A ‘Dicks Out’: On the Reported U.S. Intelligence Assist to Ukraine

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

By now you’ve probably read Marcy’s post, Bragging on U.S. Intelligence. I agree with her take in part, but I suspect the situation isn’t just dick-wagging.

It’s a ‘dicks out‘ situation, an attempt using the media to make a statement.

Not in the sense there’s any competition here between dick-swinging leaders — dick-wagging — but in the sense there’s a display. It looks like a show of power and it is, reminding Putin and Russia’s military leadership within view of the Russian public and the globe that the world’s largest army can aid an eastern European democracy and make it look like it’s a trifling amusement.

Russia media already acknowledges the aid provided by the U.S. and other NATO countries is tough competition.

The report about U.S. intelligence in The New York Times wasn’t a surprise to Russia, though. There had been numerous reports in social media about a U.S. military surveillance aircraft flying over the Black Sea shortly before the Moskva was reported to have taken a hit from Ukraine’s Neptune missiles — or caught fire, if one paid attention only to pro-Russian accounts. The flight was not unexpected as the U.S. had been flying surveillance over the Black Sea for years before the invasion began.


Note there was more than just a lone P-8 flying surveillance the day the Moskva was hit, though these reports shared here are likely well after the attack.

What’s not clear is the timing of the attack on the Moskva — late on April 13, or very early on April 14. Lithuania’s Defense Minister posted early morning ET about the attack:

By evening GMT the vessel had sunk which Russia confirmed.

Russia and the U.S. have had run-ins over the Black Sea even during the Trump administration.

The U.S. military made a point then that its duties continued in spite of the change in leadership. This may even have been an issue during the Helsinki summit in July 2018 but we may not know for certain since Trump squelched interpreter’s notes.

~ ~ ~

The British newspaper The Times reported at 12:01 a.m. BST on April 20 about the same surveillance aircraft which had been sighted over the Black Sea before the Moskva was in distress.

A U.S. aircraft was patrolling the Black Sea in the hours before the Moskva was hit by Ukrainian missiles, The Times can reveal.

A Boeing P8 Poseidon was within 100 miles of the Moskva on the day the Russian cruiser sustained catastrophic damage. …

“The Times can reveal” suggests either The Times were waiting validation from local sources, or the outlet had received authorization to report this news from either British or U.S. military. The just-past-midnight time stamp suggests the latter.

But this wasn’t just a show of power for the benefit of NATO; EU member states who are NATO members are too deeply committed now whether the U.S. gets involved or not providing assistance to Ukraine. The chances of Russia nailing a EU member accidentally or on purpose is real, while the risk to the U.S. is slim to none; we don’t have any real skin in the game. NATO members likely knew already the U.S. was providing intelligence because of the emergency session between NATO and G-7 allies on March 24 in Brussels where commitments of effort from sanctions and aid were discussed.

Who else benefited from the published confirmation the U.S. had provided intelligence to Ukraine? Cui bono?

1. Ukraine — not just because they have access to the intelligence apparatus of the largest military in the world, but their own intelligence sources and methods are no longer in the spotlight drawing the attention of Putin and his remaining intelligence system from FSB to ad hoc hacking teams.

2. U.S. — because one of the audiences who needs to know U.S. intelligence is both capable and effective is the U.S. itself, in Congress, the intelligence community, and the public; the reports assure the general public in the U.S. and abroad that the U.S. has an active role if not as a combatant. We’re providing intelligence as well as materiel but not the personnel who ultimately act on intelligence available.

3. U.S. corporations — in particular, Apple and John Deere, because there have been stories of apps built into their products which may have allowed their hardware to be used for intelligence collection directly and indirectly, placing the companies at risk of attack by Russia.

4. Iran and other parties to the JCPOA P5+1 agreement — because elements in Iran are still demanding revenge for the assassination of Lt. General Qasem Soleimani; it’s a reminder the U.S. is watching though Iran’s intelligence apparatus surely knows this; factions desiring a return to the agreement know retribution works against them.

5. Japan — with Russia’s military demonstrating weakness, Japan has seen opportunity to not only recover some of its stature post- Abe but make demands related to the occupation of the Kuril Islands; its public may be reassured its partner is watching Russia closely as it does so.

6. Taiwan — China is watching closely how the U.S. responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a model for its response should China attempt to realize its One China ideology and take Taiwan; it’s already seen in Hong Kong a lack of U.S. intervention. While China’s leadership surely knows about U.S. intelligence provided to Ukraine, Taiwan’s public needs to know this is on the table for them as well.

7. Aspiring NATO members Finland and Sweden — while these two countries have been prepared for Russian hostilities since WWII, the invasion of Ukraine has heightened their sensitivity to national security. Both are now pursuing membership in NATO as Marcy mentioned; open acknowledgment of the benefits of membership may help their public feel more at ease with joining after holding out for so long.

Marcy’s post noted the value of the publicized intelligence to several of these beneficiaries’ voting constituencies.

Of all of who benefit, two most critical are Ukraine and U.S. corporations. As a ‘dicks out’ effort, the U.S. draws attention to itself and its intelligence capabilities which the media have gladly hyped up.

I have to wonder if this change in NYT hed was really because of an error, or an attempt to ensure the Russians were sitting up, paying attention to, and pissed off at the U.S.


Especially since the NYT’s article pointedly said there was no targeting information.

… The Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, asked about a report in The Times of London that a Navy P-8 spy plane from Sigonella air base in Italy was tracking the Moskva before it was hit by Ukraine, spoke of air policing missions in the Black Sea as part of a carefully worded response: “There was no provision of targeting information by any United States Navy P-8 flying in these air policing missions,” he said. …

By drawing attention away from Ukraine and U.S. corporations, the use of non-traditional sources of intelligence based on non-government private resources becomes less obvious, potentially reducing their risk from retaliatory attack by Russia.

(An aside: Did you know that Apple iPhones were the second or third most popular cell phone in Russia? While Apple has now stopped selling its products in Russia, it’s not clear iPhones and MacBooks are no longer operative on Russian networks.)

~ ~ ~ 

There were two other things worth noting related to the day the Moskva was hit and Russia’s response afterward.

First, the U.S. Navy P-8 (and other surveillance craft) weren’t the only unusual flights on April 14. A “Doomsday” plane took off from Moscow; the plane is equipped for use in the event of nuclear war.


But it wasn’t just a Russian “Doomsday” plane in the air that same day.


Most media didn’t appear to have noticed the Russian plane. The Daily Express-UK published an article on April 14 at 13:16 hours London time, edited at 14:25 hours, about the Russian craft’s kit, and wrote about a flight at 4:16 pm which lasted nearly four hours. It also mentioned the U.S. “Doomsday” plane taking a flight but in little detail. The Daily Express didn’t tweet their article.

Second, Russia told the families of Moskva crew members who died on April 14 that they would not receive survivor compensation:

This seems particularly callous especially since crew members families were told little to nothing immediately following the Moskva’s “fire” and sinking, calling to mind the handling of the Kursk submarine disaster. Were the Moskva’s crew and their surviving families punished financially for failing?

Another particularly odd detail was the immediate reaction of crew on board the Moskva after it was hit by Ukraine’s Neptune missiles — the radar didn’t respond as if it wasn’t watching for another attack, and life boats didn’t appear to be deployed and loaded once the ship appeared to be in extremis. A report by U.S. Naval Institute News said the ship was blind to the attack, its radar not detecting surveillance by drones or planes or the missiles once it was targeted.

One analysis of the attack in this following Twitter thread suggests the weather conditions the night of April 13/morning April 14 may have helped mask the missiles if the radar was working and its 180-degree range aimed in the correct direction.

There are a lot of ifs here even after reading an analysis of the attack (pdf) shared by USNI News.

Perhaps the publication of the news that the U.S. intelligence isn’t merely a ‘dicks out’ statement to garner attention away from others, or make the point the U.S. is assisting with intelligence up to but not including targeting.

Perhaps the message was meant to tell Putin, “The U.S. intelligence community knows exactly what happened to the Moskva,” implying another mishandling of information a la the Kursk could be used strategically against weakened Russian leadership.

The deployment of our own “Doomsday” plane the same day Putin moved his also says something, but that may be even more cryptic and intended for a very small audience compared to the ‘dicks out’ about the Moskva’s sinking.

Three Things: Dead, Deader, Deadest

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Watching Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine has been horrific, bodies shredded and families burnt to cinders as their cities are leveled by Russian missiles. Photographic evidence of war crimes has been particularly difficult to witness.

