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Friday, March 03, 2017

Why we should not trust Sessions

As you know, Attorney General Sessions recused himself yesterday from any further investigations into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. His press conference statement was obviously designed to get him off the hook legally, should this matter ever end up in court.

Should we accept his words at face value? No. Here's the counterargument.

First and foremost, we must consider the chronology. At the time Sessions met the Russian ambassador, the newspapers were filled with discussions of the Trump/Russia connection. A day or two earlier, DNI James Clapper had alleged that Russia was probably responsible for the DNC hack.

How could Russian ambassador Kislyak not want to talk about that development? Logic tells us that Clapper's claim would be topic A in any meeting with Sessions -- or, for that matter, any other American.

My understanding is that Kislyak met with no one else on the Armed Services Committee. He sought out no one else but Jeff Sessions, who just happened to be a key member of the Trump campaign. Yet Sessions wants us to believe that this meeting had nothing to do with that campaign.

Kislyak, for his part, has said that he made every effort to stay out of the election. Yet not only did he meet with Trump adviser Jeff Sessions, he asked to take a lunch with him -- an offer which Sessions declined.

Let us not forget that Kislyak was also in contract with Flynn. Not only that: Around the time of the Republican convention, Kislyak also met with Carter Page and Trump adviser J.D. Gordon, who played a key role in making sure that the Republican platform contained Putin-friendly language on Ukraine

Gordon -- perhaps rattled by the Sessions affair -- has suddenly grown very talkative.

Let's get back to Sessions. When asked at his press conference if the election came up during his meeting with Kislyak, Sessions offered a very guarded and vague response. He must know that the intelligence community was bugging Kislyak's phone. He may not know what the ambassador said to Moscow during any post-meeting chit-chats.

But a few people within our intelligence community do know. Someone tapped the phone, someone translated the conversations, someone has reviewed the evidence. These individuals hold the future of the Trump administration in their hands.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the FBI had been investigating the Sessions/Kislyak meeting for months. It seems quite possible that they learned about the meeting from the phone tap. I suspect that the transcript of the Kislyak phone tape gave them reason to believe that the meeting was not quite as innocuous as Sessions wants us to believe.

Louise Mensch. Some people don't trust her. Hell, I'm not sure that I do. Her writings on Snowden are marred by an Alex Jonesian wacky factor. But give her credit: She does have sources in Spookdom, and she put her warning about Sessions into writing as far back as February 7.

In that piece, she notes that, during the campaign, Sessions was given charge of foreign policy despite having no particular expertise in that field.
On March 16th, then Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller told Newsmax that Jeff Sessions, personally, was putting together Trump’s foreign policy team.

On March 21st, the Washington Post reported its interview with Trump in which he states that this list of foreign policy advisers includes Carter Page.
Page was also lacking in foreign policy experience, and appears to have been unknown to Trump at that time. Someone other than The Donald was making decisions.
Senator Sessions must explain why he chose Carter Page, who went to Russia in July and reportedly met with Sechin on sanctions and the head of Russian intelligence, Igor Diveykin, charged with hacking America’s election.

Politico reported that Carter Page also met Sergei Ivanov, “until recently Putin’s Chief of Staff”.

Senator Sessions must answer if he had any input into, or oversight of, Carter Page’s letter to Director Comey of (September), in which Page carefully says:

Yet for the record, I have not met this year with any sanctioned official in Russia despite the fact that there are no restrictions on U.S. persons speaking with such individuals

This language is so carefully parsed, that Carter Page could have met
Sanctioned Russians working for the Russian government, who are not officials, in Russia, in 2016 – that would include Sergei Ivanov

Sanctioned Russian officials, in 2016, outside of Russia

Any Russian person on the sanctions list, including officials, in Russia up to the end of December 2015, for example at the dinner at which Mike Flynn was present

Any Russians whatever including Putin himself outside of Russia in 2016.
Carter Page (in regards to the Alfa Bank server) has or had ‘an office around the corner from Trump Tower’. And these are only the top lines of his suspicious contact and total lack of qualifications, to have been chosen by Sessions.
Forgive me for quoting at such length, but not enough people are paying attention to this part of the story.
Jeff Sessions is deeply connected to Alfa Bank, one of the banks named in the FISA Court’s October warrant. His chief of staff Richard Burt is a lobbyist for Alfa Bank. According to the Steele dossier, Trump was required to switch positions on Ukraine in exchange for intelligence. This happened in April, according to the dossier.

April is when Paul Manafort joined the campaign as its manager.

