Angry Mom: Hiding the Trumpian Genocide’s Records

When I think can’t get any angrier at this miserable excuse for governance, the Trump administration proves there isn’t a limit to how low they will go.

Sleazy, unlawful executive action without adequate oversight followed by a fog of obfuscation and prevarication is bad enough. The administration will now double down now to hide what it’s done and hope like hell nobody notices.

It doesn’t help that members of Congress, journalists, and the public still haven’t grasped the true nature of the crimes before them.

The Trump administration hasn’t merely ignored or broken existing U.S. laws on handling of asylum seekers. See 8 U.S. Code § 1158:

(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

(2) Exceptions
(A) Safe third country
Paragraph (1) shall not apply to an alien if the Attorney General determines that the alien may be removed, pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement, to a country (other than the country of the alien’s nationality or, in the case of an alien having no nationality, the country of the alien’s last habitual residence) in which the alien’s life or freedom would not be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and where the alien would have access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary protection, unless the Attorney General finds that it is in the public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the United States.

(B) Time limit
Subject to subparagraph (D), paragraph (1) shall not apply to an alien unless the alien demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the application has been filed within 1 year after the date of the alien’s arrival in the United States.

There’s more but the key part in boldface above. The “zero tolerance” approach to border protection violated this code. Asylum seekers do not have to apply from outside the country; they can apply once inside the country. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see anything here that indicates asylum seekers are suddenly not eligible to apply for asylum because they crossed the border.

And nothing in the entirety of 8 U.S. Code § 1158 indicates the government may take custody of asylum seekers’ minor children with or without force.

Note also where the asylum seekers may apply — they are NOT limited to designated ports.

DHS Secretary Nielsen’s claim that border crossers had not applied through ports of entry is a lie because it wasn’t required of them.

What happens to the children appears to fit the description of kidnapping (18 U.S. Code § 1201), including section (a)(3), an “act against the person is done within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States as defined in section 46501 of title 49” for those children who are flown by aircraft to other destinations in the U.S. out of their parents’ physical custody. It’s no wonder carriers like United Airlines and American Airlines wrote and published letters yesterday telling DHS to stop using their services for moving the children across the country.

The conditions in which many of the children have been placed also appear to be abusive; based on the children seen so far there are reports of not enough food, sedation, restraints, disruption to sleep habits, etc.

But that’s not the end of it. The entire separation of children from their families appears to be genocide under The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which the U.S. has signed (1948) and ratified (1988):

Article 2
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious
group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about
its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

We have not yet seen evidence of child deaths, but section (b) is likely and (e) of Article 2 is definite — the children are now in custody of the United States government and disbursed to others’ care.

Wednesday’s executive order does nothing to remedy the situation. It doesn’t even stop the separation of children from families due to its murky wording. It exacerbates the problem by foisting some of the responsibility on the military, placing the Defense Department at odds with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S. Code § 1385) as the EO expects the military to perform a domestic function — DHS’ border patrol and immigration services — which is not in response to a natural disaster.

(Oh, this is definitely a disaster, but it is human made.)

Ordering the military to provide assistance also draws defense resources away from where they may be needed, potentially creating security risks.

And yet this is not enough insult. DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) last year if it could change its record retention practices, according to The Memory Hole:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has asked for permission to destroy all its documents about the deaths of detained immigrants in custody 20 years after a case is “closed.” (Deaths in ICE custody are almost always investigated by ICE itself. A minority are investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General. [report])

Similarly, ICE wants to destroy all its documents about sexual assaults of detained immigrants in custody. The time frame is 20 years after a case is “closed.” (Again, ICE almost always investigates itself in these cases. The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General investigates around 1% of complaints/reports. [article]) NARA argues that this information is “sensitive,” implying that documents containing the identities of victims and the accused should not be kept indefinitely. ICE itself did not offer this (or any) justification.

Thankfully The Memory Hole followed up and asked for status on ICE’s request, to which NARA replied:

No final action has been taken on this schedule. NARA appraisal staff have reviewed the comments received, and held several meetings with ICE records management and program staff regarding the records being scheduled.

Proposed changes to the schedule are being reviewed internally by NARA stakeholders for internal concurrence, after which NARA will inform ICE of the required changes. NARA will then publish a follow-up Federal Register notice responding to the public comments we received. This notice will be open for public comment for 15 days from the date of publication.

But it is not yet impossible that records related to the current human-made disaster affecting thousands of children may be destroyed prematurely, depriving them of justice.

There’s simply no way that ICE should be allowed to change its records retention given the scale of the separated families disaster. And yet I have a horrible, angry feeling the Trump administration will do whatever it can to hide its role in this genocidal activity along the U.S. southwest border.

EDIT — 5:45 P.M. EDT —

I meant to add one more thing to this post. It’s imperative I add this now that the White House has tried to change the subject by using FLOTUS as a human shield with a target literally painted on her back. Do not be derailed by their bullshit. Keep asking:

Where are the girls?

Where are the babies?

Where are ALL the bodies???

Angry Mom: I See Dead Children

I see dead children.

There is no way to reconcile what the Trump administration has done — seizing children from their parents, some so young they are still breastfeeding — and the facilities they’ve established to house them without coming to the conclusion there are dead children.

@Asher_Wolf explains the situation in this Twitter thread, beginning with this tweet:

Only people who’ve never had or cared for infants and children would not know this already. If you are a parent you know this; you’ve already had to keep a child cool, calm, hydrated which can be challenging while traveling even under the best conditions.

The circumstances which drove these refugees to the border for asylum placed these children under enormous stress, unrelieved by travel across Central America and Mexico, worsened by heat across the southwest. Add the stress of interception and detention by Border Patrol on top of separation from parents — these children and babies are extremely vulnerable.

Stuff them in cages inside buildings not built to specifications for human occupation, or warehouse them in goddamned tents in unrelenting summer heat, with who knows how many qualified personnel to care for them.

There are reports some children have not received adequate food. Have they received enough water and other fluids? If they can’t feed themselves, have personnel offered the infants and toddlers enough bottles?

Looking at the best infant and child mortality rates in other countries, there would be several deaths. This is the U.S., though, which is the worst among the top 20 wealthiest countries. Looking at the recent history of refugees fleeing Syria and other parts of the middle east for EU states, there are likely more deaths than normal. We must face this truth and begin to account for all the children, alive or dead.

But so far no facilities with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers have been opened to members of Congress or journalists. Only boys have been seen on camera. Where are the girls? Where are the children under five years of age?

Journalists have asked where they are.

REPORTER: A couple of questions. One, why is the government only releasing images of the boys being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?

NIELSEN: I don’t know. I’m not familiar with those particular images so I would have —

REPORTER: Do you know where they are? Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the young toddlers are?

NIELSEN: We have children in D.H.S. care both, but as you know, most of the children after 72 hours are transferred to H.H.S. So I don’t know what pictures you’re referencing but I would have to refer you to H.H.S.

REPORTER: We’ve seen images of boys but we just haven’t seen any of the girls, any of the young toddlers and you’re saying they are being well cared for. So how could you make that claim if you don’t know where they are?

NIELSEN: It is not that I don’t know where they are. I’m saying that the vast majority of children are held by Health and Human Services. We transfer them after 72 hours.

 I don’t know what pictures you’re speaking about. But perhaps they’re —

REPORTER: Pictures have been released to the public, they’ve been aired all over national television.

NIELSEN: O.K., by D.H.S. or H.H.S.?

REPORTER: By [inaudible] .H.S.

NIELSEN: So let’s find out from H.H.S. I don’t think there is anything other than [cross talk] the pictures —

REPORTER: [cross talk] released by your department. I mean, they’ve have been aired all over national television throughout the day, the kids being held in the cages. We’ve only seen the boys.

NIELSEN: I will, I will look into that. I’m not aware that there’s another picture. Yes.

That DHS Secretary Nielsen can’t offer a coherent answer when asked is ridiculous and absolutely unacceptable.

That the entire administration cannot offer a consistent response to any questions is doubly so.

