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Manafort indictment: Mueller’s best (and last?) shot

Indictment fails to touch on collusion allegations central to the Russiagate scandal

Alexander Mercouris




As widely predicted, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate probe has now formally indicted Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in what the media is calling the ‘first indictment’ in the Russiagate investigation.

Manafort was warned at the time of the search of his home that he would be indicted so the news of the indictment is not surprising.

The timing of the indictment does however raise some interesting questions.

It comes after what was in all other respects a disastrous two weeks for the true believers in the Russiagate conspiracy with the revelation that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign financed the ‘research’ which resulted in the Trump Dossier, and with mounting claims that (as I had previously suspected) the now notorious meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was indeed a sting set up by Fusion GPS, the intermediary company used by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign to fund the Trump Dossier.

In light of this there has to be some suspicion that the decision to press charges against Manafort and one of his aides now was intended at least in part to distract attention from the revelations and to regain control of the Russiagate narrative, which has been increasingly falling apart.

What reinforces this suspicion is that news of the indictment was leaked – disgracefully – to the media over the weekend even though the indictment had been sealed by a Federal Judge.

On the face of it that is a serious contempt of court, and if it was done by someone working for the Special Counsel’s team or for the Justice Department then it is or ought to be a very serious matter.  The depressing reality of the Russiagate affair is however that its partisans have never shown much respect for these important procedural safeguards, and nor have they ever been held to account for not doing so.

Turning to the actual charges against Manafort, Zerohedge has now published the complete indictment which can be found here.  

In my opinion the major points about the indictment are:

(1) that there is no reference in the indictment to collusion between Manafort and the Russians or between the Trump campaign and the Russians during last year’s Presidential election.

Importantly there is no reference in the indictment to the central claim made by supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory: that the Trump campaign (including presumably Manafort) colluded with the Russians to release the emails which were allegedly stolen by the Russians from the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers and which were published by Wikileaks.

(2) All the charges against Manafort are of an essentially financial nature and appear to centre on Manafort’s well-known dealings with the former government of Ukraine.

The portentous language about Manafort engaging in a ‘conspiracy against the United States’, which will doubtless be seized upon by the Russiagate partisans, appears to concern exclusively Manafort’s attempt to conceal his allegedly corrupt activities from the US authorities, including from the US tax authorities.

For what it’s worth my opinion is that the single most serious item in the whole indictment and the one which Manafort will have the most difficulty in explaining away is the claim that he doctored documents to conceal his activities.

(3) It is possible that buried deep in the various financial dealings outlined in the indictment there are dealings between Manafort and individuals or companies in Russia. That however is not obvious and so far as I can see the indictment does not actually say this.  It would anyway be a matter of doubtful relevance to the Russiagate collusion allegations even if it were true.

(4) Though Manafort like everyone else is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and though proving the charges in the indictment in a court of law may not be at all easy – it is important to remember that we have not so far heard Manafort’s side of the story – I for one am perfectly willing to accept that these charges may be true.

However the charges do not seem to have any direct bearing on the Russiagate collusion allegations, which were the allegations which caused the Russiagate investigation to be set up in the first place, and that does beg the question of why Mueller is bringing the charges rather than simply passing the case on for further investigation to the FBI

Briefly, the answer is that from the moment he took over the inquiry Mueller has focused on Manafort whose complicated financial dealings have made him an obvious target.  The idea clearly was to put pressure on Manafort to get him to talk about the collusion allegations.

The fact that Mueller has now been obliged to bring formal charges against Manafort shows that this strategy has so far failed and looks increasingly unlikely to succeed.  Manafort has not only failed to ‘crack’ but continues to deny publicly the collusion allegations and to insist that he has done nothing wrong.

To have done nothing in the face of this defiance would have made the earlier threat to bring charges look like a bluff, and it was to avoid that happening – which would have destroyed the credibility of the inquiry – that made Mueller act by issuing the indictment.

An important point to understand is that legally speaking the effect of the indictment is to transition the Russiagate inquiry as it relates to Manafort from an investigation of Manafort into a prosecution of Manafort.

That means that Mueller’s investigators can no longer question Manafort about the matters that make up the indictment (save in very exceptional circumstances) because by charging Manafort they have committed themselves to proving in court their charges against Manafort on the existing evidence.

