Paul Gauguin Palm trees on Martinique 1887
A few -seemingly?!- contradictory items I noticed this morning. First, the oil the US is smuggling, stealing -take your pick- from Syrian oil fields.
On the one hand, we have U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper claiming that the revenue from the stolen oil goes to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which partly uses it “guard prisons that hold captured Islamic State fighters.”
The United States will repel any attempt to take Syria’s oil fields away from U.S.-backed Syrian militia with “overwhelming force,” whether the opponent is Islamic State or even forces backed by Russia or Syria, the Pentagon said on Monday. The U.S. military announced last week it was reinforcing its position in Syria with additional assets, including mechanized forces, to prevent oilfields from being taken over by remnants of the Islamic State militant group or others. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper offered some of his most detailed remarks to date about the mission at a news briefing on Monday.
“U.S. troops will remain positioned in this strategic area to deny ISIS access those vital resources. And we will respond with overwhelming military force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. Pressed on whether the U.S. military mission included denying any Russian or Syrian government forces access to the oilfields, Esper said: “The short answer is, yes, it presently does.” He noted that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, relied on that oil income to fund its fighters, including the ones guarding prisons that hold captured Islamic State fighters. “We want to make sure that SDF does have access to resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat-ISIS mission,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
But on the other hand, the Saker quotes “official representative of the [Russian] Defense Ministry” Igor Konashenkov saying “the income of smuggling goes to the personal accounts of US PMCs and special forces.” (PMC=Private Military Company)
As the official representative of the Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov noted, the Americans are extracting oil in Syria with the help of equipment, bypassing their own sanctions. Igor Konashenkov: “Under the protection of American military servicemen and employees of American PMCs, fuel trucks from the oil fields of Eastern Syria are smuggling to other states. In the event of any attack on such a caravan, special operations forces and US military aircraft are immediately called in to protect it,” he said.
According to Konashenkov, the US-controlled company Sadcab, established under the so-called Autonomous Administration of Eastern Syria, is engaged in the export of oil, and the income of smuggling goes to the personal accounts of US PMCs and special forces. The Major General added that as of right now, a barrel of smuggled Syrian oil is valued at $38, therefore the monthly revenue of US governmental agencies exceeds $30 million.
You be the judge. Which of the two accounts is more credible? The Saker report also says the US has been stealing the oil for a very long time. At $30 million a month. So is it the benign “guarding ISIS prisoners” or the less benign Blackwater et al?
Secondly, Pelosi’s sudden shift towards legitimizing the 34 day old “impeachment inquiry”, which comes in a document that at the same time says it already is perfectly legit. So why the move? Is it to assure Trump is provided with his “due process rights”? Can he subpoena witnesses now, is that what this means?
Or does this have to do with the lawsuit former deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, Charles Kupperman, filed on Friday, and on which a federal judge has yet to rule? Do the Dems have the idea they’ll lose that one?
Do note House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) saying the vote would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward”. 34 days of operating in secret in a basement and then you have the gall to talk about transparency? 34 days of selective leaking to friendly media but now we’re getting a “clear path forward”? I would tend to agree with Kevin McCarthy that “this process has been botched from the start”. Nothing partisan about that, just imagine what the NYT and WaPo would be writing if the GOP would be doing secret testimonies of Obama-era FBI, CIA and White House staff.
Oh, wait a minute, Schiff may have opened the door to just that! Is that a factor in Pelosi’s 180º?
Update: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responded to Monday’s announcement, tweeting “It’s been 34 days since Nancy Pelosi unilaterally declared her impeachment inquiry. Today’s backtracking is an admission that this process has been botched from the start. We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment.”
[..] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that a vote will be held this Thursday “that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees” as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to the Washington Post. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said the vote would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward” as their investigations continue. The resolution will authorize the disclosure of deposition transcripts as well as set forth due process rights for President Trump, according to Pelosi. It will also establish a procedure for open hearings.
[..] The announcement comes after former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman – who served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton – filed a Friday lawsuit seeking guidance from a federal judge as to whether he should follow the advice of the executive branch, which has instructed him not to attend, or Congress, according to the Post. As the judge has yet to rule on his request, Kupperman declined to appear.
“House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), meanwhile, said that a former deputy national security adviser had “no basis in law” to skip a deposition Monday and that his failure to appear was further evidence of Trump’s efforts to obstruct Congress.” -Washington Post. Kupperman was on the line when President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky held a July 25 discussion in which Trump requested investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden, as well as allegations of Ukrainian election meddling in 2016 to benefit Hillary Clinton.
There’s another case, that of former Trump lawyer Don McGahn, who is in the same legal split between the Dems subpoena and the White House order not to comply with it. Several people have testified in Adam Schiff’s secret basement despite the order. McGahn has his lawyers talking to the DOJ -for quite some time too-, and Kupperman’s lawsuit asking a judge to decide seems to make sense.
According to Politico, lawyers from the Department of Justice have been in talks with the House committee responsible for drafting articles of impeachment, about the possibility of letting former White House Counsel Don McGahn testify — despite the fact that the current White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, has stated the administration will not cooperate with the investigation.
“In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” Cipollone wrote to House Democrats on October 8, in a letter that was loaded with political rather than legal arguments. But that same day, Justice Department lawyers were in talks with the House Judiciary Committee about McGahn possibly testifying. And they subsequently held four more meetings on October 11, 15, 21 and 24.
Lastly, a curious item from the Sydney Morning Herald. It notes that the Australian government has figured out that Julian Assange has “high-profile and loyal supporters”. But highly curiously, Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance.
What? Jennifer Robinson, the lawyer is question, has been banging on Australian political doors for years in order to get assistance. And now this statement? Who are these people? Some people over there are belatedly waking up, but it may all largely be posturing. Until we see actual help on its way, don’t believe a word they say.
Julian Assange’s British legal team has requested Australian diplomatic help as fears grow for his health and mental state in a London prison. [..] Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance. The 48-year-old is fighting US attempts to extradite him to face 17 counts of spying and one of computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified Pentagon files regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to the Australian Assange campaign, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald his UK lawyers on Friday requested consular assistance following a recent inquiry from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “Julian’s lawyers are asking for the Australian government’s assistance in dealing with their client’s inhumane conditions in Belmarsh prison which has led to, and is continuing to cause, serious damage to Julian’s health,” Mr Barns said. [..] The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) passed a motion at its national conference on Saturday calling for the Australian government to do “all it can” to bring Assange home and resist US attempts to extradite him.
ALA national president Andrew Christopoulos said it was an important issue about the rule of law and protecting an Australian in a vulnerable position overseas. “This is about standing up for the rule of law, fairness and the freedom to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “The reported decline of Julian Assange’s physical and mental health heightens the need for urgent government intervention. The government has intervened in cases like this before and should do so in this circumstance.” If the case goes to a series of appeals, Assange could remain in a UK jail until at least 2025.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week acknowledged the publicity around the case and that Assange had high-profile and loyal supporters. She said it was important to let the legal process run its course. “He has been offered consular services … like any other Australian would,” Senator Payne told the Senate committee. “I think it’s important to remember that as Australia would not accept intervention or interference in our legal processes, we are not able to intervene in the legal processes of another country.”
Obviously, this map is far from complete.