August 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 10:54 PM

THERE'S SUCH A THING AS TOO CRAZY FOR DONALD?:

An NSC Staffer Is Forced Out Over a Controversial Memo (ROSIE GRAY, 8/02/17, The Atlantic)

A top official of the National Security Council was fired last month after arguing in a memo that President Trump is under sustained attack from subversive forces both within and outside the government who are deploying Maoist tactics to defeat President Trump's nationalist agenda.

His dismissal marks the latest victory by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in the ongoing war within Trump's White House between those who believe that the president is under threat from dark forces plotting to undermine him, and those like McMaster who dismiss this as conspiratorial thinking.

Rich Higgins, a former Pentagon official who served in the NSC's strategic-planning office as a director for strategic planning, was let go on July 21. Higgins's memo describes supposed domestic and international threats to Trump's presidency, including globalists, bankers, the "deep state," and Islamists. The memo characterizes the Russia story as a plot to sabotage Trump's nationalist agenda. It asserts that globalists and Islamists are seeking to destroy America. 

Of course, for the Right his firing just proves the conspiracy...

Posted by orrinj at 10:48 PM

THE MIGHTY RUSSIAN WAR MACHINE LOSES AGAIN:

Russian Premier Says U.S. Sanctions Bill Ends Hope For Better Ties (rADIO lIBERTY, August 03, 2017)

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sharply denounced the sanctions bill signed into law by U.S. President Donald Trump on August 2, saying it ends hope for improving relations and ignites "an all-out trade war with Russia."

Always bet on the Deep State.
Posted by orrinj at 10:46 PM

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Lebanese PM Saad Hariri Joins With Hezbollah to Con Donald Trump (Tony Badran, August 2, 2017, tABLET)

The day after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with President Trump at the White House, a member of his delegation saluted Hezbollah on social media from Washington. Last Wednesday, former minister, and current advisor to the Lebanese president (a Hezbollah ally), Elias Bou Saab, tweeted a salute to "every resister"--a euphemism for Hezbollah fighter--and "every soldier" fighting in the outback of the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal, on the border with Syria. Later that same day, Bou Saab, who is the Executive Vice President of The American University in Dubai, and is widely seen in Lebanon as a sympathizer of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, posed for a picture with a journalist from the pro-Hezbollah TV channel, NBN. The journalist posted the photo on her Facebook page. It shows Bou Saab and the journalist on a street in Washington, holding a placard with another salute to Hezbollah. It reads: "From the outback of Washington, a salute to the heroes in the outback of Arsal."

Bou Saab's boss, Hariri, was only slightly more reserved in his public alliance with the Lebanese terror army--aka "the resistance." After his press conference with President Trump, in which the U.S. president described Hezbollah as regional menace and long arm of Iran, the prime minister told Lebanese reporters, "We fight ISIS and al-Qaida. Hezbollah is in the government and part of parliament and we have an understanding with it."

An understanding with Hezbollah sounds about right. Hariri's visit with Trump was part of a coordinated, multifaceted information campaign to swindle the U.S. government into continuing its military support and extending political cover for the evolving pro-Iran order in Lebanon and Syria. Everyone--Hariri, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and its supporters and publicists in Washington--is in on the con.

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 PM

BETTER GET TO WORK ON A MEMOIR:

Cash-strapped Baghdad drops Podesta  (Bryant Harris, August 2, 2017, Al Monitor)

Iraq's cash-strapped central government has parted ways with Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta, according to a lobbying disclosure form made public today.

The brother of Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Podesta would have had powerful influence if the Democratic candidate had won the presidency in November. Instead, his firm's stock appears to have fallen since Republican Donald Trump's election, with three other clients, including Vietnam and Kosovo, ending their relationship over the past few months. [...]

"With the new administration, we wanted more of a bipartisan approach in our lobbying," the Iraqi official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. But with "the glut in the oil crisis [and] the cost of war [against the Islamic State] the government took measures to reduce financing for certain activities for Iraqi ministries in general and that directly affected us. So we had to cut the spending for the lobbying efforts for the time being."

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM

TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, REALTOR:

Oh, Wait. Maybe It Was Collusion. (JOHN SIPHER and STEVE HALL, AUG. 2, 2017, NY Times)

The goal of the Russian spy game is to nudge a person to step over the line into an increasingly conspiratorial relationship. First, for a Russian intelligence recruitment operation to work, they would have had some sense that Donald Trump Jr. was a promising target. Next, as the Russians often do, they made a "soft" approach, setting the bait for their target via the June email sent by Rob Goldstone, a British publicist, on behalf of a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov.

