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Indictment of Michael Flynn Reveals How the FBI Criminalized the Presidential Transition

Michael Flynn, former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives for his plea hearing at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse on December 1, 2017. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Where is the ACLU when you really need them?

 reports: What do you call a system of government that cannot tolerate a transition of power without corrupt machinations by those unwilling to cede control? Banana Republic is a term that comes to mind.

The Special Counsel was appointed to determine whether Russia colluded with Trump to steal the election. Michael Flynn was indicted for a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador on December 28, 2016, seven weeks after the election.

That was the day after the outgoing president expelled 35 Russian diplomats—including gardeners and chauffeurs—for interfering in the election. Yes, that really happened.

The Obama administration had wiretapped Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador, hoping to find him saying something they could use to support their wild story about collusion.

The outrage, for some reason, is not that an outgoing administration was using wiretaps to listen in on a successor’s transition. It is that Flynn might have signaled to the Russians that the Trump administration would have a different approach to foreign policy.

How dare Trump presume to tell an armed nuclear state to stand down because everyone in Washington was in a state of psychological denial that he was elected?

Let’s establish one thing early here: It is okay for an incoming administration to communicate its foreign policy preferences during a transition even if they differ from the lame duck administration.

In 1980, President-elect Reagan’s transition was dominated by negotiations between outgoing President Jimmy Carter and the Iranians about the fate of 52 hostages that were being held in the Tehran. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why IS That? The New York Times Keeps Whitewashing Communism’s Crimes 

Stalin-NYT

Its ‘Red Century’ series portrays communism as a noble cause.

 writes: The Trump administration marked this week’s 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.

The irony of the series’ title, “Red Century,” seems lost on the Times’s editors. The 20th century was “red” indeed — red with the blood of communism’s victims. The death toll of communism, cited in “The Black Book of Communism,” is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.

Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: “Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.” She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he “reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.” Yes, that was Stalin’s crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.

In “How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?” Helen Gao recalls her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside” and writes that “for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” Mao’s revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China’s brutal “One Child” policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.

In “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors,” Yale lecturer Fred Strebeigh writes that Lenin was “a longtime enthusiast for hiking and camping” who turned Russia into “a global pioneer in conservation.” He fails to mention that Lenin was also a mass murderer who executed more of his political opponents in the first four months of his rule than the czars had in the entire previous century. In one telegram, reproduced in “The Black Book of Communism,” Lenin orders the Cheka (a predecessor of the KGB) to “Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers.” (The telegram concludes with an eerie “P.S. Find tougher people.”) Maybe he was camping when he wrote it.

Berkeley professor Yuri Slezkine explains “How to Parent Like a Bolshevik,” noting that “At home, the children of the Bolsheviks read what they called the ‘treasures of world literature,’ with an emphasis on the Golden Ages analogous to their own” and that “Soviet readers were expected to learn from Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes.” He does not say whether they were also expected to learn from Orwell. Read the rest of this entry »


Disinformation vs. Democracy: Authoritarians Outspending U.S.

Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are outspending the United States in the realm of soft power, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the National Democratic Institute’s annual Democracy Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. last night.

“Our budget is $650 million—a fraction of what our adversaries spend,” he said “Today, Russia is spending over a billion dollars on covert propaganda operations,” he added. “Russian TV, radio, and internet bots continue to push misinformation without almost no pushback from the US.”

The authoritarian threat required greater investment in non-kinetic resources for exerting influence abroad, Murphy added.

“We have more people working at military grocery stores than diplomats deployed abroad,” he said.

Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the [Kremlin’s] paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm, WIRED reports:
Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”

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“The IRA are not amateurs, they’re clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.

The threat of disinformation and other active measures employed by the Kremlin requires adaptation and innovation from the advanced democracies, according to NATO’s Secretary General.

“Defense is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies,” Jens Stoltenberg said this week. “It’s also about countering misinformation. Protecting infrastructure. Making our societies resilient to attack.”

“The geography of danger has shifted,” he added.

The NDI dinner honored three civil society groups on the front lines of confronting disinformation and false news – . Rappler from the Philippines, the Ukraine-based StopFake and the Oxford Internet Institute.

“When a lie is repeated 1 million times it becomes truth, especially when it’s state-sponsored hate,” said Rapplerdotcom‘s Maria Ressa. “A sock puppet network of 26 fake accounts can reach 3 million.”

Disinformation “exploits the fracture lines of society,” she said, adding that she received an average of 90 hate messages per hour.” Read the rest of this entry »


Survey: One in Two U.S. Millennials Would Rather Live in a Socialist or Communist Country

Anti-aircraft missiles on parade as they are led past Lenin's Tomb en route to the saluting base in Red Square to celebrate the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Anti-aircraft missiles on parade as they are led past Lenin’s Tomb en route to the saluting base in Red Square to celebrate the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Getty.

This survery claims one in two U.S. millennials would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist democracy.

Millennials: Communism Sounds Pretty Chill!

 writes:

… According to the latest survey from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit, one in two U.S. millennials say they would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist democracy.

What’s more, 22% of them have a favorable view of Karl Marx and a surprising number see Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Un as “heroes.”

Really, that’s what the numbers show.

“Millennials now make up the largest generation in America, and we’re seeing some deeply worrisome trends,” said Marion Smith, executive director of the organization. “Millennials are increasingly turning away from capitalism and toward socialism and even communism as a viable alternative.”

But do they even know what it is?

The survey, which was conducted by research and data firm YouGov, found that millennials are the least knowledgable generation on the subject, with 71% failing to identify the proper definition of communism.

