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Mueller probe’s credibility with Congressional Republicans is collapsing

Discrediting of Trump Dossier leaves credibility of Mueller probe with Republicans in tatters

Alexander Mercouris

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The last few weeks have witnessed a string of articles and editorials in the media and from senior Democrats warning about supposed plans by President Trump and Trump supporting Republicans in Congress to sack Special Counsel Robert Mueller and to close down his Russiagate probe.

These ‘warnings’ typically come with claims that following the indictment of Michael Flynn Mueller is supposedly ‘closely in’ on Trump and that this explains why Trump and his supporters in Congress want to get rid of him.

This editorial in the New York Times is a typical example

The primary purpose of Mr. Mueller’s investigation is not to take down Mr. Trump. It’s to protect America’s national security and the integrity of its elections by determining whether a presidential campaign conspired with a foreign adversary to influence the 2016 election — a proposition that grows more plausible every day.

If the president’s supporters are upset about how close that investigation is getting to the Oval Office, they should ask not whether any F.B.I. investigator has ever held an opinion about politics, but rather why Mr. Trump chose as his closest advisers people with a tendency to talk to Russian officials and then fail to tell the truth, again and again, about the nature of those communications. As The Times’s Bret Stephens wrote:“Fire? Maybe not. But we are dying of smoke inhalation.” (Mr. Trump’s defenders might also recall that the president himself prompted Mr. Mueller’s appointment when he fired Mr. Comey, who had been overseeing the Russia investigation.)

When the propagandists say, “Get rid of Mueller,” it’s not the truth they’re trying to protect; it’s Mr. Trump himself. Any genuine interest in objective reality left the building a while ago, replaced by a self-sustaining fantasyland. If it’s hard to understand how roughly three-quarters of Republicans still refuse to accept that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — a fact that is glaringly obvious to everyone else, including the nation’s intelligence community and Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson — remember that a majority of the same people continue to believe that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

There was a time not too long ago when Republicans in Congress seemed genuinely interested in protecting Mr. Mueller — who, it bears noting, was originally appointed to head the F.B.I. by George W. Bush and who was named special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, also a Bush appointee. But Fox’s alt-reality vortex has sucked in previously levelheaded members of the G.O.P. like Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who said as recently as October that there would be “holy hell to pay” if Mr. Trump tried to fire Mr. Mueller. Last Friday, Mr. Graham tweeted in support of “a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia.” On Monday night, according to Axios, Jay Sekulow, one of Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers, called for a special prosecutor to investigate … the special prosecutor. The tipping point? An article on Fox News’s website about a top Justice Department official’s wife and her work for Fusion GPS, the research firm behind the so-called Steele dossier.

None of these attacks or insinuations are grounded in good faith. The anti-Mueller brigade cares not a whit about possible bias in the Justice Department or the F.B.I. It simply wants the investigation shut down out of a fear of what it might reveal. But if your man is really innocent, what’s the worry?

These sort of comments completely misunderstand or more plausibly misrepresent the dynamic of the last few weeks.

It is perfectly true that the tide of opinion amongst Republicans in Congress has in recent weeks shifted strongly against Mueller.  This is in sharp contrast to the position when Muelleer was appointed, when he enjoyed the strong support of Republicans in Congress as well as Democrats.

What has caused Republicans in Congress to turn against Mueller are the twin disclosures this autumn that the Trump Dossier – the foundation document of Russiagate – was paid for by the Hillary Clinton controlled DNC and by the Hillary Clinton campaign, and that eighteen months after its first entries were written the FBI is unable to verify it.

The media has stopped writing about the Trump Dossier and has avoided admitting its centrality to the whole Russiagate scandal. 

However it has become increasingly clear to close observers of the Russiagate affair that the Trump Dossier is the entire evidence for the following two propositions which lie at the centre of the whole scandal:

 (1) that it was President Putin himself who ordered Russian intelligence to meddle in the US election;

 (2) that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

 I say this because after eighteen months of relentless investigation I have seen no evidence for either of these two propositions that comes from any other source.  