Whilst technically that does not mean that Manafort cannot be questioned on the collusion allegations – which are not part of the indictment – the extent to which that can happen is now open to doubt.  Personally I would not be surprised if on the advice of his lawyers Manafort henceforth refuses to answer any further questions put to him by Mueller’s investigators on any subject at all.

If so then that effectively ends Manafort’s role in the Russiagate inquiry.

Cases like the one which has just been brought against Manafort are unfortunately far from unusual in the notoriously sleazy world of top end political lobbying and influence-peddling, which is the world in which Manafort chose to do his business.

Though his business has made Manafort a very rich man, at the back of his mind he must have always known that he was running serious risks by engaging in it.  In a sense those risks were an occupational hazard which Manafort accepted in order to make himself the very rich man that he is now.

It is unfortunately also the case that cases like the one which has just been brought against Manafort rarely attract much attention, and usually end with a plea-bargain in which the accused admits to some of the lesser charges and agrees to pay a large sum of money to the authorities in return for a lighter sentence usually involving payment of a large fine.  That I suspect is how this case will end.

Mueller may still entertain hopes that Manafort will agree to admit to collusion with the Russians during the election as part of a plea-bargain.  However that is most unlikely to happen.

Not only would that require Manafort to admit to something which never took place – which is always something very difficult and problematic to do – but Manafort’s lawyers would almost certainly advise him against doing it since it would involve him admitting to something far more serious than what he has been charged with in the indictment.  Even in return for an offer of immunity that would be a very risky thing for him to do.

In this particular case there is the added complication of the very high possibility of an eventual Presidential pardon.

Ultimately the reason a case is being brought against Manafort is not because of his past financial dealings but because he has been placed in Mueller’s crosshairs as a result of the Russiagate collusion allegations.

That must make an eventual Presidential pardon a very real possibility and Manafort and his lawyers will not want him to jeopardise that prospect by admitting to something which is extremely serious and which is anyway untrue.

The indictment against Manafort is therefore a predictable outcome of the tactics Mueller has been following over the course of the Russiagate inquiry.

Though there may be other indictments pending – for example one against General Flynn – none of the other individuals named in the Russiagate scandal appears to have a past anywhere near as complex as Manafort’s.

Ultimately it is not in Mueller’s interests to fire off a volley of indictments on marginal issues which do not touch on the central Russiagate collusion allegations, since doing so will in the end only serve to damage the credibility of his inquiry by making it look even more like he is running a witch-hunt.  Already there are attacks on him alleging precisely that in connection with the charges he has now brought against Manafort.

Since the Manafort indictment looks to have been the best shot in Mueller’s locker, the fact that Mueller has now been forced to shoot it means that from now on he is going to start looking increasingly short of ammunition.

If so then this indictment, though it will doubtless dominate the headlines for a few days, is in truth a further sign that the Russiagate scandal is drawing to a close.

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The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.





Via RT…

Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?

Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”

The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.

A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.

The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.

At the time of the scandal, former CIA director John Brennan went on MSNBC to state that the Khashoggi’s death would be the downfall of MBS. Furthermore, the US Senate just voted in favour of ending American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (a somewhat symbolic victory, though this is a topic for another article), but nonetheless was a clear stab at MBS personally.

The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’s unfaltering support for MBS, even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS, was the US president himself. So after years of bombarding Yemen, sponsoring terror groups across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and beyond, why is it only now that there has been mounting opposition to Saudi Arabia’s leadership? Let’s just bear in mind that western media had spent years investing in a heavy PR campaign to paint MBS as a “reformer.”

Former national security adviser under Barack Obama’s second term, Susan Rice, wrote an article in the New York Times, in which she called MBS a “partner we can’t depend on.” Rice concludes that MBS is “not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner of the United States and our allies.” But why is this? Is it because MBS is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses inside his own kingdom as well as in Yemen? Is it because of MBS’ support for groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda? No, according to Rice, we “should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make it clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammad continues to wield unlimited power.”

One will observe that the latter segment of Rice’s article almost mirrors former CIA director Brennan’s word on MSNBC word for word who stated that:

“I think ultimately this is going to come out. And it’s very important for us to maintain the relations with Saudi Arabia. And if it’s Mohammed bin Salman who’s the cancer here, well, we need to be able to find ways to eliminate the cancer and to move forward with this relationship that is critical to regional stability and our national interests.”

