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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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. . . .

Sater10. 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

2 comments 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
  2. Is Don­ald Trump try­ing to arouse immense sus­pi­cion across par­ty lines that he fired James Comey in order to thwart the inves­ti­ga­tion of his cam­paign’s ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment? As strange a ques­tion as that may be, cir­cum­stan­tial­ly, let’s not for­get that one of the themes of the Trump campaign’s/administration’s behav­ior over the last cou­ple of years has been the myr­i­ad of way Trump or his cronies seemed to almost want to sig­nal to the world “look at our Russ­ian ties! There’s smoke over there! Go inves­ti­gate that fire we’re start­ing!” We had ‘Russ­ian hack­ers’ leav­ing mul­ti­ple clues say­ing “We’re Russ­ian!” while Trump staffs his team with peo­ple with Russ­ian ties. Or there’s the unbe­liev­able actions of Michael Fly­nn, the for­mer head of the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency, mak­ing phone calls with the Russ­ian Ambas­sador as if that was­n’t obvi­ous­ly going to be picked up by US intel­li­gence. In one instance after anoth­er we have the Trump team con­spic­u­ous­ly send­ing signs to both the pub­lic and gov­ern­ment agen­cies that it has deep Russ­ian gov­ern­ment ties and there’s no obvi­ous expla­na­tion for why they keep doing this. And then there was the fir­ing of FBI direc­tor James Comey. So we have to ask the ques­tion at this point: Is Don­ald Trump try­ing to arouse immense sus­pi­cion across par­ty lines that he fired James Comey in order to thwart the inves­ti­ga­tion of his cam­paign’s ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment? If so, he’s get­ting the job done. Bigly:

    The New York Times

    Days Before Fir­ing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Rus­sia Inquiry

    By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and MATT APUZZO
    MAY 10, 2017

    WASHINGTON — Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the for­mer F.B.I. direc­tor, asked the Jus­tice Depart­ment for a sig­nif­i­cant increase in resources for the bureau’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russia’s inter­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, accord­ing to four con­gres­sion­al offi­cials, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Richard J. Durbin.

    Mr. Comey made his appeal to Rod J. Rosen­stein, the deputy attor­ney gen­er­al, who also wrote the Jus­tice Department’s memo that was used to jus­ti­fy the fir­ing of Mr. Comey this week, the offi­cials said.

    “I’m told that as soon as Rosen­stein arrived, there was a request for addi­tion­al resources for the inves­ti­ga­tion and that a few days after­wards, he was sacked,” said Mr. Durbin, a Demo­c­rat of Illi­nois. “I think the Comey oper­a­tion was breath­ing down the neck of the Trump cam­paign and their oper­a­tives, and this was an effort to slow down the inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    Mr. Comey briefed mem­bers of Con­gress in recent days, telling them about his meet­ing with Mr. Rosen­stein, who is the most senior law enforce­ment offi­cial super­vis­ing the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions recused him­self because of his close ties to the Trump cam­paign and his undis­closed meet­ings with the Russ­ian ambas­sador.

    The tim­ing of Mr. Comey’s request is not clear-cut evi­dence that his fir­ing was relat­ed to the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. But it is cer­tain to fuel bipar­ti­san crit­i­cism that Pres­i­dent Trump appeared to be med­dling in an inves­ti­ga­tion that had the poten­tial to dam­age his pres­i­den­cy.

    The F.B.I. declined to com­ment. But Sarah Isgur Flo­res, the Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman, said “the idea that he asked for more fund­ing” for the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion was “total­ly false.” She did not elab­o­rate.

    In his brief­ing with mem­bers of Con­gress, Mr. Comey said he had been frus­trat­ed with the amount of resources being ded­i­cat­ed to the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, accord­ing to two of the offi­cials. Until two weeks ago, when Mr. Rosen­stein took over as deputy attor­ney gen­er­al, the inves­ti­ga­tion was being over­seen by Dana Boente, who was act­ing as the deputy and is now the Unit­ed States attor­ney for the East­ern Dis­trict of Vir­ginia.

    Mr. Comey has said he was hop­ing that he would find a sup­port­ive boss in Mr. Rosen­stein, and accord­ing to the offi­cials, pressed for more resources so he could accel­er­ate the inves­ti­ga­tion, which is also exam­in­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion between Trump asso­ciates and the Russ­ian inter­fer­ence cam­paign. It was unclear how Mr. Rosen­stein react­ed to the request, or whether the White House was informed of it.

