WATCH THE REPLAY: WikiLeaks Editor Kristinn Hrafnsson, Michael Isikoff, Pepe Escobar, As’ad AbuKhalil on CN Live!

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, journalists Michael Isikoff and Pepe Escobar, political scientist As’ad AbuKhalil and author George Szamuely on Episode 2 of CNLive! 

Hrafnsson joined CNLive! to speak on the latest about imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, including CNN’s recent hit piece; Isikoff discussed his Yahoo! News series on Seth Rich; Escobar gave keen insights into the major scandal engulfing Brazil as well as his observations of Italy after his recent trip there; AbuKhalil dissected Middle East politics and war and Szamuely commented on the lot with hosts Elizabeth Vos and Joe Lauria on CN Live!  Download and listen to the podcast.

Watch it here:




Consortium News Target of a Malware Attack as Twitter Takes Down Assange Support Group’s Account

The simultaneous escalation of censorship of Julian Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘, raises concern about a coordinated effort to smear Assange while silencing those who counter such dubious reporting.

By Elizabeth Vos
Special to Consortium News

Consortium News was under attack on Monday, days after the premiere episode of the outlet’s live-streamed show, CN Live! The malicious attempt to shut down the website, according to the site’s web host, followed on the heels of the suspension of pro-Assange account Unity4J from Twitter.

Consortium News wrote via Twitter on Monday regarding the cyberattack:

“Our website is completely down. Our media host said we have been attacked by malware. They actually tried to blame ‘the Russians’! Every article published since 2011 now gets a 404 Not Found. They are working on it. Problem started slowly on Friday first day of CN Live!”

https://twitter.com/Consortiumnews/status/1150870051072987139

The hack of Consortium News sparked concern regarding what appears to be an escalating wave of attacks on the independent press, as well as censorship of activists who support independent journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Consortium News was restored by 10:44 pm EDT on Monday, but issues related to publishing new material persist.

As news of the attack on Consortium News spread, some Assange supporters connected the event with Twitter’s suspension of the Unity4J movement’s Twitter account. Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother and an activist in her own right, Christine Assange tweeted:

Christine Assange also wrote on Sunday that she had lost “over 8,000 followers overnight.”

CNLive!‘s inaugural live-stream included an interview with Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, who “discussed his work on the condition of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

Consortium News had previously conducted the Unity4J online vigils over a period of months. The Unity4J Twitter account was suspended last Thursday for no known reason. The ban sparked a backlash including independent media coverage from a number of outlets, as well as an impassioned statement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who called Twitter “Big Brother” for permanently removing the account. To date, no explanation for Unity4J’s suspension has been made public.

Caitlin Johnstone wrote of the suspension via Medium:

“Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules.”

Unity4J was far from the only account targeted recently. Additional Unity4J activists, including many of those associated with running the Unity4J Twitter profile, were also either suspended or locked out of their accounts. One Unity4J admin, Aaron Kesel, who also writes as an independent journalist, said in an interview that they were locked out of their accounts within minutes of publishing an article covering the Catalonian public’s celebration of Assange’s birthday. Activist Post, the site on which the article was published, was likewise reportedly hacked in recent weeks.

On the same day that Consortium News fell under attack, CNN published a conspiracy-theory-laden article accusing Assange of having conspired with “the Russians” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from within the Ecuadorian embassy, which CNN described breathlessly as a “command post.” (Little irony that Consortium News was also told that their website being attacked had had something to do with “The Russians.”)

The CNN piece rapidly garnered criticism from journalists including Caitlin Johnstone, Kevin Gosztola, and Aaron Maté.  The documents at issue in CNN’s article were previously described in a totally different light by Spanish paper of record El Pais:

“The security employees at the embassy had a daily job to do: to monitor Assange’s every move, record his conversations, and take note of his moods. The company’s drive to uncover their target’s most intimate secrets led the team to carry out a handwriting examination behind his back, which resulted in a six-page report. Company employees also took a feces sample from a baby’s diaper to check whether Assange and one of his most faithful collaborators were the child’s parents. This intelligence work had nothing to do with protection duties.”

Gosztola wrote of CNN’s piece: “If one reads CNN’s report, it is clear, like the CIA, they do not view the work Assange was doing as journalistic bur rather the work of an ‘enemy’ of the United States.”

Black Agenda Report Editor and Senior Columnist Margaret Kimberly wrote via Twitter:

The simultaneous escalation of censorship when it comes to Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘ reputation, raises concern regarding the potential of a coordinated effort to smear Assange while also silencing those who might counter such dubious reporting.

Elizabeth Vos is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to Consortium News. She co-hosts CN Live!

 

 




RAY McGOVERN: Sic Transit Gloria Mueller

Democrats, stenographers who pass for journalists and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations, says Ray McGovern.

Making the Worst Case Appear the Better

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Friday’s surprising report that Robert Mueller had successfully sought an extra week to prepare for his House testimony on Russiagate (now set for July 24) must have come as scary news to those of his fans who can put two and two together. Over the past few weeks, it has become clearer that each of the two frayed findings of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has now come apart at the seams.

Saturday’s New York Times reports that “the Democrats said they chose to delay at the request of Mr. Mueller” after a day of negotiations, “as both Democrats and Republicans were deep in preparations for his testimony” earlier scheduled for July 17. The Washington Post, on the other hand, chose not to say who asked for the delay. Rather, it explained the abrupt change in timing with a misleading article entitled, “Mueller, House panels strike deal to delay hearing until July 24, giving lawmakers more time to question him.”

How to Avoid Eating Crow

As the truth seeps out, there will be plenty of crow to go around. To avoid eating it, the Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the stenographers who pass for journalists at the Times and Post, and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can muster to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Perhaps the most damning of the two came last Monday, when it was disclosed that, on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election. While the corporate media so far has largely ignored Judge Friedrich’s order, it may well have been enough to cause very cold feet for those attached to the strained Facebook fable. (The IRA social-media “interference” has always been ludicrous on its face, as journalist Gareth Porter established.)

Ten days is not a lot of time to conjure up ways to confront and explain Judge Friedrich’s injection of some unwelcome reality. Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence.

No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence. Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from theU.S. District Court,pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

Requiem for ‘Interference’

Daniel Lazare’s July 12 Consortium News piece shatters one of the twin prongs in Mueller’s case that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” It was the prong dripping with incessant drivel about the Kremlin using social media to help Trump win in 2016.

Mueller led off his Russiagate report, a redacted version of which was published on April 18, with the dubious claim that his investigation had

“…established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working in the Clinton campaign, and then released stolen documents.”

Judge to Mueller: Put Up or Shut Up

Regarding the social-media accusation, Judge Friederich has now told Mueller, in effect, to put up or shut up. What happened was this: On February 16, 2018 a typically credulous grand jury — the usual kind that cynics say can be persuaded to indict the proverbial ham sandwich — was convinced by Mueller to return 16 indictments of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and associates in St. Petersburg, giving his all-deliberate-speed investigation some momentum and a much-needed, if short-lived, “big win” in “proving” interference by Russia in the 2016 election. It apparently never occurred to Mueller and the super-smart lawyers around him that the Russians would outsmart them by hiring their own lawyers to show up in U.S. court and seek discovery. Oops.

The Feb. 2018 indictment referred repeatedly to the IRA simply as a “Russian organization.” But in Mueller’s report 14 months later, the “Russian organization” had somehow morphed into “Russia.” The IRA’s lawyers argued, in effect, that Mueller’s ipse-dixit “Russia did it” does not suffice as proof of Russian government involvement. Federal Judge Friedrich agreed and ordered Mueller to cease promoting his evidence-less charge against the IRA; she added that “any future violations of her order will trigger a range of potential sanctions.”

More specifically, at the conclusion of a hearing held under seal on May 28, Judge Friedrich ordered the government “to refrain from making or authorizing any public statement that links the alleged conspiracy in the indictment to the Russian government or its agencies.” The judge ordered further that “any public statement about the allegations in the indictment . . . must make clear that, one, the government is summarizing the allegations in the indictment which remain unproven, and, two, the government does not express an opinion on the defendant’s guilt or innocence or the strength of the evidence in this case.”

Reporting Thursday on Judge Friedrich’s ruling, former CIA and State Department official Larry C. Johnson described it as a “potential game changer,” observing that Mueller “has not offered one piece of solid evidence that the defendants were involved in any way with the government of Russia.” After including a lot of useful background material, Johnson ends by noting:

“Some readers will insist that Mueller and his team have actual intelligence but cannot put that in an indictment. Well boys and girls, here is a simple truth–if you cannot produce evidence that can be presented in court then you do not have a case. There is that part of the Constitution that allows those accused of a crime to confront their accusers.”

