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A case of entrapment? How the Deep State brought down Michael Flynn

Trump’s National Security Adviser downfall was engineered in the shadiest of circumstances

Alexander Mercouris

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The single most important fact about the destruction of Michael Flynn – a decorated US soldier who has served his country in battle and who is a Lieutenant General of the US Army – is the shocking way it was brought about.

To understand what happened it is necessary to go back to the events of last December and January and to note their sequence.

The timeline

On 28th December 2016 Flynn was telephoned by Russian ambassador Kislyak over an open line.  Kislyak asked Flynn what the new Trump administration’s policy would be with respect to the sanctions US President Barack Obama had announced that day.

Seemingly unknown to Kislyak and Flynn the FBI was recording the call.

On 29th December 2016 Flynn telephoned Mar-a-Lago for instructions.  He spoke to a senior official of the Trump transition team who was almost certainly Jared Kushner.  This official told Flynn that the incoming Trump administration did not want to see the situation between the US and Russia escalate and asked Flynn to say this to Kislyak.

On 29th December 2016 Flynn telephoned Kislyak over an open line, told Kislyak the incoming Trump administration did not want to see the situation between the US and Russia escalate, and urged Russia to respond to Obama’s sanctions with restraint.

Apparently Flynn asked Kislyak that whatever retaliatory action Russia took in response to the sanctions should be on the same scale as the sanctions so as not to escalate the situation further.

It is now universally accepted that Flynn gave Kislyak no promise that an incoming Trump administration would lift the sanctions during this call.

Once more, seemingly unknown to Kislyak and Flynn,  the FBI recorded the call.

On 31st December 2016 Kislyak telephoned Flynn again and told Flynn that in light of the incoming Trump administration’s request for restraint Russia had decided to take no action for the time being in response to Obama’s sanctions.

It is not known whether on this occasion the FBI recorded the call but it is likely that it did.

In early January 2017 the FBI prepared a secret report about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak based on its recordings of these conversations.  It seems that this report incorporated transcripts of these conversations.

We know this report exists because its existence was disclosed by the Washington Post in an article dated 13th February 2017.

A copy of this report was forwarded by the FBI to the Justice Department and was shared by the FBI with the rest of the US intelligence community before the inauguration.

On 8th January 2017 Flynn attended with Donald Trump a meeting with the chiefs of the US intelligence community including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey.

During the meeting Trump and Flynn were provided with the classified version of the January 2017 ODNI report which alleged Russian meddling in the US Presidential election of the previous year.

The ODNI report specifically alleged that Russia had hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, stolen emails from the computers, and arranged for publication of the emails by Wikileaks.

The ODNI report also included as an appendix the series of reports compiled by Christopher Steele which has come to be known as the Trump Dossier.

At the meeting with the intelligence chiefs Trump – presumably on Flynn’s advice – was dismissive of the conclusions of the ODNI report, and angrily denied the allegations about his personal conduct made in the Trump Dossier.

On 11th January 2017 Buzzfeed published the Trump Dossier.

On 12th January 2017 an article by David Ignatius based on information provided by a “senior US government official” appeared in the Washington Post which disclosed that Flynn had spoken on the telephone to Kislyak on 29th December 2016.  This is what Ignatius’s article says about this call

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts.

These words show that the “senior US government official” who was David Ignatius’s source was fully informed of what Flynn had said to Kislyak on 29th December 2016.

It is universally acknowledged that the “senior government official” committed a criminal offence under the FISA Act by disclosing to David Ignatius information about Flynn which was obtained from classified intercepts.

On 15th January 2017 Vice-President Pence after obtaining from Flynn an account of his conversations with Kislyak went on television’s Face the Nation and said the following

MIKE PENCE: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation…He had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.

JOHN DICKERSON: So did they ever have a conversation about sanctions ever on those days or any other day?

MIKE PENCE: They did not have a discussion contemporaneous with US actions…But what I can confirm, having spoken to him about it, is that those conversations that happened to occur around the time that the United States took action to expel diplomats had nothing whatsoever to do with those sanctions.

There is no doubt Flynn lied to Pence.  I say this because some of Flynn’s defenders persist in saying that Flynn may have simply forgotten the part of his conversations with Kislyak which was about the sanctions.

