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Susan Rice admits Trump team placed under surveillance

Susan Rice uses meeting with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to justify surveillance and ‘unmasking’ of Trump officials

Alexander Mercouris

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Publication of Hillary Clinton’s book, which I have not read but which I gather characteristically blames everyone for her election defeat but herself, and which assumes all the Russiagate allegations to be true, begs the question of what stage the Russiagate investigation has reached, and whether we are any closer to a final end to this affair.

The answer is that the investigation – predictably enough – appears to be going nowhere, and that the affair is now probably close to its end.

Firstly, there has been a dearth of new ‘revelations’ driving the scandal, which suggests that the well of such ‘revelations’ from our old friends the ‘anonymous sources’ has finally dried up.  In place of these ‘revelations’ the media has had to content itself with reports of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s activities, including details of the various people he has had interviewed or intends to have interviewed.

The fact that Mueller and his people are carrying out these interviews and are going through the evidence is in my opinion a good thing.  Whilst Comey was in charge of the Russiagate investigation it proceeded at a snail’s pace, almost certainly because Comey had a vested interest in keeping it going as long as possible.  Mueller by contrast appears to be taking his job seriously, which means that (finally!) the people who have been publicly implicated in the scandal are being interviewed, giving them at last an opportunity to state their case and to respond to the allegations which have made against them.

Apart from this the pro-Russiagate media has had only thin fare to work with.  A front page article in the New York Times dated 28th August 2017 about an individual called Felix Sater (described by the New York Times as a “Trump associate”) who bragged in emails he sent in November 2015 to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen about his high profile connections in Moscow and of his ability to get Russian project financing for a real estate deal in Moscow, is shown to be a red herring by this admission in the New York Times article itself

There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Cohen did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.

The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later.

As the independent journalist Robert Parry rightly says, the episode does not show that Trump has links to Moscow.  On the contrary if anything it proves that he has none.

In the meantime there are indications that even of the most fervid supporters of the Russiagate theory have been rattled by the forensic analysis questioning the evidence of a Russian hack of the DNC provided by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  Supposedly the analysis has now been shown to Attorney General Sessions and to Mueller himself, though Sessions has no role in the Russiagate investigation since he recused himself from it.

The fact that the analysis is causing concern is shown by the fact that there have apparently been – most unusually in the Russiagate affair – attempts to refute the analysis in the mainstream media, which is contrary to the media’s usual practice of simply ignoring evidence which calls into question the allegations made over the course of the Russiagate scandal.

Meanwhile, whilst there has been a dearth of revelations driving the scandal, there has now been an important admission from Susan Rice – Obama’s National Security Adviser – that some people close to Donald Trump were indeed placed under surveillance during the transition period, and that she did indeed demand that the identities of these people be circulated within the US government’s bureaucracy (“unmasked”).

This was previously widely denied, including implicitly by Susan Rice herself, for example in this interview

Woodruff: We’ve been following a disclosure by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, that in essence, during the final days of the Obama administration, during the transition, after President Trump had been elected, that he and the people around him may have been caught up in surveillance of foreign individuals in that their identities may have been disclosed. Do you know anything about this?

Rice: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.

(bold italics added)

Here by contrast is what CNN reports actually happened

Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.

The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.

The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.

The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

Rice, who served as then-President Obama’s national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.

CNN claims that members of the House Intelligence Committee were satisfied with Susan Rice’s explanations.  By contrast I find them nothing short of bizarre.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan is as it happens the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, not of the United Arab Emirates, which is a confederation of Gulf Arab states which includes Abu Dhabi as well as Dubai, and which therefore does not have a “Crown Prince”.

At this point it is worth saying that Abu Dhabi is one of the US’s strongest and most trusted allies in the region.  The fact that Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan failed to inform the Obama administration of his visit to Washington to meet with officials of the incoming Trump administration in the run up to the inauguration scarcely seems a reason to place him under surveillance.  At worst it was a mere act of discourtesy.  Certainly, since there appears to have been nothing secret about his visit, it was hardly a reason to place him under surveillance when all he appears to have been intent on doing was meeting with senior incoming officials of the US government.