In reality, this is probably the issue that western media and government advisors have taken up with MBS. Aside from the fact he allegedly held a huge hand in the brutal murder of one of their own establishment journalists (Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured and killed another journalist not long after Khashoggi, but western media was eerily silent on this incident) MBS is not opposed for his reckless disregard for human rights. With insight into Rice’s mindset, we actually learn that if the US were to punish MBS, he would be likely to “behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners.”

You see, the problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers met in Vienna at the year’s final big OPEC meeting of the year. As Foreign Policy notes, Saudi Arabia remains the largest oil producer inside OPEC but has to contend with the US and Russia who are “pumping oil at record levels.” Together, the three countries are the world’s biggest oil producers, meaning any coordinated decision made between these three nations can be somewhat monumental.

However, it appears that one of these three nations will end up drawing the short end of the stick as the other two begin forming a closer alliance. As Foreign Policy explains:

“But Saudi Arabia has bigger game in mind at Vienna than just stabilizing oil prices. Recognizing that it can’t shape the global oil market by itself anymore but rather needs the cooperation of Russia, Saudi Arabia is hoping to formalize an ad hoc agreement between OPEC and Moscow that began in 2016, a time when dirt-cheap oil also posed a threat to oil-dependent regimes. That informal agreement expires at the end of the year, but the Saudis would like to make Russia’s participation with the cartel more permanent.”

Russian officials have been signalling their intention to formalise this agreement for quite some time now. Given the hysteria in western media about any and all things Russian, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is the kind of news that is not sitting too well with the powers-that-be.

Earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced that it would “institutionalize” the two-year-old bilateral agreement to coordinate oil production targets in order to maintain an edge on the global market.

While US president Trump has been supportive and incredibly defensive of MBS during this “crisis”, the truth is that the US only has itself to blame. It was not all too long ago that Trump announced that he had told Saudi King Salman that his kingdom would not last two weeks without US support.

Saudi Arabia is learning for themselves quite quickly that, ultimately, it may pay not to have all its eggs in one geopolitical superpower basket.

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in Moscow since King Salman made a historic visit to Moscow in October 2017. While Trump has openly bragged about his record-breaking arms deals with the Saudis, the blunt truth is that the $110 billion arms agreements were reportedly only ever letters of interest or intent, but not actual contracts. As such, the US-Saudi arms deal is still yet to be locked in, all the while Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for its S-400 air defence system. This is, as the Washington Post notes, despite repeated US requests to Saudi Arabia for it disavow its interest in Russia’s arms.

The economic threat that an “independent” Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership poses to Washington runs deeper than meets the eye and may indeed have a domino effect. According to CNN, Russia and Saudi Arabia “are engaged in an intense battle over who will be the top supplier to China, a major energy importer with an insatiable appetite for crude.”

The unveiling of China’s petro-yuan poses a major headache for Washington and its control over Saudi Arabia as well.According to Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High-Frequency Economics, China will “compel”Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Chinese yuan instead of US dollars. One must bear in mind that China has now surpassed the US as the “biggest oil importer on the planet,” these direct attacks on the US dollar will have huge implications for its current world reserve status.

If Saudi Arabia jumps on board China’s petro-yuan, the rest of OPEC will eventually follow, and the US might be left with no choice but to declare all of these countries in need of some vital freedom and democracy.

Therefore, ousting MBS and replacing him with a Crown Prince who doesn’t stray too far from the tree that is US imperialism may put a dent in pending relationships with Saudi Arabia and Washington’s adversaries, Russia and China.

Once we get over the certainty that the US media and the CIA are not against MBS for his long-list of human rights abuses, the question then becomes: why – why now, and in this manner, have they decided to put the spotlight on MBS and expose him exactly for what he is.

Clearly, the driving force behind this media outrage is a bit more complex than first meets the eye.

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The Indiscreet Charm of the Gilets Jaunes

Nothing scares the Identity Politics Left quite like an actual working class uprising.




Authored (satirically) by CJ Hopkins via The Unz Review:

So it appears the privatization of France isn’t going quite as smoothly as planned. As I assume you are aware, for over a month now, the gilets jaunes (or “yellow vests”), a multiplicitous, leaderless, extremely pissed off, confederation of working class persons, have been conducting a series of lively protests in cities and towns throughout the country to express their displeasure with Emmanuel Macron and his efforts to transform their society into an American-style neo-feudal dystopia. Highways have been blocked, toll booths commandeered, luxury automobiles set on fire, and shopping on the Champs-Élysées disrupted. What began as a suburban tax revolt has morphed into a bona fide working class uprising.

