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

For The Record  

FTR #945 Miscellaneous Articles and Updates

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

Editors' text in Gorsuch's high school yearbook

Editors’ text in Gorsuch’s high school yearbook

NB: This description contains material not contained in the original program.

Introduction: This program updates and/or introduces various points of inquiry.

Former Obama U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was one of just a handful of mainstream politicians who (VERY belatedly) got things right. Speaking of Steve Bannon’s elevation to a position of primacy on the NSC, she observed: ” . . . . ‘Trump loves and trusts the military so much he just kicked them out of the National Security Council and put a Nazi in their place,’ she said. . . .”

Bannon’s ascension is noteworthy“ . . . . But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the ‘principals committee’ of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers. . . .”

Bannon’s ascension to the NSC should be analyzed against the background of the martial law contingency plans drawn up by Oliver North and still on the books. This is discussed at length in AFA #32.

One of the key features of the martial law contingency plans involved the federal deputization of paramilitary right-wingers to maintain order. The military, even with the assistance of the National Guard, does not have the manpower to maintain civilian order. It is our suspicion that Bannon may be involved with the implementation of such activities.

Notorious troll, blogger and Nazi/white-supremacist fellow traveler Charles “Chuck” Johnson has substantive input in Trump’s cabinet selections. Worth noting is the fact that Johnson may be operating in tandem with Peter Thiel, whose database named the “Plum List” bears a striking similarity to a website “ThePlumlist.com,” apparently being used by Johnson to help staff Trump’s administration.

“ . . . . Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the ‘alt-right.’ Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election. . . . .

” . . . . Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump. . . .”

Johnson had a very telling observation near the end of the following article: ” . . . Johnson attributed much of the work that he and others have done in support of Trump to being able to tap into voters’ emotions through memes, such as the Pepe the Frog cartoon that became an informal mascot for Trump supporters. . . .

A sign of the times manifested in Kentucky, where a group of tan, military style vehicles flying a Trump banner was spotted. “ . . . . Davis said it would also violate regulations to run a military convoy with no unit markings on the vehicles, and said he did not think the vehicles belonged to any service branch. Per the report, he suggested that they were military surplus. . . . ”

The vehicles belonged to an elite SEAL unit.

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

The founder of “the artists formerly known as Blackwater” Erik Prince has been serving as a back channel adviser on intelligence and security matters to Trump. “. . . . he may be making a comeback, this time as a backchannel advisor on intelligence and security matters to US President Donald Trump, The Intercept reported on Tuesday. It’s unclear when Prince made his way into Trump’s inner circle, but he has made sizable contributions to the pro-Trump Political Action Committee (PAC). The Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the PAC shows he made a contribution of $100,000 in September 2016 to their efforts. His mother Elisa Prince also gave $50,000 to the committee. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos is Trump’s Secretary of Education choice. . . .”

In FTR #’s 941 and 942, we examined Tulsi Gabbard (D–HI), usually described as a “rising star” in the Democratic Party. Of substantively greater interest for our purposes is the fact that she was one of the driving forces behind the Bernie Sanders phenomenon.

This program updates that analysis, setting forth more about Gabbard’s behavior, associates and fascist/Underground Reich associations:

  • Gabbard received kid glove treatment from Pierre Omidyar’s Honolulu Civil Beat.
  • She recently took an unannounced, and possibly illegal, trip to Syria, during which she met with Bashar Assad. This further disrupts an already badly weakened Democratic Party.
  • Her trip was shepherded by: “. . . . Gabbard’s office claims her trip was funded by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (Aaccess) – Ohio; however, the group has not reported any financial revenue to the US government since 2006. Bassam Khawam, the executive director of Aaccess who traveled with Gabbard, reportedly belongs to a pro-Assad Lebanese political party, the Syrian Social Nationalist party (SSNP). The party has dispatched its members to fight on behalf of the Assad regime during the nearly six-year war. . . .”
  • Bassam Khawam’s political affiliation with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party is “interesting”” . . . . They greet their leaders with a Hitlerian salute; sing their Arabic anthem, “Greetings to You, Syria,” to the strains of “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”; and throng to the symbol of the red hurricane, a swastika in circular motion. These are the hallmarks of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), the oldest terrorist organization in existence today and one of the most secret and deadly. . . .”
  • More about Khawam’s political ally, the SSNP: “. . . . [founder Antun] Saadeh emigrated again to Brazil in 1938 and afterwards to Argentina, only to return to Lebanon in 1947 following the country’s independence from the French in 1943. On his way to Argentina, he visited Italy and Berlin, which increased the suspicions of the French that the SSNP might have been entertaining relations with the Axis. . . Reeva Simon writes: “the party’s ‘leader for life’, was an admirer of Adolf Hitler influenced by Nazi and fascist ideology”.[55][59] The party adopted a reversed swastika as the party’s symbol, sang the party’s anthem to Deutschland über alles, and included developing the cult of a leader, advocating totalitarian government, and glorifying an ancient pre-Christian past and the organic whole of the Syrian Volk or nation.[52][55]  . . . .”
  • Gabbard co-sponsored a bill that would classify anyone opposing Ukraine’s entry into the EU as a “terrorist.”

The program concludes with examination of another alleged Russian “hack,” which smells suspiciously like a “cyber-false flag” operation: ” . . . . Two new users showed up as registered administrators of the website: larisa@steamreal.ru and ewartumba@mail.ru. The ‘.ru’ suffix indicates a Russian origin, Benson said. The profile pages of the users had characters in the Russian alphabet in ‘Address’ and ‘About Me’ fields, she said. . . .She said she can’t say whether Russians were really involved or whether the addresses could have been faked by someone mimicking a connection based on what had been in the news. But it was important that police and the FBI become involved, to ‘make this information part of the body of information police and the FBI are compiling from the national investigation,’ she said. . . .”

Program Highlights Include:

  • The inclusion of Gabbard’s associates in the Hindu nationalist/fascist RSS in a prestigious Indian literary festival, symptomatic of a phenomenon similar to the rise of Trump:  . . . . ‘We are acknowledging that the intellectual nerve center has shifted, and the seat of cultural power has shifted, because no one was interested in inviting these guys before 2014,’ said Supriya Nair, a writer and editor who has attended the festival for the last six years. In any case, she said, the shift rightward had already taken place in the larger society. ‘This is a last bastion,’ she said. . . .
  • Narendra Modi’s rise in India, the shift of what Supriya Nair described as a shift of “the intellectual nerve center” has been fueled by “dark money.” Sound familiar?
  • Trump PR man Felix Sater’s role in shepherding Trump’s trips to Russia.
  • Review of Sater’s work for the CIA.
  • Review of Pierre Omidyar’s role in financing the rise of Narendra Modi and the OUN/B fascist in Ukraine.

1a. In FTR #33, we examined a German professor’s account of what it was like to experience the rise of Hitler, comparing it to the U.S.

A consummately important article in Die Zeit gives us a window on the past and a vantage point of analysis for our times: Just compare how the German population, many of the more established politicians, the German press, the German so-called “progressive sector” (including the Communists and unions), foreign diplomats and last (but certainly not least, the Jews) saw the rise of Hitler.

Suffice it to say that the parallels between how they saw Hitler and how Trump is being seen are eerie. Note the bland pronouncements about Hitler and the unnervingly similar platitudes being bandied about by contemporary observers:

  • The “man [or woman] in the street” ” . . . . Is there reason to worry? No, thought Nikolaus Sieveking, an employee at Hamburg’s World Economy Archive. ‘I find the act of viewing Hitler’s chancellorship as a sensational event to be childish enough that I will leave that to his loyal followers,’ he wrote in his diary on Jan. 30, 1933. Like Sieveking, many Germans didn’t initially recognize this date as a dramatic turning point. . . .”
  • Conservative politicians: ” . . . .  As for the rest of Hitler’s stated intentions, his conservative coalition partners were inclined to dismiss them as mere rhetoric. Once he was in power, they argued, he would become more reasonable. They also believed they had ‘framed in’ Hitler in a way that would enable his ambitions for power and the dynamics of his movement to be kept in check. ‘What do you want?’ Vice Chancellor Papen, the actual architect of the January 30 coalition, asked critics. ‘I have the confidence of Hindenburg! In two months, we’ll have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he’ll squeal.’ . . .”
  • “Mainstream” business interests: ” . . . . Big-business representatives shared the same illusion. In an editorial in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, which had close ties to heavy industry, editor-in-chief Fritz Klein wrote that working together with the Nazis would be ‘difficult and exhausting,’ but that people had to dare to take ‘the leap into darkness’ because the Hitler movement had become the strongest political actor in Germany. The head of the Nazi party would now have to prove ‘whether he really had what is needed in order to become a statesman.’ The stock market didn’t seem spooked either — people were waiting to see what would happen. . . .”
  • The media:  ” . . . . In the Frankfurter Zeitung, politics editor Benno Reifenberg expressed doubt Hitler had the ‘social competence’ for the office of chancellor, but didn’t think it was out of the question that the responsibility of his office might transform him in ways that could earn him respect. Like Theodor Wolff, Reifenberg described it as ‘a hopeless misjudgment of our country to believe a dictatorial regime could be forced upon it. The diversity of the German people demands democracy,’ he wrote. . . .”
  • The left: ” . . . . The left was also concerned. In their appeal on Jan. 30, the party executive of the Social Democrats and their Reichstag parliamentary group called for supporters to carry out a ‘fight on the basis of the constitution.’ Every attempt by the new government to damage the constitution, they argued, ‘will be met with the most extreme resistance of the working class and all elements of the population who love freedom.’ [Ha!–D.E.] . . .”
  • The unions: ” . . . The idea of taking action outside of parliament was just as far from the unions’ minds. ‘Organization — not demonstration: That is the word of the hour!’ Theodor Leipart, the head of the General German Trade Union, said on Jan. 31. In the views of the representatives of the social-democratic workers’ movement, Hitler was a henchman of the old socially reactionary power-elites — large landowners in the eastern Elbe region and the Rhineland-Westphalian heavy industry. In a talk in early February 1933, SPD Reichstag lawmaker Kurt Schumacher described the Nazi leader as being merely a ‘decoration piece.’ ‘The cabinet has Hitler’s name on the masthead, but in reality the cabinet is Alfred Hugenberg. Adolf Hitler may make the speeches, but Hugenberg will act.’ . . .”
  • The Jews, famous last words: “. . . . The fact that Hitler’s appointment meant that a fanatical anti-Semite had come to power should have made Germany’s Jews, above all, nervous. But that was not the case at all. In a statement given on Jan. 30, the chair of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith said, ‘In general, today more than ever we must follow the directive: wait calmly.’ He said that although one watches the new government ‘of course with deep suspicion,’ President Hindenburg represents the ‘calming influence.’ He said there was no reason to doubt his ‘sense of justice’ and ‘loyalty to the constitution.’ As a result, he said, one should be convinced that ‘nobody would dare’ to ‘touch our constitutional rights.’ In an editorial in the Jüdische Rundschau, a Jewish newspaper,published on Jan. 31, the author argued that ‘there are powers that are still awake in the German people that will rear up against barbarian anti-Jewish policies.’ It would only be a few weeks before all these expectations would prove to be illusory. . . .”
  • Foreign diplomats and analysts: ” . . . . The Swiss envoy, Paul Dinichert, heard about Hitler’s appointment as he was eating lunch with some ‘elevated German personalities.’ He described the reactions in his dispatch to Bern thusly: ‘Heads were shaken. ‘How long can this last?’ — ‘It could have been worse.’’ Dinichert recognized, correctly, that Papen was the puppet master behind the installation of the new cabinet. But, like most other commentators, he was wrong in describing the outcome: ‘Hitler, who for years insisted on ruling by himself, has been yoked, hemmed in or constrained (take your pick) with two of his disciples between Papen and Hindenburg.’

“Wait Calmly” by Von Volker Ullrich;Die Zeit; 2/1/2017.

They argued he would grow more reasonable once in office and that his cabinet would tame him. A dictatorship? Out of the question! How journalists, politicians, writers and diplomats weighed in on Hitler’s appointment as chancellor.

Is there reason to worry? No, thought Nikolaus Sieveking, an employee at Hamburg’s World Economy Archive. “I find the act of viewing Hitler’s chancellorship as a sensational event to be childish enough that I will leave that to his loyal followers,” he wrote in his diary on Jan. 30, 1933.

Like Sieveking, many Germans didn’t initially recognize this date as a dramatic turning point. Few sensed what Hitler’s appointment as chancellor actually meant, and many reacted to the event with shocking indifference.

The chancellor of the presidential cabinet had changed twice in 1932 — Heinrich Brüning was replaced in early June by Franz von Papen, who was replaced in early December by Kurt von Schleicher. People had almost gotten used to this tempo. Why should the Hitler government be anything more than just an episode? In the Wochenschau news programs shown in cinemas, the swearing-in of the new cabinet came last, after the major sporting events.

This, despite the fact that Hitler had plainly explained in “Mein Kampf” and countless speeches before 1933 what he wanted to do once in power: to abolish the democratic “system” of Weimar Germany, to “eradicate” Marxism (by which he meant both social democracy and communism) and to “remove” the Jews from Germany. As for foreign policy, he made no secret of the fact that he wanted to revise the Versailles Treaty and that his long-term goal was the conquering of “Lebensraum in the East.”

German President Paul von Hindenburg’s camarilla, which had hoisted him to power through a series of intrigues, agreed with Hitler’s goals of preventing a return to parliamentary democracy, of cutting the chains of the Versailles Treaty, massively arming the military and once again making Germany the dominant power in Europe. As for the rest of Hitler’s stated intentions, his conservative coalition partners were inclined to dismiss them as mere rhetoric. Once he was in power, they argued, he would become more reasonable. They also believed they had “framed in” Hitler in a way that would enable his ambitions for power and the dynamics of his movement to be kept in check. “What do you want?” Vice Chancellor Papen, the actual architect of the January 30 coalition, asked critics. “I have the confidence of Hindenburg! In two months, we’ll have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he’ll squeal.”

Hitler’s thirst for power couldn’t have been more grossly underestimated. The nine conservative ministers in the so-called “Cabinet of National Concentration” clearly carried more weight than the three National Socialists. But Hitler also made sure that two key ministries were filled by his men. Wilhelm Frick took over the Ministry of the Interior of the German Reich. Hermann Göring became a cabinet minister without a portfolio, but also Prussia’s interior minister, thus acquiring power over the police in Germany’s largest state — an important precondition for the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship.

Media mogul and head of the German National People’s Party Alfred Hugenberg was seen as the strongman in the cabinet. He was given the Ministry of Economy and Agriculture of both the Reich and Prussia. The new super minister purportedly told Leipzig Mayor Carl Goerdeler he had made the “biggest mistake” of his life by aligning himself with the “biggest demagogue in world history,” but his assertion is hard to believe. Hugenberg, like Papen and the remaining conservative ministers, was convinced that he could steer Hitler to go along with his own ideas.

Big-business representatives shared the same illusion. In an editorial in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, which had close ties to heavy industry, editor-in-chief Fritz Klein wrote that working together with the Nazis would be “difficult and exhausting,” but that people had to dare to take “the leap into darkness” because the Hitler movement had become the strongest political actor in Germany. The head of the Nazi party would now have to prove “whether he really had what is needed in order to become a statesman.” The stock market didn’t seem spooked either — people were waiting to see what would happen.

The conservatives who helped Hitler rise to power, and his opponents in the republican camp, were wrong in their assessment of the true division of power. On Jan. 31, Harry Graf Kessler, the diplomat and arts patron, reported having a conversation with Hugo Simon, a former close colleague of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, who was murdered in 1922. “He sees Hitler as a prisoner of Hugenberg and Papen.” Apparently Kessler felt similarly, because only a few days later he prophesized that the new government wouldn’t last long, since it was only held together by the “Papen’s cream puffery and intrigues.” He argued, “Hitler must have noticed by now that he has fallen prey to a deception. He is bound, hand and foot, to this government and can move neither forward nor backward.”

In his book “Defying Hitler,” written in exile in England in 1939, journalist Sebastian Haffner recalled the “icy horror” he felt when he had learned of Hitler’s appointment while working as a clerk at the Kammergericht court in Berlin six years earlier. For a moment, he had “physically sensed (Hitler’s) odor of blood and filth.” But on the evening of Jan. 30, he discussed the views of the new government with his father, a liberal progressive-educator, and they quickly agreed that while the cabinet could do a lot of damage, it couldn’t stay in power for very long. “A deeply reactionary government, with Hitler as its mouthpiece. Apart from this, it did not really differ much from the two governments that had succeeded Brüning’s. … No, all things considered, this government was not a cause for alarm.”

The big liberal newspapers also argued that nothing truly terrible would happen. Theodor Wolff, the editor-in-chief of the Berliner Tageblatt saw the cabinet as the embodiment of what the united right-wing political groups had wanted since their meeting in Bad Harzburg in 1931. He opened his editorial on Jan. 31 by writing: “It has been achieved. Hitler is the Reich Chancellor, Hugenberg is the economics dictator and the positions have been distributed as the men of the ‘Harzburger Front’ had wanted.” The new government, he argued, would try anything to “intimidate and silence opponents.” A ban on the Communist Party was on the agenda, he thought, as well as a curtailing of the freedom of the press. But even the imagination of this otherwise so clear-sighted journalist didn’t go far enough to conceive the power of a totalitarian dictatorship. He argued there was a “border that violence would not cross.” The German people, who were always proud of the “freedom of thought and of speech,” would create a “soulful and intellectual resistance” and stifle all attempts to establish a dictatorship.

In the Frankfurter Zeitung, politics editor Benno Reifenberg expressed doubt Hitler had the “social competence” for the office of chancellor, but didn’t think it was out of the question that the responsibility of his office might transform him in ways that could earn him respect. Like Theodor Wolff, Reifenberg described it as “a hopeless misjudgment of our country to believe a dictatorial regime could be forced upon it.” “The diversity of the German people demands democracy,” he wrote.

Julius Elbau, the editor-in-chief of the Vossischer Zeitung, displayed less optimism. “The signs are pointing to a storm,” he wrote in his first commentary. Although Hitler wasn’t able to achieve the absolute power he sought — “it is not a Hitler cabinet, but a Hitler-Papen-Hugenberg government” — this triumvirate was in agreement, despite all of their inner contradictions, that they wanted to make a “complete break from all that had come before.” Given this prospect, the newspaper warned that it constituted “a dangerous experiment, which one can only watch with deep concern and the strongest suspicion.”

The left was also concerned. In their appeal on Jan. 30, the party executive of the Social Democrats and their Reichstag parliamentary group called for supporters to carry out a “fight on the basis of the constitution.” Every attempt by the new government to damage the constitution, they argued, “will be met with the most extreme resistance of the working class and all elements of the population who love freedom.” [Ha!–D.E.]

