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For The Record  

FTR #938 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 12: Settling In, Part 2 (The Underground Reich Comes Into Plain View, Part 5)

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

making-of-trumpCIA SealIntroduction: This program continues analysis of the “settling in” process of the Trump administration, which we feel embodies the transition of the Underground Reich into an above-ground, mass movement.

Aspects of this program and significant elements of the next two broadcasts will develop our analysis of the development of the “bidding war” between Russia and the United States (to the ultimate benefit of Germany) that we introduced in FTR #’s 918 and 919.

We note in passing that several of the topics of discussion mentioned at the top of the program are to be presented in the next broadcast and were not in this program due to the limitations of time.

In FTR #’s 891 and 895, we highlighted the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a Congressional fig leaf instituted to dilute the CIA control over American foreign broadcast outlets such as Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. In addition to the broadcast outlets discussed in the story that follows, we note that the change from a “board of governors” to a “CEO” to be appointed by Trump also gives the nominee power over Radio Free Asia’s Open Technology Fund, developer of numerous apps and other technological methodologies favored by the so-called “privacy advocates.”

The replacement of the governors is seen as a potential boon to the Trump administration. “ . . . . ‘There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,’ the Republican official said. ‘They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.‘ . . . .

The change will affect domestic broadcast media as well. ” . . . . Because of the modification of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013, the BBG can now broadcast in the U.S., too. But the influence on the domestic market could be even more subtle, the Republican official warned. A BBG CEO influenced by the administration could penetrate established media outlets with packages, series or other news products produced by the BBG’s networks but picked up and aired by traditional media like Fox News or Breitbart. Many U.S. outlets currently use content from VOA. ‘No money would even change hands, you’ve had no effect on the budget,’ the official said. ‘But it will denigrate the product. . . . ‘ “

In the context of the changes made to the BBG, we review the political inclinations of Bannon:  ” . . . The late Andrew Breitbart, founder of the website Bannon went on to lead, called Bannon the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement”—a reference to the infamous creator of Nazi propaganda films. While insisting to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2011 that his work isn’t propaganda, Bannon went on to cite Riefenstahl among his main influences . . . “

Next, we turn to the subject of free trade, on which Trump has had much to say, bashing China and Mexico as countries the U.S. should “put right” in their trade relations with the U.S. It’s worth noting we haven’t heard Trump mention a trade war with Germany despite all his tirades against China and Mexico. It raises the question of why, since Germany’s unprecedented and damaging surpluses make it such an obvious trade war target.

” . . . . There is one potential trade war, however, that few people have so far noticed — but which could soon be his easiest target. Germany. Given the size of its population, it runs a far larger trade surplus than China — and a massive surplus with the U.S. in particular. Even better, the industries to pick off are relatively simple to identify, and would actually have a chance of creating well-paid American jobs. . . . 

“. . . . Germany’s trade surplus is absolutely massive, and unprecedented in modern industrial history. Last year it hit 8.9% of gross domestic product, and it is likely to break through 9% before the end of 2016. Globally, it is second in size only to China’s, but given that Germany is a far smaller country, it is only fair to measure it on a per capita basis — and when you look at it that way, Germany’s surplus is seven times bigger than China’s. . . . Much of Germany’s trade surplus is clearly the result of currency manipulation. The euro has depressed the real value of the country’s exports, allowing it rack up those huge exports. You can argue about whether China’s currency is really at its fair value or not — but no one can really dispute that Germany’s currency is way, way below what it would be if it still had the deutschemark. . . .”

Obviously, part of the answer lies in the fact that Deutsche Bank–a key element of the Bormann capital network and the Underground Reich–is owed hundreds of millions of dollars by Trump. Trump’s other connections run in the direction of the Underground Reich as well. (The Trump/Deutsche Bank connection is discussed, in among other programs, FTR #’s 920, 921, 922 and 927.)

We note in passing that Germany is preparing for a trade war with the U.S.–we don’t think one will really take place, but we may be treated to Trumpian “fake news” and/or propaganda. Germany is asserting that the factors behind its enormous trade surplus can not be altered, because it is due to naturally occurring circumstances like a rapidly aging population.

” . . . There are plenty of reasons for that. Germany’s current account surplus has never been as high as it is this year and never before has that surplus represented such a significant share of the country’s gross domestic product. Making matters worse is the fact that the US is the largest consumer of German exports. . . .

“. . . . As high as it is, though, the current surplus is likely to continue growing. The recent fall in the euro’s value relative to the dollar following Trump’s election makes German products and services even more competitive. And many economists believe that the value of the dollar will continue to climb, which means that the value of the euro against the dollar will shrink correspondingly. Their predictions are based on recent indications that Trump’s announced economic stimulus policies will push up both America’s sovereign debt load and its interest rates. . . .”

The program concludes with analysis of how Trump’s continued involvement in his business empire (through his children) leaves him open to manipulation. The Philippines is a good example: “ . . . . 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. . . .  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. . . . .”

Program Highlights Include: 

  • Trump’s business dealings in India, where members of the BJP party figure in the disposition of the operations in that country.
  • Trump’s consideration of Bernie Sanders supporter Tulsi Gabbard for a cabinet position.
  • Steve Bannon’s high regard for Gabbard.
  • Gabbard’s strong support for Modi and networking with the BJP.
  • Gabbard’s networking with the RSS, the Indian fascist organization for which the BJP serves as a front. (Gabbard will be discussed at much greater length in future programs.)

1a. The bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors is about to get replaced with a Broadcasting CEO thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act passed last week. And under this new system, that CEO gets selected by the President. Yes, the Trump administration is about to be the first administration to wield these new US propaganda powers.

Some wags have observed that we should probably get ready for Trump TV: the official unofficial voice of the US government.  Stay tuned.

A Republican government official familiar with the agency’s work warned that abolishing the board will make it susceptible to the influence of Trump’s allies, including his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign. . . . ‘There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,’ the Republican official said. ‘They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.‘ . . . .

The change will affect domestic broadcast media as well. ” . . . . Because of the modification of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013, the BBG can now broadcast in the U.S., too. But the influence on the domestic market could be even more subtle, the Republican official warned. A BBG CEO influenced by the administration could penetrate established media outlets with packages, series or other news products produced by the BBG’s networks but picked up and aired by traditional media like Fox News or Breitbart. Many U.S. outlets currently use content from VOA. ‘No money would even change hands, you’ve had no effect on the budget,’ the official said. ‘But it will denigrate the product. . . . ‘ “

Trump’s “Alt-Right”/white nationalist chief strategist may well be shaping the agenda, which will be for domestic audiences as well!

“Trump to Inherit State-Run TV Network with Expanded Reach” by Tara PalmeriPolitico; 12/12/2016.

A provision tucked into the defense bill guts the Voice of America board, stoking fears that Trump could wield a powerful propaganda arm.

President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit a newly empowered Voice of America that some officials fear could serve as an unfettered propaganda arm for the former reality TV star who has flirted for years with launching his own network. Buried on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week is a provision that would disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent U.S. agency that includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

The move — pushed by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce as a way to streamline the agency — concentrates control into a powerful CEO who is appointed by the president.

That change, combined with a 2013 legislative revision that allows the network to legally reach a U.S. audience, which was once banned, could pave the way for Trump-approved content created by the U.S. diplomacy arm, if he chooses to exploit the opportunity.

Essentially, Trump is finally getting his Trump TV — financed by taxpayers to the tune of $800 million per year. And some of the few people in the know aren’t happy about it.

“Congress unwittingly just gave President-elect Trump unchecked control of all U.S. media outlets,” said Michael Kempner, a Democratic member of the board who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was a Hillary Clinton donor. “No president, either Democrat or Republican, should have that kind of control. It’s a public jewel. It’s independence is what makes it so credible.”

It’s unclear whether Trump is even aware about what he’s about to inherit. Trump as recently as September said he has “no interest in a media company,” but reports have emerged over the years of the billionaire exploring television opportunities beyond Trump Productions LLC, his TV production business whose programs include “The Apprentice” and the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Vanity Fair reported in June that he was considering launching a “mini media conglomerate” if he lost the election.

Trump transition spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

Now that Trump is getting for free a major media apparatus with loosened restrictions, Democratic and Republican members of the current board are alarmed.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the largest public diplomacy program by the U.S. government, reaching an audience of 278 million by broadcasting in 100 countries and 61 languages. The agency was created in 1942 during World War II to send pro-democracy news across Europe, as it aimed to counter Nazi and Japanese propaganda. The agency has since evolved into a more traditional news operation, while still pushing out the virtues of democracy worldwide.

To date, the nine-member board — which consists of four Republicans and four Democrats appointed by the president, as well as the secretary of state — has been a part-time operation, but it served as a firewall with the mission of preserving the integrity of the agency’s broadcasts. The organization’s charter calls for “accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity.”

A Republican government official familiar with the agency’s work warned that abolishing the board will make it susceptible to the influence of Trump’s allies, including his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign.

“There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” the Republican official said. “They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.”

Officials in particular fear that Trump and his allies could change the agency’s posture toward Russia, considering how Trump has expressed a positive view of President Vladimir Putin.

Multiple media outlets in the BBG family aim to counter Russia propaganda, including CurrentTime, which was introduced two years ago and broadcasts in Russia according to the NPR model, and Radio Free Europe. With Radio Free Asia, the U.S. also pushes back against China’s state messages, and Trump and his allies could potentially use the network to antagonize the country, which the president-elect already alarmed with his call with the Taiwanese president.

Because of the modification of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013, the BBG can now broadcast in the U.S., too. But the influence on the domestic market could be even more subtle, the Republican official warned.

A BBG CEO influenced by the administration could penetrate established media outlets with packages, series or other news products produced by the BBG’s networks but picked up and aired by traditional media like Fox News or Breitbart. Many U.S. outlets currently use content from VOA.

“No money would even change hands, you’ve had no effect on the budget,” the official said. “But it will denigrate the product.”

The official added, “It’s extremely troubling. It’s going to be bad for U.S. international broadcasters and their credibility.”

In a sign of how significant the changes are, Hillary Clinton’s transition team set up a meeting to visit the studios at 330 Independence Avenue the Wednesday after the election, according to two sources. The meeting was canceled after her loss, however, and the Trump transition team has not visited the studios.

But some top BBG officials are more measured in their reaction to Trump’s ability to influence the agency.

Jeff Shell, chairman of BBG’s board and an Obama appointee, said the changes to the agency’s structure were long overdue. “To have part-time board members to manage something like this is completely unrealistic, so I very much support the empowered CEO than a board,” he said, adding, “There’s always a risk with any federal agency, whether this administration or another that they’re going to use the organization in a partisan.”

Royce, who pushed the provision, has long blasted the board as “defunct” and has called the agency “badly broken.” For years, he has pushed broad reforms, insisting dramatic steps were necessary to make its international broadcasts more effective. He also floated the idea of rebranding the BBG as the “Freedom News Network.”

“Our agencies that helped take down the Iron Curtain with accurate and timely broadcasting have lost their edge,” Royce said in a statement after the bill was passed in the House earlier this month.

“They must be revitalized to effectively carry out their mission in this age of viral terrorism and digital propaganda. … My provision takes an important first step in this process by replacing the BBG’s part-time board with a permanent CEO to help better deliver real news to people in countries where free press does not exist.”

The legislation also gives the president the power to appoint an advisory board — which will consist of five members, including the secretary of state — but it has no statutory power.

The provision does, however, squeeze in a provision for an inspector general from the State Department who would “respect the journalistic integrity of all the broadcasters covered by this Act.”