IRA Story a ‘Stretch’

Last fall, investigative journalist Gareth Porter dissected and debunked The New York Times’s far-fetched claim that 80,000 Facebook posts by the Internet Research Agency helped swing the election to Donald Trump. What the Times story neglected to say is that the relatively paltry 80,000 posts were engulfed in literally trillions of posts on Facebook over the two-year period in question — before and after the 2016 election.

In testimony to Congress in October 2017, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch had cautioned earlier that from 2015 to 2017, “Americans using Facebook were exposed to, or ‘served,’ a total of over 33 trillion stories in their News Feeds.” Shamefully misleading “analysis” by Times reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in a 10,000-word article on September 20, 2018 made the case that the IRA’s 80,000 posts helped deliver the presidency to Trump.

Shane and Mazzetti neglected to report the 33 trillion number for needed context, even though the Times’ own coverage of Stretch’s 2017 testimony stated outright: “Facebook cautioned that the Russia-linked posts represented a minuscule amount of content compared with the billions of posts that flow through users’ News Feeds everyday.”

The chances that Americans saw any of these IRA ads—let alone were influenced by them—are infinitismal. Porter and others did the math and found that over the two-year period, the 80,000 Russian-origin Facebook posts represented just 0.0000000024 of total Facebook content in that time. Porter commented that this particular Times contribution to the Russiagate story “should vie in the annals of journalism as one of the most spectacularly misleading uses of statistics of all time.”

And now we know, courtesy of Judge Friederich, that Mueller has never produced proof, beyond his say-so, that the Russian government was responsible for the activities of the IRA — feckless as they were. That they swung the election is clearly a stretch.

The Other Prong: Hacking the DNC

The second of Mueller’s two major accusations of Russian interference, as noted above, charged that “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working in the Clinton campaign, and then released stolen documents.” Sadly for Russiagate aficionados, the evidence behind that charge doesn’t hold water either.

CrowdStrike, the controversial cybersecurity firm that the Democratic National Committee chose over the FBI in 2016 to examine its compromised computer servers, never produced an un-redacted or final forensic report for the government because the FBI never required it to, the Justice Department admitted.

The revelation came in a court filing by the government in the pre-trial phase of Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative who had an unofficial role in the campaign of candidate Donald Trump. Stone has been charged with misleading Congress, obstructing justice and intimidating a witness.

The filing was in response to a motion by Stone’s lawyers asking for “unredacted reports” from CrowdStrike challenging the government to prove that Russia hacked the DNC server. “The government … does not possess the information the defendant seeks,” the DOJ filing says.

Small wonder that Mueller had hoped to escape further questioning. If he does testify on July 24, the committee hearings will be well worth watching.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and a presidential briefer. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. His colleagues and he have been following closely the ins and outs of Russiagate.




Concord Management and the End of Russiagate?

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has just shut down half of Robert Mueller’s Russian-interference case, writes Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

Don’t look now, but a federal judge in Washington, D.C., has just shut down half of Robert Mueller’s Russian-interference case.

In February 2018, the special prosecutor indicted a St. Petersburg troll farm called the Internet Research Agency along with two other companies, their owner, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, and 12 employees.  The charge: fraud, traveling to the United States under false pretenses, and using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to “sow discord” and “interfere in US political and electoral processes without detection of their Russian affiliation.”

The charge was both legally dubious and heavy-handed, a case of using a sledge hammer to swat a fly.  But Mueller went even further in his report, an expurgated version of which was made public in April.  No longer just a Russian company, the IRA was now an arm of the Russian government. “[T]he Special Counsel’s investigation,” it declared on page one, “established that Russia interfered in the 2016 election principally through two operations.  First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working in the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.”

“Prigozhin,” the report added, referring to the IRA owner, “is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.”  A few pages later, it said that the IRA’s efforts “constituted ‘active measures’ … a term that typically refers to operations conducted by Russian security services aimed at influencing the course of international affairs.”

Thus, the IRA played a major role in the vast Kremlin conspiracy to alter the outcome of the 2016 election and install Donald Trump in office.  But now Judge Dabney Friedrich has ordered Mueller to stop pushing such stories because they’re unfair to Concord Management and Consulting, another Prigozhin company, which astonished the legal world in May 2018 by hiring an expensive Washington law firm and demanding its day in court. 

Silent on IRA-Kremlin Connection

Contrary to internet chatter, Friedrich did not offer an opinion as to whether the IRA-Kremlin connection is true or false.  Rather, she told the special prosecutor to keep quiet because such statements go beyond the scope of the original indictment and are therefore prejudicial to the defendant.  But it may be a distinction without a difference since the only evidence that Mueller puts forth in the public version of his report is a New York Times article from February 2018 entitled “Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian Oligarch Indicted by US, Is Known as ‘Putin’s Cook.’”

It’s a case of trial by press clip that should have been laughed out of court – and now, more or less, it is.  Without the IRA, the only argument left in Mueller’s brief is that Russia stole some 28,000 emails and other electronic documents from Democratic National Committee computers and then passed them along to WikiLeaks, which published them to great fanfare in July 2016. 

But as Consortium News pointed out the day the Mueller report came out, that’s dubious as well.  [See The ‘Guccifer 2.0’ Gaps in Mueller’s Full Report,” April 18.]  The reason: it rests on a timeline that doesn’t make sense:

  • June 12, 2016: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announces that “leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton” were on the way.
  • June 15: Guccifer 2.0, allegedly a stand-in for Russian military intelligence, goes on line to claim credit for the hack.
  • June 22: Guccifer and WikiLeaks establish contact.
  • July 14: Guccifer sends WikiLeaks an encrypted file.
  • July 18: WikiLeaks confirms that it’s opened it up.
  • July 22: The group releases a giant email cache indicating that the DNC rigged the nominating process in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders.

But why would Assange announce the leaked emails on June 12 before hearing from the source on June 22?  Was he clairvoyant?  Why would he release a massive file just eight days after receiving it and as a little as four days after opening it up?  How could that be enough time to review the contents and ensure they were genuine? “If a single one of those emails had been shown to be maliciously altered,” blogger Mark F. McCarty points out, “WikiLeaks’s reputation would have been in tatters.”  Quite right.  So if Mueller’s chronology doesn’t hold up, then Assange’s original statement that “our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party” still stands – which it plainly does.

Going Up in Smoke 

Bottom line: Russiagate is going up in smoke.  The claim that Russian military intelligence fed thousands of emails to WikiLeaks doesn’t stand up to scrutiny while Mueller is not only unable to a prove a connection between the Internet Research Agency and the Kremlin but is barred from even discussing it, according to Friedrich’s ruling, without risking a charge of contempt.  After 22 months of investigating the ins and outs of Russian interference, Mueller seems to have finally come up dry.

“Revenge of the oligarchs” might be a good headline for this story.  The IRA indictment initially seemed to be a no-lose proposition for  Mueller. He got to look good in the press, the media got to indulge in yet another round of Russia-bashing, while, best of all, no one had to prove a thing.  “Mueller’s allegations will never be tested in court,” noted Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor turned pundit for the rightwing National Review.  “That makes his indictment more a political statement than a charging instrument.”

Then came the unexpected.  Concord Management hired Reed Smith, a top-flight law firm with offices around the world, and demanded to be heard.  The move was “a real head-scratcher,” one Washington attorney told Buzzfeed, because Concord was beyond the reach of U.S. law and therefore had nothing to fear from an indictment and nothing to gain, apparently, from going to court.  But then the firm demanded to exercise its right of discovery, meaning that it wanted access to Mueller’s immense investigative file.  Blindsided, Mueller’s requested a delay “on the astonishing ground,” according to McCarthy, “that the defendant has not been properly served – notwithstanding that the defendant has shown up in court and asked to be arraigned.”

Prigozhin was forcing the special prosecutor to show what he’s got, McCarthy went on, at zero risk to himself since he was not on U.S. soil.  What was once a no-lose proposition for Mueller was suddenly a no-lose proposition for Putin’s unexpectedly clever cook.

Now Mueller is in an even worse pickle because he’s barred from mentioning a major chunk of his report.  What will he discuss if Democrats succeed in getting him to testify before the House intelligence and judiciary committees next week – the weather?  If his team goes forward with the Concord prosecution, he’ll risk having to turn over sensitive information while involving himself in a legal tangle that could go on for years, all without any conceivable payoff.  If he drops it, the upshot will be a public-relations disaster of the first order. 