Smith explained that this “troubling turn” highlights pervasive historical illiteracy across the country and “the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago.” Read the rest of this entry »


A Hundred Years of Communism

Ben Sixsmith writes: We must give the Bolsheviks their due. Their success in gaining power was astonishing. A ragtag gang of activists and intellectuals, they seized control of Russia in October, 1917, and defended their rule in a vicious, bloody civil war. No one can deny the force of their conviction, or the scale of their courage, or the keenness of their talents.

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Bolshevik forces marching on the Red Square, 1917

But wielding power was a different matter. Revolutionaries dream that crops will grow out of their fire but in most cases it leaves scarred and arid earth instead. Collectivisation, with its monstrous violence and inefficiency, left millions dead in Russia, Ukraine and the Caucasus. Paranoia and persecution, all too evident in Lenin’s “cleansing” of “harmful insects” — landowners, dissidents and priests the Bolsheviks interned, starved, tortured and killed — reached its absurd apotheosis in Stalin’s purges.

Stalin killed so many people in the Great Purge that it is remarkable that anyone was left to do the killing. Former comrades, artists and intellectuals, military officers, clergymen, dissidents, outcasts and normal Russian men and women were slaughtered in a tidal wave of blood. What is striking is not just who Stalin killed but who he spared. While hundreds of thousands of innocents were massacred, Lavrentiy Beria, who was not just a bloody killer but a known rapist, received generous promotion.

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Partial view of a plaque with photos of victims of the Great Purge who were shot in the Butovo firing range near Moscow. The photos were taken after the arrest of each victim.

Having carved up Eastern Europe with Adolf Hitler, and oppressed its beleaguered inhabitants with such atrocities as the Katyn massacre, where 22,000 men from the Polish officer corps and intelligensia were shot in cold blood, Stalin was himself subjected to invasion. The Red Army fought with startling courage and conviction to prevail, but as the West looked on they became embarrassed. A storm of rape and murder followed the Soviets, carried out by callous and vengeful soldiers. The Nazis in Eastern Europe were replaced with cruel and subservient Stalinist officials. Bierut in Poland, Hoxha in Albania, Rákosi in Hungary and Gottwald in Czechoslovakia kept their people mired in poverty and persecution.

[Read the full story here, at Quillette]

The Soviets inspired others. Mao took power in China and launched a sweeping campaign of modernisation that left millions of expendable victims starved or killed. Juche arose in North Korea, wrapping itself around the country in a chokehold that has persisted to the present day. Pol Pot butchered almost a quarter of Cambodians. Mariam mass-murdered in Ethiopia. Perhaps the most successful of the communist states was Cuba, where, at least, there was not large-scale killing or famine.

As the years dragged on, and Marxists alternately identified with and then disassociated themselves from regimes which took power and promptly used that power to wicked and foolish ends, their search for an impressive Marxist state became a kind of force. The great red hope of the 21st Century was Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez gained popular support and some economic success. Any achievements were undone as the economy shrank, inflation sky-rocketed and violent crime left tens of thousands of people dead. Now, a statue of Chavez has been pulled to the ground as Venezualans, sick of queuing for hours to pay thousands of bolívares for bread and toilet paper, have marched in the streets.

It would be simplistic to blame all of these events on ideology. We live in an imperfect world and those imperfections have been unequally distributed. No conceivable government of Russia, or China, or Venezuela would have left no citizens impoverished or oppressed. Nonetheless, a hundred years of communism has presented us with an intimidating record of catastrophe, in a moral, political, and economic sense. Time and again, ambition has exceeded potential. Time and again, coercion has encouraged conflict. Time and again, violence has perpetuated itself. Time and again, absolute power has hardened into tyranny. Read the rest of this entry »


Bret Stephens: A Century of Progressive Excuses for Communism

People gathered to honor Stalin’s victims at a ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, last year. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

People gathered to honor Stalin’s victims at a ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, last year. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Communism Through Rose-Colored Glasses.

Bret Stephens writes: “In the spring of 1932 desperate officials, anxious for their jobs and even their lives, aware that a new famine might be on its way, began to collect grain wherever and however they could. Mass confiscations occurred all across the U.S.S.R. In Ukraine they took on an almost fanatical intensity.”

stalin-funeral

I am quoting a few lines from “Red Famine,” Anne Applebaum’s brilliant new history of the deliberate policy of mass starvation inflicted on Ukraine by Joseph Stalin in the early 1930s. An estimated five million or more people perished in just a few years. Walter Duranty, The Times’s correspondent in the Soviet Union, insisted the stories of famine were false. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for reportage the paper later called “completely misleading.”

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How many readers, I wonder, are familiar with this history of atrocity and denial, except in a vague way? How many know the name of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Stalin’s principal henchmen in the famine? What about other chapters large and small in the history of Communist horror, from the deportation of the Crimean Tatars to the depredations of Peru’s Shining Path to the Brezhnev-era psychiatric wards that were used to torture and imprison political dissidents?

Mao-etc-Hulton-Archive-Getty-Images

Archive/Getty Images

Why is it that people who know all about the infamous prison on Robben Island in South Africa have never heard of the prison on Cuba’s Isle of Pines? Why is Marxism still taken seriously on college campuses and in the progressive press? Do the same people whoObaMao
rightly demand the removal of Confederate statues ever feel even a shiver of inner revulsion at hipsters in Lenin or Mao T-shirts?

These aren’t original questions. But they’re worth asking because so many of today’s progressives remain in a permanent and dangerous state of semi-denial about the legacy of Communism a century after its birth in Russia.