The complaints about the agency have not been purely partisan. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has in the past complained about the agency, calling the board ineffectual and “defunct” in January 2013. Later that year, the BBG faced more controversy when it was revealed that less than 1 percent of Cubans listened to its expensive TV Martí service.

But in recent years, the agency took significant steps to clean up its act. After the criticism, the operational board reorganized and appointed a CEO, John F. Lansing, to oversee day-to-day strategy and operations in late 2013. The result was a 23 percent increase in TV viewership to 174 million and a 27 percent increase in radio audience to 130 million in 2016. Digital audiences also increased from 32 million in 2015 to 45 million. The overall audience went up from 226 million in 2015 to 278 million in 2016.

After the bill passed through the House, Lansing sent a memo to BBG staffers promising that “the legislation makes NO change to the firewall between the federal government and the journalists of our five networks.”

“As I stated at the Town Hall on Tuesday, maintaining our journalistic independence, and our credibility worldwide, remains of the utmost importance,” he wrote.

Karen Kornbluh, a Democratic member of the board appointed by Obama, reinforced the idea that the organization would not automatically bend to any president’s will.

“Although I preferred having the board because it’s always good to have checks and balance, I am sure that the staff will continue to report journalism with ‘muscular objectivity,’” Kornbluh said at the BBG’s last board meeting.

But some say this firewall is still not enough to protect the organization from the pressure of some of Trump’s most media savvy advisers like Bannon.

“On Jan. 21, we’ll have a welcoming ceremony for our next CEO, who could be Steve Bannon, or Laura Ingraham or Ann Coulter,” said a senior Voice of America staffer.


Because of the modification of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013, the BBG can now broadcast in the U.S., too. But the influence on the domestic market could be even more subtle, the Republican official warned.

A BBG CEO influenced by the administration could penetrate established media outlets with packages, series or other news products produced by the BBG’s networks but picked up and aired by traditional media like Fox News or Breitbart. Many U.S. outlets currently use content from VOA.

“No money would even change hands, you’ve had no effect on the budget,” the official said. “But it will denigrate the product.”

1b. An Alternet piece compares movies made by the chairman and deputy chairman of Trump’s campaign to Nazi propaganda films, those of Leni Riefenstahl, in particular. It is noteworthy that David Bossie, the deputy chairman of Trump’s campaign is the president and chairman of Citizens United, the organization whose lawsuit opened the door to the virtually unlimited funding of American elections by the ultra-rich.

“Trump Campaign Leaders Made Movies Comparable to Nazi Propaganda” by Alex Kotch; Alternet; 10/06/2016.

. . . . . Early on, Trump courted the far right, retweeting posts from the Twitter accounts of white supremacists. He also received support from some he apparently didn’t court, winning praise from the likes of former KKK leader David Duke, and even made the California ballot as the nominee of a racist political party.

Seeing how Steve Bannon had crafted Breitbart News, the right-wing website he ran, into a hub for young white nationalists (the “alt-right”) to bat around conspiracy theories, Trump tapped Bannon on August 17 to be his campaign CEO. As executive chairman of Breitbart, Bannon published deceptive and manufactured stories to aid the right wing, and in the presidential campaign treated his media company as a surrogate for Trump.

On September 1, Trump chose David Bossie, president and chairman of the right-wing nonprofit Citizens United, as his deputy campaign manager. Bossie has produced 25 films with Citizens United Productions. Some of these films feature Bannon as writer, director and executive producer.

It was Bossie’s group whose name came to define the unlimited flow of corporate and union cash into elections, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizens United brought against the Federal Election Commission. At issue was an anti-Clinton Citizens United production called Hillary: The Movie, which the FEC had deemed a campaign advertisement subject to regulation based on campaign finance law. (The movie was produced for airing in the 2008 presidential election, when many expected Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee.) Now Bossie has joined Bannon, his longtime teammate, to run Trump’s campaign of lies and fear-mongering against Clinton.

According to the Washington Post, Bossie’s job in Trump World is “crafting attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, mining past controversies involving her and former president Bill Clinton, and cultivating Trump’s bond with conservative activists.” Bossie has hounded the Clintons for decades, beginning in the early 1990s, when he dug up dirt about Bill Clinton when he was still governor of Arkansas. A few years later, U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) hired Bossie to investigate Clinton’s 1996 campaign fundraising, a post he was later forced to resign. Bossie went on to write a book that blamed the Clinton administration for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and to produce Hillary: The Movie with Citizens United. This year, the group sued the State Department for emails and other records of those who served as aides to Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state. Bossie is taking a leave of absence from Citizens United during the campaign, and also retiring from the Defeat Crooked Hillary super PAC, which he founded this June.

Bossie and Trump are no strangers; in 2014, Trump’s foundation donated $100,000 to the Citizens United Foundation, the same year that the group filed a lawsuit against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was suing Trump over the fraudulent practices of Trump University.

Some have wagered that Trump, along with Bannon and former Fox News chief Roger Ailes, is planning a new, post-election media empire, which could help his brand whether he wins or loses. Some think Trump doesn’t want to win the election, but the hiring of Bannon and Bossie may show that Trump, one of the world’s loudest egomaniacs, thinks he deserves the White House and knows the only way to win it is through propaganda that reinforces his giant mountain of fabrications, conspiracies, racism and sexism.

The late Andrew Breitbart, founder of the website Bannon went on to lead, called Bannon the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement”—a reference to the infamous creator of Nazi propaganda films. While insisting to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2011 that his work isn’t propaganda, Bannon went on to cite Riefenstahl among his main influences, along with Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein and progressive documentarian Michael Moore.

Ivana Trump, the candidate’s first wife, told Vanity Fair in 1990 that her husband kept a copy of Adolf Hitler’s My New Order, a collection of speeches that display the Nazi dictator’s exceptional ability to manipulate reality, in a cabinet near his bed. “Perhaps his possession of Hitler’s speeches merely indicates an interest in Hitler’s genius at propaganda,” mused Marie Brenner, author of the article.

The Nazi regime produced a massive amount of propaganda; it had an entire Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Joseph Goebbels. A central technique of Nazi propagandists, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was to cast Jews as outsiders and dangerous enemies of the Reich, “‘subhuman’ creatures infiltrating Aryan society.”

Karen Elizabeth Price, a filmmaker who teaches courses on documentary film at Duke University, told AlterNet via email that “most successful propaganda films appeal to something that already exists in the viewer—perhaps only as a feeling or germ of an idea—and help to ‘fill in the blanks.’” After Germany had to concede territories and accept blame for World War I and then was hit by the Great Depression, people felt wounded and demoralized. In Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, which some regard as the greatest propaganda film of all time, “a solution to that despair is presented in the form of a patriotic savior [in this case, Adolf Hitler] already hard at work, promising to restore Germany to its former power and glory,” said Price.

To explore, in the context of propaganda-making, the kinds of election narratives we’re getting from Trump and his latest campaign roster, I suffered my way through three movies produced by Citizens United: Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration (2006), which had Bannon and Bossie as executive producers; Battle for America (2010), with Bannon as writer, director and producer and Bossie as executive producer; and Occupy Unmasked (2012), written and directed by Bannon with Bossie as executive producer and featuring Andrew Breitbart.

All three Bannon/Bossie films center on an enemy, either “illegal” immigrants, “radical liberals” (a category that in these films includes Obama and the Clintons), or the Occupy Wall Street protesters. To exaggerate the danger of these purported enemies and garner support for those the movies present as America’s defenders, each film uses various propaganda techniques including omissions, juxtaposition, false associations, deceptively edited footage, stereotyping and repetition, all to appeal to viewers’ fear and prejudice. In two of them, the film’s heroes are framed as battling a corrupt or inept political establishment.

‘Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration’

The purpose of “Border War” is clearly to cast undocumented immigrants as threats to American citizens. The film, from 2006, takes us to Nogales, Arizona (a town on the Mexican border), and Southern California, following five characters, four of whom have antipathy for undocumented immigrants: a border patrol agent whose parents emigrated legally from Mexico; a congressman who wrote a bill to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and station guards all along it; a woman whose husband, a sheriff’s deputy, was killed by an undocumented immigrant he had stopped; a Mexican-American woman who was molested by undocumented immigrants and whose nephew was killed by one. In an attempt to feign balance, also included is an organizer for immigration reform who founded a group that provides water and food to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The selection of these subjects alone makes clear the film is hardly a documentary but more a selective argument against undocumented immigrants. From the beginning, border crossers are depicted as dangerous; an early scene contains footage of the aftermath of a shootout between “rival gangs of coyotes,” or people whom aspiring immigrants pay to shepherd them across the border. Blood pools beneath a dead trafficker, wrecked cars lie in ditches, and U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth refers to those involved in the incident as “illegals,” while threatening music underscores his comments.

Throughout the film, efforts to brand undocumented immigrants as criminals abound. A ranch owner near the border recounts many undocumented immigrants leaving trash, which he says cattle eat and die from, on his land. Once some migrants “butchered a young calf,” he says. A woman says her hospital in Douglass, Arizona, closed because it lost money treating undocumented immigrants who couldn’t pay. A news broadcast details a drug-smuggling tunnel that runs from Agua Prieta, Mexico to Douglass, Arizona.

Lupe Moreno, whose nephew was killed by an undocumented immigrant, is part of a group called Minuteman, a cadre of vigilante border patrollers labeled a “nativist extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The film doesn’t bother to explain much about the group because if they did, they’d have to acknowledge its disturbing history and ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

One scene shows competing rallies, one in favor of rights for the undocumented and another for strict immigration enforcement. At the latter rally, Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist, who was running for Congress at the time, spoke. In an interview there, Gilchrist claims that at the other rally, “[t]here’s not one American flag out there;” however, he says that in the pro-immigrant demonstration, a “communist flag” and an anarchist flag flew. Gilchrist was running for office as a member of the American Independent Party, the segregationist party of George Wallace. This party, based in California, has actually put Trump on the presidential ballot in that state this year.

On his 2006 campaign website, Gilchrist claimed, “Although some [illegal immigrants from Mexico] presumably have good intentions, at least twenty percent (20%) of southern border-crossers are known criminals, drug dealers, sex traffickers, and gang lords.”

Chris Simcox, Minuteman co-founder, makes an appearance. He’s now in jail for child molestation.

Footage of protesters with bandanas covering their faces appears, some wearing all black, some yelling at mounted police, over brooding music that pervades the film.

“We are in a battle right now,” says Moreno. “We’re in a battle for this nation.”

Moreno met with Trump last year, and Breitbart News was happy to spread the word. Unsurprisingly, Gilchrist endorsed Trump in 2015.

The film features many interviews but few facts. In one of the only scenes to include a statistic, an unidentified agent from California’s Los Angeles County tells a crowd gathered for what appears to be a law enforcement memorial for a sheriff’s deputy shot to death by an undocumented immigrant: “There are 801,000 situations where people have been murdered in the state of California.” It’s unclear what kind of situations he’s talking about and over what period of time, but even so, that’s an insanely high figure for any record of murders in the state. Then he says: “Add up the other border states, now we’re up to 3,000.” If perchance he multiplied the real stat for California by 100,000, Citizens United didn’t bother to clarify or fix his error.

No journalists or researchers were interviewed for “Border War.” Ten years after the film was made, the anti-establishment and “law-and-order candidate” Trump has made a promise to build that wall a signature talking point.

‘Battle for America’

“Battle for America,” a 2010 ode to the then-nascent Tea Party, is more overtly propagandistic than “Border War.” The film devotes 30 minutes to establishing the enemy (the “radical left,” purportedly led by Obama), another 20 minutes to the nation’s problems (ostensibly caused by America’s impending “European socialist model,” the poor economy and international relations and terror threats) and the final half hour to the celebrated bravery of Tea Party activists and the crucial 2010 elections. It’s all narrated by a host of right-wing ideologues including Dick Morris (also host of “Hillary: The Movie”), Lou Dobbs, Ann Coulter and founding Breitbart News editor Michael Flynn.

