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Skripal case: Russia counter-attacks; Britain responds by tightening access to Yulia Skripal

Britain struggles to respond to Russia’s diplomatic counter-offensive, stonewalls all Russian attempts to gain access to Yulia Skripal

Alexander Mercouris

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If during the first three weeks of the Skripal crisis it was the British who made the running, over the last two weeks the initiative has slowly shifted to the Russians.

As is often the way, the Russians – caught by surprise by a crisis that seemed to come out of nowhere – initially responded reactively.

However as the weeks have passed they have gradually found their footing, and are now starting to score points.

By contrast it is the British – who apparently assumed that following the diplomatic expulsions the crisis would subside – who now look increasingly on the blackfoot as, contrary to their expectations, the Russians refuse to let the matter rest.

The result has been bitter recriminations in the British media – with much of the blame being placed on Boris Johnson – a flood of not always very consistent or convincing leaks to the media trying to bolster the British case, and ever more shrill denunciations of the supposedly ‘useful idiots’ who express doubts about it.

With hindsight the Russians took one step in the early days of the crisis which has paid handsome dividends.

This was their insistence – made as early as the UN Security Council session of 14th March 2018 – that Britain follow the procedures of the Chemical Weapons Convention and obtain confirmation from the OPCW of the nature of the poison used in the attack.

The Russians followed this up by convening a meeting of the OPCW’s executive committee on 4th April 2018 at which they presented a resolution which jointly sponsored by Russia, China and Iran for an international investigation of the incident, with law enforcement agencies from Britain and Russia both involved in the investigation.

This is by no means an absurd or outlandish proposal.  On the contrary since Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen it is precisely what should have happened.

However – as the Russians of course know – the OPCW has no jurisdiction to impose an international investigation of a crime which has happened in a sovereign state.  That is a matter solely within the jurisdiction of that state, and the OPCW – which is not an investigative body –  has no authority to order it.  The only international institution which does is the UN Security Council.

There was no possibility therefore of the Russian-Chinese-Iranian proposal being adopted, or of  being put into effect if it was adopted, and the Russians – and the Chinese and the Iranians – must have known this when they proposed it.

However the Russian insistence that the OPCW become involved and verify the British claim that the poison used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was a Novichok, together with the Russians’ call for an international investigation of the incident, and the lists of questions with which in advance of the OPCW executive council session the Russians bombarded the OPCW, the British, and the French – whose experts the British consulted to verify the identity of the poison – set the scene for the admission by Gary Aitkenhead, Porton Down’s chief executive, that contrary to British Foreign Office claims Porton Down has not been able to confirm that the chemical which poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal was made in Russia.

Ever since then, because British diplomats – not just Boris Johnson – have for weeks been lying about this, the British have been on the defensive.

As it happens the OPCW executive council session, like the UN Security Council session which Russia called shortly after, also demonstrated another important fact.

This is that the Skripal crisis is an East-West confrontation  – the West versus the Eurasian powers led by Russia and China – and not a confrontation between a ‘united world community’ and an ‘isolated Russia’, as British and other Western commentators like to claim.

It seems that all the sixteen states who at the OPCW executive council session voted against the Russian-Chinese-Iranian proposal for an international investigation of the incident are members of the Western alliance, whilst the six countries which voted for the proposal are all Eurasian states.  Importantly all seventeen of the states which chose to abstain in the voting appear to have been non-aligned states.

The pattern repeated itself at the subsequent UN Security Council meeting on the following day, 5th April 2018.

Not only were Western ambassadors the only ambassadors pointing fingers at Russia during the meeting, but those non-aligned non-Western ambassadors who chose to speak during the meeting not only did not point fingers at Russia but appeared if anything to favour the Russian position: that the mysteries of the Skripal case be solved internationally by way of cooperation between Britain and Russia.

The comments of the ambassador of Equatorial Guinea – no ally of Russia – as summarised by the United Nations Press Office, may serve as a typical example

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed hope that current investigations would both shed light on the facts and be fair and commensurate with relevant international norms and procedures.  He reiterated a desire that, as permanent members of the Council, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom would set an example to the international community on the peaceful resolution of disputes.  At a pivotal moment when international institutions were under constant attack, it was important the two members used their maturity and international political experience to handle the situation prudently, he said, hoping the diplomatic crisis that had broken out would soon be defused.

