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Overview of Special Counsel Mueller’s Indictments and Russiagate social media claims: much ado about nothing

Russiagate legal case going nowhere; social media claims absurd

Alexander Mercouris

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As the dust settles following the indictments Special Counsel Mueller issued yesterday I cannot avoid the feeling that Mueller has wielded a gigantic sledge-hammer only to hit empty air.

A quick rundown of the two indictments shows why:

Manafort/Gates indictment

Manafort and his associate Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty to all twelve counts of the indictment.  They have also issued a defiant statement denying collusion with the Russians during the election campaign, rejecting arguments that they ‘looted’ Ukraine and insisting that on the contrary they helped put Ukraine on a pro-European course, and ridiculing the suggestion that their transfers of money from overseas accounts into the US amount to a conspiracy against the US.

On their claim that they assisted Ukraine to pursue a pro-European course they are unquestionably right.

As many have pointed out it was President Yanukovych – whom they advised – who took the fatal decision to negotiate an association agreement with the EU, which if President Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions had been really pro-Russian he and they would never have done.

For the record Yanukovych never refused to sign the association agreement.  He merely postponed signing it until certain trade related problems which arose as a result of the association agreement were ironed out in further negotiations with the EU and the Russians.

Whatever view is taken of Paul Manafort – and I have already made mine clear – it is in my opinion by no means a foregone conclusion that a US court will find him guilty of the charges which are set out in the indictment.

Such cases are vastly difficult to prosecute with the defence always having the advantage over the prosecution in that it knows far more about the complex transactions that are the subject of the case than the prosecution does.

It is not a foregone conclusion that a jury will prefer the prosecution’s opinion of these transactions to the explanations of the defence, and as it happens I believe I am right in saying that most cases of this sort which are defended and do not end in a plea bargain end with an acquittal.

The most important point however about the indictment against Manafort and Gates is that it does not touch on the collusion allegations which are central to the Russiagate scandal at all.

Instead Mueller has committed himself to prosecuting a very complex fraud case against Manafort and Gates on a wholly unrelated Ukraine connected topic which is going to drain his resources.

What is going to make it even more difficult to motivate Mueller’s prosecutors who will have to conduct this case is that at the back of their minds they must know that it is highly likely that even if they secure Manafort’s and Gates’s conviction the case will end with a Presidential pardon.

One way or the other it is difficult to see how this indictment of Manafort and Gates takes the Russiagate conspiracy theory further forward at all.

Frankly it looks to me so far removed from the Russiagate claims, and the case it seeks to bring is so complex, that I strongly suspect that before long the US public and the US media will become bored with it.

Papadopoulos indictment

Since I wrote my two previous pieces on this indictment – which is currently dominating the headlines – (see here and here) a great deal more information has come to light about the background behind it.

Firstly, it turns out that Papadopoulos has never been asked to give evidence to either the Senate Intelligence Committee or the House Intelligence Committee, both of which are supposed to be investigating the Russiagate case.

Putting the tortuous explanations for this omission which have been given by the members of these two Committees to one side, that reinforces the view that Papadopoulos is small-fry whose activities do not touch on the central Russiagate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and who is not a credible witness.

I say that because the academic who plays such a central role in the indictment has now come forward and in an interview with the Daily Telegraph has poured scorn on the whole story set out in the indictment.  Here is what the Daily Telegraph reports him to have said

The London professor is not named in the official court documents but the Telegraph can disclose his identity as Professor Joseph Mifsud, honorary director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, which is affiliated to the University of Stirling in Scotland.

Prof Mifsud confirmed he was the London professor described in the document drawn up by special counsel Robert Mueller but vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He told the Telegraph: “I have a clear conscience.”…..

Prof Mifsud poured scorn on the FBI case, insisting he had no knowledge of any emails containing ‘dirt’ on Mrs Clinton.

His denial bolsters suggestions that Papadopoulos may have fabricated or at least exaggerated claims of his Russian connections to impress Trump campaign bosses back in the US.

Prof Mifsud said he had introduced Papadopoulos to the director of a Russian think tank because it was right for him – as one of Mr Trump’s then advisers – to understand better Russian foreign policy.

“We are academics,” said Prof Mifsud, “We work closely with everybody.”

He said he had also tried to set up Papadopoulos with experts linked to the European Union.

Prof Mifsud, a former official with Malta’s ministry of foreign affairs, confirmed some of the details of the inquiry – such as he met Papadopoulos at a meeting in Italy in March 2016 and ten days later in London.

But Prof Mifsud disputes the contents of the further crucial conversation said by the FBI to have taken place at a London hotel in April 2016.

According to the court document: “During this meeting, the Professor told defendant Papadopoulos that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials.

“The professor told defendant Papadopoulos that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Clinton.”

Prof Mifsud told the Telegraph he was “upset” by the claims because they were “incredible”.

