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The Putin-Trump call: first move towards friendship?

Donald Trump acted with great skill and showed unexpected diplomatic mastery in his first conversation with Russia’s President.

Alexander Mercouris

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The single most important fact known for certain about US President Trump’s and Russian President Putin’s first telephone conversation, with took place yesterday Saturday 28th January 2017, is that it lasted for a whole hour.

That is an unusually long time for two busy leaders such Trump and Putin to spend talking to each other.  It shows that they not only took the call seriously but that they used it to discuss the full range of US-Russia relations, and – perhaps most important of all – to become acquainted with each other.

The last is important because both Trump and Putin are known to be individuals to whom trust and personal contact matter highly.

The importance of trust to both Trump and Putin was discussed in an interesting article by the British journalist Piers Morgan, who is a personal friend of Trump’s, who however has also obtained some unusual (for a British journalist) insight into Putin’s personality as a result of information given him to him about Putin by former US President Bill Clinton

Never break your word to him (Donald Trump -AM). Trump’s a very loyal guy, as I can personally attest. I’d bet very good money that if you keep your word to him, he will keep his to you. Remember, you don’t have to like him to do good business with him. Bill Clinton once told me that when he met with Vladimir Putin, they would eventually throw everyone else out of the room and go hard at each other until they reached points of agreement. Pertinently, Clinton said Putin never reneged on any of those personal agreements. His handshake was his bond. Trump is from that same old school of business dealings. And don’t gloat if you do get what you want tomorrow. Again, Clinton told me that the key aspect to his dealings with Putin was not to claim ‘victory’ or make him lose face back home in Russia. I would strongly recommend you adopt a similar philosophy with President Trump.

Piers Morgan is absolutely right in saying that Putin places an exceptionally high value on honest dealing and trust.  Anyone who has followed Putin’s career closely is aware of the exceptional importance of trust to him.  A key reason why Putin’s personal relationship with former US President Obama collapsed so completely was because – as a result of Obama’s record of broken promises – Putin decided he could no longer trust him.

The fact that someone like Piers Morgan who knows Trump well says that for Trump trust and honest dealing are equally important, is a good sign for Trump’s and Putin’s future relationship.

As for the contents of the first ever conversation between Trump and Putin, the Kremlin has provided an unusually detailed summary

Vladimir Putin congratulated Donald Trump on taking office and wished him every success in his work.

During the conversation, both sides expressed their readiness to make active joint efforts to stabilise and develop Russia-US cooperation on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis.

Mr Putin and Mr Trump had a detailed discussion of pressing international issues, including the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict, strategic stability and non-proliferation, the situation with Iran’s nuclear programme, and the Korean Peninsula issue. The discussion also touched upon the main aspects of the Ukrainian crisis. The sides agreed to build up partner cooperation in these and other areas.

The two leaders emphasised that joining efforts in fighting the main threat – international terrorism – is a top priority. The presidents spoke out for establishing real coordination of actions between Russia and the USA aimed at defeating ISIS and other terrorists groups in Syria.

The sides stressed the importance of rebuilding mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between the two counties’ business communities, which could give an additional impetus to progressive and sustainable development of bilateral relations.

Mr Putin and Mr Trump agreed to issue instructions to work out the possible date and venue for their meeting.

Donald Trump asked to convey his wishes of happiness and prosperity to the Russian people, saying that the American people have warm feelings towards Russia and its citizens.

Vladimir Putin, in turn, emphasised that the feeling is mutual, adding that for over two centuries Russia has supported the United States, was its ally during the two world wars, and now sees the United States as a major partner in fighting international terrorism.

The two leaders agreed to maintain regular personal contacts.

The conversation took place in a positive and constructive atmosphere.

The single most important words in this summary are those in the last few paragraphs.

Trump – most unusually for a US President – went out of his way to wish “happiness and prosperity to the Russian people” and to assure Putin that “the American people have warm feelings towards Russia and its citizens”.