With their strict insistence on the legalities of the constitution, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leadership overlooked the fact that the previous presidential governments had already hollowed the constitution and that Hitler would not hesitate to destroy its last vestiges.

The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) also made a misjudgment in its call for a “general strike against the fascist dictatorship of Hitler, Hugenberg, Papen.” Given that there were 6 million unemployed people in Germany, few had the desire to go on strike. The call to build a common line of defense also wasn’t very popular with the Social Democrats, whom the Communists had defamed as “social fascists” only a short time earlier.

The idea of taking action outside of parliament was just as far from the unions’ minds. “Organization — not demonstration: That is the word of the hour!” Theodor Leipart, the head of the General German Trade Union, said on Jan. 31. In the views of the representatives of the social-democratic workers’ movement, Hitler was a henchman of the old socially reactionary power-elites — large landowners in the eastern Elbe region and the Rhineland-Westphalian heavy industry. In a talk in early February 1933, SPD Reichstag lawmaker Kurt Schumacher described the Nazi leader as being merely a “decoration piece.” “The cabinet has Hitler’s name on the masthead, but in reality the cabinet is Alfred Hugenberg. Adolf Hitler may make the speeches, but Hugenberg will act.”

The dangers emanating from Hitler could not have been more grotesquely misread. Most of the leading Social Democrats and unionists had grown up in the German Kaiserreich. They could imagine repression similar to Bismarck’s anti-socialist law, but not that someone would seriously try to destroy the workers’ movement in its entirety.

The fact that Hitler’s appointment meant that a fanatical anti-Semite had come to power should have made Germany’s Jews, above all, nervous. But that was not the case at all. In a statement given on Jan. 30, the chair of the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith said, “In general, today more than ever we must follow the directive: wait calmly.” He said that although one watches the new government “of course with deep suspicion,” President Hindenburg represents the “calming influence.” He said there was no reason to doubt his “sense of justice” and “loyalty to the constitution.” As a result, he said, one should be convinced that “nobody would dare” to “touch our constitutional rights.” In an editorial in the Jüdische Rundschau, a Jewish newspaper,published on Jan. 31, the author argued that “there are powers that are still awake in the German people that will rear up against barbarian anti-Jewish policies.” It would only be a few weeks before all these expectations would prove to be illusory.

Foreign diplomats also made false assumptions about the nature of the change of power. The American consul general in Berlin, George S. Messersmith, believed that it was difficult to make a clear prediction about the future of the Hitler government and spoke of his assumption that it represented a transitional phenomenon on the road to a more stable political situation. To British Ambassador Horace Rumbold, it seemed like the conservatives had managed to successfully fence in the Nazis. But he also predicted that there would soon be conflicts between the unequal coalition partners because Papen’s and Hugenberg’s goal of restoring the monarchy could not be reconciled with Hitler’s plans. He recommended that the Foreign Office should take a wait-and-see attitude toward the new government.

French Ambassador Andre François-Poncet called the Hitler-Papen-Hugenberg cabinet a “bold experiment,” but he also suggested his government remain calm and wait for further developments. When he met Hitler in the evening of Feb. 8 during a reception held by the German president for the diplomatic corps, he was relieved. The new chancellor seemed “dull and mediocre,” a kind of miniature Mussolini.

The Swiss envoy, Paul Dinichert, heard about Hitler’s appointment as he was eating lunch with some “elevated German personalities.” He described the reactions in his dispatch to Bern thusly: “Heads were shaken. ‘How long can this last?’ — ‘It could have been worse.’” Dinichert recognized, correctly, that Papen was the puppet master behind the installation of the new cabinet. But, like most other commentators, he was wrong in describing the outcome: “Hitler, who for years insisted on ruling by himself, has been yoked, hemmed in or constrained (take your pick) with two of his disciples between Papen and Hindenburg.”

Rarely has a political project so rapidly been revealed to be a chimera as the idea that the conservatives would “tame” the Nazis. In terms of tactical cunning, Hitler towered high above his cabinet allies and opponents. In a short time, he had upstaged them and driven them against the wall, dislodging Papen from of his preferential position with Hindenburg and forcing Hugenberg to resign.

Hitler needed only five months to establish his power. By the summer of 1933, fundamental rights and the constitution had been suspended, the states had been forced into conformity, the unions crushed, the political parties banned or dissolved, press and radio brought into line and the Jews stripped of their equality under the law. Everything that existed in Germany outside of the National Socialist Party had been “destroyed, dispersed, dissolved, annexed or absorbed,” François-Poncet concluded in early July. Hitler, he claimed, had “won the game with little effort.” “He only had to puff — and the edifice of German politics collapsed like a house of cards.”

1b. Although it will be dismissed as “youthful indiscretion” by Senators vetting Neil Gorsuch’s nomination, if it comes up at all, indicative of the political orientation of Trump’s first SCOTUS nominee is the fact that he founded as a freshman, and led until graduation, a high school club called “Fascism Forever.”

Subsequently, news reports have claimed that this was merely a joke Gorsuch made in his yearbook posting, with faculty advisors claiming that fictitious clubs were commonly made up by students.

There are two comments in the yearbook, one of which was made by editors, not Lil’ Neil.

The suspicion in these quarters is that the “Fascism Forever” club was not a formal high school club as such, but a grouping of far-right adolescents of like mind who unofficially applied the title to themselves. As some observers have noted, however, there is nothing laughable about fascism.

We note in that context, that many contemporary Nazis and fascists maintain that they were only joking, that manifestations of their fascist ideology were “winky wink.”

We are left to wonder if Gorsuch’s yearbook comment may well have been of that nature–revealing his true sentiments but doing so in a “winky-wink” manner.

“EXCLUSIVE: Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Neil Gorsuch Founded and Led Club Called ‘Fascism Forever’ against Liberal Faculty at His Elite All Boys DC Prep School” by Alan Goodman; Daily Mail ; 2/1/2017. 

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch founded and led a student group called the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ at his elite high school, DailyMail.com can reveal.

The club was set up to rally against the ‘left-wing tendencies’ of his professors while attending a Jesuit all-boys preparatory high school near Washington D.C.

The name may be inconvenient for a Supreme Court nominee facing a tough confirmation battle. However it also shows the depth of Gorscuch’s right-wing credentials – and his penchant for mischief while attending his exclusive prep school in the 1980s.

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch, a 49-year-old U.S. appellate judge, to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday.

Gorsuch founded the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ during his freshman year at Georgetown Preparatory, a now-$30,000-a-year private Jesuit school that is one of the most selective in the United States.

He served as president until he graduated in 1985, according to his senior yearbook. . . .

1c. Former Obama U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was one of just a handful of mainstream politicians who (VERY belatedly) got things right. Speaking of Steve Bannon’s elevation to a position of primacy on the NSC, she observed: ” . . . . ‘Trump loves and trusts the military so much he just kicked them out of the National Security Council and put a Nazi in their place,’ she said. . . .”

“Democrats and Republicans Can’t Believe Trump Put ‘Nazi’ Steve Bannon on National Security Council” by David Ferguson; Raw Story; 1/29/2017.

On Saturday, Pres. Donald Trump announced that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the national director of intelligence will no longer be included in all meetings of the National Security Council (NSC)’s principals committee. However, the president’s order said, former Breitbart.com CEO Stephen K. Bannon will be attending every meeting alongside the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and some of the highest ranking officers in the nation’s security and intelligence services.

“Chairman of Joint Chiefs and DNI treated as afterthoughts in Cabinet level principals meetings. And where is CIA?? Cut out of everything?” wrote former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on Sunday, according to the New York Daily News.

“This is stone cold crazy,” Rice continued. “After a week of crazy. Who needs military advice or intel to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?”

“Trump loves and trusts the military so much he just kicked them out of the National Security Council and put a Nazi in their place,” she said. . . .

1d. Bannon’s ascension to the NSC should be analyzed against the background of the martial law contingency plans drawn up by Oliver North and still on the books. This is discussed at length in AFA #32.

Recorded on 9/13/1987–almost thirty years ago–the program warrants scrutiny. From the program description:

“Pt. 4: Staging the Fourth Reich (AFA 32)
Part 4a
44:00 | Part 4b 40:54 | Part 4c 42:01 | Part 4d 35:54 | Part 4e 29:16
(Originally broadcast September 13, 1987)

Sets forth evidence that the U.S. national security establishment may have been planning a fascist coup in response to a terrorist incident or provocation. The program deals primarily with the “Rex 84” martial-law contingency plan and its implementation in response to a terrorist “incident”. Rex ’84 appears to stem from a contingency plan to intern black Americans in concentration camps.”

One of the key features of the martial law contingency plans involved the federal deputizing of paramilitary right-wingers to maintain order. The military, even with the assistance of the National Guard, does not have the manpower to maintain civilian order.

It is our suspicion that Bannon may be involved with the implementation of such activities.

“ . . . . But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the ‘principals committee’ of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers. . . .”

“Bannon Is Given Security Role Usually Held for Generals” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman; The New York Times; 1/29/2017.

The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.

It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.

But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.

In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.

But in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bannon — whose Breitbart website was a magnet for white nationalists, antiglobalists and conspiracy theorists — always planned to participate in national security. Mr. Flynn welcomed his participation, Mr. Spicer said, but the general “led the reorganization of the N.S.C.” in order to streamline an antiquated and bloated bureaucracy.

Former White House officials in both parties were shocked by the move.

“The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they’re talking about national security,” said Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director in two Democratic administrations.

“I’ve never seen that happen, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn’t. His primary role is to control or guide the president’s conscience based on his campaign promises. That’s not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about.”