CNN reports “a senior Middle East official” saying

The meeting was about ascertaining the Trump team’s view of the region and sharing the UAE’s view of the region and what the US role should be.  No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything.

This is a perfectly valid and sufficient reason for the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to want to meet with the officials of an incoming US administration.  Note that according to this unnamed “senior Middle East official” relations with Russia were not the subject of the discussion.  Other sources who have spoken to CNN confirm this

It’s unclear precisely which Trump officials Rice discussed at the House meeting. But multiple sources have confirmed to CNN that Zayed met at the time with Flynn, Kushner and Bannon. The three-hour discussion focused on a range of issues, including Iran, Yemen and the Mideast peace process, according to two sources who insisted that opening up a back-channel with Russia was not a topic of discussion.

CNN – presumably on the strength of claims by Susan Rice or possibly from sources within the House Intelligence Committee – tries to get round this by linking the meeting between Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the incoming officials of the Trump administration in December with a meeting which happened shortly after in January in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater, and an unnamed Russian official.

The Seychelles meeting — and the circumstances around it — has been a subject of interest to Hill investigators looking at any potential link between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Washington Post initially reported in April that the UAE brokered a pre-inauguration meeting between the founder of the security firm Blackwater, Erik Prince, who is a close Trump ally, and an associate of Vladimir Putin’s in the Seychelles Islands. The purpose of the meeting was part of an effort by the UAE to persuade Russia to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, according to the Post.

And it occured shortly after Bannon, Flynn and Kushner also met in Trump Tower with Zayed, whom the Post said helped arrange the Seychelles meeting with Russia government officials to set up the private discussions with the Trump team.

However all this is expressly denied by the White House – which says that Erik Prince was in no sense a representative of the incoming Trump administration – as well as by the unnamed “senior Middle East official”, and by Erik Prince himself

But the senior Middle East official told CNN this week that Prince’s name was not discussed at the Trump Tower meeting. And Prince himself has said he did nothing wrong, telling CNN’s Erin Burnett last month: “I was there for business.”

Both the White House and Prince have strongly denied that Prince was working as a liaison for the Trump administration.

Prince said he met with a Russian while at the Seychelles but “I don’t remember his name.”

“It probably lasted about, as long as one beer,” he said about the meeting.

In truth Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan scarcely seems a likely person to want to set up a covert ‘backchannel’ between the incoming Trump administration and Russia, or someone likely to be used for such a purpose either by Donald Trump or his associates or by the Russians, and it is scarcely credible that either the Obama administration or the US intelligence community ever thought he was.

Given that this is so, and given that he is a close friend and ally of the US who had come to Washington for no other purpose than to meet with incoming officials of the US government, it is difficult to see what reason there was to put him or the people he was meeting under surveillance.

Frankly the meeting between Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and the officials of the incoming Trump administration in December, as well as the meeting between Erik Prince and the unnamed Russian in the Seychelles in January, look to me to have been introduced into the Russiagate story in order to excuse the fact that incoming officials of the Trump administration were indeed placed under surveillance and – at Susan Rice’s urging – had their identities “unmasked” despite the fact that they had done nothing wrong and when there was no good reason to do it.

I have previously written that the true scandal of 2016 is that US citizens who have committed no wrong were placed under surveillance during the election and after, without proper cause.  Susan Rice’s admission seems to me a further big step towards confirming this.

In addition to the Susan Rice admissions certain other allegations have been circulating in alternative media which if true are even more explosive.

These claim that the FBI was the ultimate client of Christopher Steele, and paid him in excess of $100,000 for the Trump Dossier, and that this happened after Steele was introduced to the FBI by Senator McCain, for whom Steele supposedly produced the earliest entries of the Trump Dossier.

