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Good sense on Russiagate: the President finally gets himself a lawyer

Buffeted by the Russiagate claims, US President Trump makes the right call by getting himself a good lawyer.

Alexander Mercouris

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A short while ago I wrote that President Trump by his own erratic behaviour had made his position over the course of the Russiagate scandal far worse than it needed to be, so that whilst FBI Director Comey’s sacking was fully justified, and even though not a single fact has come to light that implicates the Trump campaign or the President himself in any collusion with Russia, the President’s actions have – almost certainly mistakenly – convinced many people he is hiding something.

The latest story about President Trump asking Director of National Intelligence Coats and NSA Director Rogers to say publicly that there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a case in point.

The first point to make is that we don’t know for a fact that the story is true.  Like so many Russiagate stories it originates in a leak by our old friends the “multiple current and former US officials”.  Coats and Rogers have refused to confirm or deny it, saying- absolutely correctly – that they cannot discuss private conversations they had with the President.

However even if the story is true – which for the record I think it is – I cannot see how asking Coats and Rogers to say what has already been repeatedly said in public by a host of others – Clapper, Brennan, Nunes, Feinstein, the BBC and CNN, to name just a few – can possibly be sinister, and can possibly be construed as an obstruction of justice.

Putting that aside, if Trump did ever make such a request to Coats and Rogers, then even if doing so was not a criminal act in itself, it was still extremely unwise, just as Trump’s repeated interactions with former FBI Director Comey before he sacked him were also extremely unwise.

The proof of that is the use Trump’s enemies are making of this story.

When I previously discussed many of President Trump’s unwise actions, I said that they pointed to the need for this most inexperienced of Presidents to get himself some good professional advice

Though the harm done is considerable, it is not in my opinion either mortal or irreversible.  There is still time to turn things round.

However if disaster is to be avoided then the President has to change his ways, and has to realise that he cannot go on trying to run the government in the same seat-of-the-pants way that he ran his business.

Above all that means the President needs to get himself some proper professional advice and help, since it is clear that his existing advisers – Bannon, Kushner and Preibus – are simply not up to the job of doing it.

As in the realm of foreign policy, where because of his lack of experience and because he has listened to bad advice, Trump has also made some extraordinary mistakes, there are plenty of tough minded political professionals in Washington who are sympathetic to Trump’s views and who would be willing and even anxious to help him.  If Trump can persuade himself to find them and listen to them, he will be able to avoid the repeated unenforced errors he has made in his handling of Comey’s case.

What Trump needs to do is consult widely, hunt these people down and bring them into the White House.  There are plenty of grizzled political veterans in Washington like former Representative Ron Paul who if asked would help him do that.

With relief I note that the President has now taken a first step in this direction by appointing Marc Kasowitz, a tough New York based lawyer with a reputation as a tenacious litigator, to act as his private legal counsel.

I gather that Kasowitz is expected to head a strong legal team to advise the President and to represent his interests in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Since Kasowitz is not himself a criminal lawyer I presume he will recruit one as part of his team.

I also hope that Kasowitz will persuade Trump to clear any future tweets he makes on the Russiagate affair with him before he publishes them, and that he will also insist that the President clear with him any other public comments he wants to make about the Russiagate affair.

Indeed it would be better if from now on Kasowitz and his team were the only people authorised to comment on Russiagate at all.

Any good defence attorney would be able to knock out the whole allegation of obstruction of justice in short order.  Any good trial attorney should also be able to point out what is manifestly true – that there is no evidence whatsoever for the Russiagate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – and do so effectively, both to Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and to the US public.

It has been the absence of an attorney making these points which is one reason why this scandal – despite the complete absence of any evidence behind it – has gone on for so long, and has grown to such a monstrous scale.

The President has paid a price for Kasowitz’s appointment.  It seems that his first choice to replace Comey at the FBI – former Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is a senior Counsel at Kasowitz’s law firm – has pulled out because he has decided that following Kasowitz’s appointment that he cannot do the job of leading the FBI.

That is understandable and right.  There is nothing technically wrong with Trump sourcing both his personal counsel and his FBI Director from the same law firm.  However at a time when the FBI is conducting an investigation into allegations of collusion between the President’s campaign team and Russia doing so would undoubtedly have provoked an uproar, which at the present time the President can ill afford.

Given the choice between having the lawyer of his choice, and having the FBI Director of his first choice, the President has made the correct decision to go with the lawyer.  At this time he needs a good lawyer he knows and trusts more than he needs his first choice as FBI Director.

Appointing Kasowitz as the President’s private counsel should however be no more than a first step.  The President should not stop there.

Whilst getting a good lawyer is essential, the President should follow that up by getting himself a tough and experienced political professional to run his political operation at the White House, since quite obviously the President’s current advisers – Preibus, Bannon and Kushner – are too inexperienced to do the job.

The need for this is urgent.  Now that he has a lawyer the President should do it without further delay.

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US Pressures Germany To Ditch Huawei Over ‘Security Concerns’

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

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Via Zerohedge


First it was Australia, New Zealand and Japan, now the US is pressing the German government to refuse to use equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as Europe’s largest economy seeks to build out its 5G infrastructure.

According to Bloomberg, a US delegation met on Friday with German Foreign Ministry officials in Berlin to talk about the security risks presented by Huawei’s equipment, which the US says is vulnerable to spying. The meeting in Germany follows a report from late last month claiming the US had launched an “extraordinary outreach campaign” to warn its allies against using Huawei equipment (while its vulnerability to Chinese spying has been cited as the reason to avoid Huawei, it’s also worth noting that the US and China are locked in a battle for who will dominate the global 5G space…a battle that Huawei is currently winning).

Germany is set to hold an auction early next year to find a supplier to help expand its 5G network. The Berlin meeting took place one day after Deutsche Telekom said it would reexamine its decision to use Huawei equipment.

US officials are optimistic that their warnings are getting a hearing, though any detailed talks are in early stages and no concrete commitments have been made, according to one of the people.

The US pressure on Germany underscores increased scrutiny of Huawei as governments grapple with fears that the telecom-equipment maker’s gear is an enabler for Chinese espionage. The Berlin meeting took place a day after German carrier Deutsche Telekom AG said it will re-evaluate its purchasing strategy on Huawei, an indication that it may drop the Chinese company from its list of network suppliers.

France is also reportedly considering further restrictions after adding Huawei products to its “high alert” list. The US has already passed a ban preventing government agencies from using anything made by Huawei. But the telecoms equipment provider isn’t taking these threats to its business lying down.

U.S. warnings over espionage are a delicate matter in Germany. Revelations over the scale of the National Security Agency’s signals intelligence, including reports of tapping Merkel’s mobile phone, are still fresh in Berlin five years after they came to light.

Huawei is pushing back against the accusations. The company’s rotating chairman warned this week that blacklisting the Chinese company without proof will hurt the industry and disrupt the emergence of new wireless technology globally. Ken Hu, speaking at a Huawei manufacturing base in Dongguan, cited “groundless speculation,” in some of the first public comments since the shock arrest of the company’s chief financial officer.

This news will likely not go over well in Beijing, which is still struggling with the US and Canada over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. In an editorial published Sunday, the Global Times, an English-language mouthpiece for the Communist Party, warned that China should retaliate against any country that – like Australia – takes a hard line against Huawei. So, if you’re a German citizen in Beijing, you might want to consider getting the hell out of Dodge.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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