That opinion was shared by President George W. Bush’s last chief of staff, Josh Bolten, who barred Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political adviser, from N.S.C. meetings. A president’s decisions made with those advisers, he told a conference audience in September, “involve life and death for the people in uniform” and should “not be tainted by any political decisions.”

Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s last national security adviser, called the arrangement “stone cold crazy” in a tweet posted Sunday.

Mr. Spicer said the language the Trump White House used in its N.S.C. executive order is, with the exception of Mr. Bannon’s position — which was created during the transition — almost identical in content to one the Bush administration drafted in 2001. And Mr. Obama’s top political operative, David Axelrod, sat in on some N.S.C. meetings, he added.

There were key differences. Mr. Axelrod never served as a permanent member as Mr. Bannon will now, though he sat in on some critical meetings, especially as Mr. Obama debated strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “It’s a profound shift,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t know what his bona fides are to be the principal foreign policy adviser to the president.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-donald-trump-muslim-ban-immigration-iraq-iran-restrictions-travel-islamic-state-us-visa-a7552856.html
But Mr. Bannon’s elevation does not merely reflect his growing influence on national security. It is emblematic of Mr. Trump’s trust on a range of political and ideological issues.

During the campaign, the sly and provocative Mr. Bannon played a paradoxical role — calming the easily agitated candidate during his frequent rough patches and egging him on when he felt Mr. Trump needed to fire up the white working-class base. The president respects Mr. Bannon because he is independently wealthy and therefore does not need the job, and both men ascribe to a shoot-the-prisoners credo when put on the defensive, according to the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Mr. Bannon is a deft operator within the White House, and he has been praised by Republicans who view him skeptically as the most knowledgeable on policy around the president. But his stated preference for blowing things up — as opposed to putting them back together — may not translate to his new role.

The hasty drafting of the immigration order, and its scattershot execution, brought a measure of Mr. Bannon’s chaotic and hyperaggressive political style to the more predictable administration of the federal government. Within hours of the edict, airport customs and border agents were detaining or blocking dozens of migrant families, some of whom had permanent resident status, until John F. Kelly, the new homeland security secretary, intervened.

Mr. Kelly’s department had suggested green card holders be exempted from the order, but Mr. Bannon and Mr. Miller, a hard-liner on immigration, overruled him, according to two American officials.

The group Charles "Chuck" Johnson networked with in Washingon D.C.

The group Charles “Chuck” Johnson networked with in Washingon D.C.

1e. Notorious troll, blogger and Nazi/white-supremacist fellow traveler Charles “Chuck” Johnson has substantive input in Trump’s cabinet selections. Worth noting is the fact that Johnson may be operating in tandem with Peter Thiel, whose database named the “Plum List” bears a striking similarity to a website “ThePlumlist.com,” apparently being used by Johnson to help staff Trump’s administration.

“ . . . . Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the ‘alt-right.’ Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election. . . . .”

Johnson is now apparently secretly helping the Trump team staff the Executive Branch despite being an open white supremacist neo-Nazi troll. Or perhaps because of that.

” . . . . Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump. . . .” 

While Charles C. Johnson may not technically be the Helene von Damm of the Trump administration (the Director of Presidential Personnel is John DeStefano), he may well be playing a similar role.

In that context, we note that John DeStanfo was only named the Director of Presidential Personnel about a week ago, suggesting that the Trump team has probably been a lot more dependent on the recommendations of folks like Thiel and Johnson for the first couple months of the transition period than they want to admit.

Those wondering if Trump was going to be filling his administration with “Alt-Right” neo-Nazis, the answer appears to be that he already is, and those neo-Nazis are helping him pick the rest of his staff.

Recall that Thiel also bankrolled Ron Paul’s Super Pac in the 2012 election. Paul moves in white supremacist circles as well.

Johnson had a very telling observation near the end of the following article: ” . . . Johnson attributed much of the work that he and others have done in support of Trump to being able to tap into voters’ emotions through memes, such as the Pepe the Frog cartoon that became an informal mascot for Trump supporters. . . .

“A Troll Outside Trump Tower Is Helping To Pick Your Next Government” by Ryan Mac and Matt Drange; Forbes; 1/9/2017.

An internet troll, who was once called “the most hated man on the internet” and is banned from Twitter, is recommending candidates to serve in the Trump administration.

Charles “Chuck” Johnson, a controversial blogger and conservative online personality, has been pushing for various political appointees to serve under Donald Trump, according to multiple sources close to the President-elect’s transition team. While Johnson does not have a formal position, FORBES has learned that he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called “alt-right.”

The proximity to power is something new for Johnson, a self-described “journalist, author and debunker of frauds,” who has made a name for himself by peddling false information and right-wing conspiracy theories online. In the months leading up to the election, Johnson, 28, used social media and his website GotNews.com to stump for the President-elect while also publishing misinformation on Trump’s detractors. Now, Johnson is helping to pick some of the leaders who may run the country for the next four years.

FORBES verified Johnson’s involvement with multiple people close to the transition team who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. When asked about his work with the transition team, Johnson said last month that he had “no formal role,” and was vague regarding his level of influence. Johnson agreed to multiple phone and email interviews with FORBES in December, but he declined to return repeated follow-up requests for comment this month.

“Whether I am listened to or not remains to be seen,” Johnson wrote in an email to FORBES in December. “I am by and large pretty happy with the government selected thus far, though I am sorry to say that a lot of the candidates that I favor have not been selected.”

Johnson’s statements came before his appearance on an online radio show with libertarian blogger Stefan Molyneux on Dec. 22 during which Johnson declared that he had been “doing a lot of vetting for the administration and the Trump transition.”

The disclosure of Johnson’s involvement comes at a time of intense scrutiny for Trump’s transition team, whose cabinet picks will begin Senate confirmation hearings this week. Those hearings are moving forward despite the fact that, as of this weekend, the Office of Government Ethics had not completed its review of multiple appointees. It is unprecedented for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings for a President-elect’s nominees before formal background checks are completed.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not return a request for comment. Jeremiah Hall, a spokesman for Thiel, declined to comment.

While Twitter banned Johnson in May 2015 after threatening a Black Lives Matters activist, he made a name for himself as an internet troll, or an online personality who antagonizes others by posting inflammatory or misleading information. Among his exploits, Johnson has published the home addresses of New York Times reporters, wrongly identified a woman he thought was the source of Rolling Stone’s now-retracted story of an alleged rape at the University of Virginia and claimed that President Barack Obama is gay.

“On Twitter, like, I have a certain kind of personality, a pugnaciousness, like an alter ego,” he said in 2014 to Mother Jones. “You know, like when Spider-Man puts on the costume, for instance, he’s no longer a mild-mannered photographer. He has an attitude. I do that because I want my content to really go viral.”

Johnson portrays GotNews as an alternative to the “lying mainstream media.” He said it receives 2.5 million page views per month. (Quantcast estimated in the last 30 days that about 246,000 people have visited the site.) Recent stories include a piece on Senator Ted Cruz’s supposedly imminent Supreme Court nomination and another on Trump’s “biggest regret” in supporting John McCain’s 2016 Senate re-election run.

Despite his disregard for facts and reckless approach to publishing, Johnson, who was recently photographed at a dinner attended by white supremacists in Washington, D.C., built a significant following among many who self-identified as being a part of the “alt-right.” Trump drew significant support from those same followers during the election.

Mike Cernovich, another pro-Trump troll who is friends with Johnson, said that Johnson often has a hand in behind-the-scenes politics. “The media really likes to hate on [Johnson],” Cernovich said. “But if they knew how influential he has been–in ways they didn’t know–it would be kind of mind blowing.”

Johnson, who boldly predicted against conventional wisdom and polls that Trump would win, and who was spotted in the VIP section at Trump’s election night party, began working with the transition team shortly after Nov. 8. Among his contacts within Manhattan’s Trump Tower, where the President-elect has set up camp, is Thiel, a member of the transition’s executive committee. A PayPal cofounder and Facebook board member whose vast network of Silicon Valley connections has made him invaluable to the President-elect, Thiel has overseen many of the science and technology appointments for the incoming administration.

Johnson has helped in that effort, pushing for at least a dozen potential candidates to Thiel, including Ajit Pai, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, whom Johnson hopes will lead the organization under Trump. Pai declined to comment for this story. As a Republican member of the FCC, Pai is a natural candidate to be considered for the chairmanship of the agency, and Johnson’s recommendation suggests he’s also favored by a segment of the self-described “alt-right.”

Beyond recommending candidates, Johnson has also helped set up meetings between potential appointees and transition team members. He has worked with Jim O’Neill, who is being considered to head the Food and Drug Administration and is currently employed by Thiel at San Francisco-based investment firm Mithril Capital. Johnson has tried to arrange for O’Neill to meet with conservative influencers and political groups in an effort to build support for his potential FDA nomination. O’Neill declined to comment.

Johnson also helped create a database where potential political appointees could send in their resumes to be considered for government positions. He has access to the website ThePlumlist.com, and though the recently created website remains dormant, candidates have been told to send their information to an email account associated with that domain. In November, The Daily Mail reported that Thiel maintains a database called the “Plum List” to track potential hires and qualified applicants. Sources familiar with the situation described the list as an intake system for the team, and said it was separate from the version that Thiel and his closest associates use to track final selections that are forwarded to Trump.

