Vincent van Gogh Agostina Segatori Sitting in the Café du Tambourin 1887
Papadopoulos as an agent of Israel is quite the surprise.
Prosecutors closely examined whether Donald Trump or members of his 2016 campaign conspired with Russia to release emails which were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, and/or any involvement with the Kremlin’s social media disinformation campaigns. The investigation also covered whether Trump associates operated as unregistered Russian (and in one case Israeli) agents, and whether the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian attorney violated campaign finance laws as a “thing-of-value” offered by foreign governments, or crossed any other legal boundaries.
At the end of the day, Mueller and his team did not find that any Trump campaign associates were operating on behalf of a foreign government in connection with the 2016 election. Mueller did, however, find Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates guilty of crimes connected to their work for the Ukrainian government prior to their involvement with Trump. There are a mountain of pages and footnotes to go through, but here are some takeaways so far:
Mueller was unable to establish that Trump committed any underlying crimes. “Unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” the report reads.
Mueller considered pressing charges in connection with the Trump Tower meeting. The special counsel’s office considered prosecuting the Trump Tower meeting as a campaign-finance violation, however declined because they didn’t have “admissible evidence” likely to prove that Trump officials “wilfully” acted, or that the information offered by the Russians exceeded the threshold for prosecution. Interestingly – the Mueller report completely omits the involvement of Fusion GPS in the Trump tower meeting – as the Russian attorney involved in it, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was a Fusion GPS associate and met with founder Glenn Simpson before and after the Trump Tower meeting. Also noteworthy is that the Trump Tower meeting investigation “did not identify evidence connecting the events of June 9 & the GRU’s hack-and-dump operation.
Mueller looked at charging Trump aide George Papadopoulos as an agent of Israel.
Trump worried that the Special Counsel investigation would end his presidency. According to the Mueller report, when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions let Trump know about the appointment of a special counsel, Trump replied: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” adding “How could you allow this to happen, Jeff?” Trump goes on to say: “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Former White House attorney Don McGahn threatened to resign.McGahn was ready to hand in his resignation as White House counsel in June 2017 when Trump directed him to tell Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein that “Mueller has to go,” per the report. “In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre,” during the Nixon administration. McGahn would stay on as White House counsel for for another 16 months.
No Collusion? No Problem. We’ve already moved over to Obstruction. Which is directly linked to the probe into the collusion which never existed. No Collusion? No Obstruction.
At its heart, the Trump-Russia probe was about one question: Did the Trump campaign conspire, coordinate, or collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election? Mueller has concluded that did not happen. Everything else in the Trump-Russia affair flowed from that one question. Paul Manafort’s shady finances would not have come under investigation were it not for that question. Carter Page would not have been wiretapped were it not for that question. Michael Flynn would not have been interviewed by the FBI were it not for that question. Zillions of hours on cable TV would not have been expended on Trump-Russia were it not for that question. And in the largest sense, there would have been no Mueller investigation were it not for that question.
And now Mueller has determined there was no collusion. Not that there was no criminal collusion. Or no prove-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt collusion. Just no collusion. Mueller’s report says it over and over and over again. Here are seven examples:
1. “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
2. “The investigation examined whether [contacts between Russia and Trump figures] involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.”
3. “The investigation did not establish that [Carter] Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.”
4. “The Office did not identify evidence in those [contacts between Russians and people around Trump after the GOP convention] of coordination between the Campaign and the Russian government.”
5. “The Office did not identify evidence of a connection between Manafort’s sharing polling data and Russia’s interference in the election … [and] the investigation did not establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-interference efforts.”
6. “The investigation did not establish that these [contacts between Russians and people around Trump during the transition] reflected or constituted coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia in its election interference activities.”
7. “The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the [Russian disinformation campaign].”
The worst of Mueller is again connected to Russians and Assange he knows cannot defend themselves. Still a coward and a liar.
