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5 possible consequences of Catalan independence

Barcelona and Madrid can work together for peace or work against each other for war.

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On the 27th of October, 2017, Catalonia officially implemented its declaration of independence from Spain, after declaring what amounted to a deceleration of intent to form an independent republic on the 10th of October. 

For the leaders in both Barcelona and Madrid, October of 2017 must certainly feel like the “longest month”. It was on the 1st of October that Catalonia held a referendum in which approximately 2.3 million Catalans voted to leave Spain, with the affirmative stance gaining 92% of the vote. With a turnout of 43%, while less than half the population of Catalonia, the percentage of votes cast was still higher for example, than the 2012 US midterm elections and only slightly lower than the last 10 US Presidential elections. 

After long weeks of back and forth over whether the position of Catlaonia was negotiable and if so how, the matter is now moot. Just prior to Madrid stripping Catalonia’s autonomous government and parliament of its powers, the parliament in Barcelona voted via-secret ballot to secede from Spain, thus forming an independent republic.

At present, Spain holds the view that the then autonomous government of Catalonia (or former government dependent on one’s point of view) acted illegally and that therefore, Catalonia remains part of Spain and as such, will vote to elect a new autonomous Parliament on 21st December after just under 2 months of direct rule from Madrid. From the point of view of the parliamentarians in Barcelona who voted in a numerically proper quorum for independence, Catalonia is now an independent Republic.

These legally black-and-white positions, obfuscate the more pressing ‘grey areas’ around which the next set of crises and/or solutions will revolve.

With this in mind, here are the possible short-term consequences of yesterday’s events starting with the most peaceful: 

1. Madrid ignores the implementation of the declaration of independence 

In many ways, it seems counter-intuitive to list this as the ‘most peaceful short term option’, not least because there is ostensibly no bigger insult to a peoples than to simply ignore their declaration of independence. This is ironically, not necessarily the case with Catalonia.

The very reason that Catalan independence was not declared on the 2nd of October is because the Catalan leadership are very moderate in their approach to the issue. Forgetting whether one finds the Catalan leaders inspiring or incipient, the fact of the matter is that they did not so much say “give me liberty or give me death” as they said “give me European values and give me those values on my terms at the soonest possible date after a period of polite discussions”.

Because Catalonia has shown the propensity to wait for a good faith negotiation partner during a very trying month and because furthermore, many Catalan politicians have insisted that they seek peace and cooperation whenever possible, the onus therefore is now very much on Madrid to de-escalate the situation.

Madrid could still go through with the technical firing of the Catalan government in order to administer the humdrum business of daily life in Catalonia for an interim period on their terms, but if Madrid were to officially adopt a position of ignoring the formal independence vote, it could still negotiate with independence leaders in another capacity.

The west, including Spain, continually speaks of ‘moderate rebels’ in places throughout the world, notably Syria, in spite of the fact that they are acting violently, using terrorism as their de-facto means of ‘political expression’, are mostly foreign proxies and are violating not only national but international law. With the exception of Catalonia violating Spanish law, included the much hated 1978 Spanish constitution, which many see as overtly Francoist in nature, none of this applies to Catalonia.

No one can reasonably say that Catalan independence supporters or their leaders are terrorists or post a direct threat to world peace as al-Qaeda, the FSA, Kurdish ethno-nationalists and ISIS do in places like Syria or Iraq. Furthermore, unlike Middle Eastern Kurds who are something of Israel’s de-facto regional puppets, Catalan independence movements have been part of Iberian history going back centuries. The Catalan struggle, in other-words, predates the creation of the dastardly Israeli colonial state, the birth of George Soros, the idea of the New World Order and the advent of neo-liberal economics.  To therefore say that Catalan independence is about any of these things, as many have, fails to realise the long historical basis which underlies recent events in Catalonia.

Because of this, Madrid  has nothing to lose, yet much to gain from engaging in negotiations with the leaders of the independence movement. Had Madrid negotiated directly with the leaders in Barcelona, the entire independence movement may have fizzled-out over time, in the same way that Brexit appears to be doing in another EU state, or otherwise, Madrid could have agreed to a situation whereby Catalonia settles on an Andorra like solution whereby Catalonia becomes a state formally protected by Spain (as Andorra is technically protected by France), while technically enjoying the desired benefits of EU membership which logically derive from the ‘protector’ state. Because of Catalonia’s size vis-a-vis Andorra, some sort of financial agreement could be agreed upon on a per annum basis.

Such a solution would require creativity, but crucially it requires no blood and could be arranged to create face-saving and money saving measures that cover both sides in terms of economic, political and even ego driven requirements and desires. It is still not too late to achieve this as the “slowly-slowly” attitude in Barcelona has not dramatically changed, in spite of recent dramatic events. In this sense, yesterday’s vote was more of a sign that Barcelona is not bluffing, that it is a sign that Madrid is now an automatic enemy of the largely unrecognised new Catalan Republic.