They then employed a cover story -- adoptions -- to make it believable to the outside world that there was nothing amiss with the proposed meetings. They bolstered this idea by using cutouts, nonofficial Russians, for the actual meeting, enabling the Trump team to claim -- truthfully -- that there were no Russian government employees at the meeting and that it was just former business contacts of the Trump empire who were present.

When the Trump associates failed to do the right thing by informing the F.B.I., the Russians probably understood that they could take the next step toward a more conspiratorial relationship. They knew what bait to use and had a plan to reel in the fish once it bit.

While we don't know for sure whether the email solicitation was part of an intelligence ploy, there are some clues. A month after the June meeting at Trump Tower, WikiLeaks, a veritable Russian front, released a dump of stolen D.N.C. emails. The candidate and campaign surrogates increasingly mouthed talking points that seemed taken directly from Russian propaganda outlets, such as that there had been a terrorist attack on a Turkish military base, when no such attack had occurred. Also, at this time United States intelligence reportedly received indications from European intelligence counterparts about odd meetings between Russians and Trump campaign representatives overseas.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM

DONALD WHO?:

Why Congress is ignoring Trump (Peter Grier, AUGUST 2, 2017, CS monitor)

Is President Trump evolving into a figurehead, increasingly ignored by Congress and even some members of his own executive branch of government? [...]

[T]o see why some political scientists would call Trump ineffective, look at what's happening in Congress this week. The president has railed on Twitter that Senators will be "quitters" if they don't redouble efforts to repeal Obamacare. His budget director has said that the Senate shouldn't vote on anything else until they vote again on health care.

Senators are apparently treating those words as empty threats. Majority leader Mitch McConnell has outlined legislative plans leading up to the August recess, and health care isn't in them.

Then there's the Russia sanctions bill. In a statement, Trump excoriated that legislation on Wednesday as partially unconstitutional. Yet as he did so, he signed it into law. He effectively had no choice, since it passed the House and Senate with large majorities, which could have overridden a presidential veto.

Asked Wednesday about Trump's criticisms of the sanctions law, Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, answered simply, "that's fine."

Pressed by a reporter on the president's complaint that the sanctions law infringed on executive branch authority, Senator Corker, by now in an elevator, just shrugged his shoulders as the doors closed, ending the conversation. [...]

As Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor, points out on the blog Lawfare, one of the most remarkable aspects of the entire Trump presidency has been the extent to which senior officials treat Trump as if he were not chief executive.

They regularly contradict his statements, whether it is UN Ambassador Nikki Haley saying that the US "absolutely" supports a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, to the many top security officials who have testified there is no evidence that President Barack Obama directed wiretapping of Trump in Trump Tower, as Trump charged.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has been quietly reassuring allies that Trump is not in fact rejecting NATO's common defense, as he sometimes seems to do.

'Time to Move On': Senate G.O.P. Flouts Trump After Health Care Defeat (MATT FLEGENHEIMER and THOMAS KAPLANAUG. 1, 2017, NY Times)

They have abandoned well-worn phrases, like "growing pains" and "sea legs," that sustained them through the endless winter and spring.

And if a few months ago President Trump's scattershot demands might have sent the chamber into a lather, compelling lawmakers to honor his megaphone, the collective shrugs at his rage over last week's failed health care repeal vote have signaled a new phase in this shotgun marriage of unified Republican rule.

Congressional fear is low. Eyes are rolling with greater velocity. Executive instructions on how to proceed are being ignored as a matter of course.

"We've got other things to do," Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said after Mr. Trump insisted that the party refuse to take up other issues with the repeal pledge unfulfilled.

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM

NO ONE FLIES AEROFLOT:

WHITE HOUSE SAYS RUSSIA'S HACKERS ARE TOO GOOD TO BE CAUGHT BUT NSA PARTNER CALLED THEM "MORONS" (Sam Biddle, August 2 2017, The Intercept)

[A] 2011 presentation to the NSA and its foreign partners by Canada's signals intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment, undermines the notion of a foreign hacker so skilled that a victim would never know their identity. The document calls Russian hackers "morons" for routinely compromising the security of a "really well designed" system intended to cover their tracks; for example, the hackers logged into their personal social and email accounts through the same anonymizing system used to attack their targets, comparable to getting an anonymous burner phone for illicit use and then placing calls to your girlfriend, parents, and roommate.