Whatabouters argue western countries particularly the U.S. engage in a double standard over Ukraine’s losses compared to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and other past engagements in which western military force has been mustered.

If their point is that U.S. foreign policy has been conflicted in the past, yes, it has, and it’s been so because of conditions established long before many of us were born.

Like our nation’s reliance on oil and the agreement to protect Saudi Arabia to assure continuity of oil production for economic national security.

Other crappy foreign policy decisions spin from that origin or are tangentially related to that agreement because in part elections have been bought by oil and gas money, or the dependency of U.S. national security on the flow of oil and gas has been made economically sticky.

We had a critical opportunity in 2000 to take an alternative time line and delaminate our security from oil but that fork in the road wasn’t taken.

Instead the presidential election was decided by the Supreme Court in favor of an oil man who lost the popular vote — in essence, a right-wing coup took place in favor of continued reliance on oil and the eventual hamstringing of Americans’ domestic needs by trillions of taxpayers’ dollars spent in unlawful and unnecessary wars to assure our continued addiction to fossil fuels.

But this is what has made the existential crisis in Ukraine so dynamic and engaging to western observers, particularly Americans. The problem is black and white: a sovereign democracy was attacked by a larger hostile neighbor which seeks to eliminate its existence. It happened in full view of the global public with access to the internet and social media platforms.

The fossil fuel problem is now likewise simplistic: the hostile neighbor’s kleptocratic economy relies heavily on oil and natural gas. It has used both to bully neighboring countries for decades, threatening the economic security of western allies. It’s using its fossil fuels now to cudgel the market for supporting Ukraine and to raise funds to continue its illegitimate invasion.

We’ve returned to the fork in the road again, 22 years later. Our national security and that of our allies is threatened by the continued reliance on fossil fuels, not including the increased geopolitical and economic instability generated by the mounting climate crisis.

Fossil fuels must die, should already have been long dead. It’s past time to liberate ourselves and other sovereign democratic nations from its grip.

~ 3 ~

Speaking of death, there have been a few unexpected deaths in Russia. Reported by Russia’s Sota Vision via Twitter:

…Family members of the former vice-president of Gazprombank Vladislav Avaev and himself found dead in Moscow According to the preliminary version of the investigation, Avaev shot his wife and thirteen-year-old daughter with a pistol, and then shot himself. The bodies of the dead were discovered by a relative of the family.

Gazprombank converted Gazprom sales in non-rubles to rubles. Vladislav Avayev’s death is the third one of executives affiliated with Gazprom this year. The unconfirmed scuttlebutt is that Avayev had been in the middle of a messy divorced, tensions heightened because his daughter was disabled. But the divorce makes a handy cover story if this wasn’t a murder-suicide situation.

The previous Gazprom-related deaths were also suicides in which windows weren’t used.

Alexander Tyulyakov, an executive identified as Deputy General Director of the Unified Settlement Center of Gazprom, was found hanged on February 25, the morning after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Quelle coïncidence.

(Side note: I’m not able to confirm one way or another this Tyulyakov is the same one who held onto a bunch of uranium which was involved in the U.S. uranium repatriation program with Russia back in 2003.)

Leonid Shulman, executive at Gazprom Invest, was found on January 29 dead of an apparent suicide. Descriptions of his death are sketchy but it sounds like he’d bled out in a bathtub.

Both Tyulyakov and Shulman died at home in the region referred to as “the nest” where many of Gazprom executives lived.

Reading about this cluster of deaths, one outlet remarked how rare executives “suicide” deaths have been with only four having occurred over the last dozen years. It’s a rather dry method of noting how very bad this cluster of three deaths is from Russians’ perspective, and how deadly being an executive in Russian business can be.

~ 2 ~

Russia has suffered the loss of yet another general this past weekend. Major General Vladimir Frolov, deputy commander of the 8th Army, died in combat in Donbas region. That’s eight dead generals since the invasion began. Details about this officer’s death are fuzzy at best.

Frolov wasn’t the only senior Russian government figure of note lost this past week; retired army general and veteran of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Vyacheslav Trubnikov died at age 78. No mention of cause of death in any report I found, only praise for Trubnikov’s service and mourning over his death.

Trubnikov’s death was announced more than 5-10 days after Ukraine doxxed 620 members of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the intelligence agency.

Was Trubnikov still a spy for Russia even at his advanced age? Was this a roll-up or just an old dude shuffling off the mortal coil?

~ 1 ~

Russia lost nearly one million citizens between October 2020 and September 2021. The country’s total population before the pandemic began was less than 43% of the U.S.’s population, which suggests its COVID deaths were not only grossly underreported but multiple times greater than that of the U.S.

And you know how stupid and avoidable U.S. COVID deaths have been even before vaccines were approved and distributed. COVID surely had an impact on the number of active duty and retired Russian military available for deployment.

At a rate of 10.7 births per 1,000 citizens, Russia has experienced a decline in birth rates like all other developed nations. Its birth rate is lower than that of the U.S. and may be related to factors like increased alcoholism and the lingering fallout from the economic upheaval of the 1990s. Russian women born during the 1990s are much fewer in number than the cohort who were children and young adults at that time.

… The effects of this dramatic and prolonged collapse in birthrates are now becoming apparent. A brief glance at Russia’s population pyramid illustrates this knock-on effect. There are around 12.5 million Russians between the ages of 30 and 34 who were born around or just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. But there are around 6.5 million people between the ages of 20 and 24 who were born during the chaos of the late 1990s. This smaller base of people able to bear children means the birthrate is almost destined to decline. And that is exactly what has happened; after a brief period of natural population growth in the mid-2010s, Russia’s population once again began to contract in 2019. It will continue to do so well into the foreseeable future. … [source]

Which means there were fewer male children born during the 1990s as well. This certainly has affected the number of Russian service persons, and likely explains why we’ve seen Chechens enlisted as well as recruiting from African countries and the Middle East, and why military contractors have been engaged to fight against Ukraine.

The deaths of so many Russian military leaders may also be related to COVID. Russia does not encourage its lowest level service persons to exercise much independent decision making in the field; major generals and superior officers below them are in the field to provide direction. If much of the military has been exposed to COVID with at least 20-25% suffering from some degree of long COVID, leadership’s function is degraded as is the function of all subordinates. (In actuality the percentage globally of COVID infected who suffer from long COVID is closer to 43%. Age appears to increase the likelihood of long COVID.)

Poor performance due to the effects of COVID only exacerbates morale problems among those serving who weren’t told they were going to invade Ukraine, who weren’t supposed to be engaged in active warfare as conscripts, who were police and not military as some were.

Many have surely paid with their lives for Russia’s inability to plan for the effects of COVID. One can only wonder how much more COVID will cut into both Russia’s military, its country, and its future — recall that COVID also does a number on men’s testicles and on pregnant women.

~ 0 ~

And now today, even as I was writing this, yet another executive of a Russian gas company was found dead along with his wife and daughter. Sergei Protosenya was the former deputy chairman of Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer. He had been staying in Catalonia with his wife and daughter; his son couldn’t get them on the phone and called the police to investigate. They found what appeared to be a murder-suicide but reports implied this was subject to further investigation.

What are the odds of two Russian natural gas executives and their families dead by murder-suicide within a week’s time?

Three Things: Irish Fish Stew

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Looks like Russia decided to move its planned naval war games away from Ireland’s fisheries. Bonus: CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan got to make a trip home to interview Irish fishermen.

(Is it me or did Donie’s accent regain a bit of its strength?)

There are three points about the Irish fishery versus Russian navy story which have struck me as odd and worth more examination:

~ 3 ~

Watch CNN’s videos at the Twitter thread shared above. Doesn’t it strike you as unusual that a Russian diplomat would work directly with an Irish fishing industry representative Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation, rather than the diplomatic arm of the Irish government as well as the UK since Irish and UK waters abut each other?

Granted, most U.S. newspapers painted this as Russia being discouraged but what does this scenario look like to the Irish?

Is it possible Donie himself missed a potential influence operation at work?

This clip from an Irish news media outlet doesn’t pointedly say that Russia bypassed Ireland and the European Union, or that the Irish and the European Union ignored Russian diplomats, but the wording suggests Irish diplomatic service and EU’s diplomats may not have been involved directly in the negotiations with Russia’s foreign ministry and navy (at 0:29 in the video).

