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Trump’s ‘negotiating tactics’ could make the G7 a G6

Trump is doing a tremendous job of isolating America, and if that’s his goal, you do it, Trump!

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Trump’s intentions relative to the agenda of the G7 meeting in Quebec were openly not much different from the tone that he has been playing on trade and multilateralism for the past few months. Prior to the meeting, Trump continued with his hardball rhetoric, particularly regarding Canada, in terms of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with Trump threatening to withdraw from the agreement if he doesn’t reach a better deal at the G7 summit.

Trump has also set himself at odds with every other member of the G7 through his tariffs regime, such as those tariffs on aluminum and steel that went into effect for Canada, Mexico, and the EU at the beginning of June, the threat of sanctions for European G7 members who choose to continue doing business with Iran, and the threat of coming under sanctions aimed at Russia for buying Russian oil and gas, also aimed at some of the G7’s European members.

So, for Trump, the board was already set, and his strategy was going to continue after this fashion even after the summit was over. For America, the summit had one goal: better deals for America, or no deals at all. For everyone else, this means that trade tensions are only set to continue this course of escalation. Oh, and that America is not going to participate in any measures to address climate change.

It seems to be a common perception among conservatives that the nuclear fallout from Trump’s economic and diplomatic policies are merely a ‘negotiating tactic’ with the aim of really forcing the other party to capitulate to Trump’s demands, as in some kind of 4-D chess strategy, where he will ensure that he will ‘win’. Of course, for Trump, to ‘win’ means that everyone else must ‘lose’.

But this is not diplomacy, it’s like trying to negotiate with the mafia, where Trump offers a deal that other countries ‘can’t refuse’. But what Trump doesn’t realize is that America’s position in all of this is a monetary one, wherein America’s purchase of other nation’s goods is part of how America ensures its ability to stay on top of the world order, by using the dollar and American financial systems to keep everyone else in line. But by isolating America from everyone else, he reduces the amount of the dollars that he is exporting, thereby reducing America’s control over the world market. He’s not checkmating everyone else, he’s backing himself into a corner.

Trade

Trump walked into the meeting late as the discussion centered around gender equality, an issue that seems to become ever more discombobulated, which has become a major talking point in popular cultural circles and the major media the world over. As the topic turned to trade, arguably the most important topic to be covered by the summit, Trump talked about free and mutually beneficial trade, that is, of course, as long as America benefits the most.

That’s why Trump defended his tariffs regime, and threatened those nations to whom they were directed relative to any retaliations, slamming them as ‘a big mistake’, hence, in Trump’s mind, America gets to issue tariffs out to the rest of the world to even out a ‘trade deficit’ and that everyone else must keep calm and take it, or else Trump will escalate the matter, perceiving that the deficit can’t be shored up unless America can achieve a better equilibrium through tariffs and wherein the tariffed nations forgo any response. For Trump, it’s a way of leveling the playing field, as reported by the Guardian:

In a tense session on trade on Friday, European and Canadian leaders had sought to defuse the gathering conflict, rolling out statistics on how many US jobs depended on their countries’ trade and investment and arguing that the US had more barriers to trade than its partners.

The discussion had no effect on Trump, who stuck to the claims he made throughout his election campaign: that the US was being ripped off.

“The European Union is brutal to the United States,” he railed. “And they understand that. They know it. When I’m telling them, they’re smiling at me. You know, it’s like the gig is up.”

Canada too, the president said, “can’t believe it got away” with its trade deal with the US.

“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing. And that ends,” Trump said.

The president even threatened to stop doing business with US partners if they did not change their policies.

“And it’s going to stop,” Trump said. “Or we’ll stop trading with them. And that’s a very profitable answer, if we have to do it.”

But one thing that we have noticed about Trump’s rhetoric and actions as of late, that he tends to make good on his threats. While often times likes to leave the door open to another possible outcome, there nearly always is a pretext to following through on his threats. We saw this with the threat to withdraw from the Iran deal, which he made good on, with his threats to launch a military offensive in Syria, which he went forward to conduct, however controlled, and his threats relative to the tariffs that he went forward to impose, and with his initial threat to withdraw from the North Korea peace talks, which are still under threat, as he continues to warn that he will walk away from that summit, too, if he doesn’t think he’s gonna ‘win’.

