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Russia wins energy war in Europe after EU surrenders on Nord Stream 2

The European Commission’s agreement to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline signals Russia’s conclusive victory in its protracted struggle to secure its position as Europe’s principal gas supplier whilst retaining control of its energy resources.

Alexander Mercouris

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Confirmation that the EU Commission has dropped its opposition to Nord Stream 2 – the giant gas pipeline Russia is building through the Baltic to supply natural gas directly to Germany – effectively ends whatever doubts previously existed about the project.

More importantly, it also means Russia has won the energy war, which has been raging around the issue of Russian gas supplies to Europe over the last decade and a half.

Nord Stream 2 is the second undersea gas pipeline directly linking Russia to Germany.  It comes after Nord Stream 1, which was laid down in the late 2000s and completed in 2011, coming on stream in 2012.

The story of the export by Russia of gas to Europe is extraordinarily tangled and is scarcely ever discussed properly.  This is unfortunate because in my opinion it is the single most important reason for the collapse in relations between Russia and the West since Putin came to power in 1999.

Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991 there was a general assumption in the West that Russia would become the major source of oil and gas for the European economy.

This went together with an assumption that Russia’s vast oil and gas fields would be developed and exploited by Western energy companies in much the same way that those companies had developed oil and gas fields in other places.

This was the period of the so-called “dash for gas”, with Europe’s coal industry – highly polluting and with a notoriously truculent and politicised workforce – being deliberately closed down in anticipation of a vast flow to Europe of cheap Russian gas.

It never quite happened that way.  Even during the Yeltsin era resistance in Russia to the country ‘opening up’ its oil and gas fields to unrestricted development and exploitation by Western energy companies proved sufficiently strong to prevent it happening.

Following the change of government in Russia in 1999, with Vladimir Putin emerging as Russia’s leader, first as Prime Minister and then as President, the possibility of Russia ‘opening up’ its oil and gas fields to unrestricted development and exploitation by Western energy companies was finally and conclusively ruled out.

Putin at the time of his appointment was already known as someone who believed in the importance of Russia retaining control of its energy resources.  Indeed Putin had actually written a doctoral thesis on the subject (a partial translation can be found here), which since his emergence as Russia’s leader (and especially after the Yukos affair) has been the target of hostile commentary (see for example here).  Almost certainly the fact Putin was known to believe that Russia should retain control of its energy resources was one of the most important reasons so many people within the Russian leadership in 1999 backed him for Russia’s President.

Though the bitter hostility of the West to Putin has many causes, the anger caused by his role in closing Russia’s vast oil and gas fields to unrestricted development and exploitation by Western energy companies is in my opinion unquestionably one of the most important, and one that consistently gets underestimated.

Suffice to say that all the allegations that Putin is corrupt and a billionaire have their origins in stories which circulated in the early 2000s that the “real” reason Putin wanted to prevent Western energy companies from exploiting Russia’s energy wealth was because he wanted to keep this wealth for himself.  In this way action which Putin took for patriotic reasons could be misrepresented as done for selfish ones.  It is no coincidence that some of the very earliest claims made about Putin and his billions centred on false allegations that he owns hidden shares in Gazprom, Russia’s giant gas monopoly exporter, and that he is its actual owner.

This is not to say that Putin opposes all investment by Western oil and gas companies in Russia’s energy sector.  On the contrary he not only wants such investment but he actively encourages it.  However Putin has always insisted that this investment be controlled and regulated by the Russian state, and his strong preference is that it happen through collaborative joint ventures with Russian companies, especially Rosneft.

This was not what Western governments and Western energy companies had had in mind.  Their conception was for something closer to what happens in some countries in what was once called the Third World, where Western energy companies run the show, exploiting the energy wealth of these countries as they please in their own and the West’s interests.  Not for nothing were some calling Russia before Putin became its leader “Nigeria with snow”.

Western oil and gas companies, as the hardheaded and pragmatic people that they are, have long since reconciled themselves to the new reality.  Companies like BP, Total and Exxon have long  shown a willingness to work with the Russians on Russia’s terms.  Indeed they have developed a genuine respect for the tough way the Russians negotiate to protect their interests and then stick by any agreements they make.

