A couple of days ago, Devin Nunes dismissed Democratic calls for him to recuse himself. He said that the Democrats oppose him because he is so "effective." If he were an effective investigator of Donald Trump, no-one would object to his work. Instead, he has been -- almost by his own admission -- an effective Trump protector.
Nunes isn’t Donald Trump’s lawyer. He’s not Trump’s spokesperson. It’s not his job to clean up Trump’s Twitter mess. The House Intelligence Committee faces the challenge of conducting an investigation that has at least some degree of bipartisan credibility. It’s not “success” for Nunes to produce a report that plays great on Fox News while his Democratic counterpart, Adam Schiff, writes a dissenting document for Rachel Maddow.
That paragraph is the best thing to come out of the National Review since they stopped publishing John Simon's hilariously bitchy film criticism. (Simon is still writing: "One morning, Lord Byron woke up and found himself famous.
One more recent morning, we awoke and found ourselves infamous: Donald J. Trump
had been elected President. Only an atom bomb would be a worse alarm clock.")
I have a few points to make about the Nunes sub-scandal -- call it "Devin's Gate" -- that no-one else seems eager to make. But before we get to all of that, we must talk about Louise Mensch, on whom I've been crushing for a while now.
She noticed me! At least, she seems to have noticed something I wrote.
(Nobody call me: I want to keep the line free. Yes, I know: Play it cool; don't seem too anxious. Should I buy Tic-Tacs, or has the Groper-in-Chief spoiled that move for all time?)
I cannot confirm whether Mr. Epshteyn is, as has been speculated about, ‘Source E’ in the Steele dossier, but he fits the description given of that source. What I can report is that sources stated Epshteyn was named to the FISA court in July as a target, but – and I re-emphasize this point – that application was denied by the court.
These words made my heart go all a-flutter, and not just because the speculation started here, in a piece written by Modesty Forbids. In her twitter feed, Mensch has hinted that Christopher Steele -- the former MI6 agent who compiled the Orbis dossier -- recorded conversations with his sources. If my "Ephsteyn = E" argument was wide of the mark, Mensch probably would have said so.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that she has heard those recordings. Call it a gut instinct. Even if she hasn't, she seems to be on friendly terms with Steele.
(Seth Abramson also says that Ephsteyn is Source E -- a conclusion he reached two-and-a-half months after I did. Since I do not have a crush on Seth Abramson, I will simply give you this link and leave it at that.)
Mensch notes that in TV interviews, Devin Nunes said that "only one person" working in the White House was still under intelligence surveillance. That person, in all likelihood, was Ephsteyn. Why did Nunes make that cryptic remark during a televised interview? His comment offered a signal to that "one person": Escape while you can. Ephsteyn vamoosed just a short while later.
In a follow-up article, Mensch looks at the White House contact who led Nunes unto that sooper-seekrit SCIF in the Executive Office Building, where the House Intel Chair saw computer files of intercepted communications. Everyone has been wondering: Just who was the contact person?
...I can exclusively report that sources with links to Congress state that staffers working on the Russia investigations believe that lawyers connected to the White House are illegally sharing information with Nunes – and illegally pressing him to leak it.
While sources are not yet definite as to which lawyer or lawyers they suspect of repeatedly breaking the law on leaks and obstruction of justice, several have named Michael Ellis, of the White House General Counsel’s office for National Security, as one they suspect.
Mr. Ellis previous job was the General Counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, working for Mr. Nunes directly. Sources indicate that Nunes recommended Ellis for the White House national security post.
Yesterday it was reported that Nunes’ friend Mr. Ellis, described as his “close aide”, only started working for the White House this month, when leaks started.
If indeed Mr. Ellis did pass on information about the FISA evidence on money laundering, possibly involving Epshteyn, to Nunes, asking him to leak it to the press or allowing him to do so, it would be highly illegal conduct.
The Schiff statement came as panel staffers speculated on the possible identity of Nunes’ White House source, focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence panel and who was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House counsel’s office. A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes, as did a spokesman for Schiff.
Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker notes that Nunes refuses to confirm or deny that identification. This interview with Nunes contains the only clues he has given as to the source's identity:
"We don't have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress," Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.
Nunes, it should be said, has a history of cultivating independent sources inside the intelligence community. He made contact, for example, with the U.S. intelligence contractors who ended up saving most of the Americans stuck in the Benghazi outpost when it was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012. More recently, Nunes has reached out to his network of whistleblowers to learn about pressure inside the military's Central Command on analysts to write positive reports on the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State.
If Ellis is the guy, doesn't a White House counsel count as a White House staffer? Nunes says that his source is an intelligence official, not a lawyer working on national security matters. Just who is Michael Ellis?
I'll tell you this much: He's no easy google. This official announcement of new Trump administration aroused my interest; although the actual page has gone all 404 on us, we still have the Google cache version.
Most recently, Mr. Ellis served as General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence... Earlier in his career, Mr. Ellis served as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives. Mr. Ellis is also an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve.
If Ellis really is the man, then the problem facing us today isn't just Putin. The problem is also our own covert realm. In the past, I have argued that the most eldritch secret of Trump's ascension is not the help he received from Russia but the help he got from our own intelligence community. That community is not monolithic. There are factions. There are always factions.
(And I say that as the very first writer to argue in public that Putin was rigging the election for Trump.)
Spy scandals always come in layers, and spies manipulate their media assets to make sure that we don't get to the deepest layers. It's not enough to prove Dreyfuss innocent: You must also prove Esterhazy guilty. It's not enough to prove that Nixon orchestrated a cover-up; you must also ask why McCord intentionally blew the break-in. It's not enough to prove that Oswald didn't fire the kill shot; you must also show that Jim Angleton got on the phone and said "Boris, I have a job for you."
As we ponder the question of "What makes Devin run?" we have to ask questions that few seem interested in pursuing: How did a feck-impaired former dairyman end up heading the House Intelligence Committee? Why did sources in Spyworld glom onto him even before he received his current assignment?
The "spooks against Trump" brigade won't tell you that the CIA has been manipulating the House and Senate Intelligence Committees from the beginning.
You may recall the evidence that came out earlier that the NSA has been spying on members of Congress. Russell Tice:
Okay. They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial.
Remember the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal? Remember the really juicy stuff that came out toward the end -- the revelations about former CIA Director Porter Goss and the parties at the Watergate and the Westin, about the prostitutes used to collect what we now call "kompromat" on politicians?
Devin Nunes entered Congress while Porter Goss and Dusty Foggo were still holding those "poker parties." As LBJ once said: "I never trust a man until I got his pecker in my pocket." Perhaps the dairyman's pecker was pocketed back then.
Or perhaps the pocketing happened years later -- for example, on a yacht in San Francisco Bay.
My dear Louise Mensch: I hope that by some chance you are reading this message. I confess to being smitten, but I can never be an uncritical admirer. (Of anyone.) (Except her.) You've mentioned Cambridge Analytica, and you've noted their connection to Breitbart, but you won't talk about that firm's ties to the British and American intelligence systems. You've offered an interesting theory as to how Steve Bannon came to power -- the same idea popped into my own cranium -- but you won't talk about the hidden history of Breitbart's links to Aaron Barr, H.B. Gary, Mantech, and MZM -- which brings us, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, back to the Cunningham scandal and environs.
Yeah, Russia is important. The Russia connection will, I hope, bring down Trump.
But that's not the deepest layer. You begin to explore the deepest layer when you ask: Which people within our own intelligence community wanted to make Trump president? And why?
The headline deserves expansion: Although Trump himself is locatable on the far, far right, opposition to him includes both left and right. As a result, bedfellows have never been stranger. Examples follow.
USA Today is generally considered a center-right publication -- one not known for its in-depth investigative reporting. Yet this piece is a blockbuster, even though some of the material is familiar:
The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.
• A partner in the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.
• An investor in the SoHo project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.
• Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.
• A former mayor from Kazakhstan was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.
• A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.
Trump's Russian connections are of heightened interest because of an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian operatives to interfere in last fall's election. What’s more, Trump and his companies have had business dealings with Russians that go back decades, raising questions about whether his policies would be influenced by business considerations.
Trump told reporters in February: "I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all."
Yet in 2013, after Trump addressed potential investors in Moscow, he bragged to Real Estate Weekly about his access to Russia's rich and powerful. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump said, referring to Russians who made fortunes when former Soviet state enterprises were sold to private investors.
Of course, much of this fruit was ripe for the plucking during the actual campaign. Instead, the media wasted time on nonsense allegations about the (entirely laudable) Clinton Foundation and Hillary's private email server (which was completely mis-reported).
Congressman Walter Jones, a Republican from North Carolina, has asked Devin Nunes to step down from the Trump investigation. I believe that Jones is the first Republican to do so.
"How can you be chairman of a major committee and do all these things behind the scenes and keep your credibility? You can't keep your credibility," Jones said just off the House floor.
Former CIA Director John McLaughlin says that Russia did intervene in our election on behalf of Trump, and that this project was Russia's "most effective covert operation in decades." Is he saying that there was an even more effective covert operation twenty or thirty years ago? When? Where? What? How can such a thing even be possible?
McLaughlin offered an interesting reaction to some of the claims heard concerning the Nunes affair:
"He could have gotten this access on Capitol Hill, actually. We don't know who provided it. There is an intelligence staff at the national security council usually headed by an intelligence officer who's been detailed there. Sheer speculation that it could have been that person, it could have been someone who traveled down to the complex to meet with him. We just don't know that."
Many talking heads on teevee have said that Capitol Hill did not have the proper facilities. McLaughlin says otherwise, and he should know.
With all due respect to "The Magician," the idea that Nunes was invited to this strange meeting by that one lowly intelligence officer strikes me as faintly ridiculous. Do you really think that a surprise text message from that guy could make Nunes leap out of his Uber ride? Could that guy arrange access without the knowledge of anyone else in the White House? Not likely.
The most important take-away from this affair is that it proves a point I've been making for a long, long time: There is a pro-Trump faction within our intelligence community. Putin helped Trump get where he is, but so did our own spooks. You won't hear that should-be-obvious point made by the "spooks against Trump" on Twitter.
As I keep telling the world, Breitbart has been a very "spooky" outfit for a long, long time. Maybe if I repeat those words long enough, people will start to look at the evidence.
I can't cite chapter and verse at the moment, but I've seen commentary on cable news indicating that Nunes has been dealing with (manipulated by?) his own intelligence contacts for years -- well before he became the head of the intel committee. Thus, it is fair to posit that the "Breitbart" faction within the intelligence
community recruited Devin Nunes a long time ago.
Or perhaps they acquired kompromat on him...?
Dick Cheney. Good lord, whoever thought we'd live long enough to see Dick Goddamn Cheney say something that makes perfect sense to liberals?
"There was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic, fundamental democratic processes," Cheney said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "In some quarters that would be considered an act of war."
THANK YOU, Mr. Vice President. Mind you, this doesn't mean that we've forgiven, y'know, that whole Iraq war thing...