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney tweeted last night that he had written this past week to Russia about the naval war games’ planned location:

But the timing of Russia’s response to the Minister for Foreign Affairs seems secondary to the meeting between the Irish fishery industry’s representative and Russia’s diplomat.

~ 2 ~

The 150-mile reference used in most reporting as the range of Irish fisheries from the Irish coast doesn’t make sense, the first reason being the use of an imperial measurement rather than metric like kilometers and the second being the location of the Irish fisheries.

The area of concern is much wider than 150 miles from the coast; as you can see for comparison from this Google Map below, the linear distance between Dublin and Plymouth UK is a little less than 220 miles.

The Irish fisheries are at least as wide as that distance from the west coast of Ireland.

Both Ireland and Russia are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which spells out the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for each country. The Irish fisheries are part of that EEZ denoted in the outlined area in the first map above.

Russian vessels would have to make a very large swing around UK waters to get close to the southern Irish fishery while avoiding Ireland’s EEZ.

~ 1 ~

No matter what the buzz about Russia’s navy moving further away from the Irish coast, there’s no way Russian vessels can maneuver around Ireland and the United Kingdom without crossing submarine communications cables.

As you can see, a majority of the submarine cables south of Ireland run to North America, and most of them to the U.S.

The suggestion that the Russian Navy might cut communications cables – accidentally or not — while in waters south of Ireland during a military exercise was an implied threat to the U.S. and the Big Tech companies which have data farms in Ireland. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have facilities in and around Dublin; Apple has been working on a planned data farm near Galway though construction hasn’t started.

The threat also targets NATO since Ireland is dual represented by itself and EU member nations as parties to the UNCLOS. Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an attack on a member nation is an attack on NATO.

Where it gets messy: Ireland is not a member of NATO though Northern Ireland is as part of the United Kingdom.

Is this why the Russian diplomatic service talked directly with Irish fishermen, to avoid getting NATO into the mix?

Was it part of a Russian influence operation to be perceived as open to non-NATO countries?

~ 0 ~

Speaking of Irish fisheries, I found a recipe for Seafood Chowder from the Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara, County Galway I want to try as I have scallops, salmon, and some lake trout in the freezer which I need to use.

It’s a lot like the Finnish stew kalamojakka my mom makes. Well, right up to the brandy.

Sláinte mhath!

Three Things: Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Because community members are posting Ukraine content in the Durham-Sussman thread, I’m putting up a fresh post here to capture Ukraine related comments.

~ 3 ~

Look, we all should have and could have seen the current situation coming. Think about it.

— The annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the incursion into eastern Ukraine along with the shooting down of Malaysia Air MH-17;

— Paul Manafort, former consultant and lobbyist for pro-Russian former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, was Trump’s campaign manager in 2016  during which the GOP’s platform was tweaked in favor of Russia over Ukraine;

Sanctions placed on Russia at the end of the Obama administration for election hacking tweaked Putin;

— Trump was in Russia’s pocket before and after his inauguration, from his real estate and golf course development to his first visit by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House in May 2017 and beyond;

Cyberattacks in 2017 which appeared to target Ukraine;

— The GOP’s failure to establish a new platform in 2018 and in 2020 besides the one created in 2016, leaving their position frozen in place;

— The laying of Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany from Russia;

— The threat by Lavrov in 2019 about Georgia becoming a NATO member;

— Trump’s gross abuse of office over the Ukraine quid pro quo for which he was impeached by a Democratic-majority House but not convicted by a GOP-majority Senate in 2020;

— The change in leadership in Germany and the increasingly white nationalist fascist positions of European countries like Hungary;

— The questionable election in Belarus as a soft annexation by Russia.

I’m sure there’s much, much more to this list of predicate events and conditions but I want to get this post up and not write a book. I’ve already published a lengthy piece back in 2019 with a timeline documenting many points of conflict since WWII between Ukraine and Russia spelling out generations’ worth of tension.

We shouldn’t be surprised at all by the current situation. If anything we should be surprised this hadn’t ramped up more quickly last January-February while Biden was still getting his sea legs in office during a pandemic.

Of course now, during winter when natural gas supplies offer increased leverage on the EU, when it’s easier to move heavy equipment over frozen ground, when soldiers are more likely to want to wear masks so their faces don’t freeze off. There are a lot of not so obvious reasons why now.

One of them may be the possibility that 2022 is up in the air — the hold on Congress may be thin, and a lot of negative sentiment one way or the other can build up over the next 9 months. It may be too close to call.

The other may be that destabilization is at its maximum considering the majority of this country voted for Biden and GOP voters are killing themselves with COVID. A key ally, the United Kingdom, has nearly had enough of destabilization by Brexit and Boris Johnson, and may soon be angry enough to reject one if not both.

And then there’s time. Putin is 69 years old. The average life expectancy for men in Russia is a little over 73 years. Granted, Putin will have access to better care than the overwhelming majority of his countrymen. But time doesn’t care, and the pandemic has reduced access to quality health care for everyone by some degree everywhere. He doesn’t have long to do whatever it is he wants to do for his own ego trip and for his legacy.

Don’t need a clock to hear that tick-tock.

~ 2 ~

Here’s Michael McFaul about the increased tensions over Ukraine:

McFaul’s had a lot of experience dealing with Russia. A key point his expressed position doesn’t communicate is that Putin isn’t a legitimate leader with authority conferred upon him by a free citizenry — just ask Alexei Navalny. Oops, you really can’t do that freely.

What we are dealing with is another flavor of narcissist, this time one who is far more ruthless and clever than Trump, retaining power with an iron grip and a lot of defenestrations and dead journalists. We are dealing with a mob boss of mob bosses who wants to protect his turf absolutely and wants to add yet more turf.

We are constrained by being a democracy and the needs of our NATO allies and the people of Ukraine.

We’re somehow going to have to navigate that difference to protect Ukraine and NATO.

~ 1 ~

But why are we bothering at all? Why don’t we let fishstick heir and now Russian asset Tucker Carlson persuade us that Russia is merely protecting its interests with those +100,000 Russian troops sitting at the Ukraine-Russia border?

The U.S. is party to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances — as is Russia and the UK — in which it was agreed that the parties would “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “refrain from the threat or use of force” against Ukraine.

Russia is and has been in violation of this agreement since 2014.

The U.S. is a proponent of democracy, and Ukraine is a democracy. If Ukraine asks our assistance to protect its democracy and enforce the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, we should provide aid.

The U.S. is a NATO member; under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, any attack on a NATO member is an attack on all of NATO. NATO’s EU members rely heavily on natural gas supplied through Ukrainian pipelines; any effort to cut off natural gas to and through Ukraine poses an economic attack — hybrid warfare, in other words. Cyber attacks on Ukraine which affect NATO members may also constitute hybrid warfare. We may be engaged just as we were in 2017 when Ukraine was attacked with NotPetya since U.S. business interests were affected.

~ 0 ~

Let’s confine comments on Ukraine-Russia to posts about Ukraine, please. Marcy may have a Ukraine-related post soon as well. Leave the January 6-related comments under those posts.

India’s COVID Surge: The Curious Facets of U.S. Response

The volume and tenor of pleas for help escalated to new heights this past week as India was engulfed in the pandemic.

You’ve likely seen images of numerous funeral pyres and many graves along with sick outside overfull hospitals.

Apart from the pyres, it looks like Wuhan in January 2020, the U.S. in March 2020, and Brazil at the end of this March.

And yet there is something really wrong here, very off. The case counts and deaths are truths which can’t be escaped but the insistence the U.S. somehow is failing to meet India’s needs is off base.

~ ~ ~

All that’s left of a couple thousand word post I wrote and wrote, and  then rewrote over the last several days is what remains above.

The situation over this past weekend changed rapidly, thought the angry ranting at the U.S. and Big Pharma never let up.

The Biden administration issued a couple of statements between Sunday and Monday about the steps it would take to aid India, which included COVID testing kits, PPE, oxygen, therapeutics for treatment, raw materials for vaccine production, and funding to ramp up capacity of India’s own vaccine producer, BioE.

The media did its usual weak sauce reporting.

Not a single outlet noted extremely curious facets about the Biden administration’s outreach to India:

• U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his counterpart, India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval this weekend;

• There are no reports of Prime Minister Mahendra Modi contacting Biden to ask for help though they have spoken in the last 24 hours (perhaps as recently as this morning Eastern Time);

• There was scant coverage of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks at least a week ago with his counterpart, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, regarding COVID and vaccines.

