joseph mifsud is more important than christopher steele

Missing Mifsud was hidden in Rome
Luciano Capone, Il Foglio, Apr 18 2019

(L-R) Joseph Mifsud, rector Roveda, president Scotti, secretary Migliore, 2017, Link University.

The Russiagate investigation has ended, but Russiagate is not over. According to the conclusions of the investigation led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, there was no collusion between Russia and Donald Trump. But many aspects of the story remain unclear. Mueller’s report has not been published yet (it should be today), and it could reveal more details about Russia’s interference in the Pindo presidential campaign. Trump has instead called for the prosecutors to be investigated (who allegedly plotted against him). One of the key turning points in the investigation happened in Italy. It is no coincidence that Lindsay Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies and one of the leading critics of Mueller’s investigation, has been visiting Rome over the last few days. There are many unanswered questions, one of the most important being: where is Joseph Mifsud? Il Foglio does not know, but it can reveal where he hid for seven months after disappearing: in Rome, in a rented flat paid by Link Campus University. Mifsud taught there, and Il Foglio understands that he owns 35% of Link International, and Link Campus owns 55%. The remaining 10% is owned by Roberto Lippi, domiciled in Bogotà, Colombia.

Who is Mifsud and why is he so important? Mifsud was a Maltese lecturer at Link Campus, the university where Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio introduced the Five Star Movement’s foreign policy manifesto. The Five Star Movement recruited two of its senior staff from among Link’s lecturers: Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta and Deputy Foreign Minister Emanuela Del Re. Mifsud is a central player in Russiagate. According to Mueller’s investigation, Mifsud is “The Professor” who informed Trump’s campaign manager at the time, George Papadopoulos, about the “thousands of emails” revealing dirt on Hillary Clinton that had come into Russian hands. This happened in Apr 2016, long before the Demagogs discovered that their system had been hacked. Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to figures close to Vladimir Putin, such as Ivan Timofeev, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council (a think tank founded by the Kremlin). Link Campus, the university founded by former Italian Minister of Home Affairs Vincenzo Scotti is a crucial place in this spy story, which resembles a Le Carré novel.

Mifsud and Papadopoulos met for the first time at Link Campus on Mar 14 2016. On Oct 31 2017, when the documents in the investigation file were made public, Mifsud was at Link Campus coordinating joint projects between the Italian university and the Lomonosov University in Moscow. Mifsud disappeared the day after and has not answered emails or phone calls since. His name has also disappeared from the websites of the organisations he has been affiliated with. He is currently being sought by the Pindos, the Russians and an Italian court. But nobody knows where Mifsud actually is. Link Campus might know but is unwilling to say. Mifsud lived in an apartment in Rome, in Via Cimarosa 3, owned by a Greek diplomat, and the rent was paid by Link Campus. Il Foglio spoke with several of Mifsud’s former neighbours and understands that he moved in when he went underground. The rental contract expired last July or August and was registered to “Link International”: a company co-owned by Link Campus, with 30 employees and no financial statements available. These new elements refute previous claims by Link Campus regarding its relationship with the Maltese academic. The university has repeatedly said that its relationship with “The Professor” was suspended in 2008 and resumed later when he was given the position of “visiting professor for 2017–2018.” Mifsud never actually held any lectures because his contract was terminated when the scandal came to light, and all contact with the university ended after Nov 2017. Scotti said:

The university has no information on his whereabouts.

This assertion is incomplete, to put it mildly. Il Foglio’s investigation last Apr 11 had already traced Mifsud’s pivotal role in creating Link’s international network. Mifsud coordinated a partnership between Link Campus and the Essam & Dalai Obaid Foundation (EDOF), a foundation linked to the Toads, which gave birth to the Center for War and Peace Studies, then eventually shut down. Mifsud found a new shareholder, Stephan Roh, the owner Drake Global Ltd, who bought 5% of the university. Finally, the Maltese academic spearheaded the agreement between Link Campus and Lomonosov Moscow State University, described as “the most important state-owned university in Russia.” Mifsud attended the ceremony for the signing, alongside Scotti and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini, who is also a lecturer at Link Campus. We now also know that Mifsud is one of Link Campus’ business partners and lived in a flat paid by the university, all the while being sought after by an Italian court.