As skeptics have pointed out, the IRA’s social-media campaign was both more modest and more ineffectual then the Mueller report’s over-the-top language about a “sweeping and systematic” conspiracy would suggest.  Yet after Facebook Vice President Rob Goldman tweeted that “the majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election,” he was forced to beg for forgiveness like a defendant in a Moscow show trial for daring to play down the magnitude of the crime.

But it wasn’t Goldman who shaved the truth.  Rather, it was Mueller.  Thanks to the unexpected appearance of Concord Management, he’s now paying the price.

Daniel Lazare is the author of “The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy” (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.  He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatiqueand blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.

If you value this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.




Trump Presides Over Dwindling Greatness

Russia and China are forging stronger ties, gaining ground on the U.S. and rattling Washington, writes Dilip Hiro. 

By Dilip Hiro
TomDispatch.com

President Donald Trump was partly voted into office by Americans who felt that the self-proclaimed greatest power on Earth was actually in decline — and they weren’t wrong. Trump is capable of tweeting many things, but none of those tweets will stop that process of decline, nor will a trade war with a rising China or fierce oil sanctions on Iran.

You could feel this recently, even in the case of the increasingly pressured Iranians. There, with a single pinprick, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei effectively punctured Trump’s MAGA balloon and reminded many that, however powerful the U.S. still was, people in other countries were beginning to look at America differently at the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Following a meeting in Tehran with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who brought a message from Trump urging the start of U.S.-Iranian negotiations, Khamenei tweeted, “We have no doubt in [Abe’s] goodwill and seriousness; but regarding what you mentioned from [the] U.S. president, I don’t consider Trump as a person deserving to exchange messages with, and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future.” He then added: “We believe that our problems will not be solved by negotiating with the U.S., and no free nation would ever accept negotiations under pressure.”

A flustered Trump was reduced to briefly tweeting: “I personally feel that it is too soon to even think about making a deal. They are not ready, and neither are we!”

And soon after, the president halted at the last minute, in a distinctly humiliating retreat, U.S. air strikes on Iranian missile sites that would undoubtedly have created yet more insoluble problems for Washington across the Greater Middle East.

Keep in mind that, globally, before the ayatollah’s put-down, the Trump administration had already had two abject foreign policy failures: the collapse of the president’s Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (followed by that regime’s provocative firing of several missiles over the Sea of Japan) and a bungled attempt to overthrow the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

America’s Global Standing at a Record Low

What’s great or small can be defined in absolute or relative terms. America’s “greatness” (or exceptional or indispensable nature) — much lauded in Washington before the Trump era — should certainly be judged against the economic progress made by China in those same years and against Russia’s advances in the latest high-tech weaponry. Another way of assessing the nature of that “greatness” and what to make of it would be through polls of how foreigners view the United States.

Take, for instance, a survey released by the Pew Research Group in February 2019. Forty-five percent of respondents in 26 nations with large populations felt that American power and influence posed “a major threat to our country,” while 36 percent offered the same response on Russia, and 35 percent on China. To put that in perspective, in 2013, during the presidency of Barack Obama, only 25 percent of global respondents held such a negative view of the U.S., while reactions to China remained essentially the same. Or just consider the most powerful country in Europe, Germany. Between 2013 and 2018, Germans who considered American power and influence a greater threat than that of China or Russia leapt from 19 percent to 49 percent. (Figures for France were similar.)

As for Trump, only 27 percent of global respondents had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs, while 70 feared he would not. In Mexico, you undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, confidence in his leadership was at a derisory 6 percent. In 17 of the surveyed countries, people who lacked confidence in him were also significantly more likely to consider the U.S. the world’s top threat, a phenomenon most pronounced among traditional Washington allies like Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.

China’s Expanding Global Footprint

While 39 percent of Pew respondents in that poll still rated the U.S. as the globe’s leading economic power, 34 percent opted for China. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 to link the infrastructure and trade of much of Southeast Asia, Eurasia, and the Horn of Africa to China (at an estimated cost of $4 trillion) and to be funded by diverse sources, is going from strength to strength.

One way to measure this: the number of dignitaries attending the biennial BRI Forum in Beijing. The first of those gatherings in May 2017 attracted 28 heads of state and representatives from 100 countries. The most recent, in late April, had 37 heads of state and representatives from nearly 150 countries and international organizations, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Leaders of nine out of 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations attended, as did four of the five Central Asian republics. Strikingly, a third of the leaders participating came from Europe. According to Peter Frankopan, author of “The New Silk Roads,” more than 80 countries are now involved in some aspect of the BRI project. That translates into more than 63 percent of the world’s population and 29 percent of its global economic output.

Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping is intent on expanding the BRI’s global footprint further, a signal of China’s dream of future greatness. During a February two-day state visit to Beijing by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Xi suggested that, when it came to Riyadh’s overly ambitious economic plan, “our two countries should speed up the signing of an implementation plan on connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with the Saudi Vision 2030.”

Flattered by this proposal, the crown prince defended China’s use of “re-education” camps for Uighur Muslims in its western province of Xinjiang, claiming it was Beijing’s “right” to carry out antiterrorism work to safeguard national security. Under the guise of combating extremism, the Chinese authorities have placed an estimated one million Uighur Muslims in such camps to undergo re-education designed to supplant their Islamic legacy with a Chinese version of socialism. Uighur groups had appealed to Prince bin Salman to take up their cause. No such luck: one more sign of the rise of China in the 21st century.

China Enters High-Tech Race with America

In 2013, Germany launched an Industry 4.0 Plan meant to fuse cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing with the aim of increasing manufacturing productivity by up to 50 percent, while curtailing resources required by half. Two years later, emulating this project, Beijing published its own 10-year Made in China 2025 plan to update the country’s manufacturing base by rapidly developing 10 high-tech industries, including electric cars and other new-energy vehicles, next-generation information technology and telecommunications, as well as advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, aerospace engineering, high-end rail infrastructure, and high-tech maritime engineering.

As with BRI, the government and media then publicized and promoted Made in China 2025 vigorously. This alarmed Washington and America’s high-tech corporations. Over the years, American companies had complained about China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property, the counterfeiting of famous brands, and the stealing of trade secrets, not to speak of the pressuring of American firms in joint ventures with local companies to share technology as a price for gaining access to China’s vast market. Their grievances became more vocal when Donald Trump entered the White House determined to cut Washington’s annual trade deficit of $380 billion with Beijing.

As president, Trump ordered his new trade representative, the Sinophobe Robert Lighthizer, to look into the matter. The resulting seven-month investigation pegged the loss U.S. companies experienced because of China’s unfair trade practices at $50 billion a year. That was why, in March 2018, Trump instructed Lighthizer to levy tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.

That signaled the start of a Sino-American trade war which has only gained steam since. In this context, Chinese officials started downplaying the significance of Made in China 2025, describing it as nothing more than an inspirational plan. This March, China’s National People’s Congress even passed a foreign direct-investment law meant to address some of the grievances of U.S. companies. Its implementation mechanism was, however, weak. Trump promptly claimed that China had backtracked on its commitments to incorporate into Chinese law significant changes the two countries had negotiated and put into a draft agreement to end the trade war. He then slapped further tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports.

The major bone of contention for the Trump administration is a Chinese law specifying that, in a joint venture between a foreign corporation and a Chinese company, the former must pass on technological know-how to its Chinese partner. That’s seen as theft by Washington. According to Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Yukon Huang, author of “Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong,” however, it’s fully in accord with globally accepted guidelines. Such diffusion of technological know-how has played a significant role in driving growth globally, as the IMF’s 2018 World Economic Outlook report made clear. It’s worth noting as well that China now accounts for almost one-third of global annual economic growth.

The size of China’s market is so vast and the rise in its per capita gross domestic product — from $312 in 1980 to $9,769 in 2018 — is so steep that major U.S. corporations generally accepted its long-established joint-venture law and that should surprise no one. Last year, for instance, General Motors sold 3,645,044 vehicles in China and fewer than 3 million in the U.S. Little wonder then that, late last year, following GM plant closures across North America, part of a wide-ranging restructuring plan, the company’s management paid no heed to a threat from Trump to strip GM of any government subsidies. What angered the president, as he tweeted, caught the reality of the moment: nothing was “being closed in Mexico and China.”

What Trump simply can’t accept is this: after nearly two decades of supply-chain restructuring and global economic integration, China has become thekey industrial supplier for the United States and Europe. His attempt to make America great again by restoring the economic status quo of before 2001 — the year China was admitted to the World Trade Organization — is doomed to fail.

In reality, trade war or peace, China is now beginning to overtake the U.S. in science and technology. A study by Qingnan Xie of Nanjing University of Science and Technology and Richard Freeman of Harvard University noted that, between 2000 and 2016, China’s global share of publications in the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics quadrupled and, in the process, exceeded that of the U.S. for the first time.