It took a while for “the Golden Boy of Europe” to fully appreciate what was happening. In the tradition of his predecessor, Louis XVI, Macron initially responded to the gilets jaunes by inviting a delegation of Le Monde reporters to laud his renovation of the Elysée Palace, making the occasional condescending comment, and otherwise completely ignoring them. That was back in late November. Last Saturday, he locked down central Paris, mobilized a literal army of riot cops, “preventatively arrested” hundreds of citizens, including suspected “extremist students,” and sent in the armored military vehicles.

The English-language corporate media, after doing their best not to cover these protests (and, instead, to keep the American and British publics focused on imaginary Russians), have been forced to now begin the delicate process of delegitimizing the gilets jaunes without infuriating the the entire population of France and inciting the British and American proletariats to go out and start setting cars on fire. They got off to a bit of an awkward start.

For example, this piece by Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian‘s Paris Bureau Chief, and her Twitter feed from the protests last Saturday. Somehow (probably a cock-up at headquarters), The Guardian honchos allowed Chrisafis to do some actual propaganda-free reporting (and some interviews with actual protesters) before they caught themselves and replaced her with Kim Willsher, who resumed The Guardian‘s usual neoliberal establishment-friendly narrative, which, in this case, entailed dividing the protesters into “real” gilets jaunes and “fake” gilet jaunes, and referring to the latter fictional group as “thuggish, extremist political agitators.”

By Sunday, the corporate media were insinuating that diabolical Russian Facebook bots had brainwashed the French into running amok, because who else could possibly be responsible? Certainly not the French people themselves! The French, as every American knows, are by nature a cowardly, cheese-eating people, who have never overthrown their rightful rulers, or publicly beheaded the aristocracy. No, the French were just sitting there, smoking like chimneys, and otherwise enjoying their debt-enslavement and the privatization of their social democracy, until they unsuspectingly logged onto Facebook and … BLAMMO, the Russian hackers got them!

Bloomberg is reporting that French authorities have opened a probe into Russian interference (in the middle of which report, for no apparent reason, a gigantic photo of Le Pen is featured, presumably just to give it that “Nazi” flavor). According to “analysis seen by The Times,” Russia-linked social media accounts have been “amplifying” the “chaos” and “violence” by tweeting photos of gilets jaunes who the French police have savagely beaten or gratuitiously shot with “less-than-lethal projectiles.” “Are nationalists infiltrating the yellow vests?” the BBC Newsnight producers are wondering. According to Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick, “a beast born almost entirely from Facebook” is slouching toward … well, I’m not quite sure, the UK or even, God help us, America! And then there’s Max Boot, who is convinced he is being personally persecuted by Russian agents like Katie Hopkins, James Woods, Glenn Greenwald, and other high-ranking members of a worldwide conspiracy Boot refers to as the “Illiberal International” (but which regular readers of my column will recognize as the “Putin-Nazis“).

And, see, this is the problem the corporate media (and other staunch defenders of global neoliberalism) are facing with these gilets jaunes protests. They can’t get away with simply claiming that what is happening is not a working class uprising, so they have been forced to resort to these blatant absurdities. They know they need to delegitimize the gilets jaunes as soon as possible — the movement is already starting to spread — but the “Putin-Nazi” narrative they’ve been using on Trump, Corbyn, and other “populists” is just not working.

No one believes the Russians are behind this, not even the hacks who are paid to pretend they do. And the “fascism” hysteria is also bombing. Attempts to portray the gilets jaunes as Le Pen-sponsored fascists blew up in their faces. Obviously, the far-Right are part of these protests, as they would be in any broad working class uprising, but there are far too many socialists and anarchists (and just regular pissed-off working class people) involved for the media to paint them all as “Nazis.”

Which is not to say that the corporate media and prominent public intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy will not continue to hammer away at the “fascism” hysteria, and demand that the “good” and “real” gilets jaunes suspend their protests against Macron until they have completely purged their movement of “fascists,” and “extremists,” and other dangerous elements, and have splintered it into a number of smaller, antagonistic ideological factions that can be more easily neutralized by the French authorities … because that’s what establishment intellectuals do.