The same however has not been true of the more ideological and geopolitically minded officials in the West’s governments.  The US and UK governments and the European Commission in Brussels in particular have been implacably hostile, doing everything they can to bring the Russians to heel so as to force them, in the euphemistic language they like to use, to liberalise Russia’s energy industry ‘upstream’ so as to match the liberalisation that supposedly already exists in the West’s energy market ‘downstream’.

The result has been a festering energy war between the West and Russia which has gone on for years, with Gazprom – Russia’s majority state owned monopoly gas exporter – the primary target.

Gazprom is regularly accused in the West of manipulating Russia’s gas exports in order to achieve Russia’s political objectives, and recently it has been the subject of legal action brought against it by the European Commission amidst allegations that it has abused its monopoly position to gain unfair commercial advantages in the European energy market.

The agenda – obvious to all informed observers though never openly stated – is to force the Russians to privatise Gazprom and to break it up, ending its position as a monopoly exporter of Russian gas, and opening up Russia’s gas industry to exploitation and development by Western energy companies regulated by the European Commission in Brussels.

In reality there is no evidence the Russians have ever used their energy exports to gain political advantages in Europe or anywhere else, and it would be completely counter-productive for them to try.  As for the accusations that Gazprom abuses its monopoly position in order to gain commercial advantages for itself, these ignore the fact that Gazprom acts at all times as the export arm of the Russian state, giving its energy supply contracts something of the quality of interstate agreements rather than mere commercial agreements.

The primary tool used by the European Commission for its attacks on Gazprom is the EU’s Third Energy Package, which seeks the liberalisation of Europe’s energy market and industry by opening it up to competition.  The European Commission insists this means Gazprom cannot have exclusive control of any pipelines it builds or operates on EU territory since supposedly that would be contrary to the Third Energy Package since it would give Gazprom an over-dominant market position.

The Russian government signed the Third Energy Package but in the end refused to ratify it.  Russia has since repeatedly made clear that it does not consider itself bound by the Third Energy Package.  The reason is that the Russians understand that if they accept the Third Energy Package the European Commission will in time try to extend it to Russia itself by demanding that the Russians ‘liberalise’ their energy industry ‘upstream’ by privatising and breaking up Gazprom and by opening up Russia’s oil and gas fields to Western energy companies in order to conform to the European energy market liberalised by the Third Energy Package ‘downstream’.

Behind this move and counter-move was a Western miscalculation that the EU had the whip hand  over Russia because of the EU’s supposedly dominant position as Russia’s primary energy customer.  Since it was assumed that the whole existence of the Russian economy depended on Russia selling its oil and gas to Europe, the Europeans assumed the Russians would eventually be forced to accept the Third Energy Package so that they could continue to sell their gas to Europe.

In December 2014 however the Russians proved this to be completely wrong when they abruptly cancelled the South Stream pipeline, which was supposed to supply gas through southern and eastern Europe, after the European Commission insisted that the Third Energy Package applied to it.  Moreover the Russians not only cancelled South Stream but announced that they would no longer seek to build or operate gas pipelines on EU territory, and that instead of South Stream they would build a pipeline to Turkey instead, which is not a member of the EU and whose territory is not EU territory.

This Russian move came as a complete shock, provoking furious recriminations across the EU whilst demonstrating that the whole assumption that Russia so depended on Europe for the sale of its gas that it would eventually be brought to heel was completely wrong.  On the contrary it turned out that it was the Europeans who depended on Russia for their gas, and not the other way round.

At this point it is necessary to say something about European efforts to ‘diversify’ away from Russian gas and their failure, and about the role of Ukraine.

As the energy war between the EU and Russia heated up from the mid 2000s, demands – many of them originating in Washington and London, even though the US and UK are not significant importers of Russian gas – for the EU to ‘diversify’ its gas imports away from Russia so as to reduce the EU’s supposedly dangerous dependence on Russia steadily built up.