In the field of high technology, for example, China is now well ahead of the United States in mobile payment transactions. In the first 10 months of 2017, those totaled $12.8 trillion, the result of vast numbers of consumers discarding credit cards in favor of cashless systems. In stark contrast, according to eMarketer, America’s mobile payment transactions in 2017 amounted to $49.3 billion. Last year, 583 million Chinese used mobile payment systems, with nearly 68 percent of China’s Internet users turning to a mobile wallet for their offline payments.

Russia’s Advanced Weaponry

In a similar fashion, in his untiring pitch for America’s “beautiful” weaponry, Trump has failed to grasp the impressive progress Russia has made in that field.

While presenting videos and animated glimpses of new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and underwater drones in a March 2018 television address, Russian President Vladimir Putin traced the development of his own country’s new weapons to Washington’s decision to pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty with the Soviet Union. In December 2001, encouraged by John Bolton, then under secretary of state for arms control and international security, President George W. Bush had indeed withdrawn from the 1972 ABM treaty on the spurious grounds that the 9/11 attacks had changed the nature of defense for America. His Russian counterpart of the time, the very same Vladimir Putin, described the withdrawal from that cornerstone of world security as a grievous mistake. The head of Russia’s armed forces, General Anatoly Kvashnin, warned then that the pullout would alter the nature of the international strategic balance, freeing up countries to restart arms buildups, both conventional and nuclear.

As it happened, he couldn’t have been more on the mark. The U.S. is now engaged in a 30-year, trillion-dollar-plus remake and update of its nuclear arsenal, while the Russians (whose present inventory of 6,500 nuclear weapons slightly exceeds America’s) have gone down a similar route. In that televised address of his on the eve of the 2018 Russian presidential election, Putin’s list of new nuclear weapons was headed by the Sarmat, a 30-ton intercontinental ballistic missile, reputedly far harder for an enemy to intercept in its most vulnerable phase just after launching. It also carries a larger number of nuclear warheads than its predecessor.

Another new weapon on his list was a nuclear-powered intercontinental underwater drone, Status-6, a submarine-launched autonomous vehicle with a range of 6,800 miles, capable of carrying a 100-megaton nuclear warhead. And then there was his country’s new nuclear-powered cruise missile with a “practically unlimited” range. In addition, because of its stealth capabilities, it will be hard to detect in flight and its high maneuverability will, theoretically at least, enable it to bypass an enemy’s defenses. Successfully tested in 2018, it does not yet have a name. Unsurprisingly, Putin won the presidency with 77 percent of the vote, a 13 percent rise from the previous poll, on record voter turnout of 67.7 percent.

In conventional weaponry, Russia’s S-400 missile system remains unrivalled. According to the Washington-based Arms Control Association, “The S-400 system is an advanced, mobile, surface-to-air defense system of radars and missiles of different ranges, capable of destroying a variety of targets such as attack aircraft, bombs, and tactical ballistic missiles. Each battery normally consists of eight launchers, 112 missiles, and command and support vehicles.” The S-400 missile has a range of 400 kilometers (250 miles), and its integrated system is believed to be capable of shooting down up to 80 targets simultaneously.

Consider it a sign of the times, but in defiance of pressure from the Trump administration not to buy Russian weaponry, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, ordered the purchase of batteries of those very S-400 missiles. Turkish soldiers are currently being trained on that weapons systems in Russia. The first battery is expected to arrive in Turkey next month.

Similarly, in April 2015, Russia signed a contract to supply S-400 missiles to China. The first delivery of the system took place in January 2018 and China test fired it in August.

Expanding Beijing-Moscow Alliance

Consider that as another step in Russian-Chinese military coordination meant to challenge Washington’s claim to be the planet’s sole superpower. Similarly, last September, 3,500 Chinese troops participated in Russia’s largest-ever military exercises involving 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 military vehicles, 80 ships, and 1,000 aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Codenamed Vostok-2018, it took place across a vast region that included the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan. Little wonder that NATO officials described Vostok-2018 as a demonstration of a growing Russian focus on future large-scale conflict: “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time — a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.” Putin attended the exercises after hosting an economic forum in Vladivostok where Chinese President Xi was his guest. “We have trustworthy ties in political, security and defense spheres,” he declared, while Xi praised the two countries’ friendship, which, he claimed, was “getting stronger all the time.”

Thanks to climate change, Russia and China are now also working in tandem in the fast-melting Arctic. Last year Russia, which controls more than half the Arctic coastline, sent its first ship through the Northern Sea Route without an icebreaker in winter. Putin hailed that moment as a “big event in the opening up of the Arctic.”

Beijing’s Arctic policy, first laid out in January 2018, described China as a “near-Arctic” state and visualized the future shipping routes there as part of a potential new “Polar Silk Road” that would both be useful for resource exploitation and for enhancing Chinese security. Shipping goods to and from Europe by such a passage would shorten the distance to China by 30 percent compared to present sea routes through the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per voyage.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic holds petroleum reserves equal to 412 billion barrels of oil, or about 22 percent  of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbons. It also has deposits of rare earth metals. China’s second Arctic vessel, Xuelong 2 (Snow Dragon 2), is scheduled to make its maiden voyage later this year. Russia needs Chinese investment to extract the natural resources under its permafrost. In fact, China is already the biggest foreign investor in Russia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in the region — and the first LNG shipment was dispatched to China’s eastern province last summer via the Northern Sea Route. Its giant oil corporation is now beginning to drill for gas in Russian waters alongside the Russian company Gazprom.

Washington is rattled. In April, in its latest annual report to Congress on China’s military power, the Pentagon for the first time included a section on the Arctic, warning of the risks of a growing Chinese presence in the region, including that country’s possible deployment of nuclear submarines there in the future. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used a meeting of foreign ministers in Rovaniemi, Finland, to assail China for its “aggressive behavior” in the Arctic.

In an earlier speech, Pompeo noted that, from 2012 to 2017, China invested nearly $90 billion in the Arctic region. “We’re concerned about Russia’s claim over the international waters of the Northern Sea Route, including its newly announced plans to connect it with China’s Maritime Silk Road,” he said. He then pointed out that, along that route, “Moscow already illegally demands other nations request permission to pass, requires Russian maritime pilots to be aboard foreign ships, and threatens to use military force to sink any that fail to comply with their demands.”

American Downturn Continues

Altogether, the tightening military and economic ties between Russia and China have put America on the defensive, contrary to Trump’s MAGA promise to American voters in the 2016 campaign. It’s true that, despite fraying diplomatic and economic ties between Washington and Moscow, Trump’s personal relations with Putin remain cordial. (The two periodically exchange friendly phone calls.) But among Russians more generally, a favorable view of the U.S. fell from 41 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2018, according to a Pew Research survey.

There’s nothing new about great powers, even the one that proclaimed itself the greatest in history, declining after having risen high. In our acrimonious times, that’s a reality well worth noting. While launching his bid for reelection recently, Trump proposed a bombastic new slogan: Keep America Great (or KAG), as if he had indeed raised America’s stature while in office. He would have been far more on target, however, had he suggested the slogan “Depress America More” (or DAM) to reflect the reality of an unpopular president who faces rising great power rivals abroad.

Dilip Hiro, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World,” among many other books. His latest book is Cold War in the Islamic World: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Struggle for Supremacy” (about which he has recorded this podcast).

This article is from TomDispatch.com.




RAY McGOVERN: Ex-FBI, CIA Officials Draw Withering Fire on Russiagate

The Deep State almost always wins. But if Attorney General Barr leans hard on Trump to unfetter investigators, all hell may break lose, says Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

As Congress arrives back into town and the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees prepare to question ex-Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller on July 17, partisan lines are being drawn even more sharply, as Russias-gate blossoms into Deep-State-gate. On Sunday, a top Republican legislator, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) took the gloves off in an unusually acerbic public attack on former leaders of the FBI and CIA.

King told a radio audience: “There is no doubt to me there was severe, serious abuses that were carried out in the FBI and, I believe, top levels of the CIA against the President of the United States or, at that time, presidential candidate Donald Trump,” according to The Hill.

King, a senior congressman specializing in national security, twice chaired the House Homeland Security Committee and currently heads its Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He also served for several years on the House Intelligence Committee.

He asserted:

“There was no legal basis at all for them to begin this investigation of his campaign – and the way they carried it forward, and the way information was leaked. … All of this is going to come out. It’s going to show the bias. It’s going to show the baselessness of the investigation … and I would say the same thing if this were done to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders …It’s just wrong.”