No, they are not true-believing Communists. No, they are not unaware of the toll of the Great Leap Forward or the Killing Fields. No, they are not plotting to undermine democracy. Read the rest of this entry »


BOOM: Clinton Campaign, DNC Paid for Research That Led to Russia Dossier

Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled the dossier on President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. (Victoria Jones/AP)

Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled the dossier on President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. (Victoria Jones/AP)

Fusion GPS was hired by a Democratic lawyer acting on behalf of campaign and committee.

Adam Entous, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman report: The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

[MORE: FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier]

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

Fusion GPS gave Steele’s reports and other research documents to Elias, the people familiar with the matter said. It is unclear how or how much of that information was shared with the campaign and DNC, and who in those organizations was aware of the roles of Fusion GPS and Steele. One person close to the matter said the campaign and the DNC were not informed of Fusion GPS’s role by the law firm. Read the rest of this entry »


How the KGB Duped Oliver Stone

Many Americans believe that JFK was assassinated as the result of some sort of conspiracy, perhaps even by the CIA—the direct result of a KGB influence operation.

holland-max-author.jpgMax Holland writes: Helping defeat Hillary Clinton is not the most successful influence operation Moscow has ever mounted against the United States. The most momentous, yes. But any covert activity that is exposed so rapidly and incites a backlash cannot be deemed an unalloyed accomplishment.

Moscow’s single most effective influence operation remains the one induced 50 years ago this month, when the now-defunct New Orleans States-Item published a front-page story on April 25, 1967, entitled “Mounting Evidence Links CIA to ‘Plot’ Probe.” It was an operation that culminated in an unimaginable achievement—inclusion in a Hollywood blockbuster by Oliver Stone that contends the CIA was instrumental in JFK’s assassination.

That probe, as every conscious American knew, was district attorney Jim Garrison’s re-investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination amid a pronounced erosion of public confidence in the Warren Report. On March 1, 1967, Garrison had ostentatiously announced the arrest of Clay Shaw, a respected businessman, and charged him with complicity in JFK’s death. It was an outlandish and baseless accusation, yet Shaw would prove far from the only victim. The miscarriage of justice that unfolded over the next two years would have vast, if largely unappreciated, consequences for America’s political culture.

It would take a separate article (or even book) to explain why Garrison ordered Clay Shaw’s arrest in the first place (and some very good ones have been written, including Patricia Lambert’s False Witness). Suffice it to say that at the time of the arrest and until later in March, Garrison’s theory of the case was that JFK’s assassination was actually a “homosexual thrill-killing.” The president had been murdered in broad daylight because he was everything the conspirators were not: “a successful, handsome, popular, wealthy, virile man.” Under this scenario, Shaw, who was gay but closeted, also went by the name of Clay Bertrand, a mysterious person linked to the assassination. “Bertrand” had supposedly tried to arrange a defense counsel for Lee Harvey Oswald during the weekend following his capture on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. The Warren Commission and FBI thoroughly investigated the “Bertrand” allegation in 1964, and had concluded (correctly) that it was a fabrication concocted by a publicity-seeking New Orleans attorney named Dean Andrews. “Bertrand” was not even a real person.

[Read the full story here, at thedailybeast.com]

Nonetheless, Shaw’s surprise arrest in 1967 naturally precipitated a media firestorm the likes of which had not been seen since the assassination itself. As reporters from near and far flocked to New Orleans—the universal reaction being that Garrison “must have something”—headlines appeared around the globe, including in Paese Sera, a small-circulation newspaper published in Rome. The story that ran in its pages on March 4, however, was unlike any other. Clay Shaw, Paese Sera alleged, had been involved in “pseudo-commercial” activities in Italy while serving on the board of the defunct Centro Mondiale Commerciale. Ostensibly devoted to making Rome a commerce hub, the CMC had actually been “a creature of the CIA… set up as a cover for the transfer to Italy of CIA-FBI funds [sic] for illegal political-espionage activities.” Read the rest of this entry »


Hackers Gain Direct Access to US Power Grid Controls 

PALO ALTO, CA -JULY 12: Power line towers are shown July 12, 2002 in Palo Alto, California. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission boosted the maximum price of electricity from $55.26 per megawatt hour to $91.87 in the wake of record-breaking temperatures for the week, including 112 degrees in Redding, California today. One megawatt is enough to power about 750 homes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hackers had the power to cause blackouts, Symantec says. And yes, most signs point to Russia.

Andy Greenberg writes: In an era of hacker attacks on critical infrastructure, even a run-of-the-mill malware infection on an electric utility’s network is enough to raise alarm bells. But the latest collection of power grid penetrations went far deeper: Security firm Symantec is warning that a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the US and Europe but also resulted in the intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations—enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil at will.

Symantec on Wednesday revealed a new campaign of attacks by a group it is calling Dragonfly 2.0, which it says targeted dozens of energy companies in the spring and summer of this year. In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ networks. And at a handful of US power firms and at least one company in Turkey—none of which Symantec will name—their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces power company engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into US homes and businesses.

“There’s a difference between being a step away from conducting sabotage and actually being in a position to conduct sabotage … being able to flip the switch on power generation,” says Eric Chien, a Symantec security analyst. “We’re now talking about on-the-ground technical evidence this could happen in the US, and there’s nothing left standing in the way except the motivation of some actor out in the world.”

Never before have hackers been shown to have that level of control of American power company systems, Chien notes. The only comparable situations, he says, have been the repeated hacker attacks on the Ukrainian grid that twice caused power outages in the country in late 2015 and 2016, the first known hacker-induced blackouts.