Why did the National Security Adviser play such a big role, with the White House statement issued by NSC office?

~ ~ ~

In the mean time invective against the Biden administration and Big Pharma has continued, some of it based in what looks like weak and less-than-thorough reporting.

Claims that Big Pharma has decided profits come before the lives of India’s people follow reports that Big Pharma refused to give India patents or transfer intellectual property.

Except that Big Pharma is represented in India by AstraZeneca, which is making their adenovirus-vector vaccine in country. It’s the same vaccine which has been used in Europe, and is still in FDA safety review here.

India also has its own Big Pharma in Bharat Biotech, which has developed Covaxin vaccine in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. The vaccine left Phase 3 trials in early January.

Yet intelligent people continue to harangue the U.S. and Big Pharma about their refusal to help India with the IP needed for licensing. They retweet stuff like this:

The account that wrote this was opened only weeks ago in January 2021. There’s almost nothing in its profile to suggest this is a human with credible background education or experience; the account hasn’t been validated by Twitter. Note the number of times this has been shared by retweet or quote tweet, yet the majority of roughly 6000 tweets by this account are about pop culture.

This is the kind of social media content which ramped up tension around U.S. response to India’s ongoing COVID surge and continues to do so because it remains uncontested.

The issue the tweet focused on was vaccine manufacturers’ request for indemnification by countries which use its vaccine or licensing to manufacture vaccines. How odd that an account tweeting about beauty products and the Kardashians chose to phrase indemnification this way.

~ ~ ~

One of the reasons the U.S. National Security Adviser may be involved is the lack of an effective top-level response by India’s government to the surge. From Reuters via Yahoo:

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India’s government has decided to leave the import of COVID-19 vaccines to state authorities and companies, two government officials told Reuters, a decision that may slow acquisitions of shots as a second wave of the pandemic rips through the country.

They said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government would instead aim to support domestic vaccine makers by guaranteeing purchases from them. The government this month paid Indian producers in advance, for the first time, for vaccine doses.

Under fire for his uneven handling of the world’s worst COVID-19 surge, Modi has opened vaccinations for all adults from next month but supplies are already running short.

Negotiations between countries on exports/imports are usually handled by their state departments or external affairs and not at lower state/province level. What amounts to the transfer of technology between a nation and individual states is a security risk, let alone problematic for individual pharmaceutical companies.

This is likely why the initial agreement between the U.S. and India’s national security advisers addressed shipment of supplies and other support but not vaccines, technology, or licensing.

It surely didn’t encourage the Biden administration to see how badly Modi has bungled handling the pandemic:

In late January, Modi indulged in a smarter version of Trump’s March 10, 2020 remark, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Addressing the World Economic Forum’s online Davos Agenda Summit, PM Modi said India has beaten all odds to battle the pandemic. “When Covid-19 arrived, India had its share of problems. At the beginning of last year, several experts and organizations had made several predictions that India would be most affected by the pandemic. Someone had even said that 700-800 million would be infected and someone had said that over two million Indians would die from the pandemic. Looking at the condition of countries with better health infrastructure, the world was right in worrying about us,” he said.

“India, however, took a proactive public participation approach and developed a Covid-specific health infrastructure and trained its resources to fight Covid,” the PM added.

This was a mere 12 weeks ago; it was complete hogwash and hardly the stuff needed to instill confidence. India’s situation deteriorated greatly after Davos because Modi failed to take any effective measures to mitigate COVID’s spread in advance of a weeks-long major religious holiday, the Hindu observation of Kumbh Mela.

Nor has it helped develop trust in Modi and his government when they have demanded Twitter hide tweets critical of Modi’s COVID response from Indian public view.

Faith in the individual Indian states is tenuous at best; there are far too many anecdotes about state governments lying about COVID response and health care resources.

This is an insane level of denial:

Amid reports of patients and hospitals struggling to find and maintain oxygen supply, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has asked officials to take action under the National Security Act and seize the property of individuals who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media and try to “spoil the atmosphere”.

Mr. Adityanath asserted that there was no shortage of oxygen supply in any COVID-19 hospital – private or government-run – but that the actual problem was blackmarketing and hoarding.

The state of Uttar Pradesh is expending more resources on suppressing “rumours” than on demonstrating to the public there is ample oxygen and other resources for COVID therapy.

~ ~ ~

This level of narcissism, gross incompetence, and denial in another country’s leadership isn’t something the U.S. can fix. Obviously the U.S. is still struggling with cleaning up after its own run-in with a white nationalist populist who was narcissistic and grossly incompetent as well as corrupt.

We’re still playing catch up because the Trump administration obstructed a peaceful and efficient transition, what with Trumpist GSA Administrator Emily Murphy refusing to turn over the keys to Biden’s team after the election. We’re not as far along as we should be with vaccinating the public because there was no federal COVID program when Biden was inaugurated and insufficient amounts of vaccine had been ordered by Trump.

Not to mention the January 6 attempt to overthrow the government and the Big Lie which continues to interfere with outstanding transition issues.

But the U.S. somehow bears some responsibility for the mounting disaster in India?

Otherwise smart people are trashing both the U.S. and their own cred with demands to remedy Modi’s manifold failures; others insist immediate action in spite of global inaction for decades on pandemic preparedness.

Where was all this concern when Trump killed the pandemic monitoring program instituted under Obama?

Where is the awareness of the security risks posed by a failing state like India, which already has patents?

~ ~ ~

There’s one more element in this mix which may explain the presence of the National Security Adviser in the aid offering to India.

Granted, I’m not certain how to get a handle on the risk involved, but some of the intellectual property and technology isn’t as benign as a Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper or an Easy-Bake Oven. It can be militarized and its output weaponized.

When talking about some of the COVID vaccines, we’re talking about development which began as military programs. Research for adenovirus-vector vaccines now used against COVID began in the 1950s inside the Defense Department; a vaccine was developed and distributed to military personnel for more than two decades to prevent acute respiratory disease associated with adenovirus infections. This vaccine didn’t become part of the scheduled vaccines American civilians receive, just as they didn’t receive anthrax vaccines.

How much of the limitations we have seen tossed around in social media, attributed to Big Pharma greed, are really carefully parsed concerns about the potential for the vaccine IP and technology to be acquired by hostile entities for weaponization?

Can we really blame any legitimate pharmaceutical company for expecting indemnification against the misuse of their product, IP, or technology considering this kind of exposure? Let alone the potential claims against them for extremely rare side effects which may be worsened by incompetence in treatment, ex. treating unusual clotting events with blood thinners which may exacerbate the clotting.

But this goes to the lack of global systemic preparedness for pandemic. It’s a global problem, not one for which the U.S. bears sole responsibility.

Imagine the possible blowback from questionable social media accounts with negligible provenance should the U.S. under the Biden administration choose to arbitrarily “Free the patents!” as so many demanded this past week over social media, without due diligence about the security risks these new vaccine technologies pose.

This pandemic requires us to imagine this and a lot more. We need to think systemically, more deeply and widely.

This includes thinking ahead to where will the next crisis begin, because it’s only a matter of time.

In the middle of all the 2020, Belarusians started fighting for themselves.

The revolutions continue. Right now, the eastern European country of Belarus is weeks into street protests and strikes against the long and corrupt rule of Alexander Lukashenka, the main ruler Belarus has seen in the post-Soviet era, after he defeated Vyacheslav Kebich in 1994 and started a power consolidation right up to 2020, and perhaps no further. He rigged the election in early August, but Belarus is having nothing of it.

August 16th protests in Minsk

Belarusians are singing songs and filling the streets and getting shot and even hung trying to call a foul on election that wasn’t free and fair. Neither were the other elections since Lukashenka came to power, but they are tired of it, tired enough to, as so many have said to western reporters hanging around Minsk and Zoom, lose their fear. People who can’t find their fear anymore are revolutionary indeed.

Lukashenka wandered around waving an assault riffle, demonstrating that he doesn’t know how to properly hold a gun, calling the protesting Belarusians rats, and generally getting on his melodramatic manbaby.

This is ridiculous…

He is often called the last dictator of Europe by people who don’t want to acknowledge that both Russia and Turkey exist in Europe as well as Asia, or that the EU has its own tin pot dictator. But Lukashenka does live up to the classic bastard and tin pot dictator: murdering opponents, hating women, and trying to spread delusional fears of invasions from the west, as if the EU and NATO were going to roll tanks into Minsk any day now.

 

Spoiler: they are not.