Mifsud (centre) at Link summer school, in collaboration with a Moscow university.

This version of events was confirmed by Link Campus. They initially said that our articles from Apr 2018 and Mar 11 2019 “suggest to the reader that Link Campus played a role in these political scandals due to the academic relationship with Prof. Joseph Mifsud. This undermines the reputation of our university.” Vanna Fadini, president of the company that runs the university (GEM) confirmed:

When Mifsud was in Rome, we provided him with accommodation, as we generally do for our international staff.

According to Ms Fadini, a flat is a benefit granted to all 14 non-Italian lecturers at Link Campus. Fadini added:

The flat rental ended in Jan 2018, and the flat was returned to the owners after the usual six months required by law.

When asked about the meetings and exchanges with Mifsud regarding the flat, Fadini answered:

All the procedures to end the rental and return the flat were completed by our legal office transparently. We duly notified by email, to all the addresses he provided us. When we returned the flat, we found no personal items or documents of his.

As to Mifsud being a shareholder of Link International, of which Fadini happens to be the administrator, she said:

Mifsud has carried out his work at different times and in different ways, including through his being a shareholder in a company, Link International, whose purpose is to search for international students.

There are some peculiarities in this account. The number of employees at Link International is very high: 32 people work there, which is more than half the total number of employees at the university (59). This figure seems somewhat exaggerated when we consider that Link Campus enrols 300 students every year, according to the Department of Education. If we assume that 10% of students are international, which is way beyond the average at Italian universities, this means that Link International employs a staff member for every single foreign student enrolled. The second peculiarity is that Link International has never filed financial statements, according to Italy’s Companies House. The third anomaly is that a purely academic activity such as selecting international students is outsourced to a company co-owned by private individuals, such as Mifsud and the shareholder from Bogotà. If this is considered normal, then the question is: why did Link hide its relationship with Mifsud, pretending that it barely even knew him? Mrs Fadini replied:

Contrary to what you are saying, the university did not hide anything regarding its relationship with Mr Mifsud. I also think that the reputation of the university should not be damaged by its association with Mifsud on the basis of his alleged relationship with third parties that have nothing to do with the academic activities of the university or its research.

On this issue, we disagree. Mifsud was introduced to George Papadopoulos at Link Campus, the university where he taught. They met again in London in the following weeks, when Mifsud was accompanied by a young student from Link Campus introduced as Putin’s niece. When the scandal erupted, Mifsud went underground and for several months lived in an flat paid by a company co-owned by Link and Mifsud himself. The name of the university keeps resurfacing, and the answers provided by its senior staff are too vague to safely assert that it has nothing to do with this international intrigue. Moreover, another witness sheds light on this story. The book “The Faking of Russia-gate” is co-written by Swiss lawyer Stephan Roh, who owns 5% of GEM (the company which manages Link Campus) and is Mifsud’s lawyer. Roh writes that he spoke to Mifsud over the phone on the “advice of the professor’s friends” on Jan 13 2018, while visiting Link’s main campus in Casale San Pio V in Rome. In a conversation-interview reported in the book, Mifsud rejects all the accusations. When asked about why he disappeared, Mifsud says:

The head of the Italian secret services contacted the president of Link Campus, Vincenzo Scotti, and recommended that the Professor shall disappear and stay for some time in a safe location.

The authors write:

The Professor and his friends feared for his life.