“We’re being asked to choose right now whether or not the United States is going to continue to be a culture of free enterprise envisioned by our founding fathers or whether or not we’re choosing a new culture, a European-style culture of social democracy,” says Arthur Brooks, president of the Koch brothers-funded American Enterprise Institute.

Employing a repetitive, synthesized and dramatic orchestral score and a remarkable amount of stock footage, the film often flutters between what Bannon and Bossie see as good and evil: for instance, footage of Muslims praying as former Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) warns of “terrorists out there that want to kill us,” then the Statue of Liberty; a Palestinian rally and 9/11 wreckage followed by images of the flowing American flag and U.S. troops on the march.

The movie doesn’t hold back from race-baiting, often showing clips of black people characterized as having bad intentions. Besides Obama, the film depicts as the enemy New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, California Rep. Maxine Waters, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson (“a radical if there ever was one,” says Morris), activist Van Jones—and even Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates (shown having a beer with Obama, Joe Biden and the police sergeant who arrested him at his own home). There’s even a clip of a young black woman rejoicing at Obama’s inauguration; it’s clear that the filmmakers do not intend the viewer to share in her jubilation.

Listing the many problems they have with America under Obama, the far-right narrators bemoan what they claim is Americans’ dependence on government, the failed stimulus and the president’s purported “apology tour”—replete with footage of burning flags; Muslims in traditional dress; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then president of Iran; the socialist Hugo Chávez, then president of Venezuela; and aged video of Fascist troops marching in perfect synchrony. Amidst the sea of mostly unrelated footage, the hosts make absurd claims; for example, one asserts that expanding Medicaid would “move primary care into the emergency room,” when the reality is just the opposite.

In the final third of the film, Bannon lauds the Tea Party, introducing uplifting, trumpet-heavy music and shots of seemingly all-white Tea Party rallies where so-called patriots smile, cheer and wave flags, characterized as standing against socialism and fighting for freedom. In the last segment, “How We Win,” the music shifts, and Newt Gingrich, Dobbs, Coulter and others talk about “an unchecked, unstopped, unlimited Obama radicalism” and how “the last, best hope of the world is at stake” in the 2010 elections, over images of the doomed Titanic, burning forests and collapsing icebergs. Only the Tea Party patriots can save America, “where freedom can flourish,” by voting for liberty-loving conservatives.

In her analysis of Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will,” Price noted that “perhaps most critically, Germany’s comeback is portrayed as well underway; the viewer need only jump aboard. What is being said implicitly is that there is no alternative.” In “Battle for America,” Bannon and Bossie follow the same formula, positing the Tea Party movement as the bandwagon to jump on. But the formula isn’t the only thing about the film that carries echoes of Goebbels: a researcher and counsel for the film was white nationalist Robert Vandervoort.

‘Occupy Unmasked’

Just two years after making a film lionizing the “grassroots” Tea Party, Bannon and Bossie made a hit piece on another protest movement, this one composed of people concerned about income inequality and angry at the big banks that wrecked the global economy.

Naturally, the propaganda duo resorted to its go-to method when making “Occupy Unmasked”: depicting a war between a vicious enemy and strong, patriotic Americans. It’s a brash film with one obvious goal: to discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement and thus prevent conservatives from caring about the country’s massive wealth disparity.

The film opens with a succession of TV news clips about the national debt, splicing selected segments together over a suspenseful soundtrack in order to dramatize the “debt crisis.” We see an image of Obama with the words “an organizer” floating next to him. Liberals, as in “Battle for America,” are labeled as radicals ready to destroy America as we know it. In fact, the movie has three acts, named after Bannon’s characterization of strategies in Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” a guide for community organizers hailed by the left and scorned by the right. (Ironically, however, Tea Party organizer Dick Armey and other conservatives used some of Alinsky’s tactics.) Bannon frames Occupy as an anarchist group—even the “a” in “Occupy Unmasked” is the anarchist symbol—representing “the organized left,” which is said to be set on securing government handouts.

The late Breitbart himself is the narrator, establishing this war as “the battle for the soul of America.”

“Occupy Unmasked,” like Bannon and Bossie’s other films, uses strange, unrelated footage, often involving people of color, and sets up black people as a representation of evil. While defaming Occupy in an extended opening of the film, they intersperse news clips and footage of protesters with unrelated clips of a dark-skinned snake charmer, all while splicing in clips of “radicals” including Van Jones (“of the far left group, Color of Change”), Princeton professor Cornel West and actor Whoopi Goldberg.

Next comes another common propaganda tactic: using anecdotes to make a general argument. Bannon shows an interview with one Occupy protester who mentions drugs; he extrapolates that the Occupiers only wanted to “create their own Woodstock” with widespread drug use and sex. One woman says that sexual assault occurred, so Bannon portrays Occupy campers as a mob of rapists. “There’s raping and there’s pillaging and there’s pooping,” spouts Breitbart.

While “black bloc” anarchists were a presence at Occupy, they by no means represented the movement as a whole, and progressives criticized them. But Bannon shows countless clips of protesters wearing all black and covering their faces, clashing with police, committing vandalism or marching while holding black flags. Breitbart says the protesters are socialists who want to overthrow the government and create tension with the police.

No one interviewed on camera is a nonpartisan journalist or researcher, yet Bannon and Bossie present their commentators as authorities, failing to disclose their ties to Breitbart News. Pam Key, who worked at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze (she now writes for Breitbart News) and is known for making misleading videos, says, “These people have set off a powder keg, and what is gonna happen, nobody knows … It has the potential of becoming incredibly violent.” She claims Occupiers planned their violence “in tents at night with drugs and weapons.”

Other guests include Mandy Nagy, known online as Liberty Chick, who was a writer and researcher for Breitbart News; Brandon Darby, who once served as an informant for the FBI on left-wing protesters (he now manages Breitbart’s Texas vertical); Christian Hartsock, a Breitbart columnist who has worked with James O’Keefe on misleading sting videos against ACORN and teachers’ unions; and David Horowitz, an author and speaker whom the Southern Poverty Law Center considers an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim extremist and who frequently writes for Breitbart.

Breitbart himself takes aim at the very concept of community organizing, painting it as the dark province of bad people. “Community organizing is not the American people getting together to help your next door neighbor put food into the cupboard,” he fumes. “Community organiz[ers] are radicals, anarchists, socialists, communists, public sector unions who are hell-bent on a nihilistic destruction of everything that people in American care for.”

In the second segment, “The Issue Is Never the Issue,” Darby and Horowitz relate Occupy to communism and socialism as the movie shows a flurry of clips of Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, the Black Panthers—and images of dead and starving people. “People who were in the left, like the Panthers, could be killers, and they would be protected by the rest of the left,” states Horowitz.

The film then plunges into full-on conspiracy theories, claiming there was a “secret council” leading Occupy that no one knew about; that Hillary Clinton and Obama are out to destroy America because of the “direct line” from Alinsky to both of them.

The finale, featuring a mix of cliché Hollywood orchestral film music and electronically produced industrial metal, somehow ratchets up the alleged danger of Occupy, even throwing in scenes of Greek protesters hurling bombs in Athens, because, hey, why not? “There’s definitely a massive desire to sort of bring the violence of Europe over to America,” claims Key.

Unlike many propaganda films, this one doesn’t offer a glimpse of an America freed from evil, or a distinct entity that will fight them and win, except perhaps Breitbart himself, shown yelling at protesters, “Behave yourself!” and “Stop raping people!”

Now, Bannon and Bossie, this estimable pair of propaganda purveyors, are Trump’s best hope in his deceptive media campaign. Trump’s campaign ads, as well as the conspiracy theories he and his surrogates peddle, would seem to bear their imprint.

What an alliance: A candidate—the original birther, known for creating baseless conspiracy theories, as well as business fraud, pay-to-play politics and using his “charitable” foundation stocked with other people’s money to pay off his company’s court settlements—and the masterminds behind some of the nation’s most shameless far-right propaganda. They’re all working together to put a sociopath in the White House.

2a. With big questions looming over how, or even if, a Trump administration will modify the US’s various trade agreements, it’s worth noting we haven’t heard Trump mention a trade war with Germany despite all his tirades against China and Mexico. It raises the question of why, since Germany’s unprecedented and damaging surpluses make it such an obvious trade war target.

Obviously, part of the answer lies in the fact that Deutsche Bank–a key element of the Bormann capital network and the Underground Reich–is owed hundreds of millions of dollars by Trump. Trump’s other connections run in the direction of the Underground Reich as well.

“Opinion: If Trump Wants A Trade War, Starting One with Germany Makes More Sense” by Matthew LynnMarketWatch; 11/30/2016.

Building a wall along the border with Mexico. Launching a trade war with China. Scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and rethinking the involvement of the United States in trade agreements around the world.

When he moves into the White House in January, President Donald Trump will have plenty of options for making good on his campaign promise to use tariff barriers to rebuild American industry.

There is one potential trade war, however, that few people have so far noticed — but which could soon be his easiest target. Germany. Given the size of its population, it runs a far larger trade surplus than China — and a massive surplus with the U.S. in particular. Even better, the industries to pick off are relatively simple to identify, and would actually have a chance of creating well-paid American jobs.

Heck, Trump would even be settling a family score — the Germans deported his grandfather, Frederick Trump, for draft-dodging. They might be feeling nervous about Jan. 20, the day of Trump’s inauguration, in Beijing and Mexico City — but the place they should be feeling really nervous is Berlin.

When Trump confounded expectations earlier this month, and brushed aside Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, world leaders were not exactly falling over one another to congratulate them. Few had wanted him to win. Even so, the message from German Chancellor Angela Merkel was especially chilly, making plenty of pointed remarks about liberal values and shared responsibilities.

To most commentators, that was a reflection of Merkel’s commitment to tolerance and openness, which are certainly among her best qualities. But it may have reflected something else as well. Trump’s campaign rhetoric about ripping up free-trade agreements, and about protecting American industry, must sound troubling to anyone who is aware of what keeps the German economy ticking.

In Germany, the threat its massive trade surplus with America has already been noted. The influential and well-connected magazine Der Spiegel ran an article in the wake of his victory saying that Germany was preparing itself for a trade war with Trump’s America. The country’s Economics Ministry has, the magazine reported, been told to start putting together the counter-arguments against tariffs barriers — pointing out that it is the result of the country’s aging population and the structure of its industrial base.

If there is to be a diplomatic war over the issue, Germany wants its ground to be well-prepared.

Is it right to be worried?

It certainly is.

Germany’s trade surplus is absolutely massive, and unprecedented in modern industrial history.

Last year it hit 8.9% of gross domestic product, and it is likely to break through 9% before the end of 2016. Globally, it is second in size only to China’s, but given that Germany is a far smaller country, it is only fair to measure it on a per capita basis — and when you look at it that way, Germany’s surplus is seven times bigger than China’s.

Even worse, China is a developing country — and those are generally expected to run surpluses as they build up industries through exports. Over time, those surpluses come down, as domestic demand grows, and that process already seems to be underway in China. In contrast, Germany is a mature industrial economy, and yet its surplus keeps on growing relentlessly.

In truth, Germany has become a machine for dumping deflation on the rest of the world.

Its surplus with the U.S. is particularly acute. According to U.S. government figures, the country ran a deficit with Germany of $74 billion in 2015. Go back to 2006 and that was only $47 billion — it has almost doubled in a decade, and keeps on growing.