The narrative raises questions that the press studiously avoids. Why, for instance, would Assange announce on June 12 that a big disclosure is on the way before hearing from the supposed source? Was there a prior communication that Mueller has not disclosed? What about the reference to “new material” on June 22 – does that mean Assange already had other material in hand? After opening the Guccifer file on July 18, why would he publish it just four days later? Would that give WikiLeaks enough time to review some 28,000 documents to insure they’re genuine? “If a single one of those emails had been shown to be maliciously altered,” blogger Mark F. McCarty observes, “Wikileaks’ reputation would have been in tatters.”
There’s also the question that an investigator known as Adam Carter poses in Disobedient Media: why would Guccifer brag about giving WikiLeaks “thousands of files” that he wouldn’t send for another month? The narrative doesn’t make sense – a fact that is crucially important now that Assange is fighting for his freedom in the U.K. New Yorker staff writer Raffi Khatchadourian sounded a rare note of caution last summer when he warned that little about Guccifer 2.0 adds up. While claiming to be the source for some of WikiLeaks’ most explosive emails, the material he released on his own had proved mostly worthless – 20 documents that he “said were from the DNC but which were almost surely not,” as Khatchadourian puts it, a purported Hillary Clinton dossier that “was nothing of the sort,” screenshots of emails so blurry as to be “unreadable,” and so forth.
While insisting that “our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party, Assange told Khatchadourian that the source was not Guccifer either. “We received quite a lot of submissions of material that was already published in the rest of the press, and people seemingly submitted the Guccifer archives,” he said somewhat cryptically. “We didn’t publish them. They were already published.” When Khatchadourian asked why he didn’t put the material out regardless, he replied that “the material from Guccifer 2.0 – or on WordPress – we didn’t have the resources to independently verify.”
Gleen Greenwald summarizes.
In sum, Democrats and their supporters had the exact prosecutor they all agreed was the embodiment of competence and integrity in Robert Mueller. He assembled a team of prosecutors and investigators that countless media accounts heralded as the most aggressive and adept in the nation. They had subpoena power, the vast surveillance apparatus of the U.S. government at their disposal, a demonstrated willingness to imprison anyone who lied to them, and unlimited time and resources to dig up everything they could. The result of all of that was that not a single American – whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise – was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election. No Americans were charged or even accused of being controlled by or working at the behest of the Russian government.
None of the key White House aides at the center of the controversy who testified for hours and hours – including Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner – were charged with any crimes of any kind, not even perjury, obstruction of justice or lying to Congress. These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned U.S. discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the U.S. Government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President. They got the exact prosecutor and investigation that they wanted, yet he could not establish that any of this happened and, in many cases, established that it did not.
Also for the Intercept, Mehdi Hasan reaches a 180º different conclusion. Q: Can the country ever be repaired?
You told us to be patient. You told us to be cautious. You told us to wait for Robert Mueller. Well, the time for waiting is over. And the moment for impeachment hearings has arrived. Forget the mendacious Attorney General William Barr, and his repeated — and repeatedly dishonest — attempts to summarize and spin the special counsel’s report prior to publication. You now have access to the report itself, and even the “lightly redacted” 448 pages provide you with a clear and detailed road map for impeaching Donald Trump, in line with Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Listen to special counsel Robert Mueller. “With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” he writes, adding: “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.” Got that? The special counsel — who listed 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice in his report and refused to “exonerate” the president — placed the decision firmly in your court. This is the impeachment referral you claimed you were waiting for.
Oh look, the country is united!
Now that Mueller’s $40 million Humpty Trumpty investigation is over and found wanting of its original purpose (to retire Trump), perhaps the ruling class can return without interruption to the business of destroying the world with ordnance, greenhouse gases, and regime changes. A few more CIA-organized blackouts in Venezuela (it’s a simple trick if one follows the Agency’s “Freedom Fighter’s Manual”), and the US will come to the rescue, Grenada style, and set up yet another neoliberal regime. There is a small solace that with Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton, there is at least a semblance of transparency in their reckless interventions. The assessed value of Guaido and Salman, they forthrightly admit, is in their countries’ oil reserves. And Russians better respect the Monroe Doctrine and manifest destiny if they know what’s good for them. Crude as they may be, Trump’s men tell it like it is.
