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Russiagate scandal approaches its implosion point

Publication of GOP memorandum on surveillance abuses by Obama’s Justice Department could blow the lid off the scandal

Alexander Mercouris

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It is becoming increasingly clear that the point of crisis in the Russiagate scandal has now been reached, and that it centres on the four page memorandum prepared by Republican Congressional investigators after their examination of the Justice Department’s documents on the evidence provided during the 2016 election by Obama’s Justice Department to the FBI to undertake surveillance of members of Donald Trump’s campaign.

Publication of this memorandum has just been agreed by the House Intelligence Committee.

The final decision whether or not to publish the memorandum lies with President Trump.

I think it is a foregone conclusion that he will decide to publish it, though I expect heavy lobbying from the Justice Department and the US intelligence community to persuade him not to do so.

All I would say about that is that if President Trump allows himself to be persuaded by whatever threats or promises the Justice Department and the US intelligence community make to him, then he is a fool.

I do not know what is in the memorandum, though FBI Director Christopher Wray, who read it on Sunday, was apparently profoundly shocked by its contents, leading him to demand the immediate resignation of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

What is known about the memorandum is that it concerns the Trump Dossier, and it is almost certainly not a coincidence that it has appeared at roughly the same time that demands have been coming from Senator Lindsey Graham for a second Special Counsel to be appointed to investigate the Justice Department’s and the FBI’s actions during the 2016 election, and when a request has been made by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham for the Justice Department to look into the possibility of whether Christopher Steele – the Trump Dossier’s compiler – may have committed criminal offences because of contradictory things which he is supposed to have said to the media.

There are of course plenty of rumours about what the memorandum says.

The most plausible rumours that I have seen say that the memorandum says that a FISA warrant was obtained to institute surveillance of Carter Page without the FISA court been told that the evidence cited in support of the application for the warrant was based wholly on information provided by the Trump Dossier, and that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Allegedly the US attorney who represented the Justice Department when the application for this FISA warrant was presented to the FISA court, and who did not provide the FISA court with the  information that it came from the Trump Dossier which the Democrats had paid for, was none other than Rod Rosenstein, who is now the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and who was the Justice Department official who appointed Robert Mueller Special Counsel to investigate the Russiagate collusion allegations which are based on the Trump Dossier.

If this is true then I must say that Rosenstein’s position looks to me untenable, and I think he will have to resign.

Though I do not know whether legally speaking Rosenstein is caught in a conflict of interest – my guess is that he is – I cannot imagine that the Republicans in Congress will tolerate his remaining in overall charge of the Russiagate inquiry after such a revelation, and I cannot see Rosenstein remaining Deputy Attorney General if he is stripped of his power to supervise Mueller’s inquiry.

Needless to say if Rosenstein is forced to resign, then it seems to me that Mueller’s days will also be numbered.  My guess is he will in that case resign immediately, though he might try to cling on.  If he does so he will only be there for a few days.

At that point Russiagate – or to be more precisely the legal investigation into the collusion allegations – will be finally over.

On the subject of whether or not the Justice Department and the FBI knew that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and by the Hillary Clinton campaign when it applied for the surveillance warrants to the FISA court, I must say that I agree with Representative Devin Nunes: it is all but inconceivable that they did not.

The very first question the FBI investigators would have asked Christopher Steele when he presented them with the first entry of the Trump Dossier back in early July 2016 was who was paying him, and he would have had to answer.

Even if all of Steele’s contacts were with Fusion GPS, and even if Steele only named Fusion GPS, that would have been enough for the FBI to trace the funding of the Trump Dossier back to the Democrats.  After all it was enough to set the Republicans in Congress on the right lead, and it beggars belief that the same would not have been the case for the FBI.

As it happens I suspect that there were many more contacts between the Democrats, the Justice Department and the FBI in the summer and autumn of 2016 than we know about, and I would not be surprised if the memorandum touches on them.

Perhaps the best evidence for the explosive contents of the memorandum is that the Democrats have felt obliged to produce their own memorandum in response to it.

Contrary to what Representative Adam Schiff is saying, the Republicans apparently agree that it should be published also.

The best discussion of all this – both about the contents of the Democrats’ memorandum and about the Republicans’ plan for eventual publication of the Democrats’ memorandum – has been provided by Byron York

…….there was also a rare moment of bipartisanship for the bitterly divided panel. At the same meeting, Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously to make the Democratic memo — the counter-memo to the Republican document — available to all members of the House.

That is the same process Republicans, under chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., followed with their memo. First, make it available to House members. (That happened on Jan. 18.) Later, after members of both parties have had a chance to read the memo, decide whether to release it to the public.