Out of the total deficit for 2015 of $531 billion, Germany accounted for 14% of it, an impressive achievement given that Germany only accounts for 4.6% of the global economy. If you are sitting in the White House, thinking that you want to do something about the deficit, then it makes a lot more sense to concentrate on Germany than Mexico or China.

That is not all.

Much of Germany’s trade surplus is clearly the result of currency manipulation. The euro has depressed the real value of the country’s exports, allowing it rack up those huge exports. You can argue about whether China’s currency is really at its fair value or not — but no one can really dispute that Germany’s currency is way, way below what it would be if it still had the deutschemark.

Even more significantly, there would be some real gains from taking action. When Trump talks of bringing back well-paid manufacturing jobs, it is hard to see how a trade war with China would help. Blue-collar workers in Michigan don’t really want to assemble toys 12-hours a day on near-starvation wages, which is what a lot of Chinese laborers do.

But Germany’s exports to the U.S. are high-end goods such as automobiles, which account for 12% of its exports by themselves, followed by vehicle parts, chemicals and aerospace. Those are precisely the kind of well-paid jobs that Trump voters thought their man would deliver for them.

So could Trump launch a trade war with Germany?

Under World Trade Organization rules, it would not be easy. It is very hard to impose unilateral tariffs on one country without ripping up the entire network. But that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t find a way. Volkswagen’s diesel scandal, for example, might be the perfect excuse to slap punitive restrictions on the German car industry. Likewise, its medical exports can always be deemed “unsafe.”

If Americans had to ditch their BMWs for Cadillacs and Lincolns, that would certainly create a few decently paid jobs.

A trade war between the United Sates and Germany is probably the last thing it needs. But if Trump wants to make good on some of his pledges, restrictions on German exports are the easiest way to do that — and that means it can’t be ruled out.

2b. It is impossible to argue that there isn’t systematic currency manipulation taking place when a country is part of a massive currency union that permanently lowers the value of its currency. Germany has also engaged in systematic wage suppression specifically intended to encourage exports. On a per capita basis, Germany’s surplus is seven times larger than China’s and is currently only behind China and Japan (barely) in the ranking of countries running surpluses with the US.

The German government is already honing its counterarguments against these criticism, and they basically amount to something along the lines of ‘don’t blame us, all of the criticism aren’t really very valid, and there nothing we can do about this…or intend to do about this’:

“Germany Prepares for Trade Conflict with Trump” by Christian Reiermann; Der Spiegel International ; 11/25/2016.

Germany’s current account surplus is higher than ever before and the country is concerned that it could become a target of US president-elect Donald Trump’s ire as a result. Berlin is already making preparations for the possible conflict.

US president-elect Donald Trump has long accused China of being a rogue state on the global economic stage. He has blasted the country for allegedly destroying huge numbers of American jobs with its exports and he says he is planning punitive tariffs in retaliation.

This kind of trade policy bluster coming from the newly elected president is generating unease in Berlin. The German government is concerned that Germany could soon fall into Trump’s sights as well.

There are plenty of reasons for that. Germany’s current account surplus has never been as high as it is this year and never before has that surplus represented such a significant share of the country’s gross domestic product. Making matters worse is the fact that the US is the largest consumer of German exports.

According to German government calculations from October, the current account surplus is set to climb to 8.9 percent this year, which would be larger than ever before and higher even than China’s. Such a surplus comes about when a country produces more than it consumes and receives more revenues from overseas than it invests.

As high as it is, though, the current surplus is likely to continue growing. The recent fall in the euro’s value relative to the dollar following Trump’s election makes German products and services even more competitive. And many economists believe that the value of the dollar will continue to climb, which means that the value of the euro against the dollar will shrink correspondingly. Their predictions are based on recent indications that Trump’s announced economic stimulus policies will push up both America’s sovereign debt load and its interest rates.

Experts at Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, and at the European Central Bank have calculated an even higher current account surplus for Germany in a forecast to be released in two weeks. Accordingly, Germany’s surplus will exceed 9 percent for this year — and perhaps by quite a lot.

Never before has a large, mature and prosperous economy like Germany’s produced higher surpluses. Such values tend to be seen in emerging economies, which leverage their competitive advantages — such as low wages — to achieve prosperity via exports.

Ongoing Conflict

It seems likely that Trump’s administration will ultimately turn its ire on Berlin and experts in both the Finance Ministry and the Economics Ministry are preparing for a possible new trans-Atlantic front in what has been an ongoing conflict with its European neighbors.

Indeed, Germany has had plenty of opportunity in recent years to formulate its counterarguments. The Economics Ministry, under the leadership of Merkel’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, recently presented a sweeping rejection of the widespread criticism. The argument holds that Germany’s surplus would be much lower if both the euro and oil weren’t so cheap. Such temporary factors “likely account for around a third of Germany’s prevailing current account surplus,” they wrote in a recent report. In other words, once the euro gains strength and oil prices go up, the surplus will shrink on its own.

The Economics Ministry report claims that conservative collective bargaining agreements play less of a role. Relatively low wages make German products more affordable in addition to suppressing domestic demand, which reduces the number of imported products sold in the country. But the report says that conservative wages in the past “have relatively little effect on the current account balance.” Plus, the report continues, such effects wane as wages climb, as has been the case more recently.

Other causes, by contrast, are longer lasting. The report notes that an aging society, like Germany’s, tends to focus more on saving money for retirement, which dampens consumption. Up to 3 percent of Germany’s surplus can be traced back to that phenomenon, the report claims. Furthermore, Germans often invest their saved money in the US, thus making money available to the Americans with which they can buy German products.

Such capital exports continue to increase the current account surplus in subsequent years as well. The money from Germany tends to be invested in long-term securities such as company or sovereign bonds. Yields from these investments are then wired to Germany, which increases the surplus further. Around 2 percent of Germany’s current surplus is attributable to this effect, according to the report.

Only about 1 percent of Germany’s current account surplus, the German Economics Ministry report posits, is the result of economic policy decisions over which the government in Berlin has control — by investing more money in the country’s infrastructure, for example, or lowering taxes. The report arrives at the conclusion “that the vast majority of Germany’s current account surplus is the product of market economy processes and decisions of market participants, both domestically and abroad.”

In other words, German politicians can’t do much about it. The question, however, is if Trump will agree.

3. A development that may factor into American/German trade relations is the call to institute a German-led all-EU army in response to Trump’s benign statements about Russia and isolationist inclinations.

Germany is moving in the direction of purchasing American C-130 cargo aircraft to bolster the EU military build-up. If this dynamic accelerates and the new, German-led all EU military purchases much American-made equipment, this may significantly reduce Germany’s huge trade surplus with the U.S.

Another possibility may be that, with the Trumpenkampfverbande’s inclination toward distorting or outright falsifying the news, deals such as the C-130 purchase will be “weaponized” as propaganda by the “Bannon Amt”–the administration’s media attack machine.

The hyping of such deals would permit Germany to continue its trade policy vis a vis the U.S. in largely uninterrupted fashion.

“Germany Floats Plan to Buy New Lockheed Transport Planes” by Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal; Reuters; 10/25/2016.

Germany is looking at buying 4-6 new Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) C-130J military troop transport planes and operating them jointly with France, placing a further dent in plans for a fully European airlift capability following the delayed A400M.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, signed an agreement in Paris late on Tuesday to study a joint tactical airlift pool of C-130J aircraft, the German defence ministry said.

The latest initiative in Franco-German defence co-operation comes against the backdrop of tough negotiations with Airbus Military (AIR.PA) over delays to the A400M, as well as growing European concerns over a possible shift in UK defence priorities away from its continental partners following the Brexit vote. . . .

4a.  Next, the program highlights how Trump’s decision to continue his business undertakings with his children as operational surrogates figures to affect foreign and economic policy.

In the Philippines, president Duterte has implemented a well-documented vigilante program, summarily assassinating actual and accused drug traffickers without due process of law.

This policy will help the value of Trump’s investment in the Philippines. In turn, the Philippines will affect Trump’s economic and diplomatic policy toward China.

President Duterte recently named the primary Trump family business proxy in the nation (Jose E.B. Antonio), to be the special government enjoy to the United States.

“ . . . . 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. . . .  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 developer of the Trump Tower of the Philippines was just appointed as the special government envoy to the United States.

“How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interests” by Kurt Eichenwald; Newsweek; 12/13/2016.

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.

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.”

4b. In India, Trump’s business contacts encompass people from Narendara Modi’s BJP.

“World of Potential Conflict For a Developer President” Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim and Simon Romero; The New York Times ; 11/27/2016.

. . . . Mr. Trump’s partner in the Trump Tower Mumbai is the Lodha Group, founded by Mangal Prabhat Lodha, vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party — currently the governing party in Parliament — in Maharashtra State. The Lodha Group has already negotiated with the United States government; it announced a landmark purchase of a property, known as the Washington House, on tony Altamount Road, from the American government for 3.75 billion rupees, almost $70 million.

His partner in an office complex in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, is IREO, whose managing director, Lalit Goyal, is the brother-in-law of a Bharatiya Janata member of Parliament, Sudhanshu Mittal. Mr. Mittal, in an interview, has denied having any connection with the real estate company. . . .

4c. Someone we will be examining at great length in shows to come is Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). A major supporter of Bernie Sanders during the campaign, Gabbard was interviewed for a cabinet position.

Gabbard is viewed positively by Steve Bannon, Trump’s top adviser and “Alt-Right” kingpin.

“Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard ‘Under Serious Consideration’ for Trump Cabinet”; ABC News; 11/21/2016.

. . . . Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a high-profile Bernie Sanders supporter during the Democratic primaries, is “under serious consideration” for various Cabinet positions in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, according to a senior official on the transition team.

According to the official, the 35-year-old Hawaii congresswoman is being looked as a candidate for secretary of state, secretary of defense or United Nations ambassador. If selected, Gabbard will be the first woman as well as the youngest pick for Trump’s Cabinet.

She met with him this morning in his New York City offices at Trump Tower. The Trump transition source said that their sit-down was a ‘terrific meeting’ and that the Trump team sees her as very impressive. . . .

4d.

“Donald Trump Met with Bernie Sanders Supporter Tulsi Gabbard to Discuss Syria” by Alex Daugherty; McClatchy DC ; 11/21/2016.

” . . . .  Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, reportedly likes Gabbard because of her stance on guns, refugees and Islamic extremism along with her ability to invoke strong anti-establishment populist sentiment on the left. . . .”

4e. Tulsi Gabbard is a supporter of Modi, networking with Modi’s BJP and helping to plan Modi’s U.S. visit.

“Tulsi Gabbard, US Congresswoman Calls on Modi” [IANS]; Times of India; 9/29/2014.

. . . . Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu American in the US Congress, called on visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi here Sunday and presented him with a ginger flower garland from Hawaii.

Gabbard, a strong supporter of Modi, is a Democrat Congresswoman from Hawaii.

The 33-year-old Gabbard is the first practising Hindu American in the Congress who took her oath on the Bhagwad Gita.

She had spoken to Modi after his victory in the Indian general elections and congratulated him and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

She has also been involved in the planning of Modi’s US visit and had last month met two BJP leaders Vijay Jolly and MP Rajyavardhan Rathore in that connection.

Gabbard has always maintained that it was a “great blunder” by the US government to have denied a visa to Modi in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots. . . .

4f. Gabbard, it turns out, is also networked with the RSS, the fascist party for which the BJP serves as a political catspaw.

“Tulsi Gabbard, the First Hindu in U.S. Congress, on Modi, Hinduism, and Linking Islam to Terror” by Manu Balachandran; Quartz (India); 3/02/2016.