We can expect to hear this line of reasoning, not just from establishment intellectuals like Lévy, but also from members of the Identity Politics Left, who are determined to prevent the working classes from rising up against global neoliberalism until they have cleansed their ranks of every last vestige of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and so on. These leftist gatekeepers have been struggling a bit to come up with a response to the gilets jaunes … a response that doesn’t make them sound like hypocrites. See, as leftists, they kind of need to express their support for a bona fide working class uprising. At the same time, they need to delegitimize it, because their primary adversaries are fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and assorted other isms and phobias, not the neoliberal ruling classes.

Nothing scares the Identity Politics Left quite like an actual working class uprising. Witnessing the furious unwashed masses operating out there on their own, with no decent human restraint whatsoever, Identity Politics Leftists feel a sudden overwhelming urge to analyze, categorize, organize, sanitize, and otherwise correct and control them.

They can’t accept the fact that the actual, living, breathing working classes are messy, multiplicitous, inconsistent, and irreducible to any one ideology. Some of them are racists. Some are fascists. Others are communists, socialists, and anarchists. Many have no idea what they are, and don’t particularly care for any of these labels.This is what the actual working classes are … a big, contradictory collection of people who, in spite of all their differences, share one thing in common, that they are being screwed over by the ruling classes. I don’t know about you, but I consider myself one of them.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. According to The Guardian, as I am sitting here writing this, the whole of Europe is holding its breath in anticipation of the gilets jaunes’ response to Macron’s most recent attempt to appease them, this time with an extra hundred Euros a month, some minor tax concessions, and a Christmas bonus.

Something tells me it’s not going to work, but even if it does, and the gilets jaunes uprising ends, this messy, Western “populist” insurgency against global neoliberalism has clearly entered a new phase. Count on the global capitalist ruling classes to intensify their ongoing War on Dissent and their demonization of anyone opposing them (or contradicting their official narrative) as an “extremist,” a “fascist,” a “Russian agent,” and so on. I’m certainly looking forward to that, personally.

Oh… yeah, and I almost forgot, if you were wondering what you could get me for Christmas, I did some checking, and there appears to be a wide selection of yellow safety vests online for just a couple Euros.

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Washington Is Changing The World Order Against Its Own Interests

Any country sufficiently stupid to ally with the US is allied with a dead man walking.

Paul Craig Roberts



Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:

The hubris and arrogance of Washington have been at work since the Clinton regime to destroy the power and relevance of the United States.

This website has an international audience. The most asked question from this audience is the world order. There is a realization that Washington’s control might weaken, a development people abroad see as hopeful. They ask me for verification of their hope.

Here is my answer:

The world order has already changed.  China has a larger and more powerful industrial and manufacturing based economy than the US, and China’s potential domestic consumer market is four times larger than that of the US. As economies are consumer based, China’s potential is an economy four times larger than that of the US.

Russia has a far more capable military with weapon systems unmatched by the US. The US is drowning in debt, and the illegal and irresponsible sanctions that Washington tries to impose on others are driving the world’s largest countries away from the use of the US dollar as world reserve currency and away from Western clearance systems such as SWIFT.  The United States already has one foot in the grave.  Any country sufficiently stupid to ally with the US is allied with a dead man walking.

President Eisenhower, a five-star general, warned Americans 57 years ago to no effect that the military/security complex was already a threat to the American people’s ability to control their government. Today the military/security complex is the Government. As Udo Ulfkotte documented in his book, Journalists for Hire: How the CIA buys the News—no you can’t buy a copy unless you can find a used copy in German in a German book store, the CIA has seen to that—journalism independent of official explanations no longer exists in the Western world.

Much of the world does not understand this. Aside from the material interests of Russian and Chinese capitalists, a portion of the youth of both superpowers, and also even in Iran, have succumbed to brainwashing by American propaganda. Gullible beyond belief, they are more loyal to America than they are to their own countries.

The United States itself is extremely unsuccessful, but its propaganda still rules the world. The consequence is that, based on its propagandistic success, Washington thinks it still holds the balance of economic and military power. This is a delusion that is leading Washington to nuclear war.

Considering the hypersonic speed, trajectory changeability and massive power of Russian nuclear weapons, war with Russia will result in nothing whatsoever being left of the US and its vassals, who sold out European peoples for Washington’s money.

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