Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Just war

"Rudy Sure Says a Lot of Weird Things" (Marshall).  Rudy from July of 2016, already seeming to fire a warning shot that Israel might find itself implicated if this line of inquiry were carried to its logical conclusion (of course, in beshekeled Washington, any possible threat to Israel is a no-go zone, and even now, that would be Trump's nuclear option).  Was this just another example of Rudy's undisciplined way of talking, or was he already seeing the possible dangers lying ahead? This was at a time when Trump and Giuliani were trying to score political points off Clinton's cavalier attitude towards security of her emails.  These emails are already starting to seem like bait (Mifsud's original approach to Papadopoulos was that he had access to Russian dirt on Clinton in the form of emails).  You almost have to wonder if all the talk of Hillary's lousy email security was in fact part of the sting, as it made plausible the idea that the Russians might have them!

Speaking of bait (one big unanswered issue is the extent to which Obama Administration officials were involved in the Clinton campaign dirty tricks, another 'nuclear option' avenue for Trump to explore should he have to):  "Five Clues Don Jr.’s Trump Tower Meeting Was Set Up as Dem Dirty Trick" (Klein) (Rinat Akhmetshin sure gets around!):
 "4 – A key participant at the Trump Tower meeting said that he “knows” Hillary Clinton and has a personal relationship with her that dates back to the late-1990s. Besides describing a direct connection to Clinton, Russian-born Washington lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin also testified that he “knew some people who worked on” Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Akhmetshin further revealed that the same day of the Trump Tower meeting he met with a Clinton associate after the confab and possibly also just before.
In his senate testimony (cited above), Akhmetshin related a personal connection to Clinton via attorney Ed Lieberman, whose late wife Evelyn previously served as Clinton’s chief of staff when she was First Lady. Evelyn Lieberman also served as Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, and famously transferred Monica Lewinsky out of the White House to the Defense Department.
The New York Times previously reported that Lieberman in 1998 arranged for Akhmitshi’s position at “an organization pushing what he described as a pro-democracy agenda for Kazakhstan.” Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says he met Akhmetshin through Lieberman.
In his Senate testimony, Akhmetshin described taking an Acela train to New York the day of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, and says that Lieberman “may” have been with him on the train.
Akhmetshin says his dealings with Lieberman in New York that day were “personal” and centered on a scholarship program that he claims Lieberman started. “And he was in New York that day to discuss arrangements with Metropolitan Museum with kind of taking care of that scholarship award,” Akhmetshi stated.
Akhmetshin says that while he was in New York, he had lunch with Veselnitskaya, who told him about the scheduled meeting that day at Trump Tower, but she didn’t say anything about him attending.
He claims that after he had lunch with Veselnitskaya, she called him and asked him to attend the Trump Tower meeting, but she didn’t suggest any role he would play at the meeting or why he should attend.
After the meeting at Trump Tower, Akhmetshin says he went to dinner and a play with Lieberman, and the subject of the meeting that same day did not come up in his conversations with Lieberman at dinner or during the play. Akhmetshin also stated in the testimony that he was not asked to keep the meeting confidential.
In other words, Akhmetshin is claiming that he attended a meeting at the campaign headquarters of Clinton’s presidential challenger with that challenger’s son and other top Trump staffers, and that same night Akhmetshin did not even mention the meeting to his friend Lieberman, a Clinton associate.
He also said he had drinks that same night with another “friend” but could not remember who that friend was.
Later, when Akhmetshin described disclosing another matter to journalist friends, he was questioned about his claim that he didn’t tell Lieberman that same night about the Trump Jr. meeting, yet he seemingly evidenced a lack of discretion with reporters.
During further questioning in Senate testimony, Akhmetshin admited to possibly telling Clinton associate Lieberman about the Trump Tower meeting, but says he may have told him on another day and not the night they met the same day as the meeting.
Akhmetshin detailed knowing Hillary Clinton since the late 1990s and last seeing her at Evelyn Lieberman’s 2015 funeral. In the same testimony, Akhmetshin says he “knew” some of the people who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign
5 – Akhmetshin admits to being present at the same security conference in Canada where Sen. John McCain was reportedly first informed about the anti-Trump dossier. Akhmetshin says he might have spoken to McCain and the senator’s assistant David J. Kramer at the Halifax International Security Forum in 2016.
It was at the security conference in Canada in November 2016 that McCain says he was approached by Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow and friend of ex-British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier.
Wood briefed McCain and Kramer, a former State Department official and longtime McCain associate who agreed to meet Steele in London for a fuller briefing on the dossier contents.
The Washington Posreported in February that after meeting with Steele, Kramer went to Washington and received the dossier document directly from Fusion GPS. McCain then passed the dossier to FBI Director James Comey.
In a New York Times oped in January, GPS co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritch wrote that they helped McCain share their anti-Trump dossier with the Obama-era intelligence community via an unnamed “emissary.”
In testimony his Senate testimony, Akhmetsin describes attending the Halifax security conference in 2016, but claimed he played no role in the contact where Wood connected with McCain and Kramer to inform them of the dossier’s existence. Ahmetshin also claimed he was not aware of the dossier at the time.