The Long Island Republican added a well aimed swipe at what passes for the media today: “The media went along with this – actually, keeping this farcical, ridiculous thought going that the President of the United States… was somehow involved in a conspiracy with Russia against his own country.”

According to King, the Justice Department’s review, ordered by Attorney General William Barr, would prove that former officials acted improperly. He was alluding to the investigation led by John Durham, U.S. Attorney in Connecticut. Sounds nice. But waiting for Durham to complete his investigation at a typically lawyerly pace would, I fear, be much like the experience of waiting for Mueller to finish his; that is, like waiting for Godot. What about now?

So Where is the IG Report on FISA?

That’s the big one. If Horowitz is able to speak freely about what he has learned, his report could lead to indictments of former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Attorneys General Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein, and Dana Boente — Boente being the only signer of the relevant FISA applications still in office. (No, he has not been demoted to file clerk in the FBI library; at last report, he is FBI General Counsel!).

The DOJ inspector General’s investigation, launched in March 2018, has centered on whether the FBI and DOJ filing of four FISA applications and renewals beginning in October 2016 to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page amounted to abuse of the FISA process. (Fortunately for the IG, Obama’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials were so sure that Hillary Clinton would win that they did not do much to hide their tracks.)

The Washington Examiner reported last Tuesday, “The Justice Department inspector general’s investigation of potential abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is complete, a Republican congressman said, though a report on its findings might not be released for a month.”  The report continued:

“House Judiciary Committee member John Ratcliffe (R, Texas) said Monday he’d met with DOJ watchdog Michael Horowitz last week about his FISA abuse report. In a media interview, Ratcliffe said they’d discussed the timing, but not the content of his report and Horowitz ‘related that his team’s investigative work is complete and they’re now in the process of drafting that report. Ratcliffe said he was doubtful that Horowitz’s report would be made available to the public or the Congress anytime soon. ‘He [Horowitz] did relay that as much as 20% of his report is going to include classified information, so that draft report will have to undergo a classification review at the FBI and at the Department of Justice,’ Ratcliffe said. ‘So, while I’m hopeful that we members of Congress might see it before the August recess, I’m not too certain about that.’”

Earlier, Horowitz had predicted that his report would be ready in May or June but there may, in fact, be good reason for some delay. Fox News reported Friday that “key witnesses sought for questioning by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz early in his investigation into alleged government surveillance abuse have come forward at the 11th hour.” According to Fox’s sources, at least one witness outside the Justice Department and FBI has started cooperating — a breakthrough that came after Durham was assigned to lead a separate investigation into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia case that led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

“Classification,” however, has been one of the Deep State’s favorite tactics to stymie investigations — especially when the material in question yields serious embarrassment or reveals crimes. And the stakes this time are huge.

Judging by past precedent, Deep State intelligence and law enforcement officials will do all they can to use the “but-it’s-classified” excuse to avoid putting themselves and their former colleagues in legal jeopardy. (Though this would violate Obama’s executive order 13526, prohibiting classification of embarrassing or criminal information).

It is far from clear that DOJ IG Horowitz and Attorney General Barr will prevail in the end, even though President Trump has given Barr nominal authority to declassify as necessary. Why are the the stakes so extraordinarily high?

What Did Obama Know, and When Did He Know It?

Recall that in a Sept. 2, 2016 text message to the FBI’s then-deputy chief of counterintelligence Peter Strzok, his girlfriend and then-top legal adviser to Deputy FBI Director McCabe, Lisa Page, wrote that she was preparing talking points because the president “wants to know everything we’re doing.” [Emphasis added.] It does not seem likely that the Director of National Intelligence, DOJ, FBI, and CIA all kept President Obama in the dark about their FISA and other machinations — although it is possible they did so out of a desire to provide him with “plausible denial.”

It seems more likely that Obama’s closest intelligence confidant, Brennan, told him about the shenanigans with FISA, that Obama gave him approval (perhaps just tacit approval), and that Brennan used that to harness top intelligence and law enforcement officials behind the effort to defeat Trump and, later, to emasculate and, if possible, remove him.

Moreover, one should not rule out seeing in the coming months an “Obama-made-us-do-it” defense — whether grounded in fact or not — by Brennan and perhaps the rest of the gang. Brennan may even have a piece of paper recording the President’s “approval” for this or that — or could readily have his former subordinates prepare one that appears authentic.

Reining in Devin Nunes

That the Deep State retains formidable power can be seen in the repeated Lucy-holding-then-withdrawing-the-football-for-Charlie Brown treatment experienced by House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member, Devin Nunes (R-CA). On April 5, 2019, in the apparent belief he had a green light to go on the offensive, Nunes wrote that committee Republicans “will soon be submitting criminal referrals on numerous individuals involved … in the abuse of intelligence for political purposes. These people must be held to account to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future.”

On April 7, Nunes was even more specific, telling Fox News that he was preparing to send eight criminal referrals to the Department of Justice “this week,” concerning alleged misconduct during the Trump-Russia investigation, including leaks of “highly classified material” and conspiracies to lie to Congress and the FISA court. It seemed to be no-holds-barred for Nunes, who had begun to talk publicly about prison time for those who might be brought to trial.

Except for Fox, the corporate media ignored Nunes’s explosive comments. The media seemed smugly convinced that Nunes’s talk of “referrals” could be safely ignored — even though a new sheriff, Barr, had come to town. And sure enough, now, three months later, where are the criminal referrals?

There is ample evidence that President Trump is afraid to run afoul of the Deep State functionaries he inherited. And the Deep State almost always wins. But if Attorney General Barr leans hard on the president to unfetter Nunes, IG Horowitz, Durham and like-minded investigators, all hell may break lose, because the evidence against those who took serious liberties with the law is staring them all in the face.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. No fan of the current President, Ray has been trained to follow and analyze the facts, wherever they may lead. He spent 27 years as a CIA analyst, and prepared the President’s Daily Brief for three presidents. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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Mueller Report Gets the Trump Tower Meeting Wrong; Promotes Browder Hoax

Natalia Veselnitskaya didn’t have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and when the Russian lawyer met with Trump’s people her focus was not on the 2016 campaign, writes Lucy Komisar.

By Lucy Komisar
Special to Consortium News

A “key event” described in the Mueller Report is the Trump Tower meeting where a Russian lawyer met with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Russiagaters have been obsessed with the meeting saying it was the smoking gun to prove collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steal the 2016 election. Months after Mueller concluded that there was no collusion at all, the obsession has switched to “obstruction of justice,” which is like someone being apprehended for resisting arrest without committing any other crime.

The Mueller report thus focuses instead on “efforts to prevent disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials.”

But the report on this topic is deceptive. Ironically, as it attacks Donald Trump and top campaign officials for lying, the report itself lies about the issue the meeting addressed.

It wasn’t to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian lawyer did not have and never produced. That was a ploy by Robert Goldstone, a British music publicist whose job is to get what his clients want, in this case, a meeting. So, recklessly, he invented the idea of Clinton dirt as a bait-and-switch to get Trump’s people to come to it. He got the lawyer the meeting for her to lobby a potentially incoming administration against the Magnitsky Act, which is why she was in the United States in the first place.

The Magnitsky Act is a 2012 U.S. law that was promoted by William Browder, an American-born British citizen and hedge fund investor, who claimed his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky had been imprisoned and murdered because he uncovered a scheme by Russian officials to steal $230 million from the Russian Treasury. It sanctioned Russians he said were involved or benefitted from Magnitsky’s death. It has since been used by the U.S. to put sanctions on other Russians and nationals from other countries.

The lawyer lobbying against the act, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort that Browder’s story was fake, a smokescreen to block the Russians from going after him for multi-millions in tax evasion. She argued the Magnitsky Act was built on this fraud. Manafort’s notes, included in the Mueller Report, trace what she said.

Nothing Illegal

The Trump people did nothing illegal to meet with her. Their problem was the exaggerating communications Goldstone sent them about Veselnitskaya having “dirt” on Clinton. (While U.S. election laws says it’s illegal for a campaign to receive “a thing of value” from a foreign source, it’s never been established by a court that opposition research fits that description, the Mueller Report admits. ) Veselnitskaya testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2017 that Browder’s major American client, the Ziff brothers, had cheated on American and Russian taxes and contributed the “dirty money” to the Democrats.

The Mueller investigators appear not to have looked into her charges. The report promotes Browder’s fabrications, citing “the Magnitsky Act, which imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian officials and which was named for a Russian tax specialist who exposed a fraud and later died in a Russian prison.”