    ...

    Mr. Comey briefed mem­bers of Con­gress in recent days, telling them about his meet­ing with Mr. Rosen­stein, who is the most senior law enforce­ment offi­cial super­vis­ing the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions recused him­self because of his close ties to the Trump cam­paign and his undis­closed meet­ings with the Russ­ian ambas­sador.”

    Yep, Rod Rosen­stein, the guy who wrote that pre­pos­ter­ous let­ter sug­gest­ing that James Comey was fired for being too harsh on Hillary Clin­ton dur­ing the email inves­ti­ga­tion, is also the most senior law enforce­ment offi­cial super­vis­ing the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. And this fir­ing hap­pens just days after Comey asks for more resources to inves­ti­gate Trump’s Russ­ian con­nec­tions. You almost could­n’t come up with a more guilty-seem­ing act. So, one more time, is Don­ald Trump try­ing to arouse immense sus­pi­cion across par­ty lines that he fired James Comey in order to thwart the inves­ti­ga­tion of his cam­paign’s ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment?

    As pre­pos­ter­ous as that might seem, let’s keep some­thing in mind: Trump and his whole team had to know that, if they actu­al­ly won the elec­tion, they would most like­ly be fac­ing an array of inves­ti­ga­tions for years. Pri­mar­i­ly because they were plan­ning on being hor­ri­bly cor­rupt but also from what­ev­er role they played in arrang­ing the DNC hack­ing. They knew they would be inves­ti­gat­ed by jour­nal­ist end­less­ly with years of high­ly crit­i­cal cov­er­age. It comes with the ter­ri­to­ry. So giv­en that they knew intense scruti­ny would be head­ing Trump’s way, and giv­en the high prob­a­bil­i­ty that the Trump team played a role in the DNC hack­ing case, and giv­en the bizarre man­ner those hacks were car­ried out where the hack­ers kept leav­ing dig­i­tal sig­na­tures cry­ing out “we are Rus­sians doing this!”, we have to ask the a slight­ly expand­ed ver­sion of the ques­tion: is Don­ald Trump try­ing to arouse immense sus­pi­cion across par­ty lines that he fired James Comey in order to thwart the inves­ti­ga­tion of his cam­paign’s ties to the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment in order to cre­ate a sin­gle-mind­ed focus on Russ­ian col­lu­sion that nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pened because they were col­lud­ing with pri­mar­i­ly with West­ern far-right net­works?

    In oth­er words, is the Trump team inten­tion­al­ly fan­ning the flames of fears of Russ­ian col­lu­sion and the notion that he’s the Krem­lin’s Manchuri­an can­di­date in order to cre­ate a rab­bit hole with noth­ing (or very lit­tle) in it for the pur­pose of dis­tract­ing from all the oth­er scan­dals, extrem­ist ties, and his over­all far-right agen­da and ulti­mate­ly dis­cred­it­ing them? A Trumpian ver­sion of “Al Capone’s Vault” that cre­ates all this excite­ment and atten­tion but is guar­an­teed to let every­one down?

    Sure, that’s a high-risk strat­e­gy, but so is try­ing to loot the coun­try and get away with it. And just imag­ine how much eas­i­er it will be for him to loot the place if this Russ­ian inves­ti­ga­tion is actu­al­ly thor­ough­ly com­plet­ed and noth­ing sub­stan­tive is found. All oth­er future inves­ti­ga­tions into non-Russ­ian-relat­ed Trumpian crimes will be cast in doubt. And that’s why we have to keep ask­ing the ques­tion because dis­cred­it­ing future inves­ti­ga­tions with a planned decoy mega-scan­dal is the kind of risk that has a pret­ty mas­sive pay­out. So...is Don­ald Trump try­ing to arouse immense sus­pi­cion across par­ty lines that he’s a Krem­lin dupe in order to cre­ate a sin­gle-mind­ed focus on Russ­ian col­lu­sion that nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pened because they were col­lud­ing with pri­mar­i­ly with West­ern far-right net­works? If so, it’s going to be very inter­est­ing to see how that strat­e­gy plays out because, as Josh Mar­shall not­ed back in March, it’s not like Trump does­n’t have well doc­u­ment­ed ties to Russ­ian oli­garchs. And it’s not like the FBI and CIA did­n’t know about these ties for years. But it’s also not like the FBI and CIA can eas­i­ly dis­cuss these ties on pub­lic because that might com­pro­mise high­ly sen­si­tive oper­a­tions that Trump’s part­ners, like Felix Sater, played a role in and some of these oper­a­tions might be the kind of shady oper­a­tions these agen­cies real­ly don’t want to have to pub­licly dis­close:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Edi­tor’s Blog