None of this assures me they aren’t hiding something behind all this prevarication. At this point the lack of a unified response to questions is deliberate; they’ve had ample time to get their shit together. The inconsistency itself might be a means to create a smoke screen, forcing journalists, Congress, and the public to track and compare their answers rather than storm the facilities and get the truth.

Right now, on the face of it, this administration is hiding children’s bodies, alive and possibly dead.

I don’t care about Trump’s bullshit kabuki gesture that he’ll sign something about the families separation policy. I don’t care who they point to within the administration to blame for this willful humanitarian disaster, this ethnic cleansing, this genocide waiting full disclosure, though the buck ultimately stops at the desk in the Oval Office. Until they show us otherwise and account for every single tiny human being which they have taken and for whom they are acting in parents’ or guardians’ stead, I see dead children.

On the Eve of the June 9 Trump Tower Meeting Anniversary, Putin Tells Trump to Keep His Campaign Promises

I’ve long argued that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump engage in a kind of signaling, perhaps fueled by some kind of back channel.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at the last few days of public statements. First, in an interview recorded Thursday, Putin was asked whether he was beginning to prepare for a summit with Trump. Among other things, Putin said that Trump knows how to listen even in spite of what the reporter cued as “domestic pressure,” and fulfills his campaign promises. Putin said Trump promised to improve Russian-American relations but the ball was in the American court. (This WaPo story on the interview may have better translations of the Russian.)

Two short clarifications on the events of the last week, and I understand that there is very little time. Recently, on the air of “Vesti on Saturday”, information appeared with reference to The Wall Street Journal, which, in turn, referred to sources in the White House that the Americans had begun training – as they say, at an early stage – to Trump’s meeting with you . Have you started this training?

“This was discussed from the very beginning, after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President of the United States.” And we from the very beginning responded to this, that we believe that such personal meetings are expedient, and not only possible. We met with the President of the United States at international venues. Of course, this does not give an opportunity to give due attention to Russian-American relations. In general, I think this meeting is useful. The only question is that the domestic political situation in the United States allows this.

– And how to deal with them, given that Trump is largely hostage to the domestic political process? Even if you meet and agree, they will let him carry out what you potentially negotiate?

“The experience I have with the President of the United States suggests that, despite the fact that his actions are often criticized, especially recently, including in the international arena and in the sphere of the economy, after all this experience tells me that he is a thoughtful man, he knows how to listen and responds to the arguments presented by the interlocutor. All this gives me reason to believe that dialogue can be constructive.

– Recently he received the closest allies: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Macron. And the meetings, especially with Macron, were caress in the flesh, embraces, almost kisses and so on. And then it takes literally a week and a half, and it was worthwhile for the Europeans to raise their voice, including, I think, because of this, what you call sanctions, in particular, increased tariffs for aluminum and steel , is introduced . Are not you afraid of such “affectionate” embraces of Americans who now say: let’s prepare a meeting, and then you will meet with Trump, you will be exposed to such conditions. Or with you this will not work?

– The fact is that this does not pass with anyone. And the relationship between the leaders of states should be acceptable, civilized. But this does not preclude the adoption of decisions that this or that leader consider important and expedient for his country. It is possible to treat differently the decisions that are made in the United States, including the US president. You can criticize. Indeed, there is much that deserves criticism. But there is one circumstance about which I have already spoken: Trump fulfills his promises given to them during the election campaign.

– With one exception: to improve Russian-American relations.

– One of the promises is to improve Russian-American relations. I hope that this too will take place. In any case, we are ready for this. The ball, I believe, on the American side, on the American court.

On Friday, Trump said that Russia should be readmitted into the G-7, just before he premised leaving the G-7 early based on whether the other countries capitulate on tariffs.

Q (Inaudible) G6-plus-one?

THE PRESIDENT: It may be. You can call it anything you want. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It used to be the G8 because Russia was in it. And now Russia’s not in it.

Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare. If Hillary got in, I’d think Putin is probably going, “Man, I wish Hillary won.” Because you see what I do. But, with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend, and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting. They should be a part of it.

You know, whether you like it or not — and it may not be politically correct — but we have a world to run. And in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in. Because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.

Q Mr. President, why did you decide to cut (inaudible) short?

THE PRESIDENT: Say it? What?

Q You’re leaving a little early from the summit. Why did you decide (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: I may leave a little bit early. It depends on the timing. But I may leave a little bit early. And it depends what happens here.

Look, all of these countries have been taking advantage of the United States on trade. You saw where Canada charges our dairy farmers 270 percent tariffs. We don’t charge them, or if we do, it’s like a tiny percentage. So we have to straighten it out.

We have massive trade deficits with almost every country. We will straighten that out. And I’ll tell you what, it’s what I do. It won’t even be hard. And in the end, we’ll all get along.

But they understand. And you know, they’re trying to act like, “Well, we fought with you in the war.” They don’t mention the fact that they have trade barriers against our farmers. They don’t mention the fact that they’re charging almost 300 percent tariffs. When it all straightens out, we’ll all be in love again.

Trump acted like a sullen toddler throughout the G-7, agreed to the communique, then backed out, blaming Justin Trudeau, ostensibly for publicly saying Canada would adopt retaliatory tariffs in response to Trump’s steel tariffs. (Trudeau had spoken most forcefully against readmitting Russia). On leaving, he reiterated his support to readmit Russia, even in spite of their actions in Crimea.

Q Mr. President, David Herszenhorn with Politico Europe. Just to come back to Russia for a second. Something that happened that got them kicked out of the G8 was the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Do you think that Crimea should be recognized as Russian (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, you have to ask President Obama, because he was the one that let Crimea get away. That was during his administration. And he was the one that let Russia go and spend a lot of money on Crimea, because they’ve spent a lot of money on rebuilding it. I guess they have their submarine port there and such. But Crimea was let go during the Obama administration. And, you know, Obama can say all he wants, but he allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude. So you’d really have to ask that question to President Obama — you know, why did he do that; why did he do that. But with that being said, it’s been done a long time.

Q But you would allow Russia back into the G8 with Crimea still (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: I would rather see Russia in the G8 as opposed to the G7. I would say that the G8 is a more meaningful group than the G7, absolutely.

As Putin was leaving the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, after making comments about Trump’s trade wars hurting Europe, Putin again said he was ready to meet, though said it is important that the summit be “filled with specific content.”

Question: Mr President, there is real drama unfolding around the G7 summit in Quebec and inside the G7 itself: disagreements over Russia’s possible return, over tariffs, and more controversy. In this regard, how do you assess the proposal made by Trump and the Italian Prime Minister on Russia’s return to the format, given that the purchasing power parity in the SCO is actually higher than in the G7?

Vladimir Putin: As for Russia’s return to the G7, or G8 – we have never withdrawn from it. Our colleagues refused to come to Russia at some point for well-known reasons. We would be happy to see everyone in Moscow, they are welcome. That is first the first thing.

Second. As for the efficiency and volume of the economy, indeed, the purchasing power parity (this is IMF data) of the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is already higher than in the G7 countries. Yes, it is, the PPP is higher.

True, the seven are still richer in per capita income, as they say, but the SCO economies are larger, and their population is much larger, too – half the world’s population.

As for the various difficulties in the negotiation process within the G7, I need to take a look at this, I do not know the details. Of course, this is also of interest, these are the largest economies in the world.

We can see that there are internal problems there. Well, it happens. You know, when I look at our debates in the EAEU, we also have disputes and do not unanimously sign everything at the same time. I think this is common practice. It is necessary to deal with this calmly and without any irony.

I would draw attention to one more circumstance, which, in my opinion, is more significant than any emotional outbursts. What do I mean? As far as I know, the President of the United States said the US is considering the possibility of regulating the additional supply of automotive equipment in the US market.

This is a serious matter. This can really hurt the economic interests of so many countries, above all European, of course. Well, let us see how things will really unfold. This is of significant importance for the entire world economy.

[snip]

Question: There have been reports that Austria is ready to host the US-Russia summit between you and Donald Trump. Can you confirm this? Perhaps you discussed this when you were in Austria? And when will you meet with Trump? Everyone is looking forward to it. Many problems have accumulated.

