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Why Europe is obsessed with fighting ‘Russian propaganda’

The European Union relies on propaganda against Russia to draw attention away from critical economic shortcomings.

Haneul Na'avi

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“See how elastic our prejudices grow when once love comes to bend them.” — Moby Dick

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) convened on 23 Nov. to enact yet another non-legislative motion to combat “Russian propaganda”.

The EU resolution, created by European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) member Anna Fotgya (Poland), rallied parliamentarians in a torch and pitchfork session to scapegoat Russian media for exposing the hard truths about incompetent Western leadership.

Citing the typical Crimean ‘annexation’,“[…] the European Parliament condemned Russia’s state media as ‘disinformation and propaganda’ designed to ‘increase Russia’s influence and weaken the EU’, [which] passed by 304 votes to 179, with 208 abstentions”, the Moscow Times reported.

The resolution also called for “investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy”.

Russian Spokesperson Maria Zakharova promptly responded to the accusations:

“[It] is beyond my understanding what our Western colleagues are so afraid of. I cannot call this anything but fear […] [the resolution] is stupidity and fear through and through.”

Europe’s “investments” in the Russian economy, including backing regime change in Ukraine and Syria, enacting unilateral sanctions, and bailing out Ukraine’s criminal government, have yet to yield any return on investment.

In fact, evidence shows that the EU has placed stock by ignoring its trade deficit with Russia and forging deeper ties to the indebted United States economy.

In 2014, Germany was Russia’s second-largest EU trading partner (6.6%) after the Netherlands (8.7%). Conversely, Russia was the EU’s fourth largest trading partner in 2015. Germany’s successes in the single market made it an easy target for American imperialism.

To increase its market share, US officials targeted Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands—Russia’s top three trading partners—with sanctions to procure future negotiations and trade deals.

A 2014 CNN article explained this in perfect detail:

[…] the European Union exports about 100 billion euros worth of goods and services to Russia and takes in roughly 200 billion euros of the latter’s imports […] For Germany, curtailed trade with Russia could really bite. And considering as the former is Europe’s biggest economy the implications would be felt well beyond its borders.

German financial analyst Ernest Wolff extrapolates from this observation in a Sputnik article:

“Over 6,000 German companies are trading with Russia, and many of them are now experiencing difficulties, and this is exactly what the sanctions were aimed at,” he stated.

“[It] clearly plays into the hands of the US geopolitical interests and American capital. If the US employment and labor law is introduced in European companies, this will bring the US one step closer towards US global dominance,” he mentioned.

Several conditions within EU-Russian trade became evident in 2014, which are intrinsically linked to the desperate US-EU EuroMaidan colour revolution.

Firstly, it was an attempt to circumvent Europe’s chasmic trade deficit. From 2005-2015, the EU traded disproportionately with Russia, incurring a deficit of over $90b in 2011.

The same year, EU and US officials began secret consultations of a future agreement “based on the recommendations of the EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth that steered the deliberations on the future EU-US relations,” the EU Commission reported. The ‘agreement’ would later become the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

According to a 2013 London Centre for Economic Policy Research study, [it] “could bring the EU economic gains of €119 billion a year [and] translate on average to an extra €545 in disposable income each year for a family of four in the EU.”

In reality, this was to counteract Russia’s positive trade balance of $196b (2011), with $506b in exports and $310b in imports; the highest on record.

Conversely, the US incurred a trade deficit of over $72b (2011), with imports at $2.06t and exports at 1.34t. America’s massive trade and fiscal deficits, exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis and endless war in the Middle East, increased America’s appetite for surplus value in new markets to make up for the deficit, using conflict to divide the EU from Russia and finalise plans for the TTIP.

Furthermore, Russia’s growing Economic Complexity Index (ECI), which attracts trading partners to bundled export packages, also prompted the shift in policy. Russia’s ECI ranking almost doubled from its lowest point in 2009 (50) to 2014 (27), 5 points away from its record high in 1992 (22), diversifying its markets to weather the US-inspired 2008 global financial crisis.

The Council of the European Union then worked to entice as many countries away from Russia’s geopolitical orbit amidst the chaos, on behalf of Washington:

Major progress was achieved in the field of visa liberalisation with the Republic of Moldova with entry into force of the visa free regime in April. The visa facilitation agreement and readmission agreement entered into force on 1 January 2014 between EU and Armenia and on 1 September 2014 between EU and Azerbaijan […] The EU began negotiations on Visa Facilitation Agreement with Belarus.

Nevertheless, the subterfuge backfired. Armenia, instead of pivoting westward, joined the Eurasian Economic Union, blocking progress on the South Stream pipeline and fuelling tensions with EU vassal state Azerbaijan.