    The Grav­i­ty Is Strong, Part #2

    By Josh Mar­shall
    Pub­lished March 28, 2017 11:29 pm

    One of the most con­sis­tent things about the Trump/Russia sto­ry is the way that what we might call “the evi­dence” is so fre­quent­ly out­stripped by the expla­na­tions for it and reac­tions to it in dri­ving a fair-mind­ed person’s sus­pi­cion that some­thing just ain’t right. This isn’t to say “the evi­dence” doesn’t hold its own weight; it does just fine. But the inabil­i­ty to give even remote­ly straight answers, the need for deflec­tions and sub­terfuges that are demon­stra­bly pre­pos­ter­ous (Man­afort was a mar­gin­al fig­ure in the cam­paign) keeps com­ing up again and again.

    The oth­er per­sis­tent fea­ture is what we’re see­ing now unfold with Devin Nunes, until recent­ly a fair­ly unre­mark­able and uncon­tro­ver­sial mem­ber of the Repub­li­can House cau­cus. As I wrote after Jeff Ses­sions had to recuse him­self from the Trump/Russia inves­ti­ga­tion at the begin­ning of this month, “Peo­ple who don’t even appear to be that close to the action keep get­ting pulled under for what seem like need­less decep­tions.” When we see this kind of pat­tern, “the answer is usu­al­ly that the stuff at the cen­ter of the scan­dal is so big that it requires con­ceal­ment, even about things dis­tant from the main action, things that it would seem much bet­ter and less dam­ag­ing sim­ply to admit.”

    I’ve been on vaca­tion abroad. So I’ve inten­tion­al­ly kept a dis­tance from the news. But the pro­gres­sion of events with Nunes, from the slaver­ing feal­ty to the Pres­i­dent, ser­i­al rapid­ly debunked denials of new Trump rev­e­la­tions, the bizarre late night cloak and dag­ger stunt all build­ing to this refusal to dis­close what­ev­er secret evi­dence he pos­sess­es to any oth­er mem­ber of his com­mit­tee … the chain of events is so wild and far-fetched that under nor­mal cir­cum­stances offi­cial Wash­ing­ton might be con­sid­er­ing whether Nunes was hav­ing some kind of psy­cho­log­i­cal break­down.

    What­ev­er we think of his judge­ment or integri­ty, step back and con­sid­er this: What is being hid­den here that dri­ves such errat­ic and inex­plic­a­ble behav­ior from close to every­one who gets into what I ear­li­er called the ‘event hori­zon’ of this scan­dal? What at the cen­ter of it has such a pro­found grav­i­ta­tion­al pull?

    It is fair to say that there is one pos­si­ble ‘inno­cent’ expla­na­tion, which is sim­ply the President’s bull-head­ed­ness, his insis­tence of fight­ing and deny­ing in every case and every time. That might dri­ve sus­pi­cion where there isn’t guilt but sim­ply pugnac­i­ty and aggres­sion. But that is at best only a par­tial expla­na­tion and I sus­pect in this case it plays very lit­tle role. That’s sim­ply not how big scan­dals work. Even Trump’s pen­chant to fight, even on self-defeat­ing fronts, doesn’t change that.

    Rather than search­ing for the sin­gle uni­fy­ing piece of evi­dence, the smok­ing gun, as it were, it is bet­ter for us to start with the sto­ry we already know and sim­ply keep pulling on the numer­ous dan­gling threads that sto­ry puts in front of us. In recent weeks, I’ve writ­ten a series of posts, which are in the major­i­ty of cas­es built on pub­lic records and weav­ing togeth­er the report­ing of oth­ers. The pic­ture they paint has a few crit­i­cal ele­ments. The first is that Trump built his ‘sec­ond act’, start­ing in the first years of this cen­tu­ry, on a free flow of mon­ey from the for­mer Sovi­et Union. Numer­ous Trump busi­ness ven­tures part­nered with peo­ple tied to the Russ­ian or post-Sovi­et crim­i­nal under­world. This pat­tern is so wide­spread and con­sis­tent that it is a huge­ly impor­tant sto­ry in itself, though it tends to get over­shad­owed by the hunt for ties to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Many of these ven­tures bear key hall­marks of mon­ey laun­der­ing. The most straight­for­ward expla­na­tion is that Trump need­ed cap­i­tal but had ruined his access to legit­i­mate lenders and scared off most sen­si­ble investors. He was a per­fect match for over­seas mon­ey, specif­i­cal­ly post-Sovi­et mon­ey, which need­ed to get out of its coun­tries of ori­gin and into the safe­ty of the US, par­tic­u­lar­ly US real estate. This was mon­ey you couldn’t ask a lot of ques­tions about; and Trump was hap­py not to ask.