Vladimir Putin: The President of the United States has repeatedly said that he considers this meeting expedient, and I agree that this is indeed the case. I can reiterate, in our last telephone conversation he expressed his concern about the threat of a new round of the arms race. I agree with him.

But to discuss this specifically, our respective foreign ministries need to work, and experts need to work very closely together. Personal meetings are certainly necessary as well. As soon as possible. As soon as the American side is ready, this meeting will be held immediately, depending on my work schedule.

About the location. We did not talk about this in detail, but many countries are willing to render such assistance to us, including several European countries, Austria among them. I have not heard anything else. But I think this is a technicality. What is important is that the meeting, if it takes place, is filled with specific content.

Given the way Trump blew up the G-7, I really wonder whether Putin has a greater threat over Trump than we know — something far, far greater than the goddamned pee tape. Trump has always seemed anxious to reassure Putin that he, himself, is not under investigation (indeed, that seemed to be one reason Trump raised the Comey firing at the May 10, 2017 meeting with Sergei Lavrov). It’s almost as if, as Robert Mueller gets closer and closer to Trump, Putin raises the stakes as well.

And this weekend, after Putin demanded that Trump keep his campaign promises, Trump made havoc of a key alliance.

Whatever Putin has over Trump, Trump appears more afraid of Putin than he is of Mueller.

Open Thread: Russia, Russia, Russia! and Everything Else

This is an open thread launched while current events still unfold. It may offer an overview for folks still acquainting themselves with the news about Rex Tillerson, Russia, and the UK.

By now you likely know Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. Like Sally Yates on the travel ban and James Comey about his firing, Tillerson was blindsided; he found out he was terminated from a Trump tweet. Take note of Marcy’s post on Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, and his sketchy replacement, deputy CIA director Gina Haspel.

Trump may have fired Tillerson because of this response to the poisoning in the UK of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter this past week.

Notice the response attributes the poisoning to Russia but makes no mention of the U.S. role as a NATO member and any response required by that membership. The response doesn’t even name Skripal.

Tillerson’s statement followed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s demand before Parliament yesterday that Russia explain the poisoning of Skripal, setting a two-day deadline.

The poison used is believed to be an extremely powerful nerve agent Novichok developed by the former USSR.

Russia’s point persons, Sergei Lavrov as Russia’s foreign minister, and Maria Zakharova, his spokesperson, as well as Russian parliament member Andrei Lugovoi have pushed back on May’s attribution and demands while demanding samples of the nerve agent found in Skripal’s poisoning.

NATO’s Article 5 obligates member nations to defend other NATO members in the attack on any NATO member:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

On May 25 last year at a visit NATO’s new headquarters during Trump’s first trip to Europe, Trump avoided continuing U.S. commitment to Article 5. It wasn’t until five weeks later during a speech in Poland that Trump reaffirmed Article 5, saying,

… To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated — not merely with its words but with its actions — that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment …

Many articles speculate Tillerson’s firing is the culmination of more than a year of tensions between Tillerson and Trump, including at least one episode during which Tillerson is said to have called Trump a moron (a “fucking moron” according to some). However the immediacy of the termination suggests Trump wanted to remove Tillerson before he could support Theresa May once the two-day deadline has passed.

It’s worth noting that Trump has yet to enforce sanctions on Russia established by bipartisan legislation on a nearly unanimous basis.

It’s also worth noting the GOP majority of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence abruptly terminated its investigation of Trump-Russia only yesterday afternoon, without providing any notice to the Democratic minority members.

Do read Marcy’s post about Pompeo; bring anything non-Russia comments here to this thread.

Shorting the US-DPRK Meeting [UPDATED]

[NB: Update at the bottom. / ~Rayne]

At 5:08 pm ET / 7:08 am Tokyo / 6:08 am Shanghai / 1:08 am Moscow time, Trump tweeted:

Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!

At 7:49 pm ET / 9:49 am Tokyo / 8:49 am Shanghai / 3:49 am Moscow time, Press Secretary Sanders tweeted:

[email protected] greatly appreciates the nice words of the S. Korean delegation & Pres Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet w/ Kim Jong Un at a place & time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of NK. In the meantime all sanctions & maximum pressure must remain

The stock market in Tokyo looked like this in response:

And Shanghai’s stock market looked like this:

Chinese investors have been bullish this week; the news about Trump meeting Kim Jong-un hasn’t really fazed them yet though if someone in the SSE Index knew about the announcement early enough, they could have made money shorting an index fund.

Japanese investors aren’t happy, which was predictable. It took them a bit to digest the news but they don’t appear comfortable. If someone knew about the announcement early enough, they could have made some money in the Nikkei using shorts.

Barring any other big news with international impact, I think we’ll see similar reactions as the sun rises over successive markets in the west. Again, somebody could probably make some money.

Call me cynical, but I think this anticipated US-North Korea meeting is just another means for making somebody cash.

Like investors with cash positions after dumping steel and aluminum bets last week — wouldn’t be surprised if they shorted Asian index funds overnight, and maybe EU and US funds in the morning local time.

UPDATE — 1:40 PM EST —

Note the markets at 9:30 am ET / 2:30 pm London / 3:30 pm Paris and Frankfurt / 5:30 pm Moscow time:


I proved I would be complete fail at shorting in US markets if I wasn’t immersed in market news; I missed the impending release of jobs data which skewed the NYSE. The FTSE (London), CAC 40 (Paris), and DAX (Frankfurt) all waited patiently to see what the NYSE would do on open. I suspect the difference between European market upticks and NYSE open time I’ve indicated is due to early trading in the U.S.; some brokerage accounts allow trades an hour or two before open.

In hindsight I wonder if the Hang Seng didn’t react like Tokyo because of a more closed market and less open media?

How interesting, though, that MICEX (Moscow) looked more like the Hang Seng throughout its day, hmm?

And imagine what one could do if they had advance indication of U.S. employment figures. If only all this was as harmless as watching Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy try to short orange juice futures on the CBOE in Trading Places (video excerpt, 1983).

Nothing Happens in a Vacuum: Diplomatic Scuffles and Academic Speeches in Moscow

In front of a brick building one pre-dawn summer morning, a security guard tackled a man as he walked toward the entrance after exiting a cab. The security guard slammed the man onto the building’s concrete steps, choking him as he restrained the man. The man managed to open the door and gain partial egress into the foyer without use of his hands while the guard continued to choke him.

The guard was Russian.

The man was an American.

The building was the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The two-man scuffle happened June 6, 2016, exactly one month before Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page would view the EUFA Portugal vs. Wales semi-final match at a Morgan Stanley-hosted event in Moscow.

On June 26, WaPo’s Josh Rogin wrote about increasing harassment of U.S diplomats across Europe by Russia. Episodes included breaking into diplomats’ homes and stalking diplomats’ children. Norm Eisen, U.S. ambassador the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014, called this harassment “gray war.”

On June 29, Rogin wrote about the June 6 scuffle; the American was not identified by name or by employment. He may have been a diplomat or a spy under diplomatic cover; different sources gave different possible explanations.

But the guard who beat up the American was an FSB employee. The American’s shoulder was broken; the severity of his injuries required a flight out of Russia for urgent medical care.

On June 30, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova issued a statement* and claimed WaPo, the U.S. State Department and ‘special services’ had spread false information about the June 6 event. The FSB guard acted when the American didn’t show his ID; further, the “police officer on duty was attacked” and can be seen in surveillance video.

On July 7, Josh Rogin wrote that Congress had begun to investigate the June 6 event, concerned the FSB guard’s actions violated the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. The Obama administration had refused comment though State Department’s John Kirby said the Russian’s statements were “inaccurate” while administration officials quietly briefed members of Congress about the episode.

This same day Carter Page gave a speech at the New Economic School in Moscow, the day after he attended the EUFA semifinals viewing party, meeting Rosneft’s Directer of Investor Relations Andrey Baranov, Gazprom Investproekt’s CEO Oleg Nagovitsyn, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, and members of the Duma. A video of Page’s speech is uploaded that day to YouTube by a think tank.