Additionally, Moldova’s leadership recently became ‘pro-Russian’, thanks to Party of Socialists’ Chairman Igor Dodon winning the country’s 2016 elections, infuriating Brussels even further.

The main problem for Brussels lies not in Moscow, but in the streets of Europe, as anti-TTIP protesters denounce the theft of worker’s rights, increased imports of genetically-modified foods, repressive copyright laws, as well as impending corporate rule over individual sovereign states.

So, how has ‘big, bad Vlad’ undermined the ‘weakened’ the ‘free and democratic’ European Union?

Amidst Western sanctions, President Vladimir Putin has made it even easier to do business in Russia by creating Special Investment Contracts (SICs), which “support potential investors in transferring business into Russia” as well as create “new facilities and receiving the status of Russian domestic [manufacturers]”, quotes the Moscow Times.

This has attracted multinational businesses to Russia and facilitated joint ventures between Moscow and other economic powerhouses. EuroChem, one of Europe’s largest mineral fertiliser producers based in Zug, Switzerland, recently signed a massive SIC at the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Sochi, Russia.

“EuroChem’s investment in three projects [Kingisepp, EuroChem-VolgaKaliy and EuroChem-Usolskiy] totals approximately RUB 287 billion while their implementation will create 3,750 new jobs in the aforementioned regions and will ensure annual tax revenues of RUB 22 billion,” the company highlighted.

Success stories such as these have increased Russia’s standing in the World Bank Doing Business ranking for startups, moving it from 37 to 26 (↑11%), mitigating sanctions in 2016.

Due to Europe’s counterproductive actions, Russia has also purged much of the EU’s market share and passed it to China—its largest trading partner. A Bruegel working paper elaborates:

[…] the EU’s relative comparative advantage is being chipped away as it continues to lose market share, and the question really is how much this might be related to China’s increasing export capacity. […] China has moved from supplying only 3.9 percent of Russia’s imports in 1998 to more than 21 percent in 2014. In the meantime the EU’s share has gradually decreased from nearly 70 percent to 55 percent.

Additionally, the largest indicator of Russia’s intentions with the European Union stems from the MIR Initiative, a large-scale freighting infrastructure project headed by Dr. Ernest Sultanov.

According to the organisation’s two charters, signed in Turin, Italy and Sochi, Russia, Moscow will play an indispensable role as an international conduit between Asia and Europe. The initiative makes a ‘Silk Road Metro‘ of the entire Asian and European continent, placing Moscow at a sensitive, critical junction to transport both freighters and passengers via high-speed rail.

Chinese President Xi spearheaded the ambitious New Silk Road project in 2013, which is a modernised version of intercontinental trade during the Han dynasty, in order to lift billions of people out of poverty across Asia, the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, and Europe.

Dr. Sultanov theorises the following about his perspective on the MIR Initiative:

[The] creation of common infrastructure is certainly a key factor in promoting a sustainable model of development in the world today. Social mobility, security and economic upliftment find their base on [transportation] mobility and presence of infrastructure and communications permitting the fast passage of people, goods and ideas.

Socio-economic and transport/communication mobility are inversely proportional to the risk of [unacceptable] and conflict behavior: i.e. the higher system mobility a region features, the less likely it is to see a crisis or conflict break out. A common transport system in constant development unhindered by any walls or barriers is the most important factor that allowed Europe to decrease the chance of internal clashes.

The MIR Initiative is arguably the paragon of future Russo-European relations, and only ‘weakens’ the Western narrative about ‘Russian aggression’. On the contrary; it is imperative that Russia maintains stability to ensure the Silk Road’s success. Even the initiative’s Turin charter, signed by 13 high-ranking international officials, states the following:

A large infrastructure project requires a prolonged mobilization of important interests, seamless cooperation among institutions, international political action at the highest levels, and enormous resources. However, the most essential precondition is the creation of a deep consensus among countries that are located far from one another and often in conflict (as it is now occurring in the METR region). These countries could be motivated to understand one another and to cooperate because of efforts of Eurasian corridor cities.

The very definition of propaganda is “the organized dissemination of information, allegations, etc, to assist or damage the cause of a government, movement, etc”, which is precisely what the European Union is using to slander the Russian government. By shifting towards US foreign policy, Europe risks alienating herself from a rising Asia and Eurasia.

As Europe’s business class pivots eastward, they disprove Mrs. Fotgya’s baseless claims, and Zakharova is correct to say that if “the European Union has any internal issues, the cause of those problems must be found within, rather than blaming them on a third party.”

Whether or not European MEPs kowtow a Eurosceptic organisation that wishes to “decentralise power back to national capitals” and support “transatlantic alliances” will not deter Vladimir Putin from doing everything possible to make peace with the European continent and building a New World Order with Asia and Eurasia fully united in purpose. If this scares Europe, then so be it.