Johnson denied working with Thiel, and said the two had “only a passing familiarity.” Johnson added that he and Thiel “share some of the same enemies,” a reference to the now defunct news organization, Gawker Media. Thiel secretly bankrolled former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s landmark invasion of privacy lawsuit against the New York media organization, which ultimately led to the company’s bankruptcy. Separately, Johnson sued Gawker in a California court for defamation after the website published a series of critical and abrasive stories about him.

FORBES previously reported that Johnson, while exploring representation for his case, had a phone discussion with lawyers at Harder Mirell & Abrams, the law firm that Thiel paid to represent Hogan, and that Johnson’s case had been pitched to other Los Angeles law firms as part of a wider legal strategy against Gawker. Johnson’s lawsuit remains on hold, pending a hearing later this month in federal bankruptcy court to determine the fate of Gawker Media’s remaining assets.

If Gawker is Johnson and Thiel’s shared enemy, then Trump advisor and chief strategist Stephen Bannon is their most prominent mutual ally. Johnson worked for Bannon at Breitbart News, where Bannon served as executive chairman before joining Trump’s campaign last year. “I liked [Bannon], and was close to him,” Johnson said in a December phone interview.

Last fall, Johnson and Bannon led an effort prior to the second presidential debate in October to stage a press conference with Trump and four women who have accused Bill Clinton of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment and Hillary Clinton of protecting an alleged sexual criminal. Johnson claimed to have helped raise more than $10,000 for one of those women, Kathleen Shelton–who alleged that she was raped in 1975 by a man who Hillary Clinton later represented as a public defender–to attend the event.

While Johnson denied his recent work with Thiel, he freely discussed his efforts to influence the transition team through his old boss, Bannon. Still, Johnson insisted that while Bannon takes his opinion into consideration, his recommendations are sometimes ignored. “Imagine you had an ex-boss who became the consigliere to the President of the United States,” Johnson told FORBES last month. “You can’t be like, ‘Dude, you’re f***ing up.’”

Alexandra Preate, a spokesperson for Bannon, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The full extent of Johnson’s involvement in the transition is not clear, though several of his associates have also interfaced with the team in recent weeks. FORBES has learned that Cernovich and Jeff Giesea, a Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneur who worked for Thiel in the past, have also been in contact with transition team members, according to sources. Giesea declined to comment, while Cernovich discussed the transition team’s agenda but remained vague when pressed for details of his own work.

“I want to be free to say whatever I want to say. And in a way that limits what I can do officially,” Cernovich said, denying that he has had any direct communication with Thiel or other members of the transition team. “I don’t want anyone to get jammed up, vis-à-vis any association with me.”

Cernovich and Giesea have also organized a party for Trump supporters in Washington, D.C. later this month dubbed the “DeploraBall.” Cernovich said that 1,000 tickets have been sold for the event, which is billed as “the biggest meme ever” and will take place at the National Press Club on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. Johnson said the event was about giving voice to a group of people who, until Trump’s landmark victory in November, were often ignored by the political establishment. When asked if he felt that he had gotten credit for his recent work, Johnson said, “Not as much as I deserve.”

Johnson attributed much of the work that he and others have done in support of Trump to being able to tap into voters’ emotions through memes, such as the Pepe the Frog cartoon that became an informal mascot for Trump supporters. Johnson said that memes represent a new way for people to discuss national politics, which he said is dominated by a “white paper” mindset predicated on debating policy merits based on fact rather than emotion. To hear Johnson tell it, the success of this approach is evidenced by the visceral reaction to memes that generated widespread attention and influenced public perception during Trump’s rise to power, despite having little or no basis in fact.

2a. If we do see a “Brownshirts” phenomena arise under a Trump administration it might involve brown military vehicles too. Or perhaps tan-ish, as in the case of was was initially a “mystery military convoy” of what appear to be pro-Trump surplus military vehicles.

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

“Mystery Convoy Of ‘Military’ Vehicles Flying ‘Trump’ Flag Spotted In Kentucky” by Esme Cribb; Talking Points Memo Livewire; 1/30/2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2b. That mystery was resolved, when it was disclosed that the vehicles belonged to an elite SEALS unit.

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

“Military Convoy Flying Trump Flag Belonged to SEAL Unit” by Luis Martinez; ABC News; 2/1/2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. This disturbing story reminds us that former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and brother of the new Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss, has good reason to fly a Trump flag on his military convoys.

Prince has advocated a renewed version of the Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam, to be applied to Islamist terrorists and their supporters, including wealthy sheikhs. We wonder if such activities will be directed at civilians in the U.S. If so, we would not expect such ministrations to be restricted to anyone necessarily connected to terrorism.

Note that Prince’s old company, Blackwater (since renamed), might be a candidate for conducting such operations. Private security companies like “the firm formerly known as Blackwater” might join with deputized “Alt-right” paramilitaries if that old North-crafted directive comes into play.

Prince has been alleged to have committed cold-blooded murder.

Note that Prince has been serving as a backchannel advisor on intelligence and security matters to Trump. “. . . . he may be making a comeback, this time as a backchannel advisor on intelligence and security matters to US President Donald Trump, The Intercept reported on Tuesday. It’s unclear when Prince made his way into Trump’s inner circle, but he has made sizable contributions to the pro-Trump Political Action Committee (PAC). The Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings for the PAC shows he made a contribution of $100,000 in September 2016 to their efforts. His mother Elisa Prince also gave $50,000 to the committee. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos is Trump’s Secretary of Education choice. . . .”

“The Notorious Erik Prince Set to Make a Comeback Under Trump” by Baba Umar; TRT World; 1/23/2017.

The former head of private security firm Blackwater is reportedly advising US President Donald Trump from behind the scenes. We look at Prince’s controversies, past and present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackwater’s Iraq killings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting Daesh and revival of CIA “assassination ring”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refugees entering Europe from Libya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UAE’s mercenary fighters

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

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

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

Behind-the-scenes support to Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. In FTR #’s 941 and 942, we examined Tulsi Gabbard (D–HI), usually described as a “rising star” in the Democratic Party. Of substantively greater interest for our purposes is the fact that she was one of the driving forces behind the Bernie Sanders phenomenon.

In addition to her suspiciously anomalous views on Muslims/Islam, she networks with the BJP of Narendra Modi, a political front for the Hindu nationalist/fascist RSS. She has also networked with the RSS itself.

In the above-mentioned programs, we chronicled Gabbard’s profound, long-standing involvement with a branch of the Hare Krishna cult headed by Chris Butler.

In a Huffington Post story about Gabbard and the Butler branch of the Hare Krishnas, the author mentioned that he could find no record of Gabbard having made a public pronouncement of being an acolyte of Butler. We thought this strange, since an archive about the Butler cult contained an embedded video in which Gabbard describes Butler, aka Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, as her guru.

At the time of recording, we though that “Civil Beat” was a feature of the Huffington Post. It turns out that there is much more to the story.

Civil Beat was carried by the Huffington Post, however it was an early journalistic venture of Pierre Omidyar, whose better known journalistic effort, First Look Media, enfolds The Intercept, the media voice for Nazi fellow-traveler Glenn Greenwald.

Omidyar, as we have chronicled in FTR #889, among other programs, helped finance the rise of Narendra Modi, as well as the Maidan coup in Ukraine. Omidyar is heavily networked with the National Endowment for Democracy and the Agency for International Development. Omidyar’s brutal “philanthropic” efforts are headed by Roy Prosterman, a veteran of the Phoenix program in Vietnam.

The odd inability of the Civil Beat writer to find Gabbard’s easily accessed public announcement of her fealty to Butler is more comprehensible in light of Omidyar’s joint sponsorship of the publication and Modi’s regime in India.

“Pierre Omidyar;” Wikipedia.

….In 2010, Omidyar launched online an investigative reporting news service, Honolulu Civil Beat, covering civic affairs in Hawaii. The site has been named Best News Website in Hawaii for three consecutive years.[18] On September 4, 2013, Honolulu Civil Beat started a partnership with The Huffington Post, launching the weblog’s latest regional addition, HuffPost Hawaii…. 

5a.Tulsi Gabbard reveals she met Assad in Syria, without informing top Democrats, something that further discredits the Democratic Party, something she has already done in her activities with the Bernie Bots.

“. . . . Gabbard’s office claims her trip was funded by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (Aaccess) – Ohio; however, the group has not reported any financial revenue to the US government since 2006. Bassam Khawam, the executive director of Aaccess who traveled with Gabbard, reportedly belongs to a pro-Assad Lebanese political party, the Syrian Social Nationalist party (SSNP). The party has dispatched its members to fight on behalf of the Assad regime during the nearly six-year war. . . .”

“Tulsi Gabbard Reveals She Met Assad in Syria, without Informing Top Democrats” by Sabrina Siddiqui; The Guardian ; 1/26/2017.

. . . . Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about.”

Democratic leaders were mum on the decision by one of their sitting lawmakers to meet with a dictator whom the US government has dubbed a war criminal for his use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Gabbard’s trip raised alarms over a potential violation of the Logan Act, a federal statute barring unauthorized individuals from conferring with a foreign government involved in a dispute with the US. The US currently has no diplomatic relations with Syria.

Gabbard’s office said her visit was approved by the House ethics committee. A spokesman for the committee declined to comment, although under its rules members have a period of 15 days following the completion of a trip to make public their approval letter and financial disclosures related to privately funded travel.

The offices of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, did not respond to requests for comment when reached by the Guardian. The White House did not immediately return an email inquiry, nor did a spokeswoman for House speaker Paul Ryan.

Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday that she had no knowledge of Gabbard’s unannounced trip, which drew scrutiny over who arranged and paid for the travel.

“She hasn’t reported or brought anything to our office as far as I know,” Pelosi said at a press conference held before Gabbard’s revelation about her meeting with Assad.