On July 8, RT (Russia Today) publishes on YouTube a tightly edited excerpt from a surveillance camera videotape which captured the June 6 scuffle. The FSB guard clearly had the upper hand from the moment he slammed the unnamed diplomat to the concrete.

This same day Carter Page would give a commencement speech at the New Economic School; it, too, is captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, though not until months later.

How odd that it took a little over a month for RT to acquire the video and upload it to their YouTube channel.

How odd that RT never asked Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser, what he might recommend to Trump to prevent future “gray war” events like the June 6 scuffle.

How odd that the “gray war” episodes which concerned Republican members of Congress so much are now inert about the sanctions they placed on Russia, with little concern for the effect on NATO.

“The problem is there have been no consequences for Russia,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who serves as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. “The administration continues to pursue a false narrative that Russia can be our partner. They clearly don’t want to be our partner, they’ve identified us as an adversary, and we need to prepare for that type of relationship.”

What changed since June 2016 besides the presidency?

* Open with caution; link is to a Russian government site.

 

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Ruin a Movie with a Name: Get Carter (Page)

[Get Carter by MGM c. 1971]

[NB: As always, check the byline before reading. ~Rayne]

After all the Nunes memo hubbub and the impending Democratic counterpart, erstwhile Trump campaign adviser Carter Page looks sketchier than ever after TIME reported this past Saturday that Page characterized himself as an “informal advisor to the Kremlin” back in 2013.

The FBI warned Page that same year that he was being recruited by spies; Page blew them off. During the following year the FBI obtained a FISA warrant on Page.

Page thought the FBI had retaliated against him — he knew his blow-off was pretty arrogant — but as much as he asked for trouble by saying they should focus on the Boston bombing, then as now, the body of his actions asked for more scrutiny.

Let’s take a step or two back and take a look at the bigger picture surrounding Page; the timeline here is a work in process and will be updated.


2010 — In New York City, Russian spies Igor Sporyshev, Victor Podobnyy, and Evgeny Buryakov began work on several economics-related objectives on behalf of Russia’s SVR ‘Directorate ER’; their efforts started shortly after guilty pleas by members of Russian ‘Illegals’ spy ring and their expulsion.

14 DEC 2012 — Bipartisan Magnitsky Act (Pub.L. 112–208) passed and signed into law.

XX JAN 2013Carter Page met Podobnyy in New York City at an Asia Society meeting where the topic was China and Chinese energy development. (specific date TBD).

2013 — Podobnyy and Sporyshev attempted to recruit Page. Special agents with the FBI’s New York Field Office Counterintelligence Division surveilled and investigated spies and Page.

XX JUN 2013 — FBI interviewed Page about his contacts with Russians and cautioned him he was being recruited (specific date TBD).

25 AUG 2013 — In a letter this date sent to an academic press, Page refers to himself as “an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”

13 APR 2013 — In response to the Magnitsky Act, Russian lawmakers banned 18 Americans from entering Russian Federation, including Preet Bharara, a judge and 12 other DOJ/DEA personnel from the Southern District of New York. Russia also barred adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

2014 — FBI obtains a FISA warrant to monitor Page‘s communications (specific date TBD).

26 JAN 2015 — Russian spy Buryakov arrested; he had non-official cover as an employee of Vnesheconombank. Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy had already left the country; both had diplomatic immunity. Case was under U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office for Southern District of New York. Page‘s identity was masked and appeared in the complaint against the spies as “MALE-1.” (See Buryakov, et al complaint (pdf))

DEC 2015 — George Papadopoulos began work for Ben Carson’s presidential campaign as a foreign policy advisor.

Late 2015 — New York’s GOP chair Ed Cox was in contact with Page. It is not clear from Page‘s testimony how this contact occurred; Page uses the word volunteered more than once.

JAN 2016 — Page had at least one meeting with campaign officials based on his contact with Ed Cox; in his HPSCI testimony he said he met Corey Lewandowski. Page was an unpaid adviser. Unclear from testimony if Sam Clovis had Page sign an NDA now or later in the campaign, before the July trip to Moscow.

FEB 2016 — Papadopoulos left Carson’s campaign.

Early MAR 2016 — Sam Clovis recruited Papadopoulos to work for Trump’s campaign as a foreign policy advisor.

06 MAR 2016 — Clovis relayed to Papadopoulos that “a principal foreign policy focus of the campaign was an improved U.S. relationship with Russia,” according to court records related to Papadopoulos’ eventual indictment. Clovis later denied saying this.

14-21 MAR 2016 — Prof. Joseph Mifsud met twice with Papadopoulos; Mifsud brought to the second meeting “Olga” who posed as Putin’s niece.

XX MAR 2016 — Page had breakfast in “March-ish” timeframe with Sam Clovis in Falls Church, VA to discuss NDA and “general foreign policy topics.”

21 MAR 2016Page joined Trump campaign as one of five foreign policy advisors, including George Papadopoulos.

MAR-APR 2016 — Dialog continued between Papadopoulos, Mifsud, Olga Vinogradova (referred to as Olga Poloskaya in some earlier reports). [link, link]

24 MAR 2016 — Papadopoulos sends an email copying campaign foreign policy advisers and Sam Clovis, offering to set up “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump.”

28 MAR 2016 — Article: Donald Trump Hires Paul Manafort to Lead Delegate Effort

26 APR 2016 — Papadopoulos learned the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton consisting of “thousands of emails.”

05 MAY 2016 — Trump is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Page emailed fellow foreign policy adviser Walid Phares and J.D. Gordon, asking them to contact him via cell phone or iMessage, adding “P.S. I forgot to mention that I also have the Middle East staple of [redacted]* as well. So that’s another global connectivity alternative if you want to get in touch there.” (* Believed to be the name of a regionalized communications system. See testimony transcript (pdf).)

16 MAY 2016Page sent an email to Walid Phares and J.D. Gordon, suggesting that Trump visit Russia  (see testimony transcript (pdf)).

24 MAY 2016Page emailed J.D. Gordon: “FYI: At the Newark Sky Club, Delta has a private room when you can have a confidential conversation, but, unfortunately, no such luck at Third-World LaGuardia. So I’ll mostly be on the receive mode, since there are a significant number of people in the lounge. Rather than saying too much, I’ll just refer to the seven points on my list which I sent last night.” (see testimony transcript (pdf)).

26 MAY 2016 — Page emailed J.D. Gordon and another foreign policy team member, Bernadette Kilroy, letting them know he will be speaking at the New Economic School’s commencement alongside Russia’s Sberbank’s chair and CEO  (see testimony transcript (pdf)).

27 MAY 2016Page may have met Paul Manafort associate Rick Gates at Trump’s North Dakota speech event (see testimony transcript (pdf)).

Early JUN 2016Page called Putin “stronger and more reliable than President Obama” and “touted the positive effect a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations” according to attendees of a meeting of campaign foreign policy team members with India’s Prime Minister Modi. Modi’s trip was five days long, beginning June 8.

09 JUN 2016 — Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya et al., ostensibly about Russian adoptions.

XX JUN 2016 — After back-and-forth and an initial refusal with Corey Lewandowski, J.D. Gordon, and Hope Hicks, Page finally  obtains approval from Lewandowski to travel to Russia as a campaign team member (specific date TBD). In HPSCI testimony there is an exchange about an email he sent asking for feedback about the speech he was going to give in Moscow; same email mentions Russia’s Minister of Economics and Trade Herman Gref was expected to speak at the same event.

30 JUN 2016 — On the Thursday before his Moscow trip Page attended a dinner meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in DC at which both Sen. Jeff Sessions and George Papadopoulos were present and seated next to each other. Page testified to HPSCI this is the last time he saw Papadopoulos, and that he (Page) wasn’t going to Russia as part of the campaign team.

05 JUL 2016Page‘s trip to Russia. (05-09 JUL 2016; in his HPSCI testimony he said he left Sunday night, which would have been July 3.)