It is unclear why the Italian secret services hid Mifsud and why they asked for Scotti’s help. Everyone can make their own speculations. But the important issue is that, according to a Link shareholder, who also happens to be Mifsud’s lawyer, the university played an active role in the disappearance of the Maltese professor, as part of an operation that has more to do with secret services than with academia. Nobody knows where Mifsud currently is, and many suspect he is no longer alive. The last time anyone saw him was last May, according to AP, which was sent a photo of Mifsud by his lawyers. There has been no news since. The Italian government should probably be more transparent about an international spy story. Clarification should come from Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta and Deputy Foreign Minister Emanuela Del Re, who come from Link Campus. Ever since the scandal broke out and Mifsud disappeared, all roads lead to the university in Rome. Whoever wants to solve the Russiagate enigma, whether they believe that Mifsud plotted with the Russians to help Trump or that he conspired with Western intelligence services to weaken Trump, should look for evidence at Link Campus, the small university presided over by Vincenzo Scotti.

more friday goodies

This really is a Must Watch, if you have not done so already:

it’s so childish trying to ban khamenei, soleimani etc from a message board whatever

Instagram Acts as Arm of Pindo Govt, Bans Top Iranian Officials After IRGC ‘Terrorist’ Designation
Ben Norton, Grayzone, Apr 15 2019

A curious decision by Instagram and its owner at Facebook has called into question its independence from the Pindo government. The social media giant has banned several top Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, from its platform. The disappearance of foreign government officials by American tech giants is the latest episode in a global information war. On Apr 15, the administration of Pres Trump designated the IRGC a  “terrorist” organization. Less than a day later, Instagram suspended the accounts of several Iranian officials, from military commanders to politicians with no ties to the IRGC. Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani was among those banned. Soleimani drew public attention in November for using his Instagram account to comically respond to Trump’s threat of sanctions with a Game of Thrones-style meme. IRGC commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari also had his Instagram account suspended, as did Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour. Instagram even banned Iranian officials with no connection to the IRGC including Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the former mayor of capital Tehran, who has not worked for the IRGC for nearly two decades. It also removed the page of Ezzatollah Zarghami, a former government minister and ex-director of Iran’s state media broadcaster; and the chief of Iran’s police, Kamal Hadianfar. The news site Al-Monitor reported:

Accusations that Instagram is practicing double standards and advancing a political agenda gained further momentum when the ban targeted non-IRGC figures, among them Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric who lost the 2017 presidential race to Hassan Rouhani. Many Instagram users have praised the IRGC’s ongoing involvement in flood relief across Iran. IRGC Instagram accounts were popular among Iranians, particularly during the recent floods that saw several cities plunged into crisis. Javan Daily responded to the suspensions by sarcastically dubbing the company “Insta-Trump.”

This wave of censorship bolsters Yasha Levine‘s argument:

Pindo tech corps act as privatized instruments of Pindo geopolitical power.

Iran’s minister of information and communications technology, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, condemned the Instagram censorship, tweeting:

An Instagram spox told VoA:

The bans were mandated by the constraints of Pindo sanctions laws. We work with the appropriate government authorities to ensure we meet our legal obligations, including those relating to the recent designation of the IRGC.

Instagram did not explain why it also suspended the accounts of Iranian boxtops who do not work with the IRGC. This is not the first time Pindo social media corporations have banned Iranians. In August, The Grayzone reported on Twitter’s suspension of an Iranian student journalist named Sayed Mousavi who did not work for the government but was censored as part of a larger coordinated crackdown by Twitter, Google (which owns YouTube), and Facebook (which owns Instagram). Mousavi told The Grayzone at the time:

What worries me is that, I was just a student doing my bit of what I can do to journalism to counter just a little bit of the huge amount of disinformation being put about my country. It’s really a burden upon us, different anti-Zionist, different anti-imperialist groups, to make our voices heard. We need to diversify our platforms.

The Israeli government gloated after Instagram’s ban of the top Iranian officials. On its official Persian-language account, Israel cited a proverb that roughly translates to, “You reap what you sow,” adding #TerroristGuardCorps.