    Now just a cou­ple days ago, Russ Bak­er and his col­leagues at Baker’s inde­pen­dent news site WhoWhatWhy.org pub­lished a lengthy sto­ry on this top­ic. As you’ll see when you read it, the bulk of infor­ma­tion is mate­r­i­al I cov­ered here, here and in var­i­ous oth­er posts over recent months. Bak­er and his col­leagues focus large­ly on Felix Sater, his coop­er­a­tion with the FBI and CIA, Trump’s busi­ness asso­ci­a­tion with Sater and oth­er ties to Russ­ian mon­ey and orga­nized crime. But in addi­tion to adding more infor­ma­tion on cer­tain fronts, he adds a crit­i­cal new dimen­sion to the sto­ry, one I hint­ed at here. Indeed, Bak­er takes it to anoth­er lev­el.

    Bak­er argues that the FBI was itself like­ly com­pro­mised in its efforts and abil­i­ty to han­dle the Trump inves­ti­ga­tion because of how deeply enmeshed it was with Sater and its own inves­ti­ga­tions and oper­a­tions tar­get­ing Russ­ian orga­nized crime, as well as relat­ed coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence oper­a­tions. The FBI like­ly didn’t want to threat­en or divulge details of its own inves­ti­ga­tions for entire­ly legit­i­mate rea­sons. It also may not have want­ed to divulge how deeply involved it was with Sater and how many bad acts he com­mit­ted while he was under the FBI’s pro­tec­tion. (Let’s call this the Whitey Bul­ger sce­nario.)

    Baker’s report­ing is some­what opaque to me on how much this is a log­i­cal, evi­dence-backed sur­mise and how much it is based on the sources he worked with on the sto­ry. If noth­ing else, as I’ve writ­ten, the DOJ, the FBI and key fed­er­al judges have gone to her­culean and all the unprece­dent­ed lengths to keep the details of Sater’s coop­er­a­tion and work for the gov­ern­ment a secret. I don’t think we’ll have any real under­stand­ing of all this until we have a bet­ter if not a ful­ly trans­par­ent expla­na­tion of that rela­tion­ship.

    What does this mean exact­ly? Does it mean the FBI is cov­er­ing for Trump? I don’t think it means that and I don’t think Bak­er is sug­gest­ing that. What I think Bak­er is sug­gest­ing is that some of the hard to explain lag­gard­ness and oth­er odd­i­ties of the inves­ti­ga­tion in 2016 could be a prod­uct of con­flict­ing pri­or­i­ties dif­fer­ent parts of the FBI brought to the inves­ti­ga­tion. Indeed, the FBI may still be unable or resist­ing telling all of what it knows about the case.

    Step back and con­sid­er this. The Direc­tor of the FBI has now con­firmed pub­licly that there is an on-going counter-intel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tion prob­ing whether close advi­sors and asso­ciates of the Pres­i­dent col­lud­ed with a hos­tile for­eign pow­er to help elect the Pres­i­dent. The jar­ring and dis­ori­ent­ing effects of Trump’s two months’ pres­i­den­cy, makes it hard for us to process just what a stun­ning rev­e­la­tion that is. This is a mat­ter of suf­fi­cient grav­i­ty that it is hard­ly suf­fi­cient to say that this will be exam­ined deep in the nation­al secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus out of the pub­lic eye for months or maybe years. We’ve been told some­thing all but unbe­liev­able is hap­pen­ing. But we can’t know real­ly any­thing about it. The deeply clas­si­fied, secre­tive nature of these inves­ti­ga­tions is a suf­fi­cient expla­na­tion for all that. But per­haps there’s more to it. Remem­ber, it’s not just what’s been dis­cussed in open ses­sion. Top mem­bers of Con­gress have also pressed the FBI’s appar­ent reluc­tance to share all of what it knows in closed ses­sions.

