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Russiagate continues to unravel as Goldstone confirms Trump Junior’s account of Veselnitskaya meeting

British promoter backs Trump Junior on Veselnitskaya meeting as The Atlantic proved to have wrongly edited Wikileaks’ email

Alexander Mercouris

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The last was a bad week for Russiagate believers, though as always reporting of recent developments has been sparse.

There have in fact been two recent developments in the Russiagate case, both of which involve Donald Trump Junior.

One centres on the meeting Donald Trump Junior had on 9th June 2016 with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

The other centres on the emails The Atlantic recently published which which were sent to Donald Trump Junior by Wikileaks.

(1) Veselnitskaya meeting

I discussed this meeting at length in an article I wrote back on 12th July 2017, shortly after the existence of this meeting was publicly disclosed.

I pointed out that far from supporting the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign both the circumstances and the events of the meeting pointed in the opposite direction, to the conclusion that no collusion had actually taken place

There is no evidence here of any crime or wrongdoing being committed or – contrary to what many are saying – of any intention to commit one.

What Donald Trump Junior was offered was official documents supposedly provided by the Russian government which would expose Hillary Clinton as a hypocrite in light of her dealings with Russia.  At a time when Donald Trump was already being criticised for wanting a rapprochement with Russia it is not surprising that Donald Trump Junior’s interest was piqued.

However this information – whatever it was – would have had to have been made public if it was going to be used, and since it was supposed to take the form of official Russian government documents provided to the Trump campaign by the Russian government that would have meant that the fact that the Russian government was involved and was the source would have had to be disclosed.  There was and could have been no intention to keep the fact secret.

That is what Donald Trump Junior obviously anticipated when he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, and what he must have thought the Russian government intended.  The emails cannot be read in any other way.

This is a wholly different scenario from the one suggested in the Russiagate affair.  That alleges secret collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government as part of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign involving an illegal hack of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers in order to publish stolen emails which would swing the election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

This by contrast was or was supposed to be a straightforward and above the board offer of information by the Russian government to the Trump campaign that might be useful in the election.

There is nothing wrong or sinister or illegal in Donald Trump Junior being interested in this.  There would have been nothing wrong or illegal in Donald Trump Junior receiving from the Russian government official Russian government documents about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia in this way.

Nor would there have been anything wrong or illegal if Donald Trump Junior or the Trump campaign had made this information public, all the more so as the fact that the Russian government was the source would have had to be disclosed.

In the event, as I also pointed out in my article of 12th July 2017, the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalia Veselnitskaya proved to be a total non-event when Veselnitskaya came to the meeting with no compromising information about Hillary Clinton to offer, causing Donald Trump Junior after a few minutes to show her the door.

Moreover it turned out that though Donald Trump Junior had been led to believe in email correspondence that Veselnitskaya was a “a Russian government attorney” acting on behalf of “the Crown Prosecutor of Russia”, she was in reality nothing of the sort.  Indeed her exact status, and who she was working for, has not been properly clarified to this day.

Veselnitskaya herself has recently changed her story.  Originally she corroborated Donald Trump Junior’s account of the meeting and expressed bafflement that Donald Trump Junior had appeared to expect her at the meeting to come up with “dirt” about Hillary Clinton.

Now she is apparently saying that Donald Trump Junior actively solicited “dirt” about Hillary Clinton during the meeting and and hinted that the Magnitsky sanctions would be reviewed if “dirt” was provided and Donald Trump won the election.

However the emails which preceded the email say a different story.  They make it clear that it was not Donald Trump Junior who solicited “dirt” on Hillary Clinton; but that he was baited into agreeing to the meeting by that offer.  Moreover independent evidence from one other person who attended the meeting – the British producer Rod Goldstone who set it up – corroborates Donald Trump Junior’s denial that any promise to look into lifting the Magnitsky sanctions if Donald Trump won the election was made (see below).

The person who wrote the emails was in fact Rod Goldstone, and he has now come forward and admitted that the deception in the emails about Veselnitskaya’s status and the attempt to pass her off as a “Russian government attorney” acting on behalf of the Russian government was his work.

In Goldstone’s words he “puffed” up the emails in order to get the meeting to happen.  Here is the relevant extract from the interview Goldstone has just given to The London Times Magazine, which appeared this weekend

“If I’m guilty of anything, and I hate the word guilty, it’s hyping the message and going the extra mile for my clients. Using hot-button language to puff up the information I had been given. I didn’t make up the details, I just made them sound more interesting.”…..