06 JUL 2016 — In his HPSCI testimony Page admits to meeting Rosneft’s Directer of Investor Relations Andrey Baranov at a Morgan Stanley-hosted Europa football event as well as [redacted] Nagovitsyn* of Gazprom; he also admitted to having a 10-second exchange with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich as well as meeting members of the Duma. (* This may be Oleg Nagovitsyn who in 2014 had been CEO of Gazprom Investproekt, a subsidiary entity; Nagovitsyn has been elevated to General Director of Gazprom if this is the same Oleg.)

07 JUL 2016Page gave a speech at New Economic School; his speech is critical of U.S. foreign policy. He testified that the school paid for his expenses. (video)

08 JUL 2016Page attended and gave commencement speech at New Economic School graduation.  (videoPage avoided answering journalists’ questions both days regarding officials Page may have/will meet with in Russia. Page emailed campaign advisers Tera Dahl and J.D. Gordon, telling them he would send them “a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential administration here.”

14 JUL 2016 — Page praises fellow foreign policy advisers and campaign team members J.D. Gordon, Walid Phares, Joseph Schmitz, Bert Mizusawa, Chuck Kubic, and Tera Dahl for their work changing the GOP platform on Ukraine.

18-21 JUL 2016Page spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisylak during the Global Partners in Diplomacy event  associated with the RNC Convention in Cleveland (specific date TBD).

19 JUL 2016 — Former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele wrote a memo about Page‘s July trip to Moscow. Steele’s intelligence said Page met with Rosneft’s Igor Sechin and Russian Internal Affairs minister Igor Diveykin.

U.S. received intelligence that Page met with Igor Sechin, Putin associate, former Russian deputy prime minister, and executive chairman of Rosneft, but it isn’t clear whether this intelligence is based on Steele’s dossier alone and/or if disinformation involved.

After 22 JUL 2016 — Australia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Joe Hockey disclosed to the FBI that diplomat Alexander Downer learned from George Papadopoulos the Trump campaign had “dirt” on HRC in the form of emails.

XX JUL 2016Page had dinner alone with Sam Clovis some time after the July trip to Moscow.

05 AUG 2016 — Article: Trump adviser’s public comments, ties to Moscow stir unease in both parties; includes a profile of Page. Hope Hicks characterized Page as “informal policy adviser.”

19 AUG 2016 — Paul Manafort resigns from the campaign two days after Trump’s first security briefing. Steve Bannon assumes Manafort’s role for the campaign.

26 AUG 2016 — Sen. Harry Reid sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking for the investigation of Russian hacking and influence on the 2016 election with publication of findings. Reid cited the example of an unnamed Trump adviser “who has been highly critical of U.S. and European economic sanctions on Russia, and who has conflicts of interest due to investments in Russian energy conglomerate Gazprom, met with high-ranking sanctioned individuals while in Moscow in July 2016…” (link)

XX AUG 2016 — Page said he sold his ADR shares in Gazprom this month, approximately five months after joining the campaign; it’s not clear whether this sale happened before or after Sen. Reid’s letter (see written testimony (pdf)).

XX AUG 2016 — Page traveled to Hungary and met with the ambassador to the US; the ambassador had already met Page at the RNC convention. They discussed U.S.-Russia policy as it affected Hungary — “in general,” according to Page‘s testimony.

23 SEP 2016 — Article: U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.

25 SEP 2016Page wrote to Comey and asked him to end the investigation into his trip to Russia (see written testimony).

26 SEP 2016Page left Trump campaign.

Mid to Late SEP 2016 — After discussing the matter with Fusion GPS’ Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele metwith the FBI in Rome to share what he had learned about the Trump campaign and related Russian efforts. Steele was concerned there was a crime in progress; some of his research shared included information about Page‘s interactions with key Russians during his July trip.

21 OCT 2016 — FISA warrant on Page obtained.

24-OCT-2016 — Page did an interview with Russian media outlet RT on its Going Underground program. Program host and Page characterized Page‘s status as “on leave” from the campaign. Page‘s written testimony shared that Wikileaks and leaked emails “tangentially came up.” (video, uploaded to YouTube on 29-OCT-2016.)

08 NOV 2016 — Election Day.

08 DEC 2016 — Page took another trip to Russia; Arkady Dvorkovich stopped by a dinner Page attended and said hello according to Page‘s testimony (specific date TBD). Page also met Shlomo Weber again; he had lunch with Andrey Baranov, a bank analyst with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, and a third person whose names were redacted at Page‘s request. He had a laptop with him at the lunch which he said he used to share his speech and slides for another academic presentation. The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, said there were no plans to contact Page yet managed to see Page just before a television interview.

XX DEC 2016 — On the return leg to the U.S., Page stopped in London to attend an energy conference. While in London he met with a Russian national, Sergey Yatsenko, in London on return from Moscow; they talked about opportunities in Kazahkstan related to the country’s privatization process and the sovereign wealth fund, Samruk Kazyna. They were joined by the Kazahk ambassador to the U.K. and an aide.

10 JAN 2017 — BuzzFeed published 35 pages of the dossier Steele prepared for Orbis under contract to Fusion GPS.

Mid JAN 2017 — Jones Day LLP, White House counsel Don McGahn’s former law firm, communicated with Page, instructing him not to depict himself as a representative of the campaign. Steve Bannon conveyed a similar message by text to Page.

XX JAN 2017 — In an interview with ABC News, Page said he didn’t meet with any Russian officials on behalf of Trump campaign or with Igor Sechin (specific date not clear in ABC’s report).

18 JAN 2017 — Deadline, FISA renewal required (before inauguration).

19 JAN 2017 — Article: Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates; Page along with Paul Manafort and Roger Stone have become subjects of an investigation.

20 JAN 2017 — Inauguration Day.

31 JAN 2017 — Trump nominated Maryland’s U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General.

31 JAN 2017 — Page told ABC News’ Brian Ross he never talked to anyone in the Kremlin about the campaign during his July trip, “not one word.”

15 FEB 2017 — Interview: Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year

JUDY WOODRUFF:
Did you have any meetings — I will ask again — did you have any meetings last year with Russian officials in Russia, outside Russia, anywhere?

CARTER PAGE:
I had no meetings, no meetings.

I might have said hello to a few people as they were walking by me at my graduation — the graduation speech that I gave in July, but no meetings.

02 MAR 2017 — Interview: Page: ‘I don’t deny’ meeting with Russian amb.; Page admitted meeting Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak during the campaign.

04 MAR 2017 — Corey Lewandowski told Fox News, “I never met Carter Page.”

11 MAR 2017 — Preet Bharara fired by USAG Jeff Sessions.

11 MAR 2017Page sent a letter to the HPSCI asking to be interviewed in a public hearing. His letter coincided with letters from Paul Manafort and Roger Stone who both volunteered to be interviewed.

03 APR 2017 — ABC News and BuzzFeed contacted Page about his role as MALE-1 in Buryakov et al spy ring case ((see written testimony (pdf))

13 APR 2017Page told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he “said hello briefly to one individual, who was aboard member of the New Economic School where I gave my speech” during his July 2016 to Moscow. He also hedged as to whether he had any discussion of sanctions while in Russia.

05 APR 2017 — Evgeny Buryakov was released from prison on March 31 and expelled from the U.S. days later; he had been credited with time served while in custody against his 2.5 year sentence. His deportation shortened his sentence by a couple of months.

~19 APR 2017 — Deadline, FISA renewal required (specific date TBD).

25 APR 2017 — Rod Rosenstein confirmed by Senate as Deputy Attorney General.

28 APR 2017 — Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Page along with Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone asking for records related to the campaign, including a “list of all meetings between you and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests which took place between June 16, 2015, and Jan. 20, 2017.”

05 MAY 2017 — Senate Intelligence Committee chair and vice chair sent a joint statement to Page to insist on his cooperation with their investigation.

09 MAY 2017 — FBI Director James Comey fired.

21 MAY 2017—Page requested appealed to the DOJ, FBI, NSA for disclosure of “information, applications and other materials related to my illegitimate FISA warrant” (see written testimony (pdf)).

~18 JUL 2017 — Deadline, FISA renewal required (specific date TBD).

