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Donald Trump still steaming over AG Jeff Sessions’ recusal from Russiagate

The end of a politically bad week had the President lamenting the strange recusal of his own hand-picked Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Seraphim Hanisch

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President Trump had a rough week last week by any stretch of the imagination. This is not an assessment that is very “spinnable”, certainly not one that can be spun out of existence.

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Two of his campaign staff and colleagues bit the dust legally, with one “flipping” on Trump and pleading guilty to crimes that don’t even exist, but also promising to cooperate with the Mueller investigation to pursue Trump (Michael Cohen), and the other, Paul Manafort, being found guilty by a jury on eight counts of various financial impropriety and tax fraud. Vox reported the following:

It’s been a rough week for Trump: His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight federal charges on Tuesday, the same day Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight federal crimes of his own; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), one of his first endorsers, was indicted for misusing federal campaign funds; and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, was caught palling around with a white nationalist. Cohen implicated the president in his crimes, saying he made hush money payments in violation of campaign finance laws at Trump’s direction.

Trump in a Fox & Friends interview seemed to confess to a campaign finance violation in his attempts to deny it. In the same interview, he said “flipping” witnesses should be illegal and seemed to leave the door open to pardoning Manafort.

By the end of the day on Friday, Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker had cut immunity deals with federal prosecutors, adding their names to the list of Trump allies who no longer seem so friendly. And the president canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to North Korea.

These court outcomes and other events do not in any way relate to the initial purpose of the Mueller probe, that being to determine whether or not Russian agencies and Trump campaign officials, or Donald Trump himself, colluded with one another to interfere with the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election.

The primary purpose of this investigation came up dry so far (nearly two years old now), but something arguably peculiar has been in play about this investigation – that being that the Special Counsel has been investigating everything and not keeping its scope narrowed to “Russiagate.”

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions arguably could have stopped this from happening, but he recused himself at the beginning of the probe. The fact that he has isolated himself from this is a seriously sore spot for the president. After the events of this week, USA Today reported these tweets:

US Attorney General Sessions, for his part, did respond to this in his own statements, according to Business Insider:

“I think that’s what I had to do,” Sessions said during a meeting with the Federalist Society on Saturday.

The attorney general cited a “pretty reasonable” Department of Justice regulation that forbids DOJ officials from investigating campaigns of which they were a part.

Sessions was an early and ardent advocate for then candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 US election, championing his platform on immigration and a host of other issues. Sessions officially endorsed Trump in February 2016, becoming the first sitting US senator to throw their support behind the Manhattan mogul. He remained a campaign surrogate throughout the race and served as chairman of the campaign’s national security advisory board.

The DOJ regulation Sessions cited Saturday — 28 CFR 45.2— says “no DOJ employee may participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or who would be directly affected by the outcome.”

The rule goes on to define a political relationship as “a close identification with an elected official, candidate, political party or campaign organization arising from service as a principal advisor or official.” A personal relationship “means a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality.”

Last March, Sessions came under scrutiny for failing to disclose meetings he had with Sergei Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the US, during the 2016 campaign. Following the revelations, Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, which is examining whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor.

At the time, Sessions said his decision to recuse himself was “right and just.”

President Trump is understandably frustrated. This effort against him clearly does have the majority of support in the news media and despite a list of extremely substantial accomplishments made during his term thus far as President, the search-and-destroy efforts of the mainstream media press on, seeking any sort of fodder to press for impeachment should the House change hands in November, and ways to legally (or illegally, though through the legal apparatus), throw him out of office.

At the center of the effort is the attempt to separate the President from the base who elected him. While that effort seems to be meeting a brick wall (for President Trump’s main body of supporters already has little love for the media or the establishment DC government apparatchik), there did for the first time appear a sense of fatigue, as even the conservative pundits seemed to backpedal and at least tacitly acknowledge that the President has been a bad actor in the past. However, the sentiment expressed by this caller on August 24 to pundit Rush Limbaugh’s program does a good job expressing the thoughts and feelings of many who support President Trump:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Steve in Fort White, Florida. I’m glad you waited, sir. You’re next on Open Line Friday.

CALLER: Mr. Rush Limbaugh, it sure is an honor. Let me just say this. My soul belongs to Jesus. My heart belongs to my wife. My mind belongs to you.

RUSH: Well, I’m glad to be in the club!

CALLER: You know, if Trump fires somebody, no matter what who it is, it’s gonna be a firestorm. So let’s get the ball rolling. Let’s go ahead and light that fire. The American people are waiting. They’re holding back. I’ve broken two teeth just grinding jaws about what’s going on here today. He’s got to make the move. The clock of history is ticking. He’s either gotta make history or he’s gonna become history. We want him to make that move. We’ll back him at the ballot box. We’re waiting for him. We want him, we need him, he’s our country, and he’s gotta say this.

RUSH: What do you want him to do?

CALLER: I want him to start with Mueller and, one by one, fire ’em and state his case.

RUSH: You realize — and I’m not trying to throw a monkey wrench here. I don’t even want to be a downer. I just want you to know, if you fire Mueller the investigation’s not over. They just go out and find somebody to take over, and it might even prolong it and make it longer.

CALLER: Well, they can only take over if the person that he doesn’t fire puts him in that position. Get somebody in there that’s the opposite. Get somebody in there that will make the move and start working on the Democrats.

RUSH: Yeah, but Trump doesn’t get to make that appointment. Rosenstein does.

CALLER: If he fires Rosenstein, he won’t.

RUSH: Oh! Well, in that case. (laughing)

CALLER: Hello!

RUSH: Okay. So we’re gonna fire Mueller; we’re gonna fire Rosenstein.

CALLER: I’m telling you, if you’re gonna fire one, fire ’em all. We back ’em. I want him to hear us. We will back him. Just do it.

RUSH: I’m telling you, folks, the frustration, this is the one thing the media probably isn’t even factoring. They don’t think it’s real. They don’t think you’re gonna do anything. You never do. You never do, so why should they be worried about you?

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Then you have another piece of the jigsaw. Wasn’t Browder involved in most things, ‘anti-Russian’ since being thrown out for taking billions out of Russia, whilst refusing to pay his taxes? Why was he then thrown out of the US? British businessman dubbed Putin’s ‘number one enemy’ fears Novichok-style attempt on his life after accusing Russian president of using former UK spies to track him Novichok attack in Salisbury has raised fears Putin critics are being assassinated A businessman who has led criticism of the Russian regime fears he’ll be next He accuses private intelligence firms in the UK of… Read more »

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How did it all start?

Ukrainian Consultant Reveals Steele Sought Bogus Stories for Trump Dossier… https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201808281067517362-Steele-Sought-Bogus-Stories-Dossier/

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Trump having appointed Sessions without proper vetting reminds me of McCain tapping Sarah Palin to be his running mate (who thankfully destroyed his chance to become President). Somebody’s (cough) ‘advisors’ need a good old fashioned thumping for screwing their client so badly.

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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