[In] his first email to the younger Trump [Goldstone] appeared to give a very different impression. He wrote matter-of-factly: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.” Those words, he says now, were simply “puffery” from a publicist seeking to grab Trump Jr’s attention.

“What I was talking about there was that I’d been in Russia many times and I’d seen how both government figures and the public adored and supported Trump, and that included Emin and Aras. But because it’s a rushed email, I understand that the implication sounds like it’s me giving an official statement about Russian government support. But it wasn’t. And with hindsight, yes, I would have written it differently.”

Much has also been made of how Goldstone said Aras Agalarov had met Russia’s “crown prosecutor”. Given that Russia has not had a crown since the 1917 revolution, there was a widespread presumption that Goldstone was referring to Vladimir Putin’s prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika. It has since been reported that the lawyer Veselnitskaya met Chaika in Moscow in the run-up to her trip to New York, sharing with him the talking points that she delivered at Trump Tower. But Goldstone insists Veselnitskaya was the one described to him by Emin as a “well-connected prosecutor” and that in his haste, he had said “crown prosecutor” as that was a British term he used to use as a young reporter.

On the subject of Goldstone’s mistaken use of the expression “crown prosecutor” , here is what I wrote in my article of 12th July 2017

I am not going to try to guess who was the person behind the deception.  The one point I would make is that Goldstone is British and that though Russia has no official with the title “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” the title “crown prosecutor” is used in Britain as the official title of state officials roughly analogous to US District Attorneys.

This of course matches exactly what Goldstone now says.

As to where the initiative for the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalia Veselnitskaya came from, Goldstone has now also provided an explanation

It started with a call from Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star and businessman whose singing career he managed and whose father, Aras, is a Moscow property magnate. Goldstone had worked with Emin on the deal to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow in 2013 — and with it Trump, who co-owned the pageant, for a visit that is also now at the centre of US investigations. The Agalarovs staged the show at their Crocus property complex and, with other Russian entrepreneurs, laid out $20m to fund the event.

“So when people ask why some music publicist was involved in all this, well, I was always the conduit, the Mr Go-To, between the Agalarovs and the Trumps,” Goldstone says.

Although he was accustomed to unusual requests from his celebrity clients, he says he was still taken aback when Emin called him about the now infamous Trump meeting.

“I remember specifically saying to Emin, you know, we probably shouldn’t get involved in this. It’s politics, it’s Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither of us have any experience in this world. It’s not our forte. I deal with music. You’re a singer and a businessman.”

However, Emin was insistent that Goldstone contact the Trumps. “His mantra was always ‘Rob can do it’. All I had to do was facilitate a meeting, he said, after which I walk away from it and whatever comes of it, thank you very much.”

So Goldstone kicked into publicist mode, took the information supplied to him by Emin, “puffed up” the language, arranged the meeting — and thought little of it for more than a year until American journalists started to call his phone as he finished lunch at a Greek taverna in mid-July.

Putting the pieces together, it seems that Veselnitskaya, anxious to meet with someone senior in the Trump campaign, possibly in order to discuss the Magnitsky affair in which she is retained as a lawyer, and knowing of the connection between the Agalarovs and Donald Trump, approached Emin Agalarov, who agreed to arrange the meeting through Goldstone.  Goldstone duly arranged the meeting by “puffing up” Veselnitskaya’s importance in his emails.  In his own words

I should have listened to that little voice in my head but I never thought in a million years that an email I wrote in about three minutes to Don Jr would be examined by the world many times over. I just needed to get him to respond. I could have said that the Russian attorney believes she found a black hole, or believes Santa is real, it didn’t really matter. So when he replied, ‘If it’s what you say it is, I love it,’ I just thought my teaser had worked.

This scenario – the only plausible one, and the only one which can be reconciled both which Goldstone’s emails and with Goldstone’s and Donald Trump Junior’s account of what happened – excludes any involvement by the Russian government in the whole affair.

The Russian government did not offer Donald Trump Junior “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, and had no role in the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior.  The meeting therefore cannot be used as evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

he Times Magazine interview does not make it fully clear from where the offer of “dirt” about Hillary Clinton originated from: whether it came from Emin Agalarov or Veselnitskaya or was the invention of Goldstone himself.

