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The truth about Mueller’s investigation: no Grand Jury empanelled; Trump not being investigated

New York Times and Reuters separately refute claims that Special Counsel’s Mueller’s investigation has empanelled a Grand Jury and that President Trump is himself being investigated.

Alexander Mercouris

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Early this morning the viscerally anti-Trump news media especially in Europe filled with headlines following the ‘revelation’ that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has used a Grand Jury to issue subpoenas in the Russiagate inquiry.

No European state has anything similar to a Grand Jury – Britain did away with the device long ago – and Europeans in my experience have no understanding of it.  That led to a rush of assumptions that Mueller was on the verge of bringing charges against someone.

It should be said clearly that that is completely wrong, and that such a conclusion is unwarranted.

Firstly, it seems that the report in the Wall Street Journal which triggered the story that Mueller had actually empanelled a Grand Jury are wrong.  This has been confirmed by the New York Times

A grand jury based in Alexandria, Va., began issuing subpoenas in the Flynn case months ago. Mr. Mueller took over the investigation in May and assembled a team of prosecutors in an office in downtown Washington. Mr. Mueller has not impaneled a special grand jury, the lawyers involved in the case said, and has decided instead to use one of several grand juries that regularly sit in Washington.

It is in fact standard practice in certain states of the US for investigating prosecutors to use Grand Juries to issue subpoenas, thereby avoiding the complexities of applying to a court for warrants which might require the person under investigation to attend and have his say.

That is all that Mueller appears to have done, and it is in fact something which is regularly done in investigations of this sort.  Indeed it was obviously something which it was envisaged Mueller would do when his inquiry was first set up.

What seems to have happened is that someone learnt of the fact that Mueller had used a Grand Jury to issue subpoenas as part of his investigation and jumped to conclusions from that fact which are unwarranted.

As to the subpoenas that Mueller has issued through the Grand Jury, the New York Times helpfully provides information about what they are

At least some of the subpoenas were for documents related to the business dealings of Michael T. Flynn, the retired general who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser. Mr. Flynn is under investigation for foreign lobbying work, as well as for conversations he had during the transition with Sergey I. Kislyak, who was Russia’s ambassador to the United States……

Brandon Van Grack, a former Alexandria prosecutor now working for Mr. Mueller, signed the subpoenas and has been leading the investigation into Mr. Flynn. Those who described the subpoenas did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

It seems that there may also be subpoenas issued in connection with the now famous June 2016 meeting between Donald Tump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, though the wording of the New York Times article does not actually confirm this.

What makes the New York Times article especially interesting is that its sources almost certainly are lawyers working for Mueller himself.   Since Mueller’s inquiry is not in a position to comment publicly about the conduct of the investigation, someone within the inquiry – quite possibly Mueller himself – appears to have authorised a leak of what was actually happening to the New York Times in order to correct the wrong stories about Mueller empanelling a Grand Jury which had been circulating in the previous hours.

If so then this is a proper use of a leak to correct an error and stands in stark contrast to the wholly wrong and malicious use of anonymous leaks which has been going on throughout the Russiagate saga for months.

This brings us to the subject of Mueller’s conduct of the inquiry to date.  There has been massive speculation about this but few actual facts because Mueller and his team in contrast to everyone else involved in the Russiagate affair have up to now acted with impressive and commendable discipline, and have kept their conduct of the investigation private.

The latest flurry of stories about the Grand Jury have however cast some light on the question of what lines of investigation Mueller is following and it is now possible to come to some tentative conclusions.

Firstly, it is clear from the New York Times story that Mueller is looking into General Flynn’s dealings with ambassador Kislyak and the payments General Flynn received from Russia and for carrying out lobbying work for the Turkish government.

The British news agency Reuters has in addition provided some additional information

One source briefed on the matter said Mueller was investigating whether, either at the meeting or afterward (NB: this refers to the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Natalya Veselnitskaya – AM), anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign encouraged the Russians to start releasing material they had been collecting on the Clinton campaign since March 2016.

Another source familiar with the inquiry said that while the president himself was not now under investigation, Mueller’s investigation was seeking to determine whether he knew of the June 9 meeting in advance or was briefed on it afterward.

Reuters earlier reported that Mueller’s team was examining money-laundering accusations against Manafort and hoped to push him to cooperate with their probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. It is not known if the grand jury is investigating those potential charges.

(bold italics added)

The words I have highlighted all but confirm that previous reports that President Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice in connection with the tangled story of his interactions and subsequent sacking of former FBI Director James Comey are indeed either wrong – as the President’s lawyers say – or else that this investigation, if it ever took place, has now been wound up.

Since that there was no obstruction of justice either by Trump or by anyone else either of these possibilities could be true.

Needless to say the numerous reports of the Grand Jury story which have appeared in the media have largely failed to report Reuters’ confirmation that President Trump himself is not under investigation in the Russiagate inquiry – as he has not in fact been at any time during the Russiagate investigations since they started – highly important though that fact is.

