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Deputy AG Rosenstein on Russiagate: no ‘fishing expeditions’; Grand Jury subpoenas ‘normal’; no indictments pending

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein pours cold water on claims about Grand Jury indictments pending and of fishing expeditions into Donald Trump’s business affairs.

Alexander Mercouris

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – the man who is supervising Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate investigation – has given an interview to Fox News in which he has attempted – within the limits of the duty of confidentiality that cover all such investigations – to pour cold water on the overheated reporting of the last few days.

On the subject of the Grand Jury, he first of all refused to say whether or not one has been specially empanelled (as I have said previously, a highly sourced leak to the New York Times has shown that it has not).  However he did say this about the use of Grand Juries in investigations of this sort.

WALLACE: We learned this week that special counsel Robert Mueller is taking his case to a grand jury. I know you can’t and won’t talk about the details of that case, but as a general proposition, does the fact that a prosecutor takes a case to a grand jury, what does that say about the likelihood of indictments?

ROSENSTEIN: Chris, I’m — you are right that I’m not going to comment on the case. I’m not going to comment about whether Director Mueller has or hasn’t opened a grand jury. You know, we read a lot about criminal investigations in the media and some of those stories are false…..

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words are a clear hint from Rosenstein that as the New York Times has previously reported no special Grand Jury has in fact been empanelled, and that the reporting that one has is false.

Having to the extent that he could cleared up the matter of whether a special Grand Jury had been empanelled, Rosenstein clearly explained what Grand Juries are used for, and why construing the likelihood of criminal charges being brought because an investigation is making use of them is completely unwarranted

WALLACE: But I’m asking you a different question. What does it say when a prosecutor takes a case, in general, to a grand jury about the likelihood of indictments?

ROSENSTEIN: In general, Chris, it doesn’t say anything about the likelihood of indictments because we conduct investigations and we make a determination that at some point in the course of the investigation about whether charges are appropriate.

WALLACE: And what’s the advantage in terms of an investigation into taking a case to a grand jury?

ROSENSTEIN: Many of our investigations, Chris, involve the use of a grand jury. It’s an appropriate way to gather documents, sometimes to bring witnesses in, to make sure that you get their full testimony. It’s just a tool that we use like any other tool in the course of our investigations.

(bold italics added)

This is obviously correct, as is the further point about Mueller’s use of Grand Juries to subpoena documents made by New York State Governor Chris Christie, like Rosenstein a former federal prosecutor

Christie, a former federal prosecutor, made similar comments about a grand jury’s power to issue subpoenas and gather information, while downplaying the news about Mueller purportedly having impaneled another one, reported first by The Wall Street Journal.

“The coverage about how monumental this was is just a fundamental misunderstanding of the way this process works, Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He called Mueller’s use of such a jury “a normal step taken by a careful prosecutor who is doing a thorough investigation.”

(bold italics added)

Compare these calm statements of Rosenstein and Christie with my essentially identical statement about the use of the Grand Jury device which I made when the story first broke three days ago

It is in fact standard practice in certain states of the US for investigating prosecutors to use Grand Juries to issue subpoenas, thereby avoiding the complexities of applying to a court for warrants which might require the person under investigation to attend and have his say.

That is all that Mueller appears to have done, and it is in fact something which is regularly done in investigations of this sort.  Indeed it was obviously something which it was envisaged Mueller would do when his inquiry was first set up.

What seems to have happened is that someone learnt of the fact that Mueller had used a Grand Jury to issue subpoenas as part of his investigation and jumped to conclusions from that fact which are unwarranted.

The hysteria and the gloating we have witnessed over the last few days on this issue of Mueller’s use of a Grand Jury is unwarranted and groundless.  I cannot believe that the media in the US of all places is unfamiliar with the use of Grand Juries in investigations.  The tidal wave of misrepresentation there has been on this subject over the last few days is therefore deliberate.

On the subject of Mueller and his team now hunting for evidence of other crimes Trump and his associates might have committed which are unrelated to the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Rosenstein had this to say

WALLACE: When you — now, I know I’m very dangerous territory here, but hear me out on this because I’m not asking about the investigation. When you appointed Mueller, and you were the one who did, you had to sign an order authorizing the appointment of a special counsel, and you said that he was authorized to investigate any coordination with Russia and — I want to put these words on the screen — any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.

My question is, does that mean that there are no red lines that Mueller or any special counsel can investigate under the terms of your order, anything he finds?

ROSENSTEIN: Chris, the special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice, and we don’t engage in fishing expeditions. Now, that order that you read, that doesn’t detail specifically who may be the subject of the investigation —

WALLACE: Right.

ROSENSTEIN: — because we don’t reveal that publicly.

But Bob Mueller understands and I understand the specific scope of the investigation and so, it’s not a fishing expedition.

WALLACE: I understand it’s not a fishing expedition, but you say any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation. In the course of his investigation of the issues that he is looking at, if he finds evidence of a crime, can he look at that?

ROSENSTEIN: Well, Chris, if he finds evidence of a crime that’s within the scope of what Director Mueller and I have agreed is the appropriate scope of the investigation, then he can. If it’s something that’s outside that scope, he needs to come to the acting attorney general, at this time, me, for a permission to expand his investigation. But we don’t talk about that publicly.