However Goldstone says in the interview that Veselnitskaya managed to wangle the meeting with Donald Trump Junior by engaging in a ‘bait and switch’ and that after the meeting he apologised to Donald Trump Junior for wasting his time.  That strongly suggests that the offer of “dirt” about Hillary Clinton originated with Veselnitskaya, and this does seem to be by far the most likely explanation.

If so then the fact that Veselnitskaya was also retained by Fusion GPS – the company used by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign as its go-between with Christopher, the compiler of the Trump Dossier – and the fact that is now known to have had meetings with Fusion GPS both shortly before and shortly after her meeting with Donald Trump Junior, lends weight but does not prove the theory that the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior was – as I discussed in my article of 12th July 2017 – a sting.

There is even a hint of this possibility in The London Times Magazine interview itself, though it does not come from Goldstone

Murkier still, it has now been reported that Fusion GPS, the political research company for which Steele produced his report, was also the source of the negative information that Veselnitskaya wanted to give to the Trump campaign. One of Fusion’s bosses is said to have met her before and after her Trump Tower appointment.

Goldstone knows nothing of that.

As to the meeting itself, Goldstone attended it and his account fully corroborates that of Donald Trump Junior

The three men had carved time out of packed schedules to meet a delegation promising “dirt” on Clinton — a clear signal they were not surprised that the highest echelons of Russian government apparently wanted to intervene to help Trump. Across the table sat four Russians, including a high-powered female lawyer with Kremlin ties and a lobbyist who, it later emerged, was a former Soviet intelligence officer.

Goldstone, a veteran of the realm of show business but new to the world of political intrigue, was the eighth person in the room. He had not even planned to attend, but was encouraged to stay by Trump Jr. His biggest concern, he says, was that if the meeting dragged on, he would be caught in the notorious Lincoln Tunnel traffic on his journey home.

Goldstone tells me that he only half-listened to the presentation from Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer, as he checked emails on his phone. But he insists, as Trump Jr has done, that the meeting ended awkwardly after she switched tack from discussing Democratic funding to US sanctions legislation and Moscow’s retaliatory policy that restricts Americans from adopting Russian children. “It was vague, generic nonsense,” Goldstone says…..

“Within minutes of starting, Jared said to her, ‘Could you just get to the point? I’m not sure I’m following what you’re saying,’ ” Goldstone says.

It was then that she started talking in detail about the provisions of the Magnitsky legislation and adoptions, he says. “I believe that she practised a classic bait-and-switch. She got in there on one pretext and really wanted to discuss something else.”

Goldstone described Kushner as “furious” and said that Manafort did not seem to look up from checking his messages. In an interview in Moscow this month, Veselnitskaya claimed that Trump Jr offered to review the sanctions if his father won the election, and that he had asked for evidence of Russian funding for Clinton. But Goldstone says he recalls no such exchanges.

“Don Jr ended it by telling her that she should be addressing her concerns to the Obama administration, because they were the ones in power.”

As he emerged from the meeting, Goldstone says that he told Trump Jr he was “deeply embarrassed” that it had been an apparent waste of time. It never crossed his mind, he adds, that there would be any fallout about election rules or foreign influence.

As I said in my article of 12th July 2017, there is no reason to disbelieve Donald Trump Junior’s clear and straightforward account of the meeting, which is corroborated by the email chain, the fact that no further meetings between him or anyone else in the Trump campaign and Veselnitskaya subsequently took place, and by the accounts of the meeting originally given by Veselnitskaya herself before she changed her story.

Goldstone has now provided further corroboration for it.  There is no reason to disbelieve him, and there is no reason to doubt that this account and Donald Trump Junior’s account of the meeting is true.

In summary, Goldstone’s evidence shows

(1) that Veselnitskaya was not acting on behalf of the Russian government and the claim that she was is his invention;

(2) that the person who first said Veselnitskaya had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton was almost certainly Veselnitskaya herself; and

(3) that Donald Trump Junior’s account of his meeting with Veselnitskaya is true.

This wholly clears Donald Trump Junior of any suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to his meeting with Veselnitskaya.

The meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya is not evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On the contrary the fact that Donald Trump Junior, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner took part in a meeting set up under false pretences in which “dirt” about Hillary Clinton was promised but never given is evidence that no such collusion took place.