Slowly, surely, Republicans are turning against Antipresident Trump. When will Ryan crack?
cheney's concerns are raised when US supremacy - and thus his own money interests - are threatened.
as for the the mcgovern input, it sure seems he's the one making a red herring of wiretapping. i mean, to claim that someone revealed to nunes that everyone is surveilled just begs credulity; we all know - and nunes is not so dumb he's any exception - what snowden exposed years ago. that is simply no news snewz.
my sense of mcgovern has been mixed; he often questions the most questionable in these IC roles, but it's hard to sense where his allegiances truly lie. most often it appears it's with the IC source he most recently relied on.
posted by Anonymous : 9:22 PM
wrt mclaughlin's comment on the 'most successful covert russian operation in decades,' the missile crisis comes to mind. they set up all those missiles in cuba pointing right at us, right at our doorstep, under our noses. opportunistic, diabolical, and exceedingly dangerous, all true. but still, mighty slick.
which should alert us to the likelihood they're in the midst of something even more destructive as we fret.
posted by Anonymous : 9:28 PM
What are we to make of the pro-Trump "spook" faction? I have no doubt it exists, but it seems like they can't exert enough influence to stop the investigations. If they had real power, I'd think the story wouldn't have gotten this far already. Seems like all they can do is delay and obfuscate which won't be enough.
posted by nemdam : 9:44 PM
"One not known for its in-depth investigative reporting"
USA Today - the newspaper for people who find television too difficult.
posted by Propertius : 4:21 AM
The problem with Cheney's comment is its implication: the only proportionate response to an act of war is, well, war. That's what the term "act of war" means. Is he seriously suggesting the US go to war with Russia over thus far unproven allegations made by anonymous sources?
I never expected this -- and yet it makes a lot of sense.
After all, Devin Nunes is a former dairy farmer heading up the House intelligence community. The poor guy is in way over his head. He seems to have fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book.
The fun started the day before Nunes made his instantly-infamous press conference, when (says the Daily Beast) he got a sooper-seekrit text message while riding around in an Uber with a chief aide. Nunes suddenly left the car and, we now know, popped on over to the White House -- or rather, another building technically located on White House grounds. There, someone ushered him into a special sooper-seekrit room where he was plopped in front of a computer and allowed to look at sooper-seekrit classified documents.
Nunes went to the building because he needed a secure area to view the information, he told CNN. He said he didn't believe the President nor any of his West Wing team were aware he was there, and the White House said Monday it learned of Nunes' visit through media reports and directed any questions to the congressman.
A former government intelligence official told CNN on Monday that members of Congress, like the general public, must be cleared and escorted into facilities on White House grounds.
"Every non-White House staffer must be cleared in by a current White House staffer," the official said. "So it's just not possible that the White House was unaware or uninvolved."
Nunes said he was there for additional meetings "to confirm what I already knew" but said he wouldn't comment further so as to not "compromise sources and methods." A spokesman for Nunes said he "met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source."
A government official said Nunes was seen Tuesday night at the National Security Council offices of the Eisenhower building which, other than the White House Situation Room, is the main area on the complex to view classified information in a secure room.
The official said Nunes arrived and left alone.
What a rube. What a rube.
Although, to be fair, the idea of the White House pulling this trick on a sitting congressman is quite unusual. Perhaps unprecedented. Usually, spooks use this ploy on journalists -- if the journalists are really, really naive.
The Brits used to call this gambit the double bubble. The CIA has another name for it which I've run into in the course of my readings, but which I've forgotten. (Perhaps a reader can refresh my memory.) Basically, it's the old "You may look, but you may not copy" trick, in which the mark is granted rare access to an impressively secret and secure room where he is allowed to look at classified documents. Sort of like that scene in Citizen Kane, Donald Trump's favorite movie.
Are the documents real? Or are they a cunning mixture of real and fake?
The mark doesn't know. He presumes that they are real because he's caught up in a James Bond fantasy world. It's all so sooper-seekrit, and he is just soooooooo special because these bigwigs trust him and him alone with all of this sooper-seekrit classified material.
"I'm in on it! Nobody else. Just ME! I must be really important because they chose ME!"
The double bubble proved very effective in the 1970s, when it was used on American journalists covering "the troubles" in Northern Ireland. The marks were allowed to see sooper-seekrit documents which "proved" that the IRA was funded by the USSR. This was not the case: In reality, the IRA received much of its funding from Irish-Americans, who would not have donated if they believed that the IRA was a Soviet front organization.
That's why selected American journalists were led into a very secure compound controlled by the British Army and left alone with documents that seemed very real. You may look, they were told, but you may not copy.
The trick worked. The disinformation about the IRA spread throughout the world.
Are you old enough to recall when imprisoned IRA fighter Bobby Sands went on a hunger strike back in 1981? I am. When I told my friends that I admired the guy, one of my college pals -- and we're talking about a rather left-wing guy -- became furious with me. "Don't you know that the IRA is a front for the Soviet Union?"
The double bubble has been tried on many other occasions; turn here for a tale involving British journalist Con Coughlin. For reasons which no outsider can fathom, it has been used to spread some very strange rumors. As in: STRANGE.
The weirdest occurrence was in 1988, when a gullible newswoman named Linda Moulton Howe was invited into Kirtland Air Force Base and allowed to read (without copying) a document about aliens, allegedly produced in the 1950s to brief Ike. It was all pure bullshit, of course. If the Air Force really wanted to reveal that kind of secret, they would have chosen someone more important than Linda Moulton Howe.
The obvious question: Why did they bullshit her? That's the mystery a lot of people are still trying to answer.
A lot of people -- but not me. At least not here and now. I don't want this blog to be associated with all of that silliness, so I beg readers not to fill the comments section with their own ideas as to why Howe was hornswoggled. I'll say only that I do not believe in aliens -- and if you believe otherwise, feel free to argue your case somewhere else. It's a big damn internet and this is just one small blog. I mention the Howe case in this context only because it offers such a perfect demonstration of how the double bubble works.
(If you want to do further research, check out a book called Mirage Men by Mark Pilkington.)
Linda Moulton Howe is still working, bless her heart; I heard her voice the last time I caught a bit of the George Snore-y show, some years ago. I wonder what she thought when she heard the latest news about Congressman Devin Nunes? I imagine that she smiled, nodded, and thought: "Welcome to the club, fella. Same thing happened to me."
So: Those documents that Devin saw. Real or fake? Think about it: If they were totally real, they would have been shared with the rest of the committee, or at least with the leadership. But they probably were not completely bogus. Good disinformation mixes genuine stuff in with the horsecrap.
Louise Mensch has her own views as to what the "genuine stuff" might be. See here. In a coming post, I may deal at greater length with what she has to say.
(Has Louise Mensch herself been double bubbled? I wouldn't doubt it. She is mixed up with spooks whom she trusts completely. Her chick-lit books must have offered a wealth of material to the MI6 or MI5 agent tasked with writing up her psychological profile -- and you know damned well that there is such a profile, because the spooks profile everyone. All of her sexual fantasies and personal issues are right out there for anyone to see. It would be very easy for the right sort of "alpha male" to manipulate her.)
(Nevertheless, my crush on her remains as profound as ever.)
Getting back to dairyman Devin: I suspect that he was brought into that sooper-seekrit room because the Trumpers sized him up as naive and easily manipulated. Sort of a male version of Linda Moulton Howe.
In the past, one purpose of the double bubble was to expose the fake information as fake and thereby discredit the mark, who has no way to prove that he saw what he saw. The public tends to blame the messenger, as long as the tricksters retain plausible deniability. (That's why it's called a double bubble.)
However, I don't think that this scenario explains the strange case of Devin Nunes. Something else is going on, although I'm not sure what that "something" is. It may be that Donald Trump simply wanted a news cycle in which he could claim vindication, even a partial vindication. Remember, he's playing to an audience of "redpilled" repugnants who live within an alternative news universe.
Look, it's been pretty obvious that he got this information from the White House since Trump himself telegraphed over a week ago that "something" was coming:
Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that despite all the denials from every institution and person in a position to know, “You’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
He always tips his hand. He can't help himself.
Trump's "wink and nudge" act is one of the reasons why I was convinced all along that Trump was going to gin up evidence against Obama. This may still happen. The tabloids (which always offer a fascinating view of the reality that the Trumpers want us to accept) keep telling us that Obama and Hillary are going to be tried and convicted. When -- if -- Trump solidifies power, he may be in a position to convene Kangaroo Court.
By the way:This interview with Nunes proves what I've been saying all along: There is a pro-Trump faction within our intelligence community. The "spooks-vs-Trump" narrative that has been shoved down our throats is simplistic at best and deceptive at worst.
On an unrelated note: A reader named Paul privately sent me a note which explained the "Google" oddity mentioned in the post below. Apparently, the phrase "the one identifying Boris Epshteyn as "Source E"" was contained in another post linking to the story in question. Until now, I did not know that Google worked that way. Please forgive my ignorance. Live an' lurn an' shit!Permalink
Here's an oddity. A few minutes ago, I googled epshteyn "source e" to see who else favored the same theory which I had publicized in January. Here's the result (and yes, I know that I slightly misspelled the man's name):
At no point did I ever type those words. That is, I never typed those words before composing this post.
In all of the other "hits," the header of the Google listing reflects the actual title of the piece.
I'm not saying that something sinister is going on; I'm simply curious. Is this how Google usually works? Have you ever seen anything of this sort before? I have not.
Obviously, an artificial intelligence did not write the words "the one identifying Boris Epshteyn as "Source E" - Cannonfire - blogger." A human being must have done so. Who did it, and for what purpose?
The alternative is that someone manually typed in a label describing the contents of your post, either as an aide de memoire or for the attention of someone else. Presumably it wasn't actually meant to be published to google.
Addendum: Almost all other search results pointing to Cannonfire only have the title "Cannonfire" or "Cannonfire - blogger", rather than the title of the post, on both Google and DuckDuckGo (which doesn't find the result you're pointing out at all).
Crawl error. "the one identifying Boris Epshteyn as "Source E"" string is the first few words in the post immediately after the watersports one, and it probably is how Google found the latter during its crawl. Similar title errors occur in wordpress powered sites during daily crawls as well. They usually get corrected the next few crawls though.
Joseph, This is off topic. You have mentioned Jefferson Morley before in an article from 2012.
posted by Anonymous : 1:00 PM
It's hard to keep up with all the excitement:
A few notes about the "wife" that works at Google. Since we are living a spy novel here, she's got to be a quite beautiful, fully qualified Russian agent. She doesn't have to hold a position that high in Google, she just has to sleep with people who do. How many affairs are going on as we speak? After all, he "husband" is--rather was--quite busy with his position in the administration. (I bet the corporation was planning on promoting her based on her "husband's" connections. Similar happened with Michelle Obama at U of C when Obama was senator.)
Another noteworthy posting this AM from Palmer Report. (The blog makes great reading!) This AM Palmer claims that the FISA court approved "tapps" on four individuals, one of whom was--is--Trump. This comes to us by Louise Mensch. It makes perfect sense. Per her, the initial FISA warrant was turned down. This, as far as we the people know, never happens in a FISA court. But in this instance the FISA court must have been very reluctant to approve a tap on a Presidential candidate (and potential future president.) That they may have eventually approved said "tapp" hints strongly that the evidence just kept piling up.
