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Review of Donald Trump ‘Fire and Fury’ book

Wolff’s book says nothing of value but does show that Russiagate collusion claims are wholly without substance

Alexander Mercouris

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The furore over the last week about Michael Wolff’s book about the first months of the Trump administration might mislead some people into thinking that something important actually happened.

This could not be more wrong.  Wolff’s book – which has now appeared on the internet in electronic format- is not even a punctuation mark in the history of the Trump Presidency.  It is a blank space which will be forgotten in a few weeks.

The book tells us precisely nothing of any value about the Trump Presidency save for one thing, which has not been reported anywhere that I know of because it is so completely contrary to what so many people have been saying about Donald Trump and his rise to the Presidency for so long.

This is that the book shows that the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians which are the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry must be untrue and that no one in the White House takes them seriously.

To regular readers of The Duran this is no revelation at all.  We have been saying this very thing right from the start.

However a sensationalist book widely hailed by the neoliberal media establishment as the definitive account of the first months of the Trump White House, and written by Michael Wolff – a neoliberal journalist who proudly proclaims that his aim is to bring down Donald Trump – in effect confirms it.

It does so moreover on the basis of privileged access Wolff says he was granted to the White House,.

The book cites no evidence to back the collusion allegations and confirms that within the White House they are viewed as preposterous and untrue

One of those who thinks this is Steve Bannon, who was at the centre of the Trump campaign, and who would if there had been collusion with Russia presumably know about it.

That all but confirms that the allegations are untrue.

The book does have a chapter entitled “Russia”.  However it turns out to be principally about the Flynn affair.

To the extent that this chapter discusses the collusion allegations at all it says quite clearly that they are seen within the White House as a construct concocted by Donald Trump’s enemies and are considered by everyone working in the White to be preposterous and untrue.

Other than this important fact about Russiagate what else does Wolff’s book tell us?

Here it is important to say that for all Wolff’s boasts of privileged access his book derives from three sources (1) information provided by an angry and embittered Steve Bannon; (2) gossip on the part of White House staffers; and (3) a certain measure of invention by Wolff himself.

Bannon’s information is what provides Wolff’s book with its substance.  That should not however be taken to mean that what Bannon is quoted as saying in the book is necessarily true.  On the contrary many of the things Bannon says are demonstrably untrue.

Wolff’s book shows the extent to which Bannon has come to think of himself as a political strategist of genius who managed practically single handed to win the election for Donald Trump.

Thus if one is to believe Bannon the Trump campaign was floundering in August 2016 when Robert Mercer donated $5 million to the campaign and persuaded Trump to appoint Bannon to a senior post in the campaign.  Bannon then supposedly managed to bring order and direction to the campaign despite Trump’s incompetent meddling and that of his family.

This is a travesty.  By August 2016 Donald Trump had won the Republican nomination, seeing off every Republican challenger in a bitter contest which had lasted for months.  All this happened before Bannon joined Trump’s campaign.

Though Donald Trump’s poll rating thereafter fluctuated, all the conditions which eventually led to his victory by August 2016 were already there.

The high likelihood is that Trump would have won the election even if Bannon had never joined his campaign, and it is Trump not Bannon who must take credit for this.

Wolff claims Trump was elected contrary to his own wishes and became depressed as it became clear that he had won.

This is nonsense.  Throughout the campaign Trump worked tirelessly to win first the Republican nomination and then the Presidency.  It beggars belief he would have done so if he had not wanted to win.

Wolff says that following the election the Trump transition descended into chaos because the wise advice of Bannon and others for a strong chief of staff to be appointed was not followed.

There is even a hint that the “strong chief of staff” Bannon wanted was none other than Bannon himself.  The book claims (implausibly) that Bannon was actually briefly considered for the role.

In the event Trump divided authority between Bannon, the new chief of staff Reince Preibus (a colourless functionary proposed by the Republican Party’s Congressional leadership), his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Kushner’s wife Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

This view of the chaos in the early months of the Trump White House clearly derives from Bannon and not surprisingly at this point Bannon’s all too obvious hostility to Kushner and Ivanka (“Jarvanka”) becomes all too clear.

Though they had worked closely together during the campaign and had for a time been close friends, following the election Bannon and Kushner rapidly became rivals for Trump’s ear, with Bannon clearly resenting Kushner’s greater access to Trump.

The result is that Kushner is represented by Wolff – obviously drawing on Bannon – as a bungling out of depth amateur, whilst Ivanka is represented as treacherous and scheming, with ambitions to succeed her father as President.

The result of this division of authority was supposedly chaos, which was supposedly made worse by Donald Trump’s supposedly eccentric leadership style.