Better yet, EU parliamentarians should step off of the USS Pequod and chart their own destiny.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Trump witch hunt dots connected: CNN to Steele to John McCain (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss documents released which show that Christopher Steele admitted to using posts by ‘random individuals’ on the CNN community website ‘iReport’ in order to back up his fabricated Trump dossier.

President Trump took note of Steele’s use of CNN citizen journalist posts, in a twitter tirade that blasted the British ex-spy for running with unverified community generated content from a now now-defunct ‘iReports’ website as part of his research.

Trump the proceeded to rip into late neocon Arizona Senator John McCain, tweeting that it was “just proven in court papers” that “last in his class” McCain sent the Steele’s dossier to media outlets in the hopes that they would print it prior to the 2016 US election.

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Via The Daily Caller

A federal court unsealed 43 pages Thursday of a deposition that former British spy Christopher Steele gave as part of a lawsuit over his infamous anti-Trump dossier.

To the disappointment of many observers, the full deposition was not unsealed in Thursday’s motion. Instead, portions of Steele’s interview, which he gave in London on July 13, 2018, were unsealed in separate court filings submitted in the lawsuit.

Steele’s full deposition totaled 145 pages. The portions published Thursday focus mainly on questions about the dossier’s claims about Aleksej Gubarev, a tech executive who Steele alleges took part in the hacking of Democrats’ computer systems.

Gubarev has vehemently denied the claim and sued Steele and BuzzFeed News, which published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, who handled the lawsuit, ordered a slew of previously sealed documents to be made public Thursday. Ungaro dismissed the lawsuit on Dec. 19 but did not weigh in on whether the dossier’s claims about Gubarev were accurate.

It is unclear whether Steele’s entire deposition will be released. A source familiar with Steele’s interview tempered expectations of any bombshells in the document, saying that Steele avoided going into detail about his efforts to create the dossier and his sources.

A deposition given by former State Department official David Kramer was perhaps the most enlightening document contained in the dump.

Kramer, a longtime associate of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, was BuzzFeed’s source for the dossier. Kramer shared the dossier with at least 11 other reporters, including CNN’s Carl Bernstein. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Gave Dossier To A Dozen Reporters)

Kramer obtained the dossier in late November 2016 after visiting Steele in London. Steele acknowledged that Kramer and McCain were picked as conduits to pass the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey. McCain met with Comey on Dec. 9, 2016 and provided all of the dossier’s memos that had been written up to that point.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” Kramer said in the deposition when asked why Steele and his business partners at Fusion GPS wanted McCain to meet with Comey.

Via Washington Examiner

Former British spy Christopher Steele admitted that he relied on an unverified report on a CNN website for part of the “Trump dossier,” which was used as a basis for the FBI’s investigation into Trump.

According to deposition transcripts released this week, Steele said last year he used a 2009 report he found on CNN’s iReport website and said he wasn’t aware that submissions to that site are posted by members of the public and are not checked for accuracy.

web archive from July 29, 2009 shows that CNN described the site in this manner: “iReport.com is a user-generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked, or screened before they post.”

In the dossier, Steele, a Cambridge-educated former MI6 officer, wrote about extensive allegations against Donald Trump, associates of his campaign, various Russians and other foreign nationals, and a variety of companies — including one called Webzilla. Those allegations would become part of an FBI investigation and would be used to apply for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

During his deposition, Steele was pressed on the methods he used to verify allegations made about Webzilla, which was thought to be used by Russia to hack into Democratic emails.

When asked if he discovered “anything of relevance concerning Webzilla” during the verification process, Steele replied: “We did. It was an article I have got here which was posted on July 28, 2009, on something called CNN iReport.”

“I do not have any particular knowledge of that,” Steele said when asked what was his understanding of how the iReport website worked.

When asked if he understood that content on the site was not generated by CNN reporters, he said, “I do not.” He was then asked: “Do you understand that they have no connection to any CNN reporters?” Steele replied, “I do not.”

He was pressed on this further: “Do you understand that CNN iReports are or were nothing more than any random individuals’ assertions on the Internet?” Steele replied: “No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”

When asked about his methodology for searching for this information, Steele described it as “what we could call an open source search,” which he defined as “where you go into the Internet and you access material that is available on the Internet that is of relevance or reference to the issue at hand or the person under consideration.”

Steele said his dossier contained “raw intelligence” that he admitted could contain untrue or even “deliberately false information.”

Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS was receiving funding at the time from the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm.

The series of memos that Steele would eventually compile became known as the “Trump Dossier.” The dossier was used in FISA applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

When asked whether he warned Fusion GPS that the information in the dossier might be “Russian disinformation,” Steele admitted that “a general understanding existed between us and Fusion … that all material contained this risk.”