This is impossible.  It is now established that the calls between Kislyak and Flynn on 28th, 29th and 31st December 2016 were principally about the sanctions, and that Flynn sought instructions from Mar-a-Lago because of these calls.  It is inconceivable that when Flynn spoke to Pence two weeks later he had forgotten all this.

On 24th January 2017 the FBI interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak.

It seems the FBI was asked to interview Flynn either by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates or by FBI Director James Comey.  The interview was held under the aegis of the ongoing Russiagate inquiry.

It seems that Flynn was not told during the interview that the FBI had recorded his conversations with Kislyak and knew what he had said during them.  At any rate if Flynn was told that the FBI had listened in to his conversations with Kislyak then he was not shown the transcripts of these conversations that the FBI had made or the FBI’s secret report about his conversations with Kislyak which the FBI had made in early January (see above).

During the interview Flynn repeated the same lie to the FBI that he had previously made to Pence and which he had since repeated to many others: that the sanctions announced by Obama in December had not been discussed during his conversations with Kislyak.

On 26th January 2017 Acting Attorney General Sally Yates complained to White House Counsel Donald McGahn about Flynn.

Yates told McGahn that by lying about his conversations with Kislyak to Pence Flynn had compromised himself, exposing himself to blackmail by the Russians, and that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak looked like they might be unlawful.

A series of conversations between Yates and McGahn followed between 26th January 2017 and 30th January 2017 (the day Trump sacked Yates from her job) over the course of which Yates disclosed to McGahn that the FBI had interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak.

On 30th January 2017 – the day Trump sacked Yates because of her refusal to defend his travel ban Executive Order – Yates called McGahn and agreed to McGahn’s request that the Justice Department’s files on Flynn be made available to the White House staff.

It is now conclusively established that there was nothing unlawful about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak (see below) whilst Yates’s claim that Flynn had exposed himself to blackmail by the Russians by lying to Pence and others about his conversations with Kislyak is too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

McGahn’s reported initial reaction to Yates’s complaint – “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice whether one White House official lies to another White House official?” – was the correct one.

On 8th February 2017 Flynn again denied to the Washington Post that he had discussed the sanctions with Kislyak.  He then contradicted himself the following day when he admitted to the Washington Post through a spokesman that “he couldn’t be certain that the topic [of the sanctions] never came up.”

On 13th February 2017 the Washington Post disclosed in a lengthy article details of Yates’s warnings to McGahn about Flynn.  The Washington Post’s article is packed with information about the secret discussions which took place within the US intelligence community about Flynn

The current and former officials said that although they believed that Pence was misled about the contents of Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, they couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition

(NB: these words strongly suggest that by 14th February 2017 US intelligence was aware that Flynn had also spoken to another senior Trump transition team official – almost certainly Jared Kushner – on 29th December 2016 – AM)

Two officials said a main topic of the relevant call was the sanctions. Officials also said there was no evidence that Russia had attempted to exploit the discrepancy between public statements by Trump officials and what Flynn had discussed…

After the sanctions were rolled out, the Obama administration braced itself for the Russian retaliation. To the surprise of many U.S. officials, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Dec. 30 that there would be no response. Trump praised the decision on Twitter.

Intelligence analysts began to search for clues that could help explain Putin’s move. The search turned up Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn,

From that call and subsequent intercepts, FBI agents wrote a secret report summarizing ­Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak.

Yates, then the deputy attorney general, considered Flynn’s comments in the intercepted call to be “highly significant” and “potentially illegal,” according to an official familiar with her thinking.

Yates and other intelligence officials suspected that Flynn could be in violation of an obscure U.S. statute known as the Logan Act, which bars U.S. citizens from interfering in diplomatic disputes with another country.

At the same time, Yates and other law enforcement officials knew there was little chance of bringing against Flynn a case related to the Logan Act, a statute that has never been used in a prosecution. In addition to the legal and political hurdles, Yates and other officials were aware of an FBI investigation looking at possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia, which now included the Flynn-Kislyak communications.