One caution about Palmer's Report. He suggests that recent threats by the Russians to release damaging information means they are threatening to release a tape recording Trump's sexual indiscretions. I doubt that, since it would only confirm the veracity of the "dodgy dossier". I think that it's effectiveness has been completely neutralized. What I believe the Russians are threatening to do is release hacked information from the NSA and CIA. (The later agency was not publicly known to have been hacked until Trump's slip of the lips.) I've said this all along, Trump is not being blackmailed so much as America is being blackmailed. And funny thing, Wikileaks just struck again this last week to aid in proving my point.
Lastly, I suspect I know what Mensch's game is. I believe she is a patriot but her motives are mixed (as all patriots are) and you are right to reserve judgement. Piecing together info from the Palmer Report, it appears that not just Trump but Pence and Ryan have all been compromised by the Russians. This puts us in a position where, if we rid ourselves of Trump, we have a deeply compromised Pence and if Pence is gone, we have another Russian agent in Ryan. But these bits of information are not as publicly obvious (purposely) as Trump's widely publicized connections with the Russians. If Trump is gone, we would have a more stable government with Pence (who I doubt could be more crazy.) But he could be blackmailed not just by the Russians but by our own intelligence agencies. (Remember who's been "tapping" all those phone calls--legally.) Depose Trump and Pence would have just had the shining example of a beheaded traitor. I doubt he would want to go lose his own head to make the Russians happy. If he wants to pardon Trump, he better check with his handlers or he could land in jail right beside his predecessor. And so who is governing? The intelligence community.
The Russians could try to release their own compromising info on Pence but I'm sure we have a plan for that. So if Mensch is representing the intelligence industry her preference for Pence makes perfect sense. Pence is screwed, America lives on.
posted by lastlemming : 1:50 PM
A Google search for "the one identifying Boris Epshteyn as "Source E"" (in quotes) points to this previous Cannonfire post: Something's coming - Cannonfire cannonfire.blogspot.com/2017/01/somethings-coming.html That result also appears further down in Joseph’s search for [epshteyn "source e"], if you scroll to the end and click on the “repeat the search” link: In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 9 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.
Boris Ephsteyn, Michael Flynn and Google: Just how compromised ARE we?
As noted a couple of posts down, Boris Ephsteyn -- the formerly-ubiquitous Trump surrogate and inauguration planner -- has suddenly left his White House gig, for reasons unknown. As I noted in a previous post (which is belatedly getting much attention, thanks to the Palmer Report), Epshteyn is the likeliest candidate for Source E in the Orbis dossier, otherwise known as the Steele dossier.
Source E is the primary source for the most infamous claim in that dossier -- the "watersports" business.
Ephsteyn is the only person who fits the description in the dossier. He's a Russian national close to Trump, with extensive knowledge of Russian business. He knows Moscow well. He is close to Trump's son Eric.
The dossier does not explicitly say that Source E is, in fact, a Putin operative. However, that reading is a fair one, since he certainly seems to have deep knowledge of what Russian intelligence has been up to. Read for yourself; come to your own conclusions.
Every time I've written about Ephsteyn, I've reminded readers that his wife, the former Lauren Tanick, is an executive at Google. She is fairly young; I don't know how high she has risen in the Google hierarchy. Nevertheless, there may be some reason to worry about her position within that company.
Last night, thanks to YouTube, I finally caught up with Malcolm Nance's most recent appearance on A.M. Joy. He discussed the Devin Nunes situation. Nance briefly mentioned Intelink and other classified "internets" used by the American intelligence community. Repeatedly, Nance said that Nunes could have "googled" certain names.
Is he speaking literally? I wondered. Does Google power our classified systems?
• SIPRNet is the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network
• Intelink is a SIPRNet search engine powered by Google
• Google infrastructure powering Intelink is largest outside Google
Google has long been considered a monopoly with close ties to the U.S. government.
Now it is learned the U.S. military's powerful classified intranet is not being processed through government servers, but is being powered by Google.
We must be cautious before jumping to conclusions. As I've said: Lauren Tanick Ephsteyn may not have risen that far within her company. I've seen no evidence that she has been made privy to anything having to do with SIPRNet. Still, the linkage does worry me -- at least to a degree.
The Michael Flynn situation is far more worrying, since SIPRNet is a project of the DIA, the agency which Flynn once headed. Worse, the DIA oversees the most highly classified of our secret communications systems, the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS, pronounced "Jay-Wicks").
Flynn's ties to Russia are known. Even Team Trump is now calling Flynn a "Russian mole."
Flynn at DIA. Ephsteyn in the White House. Just how compromised are we? Do we have any secrets left?
When I think of all the nonsense that people believed about Hillary's emails...!
Be wary of any story that uses Joseph Cannon as a source. He was one of the idiots pushing the “Whitey tape” nonsense in 2008. He also claimed Barack Obama was a CIA agent.
Kos won't allow me to respond to this smear. (Maybe it was the insulting cartoons I did of Markos Moulitsas? I kinda made his lips look like bananas.) Here's the response that they would not publish:
* * *
Am I allowed to defend myself against this smear? I took Larry Effing Johnson (the source for that "Whitey" claim) seriously — for a while — for two reasons: 1. He was a regular writer for Daily Kos. 2. He was a friend to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. When Johnson pointed to a specific speech at which Michelle Obama supposedly uttered that smear, I spent many (as in many) hours trying to track down someone who was in that room on that occasion. When I found out that Johnson lied, I understood, belatedly, his snake-in-the-grass nature, and we’ve been enemies ever since.
So it is fairer to say that I exposed the lie. I also learned not to trust someone's liberal bona fides simply because he or she wrote for Kos.
Yes, I still believe that Obama was working for the American intelligence community when he made that mysterious trip to Pakistan in 1981. If the evidence here is not enough to make the idea seem at least possible, then we must disagree.
But if you want to talk about weird, “out there” claims, may I remind you that during this same period (the 2008 campaign) Daily Kos published a fake news story — endorsed by Moulitsas himself — which claimed that Hillary doctored a video to make Obama’s face look darker? I was hardly the only writer to expose that particular lie.
May I remind you that Kos was an absolute cesspool of anti-Clinton hatred and prevarication at that time? May I remind you that Kos published actual, serious death threats against Hillary Clinton (as I documented in many articles — hell, the original Kos pages are probably still up)?
May I remind you that throughout 2008, the pages of Daily Kos were filled with every inane anti-Clinton conspiracy theory imaginable?
2008 was a difficult year, but I’ll happily match my record against that of the Daily Kos. Kos writers simply have no moral right to accuse me of writing over-the-top material. The way Kossacks acted throughout that period was worse than shameful: It was downright abominable. An unthinking, paranoid mob mentality overtook the entire site.
Also, may I remind you that I was THE first writer to discuss the Trump/Russia connection in a long piece that name-checked Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Carter Page? The piece predicted that the “Russia factor” would lead to a Trump victory. This was published on June 16, 2016 — months before Manafort left the Trump campaign, more than a month before other writers (not to mention the FBI) began to pay attention. At the time, most Kos readers would have pooh-poohed the notion.
Caro, the reply to your posting Joseph's response made me laugh out loud. What a bunch of tools over at that site.
posted by Gus : 11:13 AM
I can remember very well events leading up to the 200 campaign for President and The Daily Kos' damage inflicted on HRC. I keep getting emails pertinent to the goings on today with the Trump Administration from them. I'm sorry, I can't for the life of me support their site monetarily or by reading any of their articles. The damage they inflicted upon HRC reverberates today resulting in the fiasco we are dealing with now.
Seriously, you do get the headline, don't you? My favorite Errol Flynn movies are Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, both starring the Olivia de Havilland, the classiest star of that era, and one of my all-time great crushes. She's still with us.
I wish I could devote the rest of this post to listing all of the crush-worthy screen goddesses of yesteryear, but we have a president to impeach. So let's get down to business.
There are signs that Trump Dam is a-fixin' to crumble, and the little boy with his finger in the hole is named Michael Flynn. Or maybe I should say that Flynn is being used as a battering ram. I'm not sure which analogy to employ because the stories don't quite coalesce; at this point, all we can do is summarize the many reports.
CNN analyst Juliette Kayyam says that Michael Flynn has flipped. (And no, she doesn't mean "flipped" in the sense that I once flipped over Olivia de Havilland.) Allow me, once again, to translate Seth Abramson's twitter stream into standard prose:
First, as an attorney I want to make clear that, if this @CNN analyst's sources are correct, the #Russiagate scandal is blown wide open. FBI flips witnesses, turning them into cooperating individuals, only when they can help secure conviction of a bigger "target." Michael Flynn was the National Security Adviser for the President of the United States. The only bigger target is Donald J. Trump.
But Flynn also held a clandestine meeting with Russian ambassador/spy Sergey Kislyak and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner in December '16. And Flynn coordinated with infamous Iran-Contra figure and Russian oil/gas pipeline advocate Bud McFarlane in hiring Trump's Deputy NSA. And of course Flynn had the highest possible clearance and greatest possible access to POTUS in discussing matters of national security.
Flynn's hire as NSA was controversial -- even suspicious -- when it was made due to Flynn's absolutely terrible reputation in Washington. This suggests the hire wasn't based on merit, but rather the fact that Flynn is known to have ties (in-person ties) to Vladimir Putin.
We should conclude from the foregoing that Flynn was in the best position of anyone involved in #Russiagate to see all its contours. Given all of the above, we can say that if any one person could bring down Trump due to #Russiagate, it's the man the FBI may now have.
I'll add this: As noted in a previous post, someone seems to have revealed to Putin the names of American moles within the Russian intelligence system. As a result, a growing number of Russians have ended up dead or disappeared.
Which highly-placed American went blabby? Was his name Michael, by any chance?
Now let us turn to former CIA officer Tony Schaffer. Remember him? The Able Danger guy? Correct me if I'm mis-recalling, but didn't the stories published at that time refrain from identifying him as CIA?
He says that there is basic truth behind Trump's "tapp" tweet, although he admits that Obama didn't order the "tapp" -- which was not a tap, and which was not targeted against Trump. As you read the following, keep in mind that it comes from a FOX news story, and is clearly designed for the Fox audience.
He said that Trump was not physically wiretapped, with a wire into his phone, and it may not have physically been Trump Tower, but his campaign apparatus instead.
Shaffer said that due to the simplicity required to "mask" an American's name during an incidental wiretap, that the leak of Gen. Michael Flynn's name was "accidental on purpose."
"Clearly they were after gossip because it was political," Shaffer said, maintaining that the alleged wiretap had nothing to do with Russia.
The "political appointees" in the intelligence community knew exactly what they were surveilling for, Shaffer said, adding that the case is "much worse than Watergate by an order of magnitude."
He said that even if the surveillance was done legally, the "unmasking" of Americans' names and the leaking of the information are felones.
