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Fri, 23 Feb 2018
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New wrinkle: Mueller charges lawyer with lying regarding role of Manafort partner, Rick Gates

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Rick Gates
US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged the lawyer of Paul Manafort's business partner Rick Gates with lying to Russia probe investigators. Both Gates and former Trump adviser Manafort have already been indicted.

As well as allegedly lying about his communications with Manafort partner Gates, lawyer Alex Van der Zwaan has been accused of deleting, or failing to produce, emails sought by the Mueller's investigation team which is looking into alleged collusion between Donald Trump's presidential campaign team and Russia.

Comment: Mueller is grasping at straws. If you are basing an international investigation that goes to the top of national pyramids on nothing but straws, you best have one more than you need!


More Israeli officials arrested with corruption ties to Netanyahu

© AP Photo/ Geert Vanden Wijngaert
New legal problems for embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have erupted less that a week after police in the Middle Eastern nation recommended that the leader be indicted on charges of corruption.

Seven members of Netanyahu's closest cabal were arrested Sunday in the deepening 'Case 4000' corruption probe into Netanyahu and his innermost circle of cronies.

The most recent arrests follow what investigators say were interventions by the suspects with telecommunications regulators in the country to fastrack permissions for communications giant Bezeq in exchange for a media reputation whitewash of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

Case 4000 has not yet directly named Netanyahu as a suspect although several news outlets have reported that he will be questioned by investigators 'under caution,' a phrase used to describe defendants in criminal cases, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The seven Netanyahu associates arrested have not yet been named, although prior to the imposition of a quickly-leveraged gag order surrounding the investigation, Haaretz was reporting that they included Netanyahu close friend Nir Hefetz, a former communications director for the Israeli prime minister, and associate Shlomo Filber, a former Communications Ministry director general.

On Tuesday February 15, investigators unveiled recommendations to the attorney general that Netanyahu be charged with fraud, breach of trust and bribery in two cases not related to Case 4000. Both of the additional cases accuse the Israeli prime minister of using his influence and power to provide favorable deals to those close to him.

Comment: See also:


NSC advice: Russia should prepare for hack attack on presidential elections

© Computer Business Review
Key Russian election infrastructure could be targeted by a cyberattack during the March presidential vote, said the head of the National Security Council in a report on cybersecurity.

The warning came from Nikolay Patrushev, who outlined on Tuesday the damage caused by hacking attacks in Russia last year and the government's response to the threat. He said over 500,000 computers in Russia were disabled in 2017, many of them targeted during three major waves of ransomware infection. Computer networks belonging to the Russian Interior Ministry and companies Rosneft and Evraz were among those affected by the attacks, he said.

He added that Russian law enforcement had established some flaws in the cybersecurity of certain critical elements of infrastructure, particularly in the south of Russia, identifying "a high accessibility to IT resources to espionage penetration."

The Russian government may consider a centralized approach to protecting potential targets, banning governing bodies from outsourcing their cybersecurity to providers not vetted by the Kremlin.

One of the major potential targets for cyber interference this year will be the national ballot-tallying system, Patrushev said. "We expect cyber operations, the introduction of malware into critical parts of the [electronic system used by Russia for elections]," he said.

Russian Flag

Giving credit where credit is due: Putin has prevailed in Syria

Assad, Putin
© Syrian Presidency/Xinhua News Agency/Press Association
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2nd L, Front) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin (2nd R) view a military parade in the Russian-run Hmeimim Air Base in the coastal city of Latakia, Syria, on Dec. 11, 2017.
The end game is clear: Assad, Russia and Iran will emerge victorious.

The conflict in Syria has been the most vicious in contemporary history, creating a geo-political hall of mirrors pitting Syrian against Syrian, Saudi Arabia against Iran and Russia against the United States.

To say that it is the most complicated proxy war of our times is an understatement. The war has had international and regional dimensions which have served to prolong, fuel and perpetuate the crisis.