What we therefore have is an inquiry that centres on three issues

(1) General Flynn’s interactions with ambassador Kislyak and his financial dealings with RT;

(2) the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior; and

(3) the money-laundering allegations against Paul Manafort.

Since virtually everything there is to know about General Flynn’s various dealings with Kislyak and the Russians is already known, and literally everything there is to know about the Veselnitskaya-Donald Trump Junior meeting is so also known, my guess is that the focus of Mueller’s investigation are the money-laundering allegations against Paul Manafort.

The allegations against Paul Manafort originate with Ukrainian sources and are heatedly denied by him.  From what I have seen of them they do not look at all convincing.  Mueller nonetheless appears to be looking into them to see whether there might be some substance to them and if so whether they might have given the Russians some handle over Manafort so as to create a scenario where he and the Trump campaign might have colluded with the Russians during the election.

That is a valid form of inquiry even if the answer is almost certainly no.

I would add that even if the money-laundering allegations against Manafort are true that does not prove collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians of which there is no evidence.

As to General Flynn’s activities, there is no evidence that his interactions with Kislyak or the Russians resulted in any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.  It is however possible that Flynn may have committed technical offences in connection with the Logan Act and for misreporting payments he received from RT and from the Turkish government.  However not only do these provide no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, but they are at worst procedural offences, which if Flynn has committed I think Trump should pardon him for.

Having said this, these offences or possible offences are at least crimes – even if only technical or procedural crimes – that Mueller can look into, and given that he is required to conduct an inquiry he is right to look into them.

As for the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior, I have already discussed this exhaustively.

Not only was no offence committed during this meeting but on the evidence that is already known we can already answer Mueller’s question – whether during or after that meeting “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign encouraged the Russians to start releasing material they had been collecting on the Clinton campaign” – in the negative.

Nonetheless, again in light of the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians which have been made, Mueller is right to ask the question and to get a formal answer to it.

Possibly Mueller’s team is pursuing other lines of enquiry we know nothing about, but it is likely these are the main ones.

Notably absent is any reference to the Trump Dossier, once referred to as the ‘frame narrative’ supposedly being followed by the investigation.  It seems that this phoney dossier is now so discredited that Mueller wisely is no longer bothering with it.

There is also no evidence of any further interest in Carter Page, all of whose dealings with the Russians have long since been thoroughly investigated, and which have turned out to have been wholly innocent.

There are some suggestions that over and above these Russiagate related lines of enquiry Mueller may also be engaging in some elaborate fishing expedition by trawling through Donald Trump’s and Paul Manafort’s financial and business affairs to find some evidence of wrongdoing there which is unrelated to the claims of collusion with Russia during the election campaign.

Such a fishing expedition would be deeply unethical, though unfortunately there is past history of Special Counsel behaving in exactly that way.  There is no evidence however that Mueller is, and personally I don’t think he is.

If this reconstruction of the current state of Mueller’s investigation is accurate – as I believe it is – then he is carrying out a proper enquiry focusing on those actions about which it is legitimate to ask questions.

Probably by now – in some deep inner core of his psyche, denied even by himself to himself – Mueller knows his inquiry is a fool’s errand which will lead nowhere.  However he is not to blame for that, the blame for it resting wholly with those who against all fact and reason have insisted on an enquiry being set up in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing that would warrant it.

As a professional investigator Mueller has to go through what ‘evidence’ there is so that when his report is eventually published there are no loose ends proponents of the Russiagate conspiracy can hang onto.  He is therefore right to look at the evidence of Flynn’s and Manafort’s dealings with the Russians, and at what happened during and following the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior, and no one should make any assumptions of findings of possible wrongdoing because of this.

It does however seem that Mueller’s inquiry is limited to the question of the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Apparently Mueller is not looking into the question of whether the Russians did indeed hack the computers of John Podesta and the DNC.  Almost certainly this is because this is outside the remit of his inquiry, which will have been decided not by Mueller but by the Justice Department.

This is very unfortunate because there are certainly lots of questions about this alleged hack which could be asked.  However it seems that Mueller is required to accept the conclusions of the January ODNI report, which said there was a hack by the Russians, and is not authorised to go behind it.  If or rather when Mueller finally reports that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, it might be possible to revisit this issue.  Realistically it will not happen before then.

Lastly, the media continues to hum with speculation that Trump is looking for some way to sack Mueller.

I have seen no evidence of this, and Trump’s lawyers strongly deny it.

If Trump does have any ideas of sacking Mueller he should put them aside.  Not only would sacking Mueller precipitate a political storm which Trump might not survive, but on the evidence of how Mueller is conducting his inquiry Trump has no reason or cause to sack him.

All the evidence points to Mueller conducting his inquiry properly in a way which will eventually vindicate Trump and his campaign, and which will leave the Democrats and the supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy looking foolish and vindictive, and frankly paranoid.

If only for that reason Trump should let Mueller get on with it.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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