Shaffer added that Trump's references to battling the "intelligence community" likely meant those political appointees involved in the alleged surveillance, and not the CIA or NSA writ large.
Schaffer is not telling you that Flynn was recorded speaking to the Russian ambassador, who is always a legitimate target for surveillance. The ambassador did not operate out of Trump Tower. Frankly, I see nothing in Schaffer's statement that justifies those tweets.
Although I would place this interview with Schaffer somewhere between problematic and propagandistic, the man does raise a good point: Someone made a conscious decision to reveal Flynn's name.
Looking at the matter from an ethical viewpoint, one has to ask: Is Schaffer suggesting that the name should have remained hidden? If the National Security Adviser speaks covertly with the Russian ambassador -- on a line that both men think is secure, but isn't -- and if the conversation comes very close to an infraction of the Logan Act, and if Flynn neglects to tell the truth about this interaction, isn't that something which the intelligence community ought to reveal?
Woolsey. You probably already know about James Woolsey's claim that Michael Flynn, now known to be a paid agent of the corrupt Erdogan regime in Turkey, discussed the kidnapping of a Turkish national whom Erodgan considers an enemy.
As a representative of his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, Flynn met with senior representatives of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in September 2016, Woolsey said. Woolsey was a Trump campaign adviser at the time and attended the meeting, but said he arrived after it was already well underway.
Woolsey claims that those present discussed sending Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim leader who Erdogan has accused of being behind a failed military coup to overthrow him, back to Turkey to face charges -- possibly outside the legal US extradition system.
"What I saw and heard was sort of the end of the conversation -- it's not entirely clear what transpired because of that," Woolsey said on "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon. "But it looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by one or more of the Americans present at the meeting that we would be able, the United States would be able, through them, to be able to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey's political situation."
A spokesman for Flynn flatly denied Woolsey's characterization of the meeting.
Woolsey is an arch-neocon and a former pro-Trumper, so he's hardly my favorite person in the world. Nevertheless, it's hard to believe that a guy like Woolsey would simply make up a tale like this.
Malcolm Nance just said with CONFIDENCE on AM Joy that 1st one to break will be Mike Flynn!
Nance said that James Woolsey has dropped the 'dime' on him.
Flynn is in deep shit for (allegedly) discussing how to kidnap Erdogan foe Fethullah Gulen and fly him back to Turkey.
I did not see the broadcast and cannot confirm that Nance actually said those words. From Nance's Twitter feed:
This is going to send Flynn to jail& force him to talk to see if Trump approved. Completely illegal to even discuss abduction of Americans.
Flynn and Nunes. Several sources have noted that, after Woolsey left Team Trump, there was another meeting between Flynn and Turkish officials at Donald Trump's hotel. And guess who was with him? Devin Nunes. This meeting was mentioned in the Turkish press but ignored by the American media. Now let's turn to some non-Flynn news...
The lengthy briefing posted to Russian government website mid.ru was conducted by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, who speaks on behalf of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and in turn speaks on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin briefing page is titled “The assassination of former Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov,” in reference to the former Russian politician-turned-dissident who fled to Ukraine, only to be gunned down earlier this week.
As Palmer Report has pointed out, Voronenkov would have been a star witness in the trial that the government of Ukraine is currently trying to assemble against former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Voronenkov was murdered just one day after proof finally surfaced of the longstanding assertion that Manafort had taken tens of millions of dollars from the Kremlin. It’s widely believed that Vladimir Putin had former Kremlin insider Voronenkov murdered in order to prevent him from exposing Kremlin secrets during any Manafort trial.
But the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson seems to be blaming the entire sequence of events on leaks from the United States government. In her briefing (source: mid.ru) she goes on to make the following claim, along with a rather dire threat: “I would like to say that if the practice of leaking information that concerns not just the United States but also Russia, which has become a tradition in Washington in the past few years, continues, there will come a day when the media will publish leaks about the things that Washington asked us to keep secret, for example, things that happened during President Obama’s terms in office. Believe me, this could be very interesting information.”
Are we to believe that the current Russian government and the current American government are protecting Obama? Doubtful. If Putin had dirt on Obama, Trump would know. More than that: Trump would tell. I'm fairly certain that any such material would have been all over our computer and teevee screens during the 2016 election.
Boris Epshteyn, an official in the White House press office who had a contentious relationship with television producers and was once a frequent presence on TV himself, is leaving his job, according to three people with knowledge of the move.
The departure was treated with some mystery. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, would not comment on the reason Mr. Epshteyn, an old friend of President Trump’s son Eric, was expected to depart the post.
Writers for the Washington Post -- who have apparently seen an unredacted version of the dossier -- identified Source E as a Russian emigre who is very close to Donald Trump. But so far, no-one has given you a name.
An anonymous informant tells me that Source E is Boris Epshteyn, the man who is running Trump's inauguration.
Everything fits. EVERYTHING.
He's a Russian emigre. He knows Moscow very well. (Source E knew Source F, who works at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton.) He's extremely close to Trump. He got "in" with the campaign via a relationship with Trump's son.
Here is the follow-up piece. If my informant was on the level -- if Boris really is "Source E" -- then he may be considering a move back to Moscow, now that the Russiagate scandal is starting to whirl out of control. The FBI may want to speak with him. A special prosecutor surely would seek an interview, given the man's expert knowledge of investment in Russia.
I'd also like to know just what it is that Ephsteyns' wife does at Google.
Finally: Did you catch Louise Mensch on Bill Maher's show last night? All of the guests were perfect, but she was plus‐que‐parfait. Russian propaganda outlets have launched an insane smear campaign against her which only gives her more credibility.
Yet I still don't trust her. Not completely. She's too close to the intelligence community.
All of our current "spooks against Trump" remind me of the role played by Bob Woodward in Watergate.
In 1973-75, liberals considered Woodward an unassailable hero because he helped to take down Nixon. Back then, everyone assumed that only a die-hard supporter of the Trickster would dare to suggest that Woodward had a covert side.
Only later did we learn (via Jim Hougan's book Secret Agenda) that Woodward had been a former intelligence briefer who got an important journalism gig at the Post despite a complete lack of experience or writing ability. In his Watergate coverage, he seems to have made a deal with CIA representatives to keep the Agency out of the WP's Watergate coverage. (See the Lukowski memo, published as an addendum in Secret Agenda. Also see what Hougan has to say here and here.)
Cut to: The current day.
Mensch, Schindler, and The Jester may be "pulling a Woodward." They are keeping everyone focused on the Putin connection while making sure that we all ignore the American intelligence community's role in Trump's election.
I'm simply asking you to keep Schindler's work in mind as you read this article in The Guardian, which reveals the important links between the Breitbart empire (funded by Robert Mercer) and Cambridge Analytica, a subsidiary of SCL Group, a company with strong ties to both the Trump campaign and (as we know from other sources) the American and British intelligence communities. Also see this interesting discussion of Breitbartiana.
Most of the "spooks against Trump" never talk about that stuff. With them, it's all Russia, all the time. They offer very few references to Cambridge Analytica or SCL Group, even though Mercer's firm specializes in propaganda and perception management.
The exception has been Louise Mensch, who has mentioned Cambridge Analytica: See here and here and here and here.
On Maher's show, Mensch did make the important point -- which too many have forgotten -- that Trump was (and is) protected by a coterie of FBI agents in New York. These agents may have been the ones who allowed Nunes to see those intercepts. In the course of her Twitter feed, Mensch has toyed with the notion that these FBI agents are Russian moles, a suggestion I consider silly. Still, we must never forget that this faction exists.
Beyond all of that: I may not trust Mensch completely, but I have developed a serious crush on her. She's just so damned brilliant and beautiful.
Kinda reminds me of Olivia de Havilland.
so joe, was it here i read about the mysterious connections between eric's wife lara yunaska and her NC roots, that being the 'location' of much of the cyber work behind the alleged weiner underage 'cyber-victim'? didn't she spill some revealing tweets or such around that time?
also, thx to p.leigh for that link; exceptional panorama provided there. mensch did note she believes comey is a good guy in a very messy agency, which abramson's piece also suggests. since (at the very least) 9/11, the rift/rivalry between the fbi and cia/etc has been quite suspect, without any public resolution. but perhaps worse than this would be a rift internal to the fbi, i'd guess between old school/hooverites and younger, more um, constitutionally motivated souls. the suggestions in that abramson piece, echoed by mensch, support this problem. and, i suppose, help explain the tightrope comey must be navigating. he may be the person most aware of the enormous powder keg he and the country are faced with now.
which leads to the question that's been nagging me since 11/9: namely, with all this control over our government, almost in toto, by the GOP/trumpsters, who would actually arrest them? i mean, it might be hard enough for comey to land an indictment, then get it thru DOJ (ha!), but then, who would take these suckers away?
dare we rely on the 'shame' of public exposure on the TV and twitter machines? might they simply mock us to our shocked faces? as they march us all off to our version of the gulag....
posted by Anonymous : 4:54 PM
"I wish I could devote the rest of this post to listing all of the crush-worthy screen goddesses of yesteryear, but we have a president to impeach. So let's get down to business." haha!
There is another headline out there "In and Out like Flynn." In Like Flint and Our Man Flint are my kinda movies so I got confused. It's OK because I have no clue about what's going on, either. Explain away....going back in to read the rest...the best I can.
posted by prowlerzee : 6:20 PM
Whilst I find most of Mensch's postulations viable, the one that has always stuck out (as being "spooky") for me is that she thinks that Pence has no involvement in any naughty Russia stuff and will be the next POTUS. How could she know this? Is she being fed by a pro-Pence faction of the IC?
God, I love that headline. Wonder if younger readers will get the joke?
I'd like to direct your attention to this opinion piece in the Palmer Report. Yes, I am aware that some have (incorrectly) castigated the Palmer Report as a left-wing example of "fake news." I disagree with that characterization. I certainly would not apply it to this specific piece, which is clearly labeled opinion. We should have no objection to speculation as long as it comes clearly labeled as such, and as long as "casa conjecture" rests on a foundation of facts.
Palmer's thesis is that Michael Flynn has turned talker. He's either looking to cut a deal, or he has cut one already. That's why the Trumpers have decided to lay the blame for Russiagate on Flynn and Flynn alone.
Of the four Trump campaign advisers widely reported to be under FBI investigation, three of them – Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone – have suddenly volunteered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee (source: CNN and Washington Post). Their choice of the House, and not the Senate, seems obvious enough: the House Intel Committee is run by Trump-loyal stooge Devin Nunes. They’re probably hoping to team up with Nunes to run interference in front of the television cameras. But only one of the four Trump campaign advisers under investigation is remaining out of the dog any pony show: Michael Flynn.
Congressional hearings are essentially show-trials. The various Congressmen on the committee are each trying to make one case or another to the public. The witnesses who volunteer to testify are trying to convince the public that the scandal is not their fault. If you’re running to a committee to testify in front of the cameras, it means you’re merely playing games of appearances, and you’re not running to the FBI to offer real testimony. If Michael Flynn were running to one of these committees right now, I would assume he hasn’t cut a deal. But he’s been curiously quiet about it. In fact he’s been curiously quiet about everything throughout this scandal. And yet he’s been making definitive moves behind the scenes.