The Usual Suspects

Security firms like FireEye and Dragos have pinned those Ukrainian attacks on a hacker group known as Sandworm, believed to be based in Russia. But Symantec stopped short of blaming the more recent attacks on any country or even trying to explain the hackers’ motives. Chien says the company has found no connections between Sandworm and the intrusions it has tracked. Nor has it directly connected the Dragonfly 2.0 campaign to the string of hacker intrusions at US power companies—including a Kansas nuclear facility—known as Palmetto Fusion, which unnamed officials revealed in July and later tied to Russia.

Chien does note, however, that the timing and public descriptions of the Palmetto Fusion hacking campaigns match up with its Dragonfly findings. “It’s highly unlikely this is just coincidental,” Chien says. But he adds that while the Palmetto Fusion intrusions included a breach of a nuclear power plant, the most serious DragonFly intrusions Symantec tracked penetrated only non-nuclear energy companies, which have less strict separations of their internet-connected IT networks and operational controls. Read the rest of this entry »


New York Times’ Dark History of Promoting ‘Alternative Facts’ to Hide Communist Atrocities

The Red York Times: First in Fake News.

Michelle Malkin writes: Newsflash from The New York Times: Women may have starved under socialist regimes, but their orgasms were out of this world!

That’s the creepy gist of one of the Grey Lady’s recent essays this summer hailing the “Red Century.” The paper’s ongoing series explores “the history and legacy of Communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution.” When its essayists aren’t busy championing the great sex that oppressed women enjoyed in miserable Eastern Bloc countries, they’re extolling Lenin’s fantabulous conservationist programs and pimping “Communism for Kids” propaganda.

Since this is back-to-school season, it’s the perfect time to teach your children about faux journalism at the Fishwrap of Record. As the publication’s pretentious own new slogan asserts, “The truth is more important than ever.”

While the Times hyperventilates about the dangers of President Trump’s “art of fabrication” and “Russian collusion,” this is the same organization whose famed correspondent in Russia, Walter Duranty, won a Pulitzer Prize for spreading fake news denying Joseph Stalin‘s Ukrainian genocide.

[read the full story here, at Frontpage Mag]

An estimated 10 million men, women and children starved in the Stalin-engineered silent massacre between 1932-1933, also known as the Holodomor. Stalin had implemented his “Five Year Plan” of agricultural collectivization — confiscating land and livestock, evicting farmers, and imposing impossible grain production quotas. At the peak of the famine, about 30,000 Ukrainian citizens a day were dying. Untold numbers resorted to cannibalism. Read the rest of this entry »


Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes Now a Person of Interest in House Intelligence Committee Unmasking Investigation

Sara A. Carter reports: Former Obama White House National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes is now an emerging as a person of interest in the House Intelligence Committee’s unmasking investigation, according to a letter sent Tuesday by the committee to the National Security Agency (NSA). This adds Rhodes to the growing list of top Obama government officials who may have improperly unmasked Americans in communications intercepted overseas by the NSA, Circa has confirmed.

The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, sent the letter to the National Security Agency requesting the number of unmaskings made by Rhodes from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 20, 2017, according to congressional sources who spoke with Circa. Rhodes, who worked closely with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and was a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications for President Obama, became a focus of the committee during its review of classified information to assess whether laws were broken regarding NSA intercepted communications of President Trump, members of his administration and other Americans before and after the election, according to congressional officials. The committee is requesting that the NSA deliver the information on Rhodes by August, 21.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2016 file photo Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP –  In this Feb. 16, 2016 file photo Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan have all been named in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the unmasking of Americans. A letter sent last week from Nunes to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, suggested that top Obama aides made hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential elections. The story, which was first reported by The Hill last week, stated that the requests were made without specific justifications as to why the unmasking was necessary. Rice and Brennan have confirmed they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports but insisted their requests were routine parts of their work and had no nefarious intentions. Power also has legal authority to unmask officials, though the practice has not reportedly been common for someone in her position. Rhodes also had legal authority to unmask Americans in NSA-source intelligence reports. But intelligence and congressional sources question the extent of the unmasking.

[Read the full story here, at circa.com]

Nunes told Coats in a letter last week that the committee has “found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information.”

Multiple federal law enforcement and intelligence officials told Circa, that requesting an unmasking for intelligence and analytical purposes is something that is done only when the information is absolutely necessary to analyze a specific threat or for other national security purposes. An intelligence source, with direct knowledge of the type of requests made by the Obama aides, said “it’s like hell and high water to fill out and gain approval for these types of unmaskings. It’s something analysts take seriously and could entail filling out 80 pages of paperwork to prove there is a need to unmask. If top officials were unmasking without oversight it’s something everyone should be concerned about and it puts our intelligence community in a very bad place.” Read the rest of this entry »


Who Paid for the ‘Trump Dossier’? 

Democrats don’t want you to find out—and that ought to be a scandal of its own.

 reports: It has been 10 days since Democrats received the glorious news that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley would require Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to explain their meeting with Russian operators at Trump Tower last year. The left was salivating at the prospect of watching two Trump insiders being grilled about Russian “collusion” under the klieg lights.

Yet Democrats now have meekly and noiselessly retreated, agreeing to let both men speak to the committee in private. Why would they so suddenly be willing to let go of this moment of political opportunity?

Fusion GPS. That’s the oppo-research outfit behind the infamous and discredited “Trump dossier,” ginned up by a former British spook. Read the rest of this entry »


The Resistance That Cried Wolf

W. James Antle III writes: It’s impossible in some quarters to discuss Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a shady Russian lawyer without being quizzed about similar bad things politicians from the opposing party have done.