In fairness, from Donald's vantage a moron is a genius.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM

THERE IS NO YEMEN:

Iran outflanking Saudi Arabia in Yemen (Bruce Riedel, August 1, 2017, Al Monitor)

Iran is gradually increasing its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Rather than eliminating the Iranian presence in the country, the Saudi-led war is giving Tehran the opportunity to become more influential there than ever. The Houthis remain fiercely independent of Iran, but they will need Tehran's backing more as the stalemate continues. [...]

Iran reportedly discouraged the Houthis from seizing Sanaa in September 2015, fearing that would provoke civil war. With the help of former President Saleh, who switched sides by 2015, the Houthis did take the capital, which precipitated the crisis leading to the Saudi intervention. So far from being pawns of Iran, the rebels ignored its advice.

The rebels have also been quick to deny any plans for a future permanent Iranian military base in the country.

The Houthi are a nation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:

Trump Reluctantly Signs Russia Sanctions Bill (Jack Crowe, August 02, 2017, Daily Signal)

The new law limits the president's autonomy with respect to Russia policy with a provision requiring congressional approval for any revisions. (Photo: Sipa USA/Newscom)
President Donald Trump signed a sweeping sanctions bill Wednesday that is intended to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

In doing so, Trump criticized the legislation as "seriously flawed--particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch's authority to negotiate." [...]

The new law limits Trump's autonomy with respect to Russia policy in a provision that requires congressional approval for any revisions.  Bipartisan support in Congress ensured a veto-proof majority, effectively forcing Trump to abandon his conciliatory approach toward Russia by signing the legislation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM

IF PINNOCCHIO HAD NO JIMINY CRICKET:

It Looks Like Trump and Putin Colluded on Adoption Story (Martin Longman August 2, 2017, New York)

When the New York Times initially reported the story of Donald Trump having a second unplanned meeting on July 7th with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, they also reported that the next day, on the return trip on Air Force One, a statement was drafted for Donald Trump Jr. so he could respond to questions about an undisclosed meeting he had organized between himself, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer.

Here's how that early reporting looked:

The evening after his two meetings with Mr. Putin -- the first lasting 135 minutes and the second an hour -- Mr. Trump returned to Washington. On the Air Force One flight back, his top advisers helped draft a statement about a meeting his son Donald Trump Jr. attended last year with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

The statement said that the meeting was primarily about the Russian ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans. Sometime later, on July 19th, the president explained in an interview with the New York Times what he had talked about with Putin during his unscheduled meeting at the G20 dinner.

"We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump's son] had in that meeting."

In this time period, Trump and his lawyers and surrogates denied that Donald Trump had been aware that the story about Donald Jr. was coming and only learned about it when everyone else did after the story broke in the New York Times. They also denied (necessarily) that Trump had any role in crafting the statement on Air Force One.

There turned out to be quite a few problems with this story.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM

YOUR NEXT CAR WILL BE A VOLT:

Tesla's stock is spiking after it crushed Q2 earnings estimates (Fast Company, 8/02/17)

Tesla shares are up over 4% in after-hours trading today, thanks to stellar earnings for the second quarter of 2017. The electric carmaker pulled in revenue of $2.78 billion, high above estimates of $2.55 billion. Earnings were similarly rosy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM

THE ROAD MAP:

Exclusive: Former Justice Department official joins Mueller team (Karen Freifeld, 8/02/17, Reuters) 

Most recently a white-collar criminal defense lawyer with New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, Andres, 50, served at the Justice Department from 2010 to 2012. He was deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, where he oversaw the fraud unit and managed the program that targeted illegal foreign bribery.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 AM

THERE IS NO YEMEN:

Tehran Transfers Weapons to Houthis across Gulf (Asharq Al-Awsat, 8/02/17)

Iranian and western sources uncovered Tuesday that Iran's Revolutionary Guards have started using a new route across the Gulf to transfer weapons to their Houthi allies in Yemen.

"Parts of missiles, launchers and drugs are smuggled into Yemen via Kuwaiti waters. The route sometimes is used for transferring cash as well," a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

The official added that "what is especially smuggled recently, or to be precise in the past six months, are parts of missiles that cannot be produced in Yemen."