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Deep State again tries to block dialogue with Russia: Washington Post’s phoney story about Trump’s leak

Washington Post story Trump leaked ‘classified information’ to Lavrov is phoney and a further attempt to prevent a meaningful dialogue between the US and Russia.

Alexander Mercouris

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The Washington Post story about President Trump’s supposed leak of highly classified intelligence information about ISIS to the Russians is a case study of the lengths to which the President’s enemies are prepared to go in order to discredit him and to stop any chance of a rapprochement with Russia.

Briefly, the Washington Post claims that Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russians during his recent meeting with them in the Oval Office information about an alleged plot by ISIS to carry out attacks on passenger aircraft using laptops.   The Washington Post describes Trump’s supposed wrongdoing in this way

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”…..

One day after dismissing Comey, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in earlier Russia controversies — into the Oval Office. It was during that meeting, officials said, that Trump went off script and began describing details of an Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft…..

For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

White House officials involved in the meeting said Trump discussed only shared concerns about terrorism.

The existence of an alleged ISIS plot to use laptops to bring down passenger aircraft has been all over the media for months.  That cannot therefore have been the “highly classified information” that President Trump is supposed to have discussed.

It turns out that the “highly classified information” that Trump is supposed to have disclosed is the name of the city where the alleged ISIS plot was discovered.   That supposedly compromised the source of the information, which presumably means the intelligence agency which provided it.

Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.

The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.

“Everyone knows this stream is very sensitive, and the idea of sharing it at this level of granularity with the Russians is troubling,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who also worked closely with members of the Trump national security team. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it……

…..the information wasn’t the United States’ to provide to others. Under the rules of espionage, governments — and even individual agencies — are given significant control over whether and how the information they gather is disseminated, even after it has been shared. Violating that practice undercuts trust considered essential to sharing secrets.

The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.

There are a number of obvious problems with this story.

The first is that if any of this is true then the publication of this story in the Washington Post is completely irresponsible and is conceivably a crime itself.

Firstly, the Washington Post grudgingly concedes that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov hardly reacted to the leaking of the supposedly “highly classified information” Trump is supposed to have leaked to him.

Lavrov’s reaction to the Trump disclosures was muted, officials said, calling for the United States to work more closely with Moscow on fighting terrorism.

That suggests that Lavrov did not see this information as compromising or sensitive, and was unaware of any greater implications concerning it.  In that case it is possible the Russians failed to notice the supposed importance of this information.

If that was indeed the case then the Washington Post and the anonymous officials and former officials who have fed the Washington Post this information have now alerted the Russians for the first time to its importance.

No doubt Russian intelligence is going over the stenographic record of Lavrov’s discussion with Trump made by his interpreters looking for this information even as I write this.  When they find it this is what the Washington Post’s sources say will be the results

The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved. Officials said the capability could be useful for other purposes, possibly providing intelligence on Russia’s presence in Syria. Moscow would be keenly interested in identifying that source and perhaps disrupting it.

“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” the senior U.S. official said.

A former intelligence official who handled high-level intelligence on Russia said that given the clues Trump provided, “I don’t think that it would be that hard [for Russian spy services] to figure this out.”

The damage would however in that case have been done not by Trump but by the Washington Post and by the anonymous officials and former officials who prompted its article.

The second point is the one about the potentially damaging consequences if the “intelligence partner” who supposedly provided this “highly classified information” were ever to find out about the leak.

This is what the anonymous officials and former officials are quoted by the Washington Post as saying about that

The officials declined to identify the ally but said it has previously voiced frustration with Washington’s inability to safeguard sensitive information related to Iraq and Syria.

“If that partner learned we’d given this to Russia without their knowledge or asking first, that is a blow to that relationship,” the U.S. official said.

The “intelligence partner” – presumably a Middle East country – has now learnt about the leak.  It has done so because the Washington Post has published a story about it.

Whether any dire consequences follow is another matter.  If they do then the blame for that lies not with Donald Trump but with the Washington Post and the anonymous officials and former officials who prompted its article.

Is this story however even true?

The essence of the story – that Trump leaked “highly classified information” to Lavrov and the Russians in a way that does harm or potential harm to US national security – has been emphatically denied by Donald Trump’s highly regarded (perhaps over-regarded) National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster, as well as by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and by other officials

Here is a video of General McMaster commenting on the story.  Here is a transcript of what he said

There’s nothing that the President takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The President and the [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov] reviewed a range of common threats to our two counties, including threats to civil aviation.  At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the President did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the Secretary of State, remember it being the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

 

Firstly, since this is a discussion about classified information there were obvious constraints on what General McMaster could say.  He could not go into the detail of the Washington Post’s story without compounding the damage the Washington Post’s publication of the story has quite possibly already done and without breaking the law.

Secondly, General McMaster has nonetheless unequivocally said that “the story as reported is false”.

Thirdly, General McMaster has made the point that he was physically present in the room when the conversation between Trump and Lavrov took place and that – unlike the ‘anonymous sources’ the Washington Post is relying upon – he is speaking publicly and on the record.

In any sane world statements made publicly and on the record should always be given greater credence than statements made secretly and anonymously.  In any matter involving Trump or Russia the reverse is true.  This story is a case in point.

So what is General McMaster denying?

There is no doubt that President Trump did share with the Russians information about an alleged ISIS plot against passenger aircraft using laptops.   General McMaster says as much, and President Trump has just admitted it.