Supposedly there are now recriminations within the FBI about this, as the bogus nature of the Trump Dossier has become increasingly clear.

These allegations would be explosive if they were true, and they are not intrinsically implausible.  After all intelligence and police agencies regularly pay foreign informers for information, which is essentially all that is being alleged in this case.  The scandal would not be that this is what happened.  Rather it would be that the FBI was so easily gulled that it paid so much money for such an obviously false concoction as the Trump Dossier, and that it failed after the existence of the Trump Dossier became known either to admit to this or to admit its own role in producing it.

However I have to say that I do not trust these claims because I do not trust the sources that report them, and until some more reliable confirmation of these claims appears I will disregard them.

Overall it is difficult to avoid the impression that the Russiagate investigation is drawing to a close without any result to report.  Perhaps this explains the sudden shift towards attacking Russian media outlets like RT, which has suddenly and outrageously been called upon to register itself as a foreign agent.

It is a consistent pattern of the Russiagate scandal that whenever evidence to support its central allegations fails to appear its advocates turn on RT as the most readily available scapegoat.  The point was well made recently by Peter Lavelle

If Robert Mueller’s inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is now focusing on RT and Sputnik, then the only conclusion to draw is he has found nothing. Blaming RT and Sputnik is cost free for him and the Swamp. Another travesty of justice and a mortal blow against free speech.

Robert Mueller, whatever else he is, is an experienced investigator.  He has now been heading the Russiagate investigation for several months, during which – as media reports confirm – his team of investigators have been extremely active.

It is difficult to believe that by now he does not realise that the central allegation of the Russiagate scandal – that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to publish the emails which were stolen from John Podesta and the DNC – is untrue and unfounded.  If he ever had any doubts about this then the clear and comprehensive statement provided by Jared Kushner showing the very limited extent of the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russians ought to have put such doubts to rest.

Mueller’s duty as an investigator requires him to see his investigation through to the end, and to go through each and every allegation which has been made over the course of the affair.  Leaving loose ends hanging around will simply provide an excuse for advocates of the scandal to go on making the claims they have been making, when the whole point of an investigation like this is to achieve closure.  No doubt that is how Mueller sees it, and for that reason he will see this thing through to its end.

However it is wrong to say that there is a mountain of evidence and testimony for Mueller and his team of investigators to go through.  On the contrary the number of individuals involved in the Russiagate affair is actually quite small.  By now Mueller’s investigators must have spoken to most of them, and must have picked through most of the files.

Earlier in the spring before Mueller was appointed Special Counsel I said that I expected the Russiagate scandal to collapse under its own weight by early summer.  Mueller’s appointment, and the snail’s pace at which the investigation was proceeding when Comey was in charge of it, means that it is taking longer than this.  However I now expect Mueller’s investigation to be completed and him to report before the end of the year.

At that point, though the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy will doubtless go on believing in it, the worst period of the scandal will finally come to an end.

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Lindsey Cotler
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Lindsey Cotler

Muller is trying to break Flynn and Manafort. Can’t wait to hear Flynn’s story because as he said, he “certainly has a story to tell, and would like to tell it.” Oh, and check out VIPS on wikipedia, the group is the real deal, but their forensic analysis is crap. Our own intelligence services are sure that Russia was behind the hack. But thanks for siding with Russian intelligence over our own because it serves your partisan purpose, just like a real patriot.

niveb
Guest
niveb

“Our own intelligence services are sure that Russia was behind the hack. ” How do you know? They certainly haven’t said so publicly. On the contrary, apart from the conclusions of the “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies-which is worth nothing and adduces nothing in the way of evidence- there has been an embarrassed silence from intelligence professionals who are inclined to draw the line at sacrificing integrity and credibility for nothing more substantial than to maintain the neo-liberals’ grip on the internal machinery of the crumbling Democratic Party. Working for warmongers is had enough, working for the DNC and Donna… Read more »

TravelAbout
Guest
TravelAbout

“working for the DNC and Donna Brazile is an humiliation” and even deadly as in the case of Seth Rich.