If Gary Aitkenhead’s admission that Porton Down cannot confirm that the chemical agent used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was Russian made has been a public relations disaster for the British, the British authorities’ treatment of Sergey and Yulia Skripal looks increasingly like a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

The British authorities have maintained the tightest possible security around Sergey and Yulia Skripal. No photographs of them have been released and nor has any information been provided about the sort of treatment they are receiving.  So far as is known they have been seen by no visitors.  Access to them is tightly controlled.

The recent High Court Judgment permitting blood samples to be taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal so that they could be passed on to the OPCW revealed that the British authorities had previously taken blood samples from Sergey and Yulia Skripal, which were passed on to Porton Down.

(2) …….on 14 and 16 March 2018 the UK government issued a formal invitation to the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a team of experts to the United Kingdom ‘to assist in the technical evaluation of unscheduled chemicals in accordance with Article VIII 38(e).’ This in effect is to independently verify the analysis carried out by Porton Down. In order to conduct their enquiries the OPCW wish to

i)  Collect fresh blood samples from Mr and Ms Skripal to

a)  Undertake their own analysis in relation to evidence of nerve agents,

b)  conduct DNA analysis to confirm the samples originally tested by Porton Down are from Mr and Ms Skripal,

ii)  Analyse the medical records of Mr and Ms Skripal setting out their treatment since 4 March 2018,

iii)  Re-test the samples already analysed by Porton Down.

(3) Because Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal are unconscious and neither are in a position to consent to the taking of further blood samples for these purposes or to the disclosure of their medical records Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust have quite properly confirmed to the UK Government that a court order would be required to authorise (a) and (b) above.

(bold italics added)

There is no hint here of any previous permission being obtained from the High Court to take these blood samples.  This is so, even though Mr. Justice Williams clearly says in his Judgment that such permission should be obtained

(3) Because Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal are unconscious and neither are in a position to consent to the taking of further blood samples for these purposes or to the disclosure of their medical records Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust have quite properly confirmed to the UK Government that a court order would be required to authorise (a) and (b) above

(4) Thus the Secretary of State has applied to this court for personal welfare orders in respect of Mr and Ms Skripal under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 seeking determinations that it is lawful for the NHS Trust to take a blood sample for provision to the OPCW and to disclose the relevant medical records to the OPCW and for the blood samples taken from Mr and Ms Skripal to be subjected to testing by the OPCW.

(bold italics added)

Was permission obtained from the High Court before the blood samples sent to Porton Down were taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal?

If not, then was the taking of the earlier blood samples unlawful, perhaps an assault, which is a criminal offence?

If permission was obtained why has the High Court’s Judgment granting this permission not been made public?  What made it different from the Judgment of Mr. Justice Williams, which was made public?

Or could it be that no permission was needed because at the time when the blood samples were taken Sergey and Yulia Skripal were conscious and could therefore give their consent to have the samples taken?

Or might it be that it was judged at the time that the taking of the blood samples did not require the High Court’s permission because it was a necessary part of the medical treatment with which Sergey and Yulia Skripal were being provided?  If so why is nothing said about this in Mr. Justice Williams’s Judgment?

Speaking as someone who has read many court Judgments, I strongly suspect that no previous permission was obtained from the High Court when the previous blood samples were taken.  Had it been I would have expected Mr. Justice Williams in his very careful Judgment to mention it.

One way or the other I would be interested to have an explanation about this.

Publication of the High Court Judgment was followed shortly after by the sudden and unexpected announcement that Yulia Skripal was recovering well and had regained consciousness.

That the two events – the publication of the Judgment and the announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – might be linked, I have suggested previously

Now that the Russian consular authorities know of the Court proceedings concerning Yulia Skripal which have been underway it would in theory be open to them to instruct lawyers to apply for them to be joined as a party to those proceedings so that they can represent Yulia Skripal in them.

I have no idea whether they are considering doing so, but I do frankly wonder whether the sudden announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – welcome news that it is – might also in part have been intended to forestall such a step by the Russian consular authorities on the grounds that Yulia Skripal is now in a position to make her own decisions.

Predictably enough, the announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery led to renewed Russian demands for consular access to her.  The British have however failed to grant such access without saying clearly why.

Meanwhile photographs of Yulia Skripal have still not appeared.  There is still no information about the treatment she is receiving.  She still appears to have seen no visitors.  There is no public word of any law firm representing her though the need for her to be provided with legal assistance – and to be allowed to consult with lawyers – is obvious.

Her cousin Viktoria Skripal has had only one telephone conversation with her that we know of, which she recorded.

As I have discussed previously, the impression provided by the transcript of the conversation is of Yulia Skripal being someone who feels very constrained in what she is either able or willing to say.