Interpreting someone’s silence is tricky business. But Flynn has been speaking, just not with words. Two weeks ago Flynn retroactively registered with the U.S. government as a foreign agent. In so doing, he essentially confessed to a past crime in an attempt to get back onto the right side of the law. If Flynn was deluded enough to think that he can beat the rap on all the felonies he’s apparently committed, the last thing he would be doing is officially admitting to one of his most severe crimes on government paperwork. Instead this is the behavior of someone who’s actively trying to come clean.
And there’s only one reason for Michael Flynn to come clean about the crimes he’s committed in relationship to the Donald Trump campaign: so the FBI can use his admitted crimes as a legal excuse to pursue the involvement of other Trump campaign members in those crimes. I’ve strongly suspected Flynn had already cut a deal with the FBI from the minute the story broke about him registering as a foreign agent. It was probably fairly easy for the FBI to convince him to go along with it, as they already have him nailed on the felony of lying to them about Russia several months ago (source: Washington Post).
I would add the following: The National Enquirer and its sister publications have functioned as a propaganda arm of the Trumpers. Each week, Trump's message is dumbed down -- way down -- in order to appeal to the naive ninnies who think that professional wrestling is real, that Alex Jones sells magic pills which can cure polonium poisoning, and that Breitbart publishes too many big words.
As Rachel Maddow noted at the end of last night's show, the National Enquirer is now pushing an absurd storyline in which Donald Trump -- that mighty He-Man -- personally uncovered the Russian spy in his midst. The name of that spy: Michael Flynn. Nobody else is at fault. Just Flynn. Blame it all on him.
Flynn is now Trump's official Judas.
Why would they Judas-ize Flynn now? Palmer's theory offers a tidy explanation. It makes more sense than anything else I can come up with.
By the way: I found a temporary patch for my computer problem. I'll have to come up with a permanent fix fairly soon. If I'm suddenly tossed offline again, you'll know the reason.
Be careful about a patch. If you ever purchase a new computer and try to migrate all your data over, the patch that worked on the old computer may not work on the new computer. And because the prior computer is old, there may not be any diagnostics available to fix the original problem.
Mr. Cannon, the top rated DC Market station WTOP.com posted a story of Alex Jones apologizing for his role in the PizzaGate conspiracy. I think this is the first time I heard the rather conservative WTOP mention Alex Jones, so it seems rather strange to have them feature this as a front page story, especially for as long as they have. Thoughts?
posted by Anonymous : 10:17 PM
I don't know anything about WTOP. I feel certain that Jones apologized only because he feared a lawsuit; I'm sure that he still believes that the Democratic party is run by child rapists.
Spooks for Trump: Why Stone and Manafort are now eager to testify
My computer is malfunctioning so I must be brief. I've heard what Adam Schiff has had to say, and I've been giving a lot of thought to the actions of Devin Nunes. It is clear to all now that Nunes is as loyal to Trump as is, say, Kellyanne Conway (and maybe more loyal than Bannon or Melania). Everyone understands this.
What we must also understand is that these events make sense only when viewed in the light of my theory that there is a pro-Trump faction within the intel community.
The NSA showed intercepts to Nunes that were not shared with Schiff or any non-loyalist to Trump. Nunes immediately shared what he learned with Trump and no-one else.
Suddenly, Manafort and Stone and Page want to testify in open hearings.
Think about it. The great trap inherent in such testimony is perjury. What if those three men give testimony which does not conform to information on an NSA intercept? Manafort, Stone and Page would naturally prefer to testify after learning what the NSA had overheard.
Finding out what the NSA had obtained was Nunes' purpose. Now that he has completed that task, the Trumpers know how to game the proceedings. They know what they may safely say -- and leave out -- without fear of a perjury trap.
In all likelihood, Trump loyalists in NSA helped Nunes screw us over.
Disagree. I think its the other way around. The WH tells/shows NSA incidental collection stuff to Nunes to get him to voice their distraction/chaff theories about unmasking. Then Nunes may be running back to them with info on the status of the committee investigation.
The others now want to testify in open hearings because they can smell someone turning witness on them. Flynn? About 8 shoes have dropped on him already (illegal op on US soil to extradite Gullen? WTF), and he's out of public sight. Also, they offer to testify in hearings but I suspect not under oath. That's the key distinction.
posted by Anonymous : 6:30 PM
They can't back down if requested to testify under oath. Your theory doesn't explain the willingness, the eagerness to testify despite the potential perjury trap.
Clearly the offer was an "interview" in closed hearing, not testimony and not in the open. Some criminal liability applies but not like court.
I think they know they are pretty screwed, and looking for ways to mitigate/cut deals. Might even get so far as personal safety issue for Manafort and Page, who put himself all over tv interviews a couple of weeks ago. Their business partners/contacts/knowledge of dirt are in the life threatening category if they were in Europe and who knows how safe they feel even in the US.
Also, 3 guys eager and silence from Flynn. Hmmmm.
posted by Anonymous : 6:55 PM
According to ameriblog.com (was linked there through a Skydancing comment), the National Enquirer has come right out and branded Flynn a "Russian spy." They surely didn't do that because there were no more aliens-having-sex-with-top-Dem-official stories to flog. They didn't do it without permission from the White House. So they are throwing Flynn to the wolves, and I would think Manafort, at least, got the message they are sending. What he plans to do, whether spill the beans and go down fighting, or try and navigate the minefield, remains to be seen. If I were him, I wouldn't go above the first floor of any building for a while.
posted by Anonymous : 7:51 PM
Does this sound plausible to you?
"It’s not a secret that most Republicans in Congress, including Speaker Paul Ryan, view themselves as being more closely aligned with establishment Republican Mike Pence than with erratic outsider Donald Trump. So if Nunes came across evidence of Pence on a wiretap, it might explain why his first move was to panic and run to Ryan for advice. It would also explain why Nunes was of the belief that Trump himself might not have been aware of it, and felt compelled to take it to him."
Could Nunes have made his visit to the White House any more obvious? Couldn't he have used a back door or maybe thrown a brick through the window with a note attached? The public nature of this whole episode makes me wonder if there is less here than meets the eye--perhaps Nunes saw tomorrow's weather report, paraded over to the White House with the news that Trump was totally "tapped", Trump declares himself "mostly vindicated" and quicker than you can say Bob's your uncle, it is "truth".
posted by lastlemming : 9:06 PM
Grant Stern -- "Trump Russia Dossier Decoded: Yes, There Really Was A Massive Oil Deal."
Re: Devin Nunes has financial ties to Russia. I would be a little cautious about this Alpha Omega Winery thing. Looks like the investment is about $100,000 (from which he derives 4-5K a year). Hardly high finance. And said company having wine distributer in Russia, (albeit one that sent Putin a lovely birthday message recently) hardly makes Nunes out as a Russian stooge.
Geesh, I can't believe I'm defending the guy.
posted by last lemming : 1:34 AM
My take is Ryan is using Nunes as leverage on Trump. Nunes is a political hack, he knows what this looks like, and he wouldn't be doing it so openly without support from the only guy who matters. And that is Ryan. In Don Corleone terms, Nunes is a pimp, it was Ryan all along. The problem is, Trump is such a back row child in politics class that he isn't playing ball. His antics on AHCA for example. With Nunes broadcasting he will slow walk this, or turn it to Trump's advantage, the decision on a special commission is up to Ryan. Can no one imagine Ryan telling Trump "Nice little presidency you got here, shame if something should happen to it...."
Rep. Adam Schiff told CNN Thursday that he had seen additional evidence, but would not specify what it was.
"We continue to get new information that, I think, paints a more complete picture of at least what we know at the outset of our investigation," Schiff said.
Asked to explain his comments earlier in the week when he said there was more than just "circumstantial evidence of collusion," Schiff said, "I do think that it's appropriate to say that it's the kind of evidence that you would submit to a grand jury at the beginning of an investigation.
"It's not the kind of evidence that you take to a trial jury when you're trying to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. But we're at the beginning of an investigation, and given the gravity of the subject matter, I think that the evidence certainly warrants us doing a thorough investigation."
It's difficult to know what to make of all this until we can see this evidence for ourselves.
Meanwhile, the Fox Newsers are now claiming that the as-yet-unseen evidence described by Devin Nunes proves that Obama was using foreign surveillance as a "cover" for spying on the Trumpers. That's a ridiculous presumption. The truth is, we do not as yet even have any indication that anyone on Team Trump was directly recorded.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know "for sure" whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president’s wiretapping claims against the Obama administration, according to a spokesperson.
"He said he'll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure," a spokesperson for Nunes said Thursday. Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team executive committee.
At a press conference yesterday, Nunes announced he obtained "dozens of reports" showing the U.S. intelligence community -- through its "normal foreign surveillance" -- "incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition."
But Nunes never said Trump or any of the president's associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted.
In other words, the Trump associates may have been simply mentioned in the course of intercepted communications. We already know from the Flynn affair that the NSA had found a way to eavesdrop on Ambassador Kislyak, even though he spoke on a line he considered secure. We know that Flynn himself was recorded during that monitoring. Kislyak may have talked about other Trumpers.
I cannot see how any of this justifies Trump's tweets or the misleading Fox News report.
Seth Abramson, of HuffPo and the Dallas Morning News, claims to have Russiagate all figured out. Here's his Twitter feed, and here's a Daily Kos story which places the tweets in some sort of order. I will try to turn his tweets into normal prose. (Twitter is not really the right medium for a story like this). Everything between the asterisks was written by Abramson:
* * *
Per @NYMag, Paul Manafort took over the Trump campaign on April 16, just 72 hours before Trump mathematically eliminated his competition. The timing was intentional: Manafort, hired in March, was slated to become the campaign's key player as soon as Trump became the nominee.
On April 21, 48 hours after clinching, Trump announced the first major foreign policy address of his life. It was scheduled for April 27. The speech, arranged by Jared Kushner in mid-March, was to be hosted by the Center for the National Interest, a conservative think tank. The Center is _widely_ known to have "ties to the Russian regime of President Vladimir Putin," per Politico.
The speech was slated to be at the National Press Club, an august venue with a _long_ history of staging secure events with large crowds. Less than 24 hours before the speech, it was cancelled. The Trump campaign (i.e., Manafort) declared the venue was too small and unsafe.
So Manafort moved the event to the Mayflower Hotel: a smaller, less secure site. The decision confirmed the campaign's excuses were lies. The two things the Mayflower had that the NPC didn't were (a) 581 private rooms for private meetings, and (b) restricted, VIP-only areas. The latter was important because Manafort wanted Trump to hold an intimate, 24-person cocktail hour in the Mayflower's VIP Senate Room.
Among the 24 at the event: Trump, CNI event coordinator Heilbrunn, Jeff Sessions, Kushner, Lewandowski, Manafort, and four ambassadors. Another VIP at the event was Iran-Contra figure Bud McFarlane, one of America's chief advocates for a bargain with Russia on oil access.
