Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #937 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 11: Settling In (The Underground Reich Comes into Plain View, Part 4)

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This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Waffen SS-clad World War II reenactors, in original photo used by Trump

Waf­fen SS-clad World War II re-enac­tors, in orig­i­nal pho­to used by Trump

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram sets forth some of the incom­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s imple­men­ta­tion of what Mr. Emory has long referred to as “The Under­ground Reich.” Now, the Under­ground Reich is com­ing into plain view, trans­formed into a tri­umphant mass polit­i­cal move­ment.

This broad­cast is, obvi­ous­ly, the eleventh in the series about what we have termed “The Trumpenkampfver­bande.”

As the move­ment takes pow­er we take note of:

  • Rank and File at the National Policy Institute Conference

    Rank and File at Spencer’s event

    “Alt-Right” lumi­nary Richard B. Spencer’s greet­ing to his fol­low­ers at a meet­ing held a few blocks from the White House a cou­ple of weeks after Trump’s vic­to­ry: ” . . . ‘Hail Trump, hail our peo­ple, hail vic­to­ry!’ That’s how Richard B. Spencer salut­ed more than 200 atten­dees on Sat­ur­day, gath­ered at the Ronald Rea­gan Build­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for the annu­al con­fer­ence of the Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, which describes itself as ‘an inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to the her­itage, iden­ti­ty, and future of  peo­ple of Euro­pean descent in the Unit­ed States, and around the world.’ . . .”

  • Spencer’s ref­er­enc­ing of Nazi anti-Semit­ic pro­pa­gan­da, racial the­o­ry and attacks on the media in that same address: “. . . . He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quot­ed Nazi pro­pa­gan­da in the orig­i­nal Ger­man. Amer­i­ca, he said, belonged to white peo­ple, whom he called the ‘chil­dren of the sun,’ a race of con­querors and cre­ators who had been mar­gin­al­ized but now, in the era of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald J. Trump, were ‘awak­en­ing to their own iden­ti­ty.’ . . .  Mr. Spencer’s after-din­ner speech began with a polemic against the ‘main­stream media,’ before he briefly paused. ‘Per­haps we should refer to them in the orig­i­nal Ger­man?’ he said. The audi­ence imme­di­ate­ly screamed back, ‘Lügen­presse,’ reviv­ing a Nazi-era word that means ‘lying press.’ Mr. Spencer sug­gest­ed that the news media had been crit­i­cal of Mr. Trump through­out the cam­paign in order to pro­tect Jew­ish inter­ests. . . .  ‘One won­ders if these peo­ple are peo­ple at all, or instead soul­less golem,’ he said, refer­ring to a Jew­ish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rab­bi brings to life to pro­tect the Jews. . . . Mr. Trump’s elec­tion, Mr. Spencer said, was ‘the vic­to­ry of will,’ a phrase that echoed the title of the most famous Nazi-era pro­pa­gan­da film. [Leni Riefen­stahl’s “Tri­umph of the Will.”–D.E.] . . . .”
  • Trump’s chief White House advi­sor, “Alt-Right” pub­lish­ing king­pin Stephen P. Ban­non describ­ing him­self as an “eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist” and dis­cussing how excit­ing the com­ing peri­od will be: ” . . . I’m an eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist,’ Ban­non told the news out­let ear­li­er this week. [The term “Nazi” is a con­trac­tion of “Nation­al Socialist”–D.E.] . . . ‘It will be as excit­ing as the 1930s . . . con­ser­v­a­tives, plus pop­ulists, in an eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist move­ment.’ . . .”
  • "Heil Trump!"

    “Hail Trump, hail our peo­ple, hail vic­to­ry!”

    Ban­non also ref­er­enced ele­ments he thought were good exem­plars of “dark­ness.” . . . .  Ban­non, in the [Hol­ly­wood Reporter] inter­view, also gave some insight into how he viewed his polit­i­cal foes (pre­sum­ably, lib­er­als and the media) — and the ‘dark­ness’ he touts in fight­ing against them. ‘Dark­ness is good,’ Ban­non said. ‘Dick Cheney. Darth Vad­er. Satan. That’s pow­er. It only helps us when they…get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.’ . . . ”

  • The fact that New York Times colum­nist Charles Blow voiced what we feel is an accu­rate sen­ti­ment: ” . . . This may well be the begin­ning of the end: the ear­ly moments of a his­tor­i­cal piv­ot point, when the slide of the repub­lic into some­thing unto­ward and unrec­og­niz­able still feels like a small col­lec­tion of poor judg­ments and reversible deci­sions, rather than the for­ward edge of an enor­mous men­ace inch­ing its way for­ward and grind­ing up that which we held dear and fool­ish­ly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure. . . .”
  • Blow’s under­scor­ing of Trump Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor Gen­er­al (ret.) Michael Fly­n­n’s affin­i­ty for “Alt-Right”/white suprema­cist Mike Cer­novich: “. . . . In Octo­ber, Fly­nn tweet­ed: ‘Fol­low Mike @Cernovich He has a ter­rif­ic book, Goril­la Mind­set. Well worth the read. @realDonaldTrump will win on 8 NOV!!!’ The New York­er dubbed Mike Cer­novich ‘the meme mas­ter­mind of the alt-right’ in a lengthy pro­file. The mag­a­zine point­ed out: ‘On his blog, Cer­novich devel­oped a the­o­ry of white-male iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics: men were oppressed by fem­i­nism, and polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness pre­vent­ed the dis­cus­sion of obvi­ous truths, such as the crim­i­nal pro­cliv­i­ties of cer­tain eth­nic groups.’ . . . . ”
  • Blow’s dis­cus­sion of the links between Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions and the Fed­er­a­tion for Immi­gra­tion Reform, an anti-immi­grant/eu­gen­ics orga­ni­za­tion very close to the Pio­neer Fund. We spoke about the Pio­neer Fund in FTR #254 not­ing that the orga­ni­za­tion sup­port­ed the eugen­ics pro­grams of the Third Reich. ” . . . . In response to the attor­ney gen­er­al announce­ment, the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter issued a state­ment that read in part: ‘But we can­not sup­port his nom­i­na­tion to be the country’s next attor­ney gen­er­al. Sen­a­tor Ses­sions not only has been a lead­ing oppo­nent of sen­si­ble, com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, he has asso­ci­at­ed with anti-immi­grant groups we con­sid­er to be deeply racist, includ­ing the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform and the Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy. ’ . . . The S.P.L.C. has writ­ten about FAIR, say­ing: ‘FAIR lead­ers have ties to white suprema­cist groups and eugeni­cists and have made many racist state­ments. Its adver­tise­ments have been reject­ed because of racist con­tent. FAIR’s founder, John Tan­ton, has expressed his wish that Amer­i­ca remain a major­i­ty-white pop­u­la­tion: a goal to be achieved, pre­sum­ably, by lim­it­ing the num­ber of non­whites who enter the coun­try.’ . . . .”

Much of the pro­gram focus­es on the media and com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the cor­rup­tion of the very con­cept of truth and the pro­fes­sion of jour­nal­ism. The grow­ing, dom­i­nant phe­nom­e­non of fake news was a major fac­tor in the cam­paign. The growth of social media, the role of Wik­iLeaks and the pro­cliv­i­ty of Don­ald Trump and those around him for tweet­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion are herald­ing the trans­for­ma­tion of jour­nal­ism into pro­pa­gan­da.

Among the adher­ents to unsub­stan­ti­at­ed “fake news” (ter­ri­fy­ing­ly) is Trump’s selec­tion for CIA direc­tor, Mike Pom­peo: ” . . . . Rep. Mike Pom­peo of Kansas, Trump’s pick for CIA direc­tor, was described by The Wash­ing­ton Post edi­to­r­i­al board as “one of the more fanat­i­cal pur­vey­ors of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the 2011 ter­ror­ist attacks in Beng­hazi, Libya.” At a hear­ing last year, Pom­peo insin­u­at­ed that Clin­ton had used the Beng­hazi con­sulate for a gun-run­ning oper­a­tion. . . .”

Con­tribut­ing edi­tor Pter­rafractyl post­ed a com­ment on FTR #931 about Trump’s pick to be Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor, Michael Fly­nn and his son and advi­sor Michael Fly­nn, Jr. Fly­nn is a big fan of fake news and, like Trump, uses Twit­ter to dis­sem­i­nate it. His son is a chip off the old block, in this sense.

Key fea­tures of the post­ed com­ment and the dis­cus­sion of it include:

  • Michael Fly­nn, Sr. (Trump’s selec­tion for Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor) and his endorse­ment of a fake news sto­ry involv­ing the Clin­tons.
  • Michael Fly­nn, Jr.‘s sup­port for his father’s views.
  • Fly­nn, Jr.‘s con­tention that fake news sto­ries should be seen as true until proven false.
  • An inci­dent in which an adher­ent to the fake news memes shot up a piz­za par­lor in Wash­ing­ton D.C. that was sup­pos­ed­ly the geo­graph­ic epi­cen­ter of a Clin­ton sex-traf­fick­ing oper­a­tion.
  • Fly­nn, Sr.‘s endorse­ment of a fake news sto­ry cir­cu­lat­ed by Erik Prince, the founder of Black­wa­ter.
  • The fact that Prince’s sis­ter is Bet­sy DeVos, nom­i­nat­ed by Trump to be Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary. The impli­ca­tions of the Trump appoint­ment of DeVos should be seen against the back­ground of omi­nous signs of the intim­i­da­tion and pos­si­ble future elim­i­na­tion of “trou­ble­some” aca­d­e­mi­cians.
  • Mr. Emory’s obser­va­tion that Erik Prince’s suc­ces­sor as head of Black­wa­ter was Joseph E. Schmitz, anoth­er key Trump advi­sor, dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 918, 919 and 920.
  • Mr. Emory’s obser­va­tion that, with the for­mi­da­ble mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties of orga­ni­za­tions like Black­wa­ter poten­tial­ly mar­shaled in sup­port of Trump’s poli­cies and against his ene­mies, the silenc­ing of any jour­nal­is­tic and/or edu­ca­tion­al crit­ic of Trump and/or his poli­cies would be great­ly facil­i­tat­ed.

Trump’s assault on the press fea­tured a blis­ter­ing attack on broad­cast jour­nal­ists called by Trump to meet with him.

Don­ald Trump is among a num­ber of bil­lion­aires who are work­ing to muz­zle a free press. Trump says he wants to loosen the libel laws. Com­ing at a time when the growth of the inter­net and social media have placed the work­ing press in dire eco­nom­ic straits and with Trump set to appoint fed­er­al judges, includ­ing supreme court judges, we may well see the very con­cept of a free press nul­li­fied alto­geth­er.

The pro­gram clos­es with rumi­na­tions about com­ing assaults on intel­lec­tu­al and aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom and the mean­ing of “free speech.”

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

  • The cre­ation of a “Pro­fes­sors Watch­list” by a right-wing youth group.
  • Rumi­na­tion about how “open-car­ry laws” (such as one in Texas per­mit­ting col­lege stu­dents to take hand­guns to class) might affect the well being of pro­fes­sors on the watch list men­tioned above.
  • The sus­pen­sion of Frank Navar­ro, a Moun­tain View (Cal­i­for­nia) high school teacher and Holo­caust expert, for com­par­ing (right­ly) Trump’s rise to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
  • The U.S. vote against U.N. res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of Nazism and neo-Nazism on the grounds that it would restrict free speech (tell that to Frank Navar­ro!)

1a. We begin with “alt-right” lumi­nary Richard B. Spencer’s greet­ing to his fol­low­ers at a meet­ing held a few blocks from the White House a cou­ple of weeks after Trump’s vic­to­ry:

” ‘Hail Trump’ White Nation­al­ists Salute the Pres­i­dent Elect” by Daniel Lam­broso and Yoni Apple­baum; The Atlantic; 11/21/2016.

“Hail Trump, hail our peo­ple, hail vic­to­ry!”

That’s how Richard B. Spencer salut­ed more than 200 atten­dees on Sat­ur­day, gath­ered at the Ronald Rea­gan Build­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for the annu­al con­fer­ence of the Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, which describes itself as “an inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to the her­itage, iden­ti­ty, and future of  peo­ple of Euro­pean descent in the Unit­ed States, and around the world.” . . .

1b. Spencer ref­er­enced Nazi anti-Semit­ic pro­pa­gan­da, racial the­o­ry and attacks on the media in that same address:

“Alt-Right Exults in Trump’s Elec­tion with a Salute: ‘Heil Vic­to­ry’ ” by Joseph Gold­stein; The New York Times; 11/20/2016. 

By the time Richard B. Spencer, the lead­ing ide­o­logue of the alt-right move­ment and the final speak­er of the night, rose to address a gath­er­ing of his fol­low­ers on Sat­ur­day, the crowd was rest­less. . . .

. . . . He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quot­ed Nazi pro­pa­gan­da in the orig­i­nal Ger­man. Amer­i­ca, he said, belonged to white peo­ple, whom he called the “chil­dren of the sun,” a race of con­querors and cre­ators who had been mar­gin­al­ized but now, in the era of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald J. Trump, were “awak­en­ing to their own iden­ti­ty.” . . .

. . . Mr. Spencer’s after-din­ner speech began with a polemic against the “main­stream media,” before he briefly paused. “Per­haps we should refer to them in the orig­i­nal Ger­man?” he said.

The audi­ence imme­di­ate­ly screamed back, “Lügen­presse,” reviv­ing a Nazi-era word that means “lying press.”

Mr. Spencer sug­gest­ed that the news media had been crit­i­cal of Mr. Trump through­out the cam­paign in order to pro­tect Jew­ish inter­ests...

. . . “One won­ders if these peo­ple are peo­ple at all, or instead soul­less golem,” he said, refer­ring to a Jew­ish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rab­bi brings to life to pro­tect the Jews. . . .

. . . .Mr. Trump’s elec­tion, Mr. Spencer said, was “the vic­to­ry of will,” a phrase that echoed the title of the most famous Nazi-era pro­pa­gan­da film. . . .

1c.Trump’s chief White House advi­sor, “Alt-Right” pub­lish­ing king­pin Stephen P. Ban­non described him­self as an “eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist” and dis­cussed how excit­ing the com­ing peri­od will be. He also ref­er­enced ele­ments he thought were good exem­plars of “dark­ness.”

“Steve Ban­non Speaks out on White Nation­al­ism, Don­ald Trump Agen­da” by Reena Flo­res; CBS News; 11/19/2016.

. . . . . “I’m not a white nation­al­ist, I’m a nation­al­ist. I’m an eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist,” Ban­non told the news out­let ear­li­er this week. “The glob­al­ists gut­ted the Amer­i­can work­ing class and cre­at­ed a mid­dle class in Asia. The issue now is about Amer­i­cans look­ing to not get f—ed over.”

It will be as excit­ing as the 1930s, greater than the Rea­gan rev­o­lu­tion — con­ser­v­a­tives, plus pop­ulists, in an eco­nom­ic nation­al­ist move­ment.” . . . .

. . . .  Ban­non, in the Reporter inter­view, also gave some insight into how he viewed his polit­i­cal foes (pre­sum­ably, lib­er­als and the media) — and the “dark­ness” he touts in fight­ing against them.

“Dark­ness is good,” Ban­non said. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vad­er. Satan. That’s pow­er. It only helps us when they…get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”

1d. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Charles Blow her­ald­ed what is com­ing:

“Mak­ing Amer­i­ca White Again” by Charles Blow; The New York Times; 11/21/2016.

This may well be the begin­ning of the end: the ear­ly moments of a his­tor­i­cal piv­ot point, when the slide of the repub­lic into some­thing unto­ward and unrec­og­niz­able still feels like a small col­lec­tion of poor judg­ments and reversible deci­sions, rather than the for­ward edge of an enor­mous men­ace inch­ing its way for­ward and grind­ing up that which we held dear and fool­ish­ly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure. . . .

. . . . In Octo­ber, Fly­nn tweet­ed:

“Fol­low Mike @Cernovich He has a ter­rif­ic book, Goril­la Mind­set. Well worth the read. @realDonaldTrump will win on 8 NOV!!!”

The New York­er dubbed Mike Cer­novich “the meme mas­ter­mind of the alt-right” in a lengthy pro­file.

The mag­a­zine point­ed out:

“On his blog, Cer­novich devel­oped a the­o­ry of white-male iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics: men were oppressed by fem­i­nism, and polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness pre­vent­ed the dis­cus­sion of obvi­ous truths, such as the crim­i­nal pro­cliv­i­ties of cer­tain eth­nic groups.” . . . .

. . . . But not all of Sessions’s issues regard­ing minori­ties have a 30-year vin­tage.

In response to the attor­ney gen­er­al announce­ment, the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter issued a state­ment that read in part:

“But we can­not sup­port his nom­i­na­tion to be the country’s next attor­ney gen­er­al. Sen­a­tor Ses­sions not only has been a lead­ing oppo­nent of sen­si­ble, com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, he has asso­ci­at­ed with anti-immi­grant groups we con­sid­er to be deeply racist, includ­ing the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform and the Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy.”

Indeed, FAIR was quick to con­grat­u­late Ses­sions on his nom­i­na­tion Fri­day, say­ing in a state­ment: “It’s hard to imag­ine a bet­ter pick for the attor­ney gen­er­al posi­tion than Sen­a­tor Jeff Ses­sions”; the group called on Ses­sions to rid the coun­try of sanc­tu­ary cities.

The S.P.L.C. has writ­ten about FAIR, say­ing:

“FAIR lead­ers have ties to white suprema­cist groups and eugeni­cists and have made many racist state­ments. Its adver­tise­ments have been reject­ed because of racist con­tent. FAIR’s founder, John Tan­ton, has expressed his wish that Amer­i­ca remain a major­i­ty-white pop­u­la­tion: a goal to be achieved, pre­sum­ably, by lim­it­ing the num­ber of non­whites who enter the coun­try.” . . . .

3. Trump and many of his key appointees are big fans of “fake news.”

“Con­spir­a­cy Ped­dlers Con­tin­ue Push­ing Debunked ‘Piz­za­gate’ Tale” by Han­nah Allum; McClatchy DC; 12/5/2016.

One might think that police call­ing the motive a “fic­ti­tious con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry” would put an end to the claim that inspired a gun­man from North Car­oli­na to attack a fam­i­ly pizze­ria in Wash­ing­ton over the week­end.

Nope.

On Mon­day, those who share the assailant’s alleged sus­pi­cions that Hillary Clin­ton and her cam­paign man­ag­er oper­at­ed a child sex ring in the base­ment of the Wash­ing­ton restau­rant took it up a notch.

The gun­man, they said in Red­dit and oth­er online forums where the orig­i­nal fake news sto­ry orig­i­nat­ed, had a brief film career in a hor­ror movie, so the next log­i­cal leap was that he was hired by the Clin­ton camp to stage a false-flag oper­a­tion to dis­cred­it Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump. Fur­ther “proof”, they claimed, was that a secu­ri­ty cam­era that might’ve cap­tured the inci­dent had been removed just before it hap­pened.

Such claims once were con­fined to the nether­world of staged moon land­ings and 9/11 deniers, but now they’re seep­ing into the main­stream – with dan­ger­ous real-world con­se­quences, as Sunday’s inci­dent shows.

Trump has yet to con­demn the tor­rent of fake news that’s accom­pa­nied his rise to pow­er, a chill­ing prospect for civ­il rights advo­cates, who fear that the so-called “piz­za­gate” deba­cle por­tends more vio­lence from vig­i­lantes inspired by base­less claims.

“It’s deeply trou­bling that some of those false reports could lead to vio­lence,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a brief­ing Mon­day. Earnest said the pro­lif­er­a­tion of false reports had a “cor­ro­sive effect” on the polit­i­cal cli­mate.

Trump hasn’t addressed the fake news and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that bounce around online com­mu­ni­ties of his sup­port­ers until they’re accept­ed as fact. Per­haps that’s because sev­er­al of his advis­ers and Cab­i­net picks – soon to be among the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the coun­try – reg­u­lar­ly traf­fic in the same hokum. More than half the peo­ple Trump has picked so far for top admin­is­tra­tion posts have long his­to­ries of spew­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and mak­ing racist or big­ot­ed asser­tions with no evi­dence.

When Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence was in Con­gress, accord­ing to the Los Ange­les Times, he assert­ed with­out any sci­en­tif­ic back­up that mate­r­i­al in the 2001 anthrax scare had been genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied to make it more lethal – pos­si­bly by Iraqi dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein.

Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn, has used Twit­ter to praise white suprema­cists, malign Mus­lims and spread base­less claims link­ing the Clin­tons to a sex cult.

His son, Michael Fly­nn Jr., who served as his dad’s chief of staff, has giv­en cre­dence to the so-called “piz­za­gate” tale and has smeared top Clin­ton aide Huma Abe­din as a Mus­lim extrem­ist and Sen. Mar­co Rubio, R‑Fla., as a clos­et­ed gay cocaine addict. CNN report­ed that the younger Fly­nn has an email address affil­i­at­ed with Trump’s tran­si­tion team.

Fol­low
Michael G Fly­nn?? @mflynnJR
Until #Piz­za­gate proven to be false, it’ll remain a sto­ry. The left seems to for­get #PodestaE­mails and the many “coin­ci­dences” tied to it. https://twitter.com/jackposobiec/status/805559273426141184 …
7:13 PM — 4 Dec 2016
2,557 2,557 Retweets   3,456 3,456 likes
Trump’s pick for sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment, the neu­ro­sur­geon and failed pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ben Car­son, has a par­tic­u­lar­ly long track record of espous­ing ques­tion­able beliefs. He’s called Planned Par­ent­hood a con­spir­a­cy to con­trol the black pop­u­la­tion and cit­ed prison rape as evi­dence that homo­sex­u­al­i­ty is a choice, posi­tions Salon summed up in a piece head­lined “Ben Car­son is plain nuts.”

Carson’s also sug­gest­ed that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma is involved in a com­mu­nist plot to bring down the coun­try and he’s said that a Mus­lim shouldn’t be allowed to serve as pres­i­dent – a stance that vio­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Steve Ban­non, Trump’s pick for senior White House strate­gist, is the for­mer exec­u­tive of Bre­it­bart, which he’s described as a plat­form for the so-called “alt-right” white nation­al­ist move­ment. The pub­li­ca­tion has a his­to­ry of lurid­ly sex­ist, racist and homo­pho­bic head­lines. Ban­non also has dis­par­aged fem­i­nists as “a bunch of dykes.” His selec­tion was opposed by Democ­rats, some Repub­li­cans and vir­tu­al­ly every civ­il rights watch­dog in the coun­try.

Rep. Mike Pom­peo of Kansas, Trump’s pick for CIA direc­tor, was described by The Wash­ing­ton Post edi­to­r­i­al board as “one of the more fanat­i­cal pur­vey­ors of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the 2011 ter­ror­ist attacks in Beng­hazi, Libya.” At a hear­ing last year, Pom­peo insin­u­at­ed that Clin­ton had used the Beng­hazi con­sulate for a gun-run­ning oper­a­tion. . . .

4. Con­tribut­ing edi­tor Pter­rafractyl gives us analy­sis in a com­ment of the fake news phe­nom­e­non, Michael Fly­nn Sr. and his son and advi­sor Michael Fly­nn, jr.

“Here’s anoth­er sign of the times: It looks like “Piz­za­gate” – a hoax con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry about Hillary Clin­ton and John Podes­ta run­ning a child sex ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizze­ria that was cooked up days before the 2016 elec­tion and aggres­sive spread on social media – is still going strong. At least some minds. Like the mind of the man who walked into the Comet Ping Pong pizze­ria yes­ter­day to “self-inves­ti­gate” the hoax claims with a rifle and end­ed up threat­en­ing the staff and fir­ing off a round.

And now, in wake if this inci­dent, Michael G. Fly­nn, Jr., son and chief of staff of Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor Michael Fly­nn, is tak­ing to Twit­ter to defend his father over accu­sa­tions that Michael Fly­nn Sr. was pro­mot­ing the Piz­zgate hoax with poten­tial­ly dead­ly con­se­quences. Specif­i­cal­ly, Fly­nn Jr. is defend­ing his father by defend­ing the Piz­za­gate hoax itself, assert­ing that the hoax should be con­sid­ered a valid sto­ry until proven false.

But as the arti­cle below points out that despite the fact that Fly­nn Jr. jumped to the defense of father by defend­ing Piz­za­gate, Fly­nn Sr. had nev­er actu­al­ly pro­mot­ed Piz­za­gate. No, instead what Fly­nn Sr was pro­mot­ing right before the elec­tion was the “Spir­it Cook­ing” hoax, a dif­fer­ent hoax that also pur­ports to tie Hillary Clin­ton to Satan­ic rit­u­als involv­ing chil­dren.

So, to sum­ma­rize:
1. A man just walked into a pizze­ria that was the tar­get of a “Hillary Clin­ton is part of a child sex ring” hoax and fired shots.
2. Folks point­ed out that Michael Fly­nn Sr., Trump’s select­ed Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor, was push­ing sim­i­lar the­o­ries days before the elec­tion and there­fore val­i­dat­ing them in the minds of many.
3. Michael G. Fly­nn, Jr. replied with a tweet defend­ing his dad by sug­gest­ing the Piz­za­gate hoax should be con­sid­ered a real sto­ry until proven false.
4. And now we have to point out that Fly­nn Sr. wasn’t pro­mot­ing Piz­za­gate. No, he was pro­mot­ing “Spir­it Cook­ing”, a dif­fer­ent “Hillary Clin­ton is part of a child sex ring” hoax.

So that’s where we are. In a place where there’s such an aggres­sive pro­mo­tion of far-right Fake News that we now have to take the pains to parse each of the sep­a­rate hoax­es in order to accu­rate­ly assess the pub­lic dam­age they’re doing. In oth­er words, we now have to under­stand all the far-right con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries just to under­stand how much mis­un­der­stand­ing is tak­ing root in our col­lec­tive psy­che and shap­ing real­i­ty:

“The whole mat­ter is a near-per­fect micro­cosm of just how much fake news sto­ries have pen­e­trat­ed our polit­i­cal process — so much so that we can’t even keep them straight. And it’s like­ly to lead to those who embrace con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or sim­ply dis­trust the main­stream media to believe Fly­nn was unfair­ly maligned for his tweet.”

Well, that exact­ly doesn’t well. Unless hav­ing the next Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor, and his advi­sor and son, ped­dle garbage hap­pens to bode well:


But it’s also worth not­ing here the Fly­nns have traf­ficked in these kinds of bogus sto­ries many times before. And even as Fly­nn Sr. can’t be specif­i­cal­ly tied to foment­ing the Comet Ping Pong rumors before­hand, his deci­sion to pass along a base­less arti­cle about the Clin­tons and sex crimes makes con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries like Comet Ping Pong more believ­able. This stuff is becom­ing a scourge.

In addi­tion, Flynn’s son isn’t some­one who just hap­pens to be relat­ed to an appointee to a major post in the Trump Cab­i­net. He’s some­one who has advised his father at the high­est lev­el — mak­ing his embrace of base­less con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries a very legit­i­mate issue. (In oth­er words, this isn’t akin to a president’s black-sheep broth­er with no real role in an admin­is­tra­tion doing some­thing objec­tion­able.)

Update: CNN reports that Fly­nn Jr. now has a .gov email address, which sug­gests he’ll play a role in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

It’s prob­a­bly worth not­ing that the sto­ry Fly­nn Sr. was pro­mot­ing right before the elec­tion about the “Spir­it Cook­ing” meme was about a Bre­it­bart inter­view of Black Water founder Erik Prince and his asser­tion that arrests were going to hap­pen­ing soon (arrests that nev­er happened…big shock­er!)

It’s prob­a­bly also worth not­ing that Prince is the broth­er of Trump’s choice for Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary, Bet­sy DeVos.

So, yes, Don­ald Trump’s Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary is the sis­ter of the head mer­ce­nary who was push­ing a fake sto­ry about a Satan­ic sex abduc­tion ring that was tweet­ed about by Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor. And when ques­tions were raised about the role this pro­mo­tion may have played in legit­imiz­ing a par­al­lel hoax sto­ry about Hillary Clin­ton and a child sex ring, Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advisor’s chief advi­sor, who also hap­pens to be his son, defend­ed his dad/boss by tweet­ing a defense of the par­al­lel hoax sto­ry.

“Michael Flynn’s Tweet Wasn’t Actu­al­ly about #Piz­za­Gate, but His Son Is now Defend­ing the Base­less Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry” by Aaron Blake; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 12/5/2016

There are so many fake tales float­ing around about the 2016 elec­tion that they appear to be get­ting con­fused for one anoth­er.

After a gun­man who cit­ed a Hillary Clin­ton-relat­ed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry entered the Comet Ping Pong piz­za restau­rant in Wash­ing­ton on Sun­day and fired one or more shots, reports and tweets point­ed to Don­ald Trump’s pick for nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn, hav­ing foment­ed the rumors that appar­ent­ly spurred the man.

Here’s Flynn’s tweet:

U decide – NYPD Blows Whis­tle on New Hillary Emails: Mon­ey Laun­der­ing, Sex Crimes w Chil­dren, etc…MUST READ! https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr— Gen­er­al Fly­nn (@GenFlynn) Novem­ber 3, 2016

And here’s a sam­pling of the reac­tions:

1. Gen Fly­nn tweets about Fake HRC Comet Piz­za con­spir­a­cy. 2. Comet gets threats. 3. Gun­man enters Comet today. https://t.co/vS3cv2F6ui— John Aravo­sis (@aravosis) Decem­ber 4, 2016

That near-shoot­ing in Wash­ing­ton DC was inspired by a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry advanced by …. Mike Fly­nn https://t.co/cCuxaXYDrxpic.twitter.com/3DudzOFiNX— Will Jor­dan (@williamjordann) Decem­ber 4, 2016

Except Fly­nn doesn’t actu­al­ly appear to have tweet­ed some­thing about Comet Ping Pong — not specif­i­cal­ly.

Fly­nn did tweet a link involv­ing dubi­ous claims about the Clin­tons and sex crimes, and his social media pres­ence is replete with fake news and con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about Mus­lims, which made it an easy con­clu­sion to draw.

What’s more, his son Michael G. Fly­nn on Sun­day did sug­gest there could be some­thing to the Piz­za­Gate rumors, basi­cal­ly defend­ing his father as if he had tweet­ed about Comet Ping Pong and chal­leng­ing the media to dis­prove the base­less claims. The younger Fly­nn served as his father’s chief of staff — his top aide — mak­ing his tweets about this bogus the­o­ry par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant.

Until #Piz­za­gate proven to be false, it’ll remain a sto­ry. The left seems to for­get #PodestaE­mails and the many “coin­ci­dences” tied to it. https://t.co/8HA9y30Yfp— Michael G Fly­nn???? (@mflynnJR) Decem­ber 5, 2016

Michael Fly­nn Jr. also tan­gled with CNN’s Jake Tap­per, who sent him direct mes­sages implor­ing him to stop breath­ing life into the rumors that appar­ent­ly led to vio­lence on Sun­day at Comet Ping Pong. Fly­nn Jr. glee­ful­ly tweet­ed and retweet­ed the mis­sives.

Jake.Tapper..still…..DMing me….a shame he does­n’t argue this hard on his net­work. @Cernovich@bakedalaska@PrisonPlanet@JackPosobiechttps://t.co/EQ8KmRYEBF— Michael G Fly­nn???? (@mflynnJR) Decem­ber 5, 2016

Want evi­dence??? I must’ve real­ly hit a nerve @Cernovich@bakedalaska@JackPosobiec@PrisonPlanet@Rambobiggs@RealAlexJonespic.twitter.com/wRlPX8lrPy— Michael G Fly­nn???? (@mflynnJR) Decem­ber 5, 2016

As for Michael Fly­nn Sr.’s orig­i­nal tweet, the con­fu­sion stemmed from fact that there are actu­al­ly mul­ti­ple dubi­ous claims involv­ing the Clin­tons, human traf­fick­ing and sex crimes. One involves Comet Ping Pong — a the­o­ry which involves “dozens of made-up arti­cles about Mrs. Clin­ton kid­nap­ping, molest­ing and traf­fick­ing chil­dren” — and anoth­er involves bil­lion­aire donor and con­vict­ed pedophile Jef­frey Epstein’s ties to the Clin­tons.

At least the lat­ter con­nec­tion isn’t entire­ly based in fan­ta­sy. Here’s our Fact Checker’s sum­ma­ry:

After leav­ing office, Bill Clin­ton was occa­sion­al­ly a pas­sen­ger on air­craft owned by con­vict­ed pedophile Jef­frey Epstein. (Epstein was also a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to Don­ald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Flori­da, and Trump was a din­ner guest at Epstein’s home.) Gawk­er report­ed that flight logs show that Clin­ton, among oth­ers, trav­eled through Africa in 2002 on a jet with “an actress in soft-core porn movies whose name appears in Epstein’s address book under an entry for ‘mas­sages.’” Chauntae Davies, the actress, declined to dis­cuss why she was on the flight. Clin­ton has not com­ment­ed.

The Epstein case isn’t a full-fledged con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry in and of itself, but it has result­ed in all man­ner of alle­ga­tions involv­ing the Clin­tons. An exam­ple from the New York Post: “‘Sex slave’ claims Bill Clin­ton vis­it­ed Epstein’s ‘orgy island.Here’s more, if you’re curi­ous. And as the Fact Check­er not­ed, Trump has his own very real ties to Epstein.

The link that Fly­nn tweet­ed appears to refer not to alleged Clin­ton-relat­ed sex crimes at Comet Ping Pong but rather makes explic­it ref­er­ence to Epstein. After cit­ing anony­mous New York Police Depart­ment sources link­ing Clin­ton to “child exploita­tion” and “sex crimes with minors,” among oth­er crimes, the arti­cle from far-right web­site True Pun­dit points to the Epstein case:

The new emails con­tain trav­el doc­u­ments and itin­er­aries indi­cat­ing Hillary Clin­ton, Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, Wein­er and mul­ti­ple mem­bers of Con­gress and oth­er gov­ern­ment offi­cials accom­pa­nied con­vict­ed pedophile bil­lion­aire Jef­frey Epstein on his Boe­ing 727 on mul­ti­ple occa­sions to his pri­vate island in the U.S. Vir­gin Islands, sources said. Epstein’s island has also been dubbed Orgy Island or Sex Slave Island where Epstein alleged­ly pimps out under­age girls and boys to inter­na­tion­al dig­ni­taries.

Both NYPD and FBI sources con­firm based on the new emails they now believe Hillary Clin­ton trav­eled as Epstein’s guest on at least six occa­sions, prob­a­bly more when all the evi­dence is combed, sources said. Bill Clin­ton, it has been con­firmed in media reports span­ning recent years, that he too trav­eled with Epstein over 20 times to the island.

Comet Ping Pong is not ref­er­enced by True Pun­dit — either explic­it­ly or implic­it­ly. And in fact, the Red­dit post­ing that spawned what’s come to be known as “Piz­za­Gate” (the thread has now been tak­en down by Red­dit) is from Nov. 4, accord­ing to Snopes — two days after the True Pun­dit arti­cle post­ed on Nov. 2.

The whole mat­ter is a near-per­fect micro­cosm of just how much fake news sto­ries have pen­e­trat­ed our polit­i­cal process — so much so that we can’t even keep them straight. And it’s like­ly to lead to those who embrace con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or sim­ply dis­trust the main­stream media to believe Fly­nn was unfair­ly maligned for his tweet.

But it’s also worth not­ing here the Fly­nns have traf­ficked in these kinds of bogus sto­ries many times before. And even as Fly­nn Sr. can’t be specif­i­cal­ly tied to foment­ing the Comet Ping Pong rumors before­hand, his deci­sion to pass along a base­less arti­cle about the Clin­tons and sex crimes makes con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries like Comet Ping Pong more believ­able. This stuff is becom­ing a scourge.

In addi­tion, Flynn’s son isn’t some­one who just hap­pens to be relat­ed to an appointee to a major post in the Trump Cab­i­net. He’s some­one who has advised his father at the high­est lev­el — mak­ing his embrace of base­less con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries a very legit­i­mate issue. (In oth­er words, this isn’t akin to a president’s black-sheep broth­er with no real role in an admin­is­tra­tion doing some­thing objec­tion­able.)

Update: CNN reports that Fly­nn Jr. now has a .gov email address, which sug­gests he’ll play a role in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

But in this case, it is not fair to tie Fly­nn Sr. direct­ly to what hap­pened Sun­day after­noon in Wash­ing­ton. Crit­ics will argue this is a dis­tinc­tion with­out a dif­fer­ence — that Fly­nn foment­ed rumors that con­tributed to the per­cep­tion that the Clin­tons were involved in all man­ner of unholy things. But when it comes to com­bat­ing fake news, it’s worth being as spe­cif­ic and accu­rate as pos­si­ble.

6. Don­ald Trump is among a num­ber of bil­lion­aires who are work­ing to muz­zle a free press. Trump says he wants to loosen the libel laws. Com­ing at a time when the growth of the inter­net and social media have placed the work­ing press in dire eco­nom­ic straits and with Trump set to appoint fed­er­al judges, includ­ing supreme court judges, we may well see the very con­cept of a free press nul­li­fied alto­geth­er.