And when Bolton speaks of “the Western Hemisphere’s shared goals of democracy, security, and the rule of law,” he is of course referring to US-backed coups, military juntas, debt bondage, invasions, embargoes, assassinations, and other forms of gunboat diplomacy. That the US is not already formally at war with Russia (even with NATO forces all along its borders) has only to do with the latter’s nuclear arsenal deterrent. Since World War II, a period some describe as a “a period of unprecedented peace,” the US war machine has wiped out some 20 million people, including more than 1 million in Iraq since 2003, engaged in regime change of at least 36 governments, intervened in at least 82 foreign elections, including Russia (1996), planned more than 50 assassinations of foreign leaders, and bombed over 30 countries.
“..even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress..”
The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.” Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step.
In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade. But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people. A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189.
It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.
When you weren’t looking:
With Russia’s Vladimir Putin set for his first talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this month, Moscow is eyeing a major role in yet another global flashpoint. The situation on the Korean peninsula seemed to be stabilising after a historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump last year, at which they both backed de-nuclearisation. But a second round of talks ended in failure and Pyongyang this week said it was testing weapons again. Now Putin, who has long expressed his readiness to meet with Kim, is gearing up to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally, with which it shares a short border.
Russia’s main interest in the summit is to remind other players “that it exists and that it has economic and political potential” in the region, Andrei Lankov of Seoul’s Kookmin University told AFP. “Russia needs some sort of control over the situation on the Korean peninsula. Recent events have pushed out almost everyone apart from North Korea and the US, and of course nobody likes that,” he said. Russia has been inviting Kim for talks since last year but he was unwilling to spend time and resources on the trip because Moscow was not a major player, Lankov said. But now Kim is looking for all the allies he can get “because (the second round of US talks) were a failure, and he was not able to achieve the things he was counting on.”
On Wednesday, CNN reported US federal prosecutors confirmed there is an “ongoing criminal investigation” of Julian Assange, the 47-year-old founder of WikiLeaks. Prosecutors also indicated “affiliates” of Assange are under investigation, this according to another newly unsealed document. According to the CNN report, at least one document related to this investigation has been withheld from the public due to “ongoing activity.” The revelation, CNN reported, “confirms CNN and other news outlets’ reporting in recent days that WikiLeaks is connected to at least one probe that could result in more criminal charges.”
The report confirms the warnings made by the WSWS and others that the charges related to computer hacking leveled against Assange are merely a pretext for his extradition to the United States, after which additional charges would be brought against him. On April 11, Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrested by British officials on the public charge of conspiracy to bypass a password. That charge dated back to events in the 2011 WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs. Chelsea Manning turned over more than half a million documents exposing US war crimes and corruption to WikiLeaks for publication. The expulsion and arrest of Assange has been accompanied by an unrestrained campaign of media vilification aimed at transforming Assange into a non-person, undeserving of democratic rights.
But since Assange has been imprisoned in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison, public comments made by leading Democrats and US media officials indicate that charge was not the primary aim of the US investigation. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer tweeted, “Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government.” Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel tweeted that Assange “time after time compromised the national security of the United States and our allies by publicly releasing classified government documents and confidential materials related to our 2016 presidential election.” US, British and Ecuadorian governments have claimed Assange’s extradition is proper because the US is indicting on a single charge: attempting to help Chelsea Manning bypass a password. But this has now been revealed to be only the pretext. The real reason the US wants custody of the whistleblower was stated by Schumer and Engel.
WikiLeaks has always been confident that this investigation would vindicate our groundbreaking publishing of the 2016 materials which it has, We disapprove of the large redactions which permit conspiracy theories to abound. Full transparency please.https://t.co/n9o2eUVgI7#submit pic.twitter.com/nbvKRG57YA
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 18, 2019
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard with lots of numbers.