Much of the sensational material in the book is simply gossip intended to highlight Donald Trump’s supposedly eccentric leadership style in order to give flesh to Bannon’s criticisms about the division of authority in the White House.

What truth is there to any of this?

A measure of confusion is unavoidable where the new President is so inexperienced and is obliged to build bridges to the leadership of his party in Congress with whom he is unpopular.

To the extent that it was worse in the early months of the Trump administration than it should have been, the fault for this does not lie with Donald Trump but with his opponents.

The key point which Wolff ignores is that Donald Trump faced the single most sustained attack any newly elected President has faced in modern US history.

Parts of the bureaucracy were openly working against him, sabotaging his policies, leaking against him to the media, and placing people in his campaign and transition teams under surveillance on spurious charges of colluding with Russia.  There was even talk of his impeachment before he was even elected.

In the weeks leading up to his inauguration an attempt was made to persuade members of the Electoral College not to elect him, and on 8th January 2017 – twelve days before the inauguration – he was presented with an ‘intelligence assessment’ which all but said that he owed his election to the Russians and which included a salacious dossier which alleged that he had indulged himself in an orgy in a hotel room in Moscow.

Within days this dossier was published by the media, the Justice Department was sabotaging his ‘travel ban’ Executive Orders, the head of the FBI refused to deny false rumours that he was under investigation, strategically placed leaks brought down his National Security Adviser, and the fact that his campaign was under investigation was publicly confirmed to Congress.

Even details of his first meetings with Russian President Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov were maliciously leaked and spun in the media to cause him the greatest possible damage.

To expect the early days of any administration faced by this sort of attack to progress with clockwork efficiency is to expect the impossible.  To blame Donald Trump because things did not go altogether efficiently because of all this is to turn reality on its head.

Yet that is precisely what Wolff does.  If one were to use his book as a guide for the events of the first months of the Trump administration one might easily conclude that the Russiagate affair was a sideshow, not the all-consuming scandal holding Washington in its grip which it has been for the last 18 months.

Since it has attracted so much attention I will here say something about the one episode in the book which has been most widely reported.

This is Bannon’s comment about the meeting between Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which Bannon calls “treasonous”.

The Guardian – one of the most fervid supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – reports Bannon’s words in this way

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

These words show that Bannon does not really believe that Donald Trump Junior, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were engaging in treason when they met Veselnitskaya.  Rather what Bannon is saying is that by meeting Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower without lawyers present and without first tipping off the FBI they were exposing themselves to that claim.

In other words Bannon is saying that Donald Trump Junior, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner are stupid and incompetent (“that’s the brain trust they had”) and cannot be trusted to do anything right by themselves unless Bannon himself is involved (“any information could then be dumped down to Breitbart”).

Instead of being evidence that the meeting with Veselnitskaya was “treasonous”, Bannon’s words are therefore just another example of Bannon’s self-aggrandising and his all-too obvious hostility towards members of Donald Trump’s family.

Bannon’s real view of the Russiagate affair is provided in another passage in the book, which  – of course – has attracted no attention

As for Bannon, who had himself promoted many conspiracies, he dismissed the Russia story in textbook fashion: “It’s just a conspiracy theory”.  And, he added, the Trump team wasn’t capable of conspiring about anything.

Wolff reports one other highly cynical comment of Bannon’s about Trump’s attitude to Russia which has also attracted a measure of attention but which is more interesting in what it says about Bannon’s attitude to Trump than in what it says about Trump’s attitude to Russia

“What has he gotten himself into with the Russians?” pressed Ailes.

“Mostly,” said Bannon, “he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a shit about him. So he’s kept trying.”

This comment does not corroborate the Trump Dossier as some desperate people are trying to claim.

On the contrary it says that Trump has no connection to Russia and that his wish to mend relations with Russia stems from his wish to get Putin and the Russians to take him seriously and to agree to meet with him.

That not only argues against the Russians having done anything to help Trump get elected; it actually contradicts what the Trump Dossier says about the deep and longstanding links between Donald Trump and Russia.

In truth what this comment shows is the depth of Bannon’s contempt for Donald Trump, who at the time Bannon is supposed to have made this comment (early January 2017) was the US’s President elect and Bannon’s boss.

All in all Wolff’s book is a nasty book made up out of gossip and malice spiced up with a certain amount of fact,

It draws heavily on the reminiscences of an angry and bitter man – Steve Bannon – who has an exaggerated idea of himself.

To try to use this book to carry out a psychological diagnosis of Donald Trump – which is what some people are doing – is offensive and absurd.

The book’s principal importance is that at a time when the Russiagate conspiracy theory is imploding it shows how insubstantial and fabricated it always was.

Other than that it is of no value, and I doubt it will change opinions of Donald Trump one jot.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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