“Stop the Press­es” by Emi­ly Bazelon; The New York Times Mag­a­zine; 11/27/2016. 

. . . . As a can­di­date, Trump blus­tered vague­ly that he want­ed to “open up our libel laws.” I asked his spokes­woman, Hope Hicks, by email what he meant by that, but she didn’t answer the ques­tion (or oth­ers I posed). It’s not with­in the president’s direct pow­ers to change the rules for libel suits. But our legal safe­guards for writ­ers and pub­lish­ers aren’t fool­proof. In the last few years, Trump has been joined by at least two bil­lion­aires who are deter­mined to exploit cracks in the wall of defense around the press. The mem­bers of this club are inno­va­tors. They have sued or fund­ed suits to defend rep­u­ta­tions or pro­tect pri­va­cy. But an under­ly­ing aim appears to be to pun­ish crit­ics like O’Brien or even destroy entire media out­lets.

This kind of manip­u­la­tion of the law is unfold­ing at a keen moment of weak­ness for the press, which has already been buf­fet­ed by falling rev­enue and mount­ing pub­lic dis­af­fec­tion. Only 40 per­cent of the pub­lic — the low­est rate since at least the 1990s — trusts the media “to report the news ful­ly, accu­rate­ly and fair­ly,” accord­ing to a Gallup sur­vey con­duct­ed in Sep­tem­ber 2015. This mis­trust has been grow­ing for a long time, but it was stoked by Trump dur­ing the cam­paign. He called the reporters who cov­ered him “scum” and whipped up yelling and boo­ing crowds. There is no con­sen­sus among his sup­port­ers that the press should hold those in pow­er account­able. A recent Pew sur­vey found that only half of Trump back­ers agreed that it was impor­tant in a strong democ­ra­cy that “news orga­ni­za­tions are free to crit­i­cize polit­i­cal lead­ers.” . . .

7. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Trump’s assault on the press was his “in your face” scald­ing of broad­cast media fig­ures.

“Trump Calls TV Fig­ures to a Pri­vate Meet­ing, and Lets Them Have It” by Michael M. Gryn­baum and Syd­ney Ember; The New York Times; 11/22/2106.

. . . . Mr. Trump, whose antag­o­nism toward the news media was unusu­al even for a mod­ern pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, described the tele­vi­sion net­works as dis­hon­est in their report­ing and short­sight­ed in miss­ing the signs of his upset vic­to­ry. He crit­i­cized some in the room by name, includ­ing CNN’s pres­i­dent, Jef­frey A. Zuck­er, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple briefed on the meet­ing who were grant­ed anonymi­ty to describe con­fi­den­tial dis­cus­sions.

It is not unusu­al for jour­nal­ists to agree to off-the-record ses­sions with promi­nent politi­cians, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, as a way to gain insights and devel­op rela­tion­ships.

But after details of Mr. Trump’s hec­tor­ing leaked on Mon­day in The New York Post, it seemed the meet­ing was being used as a polit­i­cal prop, espe­cial­ly after Trump-friend­ly news out­lets trum­pet­ed the ses­sion as a take-no-pris­on­ers move by a brave pres­i­dent-elect.

“Trump Slams Media Elite, Face to Face,” blared the Drudge Report. “Trump Eats Press,” wrote Bre­it­bart News. . . .

8. Trump’s rise is being accom­pa­nied by sig­nif­i­cant moves to restrict aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom. A “Dan­ger­ous Pro­fes­sors” list was gen­er­at­ed and dis­sem­i­nat­ed online by a right-wing stu­dent group. Con­sid­er this in light of the appoint­ment of Black­wa­ter founder and fake news adher­ent Erik Prince’s sis­ter Bet­sy DeVos as Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary. Con­sid­er this, also, in light of places like Texas, where col­lege stu­dents can bring a gun to class.

“I Am a Dan­ger­ous Pro­fes­sor” by George Yan­cy; The New York Times; 12/4/2016.

Those famil­iar with George Orwell’s “1984” will recall that “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to dimin­ish the range of thought.” I recent­ly felt the weight of this Orwellian ethos when many of my stu­dents sent emails to inform me, and per­haps warn me, that my name appears on the Pro­fes­sor Watch­list, a new web­site cre­at­ed by a con­ser­v­a­tive youth group known as Turn­ing Point USA.

I could sense the grav­i­ty in those email mes­sages, a sense of relay­ing what is to come. The Pro­fes­sor Watchlist’s mis­sion, among oth­er things, is to sound an alarm about those of us with­in acad­e­mia who “advance left­ist pro­pa­gan­da in the class­room.” It names and includes pho­tographs of some 200 pro­fes­sors. . . .

9. In Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia, a his­to­ry teacher with 40-years expe­ri­ence at Moun­tain View High School was sus­pend­ed for com­par­ing Trump’s rise to the ascent of Adolf Hitler.

“Teacher Who Com­pared Trump’s Rise to Hitler Is Sus­pend­ed from High School to Keep Stu­dents ‘Emo­tion­al­ly Safe’ ” by Khale­da Raman; Dai­ly Mail; 11/16/2016.

A Cal­i­for­nia teacher has been sus­pend­ed with pay from the school he has worked at for 40 years for com­par­ing Don­ald Trump’s rise to pow­er to Adolf Hitler’s.

Frank Navar­ro, a schol­ar of the Holo­caust, who has worked for decades at Moun­tain View High School said he taught his world stud­ies class the sim­i­lar­i­ties between Hitler’s rise to pow­er and Trump’s cam­paign.

But after con­cerned par­ents began con­tact­ing the school, prin­ci­pal Dave Gris­som and super­in­ten­dent Jeff Hard­ing made the deci­sion to sus­pend Navar­ro.

Navar­ro said the par­ent claims he called Trump and Hitler one and the same, but he says that’s not what hap­pened.

‘This par­ent said that I had said Don­ald Trump was Hitler, but I would nev­er say that. That’s slop­py his­tor­i­cal think­ing,’ Navar­ro told SF Gate.

He says he did make com­par­isons about how the two rose to promi­nence and lead their respec­tive nations, includ­ing rhetoric about deport­ing for­eign­ers and restor­ing great­ness to the coun­try.
‘I think it makes sense. It’s fac­tu­al, it’s evi­dence-based. It reminds stu­dents that his­to­ry is real,’ Navar­ro said.

But the school offi­cials said giv­en the cli­mate fol­low­ing the elec­tion, the les­son was inap­pro­pri­ate.

‘Regard­less of their polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion, many of our stu­dents show signs of emo­tion­al stress,’ Gris­som told par­ents in a let­ter.

He said the school has an oblig­a­tion to be an ’emo­tion­al­ly safe envi­ron­ment’ for stu­dents.

But, Gris­som also said, the school must pro­tect teach­ers and staff when unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims are made against them.

Gris­som told SF Gate the sus­pen­sion is a ‘time out’ for Navar­ro.

Navar­ro said it is his duty as a his­to­ry teacher to ensure stu­dents are aware of big­otry and to point it out, accord­ing to a Change.org petition.’I feel strong­ly about this: to stand qui­et in the face of big­otry and to turn your eyes away from it is to back up the big­otry, and that’s not what I, or any his­to­ry teacher, should be doing in our work,’ Navar­ro said.

Offi­cials said they would wrap up an inves­ti­ga­tion into the claims soon.

After The Ora­cle, the stu­dent news­pa­per, wrote about the sus­pen­sion, out­raged par­ents and stu­dents began say­ing Navar­ro should not have been sus­pend­ed.

‘Emails start­ed flow­ing in to the prin­ci­pal late that night,’ Navar­ro told the paper.

The Change.org peti­tion, which seeks to have an apol­o­gy made to Navar­ro and his sus­pen­sion lift­ed, received more than 7,600 sig­na­tures as of Sun­day after­noon.

Navarro’s daugh­ter post­ed on the peti­tion, furi­ous about the sit­u­a­tion her father had been placed in.

‘What Moun­tain View High School has done to my father is wrong. Dis­cussing the con­nec­tion between Trump and Hitler is impor­tant and rel­e­vant to his­to­ry and the painful sit­u­a­tion we are in now in this coun­try,’ she wrote.

She added that her father was set to retire in June and that the school will be los­ing a beloved teacher.

10. For the U.S., appar­ent­ly, the kind of restric­tions on free speech applied to Frank Navar­ro do not apply to endorse­ments of Nazism.

For the sec­ond time in three years, the U.S. has vot­ed against a U.N. res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism and neo-Nazism because it con­sti­tutes a restric­tion of “free speech!”

This is to be seen against our long-run­ning and exhaus­tive series on the Ukraine cri­sis.

It also con­trasts marked­ly with the treat­ment accord­ed Frank Navar­ro in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia.

“US Says Anti-Nazi Res­o­lu­tion at U.N. Restricts Free Speech” by Michael Astor; The Seat­tle Times; 11/17/2016.

The Unit­ed States was one of three coun­tries to vote against a U.N. res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism on Thurs­day, cit­ing free­dom of speech issues and con­cerns Rus­sia was using it to car­ry out polit­i­cal attacks against its neigh­bors.

The res­o­lu­tion enti­tled “Com­bat­ing glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Nazism, Neo-Nazism and oth­er prac­tices that con­tribute to fuel­ing con­tem­po­rary forms of racism, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bia and relat­ed intol­er­ance,” was approved by the U.N.’s human rights com­mit­tee on Fri­day with 131 in favor, 3 against with 48 absten­tions. Ukraine and Palau were the oth­er no votes. . . .

 

Discussion

13 comments for “FTR #937 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 11: Settling In (The Underground Reich Comes into Plain View, Part 4)”

  1. Part of what’s going to make the Trump lega­cy so grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing to watch unfold, what­ev­er kind of night­mare that lega­cy ends up being, is the incred­i­bly jux­ta­po­si­tion that exists between the near sweep­ing pow­er that the Trump team is going to have giv­en the Repub­li­can con­trol of both hous­es of Con­gress and Supreme Court (soon) cou­pled with the incred­i­ble array of ques­tions swirling around Trump and his team that raise ques­tions about the legit­i­ma­cy of the admin­is­tra­tion. After all, we have a pres­i­dent-elect who:
    1. Lost by mil­lions of votes.

    2. Encour­aged sup­port­ers to com­mit vio­lence against his oppo­nent.

    3. Sug­gest­ed he would­n’t rec­og­nize the results of the elec­tion and was­n’t sim­ply sug­gest­ing he might call for a recount but actu­al­ly sug­gest­ing that the whole sys­tem is rigged against him.

    4. Won due to a series of sur­prise vic­to­ries in three states (Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan, and Penn­syl­va­nia) with a num­ber of vot­ing anom­alies, and has pro­ceed­ed to block recount efforts...while declar­ing that mil­lions of peo­ple vot­ing ille­gal­ly for his oppo­nent in oth­er states with no evi­dence at all.

    5. Has already made it clear that he’s not going to abide by even basic con­flict of inter­est pro­to­cols.

    6. Received mas­sive assis­tance through­out the cam­paign from Wik­ileaks and who­ev­er hacked the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.

    7. Had his old friend and dirty tricks oper­a­tive, Roger Stone, pub­licly coor­di­nate with Wik­ileaks and Infowars.

    8. Pub­licly asked Rus­sia dur­ing a press con­fer­ence to release hacked Hillary Clin­ton emails (which hap­pened to be the last press con­fer­ence he gave).

    9. Select­ed Michael Fly­nn, a ped­dler of far-right con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and hoax­es like “Piz­za­gate”, as his Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor.

    10. Select­ed the “Alt-Right” Nazi media God­fa­ther Steve Ban­non to be his chief strate­gist.

    And that’s just a brief sum­ma­ry of some of the many rea­son for why this is quite pos­si­bly the most ille­git­i­mate pres­i­dent-elect ever. If “legit­i­ma­cy” is defined as uphold­ing those demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples of free and fair elec­tions that the Unit­ed States is sup­posed to treat as both hold as its first and last line of defense. Sure, there’s always been elec­toral shenani­gans in the past and it’s not like the GOP has­n’t been try­ing to aggres­sive­ly rig elec­tions for years. But Trump did it out in the open. That’s the dif­fer­ence. Plus he open­ly embraces Nazis. That’s also a pret­ty big dif­fer­ence. Repub­li­cans are nor­mal­ly sup­posed to hide that stuff. The Under­ground Reich is sup­posed to stay under­ground. But not any­more!

    Giv­en all that, whether or not the report­ed intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty con­clu­sion that it has iden­ti­fied the indi­vid­u­als involved that did the hack­ing and con­nect­ed them to Russ­ian intel­li­gence are accu­rate, they’re cer­tain­ly not going to be hard to believe. Trump is so shady just about any­thing is believ­able about him...as long as it por­trays him in a shady light. And the reports that Sen­a­tor Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the pub­lic release this rev­e­la­tion back in Sep­tem­ber won’t help Trump’s legit­i­ma­cy or the GOP’s either. Again, whether or not the intel­li­gence is accu­rate. That’s the con­se­quence of being some­one like Trump. Or nom­i­nat­ing him:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Secret CIA assess­ment says Rus­sia was try­ing to help Trump win White House

    By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller
    Decem­ber 9, 2016 at 10:45 PM

    The CIA has con­clud­ed in a secret assess­ment that Rus­sia inter­vened in the 2016 elec­tion to help Don­ald Trump win the pres­i­den­cy, rather than just to under­mine con­fi­dence in the U.S. elec­toral sys­tem, accord­ing to offi­cials briefed on the mat­ter.

    Intel­li­gence agen­cies have iden­ti­fied indi­vid­u­als with con­nec­tions to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment who pro­vid­ed Wik­iLeaks with thou­sands of hacked emails from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee and oth­ers, includ­ing Hillary Clinton’s cam­paign chair­man, accord­ing to U.S. offi­cials. Those offi­cials described the indi­vid­u­als as actors known to the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and part of a wider Russ­ian oper­a­tion to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

    “It is the assess­ment of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that Russia’s goal here was to favor one can­di­date over the oth­er, to help Trump get elect­ed,” said a senior U.S. offi­cial briefed on an intel­li­gence pre­sen­ta­tion made to U.S. sen­a­tors. “That’s the con­sen­sus view.”

    The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has been debat­ing for months how to respond to the alleged Russ­ian intru­sions, with White House offi­cials con­cerned about esca­lat­ing ten­sions with Moscow and being accused of try­ing to boost Clinton’s cam­paign.

    In Sep­tem­ber, dur­ing a secret brief­ing for con­gres­sion­al lead­ers, Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell (R‑Ky.) voiced doubts about the verac­i­ty of the intel­li­gence, accord­ing to offi­cials present.

    The Trump tran­si­tion team dis­missed the find­ings in a short state­ment issued Fri­day evening. “These are the same peo­ple that said Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass destruc­tion. The elec­tion end­ed a long time ago in one of the biggest Elec­toral Col­lege vic­to­ries in his­to­ry. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make Amer­i­ca Great Again,’?” the state­ment read.

    Trump has con­sis­tent­ly dis­missed the intel­li­gence community’s find­ings about Russ­ian hack­ing.

    “I don’t believe they inter­fered” in the elec­tion, he told Time mag­a­zine this week. The hack­ing, he said, “could be Rus­sia. And it could be Chi­na. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jer­sey.”

    The CIA shared its lat­est assess­ment with key sen­a­tors in a closed-door brief­ing on Capi­tol Hill last week, in which agency offi­cials cit­ed a grow­ing body of intel­li­gence from mul­ti­ple sources. Agency briefers told the sen­a­tors it was now “quite clear” that elect­ing Trump was Russia’s goal, accord­ing to the offi­cials, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss intel­li­gence mat­ters.

    The CIA pre­sen­ta­tion to sen­a­tors about Russia’s inten­tions fell short of a for­mal U.S. assess­ment pro­duced by all 17 intel­li­gence agen­cies. A senior U.S. offi­cial said there were minor dis­agree­ments among intel­li­gence offi­cials about the agency’s assess­ment, in part because some ques­tions remain unan­swered.

    For exam­ple, intel­li­gence agen­cies do not have spe­cif­ic intel­li­gence show­ing offi­cials in the Krem­lin “direct­ing” the iden­ti­fied indi­vid­u­als to pass the Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails to Wik­iLeaks, a sec­ond senior U.S. offi­cial said. Those actors, accord­ing to the offi­cial, were “one step” removed from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, rather than gov­ern­ment employ­ees. Moscow has in the past used mid­dle­men to par­tic­i­pate in sen­si­tive intel­li­gence oper­a­tions so it has plau­si­ble deni­a­bil­i­ty.

    Julian Assange, the founder of Wik­iLeaks, has said in a tele­vi­sion inter­view that the “Russ­ian gov­ern­ment is not the source.”

    The White House and CIA offi­cials declined to com­ment.

    On Fri­day, the White House said Pres­i­dent Oba­ma had ordered a “full review” of Russ­ian hack­ing dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, as pres­sure from Con­gress has grown for greater pub­lic under­stand­ing of exact­ly what Moscow did to influ­ence the elec­toral process.

    “We may have crossed into a new thresh­old, and it is incum­bent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to con­duct some after-action, to under­stand what has hap­pened and to impart some lessons learned,” Obama’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism and home­land secu­ri­ty advis­er, Lisa Mona­co, told reporters at a break­fast host­ed by the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor.

    Oba­ma wants the report before he leaves office Jan. 20, Mona­co said. The review will be led by James Clap­per, the out­go­ing direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence, offi­cials said.

    Dur­ing her remarks, Mona­co didn’t address the lat­est CIA assess­ment, which hasn’t been pre­vi­ous­ly dis­closed.

    Sev­en Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors last week asked Oba­ma to declas­si­fy details about the intru­sions and why offi­cials believe that the Krem­lin was behind the oper­a­tion. Offi­cials said Fri­day that the sen­a­tors specif­i­cal­ly were ask­ing the White House to release por­tions of the CIA’s pre­sen­ta­tion.

    This week, top Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers in the House also sent a let­ter to Oba­ma, ask­ing for brief­in­gs on Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

    U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies have been cau­tious for months in char­ac­ter­iz­ing Russia’s moti­va­tions, reflect­ing the Unit­ed States’ long-stand­ing strug­gle to col­lect reli­able intel­li­gence on Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and those clos­est to him.

    In pre­vi­ous assess­ments, the CIA and oth­er intel­li­gence agen­cies told the White House and con­gres­sion­al lead­ers that they believed Moscow’s aim was to under­mine con­fi­dence in the U.S. elec­toral sys­tem. The assess­ments stopped short of say­ing the goal was to help elect Trump.

    On Oct. 7, the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty offi­cial­ly accused Moscow of seek­ing to inter­fere in the elec­tion through the hack­ing of “polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions.” Though the state­ment nev­er spec­i­fied which par­ty, it was clear that offi­cials were refer­ring to cyber-intru­sions into the com­put­ers of the DNC and oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic groups and indi­vid­u­als.

    Some key Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have con­tin­ued to ques­tion the qual­i­ty of evi­dence sup­port­ing Russ­ian involve­ment.

    “I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Rus­sia if there’s clear evi­dence, but there is no clear evi­dence — even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R‑Calif.), the chair­man of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and a mem­ber of the Trump tran­si­tion team. “There’s a lot of innu­en­do, lots of cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence, that’s it.”

    Though Rus­sia has long con­duct­ed cyber­spy­ing on U.S. agen­cies, com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions, this pres­i­den­tial cam­paign marks the first time Moscow has attempt­ed through cyber-means to inter­fere in, if not active­ly influ­ence, the out­come of an elec­tion, the offi­cials said.

    The reluc­tance of the Oba­ma White House to respond to the alleged Russ­ian intru­sions before Elec­tion Day upset Democ­rats on the Hill as well as mem­bers of the Clin­ton cam­paign.

    With­in the admin­is­tra­tion, top offi­cials from dif­fer­ent agen­cies sparred over whether and how to respond. White House offi­cials were con­cerned that covert retal­ia­to­ry mea­sures might risk an esca­la­tion in which Rus­sia, with sophis­ti­cat­ed cyber-capa­bil­i­ties, might have less to lose than the Unit­ed States, with its vast and vul­ner­a­ble dig­i­tal infra­struc­ture.

    The White House’s reluc­tance to take that risk left Wash­ing­ton weigh­ing more-lim­it­ed mea­sures, includ­ing the “nam­ing and sham­ing” approach of pub­licly blam­ing Moscow.

    By mid-Sep­tem­ber, White House offi­cials had decid­ed it was time to take that step, but they wor­ried that doing so uni­lat­er­al­ly and with­out bipar­ti­san con­gres­sion­al back­ing just weeks before the elec­tion would make Oba­ma vul­ner­a­ble to charges that he was using intel­li­gence for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es.

    Instead, offi­cials devised a plan to seek bipar­ti­san sup­port from top law­mak­ers and set up a secret meet­ing with the Gang of 12 — a group that includes House and Sen­ate lead­ers, as well as the chair­men and rank­ing mem­bers of both cham­bers’ com­mit­tees on intel­li­gence and home­land secu­ri­ty.

    Oba­ma dis­patched Mona­co, FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey and Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son to make the pitch for a “show of sol­i­dar­i­ty and bipar­ti­san uni­ty” against Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the elec­tion, accord­ing to a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, the White House want­ed con­gres­sion­al lead­ers to sign off on a bipar­ti­san state­ment urg­ing state and local offi­cials to take fed­er­al help in pro­tect­ing their vot­ing-reg­is­tra­tion and bal­lot­ing machines from Russ­ian cyber-intru­sions.

    Though U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies were skep­ti­cal that hack­ers would be able to manip­u­late the elec­tion results in a sys­tem­at­ic way, the White House feared that Rus­sia would attempt to do so, sow­ing doubt about the fun­da­men­tal mech­a­nisms of democ­ra­cy and poten­tial­ly forc­ing a more dan­ger­ous con­fronta­tion between Wash­ing­ton and Moscow.

    In a secure room in the Capi­tol used for brief­in­gs involv­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials broad­ly laid out the evi­dence U.S. spy agen­cies had col­lect­ed, show­ing Russia’s role in cyber-intru­sions in at least two states and in hack­ing the emails of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als.

    And they made a case for a unit­ed, bipar­ti­san front in response to what one offi­cial described as “the threat posed by unprece­dent­ed med­dling by a for­eign pow­er in our elec­tion process.”

    The Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers in the room unan­i­mous­ly agreed on the need to take the threat seri­ous­ly. Repub­li­cans, how­ev­er, were divid­ed, with at least two GOP law­mak­ers reluc­tant to accede to the White House requests.

    Accord­ing to sev­er­al offi­cials, McConnell raised doubts about the under­ly­ing intel­li­gence and made clear to the admin­is­tra­tion that he would con­sid­er any effort by the White House to chal­lenge the Rus­sians pub­licly an act of par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

    Some of the Repub­li­cans in the brief­ing also seemed opposed to the idea of going pub­lic with such explo­sive alle­ga­tions in the final stages of an elec­tion, a move that they argued would only rat­tle pub­lic con­fi­dence and play into Moscow’s hands.

    McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for com­ment. After the elec­tion, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nom­i­nee for trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary.

    ...

    “The Trump tran­si­tion team dis­missed the find­ings in a short state­ment issued Fri­day evening. “These are the same peo­ple that said Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass destruc­tion. The elec­tion end­ed a long time ago in one of the biggest Elec­toral Col­lege vic­to­ries in his­to­ry. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make Amer­i­ca Great Again,’?” the state­ment read.”

    And that’s the con­se­quence of the CIA’s Bush Admin­is­tra­tion lega­cy: now some­one as shady as Trump can under­mine the agen­cy’s intel­li­gence assess­ment sim­ply by point­ing out the rel­a­tive­ly recent mas­sive agency lies. Still, it’s not like Trump isn’t one of the most incred­u­lous pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates we’ve ever seen and it’s not as if he has­n’t been the clear ben­e­fi­cia­ries of an unprece­dent­ed hack­ing cam­paign in coor­di­na­tion with Wik­ileaks. Clear­ly some­one hacked the DNC in order to help Trump. So when we read about caveats in the intel­li­gence assess­ment like:

    ...

    The CIA pre­sen­ta­tion to sen­a­tors about Russia’s inten­tions fell short of a for­mal U.S. assess­ment pro­duced by all 17 intel­li­gence agen­cies. A senior U.S. offi­cial said there were minor dis­agree­ments among intel­li­gence offi­cials about the agency’s assess­ment, in part because some ques­tions remain unan­swered.

    For exam­ple, intel­li­gence agen­cies do not have spe­cif­ic intel­li­gence show­ing offi­cials in the Krem­lin “direct­ing” the iden­ti­fied indi­vid­u­als to pass the Demo­c­ra­t­ic emails to Wik­iLeaks, a sec­ond senior U.S. offi­cial said. Those actors, accord­ing to the offi­cial, were “one step” removed from the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, rather than gov­ern­ment employ­ees. Moscow has in the past used mid­dle­men to par­tic­i­pate in sen­si­tive intel­li­gence oper­a­tions so it has plau­si­ble deni­a­bil­i­ty.
    ...

    if that’s the extent of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ties dis­agree­ments, it seems like it’s going to be dif­fi­cult for the Trump team to suc­cess­ful­ly refute this.

    So we can add to the list of Trump’s legit­i­ma­cy ques­tions:
    11. The intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty is pub­licly say­ing its iden­ti­fied the hack­ers and con­nect­ed them to the the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. And also con­clud­ed that those hack­ers did­n’t sim­ply act to under­mine faith in the US elec­toral sys­tem but active­ly worked to harm Clin­ton and help Trump.

    And whether or not these hack­ers real­ly were direct­ed by the Krem­lin or hired by some­one else, that’s how it’s going to be per­ceived. Also worth not­ing that the Sen­ate Democ­rats are demand­ing that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty hand over the infor­ma­tion that led the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty to its con­clu­sion. So it’s also very pos­si­ble that what­ev­er that evi­dence is will be iun the hands of Con­gress soon too and who knows where it’s going to go from there. And, again, don’t for­get that Roger Stone was coor­di­nat­ing with Wik­ileaks and Trump pub­licly asked Rus­sia to release hacked emails. All in all, It’s quite a cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy and it’s only going to get worse:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    Sen­ate Dem Leader: Intel Com­mu­ni­ty Must Hand Over Info On Russ­ian Hack­ing

    By Tier­ney Sneed
    Pub­lished Decem­ber 10, 2016, 11:10 AM EDT

    The incom­ing Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer (D‑NY) called for a con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the U.S. elec­tion, and said it was “imper­a­tive” that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty hand­ed over rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion. His state­ment comes after the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed Fri­day that a secret CIA assess­ment found that Russ­ian actors had sought to boost Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump over his oppo­nent, Hillary Clin­ton.

    “Reports of the CIA’s con­clu­sion that Rus­sia active­ly sought to help elect Don­ald Trump are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly stun­ning and not sur­pris­ing, giv­en Russia’s dis­dain for democ­ra­cy and admi­ra­tion for autoc­ra­cy. The silence from Wik­ileaks and oth­ers since elec­tion day has been deaf­en­ing,” Schumer said. “That any coun­try could be med­dling in our elec­tions should shake both polit­i­cal par­ties to their core. Sen­ate Democ­rats will join with our Repub­li­can col­leagues next year to demand a con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion and hear­ings to get to the bot­tom of this. It’s imper­a­tive that our intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty turns over any rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion so that Con­gress can con­duct a full inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    ...

    “Reports of the CIA’s con­clu­sion that Rus­sia active­ly sought to help elect Don­ald Trump are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly stun­ning and not sur­pris­ing, giv­en Russia’s dis­dain for democ­ra­cy and admi­ra­tion for autoc­ra­cy. The silence from Wik­ileaks and oth­ers since elec­tion day has been deafening...That any coun­try could be med­dling in our elec­tions should shake both polit­i­cal par­ties to their core. Sen­ate Democ­rats will join with our Repub­li­can col­leagues next year to demand a con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion and hear­ings to get to the bot­tom of this. It’s imper­a­tive that our intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty turns over any rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion so that Con­gress can con­duct a full inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    It sure sounds like Sen­ate Democ­rats are going to try­ing to make what­ev­er evi­dence exists pub­lic, with what hap­pens next extreme­ly unclear. But since the Democ­rats don’t con­trol the Sen­ate, it’s also unclear what abil­i­ty they’ll have to actu­al­ly con­duct an inves­ti­ga­tion.

    At the same time, if there is no Con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tion at this point, that’s only going to add to the ques­tions of not just Trump’s legit­i­ma­cy, but the entire GOP’s. After all, part of the rea­son the CIA con­clud­ed that the hack­ing attempts were specif­i­cal­ly to help Trump and not sim­ply under­mine faith in the elec­toral sys­tem is that CIA also con­clud­ed that the RNC was hacked too. But its infor­ma­tion was nev­er released. Repub­li­cans, though, refute that charge and say no hack­ing of the RNC ever took place. It’s quite a cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy:

    The New York Times

    Russ­ian Hack­ers Act­ed to Aid Trump in Elec­tion, U.S. Says

    By DAVID E. SANGER and SCOTT SHANE
    Decem­ber 9, 2016

    WASHINGTON — Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies have con­clud­ed with “high con­fi­dence” that Rus­sia act­ed covert­ly in the lat­ter stages of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and pro­mote Don­ald J. Trump, accord­ing to senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials.

    They based that con­clu­sion, in part, on anoth­er find­ing — which they say was also reached with high con­fi­dence — that the Rus­sians hacked the Repub­li­can Nation­al Committee’s com­put­er sys­tems in addi­tion to their attacks on Demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­ni­za­tions, but did not release what­ev­er infor­ma­tion they gleaned from the Repub­li­can net­works.

    In the months before the elec­tion, it was large­ly doc­u­ments from Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty sys­tems that were leaked to the pub­lic. Intel­li­gence agen­cies have con­clud­ed that the Rus­sians gave the Democ­rats’ doc­u­ments to Wik­iLeaks.

    Repub­li­cans have a dif­fer­ent expla­na­tion for why no doc­u­ments from their net­works were ever released. Over the past sev­er­al months, offi­cials from the Repub­li­can com­mit­tee have con­sis­tent­ly said that their net­works were not com­pro­mised, assert­ing that only the accounts of indi­vid­ual Repub­li­cans were attacked. On Fri­day, a senior com­mit­tee offi­cial said he had no com­ment.

    Mr. Trump’s tran­si­tion office issued a state­ment Fri­day evening reflect­ing the deep divi­sions that emerged between his cam­paign and the intel­li­gence agen­cies over Russ­ian med­dling in the elec­tion. “These are the same peo­ple that said Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass destruc­tion,” the state­ment said. “The elec­tion end­ed a long time ago in one of the biggest Elec­toral Col­lege vic­to­ries in his­to­ry. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make Amer­i­ca Great Again.’”

    One senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial, who had been briefed on an F.B.I. inves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter, said that while there were attempts to pen­e­trate the Repub­li­can committee’s sys­tems, they were not suc­cess­ful.

    But the intel­li­gence agen­cies’ con­clu­sions that the hack­ing efforts were suc­cess­ful, which have been pre­sent­ed to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and oth­er senior offi­cials, add a com­plex wrin­kle to the ques­tion of what the Kremlin’s evolv­ing objec­tives were in inter­ven­ing in the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    “We now have high con­fi­dence that they hacked the D.N.C. and the R.N.C., and con­spic­u­ous­ly released no doc­u­ments” from the Repub­li­can orga­ni­za­tion, one senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said, refer­ring to the Rus­sians.

    It is unclear how many files were stolen from the Repub­li­can com­mit­tee; in some cas­es, inves­ti­ga­tors nev­er get a clear pic­ture. It is also far from clear that Russia’s orig­i­nal intent was to sup­port Mr. Trump, and many intel­li­gence offi­cials — and for­mer offi­cials in Mrs. Clinton’s cam­paign — believe that the pri­ma­ry motive of the Rus­sians was to sim­ply dis­rupt the cam­paign and under­cut con­fi­dence in the integri­ty of the vote.

    The Rus­sians were as sur­prised as every­one else at Mr. Trump’s vic­to­ry, intel­li­gence offi­cials said. Had Mrs. Clin­ton won, they believe, emails stolen from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mit­tee and from senior mem­bers of her cam­paign could have been used to under­cut her legit­i­ma­cy. The intel­li­gence agen­cies’ con­clu­sion that Rus­sia tried to help Mr. Trump was first report­ed by The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    In brief­in­gs to the White House and Con­gress, intel­li­gence offi­cials, includ­ing those from the C.I.A. and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency, have iden­ti­fied indi­vid­ual Russ­ian offi­cials they believe were respon­si­ble. But none have been pub­licly penal­ized.

    It is pos­si­ble that in hack­ing into the Repub­li­can com­mit­tee, Russ­ian agents were sim­ply hedg­ing their bets. The attack took place in the spring, the senior offi­cials said, about the same time that a group of hack­ers believed to be linked to the G.R.U., Russia’s mil­i­tary intel­li­gence agency, stole the emails of senior offi­cials of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Intel­li­gence agen­cies believe that the Repub­li­can com­mit­tee hack was car­ried out by the same Rus­sians who pen­e­trat­ed the Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mit­tee and oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic groups.

    The find­ing about the Repub­li­can com­mit­tee is expect­ed to be includ­ed in a detailed report of “lessons learned” that Mr. Oba­ma has ordered intel­li­gence agen­cies to assem­ble before he leaves office on Jan. 20. That report is intend­ed, in part, to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive his­to­ry of the Russ­ian effort to influ­ence the elec­tion, and to solid­i­fy the intel­li­gence find­ings before Mr. Trump is sworn in.

    Mr. Trump has repeat­ed­ly cast doubt about any intel­li­gence sug­gest­ing a Russ­ian effort to influ­ence the elec­tion. “I don’t believe they inter­fered,” he told Time mag­a­zine in an inter­view pub­lished this week. He sug­gest­ed that hack­ers could come from Chi­na, or that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jer­sey.”

    Intel­li­gence offi­cials and pri­vate cyber­se­cu­ri­ty com­pa­nies believe that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee was hacked by two dif­fer­ent Russ­ian cyberunits. One, called “Cozy Bear” or “A.P.T. 29” by some West­ern secu­ri­ty experts, is believed to have spent months inside the D.N.C. com­put­er net­work, as well as oth­er gov­ern­ment and polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions, but nev­er made pub­lic any of the doc­u­ments it took. (A.P.T. stands for “Advanced Per­sis­tent Threat,” which usu­al­ly describes a sophis­ti­cat­ed state-spon­sored cyber­in­trud­er.)

    The oth­er, the G.R.U.-controlled unit known as “Fan­cy Bear,” or “A.P.T. 28,” is believed to have cre­at­ed two out­lets on the inter­net, Guc­cifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, to make Demo­c­ra­t­ic doc­u­ments pub­lic. Many of the doc­u­ments were also pro­vid­ed to Wik­iLeaks, which released them over many weeks before the Nov. 8 elec­tion.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael McCaul, the Texas Repub­li­can who is the chair­man of the House Home­land Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee, said on CNN in Sep­tem­ber that the R.N.C. had been hacked by Rus­sia, but then quick­ly with­drew the claim.

    Mr. McCaul, who was con­sid­ered by Mr. Trump for sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, ini­tial­ly told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “It’s impor­tant to note, Wolf, that they have not only hacked into the D.N.C. but also into the R.N.C.” He added that “the Rus­sians have basi­cal­ly hacked into both par­ties at the nation­al lev­el, and that gives us all con­cern about what their moti­va­tions are.”

    Min­utes lat­er, the R.N.C. issued a state­ment deny­ing that it had been hacked. Mr. McCaul sub­se­quent­ly said that he had mis­spo­ken, but that it was true that “Repub­li­can polit­i­cal oper­a­tives” had been the tar­get of Russ­ian hack­ing. So were estab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans with no ties to the cam­paign, includ­ing for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Col­in L. Pow­ell.

    Mr. McCaul may have had in mind a col­lec­tion of more than 200 emails of Repub­li­can offi­cials and activists that appeared this year on the web­site DCLeaks.com. That web­site got far more atten­tion for the many Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty doc­u­ments it post­ed.

    The mes­sages stolen from Repub­li­cans have drawn lit­tle atten­tion because most are rou­tine busi­ness emails from local Repub­li­can Par­ty offi­cials in sev­er­al states, con­gres­sion­al staff mem­bers and par­ty activists.

    ...

    “They based that con­clu­sion, in part, on anoth­er find­ing — which they say was also reached with high con­fi­dence — that the Rus­sians hacked the Repub­li­can Nation­al Committee’s com­put­er sys­tems in addi­tion to their attacks on Demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­ni­za­tions, but did not release what­ev­er infor­ma­tion they gleaned from the Repub­li­can net­works.”