More than one Republican told me Monday that they plan to support releasing the Democratic memo to the public after a period of time comparable to the Republican example. (Republicans voted down a Democratic motion to make the Democratic memo public immediately, arguing that House members should have a chance to read it first.)

“Obviously we have gone through the process of letting our colleagues read our memo over the last several days, and I think that when the Democratic memo has gone through the same process, then it should have the same day in court, so to speak,” Republican committee member Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., told reporters after the session.

To no one’s surprise, ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was the first to make it to the cameras after the meeting Monday. He noted that the committee had voted to make the Democratic memo available to “members of the House that have been misled by the majority’s memorandum.” But he also spoke in a way that might have led a casual listener to conclude Republicans had voted to keep the memo completely under wraps. At one point he referred to “if and when the majority allows the minority memorandum to see the light of day.”

Now that the Democratic memo is available to everyone in the House, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will flock to read the memo as Republicans — about 200 of them — flocked to read the GOP memo. But what is clear is that some Republicans have already taken a look at the Democratic document, and it is, as expected, all about the GOP memo.

The Democratic memo, which like the Republican memo is classified and can only be viewed in a secure room, is an attempt to discredit the GOP document without making any larger point about the Trump-Russia investigation, said Republicans who have seen it.

“It was written by attorneys as a rebuttal to our memo, but it’s not going to move their argument forward,” noted one Republican member who has read the Democratic paper. “It’s too detailed, too confusing, and far more personal — they go after [Nunes] again and again.

The member noted that that Democratic memo contains far more classified information — names and sources — than the GOP paper. “It is much more revealing [of classified information],” he said. “It’s going to have to be heavily redacted before it can be released. We wrote our memo with the hope that it would be released to the American people. Their memo will have to be heavily redacted.”

Two other GOP members familiar with the memo echoed those points.

From this it is clear that the Republicans do not fear that the Democrats’ memorandum seriously challenges their own.

Rather it appears to have been concocted by the Democrats in order to muddle the issue and so as to give themselves counter arguments when the Republican memorandum is published.

Already that looks defensive, and the Republicans apparently feel that its verbose and legalistic style means that it fails to challenge their memorandum effectively.

One other fact in my opinion points strongly to the likely importance of the Republicans’ memorandum.

This is that though it has been the focus of all-absorbing discussion within the Washington political bubble for weeks, the liberal media in the US has barely spoken about it, and the media in Britain has ignored it entirely.

I have not come across a single reference to the memorandum in any British newspaper or on the BBC, which given the relentless way the British media has covered even the most insignificant and implausible of the Russiangate collusion allegations made against Donald Trump is both significant and remarkable.

What it points to is deep concern and embarrassment within the British elite, which given Britain’s central role in triggering the Russiagate scandal is not surprising.

All I would say about that is that if the memorandum is as explosive a document as appears likely then the British media is once again failing the British people, who may struggle to understand when it is published and when Russiagate finally collapses how that has happened.

Putting that aside, the supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory have not been inactive over the last few weeks, and as the prospect of the publication of the memorandum looms they have been working overtime to keep the scandal alive and to prepare their defences.

One approach has been play up ‘non news’ stories such as the fact that Mueller’s investigators have questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions and may one day question Donald Trump.  Needless to say that is neither new nor important nor even interesting.

The second has been to speak ominously of ‘threats to Mueller’ supposedly coming from within the administration.

The most recent example of this is a strange story that President Trump supposedly planned to sack Mueller in June – very soon after Mueller was in fact appointed – only to be talked out of doing so following a row with White House Counsel Don McGahn.

President Trump has categorically denied this story – which has no independent corroboration – calling it ‘fake news’, but as now invariably happens his liberal opponents refuse to take his denial seriously, and despite his denial act as if the story has been proved true.

Personally speaking, I doubt that President Trump seriously intended to sack Mueller in June.  The political risks involved in doing so so soon after the botched sacking of former FBI Director James Comey, would have been too obvious and far too great for Trump to have seriously intended it.

Possibly Trump – who is an emotional man, and who is known to have deeply resented Mueller’s appointment – spoke wildly of sacking Mueller, only for this to provoke an angry rejoinder from McGahn, a tough and hardbitten character who is apparently known to give as good as he gets.  However I doubt that Trump ever seriously planned to sack Mueller.

Most probably the whole story – like so many others which have appeared over the course of the Russiagate scandal – is as Trump says an invention.

Whether it is or not, of one thing there is no doubt, which is that it is a red herring.

Whatever Trump’s intentions towards Mueller might have been back in June, he has repeatedly denied that he has any plan to sack Mueller now, making what didn’t happen back in June entirely beside the point.

The third approach has been to try to distance the scandal from the Trump Dossier by pretending that it did not have the central role in creating the scandal that it obviously did.