The four ambassadors were the only four ambassadors in the world (out of 195 total) that the Putin-linked CNI had invited to the event.
The biggest oil deal in Russia's history occurred in December of 2016. It involved the coordination of entities from three countries. Individuals from those three countries -- RUSSIA, ITALY, and SINGAPORE -- negotiated the sale of 19.5% of Russia's state oil company, Rosneft. The #Russiagate scandal involves claims Trump was given 0.5% of Rosneft and aid in getting elected in exchange for lifting US sanctions.
The Rosneft deal closed Dec. 5-7. During that time McFarlane visited Trump Tower. It's believed Russian ambassador/spy Kislyak did too.
WSJ wrote in April 2016 that Trump met separately with the ambassadors at the Mayflower and was effusive. “Trump met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. He warmly greeted Kislyak and 3 other ambassadors." The ambassadors at the Mayflower: RUSSIA! ITALY! SINGAPORE! And the Philippines -- which is routinely cited as a Rosneft expansion target.
So Trump warmly, privately chatted with the 3 Rosneft-deal nations at a cocktail hour right before his first big foreign-policy event. In his speech Trump called for a Russian detente: "We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia...we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests...an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia is possible. [I hope to] make a deal under my administration that’s great for America but also good for Russia."
Richard Burt, CNI and Russian Alfa Bank adviser, crafted the speech. He was also Putin's pipeline lobbyist.
The only Kislyak meeting Sessions never disclosed to Congress, even after accusations of perjury, was the meeting at the Mayflower. But per the organizer of the Mayflower Hotel event, Jacob Heilbrunn of the CNI, a third Sessions-Kislyak meeting definitely occurred.
Heilbrunn on the VIP event: "At a reception in the Senate Room of the Mayflower, a number of politicians and Trump advisers, such as Senator Jeff Sessions and ambassadors [from Russia and the other nations] congregated before the event." The VIP event wasn't just a receiving line as Trump claimed. It was a "cocktail meet-and-greet" -- a full event.
That Sessions would feel the need to hide his contact with Kislyak at the Mayflower event after accusations of perjury raises red flags. The White House saying it has “no recollection” of any of the VIPs at Trump's biggest-ever foreign policy event is also a red flag.
When Kislyak was asked if he’d met Trump or members of his team during the campaign he replied, "What do you consider a campaign?" Kislyak went on to fail to disclose his meeting with Trump at the Mayflower, citing only a meeting at the RNC.
We know Manafort and Kislyak would have known each other, as Manafort indirectly worked for Putin for years. We know Manafort set up the Mayflower event and was available for meetings at it -- as was Kushner, who later met secretly with Kislyak. Congress must investigate any Mayflower meetings between Sessions, Manafort, Kushner, Kislyak and the Italian/Singaporean ambassadors.
We know the White House lied about Mayflower. We know Sessions has. We know Kislyak has. And we know the Rosneft players were present. We know there was ample time/space for "sidelines" meetings. And we know Walid Phares was also there, and Trump Jr., and Stephen Miller. So other than the RNC and suspicious Trump Tower meetings in December, the Mayflower Speech should get the most attention in Congress.
* * *
Cannon here: Much of this is new and, I think, significant. The Rosneft deal still has not received the attention it deserves.
Bud McFarlane? My god. Has that man wandered into another scandal? Iran-Contra nearly killed him -- and I speak literally.
And in an alternate universe: Did you catch the tabloids this week? As you know, they are all owned by the same company, and they are all deep in the tank for Trump. I was surprised to see that they were both still in campaign mode. In tabloid-land, Trump is in no danger of impeachment, while Obama and Clinton are this close to jail. The upcoming Obama trial will be the Trial of the Century.
The Globe offers no named sources for its cover-story claim that Hillary Clinton used the Obama White House as an ATM machine. Yeah, that allegation makes no sense to me either. But it does fit the wider pattern of mirror imaging: Trump is almost always guilty of the very accusations which he and his foot soldiers levy against the Clintons.
The National Enquirer's cover story is all about the "tapp" tweets, which -- we are told -- have been completely validated. Now, this story does name sources. First and foremost is, of course, David Nunes. As noted above, his evidence does not validate those tweets -- at least, that's the way the evidence stands right now.
The Enquirer story also references Edward Snowden -- glowingly.
It also cites Larry fucking Johnson, about whom I wrote a long diatribe a few days ago. It's odd to see Johnson show up in the Nat Enq, since he seems to have evaporated from the internet in recent days. He excised his Twitter feed and No Quarter has disappeared.
The National Enquirer also named NSA whistleblower William Binney, who is quoted at some length. I don't have the paper in front of me right now, but trust me: That quotation is robustly pro-Trump.
About five days ago, many news reports talked about Binney. He said that Trump was indeed monitored -- but only in the sense that everyone is monitored by the NSA. As I've said in previous posts, I believe that the NSA scoops up pretty much everything; data is not considered intercepted until human eyes look at it.
But Binney told Sean Hannity's radio show earlier Monday, "I think the FISA court's basically totally irrelevant."
The judges on the FISA court are "not even concerned, nor are they involved in any way with the Executive Order 12333 collection," Binney said during the radio interview. "That's all done outside of the courts. And outside of the Congress."
Binney told Fox the laws that fall under the FISA court's jurisdiction are "simply out there for show" and "trying to show that the government is following the law, and being looked at and overseen by the Senate and House intelligence committees and the courts."
"That's not the main collection program for NSA," Binney said.
Executive Order 12333 lays out the roles played by various services within the American intelligence establishment; here is the Thing-In-Itself. Wikipedia thus summarizes the issues involved:
Executive Order 12333 has been regarded by the American intelligence community as a fundamental document authorizing the expansion of data collection activities. The document has been employed by the National Security Agency as legal authorization for its collection of unencrypted information flowing through the data centers of internet communications giants Google and Yahoo!.
In July 2014 chairman David Medine and two other members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a government oversight agency, indicated a desire to review Executive Order 12333 in the near future, according to a report by journalist Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian.
We will have to leave for another time the question of whether Binney is right about all of this. Marcy Wheeler has been having a complicated discussion of these issues in her blog and twitter feed.
Right now, I'd like to step back and note the strangeness of this post-Trump universe. Not long ago, William Binney got respectful attention only from lefty places like Democracy Now and oddball blogs like the one you're reading at this very moment. Now, Binney receives huzzahs from Breitbart, Hannity, and the National Enquirer. And conservatives shower equal love on Larry Johnson, William Binney and Ed Snowden -- the man Trump thinks should be tried and executed.
I just want the world to make sense again.
Are you feeling the Trump fatigue? I sure am. I can't tear myself away from the news, even though I often hate reading it. At least three times a day, I think: "Gotta write a post about this!" But by the time that post is written -- or half-composed in my mind -- some new Trumpy tale has captured the world's attention.
In fact, when I sat down to write this very post, my intent was to talk about several completely separate Trump-related news stories.
Many years ago, Crocker Bank in California advertised itself with this slogan: "The bank you don't have to think about." The idea was that people thought about their bank only when the institution did something wrong. I long for a government that I don't have to think about.
I noticed the Philippines were mentioned. Didn't the U.S. have some type of friction with the Philippines during Obama's administration. Makes one wonder if a country or two were not encouraged to dis the Obama administraiton as a pre–emptive strike by the Republican National Party.
Please don't get too fatigued! And yet...they are counting on fatigue. I believe it's another reason wages are so low, so that more people have to work longer just to stay nose above water. Of course, then there's the corporate class. Some are making enough to buy the hideous McMansions cropping up all over Northern VA.
My hotspot seems to allow me better access to the internet these days (I quit Comcast. No TV, no high-speed internet)....but I don't know yet how much my smart phone company's gonna gouge me. If I could go completely off-grid, I would. I don't know how you keep up...please take care!
The Smoking Gun has a remarkably good rundown of all the known antics of Roger Stone since Trump announced. Some of this material was news even to me. You probably already knew about the "swingers" ad which forced him to resign from the 1996 Dole campaign -- but were you aware of the repeat?
Undaunted by the Dole disaster, the Stones continued swinging. In a December 2006 post on the Dark Cavern web site, the couple advertised for a male partner who “must be 22-40, lean, muscular and hung like a horse.” The ad, which included Stone’s Hotmail address, offered a graphic description of Nydia’s body and the notation that “Obidient husband shares her cunt.” Respondents were directed to “Contact me/us with a photo of face/body/meat.” The Stone ad was found on a meetup page for Florida swingers.
Dark Cavern (motto: “We unite black and white”) is dedicated to facilitating and chronicling sexual encounters between “black studs” and white women (usually while the husband looks on). The site offers recaps from couples about “going black” and has a section where “wives and studs” can suggest “new ways to humiliate the wimp hubbies.”
The news that one of their beloved “Deplorables” once advertised for “huge hung black Cock” might not go over well in alt-right circles, where masculinity, virility, and racial prominence are prized. In fact, there is a favorite pejorative used by Breitbartians when they sense that someone is weak, effeminate, or a supporter of someone other than Trump. If only Pepe & Co. knew there was a real-life cuck in their midst.
I don't care about what people do with their wee-wees. As long as all parties are consenting adults, I don't care about the mental or physical games they play in private, even if those games involve feces or "furry" suits or blood drinking or Charlie Chaplin costumes or coital seppuku. In other words -- and I say this sincerely -- I'm glad that Roger and his wife are having fun.
What bothers me is not the libertine attitude of Roger Stone but the hypocrisy of the right, or at least of the Alt-Right. They would never tolerate "cuck" roleplaying games if practiced by a liberal, a moderate, or even someone they deem a RINO. They would never have tolerated Milo if he were even slightly more liberal-ish. The rule seems to be this: Once you say the magic words "I like Trump," then all is permitted.
For a while now, I've been mentally preparing an apology for my repeated claim that Trump would not have asked Congress to investigate his "tapp" allegation unless he knew from the get-go that doing so would work to his political advantage. Nobody agreed with my scenario. Everyone said that Trump was simply a fool who would not let go of a conspiracy theory.
Finally, last night, I myself became converted to the theory that Trump was simply a bullheaded, paranoid ignoramus.
And then Devin Nunes -- clearly functioning as either a dupe or willing partner of Trump's conspiracy -- provided evidence that my original read might turn out to be the correct one.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes went to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to personally brief President Trump about intelligence he says he has seen regarding surveillance of foreign nationals during the presidential transition.
The surveillance could have inadvertently picked up the president or members of his transition team, the chairman said.
“What I’ve read seems to me to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal. I don’t know that it’s right,” Nunes said to reporters outside the White House. “I don’t know that the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read.”
Trump is now saying that his tweets were vindicated.
Before heading to the White House, Nunes said he briefed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on what he learned, and he also spoke with reporters. He said that U.S. intelligence agencies may have picked up communications involving Trump as part of court-approved surveillance of foreign intelligence targets in the period between Trump’s election and his inauguration.
Nunes did not, however, brief his ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), about the contents of what Schiff said were intercepts.