China’s majestic and elegantly-stable GDP figures are best seen as an instrument of political combat. Donald Trump says “trade wars are good and easy to win” if your foes depend on your market and you can break them under pressure. He proclaimed victory when the Shanghai equity index went into a swoon over the winter. This is Trumpian gamesmanship. It is in China’s urgent interest to puncture such claims as trade talks come to a head. Xi Jinping had to beat expectations with a crowd-pleaser in the first quarter. The number was duly produced: 6.4 per cent. Let us all sing the March of the Volunteers. “Could it really be true?” asked Caixin magazine. This was a brave question in Uncle Xi’s evermore totalitarian regime.
Of course it is not true. Japan’s manufacturing exports to China fell by 9.4 per cent in March (year on year). Singapore’s shipments dropped by 8.7 per cent to China, 22 per cent to Indonesia, and 27 per cent to Taiwan. Korea’s exports are down 8.2 per cent. The greater China sphere of east Asia is in the midst of an industrial recession. Nomura’s forward-looking index still points to a deepening downturn. “Those expecting a strong rebound in Asian export growth in coming months could be in for disappointment,” said the bank. China’s rebound is hard to square with its own internal data. Simon Ward from Janus Henderson said nominal GDP growth – trickier to manipulate – is still falling. It dropped to 7.4 per cent from 8.1 per cent in the last quarter on 2018.
Household demand deposits fell by 1.1 per cent last month. This means that the growth rate of “true” M1 money is still at slump levels. It has ticked up a fraction but this is nothing like previous episodes of Chinese stimulus. It points towards stagnation into late 2019. “Hold the champagne,” he said. A paper last month by Wei Chen and Chang-Tai Tsieh for the Brookings Institution – “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Accounts” – concluded that GDP growth has been overstated by 1.7 per cent a year on average since 2006. [..] Bear in mind that if China’s economy is a fifth or a quarter smaller than claimed it implies that the total debt ratio is not 300 per cent of GDP (IIF data) but closer to 400 per cent. If China’s growth rate is 1.7 per cent lower – and falling every year – the country is less able to rely on nominal GDP expansion whittling away the liabilities.
[..] the image of the USSR as a typical empire is simply wrong. The right mental image of the USSR is that of a prostrate, emaciated sow (Russia) being suckled by 14 fat, greedy piglets (the other Soviet Socialist Republics). For all his numerous failings, Boris Yeltsin did one thing right: he dismantled the USSR (although the way he went about it was beyond incompetent and verged on treason). If you are in need of an explanation for why Russia is now resurgent, increasingly prosperous and able to invest vast sums in hypersonic weapons systems and in modernized infrastructure for its people, this is it: the 14 piglets had been sent off to root for themselves.
This bit of perspective, by the way, puts paid to the rank idiocy of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “Grand Chessboard”: his theory that Russia wants to be an empire but cannot do so without the Ukraine shatters on contact with the realization that Russia hasn’t been an empire for over a century now and has no need or desire to become one again. In any case, these days empires are a bit retro, you know, and not at all useful except as a way for silly Americans to finish bankrupting themselves. Russia needs reliable trading partners who can pay their own way, not ungrateful dependents clamoring for handouts. Just bringing Crimea up to Russia’s contemporary standards after 30 years of Ukrainian neglect has turned out to be a monumental task; as far as doing that for the rest of the Ukraine—forget it!
Greece ranks fifth among 11 nations with the most “miserable” economies in the world, according to a report by Bloomberg published on Wednesday. According to the Bloomberg Misery Index giving the country 20.1 points in 2018 and a projected 19.2 this year, Greece comes behind top-placed Venezuela (with nearly 930,000 points last year and a staggering 8 million this one), Argentina (42.7 in 2018 and 51.4 in 2019), South Africa (31.8 and 32.3 respectively) and Turkey, which is seen performing worse this year with 30.2 points against 26.8 in 2018.