Numerous anti-Iran media outlets, including Saudi statepropaganda and pro-Israel websites, also happily reported on the temporary suspension of the English-language Instagram account of Ayatollah Khomeini on Apr 16. Khomeini’s profile was restored after the short ban. The accounts of the IRGC commanders and other politicians remain suspended. Israel’s right-wing Jerusalem Post newspaper drew an explicit connection between the censorship and Trump’s “terrorist” designation.

The suspension came one day after Pindostan voted IRGC a terrorist organization. VoA boasted in a report:

With 800,000 followers, the Instagram page of the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force was among the most popular pages of Iranian officials on the photo-sharing website.

The Pindo front group for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a US-backed violent cult that has spent decades trying to overthrow the Iranian government, also praised Instagram’s censorship.

For years, the MEK was designated a terrorist organization, until Hillary Clinton’s State Dept removed the label in 2012. Today the MEK operates freely on social media, running numerous accounts for several front groups. Al Jazeera revealed that the cult even oversees a massive troll farm in Albania.

Opposition outlet Iran International TV, which is funded by sources closely linked to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was among the sites that celebrated the banning of Khomeini’s senior adviser Ali Akbar Velayati.

The neoconservative anti-Iran lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) was delighted to see the suspensions as well.

Instagram’s censorship inspired a campaign by anti-Iran groups to pressure Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to ban more Iranian officials. Opposition figures have pushed the #TwitterBan4IRGC hashtag, and have particularly targeted Iran’s prominent foreign minister Javad Zarif. Alireza Nader, head of the Faschingstein-based New Iran, called on Twitter to ban Zarif:

libya

France’s double game in Libya
Paul Taylor, Politico, Apr 17 2019

Libyan PM Fayez al-Sarraj (L), Macron (C) and Gen Khalifa Haftar (right)
Photo: Philippe Wojazer/AFP

PARIS — Like the police captain in “Casablanca” feigning outrage at gambling in Rick’s Café before being handed his winnings, France was “shocked, shocked” to find that the Libyan generalissimo whose forces it has covertly helped arm and train was marching on Tripoli. The timing of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s offensive earlier this month against the UN-recognized unity government of PM Fayez al-Sarraj, just as the UN secretary-general was in town to prepare for a long-delayed peace conference, may indeed have embarrassed Paris. But Haftar’s intention to seize, rather than share, power can have come as no surprise. Paris has been quietly involved at least since 2015 in building up the flashy uniformed baron of Benghazi as a strongman it hopes can impose order on the vast, thinly populated North African oil producer and crack down on the Islamist groups that have flourished in the ungoverned spaces of the failed state. In doing so, it has trampled none too subtly on the economic and security interests of its EU neighbor Italy, the former colonial power in Libya and the main foreign player in its oil sector. Rome has endured an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic migrants across the central Mediterranean since a French-driven NATO air campaign toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, leaving post-war chaos in his wake. France ostensibly supports the UN-mediated peace process led by former Lebanese Culture Minister Ghassan Salamé. It has never officially acknowledged providing weaponry, training, intelligence and SOF assistance to Haftar. The death of three undercover French soldiers in a helicopter accident in Libya in 2016 provided a rare recognition of its secret presence in operations against Islamist fighters at the time. Haftar, an allegedly CIA-trained Pindo citizen supported by an alliance of the UAE, Toads, Egypt & Russia, has made little secret of the modern French weaponry he has acquired despite a UN arms embargo. Some of his followers are not exactly the secular warriors that Paris might wish. Mary Fitzgerald, a researcher on Libya, says:

Aside from a military core, the motley forces that Haftar oversees are comprised of tribal militias, hard-line Salafis linked to the Toads, Sudanese rebels and one commander wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes.