These led to various schemes to reduce the EU’s ‘dependence’ on Russian gas, including the importing of liquified natural gas from the Persian Gulf and the US, the building of the Nabucco pipeline across Turkey and the Caucasus to Azerbaijan, the importing of gas from the newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, and the importing of gas from north Africa.

These projects and the EU’s campaign against Gazprom were given further life by a succession of ‘gas wars’ fought between Russia and Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.

The background to these wars is that the existing pipeline network between Russia and the EU was largely built by the USSR from the 1960s to the 1980s, with many of the pipelines passing through Ukraine, which was of course at that time a constituent republic of the USSR.

After the USSR broke up the Russians for a time sought to keep Ukraine politically friendly to themselves by supplying Ukraine with cheap gas.

The result was that the Ukrainian budget benefitted from the transit fees Gazprom paid Ukraine for having gas destined for Europe pass through Ukraine’s pipelines, whilst Ukrainian oligarchs – like the oligarchs in Russia in the 1990s – made gigantic fortunes by buying cheap Russian gas domestically within Ukraine itself and then selling it at a high price to Europe.

After Putin became President this cozy arrangement came to an end.  Russia began insisting that Ukraine pay the full market price for Russian gas, and in 2006 and 2009, as earlier gas supply contracts came to an end, Russia made it a condition for the supply of gas to Ukraine that it do so.

At the same time the Russians began to insist on prompt payment by Ukraine for gas already supplied, and demanded that Ukraine pay all outstanding arrears for gas supplied but not paid for.

In 2006 and 2009 Ukraine refused to pay the higher price demanded by the Russians, and failed to pay its arrears, causing Russia to cut Ukraine’s gas supply off.  Ukraine retaliated on both occasions by siphoning off gas passing through its pipelines intended for Gazprom’s European customers.  The result was gas shortages across central and eastern Europe.

On both occasions Ukraine eventually backed down, but the interruptions of gas supplies to Gazprom’s customers in central and eastern Europe were seized on by Gazprom’s and Russia’s critics who alleged that they proved that Russia was an unreliable supplier.

For their part the Russians and some of their European energy customers concluded that Ukraine was an unreliable transit state, causing the Russians to launch pipeline projects like South Stream, Nord Stream 1 and eventually Nord Stream 2 in order to bypass Ukraine.

By December 2014, when South Stream was cancelled, all these disputes and conflicts had come to a head.

The European projects to ‘diversify’ away from Russian gas had all failed.

The reason was that all these projects ran into the same problem: they did not provide enough gas to reduce Europe’s need for gas from Russia, and they made no economic sense because the gas they would have provided would have been significantly more expensive than the gas supplied by pipeline from Russia.

In the meantime the Ukrainians during fraught negotiations over gas supplies from Russia over the course of the summer of 2014 once more threatened to siphon off Russian gas passing through Ukrainian pipelines destined for Gazprom’s EU customers.

Meanwhile the Russians for their part were having far more success in diversifying their gas exports to non-European customers than the Europeans were having in reducing their need for imports of gas from Russia.  Specifically in 2014 the Russians announced major projects to build two giant pipelines to supply gas to China.  Though these pipelines have been derided by Western and Russian liberal critics as making no economic sense because the Chinese will pay less for the gas than Russia’s European customers, there is no doubt the Russians will make a profit from the sales, and the fact that they will soon be selling large amounts of gas to China means that they are no longer as dependent on the Europeans as their customers as they once were.

The European country which found itself most exposed was Germany, whose large industrial sector not only requires plentiful supplies of cheap gas but which has also become more gas dependent as Germany has been closing down its coal and nuclear industries.

The result is that despite the sanctions the EU imposed on Russia on German insistence in July 2014, in June 2015 – just a few months after the cancellation of South Stream in December 2014 – and with the full backing of the German government, a new pipeline project linking Germany to Russia across the Baltic was announced, which is Nord Stream 2.  Moreover in order to ensure that this pipeline would be built the Germans agreed to Russia’s demand that it would not be subject to the EU’s Third Energy Package.

