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Mueller indicts some Russians; clears Trump campaign of collusion (detailed analysis of latest indictment)

Indictment describes botched and amateur attempt to use social media, but no one in the Trump Campaign was involved

Alexander Mercouris

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A recurring pattern of the Russiagate investigation is that whenever pressure increases on the FBI and on Special Counsel Mueller an indictment appears.

This happened in October when following the FBI’s admission that the Trump Dossier – the keystone in the “evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – could not be verified and the Wall Street Journal called for Special Counsel Mueller to resign, indictments against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos appeared.

It happened again in December when growing demands from Congress – from Senator Lindsey Graham in particular – for another Special Counsel to be appointed were followed by the indictment of Michael Flynn.

It has now happened again.

Hot on the heels of the publication of the GOP memorandum, which catalogued a succession of breaches of due process by the Justice Department and the FBI in seeking surveillance warrants against Carter Page, we have a new indictment, this time against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities.

In every case the indictment is received with rapture by the Russiagate conspiracy theorists.

In every case the indictment appears to be intended to give the impression that progress in the Russiagate investigation is being made, presumably so as to justify keeping Special Counsel Mueller in his job.

In every case it turns out that the indictment is a damp squib, taking the whole Russiagate conspiracy theory no further forward.

The latest indictment against 13 Russian citizens and three Russian entities is a case in point.

The first thing to say about this indictment is that it is entirely declamatory.

There is no possibility that any of the Russians named in the indictment will ever be extradited to the US to stand trial there.  Special Counsel Mueller cannot therefore obtain convictions against these people, which begs the question of why an indictment was issued at all.

The short answer is that the indictment is intended to give credence to the claim of ‘Russian meddling’ in the US election, which has been made both privately and publicly ever since campaigning in the US began in 2015.

Presumably, by giving that claim credence, more reasons can now be offered for keeping Special Counsel Mueller in his job.

The second thing to say about the indictment is that as even Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has admitted, it makes no claim that any US citizen or any member of the Trump campaign in any way colluded with Russia or with any of the persons named in the indictment either before or after the election.

Rosenstein was very clear about this in the press conference he held directly following the publication of the indictment

Now, there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election…..

QUESTION: On page 4 of the indictment, paragraph 6, it specifically talks about the Trump campaign, saying that defendants communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign.

My question is, later in the indictment, campaign officials are referenced, not by their name; by “campaign official 1” or “2” or “3.” Were campaign officials cooperative, or were they duped? What is their relationship with this?

ROSENSTEIN: Again, there’s no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge. And the nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists, even going so far as to base their activities on a virtual private network here in the United States so, if anybody traced it back to that first jump, they appeared to be Americans.

President Trump is treating this admission as further confirmation that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, and he is right.

The third thing to say about the indictment – and a point which has been almost universally overlooked in all the feverish commentary about it – is that it makes no claim that the Russian government was in any way involved in any of the activities of the persons indicted.

Nowhere in the indictment is the Russian government or any official of the Russian government or any agency of the Russian government mentioned at all.  Nor at any point in the indictment is it suggested that any of the persons indicted were employed by the Russian government or were acting under its instructions or on its behalf.

Again Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s press conference is most revealing about this, with him speaking of the persons named in the indictment as if they were private persons

The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 presidential election.

The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.

According to the allegations in the indictment, 12 of the individual defendants worked, at various times, for a company called Internet Research Agency, LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg.

The other individual defendant, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting, LLC; Concord Catering; and many affiliates and subsidiaries. The conspiracy was part of a larger operation called Project Lakhta. Project Lakhta included multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation, and others targeting foreign audiences in multiple countries.

Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of people in its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas, to technical and administrative support personnel, with an annual budget of millions of dollars.

Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged into departments, including graphics, search engine optimization, information technology and finance departments.

In 2014, the company established a translator project focused on the United States. In July of 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project. Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American influence operations.

Note that there is nothing here that ties any of the individuals or entities named by Rosenstein to the Russian government.

The arch conspirator is said to be a Russian businessman called Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is alleged to have masterminded and funded the whole project.

Prigozhin has in fact long been identified in Russia as the owner of the notorious Internet Research Agency, LLC, the supposed Russian “troll farm” operating out of a nondescript building in St. Petersburg (shown in caption photograph).