“So when I know more about it, I’ll have something to say about it.”

Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois, was among few lawmakers to immediately condemn Gabbard’s actions.
“It is sad and a shame and a disgrace,” Kinzinger told reporters at a Republican policy retreat in Philadelphia. “In no way should any member of Congress, should any government official, ever travel to meet with a guy that has killed 500,000 people and 50,000 children.”

Kinzinger called on leadership in both parties to condemn Gabbard’s trip and questioned how it was financed. But Kinzinger – like Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran – said he would need to know more to file an ethics complaint against his colleague.

“She has the audacity to say that everywhere she went people supported Assad,” Kinzinger said. “Of course, when you have an Assad-led tour, he’s only going to take you to places where people like him”.

Evan McMullin, a former independent candidate for president in the 2016 presidential election, asked on Twitter: “Why are so many of our leaders becoming stooges of foreign dictators and war criminals? @TulsiGabbard @realDonaldTrump This is America!” . . . . Gabbard’s office claims her trip was funded by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (Aaccess) – Ohio; however, the group has not reported any financial revenue to the US government since 2006.

Bassam Khawam, the executive director of Aaccess who traveled with Gabbard, reportedly belongs to a pro-Assad Lebanese political party, the Syrian Social Nationalist party (SSNP). The party has dispatched its members to fight on behalf of the Assad regime during the nearly six-year war. . . .

“The Mystery Surrounding Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Trip to Syria” by Amber Phillips; The Washington Post ; 1/26/2017.

 . . . . Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) just did something few members of Congress dare to do these days: Go to Syria and meet with the man the United States has actively been trying to oust, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Besides the fact a sitting member of Congress met with the leader of a nation that Washington has no diplomatic relations with — a man whom former president Barack Obama described as the main roadblock to peace in Syria — the timing of Gabbard’s trip is perplexing.

Consider: President Trump has not yet signaled whether he plans to shift U.S. policy in Syria, nor how. Gabbard raised eyebrows in Washington when she met with Trump in November to share her view that the United States should stop arming and assisting rebels, a policy that candidate Trump expressed support for. Then, the week Trump is inaugurated, we find out one of the few Democrats to knowingly talk foreign policy with Trump is in Syria potentially meeting with its president.

Gabbard returned this week and said the seven-day trip — which also featured former Ohio congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich — was led and paid for by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Ohio. It’s common for lawmakers to take trips abroad via advocacy groups but not common for them to meet with foreign leaders without explicit permission from the president.

Melissa Dalton, a Middle East defense expert now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies described Gabbard’s trip as “odd” and “premature.” She said it does not appear to be connected to any broader policy deliberations about how to approach Syria. If that’s the case, Dalton warned that Gabbard risks undermining those deliberations by taking things into her own hands. . . .

6a. The SSNP to which Gabbard’s shepherd on her Syrian sojourn (Bassam Khawam) belonged appears to be a fascist/Third Position party whose Nazi influence is apparent.

” . . . They greet their leaders with a Hitlerian salute; sing their Arabic anthem, ‘Greetings to You, Syria,’ to the strains of ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles’; and throng to the symbol of the red hurricane, a swastika in circular motion. These are the hallmarks of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), the oldest terrorist organization in existence today and one of the most secret and deadly. . . .”

“Behind the Terror” by Ehud Ya’ari; The Atlantic ; June/1987

. . . And it is a party whose members, mostly Christians from churchgoing families, dream of resuming the war of the ancient Canaanites against Joshua and the Children of Israel. They greet their leaders with a Hitlerian salute; sing their Arabic anthem, “Greetings to You, Syria,” to the strains of “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”; and throng to the symbol of the red hurricane, a swastika in circular motion. These are the hallmarks of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), the oldest terrorist organization in existence today and one of the most secret and deadly. . . .

6b. More about the Syrian Social Nationalist Party:

. . . . [founder Antun] Saadeh emigrated again to Brazil in 1938 and afterwards to Argentina, only to return to Lebanon in 1947 following the country’s independence from the French in 1943. On his way to Argentina, he visited Italy and Berlin, which increased the suspicions of the French that the SSNP might have been entertaining relations with the Axis.

“. . . . Reeva Simon writes: ‘the party’s ‘leader for life’, [Antun Saaddeh] was an admirer of Adolf Hitler influenced by Nazi and fascist ideology.’[55][59] The party adopted a reversed swastika as the party’s symbol, sang the party’s anthem to Deutschland über alles, and included developing the cult of a leader, advocating totalitarian government, and glorifying an ancient pre-Christian past and the organic whole of the Syrian Volk or nation.[52][55]  . . . . 

” . . . . Saadeh theorizing a ‘distinct and naturally superior’ Syrian race), being ‘nonrationalist, anti-intellectual, and highly emotional’ and “[emphasizing] military virtues and power [and stressing] self-sacrifice’.[63] Also according to Payne, all these movements received strong influence from European fascism and praised the Italian and German fascism . . . .”

“Syrian Social Nationalist Party;” Wikipedia.

. . . . Founded in Beirut in 1932 as an anticolonial and national liberation organization hostile to French colonialism, the party played a significant role in Lebanese politics and was involved in attempted coups d’etat in 1949 and 1961 following which it was thoroughly repressed. . . .

. . . . [founder Antun] Saadeh emigrated again to Brazil in 1938 and afterwards to Argentina, only to return to Lebanon in 1947 following the country’s independence from the French in 1943. On his way to Argentina, he visited Italy and Berlin, which increased the suspicions of the French that the SSNP might have been entertaining relations with the Axis.

. . . . Reeva Simon writes: “the party’s ‘leader for life’, was an admirer of Adolf Hitler influenced by Nazi and fascist ideology”.[55][59] The party adopted a reversed swastika as the party’s symbol, sang the party’s anthem to Deutschland über alles, and included developing the cult of a leader, advocating totalitarian government, and glorifying an ancient pre-Christian past and the organic whole of the Syrian Volk or nation.[52][55]  . . .

. . . . According to historian Stanley G. Payne, the Arab nationalism was influenced by European fascism, with the creation of at least seven Arab nationalist shirt movements similar to the brown shirt movement by 1939, with the most influenced ones being the SSNP, the Iraqi Futawa youth movement and the Young Egypt movement.[63] These three movements would share characteristics like being territorially expansionist, with the SSNP wanting the complete control of Syria, belief in the superiority of their own people (with Saadeh theorizing a “distinct and naturally superior” Syrian race), being “nonrationalist, anti-intellectual, and highly emotional” and “[emphasizing] military virtues and power [and stressing] self-sacrifice”.[63] Also according to Payne, all these movements received strong influence from European fascism and praised the Italian and German fascism . . . .

7. A couple of House Resolutions with Gabbard as cosponsor or sponsor.

First as cosponsor, House Res 447:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-resolution/447/text

This one’s passed the House, and is fully supportive of Ukraine moving into alliance with the EU, condemning those that disagree as terrorists, etc.

Second, as sponsor:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6504/text

This is the so-called “Stop Arming Terrorists Act,” an amusing title considering support of House Res 447.

8. As we noted in FTR #’s 941 and 942, Gabbard has networked with the RSS. That Hindu nationalist/fascist organization that killed Gandhi. As we noted in several programs, Steve Bannon is a big fan of Narendra Modi, calling him “The Ronald Reagan of India.” Modi’s BJP is a political cat’s paw for the RSS, from which Modi made all of his cabinet appointments. Modi’s ascension is reminiscent of Trump’s.

 “. . . . ‘We are acknowledging that the intellectual nerve center has shifted, and the seat of cultural power has shifted, because no one was interested in inviting these guys before 2014,’ said Supriya Nair, a writer and editor who has attended the festival for the last six years. In any case, she said, the shift rightward had already taken place in the larger society. ‘This is a last bastion,’ she said. . . .”

“Vaunted Literary Festival Gets Jolt From India’s Far Right” by Ellen Barry; The New York Times ; 1/26/2017.

So it was a startling sight this year to see the Jaipur Literature Festival feature a panel by two leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the far-right group that gave rise to India’s current prime minister, Narendra Modi.

The R.S.S., which maintains that India is fundamentally a Hindu nation, has been barreling toward drawing-room respectability for some time. Left-leaning Congress governments banned it three times in the last century, saying its ideas risked inciting violence against minority groups. These days state television carries its leader’s speeches live. But there are few invitations in Indian public life more coveted than one to appear at the festival in Jaipur, that Mount Olympus of panel discussions.

The two R.S.S. men took their seats on a podium, where a minute before, an author had been asking rhetorical questions about the existence of beauty. How would the audience greet them: As India’s version of the Tea Party, giving voice to ideas that have taken on extraordinary force in the electorate? Or as India’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, propagating “extremism and bigotry,” as one author put it in a letter withdrawing from the event? In the end, arm’s-length politeness reigned.

“We are acknowledging that the intellectual nerve center has shifted, and the seat of cultural power has shifted, because no one was interested in inviting these guys before 2014,” said Supriya Nair, a writer and editor who has attended the festival for the last six years. In any case, she said, the shift rightward had already taken place in the larger society. “This is a last bastion,” she said. . . .

9. The Indian financial political landscape also is resonant with our own, post-Citizens United. ” . . . . Pressure mounted on Wednesday on Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to push for a campaign finance overhaul, with a New Delhi nonprofit reporting this week that almost 70 percent of contributions to the nation’s political parties come from undisclosed sources. . . .”

“Push Builds for Indian Election Reform” by Geeta Anand; The New York Times; 1/26/2017.