April 17 is when Richard Burt, Alfa Bank lobbyist and Jeff Sessions chief of staff, wrote a Trump speech that did just what the Steele dossier requested Trump do.
Nor did it stop there. Alfa Bank’s Mr. Burt, whom, like Carter Page, the Trump camp tried to wash its hands of, denying contact, continued to advise Jeff Sessions during the summer and wrote policy papers for him. Newsmax reports:

“while the Trump campaign denies Burt’s involvement, the lobbyist … was invited to attend dinners hosted by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s national security committee chairman, to discuss national security and foreign policy. Burt and another source told Politico that he also wrote white papers for Sessions on those subjects.” Burt said “he delivered his advice through an intermediary, whom he would not name”.

But Mr. Burt was in the direct pay of Alfa Bank. Sessions must name that intermediary.Sessions is directly responsible then for three of the most crucial things in any criminal, intelligence or Congressional investigation Russian hacking of the election: the recruitment of Carter Page, Trump’s shift in foreign policy towards Ukraine and Russia, directly matching the time and the substance as reported in the Steele dossier to be ‘payment’ for Russian hacking, and for deep connections to Alfa Bank, on which the FBI FISA warrant was finally granted.
Mensch then changes the topic to Anthony Weiner's computer-of-death, and to the Russian hacker Yvgeny Nikulin, whom she believes may have planted those emails on that laptop. Nikulin was arrested in Prague last October.

Her claim is not just idle conspiracy theorizing: The indictment against Nikulin states that he trafficked in stolen user credentials (I presume this means passwords) for Formspring, the online social networking service used by Weiner.
My theory, to be explicit, is that Russian hackers, working with and for the Trump campaign, handed over Anthony Weiner’s sexting credentials; that emails were planted on his computer: that the FBI and NYPD elements in New York (Field Office) boasted to the Trump camp they had an “October Surprise” coming: and they forced Director Comey to reveal his private letter.

Is Jeff Sessions going to bring home to America this accused criminal, Nikulin, taken in Prague on an ultra-serious Interpol Red Notice, when Nikulin could indict all his friends and colleagues on the Trump campaign?

Will Congress and those Republicans who trust Sessions force him to do this?

Will Sessions try to dismiss the extradition of the hackers Comey has picked up abroad? Will he try to prevent deep prosecution of Nikulin? Will he tread on the extant six-agency taskforce, or refuse to recuse himself, a suspect, in Russian hacking?
That was nearly a month ago. Although Sessions has said that he will recuse himself from any American investigation into "Putingate," it remains an open question as to whether anyone in the Justice Department will seek Nikulin.

On a separate (but perhaps related) topic: Mensch says that #YourAnonNews, a group pretending to be Anonymous, is actually a front for Russian intelligence. In response, #YourAnonNews humorously tweeted "Damn it Mikhail, she knows!" The group has also published some robustly anti-Sessions material.

Is Mensch wrong? Have her sources misled her?

As I've said before of Mensch: She's on the very edge of the edge when it comes to reporting on the Trump/Putin connection. Dancing on the edge is dangerous; sometimes you trip. Nevertheless, I'm glad that someone is out there.

In Dutch. This NYT story has received much attention, although one key claim deserves greater publicity.
American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.

Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.
The Dutch factor is of some interest. Most people don't know that Vladimir Putin's daughter Maria lived in the Netherlands with a man named Jorrit Faassen, who worked for a Russian gas firm in the Netherlands. After the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which carried over a hundred Dutch nationals, many Dutch citizens took out their fury on her; people in high places called for her deportation. (Now is not the time to get into the controversy over who was responsible for that downing. In the past, I've argued against Putin's responsibility. Frankly, the Trump factor has caused my views to mutate.) Apparently, Maria left the country, though I'm not sure where she is now.

There has been tension between the two nations ever since. Last November, a Dutch submarine was following a flotilla of Russian warships in the eastern Mediterranean. More ominously, Putin has been waging cyber-war against the Netherlands, using now-familiar tactics to commandeer their elections. The intent is to make the Netherlands the first country to follow Britain's "Brexit" example.
Thierry Baudet, leader of the anti-establishment Forum for Democracy, believes he will hold all the cards when the country votes in March's general election.

The 34-year-old has swept into the public consciousness in the past year, off a wave of anti-establishment sentiment and his calls for a more direct democracy.

If, as he predicts, his minority party wins enough parliamentary seats, he will be in a position to form a coalition with the Party for Freedom, led by the controversial Geert Wilders.

Mr Wilders has been called the "Dutch Trump", a right-wing firebrand whose inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric echoes that of the new US President.
For much more on Wilders and his connections to Trump, see here.
Wilders is among several far-right luminaries that align themselves with Israel, in a show of opposition to anti-Semitism. However, he has had no qualms in associating with neo-Nazi groups and parties, including partnering with them in the US and European Parliament.
We are simply going to have get our heads around this counter-intuitive phenomenon, folks: Pro-Israel Nazis are the wave of future.