What about Ted Kennedy’s secret messages to the Soviets while Ronald Reagan was running for re-election? What about the Ukrainian government trying to help Hillary Clinton? And on and on it goes.

This bit of rhetorical judo has become so common in our politics that it even has a name: “whataboutism.” Naturally, its origins have been traced back to the Russians, if not even further back. The Economist‘s Edward Luce described it as an attempt to “match every Soviet crime with a real or imagined Western one.”

More recently, the tactic has been deployed by diehard supporters of President Trump, as well as by his more removed “anti-anti-Trumpist” backers.

And you know what? Trump’s supporters are not wrong to urge us all to truly examine historical precedents. Because all too often, Trump’s fiercest critics declare his every utterance and action unprecedented without bothering to thoughtfully consider the precedents.

Now, when “whataboutism” is used to defend the indefensible, it is obviously wrong. But not every historical comparison can be dismissed as simple “whataboutism.” And there are good reasons why “What about … ” questions have so frequently been raised under this president. The case against Trump is not simply that he does things that are wrong or bad, but that he is bad in ways that are unprecedented and represent a sharp break from important political norms.

If we are going to chastise Trump for norm violations, shouldn’t we first establish how normal or abnormal his actions in a given area really are? If we are going to say he is guilty of doing the unprecedented, shouldn’t we look to see if there are in fact any precedents? Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Russian Lawyer Given Special Immigration Status Under Obama

Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed into the U.S. without a visa by the former administration’s Justice Department; Catherine Herridge has the details for ‘Special Report’.


[VIDEO] Are Russian and NATO Forces Headed Toward a New Cold War?

The Cold War test of nerves is back. Risky close encounters between Russian and NATO forces have increased dramatically in the Baltic region over the past three years. The WSJ’s Tanya Rivero explains what’s at stake.

 


[VIDEO] Fox Business Host Calls Out Podesta For Having Financial Ties To Russia

Nick Givas reports: Host of the Fox Business show “Mornings With Maria” Maria Bartiromo interviewed John Podesta Wednesday, saying she believed that his ties to Russia are even greater than those of President Donald Trump’s.

“Do you find it odd that there’s been so much attention on the Trump campaign and the Trump associates and potential collusion with the Russians, when it’s really the Democrats who have deeper and stronger ties to Russia?”

Podesta’s emails were hacked during the 2016 presidential race when he was the campaign manager of former candidate Hillary Clinton, and many of his opinions and private political agendas were leaked to the public. Many experts later said that this scandal damaged Clinton’s chances at obtaining the White House.

Bartiromo began by asking about Podesta’s recent meeting with the House intelligence panel, but moved to press Podesta as to why Democrats’ ties to Russia were ignored despite being more prevalent than those of the Republican Party. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Mark Steyn: Russian ‘Scandal’ Has No Russians 

Mark Steyn: CNN has gone bonkers over a Russian ‘scandal’ with no Russians and will likely be a casualty of Trump. Their ‘nothing burger’ story may get ratings, but it will have diminishing returns.


‘What Do They Want, a Cookie?’ CNN Didn’t DECIDE to Retract the Fake Russia Story, They Were FORCED To

CNN faced $100M lawsuit over botched Russia story

Emily Smith reports: The specter of a $100 million libel suit scared CNN into retracting a poorly reported story that slimed an ally of President Trump’s — and forcing out the staffers responsible for it, The Post has learned.

The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.

CNN immediately caved after Scaramucci, a financier and frequent network guest, cried foul and threatened to take legal action, sources said Tuesday.

Scaramucci got an unusual public apology but still hired a top Manhattan lawyer to put further pressure on CNN and “look after [his] interests in this matter,” one source said.

Sources also said the three journalists responsible for the retracted story — reporter Tom Frank, editor Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris, who headed the CNN Investigates unit — were urged to resign.

“They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately,” one source said.

Zucker was afraid of facing a high-profile suit from Scaramucci while the US Justice Department weighs the proposed $85.4 billion media merger.

Meanwhile, a CNN insider said staffers are furious at “having lost the moral high ground because of this story.” Sources said Zucker tried to rally his staff during a Tuesday morning conference call.

“Zucker stressed that this issue was a ‘lapse in editorial standards’ and said it was a lesson to all reporters and editors to continue to strive for strong, accurate reporting,” a source said. Read the rest of this entry »


‘THE MOST BUSTED NAME IN NEWS’: New York Post Cover for Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Did CNN’s Russia Story Debacle Come at the Best Possible Time for the Network?

When the flawed story broke, the investigations editor was out of town.

Paul Farhi reports: Lex Haris, CNN’s investigations editor, traveled to a journalism conference in Phoenix last week. In hindsight, his timing was terrible.

While Haris was away, his group published a story on CNN.com that reported — citing a single anonymous source — that Senate investigators were looking into a meeting between a member of President Trump’s transition team, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci, and an executive of a Russian investment fund before Trump took office. The story seemed to advance the narrative of ties between Trump campaign officials and people close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

One problem: When challenged on the particulars of the story, CNN acknowledged that it couldn’t stand by it. It retracted it and apologized to Scaramucci on Saturday. On Monday, Haris and the editor and reporter of the piece, Eric Lichtblau and Thomas Frank, resigned from CNN.

The sequence of events led Trump to take a kind of victory lap on Tuesday. He turned to Twitter to bash CNN and other media outlets (including The Washington Post) that have aggressively reported on his associates’ connections to Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and pre-inaugural period.