    Whether or not it was the Krem­lin that did this, it’s hard to argue with te demon­stra­ble real­i­ty that who­ev­er did the hack­ing did­n’t mind exclu­sive­ly dam­ag­ing the Democ­rats, whether they suc­cess­ful­ly hacked the RNC as the CIA asserts or not.
    And note that the FBI appears to dis­agree with the CIA’s assess­ment of the RNC hack­ing, say­ing it sees no evi­dence of such hack­ing. So this whole inves­ti­ga­tion could become a fight over the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the FBI vs the CIA, which is going to be fas­ci­nat­ing. The CIA is, after all, the CIA. It’s not like lying would be impos­si­ble. But the head of the FBI also engaged in what was prob­a­bly an even big­ger “assist” move for Trump than the entire hack­ing cam­paign by pub­licly reopen­ing Hillary’s email serv­er inves­ti­ga­tion a week and a half before the elec­tion.

    It also means that Trump could use this inves­ti­ga­tion as an excuse to wall him­self off from the broad­er intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty even more than he report­ed­ly already has, and instead rely almost exclu­sive­ly on the intel­li­gence world­view of peo­ple like Steven Ban­non and Michael Fly­nn. As scary as the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty’s CIA’s world­view and bias­es often are, hav­ing a pres­i­dent oper­ate in “Piz­za­gate” world is even scari­er. So that’s pos­si­bly going to hap­pen to as a con­se­quence of the fact that this incred­i­ble hack­ing attempt unde­ni­ably assist­ed the pres­i­dent-elect and the pres­i­dent-elect has no inter­est in inves­ti­gat­ing it. It’s quite a cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy:

    The New York Times

    Trump, Mock­ing Claim That Rus­sia Hacked Elec­tion, at Odds with G.O.P.

    By DAVID E. SANGER
    Decem­ber 10, 2016

    WASHINGTON — An extra­or­di­nary breach has emerged between Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald J. Trump and the nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment, with Mr. Trump mock­ing Amer­i­can intel­li­gence assess­ments that Rus­sia inter­fered in the elec­tion on his behalf, and top Repub­li­cans vow­ing inves­ti­ga­tions into Krem­lin activ­i­ties.

    Mr. Trump, in a state­ment issued by his tran­si­tion team on Fri­day evening, expressed com­plete dis­be­lief in the intel­li­gence agen­cies’ assess­ments.

    “These are the same peo­ple that said Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass destruc­tion,” Mr. Trump’s team said, adding that the elec­tion was over and that it was time to “move on.”

    Though Mr. Trump has wast­ed no time in antag­o­niz­ing the agen­cies, he will have to rely on them for the sort of espi­onage activ­i­ties and analy­sis that they spend more than $70 bil­lion a year to per­form.

    At this point in a tran­si­tion, a pres­i­dent-elect is usu­al­ly delv­ing into intel­li­gence he has nev­er before seen and learn­ing about C.I.A. and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency abil­i­ties. But Mr. Trump, who has tak­en intel­li­gence brief­in­gs only spo­rad­i­cal­ly, is ques­tion­ing not only ana­lyt­ic con­clu­sions, but also their under­ly­ing facts.

    “To have the pres­i­dent-elect of the Unit­ed States sim­ply reject the fact-based nar­ra­tive that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty puts togeth­er because it con­flicts with his a pri­ori assump­tions — wow,” said Michael V. Hay­den, who was the direc­tor of the N.S.A. and lat­er the C.I.A. under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush.

    With the par­ti­san emo­tions on both sides — Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers see a plot to under­mine his pres­i­den­cy, and Hillary Clinton’s sup­port­ers see a con­spir­a­cy to keep her from the pres­i­den­cy — the result is an envi­ron­ment in which even those basic facts become the basis for dis­pute.

    Mr. Trump’s team lashed out at the agen­cies after The Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed that the C.I.A. believed that Rus­sia had inter­vened to under­cut Mrs. Clin­ton and lift Mr. Trump, and The New York Times report­ed that Rus­sia had bro­ken into Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee com­put­er net­works just as they had bro­ken into Demo­c­ra­t­ic ones, but had released doc­u­ments only on the Democ­rats.

    The pres­i­dent-elect finds him­self in a bind after stren­u­ous­ly reject­ing for months all asser­tions that Rus­sia was work­ing to help him, though he did at one point invite Rus­sia to find thou­sands of Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

    While there is no evi­dence that the Russ­ian med­dling affect­ed the out­come of the elec­tion or the legit­i­ma­cy of the vote, Mr. Trump and his aides want to shut the door on any such notion, includ­ing the idea that Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin schemed to put him in office.

    Instead, Mr. Trump casts the issue as an unknow­able mys­tery. “It could be Rus­sia,” he recent­ly told Time mag­a­zine. “And it could be Chi­na. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jer­sey.”

    The Repub­li­cans who lead the con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees over­see­ing intel­li­gence, the Pen­ta­gon and the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty take the oppo­site view. They say that Rus­sia was behind the elec­tion med­dling, but that the scope and intent of the oper­a­tion need deep inves­ti­ga­tion, hear­ings and pub­lic reports.

    One ques­tion they may want to explore is why the intel­li­gence agen­cies believe that the Repub­li­can net­works were com­pro­mised while the F.B.I., which leads domes­tic cyber­in­ves­ti­ga­tions, has appar­ent­ly told Repub­li­cans that it has not seen evi­dence of that breach. Senior offi­cials say the intel­li­gence agen­cies’ con­clu­sions are not being wide­ly shared, even with law enforce­ment.

    “We can­not allow for­eign gov­ern­ments to inter­fere in our democ­ra­cy,” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael McCaul, a Texas Repub­li­can who is the chair­man of the Home­land Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee and was con­sid­ered by Mr. Trump for sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, said at the con­ser­v­a­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion. “When they do, we must respond force­ful­ly, pub­licly and deci­sive­ly.”

    He has promised hear­ings, say­ing the Russ­ian activ­i­ty was “a call to action,” as has Sen­a­tor John McCain of Ari­zona, one of the few sen­a­tors left from the Cold War era, when the Repub­li­can Par­ty made oppo­si­tion to the Sovi­et Union — and lat­er deep sus­pi­cion of Rus­sia — the cen­ter­piece of its for­eign pol­i­cy.

    Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Peter T. King, Repub­li­can of New York and a mem­ber of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said there was lit­tle doubt that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment was involved in hack­ing the D.N.C. “All of the intel­li­gence ana­lysts who looked at it came to the con­clu­sion that the trade­craft was very sim­i­lar to the Rus­sians,” he said.

    Even one of Mr. Trump’s most enthu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Devin Nunes, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, said on Fri­day that he had no doubt about Russia’s cul­pa­bil­i­ty. His com­plaint was with the intel­li­gence agen­cies, which he said had “repeat­ed­ly” failed “to antic­i­pate Putin’s hos­tile actions,” and with the Oba­ma administration’s lack of a puni­tive response.

    ...

    One per­son who attend­ed a clas­si­fied brief­ing on the intel­li­gence said that the inves­ti­ga­tors had explained that the mal­ware used in the cyber­at­tack on the D.N.C. matched tools pre­vi­ous­ly used by hack­ers with proven ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment. That sort of “pat­tern analy­sis” is com­mon in cyber­in­ves­ti­ga­tions, though it is not con­clu­sive.

    But the intel­li­gence agen­cies had more: They had man­aged to iden­ti­fy the indi­vid­u­als from the G.R.U. who over­saw the hack­ing efforts. That may have come from inter­cept­ed con­ver­sa­tions, spy­ing efforts, or implants in com­put­er sys­tems that allow the track­ing of emails and text mes­sages.

    In brief­in­gs to Mr. Oba­ma and on Capi­tol Hill, intel­li­gence agen­cies have said they now believe that what began as an effort to under­mine the cred­i­bil­i­ty of Amer­i­can elec­tions mor­phed over time into a much more tar­get­ed effort to harm Mrs. Clin­ton, whom Mr. Putin has long accused of inter­fer­ing in Russ­ian par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2011.

    But to hedge their bets before the elec­tion, accord­ing to the brief­in­gs, the Rus­sians also tar­get­ed the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, Repub­li­can oper­a­tives and promi­nent mem­bers of the Repub­li­can estab­lish­ment, like for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Col­in L. Pow­ell.

    But few of those emails have ever sur­faced, save for Mr. Powell’s, which were crit­i­cal of Mrs. Clinton’s cam­paign for try­ing to draw him into a defense of her use of a pri­vate com­put­er serv­er.

    A spokesman for the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, Sean Spicer, dis­put­ed the report in The Times that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty had con­clud­ed that the R.N.C. had been hacked.

    “The RNC was not ‘hacked,’ ” he said on Twit­ter. “The @nytimes was told and chose to ignore.” On Fri­day night, before The Times pub­lished its report, the com­mit­tee had refused to com­ment.

    One ques­tion they may want to explore is why the intel­li­gence agen­cies believe that the Repub­li­can net­works were com­pro­mised while the F.B.I., which leads domes­tic cyber­in­ves­ti­ga­tions, has appar­ent­ly told Repub­li­cans that it has not seen evi­dence of that breach. Senior offi­cials say the intel­li­gence agen­cies’ con­clu­sions are not being wide­ly shared, even with law enforce­ment.”

    Keep in mind that the ques­tion of whether or not the RNC was actu­al­ly hacked isn’t sim­ply a ques­tion of clear­ing up the ques­tion of the motive of the hack­ers. It also means the hack­ers poten­tial­ly have a bunch of black­mail mate­r­i­al on the Repub­li­can Par­ty. So this is poten­tial­ly a very big deal which makes the FBI/CIA dis­pute on this mat­ter some­thing to watch going for­ward. Espe­cial­ly giv­en the incred­i­ble dam­age the FBI did to its cred­i­bil­i­ty this elec­tion.

    So that’s all part of why ques­tions of legit­i­ma­cy are going to be one of the major themes for an admin­is­tra­tion poised to impose one of the most sweep­ing far-right agen­das in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. And that’s also part of what makes the hack­ing so bizarre if the Krem­lin real­ly was behind those hack­ers and they weren’t hired by some oth­er gov­ern­ment, group, or the Trump team itself: While the dam­age that the GOP is about to unleash on Amer­i­can soci­ety real­ly should be blamed almost entire­ly on the GOP, that’s not how the Amer­i­can pub­lic is going to remem­ber it. When the GOP guts Medicare and Social Secu­ri­ty and basi­cal­ly trans­forms the Unit­ed States into a full-blown fas­cist enter­prise over the next two years, and all those clue­less Trump vot­ers real­ize they’ve been com­plete­ly conned, they aren’t going to blame them­selves, Fox News, the GOP, or even Trump. They’re going to blame Putin and Rus­sia.

    At least that’s where a big chunk of the blame will go. Instead of acknowl­edg­ing that they were conned, which no one likes to do, Trump vot­ers can claim they were fooled by Krem­lin med­dling instead after the con­se­quences of elect­ing Trump become clear. Are you poor and dying because Paul Ryan imple­ment­ed his long-held agen­da to gut the saftey-net? Blame Putin. Are you upset about the new wars Trump will inevitably start? Blame Putin. Did Trump’s tax cuts and mass pri­va­ti­za­tions bank­rupt the US while sell­ing off the fam­i­ly jew­els? Blame Putin. That’s prob­a­bly how it’s going to play out.

    The hor­ri­ble pub­lic image kar­ma that should be incurred by almost entire­ly by the GOP for its inhu­mane agen­da is now going to be shared in the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s mind with Putin and Rus­sia. Espe­cial­ly if the con­clu­sion about Putin’s motives in the fol­low­ing arti­cle from back on Sep­tem­ber becomes wide­ly accept­ed by the Amer­i­can pub­lic: that Putin did it for revenge and respect. If that assess­ment becomes the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s even­tu­al assess­ment, we can trag­i­cal­ly expect calls for Amer­i­can revenge to be the norm, which would be trag­ic. And the worse Trump is to the Amer­i­can pub­lic, and it’s almost a cer­tain­ty that he and the rest of the GOP are going to be a mon­sters, the more the Amer­i­can pub­lic is going to want payback...against Rus­sia. It’s sad and trag­ic but that’s prob­a­bly going to hap­pen. If the Krem­lin real­ly was behind these hacks you have to won­der what they were think­ing. Of all the paths for chang­ing US atti­tudes towards Rus­sia, help­ing to install Orange Hitler prob­a­bly was­n’t the best approach in the long-run. It’s not like the Amer­i­can pub­lic is going to engage in a peri­od of self-reflec­tion.

    So, giv­en this incred­i­ble cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy in the US that threat­ens to spi­ral into a cri­sis of rela­tions between the US and Rus­sia after the Trumpian/GOP night­mare reveals itself, it’s prob­a­bly a good time to start ask­ing our­selves what would be a healthy way to chan­nel that inevitable call for revenge that the Amer­i­can pub­lic is going to be call­ing for after their lives and econ­o­my are destroyed. We should­n’t do this, but we will, so what’s the least destruc­tive way to do this that does­n’t destroy US/Russian rela­tions for anoth­er cen­tu­ry.

    For­tu­nate­ly, there’s a very com­pelling and pos­i­tive form of “revenge” that would actu­al­ly be to the ben­e­fit of every­one. At least in the long run: get the US off fos­sil fuels! ASAP. And do every­thing the US can to get the rest of the world off fos­sil fuels. After all, the Russ­ian econ­o­my is extreme­ly reliant on fos­sil fuel exports, so if the US pub­lic real­ly wants revenge, a mas­sive long-term cam­paign to get the world off its sui­ci­dal fos­sil fuel addic­tion is quite pos­si­bly the most dev­as­tat­ing act of revenge the US could do.

    Ok, actu­al­ly, it would be sec­ond most dev­as­tat­ing act of revenge. The most dev­as­tat­ing act of revenge would be to do absolute­ly noth­ing about the world’s fos­sil fuel addic­tion, as we’re set to do under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, and just let cli­mate change and envi­ron­men­tal col­lapse send the world into a cri­sis of war and desta­bi­liza­tion that nev­er ends and inevitably engulfs the US, Rus­sia, and every­where else into an end­less series of bru­tal con­flicts that no one wins. That’s the worst thing the US could do to Rus­sia. And itself. Let’s not do that.

    So how about we put out the idea now that if the US pub­lic con­cludes Rus­sia helped install Chee­to Hitler in the White House and fool­ish­ly comes to the con­clu­sion that some sort of revenge act is in order, get­ting the US and the world off of fos­sil fuels is the best act of revenge avail­able. Sure, the US econ­o­my would take a hit too, but near­ly as big as what would hap­pen to Rus­sia. And Rus­sia would be forced to accel­er­ate its tran­si­tion to a post-fos­sil fuel econ­o­my, some­thing it needs to do any­way. This is obvi­ous­ly the most bru­tal act of non-self-destruc­tive revenge the US could pos­si­bly do. Also, it would be one of the kind­est acts the US could do to itself, Rus­sia, and every­one else, because it would pos­si­bly help avert a cen­tu­ry or more of com­plete despair as the bios­phere col­laps­es. If revenge on Rus­sia is what the pub­lic calls for, right­ly or wrong­ly, how about we get “revenge” by help­ing avert a glob­al cat­a­stro­phe? It seems like the obvi­ous choice. No?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 10, 2016, 5:36 pm
  2. Here’s a law­suit worth keep­ing an eye on: Vice News is suing the FBI for a wide range of records relat­ed to the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tions and actions relat­ed to Hillary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump in the lead up to the 2016 elec­tion. It fol­lows on a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request for the same doc­u­ments ear­li­er this month. And if it pans out it could prove to be quite a trea­sure trove in terms of under­stand­ing the nature of the politi­ciza­tion at the FBI and the dan­gers that could hold for the nation going for­ward. So it’s a pret­ty top­i­cal lawsuit...for at least the next four to eight years:

    Politi­co

    FBI sued for files on elec­tion-era probes

    By Josh Ger­stein
    12/13/16 01:24 PM EST

    A jour­nal­ist and a uni­ver­si­ty researcher are suing the FBI for a slew of records relat­ing to the law enforce­ment agen­cy’s activ­i­ties in the months lead­ing up to the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    The suit, filed Tues­day in fed­er­al court in Wash­ing­ton, demands a wide range of FBI files and emails per­tain­ing to the agen­cy’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Hillary Clin­ton’s pri­vate email serv­er and its inquiries into the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. The law­suit also demands infor­ma­tion on a vari­ety of peo­ple, enti­ties and top­ics asso­ci­at­ed with the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign such as Bre­it­bart News, Bre­it­bart chair­man Steve Ban­non (who has been picked to serve as a top White House advis­er to Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump) and the “alt-right.”

    The suit also seeks all FBI emails men­tion­ing Bill Clin­ton, Hillary Clin­ton, for­mer Clin­ton cam­paign vice chair Huma Abe­din, Abe­d­in’s estranged hus­band Antho­ny Wein­er, Trump, for­mer New York City may­or Rudy Giu­liani, Trump advis­ers Corey Lewandows­ki, Roger Stone and Kellyanne Con­way, CNN com­men­ta­tor Jef­frey Lord, Fox News host Sean Han­ni­ty, or Fox News anchor Bret Baier, among oth­ers.

    Vice News reporter Jason Leopold and Harvard/MIT researcher Ryan Shapiro sub­mit­ted the request on Decem­ber 2. Nor­mal­ly, agen­cies are enti­tled to at least 20 busi­ness days to respond to a FOIA request before a suit is filed. How­ev­er, the case filed Tues­day claims the FBI failed to respond to a demand for expe­dit­ed pro­cess­ing of their request, appar­ent­ly on grounds of the pub­lic and media inter­est in the FBI’s pre-elec­tion actions.

    Some in both the Clin­ton and Trump camps have claimed that FBI Direc­tor James Comey’s late Octo­ber dis­clo­sure that his agency was review­ing new emails rel­e­vant to the Clin­ton probe and a fol­low-up let­ter attempt­ing to put the mat­ter to rest swung the elec­tion to Trump by gen­er­at­ing more rounds of media cov­er­age about the email probe, one of Clin­ton’s major lia­bil­i­ties in the cam­paign.

    “Cur­rent FBI Direc­tor James Comey also insists, notwith­stand­ing the FBI’s pre­vi­ous trans­gres­sions, today’s Bureau tru­ly is out­side and above pol­i­tics. How­ev­er, numer­ous lead­ing polit­i­cal and news media fig­ures from across the polit­i­cal spec­trum explic­it­ly assert the FBI repeat­ed­ly and with sig­nif­i­cant impact affect­ed the out­come of the 2016 U.S. Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” Leopold and Shapiro’s attor­ney, Jef­frey Light, wrote in the com­plaint.

    ...

    “The suit also seeks all FBI emails men­tion­ing Bill Clin­ton, Hillary Clin­ton, for­mer Clin­ton cam­paign vice chair Huma Abe­din, Abe­d­in’s estranged hus­band Antho­ny Wein­er, Trump, for­mer New York City may­or Rudy Giu­liani, Trump advis­ers Corey Lewandows­ki, Roger Stone and Kellyanne Con­way, CNN com­men­ta­tor Jef­frey Lord, Fox News host Sean Han­ni­ty, or Fox News anchor Bret Baier, among oth­ers”

    That’s going to be one hel­lu­va law­suit if it pans out. And note that per­haps the most explo­sive doc­u­ments weren’t men­tioned in that arti­cle. That would be the doc­u­ments relat­ing to alleged FBI inves­ti­ga­tions into Trump that also took place last year. It would be espe­cial­ly explo­sive if true since these inves­ti­ga­tions were allged­ly tak­ing place at the same time James Comey wrote his infa­mous let­ter about newsly dis­cov­ered Clin­ton emails 11 days before the elec­tion that Comey felt com­pelled to tell the world about for some rea­son:

    Vice News

    VICE News sues FBI

    Our FOIA suit demands info on Trump, the Clin­tons, and Bre­it­bart News

    By Jason Leopold on Dec 13, 2016

    VICE News is suing the FBI, demand­ing the bureau release records relat­ed to its curi­ous dis­clo­sures, behind-the-scenes actions, and appar­ent leaks in the days lead­ing up to the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    The wide-rang­ing Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act law­suit was filed Tues­day morn­ing in con­junc­tion with Ryan Shapiro, a doc­tor­al can­di­date at MIT and research affil­i­ate at the Berk­man Klein Cen­ter for Inter­net & Soci­ety at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty. Ear­li­er this month, VICE News and Shapiro filed more than 50 FOIA requests with the FBI seek­ing doc­u­ments about the bureau’s dis­cus­sions regard­ing Don­ald Trump, along with oth­er doc­u­ments that would shed light on the FBI’s deci­sion a week before the elec­tion to tweet new­ly post­ed records from a long-dor­mant Twit­ter account about Bill Clinton’s 2000 par­don of financier Marc Rich.

    The par­don, a con­tro­ver­sial deci­sion by the for­mer pres­i­dent, was inves­ti­gat­ed at the time by cur­rent FBI direc­tor James Comey while he was U.S. attor­ney.

    ...

    Accord­ing to an Oct. 30 report in the Wall Street Jour­nal, “Even as the probe of Mrs. Clinton’s email use wound down in July, inter­nal dis­agree­ments with­in the bureau and the Jus­tice Depart­ment sur­round­ing the Clin­tons’ fam­i­ly phil­an­thropy heat­ed up.”

    Our law­suit “seeks pub­lic dis­clo­sure of spec­i­fied gov­ern­ment records to make sense of the piv­otal role of the FBI, as well as of oth­er agen­cies, in per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in mod­ern U.S. his­to­ry,” says our com­plaint, filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Colum­bia by FOIA attor­ney Jef­frey Light.

    “Despite sub­se­quent dis­clo­sures of over­whelm­ing evi­dence to the con­trary, since its incep­tion, the FBI staunch­ly main­tained it was a pure­ly apo­lit­i­cal enti­ty,” the com­plaint notes. “How­ev­er, numer­ous lead­ing polit­i­cal and news media fig­ures from across the polit­i­cal spec­trum explic­it­ly assert the FBI repeat­ed­ly and with sig­nif­i­cant impact affect­ed the out­come of the 2016 U.S. Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.”

    This is the fourth Trump-relat­ed FOIA law­suit VICE News and Shapiro have filed since Sep­tem­ber. We sued the FBI, Secret Ser­vice, and IRS for infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing a pair of incen­di­ary com­ments Trump made on the cam­paign trail last sum­mer — includ­ing one in which he called on Rus­sia to track down 30,000 “miss­ing” Clin­ton emails — as well as audits of Trump’s tax returns span­ning more than a decade.

    In Novem­ber, we sued the FBI for doc­u­ments about var­i­ous Trump busi­ness enti­ties, includ­ing Trump Enter­tain­ment Resorts, Inc.; the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion; Trump Uni­ver­si­ty; and the Trump Foun­da­tion, and any doc­u­ments about their role in poten­tial vio­la­tions of fed­er­al law.

    Two weeks ago, the FBI, in a let­ter dis­closed to us 10 days after the elec­tion, revealed that the bureau may very well have been inves­ti­gat­ing Trump when Comey dis­closed to Con­gress pri­or to the elec­tion that the agency had found addi­tion­al emails that “appear to be per­ti­nent” to its inves­ti­ga­tion of Clinton’s pri­vate email serv­er.

    “The nature of your request impli­cates inves­tiga­tive records the FBI may or may not com­pile pur­suant to its broad crim­i­nal and nation­al secu­ri­ty inves­tiga­tive mis­sions and func­tions,” the FBI let­ter said. “Accord­ing­ly, the FBI can­not con­firm or deny the exis­tence of any such records about your sub­ject as the mere acknowl­edg­ment of such records exis­tence or nonex­is­tence would in and of itself trig­ger fore­see­able harm to agency inter­ests.”

    “Two weeks ago, the FBI, in a let­ter dis­closed to us 10 days after the elec­tion, revealed that the bureau may very well have been inves­ti­gat­ing Trump when Comey dis­closed to Con­gress pri­or to the elec­tion that the agency had found addi­tion­al emails that “appear to be per­ti­nent” to its inves­ti­ga­tion of Clinton’s pri­vate email serv­er.

    Oh what a shock­er. If true, of course. And that’s why it’s going to be very inter­est­ing to see how forth­com­ing the FBI is about this alleged pair of inves­ti­ga­tions. Espe­cial­ly since one of the alleged FBI inves­ti­ga­tions into Trump was about Trump pub­lic call dur­ing a press con­fer­ence for “Rus­sia” to release hacked Clin­ton Hillary’s emails. That’s rather top­i­cal! And the oth­er inves­ti­ga­tion was report­ed­ly about Trump dog-whistling to his sup­port­ers to assas­si­nate Hillary. Always top­i­cal!

    So who knows what the chances are of this law­suit suc­ceed­ing, but let’s keep our fin­gers crossed. After all, the politi­ciza­tion of the FBI in order to get bla­tant fas­cist elect­ed pres­i­dent is one of the top­i­cal top­ics you could pos­si­bly have, day in and day out, once that fas­cist is actu­al­ly elect­ed:

    Vice News

    FBI may have also been inves­ti­gat­ing Trump

    By Jason Leopold on Nov 30, 2016

    Just 11 days before the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, FBI Direc­tor James Comey wrote a let­ter to Con­gress let­ting them know that the agency had found addi­tion­al emails that “appear to be per­ti­nent” to its inves­ti­ga­tion of Hillary Clinton’s pri­vate email serv­er.

    It was extreme­ly unusu­al for the bureau to be so forth­com­ing about an inves­ti­ga­tion, and the move drew harsh crit­i­cism from both Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans who accused Comey of delib­er­ate­ly try­ing to turn the elec­tion in Trump’s favor.

    Ten days after the elec­tion, the FBI respond­ed to a long­stand­ing VICE News Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act law­suit, reveal­ing that the bureau may very well have been inves­ti­gat­ing Don­ald Trump, too.

    In Sep­tem­ber, VICE News and Ryan Shapiro, a doc­tor­al can­di­date at MIT and research affil­i­ate at the Berk­man Klein Cen­ter for Inter­net & Soci­ety at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, filed the FOIA law­suit against the FBI demand­ing doc­u­ments con­nect­ed to a pair of incen­di­ary com­ments Trump made on the cam­paign trail over the sum­mer. In July, he called upon Rus­sia to track down “30,000 emails [from Hillary Clinton’s pri­vate email serv­er] that are miss­ing.” And at an August cam­paign ral­ly in North Car­oli­na, he made a state­ment that was wide­ly inter­pret­ed as call­ing for the assas­si­na­tion of Clin­ton.

    We sought this infor­ma­tion from the FBI after receiv­ing a tip that the bureau, in addi­tion to the Secret Ser­vice, was prob­ing the inci­dents. We asked the FBI to grant us expe­dit­ed pro­cess­ing because there was an urgent need to inform the pub­lic before they went to the polls on Novem­ber 8.

    But the FBI refused to respond to our request before the elec­tion, instead dat­ing it Nov. 18; we received it in the mail Nov. 28.

    “The nature of your request impli­cates inves­tiga­tive records the FBI may or may not com­pile pur­suant to its broad crim­i­nal and nation­al secu­ri­ty inves­tiga­tive mis­sions and func­tions,” said the bureau’s response, which is embed­ded at the end of this sto­ry. “Accord­ing­ly, the FBI can­not con­firm or deny the exis­tence of any such records about your sub­ject as the mere acknowl­edg­ment of such records exis­tence or nonex­is­tence would in and of itself trig­ger fore­see­able harm to agency inter­ests.”

    This is what’s known as a Glo­mar response, a term that came into use after the CIA denied a reporter’s request in the 1970s for infor­ma­tion about a CIA ship, the Glo­mar Explor­er, designed to recov­er a sunken Russ­ian sub­ma­rine. The agency refused to either con­firm or deny the ship’s exis­tence.

    The FBI’s response states that any records the FBI has must be with­held because dis­clo­sure would inter­fere with enforce­ment pro­ceed­ings and dis­close infor­ma­tion vital for effec­tive inves­ti­ga­tions. This response is high­ly sus­pi­cious.

    For one, it is extreme­ly rare for the FBI to issue a Glo­mar. I’ve filed thou­sands of requests with the bureau and I can­not recall ever receiv­ing a Glo­mar. Typ­i­cal­ly, when a FOIA requester seeks infor­ma­tion from the FBI on any­thing the bureau might be inves­ti­gat­ing, the FBI has explic­it author­i­ty to deny the request, cit­ing a pend­ing inves­ti­ga­tion. How­ev­er, because using that exemp­tion would itself con­firm to a requester that there’s an ongo­ing probe, the FBI has the author­i­ty under the FOIA to essen­tial­ly lie and say it doesn’t have any doc­u­ments — even when it does.

    But the bureau did nei­ther of those things. Instead, it said it could not con­firm or deny that it has any doc­u­ments con­cern­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump and/or his com­ments about Clin­ton.

    Had the FBI released this let­ter to us pri­or to the elec­tion, our sub­se­quent sto­ry would have not­ed that Trump may be under inves­ti­ga­tion over his com­ments — and that no doubt would have attract­ed wide­spread media atten­tion. The FBI may have been aware of this and cho­sen to delay dis­clo­sure until after Elec­tion Day.

    The fact that Comey revealed to the heads of eight con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tees that FBI inves­ti­ga­tors locat­ed emails poten­tial­ly per­ti­nent to its probe of Clin­ton before Elec­tion Day is a poten­tial dou­ble stan­dard not lost on Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings, the top Demo­c­rat on the pow­er­ful House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Reform Com­mit­tee.

    “It is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to under­stand the FBI’s posi­tion,” he told VICE News. “On one hand, they are refus­ing to pro­vide any infor­ma­tion what­so­ev­er in response to these FOIA requests relat­ing to Don­ald Trump, yet at the height of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the FBI direc­tor per­son­al­ly dis­closed details about the inves­tiga­tive steps the FBI was tak­ing with respect to Sec­re­tary Clin­ton — even though there was no find­ing of crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. I have said repeat­ed­ly that if the FBI is going to break from long­stand­ing prece­dent, it can­not do so for only one pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and not the oth­er. I believe this approach has done great harm to the public’s trust in the FBI.”

    ...

    It’s unlike­ly the FBI launched a full-blown inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump’s com­ments. Instead, an agent like­ly raised it as an issue and opened a file that prob­a­bly con­tains a few sheets of paper. But that itself would be news­wor­thy.

    Nate Jones, the direc­tor of the FOIA project at George Wash­ing­ton University’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Archive, told VICE News the FBI’s response to our requests is trou­bling on a num­ber of oth­er fronts as well.

    “It appears clear that the FBI is plac­ing its inter­est on not per­form­ing a FOIA review of the doc­u­ments — or even stat­ing if they exist — above the very large pub­lic inter­est in this case,” he said. “It’s anoth­er impor­tant exam­ple as to why agen­cies should not be giv­en the abil­i­ty to issue blan­ket ‘non-denial’ denials in response to FOIA requests…. Hope­ful­ly, in this case a judge will com­pel the FBI to do just this.”

    Jef­frey Light, the FOIA attor­ney han­dling our case, said VICE News will chal­lenge the FBI’s response in court. But before we pro­ceed, we need the Secret Ser­vice to respond to an iden­ti­cal FOIA request. The Secret Ser­vice had already stat­ed pub­licly that it was look­ing into Trump’s com­ments about “Sec­ond Amend­ment peo­ple” and Clin­ton. But they’re now in an awk­ward posi­tion: It is their job to pro­tect Pres­i­dent-elect Trump.

    We sought this infor­ma­tion from the FBI after receiv­ing a tip that the bureau, in addi­tion to the Secret Ser­vice, was prob­ing the inci­dents. We asked the FBI to grant us expe­dit­ed pro­cess­ing because there was an urgent need to inform the pub­lic before they went to the polls on Novem­ber 8.”

    Yep, and in response to the FOIA requests after receiv­ing that tip, Vice News got “the Glo­mar Response”, which, as the arti­cle notes, is rather odd for a FOIA request:

    ...

    The FBI’s response states that any records the FBI has must be with­held because dis­clo­sure would inter­fere with enforce­ment pro­ceed­ings and dis­close infor­ma­tion vital for effec­tive inves­ti­ga­tions. This response is high­ly sus­pi­cious.

    For one, it is extreme­ly rare for the FBI to issue a Glo­mar. I’ve filed thou­sands of requests with the bureau and I can­not recall ever receiv­ing a Glo­mar. Typ­i­cal­ly, when a FOIA requester seeks infor­ma­tion from the FBI on any­thing the bureau might be inves­ti­gat­ing, the FBI has explic­it author­i­ty to deny the request, cit­ing a pend­ing inves­ti­ga­tion. How­ev­er, because using that exemp­tion would itself con­firm to a requester that there’s an ongo­ing probe, the FBI has the author­i­ty under the FOIA to essen­tial­ly lie and say it doesn’t have any doc­u­ments — even when it does.

    But the bureau did nei­ther of those things. Instead, it said it could not con­firm or deny that it has any doc­u­ments con­cern­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump and/or his com­ments about Clin­ton.

    Had the FBI released this let­ter to us pri­or to the elec­tion, our sub­se­quent sto­ry would have not­ed that Trump may be under inves­ti­ga­tion over his com­ments — and that no doubt would have attract­ed wide­spread media atten­tion. The FBI may have been aware of this and cho­sen to delay dis­clo­sure until after Elec­tion Day.
    ...

    So the FBI did­n’t con­firm or deny the exis­tence of such doc­u­ments, but since it could have legal­ly denied it if there was an ongo­ing probe, the fact that it issued a Glo­mar response just adds to the intrigue. In part because it sug­gests that there was an inves­ti­ga­tion, it’s over, and now the FBI would pre­fer to not admit it:

    ...
    It’s unlike­ly the FBI launched a full-blown inves­ti­ga­tion into Trump’s com­ments. Instead, an agent like­ly raised it as an issue and opened a file that prob­a­bly con­tains a few sheets of paper. But that itself would be news­wor­thy.
    ...

    So, if that’s the case and there real­ly was just a minor inves­ti­ga­tion opened into a pos­si­ble rela­tion­ship between the Trump team and who­ev­er was hack­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, that would mean that in the mid­dle of a cam­paign where hack­ing an unknown par­ty was clear­ly play­ing a major role in favor of Don­ald Trump, and then Trump pub­licly calls for Rus­sia to released hacked doc­u­ments, the FBI just did some sort of half-assed inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into whether or not the Trump team could be involved with those hacks. And don’t for­get that Trump sur­ro­gate and close ally Roger Stone was pub­licly admit­ting to being in touch with Wik­ileaks.

    So, yeah, this all seems like a rather top­i­cal FOIA request/lawsuit. And the less the FBI coop­er­ates with it, the more top­i­cal it becomes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 13, 2016, 4:12 pm
  3. Here’s a sign of the times. And also a sign of the grow­ing mass per­il of our times: Should the Amer­i­can pub­lic basi­cal­ly pay a giant bribe to Don­ald Trump up front in the form of mas­sive­ly over­pay­ing him for his entire glob­al busi­ness empire in order to reduce his incen­tives to gov­ern like the cor­rupt mon­ey-grub­ber? It’s not an unrea­son­able ques­tion:

    The Week

    Let’s just give Don­ald Trump $15 bil­lion

    Ryan Coop­er
    Decem­ber 12, 2016

    It’s look­ing more and more clear that cor­rup­tion is going to be a seri­ous issue with a Don­ald Trump admin­is­tra­tion. From his prob­a­bly-ille­gal own­er­ship of a hotel in D.C. to his involve­ment with com­pa­nies in Sau­di Ara­bia, his poten­tial con­flicts of inter­ests are wild­ly unprece­dent­ed, and he has shrugged off any sug­ges­tion that he needs to divest him­self of finan­cial con­flicts to gov­ern respon­si­bly.

    For long­time stu­dents of Trump his­to­ry, this is not remote­ly sur­pris­ing. There are two con­stants in the Trump uni­verse: self-pro­mo­tion, and struc­tur­ing con­tracts so as to max­i­mal­ly enrich him­self.

    What is to be done? It would be best, of course, if our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives could be trust­ed to behave hon­or­ably and eth­i­cal­ly. But we’re well past that point in this coun­try. If Trump is to be stopped from bend­ing the entire fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to serve his per­son­al busi­ness inter­ests, we all might just have to pay him bil­lions of dol­lars.

    Here’s the plan. The gov­ern­ment will sim­ply pur­chase all the var­i­ous Trump prop­er­ties, in return for an iron­clad law that the pres­i­dent will not be allowed to have finan­cial con­flicts of inter­est. For rea­sons I will explain below, it will pay a big markup from the mar­ket price, let’s say 300 per­cent. Trump says he is worth $10 bil­lion, but on the open mar­ket it’s like­ly some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of $3–5 bil­lion, so for the low, low price of $9–15 bil­lion, we can go some dis­tance towards pro­tect­ing the Amer­i­can state from being Trump-ized.

    There are var­i­ous rea­sons to pay more than the stick­er price.

    First is that the big­ger the pay­off, the more like­ly Trump will be to accept it. It’s cer­tain­ly high­ly unfair for tax­pay­ers to col­lec­tive­ly pay bil­lions to make an already-rich man much rich­er, but the rea­son­ably clean and effi­cient gov­ern­ment we have now is worth far, far more than the few bil­lion we’d have to shell out to buy all of Trump’s stuff. A few bucks per cit­i­zen is a small price to pay for pre­vent­ing the whole reg­u­la­to­ry appa­ra­tus from being warped into a mech­a­nism for forc­ing peo­ple to stay at Trump hotels and eat Trump steaks. As Dun­can Black writes, “It’s bet­ter for us to pay the cor­rup­tion tax up front.”