But instead of his “lawyer” Magnitsky exposing Russian fraud, for which he was jailed and killed in prison, Magnitsky was actually Browder’s accountant who was detained under investigation for his part in Browder’s tax evasion and died of natural causes in prison, as Magnitsky’s own mother admits to filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov in the film “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes.”

Mueller’s investigators might have started with documents filed in U.S. federal court in the case of Veselnitskaya’s client, Prevezon, a Russian holding company that settled a civil-forfeiture claim by the U.S. government that linked it, without proof, to the tax fraud.

The documents include a deposition where Browder admits that the alleged “lawyer” Magnitsky did not go to law school nor have a law degree. Magnitsky’s own testimony file identifies him as an “auditor.”

Why does that matter? Because it was Browder’s red herring. Magnitsky had worked as Browder’s accountant since 1997, fiddling on Browder’s taxes on profits from sales of shares held by Russian shell companies run by his Hermitage Fund. He was not an attorney hired in 2007 to investigate and then expose a tax fraud against the Russian Treasury.

That fraud was exposed by Rimma Starova, the Russian nominee director of a British Virgin Islands shell company that held Hermitage’s reregistered companies and who gave testimony to Russian police on April 9 and July 10, 2008. It was reported by The New York Times and  Vedomosti on July 24, 2008, months before Magnitsky mentioned it in an Oct. 7 interrogation.

Kremlin-connected?

The Mueller Report says Veselnitskaya promised dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government support for Trump.”  Two days before the meeting, Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. and said “the Russian government attorney” was flying in from Moscow. She had not been a government attorney since 2001, 15 years earlier.

I interviewed Veselnitskaya in New York in November 2016. She explained what she later told the Trump group, that Browder’s clients the Ziff Brothers had invested in Russian shares in a way that routed the money through loans so that they could evade U.S. taxes. [“Not invest – loans” in Manafort’s notes.]

The report says, “Natalia Veselnitskaya had previously worked for the Russian government and maintained a relationship with that government throughout this period of time.” Later it says that from 1998 to 2001, she had worked as a prosecutor for the “Central Administrative District” of the Russian Prosecutor’s office. “And continued to perform government-related work and maintain ties to the Russian government following her departure.” We are meant to presume, with no evidence, as the media does – that means “a Kremlin-connected lawyer.”

When Trump Jr asked for evidence, how the payments could be tied to the Clinton campaign, she said she couldn’t trace them, according to the Mueller Report. 

Then she turned to the Magnitsky Act. The report repeats earlier fakery: “She lobbied and testified about the Magnitsky Act, which imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on Russian officials and which was named for a Russian tax specialist who exposed a fraud and later died in a Russian prison.” Magnitsky did not expose a fraud. Rimma Starova did.

A footnote in the report said: “Browder hired Magnitsky to investigate tax fraud by Russian officials, and Magnitsky was charged with helping Browder embezzle money.” Browder did not hire Magnitsky to investigate the fraud. Magnitsky had been the accountant in charge of Hermitage since 1997, 10 years before the fraud.  Embezzlement refers to Browder shifting assets out of Russia without paying taxes.

But the investigation’s focus was not on Browder’s fakery — the substance of the Trump Tower meeting — but on the communications organizing the event. The section on obstruction says Trump became aware of “emails setting up the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians who offered derogatory information on Hillary Clinton as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’”

That would have been inflated Goldstone’s promises.

The report says “at the meeting the Russian attorney claimed that funds derived from illegal activities in Russia were provided to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.” Trump Jr. told a White House press officer that “they started with some Hillary thing, which was bs and some other nonsense, which we shot down fast.”

As Veselnitskaya told me, she knew the Ziffs made contributions to Democrats. She probably started with that. Manafort’s notes don’t report a “Hillary thing,” but are about Browder and the Ziffs.

On the issue of Browder, the Magnitsky story and the essence of the Trump Tower meeting, the Mueller Report is a deception intended to keep the myth of collusion in the air while dismissing that any collusion took place. 

Lucy Komisar is an investigative reporter who writes about financial corruption and won a Gerald Loeb award, the most important prize in financial journalism, for breaking the story about how Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford got the Florida Banking Dept to allow him to move money offshore with no regulation. Her stories about William Browder focus on tax evasion.  Find out more on The Komisar Scoop and on Twitter, @lucykomisar.

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RAY McGOVERN: Hope for a Breakthrough in Korea

Donald Trump will ultimately have to remind his national security adviser and secretary of state who is president if there’s to be progress on North Korea, says Ray McGovern. 

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

There is hope for some real progress in U.S.-North Korean relations after Sunday morning’s unscheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, largely because Russia and China seem more determined than ever to facilitate forward movement.

Sitting down before the talks began, Kim underlined the importance of the meeting.“I hope it can be the foundation for better things that people will not be expecting,” he said. “Our great relationship will provide the magical power with which to overcome hardships and obstacles in the tasks that need to be done from now on.”

Trump was equally positive speaking of Kim:

“We’ve developed a very good relationship and we understand each other very well. I do believe he understands me, and I think I maybe understand him, and sometimes that can lead to very good things.”

Trump said the two sides would designate teams, with the U.S. team headed by special envoy Stephen Biegun under the auspices of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to start work in the next two to three weeks. “They’ll start a process, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

New Impetus

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met individually with President Trump at the G20 in Osaka, have been singing from the same sheet of Korea music — particularly in the wake of Xi’s visit to North Korea on June 20-21. Putin’s remarks are the most illuminating. 

In an interview with The Financial TimesPutin pointed to “the tragedies of Libya and Iraq” — meaning, of course, what happened to each of them as they lacked a nuclear deterrent. Applying that lesson to North Korea, Putin said,

“What we should be talking about is not how to make North Korea disarm, but how to ensure the unconditional security of North Korea and how to make any country, including North Korea, feel safe and protected by international law. …”

“We should think about guarantees, which we should use as the basis for talks with North Korea. We must take into account the dangers arising from … the presence of nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that if a way can be found to satisfy North Korea’s understandable determination to protect its security, “the situation may take a turn nobody can imagine today.”

“Whether we recognize North Korea as a nuclear power or not, the number of nuclear charges it has will not decrease. We must proceed from modern realities …” And those realities include fundamental, immediate security concerns for both Russia and China. Putin put it this way:

”[W]e have a common border, even if a short one, with North Korea, therefore, this problem has a direct bearing on us. The United States is located across the ocean … while we are right here, in this region, and the North Korean nuclear range is not far away from our border. This why this concerns us directly, and we never stop thinking about it.”

Xi’s ‘Reasonable Expectations’

Last week in Pyongyang, Chinese President Xi Jinping saidChina is waiting for a desired response in stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

“North Korea would like to remain patient, but it hopes the relevant party will meet halfway with North Korea to explore resolution plans that accommodate each other’s reasonable concerns,” he said.

A commentary in China’s official Xinhua news agency said China could play a unique role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the U.S, but that both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”

There is little doubt that the Russians and Chinese have been comparing notes on what they see as a potentially explosive (literally) problem in their respective backyards, the more so inasmuch as the two countries have become allies in all but name.

On a three-day visit to Moscow in early June, President Xi spoke of his “deep personal friendship” with Putin, with whom he has “met nearly 30 times in the past six years.” For his part, Putin claimed “Russian-Chinese relations have reached an unprecedented level. It is a global partnership and strategic cooperation.”

A Fundamental Strategic Change

Whether they are “best friends” or not, the claim of unprecedented strategic cooperation happens to be true — and is the most fundamental change in the world strategic equation in decades. Given the fear they share that things could get out of hand in Korea with the mercurial Trump and his hawkish advisers calling the shots, it is a safe bet that Putin and Xi have been coordinating closely on North Korea.

The next step could be stepped-up efforts to persuade Trump that China and Russia can somehow guarantee continued nuclear restraint on Pyongyang’s part, in return for U.S. agreement to move step by step — rather than full bore — toward at least partial North Korean denuclearization — and perhaps some relaxation in U.S. economic sanctions. Xi and Putin may have broached that kind of deal to Trump in Osaka.

There is also a salutary sign that President Trump has learned more about the effects of a military conflict with North Korea, and that he has come to realize that Pyongyang already has not only a nuclear, but also a formidable conventional deterrent: massed artillery.

“There are 35 million people in Seoul, 25 miles away,” Trump said on Sunday. “All accessible by what they already have in the mountains. There’s nothing like that anywhere in terms of danger.”

Obstacles Still Formidable

Trump will have to remind his national security adviser, John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that he is the president and that he intends to take a firmer grip on reins regarding Korean policy. Given their maladroit performance on both Iran and Venezuela, it would, at first blush, seem easy to jettison the two super-hawks.