Thus we have seen the attempt to play up the role of George Papadopoulos (discussed at length by me here).

Now we have a new story ultimately sourced from the Dutch media that Dutch intelligence supposedly hacked a Russian hacking group based in a university building in Moscow back in 2014.

Supposedly CCTV inside the building was also hacked, enabling pictures to be taken of the members of the hacking group.

As with so many Russiagate related stories this one turns out to be a great deal less impressive than it looks at first glance.

Firstly, that a hacking group might be operating in 2014 out a university building in Moscow should surprise no one.

The fact that the building in question is said to have been situated close to Red Square points to the building in question being one of the old buildings of Moscow State University.

The staff and students of Moscow State University undoubtedly include many people with both the skill and the inclination to become hackers, and that some of them might actually have become hackers should surprise no one.

That fact alone makes it overwhelmingly likely that what the Dutch came across was a private hacking group made up of staff and students from Moscow State University, and the fact that the group used hacking tools known as Cozy Bear which are widely available to hackers who know how to access the dark web all but confirms this.

That Russian intelligence carried out an ultra sensitive hacking operation from an inherently insecure location like a university building in the centre of Moscow is all but inconceivable, and that whole idea should be put aside.

Moreover it seems from the reports that the Dutch did not in fact catch the hackers in the act of stealing the emails from the computers of the Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta.  I say this because if they did the Dutch media stories would certainly have confirmed it.

The Dutch media reports say that the Dutch were able to monitor the group for roughly a year, from mid 2014 to mid 2015.  The alleged cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee are supposed to have begun in the summer of 2015 and to have continued until 2016.  That strongly suggests that the Dutch ceased monitoring the hacking group just before the cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee are supposed to have taken place.

Perhaps the cyber attacks (if they happened) really were the work of the group the Dutch came across, but it is clear that the Dutch do not know this.

In summary, the Dutch appear to have come across what was almost certainly a private hacking group consisting of staff and students from Moscow State University and operating from one of the buildings of Moscow State University, but Russian intelligence was almost certainly not involved, and the Dutch have no proof that the group in question was involved in the hacking of the computers of the Democratic National Committee or of John Podesta or in the theft of the emails published by Wikileaks which were stolen from those computers.  Nor obviously do they have any proof that the group was involved in providing the emails which were stolen from those computers to Wikileaks.

Possibly intelligence reports from the Dutch of the Dutch discovery in 2014 of this Russian hacking group hardened belief within the US intelligence community in 2016 of Russian involvement in the theft and publication of the Democratic National Committee and Podesta emails.  If so then it was an exercise in deduction based on too few facts.

Regardless, what the hackers in Moscow were up to in 2014 and 2015 can have no bearing on the collusion allegations between the Trump campaign and Russia which are the heart of the Russiagate scandal.

A careful analysis of the story therefore reveals it to be – like the ‘revelations’ about Papadopoulos – simply another red herring.

Frankly publication of this story at this time looks like another attempt to bolster the Russiagate conspiracy narrative just at the moment when with the imminent publication of the Republicans’ memorandum it looks to be collapsing.

Publication of the Republicans’ memorandum, even if it is as devastating as all the indications suggest it is, and even if it does trigger the resignations of Rosenstein and Mueller, will not spell the immediate end of the Russiagate conspiracy theory.

The Democrats and the media are heavily invested in it, and they will try to spin any resignations by Rosenstein and Mueller – or any pressure from the Republicans arising from the contents of the memorandum to get Rosenstein and Mueller to resign – as a Republican plot to suppress the truth.

That presumably is why the story of Trump planning to sack Mueller back in June is now being brought up.

The Democrats’ memorandum points to their chief line of attack: a legalistic defence of the actions of the Justice Department and the FBI and of the US intelligence community during the 2016 election in order to deny any wrongdoing and so as to keep the story focused on the collusion allegations.

With the media in the US and in Britain lending this line of attack its full support, and doubtless churning out more ‘non stories’ and red herrings of the sort I have discussed in the article, it is likely that for a time many people will continue to be confused and will be unsure where the truth lies.

Ultimately nothing can however disguise the fact that the surveillance of members of the Trump campaign during the election on the basis of unverified ‘evidence’ paid for by the Democrats, and the systematic and illegal leaking of classified information in order to undermine Donald Trump both before and after he was inaugurated President, actually took place.

By contrast the allegations of Russian leaking of the emails stolen from the computers of the Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta have never been conclusively proved, whilst the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians which Mueller is supposed to be investigating definitely never took place.

It may take a little time, but once all the facts are out in the open it is only a matter of time before most people finally see the truth.

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

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Duran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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