    Sec­ond is a gen­uine point in Trump’s favor: How much of his net worth is tied up in his per­son­al brand. As was made abun­dant­ly clear in the inves­ti­ga­tions into his busi­ness his­to­ry, Trump is a pret­ty ter­ri­ble man­ag­er of real estate devel­op­ment, casi­nos, or oth­er such projects. But he is an absolute­ly peer­less self-pro­mot­er and show­man. Since so much of his cur­rent busi­ness is tied up with licens­ing his image and name, or is oth­er­wise per­me­at­ed with Trumpy essence, his prop­er­ties would not be worth near­ly so much to some­one else. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can thus offer a big pre­mi­um to account for this fact, and give him a rea­son­ably fair val­ue he might actu­al­ly accept.

    It’s an inter­est­ing ques­tion whether Trump would actu­al­ly sup­port some­thing like this. He seems to set great store in being a busi­ness­man who owns things and makes deals. Actu­al­ly hav­ing to stop being the own­er of Trump Tow­er and all the rest would prob­a­bly be a sig­nif­i­cant psy­cho­log­i­cal blow.

    How­ev­er, he’s per­haps even more invest­ed in being fan­tas­ti­cal­ly rich — and does­n’t actu­al­ly have tons and tons of mon­ey rolling in. What glimpses we have of his tax returns show a bal­ance sheet that is prob­a­bly clogged with gigan­tic loss­es from years ago; he’s been skat­ing on big tax breaks and fair­ly small side hus­tles for quite some time. This gen­er­al­ly fits with the sort of pen­ny-ante cor­rup­tion that Trump seems to be lean­ing towards — forc­ing for­eign dig­ni­taries to stay at his hotels and such. If some­one were to present him with a wind­fall of bil­lions in cash mon­ey, straight up, he might just take it.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. This is about the least bad of two ter­ri­ble options. The idea that we’d have to essen­tial­ly bribe the pres­i­dent to not turn the gov­ern­ment into part of the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion is hor­ri­fy­ing and indica­tive of a coun­try that is rot­ting from the inside out. It would cer­tain­ly be a queasy step to take. And there’s no guar­an­tee that Trump would­n’t cook up some dif­fer­ent hus­tles after­wards.

    ...

    “Here’s the plan. The gov­ern­ment will sim­ply pur­chase all the var­i­ous Trump prop­er­ties, in return for an iron­clad law that the pres­i­dent will not be allowed to have finan­cial con­flicts of inter­est. For rea­sons I will explain below, it will pay a big markup from the mar­ket price, let’s say 300 per­cent. Trump says he is worth $10 bil­lion, but on the open mar­ket it’s like­ly some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of $3–5 bil­lion, so for the low, low price of $9–15 bil­lion, we can go some dis­tance towards pro­tect­ing the Amer­i­can state from being Trump-ized.”

    It turns out there real­ly are some deals that you can’t afford to pass up! Although his kids would prob­a­bly for­mal­ly join his admin­is­tra­tion if they did­n’t have a ‘blind trust’ to run, so there would be a few down­sides. Still, it seems like a pret­ty sweet deal: bribe Trump upfront in a man­ner that makes him less prone to bribery and black­mail from the rest of the world.

    But if this does­n’t seem like a sweet enough deal yet, here’s a sweet­en­er:

    Newsweek

    How Don­ald Trump’s Busi­ness Ties Are Already Jeop­ar­diz­ing U.S. Inter­ests

    By Kurt Eichen­wald On 12/13/16 at 6:50 AM

    Don­ald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already mak­ing deci­sions and issu­ing state­ments to world lead­ers that rad­i­cal­ly depart from Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy, all to the ben­e­fit of his family’s cor­po­rate empire. Because of this, the next pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States is already vul­ner­a­ble to undue influ­ence by oth­er nations, includ­ing through bribery and even black­mail.

    Giv­en the vast scope of the clash­es between the Trumps’ exten­sive busi­ness deal­ings and the inter­ests of Amer­i­ca, the pres­i­dent-elect vowed dur­ing the cam­paign to elim­i­nate poten­tial con­flicts by sev­er­ing ties to his company—yet, with only weeks to go until he takes the oath of office, he hasn’t laid out a cred­i­ble plan. Trump’s sole sug­ges­tion to date—a “blind trust” run by his children—would not elim­i­nate the con­flicts, giv­en that the mon­ey gen­er­at­ed would still go to his fam­i­ly. More­over, such a trust would be any­thing but blind: If Trump Tow­er Moscow goes under con­struc­tion, Trump will see it while in Rus­sia and know that his kids are mak­ing mil­lions of dol­lars from it. That is why for­eign lead­ers hop­ing to cur­ry favor will do every­thing they can to help Trump’s fam­i­ly erect more build­ings, sell more jew­el­ry and make mon­ey through any means pos­si­ble. Even if the fam­i­ly steps away from its com­pa­ny while Trump is pres­i­dent, every nation on Earth will know that doing busi­ness with the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion will one day ben­e­fit the fam­i­ly. The only way to elim­i­nate the conflicts—sell the com­pa­ny, divvy up the proceeds—has been reject­ed by Trump, whose tran­si­tion team refused to respond to any ques­tions from Newsweek for this arti­cle.

    Some of the most egre­gious con­flicts that have emerged involve coun­tries in Asia and its sub­re­gions, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Philip­pines. Glob­al pol­i­cy on the Philip­pines has been fraught with ten­sion since the elec­tion in May of Rodri­go Duterte as the country’s pres­i­dent. Duterte, who boast­ed to vot­ers dur­ing the cam­paign that he had shot a fel­low law school stu­dent for teas­ing him, has cham­pi­oned the killing of sus­pect­ed crim­i­nals and street chil­dren by vig­i­lante death squads. In 2015, he said that if he became pres­i­dent, up to 100,000 peo­ple sus­pect­ed of links to ille­gal drugs could be killed. Just months after his elec­tion, Duterte said he was eager to lead a geno­cide of up to 3 mil­lion drug addicts. “I’d be hap­py to slaugh­ter them,” he said. “At least if Ger­many had Hitler, the Philip­pines would have [me].” And in Sep­tem­ber, an admit­ted hit man tes­ti­fied to a Sen­ate com­mit­tee in the Philip­pines that Duterte presided over a killing cam­paign when he was may­or of Davao City.

    As pres­i­dent, Duterte rapid­ly showed he was lit­tle con­cerned with the legal pro­tec­tions afford­ed to Fil­ipinos sus­pect­ed of crimes. Dur­ing his first three months in office, 850 Fil­ipinos were killed by death squads, appar­ent­ly on lit­tle more than the sus­pi­cion that they were drug users and deal­ers. Since then, the esti­mat­ed death toll has climbed to 4,500. The car­nage has been con­demned through­out the West­ern world; the Par­lia­ment of the Euro­pean Union and two Unit­ed Nations human rights experts have urged Duterte to end the mas­sacre. One of the experts even appeared to sug­gest that Duterte and his gov­ern­ment could be held legal­ly account­able for com­mit­ting mass mur­der in vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law. “Claims to fight illic­it drug trade do not absolve the gov­ern­ment from its inter­na­tion­al legal oblig­a­tions and do not shield state actors or oth­ers from respon­si­bil­i­ty for ille­gal killings,” said Agnes Calla­mard, the U.N. spe­cial rap­por­teur on sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tions. In response to the denun­ci­a­tions, Duterte lashed out at the Unit­ed States, threat­en­ing to align his coun­try more with Chi­na.

    Despite uni­ver­sal con­dem­na­tion of the ongo­ing slaugh­ter of Fil­ipinos, Trump sig­naled his approval of Duterte’s poli­cies dur­ing a phone call on Decem­ber 2. Accord­ing to Duterte—an account that has gone uncon­test­ed by Trump—the pres­i­dent-elect endorsed his tac­tics as “the right way.” Duterte added: “[Trump] was wish­ing me suc­cess in my cam­paign against the drug prob­lem.” (He also said Trump invit­ed him to the White House, a cour­tesy not yet extend­ed to There­sa May, the prime min­is­ter of Britain, America’s most impor­tant strate­gic ally.)

    The Trump tran­si­tion team did not respond to Newsweek when asked if the pres­i­dent-elect had intend­ed to sig­nal his approval of the car­nage in the Philip­pines; did not believe the con­clu­sions of the U.N. and West­ern nations that Duterte ordered the killings; or sim­ply did not under­stand the mag­ni­tude of his com­ments. One thing, how­ev­er, is clear: The Trump fam­i­ly has an enor­mous finan­cial inter­est in keep­ing Duterte hap­py. Trump Tow­er at Cen­tu­ry City in Makati, Philip­pines, is on the verge of com­ple­tion, with poten­tial buy­ers hav­ing placed deposits on at least 94 per­cent of the con­do­mini­ums, accord­ing to Cen­tu­ry Prop­er­ties, the Trump Organization’s busi­ness part­ner there. Dur­ing the U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Trump’s sons Don­ald Jr. and Eric trav­eled to Makati to shov­el some dirt in a cer­e­mo­ny to cel­e­brate the struc­tur­al com­ple­tion of the build­ing; a pho­to­graph of the two men shov­el­ing along­side top Cen­tu­ry Prop­er­ties exec­u­tives was post­ed on the building’s web­site. (On that same web­site, a line of jew­el­ry by Trump’s daugh­ter Ivan­ka is offered for sale, and it is expect­ed to be avail­able for pur­chase at the $150 mil­lion prop­er­ty.) As with almost every prop­er­ty with Trump’s name on it built over the past decade, his com­pa­ny is not the devel­op­er; it mere­ly sold its name to Cen­tu­ry Prop­er­ties to use on the build­ing. Although details of the trans­ac­tion are not pub­lic, con­tracts for oth­er Trump brand­ing deals reviewed by Newsweek show that they require a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar up-front pay­ment as well as up to 25 per­cent of the developer’s rev­enue, year after year. So, under the deal, Trump’s chil­dren will be paid mil­lions of dol­lars through­out their father’s pres­i­den­cy by Jose E.B. Anto­nio, the head of Cen­tu­ry Prop­er­ties.

    Duterte recent­ly named Anto­nio the spe­cial gov­ern­ment envoy to the Unit­ed States. The con­flicts here could not be more trou­bling or more bla­tant: Pres­i­dent Trump will be dis­cussing U.S. pol­i­cy in South­east Asia with one of his (or his children’s) busi­ness part­ners, a man who is the offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a for­eign leader who likens him­self to Hitler. Also note that the Trump fam­i­ly has an enor­mous finan­cial inter­est in Duterte’s dead­ly cam­paign: Root­ing out crime in the Philip­pines is good for the real estate val­ues.

    The Trump family’s deal­ings in the Philip­pines will set off a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis on the first day of Trump’s pres­i­den­cy, if any­one in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment decides to abide by the law. There is seri­ous debate as to whether Trump will be vio­lat­ing the Constitution’s Emol­u­ments Clause—which pro­hibits office hold­ers from accept­ing gifts from for­eign states—since the major­i­ty of his company’s busi­ness is with oth­er cor­po­ra­tions and devel­op­ers. That is not the case in the Philip­pines. The man writ­ing mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of checks to the Trump fam­i­ly is the Duterte government’s spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Unit­ed States. To argue that these pay­ments will be con­sti­tu­tion­al if they are paid to the Trump chil­dren, and not to Trump per­son­al­ly, is absurd. This con­flict demands con­gres­sion­al hear­ings, and could be an impeach­able offense.

    This unyield­ing prin­ci­ple that for­eign pow­ers can­not be allowed to hold sway over a pres­i­dent dates back to the Found­ing Fathers. In Fed­er­al­ist 68, Alexan­der Hamil­ton wrote of the dan­gers of such a sce­nario. “Noth­ing was more to be desired than that every prac­ti­ca­ble obsta­cle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and cor­rup­tion,” he wrote in ref­er­ence to the pow­ers bestowed in the Con­sti­tu­tion. “These most dead­ly adver­saries of repub­li­can gov­ern­ment might nat­u­ral­ly have been expect­ed to make their approach­es from more than one quar­ter, but chiefly from the desire in for­eign pow­ers to gain an improp­er ascen­dant in our coun­cils.”

    Trump’s con­flicts of inter­est in the Philip­pines can­not be resolved so long as any­one in his fam­i­ly has an inter­est in the build­ing there. Even if his busi­ness part­ner, Anto­nio, is removed as Duterte’s spe­cial envoy, Trump won’t sim­ply for­get that the Makati build­ing exists, that the author­i­tar­i­an Philip­pine pres­i­dent has the pow­er to dam­age the Trump family’s finan­cial inter­ests there and that the pro­tec­tion of what is now a high-pro­file tar­get for attacks is in Duterte’s hands. (In the past three years, there have been nine strikes in the Philip­pines. The most recent, in Sep­tem­ber, was a bomb­ing that killed 15 peo­ple and injured 70; in response, Duterte declared that the coun­try was in a “state of law­less­ness” and ordered police and the mil­i­tary to search all cars and cit­i­zens at check­points.)

    The result of all this is that Duterte has extra­or­di­nary lever­age against Trump, and no one will know what impact that might have on the future president’s deci­sion-mak­ing. For exam­ple, will Trump ignore the promis­es he made dur­ing the cam­paign on immi­gra­tion when it comes to the Philip­pines, giv­en the dev­as­tat­ing impact it could have on the econ­o­my there?

    A report by the research divi­sion of Nomu­ra Secu­ri­ties con­clud­ed that, under Trump’s declared poli­cies, “the Philip­pines’ econ­o­my stands to lose the most” of all coun­tries in South­east Asia. And because many Fil­ipino guest labor­ers in the Unit­ed States are undoc­u­ment­ed, the report said that a tight­en­ing of immi­gra­tion poli­cies could lead to few­er migrant work­ers from that coun­try. “This could impact remit­tances inflows back to the Philip­pines,” the report says. “The U.S. is host to 34.5 per­cent of the total over­seas Fil­ipino pop­u­la­tion, and we esti­mate accounts for about 31 per­cent of total work­er remit­tances.” Accord­ing to the Philip­pine Sta­tis­tics Author­i­ty, remit­tances from the Unit­ed States totaled almost $6 bil­lion in the first sev­en months of 2016. Trans­la­tion: Under Trump’s immi­gra­tion poli­cies, huge sup­ports for the Fil­ipino econ­o­my could col­lapse. On Novem­ber 15, Moody’s announced that Trump’s poli­cies would neg­a­tive­ly affect the Philippines’s cred­it rat­ing, which could thwart Duterte from keep­ing his cam­paign promis­es of tax cuts and greater spend­ing on infra­struc­ture. Duterte could eas­i­ly pun­ish Trump for under­min­ing his domes­tic agen­da in the Philip­pines by tak­ing actions against the family’s busi­ness inter­ests. And Trump knows that any­thing he does to alien­ate Duterte or harm the Philip­pine econ­o­my could threat­en his family’s wealth.

    Fol­low the Falling Domi­noes

    Trump also has seri­ous con­flicts of inter­est regard­ing Chi­na. Part of this, once again, traces from the Philip­pines. Trump has vowed to label Chi­na a “cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tor” that arti­fi­cial­ly dri­ves down the val­ue of the ren­min­bi, which would make Chi­nese goods cheap­er to import. That would allow the Unit­ed States to impose duties on Chi­nese imports to off­set any cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tion.

    .=Chi­na is one of the top two export des­ti­na­tions for the Philip­pines, with about 55 per­cent of that trade com­ing from the elec­tron­ics busi­ness, accord­ing to the Philip­pines Sta­tis­tics Author­i­ty. Chi­na then uses a large por­tion of those Philip­pines imports for the man­u­fac­ture of prod­ucts sold to the Unit­ed States. Like an inter­na­tion­al trade ver­sion of top­pling domi­noes, Amer­i­can rules that decrease imports into the Unit­ed States will, in turn, slam the largest Philip­pines export busi­ness, roil­ing that country’s econ­o­my. The last domi­no hits Trump Tow­er at Cen­tu­ry City: The glob­al prop­er­ty con­sul­tan­cy ser­vices com­pa­ny CB Richard Ellis has attrib­uted increased demand for lux­u­ry con­do­mini­ums in the Philip­pines to the country’s grow­ing econ­o­my. Impose duties on Chi­nese imports to Amer­i­ca today and Trump Tow­er in the Philip­pines could fall into bank­rupt­cy soon after, cost­ing the president’s chil­dren mil­lions of dol­lars.

    So if Trump revers­es his promise to have Chi­na declared a cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tor on day one of his pres­i­den­cy, would it be because some­one explained to him that the ren­min­bi has been going up in val­ue over the past 12 months or because he now sees the pos­si­bly dire impli­ca­tions to the Amer­i­can econ­o­my from a trade war with Chi­na? Or would it be because he wants his kids’ busi­ness in the Philip­pines to pros­per? No one but Don­ald Trump will ever know the truth.

    There’s a sim­i­lar­ly dis­turb­ing conun­drum in Tai­wan. On Decem­ber 2, Trump—with no con­sul­ta­tion with State Depart­ment spe­cial­ists on the del­i­cate rela­tions between Amer­i­can and China—upended almost 40 years of U.S. pol­i­cy by tak­ing a phone call from the pres­i­dent of Tai­wan, which broke away from the main­land in 1949. The ques­tion of whether Tai­wan is an inde­pen­dent coun­try or part of Chi­na proved to be a major diplo­mat­ic chal­lenge after U.S. Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon nor­mal­ized rela­tions with Chi­na. To avoid con­flict, the Unit­ed States adopt­ed what is called the “One Chi­na” pol­i­cy, under which the U.S. main­tains unof­fi­cial rela­tions with Tai­wan but does not con­sid­er it to be its own coun­try. Because Amer­i­ca does not rec­og­nize Tai­wan as its own polit­i­cal enti­ty, all Amer­i­can lead­ers since Ronald Rea­gan have refused to speak to its pres­i­dent. This month, Trump pushed his posi­tion even fur­ther, say­ing he saw no rea­son to be bound by the One Chi­na pol­i­cy that has smoothed Sino-Amer­i­can rela­tions and instead advo­cat­ing using it as a bar­gain­ing chip in trade and oth­er nego­ti­a­tions.

    If Trump want­ed to reverse decades of pol­i­cy fol­lowed by both Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dents, he should have wait­ed until after his inau­gu­ra­tion; pres­i­dents-elect are not sup­posed to inter­fere in for­eign pol­i­cy.

    Why did he not wait? Only Trump knows, but alle­ga­tions have already emerged that the deci­sion may have been influ­enced by his family’s finan­cial inter­ests. Cheng Wen-tsan, may­or of Taoyuan, Tai­wan, told The Chi­na Times that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Trump’s com­pa­ny named Chen Sit­ing, who is also known as Char­lyne Chen, had vis­it­ed to express the family’s inter­est in build­ing a hotel near the city’s air­port. Accord­ing to the may­or, Chen also said that Eric Trump would be vis­it­ing the island by the end of the year. Since that report, the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion has stat­ed that no trips to Tai­wan were autho­rized for the hotels divi­sion and that no con­ver­sa­tions were under­way about such a project. How­ev­er, on Novem­ber 24, Chen told For­mosa Tele­vi­sion that she had assist­ed the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion in the past to sell some of its prop­er­ties in Las Vegas to buy­ers in Tai­wan and Shang­hai. As first report­ed in The New York Times, Anne-Marie Donoghue, who iden­ti­fies her­self on her Face­book page as a Trump Hotels Asia sales direc­tor, post­ed a pho­to from a vis­it to Tai­wan in Octo­ber, which she described as a “work trip”; this was one month after the may­or of Taoyuan said he met with Chen.

    Final­ly, there is the ques­tion of whether the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion will attempt any deals in Chi­na dur­ing the next four years. In 2011, Eric Trump pub­licly stat­ed that the fam­i­ly com­pa­ny planned to expand its brand into Chi­na after the com­ple­tion of the Mani­la project. That build­ing is almost fin­ished, mean­ing the Chi­nese could well be expect­ing con­tacts from the Trump fam­i­ly soon. What Trump and his tran­si­tion team don’t seem to under­stand is that it does not mat­ter whether Siting’s trip was autho­rized, whether Donoghue was in atten­dance, whether there are dis­cus­sions going on now or whether con­tracts are about to be signed. Just the sus­pi­cion that Trump might re-estab­lish for­mal rela­tions with Tai­wan for the finan­cial ben­e­fit of his children—or might use it as a bar­gain­ing chip for land­ing the kind of devel­op­ment deals on the main­land that Eric Trump discussed—will now be part of the for­eign pol­i­cy cal­cu­la­tions in Bei­jing, as offi­cials there attempt to deal with the new U.S. pres­i­dent.

    Extra­di­tion Swap?

    The con­flicts between the com­mer­cial inter­ests of the Trump fam­i­ly and U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy extend beyond the many finan­cial ben­e­fits for the next pres­i­dent and his chil­dren. Already, there is a sit­u­a­tion in which the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States could be black­mailed by a for­eign pow­er through pres­sure relat­ed to his family’s busi­ness entan­gle­ments.

    In 2008, the Trump Orga­ni­za­tion struck a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar brand­ing deal with the Dogan Group, a large cor­po­ra­tion named after its influ­en­tial fam­i­ly, for a two-tow­er com­plex in Istan­bul. In 2012, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan presided over the open­ing cer­e­monies and met with Trump. But in June of this year, Erdo­gan called for the Trump name to be removed from the com­plex because of his anti-Mus­lim rhetoric; the Turk­ish pres­i­dent also said pre­sid­ing over the ded­i­ca­tion had been a ter­ri­ble mis­take. Erdo­gan lat­er told asso­ciates he intend­ed to impede America’s use of a crit­i­cal Air Force base in Turkey should Trump win the pres­i­den­cy, a Mid­dle East­ern financier with con­tacts inside the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment told Newsweek. The financier spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to avoid jeop­ar­diz­ing rela­tions with his offi­cial con­tacts.

    In July, mem­bers of the Turk­ish mil­i­tary attempt­ed a coup. Erdo­gan crushed the plot­ters, and his gov­ern­ment has arrest­ed more than 36,000 sus­pect­ed par­tic­i­pants and shut down 17 media out­lets. The pri­ma­ry cul­prit, Erdo­gan declared almost imme­di­ate­ly, was Fethul­lah Gülen, a 77-year-old Mus­lim spir­i­tu­al leader who has lived in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region for many years. Erdo­gan demand­ed that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion extra­dite Gülen to face charges relat­ed to the coup.

    Gülen and Erdo­gan were allies until 2013, the year a series of cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions erupt­ed regard­ing gov­ern­ment offi­cials accused of engag­ing in a “gas for gold” scheme with Iran; Erdo­gan claimed the man with whom he once shared com­mon goals was the dri­ving force behind the inquiries, which he called an attempt­ed “civil­ian coup.” Erdo­gan has placed Gülen on country’s list of most-want­ed ter­ror­ists, but the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has not act­ed on the extra­di­tion request, and it has told the Turks they would have to pro­duce proof of Gülen’s involve­ment in the coup attempt before he could be sent to Ankara, the Turk­ish cap­i­tal.

    Enter Don­ald Trump. The day of the U.S. elec­tion, the news site The Hill pub­lished an arti­cle by Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Michael T. Fly­nn, who has since been named as Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er. “The forces of rad­i­cal Islam derive their ide­ol­o­gy from rad­i­cal cler­ics like Gülen, who is run­ning a scam,” Fly­nn wrote. “We should not pro­vide him safe haven…. It is imper­a­tive that we remem­ber who our real friends are.” (Fly­nn, who runs a con­sult­ing firm hired by a com­pa­ny with links to the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment, seems unaware that rad­i­cal Islam­ic groups like the Islam­ic State, or ISIS, are more like­ly to decap­i­tate some­one like Gülen.)

    That arti­cle, accord­ing to the financier with con­tacts in the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment, led Erdo­gan and his asso­ciates to believe a Trump admin­is­tra­tion would not demand more evi­dence to jus­ti­fy deport­ing Gülen. So, almost imme­di­ate­ly, Erdo­gan stopped con­demn­ing Trump and instead voiced sup­port for him. The day after the U.S. elec­tion, Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Binali Yildirim issued a state­ment direct­ly link­ing his country’s good wish­es for Trump with its desire to get Gülen back. “We con­grat­u­late Mr. Trump. I am open­ly call­ing on the new pres­i­dent from here about the urgent extra­di­tion of Fethul­lah Gülen, the mas­ter­mind, execu­tor and per­pe­tra­tor of the heinous July 15 coup attempt, who lives on U.S. soil.”

    In a tele­phone call that same day with Erdo­gan, Trump passed on com­pli­ments to the Turk­ish pres­i­dent from a senior offi­cial with his company’s busi­ness part­ner on the Istan­bul project, whom the pres­i­dent-elect was report­ed to have called “a close friend.” The offi­cial, Mehmet Ali Yal­cindag, is the son-in-law of Dogan Hold­ing own­er Aydin Dogan and was instru­men­tal in the devel­op­ment of the Trump com­plex in Turkey. That Trump deliv­ered mes­sages from his busi­ness part­ner to Erdo­gan has been report­ed in numer­ous media out­lets in Turkey, includ­ing some close­ly tied to the gov­ern­ment, and has not been denied by Turk­ish offi­cials or the Trump tran­si­tion team.

    Accord­ing to the Mid­dle East­ern financier with con­tacts in the Erdo­gan admin­is­tra­tion, Trump’s casu­al praise of a mem­ber of the Dogan fam­i­ly prompt­ed Erdo­gan to believe this rela­tion­ship might give him lever­age over the pres­i­dent-elect. In the past, Erdo­gan has placed enor­mous pres­sure on the Dogan Group, which owns media oper­a­tions that have been crit­i­cal of him, by impos­ing a $2.5 bil­lion tax fine and call­ing for sup­port­ers to boy­cott its news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion sta­tions. Then, just weeks after hear­ing Trump’s kind words about his Dogan busi­ness part­ner, Erdo­gan lashed out at the Turk­ish com­pa­ny again.

    On Decem­ber 1, author­i­ties detained Bar­baros Muratogl, a 28-year vet­er­an of Dogan who was the company’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Ankara. His alleged crime? Main­tain­ing links to the move­ment led by Gülen, thus con­nect­ing the Dogan exec­u­tive to the attempt­ed coup. In response, Dogan shares fell 8.6 per­cent. (The pur­port­ed evi­dence against Muratogl: pub­lic accu­sa­tions from an edi­tor at a news­pa­per owned by a com­pa­ny that com­petes with Dogan.)

    Once again, fol­low the domi­noes as they tip over. Erdo­gan is frus­trat­ed in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump prais­es a Turk­ish exec­u­tive who works with his busi­ness part­ner there, Dogan. A few weeks lat­er, a senior Dogan exec­u­tive is detained on thread­bare alle­ga­tions. If Erdogan’s gov­ern­ment puts more pres­sure on the com­pa­ny that’s pay­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to Trump and his chil­dren, rev­enue flow­ing from the tow­er com­plex in Istan­bul could be cut off. That means Erdo­gan has lever­age with Trump, who will soon have the pow­er to get Gülen extra­dit­ed. The financier with con­tacts in the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment explained the dynam­ic to Newsweek: “Erdo­gan has some­thing he believes Trump wants, and Trump has some­one Erdo­gan des­per­ate­ly wants.”

    Who Dares Say No to Ivan­ka?

    With U.S. secu­ri­ty and for­eign pol­i­cy already jeop­ar­dized by the president-elect’s con­flicts, a few hor­ri­fy­ing instances of poten­tial cor­rup­tion and abuse of pow­er seem quaint by com­par­i­son. For exam­ple, in a stun­ning breach of pro­to­col, Ivan­ka Trump—who sup­pos­ed­ly will be on the oth­er side of the divid­ing line between the Trump busi­ness­es and the Trump presidency—sat in on her father’s first meet­ing with Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe short­ly after the elec­tion. At the same time, offi­cials with her cloth­ing com­pa­ny were work­ing on a licens­ing agree­ment with Sanei Inter­na­tion­al. The largest share­hold­er of Sanei’s par­ent com­pa­ny is the Devel­op­ment Bank of Japan, which is whol­ly owned by the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment head­ed by Abe.

    ...

    Giv­en the extra­or­di­nary pow­er Don­ald Trump now wields, it’s obvi­ous that for­eign gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions can eas­i­ly cur­ry favor, bribe or even black­mail him, which is why the Found­ing Fathers so feared out­side influ­ences on the Exec­u­tive Branch. Once he’s pres­i­dent, Trump does not need to ask for cash to be deliv­ered to his pock­ets or to those of his chil­dren to cross the line into illic­it activities—and pos­si­bly impeach­able offens­es. Macri of Argenti­na can­not know if his coun­try will be pun­ished by the Trump White House if the remain­ing per­mits for that Buenos Aires project are denied. Abe of Japan does not know if a gov­ern­ment holdup of Ivan­ka Trump’s deal with Sanei Inter­na­tion­al will lead her impul­sive father to call for an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary with­draw­al from his coun­try. Erdo­gan of Turkey has told asso­ciates he believes he must keep pres­sure on Trump’s busi­ness part­ner there to essen­tial­ly black­mail the pres­i­dent into extra­dit­ing a polit­i­cal ene­my. Duterte of the Philip­pines believes he has received approval from the pres­i­dent-elect to, at best, abide by or, at worst, con­tin­ue to autho­rize the fren­zied slaugh­ter of drug users and deal­ers, and knows he can harm the Trump fam­i­ly if the pres­i­dent ever angers him.

    Amer­i­ca is on the precipice of an unprece­dent­ed threat, as allies and ene­mies alike cal­cu­late whether they are deal­ing with a pres­i­dent they can please mere­ly by enrich­ing his chil­dren. Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has a mon­u­men­tal choice before him: He can, as he promised dur­ing the cam­paign, pro­tect the sanc­ti­ty of the presidency—which he can do only by sell­ing his com­pa­ny. Or he can remain cor­rupt­ed by the con­flicts between his country’s future and his family’s for­tune.

    Duterte recent­ly named Anto­nio the spe­cial gov­ern­ment envoy to the Unit­ed States. The con­flicts here could not be more trou­bling or more bla­tant: Pres­i­dent Trump will be dis­cussing U.S. pol­i­cy in South­east Asia with one of his (or his children’s) busi­ness part­ners, a man who is the offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a for­eign leader who likens him­self to Hitler. Also note that the Trump fam­i­ly has an enor­mous finan­cial inter­est in Duterte’s dead­ly cam­paign: Root­ing out crime in the Philip­pines is good for the real estate val­ues.”

    Yep, the devel­op­er of the Trump Tow­er of the Philip­pines just hap­pened to get appoint­ed as the spe­cial gov­ern­ment envoy to the Unit­ed States. And that’s just the Philip­pines. As we just saw, Trump has busi­ness deal, or poten­tial deals, all over the world. Already. So even if he pledges that his busi­ness empire ‘blind trust’ (run by his kids) won’t be doing any new deals dur­ing his time in office (a pledge he tweet­ed last night) that still leaves a lot of exist­ing deals that need to be main­tained. And exist­ing busi­ness part­ners to poten­tial­ly pro­tect:

    ...

    On Decem­ber 1, author­i­ties detained Bar­baros Muratogl, a 28-year vet­er­an of Dogan who was the company’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to Ankara. His alleged crime? Main­tain­ing links to the move­ment led by Gülen, thus con­nect­ing the Dogan exec­u­tive to the attempt­ed coup. In response, Dogan shares fell 8.6 per­cent. (The pur­port­ed evi­dence against Muratogl: pub­lic accu­sa­tions from an edi­tor at a news­pa­per owned by a com­pa­ny that com­petes with Dogan.)

    Once again, fol­low the domi­noes as they tip over. Erdo­gan is frus­trat­ed in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump prais­es a Turk­ish exec­u­tive who works with his busi­ness part­ner there, Dogan. A few weeks lat­er, a senior Dogan exec­u­tive is detained on thread­bare alle­ga­tions. If Erdogan’s gov­ern­ment puts more pres­sure on the com­pa­ny that’s pay­ing mil­lions of dol­lars to Trump and his chil­dren, rev­enue flow­ing from the tow­er com­plex in Istan­bul could be cut off. That means Erdo­gan has lever­age with Trump, who will soon have the pow­er to get Gülen extra­dit­ed. The financier with con­tacts in the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment explained the dynam­ic to Newsweek: “Erdo­gan has some­thing he believes Trump wants, and Trump has some­one Erdo­gan des­per­ate­ly wants.”
    ...

    As we can see, it’s not just the new deals and bribery we have to wor­ry about. It’s the exist­ing deals and all the bribery and black­mail that can come with main­tain­ing those deals that are poten­tial­ly a much big­ger prob­lem.

    So, giv­en all that, a $15 bil­lion up front Trump bribe does­n’t seem to pricey, does it? Some­body is going to be doing the brib­ing. Should­n’t it be the Amer­i­can pub­lic? All of a sud­den Don­ald Trump’s incen­tives to embrace the mass mur­der cam­paigns of dis­gust­ing wannabe Hitlers would no longer include finan­cial incen­tives. Would­n’t that be great! Or, well, at least bet­ter. Maybe then we could focus all the oth­er pos­si­ble rea­sons Trump might want to embrace a mass mur­der­ing wannabe Hitler.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 13, 2016, 8:29 pm
  4. One of the parts that comes with being a head of state is that you’re going to live in a some­what iso­lat­ing secu­ri­ty “bub­ble”. It’s inevitable. It’s also one of the few aspects of the life of a pres­i­dent that Don­ald Trump should excel at. That said, if there’s one thing about pres­i­den­tial bub­ble-land that should­n’t be seen as inevitable, but instead deeply per­ilous, is when the pres­i­den­tial bub­ble includes liv­ing in an intellectual/information bub­ble too.

    So, with that in mind, it’s worth not­ing that the world­view Don­ald Trump is inevitably going to devel­op once he gains access to the full breadth of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty’s infor­ma­tion appears to be oper­at­ing in a bub­ble. And that bub­ble has a name: Michael Fly­nn:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    Fly­nn, Who Improp­er­ly Shared Clas­si­fied Info, Giv­ing Trump Dai­ly ‘Intel Updates’

    By Esme Cribb
    Pub­lished Decem­ber 14, 2016, 12:11 PM EDT

    RNC com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor Sean Spicer said on Wednes­day that while Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has eschewed reg­u­lar intel­li­gence brief­in­gs, is meet­ing once or twice dai­ly with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn for an “intel update.”

    Spicer told reporters on a con­fer­ence call Wednes­day morn­ing that Trump “is get­ting the TBD [sic] three times a week right now,” but sug­gest­ed that his reg­u­lar meet­ings with Fly­nn hold the same cachet.

    “He is meet­ing with Gen­er­al Fly­nn on a dai­ly basis to get an intel update so in some cas­es he is get­ting an intel brief­ing every sin­gle day, in some cas­es twice,” Spicer said. “So I think that it would be false to say that he is not get­ting an intel brief­ing every day. Every sin­gle day he is get­ting a brief­ing. Three times a week it’s the actu­al TBD [sic].”

    Spicer argued in a sub­se­quent inter­view with CNN’s Kate Bold­u­an that a brief­ing from Fly­nn is equiv­a­lent to an in-per­son meet­ing with offi­cial pres­i­den­tial intel­li­gence briefers.

    “Why wouldn’t he want to get it from the source?” Bold­u­an asked.

    “He does get it from the source,” Spicer said. “He’s his nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor.”

    “Michael Fly­nn gets the pres­i­den­tial dai­ly brief­ing from the briefers and then Michael Fly­nn relays it to Don­ald Trump,” Bold­u­an pressed. “Why would­n’t Don­ald Trump want to get it from the source?”

    “I think that this is sort of a seman­tics thing,” Spicer replied.

    ...

    Trump has faced crit­i­cism for refus­ing to receive reg­u­lar intel­li­gence brief­in­gs. U.S. offi­cials pre­vi­ous­ly told Reuters that the Pres­i­dent-elect received only one intel­li­gence brief each week on aver­age. CBS News report­ed that Trump had active­ly declined sev­er­al intel­li­gence brief­in­gs since the elec­tion, while Vice Pres­i­dent-elect Mike Pence report­ed­ly receives around six such brief­in­gs per week.

    Fly­nn is also fac­ing renewed scruti­ny of his own han­dling of clas­si­fied intel­li­gence. Accord­ing to U.S. Army doc­u­ments obtained by the Wash­ing­ton Post through a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request and pub­lished Wednes­day, a 2010 Army inves­ti­ga­tion had deter­mined that Fly­nn “inap­pro­pri­ate­ly shared” clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion with for­eign offi­cials in Afghanistan.

    The Army did not take fur­ther action against Fly­nn, as the inves­ti­ga­tion con­clud­ed that he had not act­ed “know­ing­ly” and “there was no actu­al or poten­tial dam­age to nation­al secu­ri­ty as a result.”