“Wow, CNN had to retract big story on “Russia,” with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted. He added later, “Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!”

In fact, CNN isn’t looking at “big management changes,” according to senior executives at the network. But Trump — long resistant to admitting his own falsehoods— is unlikely to correct his tweet anytime soon. He has also been silent about errors committed by other news organizations, such as Fox News, that he deems to be friendly. Read the rest of this entry »


Massive Ransomware Cyber Attack Spreads Across Europe 

Another widespread cyber attack is causing massive problems across Europe Tuesday.

Ukraine has been hit particularly hard as government and company officials have reported serious intrusions across the Ukrainian power grid, banks and government offices. The country’s prime minister says that the cyber attack affecting his country is “unprecedented,” but “vital systems haven’t been affected.”

Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft has said it has been hacked, as well as Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk and Britain’s WPP—the largest advertising company in the world.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko on Tuesday posted a picture of a darkened computer screen to Twitter, saying that the computer system at the government’s headquarters has been shut down.

There’s very little information about who might be behind the disruption, but technology experts who examined screenshots circulating on social media said it bears the hallmarks of ransomware, the name given to programs that hold data hostage by scrambling it until a payment is made.

“A massive ransomware campaign is currently unfolding worldwide,” said Romanian cybersecurity company Bitdefender. In a telephone interview, Bitdefender analyst Bogdan Botezatu said that he had examined samples of the program and that it appeared to be nearly identical to GoldenEye, one of a family of hostage-taking programs that has been circulating for months. Read the rest of this entry »


CNN Is Imposing Strict New Rules On Its Russia Coverage

The decision came after the network deleted and retracted a post on Friday.

reports: CNN is imposing strict new publishing restrictions for online articles involving Russia after the network deleted a story and then issued a retraction late Friday, according to an internal email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The email went out at 11:21 a.m. on Saturday from Rich Barbieri, the CNNMoney executive editor, saying “No one should publish any content involving Russia without coming to me and Jason,” a CNN vice president.

“This applied to social, video, editorial, and MoneyStream. No exceptions,” the email added. “I will lay out a workflow Monday.”

The new restrictions also apply to other areas of the network — not just CNNMoney, which wasn’t involved with the article that was deleted and retracted. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Adam Schiff Slams Obama Administration for Delayed Response to Russia Meddling


Do Rosenstein and Mueller Have Conflicts of Interest in the Trump Investigation?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Rod_Rosenstein_US_Attorney440px-Director_Robert_S._Mueller-_III-1For many weeks, I questioned the need for a Special Counsel in the Russian investigation because it seems like a coverup in search of a crime.   I still do not see the evidence of a crime and simply saying “collusion” does not supply an actual crime.  However, when President Donald Trump fired James Comey, I supported the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate obstruction of justice, even though I remained skeptical of the basis for an actual obstruction charge. I still fail to see the compelling basis for an obstruction case without stretching the criminal code to the breaking point.  Nevertheless, I continue to support the need for an independent investigation.

The investigation of a sitting American president however must itself be beyond question as to any bias or influence.  For that reason, I have been questioning the propriety of Rod Rosenstein to continue in his current position…

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Kurt Schlichter: If The Left Wins Their Soft Coup, Everyone Loses – But Mostly Them

AFP PHOTO / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / FILESBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

If you end the rule of law, you begin the rule of power, and the rule of power means the folks with the most guns rule.

Kurt Schlichter writes: You have to wonder how liberals think this works. So, a manifestly conflicted special counsel leading a pack of maxed-out Democrat donors decides Donald Trump has to be kicked out of office for “obstructing justice” regarding a cynical lie about him cavorting with the Kremlin and…then what? President Pence, until they do the same thing to him? Or do we just skip right to President Felonia von Pantsuit, shrug our shoulders, and give up on our foolish dream of having a say in our own governance?

Straightforward from here is…chaos.

Because normal Americans are woke to the scam. No, the affidavits of a zillion DC/NY establishment types attesting to Robert Mueller’s impeccable integrity – ever notice how the guy trying to hose us always has the establishment’s “impeccable integrity” merit badge – are not going to make us unsee the fact that he’s carrying water for an establishment that thinks we need to just shut up and obey.

[Read the full story here, at townhall.com]

Now, pulling off the soft coup is going to be harder than they think. The establishment has not thought this out. They sort of assume that if they squelch Trump then everything somehow just goes back to them being in unchallenged control. Wrong.

Mueller can’t indict Trump – that stupid Constitution, always getting in the way! No, the goal is for Mueller and his crack team of committed liberal activist lawyers to generate some head-shaking, tsk-tsk, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger, report claiming Trump “obstructed” the probe into Hillary’s Trump/Russia collusion lie that even the liberals reluctantly acknowledge never happened.

But their problem is that impeachment is a purely political act – this isn’t going to get tried before some leftist DC judge and a 96% Democrat DC jury. No, they have to convince the Republican members of the House of Representatives to impeach and, well, have you taken a look at a political map of the US lately? It’s as red as a baseball field full of conservatives after a Bernie Bro shows up with a rifle. Read the rest of this entry »


Flashback: Russian Ambassador Visited Obama White House 22 Times 

Oh my god! Investigate!

Matt Vespa writes: Prior to the testimony given by Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, there was a lot of chatter about his third undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Depending on whom you read, like the LA Times or the Associated Press, Sessions denied the third meeting, while NBC News says the attorney general said it was “conceivable” a third rendezvous occurred, but he cannot recollect what happened. He did stress that nothing improper had occurred.