Belarus has a slightly smaller population than Michigan. Crowds of up to a couple hundred thousand people have filled the capital of Minsk, and smaller but sizable crowds filled other cities. Their demands are in the “Enough of this shit” category, but they’re probably settle for free and fair elections, and maybe not getting beaten and locked up quite so much.

The once loyal manufacturing sector is defecting from Lukashenka, in response to failed economic policies and a Covid-19 response that makes Trump look cautious and moderate. This is key, and a sign of deep changes in Belarus. Strikes are sweeping through key industries, reminiscent if not exactly the same as they did in ’91, when the USSR was falling over.

From Global Voices:

Workers at state-owned industries have joined the protest movement, staging public meetings, walk-outs, threats of work-to-rule actions, and strikes. Researcher Volodymyr Artiukh points out that there have been reports of protest activity at “at least at least 70 industrial, trade and service companies as well as in the educational, medical, and media sectors” since the election. “Almost all of these are state-owned enterprises and/or publicly-financed organisations,” he says.

These were Lukashenka’s supporters for decades, but Belarus is changing. Close to a third of the people are young enough to have never really known anything but Lukashenka’s rule, but they can see how the rest of the world works, and they clearly don’t fucking love his nonsense.

Map of Belarus' location on a globe.

That one, that’s Belarus. I’m not even pulling a John Oliver on you, it’s not Transnistria or something.

Belarus borders Ukraine and Russia on its east, and three EU nations – Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania, on its west. Traditionally and culturally Belarus is more closely tied to Ukraine and Russia than its western neighbors, and that’s not terribly likely to change, even according to local pro-democracy activists guesting on various media shows. Belarus wants to stay Belarusian, which is almost Russian, but not quite, and definitely European, but not any other kind of European. They’re not going to want western Europe to sweep in and save them, Belarusians have known western Europeans to long to want that. They’re not likely to want Russia to come and and be in charge, since they seem pretty keen on having their votes counted. All evidence is that Belarusians want to save themselves, and not have any other governments meddling in their affairs. Given how bad most of their neighbors have meddled over the past thousand years, you can’t blame them.

 

After enduring decades years of post-Soviet strong man rule, they are joining the Green Revolution, OWS, the Umbrella Revolution, Euromaidan, the Ethiopian protests, The Puerto Rican anticorruption protests, The Chilean Spring, and the on and on of the last years (and years to come) in saying No More of This Nonsense. What ties the Belarusian protests to all these others is how tired people are of systems that just don’t work for anyone but those at the very top. And they can see the petulant normality of those people at the top now, more than ever in human history, they can see how hollow and ridiculous it all is.

August 23rd protest in Minsk

And they can see each other now, too. They know it’s bullshit, just like you know it’s bullshit, and now they know everyone else knows it’s bullshit too. That’s when you start to lose your fear.

It feels like there’s often so little we can do to help in this slow moving planetary collapse. But there are those little things: showing up for a BLM protest with water bottles and masks, contributing to a Belarusian strike fund or a medical gofundme that shouldn’t have to exist. We watch our plastic usage and trying to cut down on driving and beef. It feels like a thousand little things that don’t do anything, but they do, just like these little revolutions. They are the seeds of better worlds. Like most seeds, most will never germinate, but without so many, you could not hope to see the shoots of these new worlds. They are not uncomplicated worlds, not easy worlds, but worlds we get to (have to) cultivate rather than have them thrust upon us by incompetent, petulant men.

There’s not a lot of obvious common ground between Americans and Belarusians, or Chileans, Iranians, Ethiopians, and so on. Except perhaps a sense that the globe should be a fair place, and that it should be free. And that our home should be managed and nurtured like it, and the beings who live on it, matter.


My work for Emptywheel is supported by my wonderful patrons on Patreon. You can find out more, and support my work, at Patreon. Thanks to Opit for research and language help.


Images thanks to Homoatrox/CC BY-SA and Ruslan Sereduk/CC BY-SA

I’m supporting the Belarus Solidarity Foundation, more about that here.

The Fourth Ahead and The Forgotten

Yeah, I know, you just want to get your holiday on. We’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue which makes everything we do more challenging.

We can’t just hop in the car and go to the store without planning ahead — not merely shopping lists but whether you have a mask, a backup mask, hand sanitizer, a container of sanitizing wipes, something in which to corral potentially contaminated items, so on. Our lives have become complicated if we’re taking the risk of COVID-19 seriously.

And we want a break from it. We want a slice of normalcy — a cold beverage in hand, burgers on the grill, fireworks overhead, fireflies after dark, family and friends all around us. And we want it now.

Some of us, though, won’t get these things. Some of us have been forgotten.

Some Americans will have to spend the coming Fourth of July holiday in a place we thought we’d have left by now, watching out for deadly attacks we thought were going to diminish.

Some Americans will have to “celebrate” knowing the commander-in-chief simply doesn’t give a rat’s butt about them. Certainly not enough to deal with pushing back at threats against them. They will have to spend the holiday doubling down on security because the president is going to do nothing except his usual nonsensical bullshit talking about himself.

Which is why some of the rest of us Americans can’t let them be forgotten. We need to continue to hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire no matter whether a holiday lies ahead. We need to insist the GOP senators who have majority control whether they are going to simply roll over and do nothing like Trump, or if they are going to uphold their oaths, do their damned jobs, and remember our service members in Afghanistan and elsewhere who have likewise sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and protect our nation.

~ ~ ~

Here’s your action item, same as posted a couple days ago:

— If you have a GOP senator(s), call their office and ask for a statement from the senator about the Russian bounties on our troops in Afghanistan. Where do they stand? What action will the senator take?

— Share the results of your call here in the comments.

Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Or you can look up their local office number at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact. You can also use Resistbot and ask them to respond but this will much slower than a phone call.

Here are all the GOP senators; note the ones especially who are Class II running for re-election this year. Contact only your own senator — they represent you, after all — and share what you hear from their office.

Special note to Floridians and Kentuckyians: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and other leaders in the U.S. intelligence community are supposed to brief the “Gang of Eight” today about the Russian bounties. Feedback from Sens. Rubio and McConnell will be of particular interest for this reason.

Senator First Name Party State Class Position
Class I – 2024
Scott Rick R FL I
Braun Mike R IN I
Hawley Josh R MO I
Wicker Roger R MS I
Cramer Kevin R ND I
Fischer Deb R NE I
Blackburn Marsha R TN I
Cruz Ted R TX I
Romney Mitt R UT I
Barrasso John R WY I
Class II – 2020
Sullivan Dan R AK II
Cotton Tom R AR II
Gardner Cory R CO II
Perdue David R GA II Called, but no comment to date.
Ernst Joni R IA II
Risch Jim R ID II
Roberts Pat R KS II [1]
McConnell Mitch R KY II Gang of Eight member
Cassidy Bill R LA II
Collins Susan R ME II
Hyde-Smith Cindy R MS II
Daines Steve R MT II
Tillis Thom R NC II https://twitter.com/SenThomTillis/status/1277629794167984132
Sasse Ben R NE II
Inhofe James R OK II
Graham Lindsey R SC II
Rounds Mike R SD II
Alexander Lamar R TN II [2]
Cornyn John R TX II
Capito Shelley Moore R WV II
Enzi Mike R WY II [3]
McSally Martha R AZ III [4]
Class III – 2022
Murkowski Lisa R AK III
Shelby Richard R AL III
Boozman John R AR III
Rubio Marco R FL III Gang of Eight member
Loeffler Kelly R GA III Called, but no comment to date.
Grassley Chuck R IA III
Crapo Michael R ID III
Young Todd R IN III
Moran Jerry R KS III
Paul Rand R KY III
Kennedy John R LA III
Blunt Roy R MO III
Burr Richard R NC III
Hoeven John R ND III
Portman Rob R OH III
Lankford James R OK III
Toomey Pat R PA III
Scott Tim R SC III
Thune John R SD III
Lee Mike R UT III
Johnson Ron R WI III

[1] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[2] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[3] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[4] Appointed to fill John McCain’s seat, running in 2020.

~ ~ ~

These are the forgotten Americans. There are families including children who won’t see them or hear from them this coming holiday, let alone ever again. At least two young Americans will never, ever have seen them for any holiday.