2. Barcelona initiates a dialogue process….and it works 

It must be re-stated that one of the reasons Catalonia implemented a declaration of independence yesterday was because it felt it had no option to do anything else. If Catalonia’s leaders did nothing while Madrid moved to abolish their autonomy, they would have looked weak before the eyes of their constituents and ineffective in the eyes of the world from which they will need to garner support, in one way or another.

Thus, we now know that Catalonia’s leaders have the collective strength to do what they said they would do. But can they now do something more difficult? Can they offer the wider world an option that cannot be refused?

Catalonia has gone out of its way to do that which, for example, the Kurds in the Middle East have not done. While Kurds have resorted to armed conflict and terrorism in their disregard for both national and international law, Catalans have practised entirely peaceful civil disobedience in arguable violation of national law, but in full compliance with EU law which is theoretically superior to national law in many cases, among member states.

The fact that Catalans are being totally disregarded by most EU states and the EU itself, is symptomatic of double-standards in the west, whereby an armed terrorist in Asia or Africa is a ‘freedom fighter’, but peaceful individuals initiating a controversial but totally non-violent political process in the west, are somehow bandits. Furthermore, Catalonia is a regional crisis and for the EU, an existential crisis. Such a reality is miles away from the very real security crisis that Turkey, Syria and Iran felt when Iraqi Kurds, machine guns in hand, voted in a secession referendum which went beyond their legally defined autonomous borders within Iraq. Again, none of this applies to Catalonia.

If followed to its logical conclusion, Catalonia can now call on international mediators to instigate a process for dialogue that Madrid simply could not ignore. If such a process fails, it will represent a total failure of the so-called international community. If not a single nation, not the UN, not a former UN Secretary General, not a single peace activist can step forward and heed Catalonia’s calls for a truly international dialogue process to be organised, then there truly is no international community to speak of. It certainly behoves Catalonia to attempt and find out.

3. Duelling governments in Barcelona 

Madrid is set to appoint a new interim leadership in Barcelona who will answer directly to the Spanish government, while calling for new elections to form a Catalan parliament in December. The effectiveness of such a move depends on the de-facto current leaders in Barcelona (Puigdemont et al.) and their supporters simply going away quietly.

If anyone thinks it is likely that after a long standoff which was capped by the declaration of a Catalan Republic will end the moment Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy sends ‘his man’ to Barcelona, then they are not living in the real world.

With two competing governments in Barcelona, the short term confusion and deadlock could lead to disaster, as shall be explored in the following two, very un-peaceful possibilities.

4. Mass arrests of Catalan independence leaders 

Spain has already set a worrying precedent by arresting Catalan independence organisers on sedition charges. There are now open fears that such a precedent could now lead to the arrest of the entire de-facto leadership in Barcelona, as well as many members of the Catalan parliament (even though the vote for independence was conducted via secret ballot).

This would not only set-off an uncontrollable chain reaction of fear and almost certainly violence in Catalonia and beyond, but would set off a chain of lawsuits which would test the primacy of national law versus EU and international law. If Madrid were to invoke the most neo-Francoist elements of its constitution and subsequently conduct mass arrests reminiscent of the 1930s, it would not only embolden more Catalans than ever in their desire to breakaway from Spain permanently, but it will be guaranteed to keep both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice busy for years if not decades to come.

The legal issues which currently exist, could and should be solved through mediation followed by an accord. However, if mass arrests of prominent Catalan leaders are conducted by Spain, a larger legal Pandora’s Box would be flung open and more importantly, any claim of a peaceful regional dispute would be forever lost. Instead, it would be a repeat of the 1930s in more ways than one, combined with the legal labyrinth of 21st century judicial mechanisms.

5. Civil War 

Depending of various push-pull factors at play, a repeat, however microcosmic, of the 1930s Spanish Civil War could take place. If Madrid cracks down hard on political leaders, demonstrators and other civil bodies in Catalonia, it is possible that Catalans could find the means to arm themselves and fight back.

If an armed struggle took place in the heart of the EU, not only would it quite possibly be the end of Spain and western Europe as we know it, but it could be the end of the EU…full stop.

Whatever would be leftover, would by definition be unrecognisable and only a great deal of effort to put the region back together could restore peace.

For mercenary thinkers who see questions of war and peace simply in economic terms, it is worth saying this: for the moment, the Catalan crisis has not drastically impacted global markets. If things escalate into an armed civil conflict, it will impact markets, but primarily in Europe with some ricochets in North America.  The rest of the world will remain financially stable.

This will be the ultimate sign that an Iberian peninsula which once ruled large quarters of the world, is now reduced to a corner of a European Union that far from leading the world, can now, barely lead itself.

In many ways, this will be the ultimate wake-up call.

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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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