Sessions has been under fire for answers he gave to Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) about his interactions with the Russians, including two meetings that he did not disclose. At the same time, both questions were within the parameters of the 2016 campaign, not in his former capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The second meeting at the RNC Convention was facilitated by an initiative from the Obama administration. To rehash, here’s what was asked of Sessions during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee:

FRANKEN: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know.

[Read the full story here, at townhall.com]

But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.

FRANKEN: Very well.

[…]

[LEAHY:]  Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?

[Sessions] RESPONSE: No. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Krauthammer: Sessions Exposed Absurdity of Russia Probe

[ALSO SEE – The Big Collusion Narrative Keeps Melting Down]


Did Comey Violate Laws In Leaking The Trump Memo?

JONATHAN TURLEY

440px-Comey-FBI-PortraitOne of the most interesting new disclosures today in the Comey hearing was the admission by former FBI Director James Comey that he intentionally used a “friend” on the Columbia law faculty to leak his memos to the media.  Comey says that he did so to force the appointment of a Special Counsel. However, those memos could be viewed as a government record and potential evidence in a criminal investigation.

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Herridge: Comey Made A Leak In Hopes Of Changing Focus Of The Russia Investigation

Ian Schwartz reports: FOX News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge reacts to former FBI director James Comey‘s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Herridge said she can not recall a time when a former FBI director deliberately leaked a memo to start an investigation or change the entire focus of an investigation going forward.

“What you can draw here from that testimony is that once he left the office of FBI director, he was not necessarily a person of principle. He made a decision to leak information on an anonymous basis in the hope of really changing the entire focus of the Russia investigation going forward.”

“I can’t remember a time ever where a former FBI director has deliberately leaked the contents of a government document so it would get to a reporter in the hopes that it would prompt a special counsel investigation,” Herridge said Thursday afternoon.

“What you can draw here from that testimony is that once he left the office of FBI director, he was not necessarily a person of principle,” Herridge said. “He made a decision to leak information on an anonymous basis in the hope of really changing the entire focus of the Russia investigation going forward.”

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS: I can’t remember a time ever where a former FBI director has deliberately leaked the contents of a government document so it would get to a reporter in the hopes that it would prompt a special counsel investigation. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Comey Says Trump Never Asked Him to Stop Russia Investigation

How the AFP reports it:

jpnews


[VIDEO] The Fallout from Comey Releasing His Prepared Remarks 


FORECAST PARTLY CLOUDY: Comey to Testify that Trump Sought ‘Loyalty,’ Asked to Lift Russia ‘Cloud’

Judson Berger reports: James Comey plans to testify Thursday that in the months before he was fired as FBI director, President Trump sought his “loyalty” while also pressing him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation and lay off Michael Flynn, according to written testimony released ahead of his Senate committee appearance.

The prepared remarks for his opening statement, released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, also make clear that Comey repeatedly assured Trump he was not personally under investigation.

federalist-comey.jpg

Comey’s statement detailed several meetings he had with Trump dating back to January.

He extensively described a Jan. 27 dinner where he said Trump told him: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.”

[READ COMEY’S STATEMENT]

Comey plans to say as well that Trump sought help ending any probe of former national security adviser Flynn, reiterating previously published reports about such claims.

Comey’s testimony will mark his first Capitol Hill appearance since his firing a month ago. Lawmakers are eager to hear his side, amid a raft of reports suggesting Trump had pressured Comey over investigations of Russian meddling in the election and coordination with his associates.

Trump has denied pressuring Comey as well as any collusion with Russia.

If Comey’s opening statement is any gauge, Thursday’s testimony will be explosive. Read the rest of this entry »


Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election

Matthew Cole, , ,  report: Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Left’s Ridiculous Double Standard on Spilling Secrets 

This occurred over what the Washington Post and the New York Times suggest was President Trump’s inadvertent disclosure of highly classified intelligence from Israel in the Oval Office when Trump received Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The disclosure, the Times quoted American officials as representing, “could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected.” At one moment Wednesday, the Times had on its home page something like 18 pieces on this or related scandals.

What a contrast to, say, 2006. That’s when the Gray Lady thumbed its nose for news at President George W. Bush’s pleadings that the paper refrain from disclosing how the government, in its hunt for terrorists, was mining data of the Swift banking consortium.

The Bush administration had begged the Times not to proceed. Yet it did so. Bush called it “disgraceful,” adding that the “fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.” Treasury said it would hamper the pursuit of terrorists.

Such a hullabaloo arose from long-suffering Times readers that the paper’s executive editor, then Bill Keller, issued a 1,400-word “personal response.” In it, he suggested that if conservative bloggers were so worried, they should stop calling attention to it. Read the rest of this entry »


The Russian Disclosure: Trump’s Game of Truth or Dare

JONATHAN TURLEY

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedBelow is my column in USA Today on President Donald Trump’s disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians in his controversial meeting after the firing of James Comey.  While the Administration issued a series of categorical denials of the underlying stories as “false,” the next day it appeared to acknowledge that Trump did in fact reveal the information.  As discussed below, it was a wise decision not to repeat the initially misleading statements to Congress.  The intelligence was reportedly generated by Israel, which did not give permission to the President to make the disclosure to the Russians.  Since the New York Times and Washington Post did not say that Trump released “sources and methods,” it now appears that the White House is not claiming that the stories were false.  It is the latest example of denials from the White House which then lead to embarrassing reversals over the…

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The Russian Intel Story Shows the Price of Trump’s Lost Credibility

Loose Lips Sink Presidencies.