Pressure mounted on Wednesday on Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to push for a campaign finance overhaul, with a New Delhi nonprofit reporting this week that almost 70 percent of contributions to the nation’s political parties come from undisclosed sources.

The lack of transparency in Indian election financing is well known, but the report by the nonprofit, the Association for Democratic Reforms, quantifies it for the first time. . . .

10. Trump’s point man in his Russian sojourns was Felix Sater, who was a Russian immigrant, a convicted, mob-linked felon and, eventually, a CIA officer. His position in Trump’s as-yet unsuccessful attempts at landing his “brand” in Moscow raises more questions than it answers.

A Brand’s Long Flirtation with Russia” by Megan Twohey and Steve Eder; The New York Times; 1/17/2017.

It was 2005, and Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant, was back in Moscow pursuing an ambitious plan to build a Trump tower on the site of an old pencil factory along the Moscow River that would offer hotel rooms, condominiums and commercial office space.

Letters of intent had been signed and square footage was being analyzed. “There was an opportunity to explore building Trump towers internationally,” said Mr. Sater, who worked for a New York-based development company that was a partner with Donald J. Trump on a variety of deals during that decade. “And Russia was one of those countries.” . . . .

11a. Another interesting, close associate of Donald Trump was Felix Satter, who changed the spelling of his name, adding an extra “T” to avoid being recognized on internet searches. Reviewing information from FTR #936:

The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston; Melville House [HC]; copyright 2016 by David Cay Johnston; ISBN 978-1-61219-632-9. p. 162.

 . . . ‘Satter’s’ name appears with just one ‘T’ in a host of places. There’s the deed to his home for example. It is also spelled with only one ‘T’ on New York State court papers from his 1991 felony conviction for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass. The name Sater with one ‘T’ also appears on federal court papers in a $40 million organized crime stock swindle he confessed to in 1998, a scheme that benefited him as well as the Genovese and Gambino crime families. The stock swindle involved fake stock brokerage firms using high-pressure tactics to get naive people to buy worthless shares from Sater and his mob friends. . . . 

11b.Trump’s close associate Felix was able to escape serious legal retribution by going to work for the CIA.

The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston; Melville House [HC]; copyright 2016 by David Cay Johnston; ISBN 978-1-61219-632-9. p. 165.

. . . . There is every indication that the extraordinarily lenient treatment resulted from Sater playing a get-out-of-jail free card. Shortly before his secret guilty plea, Sater became a freelance operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. One of his fellow stock swindlers, Salvatore Lauria, wrote a book about it. The Scorpion and the Frog is described on its cover as ‘the true story of one man’s fraudulent rise and fall n the Wall Street of the nineties.’ According to Lauria–and the court files that have been unsealed–Sater helped the CIA buy small missiles before they got to terrorists. He also provided other purported national security services for a reported fee of $300,000. Stories abound as to what else Sater may or may not have done in the arena of national security. . . . 

12. “Russian hackers” apparently hacked a number of Wisconsin county Democratic Party websites. The hacks didn’t actually do any damage other than redirecting people to a random website and no data was successfully harvested from the server according to investigators. And why are Russian hackers suspected? Because the hackers created two new admin accounts on the first server where the hack was detected and, lo and behold, these new accounts had “.ru” email addresses. They also created profiles for the admin accounts that included Russian characters in the “About” and “Bio” sections.

While it’s unclear what exactly the purpose of the hack was, it’s pretty clear that one of the primary goals of the hack was to make sure the Democrats found out they were hacked and make sure it looked like Russian hackers did it.

This adds to the body of data suggesting that the high-profile hacks may well be a “cyber-false flag” operation. We discussed the high-profile hacks in FTR #’s 917, 923, 924 and 943.

“Russians Suspected of Hacking Local Dems” by Paul Srubas; Green Bay Press-Gazette ; 1/23/2017.

County websites of the Democratic Party in the area have been under attack, at least one apparently by Russian hackers, an officer of the party says.

What appears to have been Russian hackers compromised the website of the 8th Congressional District Democratic Party as well as the sites of seven county Democratic party organizations, said Mary Ginnebaugh, who chairs the congressional district as well as the Brown County Democratic parties.

While no one can prove beyond doubt that Russians also were involved in the local hack job, two hackers left “calling cards” with Russian email addresses on the local websites in an apparent gesture of contempt or braggadocio, Ginnebaugh said. Green Bay police were notified and have forwarded information to the FBI, she said.

Ginnebaugh said she was stunned when a computer security consultant told her that Russians may have been involved.

“It was ‘Wait a minute, we’re little bitty Green Bay, not some powerhouse,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Really?’”

The hackers may have been targeting the state site and stumbled onto the 8th Congressional District site, Ginnebaugh said. “We’re one letter off,” she said. “We’re wiscdems.com and the state is wisdems.com.”

The 8th Congressional domain name wiscdems.com serves as an umbrella for county democratic organizations within the district, Ginnebaugh said. Visitors can get to the individual sites from the umbrella site or vice versa. However, the sites are independent of the state and national sites, she said.

The Winnebago County Democratic Party first noticed a problem with its website in November, shortly after the election. People trying to get into that website were being abruptly redirected to some random website and couldn’t get to the party’s site, Ginnebaugh said.

Officers from the Winnebago County party, part of whose county lies in the 8th District, notified the 8th District party. Staff looked into it and determined the problem appeared to be isolated to the Winnebago County site, Ginnebaugh said.

But when technicians from the 8th District couldn’t fix it, they contacted Jane Benson of Main Jane Designs of Green Bay. Benson is a web designer and does online marketing, but she also often works as an IT consultant for the local Democratic parties.

Benson found the problem was wider than 8th District staffers thought. Seven county sites, including Brown County’s, and the umbrella site all were compromised, Benson said. Aside from Winnebago County noticing the problem with its link, they also were notified by Google that their searches were revealing a corruption. Google demanded the corruption be fixed or the site would be blacklisted from Google searches.

Shawano, Marinette, Oconto, Kewaunee and Calumet county party sites were hacked, as were Brown and Winnebago and the overall 8th district site, Ginnebaugh said. Door, Outagamie, Menominee and Waupaca counties were not affected.

No clear answer

At Benson’s direction, the party hired Sucuri, an internationally known cyber security company. It cleaned their sites of all malware and took a variety of other protective steps, Benson said.

All websites are made up of code that often turns out to have a security weakness that can make a website vulnerable, Benson said. Patches are sent out and administrators must update each website to keep it protected. With the election over and the holidays in full gear, people were on vacation, few were visiting the websites and attentiveness apparently lapsed, allowing hackers to get back in, Benson said.

“Somehow, somebody was able to disable one of the Sucuri security features on the wiscdems.com website,” Benson said. “There’s an expectation that the plugins and platform code will be updated, and if they’re not, it can leave an opening for hackers to get in.”

Two new users showed up as registered administrators of the website: larisa@steamreal.ru and ewartumba@mail.ru. The “.ru” suffix indicates a Russian origin, Benson said. The profile pages of the users had characters in the Russian alphabet in “Address” and “About Me” fields, she said.

Code was entered, apparently through a back door, to add two registered users, but the website is set up to automatically block new registrants, so the intruders could do no damage. “It’s not clear how they got there,” Benson said.

The intruders could just as easily have removed all trace of having been there and just backed quietly out, but they chose to leave their names “as if to say ‘we can get in whenever we want,’” Benson said.

She said she can’t say whether Russians were really involved or whether the addresses could have been faked by someone mimicking a connection based on what had been in the news. But it was important that police and the FBI become involved, to “make this information part of the body of information police and the FBI are compiling from the national investigation,” she said.

A call to Green Bay police detectives was not returned Monday.

Benson said it was important for the public to know the hackers did not succeed in “harvesting information,” that breaches in the sites have been repaired and that everything is being professionally monitored to keep it secure.

Ginnebaugh said the state Democratic Party also has been notified and would presumably be passing the information on to national levels. . . .

 

 

 

Discussion

One comment for “FTR #945 Miscellaneous Articles and Updates”

  1. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported on a meeting that took place where an allegedly Kremlin-backed peace plan for Ukraine was floated. The meeting took place between Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s lawyer, Felix Sater, the Russian-American “businessman” (with mob ties) and a long-time business partner with Donald Trump, and Andrii Artemenko, a Ukrainian MP from the Opposition Bloc party. Artemenko also reportedly claims to have information proving corruption by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, suggesting that a change of government in Kiev (triggered by the corruption charges) would probably be required to get Kiev to agree to the deal. The story is seen as an attempt to create a diplomatic back channel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin that would by pass the State Department.

    And while there’s no charges of illegality, a number of eye-brows have been raised by the fact that Michael Cohen gave two different explanations of what took place after the meeting: He told the NY Times that he hand delivered the sealed envelope containing offer to then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, while assuring the Washington Post that he never did so and never discussed the meeting with anyone in the White House. But Cohen does actual that the meeting did indeed take place.

    So a lot more intriguing questions were raised by this latest report, with perhaps the most intriguing question being why on earth anyone would have chosen someone with Felix Sater’s reputation and politically toxic ties to Trump for such a sensitive operation:

    Vanity Fair

    The Trump-Russia Saga Takes a Strange New Turn
    The president’s personal lawyer, a Trump associate with Mafia ties, and a wealthy pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker reportedly joined together to concoct a secret peace plan to resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis—and lift U.S. sanctions.
    by

    Abigail Tracy
    February 20, 2017 12:16 pm

    As the Russian intrigues surrounding Donald Trump continue to pile up, The New York Times offers a bewildering new plot point in the unfolding spy-thriller melodrama roiling Washington: Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, reportedly hand-delivered a secret “peace plan” to resolve the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, allegedly cooked up by a troika consisting of himself, a Trump business partner with ties to the Mafia, and a wealthy pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker.