The new pipeline predictably provoked a sustained campaign of opposition from a coalition of opponents including those who claimed to be concerned about Europe’s ‘energy dependence’ on Russia, various eastern and central European states unhappy at the loss of transit fees caused by the direct supply of gas to Germany from Russia, other EU states such as Italy unhappy at the way Germany dealt directly with Russia in its own interests whilst simultaneously insisting that other EU states impose sanctions on Russia, and of course Ukraine, which risks being cut out completely as a transit state.

Opposition to Nord Stream 2 was led by the European Commission on the grounds that it was not compatible with the EU’s Third Energy Package and would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.  The Germans and the Russians countered, truthfully if somewhat disingenuously, that Nord Stream 2 is not subject to the Third Energy Package since it does not cross over EU territory as it passes under the Baltic Sea

The reality is that in today’s Europe if the Germans and the Russians agree on something it is going to happen irrespective of whatever others might think or say about it.  The German government could have killed Nord Stream 2 at any time but it chose not to because that would have outraged German industry, already seething over the sanctions imposed on Russia.  That in effect all but guaranteed that despite all the objections Nord Stream 2 would go ahead.

The EU Commission has now dropped its objections to Nord Stream 2 and said Nord Stream 2 is not covered by the Third Energy Package.  This amounts to it raising the white flag, not just in relation to Nord Stream 2 but in respect of the whole energy war.  Suffice to say that it is not a coincidence that at the same time the European Commission’s case against Gazprom seems to be fizzling out.

What this means is that following more than a decade and a half of struggle the Russians have finally and conclusively won the energy war.

Not only will Nord Stream 2 be built as the Russians want – without it being subject to the Third Energy Package – but there is nothing now to stop the Russians building Nord Stream 3 or Nord Stream 4 or as many other pipelines as they want under the Baltic on the same basis.

Not only does that secure Russia’s position as the predominant supplier of gas to Europe for the foreseeable future, but it means that Russia will go on supplying its gas to Europe whilst retaining full control over its own energy resources.

The Russians have paid a price for this war.  Not only have they been forced to spend vast amounts of money building expensive pipelines to bypass Ukraine, but plans they once had for Gazprom to become a gas retailer within the European energy market have had to be abandoned.

Gazprom’s excessively low market valuation for a company of its size and resources undoubtedly also in part reflects the harm it has suffered because of this war.

The Russians will nonetheless consider all this an acceptable price to pay given the scale of their victory.

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World War I Homage – A Triumph of Lies and Platitudes

The unilateral, lawless imperialism that engendered World War I and 20 years later World War II is still alive and dangerously vigorous.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via Strategic Culture:


World leaders gathered in Paris on Sunday under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the centennial anniversary ending World War I. In an absurd way, the Napoleon-era arc was a fitting venue – because the ceremony and the rhetoric from President Emmanuel Macron was a “triumph” of lies and platitudes.

Among the estimated 70 international leaders were US President Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, each sitting on either side of Macron and his wife. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also given pride of place beside the French president.

Macron’s address to the dignitaries was supposed to be a call for international multilateralism. He urged a “brotherhood” for the cause of world peace. He also made a pointed rebuke of “nationalism” as posing a danger to peace – a remark which seemed aimed at Donald Trump who recently boasted of his politics with that very word.

But, ironically, everything about the ceremony and Macron’s speech resonated with jingoistic French nationalism, not his avowed multinationalism. As the politicians sat under the Arc de Triomphe, Macron walked around its circular esplanade in a salute to assembled French military forces bearing assault rifles and bayonets. The French anthem – The Marseillaise – was played twice, once by an army brass band, the second time sung by an army choir. There was also a military plane flyover displaying the blue, red and white tricolor of the French national flag.

In his speech, Macron talked about soldiers coming from all over the world to “die for France” during the 1914-18 Great War. He even said at one point that the war was fought for “the vision of France” and its “universal values”.

This was fluent drivel, French-style. No wonder Russia’s Putin momentarily gave a look of boredom as Macron waxed lyrical.