(2) Ritz Carlton orgy

Goldstone’s evidence is not limited to the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Goldstone also provides new evidence about Donald Trump’s alleged sex orgy in Moscow’s Ritz Carlton hotel which the Trump Dossier alleges took place during Donald Trump’s trip to Moscow to attend the Miss Universe competition in 2013.

Goldstone’s evidence here is not wholly conclusive.  He cannot definitely say that no such orgy took place.  However what he says does make it unlikely

[Goldstone] does recall Trump’s movements in Moscow back in 2013. He accompanied the US tycoon for many of his waking hours there. He recalls that, after a full first day, Trump headed back to the hotel after midnight following a birthday dinner for Aras Agalarov. By 8am the next morning, he was back with the entourage to film a music video with Emin, then spent the rest of the day on Miss Universe business before leaving on a friend’s private plane following the show and afterparty.

“I can’t comment about the contents of the Steele dossier, but I can tell you that there were only a few hours during a very busy schedule when Trump was back in his room at the Ritz-Carlton,” Goldstone says.

Donald Trump’s bodyguard is said to have testified to Congress that no such orgy took place, and he would presumably know.

Conceivably he is being loyal to his boss.  However the evidence against the orgy ever having happened is stacking up, whilst no evidence has been produced outside the Trump Dossier to prove it ever took place.

I don’t think the importance of this is realised.

The Trump Dossier is constructed around the premise that the Russians plotted to install Trump as President because they have leverage (‘kompromat‘) over him.

The implication in the Trump Dossier is that some of this leverage is film the Russians supposedly have of the Ritz Carlton orgy.

No evidence has come to light to support the only other alternative explanation offered to explain this leverage: illegal financial dealings between Donald Trump and Russian financial interests.

That leaves only the film of the orgy and possibly the film of another orgy the Trump Dossier speculates may have happened in St. Petersburg as the only events which could provide the leverage.

The Trump Dossier admits there is no proof the orgy in St. Petersburg.  However it asserts the Ritz Carlton orgy in Moscow as fact.

If however no such orgy took place, then the Russians cannot have film of it, and the whole theory of leverage upon which the whole Trump Dossier is based collapses.

(3) Wikileaks’ emails

I have previously written a dismissive article about the story in The Atlantic of the twitter emails Wikileaks sent to Donald Trump Junior during the 2016 election.  I stand by every word of it.

However the redoubtable blogger Caitlin Johnstone and Julian Assange himself have delved a little deeper and have struck gold.

It turns out that The Atlantic edited one of the emails Wikileaks sent to Donald Trump Junior and did so in a most misleading way.

The actual email – sent to Donald Trump Junior by Wikileaks on 21st October 2016 and recently published by Donald Trump Junior himself – reads as follows:

3. If we publish them (Donald Trump’s tax returns – AM) it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality.  This is the real kicker.   That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a “pro-Trump” “pro-Russian source”, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.

(bold italics added)

The text of this email as published by The Atlantic was edited to remove the highlighted words.  It therefore reads as follows

3. If we publish them (Donald Trump’s tax returns – AM) it will dramatically improve the perception of our impartiality.  This is the real kicker.   That means that the vast amount of stuff that we are publishing about Clinton will have much higher impact, because it won’t be perceived as coming from a “pro-Trump” “pro-Russian source”.

The comma after the words “pro-Russian source” is replaced by a full-stop and all the words after the comma are deleted, with no indication given that the other words were there.

The discrepancy was noticed after the text of the actual email as published by Donald Trump Junior was compared with the text of the email as The Atlantic published it.

A complaint by Wikileaks that it is being slandered by being called a “pro-Russian source” is a denial by Wikileaks that it is a “pro-Russian source”.  As Caitlin Johnstone and Julian Assange rightly say, The Atlantic edited the email to make it seem that Wikileaks was admitting the opposite.

Caitlin Johnstone says this is unethical, and I agree.

In my opinion it goes a little further than this.

The collusion allegations that are at the centre of the Russiagate scandal are that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to publish the stolen DNC/Podesta emails via Wikileaks.

Here however is an email from Wikileaks to Donald Trump Junior – one of the supposed co-conspirators – written just two weeks before the election in which it specifically denies that it is a “pro-Russian source”.

How is that consistent with the Russians, Wikileaks and the Trump campaign working together to publish the DNC and Podesta emails?