He also described as a “laughing stock” a suggestion in the report that he had introduced Papadopoulos to a “female Russian national” described as a relative of President Vladimir Putin. The FBI statement later asserts that the claim by Papadopoulos that the woman was a relative was not true.

Papadopouls also appeared to over-exaggerate the extent of his Russian contacts in messages to the Trump campaign, according to court documents. In one email sent to the Trump campaign Mr Papadopoulos says he has just been introduced to the Russian Ambassador in London. He has since admitted the pair never met.

(bold italics added)

Professor Mifsud’s account appears to support the second theory about Papadopoulos which I outlined in my second article about him yesterday: that he is a Walter Mitty character with an uncertain grasp of reality.

It is worth remembering that the only two witnesses to the now famous conversation between Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos in April 2016 during which Professor Mifsud is supposed to have made his comment about the Russians having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and possessing thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails were Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos.

Professor Mifsud categorically denies making the comment.  Papadopoulos admits to lying to the FBI and it now seems certain that it was he who fabricated the tales of his dealings with “Putin’s niece” and with Russia’s ambassador to London.

There is no reason to doubt Professor Mifsud’s denial, whilst Papadopoulos’s conduct strongly suggests that it was he who made the comment up. 

The trigger was obviously the furore over Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private server for her emails whilst she was Secretary of State, which was approaching its peak at the time the comment was supposed to have been made.

As to Papadopoulos’s motive for making up the comment, it was obviously done Walter Mitty style in order to impress his bosses at Trump campaign headquarters. 

That was why Papadopoulos also misrepresented the nature of Professor Mifsud’s contacts with the Russians and the background of the Russian woman with whom he was having dealings – whom he sought to pass off as Putin’s niece – and why he invented a meeting with Russia’s ambassador Yakovenko which never took place.

In the event, it is clear from the indictment that by the time Papadopoulos reported the comment no one at Trump headquarters was any longer taking him seriously.  That was why the comment was never followed up.

The “evidence” of a Walter Mitty character – which is anyway not evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians – is not evidence which can be taken seriously, which is why Papadopoulos has only been charged with lying to the FBI, and why the Senate and House Intelligence Committees have shown no interest in him.

In no sense is Papadopoulos any sort of “star witness” and I cannot believe Special Counsel Mueller thinks he is.

Over the next couple of days and weeks I expect this to become clear, and Papadopoulos to fade from view.

Social media claims

To my mind these claims constitute the single most absurd element of the whole Russiagate conspiracy theory, though given the way these claims are being used to clamp down on dissident opinions they are also the most dangerous.

Briefly:

(1) As RT has rightly pointed out the alleged ‘Russian election posts’ constituted no more than 0.74% and 0.004% of the content carried by Twitter and Facebook respectively, most of this material was published either the year before or after the election, and much of it concerned material of no conceivable relevance to the election, including material about puppies.  The level of absurdity reached in discussing this material is best illustrated by the fantastic theories about the ‘weaponising’ of Pokemon Go;

(2) As RT has also rightly pointed out, Twitter actually pitched a proposal to RT for RT to spend millions on advertising during the election, a fact Twitter neglected to point out to the US Senate Intelligence Committee and which has been almost completely ignored by the media; and

(3) Google now says that there is no evidence that RT manipulated YouTube or violated its policies during the 2016 US Presidential election campaign.

This is not really a case of a mountain moving to produce a mouse, since the mouse in this case is so infinitesimally small that it can only be seen through a microscope.

The idea that a tiny number of advertisements and comments on Facebook and Twitter – some in the case of Twitter actively pitched for by Twitter itself – swung the US Presidential election towards Donald Trump in the face of the mass artillery of the US media – which overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton – ought to be too ridiculous to take seriously.  That anyone believes that anyone in Moscow honestly thought that they would is even more ridiculous.

Frankly, apart from a tiny minority of truly paranoid people, I doubt anyone who is properly informed about it genuinely believes it.

Summary

The swirl of revelations over the last few weeks has therefore produced the following:

For the Russiagate conspiracy theory: two indictments neither of which refer to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, one of which is concerned not with Russia but with Ukraine, the other of which is against a Walter Mitty character because he lied to the FBI, and a mass of claims about a Russian influence campaign on YouTube and social media which essentially amount to nothing.

Against the Russiagate conspiracy theory: confirmation that both the foundation documents of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – the CrowdStrike report into the alleged Russian hacking and the Trump Dossier – were paid for by the DNC and in the case of the Trump Dossier also by the Hillary Clinton campaign.  For a detailed discussion of the implications of this see this excellent article by Joe Lauria.

It should not be difficult to see on which side of the ledger the evidence is building.

In the meantime the sum total of what has come out of the Manafort and Papadopoulos indictments can be summed up quickly: nothing at all.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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