It has moreover often been suggested in Russia that Internet Research Agency, LLC, is Prigozhin’s own personal project.

Certainly no public information linking the Internet Research Agency, LLC, to the Russian government or to any Russian state institution has ever come to light.

Perhaps Rosenstein and Mueller have information that Prigozhin was indeed acting at the behest and on behalf of the Russian government.  Perhaps they may have some reason for not disclosing the fact in their indictment.

However, for what it’s worth, the indictment lends support to the theory that the Internet Research Agency, LLC, is indeed Prigozhin’s own personal project, and that the Russian government is not involved in it.

I would add that the indictment shows that US intelligence has successfully hacked the Internet Research Agency, LCC, a fact which by the way suggests that its internal security systems are very weak.  The result is that US intelligence is very well informed about its structure, funding, personnel and activities.

That suggests that if there really was some connection between the Internet Research Agency, LLC, and the Russian government the US authorities would be well informed about it.

The fact that neither the indictment nor Rosenstein in his press conference had anything to say about such a connection rather suggests that no evidence for a connection has been discovered, probably because it does not exist.

I would add – though this will be fiercely denied by some people – that it would be a grave mistake to think that it is impossible for an agency like the Internet Research Agency, LLC, to be set up in Russia on someone’s private initiative.  On the contrary, those genuinely familiar with the country know that such things go on there all the time.

The fourth thing to say about the indictment is that it centres exclusively on the social media activities about which so much has been said in the last few months as the evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has failed to appear.

I have said very little about this aspect of the Russiagate affair up to now because I have felt that this aspect of the affair was not in any way important.

This is because the social media activities of which the Internet Research Agency, LLC, and its employees have been accused of have looked both astonishingly incoherent (witness that the indictment says that they were promoting both pro- and anti-Trump rallies on the same day) and quantitatively insignificant, making their impact on the election inconsequential.

The indictment gives no reason to change that view.

The highest number of followers of any of the bogus social media accounts that were set up is alleged by the indictment to have been in the hundreds of thousands, whereas social media activity on any given day runs into the tens of millions.

The social media advertisements mentioned in the indictment appear to have been par for the course during the election, and to have attracted no special interest.

The indictment fails to give numbers for any of the rallies which the persons who have been indicted allegedly tried to organise via social media; that suggests that the number of persons who attended these rallies was insignificant.

The whole project seems to have cost around $1.2 million a month, spent it appears mostly on salaries in Russia, a trivial amount compared to the $2.4 billion spent in the 2016 US Presidential election as a whole, of which $768 million was spent by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and $398 million by Donald Trump’s.

That even some of those involved were not taking the project wholly seriously is shown by this frivolous episode solemnly recorded in paragraphs 12 (a) and (b) of the indictment

a.PRIGOZHIN approved and supported the ORGANIZATION’s operations, and Defendants and their co-conspirators were aware of PRIGOZHIN’s role.

b.For example, on or about May 29, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through an ORGANIZATION-controlled social media account, arranged for a real U.S. person to stand in front of the White House in the District of Columbia under false pretenses and hold a sign that read “Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss.” Defendants and their co-conspirators informed the real U.S. person that the sign was for someone who “is a leader here and our boss…our funder.” PRIGOZHIN’s Russian passport identifies his date of birth as June 1, 1961.

This silly stunt provides more reason for thinking Prigozhin was the author of the whole project.

I do not wish to trivialise what happened.

Assuming that the claims made in the indictment are true – as I believe they are – then multiple serious crimes were committed.

These included cruel deceptions of innocent people, as well as cases of identity theft.  The latter especially is a very serious crime, the impact or seriousness of which should not be minimised.

However I cannot believe that any of this activity – which looks like a botched and amateur attempt by Prigozhin to copy some of the highly professional ‘colour revolution’ activities carried out around the world by various US and Western NGOs – had any conceivable bearing on the outcome of the US election.

No less a person than Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has moreover said as much

There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election……

QUESTION: Jack, is there concern that this — the (ph) indictment undermines the outcome of the election?

ROSENSTEIN: Well, haven’t I (ph) identified for you the allegations in the indictment? There’s no allegation in the indictment of any effect on the outcome of the election.

In summary, the latest indictment to have come from Special Counsel Mueller’s team, far from causing problems for President Trump, actually helps him.