The speechifying and commemoration was completely detached from current realities of conflict and international tensions.

Among the “brotherhood” whom Macron was appealing to were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose military forces continue to bomb and slaughter Palestinian civilians in illegally occupied territory. Also present was Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko whose armed militias continue to terrorize the people of eastern Ukraine with the blatant objective of instigating a war between the US-led NATO alliance and Russia.

Listening to Macron one would think that World War I erupted mysteriously from no specific cause and that an estimated 10 million soldiers were all killed in heroic battles for noble principles.

There was, of course, no mention by Macron of imperialist warmongering and the barbaric sacrifice of humans as slaves in the service of national capitalist power interests.

Grotesquely, as the world leaders donned solemn faces and mouthed pious platitudes for peace, the whole occasion was a triumph in burying reality and the ongoing causes of wars, as well as whitewashing the very culprits responsible for wars. Among the war criminals wearing a mournful black suit was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy who launched the NATO blitzkrieg on Libya in 2011.

While the empty, self-indulgent rhetoric was ringing out, one couldn’t help but recall some of the most glaring contemporary contradictions that were blocked out with awesome Orwellian efficiency.

Just this week, reports emerged of the horrific civilian death toll from the American air force bombing the Syrian city of Raqqa. The city was razed to the ground by US air strikes last year – supposedly to defeat the ISIS terror group. Some 8,000 bodies of civilians, mainly women and children, have now been recovered by Syrian government forces. And that’s only from clearing away a tiny area of rubble for the whole city.

What the Americans did in Raqqa was a monumental war crime, all the more criminal because US forces, along with their NATO partners Britain and France, are illegally present in and assaulting sovereign Syrian territory.

As Macron was telling world leaders about “the vision of France”, hundreds were being killed in Yemen in a battle to strangle the entire population by taking the port city of Hodeida. The genocidal war on that country – which is putting up to 16 million people at risk from starvation – has been fully backed by France, the US and Britain, from their supply of warplanes and bombs to the Saudi and Emirati aggressive forces.

We could mention other specific conflicts where the culprits are clearly identified. For example, the multi-million-dollar support from Washington for the Azov Battalion and other Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, which openly emulate the genocidal conduct of Hitler’s Third Reich to exterminate ethnic Russians.

We could mention how US-led NATO forces continue to expand towards Russian territory with outrageous provocation. The mounting earlier this month of the biggest-ever NATO war drills since the Cold War in the Arctic region adjacent to Russia’s northern border was a brazen threat of rehearsing invasion. The announced tearing up of yet another nuclear arms control treaty unilaterally by Washington is a reckless undermining of global security.

Washington threatens China with naval forces marauding near Beijing’s maritime territory in the South China Sea. Washington blockades Iran with illegal economic warfare and openly agitates for regime change. Washington declares Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba a “troika of tyranny” and reserves the right to threaten each of these countries with military invasion at any time.

Meanwhile, this weekend, Russia hosted peace talks in Moscow between the warring parties of Afghanistan. It was seen as a major breakthrough in trying to bring peace to the Central Asia country which has been wracked by 17 years of violence since US forces began their ongoing military occupation – allegedly to defeat terrorism.

Elsewhere, Russia has engaged with Turkey, Germany and France to convene a summit for peaceful reconstruction of Syria. The latest summit held in Ankara at the end of last month follows several other such meetings in Astana and Sochi, largely at the behest of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, to find a political settlement to the nearly eight-year war in Syria – a war that was fomented covertly by Washington and its allies for regime change.

France’s Macron talks about “multilateralism” for world peace, yet the two countries which have arguably supported and implemented multilateralism in practice are Russia and China in their calls and policies for global partnership and economic development.

And yet it is Russia and China that are being harassed with American and European sanctions, and US military provocations.

The unilateral, lawless imperialism that engendered World War I and 20 years later World War II is still alive and dangerously vigorous. We only have to look around the present world to realize that. But when the culprits indulge in a triumph of bullshit then we also know that the world is once again in very grave danger.