22. Jan. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua “Zach” Beale, 32, killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/fort-bragg-green-beret-killed-in-action-was-on-third-tour-in-afghanistan-1.565656
22. Mar. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, Cortez, Colo., died after being wounded during combat in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/defense-department-identifies-two-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-1.574044
22. Mar. 2019 Army Sgt. Joseph P. Collette, 29, Lancaster, Ohio, died of wounds sustained in combat operations in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/defense-department-identifies-two-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-1.574044
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, was one of three Marines killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Staff Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa., died in a car bomb explosion outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, was killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
6. May. 2019 Army Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, died in eastern Nangarhar province from wounds sustained in a noncombat incident. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-identifies-soldier-who-died-monday-in-afghanistan-1.580080
25. May. 2019 Army Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/fort-carson-green-beret-fort-hood-eod-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight-1.587825
25. Jun. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/fort-carson-green-beret-fort-hood-eod-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight-1.587825
30. Jun. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31, a Green Beret medical sergeant from Utah, died from noncombat injuries in southern Helmand province. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/07/01/10th-group-green-beret-dies-from-non-combat-incident-in-helmand/
23. Jul. 2019 Army Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor, 40, died from injuries sustained by enemy fire in northern Faryab province. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-identifies-green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan-1.590174
29. Jul. 2019 Army Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, died after being shot by an Afghan soldier at a military camp in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/the-worst-day-in-our-family-s-history-grieving-uncle-says-of-chicago-soldier-killed-in-combat-in-afghanistan-1.592728
29. Jul. 2019 Army Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, died after an Afghan solider opened fire at a base in southern Uruzgan province. [Never saw his son.] https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-names-two-paratroopers-killed-during-insider-attack-in-afghanistan-1.592589
21. Aug. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, was one of two Green Berets killed in northern Faryab province by small-arms fire. https://www.stripes.com/news/one-of-the-toughest-kids-i-ve-ever-met-families-mourn-green-berets-killed-in-afghanistan-1.595504
21. Aug. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., was killed during a raid alongside Afghan special forces in southern Faryab province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan-last-week-was-veteran-of-seven-deployments-1.596136
29. Aug. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Ard, 31, died of wounds received in combat in southern Zabul province. [Never saw his second child.] https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/green-beret-killed-in-combat-in-afghanistan-leaves-behind-daughter-pregnant-wife-1.596656
5. Sep. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, died in a suicide blast in Kabul. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-was-compassionate-leader-say-those-who-knew-him-1.597820
16. Sep. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, was killed by small-arms fire in central Wardak province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/army-identifies-green-beret-killed-by-small-arms-fire-in-afghanistan-1.599290
20. Nov. 2019 Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, was killed in a helicopter crash. The incident happened in eastern Logar province. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/fallen-army-pilot-laid-to-rest-with-full-military-honors-1.610573
20. Nov. 2019 Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, was killed in a helicopter crash while providing security to ground troops in eastern Logar province. https://www.stripes.com/news/apache-pilot-killed-in-afghanistan-gladly-and-willingly-accepted-risks-of-deploying-family-and-friends-say-1.609718
23. Dec. 2019 Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/special-forces-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-remembered-as-the-definition-of-a-patriot-1.612394
11. Jan. 2020 Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, Newport News, Virginia, killed by an improvised explosive device. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/01/12/soldiers-killed-by-bomb-blast-in-kandahar-identified/
11. Jan. 2020 Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, Joliet, Illinois, killed by an improvised explosive device. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/01/12/soldiers-killed-by-bomb-blast-in-kandahar-identified/
27. Jan. 2020 Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, Yigo, Guam, killed in crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft in eastern Afghanistan. https://www.airforcemag.com/dod-identifies-airmen-killed-in-e-11-crash/
27. Jan. 2020 Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, Hudson, N.H., killed in crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft in eastern Afghanistan. https://www.airforcemag.com/dod-identifies-airmen-killed-in-e-11-crash/
8. Feb. 2020 Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, killed in an insider attack in Nangarhar province. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/08/report-says-multiple-us-troops-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight/
8. Feb. 2020 Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, killedin an insider attack in Nangarhar province. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/08/report-says-multiple-us-troops-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight/

Though not all of these service members may have been killed by Taliban for bounty money, they all deserve to be remembered. Their families, friends, and fellow service members deserve answers. All Americans deserve answers, accountability, and action.

When did Trump get a Presidential Daily Briefing on these bounties and what was his response that day? Why didn’t the Commander-in-Chief take action after the intelligence community learned Russia had offered bounties on U.S. service members? Why have we heard multiple different excuses — didn’t hear about, wasn’t credible, didn’t rise to level of action, it’s a hoax — rather than the truth about what happened in the executive office when this intelligence was brought to Trump’s attention?

What action will the Senate take, because the Senate under a GOP majority possesses the deciding votes for any action to be taken?

We need to do our part now to ensure a democracy. We shouldn’t need to take an oath the way every service member and member of Congress and the president do to achieve this aim. We only need to take a few minutes before the Fourth of July holiday to do it. Let’s roll.

Three Things: There Is Really Only One Thing

My schedule is a mess today, as messy as my sleep last night. I don’t think I’ve lost as much sleep about COVID-19 in the last handful of months as I have since Friday about these Russian bounties on troops.

Because I’m out of sorts from lack of sleep I don’t have a lot organized to share here in three discrete subjects. It’s ultimately all one thing: Donald J. Trump needs to be removed from office for abuse of power and dereliction of duty.

The Washington Post’s article published Sunday evening made it very clear numerous people knew about the bounties and that nothing had been done about them:

Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by Afghan security forces who are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.

Multiple interrogations. Multiple people familiar.

Zero action taken.

And along with multiple U.S. service members dead, an unknown number of allies’ troops, contractors, and civilians killed.

If Trump genuinely believed in getting out of Afghanistan through an effective peace agreement, this is its opposite even with a partial American force draw down. It’s how a country becomes even more destabilized and how its violence will spill over and follow U.S. and coalition partners home.

Trump had no problem with Putin stabbing him in the back because it was Putin, and he never has anything negative to say about Putin.

A little after midnight The New York Times published another article, this time expanding the period of time Trump should have known about Russia’s bounties to February 2019, along with the period of time in which Trump took zero action.

Three U.S. service members were killed in a blast last April, attributed to Taliban motivated by the Russian bounties.

Trump was notified at least once in a Presidential Daily Briefing in ample time to do something.

The excuses offered by the White House have been little more than variants of “The dog ate my homework.”

All bullshit.

The response has been just as stupid and ugly — offering Congressional Republicans a briefing first, allowing them to coordinate a response to cover the White House’s wretchedness.

But here’s the rub: nothing Trump, his evil minions in the White House, his useless family, his political party can do will explain away the lack of interest in protecting national security.

Because while the intelligence about the Russian bounties lay around collecting dust, at the very same goddamned time, Trump and his minions were busy working on developing a quid pro quo aimed at Ukraine.

Trump spent more time focused on using the power of the executive office to shake down Ukraine, harassing faithful federal employees like former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, in order to get himself re-elected to the job he refuses to do.

He put more effort into a couple of phone calls to Ukraine’s president.

More effort into halting shipments of arms to Ukraine.

More effort bitching about a whistleblower.

And zero effort into addressing his buddy Putin’s bounties on U.S. troops.

Donald J. Trump is a threat to this nation because he cannot and will not do anything to protect this country unless it’s about him.

More than 130,000 Americans have now died because of this immutable truth: 3000 Puerto Rican Americans, an untold number of American troops, and at least 128,000 COVID-19 victims are dead because Trump is absolutely useless for anything but golf and grifting from taxpayers.

He is unfit for the office of the presidency.

He must be removed from office.

~ ~ ~

But Trump is not the only failure. Every GOP senator who voted not to convict him this January is responsible for this debacle. American blood is on their hands having enabled Trump’s continuing incompetence and malignance because they were worried about him tweeting mean things at them.

They should be worried about their asses meeting the wrath of the American public.

We can start by demanding better of the GOP senators who we will be forced to live with for another two to four years. Find out where they stand on Trump’s failure to protect the troops.

And if one of the following senators up for re-election is your senator, vote them out of office. Vote for a Democrat to replace the two open seats because no matter who wins the White House, we need a veto-proof majority in the Senate to fix this mess.