    The key point in my mind is that for the rea­sons I explained here, the FBI and like­ly the CIA knew quite a lot about Trump’s ties to the post-Sovi­et crim­i­nal under­world and reliance on Russ­ian, Ukrain­ian and Kaza­khstani mon­ey of dubi­ous ori­gins years before he ran for Pres­i­dent. What role did that knowl­edge play, what uses was it put to, once those mul­ti­ple red flags trig­gered a for­mal counter-intel­li­gence inves­ti­ga­tion late last July? Indeed, just what is known about these ties and busi­ness rela­tion­ships? Most all of what we know comes from mar­gin­al details from pub­lic records and the occa­sion­al law­suit where a lot of beans get spilled. I’d fig­ure we know 5% or maybe 10% of the sto­ry. The rest remains hid­den. Crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions and counter-intel­li­gence secrets are impor­tant. But noth­ing is more impor­tant than allow­ing the pub­lic to know who the Pres­i­dent is, what he’s done and what’s dri­ving his actions.

    ...

    “Bak­er argues that the FBI was itself like­ly com­pro­mised in its efforts and abil­i­ty to han­dle the Trump inves­ti­ga­tion because of how deeply enmeshed it was with Sater and its own inves­ti­ga­tions and oper­a­tions tar­get­ing Russ­ian orga­nized crime, as well as relat­ed coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence oper­a­tions. The FBI like­ly didn’t want to threat­en or divulge details of its own inves­ti­ga­tions for entire­ly legit­i­mate rea­sons. It also may not have want­ed to divulge how deeply involved it was with Sater and how many bad acts he com­mit­ted while he was under the FBI’s pro­tec­tion. (Let’s call this the Whitey Bul­ger sce­nario.)

    Did Trump real­ize that he had busi­ness part­ners like Felix Sater who had been qui­et­ly work­ing with US agen­cies for years in high­ly sen­si­tive oper­a­tions involv­ing the for­mer Sovi­et Union? It’s hard to see why he would­n’t have been well aware of this. And it’s not like his mob­ster ties are lim­it­ed to folks like Felix and yet he ran for pres­i­dent any­way know­ing full well that his back­ground was going to be inves­ti­gat­ed and exposed. And if what Russ Bak­er was argu­ing is accu­rate, and there real­ly is a deep reluc­tance of the FBI or CIA to ful­ly and pub­licly expose Trump’s ties to Russ­ian busi­ness­men and mob­sters because it would risk expos­ing high­ly sen­si­tive oper­a­tions (per­haps ongo­ing oper­a­tions), would­n’t Trump rec­og­nize this too? And if Trump indeed did real­ize that his Russ­ian ties risked expo­sure of high­ly sen­si­tive oper­a­tions, would­n’t that make a “look at Rus­sia!” ‘Al Capone’s Vault’ scheme that much more tempt­ing? It would cer­tain­ly mud­dy the waters.

    So, once again, has Don­ald Trump been try­ing to arouse immense sus­pi­cion across par­ty lines that he’s a Russ­ian dupe in order to cre­ate a sin­gle-mind­ed focus on Russ­ian gov­ern­ment col­lu­sion that nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pened (or will be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to prove) for the pur­pose of under­min­ing any future exam­i­na­tion of Trump’s col­lu­sion with West­ern far-right net­works and mob­sters? Because even if you removed all of Trump’s ties to Rus­si­a’s oli­garchs and poten­tial mon­ey-laun­der­ing, it’s not like he does­n’t have a wild­ly scan­dalous past that would still require cov­er­ing up. And if the #TrumPutin spec­u­la­tion does­n’t pan out, all future inves­ti­ga­tions into the rest of Trump’s incred­i­bly shady past sud­den because a lot more to get the pub­lic behind. Giv­en the out­landish, ‘stop me before I col­lude again’ behav­ior of the Trump team thus far it’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty we should­n’t rule out.

    Oth­er­wise, if there real­ly is a pro­found Russ­ian gov­ern­ment col­lu­sion con­nec­tion that was about to be exposed unless Trump can kill off that inves­ti­ga­tion this has got to be one of the worst polit­i­cal coverups ever. Sad! His­tor­i­cal­ly sad.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 10, 2017, 3:05 pm

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