Word of the calls leaked out on Jan. 12 in an op-ed by Post columnist David Ignatius. “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut U.S. sanctions?” Ignatius wrote, citing the Logan Act.

The next day, a Trump transition official told The Post, “I can tell you that during his call, sanctions were not discussed whatsoever.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in a conference call with reporters on Jan. 13, said that the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak had “centered on the logistics” of a post-inauguration call between Trump and Putin. “That was it, plain and simple,” Spicer added.

On Jan. 15, Pence was asked about the phone call during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Citing a conversation he had with Flynn, Pence said the incoming national security adviser and Kislyak “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

Before the Pence statement on Jan. 15, top Justice Department and intelligence officials had discussed whether the incoming Trump White House should be notified about the contents of the Flynn-Kislyak communications.

Pence’s statement on CBS made the issue more urgent, current and former officials said, because U.S. intelligence agencies had reason to believe that Russia was aware that Flynn and Kislyak had discussed sanctions in their December call, contrary to public statements.

The internal debate over how to handle the intelligence on Flynn and Kislyak came to a head on Jan. 19, Obama’s last full day in office.

Yates, Clapper and Brennan argued for briefing the incoming administration so the new president could decide how to deal with the matter. The officials discussed options, including telling Pence, the incoming White House counsel, the incoming chief of staff or Trump himself.

FBI Director James B. Comey initially opposed notification, citing concerns that it could complicate the agency’s ­investigation.

Clapper and Brennan left their positions when Trump was sworn in, but Yates stayed on as acting attorney general until Jan. 30, when Trump fired her for refusing to defend his executive order temporarily barring refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries — an action that had been challenged in court.

A turning point came after Jan. 23, when Spicer, in his first official media briefing, again was asked about Flynn’s communications with Kislyak. Spicer said that he had talked to Flynn about the issue “again last night.” There was just “one call,” Spicer said. And it covered four subjects: a plane crash that claimed the lives of a Russian military choir; Christmas greetings; Russian-led talks over the Syrian civil war; and the logistics of setting up a call between Putin and Trump. Spicer said that was the extent of the conversation.

Yates again raised the issue with Comey, who now backed away from his opposition to informing the White House. Yates and the senior career national security official spoke to McGahn, the White House counsel, who didn’t respond Monday to a request for comment.

On the same day that this article appeared – 13th February 2017 – Flynn was forced to resign.  White House press secretary Sean Spicer on the next day – 14th February 2017 – explained the reasons for Flynn’s resignation in this way

We got to a point not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, where a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change … The issue here was that the President got to the point where General Flynn’s relationship – misleading the Vice President and others, or the possibility that he had forgotten critical details of this important conversation had created a critical mass and an unsustainable situation. That’s why the President decided to ask for his resignation, and he got it.

On 14th February 2017 Trump spoke to FBI Director James Comey about Flynn in the Oval Office.  According to Comey Trump said to Comey the following

I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.  He’s a good guy.

Trump denies having said these words.

Setting out the timeline in this way solves all the mysteries about the Flynn affair including why he lied to Pence, the FBI and others about his conversations with Kislyak.

It also incidentally shows why the case against Flynn has ended with a plea bargain.

Flynn committed no crime by talking to Kislyak

Firstly, it needs to be said clearly that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were in no sense improper or unlawful as Yates and other have suggested, and that no criminal offence was committed by them or during them.

The Special Counsel’s statement – which sets out the entirety of the case against Flynn, including those parts of the case against him to which he has not pleaded guilty – shows that he has never been accused of committing an offence under the Logan Act, and has never been investigated for any criminal offence arising from his calls with Kislyak.

The Special Counsel and his team clearly do not think that there is a case against Flynn under the Logan Act and the whole issue of the Logan Act conjured up by Sally Yates is now exposed as a red herring.

Flynn’s 24th January 2017 interview with the FBI

Secondly, the FBI’s conduct of its interview with Flynn on  24th January 2017 is very difficult to understand.

The article in the Washington Post of 13th February 2017 shows that there were serious doubts even on the part of Sally Yates that Flynn had committed a crime upon which he could be convicted

Yates and other law enforcement officials knew there was little chance of bringing against Flynn a case related to the Logan Act, a statute that has never been used in a prosecution.