In the one part of the Russiagate conspiracy theory in which some evidence of Russian activity exists – the part relating to social media – it turns out that President Trump’s campaign was not involved, and those members of his campaign who got drawn into the activities of Prigozhin and his people were completely innocent dupes.

As for the activity itself, the indictment shows that it was carried out on far too small a scale and in far too amateur and disorganised a way for it to have had any impact on the election, and the US authorities do not claim that it did.

It is also my personal view that what we are looking at is a private project cooked up by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who appears to fancy himself a sort of Russian anti-Soros.

If I am right about that then it is clear that Prigozhin has neither the high level backing nor the skill to play that role successfully, and his clumsy attempts to do so have instead simply caused Russia embarrassment and trouble.

I accept that the latter view will be disputed by many – though the evidence in my opinion supports it – but even if I am wrong about that, it does not detract from the fundamental fact that no evidence of collusion between anyone in the Trump campaign and Russia appears in the latest indictment, and that the activities catalogued in the indictment can have had no effect on the outcome of the election, and the US authorities do not say that they did.

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Aristotle
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Aristotle

Dear Alex Excellent article and analysis as usual. Thank you. 🙂 Just a pet peeve if mine that I’d like to bring to your attention: You wrote “Special Counsel Mueller cannot therefore obtain convictions against these people, which begs the question of why an indictment was issued at all.” In future perhaps you could consider using the more correct phrase “which raises the question”. See: Begging the question https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question To beg the question is to assume the truth of the conclusion of an argument in the premises in order for the conclusion to follow. It is a type of circular… Read more »

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One must understand that the American mindset about Russia and Russians is that all 145,000,000 Russians are at once Putin’s pawns doing his ex-KGB work and simultaneously masses of pro-Western captives held in autocratic, criminal imprisonment by Putin and his cronies. Once you have absorbed that nonsense you can believe anything the Russophobes, neocons, Khazarian hordes say or contrive about “Russians”. And if you don’t believe the lies, you are one of the threats against the US Government. Drooling McMaster announced this morning that this Mueller carny show proves the great threat to US goals to bring happiness, joy and… Read more »

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

https://soundcloud.com/user-901836666/eu-army-fact-or-fiction

Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hillary Clinton Ordered To Answer Additional Questions Under Oath About Private Email Server

A federal court ordered Hillary Clinton to answer more questions about her illicit email system.

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Via Zerohedge


A federal judge has ordered Hillary Clinton to respond to further questions, under oath, about her private email server.

Following a lengthy Wednesday court hearing, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (who is also presiding over fmr. National Security adviser Michael Flynn’s case), ruled that Clinton has 30 days to answer two additional questions about her controversial email system in response to a lawsuit from Judicial Watch.

Hillary must answer the following questions by December 17 (via Judicial Watch)

  • Describe the creation of the clintonemail.com system, including who decided to create the system, the date it was decided to create the system, why it was created, who set it up, and when it became operational.
  • During your October 22, 2015 appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi, you testified that 90 to 95 percent of your emails “were in the State’s system” and “if they wanted to see them, they would certainly have been able to do so.” Identify the basis for this statement, including all facts on which you relied in support of the statement, how and when you became aware of these facts, and, if you were made aware of these facts by or through another person, identify the person who made you aware of these facts.

Sillivan rejected Clinton’s assertion of attorney-client privilege on the question over emails “in the State’s system,” however he did give Clinton a few victories:

The court refused Judicial Watch’s and media’s requests to unseal the deposition videos of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and other Clinton State Department officials. And it upheld Clinton’s objections to answering a question about why she refused to stop using her Blackberry despite warnings from State Department security personnel. Justice Department lawyers for the State Department defended Clinton’s refusal to answer certain questions and argued for the continued secrecy of the deposition videos. –Judicial Watch

Wednesday’s decision is the latest twist in a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit targeting former Clinton deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin. The case seeks records which authorized Abedin to conduct outside employment while also employed by the Department of State.

“A federal court ordered Hillary Clinton to answer more questions about her illicit email system – which is good news,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is shameful that Judicial Watch attorneys must continue to battle the State and Justice Departments, which still defend Hillary Clinton, for basic answers to our questions about Clinton’s email misconduct.”

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