Surely if the Russiagate collusion allegations were true Donald Trump Junior and/or other people in the Trump campaign would know that Wikileaks was in fact a “pro-Russian source” being used by Russian intelligence to publish the emails and that what the email was saying was untrue?  If Wikileaks really was part of such a conspiracy it would know that Donald Trump Junior and/or other people in the Trump campaign would know that what the email said was untrue?  Why in that case send such an email at all?

It is a small point. As Caitlin Johnstone says, at the time the email was sent Julian Assange had no internet access, so the email could not have been sent by him but must have been sent by someone else who perhaps was not fully informed about all that had been going on.

However my original point about the emails Wikileaks sent to Donald Trump Junior is that they are if anything evidence against collusion between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and the Russians.  Here in the actual text of one of the emails is further confirmation of this.

Summary

A point I have made repeatedly in my various discussions of the Russiagate affair is that each and every ‘revelation’ which appears about it on close examination turns out to be no such thing.  On the contrary more often than not it provides evidence of no collusion having taken place.

The Veselnitskaya-Donald Trump Junior meeting and the emails sent by Wikileaks to Donald Trump Junior are cases in point.

Following Goldstone’s revelations and Caitlin Johnstone’s research it is impossible to take the claims made about them by the Russiagate theorists seriously.  On the contrary what they do is provide further evidence that no collusion took place.

On the Veselnitskaya-Donald Trump Junior meeting I think it is possible to go a little further.

Though Goldstone’s evidence does not prove that the meeting was a sting, if the claim to possess “dirt” about Hillary Clinton did originally come from Veselnitskaya as is likely then her meetings immediately before and after the meeting with Fusion-GPS require explanation.

In my article of 12th July 2017 I speculated that the meeting might have been an attempt to provide independent corroboration of the claims which subsequently found their way into the first entry of the Trump Dossier, that the Russians were looking for ways to help the Trump campaign by providing it with damaging information about Hillary Clinton that they had in a secret file they have on her.

Nothing which has appeared since refutes that speculation, which however does not mean it is true.

The fact Veselnitskaya met with Fusion-GPS shortly before and after her meeting with Donald Trump Junior does however lend a certain amount of weight to that speculation.  The second meeting in particular does have something of the look of Veselnitskaya reporting about her meeting with Donald Trump Junior to her client, Fusion-GPS.

Unlike the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory I refuse to pile speculation upon speculation.  Veselnitskaya’s meetings with Fusion-GPS may have completely innocent explanations and may be wholly unconnected to the Russiagate affair.  All I am saying is that Veselnitskaya and Fusion-GPS should be asked questions about them.

Putting that aside, the revelations which appeared last week provide further confirmation of what ought to have been obvious months ago: no conspiracy between the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and the Russians took place.

Attempts to find evidence of such a conspiracy in the sporadic contacts these three very large groups of people had with each other during the 2016 election campaign are going nowhere.  On the contrary what these contacts actually show is that no conspiracy took place.

This is now so obvious that it begs the question of why the Russiagate investigation is continuing at all?

As to that I provided what I increasingly suspect is the true explanation in my article of 17th November 2017

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

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‘End of free speech’: Maffick CEO, host slam Facebook’s unprovoked ‘censorship’ after CNN report

This is because of the political content that challenges the US wars. It is absolutely an act of censorship.

RT

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Via RT…


Facebook blocking several pages operated by Maffick Media is nothing short of outright censorship, the company’s CEO Anissa Naouai said, after a US-funded think tank pointed them out to CNN for a ‘hit-piece’.

The actions of the social media giant, which suspended the accounts of In the Now, Soapbox, Back Then and Waste-Ed last Friday without providing any explanation or even contacting the company that ran the pages, is nothing but a simple attempt to get rid of dissenting voices critical of Washington’s policies, Naouai told RT.

It is blatant censorship. What else can you call it?

Unexplained ban

The ban came literally out of the blue even though Maffick did not violate any existing Facebook regulations. “There is no rule that you have to post anything about your funding or personal funding. No one does it, not any of the US-sponsored outlets,” Naouai said. However, that was apparently the stated reason for the blocking as a Facebook spokesperson said the social media giant wanted the pages to become more transparent by disclosing their funding and “Russian affiliations.”