(bold italics added)

Why if there were doubts that a crime upon which Flynn could be convicted had been committed did the FBI interview Flynn at all, especially when it already had in its possession all the information it needed to decide the question?

Why did the FBI ask Flynn what he had said to Kislyak when it already knew what he had said to Kislyak?

If the concern was that Flynn was compromising himself by lying about his conversations with Kislyak, why not simply ask him why he was lying?

A case of entrapment?

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the interview on 24th January 2017 was a set-up.

By this time Flynn had been lying for weeks.  The FBI must have known that if it interviewed Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak without disclosing to him the full extent of what it already knew the strong likelihood was that Flynn would repeat to them the same lie he had previously said to Pence and which he had also been saying to many other people.

That of course is precisely what happened, and it is difficult to avoid the impression that that was the intention all along and that that was why the interview was set up in the way it was.

Put that way Flynn’s interview with the FBI looks like a straightforward case of entrapment.

Why entrapment?

Why however might Sally Yates’s Justice Department and the FBI want to entrap Flynn in this way?

Possibly some people in the US intelligence community, in the Justice Department and in the FBI really did fall for Yates’s farfetched and paranoid claims that Flynn had exposed himself to blackmail by the Russians.

However I have to say that I find these claims so farfetched that I cannot truly believe that anyone genuinely believed them.  To me they look like a cover story to conceal what was really going on.

Besides, as I have said, if those really were the concerns that drove the FBI’s actions then the FBI’s conduct of the interview on the 24th January 2017 was most peculiar (see above).

Revenge for Flynn’s skepticism about the January ODNI report?

The sequence of events which I have set out above provides what I suspect is the explanation.

On 8th January 2017 Flynn – whose relations with the US intelligence community were already very bad – appears to have angered them further by calling them out on the fact-free nature of the ODNI report.

I have already said that the 8th January 2017 meeting between Trump and the heads of the US intelligence community had the whiff of blackmail about it.

Given that this was so, it is hardly surprising that when it became clear that neither Trump nor Flynn would back down a campaign to discredit them was launched.  As was to be expected the first shots in this campaign were fired within days.

Reports published to embarrass Trump and Flynn

The Trump Dossier was published on 11th January 2017 in order to embarrass Trump.

On the following day – 12th January 2017 – a report drawing on classified information about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak on 29th December 2016 was published in the Washington Post by David Ignatius.

I do not believe that the publication of these two reports on successive days was a coincidence.

On the contrary both these publications look to me like retaliation for Trump’s and Flynn’s refusal to buckle in the meeting with the intelligence chiefs on 8th January 2017 by accepting the ODNI report in its entirety.

Flynn bungles his response

Trump – a hardbitten veteran of the US building industry who has probably had experience of being blackmailed before – obviously knows how to deal with this sort of thing, and he handled the publication of the Trump Dossier with aplomb, going immediately on the offensive and forcing an apology out of James Clapper.

Flynn – who almost certainly has no experience of being blackmailed and who as a soldier has no idea how to handle such things – blundered, and lied about his conversations with Kislyak to Pence and others when he actually had no need to.

Probably Flynn thought that since he had done nothing wrong a simple denial would shut the whole matter up whilst an admission would only lead to more questions.  It was a foolish mistake, which set Flynn up for the trap which followed.

Dissension within the US intelligence community about what to do

The Washington Post article of 13th February 2017 shows that there was dissension within the US intelligence community and the Justice Department about what to do.

Comey – as had happened before – initially dragged his feet.  However – as had also happened before – under pressure from the others he eventually agreed to play along.

The trap?

The result was that Flynn was lured into an interview with the FBI, not told that the FBI already knew everything that he had said to Kislyak, and was tricked into saying the same lie he had previously said to Pence.  Probably Flynn, who did not have a lawyer with him, did not know that lying to the FBI is a criminal offence.

In passing I should say that I do not take seriously the claim in the 13th February 2017 Washington Post article that the US intelligence community only stumbled on the recordings of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak by accident when they hunted through the intelligence material “in order to explain the mystery” of why the Russians had not reacted to Obama’s December sanctions.