He gave Schiff short shrift? This indicates that the Nunes "investigation" was part of a partisan hit all along. I don't yet know what Nunes saw, but I'm fairly confident, right now, that Trump knew all along that the events of this day would happen.
Everyone keeps talking "Russia Russia Russia." Russia is important, but the matter isn't so simple as many think.
Remember, the Russians hired people like Manafort and Stone and Devine to tell them how to rig elections in their own part of the world.
Did you ever see this film? Do you really think that the Russians would know how to rig an American election? Do you really think they "know the territory" (as they say in The Music Man)? Do you really think that the FSB has a subtle enough grasp of our politics to understand (for example) how to transform Bernie supporters into virulent Clinton-haters?
No. It may be more accurate to posit that Putin provided some plausibly deniable manpower. He was hired muscle.
People like Mensch and Schindler keep pushing a simplistic narrative of "virtuous spooks versus the Trump/Putin conspiracy."
For weeks now, I've been telling you: NO. That's not it. It's a partial truth at best.
I don't have a clear counter-narrative formulated yet. All I know is that the Mensch/Schindler "Virtuous spooks vs. Evil Trumpers" scenario won't suffice, because that scenario completely ignores the truth about Breitbart. I'm not saying that Mensch is operating in bad faith: I'm saying that her deference (allegiance?) to the intelligence community means that she is giving you a woefully incomplete picture.
Breitbart did more than Putin did to put Trump in power. And Breitbart is spooked up. Schindler and Mensch and "The Jester" won't tell you that.
I don't know what is in those documents provided to Nunes. But I feel certain that the same spooks who have been in bed with Breitbart for many years knew all about those documents before Trump issued those tweets.
Added note: Since everyone seems to be referencing Watergate these days, let me tell you about a Watergate-era Jack Anderson column that few people now remember. I don't have the clip to hand, but some of my older readers may recall seeing it. In this column, Anderson interviewed Gordon Novel, a bizarre figure who always tended to pop in these scandals.
Novel revealed that the Nixonites had a tentative plan -- never enacted -- to undermine the Watergate investigation. It was a simple trick: Nixon's men would use actors to concoct a fake tape in which Nixon says incriminating things on the phone to E. Howard Hunt. The media would be subtly manipulated to insure that the entire Watergate controversy centered on the question of the legitimacy of that tape. Eventually, analysis would reveal the tape to be a hoax -- at which point, Nixon would look like the victim of a conspiracy, not the perpetrator of one.
Again: That scheme was never enacted. It was just an idea, a bit of spitballing. Nevertheless, I think that we should always keep this idea in the back of our minds as our current White House melodrama unfolds.
Put in as hired muscle. Manafort ' s role. Listening. Thanks.
posted by prowlerzee : 8:26 PM
The Nunes/Trump show was about as dumb as it gets. Weak. We will see about Breitbart. What if the spooks are double agents for Russia?
posted by OldCoastie : 9:18 PM
I have to say Watergate still is a bit bewildering to me and I am just old enough to remember the drip, drip, drip of the daily reveal front-paged on the old Seattle Post Intelligencer. (I also remember one of the few times my father, an extremely mild mannered man, whose only other moment of public rage involved a woman dumping a litter of kittens by the side of the road, tearing downtown in a rage to send a Western Union telegram after Nixon fired Elliot Richardson.)
I've read a few "alternative" histories of Watergate and I have to say I find Woodward's connection to military intelligence quite persuasive. However, to create this almost Rube Goldberg scenario in order to take down, elect, prop up or otherwise manipulate major elections including presidential ones * seems to violate what I assume is a fundamental rule of covert action: the more bells and whistles, the more elaborate an action, the more likely something could go very wrong. Why elect someone only to watch him be stripped of all credibility in the first two months of his presidency? What's the point? What's the agenda?
And if Trump thinks his current problems are going to go away by some Sunday morning tweetfest, I've got some property in Atlantic City he might want to consider.
* (excepting, of course, simple election fraud--that is manipulating the vote count--the most direct way to ensure the candidate of one's choosing wins)
Ignoring -- for the moment -- whether Breitbart is spooked up, Jane Mayer's New Yorker article on billionaire Robert Mercer's support of Breitbart and Trump is informative. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency
I agree with you Joseph. I'm sure Russia is culpable in thesr matters but something tells me some of it is a smokescreen but I'm clueless about the subtext. A Breitbart connection makes sense but who is behind that? I definitely feel something else is going on. But then I've followed JFK murder for over 50 years.
You never see my best posts, because I compose them in my mind while researching a complex matter. At the end of the day, the actual writing seems like too much of a chore, so I put it off for mañana.
I don't want this line of inquiry to end up on my "to do" list. Today I've been piecing together an incredibly complicated chain of events involving criminal activity in Trump Tower, directly below Trump's own domicile. Lots of writers have given us large pieces of the story, but nobody has put the whole narrative together.
I can't either. At present, the best I can do is to jot down a few notes, offer some key quotes, and hand you some links. Follow the trail, if you are of a mind to.
First, this piece by Brian Ross. (You can always trust Ross to dig only so deep into anything even remotely spooky.)
There, indeed, was an FBI wiretap involving Russians at Trump Tower.
But it was not placed at the behest of Barack Obama and the target was not the Trump campaign of 2016. For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower.
The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Known as the “Little Taiwanese,” Tokhtakhounov was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.
Five months after the April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a “red notice” for Tokhtakhounov, the fugitive appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Moscow Miss Universe pageant. Trump had sold the Russian rights for Miss Universe to a billionaire Russian shopping mall developer.
“He is a major player,” said Mike Gaeta, the FBI agent who led the 2013 FBI investigation of Tokhtakhounov and his alleged mafia money laundering and gambling ring, in a 2014 interview with ABC News. “He is prominent, he has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries.”
The "Taiwanchik" nickname stems from the fact that Tokhtakhounov...
...and the name is a stumbling block, isn't it? Oh fer chrissakes, it's not that difficult: "Tock ta KOON off."
Anyways, he looks Asian, so that's why they call him "little Taiwan" or Taiwanchik. He's a vor. In the Russian mafia, "vor" means "Godfather." Mr. Big.
David Corn wrote a very good piece about all of this back in September, back when everyone was transfixed by Hillary's emails. In order to tie Tokhtakhounov to Trump, Corn fixes on the beauty contest, which is indeed important, because it looks like Tokhtakhounov helped to make that happen.
But there's more.
Tokhtakhounov ran a high-stakes gambling operation which catered to Hollywood celebrities, Wall Streeters and other VIPs. He was also involved with the Olympics cheating scandal. Here is a rather full bio of the guy, with all the known salacious details. A brief sample:
In 1998 French foreign intelligence service reported that Taivanchik was "ringleader of a criminal organization," "mediator for high-profile projects." Tokhtakhunov was mentioned in the Interpol report in April 2001. He was suspected of trafficking drug, weapons and stolen cars.
Source: Komok, 30 September 2002
On August 1, 2002 Tokhtakhounov was arrested in Italy on charges of rigging the competition in figure skating at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
American intelligence agencies asserted that he organized a mutually beneficial exchange so that the French judge Marie-Reine Le Gun voted for the Russian skaters in the pairs figure skating (Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze), and Russia voted for the French (Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat) in ice dancing.
Premiere anti-Trump investigator Adam Kahn published the following in his twitter stream. We will soon get to some of these other names:
Side note: When I first saw Khan's marginal note, I was immediately reminded of the prostitution/poker ring that former CIA head Porter Goss was linked to. It was run out of the Watergate, and it was used to acquire what we would now call kompromat on important people. We learned about that sleazy business in the wake of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal. This ring was tied in with both of the parties that bribed Cunningham. One of those firms was MZM, which later became Mantech, which has strange links to Breitbart. (For some reason, Breitbart would publish Mantech press releases, even though Breitbart readers probably couldn't have cared less.)
Is that sordid history linked in any way to our present story? Dunno. For now, just remember that Putin is not the only guy who collects kompromat.
Back to our main story: Tokhtakhounov has partners in his New York enterprise -- Vadim Trincher and Anatoly Golubchik. (Trincher was the 2009 world poker champion.) They were tried and convicted. Guess who put 'em away?
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ANATOLY GOLUBCHIK was sentenced yesterday in Manhattan federal court to five years in prison, and VADIM TRINCHER was also sentenced today to five years in prison for participating in a racketeering conspiracy in connection with their roles as members of a Russian-American organized crime enterprise. GOLUBCHIK and TRINCHER were also each ordered to forfeit more than $20 million in cash, investments, and real property. They were charged in April 2013 along with 32 other alleged members and associates of two Russian-American organized crime enterprises in an indictment that included racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and various gambling offenses. GOLUBCHIK and TRINCHER were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The sentences meted out to Anatoly Golubchik and Vadim Trincher are just and appropriate penalties for the roles the defendants played in this far-reaching, Russian-American organized crime ring. I’d like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York City Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service for their tireless efforts in working to ensure that the members of this underground enterprise were held to account for their crimes.”
According to the indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at various proceedings in this case, including today’s sentencing:
The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization (the “Organization”) was a criminal enterprise with strong ties to Russia and Ukraine. The enterprise operated a high-stakes, illegal sports gambling business out of New York City that catered primarily to Russian oligarchs living in Ukraine and Russia. GOLUBCHIK and TRINCHER were U.S.-based participants in the enterprise. GOLUBCHIK and TRINCHER booked sports bets that reached into the millions of dollars and laundered the proceeds of the Organization’s international sportsbook. Between 2006 and April 2012, the enterprise laundered approximately $100 million in proceeds from their gambling operation in Russia and Ukraine through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus; and of this $100 million, approximately $50 million was subsequently sent from Cyprus into the United States. Once the money had been transferred to the United States, it was either laundered through additional shell companies or invested in legitimate investments, such as hedge funds and real estate.
That's right: Preet Bharara -- the U.S. attorney famously fired by Donald Trump -- secured convictions against two guys running a criminal enterprise right below Trump's feet in Trump Tower.
Moreover, the 51st floor was occupied by another key figure in this scheme. He's the next on our list of persons of interest.
Dirty money must needs be laundered, right? One great way to launder money is via the world of art. Banks won't ask too many questions if you tell 'em that someone just paid twenty million for a Picasso.
Enter Helly Nahmad, who used to run a tony art gallery in Manhattan. His family is worth some $3 billion...
Little known outside the art market but a pivotal force within it, the family, whose worth is estimated at $3 billion, has amassed one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Modernist art in the world, including one of the largest holdings of Picasso in private hands. They did it with a purchasing style that has never been subtle: they chase as many as a third of the works offered in an evening and then warehouse them for years until it is the right time to sell.
With a mix of jealousy and skepticism, competitors have often marveled at how the Nahmads have pulled this off. “They are an entity unto themselves,” said James Roundell, a former director of Christie’s Impressionist and modern art department in London and a longtime dealer. “They do it their way. And it’s different from how other people do it or how other people are financially able to do it.”