    The inves­ti­ga­tion itself still is clas­si­fied, but the Wash­ing­ton Post cit­ed for­mer U.S. offi­cials famil­iar with the mat­ter who said Fly­nn was accused of shar­ing infor­ma­tion about oper­a­tions by the CIA and oth­er agen­cies in Afghanistan.

    ““Michael Fly­nn gets the pres­i­den­tial dai­ly brief­ing from the briefers and then Michael Fly­nn relays it to Don­ald Trump,” Bold­u­an pressed. “Why would­n’t Don­ald Trump want to get it from the source?””

    So Don­ald Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor, a guy with a propen­si­ty to just make stuff up (“Fly­nn Facts”, as they called it) and a his­to­ry of the “Alt-Right”, isn’t just Trump’s advi­sor on these mat­ters. He’s Trump’s fil­ter too.

    In oth­er words, all those “Fly­nn facts” are poised to become the unchal­lenged intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty facts as far as Trump is going to be con­cerned unless Fly­nn decides to share the parts of those dai­ly intel­li­gence brief­ing with Trump that con­tra­dict his “Fly­nn facts”. Oh good­ie.

    And in oth­er news, Michael Fly­nn qui­et­ly delet­ed the tweet he made days before the elec­tion pro­mot­ing a “Hillary is part of a child sex ring” hoax this week.

    And in oth­er oth­er news, Michael G. Fly­nn — Michael Fly­n­n’s son and for­mer chief of staff who was forced to leave the Trump tran­si­tion team after peo­ple noticed that he was con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote “Piz­za­gate”, a dif­fer­ent “Hillary is part of a child sex ring” hoax — ques­tioned whether the Wash­ing­ton Post should be shut down today. Why? Because of that Post sto­ry about pri­or inves­ti­ga­tions into Michael Fly­nn Sr’s shar­ing of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion with­out per­mis­sion, which Fly­nn Jr. decried as “fake news”.

    So, all in all, it’s look­ing like the Trump pres­i­den­tial bub­ble is going to include a clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion fil­ter oper­at­ed by a guy with a his­to­ry of mak­ing things up and very recent his­to­ry of pub­licly pro­mot­ing hoax­es. And if you point this out, his son/former chief of staff will cry out for retal­i­a­tion. It rais­es the ques­tion of how long it’s going to be before some sort of “Pizzagate”-league deba­cle forces Fly­nn Sr. out of the admin­is­tra­tion. Which, in turn, rais­es the unpleas­ant ques­tion of who comes next.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 14, 2016, 4:07 pm
  5. TBD may refer to “Tech­ni­cal Back­ground Doc­u­ment” or they may just pos­si­bly be stu­pid.

    Posted by Uncle Grody | December 15, 2016, 10:17 am
  6. It looks like Steve Ban­non will have some Alt-Right com­pa­ny in the White House advi­so­ry staff: Stephen Miller, for­mer chief aide to Trump’s pick for Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions, is set to be Trumps senior advi­sor for pol­i­cy. He’s also report­ed­ly quite close to Alt-Right ring-leader Richard Spencer going back to their time at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty’s Duke Con­ser­v­a­tive Union, although Miller now denies that asso­ci­a­tion and claims to com­plete­ly repu­di­ate Spencer’s views. So it would appear that if Steve Ban­non has a new fel­low Alt-Right advis­er on Trump’s team of advi­sors, it’s in the form of a cryp­to-Alt-Right fel­low advisor...a not-very-cryp­to-Alt-Right fel­low advi­sor:

    Moth­er Jones

    Trump’s Newest Senior Advis­er Seen as a White Nation­al­ist Ally
    Stephen Miller drew praise from a top white nation­al­ist, who hopes he’ll “do good things for white Amer­i­ca.”

    Josh Harkin­son
    Dec. 14, 2016 5:04 PM

    Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s newest pick to be a senior advis­er in the White House has long ties to a promi­nent white nation­al­ist, who sees him as an ally of the move­ment.

    Stephen Miller, a top aide to Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, will serve as a senior White House advis­er for pol­i­cy, Trump’s tran­si­tion team announced Tues­day. Miller is a for­mer staffer for the nativist Sen. Jeff Ses­sions (R‑Ala.), now Trump’s nom­i­nee for attor­ney gen­er­al. The announce­ment of Miller’s new role drew praise from white nation­al­ist leader Richard Spencer. “Stephen is a high­ly com­pe­tent and tough indi­vid­ual,” Spencer, who famous­ly coined the term “alt-right” to describe the insur­gent right-wing move­ment that has attract­ed white nation­al­ists and suprema­cists, told Moth­er Jones on Wednes­day. “So I have no doubt that he will do a great job.”

    Spencer and Miller first came to know each oth­er in the late 2000s as stu­dents at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, where they both belonged to the Duke Con­ser­v­a­tive Union. Miller earned notice for stand­ing up for white lacrosse play­ers false­ly accused in 2006 of gang rap­ing a black woman. Spencer also defend­ed the Duke lacrosse play­ers, writ­ing about the case for Pat Buchanan’s Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive, which lat­er hired him as an edi­tor.

    Spencer told me that at Duke, Miller helped him with fundrais­ing and pro­mo­tion for an on-cam­pus debate on immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy that Spencer orga­nized in 2007, fea­tur­ing influ­en­tial white nation­al­ist Peter Brimelow. Anoth­er for­mer mem­ber of the Duke Con­ser­v­a­tive Union con­firms that Miller and Spencer worked togeth­er on the event. At DCU meet­ings, accord­ing to a past pres­i­dent of the group, Miller denounced mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and expressed con­cerns that immi­grants from non-Euro­pean coun­tries were not assim­i­lat­ing.

    “I knew [Miller] very well when I was at Duke,” Spencer told me when I vis­it­ed him at his home in White­fish, Mon­tana, a few weeks before the elec­tion. “But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this, because I don’t want to harm Trump.”

    Miller wrote about two dozen columns for the Duke Chron­i­cle, and his arti­cles assailed mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism (which he called “seg­re­ga­tion”) and paid fam­i­ly leave (which he said results in men get­ting laid off). He also denied there was sys­tem­at­ic racism (which he dubbed “racial para­noia”).

    When con­tact­ed by Moth­er Jones in Octo­ber, Miller did not respond on the record to spe­cif­ic ques­tions about his activ­i­ties with the DCU or his views on race and immi­gra­tion, but he denied ever being close to Spencer. “I have absolute­ly no rela­tion­ship with Mr. Spencer,” he said in an email that month. “I com­plete­ly repu­di­ate his views, and his claims are 100 per­cent false.”

    Before join­ing the Trump cam­paign last year, Miller, who is 30, served as Ses­sions’ chief of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “Those who worked with them say that Ses­sions and Miller had a ‘mind meld,’ ” Julia Ioffe wrote in a June Politi­co pro­file of Miller. Ses­sions and Miller worked close­ly in oppos­ing the Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion of Sonia Sotomay­or, who Ses­sions implied might not be impar­tial due to her His­pan­ic her­itage. In 2014, after the Sen­ate had passed a bipar­ti­san deal on com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform, Ses­sions helped kill it in the House by dis­trib­ut­ing anti-immi­gra­tion fig­ures and talk­ing points that were writ­ten by Miller.

    Dur­ing the cam­paign, Miller, as a senior advis­er to Trump, warmed up crowds at Trump ral­lies with fiery, pop­ulist speech­es draw­ing from a nativist play­book. “We’re going to build that wall high and we’re going to build it tall,” he pro­claimed at a Trump event in Dal­las in June. “We’re going to build that wall, and we’re going to build it out of love. We’re going to build it out of love for every fam­i­ly who wants to raise their kids in safe­ty and peace…We’re build­ing it out of love for Amer­i­ca and Amer­i­cans of all back­grounds.”

    ...

    ““I knew [Miller] very well when I was at Duke,” Spencer told me when I vis­it­ed him at his home in White­fish, Mon­tana, a few weeks before the elec­tion. “But I am kind of glad no one’s talked about this, because I don’t want to harm Trump.””

    Yeah, while the many doc­u­ment­ed asso­ci­a­tions between the Trump team and open Nazis don’t actu­al­ly seem to harm Trump in any dis­cernible way, you can under­stand why Richard Spencer was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly inclined to tout his past close asso­ci­a­tion with some­one who was then work­ing on Trump’s cam­paign team back in Octo­ber. The far-right was­n’t ready to open­ly Seig Heil Trump back before the elec­tion. They had be to all sub­tle about it.

    And in oth­er Richard Spencer-relat­ed news, look who’s con­sid­er­ing run­ning for Con­gress:

    The Huff­in­g­ton Post

    White Nation­al­ist Who Yelled ‘Hail Trump!’ Think­ing About Con­gres­sion­al Run
    It’s just an idea at this point, but Richard Spencer is “tak­ing it very seri­ous­ly.”

    12/16/2016 11:19 am ET | Updat­ed

    Dana Liebel­son Staff Reporter,

    WASHINGTON — White nation­al­ist Richard Spencer, rid­ing a post-Trump wave of media fame, is enter­tain­ing the idea of run­ning for U.S. Con­gress. He is con­sid­er­ing cam­paign­ing for Montana’s at-large con­gres­sion­al seat that would be vacat­ed by Rep. Ryan Zinke ® if he is con­firmed as sec­re­tary of inte­ri­or.

    To be clear: Spencer is only think­ing about it. He thinks “about lots of things,” he told The Huff­in­g­ton Post on Thurs­day.

    But he not­ed that “a lot of peo­ple were call­ing me and say­ing, ‘Oh, you should do it, just do it, this is the moment.’ I’m obvi­ous­ly flat­tered.”

    “I’m tak­ing it very seri­ous­ly,” he added. “It’s an excit­ing prospect.”

    Zinke is a for­mer Navy SEAL who pre­vi­ous­ly served in the Mon­tana Sen­ate. If he leaves Con­gress for Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s Cab­i­net, a spe­cial elec­tion would like­ly be held some­time in 2017.

    Spencer has nev­er held pub­lic office. His expe­ri­ence includes head­ing the Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, a white nation­al­ist “research and edu­ca­tion­al” foun­da­tion. He is also cred­it­ed with coin­ing the term “alt-right” — an effort to rebrand white nation­al­ism. Last month, he host­ed a con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where he yelled, “Hail Trump, hail our peo­ple, hail vic­to­ry!” to enthu­si­as­tic Nazi salutes from the crowd.

    Spencer, who grew up in Dal­las, spends some of his time in White­fish, Mon­tana — where Zinke is from — and “a lot of time” in Arling­ton, Vir­ginia. He claims he is a Mon­tana res­i­dent. (The White­fish City Coun­cil, prompt­ed by Spencer’s pres­ence, passed a res­o­lu­tion in sup­port of diver­si­ty in 2014.) Although he has some local issues he cares about — “par­tic­u­lar­ly involv­ing state land” — he said that if he does run, he would see it as a way to reach a nation­al audi­ence, cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the atten­tion that Trump’s elec­tion has afford­ed his move­ment.

    “If I did this, it would not be some eccen­tric cam­paign that no one talks about and is a foot­note to his­to­ry,” he said. “It would become a major con­ver­sa­tion around the coun­try... just because of my pro­file in the alt-right. Again, I would only do it to win it.”

    Mon­tana only has one con­gres­sion­al seat, and in truth, the state isn’t even a sure bet for gar­den-vari­ety Repub­li­cans. (Mon­tana vot­ers just re-elect­ed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nor.) White nation­al­ists also don’t tend to win statewide polit­i­cal cam­paigns. For­mer Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, for exam­ple, ran for U.S. Sen­ate in Louisiana in Novem­ber and received a dis­mal 3 per­cent of the vote.

    But the idea that Spencer might court some dis­grun­tled white vot­ers isn’t total­ly far-fetched. Tay­lor Rose, the for­mer vice pres­i­dent of the Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion — called a racist group by the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter — ran for a Mon­tana House dis­trict seat this year. (Spencer was invit­ed to speak by the Van­der­bilt chap­ter of the Youth for West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion in 2010.) Rose lost, but earned 47 per­cent of the dis­trict vote. He also received sup­port from main­stream Mon­tana Repub­li­cans. Greg Gian­forte, who was run­ning as the GOP can­di­date for gov­er­nor, and his wife, Susan, each gave Rose $170, the max­i­mum dona­tion.

    Mon­tana Repub­li­can Chair­man Jeff Ess­mann told Huff­Post that he hadn’t heard Spencer was con­sid­er­ing run­ning. But, he added, “I’m guess­ing most quar­ters of the Repub­li­can Par­ty in Mon­tana would look skep­ti­cal­ly at Mr. Spencer.”

    When asked whether he would per­son­al­ly be skep­ti­cal of such a run, Ess­mann replied, “I don’t get a vote in the process, I just chair the meet­ing.”

    A Mon­tana Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gist told Huff­Post, “I think that it’s incum­bent upon the Mon­tana Repub­li­can Par­ty to denounce this imme­di­ate­ly, and not enter­tain the notion of his can­di­da­cy at all.”

    Spencer acknowl­edged that pri­or to the ascent of Trump, who has promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico bor­der, he would have not con­sid­ered a polit­i­cal cam­paign on this lev­el. He didn’t pre­dict a “break­through” so soon, he said, or that “we would have been sling­shot­ted into the main­stream by Don­ald Trump.”

    “I just nev­er would have imag­ined that,” he said.

    ...

    Spencer acknowl­edged that pri­or to the ascent of Trump, who has promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico bor­der, he would have not con­sid­ered a polit­i­cal cam­paign on this lev­el. He didn’t pre­dict a “break­through” so soon, he said, or that “we would have been sling­shot­ted into the main­stream by Don­ald Trump.””

    Trumpian inspi­ra­tion in action. #MAGA.

    And in oth­er oth­er Richard Spencer-relat­ed news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 19, 2016, 4:12 pm
  7. Here’s a reminder that if we do see a “Brown­shirts” phe­nom­e­na arise under a Trump admin­is­tra­tion it might involve brown mil­i­tary vehi­cles too. Or per­haps tan-ish, as in the case of the fol­low­ing mys­tery mil­i­tary con­voy of what appear to be pro-Trump sur­plus mil­i­tary vehi­cles:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Livewire

    Mys­tery Con­voy Of ‘Mil­i­tary’ Vehi­cles Fly­ing ‘Trump’ Flag Spot­ted In Ken­tucky

    By Esme Cribb
    Pub­lished Jan­u­ary 30, 2017, 6:30 PM EDT

    A con­voy of mil­i­tary vehi­cles fly­ing a “Trump” flag was caught on video dri­ving through Louisville, Ken­tucky, on Sun­day.

    In the record­ing, four vehi­cles—the first fly­ing a blue flag with “TRUMP” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” embla­zoned in white—dri­ve down Inter­state 65, accord­ing to a report by the Couri­er-Jour­nal.

    Indi­vis­i­bleKY, a self-described activist orga­ni­za­tion formed after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s 2016 elec­tion vic­to­ry, post­ed video of the con­voy on its web­site on Mon­day.

    Chris Rowzee, a spokes­woman for Indi­vis­i­bleKY, said she was “dis­turbed” to see the flag on a mil­i­tary vehi­cle.

    “To show a par­ti­san polit­i­cal lean­ing on a mil­i­tary vehi­cle is very rem­i­nis­cent of Nazi Ger­many,” she said, as quot­ed by the Couri­er-Jour­nal.

    Defense Depart­ment spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis said that it would vio­late reg­u­la­tions to fly that flag on a mil­i­tary vehi­cle.

    “That is not stan­dard pro­ce­dure,” he said as quot­ed in the report.

    Davis said it would also vio­late reg­u­la­tions to run a mil­i­tary con­voy with no unit mark­ings on the vehi­cles, and said he did not think the vehi­cles belonged to any ser­vice branch. Per the report, he sug­gest­ed that they were mil­i­tary sur­plus.

    Tracey Met­calf, admin­is­tra­tor for the Mil­i­tary Vehi­cle Preser­va­tion Asso­ci­a­tion, said the col­or of the con­voy sug­gests the vehi­cles did or do belong to the Army.

    Patrick Hodges, a spokesman for Ft. Knox, told the Couri­er-Jour­nal that the con­voy was not theirs, as did Maj. Stephen Mar­tin, direc­tor of pub­lic affairs for the Ken­tucky Nation­al Guard.

    Army spokes­woman Lt. Col. Jen­nifer John­son said that pho­tos of the vehi­cles were “too blur­ry to say if they belonged to Army units,” accord­ing to the report.

    ...

    “Davis said it would also vio­late reg­u­la­tions to run a mil­i­tary con­voy with no unit mark­ings on the vehi­cles, and said he did not think the vehi­cles belonged to any ser­vice branch. Per the report, he sug­gest­ed that they were mil­i­tary sur­plus.”

    Well, let’s hope that was­n’t an actu­al mil­i­tary con­voy, although the prospect that some Trumpian fan club has its own mini-mobile bat­tal­ion isn’t exact­ly reas­sur­ing. And who knows if we’ll ever get any res­o­lu­tion on the nature of the mys­tery con­voy. But it’s the kind of dis­turb­ing sto­ry that’s as good an excuse as any to remind our­selves that Erik Prince, founder of Black­wa­ter and broth­er of the new Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVoss, has good rea­son to fly a Trump flag on his mil­i­tary con­voys

    TRT World

    The noto­ri­ous Erik Prince set to make a come­back under Trump
    The for­mer head of pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm Black­wa­ter is report­ed­ly advis­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from behind the scenes. We look at Prince’s con­tro­ver­sies, past and present.

    Baba Umar
    Jan 23, 2017
    Updat­ed Jan 24, 2017

    Erik Prince, the for­mer Black­wa­ter CEO and noto­ri­ous US Navy SEAL vet­er­an, may seem like a rel­ic of the past. His name, like the pri­vate secu­ri­ty agency he head­ed, was tied to some of the most egre­gious abus­es of the Bush era.

    But he may be mak­ing a come­back, this time as a backchan­nel advi­sor on intel­li­gence and secu­ri­ty mat­ters to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, The Inter­cept report­ed on Tues­day..

    It’s unclear when Prince made his way into Trump’s inner cir­cle, but he has made siz­able con­tri­bu­tions to the pro-Trump Polit­i­cal Action Com­mit­tee (PAC). The Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (FEC) fil­ings for the PAC shows he made a con­tri­bu­tion of $100,000 in Sep­tem­ber 2016 to their efforts. His moth­er Elisa Prince also gave $50,000 to the com­mit­tee.

    Prince’s sis­ter Bet­sy DeVos is Trump’s Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion choice. DeVos court­ed con­tro­ver­sy dur­ing her hear­ing on Jan­u­ary 17, when the pro­gres­sive Demo­c­rat Mass­a­chu­setts Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren grilled her over her com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing stu­dents from cheat­ing by for-prof­it col­leges and lat­er wrote on her Face­book post that “I don’t see how she (DeVos) can be the sec­re­tary of edu­ca­tion.”

    The prox­im­i­ty of Prince — who gained noto­ri­ety after his mil­i­tary con­tract­ing firm killed over a dozen Iraqi civil­ians — to Trump is sure to ruf­fle some feath­ers.

    Here’s a look back at Prince’s che­quered past and why the world may have rea­son to wor­ry about his close­ness to the 45th pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States:

    Blackwater’s Iraq killings

    In 2007, Prince’s pri­vate mer­ce­nary forces were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, includ­ing chil­dren, in a mass shoot­ing that pro­voked glob­al out­rage and caused fur­ther strain to the rela­tion­ship between Wash­ing­ton and Bagh­dad.

    I put myself and my com­pa­ny at the CIA’s dis­pos­al for some very risky mis­sions. But when it became polit­i­cal­ly expe­di­ent to do so, some­one threw me under the bus. — Erik Prince, Jan­u­ary 2010

    In 2014, four Black­wa­ter employ­ees were tried and con­vict­ed for manslaugh­ter and mur­der.

    Now, near­ly a decade lat­er, the killings remain one of the dark­est chap­ters of the US occu­pa­tion of Iraq. It also led to impor­tant ques­tions about the US Army’s reliance on pri­vate con­trac­tors, and whether out­sourc­ing was a way to avoid over­sight. Black­wa­ter was accused of act­ing out­side either US or Iraqi law, and even of threat­en­ing US State Depart­ment offi­cials.

    Prince sold the com­pa­ny in 2009. Under its new own­er­ship, the com­pa­ny was twice renamed, first as XE, and lat­er as Acad­e­mi.

    In his 2014 mem­oir, Prince claimed to divulge the entire sto­ry of Black­wa­ter, writ­ing in the intro­duc­tion:

    There is much the gov­ern­ment doesn’t want told about the work we did: the truth about our State Department–sanctioned opera­tional tac­tics in Iraq, for instance, includ­ing our rules of engage­ment; or Blackwater’s cru­cial involve­ment with Pres­i­dent Obama’s ever expand­ing ter­ror­ist-hunt­ing tac­tics in Pak­istan and beyond; or even the depth of gov­ern­ment reliance on con­trac­tors today and the out­sourc­ing of its war machine. Gov­ern­ment agen­cies don’t want that spot­light being shone on our work, nor to applaud the great­est advan­tage Black­wa­ter offered them: increased capa­bil­i­ty. They want increased deni­a­bil­i­ty.

    Fight­ing Daesh and revival of CIA “assas­si­na­tion ring”

    In an inter­view with the right-wing Bre­it­bart Newsowned by key Trump ally, Steve Ban­nonBan­non — in July 2016, Prince sug­gest­ed that one way for US to destroy Daesh was to revive a con­tro­ver­sial Viet­nam War-era CIA tor­ture and assas­si­na­tion cam­paign.

    Under the Phoenix Pro­gram (between 1965 and 1972), CIA offi­cers and the US Spe­cial Oper­a­tions troops con­duct­ed tor­ture and assas­si­na­tions to tar­get the Vietcong’s guer­ril­la net­works in South Viet­nam. The pro­gramme became one of the most noto­ri­ous chap­ters in the agen­cy’s his­to­ry, and was offi­cial­ly shut down in 1972.

    But Prince wants to revive it, argu­ing that it would help cap­ture or kill the “fun­ders of Islam­ic ter­ror and that would even be the wealthy rad­i­cal Islamist bil­lion­aires fund­ing it from the Mid­dle East, and any of the oth­er illic­it activ­i­ties they’re in.”

    It’s a shame the [Oba­ma] admin­is­tra­tion crushed my old busi­ness, because as a pri­vate organ­i­sa­tion, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had con­tracts from peo­ple that want to go there as con­trac­tors; you don’t have the argu­ment of US active duty going back in there — Erik Prince, Novem­ber 2013

    Part of the con­tro­ver­sy around Prince’s pre­vi­ous work was that pri­vate con­trac­tors were not sub­ject­ed to the same kind of legal over­sight and oblig­a­tions as the US mil­i­tary.

    Prince doesn’t think US troops are required on the ground to fight Daesh, but sup­ports using “local forces” with US back­ing — a strat­e­gy that could poten­tial­ly open the door to fur­ther lucra­tive con­tracts.

    Refugees enter­ing Europe from Libya

    Ear­li­er this month, Erik Prince wrote a dis­patch in The Finan­cial Times argu­ing that he has a solu­tion to pre­vent refugees from enter­ing Europe.

    Prince pro­posed “base camps” for Libyan mili­tias, who would receive ten weeks train­ing and be armed with sur­veil­lance drones and armed vehi­cles. He also wants to be involved in build­ing a new bor­der fence in Libya.

    The bor­der police, as he sees it, would work with West­ern pri­vate con­trac­tors from “a Euro­pean law enforce­ment back­ground.” The air oper­a­tions would like­wise be out­sourced to pri­vate con­trac­tors, as would the med­ical evac­u­a­tion ser­vices.

    “There would be nowhere for migrant smug­glers to hide: they can be detect­ed, detained and han­dled using a mix­ture of air and ground oper­a­tions,” he wrote.

    The bor­der police I estab­lished in Afghanistan used a sim­i­lar pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ship. Bor­der secu­ri­ty, cou­pled with a wide-rang­ing rede­vel­op­ment plan, is the only solu­tion for Libya. – Erik Prince, Jan­u­ary 2017

    Crit­ics, includ­ing author Belen Fer­nan­dez, argue the plan is aimed at mak­ing finan­cial gains from people’s mis­eries. Many Libyan mili­tias already have a poor track record in their treat­ment of refugees.

    “One thing is for cer­tain, though: that Prince’s ‘solu­tions’ aren’t aimed at any sort of res­o­lu­tion but rather at the per­pet­u­a­tion of strife in the inter­est of finan­cial gain,” she argued.

    UAE’s mer­ce­nary fight­ers

    In 2011, Erik Prince report­ed­ly cre­at­ed a secret desert force of Colom­bian mer­ce­nar­ies for the UAE. The New York Times report­ed that the Colom­bians had entered the oil-rich coun­try pos­ing as con­struc­tion work­ers. Accord­ing to the paper, the sol­diers were part of a secret US-led mer­ce­nary army being built by Erik Prince with $529 mil­lion from the Gulf emi­rate.

    Quot­ing doc­u­ments, the paper report­ed that, “the force intend­ed to con­duct spe­cial oper­a­tions mis­sions inside and out­side the coun­try, defend oil pipelines and sky­scrap­ers from ter­ror­ist attacks and put down inter­nal revolts.”

    Quelling pro-democ­ra­cy protests or the unrest in the UAE labour camps was part of the 800-strong battalion’s job. In 2015, the New York Times report­ed that the UAE dis­patched the same mer­ce­nary force to Yemen to fight the Houthi rebels.

    ...

    Behind-the-scenes sup­port to Trump

    Prince’s sis­ter Bet­sy DeVos is Trump’s Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion choice.

    Accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by The Inter­cept, Prince has been advis­ing Trump on secu­ri­ty issues behind the scenes for some time now.

    The New York Times colum­nist Mau­reen Dowd wrote that Prince attend­ed the annu­al “Vil­lains and Heroes” cos­tume ball in Decem­ber, host­ed by Rebekah Mer­cer. She is the daugh­ter of bil­lion­aire hedge fun­der Robert Mer­cer, who is one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s cam­paign.

    Dowd wrote that Peter Thiel, a staunch sup­port­er of Trump showed her “a pic­ture on his phone of him pos­ing with Erik Prince, who found­ed the pri­vate mil­i­tary com­pa­ny Black­wa­ter, and Mr. Trump — who had no cos­tume — but joke[d] that it was ‘NSFI’ (Not Safe for the Inter­net).”

    With the mantra of “coun­ter­ing Islam­ic extrem­ism” as his bat­tle cry, Prince sup­port­ed the rise of Trump as the US pres­i­dent who would bat­tle “ter­ror­ists” and “fas­cists.”

    “As for the world look­ing to the Unit­ed States for lead­er­ship, unfor­tu­nate­ly, I think they’re going to have to wait till Jan­u­ary and hope Mr. Trump is elect­ed because, clear­ly, our gen­er­als don’t have a stom­ach for a fight. Our Pres­i­dent doesn’t have a stom­ach for a fight and the ter­ror­ists, the facists, are win­ning,” Prince said in an inter­view last year.

    Behind the dis­course lies a clear eco­nom­ic inter­est —Prince lit­er­al­ly backs theft of Iraqi oil. He believes Trump’s idea to take Iraq’s oil as repay­ment for depos­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein “is not a bad one”:

    You could eas­i­ly dou­ble that, or triple that, so for Mr. Trump to say, ‘We’re going to take their oil’ – cer­tain­ly we’re not going to lift it out of there and take it some­where else, but putting it into pro­duc­tion, and putting a tolling arrange­ment into place, to repay the Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers for their efforts to remove Sad­dam and to sta­bi­lize the area, is doable, and very plau­si­ble. – Erik Prince, Sep­tem­ber 2016

    And should the Trump admin­is­tra­tion attempt to enforce such a pol­i­cy in Iraq, it seems like­ly Prince would want to have in on that too.

    “In an inter­view with the right-wing Bre­it­bart Newsowned by key Trump ally, Steve Ban­nonBan­non — in July 2016, Prince sug­gest­ed that one way for US to destroy Daesh was to revive a con­tro­ver­sial Viet­nam War-era CIA tor­ture and assas­si­na­tion cam­paign.”

    And not only does Prince want to see the CIA’s Phoenix Pro­gram revived, he wants it privatized...and also wants the tar­gets of this new assas­si­na­tion pro­gram to include wealthy Islamist bil­lion­aires fund­ing ISIS:

    ...
    Under the Phoenix Pro­gram (between 1965 and 1972), CIA offi­cers and the US Spe­cial Oper­a­tions troops con­duct­ed tor­ture and assas­si­na­tions to tar­get the Vietcong’s guer­ril­la net­works in South Viet­nam. The pro­gramme became one of the most noto­ri­ous chap­ters in the agen­cy’s his­to­ry, and was offi­cial­ly shut down in 1972.

    But Prince wants to revive it, argu­ing that it would help cap­ture or kill the “fun­ders of Islam­ic ter­ror and that would even be the wealthy rad­i­cal Islamist bil­lion­aires fund­ing it from the Mid­dle East, and any of the oth­er illic­it activ­i­ties they’re in.”

    It’s a shame the [Oba­ma] admin­is­tra­tion crushed my old busi­ness, because as a pri­vate organ­i­sa­tion, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had con­tracts from peo­ple that want to go there as con­trac­tors; you don’t have the argu­ment of US active duty going back in there — Erik Prince, Novem­ber 2013

    Part of the con­tro­ver­sy around Prince’s pre­vi­ous work was that pri­vate con­trac­tors were not sub­ject­ed to the same kind of legal over­sight and oblig­a­tions as the US mil­i­tary.

    Prince doesn’t think US troops are required on the ground to fight Daesh, but sup­ports using “local forces” with US back­ing — a strat­e­gy that could poten­tial­ly open the door to fur­ther lucra­tive con­tracts.

    ...

    “But Prince wants to revive it, argu­ing that it would help cap­ture or kill the “fun­ders of Islam­ic ter­ror and that would even be the wealthy rad­i­cal Islamist bil­lion­aires fund­ing it from the Mid­dle East, and any of the oth­er illic­it activ­i­ties they’re in.””

    So we’ll see if Prince man­ages to con­vince Trump to unleash a pri­va­tized assas­si­na­tion pro­gram tar­get­ing wealthy Mid­dle East­ern bil­lion­aires financ­ing ter­ror groups. But if a num­ber of Per­sian Gulf roy­al­ty sud­den­ly suc­cumb to a bout of ‘lead poi­son­ing’, that’s a pret­ty strong sign that Erik Prince got his wish. It’ll also be a strong sign that US rela­tions in the Mid­dle East are about to get extra com­pli­cat­ed.

    And who knows who else might end up on the assas­si­na­tion-for-hire list. All we know at this point is that Prince has big plans to take on ISIS...for hire...by reviv­ing and pri­va­tiz­ing the Phoenix Pro­gram. For Trump. And per­haps Erik Prince him­self.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 30, 2017, 8:07 pm
  8. It’s looks like we got an answer regard­ing who was dri­ving the mys­tery con­voy of mil­i­tary vehi­cles with no iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and led by a vehi­cle with big “Trump” flag: it belonged to a Navy SEAL unit:

    ABC News

    Mil­i­tary Con­voy Fly­ing Trump Flag Belonged to SEAL Unit

    By Luis Mar­tinez

    Feb 1, 2017, 8:39 PM ET

    The mil­i­tary con­voy spot­ted on Sun­day fly­ing a Don­ald Trump flag near Louisville belonged to an East Coast-based SEAL unit, a Navy spokesper­son told ABC News.

    Mil­i­tary offi­cials have launched an inquiry to deter­mine if any mis­con­duct can be linked to the inci­dent. Reg­u­la­tions do not per­mit an unau­tho­rized flag on a mil­i­tary vehi­cle.

    ...

    The video shot on Sun­day on a high­way near Louisville showed the lead vehi­cle of a con­voy fly­ing a large blue Don­ald Trump flag from an anten­na.

    The vehi­cles did not have any iden­ti­fi­able mark­ings and the mys­tery deep­ened when local mil­i­tary bases in Ken­tucky said that the vehi­cles did not belong to their units.

    “The con­voy were ser­vice mem­bers assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Spe­cial War­fare unit dri­ving vehi­cles while tran­sit­ing between two train­ing loca­tions,” Lieu­tenant Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesper­son for Naval Spe­cial War­fare Group 2, told ABC News. Naval Spe­cial War­fare Units is the offi­cial Navy term for its elite SEAL spe­cial oper­a­tions teams.

    Maxwell said that Fort Knox, near Louisville, is used by Naval Spe­cial War­fare units for rou­tine train­ing.

    The spokesper­son said that a com­mand inquiry has been ini­ti­at­ed to deter­mine what flag was being flown by the vehi­cle in the con­voy.

    “Defense Depart­ment and Navy reg­u­la­tions pre­scribe flags and pen­nants that may be dis­played as well as the man­ner of dis­play,” said Maxwell. “The flag shown in the video was unau­tho­rized.”

    Though known as SEAL units, Navy Spe­cial War­fare Units con­sist of many sup­port staff, Maxwell said, so the occu­pants of the vehi­cle fly­ing the flag may not have been SEALs.

    If the inquiry deter­mines there was mis­con­duct involved in the inci­dent, Maxwell said the unit com­man­der will “make a dis­po­si­tion deci­sion as to the appro­pri­ate admin­is­tra­tive or dis­ci­pli­nary action”.

    ““The con­voy were ser­vice mem­bers assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Spe­cial War­fare unit dri­ving vehi­cles while tran­sit­ing between two train­ing loca­tions,” Lieu­tenant Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesper­son for Naval Spe­cial War­fare Group 2, told ABC News. Naval Spe­cial War­fare Units is the offi­cial Navy term for its elite SEAL spe­cial oper­a­tions teams.”

    Well, that’s rather odd. And a bit icky. Although keep in mind that this pub­lic dis­play of Trump-affec­tion took place on Sun­day. And that was­n’t a total­ly ran­dom day in terms of Don­ald Trump’s rela­tion­ship with the Navy SEALs. Quite the oppo­site:

    The New York Times

    Raid in Yemen: Risky From the Start and Cost­ly in the End

    By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER
    FEB. 1, 2017

    WASHINGTON — Just five days after tak­ing office, over din­ner with his new­ly installed sec­re­tary of defense and the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pres­i­dent Trump was pre­sent­ed with the first of what will be many life-or-death deci­sions: whether to approve a com­man­do raid that risked the lives of Amer­i­can Spe­cial Oper­a­tions forces and for­eign civil­ians alike.

    Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nation­al secu­ri­ty aides had reviewed the plans for a risky attack on a small, heav­i­ly guard­ed brick home of a senior Qae­da col­lab­o­ra­tor in a moun­tain­ous vil­lage in a remote part of cen­tral Yemen. But Mr. Oba­ma did not act because the Pen­ta­gon want­ed to launch the attack on a moon­less night and the next one would come after his term had end­ed.

    With two of his clos­est advis­ers, Jared Kush­n­er and Stephen K. Ban­non, join­ing the din­ner at the White House along with Defense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and Gen. Joseph F. Dun­ford Jr., Mr. Trump approved send­ing in the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, hop­ing the raid ear­ly last Sun­day would scoop up cell­phones and lap­top com­put­ers that could yield valu­able clues about one of the world’s most dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ist groups. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Michael T. Fly­nn, the nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, also attend­ed the din­ner.

    As it turned out, almost every­thing that could go wrong did. And on Wednes­day, Mr. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present as the body of the Amer­i­can com­man­do killed in the raid was returned home, the first mil­i­tary death on the new com­man­der in chief’s watch.

    The death of Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and mis­judg­ments that plunged the elite com­man­dos into a fero­cious 50-minute fire­fight that also left three oth­ers wound­ed and a $75 mil­lion air­craft delib­er­ate­ly destroyed. There are alle­ga­tions — which the Pen­ta­gon acknowl­edged on Wednes­day night are most like­ly cor­rect — that the mis­sion also killed sev­er­al civil­ians, includ­ing some chil­dren. The dead include, by the account of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the 8‑year-old daugh­ter of Anwar al-Awla­ki, the Amer­i­can-born Qae­da leader who was killed in a tar­get­ed drone strike in 2011.

    Mr. Trump on Sun­day hailed his first coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tion as a suc­cess, claim­ing the com­man­dos cap­tured “impor­tant intel­li­gence that will assist the U.S. in pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ism against its cit­i­zens and peo­ple around the world.” A state­ment by the military’s Cen­tral Com­mand on Wednes­day night that acknowl­edged the like­li­hood of civil­ian casu­al­ties also said that the recov­ered mate­ri­als had pro­vid­ed some ini­tial infor­ma­tion help­ful to coun­tert­er­ror­ism ana­lysts. The state­ment did not pro­vide details.

    But the mission’s casu­al­ties raise doubts about the months of detailed plan­ning that went into the oper­a­tion dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and whether the right ques­tions were raised before its approval. Typ­i­cal­ly, the president’s advis­ers lay out the risks, but Pen­ta­gon offi­cials declined to char­ac­ter­ize any dis­cus­sions with Mr. Trump.