. . . . Speaking at a fundraising event for the BJP in August 2014 . . . Gabbard said that Modi’s election victory was only possible because “people stood up, one by one by one by one, and said we will demand that this change occurs.” . . . Gabbard was treated as royalty on her visit to India last year. As she hobnobbed with the Indian prime minister and foreign minister among others, The Telegraph, a Kolkata-based newspaper, called her “the Sangh’s mascot” in the US. The Sangh, a moniker for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is a right-wing hindutva organisation and the ideological guardian of the BJP party that rules India now. . . .

 

Discussion

5 comments for “FTR #938 The Trumpenkampfverbande, Part 12: Settling In, Part 2 (The Underground Reich Comes Into Plain View, Part 5)”

  1. I finally understand.

    I’m not into any religion but in this article

    http://shoebat.com/2016/02/24/94032/

    I found a CliffsNotes version of everything you’ve been saying. Afterwards I read this article

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/07/germany-is-rekindling-its-bromance-with-russia/

    and chapters 12 and 13 of “Germany Plots with the Kremlin” by T.H. Tetens and everything was made perfectly clear.

    “Those who do not weep, do not see.”
    ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

    Posted by Zodi Prest | December 16, 2016, 4:53 pm
  2. With Donald Trump now publicly feuding with the CIA over the nature of the Democrats’ election hacks – and Ann Coulter, who has a profound influence over Trump’s thinking, now calling for Trump to dismantle the CIA – it’s looking like a Trump administration fight with the US intelligence community is a real possibility. And that means a Trumpian overhaul of the intelligence community in the form of an ideological purging and subsequent flooding of agencies it with far-right ideologues is a real possibility too. So it’s worth noting that the previously reported divisions between the CIA and FBI over whether or not the alleged Russian hacking of the Democrats was done with the explicit intent of helping Donald Trump appears to be resolved. Or never existed in the first place. Either way, if the public feuding between Trump and the agencies ends up becoming a pretext for a major Trumpian purge, it will be interesting to see if the FBI, which bent over backwards to assist Trump during the election, ends up on Trump’s eventual purge-list too:

    The Washington Post

    FBI in agreement with CIA that Russia aimed to help Trump win White House

    By Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima
    December 16 at 7:43 PM

    FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House, officials disclosed Friday, as President Obama issued a public warning to Moscow that it could face retaliation.

    New revelations about Comey’s position could put to rest suggestions by some lawmakers that the CIA and the FBI weren’t on the same page on Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s intentions.

    Russia has denied being behind the cyber-intrusions, which targeted the Democratic National Committee and the private emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Trump, in turn, has repeatedly said he doubts the veracity of U.S. intelligence blaming Moscow for the hacks.

    “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” his first Sunday news-show appearance since the Nov. 8 election. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. … No, I don’t believe it at all.”

    At a “thank you” event Thursday night with some of her top campaign donors and fundraisers, Clinton said she believed Russian-backed hackers went after her campaign because of a personal grudge that Putin had against her. Putin had blamed Clinton for fomenting mass protests in Russia after disputed 2011 parliamentary elections that challenged his rule. Putin said Clinton, then secretary of state, had “sent a signal” to protesters by labeling the elections “neither free nor fair.”

    The positions of Comey and Clapper were revealed in a message that CIA Director John Brennan sent to the agency’s workforce Friday.

    “Earlier this week, I met separately with FBI [Director] James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election,” Brennan said, according to U.S. officials who have seen the message.

    The CIA and the FBI declined to comment on Brennan’s message or on the classified intelligence assessment that CIA officials shared with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month, setting off a political firestorm.

    In the closed-door Senate briefing, CIA officials said it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was one of Russia’s goals, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

    CIA and FBI officials do not think Russia had a “single purpose” by intervening during the presidential campaign, officials said. In addition to the goal of helping elect Trump, Putin aimed to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, intelligence officials have told lawmakers.

    A few days after the Senate briefing, a senior FBI counter­intelligence official briefed the House Intelligence Committee but was not as categorical as the CIA briefer about Russia’s intention to help Trump, according to officials who were present. The FBI official’s more cautious presentation of the intelligence to the House panel left some Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the room with the impression that the FBI disagreed with the CIA.

    Officials close to the FBI and the CIA now say that lawmakers had misunderstood Comey’s position. “The truth is they were never all that different in the first place,” an official said. Similarly, officials said, Clapper and Brennan saw the intelligence the same way.

    Earlier this week, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a Trump supporter, wrote to spy chiefs to demand briefings on the Russian meddling.

    But Clapper responded that he wanted to first complete a review of all available U.S. intelligence, as directed by Obama.

    Brennan tried to talk to Nunes several times about the dispute. But officials said the congressman didn’t take his calls until after he issued a statement Wednesday asking intelligence leaders to “clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us.”

    Officials disputed the statement, saying Nunes had been fully briefed on the intelligence.

    “In recent days, I have had several conversations with members of Congress, providing an update on the status of the review as well as the considerations that need to be taken into account as we proceed,” Brennan wrote in his message to CIA staffers. “Many — but unfortunately not all — members understand and appreciate the importance and the gravity of the issue, and they are very supportive of the process that is underway.”

    Brennan wrote to the CIA workforce, officials said, to reassure them in the face of accusations from Trump supporters that intelligence was being politicized.

    In a statement, Nunes said: “We have not received any information from Intelligence Community (IC) agencies indicating that they have developed new assessments on this issue. I am alarmed that supposedly new information continues to leak to the media but has not been provided to Congress.”

    In one of the last news conferences of his presidency, Obama defended his administration’s response to the Russian hacking and vowed to “send a clear message to Russia” that its meddling was unacceptable.

    “I think we handled it the way it should have been handled,” he said of the hacking investigation and the lack of a formal accusation of blame until a month before the election. “We allowed law enforcement and the intelligence community to do its job without political influence.”

    Obama was referring to an Oct. 7 statement by Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson publicly blaming Russia for hacking political organizations, a clear reference to the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic officials.

    U.S. officials said an earlier draft of the Clapper-Johnson statement singled out Putin by name for authorizing the influence operation. But before the final statement was made public, Putin’s name was removed “so it wouldn’t be provocative,” one official said. Instead, the statement blamed “Russia’s senior-most officials.”

    At that time, Obama said, the U.S. intelligence community “did not attribute motives” to Russia’s decision to intervene in the election.

    “Imagine if we had done the opposite,” he said Friday. “It would have become immediately just one more political scrum. And part of the goal here was to make sure that we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place — at a time, by the way, when the president-elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election.”

    At Friday’s news conference, Obama did not directly point the finger at the Russian president. But he came close to doing so by saying: “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin.”

    Some members of Clinton’s campaign, Democrats in Congress and others have taken the Obama administration to task for not calling out Russian efforts to influence the election sooner, as well as for not taking retaliatory action against those responsible for the cyber-intrusions and leaks to WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group.

    Obama said some possible retaliatory measures might not be seen by the public, although they would be seen or felt by Moscow. Obama, who has only a few weeks left in office, made clear any response to the hacks must be carefully thought through.

    “Officials close to the FBI and the CIA now say that lawmakers had misunderstood Comey’s position. “The truth is they were never all that different in the first place,” an official said. Similarly, officials said, Clapper and Brennan saw the intelligence the same way.”

    So, right or wrong, it’s looking like the FBI and the US intelligence community are going to be providing a united front to the incoming Trump administration that the Russian government was behind the hacks. And Putin directly ordered it. So, right or wrong, it appears that the US intelligence community and FBI are publicly taking the stance that the incoming administration won, in part, due to a Russian plan. And that incoming administration just happens to be run by a mad man with a strong predilection for revenge. Given all that, it’s probably worth asking ourselves aobut the possible consequences of Trump’s revenge. After all, while the FBI and agencies like the CIA certainly have no shortage of troubling histories and institutional biases and there’s plenty of room for positive reforms, it’s not like they can’t get worse! Much, much worse. Like, Trump-league worse.

    Within this context of a looming war intra-governmental bureaucratic war, it’s also worth noting that Trump actually tweeted out a message that basically seemed to celebrate and justify the DNC hacks on the grounds. It was basically the Cypherpunk message of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden: the hacks revealed information to the public about alleged government malfeasance (the information was actually remarkably tame all things considered), so what is everyone complaining about? That’s Trump’s message. In other words, in addition to signalling that his administration will probably be in opposition to a large chunk of the intelligence agencies and maybe even the FBI, Donald Trump also just gave a moral blank check to anyone that wants to hack US government including those intelligence agencies and the incoming Trump administration:

    CBS News

    In a first, Trump offers some acknowledgement of Russian hacking

    By Major Garrett
    December 16, 2016, 7:06 PM

    In the past 24 hours, Mr. Trump offered two tweets that for the first time accepted the possibility of politically-motivated Russian hacking.

    On Friday morning, Mr. Trump acknowledged that the hack revealed damaging information about the Democratic National Committee.

    Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2016

    On Thursday, he wrote: “if Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”

    If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016

    In fact, intelligence officials publicly blamed Russia in October – a full month before the election. But the tweets contrast with Mr. Trump’s previous skepticism that Russia was responsible.

    “It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?” Mr. Trump said at the first debate.

    “Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?”

    That was Trump’s tweet. And while that he may have thought it was a witty zinger at the time he wrote it, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Trump just issued a preemptive moral justification for any future hacks of the Trump administration or US government agencies while Trump is in power. So Trump just basically declared open season. On himself. But also open season on any government agencies or factions he’s feuding with.

    Not only that, but he also sent a message to the world that a Trump administration is not above hacking its opponents and releasing damaging information for political purposes. So if 2016 seemed like the Year of the Hack, get ready for the Administration of the Hack. The administration at war with its own intelligence agencies and and administration where it’s apparently open season on everyone. Should be fascinating! And incredibly dangerous

    But let’s also keep in mind that if Vladimir Putin really did approve of these hacks, the global situation is actually far more dire than is currently accepted. Why? Because, in doing so, the Russian government basically declared open season on itself too. Not open season for hacking but instead open season for framing itself for the hacking. How so? Because if Putin really did approve of these hacks, he didn’t just approve of a highly provocative hacks. He would have approved of highly provocative hacks that were apparently designed to get everyone blaming Russia for the hacks, thus making Russia an obvious suspect for any future high profile hacks of this nature:

    Counterpunch

    Questions for the Electors on Russian Hacking

    by Andrew Cockburn
    December 14, 2016

    It is being reported that John Podesta, Chairman of the defeated $1.2 billion Clinton presidential campaign, is supporting the call by various officials, including at least forty Electors, that the members of the Electoral College be given a classified intelligence briefing on the alleged Russian hacking before the College votes on December 19.

    In the event such a briefing comes to pass, it might be helpful if the Electors had some informed questions to ask the CIA.

    1/ The DNC hackers inserted the name of the founder of Russian intelligence, in Russian, in the metadata of the hacked documents. Why would the G.R.U., Russian military intelligence do that?

    2/ If the hackers were indeed part of Russian intelligence, why did they use a free Russian email account, or, in the hack of the state election systems, a Russian-owned server? Does Russian intelligence normally display such poor tradecraft?

    3/ Why would Russian intelligence, for the purposes of hacking the election systems of Arizona and Illinois, book space on a Russian-owned server and then use only English, as documents furnished by Vladimir Fomenko, proprietor of Kings Servers, the company that owned the server in question, clearly indicate?

    4/ Numerous reports ascribe the hacks to hacking groups known as APT 28 or “Fancy Bear” and APT 29 or “Cozy Bear.” But these groups had already been accused of nefarious actions on behalf of Russian intelligence prior to the hacks under discussion. Why would the Kremlin and its intelligence agencies select well-known groups to conduct a regime-change operation on the most powerful country on earth?