Based on this track record, while he tends to follow through on these threats, they’re not always of an all encompassing outcome, they are carried out in order to save his tough guy face, but do not always sink in the teeth necessary to do much damage in every case. But with the Iran deal, he’s still trying to nuke that by threatening sanctions on the other signatories for preserving the conditions necessary to preserve the agreement. Based on his present actions and rhetoric, he’s not measuring his tariffs regime all that much, as he continues to dole out ever more of them, and follow through on implementing them.

Diplomacy

But the manner in which Trump treated the summit and its agenda is what is most revealing. As we gather from repeated statements from Trump’s own mouth, he isn’t much into multilateralism, and prefers bilateral agreements. Before the summit, he was clear that he thinks it’s better that an agreement is not made, that is, a multilateral agreement with an indefinite lifespan.

This is apparently because he wants to preserve the ability to make, break, and revise agreements whenever it suits him, hence, the desire to leave such doors open for America, rather than locking it into some agreement with multiple other nations, meaning international obligations without an expiration date, or least one that can readily be met.

In this way, Trump is running America into the iceberg of isolationism, believing that the USS America is truly unsinkable. His trade policies and approach to multilateral agreements have been wrecking relations with his allies at ramming speed.

That’s why we see the Canadian Prime Minister closing out the meeting with a press conference announcing that he was regretfully moving forward with his retaliatory trade tariffs against the US, adding that Trump’s pretext of issuing his trade tariffs against Canada and other trade partners on the basis of ‘national security’ were ‘insulting’.

Due to Trudeau’s remarks, Trump instructed his representatives who remained behind at the summit for the purpose of ascribing Trump’s endorsement of the comminuque that would be issued by the summit not to do so, meaning that America was not going to sign onto the agreement because Trudeau said something mean and because of some tariffs that Canada charges the US.

Apparently, coming to terms with the important items that the summit was to cover is not quite as important as everyone being nice to Trump by not saying any mean words, or that one trade scenario that has existed for some time is considerably more important than the internationally significant matters that were on the table for resolution by the summit’s statement. Deutsche Welle reports:

Leaders of the G7 appeared to have agreed on a final communique at the end of a contentious two-day summit in Canada on Saturday, before US President Donald Trump lashed out at Canada and created further uncertainty over trade.

The summit between the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Britain and Italy was one of the most fractious ever, and the agreement on a final communique could not paper over differences on trade, the environment and Iran nuclear deal.

Despite Trump’s recent decision to slap aluminum and steel tariffs on America’s allies, the statement at the conclusion of the summit called for the “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade,” fighting protectionism and “the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system.”

Yet a deep rift was highlighted as host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended the summit by saying he would move forward with retaliatory tariffs against the United States starting on July 1. He called US tariffs on its ally under the pretext of national security “kind of insulting” and said Canada would not be “pushed around.”

“What we did this weekend was come together, roll up our sleeves and figure out a consensus language that we could all agree to,” Trudeau said at a press conference, recognizing that there were major differences with Trump. “If the expectation was that a weekend in beautiful Charlevoix surrounded by lovely people was going to transform the president’s outlook on trade and the world, then we didn’t quite perhaps meet that bar.”

Only hours later Trump took to Twitter to assault the Canadian prime minister’s “false statements” and instructed US representatives to renege on the US endorsement of the joint communique. He also said he would be looking to impose tariffs on car imports into the United States.

By these tweets, Trump expressed his pretext for refusing to endorse the internationally agreed upon statement, by his allies and trade partners, and which Trump had initially approved before his departure. He also tells us that Trudeau’s mean comments were uttered behind his back, after he departed the summit in order to make his way to Singapore, where he is set to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, on the long awaited peace talks that he is to help facilitate.

But apparently, Trudeau’s comments were nothing new, nor were the sentiments that they conveyed something that Trump was ignorant of, thus, the concept that these ‘dishonest’ and ‘false’ statements were of such a nature could be perceived as absurd, and that’s apparently the reason why Trudeau’s office responded “We are focused on everything we accomplished here at the G7 summit. The Prime Minister said nothing he hasn’t said before — both in public, and in private conversations with the President.” Trudeau’s comments, we can therefore gather, were the reason why he refused to endorse the communique, as France24 tells us


…When Trump left Quebec it was thought that a compromise had been reached, despite the tension and determination of European leaders President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to push back on Trump’s assault on the world trade system.