Note that the New York Times editorial I have quoted from above neither refers to the Trump Dossier nor to any evidence other than the Trump Dossier upon which to base its collusion allegations.

All it can come up with – apart from making ad hominem attacks on those whose skepticism about Russiagate is now being vindicated – is dredge up without naming him the case of General Flynn, which has nothing to do with the collusion allegations (“…why Mr. Trump chose as his closest advisers people with a tendency to talk to Russian officials and then fail to tell the truth, again and again, about the nature of those communications”)

Since the media prefers not to discuss the Trump Dossier the fact that it provides the only evidence for the Russiagate collusion allegations and that its credibility has collapsed is not something that most people are aware of.  However members of Congress both in the Senate and the House will be aware of it because they are briefed about it by Congressional investigators.

Not surprisingly those members of Congress who are Republicans are now becoming increasingly concerned and angry as the utterly groundless and grossly partisan nature of this investigation becomes clear, and – not before time – they are making their feelings of anger and impatience known.

There are also increasing numbers of Republicans in Congress who are starting to grasp the true scandal of the US election: that US intelligence not Russian intelligence meddled in the 2016 election, and that it did so on Hillary Clinton’s behalf, carrying out surveillance on US citizens working for the election campaign of Hillary Clinton’s opponent Donald Trump on the strength of a Dossier which Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid for and which is now discredited.

 As the New York Times notes with dismay, even Senator Lindsey Graham – no friend of Donald Trump but a trained lawyer who once served as a judge advocate in the US air force, and who is therefore someone in a good position to understand the legal implications of all this – is now calling for a second Special Counsel to be appointed to look at what was really happened during the 2016 election

As for Donald Trump, he has no reason for the moment to sack Mueller, and his lawyers are undoubtedly advising him against doing it.

Though Mueller has lost the confidence of Republicans in Congress he is still supported by the Democrats and the media, and there is still some way to go before his standing with the wider US public also collapses.  Sacking Mueller now would be premature and would simply reignite the obstruction of justice allegations and might even reopen talk of impeachment.  Far better to leave Mueller alone to continue to discredit himself, pressing on with an investigation which is looking into a scandal which is all smoke and no fire and which is going nowhere.  In the meantime doubts both about Mueller and about the conduct of the US intelligence community and the FBI during the 2016 election can only grow.  Eventually the Justice Department itself will be obliged to call a stop by bringing the Mueller probe to an end.

That is why President Trump was so relaxed about the news that Mueller has seized tens of  thousands of emails produced by the Trump transition team.

Those who complain about the way this was done are perfectly right to do so.  Though Mueller was no doubt legally entitled to the emails (save for some which for any number of reasons might be privileged) it is debatable whether they were the property of the General Services Administration which handed them over.  Even if they were Mueller should certainly have discussed the release of the emails with Trump’s lawyers first before he took possession of them.  The fact that Mueller’s spokesman has been forced to deny publicly that the seizure of the emails was unlawful is a sign of Mueller’s embarrassment. 

Incidentally the spokesman’s statement suggests that the emails might have been obtained through a court order.

When we have obtained emails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner’s consent or appropriate criminal process.

(bold italics added)

These words are not unambiguous but the reference to “appropriate criminal process” may suggest that the emails were obtained as a result of an application to the court which ordered that they should be handed over.  If so then Trump’s lawyers should certainly have been informed in advance so that they could attend court and respond to it.

In any event, since – as President Trump has correctly pointed out – there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mueller’s haul of emails is going to avail him nothing.  Instead by seizing them without going through the proper process Mueller has taken another step which will further discredit him with Congressional Republicans. 

Trump’s comment that

it’s not looking good [for Mueller] It’s quite sad to see that. My people were very upset about it

shows how Trump is exploiting this misstep of Mueller’s to his own advantage.

I have previously said that the Russiagate scandal would eventually collapse under the weight of its own absurdity.  There is after all only so much that can be done to sustain an investigation which has no crime to investigate and no evidence of one. 

I suspect that with the confusion caused by the Flynn affair now out of the way, we are coming close to that position now.

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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