04 OCT 2017 — HPSCI issued a subpoena to Page.

10 OCT 2017Page informed the Senate Intelligence Committee he would plead the Fifth Amendment and not testify in front of the SIC.

30 OCT 2017 — Excerpt from interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes suggests Page expected House Speaker Paul Ryan to release the FISA warrant documentation (video, about 06:57):

HAYES: Did you bring an attorney to you when you spent five hours before the Senate?

PAGE: Nope. Nope. I’m very, very open and happy to give all the information I can. In the interest of really getting the truth out there, because I think when the truth comes out, when Speaker Paul Ryan says the FISA warrant or the details about the dodgy dossier and what happened and all this documents around that is going to be released, that’s what I’m really excited about. And I think the truth will set a lot of people free.

02 NOV 2017 — In testimony submitted to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Page said he briefly met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich during his July trip. Page pleaded the Fifth Amendment on some of the materials responsive to the HPSCI’s subpoena.

14 NOV 2017 — Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee; he said he did not remember seeing Page at the June 30, 2016 dinner with campaign team members, nor did he recall any communications about Page‘s trip to Moscow.


Again, this is not a complete timeline of Trump-Russia events, let alone a complete timeline of everything Carter Page. It captures some key points from just before the FBI became aware of Carter Page through the release of the Nunes’ memo Friday last week.

From a comprehensive meta level, the push operation to release the Nunes memo — driven in part with help from Russian bots promoting #ReleaseTheMemo, complementing Page’s request for the FISA warrant documentation — looks less like an effort to remove Robert Mueller as special counsel or Rod Rosenstein as U.S. Deputy AG.

As others have suggested, Page looks like an expendable mule and/or a decoy — a perfect fit for a perfect useful idiot.

The entire picture reflects a more comprehensive effort to attack the USDOJ apart from Jeff Sessions, and to undermine or obscure the opposition research process which included the Steele dossier.

And it looks more like Devin Nunes aided Putin’s continued attack against the U.S.’ Magnitsky Act, attempting to undermine law enforcement charged with executing this public law.

For all the concern that Page and other campaign team members might have talked about the sanctions with Russia, the Magnitsky Act is lost in the media buzz.

There are quite a few oddities about Page which should cause the average Joe to take pause. Why did Page join the campaign in March 2016 when Trump wasn’t the presumptive nominee until the first week of May after the Indiana primary? Did he just show up at the campaign’s doorstep via Ed Cox on his own or was he recruited/encouraged? Why wasn’t Page vetted more thoroughly by the campaign?

And why when he joined the campaign was he not expected to have already eliminated any conflicts of interest like his Gazprom ADRs? The financial conflict made Page an easily compromised mark even though both campaign and administration didn’t and don’t give a fig about ethics. It’s not clear how Page earns his keep; he testified he was living off his savings. Did he sell his ADRs only because he was low on cash? In other words, was he at risk for financial compromise?

(An aside: with Page’s relationships to Russian oil and gas community members, did Page buy or sell his ADRs on what might have been insider information? He didn’t do well if he sold in August 2016 but it’s not clear when and at what price he bought the ADRs to begin with.)

How did a guy with such thin credentials — he was awarded his doctorate in 2012 after his thesis was twice rejected — end up speaking not just once at the New Economic School but twice, giving the commencement speech? Not to mention his flaky personal style spies Podobnyy and Sporyshev noted years earlier. What was in his speeches that students, faculty, and distinguished guests alike needed to hear? Did someone at the New Economic School ‘review’ an electronic or hardcopy version of the speeches in advance? This is a question the HPSCI attempted to ask but didn’t receive a clear answer. Did a member of Russia’s government ‘review’ the speeches?

Why was there such a lag between Page’s trip to Russia and the FISA warrant given Page’s history?

Some pieces in this puzzle hint at other possible connections. Recall that Rosenstein — who has been involved in the FISA warrants since Comey was fired — was the US Attorney for Maryland. Pioneer Point, one of Russia’s compounds confiscated December 29, 2016 under sanctions related to hacking the DNC, is located on the water in Maryland.

Maryland was also home to a Manafort-related business SCG raided on May 11 last year. Has Rosenstein been kept preoccupied so that he would not be involved in anything related to either Pioneer Point or SCG? Who (if anyone) was nominated to replace Rosenstein in Maryland? Has the pressure on Rosenstein been two-fold — not just to discourage another extension of the FISA warrant on Page, but to keep him from looking too closely in what was once his backyard?

Key events from George Papadopoulos’ tenure with the campaign were included in the timeline for comparison between two foreign policy advisers working for the same campaign. What marching orders did these two receive from Clovis or other senior campaign team members? They’re off doing their own things but both generating trouble at the same time. Page’s open activities drew media attention; Papadopoulos’ efforts were not as visible to the public. Was this intentional? Why did the campaign need not one but two foreign policy advisers with fossil fuel-based energy backgrounds mingling with Russians? Were they both proof-of-concepts establishing back channel communications, testing approaches to see which would be more successful? Were there any other attempts at back channels via campaign team members?

And while we’ve been focused on these two advisers, at least three others continued their work for the campaign and possibly into the transition. What were they doing?

It’s worth reading the HPSCI transcript of Page’s oral and written testimony. He’s a lousy writer; his work borders on irrational. His oral responses during the HPSCI hearing are as bad if not worse. Of particular concern is his repetitive use of certain arguments and phrases which have been use at times by online provocateurs.

Other persons and issues aside, consider this particular excerpt in a report published about a month before the FBI obtained a FISA warrant on Page:

Page came to the attention of officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow several years ago when he showed up in the Russian capital during several business trips and made provocative public comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time.

How could the FBI not have requested a FISA warrant given what we the public already knew about Carter Page once he left for Moscow last July?

Michael Flynn: Serial Doublecrosser

Yesterday, Representative Elijah Cummings, along with the rest of the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, released blockbuster information from a whistleblower who was at a celebratory event on Trump’s inauguration day. The whistleblower met and talked with Alex Copson, founder and managing partner of ACU Strategic Partners. Recall that I have been posting recently on Michael Flynn’s advocacy for a deal to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia. I have focused so far on IP3 and their security arm, Iron Bridge Partners. First, I noted that IP3 believes US strategy in the Middle East has been to “resource conflict“. Next, I asked whether the Iron Bridge vision for security surrounding the proposed nuclear power plants actually anticipated the Saudi orb. Most recently, I described the chilling plans IP3 had for diversifying the Saudi economy.

Flynn’s reported association with IP3 was preceded by an association with ACU. In the discussion to follow, it is important to remember that the Saudi proposals from ACU have concentrated on Russia building the nuclear power plants while IP3 initially proposed working with China and then moved to advocating the US building the power plants.

When reviewing the information released yesterday, it becomes abundantly clear that Michael Flynn has been remarkably dishonest in his dealings since he was fired from his role as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama. Here is just a partial list of key times Flynn has doublecrossed various entities.

Doublecrossing the United States

A key feature of the treasure trove of information Cummings and his colleagues released yesterday is a timeline on Flynn. Early developments on the timeline center on an appearance Flynn made on June 10, 2015 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As noted in the timeline, Flynn did not disclose his work at that time on behalf of ACU. Here is a key clip from his testimony, where he mentions one of two trips to the Middle East he made that month. Note especially that he is stating that he wants the US to be “in the driver’s seat” on building nuclear power plants in the region, despite being paid at that time by ACU, who wanted to have Russia build the plants (the video should start at the beginning of the relevant words from Flynn at 1:50:20; the comment lasts just under three minutes):

Note that Flynn says he doesn’t want Egypt talking to Russia about building nuclear power plants. We have learned that on one of his June 2015 trips, Egypt was one of the countries that Flynn visited. Was Flynn merely ineffective on this and other trips to the Middle East, or was he being duplicious? Just a few months later, we see this announcement from Egypt, on November 19, 2015, that Egypt and Russia have finalized a deal for Russia to build a nuclear reactor in Egypt. Further, the announcement mentions that a memorandum of understanding on the reactor had been signed back in February of 2015, several months before the Flynn trip that we know of.