Lindsey Cotler
Guest
Lindsey Cotler

I take it you didn’t watch any of the testimony. I wouldn’t ether if I were in your shoes. It’s too painful to watch your whole tin foil world get ripped apart. You’re gonna love the impeachment!

Terry Ross
Guest
Terry Ross

What I remember of Clapper was that he lied under oath to Congress, even after being given 12 months in advance to find out the CORRECT situation and reply back to congress. He came back with a lie. A huge one.
Lock Him Up? Lawmakers Renew Calls for James Clapper Perjury Charges

The video of his testimony is shown below and the outrageous lie can be found starting at 6:10.
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Clapper+Senate+Testimony%2C+Mar.+12%2C+2013&t=ffab&ia=videos&iax=1&iai=QwiUVUJmGjs

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

Clapper is a liar. So is this ugly Cotler mofo.

Lindsey Cotler
Guest
Lindsey Cotler

This from someone who hides behind a giant “D.” So, today Manafort’s emails showed that he offered a briefing to a Putin ally, i.e. he offered collusion. This isn’t the last shoe to drop. Too bad you guys won’t be around when he is convicted.

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

The only shoes dropping are the ones being thrown at you.

Voltaire
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Voltaire

There is an appalling and embarrassing absence of firm evidence against the Russians…

Do you really think you could prosecute anyone on the basis of what “anonymous officials” state?

OR HAS THE UNITED STATES JUST BECOME ANOTHER BANANA REPUBLIC…

TravelAbout
Guest
TravelAbout

“OR HAS THE UNITED STATES JUST BECOME ANOTHER BANANA REPUBLIC”, that was a rhetorical question I’m assuming?

Lindsey Cotler
Guest
Lindsey Cotler

We have no idea what Muller can prove. But we will find out. See you in court!

Voltaire
Guest
Voltaire

In case you did not know a person is innocent until proved guilty under US and UK law…

So STFU until someone is proved guilty…

Lindsey Cotler
Guest
Lindsey Cotler

Kindly give Susan Rice that same respect.

Terry Ross
Guest
Terry Ross

She has already incriminated herself as well as been caught lying to the House Intelligence Committee.

Lindsey Cotler
Guest
Lindsey Cotler

Has that been proven in a court of law? No? Then STFU!

Terry Ross
Guest
Terry Ross

I don’t think you understand. You do not need to PROVE a self-admission. Are you saying she led about that as well?

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

Rice is an unindicted felon.

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

The only thing Mueller could prove is that HE, Mueller, was front man for the Silverstine/Cheney demolition of the WTC.

Seán Murphy
Guest
Seán Murphy

Bs!

Terry Ross
Guest
Terry Ross

His profile links to The Hill. What can you expect?

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
Guest
VeeNarian (Yerevan)

“Our own intelligence services are sure that Russia was behind the hack.”
Really? Can you find out exactly when did any US “intelligence” agency, as opposed to US bought, corrupt and stupid agencies, examine the DNC server to find the EVIDENCE for this hack?
If they did not themselves examine the DNC server then their accusations are based on second hand allegations, not EVIDENCE gathered by the legal authorities. Do you understand the difference between the POLICE and private investigators in criminal cases?

Lindsey Cotler
Guest
Lindsey Cotler

You’re right, all we know are roomers and leaked info. And even the leaked info indicates there are no smoking guns (so far.) So we can argue in the dark all day long, but there is an investigation run by a real FBI guy that will get to the truth and then have to prove it in a court of law. And he won’t need a smoking gun if he’s got a rat or two. Do you really think Trump’s people had all those meetings with Russians (that they later “forgot” to mention on their security forms) and didn’t talk… Read more »

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
Guest
VeeNarian (Yerevan)