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Creepy Porn Lawyers’ disgusting assault on Tucker Carlson and his 19 year old daughter (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 14.

Alex Christoforou

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Days after ANTIFA targeted Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s home, trying to intimidate and scare the TV host into curbing his free speech against totalitarian mob rule propagated by ANTIFA and their paymasters, it appears that the SJW establishment swamp is going after Tucker with everything they got…sending in the expendable, and always eager to get publicity, Creepy Porn Lawyer, Michael Avenatti, to try and ensnare Carlson in some sort of racist assault scandal.

The entire event appears to be a staged, purposefully hitting upon all the right identity politics buttons…so as to maximize full SJW pressure on Tucker and Fox News.

The Gateway Pundit reports that Tucker Carlson has denied Michael Avenatti’s charges of assault, and explains that his actions were prompted by an unhinged gay man calling his daughter a wh*re and a c**t…

Creepy porn star Michael Avenatti made headlines again this weekend with trumped up charges of assault against FOX News host Tucker Carlson.

On Saturday Avenatti released video of Tucker Carlson in an argument with a crowd of people at a country club in Virginia.

Avenatti claims Tucker assaulted a gay Latino immigrant for no reason.

Avenatti posted this video made the allegations on Saturday.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the SJW swamps’ latest attempt to smear Tucker Carlson, by going after his 19-year old daughter, in a disgusting display of misogyny and hate towards the very women that establishment liberal claims to defend.

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Here’s Carlson’s full statement about the incident:

“On October 13, I had dinner with two of my children and some family friends at the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. Toward the end of the meal, my 19-year-old daughter went to the bathroom with a friend. On their way back through the bar, a middle aged man stopped my daughter and asked if she was sitting with Tucker Carlson. My daughter had never seen the man before. She answered: ‘That’s my dad,’ and pointed to me. The man responded, ‘Are you Tucker’s whore?’ He then called her a ‘f—— c—.’

“My daughter returned to the table in tears. She soon left the table and the club. My son, who is also a student, went into the bar to confront the man. I followed. My son asked the man if he’d called his sister a ‘whore’ and a ‘cunt.’ The man admitted he had, and again become profane. My son threw a glass of red wine in the man’s face and told him to leave the bar, which he soon did.

“Immediately after the incident, I described these events to the management of the Farmington Country Club. The club spent more than three weeks investigating the incident. Last week, they revoked the man’s membership and threw him out of the club.

“I love my children. It took enormous self-control not to beat the man with a chair, which is what I wanted to do. I think any father can understand the overwhelming rage and shock that I felt seeing my teenage daughter attacked by a stranger. But I restrained myself. I did not assault this man, and neither did my son. That is a lie. Nor did I know the man was gay or Latino, not that it would have mattered. What happened on October 13 has nothing to do with identity politics. It was a grotesque violation of decency. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”

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Former Hillary Clinton Advisor: She’s Running Again in 2020

Clinton admitted that while she doesn’t want to run again — she would “like to be president.”

The Duran

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Via The Gateway Pundit…


Hillary Clinton’s former adviser Mark Penn is warning the public that we should brace ourselves for another run from the power hungry sore loser in 2020.

Penn co-wrote in a Sunday op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that she “won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.”

“True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies,” the op-ed that Penn authored with Andrew Stein claims. “She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.”

Like a cockroach that just won’t die, or the final boss in a video game that keeps obnoxiously coming back after each defeat — Clinton just won’t go away.

Penn said that by “reinventing herself as a liberal firebrand, Mrs. Clinton will easily capture the 2020 nomination.”

“You can expect her to run for president once again,” he said. “Maybe not at first, when the legions of Senate Democrats make their announcements, but definitely by the time the primaries are in full swing.”

Last month, Clinton admitted that while she doesn’t want to run again — she would “like to be president.”

Even some of her closest allies want her to give it a rest though.

“She’s more likely to win Powerball,” Philippe Reines, Clinton’s longtime adviser, told The Hill.

While nobody really wants to hear that woman’s voice ever again — at least the right can recycle all their best memes from 2016.

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