The joint statement was published online moments before Trump tweeted. Copies that begin “We, the Leaders of the G7…” were distributed in the press room stamped “Approved.”

On board Air Force One an AFP reporter was first told that Trump had indeed approved the agreement, only to be told later of the tweets. A senior administration official told the reporter that Trump had been angered by Trudeau’s comments.

The outburst suggested that any deal had collapsed and his more or less explicit threat to impose sanctions on imports of cars will outrage his ostensible allies — in particular Germany and Canada who produce many for the large US market.

In retrospect, the consensus on ground had appeared shaky from the outset, and even as Trump flew out it was clear that the summit had failed to heal the rift on trade.

Trump claimed America had been obliged to levy the metals tariffs as it has been exploited as the world’s “piggy bank” under existing arrangements, but his counterparts were equally determined to protect “rules-based” international trade.

As Trump’s policies have been putting America’s relations with the rest of the Western world into a bit of a fray, the situation was not alleviated by Trump’s participation in the summit, given that he later withdrew his approval of the international statement, but is only perpetuated by it. The outcome, however, was not unanticipated, as French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned via Twitter


Macron points out the obvious, but also gives a warning, that if America insists on isolating itself, then everyone else will move forward without it. In that sense, rather than making America ‘great’ or ‘first’ Trump is putting America last on the international pecking order. By refusing to participate in the communique issued by the other members of the G7, Trump is reducing the level of influence that America wields, a generalized phenomenon which is by this action further deteriorating it among America’s own allies and trade partners. America won’t cooperate on trade, non proliferation agreements, climate accords, or any other sort of agreement between America and the rest of the West, and its relations with the rest of the world aren’t getting any better either. Trump is doing a tremendous job of isolating America, and if that’s his goal, you do it, Trump! Maybe then the rest of the world will pay attention to your activities in the Middle East, and elsewhere, and their real world consequences.

 

 

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CIA Director and NYT Accidentally Expose Skripal Poisoning Hoax – DUCKGATE (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 189.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the stunning, inadvertent, admission by the New York Times and CIA Director Gina Haspel that much of what we know from the Salisbury-Skripal poisoning is pure fabrication and manipulation.

‘Duckgate’, as it is now being dubbed, was used to trick US President Trump into expelling 60 Russian Diplomats over false photographic evidence presented to him by Haspel, as it was provided to her by UK authorities.

The manipulation of POTUS Trump, courtesy of CIA Director Haspel, the UK government (and accidentally documented on by the NYT), has now blown open some serious holes into the entire narrative that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by Russian agents with the deadly Novichok nerve agent.

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Via The Blogmire…


(SEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM)

Well this is interesting.

I had intended to put up a new thread for people who want to continue commenting on the Salisbury and Amesbury cases, as the last piece I did on it has reached an unmanageable 1,500+ comments. But just as I was about to do so, I was alerted to an important piece over on the Moon of Alabama website, entitled, “CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump“.

The gist of the piece is as follows. Back in April 2018, the Washington Post published an article about the decision taken by the United States to expel 60 Russian diplomats in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning. According to the authors, the day after the decision was made, President Trump reacted in anger when he found out that the French and the Germans were expelling just four diplomats each:

“The next day, when the expulsions were announced publicly, Trump erupted, officials said. To his shock and dismay, France and Germany were each expelling only four Russian officials — far fewer than the 60 his administration had decided on. The President, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia.”

Mr Trump, it seems, believed that he had been misled by officials, as the piece goes on to say:

“Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. ‘There were curse words,’ the official said, ‘a lot of curse words.’”

Whether Mr Trump was misled about the magnitude of the expulsions is impossible to say without a transcript of that meeting. What does seem certain, however, is that he was misled in another, far more important way, as Moon of Alabama goes on to point out.