However as President Trump has correctly said – and as the Washington Post grudgingly admits – as President Trump was fully within his rights to do this.  Here is what Trump himself has tweeted today about all of this

And here is what the Washington Post has said about it

For almost anyone in government, discussing such matters with an adversary would be illegal. As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

(bold italics added)

If the fact that Trump shared information with the Russians about an ISIS plot against passenger aircraft using laptops is not disputed, and if his right to do so is not disputed either, it is the interpretation of his doing it given by the Washington Post which McMaster, Tillerson and the other senior administration officials are disputing.  That is what McMaster means when he says that “the story as reported is false”.

When world leaders meet they regularly exchange information with each other.  If they did not do so diplomatic contacts would be devoid of all content and would grind to a stop.

In this case Trump told Lavrov of a supposed plot by ISIS to use laptops against passenger aircraft.  Trump says he did this in order to get Russia’s help in the fight against ISIS.  There is nothing unusual or untoward about this, and nothing unusual about Trump telling the Russians some of the details of the plot.  It beggars belief that Trump doing this was in any way sinister or dangerous or a threat to national security or risks any of the consequences the Washington Post alleges.  Had it done so Trump’s aides who were present at the meeting – General McMaster first and foremost – would have intervened immediately to stop him doing it.  That after all is their job.

A former US intelligence officer Michael Pregent has explained the position clearly

But some former intelligence officials think the repercussions from the Oval Office meeting will be minimal, if any.

“No damage – no sources or methods revealed,” said Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer now with the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.

Pregent, who worked with McMaster in Iraq, said it is unlikely the national security adviser would have allowed the president to cross any lines.

Instead, Pregent sees an opportunity to have turned the Russian visit to the White House to Washington’s advantage.

“Sharing this info with the Russians calls them on their inaction against ISIS in Syria,” he said.

In other words no harm was done and the President and his officials were doing nothing more than engaging in normal diplomacy.

The Washington Post story itself all but admits this.  As I have said, if Trump sharing information with the Russians really did have the potentially serious national security consequences the Washington Post alleges, then the Washington Post and the ‘anonymous current and former officials’ who were its sources for the story have massively and irresponsibly compounded the damage by telling the world about it.  That they did so in fact shows that no harm was done, and that they know it.

Which brings us to the real point of this story.

Ever since Trump met Lavrov in the Oval Office there has been a concerted attempt by the mainstream media and some US politicians to cast the meeting in the most sinister light.

Firstly there was the preposterous story of the Russian photographer.  Now there is the attempt by the Washington Post to spin a standard diplomatic exchange into a dangerous leak.

That is both unwarranted and ridiculous.  It shows the real agenda behind this story: to discredit Trump in any way possible, and to make impossible any meaningful dialogue between the US and Russian governments which might lead to a possible rapprochement between the US and Russia.

Those who give credence to this story or pretend to are either being manipulated or share this agenda.

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BREXIT chaos, as May’s cabinet crumbles (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 18.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the various scenarios now facing a crumbling May government, as the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is forcing cabinet members to resign in rapid succession. The weekend ahead is fraught with uncertainty for the UK and its position within, or outside, the European Union.

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If Theresa May’s ill-fated Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is eventually rejected this could trigger a vote of no confidence, snap elections or even a new referendum…

Here are six possible scenarios facing Theresa May and the UK (via The Guardian)

1 Parliament blocks Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement and political declarations

May faces an enormous task to win parliamentary approval, given that Labour, the SNP, the DUP and 51 Tories have said they will not vote for it.

If the remaining 27 EU member states sign off the draft agreement on 25 November, the government will have to win over MPs at a crucial vote in early December.

If May loses the vote, she has 21 days to put forward a new plan. If she wins, she is safe for now.

2 May withdraws the current draft agreement

The prime minister could decide that she will not get the draft agreement through parliament and could seek to renegotiate with the EU.

This would anger Tory backbenchers and Brussels and would be seen as a humiliation for her government. It might spark a leadership contest too.

3 Extend article 50

May could ask the European council to extend article 50, giving her more time to come up with a deal that could be passed by parliament – at present, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

Such a request would not necessarily be granted. Some EU governments are under pressure from populist parties to get the UK out of the EU as soon as possible.

4 Conservative MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister

If Conservative MPs believe May is no longer fit for office, they could trigger a no-confidence vote.

Members of the European Research Group claim that Graham Brady, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, will receive the necessary 48 letters this week.

A vote could be held as soon as early next week. All Tory MPs would be asked to vote for or against their leader. If May wins, she cannot be challenged for at least 12 months. If she loses, there would be a leadership contest to decide who will become prime minister.

5 General election – three possible routes

If May fails to get support for the current deal, she could call a snap general election.

She would table a parliamentary vote for a general election that would have to be passed by two thirds of MPs. She would then set an election date, which could be by the end of January.

This is an unlikely option. May’s political credibility was severely damaged when she called a snap election in 2017, leading to the loss of the Conservative party’s majority.

Alternatively, a general election could be called if a simple majority of MPs vote that they have no confidence in the government. Seven Tory MPs, or all of the DUP MPs, would have to turn against the government for it to lose the vote, triggering a two-week cooling-off period. May would remain in office while MPs negotiate a new government.

Another route to a general election would be for the government to repeal or amend the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which creates a five-year period between general elections. A new act would have to be passed through both the Commons and the Lords – an unlikely scenario.

6 Second referendum

May could decide it is impossible to find a possible draft deal that will be approved by parliament and go for a people’s vote.

The meaningful vote could be amended to allow MPs to vote on whether the country holds a second referendum. It is unclear whether enough MPs would back a second referendum and May has ruled it out.

 

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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