Mr. Nahmad, a night-life fixture known for his showy extravagance and celebrity crowd — a $21 million Trump Tower apartment and friendships with people like Gisele Bündchen and Leonardo DiCaprio — was charged in April in a racketeering indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. He was accused of being part financier, part money launderer and part bookmaker in a network that organized poker games and sports betting operations and drew hundred-thousand-dollar wagers from celebrities and billionaires.
Continue reading the main story
But the case, in which investigators listened to Mr. Nahmad’s cellphone conversations over a period of months, also raises questions about how he conducted himself as an art dealer.
Yep, there really was at least one "tapp" in that Tower. Preet was monitoring Trump's tenant, who lived a few floors down in the same building. Was this little-known fact connected in any way to Trump's shocking firing of the nation's most famously incorruptible U.S. Attorney? You tell me.
(I hope I have the geography right. As near as I can tell, Donald, Melania and Barron live on floors 56-58 of the tower; "Taiwanchik" had his gambling ring on floor 55, and Nahmad -- the art dealer/money launderer -- had floor 51. I don't know who owned floors 52-54, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were somehow connected to all of this. Trump is known to invite cronies to live in his properties. Adding to our difficulty is the fact that Trump likes to pretend that his Tower is taller than it really is, so his numbers don't correspond to the actual numbers.)
Anways, Nahmad had a gambling problem. This problem led him into the world of Tokhtakhounov and Trincher.
But Helly’s interest in gambling led to trouble. The high-stakes poker and sports-betting ring that he is accused of helping to lead — with activity stretching from New York and Los Angeles — ultimately came to the attention of federal authorities who were investigating Russian organized crime figures.
Mr. Nahmad helped not only to bankroll the operation, according to prosecutors, but was also personally involved in taking sports bets. In all, 34 people were indicted in the case. The lead defendant is Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whom authorities identify as a high-ranking Russian gangster known by his nickname, Taiwanchik. He is accused of directing an operation to launder money generated by a huge sports-betting operation in Russia and has been a fugitive since he was accused by United States authorities in 2002 of being part of a scheme to rig figure skating and ice dancing competitions at the Winter Olympics.
By now, I'm sure you are wondering: Why the hell does the headline refer to Batman and Spider-Man?
Well, as noted above, this coast-to-coast gambling operation (which I suspect also involved prostitution and blackmail) attracted some Hollywood heavy-hitters. To accomplish this, the Russian crime lord used the services of one Molly Bloom -- yes he did yes he did yes he did yes.
(I have no doubt that she is sick and tired of that joke, but I still couldn't resist making it.)
She made her name as the glamorous organiser of secret high-stakes poker games for a string of Hollywood's biggest stars.
But now some of Tinsletown's best-known celebrities are bracing themselves for potentially embarrassing revelations in her tell-all memoir.
Notorious poker madam Molly Bloom - who hosted card parties for celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Matt Damon - was arrested in Los Angeles as part of an investigation into an illegal big-money poker ring.
Tobey Maguire was, of course, the amazing Spider-Man. The ring also attracted the respectful attentions of Ben Affleck, a.k.a. Batman -- a role he seems to be just barely hanging onto. (Side note: I've always liked Affleck's work, even when others had turned against him for reasons I could never comprehend.) In fact, there is talk that Affleck's gambling issues led to the problems which have beset his marriage (which, in turn, seem to have affected his career).
But no one knew of Affleck’s $50,000 buy-in for that big game 10 years ago at the Beverly Hills Hotel until last year, when former “poker princess” Molly Bloom detailed it in her tell-all, Molly’s Game.
Bloom went from being a 26-year-old cocktail waitress in Los Angeles to masterminding Hollywood’s high-stakes, hush-hush poker games, to being hunted by the feds. Her book documents the apex of Hollywood’s long love affair with poker and gambling, when “every cardplayer in Hollywood wanted to come to the game, and everyone’s friends wanted to come and watch.” The Olsen twins showed up to the spectacle one night.
The women in their lives—wives and serious girlfriends—are largely absent from Bloom’s book, just as they are from the game. She writes about one regular player who misses his wife’s birthday because he can’t step away from the table, only to end up losing $500,000 in one night. Bloom keeps “their high turnover of girlfriends happy” and tends to their boys’ club atmosphere, which she describes like a scene in The Wolf of Wall Street. On a trip to Miami with her boss and his friends, they spend the day on “a fully functional floating mansion equipped with a formal living and dining room, a gym, even a helicopter...The women were waifish, impossibly glamorous models and socialites.” Bloom also hires attractive women “as decoration” to help her serve drinks during games.
Miami. Models. We suddenly seem to be in Trump territory, eh wot?
And that's how the actors who played Batman, Spider-Man, Jason Bourne and John Edgar Hoover could help uncover the sordid truth about Donald Trump. Although the gambling ring was coast-to-coast, the New York base appears to be Trump Tower. Given the celebrities and women involved, its hard to believe that The Donald himself would not stop by to see what was going on directly beneath his feet.
What we are looking for is simple: Eyewitness accounts of Donald Trump interacting with Tokhtakhounov, Trincher, Golubchik, Nahmad, and Bloom. (Tokhtakhounov has been in Russia for more than a decade, so I doubt that any American celebrity will place him in the same room with Trump. Then again, who knows?)
Add Ben Affleck to the long list of public personas who can’t or won’t hide their distaste for Donald Trump. During an interview with The Guardian, Affleck shared his experience with the president-elect. “I met him once at a Fashion Week event in Milan,” Affleck said. “You knew you were at a cheesy party if Donald Trump was there. He would kind of trawl around them.”
Was that the only occasion? By any chance, Mr. Affleck, did you also see Mr. Cheesy in the company of Nahmad, Bloom, or those Russian gangsters?
As always, there's a difference between what we can prove what we suspect. I suspect that this operation was used to collect kompromat on America's rich and powerful. But right now, I can't prove it.
There's another link: Cyprus. When you follow the money trail, it always goes through Cyprus.
I'm an artist (in my own small way), so whenever I see that place-name, I always flash on the fact that Cyprus is where the best umber comes from. And you can score some primo-quality Cyprus Umber from Vasari, located right across the street from Trump Tower. Now that is a coincidence, although my inner Alex Jones wants to turn it into something diabolical.
But Cyprus is best known as the place where the Russian mob -- and, almost certainly, Putin himself -- stashes and launders money.
In the other operation, Mr. Tokhtakhounov is accused of funneling Russian oligarchs’ losses to shell companies in Cyprus, disguised as phony loans. The scheme, prosecutors say, laundered more than $50 million.
Google Nahmad and Cyprus, and here is what you get:
The defendant was among more than 30 people charged earlier this year with having roles in the scheme to launder at least $100 million in illegal gambling proceeds through hundreds of bank accounts and shell companies in Cyprus and the United States.
The gambling ring catered mostly to super-rich bettors in Russia. But it also had tentacles in New York City, where it ran illegal card games that attracted professional athletes, film stars and business executives, prosecutors said. Some of the defendants are professional poker players.
Google Trump and Cyprus and -- well, you get a LOT. Here, for example.
The Democratic Coalition uncovered two Trump companies registered in Cyprus, the tax haven and money laundering center serving Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs.
Cyprus is notorious for being an often bailed out, off-shore banking center, who is also a member state of the European Union and part of the common currency.
Trump Cabinet nominee Wilbur Ross is the Vice Chairman of the island’s largest institution, the Bank of Cyprus.
This morning Mother Jones released a report detailing Trump cabinet pick Wilbur Ross’ deep ties to Cyprus, its largest bank and his big gamble on the ability to extract the island’s off-shore natural gas reserves.
Wilbur Ross invested $500 million into the once-failed Bank of Cyprus and which bank has been run by an ex-KGB friend of Putin.
In fact, the Bank of Cyprus released a formal congratulations statement to Ross the day Trump named him as his nominee for Commerce Secretary.
It was at Wilber Ross’ suggestion, that Josef Ackermann - the former Chairman of Deutsche Bank - one of Trump’s major creditors, who is facing a massive DoJ settlement for misdeeds in 2008 - was named as Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus.
Deutsche Bank has been accused of making over $10 billion dollars in transactions to assist Russian money laundering, and is trying to clawback Ackermann’s compensation for misdeeds on his watch - though it will probably be too late.
Former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO John Hourican was also brought in by Ross’ management. He resigned from RBS after being implicated in the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal is the CEO of Ross’ Bank of Cyprus, which sold its Russian operations and is going public on the London Stock Exchange shortly.
Cyprus is, in essence, a vassal state of Russia. (You may also want to check out this WBUR investigation, which hit just yesterday.)
So the question is: Just how tight is Donald Trump with the folks downstairs? Why didn't he perform any "extreme vetting" of the sleazeballs living directly below him in his own building? Did these Russian gangsters obtain kompromat on America's rich and powerful? Was Donald Trump a witting part of the operation? Are these gangsters the ones who introduced Trump to the magic of Cyprus-based finance?
Tonight, Rachel Maddow did a segment on the Russian "nuclear" cyber attack on the US. Her theory is that the ugly, anti-Hilary stuff that Bernie Bros posted last year (that earned your visceral hatred) were actually part of the Russian cyber war to affect our election. Bernie's campaign had nothing to do with them. They were Russian bots. Or rather, Macedonian bots at the direction of the Russians.
Video of Maddow's piece will be posted tomorrow (or repeated tonight in certain time zones).
Credit for digging this stuff up mainly goes to McClatchy. Details here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article139695453.html
"Was this little-known fact connected in any way to Trump's shocking firing of the nation's most famously incorruptible U.S. Attorney?"
Famously incorruptible? He's an ass. (To Balko's comments I'd add he also had no problem overstepping his boundaries to gain indictments while looking the other way at poor behavior in his own shop.) He wasn't fired because he's incorruptible; he was fired because he got his widdle feelings hurt because Donny pwomised he could stay. Another egotistical, self-righteous knowitall. Don't we have enough of those in the Federal government?
posted by maz : 11:57 PM
Excellent post, Joseph. It is all very strange.
OT - Eric Garland is putting together the fishy threads between DT and Nunes.
How could DT survive the level of surveillance brought to bear on his property without being swept up and indited himself?
Based on the circumstances you have outlines DT could have been either a confidential informant and/or aiding security services in a sting operation. The floor above the suspects would be a great place to monitor old school bugs and/or newer types of surveillance that are undetectable, but require close proximity to the subject. DT could have been aware and cooperating with one or more agencies in a sting operation, but unaware of other surveillance operations conducted by other three-letter agencies.
If DT did agree to aid in a sting operation, it would have come with certain guarantees, confidentiality agreements, cover stories, and security arrangements that both he and the security agency would want to protect in perpetuity.
posted by Anonymous : 8:29 PM
At the root here is the disingenuous of Donald Trump opining that the wiretapping of Trump Towers meant Trump was personally wiretapped. Yet Trump Towers houses many well to do business people. Trump's Trump Towres wire tapping comments could be construed to mean that any activity that occurred in Trump Towers is his responsibility since Trump is now trying to dredge up sympathy for anything that happens or happened at Trump Towers.