    A senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said on Wednes­day night that the Defense Depart­ment had con­duct­ed a legal review of the oper­a­tion that Mr. Trump approved and that a Pen­ta­gon lawyer had signed off on it.

    Mr. Trump’s new nation­al secu­ri­ty team, led by Mr. Fly­nn, the for­mer head of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency and a retired gen­er­al with expe­ri­ence in coun­tert­er­ror­ism raids, has said that it wants to speed the deci­sion-mak­ing when it comes to such strikes, del­e­gat­ing more pow­er to low­er-lev­el offi­cials so that the mil­i­tary may respond more quick­ly. Indeed, the Pen­ta­gon is draft­ing such plans to accel­er­ate activ­i­ties against the Qae­da branch in Yemen.

    But doing that also rais­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty of error. “You can mit­i­gate risk in mis­sions like this, but you can’t mit­i­gate risk down to zero,” said William Wech­sler, a for­mer top coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial at the Pen­ta­gon.

    In this case, the assault force of sev­er­al dozen com­man­dos, which also includ­ed elite sol­diers from the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, was jinxed from the start. Qae­da fight­ers were some­how tipped off to the stealthy advance toward the vil­lage — per­haps by the whine of Amer­i­can drones that local trib­al lead­ers said were fly­ing low­er and loud­er than usu­al.

    Through a com­mu­ni­ca­tions inter­cept, the com­man­dos knew that the mis­sion had been some­how com­pro­mised, but pressed on toward their tar­get rough­ly five miles from where they had been flown into the area. “They kind of knew they were screwed from the begin­ning,” one for­mer SEAL Team 6 offi­cial said.

    With the cru­cial ele­ment of sur­prise lost, the Amer­i­cans and Emi­ratis found them­selves in a gun bat­tle with Qae­da fight­ers who took up posi­tions in oth­er hous­es, a clin­ic, a school and a mosque, often using women and chil­dren as cov­er, Amer­i­can mil­i­tary offi­cials said in inter­views this week.

    The com­man­dos were tak­en aback when some of the women grabbed weapons and start­ed fir­ing, mul­ti­ply­ing the mil­i­tant fire­pow­er beyond what they had expect­ed. The Amer­i­cans called in airstrikes from heli­copter gun­ships and fight­er air­craft that helped kill some 14 Qae­da fight­ers, but not before an MV-22 Osprey air­craft involved in the oper­a­tion expe­ri­enced a “hard land­ing,” injur­ing three more Amer­i­can per­son­nel on board. The Osprey, which the Marine Corps said cost $75 mil­lion, was bad­ly dam­aged and had to be destroyed by an airstrike.

    The raid, some details of which were first report­ed by The Wash­ing­ton Post, also destroyed much of the vil­lage of Yak­la, and left senior Yemeni gov­ern­ment offi­cials seething. Yemen’s for­eign min­is­ter, Abdul Malik Al Mekhlafi, con­demned the raid on Mon­day in a post on his offi­cial Twit­ter account as “extra­ju­di­cial killings.”

    Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni fel­low for Reprieve, a Lon­don-based human rights group, said he spoke by phone to a trib­al sheikh in the vil­lage, Jab­br Abu Soraima, who told him: “Peo­ple were afraid to leave their hous­es because the sound of chop­pers and drones were all over the sky. Every­one feared of being hit by the drones or shot by the sol­diers on the ground.”

    After ini­tial­ly deny­ing there were any civil­ian casu­al­ties, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials back­tracked some­what on Sun­day after reports from the Yemeni author­i­ties begin trick­ling in and gris­ly pho­tographs of bloody chil­dren pur­port­ed­ly killed in the attack appeared on social media sites affil­i­at­ed with Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

    Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pen­ta­gon spokesman, said on Mon­day that some of the women were com­bat­ants.

    The oper­a­tion was the first known Amer­i­can-led ground mis­sion in Yemen since Decem­ber 2014, when mem­bers of SEAL Team 6 stormed a vil­lage in south­ern Yemen in an effort to free an Amer­i­can pho­to­jour­nal­ist held hostage by Al Qae­da. But the raid end­ed with the kid­nap­pers killing the jour­nal­ist and a South African held with him.

    ...

    The death of Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer William Owens came after a chain of mishaps and mis­judg­ments that plunged the elite com­man­dos into a fero­cious 50-minute fire­fight that also left three oth­ers wound­ed and a $75 mil­lion air­craft delib­er­ate­ly destroyed. There are alle­ga­tions — which the Pen­ta­gon acknowl­edged on Wednes­day night are most like­ly cor­rect — that the mis­sion also killed sev­er­al civil­ians, includ­ing some chil­dren. The dead include, by the account of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, the 8‑year-old daugh­ter of Anwar al-Awla­ki, the Amer­i­can-born Qae­da leader who was killed in a tar­get­ed drone strike in 2011.”

    So the Navy SEAL con­voy led by a Trump flag was spot­ted not too long after the very first mil­i­tary oper­a­tion signed off by Trump goes awry and ends up with the death of a Navy SEAL. You have to won­der if that’s a coin­ci­dence.

    You also have to won­der how wide­ly that love for Trump is shared among the mil­i­tary per­son­nel direct­ly involved with the raid giv­en the reports from the Pen­ta­gon that appear to be blam­ing Trump, in part, for the dis­as­trous out­come:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    Pen­ta­gon Points Fin­ger of Blame at Trump

    By Josh Mar­shall
    Pub­lished Feb­ru­ary 1, 2017, 11:59 PM EDT

    It now seems clear the spe­cial ops raid in Yemen did not go accord­ing to plan and it went bad­ly. This Times account relates a “a chain of mishaps and mis­judg­ments that plunged the elite com­man­dos into a fero­cious 50-minute fire­fight that also left three oth­ers wound­ed and a $75 mil­lion air­craft delib­er­ate­ly destroyed.” Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer William Owens was killed in the oper­a­tion. There also appear to have been a large num­ber of civil­ian casu­al­ties.

    Obvi­ous­ly, not every mil­i­tary oper­a­tion is suc­cess­ful. But there is an extra­or­di­nary pas­sage in this arti­cle just out from Reuters. What Reuters iden­ti­fies as “U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cials” says that “[Pres­i­dent] Trump approved his first covert coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tion with­out suf­fi­cient intel­li­gence, ground sup­port or ade­quate back­up prepa­ra­tions.

    As a result, three offi­cials said, the attack­ing SEAL team found itself drop­ping onto a rein­forced al Qae­da base defend­ed by land­mines, snipers, and a larg­er than expect­ed con­tin­gent of heav­i­ly armed Islamist extrem­ists.

    The Pen­ta­gon direct­ed queries about the offi­cials’ char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the raid to U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand. The lat­ter point­ed only to its state­ment on Wednes­day.

    This is an extra­or­di­nary and yet also ambigu­ous state­ment. It sug­gests that Trump some­how jumped the gun, approv­ing the mis­sion with­out ade­quate intel­li­gence or sup­port. But of course mis­sions come to the Pres­i­dent through a chain of com­mand. If there’s not enough oper­a­tional intel­li­gence, he should be told that by his mil­i­tary advi­sors. It’s not like the Pres­i­dent can dial into troops in the region direct­ly and order a strike. Avail­able reports sug­gest that the deci­sion was made at a din­ner the Pres­i­dent had with Sec­re­tary Mat­tis, the Joint Chiefs Chair­man Dun­ford, Steve Ban­non, Mike Fly­nn, Jared Kush­n­er and Vice Pres­i­dent Pence. Dun­ford is the Pres­i­den­t’s chief mil­i­tary advi­sor and Mat­tis is the imme­di­ate link in the chain of com­mand. So the high­est lev­el peo­ple were there to give the Pres­i­dent what­ev­er infor­ma­tion he need­ed.

    Did Trump press for a more aggres­sive pol­i­cy than his advi­sors coun­seled? Are they blam­ing the Pres­i­dent for oper­a­tional short­com­ings in the mil­i­tary plan­ning? What­ev­er the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion, what seems most ger­mane is that mil­i­tary offi­cials (at least on a fair read­ing of this Reuters report) seem to be throw­ing the Com­man­der-in-Chief under the bus. That is a big deal whether they’re point­ing out his poor deci­sion mak­ing or cov­er­ing up for their own.

    Some indi­ca­tion may come from this pas­sage in the arti­cle from the Times ...

    Mr. Trump’s new nation­al secu­ri­ty team, led by Mr. Fly­nn, the for­mer head of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency and a retired gen­er­al with expe­ri­ence in coun­tert­er­ror­ism raids, has said that it wants to speed the deci­sion-mak­ing when it comes to such strikes, del­e­gat­ing more pow­er to low­er-lev­el offi­cials so that the mil­i­tary may respond more quick­ly. Indeed, the Pen­ta­gon is draft­ing such plans to accel­er­ate activ­i­ties against the Qae­da branch in Yemen.

    But doing that also rais­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty of error. “You can mit­i­gate risk in mis­sions like this, but you can’t mit­i­gate risk down to zero,” said William Wech­sler, a for­mer top coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial at the Pen­ta­gon.

    Some mis­sions just go wrong. On its own I’m not sure we could draw more con­clu­sions than that. But the com­ments in the Reuters arti­cle make clear that some mil­i­tary offi­cials are will­ing to point the fin­ger of blame at the Pres­i­dent. Again, that is a big deal whether it is a fair char­ac­ter­i­za­tion or not.

    “Did Trump press for a more aggres­sive pol­i­cy than his advi­sors coun­seled? Are they blam­ing the Pres­i­dent for oper­a­tional short­com­ings in the mil­i­tary plan­ning? What­ev­er the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion, what seems most ger­mane is that mil­i­tary offi­cials (at least on a fair read­ing of this Reuters report) seem to be throw­ing the Com­man­der-in-Chief under the bus. That is a big deal whether they’re point­ing out his poor deci­sion mak­ing or cov­er­ing up for their own.”

    While it may be ambigu­ous as far as what role Trump may have per­son­al­ly played in the out­come of the raid, it’s pret­ty clear that there are at least a few mil­i­tary offi­cials involved who won’t be sport­ing a Trump flag on their vehi­cles any times soon.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 2, 2017, 3:11 pm
  9. The Wash­ing­ton Post has a poten­tial bomb­shell piece about a secret back chan­nel set up dur­ing the Trump tran­si­tion peri­od between the Trump team and Moscow. And here’s the kick­er: Erik Prince was the Trump team’s go-between. And while it might be tempt­ing to assume that this lat­est rev­e­la­tion of ties between the Trump team and Rus­sia fur­ther val­i­dates the ‘Trump is a pawn of the Krem­lin’ sus­pi­cions, the fact that the back chan­nel appears to have been set up for the pur­pose of qui­et­ly explor­ing what the US would have to offer Rus­sia in order to get Moscow to drop its sup­port for Tehran points towards a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion that we should also be high­ly sus­pi­cious of and alarmed by: that Trump is a pawn of the neo­cons and Gulf monar­chies who real­ly want to see a war with Iran:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Black­wa­ter founder held secret Sey­chelles meet­ing to estab­lish Trump-Putin back chan­nel

    By Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff and Karen DeY­oung
    April 3, 2017 at 4:29 PM

    The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates arranged a secret meet­ing in Jan­u­ary between Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince and a Russ­ian close to Pres­i­dent Vladi­mir Putin as part of an appar­ent effort to estab­lish a back-chan­nel line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Moscow and Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, accord­ing to U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials.

    The meet­ing took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion — in the Sey­chelles islands in the Indi­an Ocean, offi­cials said. Though the full agen­da remains unclear, the UAE agreed to bro­ker the meet­ing in part to explore whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia, a Trump admin­is­tra­tion objec­tive that would be like­ly to require major con­ces­sions to Moscow on U.S. sanc­tions.

    Though Prince had no for­mal role with the Trump cam­paign or tran­si­tion team, he pre­sent­ed him­self as an unof­fi­cial envoy for Trump to high-rank­ing Emi­ratis involved in set­ting up his meet­ing with the Putin con­fi­dant, accord­ing to the offi­cials, who did not iden­ti­fy the Russ­ian.

    Prince was an avid sup­port­er of Trump. After the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, he con­tributed $250,000 to Trump’s cam­paign, the nation­al par­ty and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mer­cer, records show. He has ties to peo­ple in Trump’s cir­cle, includ­ing Stephen K. Ban­non, now serv­ing as the president’s chief strate­gist and senior coun­selor. Prince’s sis­ter Bet­sy DeVos serves as edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. And Prince was seen in the Trump tran­si­tion offices in New York in Decem­ber.

    U.S. offi­cials said the FBI has been scru­ti­niz­ing the Sey­chelles meet­ing as part of a broad­er probe of Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion and alleged con­tacts between asso­ciates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to com­ment.

    The Sey­chelles encounter, which one offi­cial said spanned two days, adds to an expand­ing web of con­nec­tions between Rus­sia and Amer­i­cans with ties to Trump — con­tacts that the White House has been reluc­tant to acknowl­edge or explain until they have been exposed by news orga­ni­za­tions.

    “We are not aware of any meet­ings, and Erik Prince had no role in the tran­si­tion,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press sec­re­tary.

    A Prince spokesman said in a state­ment: “Erik had no role on the tran­si­tion team. This is a com­plete fab­ri­ca­tion. The meet­ing had noth­ing to do with Pres­i­dent Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty mess­ing around with sur­veil­lance of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens when they should be hunt­ing ter­ror­ists?”

    Prince is best known as the founder of Black­wa­ter, a secu­ri­ty firm that became a sym­bol of U.S. abus­es in Iraq after a series of inci­dents, includ­ing one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and lat­er crim­i­nal­ly con­vict­ed — of killing civil­ians in a crowd­ed Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was sub­se­quent­ly re-brand­ed, but has con­tin­ued build­ing a pri­vate para­mil­i­tary empire with con­tracts across the Mid­dle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based com­pa­ny known as the Fron­tier Ser­vices Group.

    Prince would prob­a­bly have been seen as too con­tro­ver­sial to serve in any offi­cial capac­i­ty in the Trump tran­si­tion or admin­is­tra­tion. But his ties to Trump advis­ers, expe­ri­ence with clan­des­tine work and rela­tion­ship with the roy­al lead­ers of the Emi­rates — where he moved in 2010 amid mount­ing legal prob­lems for his Amer­i­can busi­ness — would have posi­tioned him as an ide­al go-between.

    The Sey­chelles meet­ing came after sep­a­rate pri­vate dis­cus­sions in New York involv­ing high-rank­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Trump with both Moscow and the Emi­rates.

    The White House has acknowl­edged that Michael T. Fly­nn, Trump’s orig­i­nal nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, and Trump advis­er and son-in-law Jared Kush­n­er met with the Russ­ian ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States, Sergey Kislyak, in late Novem­ber or ear­ly Decem­ber in New York.

    Fly­nn and Kush­n­er were joined by Ban­non for a sep­a­rate meet­ing with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undis­closed vis­it to New York lat­er in Decem­ber, accord­ing to the U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mat­ters.

    In an unusu­al breach of pro­to­col, the UAE did not noti­fy the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion in advance of the vis­it, though offi­cials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight man­i­fest.

    Offi­cials said Zayed and his broth­er, the UAE’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, coor­di­nat­ed the Sey­chelles meet­ing with Russ­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials with the goal of estab­lish­ing an unof­fi­cial back chan­nel between Trump and Putin.

    Offi­cials said Zayed want­ed to be help­ful to both lead­ers, who had talked about work­ing more close­ly togeth­er, a pol­i­cy objec­tive long advo­cat­ed by the crown prince. The UAE, which sees Iran as one of its main ene­mies, also shared the Trump team’s inter­est in find­ing ways to dri­ve a wedge between Moscow and Tehran.

    Zayed met twice with Putin in 2016, accord­ing to West­ern offi­cials, and urged the Russ­ian leader to work more close­ly with the Emi­rates and Sau­di Ara­bia — an effort to iso­late Iran.

    At the time of the Sey­chelles meet­ing and for weeks after­ward, the UAE believed that Prince had the bless­ing of the new admin­is­tra­tion to act as its unof­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The Russ­ian par­tic­i­pant was a per­son whom Zayed knew was close to Putin from his inter­ac­tions with both men, the offi­cials said.

    Scruti­ny over Rus­sia

    When the Sey­chelles meet­ing took place, offi­cial con­tacts between mem­bers of the incom­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment were under intense scruti­ny, both from fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors and the press.

    Less than a week before the Sey­chelles meet­ing, U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies released a report accus­ing Rus­sia of inter­ven­ing clan­des­tine­ly dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion to help Trump win the White House.

    The FBI was already inves­ti­gat­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between Fly­nn and Kislyak. The Wash­ing­ton Post’s David Ignatius first dis­closed those com­mu­ni­ca­tions on Jan. 12, around the time of the Sey­chelles meet­ing. Fly­nn was sub­se­quent­ly fired by Trump for mis­lead­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and oth­ers about his dis­cus­sions with Kislyak.

    Yousef Al Otai­ba, the UAE’s ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, declined to com­ment.

    ...

    The lev­el of dis­cre­tion sur­round­ing the Sey­chelles meet­ing seems extra­or­di­nary giv­en the fre­quen­cy with which senior Trump advis­ers, includ­ing Fly­nn and Kush­n­er, had inter­act­ed with Russ­ian offi­cials in the Unit­ed States, includ­ing at the high-pro­file Trump Tow­er in New York.

    Steven Simon, a Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil senior direc­tor for the Mid­dle East and North Africa in the Oba­ma White House, said: “The idea of using busi­ness cutouts, or indi­vid­u­als per­ceived to be close to polit­i­cal lead­ers, as a tool of diplo­ma­cy is as old as the hills. These unof­fi­cial chan­nels are desir­able pre­cise­ly because they are deni­able; ideas can be test­ed with­out the risk of fail­ure.”

    Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials said that while Prince refrained from play­ing a direct role in the Trump tran­si­tion, his name sur­faced so fre­quent­ly in inter­nal dis­cus­sions that he seemed to func­tion as an out­side advis­er whose opin­ions were val­ued on a range of issues, includ­ing plans for over­haul­ing the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.

    He appears to have par­tic­u­lar­ly close ties to Ban­non, appear­ing mul­ti­ple times on the Bre­it­bart satel­lite radio pro­gram and web­site that Ban­non ran before join­ing the Trump cam­paign.

    In a July inter­view with Ban­non, Prince said those seek­ing force­ful U.S. lead­er­ship should “wait till Jan­u­ary and hope Mr. Trump is elect­ed.” And he lashed out at Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, say­ing that because of his poli­cies “the ter­ror­ists, the fas­cists, are win­ning.”

    Days before the Novem­ber elec­tion, Prince appeared on the Bre­it­bart radio pro­gram, say­ing that he had “well-placed sources” in the New York City Police Depart­ment telling him they were prepar­ing to make arrests in the inves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer con­gress­man Antho­ny Wein­er (D‑N.Y.) over alle­ga­tions he exchanged sex­u­al­ly explic­it texts with a minor. Fly­nn tweet­ed a link to the Bre­it­bart report on the claim. No arrests occurred.

    Prince went on to make unfound­ed asser­tions that dam­ag­ing mate­r­i­al recov­ered from Weiner’s com­put­ers would impli­cate Hillary Clin­ton and her close advis­er, Huma Abe­din, who was mar­ried to Wein­er. He also called Abe­din an “agent of influ­ence very sym­pa­thet­ic to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.”

    Prince and his fam­i­ly were major GOP donors in 2016. The Cen­ter for Respon­sive Pol­i­tics report­ed that the fam­i­ly gave more than $10 mil­lion to GOP can­di­dates and super PACs, includ­ing about $2.7 mil­lion from his sis­ter, DeVos, and her hus­band.

    Prince’s father, Edgar Prince, built his for­tune through an auto-parts com­pa­ny. Bet­sy mar­ried Richard DeVos Jr., heir to the Amway for­tune.

    Erik Prince has had lucra­tive con­tracts with the UAE gov­ern­ment, which at one point paid his firm a report­ed $529 mil­lion to help bring in for­eign fight­ers to help assem­ble an inter­nal para­mil­i­tary force capa­ble of car­ry­ing out secret oper­a­tions and pro­tect­ing Emi­rati instal­la­tions from ter­ror­ist attacks.

    Focus on Iran

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the UAE appear to share a sim­i­lar pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with Iran. Cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials said that Trump advis­ers were focused through­out the tran­si­tion peri­od on explor­ing ways to get Moscow to break ranks with Tehran.

    “Sep­a­rat­ing Rus­sia from Iran was a com­mon theme,” said a for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion who met with Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials. “It didn’t seem very well thought out. It seemed a lit­tle pre­ma­ture. They clear­ly had a very spe­cif­ic pol­i­cy posi­tion, which I found odd giv­en that they hadn’t even tak­en the reins and explored with experts in the U.S. gov­ern­ment the pros and cons of that approach.”

    Michael McFaul, for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Rus­sia, said he also had dis­cus­sions with peo­ple close to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion about the prospects of draw­ing Rus­sia away from Iran. “When I would hear this, I would think, ‘Yeah that’s great for you guys, but why would Putin ever do that?’?” McFaul said. “There is no inter­est in Rus­sia ever doing that. They have a long rela­tion­ship with Iran. They’re allied with Iran in fight­ing in Syr­ia. They sell weapons to Iran. Iran is an impor­tant strate­gic part­ner for Rus­sia in the Mid­dle East.”

    Fol­low­ing the New York meet­ing between the Emi­ratis and Trump aides, Zayed was approached by Prince, who said he was autho­rized to act as an unof­fi­cial sur­ro­gate for the pres­i­dent-elect, accord­ing to the offi­cials. He want­ed Zayed to set up a meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate. Zayed agreed and pro­posed the Sey­chelles as the meet­ing place because of the pri­va­cy it would afford both sides. “He want­ed to be help­ful,” one offi­cial said of Zayed.

    ...

    Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials who have worked close­ly with Zayed, who is often referred to as MBZ, say it would be out of char­ac­ter for him to arrange the Jan. 11 meet­ing with­out get­ting a green light in advance from top aides to Trump and Putin, if not the lead­ers them­selves. “MBZ is very cau­tious,” said an Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who knows Zayed and spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the sub­ject. “There had to be a nod.”

    The Sey­chelles meet­ing was deemed pro­duc­tive by the UAE and Rus­sia, but the idea of arrang­ing addi­tion­al meet­ings between Prince and Putin’s asso­ciates was dropped, offi­cials said. Even unof­fi­cial con­tacts between Trump and Putin asso­ciates had become too polit­i­cal­ly risky, offi­cials said.

    At the time of the Sey­chelles meet­ing and for weeks after­ward, the UAE believed that Prince had the bless­ing of the new admin­is­tra­tion to act as its unof­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The Russ­ian par­tic­i­pant was a per­son whom Zayed knew was close to Putin from his inter­ac­tions with both men, the offi­cials said.”

    Erik Prince is appar­ent­ly Trump’s glo­be­trot­ting ambas­sador at large. At least that’s what the UAE assumed when Prince pre­sent­ed him­self as exact­ly that. And who could blame them giv­en the fact that the DeVoss clan is basi­cal­ly GOP roy­al­ty and Prince is also already a val­ued advi­sor for the Trump team:

    ...
    Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials said that while Prince refrained from play­ing a direct role in the Trump tran­si­tion, his name sur­faced so fre­quent­ly in inter­nal dis­cus­sions that he seemed to func­tion as an out­side advis­er whose opin­ions were val­ued on a range of issues, includ­ing plans for over­haul­ing the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.
    ...

    And in this case Prince’s was­n’t just giv­ing advice. He was rep­re­sent­ing Trump. And prob­a­bly rep­re­sent­ing the UAE when you con­sid­er that UAE is one of Prince’s main clients and divid­ing Rus­sia and Iran is a big goal of the UAE too:

    ...
    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the UAE appear to share a sim­i­lar pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with Iran. Cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials said that Trump advis­ers were focused through­out the tran­si­tion peri­od on explor­ing ways to get Moscow to break ranks with Tehran.

    “Sep­a­rat­ing Rus­sia from Iran was a com­mon theme,” said a for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion who met with Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials. “It didn’t seem very well thought out. It seemed a lit­tle pre­ma­ture. They clear­ly had a very spe­cif­ic pol­i­cy posi­tion, which I found odd giv­en that they hadn’t even tak­en the reins and explored with experts in the U.S. gov­ern­ment the pros and cons of that approach.”

    Michael McFaul, for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Rus­sia, said he also had dis­cus­sions with peo­ple close to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion about the prospects of draw­ing Rus­sia away from Iran. “When I would hear this, I would think, ‘Yeah that’s great for you guys, but why would Putin ever do that?’ ” McFaul said. “There is no inter­est in Rus­sia ever doing that. They have a long rela­tion­ship with Iran. They’re allied with Iran in fight­ing in Syr­ia. They sell weapons to Iran. Iran is an impor­tant strate­gic part­ner for Rus­sia in the Mid­dle East.”
    ...

    So while this lat­est chap­ter in Erik Prince’s long and dis­turb­ing career is bound to fuel ‘Trumputin­gate’ spec­u­la­tions, those spec­u­la­tions need to some­how be aligned with the obses­sion with a war with Iran that’s steadi­ly emerg­ing as the Trump admin­is­tra­tion unfolds:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    The Pos­si­ble Back­sto­ry behind the Secret Vis­it by Trump Envoy Erik Prince

    By John Jud­is
    Pub­lished April 4, 2017, 12:19 PM EDT

    What to make of the lat­est rev­e­la­tion – that Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince, a major fun­der to the Trump cam­paign, bud­dy of Stephen Ban­non, and broth­er of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary and Trump donor Bet­sy DeVos met secret­ly in the Sey­chelles Island with a Russ­ian rep­re­sen­ta­tive appar­ent­ly to arrange a backchan­nel between Trump and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin? It would be a mis­take to file it imme­di­ate­ly under Trumputin­gate. It’s more inter­est­ing than that.

    Accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry, what Prince, under the aegis of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, was try­ing to bro­ker was a deal by which Rus­sia would sev­er its ties with Iran in exchange for unspec­i­fied (at least in the sto­ry) admin­is­tra­tion con­ces­sions to Rus­sia. If so, this explains some of Trump’s recent for­eign pol­i­cy ini­tia­tives in the Mid­dle East and should raise alarm bells among every­one who wor­ries about fur­ther and deep­er involve­ment in that region’s con­flicts.

    In his cam­paign, Trump promised to extri­cate the US from the Mid­dle East (and North Africa). He was high­ly crit­i­cal of George W. Bush’s inva­sion of Iraq and of Barack Obama’s inter­ven­tion in Libya and Syr­ia. He did promise to erad­i­cate ISIS – a wor­thy if unachiev­able objec­tive in the man­ner Trump described. And some of his actions in Syr­ia and Iraq appear close­ly linked to that objec­tive. But his inter­ven­tion in Yemen? Giv­ing his Defense Sec­re­tary leave to inter­vene force­ful­ly there? Send­ing arms to the Saud­is that would be used in the civ­il war there against the Iran­ian-back Houthis?

    In his cam­paign, Trump did denounce Iran and the Iran deal. I put it down at the time to cam­paign oppor­tunism, like his stand on abor­tion. But sev­er­al of his key appointees have, to say the least, an unseem­ly obses­sion with Iran: Michael Fly­nn, the for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor; but also Defense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis and Home­land Secu­ri­ty Sec­re­tary James Kel­ly, both of whom are for­mer Marines, who still recall the Iran­ian bomb­ing of the Marine bar­racks in Beirut in 1983. Ban­non, too, who was a naval offi­cer in the Gulf dur­ing the Iran­ian hostage cri­sis, has talk­ing of a “glob­al war against Islam­ic fas­cism.” Add togeth­er Prince’s secret mis­sion, these appoint­ments and the recent inter­ven­tion in Yemen, and you have the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Trump may be embarked – whether con­sis­tent­ly or wit­ting­ly – on a seri­ous con­flict, per­haps even a war, with Iran that will embroil the Unit­ed States even more deeply in the Mid­dle East. It’s not a hap­py prospect.

    “...Add togeth­er Prince’s secret mis­sion, these appoint­ments and the recent inter­ven­tion in Yemen, and you have the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Trump may be embarked – whether con­sis­tent­ly or wit­ting­ly – on a seri­ous con­flict, per­haps even a war, with Iran that will embroil the Unit­ed States even more deeply in the Mid­dle East. It’s not a hap­py prospect.”

    So at this point we know that there was a secret back chan­nel meet­ing to offer Rus­sia some­thing to get it to drop its back­ing of Iran and pre­sum­ably pave the way for a US-led regime change con­flict. that pre­sum­ably did­n’t. It would cer­tain­ly be inter­est­ing to know what Prince offered Moscow on Trump’s/the US’s(/the UAE’s) behalf.

    It would also be inter­est­ing to know if Trump offered Prince any­thing to play this role, although that prob­a­bly was­n’t nec­es­sary. Espe­cial­ly since nego­ti­at­ing a new war was part of what Trump hired him to do which should be pay­ment enough for some­one like Prince.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 4, 2017, 3:02 pm
  10. So, uh, it sounds like the Trump White House is seri­ous­ly con­sid­er­ing cre­at­ing a mas­sive pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tor force to oper­ate in Afghanistan. Osten­si­bly it’s sup­posed to be a ‘new approach’ to fight­ing that war, with a pri­vate air force and mer­ce­nar­ies embed­ded direct­ly into Afghan gov­ern­ment com­bat units. They would even wear the Afghan mil­i­tary uni­form. And while the gen­er­als in the White House, Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, H.R. McMas­ter, an Army three-star gen­er­al, and Defense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis, don’t seem very keen on the idea, Steve Ban­non appears to like it. And anoth­er influ­en­tial fig­ure close the Trump him­self is very much on board with the pro­pos­al: Eric Prince:

    USA Today

    Trump White House weighs unprece­dent­ed plan to pri­va­tize much of the war in Afghanistan

    Jim Michaels
    Pub­lished 10:59 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2017 | Updat­ed 11:49 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2017

    The White House is active­ly con­sid­er­ing a bold plan to turn over a big chunk of the U.S. war in Afghanistan to pri­vate con­trac­tors in an effort to turn the tide in a stale­mat­ed war, accord­ing to the for­mer head of a secu­ri­ty firm push­ing the project.

    Under the pro­pos­al, 5,500 pri­vate con­trac­tors, pri­mar­i­ly for­mer Spe­cial Oper­a­tions troops, would advise Afghan com­bat forces. The plan also includes a 90-plane pri­vate air force that would pro­vide air sup­port in the near­ly 16-year-old war against Tal­iban insur­gents, Erik Prince, founder of the Black­wa­ter secu­ri­ty firm, told USA TODAY.

    The unprece­dent­ed pro­pos­al comes as the U.S.-backed Afghan mil­i­tary faces a stale­mate in the war and grow­ing frus­tra­tion by Pres­i­dent Trump about the lack of progress in the war.

    The U.S. mil­i­tary has 8,400 U.S. troops there to train and guide local forces. They do not have a direct com­bat role, and pre­sum­ably would be replaced grad­u­al­ly by the con­trac­tors.

    The plan remains under seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion with­in the White House despite mis­giv­ings by Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, H.R. McMas­ter, an Army three-star gen­er­al, and Defense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis. Oth­er White House offi­cials, such as chief strate­gist Stephen Ban­non, appear open to using pri­vate con­trac­tors.

    “At what point do you say a con­ven­tion­al mil­i­tary approach in Afghanistan is not work­ing,” said Prince, a for­mer Navy SEAL. “Maybe we say that at 16 years.”

    Black­wa­ter, found­ed 1997, worked exten­sive­ly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prince sold the com­pa­ny in 2010.

    ...

    Prince said the plan will cost less than $10 bil­lion a year, sig­nif­i­cant­ly low­er than the more than $40 bil­lion the Pen­ta­gon has bud­get­ed this year.

    The prospect of accom­plish­ing more with less mon­ey could appeal to a career busi­ness­man like Trump.

    Prince, who has met fre­quent­ly with admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials to dis­cuss his plan, is the broth­er of Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, Bet­sy Devos.

    Under his pro­pos­al, pri­vate advis­ers would work direct­ly with Afghanistan com­bat bat­tal­ions through­out the coun­try, and the air force would be used for med­ical evac­u­a­tion, fire sup­port and fer­ry­ing troops.

    Prince said the con­trac­tors would be “adjuncts” of the Afghan mil­i­tary and would wear that nation’s mil­i­tary uni­forms. Pilots would only drop ord­nance with Afghan gov­ern­ment approval, he said.

    Cur­rent­ly, troops from a U.S.-led coali­tion are sta­tioned pri­mar­i­ly at top lev­el head­quar­ters and are not embed­ded with con­ven­tion­al com­bat units in the field. Under the plan the con­trac­tors would be embed­ded with Afghanistan’s more than 90 com­bat bat­tal­ions through­out the coun­try.

    The coali­tion sharply cur­tailed air sup­port it pro­vides Afghanistan forces by 2014, when gov­ern­ment forces took over most war-fight­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties, leav­ing major gaps in the Afghan mil­i­tary’s abil­i­ty to pro­vide air sup­port.

    Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son acknowl­edged this week that the White House is look­ing for a new strat­e­gy to bring Amer­i­ca’s longest war to an end.

    “To just say we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, the pres­i­dent is not will­ing to accept that, and so he is ask­ing some tough ques­tions,” Tiller­son said Mon­day in Mani­la dur­ing an Asia trip.

    ...

    The top U.S. com­man­der in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nichol­son, has rec­om­mend­ed that sev­er­al thou­sand more troops be deployed to Afghanistan, pri­mar­i­ly to bol­ster the advi­so­ry mis­sion and help turn the tide against the Tal­iban.

    Mat­tis has indi­cat­ed he doesn’t want to make a deci­sion on troop lev­els until an over­all strat­e­gy has been approved. But the way for­ward is still under debate at the White House.

    “The pres­i­dent doesn’t own the Afghan effort yet,” Prince said of a war that frus­trat­ed Pres­i­dents George W. Bush and Barack Oba­ma. “He’s about to (with) what­ev­er deci­sion he makes next.”

    Prince rejects crit­i­cism that he and oth­ers would prof­it from it. He said it would rep­re­sent a cost sav­ings for Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers. “The idea of inno­va­tion and risk tak­ing is cer­tain­ly part of Amer­i­ca,” he said.

    Black­wa­ter has attract­ed con­tro­ver­sy under Prince’s lead­er­ship. In 2007, four Black­wa­ter secu­ri­ty per­son­nel were accused of killing 14 Iraqi civil­ians in Bagh­dad. Last week an appeals court over­turned a mur­der con­vic­tion for one of the guards and ordered the oth­er three to be re-sen­tenced.

    Black­wa­ter was renamed Xe Ser­vices two years after the inci­dent that sparked inter­na­tion­al out­rage. The pri­vate­ly owned com­pa­ny is now Acad­e­mi.

    Tens of thou­sands of con­trac­tors were used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Black­wa­ter was hired to pro­tect Amer­i­can diplo­mats in Iraq, while oth­er con­trac­tors were used in sup­port func­tions, such as pro­vid­ing food and sup­plies to U.S. troops. The U.S. mil­i­tary rarely deploys any­where now with­out a con­tin­gent of con­trac­tors.

    A close par­al­lel to Prince’s pro­pos­al in U.S. his­to­ry may be the Fly­ing Tigers, a group formed before the Unit­ed States entered World War II. The Fly­ing Tigers were formed covert­ly from the ranks of U.S. mil­i­tary pilots, who resigned from the ser­vice and were hired by a pri­vate con­trac­tor and sent to Chi­na to defend against Japan­ese aggres­sion.

    ———-

    “Trump White House weighs unprece­dent­ed plan to pri­va­tize much of the war in Afghanistan” by Jim Michaels; USA TODAY; 08/08/2017

    “The plan remains under seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion with­in the White House despite mis­giv­ings by Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, H.R. McMas­ter, an Army three-star gen­er­al, and Defense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis. Oth­er White House offi­cials, such as chief strate­gist Stephen Ban­non, appear open to using pri­vate con­trac­tors

    The gen­er­als hate it, but the Ban­non-wing does. So, of course, it will prob­a­bly hap­pen. Which means the Afghan mil­i­tary might be about to get an injec­tion of mer­ce­nar­ies:

    ...
    Under the pro­pos­al, 5,500 pri­vate con­trac­tors, pri­mar­i­ly for­mer Spe­cial Oper­a­tions troops, would advise Afghan com­bat forces. The plan also includes a 90-plane pri­vate air force that would pro­vide air sup­port in the near­ly 16-year-old war against Tal­iban insur­gents, Erik Prince, founder of the Black­wa­ter secu­ri­ty firm, told USA TODAY.

    ...

    Prince, who has met fre­quent­ly with admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials to dis­cuss his plan, is the broth­er of Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, Bet­sy Devos.

    Under his pro­pos­al, pri­vate advis­ers would work direct­ly with Afghanistan com­bat bat­tal­ions through­out the coun­try, and the air force would be used for med­ical evac­u­a­tion, fire sup­port and fer­ry­ing troops.