    5/ It has been reported in the New York Times, without attribution, that U.S. intelligence has identified specific G.R.U. officials who directed the hacking. Is this true, and if so, please provide details (Witness should be sworn)

    6/ The joint statement issued by the DNI and DHS on October 7 2016 confirmed that US intelligence had no evidence of official Russian involvement in the leak of hacked documents to Wikileaks, etc, saying only that the leaks were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” Has the US acquired any evidence whatsoever since that time regarding Russian involvement in the leaks?

    “4/ Numerous reports ascribe the hacks to hacking groups known as APT 28 or “Fancy Bear” and APT 29 or “Cozy Bear.” But these groups had already been accused of nefarious actions on behalf of Russian intelligence prior to the hacks under discussion. Why would the Kremlin and its intelligence agencies select well-known groups to conduct a regime-change operation on the most powerful country on earth?

    That’s the big question that never gets asked: Why on earth did Russia frame itself for hacks that it knew would surely get blamed for? Especially if, as the US intelligence assessment concluded, the Russian government was predicting Hillary Clinton would win the election. Did Putin go mad? If so, that’s an important event to understand.

    Don’t forget that, whatever short-term benefit the Russian government might get from successfully pulling off a stunt of this nature, that has to be balanced against the long-term costs associated with Russia framing itself for a highly provocative hack to install a fascist who is guaranteed to do immense long-term damage to the US and its people. If the Kremlin actively wants to assume public culpability, in the minds of Americans, for the upcoming Trump disasters that will be inflicted on the US populace that would signal an incredibly dangerous turn of global events because it would signal that the Kremlin actively wants the US populace to hate it and desire revenge. If this really happened we are all in peril, Russians an Americans alike. And everyone else since we’re talking about creating a situation that could ignite and enduring revenge-cycle between the two leading nuclear powers.

    Either way, as a consequence to how this whole thing is playing out, whether or not the Kremlin really was behind the hacks, it’s abundantly clear now that any government or private organization with significant resources can now frame the Kremlin for their hacks. All they have to do is hire some Russian hackers.

    So we have a Trump administration that declared open season on basically everyone and a Russian government that is set up – either by its own actions (if Putin went mad) or by someone else – to take the blame. And Trump might also be at war with US intelligence, at least until he purges it at which point he’ll presumably direct it to hack his opponents even more. Presumably using Russian hackers because why not.

    And don’t forget that all the independent hackers out there are likely to join in the fun, especially after Trump basically justified the DNC hack using Cypherpunk logic. And while Trump himself is obviously going to be a major hacking target, he’s also totally shameless and his supporters don’t really care what he’s caught doing so Trump is kind of immune to what he’s about to unleash. So, all in all, it looks like Donald Trump just might usher in the Cypherpunk revolution Julian Assange and Edward Snowden having been pining for and it’s going to be a Trumpian revolution too. A Cypherpunk revolution of mass hacking that shameless individuals like Trump will be especially prepared to withstand because no one has any expectations that they aren’t already corrupt anyway. Enjoy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 17, 2016, 5:15 pm
  3. Here’s another development to watch for now that the Trump administration is set to get unilaterally take over the Broadcasting Board of Governor with an administration appointee and shape the content to its liking: The US government has come to the conclusion that it’s losing a propaganda war with Russia, citing Russian government outlets like Sputnik News and RT as examples of how the US is falling behind. And this, of course, means there’s going to be attempts to catch up and close the propaganda gap. Trump administration attempts. Oh goodie:

    Reuters

    U.S. government loses to Russia’s disinformation campaign: advisers

    By Joseph Menn
    Tue Dec 20, 2016 | 5:28pm EST

    The U.S. government spent more than a decade preparing responses to malicious hacking by a foreign power but had no clear strategy when Russia launched a disinformation campaign over the internet during the U.S. election campaign, current and former White House cyber security advisers said.

    Far more effort has gone into plotting offensive hacking and preparing defenses against the less probable but more dramatic damage from electronic assaults on the power grid, financial system or direct manipulation of voting machines.

    Over the last several years, U.S. intelligence agencies tracked Russia’s use of coordinated hacking and disinformation in Ukraine and elsewhere, the advisers and intelligence experts said, but there was little sustained, high-level government conversation about the risk of the propaganda coming to the United States.

    During the presidential election it did – to an extent that may have altered the outcome, the security sources said. But U.S. officials felt limited in investigating Russian-supported propaganda efforts because of free speech guarantees in the Constitution.

    A former White House official cautioned that any U.S. government attempt to counter the flow of foreign state-backed disinformation through deterrence would face major political, legal and moral obstacles.

    “You would have to have massive surveillance and curtailed freedom and that is a cost we have not been willing to accept,” said the former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They (Russia) can control distribution of information in ways we don’t.”

    Clinton Watts, a security consultant, former FBI agent and a fellow at the nonprofit Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the U.S. government no longer has an organization, such as the U.S. Information Agency, that provided counter-narratives during the Cold War.

    He said that most major Russian disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe have started at Russian-government funded media outlets, such as RT television or Sputnik News, before being amplified on Twitter by others.

    Watts said it was urgent for the U.S. government to build the capability to track what is happening online and dispute false stories.

    “Those two things need to be done immediately,” Watts said. “You have to have a public statement or it leads to conspiracy theories.”

    A defense spending pill passed this month calls for the State Department to establish a “Global Engagement Center” to take on some of that work, but similar efforts to counter less sophisticated Islamic State narratives have fallen short.

    The U.S. government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against U.S. political organizations in October, a month before the Nov. 8 election.

    U.S. ‘STUCK’

    James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic & International Studies who has worked for the departments of State and Commerce and the U.S. military, said Washington needed to move beyond antiquated notions of projecting influence if it hoped to catch up with Russia.

    “They have RT and all we know how to do is send a carrier battle group,” Lewis said. “We’re going to be stuck until we find a way deal with that.”

    Watts, who said he has tracked tens of thousands of pro-Russia Twitter handles since 2014, believes many of the most effective stories stoke fear of war or other calamities or promote a narrative of corrupt Western politicians, media and other elites.

    He and others said Sputnik shows the intensity of the Russian effort.

    Launched two years ago as a successor to the official Russian wire service and radio network, Sputnik does not merely parrot the Kremlin political line, according to experts. It has gone out of its way to hire outsiders with social media expertise, including left and right-leaning Americans who are critical of U.S. policies.

    Sputnik News did not respond to a request for comment.

    During the election campaign, one of the most prominent fulltime Sputnik writers and commentators, Cassandra Fairbanks, shifted from an ardent anti-police protestor and supporter of socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to a vocal backer of Republican Donald Trump.

    Fairbanks said in an interview with Reuters that Sputnik had not told her to advocate for Trump, now president-elect. She said she was swayed by Trump’s opposition to overseas wars and international trade agreements.

    “I did my best to push for him,” Fairbanks said, “but that was of my free will.”

    A woman in her thirties with more than 80,000 Twitter followers, Fairbanks was an activist with the hacking movement known as Anonymous before she joined Sputnik.

    The day before the election, Fairbanks said on a YouTube channel that it was “pretty likely” that the authors of emails hacked from the account of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta were using code words for pedophilia when they spoke about pizza.

    The assertion fed the falsehood that Clinton supporters were operating a child sex ring out of a Washington-based pizza parlor. The channel, with 1.8 million subscribers, was run by Alex Jones, a radio host who has said the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job.”

    Joe Fionda, a veteran of the Occupy protests who worked briefly for Sputnik in 2015, said the organization’s articles and social media efforts overall were aimed at praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies such as Syria and dwelling on negative news in the United States, including police misconduct.

    Some U.S. officials and political analysts have said Putin could believe businessman Trump would be friendlier to Russia than Clinton, especially when it came to economic sanctions.

    Fionda said spreading hacked emails was a priority at Sputnik. He said his job included trying to create viral memes on a Facebook page called Mutinous Media, which did not list a Sputnik connection.

    Former workers of the Democratic National Committee, one of the groups infiltrated by Russian-backed hackers, said the U.S. government should consider providing funding for the technological defense of major political parties. They said that once hacked emails began appearing online, party functionaries were constantly behind in responding.

    They also said that the staff of Democratic President Barack Obama had been overly concerned about not appearing to defend its own party’s candidate.

    Obama has asked spy agencies to deliver an analysis of Russian meddling in the election that will include discussion of propaganda operations, Office of the Director of National Intelligence General Counsel Robert Litt told Reuters.

    “A defense spending pill passed this month calls for the State Department to establish a “Global Engagement Center” to take on some of that work, but similar efforts to counter less sophisticated Islamic State narratives have fallen short.”

    Well, it looks like there’s going to be plenty of additional money available if Steve Bannon really does try to turn Radio Free Europe and other BBG outlets into Trump TV as many fear. Radio Free Breitbart, here we come! Which raises the question: who is Bannon going to hire run Radio Free Breitbart? While Bannon himself would be an obvious choice, he’s also already going to be rather busy helping Trump strategize the successful implosion of the US from the inside and probably won’t have too much time to focus on the US’s foreign perception management programs. At the same time, foreign perception management is extra important when you’re running a far-right white supremacist barely-crypto-Nazi administration, so Trump and Bannon are probably going to want someone that’s both loyal to Trump and has the talent required to run a successful propaganda outlet. Who could that be? Hmm….

    And in other news, Roger Ailes declared to the world that he’ll “be back”. It was actually a message conveyed by his lawyer in the context of the denial of the latest sexual harassment allegation against Ailes, so it’s still unclear when he’ll actually “be back”. But he’s apparently pretty confident he’ll be back before he finally returns to the underworld, so he’s presumably going to need a job:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    Ailes Asks For Apology After NY Daily News Labels Him ‘Gropey Old Man’

    By Kristin Salaky
    Published December 20, 2016, 2:32 PM EST

    Former Fox News boss Roger Ailes apparently called up a New York Daily News columnist Monday to dispute a headline that characterized him as a “gropey old man.”

    “MediaBlast” columnist Don Kaplan wrote that he initially didn’t believe it was truly Ailes on the phone until his attorney later confirmed it was him. Kaplan wrote that Ailes said he expected an apology for the headline “gropey old men” on one of his columns.

    “I was hoping you would be a gentleman and apologize,” Ailes said, according to Kaplan.

    The column in question, published Sunday, compared sexual harassment allegations against Ailes, including those contained in a recent lawsuit from reporter Lidia Curanaj—who charged that Ailes sexually harassed her when she applied for a job at Fox News—to allegations against outgoing Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, who’s been accused of giving large amounts of money to mistresses.

    Ailes’ lawyers disputed Curanaj’s allegations to the paper issued a statement with something of an ominous warning about the former Fox boss’ future.

    “Roger Ailes called the paper because he wanted to make clear that he vehemently denies the ludicrous allegations that were lodged against him by Ms. Curanaj,” Ailes attorney Mark Mukasey said in a statement. “Her complaint is a laughable stunt. And Roger should not be compared to anybody else. He’s an icon, a legend, a visionary — and he’ll be back.”

    Kaplan, for his part, wrote that he refuses to apologize.

    “And Roger should not be compared to anybody else. He’s an icon, a legend, a visionary — and he’ll be back.”

    Yeah, that’s a bit ominous. At least for the ladies. But it’s quite a convenient pledge to “be back” for the Trump administration. It’s not like being an alleged serial sexual predator is going to hurt his job prospects.

