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Donald Trump: New York Times ‘made up story’ about Trump – Russia contacts

President Trump accuses The New York Times of inventing sources for its story of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Alexander Mercouris

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US President Donald Trump is making what is perhaps the most serious accusation against The New York Times in its recent history, which is that it at least in part fabricated its story of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence of  13th February 2017 by attributing it to briefings provided to The New York Times by anonymous officials who don’t exist.

In what looks to me like an attempt to divert attention away from this accusation, The New York Times’s various media allies are talking up claims that the White House supposedly breached rules by talking to the FBI about The New York Times story.

Supposedly these rules, which exist in order to protect the FBI’s independence in its conduct of investigations, were breached on 14th February 2017 (the day after The New York Times published its story) when Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff, contacted the FBI to obtain information about The New York Times story and to see whether the FBI might be prepared to publish a rebuttal (it declined to do so, but “greenlighted” Priebus to do so instead).

I am no expert about these rules.  However I find the claim that they somehow prohibit the White House from seeking information from the FBI about a story like The New York Times story frankly bizarre.  It would mean that whilst The New York Times is allowed to talk to the FBI about a story involving the White House, the White House is not allowed to talk to the FBI about a story involving itself.

That strikes me as not only absurd but as inherently unfair.  It would mean that whilst the White House can be crucified every day by stories planted in the media as a result of ‘anonymous leaks’ given to the media by members of the FBI, it is prohibited from talking to the FBI directly about such stories, and is prohibited from obtaining from the FBI directly the information it needs to refute them.

The rules in question clearly exist in order to prevent the Executive Branch from meddling in the conduct of FBI investigations.  There is no evidence Priebus or anyone else in the White House sought to meddle in any FBI investigation.   As the White House says, Priebus did not speak to the FBI about any FBI investigation but about a New York Times story which sought to harm the White House.

I would add that the rules appear to be a matter of customary practice rather than law.  On any interpretation of the rules Priebus did not therefore break the law.  So far as I can see he acted throughout in an entirely reasonable way.  Presumably if he had not done so, then the senior officials of the FBI he spoke to (Director James Comey and Assistant Director Andrew McCabe) would have refused to speak to him.

Like so many of the other supposedly wicked actions of the Trump administration, this one looks to me to have been spun out of nothing.   In this case it appears to have been done in order to draw attention away from the serious accusation against The New York Times that the President is making.

The President’s accusation against The New York Times is concrete and very serious.

And I want you all to know we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake. Phony. Fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. And I said give me a break because I know the people. I know who they talked to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they say, oh, nine people, they have nine sources. They make up sources.

(bold italics added)

President Trump is here directly accusing The New York Times of either completely fabricating a story or – which is scarcely better – of puffing it up to make it appear more credible than it is by inventing more sources for it than actually exist.

That is an extraordinarily serious allegation to make against any newspaper.  It is particularly serious when it is made against The New York Times, which promotes itself as “the paper of record”.  It would mean that in this case “the record” has in part been made up.

Moreover in making this charge the President says that he has actual knowledge of who the leakers might be because the members of his campaign team who the FBI is investigating have told him who the investigators are, and that he knows that there cannot be nine of them as The New York Times says.

I would add that whilst I obviously do not know this for a fact, I suspect the President knows (or thinks he knows) more about this affair than he says.

Like many other people whenever I read a piece in the media or elsewhere that cites anonymous sources I often wonder who these sources are and whether they actually exist.

Sometimes I am quite sure that the sources are made up.  Some years ago I read a piece about the conflict in the northern Caucasus which repeatedly cited multiple anonymous sources to support some pretty remarkable claims.  I suspect there was in fact only one source but that the writer (a well known journalist) wanted to give the impression there was more than one to give his piece more credibility.

A more famous example is the book that Alexander Litvinenko, the former FSB agent who was poisoned with polonium in London, co-authored about the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings.  The book backed its claims of Russian state involvement in those bombings with just too many anonymous sources for me to find it in the end credible.

However there are other writers who regularly cite information given them anonymously whose record of reliability is such as to put the existence of their sources and the accuracy with which they are being reported beyond doubt.  Well known examples are the two veteran US investigative reporters Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh.  That does not incidentally mean that the sources are always right, or that Parry and Hersh always put the right weight on them.

Until very recently I would have placed The New York Times in the same category as Parry and Hersh.  No less a person than the President of the United States is however now challenging The New York Times by saying it has made up its sources when publishing a story alleging contacts between members of the President’s team and the agents of a foreign power.   He is also saying that The New York Times’s word and that of other media allied to it about the existence of their sources cannot be relied on unless the identity of the sources is published.

I cannot recall a more straightforward and serious challenge to The New York Times’s journalistic standards and integrity.  I look forward to seeing what it will do to rebut it.

In the meantime I would say that the attempt to divert attention away from the President’s challenge by conjuring up yet another bogus story about Reince Priebus’s conversations with the FBI does not look good.

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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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