But this would mean running afoul of the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academe-Think-Tank (MICIMATT) complex, in which the corporate-controlled media play thesine-qua-non role today.

In a harbinger of things to come, The Washington Post’s initial report on the outcome of the Trump-Kim talks contained two distortions: “Trump … misrepresented what had been achieved, claiming that North Korea had ceased ballistic missile tests and was continuing to send back remains of U.S. servicemen killed in the Korean War.”

The Trump administration could reasonably call that “fake news.” True, North Korea tested short-range ballistic missiles last spring, but Kim’s promise to Trump was to stop testing strategicnot tactical missiles, and North Korea has adhered to that promise. As for the return of the remains of U.S. servicemen: True, such remains that remain are no longer being sent back to the U.S., but it was the U.S. that put a stop to that after the summit in Hanoi failed. 

We can surely expect more disingenuous “reporting” of that kind.

Whether Trump can stand up to the MICIMATT on Korea remains to be seen. There is a huge amount of arms-maker-arms-dealer profiteering going on in the Far East, as long as tensions there can be stoked and kept at a sufficiently high level.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His first portfolio at CIA was referent-analyst for Soviet policy toward China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




The UK Tory Leadership Contest is Whittled Down to Two

Boris Johnson is the favourite to win the Conservative leadership contest. But has he got what it takes to strike a Brexit deal with the EU?, asks Johanna Ross.

By Johanna Ross
in Edinburgh, Scotland
Special to Consortium News

The Conservative party leadership contest or “horror show”, as it was referred to by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has now been reduced to a mere double act as favourite Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will now go head-to-head in a bid to become the UK’s next Prime Minister.

With a decisive win of 160 votes on Thursday, Johnson beat both Hunt and Michael Gove, who gathered a mere 77 and 75 respectively in the fifth round, from the original group of 16 all vying to replace Theresa May.

Leadership contests are by their nature steeped in skulduggery, and it’s been rumoured that all has not been squeaky clean in this race – hardly surprising in a Tory party fraught with division. It was reported that supporters of Boris may have been involved in a spot of tactical voting along the way, giving votes to Hunt in order to fend off arch rival Gove.

Indeed no love has been lost between Boris and Gove since the latter stabbed Britain’s most eccentric blonde politician in the back in the previous 2016 leadership contest. This time, no prisoners were taken by their respective campaign teams with every possible skeleton uncovered from the closet. From Johnson being termed a racist, to Gove’s cocaine abuse, attempts were made at every turn to eliminate each other.

But it’s the indefatigable Johnson, former London mayor and foreign secretary, knocked out in the previous contest,  who remains the front runner. And no-one is exactly sure why. Largely seen as the most incompetent and embarrassing of politicians – never mind leadership candidates – this blonde buffoon seems to still carry favour amongst the Tory party faithful.

Perhaps this time he just got the timing right – after the reserved, emotionless May, Boris’ vibrant personality has struck a chord and his undisciplined, shambolic nature is somehow forgiven. He certainly wouldn’t be alone on the world stage – with Trump across the Atlantic and ex-comedian Zelensky in Ukraine – Boris’ antics wouldn’t be out of place.

However, it’s worth noting that despite his popularity within his party, Boris does not have the same degree of support amongst the electorate. In recent weeks the press and social media platforms have been inundated with examples of his worst gaffes and blatant episodes of ignorance, more often than not accompanied by a message of foreboding along the lines of: ‘And this man could be our next Prime Minister…’.

Then he is something of a specialist in making offensive remarks – from describing Muslim women wearing the burka as ‘post-boxes’ to stating that people of African origin have ‘watermelon smiles’. Incredibly, none of this seems to have much impact on his leadership bid, but it remains to be seen how he would fare in a general election.

As for the man left to take on Boris – the mild-mannered, Japanese-speaking Hunt – he could not provide more of a contrast and yet the two also have much in common. Both Oxford graduates, they have clocked up considerable experience in Cabinet and Shadow government and have been MPs for over a decade.

All About Brexit

They also have equally filled the role of foreign secretary, although Boris’ tenure there was arguably more colourful as it was punctuated by arious diplomatic gaffesHe joined in on the prevalent Russia-bashing, coming under intense criticism for early on blaming Russia in the Skripal affair without evidence. For his part, Hunt too has expressed anti-Russian views.  And he’s been scathing in his attacks on WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, condemning a UN expert on torture for concluding that Assange had indeed been tortured. Johnson too slammed Assange for costing the London Metropolitan Police £5.3million.

On Monday Hunt said Britain could join the U.S. in attacking Iran.

However, the real issue the two candidates will be judged on in this contest among only Conservative Party members, is of course Brexit.

Whilst Johnson has been consistent in his approach that Britain leave the EU “deal or no deal” on Oct. 31, Hunt has taken a more nuanced, and some have argued, more realistic stance.  He has argued that a deal ought to be struck with Brussels and thinks he’s just the man to do it. He believes that he alone can renegotiate a deal with the EU which means there would be no need for the Irish backstop.

What’s not clear however is why exactly Hunt thinks he can do any better than May, who with supreme difficulty, presented three different Brexit deals to parliament, for them all to be rejected. Let’s face it: whoever is at the helm of the Brexit ship will encounter the same obstacles from fellow politicians at Westminster, the majority of whom are Remainers and opposed to the very concept of Brexit.

At the least they are calling for a second referendum on Brexit or even a general election, which could be catastrophic for the Conservative government. But if it is to be Boris for prime minister, as all indicators show, it’s highly likely we could see what former leader Tony Blair has called ‘unthinkable’ – a no deal Brexit without any public consultation.

It’s easy to get pre-occupied with the drama of the Conservative leadership contest – the result of which we will know on July 22 – and neglect the wider picture. For if one analyses objectively what is taking place, the argument that Brexit is about carrying out the democratic will of the people when they voted ‘Leave’ in the 2016 referendum, is looking increasingly thin.

A government that doesn’t have a majority, in a party failing in the polls, could carry out what seems like an act of self-harm in taking the UK out of the European Union without a deal. Chancellor Phillip Hammond confirmed earlier this week, plunged into economic oblivion, Britain could find itself in a state which makes even austerity look good, as it tries to go it alone as an independent trading nation.

Furthermore there is the threat to the UK’s territorial integrity. Citizens of Scotland have observed the antics of the Conservative Party leadership contest with some degree of scepticism as they wonder how much it all has to do with them. Not only is the Conservative Party almost redundant in Scotland, and has been for years, but the majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum and reinforced this stance in the recent European elections.

A no deal scenario would be sure to alienate Scottish voters completely and give the added boost needed to the Scottish independence movement. So Brexiteers could well get more than they bargained for if Britain crashes out of Europe – it would be no exaggeration to say we could see the break-up of the United Kingdom.

So regardless of who wins this Tory leadership race, it doesn’t solve the question of Brexit, despite what some Conservative politicians may think. Riding the waves of the post-Brexit seas, it’s really not clear whether the  ship Britannia will sink or swim. But if one thing is certain, with BoJo at the helm, it would be one hell of a ride.

Johanna Ross is a freelance journalist based in the United Kingdom.

 




PEPE ESCOBAR: Brazilgate is Turning into Russiagate 2.0

The Intercept‘s bombshell about Brazilian corruption is being ludicrously spun by the country’s media and military as a “Russian conspiracy,” writes Pepe Escobar

By Pepe Escobar
in Paris
Special to Consortium News

It was a leak, not a hack. Yes: Brazilgate, unleashed by a series of game-changing bombshells published by The Intercept, may be turning into a tropical Russiagate.

The Intercept’s Deep Throat – an anonymous source — has finally revealed in detail what anyone with half a brain in Brazil already knew: that the judicial/lawfare machinery of the one-sided Car Wash anti-corruption investigation was in fact a massive farce and criminal racket bent on accomplishing four objectives.

  • Create the conditions for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and the subsequent ascension of her VP, elite-manipulated puppet, Michel Temer.
  •  Justify the imprisonment of former president Lula in 2018 – just as he was set to win the latest presidential election in a landslide. 
  • Facilitate the ascension of the Brazilian extreme-right via Steve Bannon asset (he calls him “Captain”) Jair Bolsonaro.
  • Install former judge Sergio Moro as a justice minister on steroids capable of enacting a sort of Brazilian Patriot Act – heavy on espionage and light on civil liberties.

Moro, side by side with prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, who was leading the Public Ministry’s 13-strong task force, are the vigilante stars of the lawfare racket. Over the past four years, hyper-concentrated Brazilian mainstream media, floundering in a swamp of fake news, duly glorified these two as Captain Marvel-worthy national heroes. Hubris finally caught up with the swamp.