The latest of which, a dramatic clash between Syria and Israel leading to the unprecedented downing of an Israeli F-16 after the latter targeted a group of Iranian installations in Syria, has threatened to further escalate to conflict. But in stepped Russia, and after promises made to either side, the situation calmed down, for now.

This only highlighted the growing importance of Moscow in Syria and the increasingly brave power plays Putin is making in the region.

Comment: Russia defeated ISIS in Syria so what was the US doing?


Putin extends capital amnesty to Russian businesses for reporting foreign profits

© Yuya Shino / Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a package of laws extending a capital amnesty until February 28, 2019. It allows Russians to voluntarily declare assets and accounts in banks.

A total amnesty for all funds returning to Russia follows an anti-offshore bill requiring individuals and businesses to report foreign profits. The bill was aimed at curbing the outflow of capital from Russia, which was estimated at over $2 trillion in recent years.

The bill was explained by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov as allowing people who have made any mistakes in their business activities to declare the property and become completely law-abiding citizens.


Kurds claim that Russia is the reason Syrian army has not entered Afrin

Kurdish fighter
Afrin is waiting for Damascus to stop the Turkish attack. It seems that the Kurdish project and the Kurdish self-management in Syria are facing their first defeat since 2012, and the gradual withdrawal from the West Euphrates to settle in the areas where the Americans are located and under their umbrella.

Hostage to the next conflict between Russia and America

It is more likely that the turning point that makes all the areas where the Arab presence is intertwined in Kurdish in northern Syria, especially in Manbij, Tel Labid, Ras Al Ain and around it, is subject to a similar fate.

The Kurdish project is locked in Qamishli.

Comment: See also: Kurdish official claims deal reached for Syrian army to enter Afrin - Putin, Erdogan discussing situation - UPDATE

Arrow Up

Michael Flynn could reverse guilty plea in light of government misconduct, federal corruption

mike flynn
On Friday, Judge Emmet Sullivan issued an order in United States v. Flynn that, while widely unnoticed, reveals something fascinating: A motion by Michael Flynn to withdraw his guilty plea based on government misconduct is likely in the works.

Just a week ago, and thus before Sullivan quietly directed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team to provide Flynn's attorneys "any exculpatory evidence," Washington Examiner columnist Byron York detailed the oddities of Flynn's case. The next day, former assistant U.S. attorney and National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy connected more of the questionable dots. York added even more details a couple of days later. Together these articles provide the backdrop necessary to understand the significance of Sullivan's order on Friday.

What's Happened in the Michael Flynn Case So Far

To recap: On November 30, 2017, prosecutors working for Mueller charged former Trump national security advisor Flynn with lying to FBI agents. The following day, Flynn pled guilty before federal judge Rudolph Contreras. Less than a week later - and without explanation - Flynn's case was reassigned to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

One of Sullivan's first orders of business was to enter a standing order, on December 12, 2017, directing "the government to produce to defendant in a timely manner - including during plea negotiations - any evidence in its possession that is favorable to defendant and material either to defendant's guilt or punishment." Sullivan's standing order further directed the government, if it "has identified any information which is favorable to the defendant but which the government believes not to be material," to "submit such information to the Court for in camera review."

Comment: For what it's worth, Mike Cernovich claims to have the scoop on what's really going on here:

Here's the text of the tweet thread he posted:
  1. The FBI cannot provide a *clean* history of revisions for the 302 interview with General Flynn. That's why Judge Emmett Sullivan, who is very tough on unethical prosecutors, had ordered the Special Counsel to disclose exculpatory evidence, which would include these revisions.
  2. The IG knows McCabe changed Peter Strzok 302 / notes with General Flynn. Yet issuing a report to this effect would call thousands of FBI investigations into question. It's full on freak-out mode, as no one know how to spin this.
  3. Why did a federal judge order Muller to disclose exculpatory evidence AFTER Flynn pled guilty? Do you know how unusual this is? Flynn waived the right to exculpatory evidence in his plea deal. That's because the 302 was altered, and everyone knows it.
  4. Who is Judge Emmett Sullivan? *This* is Judge Sullivan: "A federal judge took the extraordinary step of naming a special prosecutor to investigate whether the government lawyers should themselves be prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing." (Link: Tables Turned on Prosecution in Stevens Case)
  5. "2 Prosecutors in Case of Senator Ted Stevens Are Suspended" Who was the judge who demanded they be investigated - which almost never happens, as federal judges are boot lickers for DOJ? The same judge assigned to Flynn's case. Judge Sullivan.
  6. How corrupt is Obama's DOJ? They cleared the prosecutors who framed an innocent man. (Link: Review board clears U.S. prosecutors accused of botching Sen. Ted Stevens's corruption trial)
  7. You don't think Obama's DOJ framed people? They were caught doing this! It's literally not debatable. The Feds trained under Obama frame people for crimes. (Link: Report: Prosecutors Hid Evidence in Ted Stevens Case)
  8. "The 500-page report by investigator Henry F. Schuelke III shook the legal community, as law professors described it as a milestone in the history of prosecutorial misconduct." This was Obama's Department of Justice. This is who framed General Flynn.


Officials at Munich Conference agree Russia is the 'bad guy' but also critical to solving world conflicts

Munich Security Conference
© Munich Security Conference / Facebook
European and U.S. officials divided over U.S. President Donald Trump's foreign policy found common cause this weekend in decrying what they say is Russia's covert campaign to undermine Western democracies.

But despite the transatlantic show of anger at Russia during the Munich Security Conference, Western officials and diplomats also acknowledged an uncomfortable truth: that Russia is critical to resolving many of the world's worst conflicts.

From eastern Ukraine to North Korea, Russia's status as a nuclear power, its military intervention in Syria and its veto on the United Nations Security Council mean any diplomacy must ultimately involve Moscow, officials said.

Comment: In other words, Russia has taken on the responsibility of working to establish order from the chaos caused by the United States, and all Western world leaders can do is grumble, hee and haw.

Stock Up

De Mistura: Violence and civilian deaths in Syria worst in 4 years

Staffan de Mistura
© REUTERS/ Xu Jinquan/Pool
The UN special envoy for Syria has given warning that violence in the country is the worst he has seen since taking the job four years ago.

Staffan de Mistura's remarks on Wednesday came as the US and Russia again traded blame at the UN over the ongoing conflict.

"Civilians have been killed on a horrific scale - reports suggest more than 1,000 civilians in the first week of February alone," he told the UN Security Council.

"I have been now four years as the special envoy. This is as violent and worrying and dangerous a moment as any that I have seen in my time of tenure so far."

De Mistura mentioned all the countries now fighting in Syria, including the Turkish operation around Afrin and the Syrian government's continued bombardment of Eastern Ghouta and Idlib.

He talked of developments in recent days, including the US attack on Assad's forces near Deir Az Zor and Israeli air attacks in Syria including on Iranian targets. But both these operations were later defended by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN.

Comment: It is a bloody legacy, for sure. Yet never does De Mistura (or any other westerner for that matter) mention who started the war: terrorist groups backed by western and Gulf nations. None of these civilians would have been killed if not for the madness of the U.S., Israel, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.

Arrow Down

Mueller indictments show Trump-Russia collusion narrative is dead

russia election meddling hillary
© Jeff Koterba / Omaha World Herald
Friday's grand jury indictment in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election destroys Democratic claims that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to win the race, and that the Russian interference cost Hillary Clinton the election. It is now time for Mueller to look into real election interference and collusion with the Russians by the Democrats.

The grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities for their alleged efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. The indictment says the Russians hid their involvement in this scheme and communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign. There was no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the scheme.

Boom. The Democratic Trump-Russia collusion narrative is dead.