Remind me, when did meeting Russians become a crime in the US? The US is descending into the worse kind of anti-Russian RACIST hysteria. This hysteria has gone on for over a year and no EVIDENCE has actually been presented. It is just disgusting gossip and hearsay. Let’s see Mueller comes up with. So, what EXACTLY has the FBI, NSA, and the rest of the 17 US intelligence agencies been doing this past year? Farting with their secretaries, male, female or neither? Based on this anti-Russian RACIST hysteria, the US has accused nuclear-armed Russia of interference that has been called… Read more »

mike2000917
Guest
mike2000917

How disappointed you will be when Trump celebrates New Year’s eve in the White House on December 31,2020. But persist in your fantasies if you wish. Everyone must have a hobby!

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

How is the weather in Tal Habib?

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

yeranidiot

mike2000917
Guest
mike2000917

Russian conspiracy theory believer are the equivalent of the birthers of 2008. Devoid of rational thought and facts yet stubbornly persistent in their beliefs.

seby
Guest
seby

russiagate has to be the most pathetic attempt at a drum beat for war in the history of humanity.

Voltaire
Guest
Voltaire

And the Constitution of the United States has been torn into shreds in the process of destroying the rights of thousands of people falsely attacked…

This is worse that McCarthyism…

seby
Guest
seby

See Scott Noble’s documentary on YT or at Metanoia films, PLUTOCRACY. The United States has never been a constitutional republic, let alone a democracy. These attacks on ordinary, working people have been going on from the beginning. FFS, if you didn’t have property, you didn’t get a vote until the 1850’s! In the late 1800’s, working Americans fought back and the same terms and language as today was used. WW1 killed that movement, no doubt part of the plutocracy’s reasoning to get involved. Watch out, the tRump and the repubelicans are chumming up now, always a sign when repubes and… Read more »

Mike Surack
Guest
Mike Surack

McCarthy was a goddamn hero

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

The murder of Archie Duke was not that much better as an excuse to murder millions in WW1.

samo war
Guest
samo war
ke0vin
Guest
ke0vin

Misleading headline… Still incidental collection and not “they’re under surveillance”… It is a valid difference.

Herbert Dorsey
Guest
Herbert Dorsey

All this optimism about the Russia Gate non event hinges on Muller’s integrity. But, Muller was FBI head after 9/11, a time when the FBI was busy covering up evidence that 9/11 was an inside job.

Hamletquest
Guest
Hamletquest

All the Russia Gate nonsense indicates that the US is now a failed state. It has worked to enable other weaker countries to fail and now those chickens (of lies, faked stories and false flags) have come home to roost.

Clearly the instigators of these, the CIA, NSA, FBI have nothing left up their sleeves and the whole façade is crumbling.

Jonathan Jarvis
Guest
Jonathan Jarvis

considering almost all Russan athletes have been cleared of doping, yet calls are still made to ban Russia from future events: it will be the same regarding Russiagate-it will still be extant, as for example, Germans actively trying to find evidence in their current election activities, the new EU anti Russia website states Macron’s “facts” about RT and sputniknews international , yet Head of French Intelligence said there was no evidence of Russian hacking……so EU is believing its own “ministry of truth” so called>>>>>>>>> crazeeee.

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

The CIA/USSD just spent 150 million USD to influence the Moscow City election.

L Garou
Guest
L Garou

Susan and Valerie sitting in a tree, S-P-Y-I-N-G..
(and baby Barry makes three)

Defiant
Guest
Defiant

How are the American people to react to the more and more BLATANT fact that BIG Democrats don’t have to follow the same laws (or, ANY laws, it seems) as the rest of us?

Franz Kafka
Guest
Franz Kafka

Oswald killed Kennedy. Osama Bin Laden bombed the Silverstein Center. Russia won the 2016 US Election. These things are now in the shitty fabric that makes up what passes for an American ‘mind’.

Latest

Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Europe Has A New Problem: Macron’s “Populism” To Blow Out French Budget Deficit Far Beyond Italy’s

Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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

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

RT

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Via RT…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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