Steele also described his interactions with Sen. John McCain’s aide, David Kramer, whose own deposition showed that he provided BuzzFeed with a copy of the dossier and had spoken with more than a dozen journalists about it.

“I provided copies of the December memo to Fusion GPS for onward passage to David Kramer at the request of Sen. John McCain,” Steele said. “Sen. McCain nominated him as the intermediary. I did not choose him as the intermediary.”

When asked if he told Kramer that he couldn’t “vouch for everything that was produced in the memos,” Steele replied, “Yes, with an emphasis on ‘everything.'”

When asked why he believed it was so important to provide the dossier to Sen. McCain, Steele said: “Because I judged it had national security implications for the United States and the West as a whole.”

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Trudeau’s Top Bureaucrat Unexpectedly Quits Amid Growing Corruption Scandal

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

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Via Zerohedge


Since it was exposed by a report in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this month, the scandal that’s become known as the SNC-Lavalin affair has already led to the firing of several of Trudeau’s close advisors and raised serious questions about whether the prime minister was complicit in pressuring the attorney general to offer a deferred prosecution agreement with a large, Quebec-based engineering firm.

And according to the first round of polls released since the affair exploded into public view…

…it could cost Trudeau his position as prime minister and return control to the conservatives, according to the CBC.

Campaign Research showed the Conservatives ahead with 37% to 32% for the Liberals, while both Ipsos and Léger put the margin at 36% to 34% in the Conservatives’ favour.Since December, when both polling firms were last in the field, the Liberals have lost one point in Campaign Research’s polling and four percentage points in the Ipsos poll, while the party is down five points since November in the Léger poll.

Meanwhile, as the noose tightens around Trudeau, on Monday another of the key Canadian government officials at the center of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has quit his post.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, the highest-ranking position in Canada’s civil service and a key aide to Justin Trudeau, announced his retirement Monday. Trudeau named Ian Shugart, currently deputy minister of foreign affairs, to replace him.

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

“It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties,” he said, citing the need for impartiality on the issue of potential foreign interference. According to Bloomberg, the exact date of his departure is unclear.

As we reported in February, Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, quit following allegations that several key Trudeau government figures pressured her to intervene to end a criminal prosecution against Montreal-based construction giant SNC. Wernick was among those she named in saying the prime minister’s office wanted her to pursue a negotiated settlement.

Wernick has since twice spoken to a committee of lawmakers investigating the case, and during that testimony both defended his actions on the SNC file and warned about the risk of foreign election interference, as “blame Putin” has become traditional Plan B plan for most politicians seeing their careers go up in flames.

“I’m deeply concerned about my country right now, its politics and where it’s headed. I worry about foreign interference in the upcoming election,” he said in his first appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, before repeating the warning a second time this month. “If that was seen as alarmist, so be it. I was pulling the alarm. We need a public debate about foreign interference.”

Because somehow foreign interference has something to do with Wenick’s alleged corruption.

Incidentally, as we wonder what the real reason is behind Wernick’s swift departure, we are confident we will know soon enough.

Anyway, back to the now former clerk, who is meant to be non-partisan in service of the government of the day, also criticized comments by a Conservative senator and praised one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers.

Wernick’s testimony was criticized as overly cozy with the ruling Liberals. Murray Rankin, a New Democratic Party lawmaker, asked the clerk how lawmakers could “do anything but conclude that you have in fact crossed the line into partisan activity?” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said he seemed “willing to interfere in partisan fashion for whoever is in power.”

Whatever Wernick’s true motives, he is the latest but not last in what will be a long line of cabinet departures as the SNC scandal exposes even more corruption in Trudeau’s cabinet (some have ironically pointed out that Canada’s “beloved” prime minister could be gone for actual corruption long before Trump). Trudeau had already lost a top political aide, Gerald Butts, to the scandal. A second minister, Jane Philpott, followed Wilson-Raybould in quitting cabinet.

Separately, on Monday, Trudeau appointed a former deputy prime minister in a Liberal government, Anne McLellan, as a special adviser to investigate some of the legal questions raised by the controversy. They include how governments should interact with the attorney general and whether that role should continue to be held by the justice minister.

As Bloomberg notes, the increasingly shaky Liberal government hasn’t ruled out helping SNC by ordering a deferred prosecution agreement in the corruption and bribery case, which centers around the company’s work in Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya. Doing so would allow the company to pay a fine and avoid any ban on receiving government contracts. That decision is up to the current attorney general, David Lametti; of course, such an action would only raise tensions amid speculation that the government is pushing for a specific political, and favorable for Trudeau, outcome.

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