Senator First Name Party State
Ernst Joni R IA
Perdue David R GA
Sasse Ben R NE
Cotton Tom R AR
Daines Steve R MT
Rounds Mike R SD
Cornyn John R TX
Enzi Mike R WY
Inhofe James R OK
Cassidy Bill R LA
McConnell Mitch R KY
Risch Jim R ID
Sullivan Dan R AK
Tillis Thom R NC
Gardner Cory R CO
Graham Lindsey R SC
Capito Shelley Moore R WV
Collins Susan R ME
Hyde-Smith (1) Cindy R MS
McSally (2) Martha R AZ
Loeffler (3) Kelly Lynn R GA
Roberts (4) Pat R KS
Alexander (5) Lamar R TN

(1) Appointed to fill Thad Cochran’s seat, expected to run in 2020
(2) Appointed to fill John McCain’s seat, running in 2020
(3) Appointed to fill Johnny Isakson’s seat, running in 2020
(4) Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
(5) Retiring in 2020. Seat open.

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Three Things: Bounties, Bounties, Bounce [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

There won’t be a quiz but there’s an action item at the end.

It’ll be more effort than Trump put into protecting our troops in Afghanistan.

You’ll want to brush up on the NYT report from Friday, Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.

Washington Post confirmed the story: Russian operation targeted coalition troops in Afghanistan, intelligence finds

As did the Wall Street Journal: Russian Spy Unit Paid Taliban to Attack Americans, U.S. Intelligence Says

~ 3 ~

Remember last year when Rep. Adam Schiff said he believed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was withholding from Congress an urgent whistleblower complaint in order to protect Trump?

We build a crowdsourced timeline to guess what the whistleblower’s subject matter might be. We didn’t see the Ukraine quid pro quo but we still compiled a bodacious chronology of foreign policy events.

I’m betting the bit about John Bolton’s exit in that timeline may be revisited in the near future.

But there was one topic we didn’t give a lot of attention which might be worth looking at again, like right now — the peace agreement negotiations in Afghanistan.

(Commenters added more material in comments not added to the original timeline — I think we were learning it was Ukraine and not Afghanistan or Iran which was the subject of the whistleblower’s complaint.)

Now that NYT’s report that Russia offered secret bounties on U.S. service members has been validated by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, we need to look at the Afghanistan timeline — this time with more content from 2019 and up-to-date 2020 material.

28-AUG-2019 — Russia offered to oversee an agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan; negotiations were in their ninth round when the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested it could be “a guarantor in the agreement” if the two sides wished.

01/02-SEP-2019 — US Special Rep. for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul where the Taliban, Afghan government and the U.S. had “reached an agreement in principle” toward an eventual “total and permanent cease-fire.”

03-SEP-2019 — Russian media outlet Tass reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said the U.S. and Taliban “insist that Russia must be present in one capacity or another at the possible signing of the agreements that the parties are working on now.”

05-SEP-2019 — Suicide blast in Kabul killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico.

06-SEP-2019 — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani postponed a trip to the U.S.

07-SEP-2019 — Over several tweets Saturday evening, Trump canceled the meeting with Ghani at Camp David.

Unclear whether Trump realized he might have been meeting over the anniversary of 9/11 on a peace agreement with both Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban.

07-SEP-2019 — Via Julia Davis (commenter Eureka):

Prof. Michael McFaul tweeted, “What? TASS has these details but USG has not released them? This is very strange. And why does Russia need to be present at signing? We’re they fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and I just missed that?”

09-SEP-2019 — CNN broke story of a CIA asset extracted from Russia in 2017; followed by NYT on the 9th (and then NBC’s Ken Dilanian appears at the asset’s house…)

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

10-SEP-2019 — “They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” Trump told the media about the peace talks with Afghanistan.

13-SEP-2019 — Taliban showed up in Moscow almost immediately after the Camp David meeting fell apart (commenter OldTulsaDude).

15-SEP-2019 — Small arms fire in central Warduk province killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40.

20-NOV-2019 — Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, and Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, died in a helicopter crash in eastern Logar province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the crash; Trump visited Dover AFB on Nov. 21 when the soldiers’ bodies were returned.

11-DEC-2019 — Unknown number of U.S. personnel were injured during a large bombing of Bagram Airfield.

23-DEC-2019 — Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province.

31-DEC-2019 — A total of 22 service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019. It’s not clear how many U.S. contractors may have been killed because the military doesn’t track them.

11-JAN-2020 — Two U.S. service members were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. Taliban claimed responsibility.

17-JAN-2020 — The Taliban offered a proposal to reduce violence and restart peace negotiations.

27-JAN-2020 — Two U.S. Air Force crew members were killed when an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed. Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting the plane down.

08-FEB-2020 — Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28; and Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28 were killed and six other service members were injured in an insider attack in Nangarhar province.

09-FEB-2020 — WaPo reported:

On Sunday, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, where talks have been held, said Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives and Qatar’s foreign minister to discuss “some important issues on the results of the negotiations and the next moves,” according to a statement posted to Twitter.

20-FEB-2020 — Trump replaced Joseph Maguire as Acting Director of National Intelligence; Richard Grenell was named Maguire’s replacment.

21-FEB-2020 — U.S.-led coalition, Afghan forces, and the Taliban militia began a seven-day “reduction in violence” ahead of anticipated agreement.

28-FEB-2020 — Trump nominated John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence.

29-FEB-2020 — U.S. and Taliban sign agreement addressing counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops from Afghanistan.

03-MAR-2020 — Trump spoke by phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader and co-founder stationed in the Taliban’s Qatar offices.

23-MAR-2020 — After meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would cut $1 billion in aid in 2020 and threatened to cut another $1 billion in 2021 because Ghani and Abdullah had not formed a unity government. Pompeo then met with the Taliban’s chief negotiator at Al Udeid Air Base, Doha, Qatar where he asked the Taliban to continue to adhere with the February agreement.

??-MAR-2020 — Administration learned that Russia offered secret bounties on U.S. troops.

The officials said administration leaders learned of reported bounties in recent months from U.S. intelligence agencies, prompting a series of internal discussions, including a large interagency meeting in late March. According to one person familiar with the matter, the responses discussed at that meeting included sending a diplomatic communication to relay disapproval and authorizing new sanctions.

30-MAR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

03-APR-2020 — Trump fired Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson, claiming he “no longer” had confidence in Atkinson. Atkinson was then on leave until the effective date of his termination 03-MAY-2020. As IG he notified Congress of the whistleblower’s report regarding the Ukraine quid pro quo, going around Joseph Maguire to do so.

07-APR-2020 — The Taliban pulled out of talks with the Afghan government after discussions over the unrealized prisoner exchange cratered. Under the February agreement, prisoners were to be exchanged at the end of March; the exchange was called off on March 30.

07-APR-2020 — Trump fired Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense Glenn Fine; Fine had also been named Chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee on 30-MAR. Fine’s termination made him ineligible to continue as chair of that committee.

09-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

10-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin (unclear if call was before/after Gen. Miller’s meeting).

10-APR-2020 — Gen. Austin Miller met with Taliban leaders in Qatar:

… The meeting between Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller and Taliban leaders came as both sides accuse each other of ramping up violence since signing a peace deal on Feb. 29, which could see all international troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months.

The meeting, which focused on curbing violence, was part of a military channel established in the U.S.-Taliban deal, the U.S. military’s press office in Kabul told Stars and Stripes.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said night raids and other operations in noncombat areas were discussed at the meeting, and Taliban officials “called for a halt to such attacks.” …

12-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

25-APR-2020 — Trump made a joint statement with Putin observing the 75th anniversary of Elbe Day.

07-MAY-2020 — US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met members of the Taliban in Qatar along with the Special Envoy of Qatari Foreign Ministry for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution, Mutlaq Al-Qahtani. They discussed the prisoner exchange and intra-Afghan talks.

07-MAY-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin; topics were COVID-19, arms control including Russia and China,  and the oil market.

26-MAY-2020 — John Ratcliffe approved by the Senate and sworn in as DNI.

30-MAY-2020 — Trump delays G7 meeting and invites Russia:

01-JUN-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin; delayed G7 meeting and oil market stabilization discussed.

08-JUN-2020 — Trump orders permanent draw down of 25% of U.S. troops stationed in Germany; he did not consult with NATO before this order.

Is there a pattern here (or more)? Was the violence juiced up to pressure the U.S. — specifically public opinion? What the heck did Russia’s Foreign Minister mean by a “guarantor” based on what we know today? How did Qatar become a player in the negotiations?

Did Trump really do nothing at all to protect our troops except talk with Putin and do some butt-kissing with a joint statement and an invitation to the G7 while undercutting Germany and NATO?