And so, the speculation you’ve seen in the news media, that’s not anything that I’ve said. It’s not anything Director Mueller said. We don’t know who’s saying it or how credible those sources are.

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words are as clear a statement as Rosenstein can make given the constraints upon him that no fishing expedition is underway and that claims in the media that one is happening are untrue.

That has to be correct.  I would add that since the instructions Rosenstein gave Mueller, which set out the scope of his inquiry, were made public I would expect any variation or extension of those instructions authorising Mueller to investigate matters unrelated to Russiagate to be made public also.  Indeed Rosenstein’s comments appear to say as much.

Since no variation or extension of Mueller’s instructions has been made public, none can have taken place, and all claims that Mueller and his inquiry are engaging in a fishing expedition are therefore wrong and groundless.

As I have said previously, engaging in a fishing expedition of the sort the media has been writing about would be grossly unethical.  Not only is that my view but interestingly it is also the view of Matthew Whittaker, one of CNN’s own Legal Commentators, as shown by these comments in a lengthy article he has written for CNN

According to a CNN article, Mueller’s investigators could be looking into financial records relating to the Trump Organization that are unrelated to the 2016 election. According to these reports, “sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 election.” The piece goes on to cite law enforcement sources who say non-Russia-related leads that “involve Trump associates” are being referred to the special counsel “to encourage subjects of the investigation to cooperate.”

This information is deeply concerning to me. It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump’s finances or his family’s finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else. That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel.

In fact, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s letter appointing special counsel Robert Mueller does not give Mueller broad, far-reaching powers in this investigation. He is only authorized to investigate matters that involved any potential links to and coordination between two entities — the Trump campaign and the Russian government. People are wrongly pointing to, and taking out of context, the phrase “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” to characterize special counsel’s authority as broad.

The word “investigation” is clearly defined directly preceding it in the same sentence specifically as coordination between individuals associated with the campaign of Donald Trump and Russia. The Trump Organization’s business dealings are plainly not within the scope of the investigation, nor should they be.

Indeed, Sunday on Fox News, Rod Rosenstein acknowledged Mueller had limited authority and would need to seek his permission to expand the investigation.

Beyond the legal reading, the broad authority argument defies plain logic: If the special counsel could investigate anything he wants, why would there even need to be a letter spelling out the specific limits of the investigation?

One of the dynamics at play here is that people are conflating this investigation and Kenneth Starr’s 1994 investigation into President Bill Clinton. While partly understandable at first glance, the two investigations are not comparable — not only have more than two decades passed since then, but a completely new law and legal framework governing separate investigations has also passed. Starr was an independent counsel and Mueller is a special counsel, the two words are different for a reason.

Any investigation into President Trump’s finances or the finances of his family would require Mueller to return to Rod Rosenstein for additional authority under Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.

If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a broadened scope in his appointment, then this would raise serious concerns that the special counsel’s investigation was a mere witch hunt. If Mueller is indeed going down this path, Rosenstein should act to ensure the investigation is within its jurisdiction and within the authority of the original directive.

I’ve prosecuted several financial crimes at the federal level and I’ve also defended plenty in my private practice. From this unique vantage point, I can understand how a motivated prosecutor, in a broad investigation into the financial affairs of high-profile individuals, can become overzealous toward the targets of such probes — with calamitous results. While no one is above the law, in situations such as this, any seasoned prosecutor must use discretion both judiciously and expertly.

It is time for Rosenstein, who is the acting attorney general for the purposes of this investigation, to order Mueller to limit the scope of his investigation to the four corners of the order appointing him special counsel.

If he doesn’t, then Mueller’s investigation will eventually start to look like a political fishing expedition. This would not only be out of character for a respected figure like Mueller, but also could be damaging to the President of the United States and his family — and by extension, to the country.

(bold italics added)

Whittaker’s fear that a fishing expedition is taking place is as I have said unwarranted because as Rosenstein has made clear no fishing expedition is in fact taking place, and media stories that one is – like the CNN article Whittaker refers to – are false.  However I have set out Whittaker’s comments at length because they provide a detailed explanation from a US attorney of how deeply wrong and unethical such a fishing expedition would be.

What is really concerning is not that a fishing expedition is underway; it is that the entire media reporting of the state of the Russiagate inquiry over the last four days has been almost entirely false.

I cannot avoid the nagging feeling that the true reason there is all this talk of Mueller undertaking a fishing expedition is precisely because of growing alarm that Mueller’s investigation is drawing a blank.  Given the disaster for the credibility of some people if Mueller clears Trump and his associates, Mueller and Rosenstein are therefore coming under pressure to expand the scope of their inquiry to cover other unrelated things in the hope that something damaging to Trump that either he or his associates can be charged with will turn up.

This looks to me to be the agenda behind the overheated reporting of the last few days about Grand Juries and fishing expeditions: to make it clear to Mueller that his investigation will be deemed to have “failed” if he does not bring charges against some people, and to put pressure on him and Rosenstein to expand the scope of the inquiry to ensure that he does.

Much now therefore depends on Rosenstein and Mueller.  They have reputations to defend.  Will they live up to them by resisting this pressure?

Meanwhile, as reports – which are almost certainly false – that Trump has been thinking of sacking Mueller continue to circulate, it is richly ironic that the actual pressure on Mueller appears to be coming not from President Trump but from his opponents.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

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Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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