Christopher Steele: The Senate has invited the former British spy to testify about the Orbis dossier, the value of which has been proven time and again. Right now, Steele is in hiding. I doubt that he will show up in DC; he may suspect that the current request for his testimony is simply a ruse to smoke him out.

By the way, Trump still seems to think that Steele went into hiding to avoid a lawsuit. If Trump feels that he has a good case, why doesn't he simply sue Steele's company, Orbis? In a previous post, I gave their address.
"Let us not forget that Kislyak was also in contract with Flynn." contact?
Feff Sessions' replacement, Dana Boente, raises questions surrounding his appointment. He is described as a 'utility' player who has served under several administrations, currently US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Yet a week before leaving office, Obama authorized an executive order changing the line of succession at the DOJ to exclude Dana Boente.

On Feb. 9, the same day current Jeff Sessions was sworn into office, Donald Trump quietly signed an executive order effectively rescinding the Obama directive. Dana Boente was back at the top of the list.

Louise Mensch says it is all tied up with the prosecution overseen by Boente of a North Carolina hacking group called Crackas With Attitude. (Also here and here).

These were very serious crimes including the harassment of former CIA Director John Brennan, and the hacking of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Mensch is claiming the group is involved (one way or another) in the Weiner hacking through links to Sputnik, the Russian state owned propaganda channel, and one of its journalists, Cassandra Fairbanks.

Fairbanks was reportedly present throughout the Crackas With Attitude trial, supporting the two defenders.

Fairbanks was also close to a Daily Mail hack called Alana Goodman and both of them had invites to a Trump Inauguration Ball and were Trump fans.

The convicted hackers are awaiting sentencing (5 years max) but their counsel asked for a deferral on their sentencing so they could complete their study semester, and he keeps talking about using their talents in a "responsible" way. It's possible that in return for shutting their mouths about Russian hacking prosecutor Dana Boente might put their crimes down to 'youthful indiscretions' and press for a lenient sentence.

At any rate, I'm not sure that Dana Boente is sufficiently independent to supervise any Russia Inquiry by the DOJ.
Apologies -- missing link.
as a gesture of my sincere respect -- and gratitude -- for your work, for this blog..... i must but skim, comment and run... apologies. but... what you make of this if anything:

The Hedge Fund Standards Board has signed up 10 more hedge fund managers to its standards of best practice and says that including the board's 14 original members, its signatories now account for around half of all hedge fund assets under management in Europe.

The new signatories are Arrowgrass Capital Partners, BlackRock Investment Management UK, Concordia Advisors (Bermuda), GLC, Montrica Investment Management, New Star Asset Management, Otus Capital Management, Proxima Alfa Investments, Ruby Capital Partners and Sabre Fund Management.

'We are delighted to announce this first batch of new signatories,' says the board's chairman Antonio Borges. 'Discussions are taking place with many other hedge fund managers and we expect to announce further support for the standards in due course.

'At a time when the activities of hedge funds are under such intense scrutiny, it is more important than ever that the industry demonstrates it is living up to its responsibilities by adhering to the best practice standards.'

from Ten more managers sign up to Hedge Fund Standards Board practices, (emphasis mine). of course, mere coincidence, not linked into anything.


.....certainly not anymore.

just trying to hang with the big kids. i have more, but must run along now. (shoulda made it a post? not enough meat yet. nah. prolly a different alfa. you tell me. )

arrowgrass and renaissance tech an interesting search though.


ps it is not just after 3:00, either. midnight.
Josh Marshall has some terrific stuff on Felix Sater and US intelligence.
Well, another unforced error. Trump just admitted (first proposed by #carolinaconspiracy?) that the FISA court approved wire tapping an individual in the Trump campaign. Turns out that individual was Trump in Trump Tower. (The horror!) Tweeted, "I just found out" at 6:30 AM on Saturday morning. Apparently someone is keeping unusual hours. Worried a little?

Regarding the dismissal of Melania's case against the Mail in Maryland.
@laslemming : apparently he prefers to tweet first thing in the wee hours, cutting off around midday with a shorter window in the afternoon, insofar as twitter activity parallels real world (which is not very far, with most people), he likes to retire between 7 and 10. for at least as far back as the beginning of last year, i saw no evidence supporting a worrisome periodicity.

being a twitter user myself, it should go without saying that i do not see that predilection alone as sufficient. which i am sure we all agree is a bit of a bummer. ah well,we still have all those lies.
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