Akhmetshin said he “might” have “said hi” to McCain but could not say for sure. In other words, Akhmetshin is claiming he is not certain whether he spoke to one of the most famous American politicians, something that would seemingly be quite memorable to most people.
The Russian lobbyist also said he “might have spoken with” Kramer but would not give a definitive answer.
Akhmetshin also stated that he had a previous relationship with McCain. “I knew Senator McCain when he was running years ago because I had friends who were — did advance work for him,” Akmetshin said, referring to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign."
"Seven Mysterious Preludes to the FBI's Trump-Russia Probe" (Smith):
"Before the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign in an operation code-named “Crossfire Hurricane,” there were at least seven different instances when campaign advisers were approached with Russia-related offers. Most of those contacts — including Donald Trump Jr.’s much-publicized meeting with a Russian lawyer and others in June 2016 — offered the prospect of information damaging to Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Two of these approaches were made by one U.S. government informant already publicly identified as such, Stefan Halper. Another was made by a man who swore in court that he had worked as an FBI informant. Two others were made by figures associated with Western intelligence agencies. Another two approaches included political operatives, one foreign, with ties to the Clintons.
President Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has asserted that dispatching Halper to follow the Trump campaign "protected" it from the Russians.
But Mark Wauck, a former FBI agent with experience in such tactics, sees an effort at entrapment. “What appear to have been repeated attempts to implicate the Trump campaign, in some sort of quid pro quo arrangement with Russians who claimed to have ‘dirt’ on Hillary,” Wauck told RealClearInvestigations, “look like efforts to manufacture evidence against members of the Trump campaign or create pretexts to investigate it.”
At the same time, in early spring, the Clinton campaign commissioned, through its law firm, the Washington, D.C.-based communications firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The result was the infamous 35-page dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
It appears that neither the FBI nor the Clinton campaign’s paid operatives came up with anything of substance. The seven approaches to the Trump campaign, as far as is publicly known, generated no evidence of coordination with the Russians. No evidence has emerged to change former FBI Director James B. Comey’s description of key parts of the Steele dossier as “salacious and unverified.”
Nevertheless, the report of one person who reached out to a Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, was reportedly used to launch an official Department of Justice and FBI probe into the Trump campaign and the dossier was evidently a key piece of evidence used to secure a FISA surveillance warrant against Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page."
and:
". . . Papadopoulos never mentioned Clinton emails to anyone in the campaign. But over a drink at a London bar, he told Australia’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Alexander Downer, that the Russians had some potentially damaging information on Clinton.
Downer, according to an interview in the Australian press, had asked for the meeting with the then 28-year-old Trump aide. Like Mifsud, Downer was an associate of several former high-ranking British intelligence officials. Downer also had long ties to the Clinton Foundation, once arranging for Australia to donate $25 million to its AIDS prevention and education efforts.
Downer’s was the second approach made to the Trump campaign. Congressional investigators believe that Downer may have been assigned to collect whatever damaging information that the Maltese academic deposited with Papadopoulos.
Shortly after the meeting, Downer contacted the U.S. Embassy in London to report his conversation with an American citizen. This was unusual. As Australia’s former foreign minister, a post charged with overseeing the country’s foreign intelligence service, Downer knew that such information must be shared through official intelligence channels. The person he instead chose to share this information with was Elizabeth Dibble, the U.S. Embassy’s deputy chief of mission who had previously served under Hillary Clinton as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state.
It is unclear whether Dibble passed the information directly to the DOJ or to her superiors at the State Department. In any case, nearly two months passed before the FBI launched its full investigation into Trump/Russia ties -- and another 18 months would pass before it was leaked to the New York Times that that decision was a response to the Downer tip.
The reasons for the two-month delay are not clear. Dibble did not respond to request for comment. Nor did DOJ spokespersons."
and (!):
"The May contacts included another, frequently overlooked, Russia-related approach to the Trump campaign. That month, conservative political activist Paul Erickson emailed Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn under the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” Erickson sought to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erickson wrote: “Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump. He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election.”
Although Erickson’s contact fits a pattern of efforts to connect the Trump campaign to Russia, he is the only figure who approached the campaign without any discernible ties to the FBI, Western intelligence agencies, the Clintons – or the Russians. This makes his offer to broker a meeting with Putin – a highly improbable proposal that would never normally be communicated through such channels – all the more mysterious.
Efforts to reach Erickson for comment were unsuccessful."
and:
"The opening of the FBI’s full investigation into the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016 was an extraordinary event, launched despite the DOJ’s traditional reluctance to investigate political campaigns in the middle of an election. That decision has raised even more questions following the report this month from the Justice Department’s inspector general, which detailed many instances of anti-Trump bias in the upper echelons of the FBI.