The state of the Trump Presidency has been perpetual turbulence, which seems to be how the principal likes it. The latest vortex is over Mr. Trump’s disclosure of sensitive intel to the Russians—and whatever the particulars of the incident, the danger is that Presidencies can withstand only so much turbulence before they come apart.

The Washington Post reported Monday night that in an Oval Office meeting last week Mr. Trump relayed high-level “code word” classified material obtained from an ally to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Cue another Washington meltdown. The President took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to defend himself, claiming an “absolute right” to disclose “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster put a finer point on it at a Tuesday press conference, though without denying key details. He said Mr. Trump’s disclosure was “wholly appropriate” and didn’t expose intelligence sources and methods.

Presidents sometimes share secrets with overseas leaders—even to adversaries such as the Soviets during the Cold War—if they conclude the benefits of showing what the U.S. knows will aid diplomacy or strategic interests. From media accounts and his tweets, Mr. Trump said something about Islamic State’s laptop bomb threat to airlines. He may well have been trying to convince the envoys of the menace ISIS poses to Russian lives and foreign-policy goals, like the Russian airliner that exploded over Sinai in 2015. Read the rest of this entry »


Yates Goes On CNN To Declare That Russians Had ‘Real Leverage’ Over Flynn

JONATHAN TURLEY

sally_q-_yatesI have previously been critical of the stance taken by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.  I remained unconvinced that Yates had the ethical basis to order for the entire Justice Department to stand down and not to assist the president in the defense of his first executive order on immigration. I also questioned Yates’ decision to voluntarily testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  She was testifying as someone who was recently in a prosecutorial position about subjects related to an ongoing investigation where no one has yet to be indicted.  Now those concerns have been magnified by Yates’ appearance in the media to talk about matters center to the ongoing investigation at the Justice Department and other related subjects.

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[VIDEO] Krauthammer: Trump’s Russia Meeting & Classified Intelligence Slip Stokes Intrigue 

Charles Krauthammer said during a previous segment that Trump would probably not be affected by the reported intelligence slip during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, but in this clip he pointed out that incidents with Russia are a recurring problem for the administration:

Nobody thinks that the president actually sat down with the Russkies and said, “Look this is exactly how we collect information from al Qaeda in Yemen and ISIS in Syria.” Of course he didn’t. It would have been a slip in which he might have mentioned an ally in place, and that would not be good. I am sure the ally is understanding. I don’t think this is going to cause a rift as a matter of principle, but out of perhaps concern and prudence, they may want to pull back for a short while. Again, if the story is true and if they were compromised. You have got to ask yourself: Why do the Russians keep turning up every three days in the Trump administration? It seems as if Trump has a recurring cold and the Russkies are involved in that. I mean, of all the countries, it didn’t have to be Russia.

Source: National Review


[VIDEO] Feinstein Says There is No Evidence of Collusion Between Trump Associates and Russia 


OH HERE IT COMES: Venezuela Is Heading for a Soviet-Style Collapse 

Remember last time an oil economy crashed catastrophically?

Anders Aslund writes: Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.

There is, however, at least one — the Soviet Union’s similar devastation in the late 1980s. Its fate may be instructive for Venezuela — which is not to suggest Venezuelans, least of all the regime of Nicolás Maduro, will like what it portends.

Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in June 2014, and there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon. Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely. Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in 1981 and got worse from there.

“Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation.”

But the deeper problem for the Soviet Union wasn’t the oil price collapse; it’s what came before. In his book Collapse of an Empire, Russia’s great post-Soviet reformer Yegor Gaidar pointed out that during the long preceding oil boom, Soviet policymakers thought that they could walk on water and that the usual laws of economic gravity did not apply to them. Soviet policymakers didn’t bother developing a theory to make sense of their spending. They didn’t even bother paying attention to their results. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.

This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. The Venezuelan government, though it doesn’t claim to be full-fledged in its devotion to Marxism-Leninism, has been pursuing as absurd an economic policy mix as its Soviet predecessor. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies. Nonetheless the Venezuelan government, like the Soviet Union’s, has always felt it could afford these subsidies because of its oil revenues.

TOPSHOT - Demonstrators clash with the riot police during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 20, 2017. Venezuelan riot police fired tear gas Thursday at groups of protesters seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who have vowed new mass marches after a day of deadly unrest. Police in western Caracas broke up scores of opposition protesters trying to join a larger march, though there was no immediate repeat of Wednesday's violent clashes, which left three people dead. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

But as the oil price has fallen by slightly more than half since mid-2014, oil incomes have fallen accordingly. And rather than increase oil production, the Venezuelan government has been forced to watch it decline because of its mismanagement of the dominant state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

And now Venezuela seems intent on repeating the Soviet folly of the late 1980s by refusing to change course. This is allowing the budget deficit to swell and putting the country on track toward ultimate devastation.

The Soviet Union in its latter years had a skyrocketing budget deficit, too. In 1986 it exceeded 6 percent of GDP, and by 1991 it reached an extraordinary one-third of GDP. Venezuela is now following suit. The Soviet Union used its currency reserves to pay for imports, but when those reserves shrank, the government financed the budget deficit by printing money. The inevitable result was skyrocketing inflation.

It seems as if President Nicolás Maduro has adopted this tried-and-failed combination of fiscal and monetary policy. Venezuela already is dealing with massive shortages as a result of its controlled prices, because the government can no longer afford its own subsidies. But it will get worse from here.

Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation. Inflation is already believed to have reached 700 percent a year, and it is heading toward official hyperinflation, that is, an inflation rate of at least 50 percent a month. Read the rest of this entry »