    So should we expect Ailes to be the mind behind Voice of Breitbart? Well, we probably shouldn’t rule it out, although for a man with Ailes’s talents and connections he’s probably going to have multiple Trump administration job opportunities. At the same time, for a man with Ailes reputation as an alleged sexual predator those job opportunities are going to have to be handled rather delicately. So if Ailes does end up working the Trump administration at some point, don’t be surprised if that hire is preceded by a bunch of denials that they’re even thinking about it:

    Slate

    Ailes Hit With New Allegation of Gross Behavior as Trump Camp Denies Rumors About Administration Job

    By Ben Mathis-Lilley
    Dec 13, 2016 6:26 PM

    On Monday, Al Jazeera reported that former Fox News executive Roger Ailes was being considered for the job of Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy in the State Department—a job in which Ailes, who resigned from Fox this summer after being charged with sexual harassment and crude behavior by a number of women who’d worked with him, would have responsibility for the United States’ foreign public relations efforts (and for the State Department’s domestic communications arm).

    BREAKING: State Department source tells me Trump considering disgraced ex-Fox News boss Roger Ailes for Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) December 13, 2016

    (To be clear, the State job would not involve running the Voice of America/Radio Free Europe networks—but those could also be ideologically revamped under Trump.)

    On Tuesday, Trump’s transition team denied the report:

    Hope Hicks on whether there's any truth to report that Roger Ailes is under consideration for State Dept. post: "Not a shred"— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) December 13, 2016

    And later on Tuesday, another female News Corp employee accused Ailes of wildly inappropriate behavior in a lawsuit. From the New York Times‘ piece on the allegations made by local New York Fox affiliate reporter Lidia Curanaj:

    According to the complaint, Mr. Ailes asked her to stand up and turn around during a one-on-one interview, so that he could “see [her] from behind” … After his private meeting with Ms. Curanaj, Mr. Ailes contacted [a mutual acquaintance] and asked him, “How’s the sex?” and whether she “put out” sexually, according to the suit.

    Typically this kind of badly timed allegation would sink someone’s chances of working in an incoming administration, but this is Trump we’re talking about, so who knows?

    “Typically this kind of badly timed allegation would sink someone’s chances of working in an incoming administration, but this is Trump we’re talking about, so who knows?”

    Yep, this is the Trump administration we’re talking about, so when it comes to hiring someone like Ailes, who knows?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 20, 2016, 8:30 pm
  4. One of the immediate questions following the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey by an off-duty Turkish policeman who shouted about the war in Syria and fall of Aleppo after committing the act was who the assassin was going to end up being affiliated with. Would it be ISIS or some other movement? Now, after the Turkish government charged that the gunman is associated with the Fethullah Gulen movement, but without providing any evidence of that so far, an additional question is raised that’s not a new question but suddenly much more pressing than before: Is Russia going to share this conclusion that the Gulenists were behind the assassination of their ambassador and what would be the implications of that development regarding Turkey’s demands that the US extradite Fethullah Gulen

    France24

    Turkey blames US-based cleric Gulen for envoy’s assassination

    Latest update : 2016-12-21

    Russian investigators arrived in Turkey on Tuesday to help investigate the assassination of Moscow’s ambassador as the Turkish government pointed the finger of blame at exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who resides in the United States.

    Russia’s ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was shot nine times in the back on Monday by off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas at an art gallery during the opening of a show on Russian photography.

    An unprecedented three-way meeting between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran went ahead in Moscow Tuesday despite the assassination, with the diplomats expressing their support for a broader truce in Syria.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, pinned responsibility for the assassination on a group behind exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States. Ankara has said his loyalists also orchestrated an attempted coup in July.

    “Turkey and Russia know that behind the attack … there is FETO,” Cavusoglu said in a conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry, referring to Turkey’s acronym for Gulen’s organisation.

    Following the failed coup Ankara requested Gulen’s extradition from the United States, but Washington has so far not complied.

    Gulen had earlier issued a statement to condemn the assassination as a “terrorist act” that left him “shocked and deeply saddened”.

    Six people have been detained over Karlov’s death, including the sister, mother, father and uncle of 22-year-old Altintas, Turkish media reported.

    With Turkey already on high alert after a string of deadly attacks, an individual also fired outside the US embassy in Ankara overnight. The US mission said in a statement that no one was hurt and the individual was detained.

    ‘Waved through security’

    Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his secret service to boost security at home and abroad, and to step up cooperation with foreign intelligence services.

    A Russian investigative team visited the scene of the attack at the Contemporary Arts Centre in central Ankara as part of a joint probe with Turkey on Tuesday.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul that he and Putin agreed in a phone call after the murder that “our expanding areas of cooperation with Russia, particularly on Syria, will not be hampered by this attack”.

    Dramatic footage of Monday’s assassination showed Karlov stumble and crash to the ground on his back as Altintas brandished his automatic pistol at terrified onlookers who cowered behind cocktail tables.

    The lone gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and “Don’t forget Aleppo,” vowing that those responsible for events in Syria would be held accountable.

    Altintas did not go through the metal detector security check when he entered the exhibition and was warned by a security officer, according to the Cankaya municipality where the exhibition centre is located.

    But after showing his police ID, he was allowed to proceed, it said.

    The Hurriyet daily said Altintas, who had worked for Ankara’s anti-riot police for the last two and a half years, had stayed at a nearby hotel to prepare for the attack, shaving and putting on a smart suit.

    He was killed by police after a 15-minute stand-off.

    Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek, known for his outspoken comments, became the first senior official to link the killing with Gulen’s group.

    His suggestion was also repeated in the pro-government press, before being amplified in the Anadolu report quoting Cavusoglu.

    US President-elect Donald Trump had on Monday condemned the envoy’s murder, calling the gunman a “radical Islamic terrorist”.

    Moscow and Ankara are currently working closely together after striking a deal on evacuating citizens from the Syrian city of Aleppo.

    Turkey and Russia saw relations plunge to their worst levels since the Cold War last year when a Turkish jet shot down a Russian war plane over Syria. But a reconciliation deal was signed earlier this year, and despite being on opposing sides in the Syria conflict – with Ankara backing the rebels trying to topple Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad – relations have recently been on the mend.

    “Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, meanwhile, pinned responsibility for the assassination on a group behind exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States. Ankara has said his loyalists also orchestrated an attempted coup in July.”

    Well, if Turkey provides conclusive evidence of this that’s probably not going to help US/Russian relations. But, of course, with a Trump administration coming in a month from now, who knows where US/Russian relations are heading. Or US/Turkey relations. And if the pronouncements for Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, are any indication of what to expect, US/Turkey relations should be set to improve, at least to the extent that handing of Fethullah Gulen to Erdogan improves relations. General Flynn’s work as a paid lobbyist for a consultancy founded by the head of the Turkish-American Business Council probably isn’t going to hurt relations too much either:

    The New York Times

    Turkey Cheered by Words of Michael Flynn, Trump’s Security Adviser

    By ROD NORDLAND
    NOV. 19, 2016

    ISTANBUL — Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the designated national security adviser for the incoming Trump administration, once wrote on Twitter that it was “rational” to fear Muslims, but that does not seem likely to cause him any grief with Turkey’s government, even though it is led by a religiously conservative Muslim, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Ankara has paid far more attention to General Flynn’s full-throated support for Mr. Erdogan’s government, and especially its wish to extradite the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen from his sanctuary in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

    General Flynn wrote an article published in The Hill on Election Day calling on the United States to be more sympathetic to the concerns of Turkey, a NATO ally, and embracing Mr. Erdogan’s position that Mr. Gulen is an extremist who was behind the failed July coup against his government.

    Mr. Gulen and his supporters deny that, and depict him as a moderate more concerned with building thousands of schools than with toppling Turkey’s government. Mr. Gulen was once an ally of Mr. Erdogan, but they had a falling out.

    General Flynn’s article, as Politico reported, did not disclose that he was a paid lobbyist for a consultancy founded by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who is also the head of the Turkish-American Business Council.

    Mr. Alptekin denied in a telephone interview on Friday that the council was a government entity or that the contract with General Flynn’s company, Flynn Intel Group, had anything to do with the article in The Hill.

    “The assumption that General Flynn wrote that in the context of a lobbying contract with me is completely false,” Mr. Alptekin said. “He never consulted with me. I would have advised against it.” And he said the notion that Mr. Erdogan would pay to have the article published was “preposterous,” citing its criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Mr. Erdogan has supported in the past.

    Mr. Erdogan spoke warmly of Mr. Trump in a speech after the American election, one in which he also accused Hillary Clinton of receiving campaign contributions from the Gulen camp.

    Mr. Alptekin said he had hired General Flynn’s company to consult on the region’s security environment in connection with a commercial venture he was considering. Later, one of General Flynn’s associates suggested that the company also advocate for better relations between the United States and Turkey, which would require registering as lobbyists with the United States government, Mr. Alptekin said.

    The company did register as lobbyists on behalf of Turkey, but “I’m not even sure any lobbying got done,” Mr. Alptekin added. “I don’t lobby for the Turkish government. I lobby the Turkish government myself.” Of General Flynn, he said: “This is not a guy who would be influenced by a contract. He wrote what he believes.”

    Mr. Alptekin declined to say how large the contract was. “It’s tens of thousands of dollars, not hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

    Ragip Soylu, a commentator writing in The Daily Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, contended that General Flynn’s article would not have been commissioned by the Turkish government. “Everyone knows that you can’t change a former senior American commander’s opinions by hiring his firm with a $100,000 contract,” Mr. Soylu wrote.

    Mustafa Akyol, a commentator for Al-Monitor, said, “From a Muslim point of view, Flynn’s appointment is a concern, globally speaking.” He added, “That’s exactly what we mean by Islamophobia, extrapolating from extremists to all Muslims. You would expect to see that concern here, but quite the contrary: Flynn is quite a respected figure now in government circles, just because he wrote that Gulen should be extradited to Turkey.

    “That was greeted with great happiness here,” Mr. Akyol said. He added that Erdogan supporters had reacted to it as: “Finally, somebody in America who understands us.”

    ““The assumption that General Flynn wrote that in the context of a lobbying contract with me is completely false,” Mr. Alptekin said. “He never consulted with me. I would have advised against it.” And he said the notion that Mr. Erdogan would pay to have the article published was “preposterous,” citing its criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Mr. Erdogan has supported in the past.”

    Oh what a tangled web of lobbying contracts and cabinet posts we weave. But regardless of whether or not any Turkish cash influenced Flynn’s opinions on these matters, all signs are pointing towards the hand over of Gulen. Followed by a giant show trial in Turkey. And while that might seem like the kind of thing that positively impacts US/Turkey relations, keep in mind that one of the goals of those upcoming trials is probably going to be to establish Gulen’s working relationship with the CIA and US intelligence and tie the CIA to the July coup attempt. So we’ll see how those relations develop. Or degrade. In other words, Trump’s Turkish business partner who was reportedly arrested by Erdogan due to alleged Gulenist ties in what is widely assumed to be an attempt to gain leverage over the incoming Trump administration probably shouldn’t assume everything is going to be fine after his partner assumes the presidency and hands Gulen over.

    Another thing to keep in mind regarding the possibility of added Russian interest in the extradition of Gulen is that this is all happening at a time when the dialogue between Russia and the United States are frozen at “almost every level” according to a Kremlin spokesman, adding, “We don’t communicate with one another, or (if we do) we do so minimally.” So that’s pretty sad. And while some sort of significant reshuffling of US/Russian relations are to be expected once the Trump administration assumes control, at least at first before the complications of reality kick in, it’s worth noting that there’s a new initiative by a European political party offering to play a role in building bridges between Putin and Trump. And this party has reportedly already met with Michael Flynn. And, of course since this is a story related to the Trump administration, this party happens to be Austria’s Freedom Party:

    Bloomberg Politics

    Austrian Populists Go to Moscow to Pitch Trump-Putin Bridge

    by Boris Groendahl
    and Jonathan Tirone
    December 19, 2016, 4:12 AM CST December 19, 2016, 9:21 AM CST

    * Freedom Party chiefs in ‘diplomatic talks’ with United Russia
    * Party has opposed sanctions on Russia; leads in Austrian polls

    Austria’s populist Freedom Party said it wants to broker an end to sanctions on Russia by using its contacts with the White House and the Kremlin to reduce east-west tensions.

    Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Norbert Hofer, the losing candidate in this month’s presidential election, signed a “working agreement” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in Moscow on Monday, according to a statement issued by the Austrian party. It added that Strache met last month in New York with Michael Flynn, nominated to become President-elect Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser.

    Strache wants to roll back “the sanctions that are harmful and ultimately useless for the economy,” according to the Freedom Party statement, which described itself as “a neutral and reliable mediator and partner.” The delegation met with United Russia’s international secretary, Sergei Zheleznyak, according to a spokesman for the Russian party.

    This is the first formal agreement with a major party from EU-member state since the bloc imposed its sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    While the Freedom Party was defeated for the Austrian presidency by an independent candidate, it tops national opinion polls with about a third of the vote.

    Party officials have in the past called for an end to European Union sanctions against Russia and voiced support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In a Facebook posting, Strache said that Russia had “freed Aleppo” from Islamic State.

    “Austria needs international political and business contacts rather than negative and damaging sanctions,” Strache said on Facebook. Austria was neutral during the Cold War. Austrian companies including oil and gas group OMV AG and Raiffeisen Bank International AG have close business ties to Moscow.

    During this year’s presidential ballot, Hofer campaigned on the promise to build a bridge between Trump and the Kremlin. The election’s winner, former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen, offset Hofer’s appeals by arguing Austria’s most important economic interests are inside the EU.

    Russia’s United Party said the cooperation pact is valid for five years and focuses on exchanging experience in the sphere of economics, trade and investment.

    “Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and Norbert Hofer, the losing candidate in this month’s presidential election, signed a “working agreement” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in Moscow on Monday, according to a statement issued by the Austrian party. It added that Strache met last month in New York with Michael Flynn, nominated to become President-elect Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser.

    Note that the Trump transition team told CNN that this meeting between Flynn and Strache never took place, so it’s unclear how much contact there is between Trump and the Freedom Party at this point. But it’s not like we shouldn’t expect extensive contact in the future considering the enormous overlap between Trump’s and the Freedom Party’s far-right anti-immigrant politics. Still, regarding the need for the Freedom Party to act as some sort of middle-man between Trump and the Kremlin, it’s hard to see why that’s necessary, especially given Michael Flynn’s own ties to Kremlin circles. And that’s part of what’s going to make this alleged contact between Flynn and the Freedom Party in the context of building US/Russian bridges extra fascinating and something to watch going forward: while there’s no real need for an Austrian middle-man in negotiations between a Trump administration and the Kremlin, the Trump administration would in effect be legitimizing a far-right party on world stage by granting the Freedom Party that middle-man status. And if there’s one thing very clear about the agenda of the Trump administration, it’s that promoting the far-right, wherever it is, isn’t simply going to be on the agenda. That is the agenda.

    So while we may not know if General Flynn actually met with Strache at the Trump Tower, and while no such need for a Freedom Party middle-man exists, there’s no reason to assume that such a meeting between the Trump administration and the Freedom Party or the creation of new “bridge building” far-right networks won’t be happeing in the future. Along with similar meetings with the rest of the global far-right. After all, if you want to burn the world, it helps to build bridges to the other groups that want to burn the world first.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 21, 2016, 4:19 pm
  5. It looks like the Trumpian makeover of the BBG’s various media outlets is already gaining speed, with two Trump aides getting sent in to oversee senior management. And, alarming, it doesn’t sound like the Trump Team is actually required to step in to do the makeover. At least not at the Voice of America, where they appear to have decided to conduct their Trumpian makeover preemptively:

    Politico

    Trump moves to put his own stamp on Voice of America

    The president dispatches two aides to the broadcasting agency that came under fire over the weekend for its Trump coverage.

    By Tara Palmeri

    01/23/17 06:13 PM EST

    Updated 01/24/17 07:01 PM EST

    President Donald Trump on Monday dispatched two aides to scope out the studios of Voice of America, heightening concerns among some longtime staffers that Trump may quickly put his stamp on the broadcasting arm that has long pushed U.S. democratic ideals across the world.

    The arrival of the two aides – both political operatives from Trump’s campaign – comes after Voice of America received blowback over the weekend for sending out a series of tweets about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claims about inauguration crowd size that looked to some like an endorsement of his false statements. The news outlet later deleted one of the tweets.

    The concern among some staffers is especially acute because Trump’s administration is getting control over the broadcasting agency just weeks after Congress moved to eliminate the board of directors that had served as an integrity check on the organization, instead consolidating power with a CEO position appointed by the president.

    As POLITICO reported last month, that change – along with a prior shift that allows the network to legally reach a U.S. audience — had stoked fears among some agency officials that Voice of America could serve as an unfettered propaganda arm for the former reality TV star.

    On the first Monday of his administration, Trump, who has flirted with the idea of launching his own TV network, deployed two “transition officials” who will evaluate the managers and studios of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which has an annual budget of $800 million and includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

    Trump campaign New Hampshire state director Matthew Ciepielowski and Wisconsin communications director Matthew Schuck will be “temporarily assigned” to the CEO suite at the BBG where they will work with senior management “to ensure an open, transparent and seamless transition of the BBG to the Trump Administration,” according to an email by CEO John F. Lansing to staff obtained by POLITICO.

    In a statement to POLITICO on Tuesday, Lansing emphasized the agency’s independence.

    “The BBG, including Voice of America and our other four networks, is an independent federal agency that is legally mandated to produce objective, professional and independent journalism designed to engage, inform and connect with people around the world in support of freedom and democracy,” Lansing said. “As is routine for many federal agencies during any presidential transition, yesterday we welcomed the two-person landing team from the Trump administration. We look forward to working with them as we continue to fulfill our mission, and support the independence of our journalists around the world.”

    The timing of the Trump aides’ arrival is not necessarily unusual – the Obama administration also sent transition officials to the BBG during his transition in 2009.

    But some senior staffers have already expressed reservations about the backgrounds of Trump’s political operatives. Schuck, a 2012 graduate from Montgomery College, was a staff writer for the right-wing website the Daily Surge until April 2015.

    “There’s concern among the journalists about what these guys are going to be doing,” said the senior VOA staffer. “People are hanging tight, seeing what will happen.”

    A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

    Public scrutiny of the broadcasting agency’s articles has already started.

    Voice of America director Amanda Bennett explained that she pulled a tweet on VOA’s official account that featured Spicer’s erroneous statement that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” following blowback from the account’s 905,000 followers, some of whom argued the agency shouldn’t be promoting his comments without a fact check.

    “Irony is that VOA’s reason for existing was to provide truth to those who lived where the government controlled the press,” tweeted Stuart Stevens, a former advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, in response to the tweet.

    Other Twitter followers called the network “pure propaganda” and “embarrassing,” and urged the network to have “self-respect” for tweeting out Spicer’s words, without additional fact-checking.

    Bennett also said she temporarily pulled a story about an ethics complaint lodged against the Trump administration because it didn’t have a response from a Trump representative. The story was reposted later with a comment from Trump’s attorney Sheri Dillon.

    Bennett said she was not ordered by the Trump administration to pull the story or the tweet.

    “Ever since I arrived here in April I have been extremely firm that we need to follow absolutely the best journalistic practices – which include a diligent focus on facts and objectivity,” Bennett told POLITICO in an e-mail. “For the last nine months, we have been routinely pulling stories that do not meet those standards and asking that they be redone, or that additional reporting be done.”

    In a phone conversation later on Monday, Bennett added, “I know that everyone is looking to say that we’re being manipulated by the Trump administration, we’re absolutely not.”

    The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the largest public diplomacy program by the U.S. government, reaching an audience of 278 million by broadcasting in 100 countries and 61 languages. Voice of America was created in 1942 during World War II to send pro-democracy news across Europe, as it aimed to counter Nazi and Japanese propaganda. The agency has since evolved into a more traditional news operation, while still pushing out the virtues of democracy worldwide.

    Early last month, a provision buried into the National Defense Authorization Act called for disbanding the bipartisan board of the BBG, pleasing critics who said the part-time board was ineffective but alarming others who feared an accountability layer was being swept away.

    A former board member said on Monday that the editorial team may have not received marching orders from the new administration but that they’re aware of the new power of Trump’s team to take over the organization without the firewall of a bipartisan board.

    “They’re clearly just trying to stay in stead with their new bosses to keep their jobs,” said the former BBG board member. “If they’re starting to turn this into Pravda before they are even told to.”

    The status of the board is in limbo, however, since Obama added a signing statement to the NDAA, saying it was unconstitutional to get rid of the board because it violates his constitutional right of appointment. Another uncertainty is that Lansing can be replaced at any time for a CEO appointed by the president.

    At the editorial level, there’s been caution against posting stories that don’t have a response from the Trump administration, according to a senior VOA staffer. “I think there’s going to be more of a focus on making sure that we’re balanced,” the staffer said.

    Bennett said she met on Monday with Trump’s representatives, Schuck and Ciepielowski, who she said will not be involved in news decisions.

    “I met with them, we gave them a briefing. We’re going to be showing them around,” she said. “If people are concerned, a lot of people have been through transitions before and this is standard procedure. We gave them the briefing book.”

    When asked if she had any concerns about their prior jobs, she said, “They are who they are. They are filling a function that is exactly the same as it would be in any administration.”

    ““They’re clearly just trying to stay in stead with their new bosses to keep their jobs,” said the former BBG board member. “If they’re starting to turn this into Pravda before they are even told to.””

    Yes, Voice of America started off its Trumpian makeover by tweeting out support for Sean Spicer’s blatant lie about the inauguration crowd size. But they want you to know that it totally wasn’t at the behest of Trump…as if that makes it better:

    The arrival of the two aides – both political operatives from Trump’s campaign – comes after Voice of America received blowback over the weekend for sending out a series of tweets about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claims about inauguration crowd size that looked to some like an endorsement of his false statements. The news outlet later deleted one of the tweets.

    Public scrutiny of the broadcasting agency’s articles has already started.

    Voice of America director Amanda Bennett explained that she pulled a tweet on VOA’s official account that featured Spicer’s erroneous statement that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” following blowback from the account’s 905,000 followers, some of whom argued the agency shouldn’t be promoting his comments without a fact check.

    “Irony is that VOA’s reason for existing was to provide truth to those who lived where the government controlled the press,” tweeted Stuart Stevens, a former advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, in response to the tweet.

    Other Twitter followers called the network “pure propaganda” and “embarrassing,” and urged the network to have “self-respect” for tweeting out Spicer’s words, without additional fact-checking.

    Bennett also said she temporarily pulled a story about an ethics complaint lodged against the Trump administration because it didn’t have a response from a Trump representative. The story was reposted later with a comment from Trump’s attorney Sheri Dillon.

    Bennett said she was not ordered by the Trump administration to pull the story or the tweet.

    “Ever since I arrived here in April I have been extremely firm that we need to follow absolutely the best journalistic practices – which include a diligent focus on facts and objectivity,” Bennett told POLITICO in an e-mail. “For the last nine months, we have been routinely pulling stories that do not meet those standards and asking that they be redone, or that additional reporting be done.”

    In a phone conversation later on Monday, Bennett added, “I know that everyone is looking to say that we’re being manipulated by the Trump administration, we’re absolutely not.”

    So that happened. Before Trump’s aides even got installed in the BBG’s CEO suite.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 26, 2017, 4:15 pm

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