted Moscow more than Brussels. Russian ambassador to Athens Andrey Maslov has recently described Greece “as a reliable partner”. More than one million Russian tourists are expected to visit Greece this year.

Unlike the majority of other Western countries, Greece rejected the British request to expel Russian diplomats in the wake of London’s claims of Moscow’s involvement in the Skripal poisoning. It’s also among the few NATO members to have Russian weapons in the armed forces’ inventory, including S-300 air defense systems.

The Greek Kathimerini daily’s report offers details on the matter. It’s not so important what exactly happened or if the sources cited are reliable enough to believe them. The information is too scarce anyway for making any conclusions. New Democracy’s shadow Foreign Minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos on July 12 criticized the lack of information from the government on the rift between Greece and Russia.

Such things happen from time to time and if the relations are good, the differences can be ironed out behind the scenes without much ado. There is always a hidden agenda behind making such scoops leaked into media. Nothing comes from nothing. And timing is never accidental.

Spy scandals never come out of the blue. For instance, the news about the expulsion coincided with the NATO summit in Brussels demonstrating Greece’s solidarity with the allies. It was also the time preparations for a visit of Russian FM Sergey Lavrov to Greece were in full swing. Now it’s not known whether the visit will take place.

Kathimerini says the relationship started to gradually worsen behind the scenes about a couple of years ago. What happened back then? Geoffrey Pyatt assumed office as US Ambassador to Greece. Before the assignment he had served as ambassador to Ukraine in 2013-2016 at the time of Euromaidan – the events the US took active part in. He almost openly contributed into the Russia-Ukraine rift. Now it’s the turn of Greece. The ambassador has already warned Athens about the “malign influence of Russia”. He remains true to himself.

During the two years, Greece has not been opposing the anti-Russia sanctions as vigorously and resolutely as Italy or Hungary. None of the planned energy or other economic projects has come into fruition.

Greece is involved in the EastMed sea gas project along with Cyprus, Italy and Israel. The country is also viewed by the United States as a potential customer for American LNG exports, especially after it modernized its port facilities near Pireaus. Greece plans to build a floating storage terminal for LNG in Alexandroupoli. Economy always shapes foreign policy. Evidently, Greece is not interested in cheap Russian gas coming to Europe via the North Stream pipelines. Neither is the United States.

The scandal may be a straw for Greece to catch at as the heavily indebted nation is balancing on the brink of financial crisis. Athens needs relief deals to restructure the debt. It makes it dependent on the US-controlled IMF and the EU (Germany is the largest lender) to bail it out. Under the circumstances, it cannot be politically independent. As opposition to the austerity measures is growing, the government needs a “meddling scandal” to distract the people from everyday life woes.

President Trump has promised Prime Minister Tsipras large investments into economy. The United States is the sixth-largest foreign investor in that country. Addressing the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce annual New Year’s event in Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt expressed his optimism that 2018 would be a year of recovery for Greece, while all the more US investors are seeking ways to collaborate with Greek enterprises.

The extension of the agreement for the use of the US naval base in Souda Bay, Crete, the only deep-water port in southern Europe and the Mediterranean able to accommodate American aircraft carriers, is a topic for talks. Upgrading of the Greek fleet of F-16 fighters is also on the agenda. The US is ready to make it a relief deal.

Its military is reportedly harboring thoughts about developing in Greece a regional alternative to the use of the crucial Incirlik base in Turkey. The relationship between Turkey and the West continues to deteriorate. Greece sees it as a chance to boost its importance for the US in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa.

Propaganda also has a role to play. For instance, Russia is blamed by Western media for harboring nefarious plans to hinder the possible agreement between Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the UK to reunify the island. It is also accused of meddling in Macedonia. As usual, one story is invented after another to be spread around by Western media outlets.

A day after expelling diplomats, Greece said it wants to turn a page seeking good relations with Moscow. Russia has no desire to seriously deteriorate the relationship but it will retaliate as it always does. It will also keep in mind that the Greek government is playing its own games and Russia is supposed to a part of it. Greece is also used by those it depends on.

National sovereignty happened to be too costly for Athens. Normal bilateral relations may be preserved but things like trust and sincerity will be missing. Games change and governments come and go but friendly relations between the peoples remain. The provocation committed by the Greek government cannot change the reality. 63% of Greeks hold a favorable view of Russia. This relationship is too strong to be ruined outside pressure.

Via Strategic Culture

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