But that’s not all. Just over a week after this appearance before the committee advocating for the US to be in control of the Saudi nuclear plans, both Saudi Arabia and Russia announced an agreement for Russia to build the plants. A careful reading of these announcements and in some of the contemporary press accounts of them makes it look as though the agreement signed was very preliminary and seemed to be setting the stage legally for the two countries to get into more detailed discussions. In other words, it seems even more preliminary than the memorandum of understanding between Russia and Egypt the previous February, but it certainly seemed to set the stage for Russia to be seen as clearly the frontrunner for a later agreement on actual construction of the power plants.

The information Cummings released yesterday makes me think that Flynn, despite his claims to the Foreign Affairs Committee, has actually been working to push a deal for Russia to build the power plants. From the Cummings timeline:

On January 20, 2017, according to a whistleblower, Alex Copson of ACU claimed that Flynn sent him a text while President Trump was delivering his inaugural address indicating that the nuclear project was now “good to go” and directing his business colleagues to move forward. Copson reportedly stated that “Mike has been putting everything in place for us” and that “This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.” He added that Flynn was making sure that sanctions would be “ripped up” as one of his first orders of business and that this would allow money to start flowing into the project.

Wow. There’s just no other way to read this than that Copson felt Flynn had been working for his group all along and that “ripping up” the sanctions against Russia were a key to getting the project rolling. And that has to mean that Russia building the plants was a central feature of their plans and their excitement over Trump taking office.

That leads us to the next level of doublecrossing.

Doublecrossing Business Partners

Excerpts from a recent Washington Post article give us some dates on Flynn’s association with ACU and then IP3:

The proposal — to develop a “Marshall Plan” of investment in the Middle East — was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition. The firm was seeking to build nuclear power plants in the region.

His advocacy for the project in the White House surprised some administration officials and raised concerns that Flynn had a conflict of interest. From August to December 2016, he said he served as an adviser to the company, IP3, reporting later on his disclosure forms that he ended his association with the firm just weeks before joining the administration.

/snip/

Before his association with IP3, Flynn served as an adviser from April 2015 until June 2016 to ACU Strategic Partners, which had its own plan to help build nuclear plants in the Middle East, in conjunction with Russian interests.

In June 2015, he traveled to Egypt and Israel on a trip paid for by ACU to promote the plan. Flynn later failed to disclose the trip in his security clearance renewal application in 2016, according to Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, an omission they said may have violated federal law.

Got that? Flynn was with ACU from April 2015 until June 2016 and then IP3 from August 2016 until December 2016. But, the Post article notes that Flynn pushed an IP3-related article in the first week of Trump’s presidency, while we saw above that during the inauguration he was texting the head of ACU. [Note: I am still working separately to decipher the many changes of alliances of ACU, IP3, Iron Bridge and others] even though he had supposedly ended his relationships with both. It is very hard to come to any other conclusion than that Flynn may well have been trying to play the two groups off one another, only to then reclaim association with whichever one came out on top, doublecrossing the losing side.

Doublecrossing Trump

Now that Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts and is cooperating with Mueller’s probe, it is clear that he has doublecrossed Trump.

Doublecrossing Himself

Remember that this happened during the Republican National Convention:

After advocating for Hillary Clinton to be locked up, now it’s pretty hard to see how Flynn avoids prison time for his own crimes, even with a sentence that is likely to be reduced due to his participation in the Mueller probe. But given Flynn’s propensity for doublecrossing, I fully expect him to get caught violating the terms of his agreement with Mueller and wind up with some very serious time behind bars. It’s just who he is.

The Ridiculous — and Chilling — IP3 Plan for Saudi Economic Diversification

Last week, I pointed out that the retired military generals of IP3, one of the companies that Michael Flynn dabbled with while looking into Saudi Arabia’s plan to develop nuclear power, viewed the US strategy in the Middle East as one of “resourcing conflict“.  I then looked a bit further into the security aspect of IP3’s proposals. But as we see in slide 9 of the IP3 PowerPoint presentation for the Saudi king from August of 2016, IP3 derives its name from “Peace” (the security plan), “Power” (the nuclear power plant construction) and “Prosperity”:

It seems that IP3 views “Prosperity” as encompassing diversification of the Saudi economy, and that somehow it will come about from the lower costs involved in nuclear power, a newly skilled workforce, water desalination and a “smart city”. But, if we also look at the IP3 article at Medium that I found earlier, we see more information on this economic plan. In fact, part of it is found in the same sentence as the “resourcing conflict” phrase:

We need a strategy that doesn’t rely solely on resourcing conflict with weapons sales, arms agreements, or new deployments of U.S. military forces, but one of empowerment through the intellectual capital and industrial might of our nation’s private sector.

Let that soak in for a second: we are talking here in the context of diversifying the Saudi economy, and IP3 is saying that the Saudis will be “empowered”, but that will come about “through the intellectual capital and industrial might of our nation’s private sector”. It’s the business brainpower and the actual businesses themselves from the US that are to drive building a vibrant Saudi economy that relies on more than just oil. From another part of the article:

The people of the Middle East and North Africa need clean, reliable electricity. They need water. They need more career opportunities, and jobs that do not rely on fossil fuel exports alone. They have bold ambitions for a more prosperous future and more inclusive societies.

Note also that this pitch from IP3 is meant to provide the US as an alternative to growing Russian influence in the Middle East. The PowerPoint presentation suggests working with China, although the Medium article proposes a US-only plan. [Side note: I’m currently very deep in the rabbit hole of the various corporate groups and their changing alliances through the past few years, along with the various power plant agreements that countries in the area have executed to date. It’s very complex and has changed very many times. If I find anything useful in the analysis, especially how Flynn fits into the various groups, it will be another post in this series.] In that context, IP3 laments that the US is at a disadvantage, because the competing operations from Russia and China are state-supported:

As a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes, both countries “receive significant state support for their ambitious technology export plans,” …

It really seems that what IP3 wants is a situation in which the the company gets all the benefits of “free enterprise” but also enjoys the sizable advantage of being the “chosen one” to get the imprimatur of the US government so that competing groups are excluded. That would explain why Flynn faces so much more potential legal trouble if the reports of him continuing to push one or more of the competing proposals once he became National Security Advisor turn out to be true, especially if he still stood to profit from the work.

But why nuclear in the first place? Of course, peak oil is coming, and so the Saudis know they have to wean themselves from their dependence on oil for domestic energy consumption. The World Nuclear Association gives some hard numbers for Saudi needs and the evolution of their plans for diversification:

Saudi Arabia’s population has grown from 4 million in 1960 to over 31 million in 2016. It is the main electricity producer and consumer in the Gulf States, with 338 TWh gross production in 2015, 150 TWh from oil and 189 TWh from gas. It consumes over one-quarter of its oil production, and while energy demand is projected to increase substantially, oil production is not, and by 2030 a large proportion will be consumed domestically, much of it for electricity generation. Its per capita consumption is about 9000 kWh/yr, heavily subsidised.

Generating capacity is over 30 GWe. Demand is growing by 8-10% per year and peak demand is expected to be 70 GWe by 2020 and 120 GWe by 2032, driven partly by desalination increase.

I was pretty surprised by this. I viewed Saudi oil production as being much larger than domestic consumption, so the fact that they already consume a quarter of their production and their domestic generation capacity will need to expand up to four fold in only 15 years puts them on the brink of catastrophe. Their planning to diversify has started, but changed recently:

It had plans to install 24 GWe of renewable electricity capacity by 2020, and 50 GWe by 2032 or 2040, and was looking at the prospects of exporting up to 10 GWe of this to Italy or Spain during winter when much generating capacity is under-utilised (cooling accounts for over half the capacity in summer). The 50 GWe in 2032 (later: 2040) was to comprise 25 GWe CSP [Ed note: CSP = Concentrated Solar Power], 16 GWe solar PV, 4 GWe geothermal and waste (together supplying 150-190 TWh, 23-30% of power), complementing 18 GWe nuclear (supplying 131 TWh/yr, 20% of power), and supplemented by 60.5 GWe hydrocarbon capacity which would be little used (c10 GWe) for half the year. The nuclear target date has now been put back to 2040. In 2016 renewables targets were scaled back from 50% to 10% of electricity (by 2040?) as plans shifted more to gas, so that it would increase its share from 50% to 70%.