    Prince said the con­trac­tors would be “adjuncts” of the Afghan mil­i­tary and would wear that nation’s mil­i­tary uni­forms. Pilots would only drop ord­nance with Afghan gov­ern­ment approval, he said.

    Cur­rent­ly, troops from a U.S.-led coali­tion are sta­tioned pri­mar­i­ly at top lev­el head­quar­ters and are not embed­ded with con­ven­tion­al com­bat units in the field. Under the plan the con­trac­tors would be embed­ded with Afghanistan’s more than 90 com­bat bat­tal­ions through­out the coun­try
    ...

    And as Prince puts is, the Amer­i­can pub­lic should sup­port his scheme because it will save mon­ey:

    ...
    Prince rejects crit­i­cism that he and oth­ers would prof­it from it. He said it would rep­re­sent a cost sav­ings for Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers. “The idea of inno­va­tion and risk tak­ing is cer­tain­ly part of Amer­i­ca,” he said.
    ...

    So, now that Prince and oth­ers are offi­cial­ly try­ing to sell the Amer­i­can pub­lic on those ‘cost sav­ing’ idea, here’s a look at how Prince was describ­ing his plan to Tuck­er Carl­son a few months ago. Let’s just say it’s based on the British East-India Com­pa­ny mod­el of cost-sav­ings, where a cor­po­rate mil­i­tary pow­er pays for its own occu­pa­tion by exploit­ing the local resources, which in this case would Afghanistan’s vast untapped min­er­al wealth. And that’s not just read­ing between the lines of what Prince said. That’s lit­er­al­ly the ‘cost sav­ing’ war-as-busi­ness mod­el he pro­posed for Afghanistan dur­ing his inter­view on Fox News:

    Salon

    Erik Prince’s dark plan for Afghanistan: Mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion for prof­it, not secu­ri­ty
    Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince has a vision for prof­it­ing off Afghanistan that Pres­i­dent Trump might just love

    Matthew Pul­ver
    Sat­ur­day, Jun 3, 2017 10:00 AM CST

    Lost in the cas­cade of sto­ries of poten­tial White House crim­i­nal­i­ty and col­lu­sion with for­eign gov­ern­ments is the Erik Prince affair. It is report­ed that Prince, the broth­er of con­tro­ver­sial Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy Devos who estab­lished his pow­er in Wash­ing­ton with his mer­ce­nary army Black­wa­ter dur­ing the Iraq war, met with Russ­ian inter­me­di­aries in an obscure Indi­an Ocean arch­i­pel­ago to estab­lish back-chan­nel com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Moscow, pos­si­bly in coor­di­na­tion with the efforts of Jared Kush­n­er, who last week was report­ed to have sought a White House back chan­nel to the Krem­lin.

    Bloomberg reports that dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion late last year “Prince was very much a pres­ence, pro­vid­ing advice to Trump’s inner cir­cle, includ­ing his top nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Michael T. Fly­nn.” While Pres­i­dent-elect Trump, in real­i­ty show style, parad­ed admin­is­tra­tion appli­cants through the gild­ed front doors of of Trump Tow­er for the gaunt­let of cam­eras, Prince “entered Trump Tow­er through the back,” reports Bloomberg.

    Prince met at least sev­er­al times with the Trump team, accord­ing to the mul­ti­ply sourced report­ing, includ­ing once on a train from New York to Wash­ing­ton, where Prince met with Peter Thiel asso­ciate Kevin Har­ring­ton, who would lat­er join the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and be tasked with “strate­gic plan­ning.” Prince is said to have advised Har­ring­ton, Fly­nn and oth­ers on the Trump tran­si­tion team on the “restruc­tur­ing of secu­ri­ty agen­cies” and “a thor­ough rethink of cost­ly defense pro­grams.”

    The account sounds innocu­ous enough as report­ed, but Prince’s recent appear­ance on Fox News’ “Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight” sheds con­sid­er­able light on what the series of furtive dis­cus­sions like­ly entailed. The appear­ance might have been an effort to gen­er­ate pub­lic sup­port for what Prince advo­cat­ed in pri­vate. The man who rein­vent­ed mer­ce­nary war­fare described to Carl­son a vision for a cor­po­rate mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion appa­ra­tus that makes his infa­mous Black­wa­ter look mod­est, despite its cap­tur­ing of $1 bil­lion in con­tracts dur­ing the Iraq war and occu­pa­tion. Prince pro­posed noth­ing less than the revival of the British East India Com­pa­ny mod­el of for-prof­it mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion, where­in an armed cor­po­ra­tion effec­tive­ly gov­erned most of India for the extrac­tion of resources.

    Prince explained to Carl­son how the almost 16-year-old war and occu­pa­tion of Afghanistan is premised on a faulty mod­el. “We’ve fought for the last 15 years with the 1st Infantry Divi­sion mod­el,” he says. “Now we should fight with an East India Com­pa­ny mod­el, and do it much cheap­er.”

    “So you replace a mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion with the ‘Amer­i­can South Asia Com­pa­ny’ or some­thing like that?” asks Carl­son.

    “Some­thing like that, sure,” Prince replies. “If you look back in his­to­ry, the way the Eng­lish oper­at­ed India for 250 years, they had an army that was large­ly run by com­pa­nies — and no Eng­lish sol­diers. So cheap, very low cost.”

    It was also “very low cost” to the Eng­lish because the British East India Com­pa­ny fund­ed itself by extract­ing wealth from the ter­ri­to­ries it occu­pied.

    “It was not the British gov­ern­ment that seized India at the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry,” writes the author of “The Anar­chy: How a Cor­po­ra­tion Replaced the Mughal Empire,”William Dal­rym­ple, “but a dan­ger­ous­ly unreg­u­lat­ed pri­vate com­pa­ny head­quar­tered in one small office, five win­dows wide, in Lon­don, and man­aged in India by an unsta­ble sociopath.”

    Prince knows this. The British East India Com­pa­ny was not sim­ply a mer­ce­nary army like his Black­wa­ter but an armed cor­po­ra­tion that col­o­nized like a state pow­er. It was not mere­ly a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor like Black­wa­ter but an autonomous mil­i­tary and admin­is­tra­tive enti­ty shar­ing the worst aspects of both the cor­po­ra­tion and the impe­r­i­al state. So, Prince’s first inno­va­tion is to do away with civil­ian-mil­i­tary con­trol admin­is­tered by the Depart­ment of Defense and over­seen by civil­ian, elect­ed lead­er­ship, as is cur­rent­ly in place, and replace that appa­ra­tus with an armed cor­po­ra­tion.

    The sec­ond inno­va­tion is to dena­tion­al­ize the armed force pro­ject­ing the corporation’s pow­er. Amer­i­cans are expen­sive. Black­wa­ter per­son­nel reg­u­lar­ly received six-fig­ure salaries for work in Iraq. Prince envi­sions a sweat­shop-iza­tion of the mer­ce­nary force, rely­ing on the cheap labor avail­able in the rav­aged domes­tic labor mar­ket of war-torn Afghanistan. Loy­al­ty is not cheap, of course, but Prince is imag­in­ing a project of colos­sal cap­i­tal­iza­tion, like­ly far big­ger than his Black­wa­ter endeav­or. The per-day base pay for Black­wa­ter per­son­nel in Iraq was some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of $600, near­ly 50 per­cent high­er than the annu­al per capi­ta income for Afghans. An Afghan might make more in a very short time fight­ing for Prince’s cor­po­ra­tion than his coun­try­men make in a year.

    But that del­uge of Black­wa­ter mon­ey enabling such out­sized salaries came from Pen­ta­gon and State Depart­ment con­tracts dur­ing the mer­ce­nary firm’s days in Iraq. Where would rev­enue come from for what Prince now pro­pos­es? Resource extrac­tion, just as the East India Com­pa­ny oper­at­ed on the sub­con­ti­nent for British stock­hold­ers. This is the third inno­va­tion Prince offers.

    “There’s a tril­lion dol­lars in val­ue in the ground: min­ing, min­er­als, and anoth­er tril­lion in oil and gas,” Prince says of Afghanistan. This would pro­vide the rev­enue stream to replace gov­ern­ment con­tracts. Prince’s firm would be self-fund­ed, self-reliant, and thus autonomous to a degree more sim­i­lar to a nation-state than a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor like Black­wa­ter serv­ing under a defense depart­ment.

    The cor­po­rate rulers, Prince sug­gests, would even reor­ga­nize objec­tives away from the orig­i­nal mis­sion — i.e., destroy the safe har­bor for al Qae­da and oth­er ter­ror groups — and toward the pre­rog­a­tives of prof­it. Prince cri­tiques U.S. strate­gic aims in Afghanistan to Carl­son: “Even the whole approach of plac­ing bases U.S. bases was all done to con­trol land and ter­ri­to­ry but not the arter­ies that make mon­ey.”

    Prince’s plan to fund occu­pa­tions by pil­lage would oth­er­wise be sim­ply an insane notion howled from the wilder­ness of pol­i­cy thought were it not for Prince’s prox­im­i­ty to the pres­i­dent and Trump’s repeat­ed asser­tion that the U.S. should have tak­en Iraq’s oil to recoup costs. Indeed in his first speech in his first full day in office, speak­ing at the CIA head­quar­ters, Trump revived his cam­paign-sea­son idea of tak­ing Iraqi oil, even telling the audi­ence, “maybe you’ll have anoth­er chance.”

    But Prince’s inno­va­tions on the straight occu­py-and-plun­der mod­el might excite Trump and his team far more, since it ful­ly neolib­er­al­izes war and occu­pa­tion into a sleek cor­po­rate form, tak­ing those vast Pen­ta­gon out­lays off the fed­er­al bud­get and open­ing up those ven­tures to invest­ment. It’s war that pays for itself! It’s like­ly an attrac­tive prospect for a par­ty whose cen­tral pas­sions are to cut tax­es and pri­va­tize gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

    ...

    We’ve wit­nessed the ten­sion of mil­i­tary and mon­ey since Eisen­how­er warned of the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex, the intro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ist prof­it into war-mak­ing and the pre­dictable effect of an ever-expand­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty state at odds with the founders’ inten­tions. But Eisenhower’s cri­tique of the arms indus­try only hint­ed at what a full sub­sump­tion of war by cap­i­tal might become. A hypo­thet­i­cal Amer­i­can South Asia Com­pa­ny would have no more desire to end an occu­pa­tion than Toy­ota would have to stop sell­ing cars or Apple to stop sell­ing elec­tron­ics. It would, like any oth­er cor­po­ra­tion, seek sus­te­nance and expan­sion. As Prince admit­ted to Carl­son, the aims and objec­tives of war would imme­di­ate­ly shift to “the arter­ies that make mon­ey.” Our prob­lem, says Prince, is that we went to Afghanistan with the inten­tion of com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism, not seek­ing prof­it. Our prob­lem, he sug­gests, is that we went to Afghanistan with the inten­tion of leav­ing.

    ———-

    “Erik Prince’s dark plan for Afghanistan: Mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion for prof­it, not secu­ri­ty” by Matthew Pul­ver; Salon; 06/03/2017

    The cor­po­rate rulers, Prince sug­gests, would even reor­ga­nize objec­tives away from the orig­i­nal mis­sion — i.e., destroy the safe har­bor for al Qae­da and oth­er ter­ror groups — and toward the pre­rog­a­tives of prof­it. Prince cri­tiques U.S. strate­gic aims in Afghanistan to Carl­son: “Even the whole approach of plac­ing bases U.S. bases was all done to con­trol land and ter­ri­to­ry but not the arter­ies that make mon­ey.””

    And, yes, Prince real­ly did cite the for-prof­it British East India Com­pa­ny mod­el for Afghanistan. These are his words!

    ...
    The account sounds innocu­ous enough as report­ed, but Prince’s recent appear­ance on Fox News’ “Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight” sheds con­sid­er­able light on what the series of furtive dis­cus­sions like­ly entailed. The appear­ance might have been an effort to gen­er­ate pub­lic sup­port for what Prince advo­cat­ed in pri­vate. The man who rein­vent­ed mer­ce­nary war­fare described to Carl­son a vision for a cor­po­rate mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion appa­ra­tus that makes his infa­mous Black­wa­ter look mod­est, despite its cap­tur­ing of $1 bil­lion in con­tracts dur­ing the Iraq war and occu­pa­tion. Prince pro­posed noth­ing less than the revival of the British East India Com­pa­ny mod­el of for-prof­it mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion, where­in an armed cor­po­ra­tion effec­tive­ly gov­erned most of India for the extrac­tion of resources.

    Prince explained to Carl­son how the almost 16-year-old war and occu­pa­tion of Afghanistan is premised on a faulty mod­el. “We’ve fought for the last 15 years with the 1st Infantry Divi­sion mod­el,” he says. “Now we should fight with an East India Com­pa­ny mod­el, and do it much cheap­er.”

    “So you replace a mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion with the ‘Amer­i­can South Asia Com­pa­ny’ or some­thing like that?” asks Carl­son.

    “Some­thing like that, sure,” Prince replies. “If you look back in his­to­ry, the way the Eng­lish oper­at­ed India for 250 years, they had an army that was large­ly run by com­pa­nies — and no Eng­lish sol­diers. So cheap, very low cost.”

    It was also “very low cost” to the Eng­lish because the British East India Com­pa­ny fund­ed itself by extract­ing wealth from the ter­ri­to­ries it occu­pied.

    “It was not the British gov­ern­ment that seized India at the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry,” writes the author of “The Anar­chy: How a Cor­po­ra­tion Replaced the Mughal Empire,”William Dal­rym­ple, “but a dan­ger­ous­ly unreg­u­lat­ed pri­vate com­pa­ny head­quar­tered in one small office, five win­dows wide, in Lon­don, and man­aged in India by an unsta­ble sociopath.”
    ...

    And look at the oth­er ‘cost-sav­ing inno­va­tion’: Prince’s pri­vate con­trac­tors would­n’t just be rely­ing on expen­sive Amer­i­can ex-Spe­cial Forces. The plan is to enlist Afghans, and pre­sum­ably any­one else they can find, to fight for Prince’s force for cheap:

    ...
    The sec­ond inno­va­tion is to dena­tion­al­ize the armed force pro­ject­ing the corporation’s pow­er. Amer­i­cans are expen­sive. Black­wa­ter per­son­nel reg­u­lar­ly received six-fig­ure salaries for work in Iraq. Prince envi­sions a sweat­shop-iza­tion of the mer­ce­nary force, rely­ing on the cheap labor avail­able in the rav­aged domes­tic labor mar­ket of war-torn Afghanistan. Loy­al­ty is not cheap, of course, but Prince is imag­in­ing a project of colos­sal cap­i­tal­iza­tion, like­ly far big­ger than his Black­wa­ter endeav­or. The per-day base pay for Black­wa­ter per­son­nel in Iraq was some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of $600, near­ly 50 per­cent high­er than the annu­al per capi­ta income for Afghans. An Afghan might make more in a very short time fight­ing for Prince’s cor­po­ra­tion than his coun­try­men make in a year.
    ...

    And this will all be paid for by exploit­ing Afghanistan’s min­er­al wealth. So much wealth that there poten­tial­ly won’t be any need for any out­side enti­ty to pay Blackwater/Xe/Academie for its ser­vices. The whole oper­a­tion will pay for itself in what is lit­er­al­ly a for-prof­it mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion that exists pri­mar­i­ly for the pur­pose of gen­er­at­ing more prof­its:

    ...
    But that del­uge of Black­wa­ter mon­ey enabling such out­sized salaries came from Pen­ta­gon and State Depart­ment con­tracts dur­ing the mer­ce­nary firm’s days in Iraq. Where would rev­enue come from for what Prince now pro­pos­es? Resource extrac­tion, just as the East India Com­pa­ny oper­at­ed on the sub­con­ti­nent for British stock­hold­ers. This is the third inno­va­tion Prince offers.

    “There’s a tril­lion dol­lars in val­ue in the ground: min­ing, min­er­als, and anoth­er tril­lion in oil and gas,” Prince says of Afghanistan. This would pro­vide the rev­enue stream to replace gov­ern­ment con­tracts. Prince’s firm would be self-fund­ed, self-reliant, and thus autonomous to a degree more sim­i­lar to a nation-state than a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor like Black­wa­ter serv­ing under a defense depart­ment.
    ...

    And look who else in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is also meet­ing with Prince to dis­cuss things like the “restruc­tur­ing of secu­ri­ty agen­cies” and “a thor­ough rethink of cost­ly defense pro­grams.”: Kevin Har­ring­ton, one of the peo­ple Peter Thiel got insert­ed into the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as pay back for his sup­port. So we can like­ly add the Thiel-fac­tion’s sup­port for this on top of the Ban­non-wing:

    ...
    Bloomberg reports that dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion late last year “Prince was very much a pres­ence, pro­vid­ing advice to Trump’s inner cir­cle, includ­ing his top nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Michael T. Fly­nn.” While Pres­i­dent-elect Trump, in real­i­ty show style, parad­ed admin­is­tra­tion appli­cants through the gild­ed front doors of of Trump Tow­er for the gaunt­let of cam­eras, Prince “entered Trump Tow­er through the back,” reports Bloomberg.

    Prince met at least sev­er­al times with the Trump team, accord­ing to the mul­ti­ply sourced report­ing, includ­ing once on a train from New York to Wash­ing­ton, where Prince met with Peter Thiel asso­ciate Kevin Har­ring­ton, who would lat­er join the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and be tasked with “strate­gic plan­ning.” Prince is said to have advised Har­ring­ton, Fly­nn and oth­ers on the Trump tran­si­tion team on the “restruc­tur­ing of secu­ri­ty agen­cies” and “a thor­ough rethink of cost­ly defense pro­grams.”
    ...

    But that’s not all. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Stephen A. Fein­berg, a financier infor­mal­ly advis­ing Mr. Trump on Afghanistan, is also push­ing Trump to exploit Afghanistan’s min­er­al wealth. Oh, and Fein­berg just hap­pens to own Dyn­corp:

    New York Mag­a­zine
    Dai­ly Intel­li­gencer

    Trump’s New Afghanistan Strat­e­gy: Keep the Min­er­als!

    By Eric Levitz
    July 26, 2017 10:08 am

    Don­ald Trump spent most of his cam­paign sound­ing like the adult son of George Wal­lace and Tri­umph the Insult Com­ic Dog. But every once in a while, he’d sound like Noam Chom­sky.

    ...

    These and oth­er pro­nounce­ments led some (fool­ish blog­gers) to won­der if Trump might revive the Amer­i­can right’s long-dor­mant tra­di­tion of iso­la­tion­ism — and, thus, keep the U.S. out of anoth­er mis­be­got­ten war.

    There were many flaws in this hypoth­e­sis. Chief among them was that it ignored the true source of Trump’s increduli­ty when he asked “for what?” — in truth, the mogul wasn’t reviv­ing the right’s iso­la­tion­ist streak, so much as its colo­nial mer­can­tilist one.

    In recent days, the pres­i­dent has strug­gled to jus­ti­fy his mil­i­tary advis­ers’ request to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan. After invest­ing 16 years’ worth of blood and trea­sure into fight­ing the Tal­iban (and empow­er­ing bru­tal Afghan war­lords) — with pre­cious lit­tle to show for it beyond fields of dead sol­diers and civil­ians — Trump has had trou­ble sign­ing off on yet anoth­er “surge.”

    But then, he learned about the min­er­als. As the New York Times reports:

    In 2010, Amer­i­can offi­cials esti­mat­ed that Afghanistan had untapped min­er­al deposits worth near­ly $1 tril­lion, an esti­mate that was wide­ly dis­put­ed at the time and has cer­tain­ly fall­en since, giv­en the erod­ing price of com­modi­ties. But the $1 tril­lion fig­ure is cir­cu­lat­ing again inside the White House, accord­ing to offi­cials, who said it had caught the atten­tion of Mr. Trump.

    … Offi­cials said Mr. Trump was deter­mined not to spend Amer­i­can lives and trea­sure in Afghanistan only to watch Chi­na lock up its rare-earth deposits, which are used to make prod­ucts from wind tur­bines to com­put­er chips.

    This com­man­der-in-chief will not send America’s sons and daugh­ters to die in a for­eign land unless our nation’s core secu­ri­ty inter­ests — or one of his bil­lion­aire friends’ finan­cial inter­ests — are at stake:

    Stephen A. Fein­berg, a bil­lion­aire financier who is infor­mal­ly advis­ing Mr. Trump on Afghanistan, is also look­ing into ways to exploit the country’s min­er­als, accord­ing to a per­son who has briefed him. Mr. Fein­berg owns a large mil­i­tary con­tract­ing firm, Dyn­Corp Inter­na­tion­al, which could play a role in guard­ing mines — a major con­cern, giv­en that some of Afghanistan’s rich­est deposits are in areas con­trolled by the Tal­iban.

    To be fair to Trump, he isn’t whol­ly out on a limb here. The George W. Bush and Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tions both explored the pos­si­bil­i­ty that devel­op­ing Afghanistan’s min­ing indus­try could prove a win-win for Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions and the local peo­ple: Amer­i­can tech­nol­o­gy would allow the nation to cap­i­tal­ize on its min­er­al wealth, while its min­er­al wealth would allow U.S. com­pa­nies to cap­i­tal­ize (even more) on the inva­sion. Afghanistan’s pres­i­dent, Ashraf Ghani, is report­ed­ly keen on this con­cept.

    But past U.S. admin­is­tra­tions nev­er con­ceived of Afghanistan’s min­er­al wealth as the pri­ma­ry rea­son to pro­long our involve­ment in the coun­try. And were Trump to pur­sue this objec­tive today, he would like­ly need to send U.S. troops into high-risk com­bat sit­u­a­tions with the Tal­iban in Hel­mand Province. Beyond the direct threat to Amer­i­can lives such a gam­bit would cre­ate, there’s also the dan­ger of feed­ing the Tal­iban top-notch pro­pa­gan­da. It’s hard to win hearts and minds, when you’re also try­ing to win min­er­als and mines.

    ———-

    “Trump’s New Afghanistan Strat­e­gy: Keep the Min­er­als!” by Eric Levitz; New York Mag­a­zine; 07/26/2017

    “But past U.S. admin­is­tra­tions nev­er con­ceived of Afghanistan’s min­er­al wealth as the pri­ma­ry rea­son to pro­long our involve­ment in the coun­try. And were Trump to pur­sue this objec­tive today, he would like­ly need to send U.S. troops into high-risk com­bat sit­u­a­tions with the Tal­iban in Hel­mand Province. Beyond the direct threat to Amer­i­can lives such a gam­bit would cre­ate, there’s also the dan­ger of feed­ing the Tal­iban top-notch pro­pa­gan­da. It’s hard to win hearts and minds, when you’re also try­ing to win min­er­als and mines.”

    Fight­ing for the prof­its and glo­ry of Erik Prince. That will be the new pur­pose of the Afghan civ­il-war. But not just Prince’s glo­ry. There will be plen­ty of pri­vate prof­it glo­ry to share:

    ...
    Stephen A. Fein­berg, a bil­lion­aire financier who is infor­mal­ly advis­ing Mr. Trump on Afghanistan, is also look­ing into ways to exploit the country’s min­er­als, accord­ing to a per­son who has briefed him. Mr. Fein­berg owns a large mil­i­tary con­tract­ing firm, Dyn­Corp Inter­na­tion­al, which could play a role in guard­ing mines — a major con­cern, giv­en that some of Afghanistan’s rich­est deposits are in areas con­trolled by the Tal­iban.
    ...

    So yeah, that’s all hap­pen­ing. Or prob­a­bly hap­pen­ing unless Trump can some­how avoid the temp­ta­tion of a far-prof­it war designed to enrich his bil­lion­aire bud­dies. Pret­ty much at this point the only hope is Jared and Ivan­ka swoop­ing in and talk­ing some sense into him at the last minute. *fin­gers crossed!*

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 9, 2017, 2:45 pm
  11. Look who just got an entire op-ed col­umn in the New York Times: Erik Prince...so he can plug his pro­pos­al to con­vert the war in Afghanistan into a pri­vate for-prof­it oper­a­tion mod­eled on the British East India Com­pa­ny. And it’s just the lat­est instance of Prince adver­tis­ing his pri­va­tized war­fare scheme in major media out­lets:

    Salon

    The New York Times invites Erik Prince to advo­cate for pri­va­tiz­ing the Afghanistan war
    The founder of Black­wa­ter con­tin­ues to advo­cate for his plan to use mer­ce­nar­ies in Amer­i­ca’s longest war VIDEO

    Char­lie May
    Wednes­day, Aug 30, 2017 10:10 AM CST

    On Wednes­day, The New York Times allowed Black­wa­ter (now known as Acad­e­mi) founder Erik Prince to write an op-ed in which he con­tin­ued to argue that the Pen­ta­gon should hire pri­vate para­mil­i­tary ser­vices in order to end — and some­how win — the war in Afghanistan.

    Over the last few months, Prince has adver­tised his plan on a mul­ti­tude of fronts, includ­ing cable news appear­ances and op-eds in The Wall Street Jour­nal and USA Today. In the Times op-ed, Prince referred to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new pol­i­cy in Afghanistan as “more old than new,” and while that’s large­ly true, he also men­tioned that his own method has been tried as well, but left out that it didn’t work either. Just ask Iraq, who banned Blackwater’s ser­vices after Prince’s mer­ce­nar­ies mur­dered 17 civil­ians at Nisour Square in 2007.

    Prince sold the com­pa­ny in 2010 and now heads Fron­tier Ser­vices Group, a logis­tics and avi­a­tion com­pa­ny focused on Africa and South Asia. That’s backed by China’s state-owned CITIC Group.

    Prince even acknowl­edged his brazen per­sis­tence and linked to an arti­cle writ­ten by Times reporters that exposed the fact that he was one of two men hired to advo­cate for his solu­tions “at the behest of Stephen K. Ban­non, Mr. Trump’s [for­mer] chief strate­gist, and Jared Kush­n­er, his senior advis­er and son-in-law.”

    Prince, a long­time friend of Trump and the broth­er of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, has made his goal quite clear, “deny­ing America’s ene­mies the sanc­tu­ary they used to plan the Sept. 11 attacks,” all while attempt­ing to down­play and white­wash the fact he ask­ing the mil­i­tary to out­source its com­bat roles in order to achieve the so-called solu­tion “Amer­i­cans real­ly care about.”

    He’s pre­vi­ous­ly stat­ed that his mod­el would repli­cate that of the East India Com­pa­ny and install a “viceroy” to over­see oper­a­tions, though he insist­ed he wasn’t “advo­cat­ing col­o­niza­tion.”

    Accord­ing to Prince’s plan, he “would use for­mer Spe­cial Oper­a­tions vet­er­ans as con­trac­tors who would live, train and patrol along­side their Afghan coun­ter­parts at the low­est com­pa­ny and bat­tal­ion lev­els — where it mat­ters most,” the op-ed said. These mer­ce­nar­ies, though Prince prefers the term con­trac­tors, would “serve as adjuncts to the Afghan Army and would per­form in strict con­for­mi­ty with Afghan rules of engage­ment, elim­i­nat­ing the stig­ma of a for­eign occu­py­ing force.”

    The prob­lem here? It only exac­er­bates the stig­ma of an occu­py­ing force because that occu­py­ing force would admit that even its own mil­i­tary can’t sal­vage the country’s longest war.

    Prince has a long his­to­ry of abuse, and a for­mer Black­wa­ter employ­ee once described him as “a Chris­t­ian cru­sad­er tasked with elim­i­nat­ing Mus­lims and the Islam­ic faith from the globe,” and said that Prince’s com­pa­nies “encour­aged and reward­ed the destruc­tion of Iraqi life.”

    The for­mer Black­wa­ter founder has also been an inter­est­ing sub­ject in the Trump administration’s ongo­ing Rus­sia scan­dals after he report­ed­ly attend­ed a meet­ing in the Sey­chelles with the intent to estab­lish a back chan­nel between the pres­i­dent and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

    ...

    ———-

    “The New York Times invites Erik Prince to advo­cate for pri­va­tiz­ing the Afghanistan war” Char­lie May; Salon; 08/30/2017

    Over the last few months, Prince has adver­tised his plan on a mul­ti­tude of fronts, includ­ing cable news appear­ances and op-eds in The Wall Street Jour­nal and USA Today. In the Times op-ed, Prince referred to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new pol­i­cy in Afghanistan as “more old than new,” and while that’s large­ly true, he also men­tioned that his own method has been tried as well, but left out that it didn’t work either. Just ask Iraq, who banned Blackwater’s ser­vices after Prince’s mer­ce­nar­ies mur­dered 17 civil­ians at Nisour Square in 2007.”

    Cable News, the Wall Street Jour­nal, USA Today, and now the New York Times. Prince is clear­ly very seri­ous about sell­ing the US pub­lic on his pri­va­tized war idea and he appears to have no short­age of allies in the media. It’s pret­ty dis­turb­ing.

    But here’s what makes Prince’s op-ed extra dis­turb­ing: the White House did appear to reject Prince’s pro­pos­al at this point in time just over a week ago at the rec­om­men­da­tions of Gen­er­als James Mat­tis and H.R. McMas­ter and that hap­pened short­ly after the depar­ture of Steve Ban­non, a backer of the pri­va­tized war plans. But let’s not for­get that Jared Kush­n­er was also back­ing the plan and he cer­tain­ly has­n’t gone any­where. So Prince is con­tin­u­ing to make this push even after he appears to have been shot down which means this is a going to be long-term push.

    And that means we should prob­a­bly get ready for lots more sto­ries, inter­views, and op-eds about how the US mil­i­tary can’t pos­si­bly suc­ceed in its mis­sion in Afghanistan and yet the US can’t pos­si­bly risk extri­cat­ing itself from the con­flict either. And the the only oth­er option offered will be the Erik Prince plan. And if the “we have no good choic­es (so we might as well choose the for-prof­it bad choice that might be cheap­er!)” argu­ments win over enough peo­ple even­tu­al­ly the Amer­i­can pub­lic will con­clude that we have to let the Black­wa­ter guy just run the whole thing him­self. It’s our only choice! That’s pre­sum­ably the plan. Which why this New York Times op-ed was both dis­turb­ing but also just the lat­est blink­ing neon sign­post warn­ing “Do not pro­ceed. Doom ahead” along the road to perdi­tion. A road the US appears to find very scenic and worth trav­el­ing so we’ll be see­ing a lot more of those blink­ing neon sign­posts.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 30, 2017, 2:01 pm
  12. Check out the next ‘anti-Estab­lish­ment’ fig­ure Steve Ban­non has in mind car­ry­ing out his ‘anti-Estab­lish­ment’ war on the GOP ‘Estab­lish­ment’: Eric Prince, one of the deep­est ‘deep state’ fig­ures on the plan­et:

    The New York Times

    Erik Prince, Black­wa­ter Founder, Weighs Pri­ma­ry Chal­lenge to Wyoming Repub­li­can

    By JEREMY W. PETERS, MAGGIE HABERMAN and GLENN THRUSH
    OCT. 8, 2017

    WASHINGTON — Erik Prince, the founder of the secu­ri­ty con­trac­tor Black­wa­ter, is seri­ous­ly con­sid­er­ing a Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry chal­lenge for a Sen­ate seat in Wyoming, poten­tial­ly adding a high-pro­file con­tender to a fledg­ling dri­ve to oust estab­lish­ment law­mak­ers with insur­gents in the mold of Pres­i­dent Trump.

    Mr. Prince appears increas­ing­ly like­ly to chal­lenge John Bar­ras­so, a senior mem­ber of the Sen­ate Repub­li­can lead­er­ship, accord­ing to peo­ple who have spo­ken to him in recent days. He has been urged to run next year by Stephen K. Ban­non, who is lead­ing the effort to shake up the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship with finan­cial back­ing from the New York hedge fund bil­lion­aire Robert Mer­cer and his daugh­ter Rebekah.

    Over the week­end, Mr. Prince trav­eled to Wyoming with his fam­i­ly to explore ways to estab­lish res­i­den­cy there, said one per­son who had spo­ken to him.

    If he runs, Mr. Prince would face for­mi­da­ble obsta­cles in seek­ing to unseat Mr. Bar­ras­so, a pop­u­lar and genial but low-pro­file sen­a­tor who will have the full back­ing of Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell, the major­i­ty leader, and the well-fund­ed polit­i­cal com­mit­tees loy­al to him. Mr. Prince, who has nev­er run for pub­lic office, has been a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure for years, as Black­wa­ter faced a wel­ter of eth­i­cal and legal prob­lems over its work for the mil­i­tary in places like Iraq, includ­ing an episode in 2007 in which its employ­ees killed 17 civil­ians in Bagh­dad.

    While his ties to Wyoming are thin, the state is attrac­tive to Mr. Prince because it has none of the per­son­al polit­i­cal entan­gle­ments he would face in his home state of Michi­gan. Pub­lic records show that Mr. Prince, a for­mer mem­ber of the Navy SEALs who has lived all over the world, had an address in Wapi­ti, Wyo., in the state’s north­west cor­ner, for sev­er­al years in the late 1990s and ear­ly 2000s.

    Though Mr. Prince car­ries some bag­gage, Repub­li­cans have pri­vate­ly said that a pri­ma­ry chal­lenge against a law­mak­er like Mr. Bar­ras­so is the kind they fear most: an out-of-the-blue run by a rene­gade from the right against a sen­a­tor whose sin is not a lack of con­ser­v­a­tive cre­den­tials, but an asso­ci­a­tion with Mr. McConnell and oth­er par­ty lead­ers.

    Those anx­i­eties became all the more seri­ous late last month when Roy Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive fire­brand, defeat­ed Sen­a­tor Luther Strange, a McConnell ally, in an Alaba­ma Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry. Allies of Mr. McConnell spent tens of mil­lions of dol­lars defend­ing Mr. Strange, but Mr. Moore won by nine per­cent­age points.

    Mr. Prince, 48, has strong ties to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. He served as an infor­mal advis­er dur­ing the tran­si­tion, and he is the broth­er of Bet­sy DeVos, the edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary. He has told his sis­ter that he would like to run against Mr. Bar­ras­so, a per­son with knowl­edge of the con­ver­sa­tion said.

    In 1997, Mr. Prince found­ed Black­wa­ter as a pri­vate, for-prof­it force to aid the mil­i­tary, and he is wealthy enough to self-finance his race. For months this year, Mr. Prince — with Mr. Bannon’s sup­port — pushed a plan to replace sol­diers with con­trac­tors in Afghanistan. The pro­pos­al, which would have rad­i­cal­ly changed the way the fight in that coun­try is con­duct­ed, was vehe­ment­ly opposed by the nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMas­ter, and the defense sec­re­tary, Jim Mat­tis.

    Beyond his sup­port of the use of con­trac­tors in war zones, Mr. Prince’s views on polit­i­cal issues are less wide­ly known. He has been described as a lib­er­tar­i­an. In 1992, he sup­port­ed Pat Buchanan’s run for pres­i­dent.

    Mr. Prince is emblem­at­ic of the type of par­al­lel gov­ern­ment appa­ra­tus that Mr. Ban­non built inside the admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing his time as Mr. Trump’s chief strate­gist. Mr. Ban­non, with help from the Mer­cer fam­i­ly, is now try­ing to build the same kind of par­al­lel struc­ture inside the Repub­li­can Par­ty. And Mr. Prince is not the only can­di­date on his wish list.

    Mr. Ban­non is expect­ed to throw his sup­port behind Chris McDaniel, a con­ser­v­a­tive state sen­a­tor from Mis­sis­sip­pi who is con­sid­er­ing a pri­ma­ry chal­lenge to Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Roger Wick­er, who has served since 2007 and is close to Repub­li­can lead­ers.

    ...

    ———-

    “Erik Prince, Black­wa­ter Founder, Weighs Pri­ma­ry Chal­lenge to Wyoming Repub­li­can” by JEREMY W. PETERS, MAGGIE HABERMAN and GLENN THRUSH; The New York Times; 10/08/2017

    “Though Mr. Prince car­ries some bag­gage, Repub­li­cans have pri­vate­ly said that a pri­ma­ry chal­lenge against a law­mak­er like Mr. Bar­ras­so is the kind they fear most: an out-of-the-blue run by a rene­gade from the right against a sen­a­tor whose sin is not a lack of con­ser­v­a­tive cre­den­tials, but an asso­ci­a­tion with Mr. McConnell and oth­er par­ty lead­ers.”

    And note how it’s not just Ban­non push­ing Prince to move back to the US to do this pri­ma­ry chal­lenge: Prince him­self is already inter­est­ed accord­ing to source:

    ...
    Mr. Prince, 48, has strong ties to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. He served as an infor­mal advis­er dur­ing the tran­si­tion, and he is the broth­er of Bet­sy DeVos, the edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary. He has told his sis­ter that he would like to run against Mr. Bar­ras­so, a per­son with knowl­edge of the con­ver­sa­tion said.
    ...