In an article in today’s New York Times about the head of the CIA, Gina Haspel, an extraordinary piece of information is revealed — albeit unwittingly, it would seem, by authors who probably have no idea of its significance. Pointing to that same meeting mentioned in the Washington Post article, in which Mr Trump was persuaded to expel 60 diplomats, here is the NYT’s account of what took place:

“During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the “strong option” was to expel 60 diplomats.

To persuade Mr. Trump, according to people briefed on the conversation, officials including Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack.

Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives [my emphasis].”

If you’re late joining the party, and don’t understand what is so extraordinary about this, let me spell it out plainly and unambiguously:

Firstly, there were no dead ducks as a result of poisoning. None. Zilch. Nada!

Secondly, there were no children sickened by nerve agent. None. Zilch. Nada!

Yet even though there were no dead ducks, and no sick children, Mr Trump was apparently persuaded by the head of the CIA to expel 60 diplomats after being shown pictures of dead ducks and sick children.

In addition to the extraordinary nature of this revelation, there is also a huge irony here. Along with many others, I have long felt that the duck feed is one of the many achilles heels of the whole story we’ve been presented with about what happened in Salisbury on 4th March 2018. And the reason for this is precisely because if it were true, there would indeed have been dead ducks and sick children.

According to the official story, Mr Skripal and his daughter became contaminated with “Novichok” by touching the handle of his front door at some point between 13:00 and 13:30 that afternoon. A few minutes later (13:45), they were filmed on CCTV camera feeding ducks, and handing bread to three local boys, one of whom ate a piece. After this they went to Zizzis, where they apparently so contaminated the table they sat at, that it had to be incinerated.

You see the problem? According to the official story, ducks should have died. According to the official story children should have become contaminated and ended up in hospital. Yet as it happens, no ducks died, and no boys got sick (all that happened was that the boys’ parents were contacted two weeks later by police, the boys were sent for tests, and they were given the all clear).

And yet despite the fact that no ducks died and no children were made sick, the director of the CIA (a.k.a. the Canard Invention Association), allegedly using information given to her agency by the British Government, showed the President of the United States pictures of dead ducks and sick children, apparently from Salisbury, to persuade him to take extreme action (Note: You can read more about the duck feed and all the other holes in the official story here). In other words, Mr Trump was lied to, and in a big way, and with potentially huge consequences.

I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the claims made in the New York Times piece, since the purpose of inserting the bit about the ducks and the children was to cast Gina Haspel as a strong leader, rather than to cast doubt on the Skripal story. My guess is that Mr Trump might be quite interested to know that he was misled, either by the director of the CIA and/or the British Government. It might even make him wonder this: if no less a person than the President of the United States was given a false version of events, what are the chances that the rest of the story stacks up?

As ever, someone got some ‘splaining to do.  Discuss among yourselves.


PS. An aside. The Independent, which is apparently a publisher of news, has picked up on this storyhere. In their piece, they basically repeat what was said in the New York Times about how Gina Haspel persuaded Mr Trump using the dead ducks and sick children pics. But here’s the thing. Whilst it doesn’t surprise me that writers in the likes of the Washington Post or New York Times might not know too many details regarding the Salisbury case, the Independent knows full well that there were no dead ducks and no sick children. And so since they are writing about it, they must know that either the CIA director or the British Government, or both, knowingly misled the US President. Yet they say nothing about this in their piece. Why? Simply because they are not journalists, but stenographers, and they have no intention of informing their readers of what is true and what is real. I’m not sure how they live with themselves, but somehow they manage.


UPDATE: The Guardian has published an article (18th April), in which the director of public health at Wiltshire Council, Tracy Daszkiewicz, was asked to comment on the New York Times report. Here is what she said:

“There were no other casualties other than those previously stated. No wildlife were impacted by the incident and no children were exposed to or became ill as a result of either incident [my emphasis].”

So according to Ms Daszkiewicz, not only were no children made ill (which we already knew), but nor were any exposed to the substance. How does this accord with the official narrative? In that scenario, Mr Skripal gave bread to three boys, one of whom ate a piece, less than half-an-hour after his hands had become contaminated. In which case, they would undoubtedly have been exposed to it. Then again, if he wasn’t contaminated at that time … well, that would agree with Ms Daszkiewicz’s assessment, but it would have another consequence involving cans and worms!

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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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