She does however know in advance that Viktoria Skripal’s request for a visa to come to Britain to see her is going to be refused (some British media outlets apparently deleted these words when they published the transcript).

That Viktoria Skripal’s request for a visa to come to Britain has been refused has now been confirmed by the BBC

Meanwhile, the UK has refused to grant a visa to Yulia’s cousin, Viktoria Skripal, the BBC has learned.

The Home Office said the application did not comply with immigration rules. A government source told the BBC it appears Russia is “trying to use Viktoria as a pawn”…..

Viktoria later told the BBC she did not have enough money in her bank account to satisfy the visa requirements.

The Guardian has provided further details of what “the government source” said about Viktoria Skripal

“It appears the Russian state is trying to use Victoria as a pawn,” a government source told the BBC, adding: “If she is being influenced or coerced by the Kremlin, she has become another victim.”

(bold italics added)

It looks as if the claim that Viktoria Skripal has insufficient money in her bank account to be granted a visa is just a pretext.

Just as her cousin Yulia Skripal told her, the British authorities have no intention of granting her a visa, not because she has insufficient money in her bank account but because they consider her to be “a pawn of the Russian government” (whatever that means).

Why that should prevent her from seeing her cousin, who is seriously ill, is left unexplained.

Incidentally I wonder whether the fact that the British authorities consider Viktoria Skripal to be “a pawn of the Russian government” also explains why she has been denied any role in the legal proceedings which affect her cousin, to the point where the British authorities appear to have failed even to inform Mr. Justice Williams of her existence?

All in all it appears that the British authorities are determined to prevent anyone from Russia – even members of Yulia Skripal’s family – from having contact with her.

That presumably accounts for the strange statement published in Yulia Skripal’s name by the British authorities in what looks like a rushed reaction to Viktoria Skripal’s publication of the transcript of her conversation with Yulia Skripal.

This statement – written in perfect idiomatic British English – appears to be intended to justify blocking access to her – either by the Russian authorities or by members of her family or by anyone such as a lawyer who might be acting on their behalf.

One effect of publication of the transcript of Yulia Skripal’s conversation with Viktoria Skripal has been that it has forced the British authorities to confirm that what Yulia Skripal told Viktoria Skripal during their conversation – that Sergey Skripal is not only alive but is also recovering – is true.

Directly after publication of the transcript I wrote that its contents appeared to suggest this, and now the British authorities themselves have been forced to confirm it.

In other words, just as publication of Mr. Justice Williams’s Judgment seems to have forced the British authorities to admit that Yulia Skripal is recovering and conscious, so Viktoria Skripal’s publication of the transcript of her telephone conversation with Yulia Skripal seems to have forced the British authorities to admit that Sergey Skripal is alive and recovering well.

Frankly the timing of these announcements, and the extraordinary secrecy about every aspect of the treatment and condition of Sergey and Yulia Skripal since they were first found on the bench, only reinforces the impression that the British authorities are in effect controlling them, and that they are being kept in a condition which looks suspiciously like detention.

Perhaps this is all being done in good faith and for their protection.

However John Helmer for one says that

The evidence now accumulating is that the hospital is detaining and isolating the Skripals against their will, preventing contact with their family.

(bold italics added)

He makes a compelling case.

With the collapse of the Novichok evidence Sergey and Yulia Skripal are now key witnesses in the case.

Perhaps they have nothing of value to say.  It is striking that a week after Yulia Skripal recovered consciousness the British police have still not identified a suspect, which suggests that her knowledge of the facts behind the attack is limited.

However in the meantime the Russians are stating what many people will doubtless see as the obvious

That the Russians may have a point is strongly suggested by the following very interesting words in this interesting article by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour, which appeared on 30th March 2018, shortly after news of Yulia Skripal’s recovery was made public

Russia has also responded to the apparent recovery of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned alongside her father. She may be able to provide insights into how the poisoning occurred, or even reveal whether she knows of some other motive by some other non-state actor.

The British intelligence services will be debriefing her as soon as her health permits. It would clearly be a huge embarrassment for the UK government if it emerged she believed the Russian state was not involved.

(bold italics added)

Perhaps it was not just rhetoric from Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia when he warned the British at the UN Security Council meeting on 5th April 2018

……that they were playing with fire and would be sorry.   Politicians in the United Kingdom had no idea that their hyped-up statements might boomerang back at them.

Does Nebenzia and the Russian government know more than they are saying?  Perhaps there are more surprises ahead in this strange affair.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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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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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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