The Congressional Research Service policy brief on Afghanistan is worth a read to fill in some gaps. This paragraph is particularly important:

Afghan government representatives were not participants in U.S.-Taliban talks, leading some observers to conclude that the United States would prioritize a military withdrawal over a complex political settlement that preserves some of the social, political, and humanitarian gains made since 2001. The U.S.-Taliban agreement envisioned intra-Afghan talks beginning on March 10, 2020, but talks were held up for months by a number of complications. The most significant obstacles were an extended political crisis among Afghan political leaders over the contested 2019 Afghan presidential election and a disputed prisoner exchange between the Taliban and Afghan government. President Ghani and his 2019 election opponent Abdullah Abdullah signed an agreement ending their dispute in May 2020, and as of June 2020, the number of prisoners released by both sides appears to be reaching the level at which talks might begin, though the Afghan government may resist releasing high-profile prisoners that the Taliban demand as a condition of beginning negotiations.

~ 2 ~

It wasn’t just U.S. intelligence that learned U.S. troops who were the target of Russia’s secret bounties.

EU intelligence confirmed it had learned that Russia targeted both U.S. and UK troops, offering cash on British targets, too.

UK security officials also validate the report, attributing the work in Afghanistan to Russia’s GRU.

Why hasn’t Britain’s PM Boris Johnson or the Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said anything publicly about this?

Has the Johnson government done anything at all to communicate its displeasure with Russia? Has it taken any punitive action like sanctions?

Because there’s nothing obvious in UK or other international media to this effect as of 3:00 a.m. ET.

~ 1 ~

You’re going to read and hear a lot of folks talking about treason. We don’t encourage that word’s use because it has a specific legal meaning related to traditional warfare; a formal declaration of war establishing a defined enemy is necessary to accuse someone of providing aid and comfort to that enemy.

18 U.S. Code § 2381.Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

We’re not in a formally declared state of war with Russia; they are not a defined enemy.

But this Russian secret bounties business may fall under another umbrella. U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan under Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001:

Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

The brushstroke with regard to future acts of international terrorism against the United States is and has been interpreted broadly.

Bounce this around a bit: does the definition of terrorism include repeated attacks on U.S. service members and contractors deployed under the AUMF 2001?

Does failing to take reasonable affirmative effort to protect these targets constitute aiding those who attack U.S. service members and contractors deployed under the AUMF 2001?

Is there, if not 18 USC 2381 – Treason, another section of 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 — Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities which may more accurately describe the dereliction of duty by members of this administration by failing to protect U.S. troops?

~ 0 ~

And now for the action item…

Guess who else hasn’t uttered a peep about the Russian secret bounties on our troops?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

House Ranking Member Kevin McCarthy.

None of the +20 GOP senators up for re-election  have uttered a peep, nor have the couple who are retiring.

Here’s your action item:

— If you have a GOP senator(s), call their office and ask for a statement from the senator about the Russian bounties. Where do they stand? What action will the senator take?

— Share the results of your call here in the comments.

Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Or you can look up their local office number at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact.

For everybody else, calling your representative and senators to demand hearings with testimony from the former acting Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell and the current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe about the presidential briefing that did/did not happen with regard to these Russian bounties.

 

Let’s stay on topic in this thread — this is plenty to chew on.

UPDATE — 29-JUN-2020 10:00 A.M. ET —

Several new line items have been added to this timeline. If you pulled a copy since publication you’ll want to get a new one.

The Washington Post published an article last evening, Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.

It’s clear from reading it that many people knew about this intelligence, that there was a concerted effort to address it though the action ultimately taken was none.

Rather like the pandemic response, about which Trump had been warned in adequate time and then did nothing for six or more weeks, followed by a lot of bullshit and bluster.

Congress had better get to the bottom of this because this is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the executive branch.

Trump Pride and DOJ Prejudice: The Flynn Volume

As Marcy has already reported, the DOJ has formally moved to dismiss the Flynn case. Here is the pleading they filed. (Marcy also addressed here) Trump is, of course, calling the DOJ who just did his command influence bidding “scum” and accusing them of “treason”.

Let’s start with a little Q and A:

Q: Can DOJ do that?

A: Sure, but it is bizarre beyond belief.

Q: Does this mean the case is over?

A: No. As I have repeatedly said, the plea has been accepted, after full allocution, not just once (Judge Contreras), but twice (Judge Sullivan) and, arguably thrice (also Judge Sullivan). There is a technical difference between a plea being entered and a plea being accepted. The Flynn plea was very much accepted. Multiple times.

Q: So, what does that mean?

A: It means that there was a formal finding of guilt entered by the court.

Q: So is that finding of guilt gone now?

A: No. The DOJ can file whatever it wants, the final decision still remains with Judge Emmet Sullivan.

Q: Does that mean “Flynn is an innocent man” as Trump is bellowing?

A: No. Flynn has sworn to his guilt under oath and penalty of perjury multiple times, and the court accepted his sworn guilt.

Q: So, what happens now?

A: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that. We shall have to await Judge Sullivan entering in with his thoughts. I have no idea where Judge Sullivan will go. For the sake of the rule of law, and, frankly, legal sanity, I hope Judge Sullivan takes this as the full on broadside to law and intelligence that it really is. As I importune relentlessly, courts and law are a function of men and women. They are us. They speak and act for us. Judge Emmet Sullivan is not a man that will take this affront to justice lightly. Nor should he. It is absurd, the court should treat it that way, and, if anything, sanctions ought be imposed on Powell and Flynn.

Okay, where does that leave things? Now that is not a very easy question to answer. Here are a few thoughts though. The first one is “prejudice”. It is absolutely critical whether a dismissal request by the DOJ (or any prosecutor for that matter) is “with prejudice” or “without prejudice”. Here, Tim Shea, and it is crystal clear that means Bill Barr, demands that any dismissal be “with prejudice”. That means that no case based on these facts could ever be brought again. It is a pardon by a corrupt DOJ, without Trump ever having to even issue a pardon. Anybody, including the national press, that describes it differently is straight up lying.

The statute of limitations on a 18 USC §1001 charge for false statements is (as pretty much any charge possible against Flynn save for an ongoing conspiracy allegation) is five years, which is the general statute in federal criminal law. But, you see, that exceeds the time of Trump and Barr if Trump is not reelected. And therein lies the problem and why Mr. Barr and his lackeys Shea and Jensen, are apoplectic to make any dismissal “with prejudice”. Does this ever occur in real criminal justice life? No. Hell no. Of course not, in fact it is always “without prejudice”. Always, unless the government is caught by incontrovertible facts beyond dispute, and even then they usually demur to “without prejudice” dismissal.

But, wait, there’s more, I have other questions! Let’s talk about “materiality” for a moment. It is replete in the position taken by Bill Barr, through his cutout, Tim Shea. To be kind to Mr. Shea, he is an eggplant installed by Trump and Barr. And, here, the eggplant has signed this pleading on his own. Normally any such pleading would be signed by underlings, including career prosecutors. But not here. Why? That is not clear, but apparently no career track lawyer in DOJ would undersign this garbage. So there is that.

Back to “materiality”: Peruse pages 12-20 of the DOJ motion. Good grief, law review articles will spend hundreds of pages in the future laughing at the arguments Tim Shea has signed off on. Because, presumably nobody but a Trump/Barr appointed toady would even touch that. Yes, it is truly that absurd.

Okay, a parting shot: Normally, when a client puts an attorney’s work in dispute through claims of malpractice, all attorney/client privilege is waived. That is generally how it works. And if Flynn and his Fox News addled lawyer Sid Powell have not accused Rob Kelner and Covington & Burling of malpractice, then there has never been such an accusation. Privilege is waived.

While I thought Judge Sullivan should have disregarded the nonsense, denied all the the Powell crazy (arguably unethical conduct) and just sentenced Flynn. Marcy was right, and I underestimated just how sick the DOJ could be under Barr.

Well, here we are. Flynn and Powell have waived privilege. The DOJ under Barr and, here, Shea, is corrupt beyond comprehension.

But the irreducible minimum is that Judge Emmet Sullivan is the one with jurisdiction and control of this case. Not Trump. Not Barr. An honest and good judge, and one that has proven that over decades. Sidney Powell was right about one, and only one, thing: The Stevens case is a template for the court to find the truth.

Emmet Sullivan is a judge that can appoint an honest and independent special prosecutor to make sure real justice is done. Trump and Barr cannot fire the truth if Judge Sullivan seeks the truth and justice. And he should, for all of us. Judge Sullivan is a lion of justice that has done this before, and he should again.

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