That earlier plan looked pretty reasonable, with most of the increases in power generation coming from a mix of renewable sources. But that all changed in 2016, with renewables getting cut substantially, from a 50% target down to only 10% and the share of generation accounted for by natural gas actually increasing from 50% to 70%. So what happened to cause this switch away from renewables and back to natural gas (even while some of the discussions on nuclear are continuing)? [Note that a 1.2 GWe solar power plant is opening soon elsewhere in the Middle East, so the Saudis are falling behind on solar.] For one thing, the price of natural gas dropped by about 60% from early 2014 to the beginning of 2016. That timeframe also coincides with the rising influence of Mohammed bin Salman, as his father became king in 2015 and MBS was named Crown Prince this summer.

As Vox explained to us recently, MBS’s “purge” was all about Saudi life after oil. But like his best buddies in the Trump Administration, he can’t really seem to get anything right. Note that gas prices have now re-stabilized at only about 25% lower than they were during most of 2013 to 2015. Also, remember the “smart city” in the IP3 presentation? Bruce Riedel described that and other bits of MBS’s “reforms” to the New Yorker:

“The Saudi Vision 2030 is increasingly turning out to be a failure in economic terms. It has more and more the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme. This new city, Neom, in the Gulf of Aqaba that is supposed to attract five hundred billion dollars of investment and where normal rules of Saudi society aren’t going to apply—meaning women can do things—will have more robots than people. This isn’t serious. This is the kind of thing used to divert people from the real issues,” Riedel said.

The Crown Prince’s regional strategy has also either stalled or backfired, too. “His signature policy is the Yemen war, which has come home to haunt Riyadh,” Riedel, now at the Brookings Institution, said. “Its Qatar blockade is a failure. It wants Qatar to be like Bahrain, just an appendage. And Qatar hasn’t given in.”

That’s pretty much how it seems to me, too. I really don’t buy any of the lip service that the changes MBS is bringing about are aimed at bringing more liberal thought into the kingdom or improving the lives of the general population. I see a huge power grab at a level that makes Trump and MBS buddy Kusher jealous. A purge that results in torture of those detained looks much more like consolidation of power than a move toward a more open society.

And that’s why the collection of technology aimed at “security” of the proposed nuclear sites makes me think it’s all about keeping the population in line as more and more rivals are eliminated. I also think that’s why various US companies have been jostling to be in line when contracts start getting handed out.

As a postscript, I would also note this Intercept article on Erik Prince and the push for privatized intelligence sources. Recall I felt like he had a hidden hand in the Iron Bridge model of security ostensibly around the power plants, as well. Somehow, all these plans with private companies and governments working together in new areas starts to get pretty creepy.

Retired Generals of Flynn-Associated IP3: “United States Mideast Strategy Is Resourcing Conflict”

Yesterday, I decided that I should take a deep dive into a couple of issues that are playing big roles in current political drama: the Middle East nuclear power plant plans that Michael Flynn “represented” in some travel but did not note in his security disclosures and the manufactured controversy over Uranium One. I’m still reading and hope to post regularly on these and other topics, but want to point out one passing reference that made my jaw drop.

In Monday’s Washington Post article on Flynn’s troubles, we have this passage:

Around June 2016, according to his financial disclosure, Flynn ended his association with ACU and began advising a company called IP3/IronBridge, co-founded by retired Rear Adm. Michael Hewitt, a former ACU adviser.

IP3 initially proposed partnering with China and other nations, rather than Russia, to build nuclear power plants, according to a company spokesman, who said the China component has since been dropped.

In August 2016, the company produced a PowerPoint presentation that included Flynn’s photo and former government title on a page titled “IP3/IronBridge: Formidable US Leadership.” The document was labeled as a “Presentation to His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz” of Saudi Arabia and displayed the seals of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The presentation was obtained by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, who made it public.

After reading this, I started digging a bit into IP3, to see what they have been up to. I found this fascinating piece in Medium, written by the all-star trio of Jack Keane, Keith Alexander and Bud McFarlane. The article dates from October 31 of this year, so it comes over a year after the PowerPoint referenced in the Post article. The Medium article opens with the basis for the US-Saudi relationship going back more than seven decades:

In 1945, President Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia forged a partnership under which the United States provided security for the Kingdom to assure the flow of oil to global markets. While the United States has never wavered from this commitment through 13 Presidents and 6 Saudi monarchs, the core themes of arms and oil alone no longer cover the full scope of our countries’ goals and mutual interests.

That’s pretty blunt language, but yes, the core theme of US-Saudi relations does indeed seem to be “arms and oil”. But a bit further down, we have this:

Any new U.S. strategy for the Middle East will fail unless we move beyond fighting terrorism or reacting to the influence of evolving regional encroachment from Russia and Iran. The United States must approach the Middle East in ways that promote diversified, strong economies. We need a strategy that doesn’t rely solely on resourcing conflict with weapons sales, arms agreements, or new deployments of U.S. military forces, but one of empowerment through the intellectual capital and industrial might of our nation’s private sector. We must better enable the stabilizing visions of our GCC partners, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan as part of a reimagined Middle East economy.

I have to admit that on my first reading of this paragraph, I chuckled. I was convinced that it contained a very revealing typo. I mean, surely these retired generals would never just come out and say that the US strategy in the Middle East is to “resource conflict”, would they? Didn’t they mean that the weapons sales, arms agreements and troop deployments are aimed at resolving conflicts even though they certainly provide the resources to prolong them? That’s how the US presents these moves, after all. Who even uses “resource” as a verb anyway?

I continued in my reading, and in this copy of a letter from the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee posted by Politico (always read the footnotes; the URL is in footnote 21) I hit paydirt with the URL for IP3 PowerPoint referenced in the Post article above. Here is the slide that the Post refers to on the IP3 team including Flynn:

That is slide number 3 in the presentation. Here is slide number 5:

And there we have it. The Medium article did not have a typo. Over a year earlier, the PowerPoint says the US should “shift toward resourcing stability” rather than resourcing conflict. I find that to be a remarkably candid statement, considering who is saying it.

For quite some time, my line on US strategy for any trouble spot in the world has been that the US asks “What group can we arm?”. Here we have a huge collection of retired generals saying very much the same thing in slightly different language. I follow my observation by saying our question should rather be “What can we do to address the concerns of those who are moved to violence in this trouble spot?” And again, this group is offering their alternative. I see this as a massive improvement in outlook and perhaps a bit of slowly dawning self-awareness on behalf of the generals for what their actions have wrought.

Of course, once we dive into the IP3 team’s vision for how we “resource stability” things go right back to the track history of these generals proposing policies that are almost the exact opposite of what should be done. But that is fodder for later posts.

Just a couple of closing notes seem in order. First, it is clear from the committee letter in which I got the PowerPoint URL that the file actually was sent to the committee by an employee of ACU, which is a competitor of IP3. Further, the cover slide contains the cryptic note “2016 MSH Proprietary and Confidential”. I haven’t found an explanation for “MSH”. I thought it might refer to Michael Hewitt, but his middle initial is W. It doesn’t seem to fit any of the companies involved or the ACU employee who sent the file.

Also, in all the articles I’ve read about Flynn’s involvement in this effort, it appears that he consistently and publicly advocated for the building of the power plants to avoid Russian involvement and to be undertaken as an approach to reducing Russia’s influence in the Middle East. That makes Flynn’s June 2015 trip sponsored by ACU very confusing, since ACU is the group advocating Russian involvement in the building and running of the power plants. It would, however, align with his move to IP3 once it was formed. Also, the stories now seem to suggest that within the White House, IP3’s approach was quashed based on Flynn’s conflicts of interest rather than any White House preference for Russian involvement in building the plants. Will that story change? After all, Russia eventually got the contract for Egypt.

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