What these countries have in common, the report said, is “intense economic stress and scant progress in taming price growth and getting people back to work.” “The Bloomberg Misery Index relies on the age-old concept that low inflation and unemployment generally illustrate how good an economy’s residents should feel,” the report said, adding that this year’s scores are based on Bloomberg economist surveys, while prior years reflect actual data.
We’re seeing video of the first anti-Moreno demos. How much longer will the country put up with him?
The former foreign minister of Ecuador will be placed on Interpol’s Red Notice list, after fleeing the country for fear of prosecution, as the government of Lenin Moreno continues to crack down on Julian Assange’s supporters.
“The attorney general’s office began a criminal process against Ricardo Patino for the alleged crime of instigation,” the office said in a statement on Thursday. “[Patino] had given a speech in which he instigated people to take over public institutions and close roads.” Besides his alleged anti-government activities, Patino is also being sought for his supposed links to Swedish software developer Ola Bini, who was arrested last week on suspicions of ‘hacking’ for WikiLeaks. While authorities conduct their investigation, the judge ordered Patino to be held in pre-trial detention. Patino, however, is nowhere to be found, after reportedly fleeing Ecuador to Peru on Wednesday night.
Ecuador requested that Interpol issue a Red Notice on the former foreign minister –who’d served under president Rafael Correa– which asks foreign countries to locate and provisionally arrest the fugitive, pending extradition. Known for his criticism of the Moreno government, the 64-year-old was especially vocal over the suspension of Assange’s asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which resulted in his immediate arrest by the UK police. “Worldwide shame,” he tweeted, after Assange’s brutal arrest last week, accusing Moreno of violating the constitution and international law with his “betrayal” of the whistleblower. “We are victims of a fierce persecution that is carried out to hide the corruption of Moreno and his close circle,” the renegade politician said in a twitter statement. “We are going to fight, to continue fighting, with our heads held high.”
Dame Emma Thompson joined the Extinction Rebellion protests in London after flying from Los Angeles. In a video shared by the campaign group, the Hollywood star urged viewers to “come and join” the demonstrations. She said she was unable to be at the first day of the protest because she was “away” with her husband as she turned 60. “I absolutely wanted to be arrested on my 60th birthday but I didn’t quite manage that,” she said. “I’m so proud and thrilled to be part of Extinction Rebellion.” A representative of Dame Emma said she needed to take the 5,400-mile flight home to London after working in LA. She joined the protests on the day organisers announced plans to target Heathrow Airport at the start of the Easter bank holiday weekend.
Post-Brexit Britain will be a third world country.
Teachers are increasingly dipping into their own pockets to buy food, toiletries and clothes for pupils, as well as classroom resources like pens and paper amid funding pressures, according to a union. Nearly half (45 per cent) of teachers said they have used their cash to buy basic necessities for pupils in the past year – and the majority said it was down to squeezed budgets, a survey has found. One teacher said they spent at least £5,000 over the past few years on classroom resources. Another said they had gotten themselves into debt because of these purchases. The spending was revealed in a survey by teachers’ union NASUWT ahead of its conference on Friday.
The poll, of more than 4,000 teachers, found that one-in-five had bought lesson resources with their own money once a week, and more than one-in-10 (12 per cent) had done this several times a week. Nearly two-in-three (63 per cent) teachers said the amount of items they are buying has increased in the past three years, with the vast majority never being reimbursed by their schools. Teachers said they had bought items such as paper, pens, glue, pencils, toothpaste, sanitary products and spare coats for those children who do not have the right clothes for winter. One teacher said: “There is no money in school to buy anything other than what is deemed necessary. We are working on a zero budget in school and struggling to keep staff.”
Another teacher described their anguish at seeing a hungry child on free school meals watch their friends eat breakfast or snacks. They said: “When the child is unable to eat until lunchtime, which may be their only proper meal of the day, typically I have used my credit on the pre-payment system to give children cheese on toast.” One teacher said many female students miss school because they have not got sanitary products. They added: “In the community I serve, there is high poverty and many students don’t have the basics: shampoo, toothpaste and shower gel. “Many teachers in the school that I work in provide as much as they can.”