“Crossfire Hurricane” was reportedly initiated because of the vague tip regarding Russian dirt that Alexander Downer had passed on to the State Department almost two months earlier. The six other Russia-related approaches that occurred before July 31 might have shown the FBI that the Trump team was free of Russian influence.

All the offers were rebuffed or ignored — except Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who was partnered with a political operative paid by Hillary Clinton and who provided no untoward information.

Nevertheless, the FBI still opened its investigation. In October, the bureau also used the Clinton-financed Steele dossier to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page – which allowed it to monitor his communications and those of anyone on the Trump team with whom he was in contact.

And in May 2017, much of this information was cited to justify appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel."
Smith and Klein should be read together.  There is a lot more weirdness here, including a host of suspicious connections to Clinton from all the people leaving out email bait, than there are in most conspiracy theories.

"Legendary journalist Seymour Hersh on the truth behind novichok, the Russian hacking and 9/11" (El-Gingihy).  Awfully fucking woke - note his comments on Assad - with a strange lacuna on the JFK assassination, though maybe that's the price of access to the CIA (my emphasis in red):
"It is not long before we discuss contemporaneous events including the alleged Russian hacking of the US presidential election. Hersh has vociferously strong opinions on the subject and smells a rat. He states that there is “a great deal of animosity towards Russia. All of that stuff about Russia hacking the election appears to be preposterous.” He has been researching the subject but is not ready to go public… yet.
Hersh quips that the last time he heard the US defence establishment have high confidence, it was regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He points out that the NSA only has moderate confidence in Russian hacking. It is a point that has been made before; there has been no national intelligence estimate in which all 17 US intelligence agencies would have to sign off. “When the intel community wants to say something they say it… High confidence effectively means that they don’t know.”
Hersh is also on the record as stating that the official version of the Skripal poisoning does not stand up to scrutiny. He tells me: “The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.” Certainly the unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims suggests a sloppiness more in keeping with organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions. Hersh modestly points out that these are just his opinions. Opinions or not, he is scathing on Obama – “a trimmer … articulate [but] … far from a radical … a middleman”. During his Goldsmiths talk, he remarks that liberal critics underestimate Trump at their peril.
He ends the Goldsmiths talk with an anecdote about having lunch with his sources in the wake of 9/11. He vents his anger at the agencies for not sharing information. One of his CIA sources fires back: “Sy you still don’t get it after all these years – the FBI catches bank robbers, the CIA robs banks.” It is a delicious, if cryptic aphorism.
I ask about how the war in Syria has been a divisive issue for the left. Hersh wrote a series of controversial long reads for the London Review of Books insinuating that the Assad government might not have been responsible for the chemical weapons attacks. He had been writing for decades at The New Yorker, which turned down these pieces leading to a falling out.
In “The Red Line and the Rat Line”, Hersh argued that both sides had access to chemical weapons. He even went one better and postulated that the rebels or even the Erdogan Turkish government may have carried out a false flag attack to twist Obama’s arm into escalating US involvement as this would have crossed his self-imposed red line.
Hersh also highlighted that a “rat line” of arms had been set up between Libya and Syria by the CIA with the involvement of MI6 using front companies. This was designed to supply the Syrian rebels including jihadi groups in their efforts to oust Assad – startling revelation considering that the US is prosecuting a war on terror and intending to neutralise Islamic State.
Hersh deals with criticisms of the Assad regime one by one. He brusquely tells me: “If Assad loses he will be hanging from a lamp-post” with his wife and children alongside him. He elaborates that, “Heinous things happen in war”, recounting the Allies’ firebombing of Japanese and German cities as well as the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War. His point is that all sides commit war crimes.
In fact, he tells me that the US has also deployed barrel bombs. One could obviously add much more to this catalogue including the use of Agent Orange and other chemicals in Vietnam as well as the use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq. “Where is the moral equivalence?” Hersh asks. All of which reminds me of gung-ho US General Curtis LeMay’s infamous statement that if he had lost the Second World War, he would have been tried for war crimes.
Hersh tells me that this is “as close to a just war” because Assad is fighting to prevent an Islamist takeover and the imposition of Sharia law."

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