The Brazilian Goodfellas

The Intercept has promised to release all the files in its possession; chats, audio, videos and pics, a treasure trove allegedly larger than Snowden’s. What has been published so far reveals Moro/Dallagnol as a strategic duo in synch, with Moro as a capo di tutti i capi, judge, jury and executioner rolled into one – replete with serial fabrications of evidence. This, in itself, is enough to nullify all the Car Wash cases in which he was involved – including Lula’s prosecution and successive convictions based on “evidence” that would never hold up in a serious court.

In conjunction with a wealth of gory details, the Twin Peaks principle — the owls are not what they seem — fully applies to Brazilgate. Because the genesis of Car Wash involves none other than the United States government (USG). And not only the Department of Justice (DoJ) – as Lula has been stressing for years in every one of his interviews. The op was Deep State at its lowest.

WikiLeaks had already revealed it from the start, when the NSA started spying on energy giant Petrobras and even Rousseff’s smart phone. In parallel, countless nations and individuals have learned how the DoJ’s self-attributed extraterritoriality allows it to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere.

It has never been about anti-corruption. Instead this is American “justice” interfering in the full geopolitical and geo-economic spheres. The most glaring, recent case, is Huawei’s.

Yet Mafiosi Moro/Dallagnol’s “malign behavior” (to invoke Pentagonese) reached a perverse new level in destroying the national economy of a powerful emerging nation, a BRICS member and acknowledged leader across the Global South.

Car Wash ravaged the chain of energy production in Brazil, which in turn generated the sale – below market prizes – of plenty of valuable pre-salt oil reserves, the biggest oil discovery of the 21stcentury.

Car Wash destroyed Brazilian national champions in engineering and civil construction as well as aeronautics (as in Boeing buying Embraer). And Car Wash fatally compromised important national security projects such as the construction of nuclear submarines,

essential for the protection of the “Blue Amazon”.

For the Council of Americas – which Bolsonaro visited back in 2017 – as well as the Council on Foreign Relations—not to mention the “foreign investors”–to have neoliberal Chicago boy Paulo Guedes installed as finance minister was a wet dream. Guedes promised on the record to virtually put all of Brazil for sale. So far, his stint has been an unmitigated failure.

How to Wag the Dog

Mafiosi Moro/Dallagnol were “only a pawn in their game,” to quote Bob Dylan– a game both were oblivious to.

Lula has repeatedly stressed that the key question – for Brazil and the Global South – is sovereignty. Under Bolsonaro, Brazil has been reduced to the status of a banana neo-colony – with plenty of bananas. Leonardo Attuch, editor of the leading portal Brasil247says “the plan was to destroy Lula, but what was destroyed was the nation.”

As it stands, the BRICS – a very dirty word in the Beltway – have lost their “B”. As much as they may treasure Brazil in Beijing and Moscow, what is delivering for the moment is the “RC” strategic partnership, although Putin and Xi are also doing their best to revive “RIC”, trying to show India’s Modi that Eurasian integration is the way to go, not playing a supporting role in Washington’s fuzzy Indo-Pacific strategy.

And that brings us to the heart of the Brazilgate matter: how Brazil is the coveted prize in the master strategic narrative that conditions everything happening in the geopolitical chessboard for the foreseeable future—the no-holds-barred confrontation between the U.S. and Russia-China.

Already in the Obama era, the U.S. Deep State had identified that to cripple BRICS from the inside, the “weak” strategic node was Brazil. And yes; once again it’s the oil, stupid.

Brazil’s pre-salt oil reserves may be worth as much as a staggering $30 trillion. The point is not only that the USG wants a piece of the action; the point is how controlling most of Brazil’s oil ties up with interfering with powerful agribusiness interests. For the Deep State, control of Brazil’s oil flow to agribusiness equals containment/leverage against China.

The U.S., Brazil and Argentina, together, produce 82 percent of the world’s soybeans – and counting. China craves soybeans. These won’t come from Russia or Iran – which on the other hand may supply China with enough oil and natural gas (see, for instance, Power of Siberia I and II). Iran, after all, is one of the pillars of Eurasian integration. Russia may eventually become a soybean export power, but that may take as long as ten years.

The Brazilian military knows that close relations with China – their top trade partner, ahead of the U.S. — are essential, whatever Steve Bannon may rant about. But Russia is a completely different story. Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, in his recent visit to Beijing, where he met with Xi Jinping, sounded like he was reading from a Pentagon press release, telling Brazilian media that Russia is a “malign actor” deploying “hybrid war around the world.”

So the U.S. Deep State may be accomplishing at least part of the ultimate goal: to use Brazil in its Divide et Impera strategy of splitting the Russia-China strategic partnership.

It gets much spicier. Car Wash reconditioned as Leak Wash could also be decoded as a massive shadow play; a wag the dog, with the tail composed of two American assets.

Moro was a certified FBI, CIA, DoJ, Deep State asset. His uber-boss would ultimately be Robert Mueller (thus Russiagate). Yet for Team Trump, he would be easily expendable – even if he’s Captain Justice working under the real asset, Bannon boy Bolsonaro. If he falls, Moro would be assured the requisite golden parachute – complete with U.S. residency and talks in American universities.

The Intercept’s Greenwald is now celebrated by all strands of the Left as a sort of American/Brazilian Simon Bolivar on steroids – with and in may cases without any irony. Yet there’s a huge problem. The Intercept is owned by hardcore information-war practitioner Pierre Omidyar.

Whose Hybrid War?

The crucial question ahead is what the Brazilian military are really up to in this epic swamp – and how deep they are subordinated to Washington’s Divide et Impera.

It revolves around the all-powerful Cabinet of Institutional Security, known in Brazil by its acronym GSI. GSI stalwarts are all Washington consensus. After the “communist” Lula/Dilma years, these guys are now consolidating a Brazilian Deep State overseeing full spectrum political control, just like in the U.S..

GSI already controls the whole intel apparatus, as well as Foreign Policy and Defense, via a decree surreptitiously released in early June, only a few days before The Intercept’s bombshell. Even Captain Marvel Moro is subjected to the GSI; they must approve, for instance, everything Moro discusses with the DoJ and the U.S. Deep State.

As I’ve discussed with some of my top informed Brazilian interlocutors, crack anthropologist Piero Leirner, who knows in detail how the military think, and Swiss-based international lawyer and UN adviser Romulus Maya, the U.S. Deep Stateseems to be positioning itself as the spawning mechanism for the direct ascension of the Brazilian military to power, as well as their guarantors. As in, if you don’t follow our script to the letter – basic trade relations only with China; and isolation of Russia – we can swing the pendulum anytime.

After all, the only practical role the USG would see for the Brazilian military – in fact for all Latin America military – is as “war on drugs” shock troops.

There is no smoking gun – yet. But the scenario of Leak Wash as part of an extremely sophisticated, full spectrum dominance psyops, an advanced stage of Hybrid War, must be seriously considered.

For instance, the extreme-right, as well as powerful military sectors and the Globo media empire suddenly started spinning that The Intercept bombshell is a “Russian conspiracy.”

When one follows the premier military think tank website– featuring loads of stuff virtually copy and pasted straight from the U.S. Naval War College – it’s easy to be startled at how they fervently believe in a Russia-China Hybrid War against Brazil, where the beachhead is provided by “anti-national elements” such as the Left as a whole, Venezuelan Bolivarians, FARC, Hezbollah, LGBT, indigenous peoples, you name it.

After Leak Wash, a concerted fake news blitzkrieg blamed the Telegram app (“they are evil Russians!”) for hacking Moro and Dallagnol’s phones. Telegram officially debunked it in no time.

Then it surfaced that former president Dilma Rousseff and the current Workers’ Party president Gleisi Hoffmann paid a “secret” visit to Moscow only five days before the Leak Wash bombshell. I confirmed the visit with the Duma, as well as the fact that for the Kremlin, Brazil, at least for the moment, is not a priority. Eurasian integration is. That in itself debunks what the extreme-right in Brazil would spin as Dilma asking for Putin’s help, who then released his evil hackers.

Leak Wash – Car Wash’s season two – may be following the Netflix and HBO pattern. Remember that season three of True Detective was an absolute smash. We need Mahershala Ali-worthy trackers to sniff out patches of evidence suggesting the Brazilian military – with the full support of the U.S. Deep State – might be instrumentalizing a mix of Leak Wash and “the Russians” Hybrid War to criminalize the Left for good and orchestrate a silent coup to get rid of the Bolsonaro clan and their sub-zoology collective IQ. They want total control – no clownish intermediaries. Will they be biting more bananas than they can chew?

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030.” Follow him on Facebook.