There was never any “mystery” about why the Russians had not reacted to Obama’s December sanctions.  The Russians made it perfectly clear that they did not react to the sanctions because they had hopes for better relations with the US when the new Trump administration took over.

I would add that I also do not believe that the FBI records the Russian ambassador’s conversations and then simply files the recordings away.

Again this looks to me like a cover story to hide what was really going on.

Summary of the Flynn affair

This has the look of an exceptionally sordid affair.

A soldier with a record of honourable service but who is inexperienced in the world of Washington intrigues was goaded into and trapped into lying about a series of telephone calls he carried out as part of his service to the President elect of the United States.  This despite the fact that nothing he did or said during those calls was wrong.

As a result he has been driven out of public life, his reputation has been publicly trashed, and he has been forced under threat of bankruptcy, and of imprisonment of himself and his son, to plead guilty to a minor process crime.

Is this the way the United States treats its soldiers?  It seems it is.

Reasons for the plea bargain

Ever since Flynn’s guilty plea there has been huge speculation that Flynn has offered Mueller incriminating evidence against other people in the Trump administration in return for his indictment on a minor charge.

However the ABC story of the last few days all but confirms that such evidence as Flynn has given Mueller has no bearing on the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which are at the centre of the Russiagate case.

The facts actually show why Mueller might also be anxious to end the Flynn affair with a plea bargain, irrespective of what information Flynn has to offer him

What would an American jury make of the facts as I have set them out once their full implications had been explained to them by Flynn’s attorney over the course of a trial?

Would James Clapper, Sally Yates and James Comey – all neck-deep in this affair – really want to be cross examined about their precise roles by a trained advocate before an American jury?  I doubt it.

I can very easily see how a trial of Flynn might have ended in a debacle, with the conduct of the Justice Department and the FBI coming in for serious criticism.

Given that this was so, it is no surprise that Mueller agreed to a plea bargain to bring the case to an end.

A conspiracy to lie?

It remains possible that more may come out of the Flynn affair.

The most difficult part of this affair for the White House is that it is now clear that several people in the Trump transition team including almost certainly Jared Kushner were aware of what really happened during the conversations between Flynn and Kislyak.

That means that they would also have known that what Flynn said to Pence was a lie and that Pence’s statement about Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak was untrue.

Notwithstanding this knowledge they took no action to correct this untruth but allowed it to stand for a whole month.

That is already very bad, but unfortunately there has to be a possibility that behind it there is something worse.

This is that Flynn discussed in advance with Kushner and others what he would say to Pence, and that they agreed with him that he should lie to Pence, setting in train the sequence of lies which ended with Flynn lying to the FBI.

That would be potentially a very serious matter, and if Trump himself was involved then conceivably it might even be an impeachable one.

Already there are some people who are floating this very possibility, seizing on some loose wording in one of Donald Trump’s tweets to insinuate that very thing (for the record I don’t see that the wording of this tweet implies that at all; on the contrary it seems to me to do the opposite).

There is however no evidence at the moment of such a conspiracy, and there is nothing to suggest it either in the indictment or in the Special Counsel’s statement, as I would expect there would be if anything like that had actually happened.

For what it’s worth Trump’s public statements and those of his lawyers strongly suggest that Trump was not involved in any way in Flynn’s lying, and that Flynn did not agree with other people in the Trump administration that he should lie whether to Pence or to anyone else.

There is no reason for the moment to go behind Trump’s statements and those of his lawyers on this question.

However this part of Mueller’s investigation now bears careful watching, even if this is a possibility which has no actual bearing on the Russiagate collusion allegations which are supposed to be the investigation’s focus.

A case of Kompromat?

Putting aside this last unfortunately by no means farfetched possibility, the overriding truth of this affair it that it has all the hallmarks of an ugly case of entrapment carried out as an act of revenge.

Americans like to contrast what they claim is the integrity of their system with the supposed corruption of Russia’s.  Yet here we have a case where it looks as if the US’s security services engineered the downfall of one of the US’s most senior officials by manipulating the flow of news so as to obtain what the Russians call kompromat against him.

A country where that sort of thing happens can no longer call itself the Shining City on the Hill.

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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