That is exactly the right way to get on the right side of Putin, who has had to endure decades of criticism, abuse and lectures, not just of himself but also of Russia, from US and Western leaders.  Such warm words from a US President are not something Putin has been hearing recently, and he was clearly moved by them, as the warm way he reciprocated shows

Vladimir Putin, in turn, emphasised that the feeling is mutual, adding that for over two centuries Russia has supported the United States, was its ally during the two world wars, and now sees the United States as a major partner in fighting international terrorism

The reference to the “two centuries Russia has supported the United States” refers to Russia’s support to the American colonists during the American War of Independence, and to the US during the civil war.

Note that Putin also referred to Russia being the US’s ally during the two world wars, as opposed to saying that it was the US which had been Russia’s ally.

In other words, in response to Trump’s warm words about Russia and its people, Putin went out of his way to assure Trump that Russia wants to be the US’s friend, and its ally in the war against ISIS and Jihadi terrorism, as it was its ally in the world wars in the past.

The Kremlin summary ends with words once common in official summaries of diplomatic exchanges but which are rarely used today

The conversation took place in a positive and constructive atmosphere

That this was actually so is shown by the positive comments from US and Russian officials in the hours following the call.  As anyone who has worked in a government bureaucracy knows, officials quickly catch the mood of their chiefs, which percolate down the command chain at extraordinary speed.  The fact that officials in both the US and Russia were talking positively about the call in the hours immediately following it is the clearest possible sign that the conversation between the two Presidents went well.

The Kremlin’s summary of the call shows the range of subjects discussed: the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran nuclear deal, arms control, the crisis in the Korean Peninsula, and of course Ukraine.

Again Putin will have been gratified that a US President is finally talking to him in this way, discussing the full range of international questions with the President of Russia in a way that finally acknowledges Russia’s position as a Great Power.  After the bullying and condescension of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama eras, it will have come as both a relief and a pleasure.

The focus of the conversation was however clearly the putative alliance the US and Russia are forming to fight ISIS and Jihadi terrorism together.  Putin has been calling for this since his speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2015.  As recently as September 2016 the Kerry-Lavrov agreement appeared to have agreed this, only for the alliance to be sabotaged by the Pentagon and the hardliners in the Obama administration.  Now that the sabotage of these people is in the past, it appears that this alliance is actually finally happening.

On the subject of the sanctions the Kremlin’s summary of the Trump-Putin conversation has nothing to say, but it does contain an extended passage about a joint desire to develop economic and commercial relations which does indirectly touch on the question of the sanctions

The sides stressed the importance of rebuilding mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between the two countries’ business communities, which could give an additional impetus to progressive and sustainable development of bilateral relations.

Since he became US President Donald Trump’s closeness to the US oil industry has become increasingly clear, and Trump has of course picked Rex Tillerson – Exxon’s former CEO – as his choice for Secretary of State.

The US oil industry has an understandable interest in working with Russia – the world’s biggest energy producer – and that is probably where the initial contacts between “the two countries’ business communities” mentioned in the Kremlin summary will start.

The key point – which both Trump and Putin of course know – is that this cannot happen without the sanctions being lifted.  The fact that Trump and Putin talked about establishing “mutually beneficial trade and economic ties between the two countries’ business communities” therefore means that Trump is fully resolved to lift the sanctions as soon as he feels he can, even if for political reasons he cannot for the moment say so.

On the subject of the US-Russian trade relationship, Trump and Putin touched on another important point.  This is that – as many commentators on international affairs acknowledge – the almost complete lack of economic contacts between the US and Russia has up to now has been a major cause in the repeated failure of their political relationship.

Both men clearly understand this, and realise that it is the development of strong commercial and trade relations between the US and Russia which is needed in order to underpin their political relationship so as to make it both successful and permanent.  The wording of the Kremlin’s summary of their conversation (“the importance of rebuilding mutually beneficial trade and economic ties….which could give an additional impetus to progressive and sustainable development of bilateral relations”) shows this.

