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Friday, March 24, 2017

Questions of evidence

Yesterday, Representative Adam Schiff spoke of new evidence of collusion between Team Trump and Russia:
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 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.[9] 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!.[9]

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.[9]
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!
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