    And it appears to be part of a larg­er Mer­cer fam­i­ly effort to cre­ate it’s own ver­sion of the Koch net­work of fam­i­ly-own min­ions in elect­ed office:

    ...
    Mr. Prince is emblem­at­ic of the type of par­al­lel gov­ern­ment appa­ra­tus that Mr. Ban­non built inside the admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing his time as Mr. Trump’s chief strate­gist. Mr. Ban­non, with help from the Mer­cer fam­i­ly, is now try­ing to build the same kind of par­al­lel struc­ture inside the Repub­li­can Par­ty. And Mr. Prince is not the only can­di­date on his wish list.
    ...

    And note how Sen­a­tor Bar­ras­so is in no way behav­ing in a man­ner that’s block­ing the Trump agen­da (an agen­da that’s, in real­i­ty, the Mitch McConnell/Paul Ryan agen­da on all the big items). And he’s rather pop­u­lar in his state:

    ...
    If he runs, Mr. Prince would face for­mi­da­ble obsta­cles in seek­ing to unseat Mr. Bar­ras­so, a pop­u­lar and genial but low-pro­file sen­a­tor who will have the full back­ing of Sen­a­tor Mitch McConnell, the major­i­ty leader, and the well-fund­ed polit­i­cal com­mit­tees loy­al to him. Mr. Prince, who has nev­er run for pub­lic office, has been a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure for years, as Black­wa­ter faced a wel­ter of eth­i­cal and legal prob­lems over its work for the mil­i­tary in places like Iraq, includ­ing an episode in 2007 in which its employ­ees killed 17 civil­ians in Bagh­dad.
    ...

    So if Price does enter this race and actu­al­ly pull off a suc­cess­ful pri­ma­ry chal­lenge, it will be a seri­ous demon­stra­tion of the poten­cy of the Bannon/Mercer ‘anti-Estab­lish­ment’ fan­ta­sy nar­ra­tive that’s con­stant­ly being fed to the GOP base via the right-wing media, where all of Trump’s fail­ures are some­how due to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan lead­ing a “RINO”. The nar­ra­tive that’s absolute­ly vital in order to main­tain the delu­sion that the con­tem­po­rary con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment some­how rep­re­sents a ‘peo­ple pow­er’ move­ment against ‘the elites’ (as opposed to being the tip of the spear for an elite move­ment to con­sol­i­date its grip on almost all wealth and pow­er in the US).

    Could that nar­ra­tive and the right-wing media infra­struc­ture that ped­dles it be pow­er­ful enough to take down a pop­u­lar sit­ting sen­a­tor who’s only crime (in the minds of GOP pri­ma­ry vot­ers) being backed by Mitch ‘the Estab­lish­ment’ McConnell? We’ll see, although we se should also keep in mind that it’s pos­si­ble the pri­ma­ry objec­tive of a Sen­ate run is sim­ply to cre­ate a pub­lic plat­form for sell­ing the pub­lic on Prince’s pro­pos­al to turn the war in Afghanistan into a pri­vate for-prof­it oper­a­tion run by and for Erik Prince. A pro­pos­al he’ll no doubt tell vot­ers is super ‘anti-Estab­lish­ment’.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 8, 2017, 2:27 pm
  13. Pres­i­dent Trump man­aged to tweet him­self into trou­ble again:

    I had to fire Gen­er­al Fly­nn because he lied to the Vice Pres­i­dent and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions dur­ing the tran­si­tion were law­ful. There was noth­ing to hide!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Decem­ber 2, 2017

    He seri­ous­ly tweet­ed that in response to the plea deal Michael Fly­nn just made with the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion. And as many have point­ed out, this just might be an admis­sion of obstruc­tion of jus­tice. It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly trou­ble­some tweet even by Trumpian stan­dards.

    Giv­en that devel­op­ment, it’s worth not­ing one of the more remark­able areas of the Mueller team’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Fly­n­n’s actions: Fly­n­n’s acknowl­edge­ment that he was work­ing as a for­eign agent for the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment through­out the 2016 cam­paign and poten­tial­ly even dur­ing the Trump tran­si­tion peri­od fol­low­ing the elec­tion. And that work for the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment includ­ed a plot to kid­nap and ren­di­tion Fetul­lah Gulen out of the US on behalf of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment:

    Buz­zFeed News

    Fly­nn Final­ly Acknowl­edges That He Took Direc­tions From Turkey Dur­ing Trump Cam­paign

    It was already known Michael Fly­nn took mon­ey from a Turk­ish busi­ness­man while he was advis­ing Trump’s cam­paign. Fri­day, he acknowl­edged that Turkey’s gov­ern­ment super­vised what he was doing.

    Vera Bergen­gru­en
    Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Report­ing From Wash­ing­ton, DC

    Post­ed on Decem­ber 1, 2017, at 7:11 p.m.

    WASHINGTON – Ten days before he was tapped as Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Michael Fly­nn pub­lished an opin­ion col­umn that imme­di­ate­ly raised sus­pi­cions at the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

    “We need to adjust our for­eign pol­i­cy to rec­og­nize Turkey as a pri­or­i­ty,” Fly­nn wrote in The Hill on Nov. 8, 2016, the day of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. “We need to see the world from Turkey’s per­spec­tive.”

    He argued for a range of Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s talk­ing points, defend­ing his ruth­less crack­down on dis­si­dents, call­ing for the extra­di­tion of Erdo­gan’s rival, Fethul­lah Gülen, and call­ing Turkey “vital to US inter­ests.”

    What nobody knew then was that three days ear­li­er, Fly­nn had received the third and last install­ment of $530,000 in com­pen­sa­tion for lob­by­ing for Turkey’s inter­ests. He would not reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent until March, a month after he was fired from the White House.

    Accord­ing to a doc­u­ment obtained by Buz­zFeed News, the Jus­tice Department’s counter-espi­onage divi­sion con­tact­ed Fly­nn about his Turkey work as ear­ly as Nov. 30. They also shared their sus­pi­cions with White House coun­sel Don McGahn in Jan­u­ary, a for­mer senior Jus­tice offi­cial told Buz­zFeed News.

    In the court fil­ing released on Fri­day, Fly­nn admit­ted that “offi­cials from the Repub­lic of Turkey had pro­vid­ed super­vi­sion and direc­tion” over his fir­m’s lob­by­ing work, called the “Turkey project” in the doc­u­ment.

    While Fyn­n’s work for Turkey was over­shad­owed by his guilty plea for lying to the FBI about con­tacts with Russ­ian offi­cials, Fri­day’s court fil­ings were the first time the retired Army lieu­tenant gen­er­al has acknowl­edged that a for­eign gov­ern­ment direct­ed his actions while he served on the Trump cam­paign. This con­tra­dicts pre­vi­ous state­ments by Ekim Alptekin, the Turk­ish busi­ness­man whose com­pa­ny paid Fly­nn, and by Turk­ish offi­cials, who have vehe­ment­ly denied that Flynn’s lob­by­ing was con­nect­ed to their gov­ern­ment.

    ...

    Alptekin did not return requests for com­ment on Fri­day, but he has pre­vi­ous­ly dis­put­ed that he was “tak­ing direc­tions from any­one in the gov­ern­ment” of Turkey, had any ties to Erdo­gan, or received mon­ey from the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to pay Fly­nn.

    Flynn’s reg­is­tra­tion with the Jus­tice Depart­ment shows that, as part of his work, he met with Turkey’s for­eign min­is­ter, Mevlüt Cavu­soglu, and ener­gy min­is­ter, Berat Albayrak, at a hotel in New York in Sep­tem­ber 2016. Albayrak is also Erdogan’s son-in-law.

    Flynn’s acknowl­edg­ment of the Turk­ish gov­ern­men­t’s role in his work appears on the last page of a five-page state­ment of facts devot­ed pri­mar­i­ly to spelling out in detail how he lied to FBI agents about his con­tacts with Russ­ian Ambas­sador Sergey Kislyak, the actions for which he plead­ed guilty.

    But under the head­ing “Oth­er False State­ments Regard­ing FLY­N­N’s con­tacts with For­eign Gov­ern­ments,” the state­ment of facts lays out how he also failed to dis­close his work for Turkey under the For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act, which requires US cit­i­zens who lob­by on behalf of for­eign gov­ern­ments to dis­close their work to the Jus­tice Depart­ment with­in 10 days.

    Fly­nn signed the doc­u­ment, agree­ing “that it is true and cor­rect.”

    Why Fly­nn was not charged with vio­lat­ing FARA is unknown. Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller includ­ed FARA vio­la­tions in charges he filed in Octo­ber against for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort.

    But even with­out an indict­ment, Fri­day’s fil­ings make it clear that Fly­nn was aware that he was work­ing on behalf of Turkey even as he advised Trump’s cam­paign and sat in on clas­si­fied intel­li­gence brief­in­gs giv­en to pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

    It also rais­es anew ques­tions about what Trump and his oth­er advis­ers knew of Fly­n­n’s work. When Fly­n­n’s work for Turkey became pub­lic, the White House said Trump was unaware.

    But Flynn’s lawyer has said that he asked Trump’s tran­si­tion team before the inau­gu­ra­tion if Fly­nn should reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent, and doc­u­ments obtained by Buz­zFeed News show that the Jus­tice Depart­ment on Jan. 24 noti­fied McGahn, the White House coun­sel, that Fly­nn was sus­pect­ed of work­ing for Turkey.

    In the state­ment of facts filed in court Fri­day, Fly­nn acknowl­edges lying to FBI agents about not know­ing the extent of the Turk­ish gov­ern­men­t’s involve­ment in his work, about the pur­pose of his work, and about writ­ing the Nov. 8, 2016, com­men­tary on his own ini­tia­tive.

    Flynn’s con­tract with Alptekin, through his firm Ino­vo BV, end­ed on Nov. 15, three days before Trump nom­i­nat­ed him to be his nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, accord­ing to Jus­tice Depart­ment fil­ings. How­ev­er, dur­ing the tran­si­tion he made deci­sions that con­formed to some of his for­mer client’s top pri­or­i­ties. In one case, Fly­nn halt­ed a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion against ISIS that would have part­nered the US with Kur­dish forces that Turkey con­sid­ers a ter­ror­ist fac­tion.

    ———-

    “Fly­nn Final­ly Acknowl­edges That He Took Direc­tions From Turkey Dur­ing Trump Cam­paign” by Vera Bergen­gru­en; Buz­zFeed News; 12/01/2017

    “While Fyn­n’s work for Turkey was over­shad­owed by his guilty plea for lying to the FBI about con­tacts with Russ­ian offi­cials, Fri­day’s court fil­ings were the first time the retired Army lieu­tenant gen­er­al has acknowl­edged that a for­eign gov­ern­ment direct­ed his actions while he served on the Trump cam­paign. This con­tra­dicts pre­vi­ous state­ments by Ekim Alptekin, the Turk­ish busi­ness­man whose com­pa­ny paid Fly­nn, and by Turk­ish offi­cials, who have vehe­ment­ly denied that Flynn’s lob­by­ing was con­nect­ed to their gov­ern­ment.”

    Yep, Fly­nn now admits to work­ing as a Turk­ish for­eign agent while work­ing for the Trump team. Which rais­es obvi­ous ques­tions about what the Trump team knew about this and when did it know it. And it sure looks like those are ques­tions the Trump team isn’t going to want to answer:

    ...
    Why Fly­nn was not charged with vio­lat­ing FARA is unknown. Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller includ­ed FARA vio­la­tions in charges he filed in Octo­ber against for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort.

    But even with­out an indict­ment, Fri­day’s fil­ings make it clear that Fly­nn was aware that he was work­ing on behalf of Turkey even as he advised Trump’s cam­paign and sat in on clas­si­fied intel­li­gence brief­in­gs giv­en to pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

    It also rais­es anew ques­tions about what Trump and his oth­er advis­ers knew of Fly­n­n’s work. When Fly­n­n’s work for Turkey became pub­lic, the White House said Trump was unaware.

    But Flynn’s lawyer has said that he asked Trump’s tran­si­tion team before the inau­gu­ra­tion if Fly­nn should reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent, and doc­u­ments obtained by Buz­zFeed News show that the Jus­tice Depart­ment on Jan. 24 noti­fied McGahn, the White House coun­sel, that Fly­nn was sus­pect­ed of work­ing for Turkey.
    ...

    And these ques­tions about the Trump team knew and when did they know it don’t sim­ply involve Fly­n­n’s work as a for­eign lob­by­ist. It might also involve a plot of ille­gal extra­or­di­nary ren­di­tion. A plot he open­ly hint­ed at when he advo­cat­ed extra­dit­ing Gulen in a op-ed pub­lished on the day of the elec­tion. An op-ed he wrote after his con­sult­ing firm was paid $530,000 by a Turk­ish gov­ern­ment proxy:

    ...
    Ten days before he was tapped as Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Michael Fly­nn pub­lished an opin­ion col­umn that imme­di­ate­ly raised sus­pi­cions at the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

    “We need to adjust our for­eign pol­i­cy to rec­og­nize Turkey as a pri­or­i­ty,” Fly­nn wrote in The Hill on Nov. 8, 2016, the day of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. “We need to see the world from Turkey’s per­spec­tive.”

    He argued for a range of Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s talk­ing points, defend­ing his ruth­less crack­down on dis­si­dents, call­ing for the extra­di­tion of Erdo­gan’s rival, Fethul­lah Gülen, and call­ing Turkey “vital to US inter­ests.”

    What nobody knew then was that three days ear­li­er, Fly­nn had received the third and last install­ment of $530,000 in com­pen­sa­tion for lob­by­ing for Turkey’s inter­ests. He would not reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent until March, a month after he was fired from the White House.
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, the ser­vices Fly­nn was offer­ing to Turkey did­n’t just involve writ­ing op-eds call­ing for the extra­di­tion of Gulen. It also involved offer­ing the ser­vice of kid­nap­ping Gulen and tak­ing him by pri­vate plane to an island for $15 mil­lion:

    The Guardian

    Ex-Trump aide Fly­nn inves­ti­gat­ed over plot to kid­nap Turk­ish dis­si­dent – report

    Fly­nn report­ed­ly involved in alleged plan to abduct cler­ic Fethul­lah Gülen
    Robert Mueller believed to have enough evi­dence to bring charges

    Julian Borg­er in Wash­ing­ton

    Fri­day 10 Novem­ber 2017 12.49 EST
    Last mod­i­fied on Fri­day 1 Decem­ber 2017 14.31 EST

    Don­ald Trump’s for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Michael Fly­nn, is under inves­ti­ga­tion for involve­ment in an alleged plot to kid­nap a Turk­ish dis­si­dent cler­ic liv­ing in the US and fly him to an island prison in Turkey in return for $15m, it was report­ed on Fri­day.

    The report in the Wall Street Jour­nal is the lat­est of a string of alle­ga­tions fac­ing Fly­nn, a retired gen­er­al and for­mer head of the Defence Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA).

    Robert Mueller, the spe­cial coun­sel inves­ti­gat­ing Russ­ian manip­u­la­tion of the 2016 US elec­tion, has already indict­ed Trump’s for­mer cam­paign man­ag­er Paul Man­afort and anoth­er senior fundrais­er on charges includ­ing mon­ey laun­der­ing. A for­mer for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er has plead­ed guilty to per­jury.

    Mueller is now report­ed to have gath­ered suf­fi­cient evi­dence to bring charges against Fly­nn and his son, Michael Fly­nn Jr, which would bring his inves­ti­ga­tion anoth­er leap clos­er to Trump.

    The fact that no indict­ment has been made pub­lic may only increase con­cerns for Trump’s legal team. Fly­nn has expressed inter­est in an immu­ni­ty deal and Mueller, in his deal­ings with for­mer for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er George Papadopou­los, has shown him­self ready to nego­ti­ate.

    The for­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty adviser’s com­pa­ny, Fly­nn Intel Group, is alleged­ly under scruti­ny for fail­ing to reg­is­ter work it did for inter­ests linked to Turk­ish pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, and Fly­nn is in legal jeop­ardy for his state­ments to inves­ti­ga­tors about his con­tacts with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Turk­ish and Russ­ian gov­ern­ments.

    The new alle­ga­tion, that Fly­nn and his son engaged in a con­spir­a­cy to arrange the ren­di­tion of Fethul­lah Gülen to the Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment – which accus­es the cler­ic of plot­ting an abortive coup in July 2016 – could if con­firmed result in even more seri­ous charges.

    In Sep­tem­ber, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed a meet­ing about the plan, in which for­mer CIA direc­tor James Woolsey is said to have par­tic­i­pat­ed. Friday’s report describes a sec­ond meet­ing involv­ing both Fly­nns at the 21 Club restau­rant, a pro­hi­bi­tion-era New York speakeasy patro­n­ised by Trump, in mid-Decem­ber. Accord­ing to “peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion”, it was at this encounter that the $15m pay­ment was dis­cussed.

    One source said Gülen would be seized and flown by pri­vate jet to the Turk­ish prison island of Imrali. It is not clear if any mon­ey changed hands or if any prepara­to­ry steps were tak­en.

    The tim­ing of the 21 Club meet­ing is sig­nif­i­cant. The White House has dis­tanced itself from the men charged by Mueller – Papadopou­los, for­mer cam­paign man­ag­er Paul Man­afort and his busi­ness asso­ciate Rick Gates. But by mid-Decem­ber Trump had named Fly­nn nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er and he was play­ing a cen­tral role in the tran­si­tion.

    That peri­od is a grey area when it comes to paid work for for­eign inter­ests, but if the arrange­ment was car­ried through past inau­gu­ra­tion in Jan­u­ary, Fly­nn could face bribery charges on top of ques­tions of whether the New York con­ver­sa­tions rep­re­sent­ed a con­spir­a­cy to car­ry out a forced extra-judi­cial ren­di­tion of a legal US res­i­dent.

    “If the facts involv­ing Fly­nn and his son are true, or even most­ly true, it indi­cates an incred­i­ble propen­si­ty for out­ra­geous­ly ille­gal con­duct,” said Ryan Good­man, a New York law pro­fes­sor and for­mer Pen­ta­gon coun­sel. “Evi­dence that Fly­nn was pre­pared to act in such an unlaw­ful way could help prove a case against him in oth­er activ­i­ties as well involv­ing his ties to Rus­sia dur­ing the cam­paign.

    “If Mueller has suf­fi­cient evi­dence that Fly­nn and his son were involved in this auda­cious plot to kid­nap the cler­ic, the spe­cial coun­sel can use that to pres­sure the for­mer Trump cam­paign asso­ciate to flip and tell the FBI every­thing he knows of rel­e­vance to the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    The White House did not respond to a request for com­ment.

    Robert Kel­ner, Stephen Antho­ny and Bri­an Smith, attor­neys for Fly­nn, said that so far, out of respect for the var­i­ous inves­ti­ga­tions into alleged Russ­ian med­dling in the 2016 US elec­tion and pos­si­ble col­lu­sion with the Trump cam­paign, they had avoid­ed respond­ing to “every rumor or alle­ga­tion raised in the media”.

    “But today’s news cycle has brought alle­ga­tions about Gen­er­al Fly­nn, rang­ing from kid­nap­ping to bribery, that are so out­ra­geous and prej­u­di­cial that we are mak­ing an excep­tion to our usu­al rule: they are false,” they said in a state­ment.

    Bar­ry Coburn, rep­re­sent­ing Flynn’s son, said he had no com­ment.

    ...

    In August, the Fly­nn Intel Group signed a deal with a Dutch firm, Ino­vo, owned by Ekim Alptekin, chair­man of the Turk­ish-Amer­i­can Busi­ness Coun­cil and a close asso­ciate of Erdo­gan, accord­ing to doc­u­ments filed with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. Flynn’s firm was paid more than $530,000 to dig up infor­ma­tion about Gülen and make a film about him, accord­ing to the doc­u­ments. On elec­tion day, 8 Novem­ber, Fly­nn pub­lished a com­men­tary in The Hill, describ­ing Gülen as “a shady Islam­ic mul­lah” and “rad­i­cal Islamist”.

    It was his Russ­ian ties that caused his ini­tial down­fall, how­ev­er. Fly­nn last­ed only 24 days as nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, being forced to resign after it emerged he mis­led offi­cials over the extent and nature of his con­tacts with the for­mer Russ­ian ambas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, Sergey Kislyak.

    ———-

    “Ex-Trump aide Fly­nn inves­ti­gat­ed over plot to kid­nap Turk­ish dis­si­dent – report” by Julian Borg­er; The Guardian; 11/10/2017

    “In Sep­tem­ber, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed a meet­ing about the plan, in which for­mer CIA direc­tor James Woolsey is said to have par­tic­i­pat­ed. Friday’s report describes a sec­ond meet­ing involv­ing both Fly­nns at the 21 Club restau­rant, a pro­hi­bi­tion-era New York speakeasy patro­n­ised by Trump, in mid-Decem­ber. Accord­ing to “peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion”, it was at this encounter that the $15m pay­ment was dis­cussed.”

    Yep, Fly­nn appar­ent­ly offered this pri­vate ren­di­tion plan to Turkey for $15 mil­lion at a meet­ing in mid-Decem­ber, after the elec­tion and while Fly­nn was work­ing on Trump’s tran­si­tion team:

    ...
    One source said Gülen would be seized and flown by pri­vate jet to the Turk­ish prison island of Imrali. It is not clear if any mon­ey changed hands or if any prepara­to­ry steps were tak­en.

    The tim­ing of the 21 Club meet­ing is sig­nif­i­cant. The White House has dis­tanced itself from the men charged by Mueller – Papadopou­los, for­mer cam­paign man­ag­er Paul Man­afort and his busi­ness asso­ciate Rick Gates. But by mid-Decem­ber Trump had named Fly­nn nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er and he was play­ing a cen­tral role in the tran­si­tion.

    That peri­od is a grey area when it comes to paid work for for­eign inter­ests, but if the arrange­ment was car­ried through past inau­gu­ra­tion in Jan­u­ary, Fly­nn could face bribery charges on top of ques­tions of whether the New York con­ver­sa­tions rep­re­sent­ed a con­spir­a­cy to car­ry out a forced extra-judi­cial ren­di­tion of a legal US res­i­dent
    ...

    That’s all part of what could be behind the Fly­nn plea deal: he may have been offer pri­vate kid­nap­ping ser­vices to a for­eign gov­ern­ment. While work­ing on the Trump tran­si­tion team. And it’s unclear what the Trump team knew about this and when they knew it.

    But what is clear, based on the fol­low­ing report, is that pri­vate kid­nap­ping ser­vices is some­thing the Trump team is cur­rent­ly enter­tain­ing. Except in this case it would be a pri­vate com­pa­ny offer­ing these ser­vices to the US gov­ern­ment and pos­si­bly oth­er “friend­ly” gov­ern­ments:

    Buz­zFeed News

    The Trump Admin­is­tra­tion Is Mulling A Pitch For A Pri­vate “Ren­di­tion” And Spy Net­work

    A pri­vate com­pa­ny has pro­posed that the US gov­ern­ment pay it mil­lions to under­take intel­li­gence and covert oper­a­tions.

    Aram Ros­ton
    Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Report­ing From Wash­ing­ton, DC
    Post­ed on Novem­ber 30, 2017, at 1:01 p.m.

    WASHINGTON — The White House and CIA have been con­sid­er­ing a pack­age of secret pro­pos­als to allow for­mer US intel­li­gence offi­cers to run pri­va­tized covert actions, intel­li­gence gath­er­ing, and pro­pa­gan­da mis­sions, accord­ing to three sources who’ve been briefed on or have direct knowl­edge of the pro­pos­als.

    One of the pro­pos­als would involve hir­ing a pri­vate com­pa­ny, Amyn­tor Group, for mil­lions of dol­lars to set up a large intel­li­gence net­work and run coun­tert­er­ror­ist pro­pa­gan­da efforts, accord­ing to the sources. Amyntor’s offi­cials and employ­ees include vet­er­ans of a vari­ety of US covert oper­a­tions, rang­ing from the Rea­gan-era Iran–Contra affair to more recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Amyn­tor declined to dis­cuss the pro­pos­als, but a lawyer for the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment to Buz­zFeed News that the type of con­tract being con­tem­plat­ed would be legal “with direc­tion and con­trol by the prop­er gov­ern­ment author­i­ty.”

    Anoth­er pro­pos­al pre­sent­ed to US offi­cials would allow indi­vid­u­als affil­i­at­ed with the com­pa­ny to help cap­ture want­ed ter­ror­ists on behalf of the Unit­ed States. In keep­ing with that pro­pos­al, peo­ple close to the com­pa­ny are track­ing two spe­cif­ic sus­pects in a Mid­dle East­ern coun­try, the sources said, for pos­si­ble “ren­di­tion” to the Unit­ed States.

    A source speak­ing on behalf of the com­pa­ny stressed that while Amyn­tor offi­cials are aware of and involved in the ren­di­tion plan, the com­pa­ny itself would not be involved.

    Peo­ple involved in the high­ly unusu­al project have asked Buz­zFeed News not to name the coun­try or the tar­gets because of con­cerns about the safe­ty of oper­a­tives who, they say, are on the ground. They say that the peo­ple involved have the infor­ma­tion and capa­bil­i­ties to snatch the two sus­pects and trans­port them to the US or a third coun­try.

    The pro­pos­als sound like a con­vo­lut­ed movie plot, but two of the sources famil­iar with the project say dis­cus­sions have been held recent­ly with top nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials.

    The CIA declined to com­ment, but a US gov­ern­ment offi­cial down­played the pro­pos­als’ sig­nif­i­cance. “The idea they are pitch­ing is absurd on its face,” he said, “and it is not going any­where.”

    A spokesper­son for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil said that Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMas­ter, Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, and oth­er offi­cials were not aware of the pro­pos­als.

    CIA Direc­tor Mike Pom­peo has pub­licly promised that the agency would become “much more vicious” and aggres­sive. He said in one speech that the admin­is­tra­tion “is pre­pared to engage in activ­i­ties that are dif­fer­ent from what Amer­i­ca has been doing these past few years.”

    Those famil­iar with the pro­pos­als say one of the dri­ving impuls­es for pri­va­tiz­ing some mis­sions is a fear by some sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, out­side gov­ern­ment, that the CIA bureau­cra­cy has an anti-Trump bias that would thwart efforts to ful­fill the president’s objec­tives. “The sys­tem does not work,” one source who is sym­pa­thet­ic to the Amyn­tor efforts told Buz­zFeed News. “The peo­ple leak­ing this to you just want to destroy the pres­i­dent.”

    Amyn­tor declined to dis­cuss specifics, but a lawyer for the com­pa­ny, Ray­mond R. Granger, pro­vid­ed a state­ment:

    As a mat­ter of com­pa­ny pol­i­cy, Amyn­tor does not com­ment regard­ing whether or not it has attempt­ed or is attempt­ing to secure a con­tract with any gov­ern­ment agency. The type of con­tract about which Buz­zFeed is writ­ing, how­ev­er, would be entire­ly appro­pri­ate with direc­tion and con­trol by the prop­er gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ty. What would be inap­pro­pri­ate, and poten­tial­ly ille­gal, would be for any indi­vid­ual pur­port­ing to have direct knowl­edge of what would be a clas­si­fied con­tract pro­pos­al to dis­close that infor­ma­tion pub­licly.

    Amyn­tor Group is a reclu­sive com­pa­ny head­quar­tered in White­fish, Mon­tana, a town of 6,500 res­i­dents that recent­ly gained noto­ri­ety after a com­pa­ny based there won, then lost, a $300 mil­lion con­tract to rebuild Puer­to Rico’s elec­tri­cal grid. There is no known rela­tion­ship between the two com­pa­nies.

    Amyntor’s web­site describes its mis­sion as “pro­vid­ing extra­or­di­nary secu­ri­ty solu­tions.” It claims to “main­tain an expe­ri­enced cadre of cleared pro­fes­sion­als that pos­sess Sub­ject Mat­ter Exper­tise (SME) in the areas of intel­li­gence train­ing, col­lec­tions and analy­sis, risk assess­ment, and coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence to sup­port U.S. and friend­ly for­eign gov­ern­ment activ­i­ties around the globe.”

    Among the man­age­ment of Amyn­tor is John Maguire, a for­mer CIA case offi­cer who report­ed­ly led a US effort to pro­voke Sad­dam Hus­sein into war before the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq..

    The late Duane “Dewey” Clar­ridge, a for­mer top covert CIA offi­cial, once set up a pri­vate intel­li­gence net­work.

    Sources say Maguire and oth­ers who run Amyn­tor pre­vi­ous­ly worked with the late Duane “Dewey” Clar­ridge, a CIA offi­cer known for his col­or­ful per­son­al­i­ty. Indict­ed and then par­doned for his role in the so-called Iran–Contra affair dur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan, Clar­ridge also tried in 2008, while in his sev­en­ties, to set up his own pri­vate intel­li­gence agency to col­lect infor­ma­tion about ter­ror­ists in Afghanistan. Clar­ridge ran the busi­ness under the name “The Eclipse Group.” Report­ed­ly, his oper­a­tion was, for a time, fund­ed by the Depart­ment of Defense. Clar­ridge died in 2016.

    ...

    The pitch to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion began in the sum­mer, accord­ing to the for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial famil­iar with it. It involved at least three com­po­nents: col­lect­ing intel­li­gence on ter­ror­ists using “a net­work of assets in a denied area” (mean­ing spies in hos­tile coun­tries), an online pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tion to counter Islam­ic extrem­ism, and the ren­di­tion plan.

    One source saw the plan pre­sent­ed in a Pow­er­Point. He says it appeared that the pitch­es coin­cid­ed with a wide­ly pub­li­cized effort by Erik Prince — the pri­vate secu­ri­ty offi­cial, founder of Black­wa­ter, and broth­er of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos — to pri­va­tize the war in Afghanistan.

    But the source speak­ing on behalf of the com­pa­ny says that while Prince is close to some Amyn­tor offi­cials, he has noth­ing to do with the ren­di­tion plan or the oth­er pro­pos­als.

    As Buz­zFeed News report­ed ear­li­er in Novem­ber, a CIA offi­cial assigned to the NSC once worked on an assas­si­na­tion plan at a time when the agency had con­tract­ed it to Prince.

    Pri­va­tiz­ing intel­li­gence oper­a­tions and covert actions is high­ly con­tro­ver­sial. Asked about Amyntor’s pro­pos­al and the ren­di­tion plan, one for­mer senior intel­li­gence offi­cial said, “All the insti­tu­tion­al struc­tures exist to pre­vent things from going off the rails. Is this an attempt to cir­cum­vent over­sight?”

    ———-

    “The Trump Admin­is­tra­tion Is Mulling A Pitch For A Pri­vate “Ren­di­tion” And Spy Net­work” by Aram Ros­ton; Buz­zFeed News; 11/30/2017

    “One of the pro­pos­als would involve hir­ing a pri­vate com­pa­ny, Amyn­tor Group, for mil­lions of dol­lars to set up a large intel­li­gence net­work and run coun­tert­er­ror­ist pro­pa­gan­da efforts, accord­ing to the sources. Amyntor’s offi­cials and employ­ees include vet­er­ans of a vari­ety of US covert oper­a­tions, rang­ing from the Rea­gan-era Iran–Contra affair to more recent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    A bunch of Rea­gan-era Iran-Con­tra fig­ures want to see up a pri­vate CIA that offers every­thing from pro­pa­gan­da (psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare) oper­a­tions to extra­or­di­nary ren­di­tion and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is inter­est­ed. Sur­prise!

    And note how the ren­di­tions won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly involve tak­ing peo­ple to the US. Maybe they’re head to some “third country”...presumably a coun­try with a rep­u­ta­tion for tor­ture. Which sure sounds a lot like the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion’s pri­va­tized extra­or­di­nary ren­di­tion pro­gram. So what­ev­er is left of Amer­i­ca’s ‘soft pow­er’ is once again get­ting pissed away by a pro-tor­ture GOP admin­is­tra­tion:

    ...
    Anoth­er pro­pos­al pre­sent­ed to US offi­cials would allow indi­vid­u­als affil­i­at­ed with the com­pa­ny to help cap­ture want­ed ter­ror­ists on behalf of the Unit­ed States. In keep­ing with that pro­pos­al, peo­ple close to the com­pa­ny are track­ing two spe­cif­ic sus­pects in a Mid­dle East­ern coun­try, the sources said, for pos­si­ble “ren­di­tion” to the Unit­ed States.

    A source speak­ing on behalf of the com­pa­ny stressed that while Amyn­tor offi­cials are aware of and involved in the ren­di­tion plan, the com­pa­ny itself would not be involved.

    Peo­ple involved in the high­ly unusu­al project have asked Buz­zFeed News not to name the coun­try or the tar­gets because of con­cerns about the safe­ty of oper­a­tives who, they say, are on the ground. They say that the peo­ple involved have the infor­ma­tion and capa­bil­i­ties to snatch the two sus­pects and trans­port them to the US or a third coun­try.

    The pro­pos­als sound like a con­vo­lut­ed movie plot, but two of the sources famil­iar with the project say dis­cus­sions have been held recent­ly with top nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cials.
    ...

    And note how the com­pa­ny at the cen­ter of this plan, Amyn­tor, is appar­ent­ly offer­ing its ser­vices to “friend­ly for­eign gov­ern­ment activ­i­ties around the globe:

    ...
    Amyntor’s web­site describes its mis­sion as “pro­vid­ing extra­or­di­nary secu­ri­ty solu­tions.” It claims to “main­tain an expe­ri­enced cadre of cleared pro­fes­sion­als that pos­sess Sub­ject Mat­ter Exper­tise (SME) in the areas of intel­li­gence train­ing, col­lec­tions and analy­sis, risk assess­ment, and coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence to sup­port U.S. and friend­ly for­eign gov­ern­ment activ­i­ties around the globe.”
    ...

    So this pri­vate firm, which will implic­it­ly doing its work on behalf of the US gov­ern­ment, will also be work­ing for who knows who else.

    Might these ser­vices include try­ing to pro­voke a war? Based on the peo­ple involved with Amyn­tor we def­i­nite­ly can’t rule it out:

    ...
    Among the man­age­ment of Amyn­tor is John Maguire, a for­mer CIA case offi­cer who report­ed­ly led a US effort to pro­voke Sad­dam Hus­sein into war before the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq..

    The late Duane “Dewey” Clar­ridge, a for­mer top covert CIA offi­cial, once set up a pri­vate intel­li­gence net­work.

    Sources say Maguire and oth­ers who run Amyn­tor pre­vi­ous­ly worked with the late Duane “Dewey” Clar­ridge, a CIA offi­cer known for his col­or­ful per­son­al­i­ty. Indict­ed and then par­doned for his role in the so-called Iran–Contra affair dur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan, Clar­ridge also tried in 2008, while in his sev­en­ties, to set up his own pri­vate intel­li­gence agency to col­lect infor­ma­tion about ter­ror­ists in Afghanistan. Clar­ridge ran the busi­ness under the name “The Eclipse Group.” Report­ed­ly, his oper­a­tion was, for a time, fund­ed by the Depart­ment of Defense. Clar­ridge died in 2016.
    ...

    And, of course, the Trump team heard the pitch for this scheme around the same time Erik Prince was mak­ing his pitch to pri­va­tize the war in Afghanistan and turn it into a for-prof­it oper­a­tion mod­eled on the East India Tea Com­pa­ny. And, of course, Prince is close to the peo­ple behind Amyn­tor. But we are assured he has noth­ing to do with this *wink*:

    ...
    One source saw the plan pre­sent­ed in a Pow­er­Point. He says it appeared that the pitch­es coin­cid­ed with a wide­ly pub­li­cized effort by Erik Prince — the pri­vate secu­ri­ty offi­cial, founder of Black­wa­ter, and broth­er of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos — to pri­va­tize the war in Afghanistan.

    But the source speak­ing on behalf of the com­pa­ny says that while Prince is close to some Amyn­tor offi­cials, he has noth­ing to do with the ren­di­tion plan or the oth­er pro­pos­als.
    ...

    So will the Trump team go down this route? Well, as the arti­cle notes notes, there is one par­tic­u­lar impulse dri­ving the move to set up a pri­vate CIA: the Trump team’s dis­trust of the CIA bureau­cra­cy which it feels has an anti-Trump bias:

    ...
    Those famil­iar with the pro­pos­als say one of the dri­ving impuls­es for pri­va­tiz­ing some mis­sions is a fear by some sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, out­side gov­ern­ment, that the CIA bureau­cra­cy has an anti-Trump bias that would thwart efforts to ful­fill the president’s objec­tives. “The sys­tem does not work,” one source who is sym­pa­thet­ic to the Amyn­tor efforts told Buz­zFeed News. “The peo­ple leak­ing this to you just want to destroy the pres­i­dent.”
    ...

    “The sys­tem does not work...The peo­ple leak­ing this to you just want to destroy the pres­i­dent.”

    That’s going to be the spin: ‘all these reports about this pri­vate CIA are an exam­ple of why we need it because if the Trump team can’t secret­ly set up its own CIA with­out the pub­lic find­ing out about it the sys­tem is clear­ly not work­ing’.
    So as we see the case against Michael Fly­nn unfold, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that Fly­n­n’s pri­vate kid­nap­ping-for-hire ser­vices scan­dal prob­a­bly isn’t going to be the only pri­vate kid­nap­ping-for-hire ser­vices scan­dal we see emerge from this admin­is­tra­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 2, 2017, 3:28 pm

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