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From Watergate to Russiagate: from the sublime to the ridiculous

The string of false media stories about Russiagate shows the media’s desperation as proof for the Russiagate collusion allegations fails to appear

Alexander Mercouris

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The recent string of misfires of Russiagate stories in the US media, and the growing signs of alarm amongst proponents of the Russiagate conspiracy theory in the media and elsewhere following the angry exchanges between Republican Congressmen and FBI Director Christopher Wray in the House Judiciary Committee, are symptoms of the growing desperation within the media and amongst proponents of the Russiagate conspiracy theory that the evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians that they counted on is failing to turn up.

To understand the reason for this alarm it is merely necessary to compare the time line of the Watergate scandal – the scandal which provides the benchmark for all political scandals involving US Presidents – with the progress or rather lack of it of the Russiagate scandal.

The origins of the Watergate scandal were in a meeting held in January 1972 chaired by the then Attorney General John Mitchell who as well as being President Richard Nixon’s personal friend was shortly to become the chair of Nixon’s campaign team.

The meeting – chaired by the nation’s Attorney General who is the head of the Justice Department and the US government’s most senior law officer, and also attended by White House Counsel John Dean – plotted various illegal activities to ensure President Nixon’s re-election later that year.

This meeting set in train a sequence of events which resulted in two burglaries – both obviously serious crimes – of the Democratic National Committee located in the Watergate building on 28th May 1972 and 17th June 1972.

In the second of these two burglaries – the one which took place on 17th June 1972 – the burglars were caught.

Within days of the arrest of the burglars President Nixon – who almost certainly had no prior knowledge of the burglary – engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice by initiating a cover-up intended to conceal the connection between the Watergate burglars and the Nixon campaign.  This involved an attempt to use the CIA to block a full investigation of the burglary by the FBI, and the payment of bribes to the Watergate burglars to ensure their silence.

The cover-up was a failure.  Though it did succeed in keeping the scandal out of the media until the Presidential election was over in November, all that it in the end achieved was create a money trail leading back to the Nixon campaign which highlighted the Nixon campaign’s involvement in the burglary, as well as the fact that the Nixon administration was trying to cover the fact up (thus the famous phrase “follow the money”).

By 10th October 1972 – i.e. just four months after the start of the FBI’s investigation into the burglary and before the November election took place – the FBI was already reporting to the Justice Department that the Watergate burglary was part of a massive campaign of spying and sabotage carried out on behalf of the Nixon campaign.

Strategically placed leaks in the media by deputy FBI Director Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”) between July 1972 and January 1973 kept the story alive, and following the Watergate burglars’ conviction on 30th January 1973seven months after the burglary – it became the lead story in the media.

With questions about the scandal being asked by Congress, and with the Senate setting up on 7th February 1973 – i.e. within a week of the conviction of the burglars – a special committee chaired by Senator Sam Ervin to investigate the scandal, it quickly became obvious to Nixon that those individuals who were most directly implicated in the cover-up – his chief of staff Bob Haldeman, his aide John Ehrlichman, and White House Counsel John Dean – would have to go.

Thus on 30th April 1973ten months after the burglary – with the existence of the cover-up by now public knowledge, Nixon announced Haldeman’s and Ehrlichman’s resignations, the dismissal of Dean, and the appointment of Special Counsel to investigate what had happened.

The sequel was that on 13th July 1973 – a year after the burglary – a White House aide Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of a taping system in the White House.

A protracted legal battle lasting a whole year then followed to obtain the release of the tapes.  When a decision of the Supreme Court in July 1974 – two years after the burglary – finally forced the White House to release the tapes the extent of Nixon’s personal involvement in the cover-up – and therefore in the conspiracy to obstruct justice – became clear, and in August 1974 Nixon was forced to resign.

In summary, it took the FBI just four months to arrive at a clear picture of what had happened.  Within ten months – by the time of Haldeman’s and Ehrlichman’s resignations and Dean’s dismissal – the existence of the cover-up was known fact.  Within a year the existence of the evidence which would implicate Nixon himself in the cover-up (“what did the President know and when did he know it?”) had been discovered

Contrast this with the Russiagate investigation.

It is known that the Russiagate investigation began in July 2016, following Wikileaks’ publication of the DNC emails and the FBI’s initial meetings with Christopher Steele, the compiler of the Trump Dossier.  Eighteen months later it has however come up with no evidence of the conspiracy between the Trump campaign team and the Russians which it is supposed to be investigating.

This despite the fact that the investigative resources committed to the Russiagate investigation – which included surveillance of US citizens during the election – have been immeasurably greater and more intrusive than anything seen during Watergate.

What we have instead is a barely publicised admission that the Trump Dossier – the report which appears to have initiated the whole investigation and which provided its narrative frame – cannot be verified, and cannot therefore be used in court as evidence to secure convictions.

An investigation which has achieved nothing after eighteen months other than three indictments which do not touch on the crime it is supposed to be investigating – two of which were only for the process crime of lying to the FBI about matters which were not in fact crimes – is clearly an investigation which is on the wrong track.

Republicans in Congress are starting to sense this and the pressure on Mueller, the Justice Department and the FBI is now – very properly – at last building.

We should not be fooled by the outraged chorus in the media defending Mueller which is trying to argue otherwise.

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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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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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