In summary, the conversation between Trump and Putin went well, as well indeed as could be expected.  As the Piers Morgan article shows, the two men have a great deal in common even if their personalities are in many ways very different.

The direction of the conversation also shows something else.  This is that Donald Trump has an understanding of human psychology, and possesses diplomatic skills, which few up to now have credited him with.  He seems to have conducted his conversation with Putin with great skill.  For the first time since he became Russia’s leader Putin appears to have a US President who appears to have diplomatic skills to match his own.

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Pat Buchanan: “The Late Hit” On Judge Kavanaugh

Wha exactly is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation and possibly his career on the nation’s second-highest court.

And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for recapturing the high court for constitutionalism.

No new nominee could be vetted and approved in six weeks. And the November election could bring in a Democratic Senate, an insuperable obstacle to the elevation of a new strict constructionist like Kavanaugh.

The stakes are thus historic and huge.

And what is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

When she was 15 in the summer of ’82, she went to a beer party with four boys in Montgomery County, Maryland, in a home where the parents were away.

She says she was dragged into a bedroom by Brett Kavanaugh, a 17-year-old at Georgetown Prep, who jumped her, groped her, tried to tear off her clothes and cupped her mouth with his hand to stop her screams.

Only when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, laughing “maniacally,” piled on and they all tumbled off the bed, did she escape and lock herself in a bathroom as the “stumbling drunks” went downstairs. She fled the house and told no one of the alleged rape attempt.

Not until 30 years later in 2012 did Ford, now a clinical psychologist in California, relate, in a couples therapy session with her husband, what happened. She says she named Kavanaugh as her assailant, but the therapist’s notes of the session make no mention of Kavanaugh.

During the assault, says Ford, she was traumatized. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.”

Here the story grows vague. She does not remember who drove her to the party. She does not say how much she drank. She does not remember whose house it was. She does not recall who, if anyone, drove her home. She does not recall what day it was.

She did not tell her parents, Ford says, as she did not want them to know she had been drinking. She did not tell any friend or family member of this traumatic event that has so adversely affected her life.

Said Kavanaugh in response, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Mark Judge says it never happened.

Given the seriousness of the charges, Ford must be heard out. But she also needs to be cross-examined and have her story and character probed as Kavanaugh’s has been by FBI investigators as an attorney for the Ken Starr impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton, a White House aide to George Bush, a U.S. appellate judge and a Supreme Court nominee.

During the many investigations of Kavanaugh’s background, nothing was unearthed to suggest something like this was in character.

Some 65 women who grew up in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda area and knew Kavanaugh in his high school days have come out and spoken highly of his treatment of girls and women.

Moreover, the way in which all of this arose, at five minutes to midnight in the long confirmation process, suggests that this is political hardball, if not dirt ball.

When Ford, a Democrat, sent a letter detailing her accusations against Kavanaugh to her California congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, Ford insisted that her name not be revealed as the accuser.

She seemingly sought to damage or destroy the judge’s career behind a cloak of anonymity. Eshoo sent the letter on to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who held it for two months.

Excising Ford’s name, Feinstein then sent it to the FBI, who sent it to the White House, who sent it on to the Senate to be included in the background material on the judge.

Thus, Ford’s explosive charge, along with her name, did not surface until this weekend.

What is being done here stinks. It is a transparently late hit, a kill shot to assassinate a nominee who, before the weekend, was all but certain to be confirmed and whose elevation to the Supreme Court is a result of victories in free elections by President Trump and the Republican Party.

Palpable here is the desperation of the left to derail Kavanaugh, lest his elevation to the high court imperil their agenda and the social revolution that the Warren Court and its progeny have been able to impose upon the nation.

If Kavanaugh is elevated, the judicial dictatorship of decades past, going back to the salad days of Earl Warren, William Brennan, Hugo Black and “Wild Bill” Douglas, will have reached its end. A new era will have begun.

That is what is at stake.

The Republican Senate should continue with its calendar to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, while giving Ford some way to be heard, and then Kavanaugh the right to refute. Then let the senators decide.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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