    In what the Times characterized as a bit of “diplomatic freelancing”, Cohen, who has served as special counsel to the Trump Organization since 2007, and Felix Sater, who worked with Trump on several real estate projects including the Trump SoHo in New York, met with Andrii Artemenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, to discuss a proposal outlining how Trump could lift U.S. sanctions against Moscow. Under the plan, Russian forces would be forced to withdraw from Eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum vote whether Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for either a 50 year or 100 year term. Cohen billed the troika’s meeting as an effort to end the ongoing conflict between the two Eastern European nations. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Cohen asked the newspaper.

    Of course, nothing is quite so simple. According to the Times, Artemenko is also hoping to effect the ouster of Petro Poroshenko, the pro-Western president of Ukraine. Artemenko reportedly belongs to the same pro-Putin bloc of lawmakers with which Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was involved. (Manafort told The Washington Post that he has “no role” in Artemenko’s initiative.) The Times reports that Artemenko views himself “as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine” and claimed to have evidence of corruption by Poroshenko that could lead to his ejection from office. “A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?” Politico reports that Artemenko met with Trump campaign officials in Cleveland last summer during the Republican National Convention.

    There is no indication of any wrongdoing by Cohen, Artemenko and Sater, who met at the Loews Regency hotel in Manhattan to hash out the plan, but the report does suggest that Russia may be seeking to circumvent the State Department by seeking diplomatic backchannels to President Trump. Last week, another Trump ally with ties to Russia, Mike Flynn, resigned as national security adviser after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about having discussed U.S. sanctions against Moscow with the Russian ambassador. Flynn was also the intended recipient of Artemenko’s peace plan, which Cohen reportedly hand-delivered to the retired general’s office.

    Whether the plan was ever actually delivered remains a point of contention. Shortly after the Times published its report on Sunday, The Washington Post reached out to Cohen to confirm the story, at which point he confirmed that the meeting took place, but denied having delivered the proposal to Flynn. “I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” Cohen told the Post, adding that he told Artmenko he could mail the document to Flynn at the White House. The Times, however, defended its original reporting in a statement to the Post. “Mr. Cohen told The Times in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn’s office at the White House. Mr. Sater told the Times that Mr. Cohen had told him the same thing,” Matt Purdy, a deputy managing editor, said in a statement.

    Regardless of whether Cohen hand-delivered the proposal, or whether Flynn ever read it or brought it to the president before resigning, the latest revelation is yet more evidence of the deep ties between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign. Manafort, as well as Republican operative Roger Stone, and businessman Carter Page—all of whom have served as advisers to Trump—are currently under investigation as part of an ongoing counterintelligence probe into the relationship between Trump associates and Russia, following alleged efforts by the Kremlin last year to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Cohen, Manafort, Page, and Stone are all mentioned in an unverified intelligence dossier that is currently under review by the F.B.I. All of have denied any wrongdoing.

    The involvement of Sater, however, adds a new level of intrigue to an already head-spinning scandal. A Russian-born American businessman, Sater pleaded guilty for his involvement in a Mafia-related stock manipulation scheme in 1998 before reportedly working on behalf of the C.I.A. to purchase weapons on the Russian black market. He also worked closely with Trump on a number of deals, including, according to the Post, proposals to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. (Trump has since tried to distance himself from Sater, who reportedly worked for a year as a “senior adviser” to Trump in 2010: in a 2013 deposition, Trump said he wouldn’t recognize the man if they were in the same room.) As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall highlights, Sater was also involved in the Trump SoHo development project, which had a number of questionable ties to Russia and Putin.

    In a statement to the Post, Sater—like Cohen—dismissed speculation that the meeting was about anything more than resolving the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “I was not practicing diplomacy and I was not having clandestine meetings,” Sater told the Post, adding that the discussions with Cohen and Artemenko were not “a back channel to the Kremlin or anything like that.”

    The involvement of Sater, however, adds a new level of intrigue to an already head-spinning scandal. A Russian-born American businessman, Sater pleaded guilty for his involvement in a Mafia-related stock manipulation scheme in 1998 before reportedly working on behalf of the C.I.A. to purchase weapons on the Russian black market. He also worked closely with Trump on a number of deals, including, according to the Post, proposals to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. (Trump has since tried to distance himself from Sater, who reportedly worked for a year as a “senior adviser” to Trump in 2010: in a 2013 deposition, Trump said he wouldn’t recognize the man if they were in the same room.) As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall highlights, Sater was also involved in the Trump SoHo development project, which had a number of questionable ties to Russia and Putin.

    Yep, Trump’s mob-connected business partner was apparently so instrumental to this not-very-secret back-channel between Trump and the Kremlin that they had him actually sit in on a meeting with Trump’s lawyer. Putting aside whether or not making such a proposal was a good idea in the first place, you really do have to wonder why on earth any of the parties involved though it was considered to be a good idea to have Mr. Sater play such a role. But according to Cohen this meeting really did happen. So now that whole world has a really could excuse to take another look a Trump’s ties Felix Sater:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    A Big Shoe Just Dropped

    By Josh Marshall
    Published February 19, 2017, 4:54 PM EDT

    I don’t know how much attention it’s received. But the appearance of the name of Felix Sater in this new article in the Times is one of the biggest shoes I’ve seen drop on the Trump story in some time.

    The new story explains that a group of Trump operatives, including top lawyer Michael Cohen and fired former campaign manager Paul Manafort, along with a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian named Andrii V. Artemenko and Mr. Sater are pushing President Trump on a ‘peace plan’ for Russia and Ukraine.

    Cohen recently met with Sater and Artemenko; and Cohen agreed to personally deliver the peace plan (actually a sealed envelope with documents detailing it) to the President when he met with him at the White House. Cohen says he left it with General Flynn days before Flynn was forced to resign.

    The backstory to all this is amazingly byzantine and murky. Let me try to cover the key points as simply as I can.

    Having spent some time studying the matter, the biggest red flags about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and businessmen around Vladimir Putin have always been tied to the Trump SoHo building project in Lower Manhattan, from the first decade of this century. I base my knowledge of this on this rather cursory but still quite good April 2016 article from the Times and my own limited snooping around the Outer Boroughs Russian and Ukrainian emigre press. (I summarized the most salient details of the earlier Times article in Item #3 of this post.) This was a key project, perhaps the key project in the post-bankruptcy era in which Trump appeared heavily reliant on Russian funds to finance his projects. Sater was at the center of that project. The details only came to light after the project got bogged down in a complicated series of lawsuits.

    After the lawyers got involved, Trump said he barely knew who Sater was. But there is voluminous evidence that Sater, a Russian emigrant, was key to channeling Russian capital to Trump for years. Sater is also a multiple felon and at least a one-time FBI informant. Bayrock Capital, where he worked was located in Trump Tower and he himself worked as a special advisor to Trump. Again, read the Times article to get a flavor of his ties to Trump, the Trump SoHo project and Russia. For my money there’s no better place to start to understand the Trump/Russia issue.

    On its own, Trump’s relationship with Sater might be written off (albeit not terribly plausibly) as simply a sleazy relationship Trump entered into to get access to capital he needed to finance his projects. Whatever shadowy ties Sater might have and whatever his criminal background, Trump has long since washed his hands of him. (Again, we’re talking about most generous reads here.)

    But now we learn that Sater is still very much in the Trump orbit and acting as a go-between linking Trump and a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian pitching ‘peace plans’ for settling the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. (Artemenko is part of the political faction which Manafort helped build up in the aftermath of the ouster of his Ukrainian benefactor, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.) Indeed, far, far more important, Cohen – who is very close to Trump and known for dealing with delicate matters – is in contact with Sater and hand delivering political and policy plans from him to the President.

    Were Cohen not involved, one might speculate that Sater is just up to yet another hustle, looking to parlay his one-time association with Trump into influence with the new President. Cohen hand delivering his messages to the President changes the picture considerably. How or why Cohen would do this, if for no other reason than the current massive scrutiny of Trump’s ties to Russia and Sater’s scandals, almost defies belief. But here we are.

    As we’ve all tried to make sense of this very murky meta-story of just what’s up with Donald Trump and Russia, there’s always been the complicated and messy business ties then and the suppliant, fawning attitude and relationship with Putin now. Are they connected? I have yet to see anything more tightly tying them together than Sater’s reappearance in the story.

    But now we learn that Sater is still very much in the Trump orbit and acting as a go-between linking Trump and a pro-Putin Ukrainian parliamentarian pitching ‘peace plans’ for settling the dispute between Russia and Ukraine. (Artemenko is part of the political faction which Manafort helped build up in the aftermath of the ouster of his Ukrainian benefactor, deposed President Viktor Yanukovych.) Indeed, far, far more important, Cohen – who is very close to Trump and known for dealing with delicate matters – is in contact with Sater and hand delivering political and policy plans from him to the President.”

    Yep, Felix Sater is now the Trump-related international mystery man of the hour. And probably one of the last individuals the Trump team would want to highlight given his background and the way his relationship feeds directly into questions about Trumnp’s ties to the Russian government. But here we are. Sater and Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer, decided to involve themselves a stunt that was somehow reported to the press and that now places Sater squarely in the journalistic cross-hairs. So that happened.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 21, 2017, 8:43 pm

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