Facebook never contacted Maffick Media directly, though. In fact, it did not even answer the company’s emails and stayed conspicuously silent about the ways that would allow the accounts to be reinstated. “We have not heard a word from Facebook and it has been over three days now,” Naouai said.

The whole situation makes one think that the suspension is in fact connected to the pages’ popularity as well as their critical stance towards US policies, the Maffick CEO said. “We have hosts that talk about things that are not allowed to talk about on other networks like CNN,” she explained.

“If a video that says that gets hundreds of thousands of views on a page that has millions of views, people [in Washington] start to notice that and they get upset. I believe that is why we were targeted: because of our success and because of, as CNN said, high quality of our videos,” Naouai added.

The Maffick CEO also assumed that a recent piece on the US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela might have become a trigger for this drastic measure taken by Facebook. “There is a very … divisive and obnoxious policy taking place right now against Venezuela,” she said, “we do not know if this was the segment that triggered [the suspension] but the timing is convenient.”

“When someone calls out what is happening in Venezuela as a blatant coup it ruffles the feathers of think tanks that spent millions if not billions of dollars to persuade [the audience otherwise] and lobby their interests.”

‘Interrogation’ by CNN

Some details of this whole case may indeed seem odd. Just about an hour after the pages were blocked, CNN published a report on the issue as if they broke the news. “CNN knew that we were going to be blocked before we did,” Naouai said, explaining that, when she found out her company’s pages were suspended, CNN had already published its piece.

Weeks before the blocking, CNN sought to interview some freelancers working with Maffick in an apparent attempt to “dig up some dirt,” Rania Khalek, the American host of Soapbox – one of the video shows Maffick ran on Facebook – recalled.

When the company’s leadership “got wind of it” and offered CNN an interview, it all ended up with a 45-minute “interrogation” loaded with “unethical” questions that “almost any other media organization would even think to answer.”

It felt like a police interrogation: very invasive questions about Maffick and our editorial policies. It was clear that they were doing a hit-piece.

“A CNN journalist repeatedly asked me about my political viewpoints. He was in complete disbelief that I have editorial control over my scripts. He could not understand how it was possible,” Khalek, who was one of those, who gave the interview to CNN, said.

Maffick Media assumed that CNN might in fact pressure Facebook into blocking the accounts. “It is a very competitive market existing in a very political atmosphere that is toxic right now in the US,” Naouai said.

Loophole for state censorship?

CNN itself admits in its piece that it did not just stumble upon the Facebook pages in question independently. Instead, this issue was brought to its attention by the Alliance for Securing Democracy – a part of the German Marshall Fund. This fund is a think tank, which is financed by the US and German governments and has such people as Michael Morell, the former CIA deputy head, and Jacob Sullivan, former Vice President Joe Biden’s top security aide, on its advisory board.

Now, CNN, which stepped on a slippery slope by scrutinizing other media outlets’ funding, had to go to some extraordinary lengths to persuade its audience that the Alliance for Securing Democracy “does not receive any funding” from the German Marshall Fund, while still being a part of it at the same time. However, all these facts just added a new layer to the story.

“You have this US-funded think tank prompting CNN to pressure Facebook to ban our pages. That is an act of censorship,”Khalek said. She thinks the whole scheme was used to circumvent the First Amendment banning the US authorities from directly censoring free speech. “So, they use a middleman to pressure private companies to censor us,” she added, calling it a “legal loophole.”

‘Beginning of an end’

Regardless of who is really behind the ploy, Facebook banning some media pages without any explanation sets a tremendously dangerous precedent, Maffick Media believes. “We had a verified page, which had billions of views, just disappear from online without any kind of comment, any kind of requirement, without breaking any rules. That is unprecedented,” Naouai said.

You have Facebook dictating what people can and cannot see and judging what is good content and bad content. And it is all based on the accusations and criticism coming from a government-funded outlet. If Facebook does it to us, it can do it to anyone,” Khalek warned.

This is because of the political content that challenges the US wars. It is absolutely an act of censorship.

The US establishment apparently seeks to suppress the outlets that “offer a platform to alternative voices that can speak out against US wars and the corporate control over our government in a way that you just do not hear in our corporate media,” the Soapbox host believes.

However, if the social media giant and the likes of it will just continue to randomly block media resources while having “no grounds” to do so, it could create very serious problems for society, Naouai believes.

That would be the beginning of an end of free speech.

 

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