That hasn’t stopped France from giving him a leg up politically. One of Macron’s first high-profile diplomatic initiatives upon winning office in 2017 was to invite Haftar and Sarraj to a chateau outside Paris to try to broker a power-sharing deal. He didn’t bother to involve the Italians. This was part of a blitz of summitry to show that France was back on the international stage. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in his previous role as minister of defense was the architect of the “back Haftar” strategy, at odds with foreign ministry experts, seems to have convinced the young president that Libya is low-hanging fruit. Tarek Megerisi, a Libyan researcher at the European CFR, said:

Macron was misadvised into thinking that Libya could be a quick win for his charisma. He underestimated the complexity of the country. It was half naiveté, half opportunism. He tried to rely on military personnel to solve a political problem.

Italian boxtops insist they understand Libya’s complex social dynamics better, and contend that Haftar will not be able to command the loyalty of the Toubou and Touareg tribes that dominate southern Libya or the multiple localized factions in the north-west of the country. Critics of France say potential winnings in reconstruction contracts and increased business for oil major Total provide one motive for its Libya policy. Haftar, who controls eastern Libya from his stronghold outside Benghazi, grabbed key oilfields operated by Italy’s ENI in the south earlier this year before turning his guns on the capital. A senior French figure familiar with government policy said support for Haftar is partly driven by the imperative of stanching the supply of arms and funds to Jihadi groups threatening fragile governments in Niger, Chad and Mali which are backed by France’s Operation Barkhane. But the French official said Paris’ love for the Libyan strongman is far more about strategic alliances across the wider Middle East than commercial considerations. Paris is aligned with the Emirati, Saudi and Egyptian rulers, to whom it has sold billions in weapons, against a looser alliance of Qatar, Turkey and the transnational MB movement that briefly governed Egypt before being ousted in a military coup in 2013. French policy-makers connect this regional struggle with their fight against Islamist insurgency in the Sahara-Sahel belt and terrorism at home, their #1 national security priority, especially since the Nov 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people. After the instability unleashed by the Arab Spring uprisings, the dominant view in government circles in Paris is that strongman solutions are the only way to keep a lid on Islamist militancy and mass migration, and tant pis for human rights and democracy. That’s why the French are looking on in anxiety at events in Algeria, their former colony and a major gas supplier, where Pres Abd’el-Aziz Bouteflika was forced to resign after 20 years in power by mass pro-democracy protests that have not abated despite army warnings. Bouteflika’s fall points to why Paris’ strategy is a risky one. Haftar is no spring chicken. He is 75, underwent six weeks of medical treatment in France last year, and has no clear successor, although he has appointed his sons to key positions. He’s not doing too strongly as a strongman either. Arturo Varvelli, head of the MENA center at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies in Milan, said:

He wanted to walk into Tripoli without a bloodbath as a national savior from the militias, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

The assault on Tripoli encountered tougher resistance than Haftar had anticipated. Militias have not switched to his side. Scores of people have been killed, and thousands have fled. Libya may face another prolonged bout of fighting rather than a swift takeover. Quite apart from the damage to Libya and Libyans, it’s hard to see how that would help France fight either terrorism or uncontrolled migration.

Tripoli interior ministry accuses France of supporting Haftar, ends cooperation
Reuters, Apr 19 2019

TRIPOLI – Libya’s internationally-recognised interior ministry accused France on Thursday of supporting eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and said it would halt cooperation with Paris. “Any dealings with the French side in bilateral security agreements” will halt, the Tripoli-based interior ministry said in a statement.

people rant & rave about the toads, but sisi is almost as bad

Egypt stages referendum to institutionalize Gen Sisi’s dictatorship
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Apr 19 2019

Egypt’s military-dominated dictatorship is rushing ahead with a referendum this weekend on constitutional amendments that would effectively make Gen Abd’el-Fattah al-Sisi dictator for life, while institutionalizing the bloody repression his regime has carried out against all forms of political opposition and particularly the Egyptian working class. The plan for the three-day referendum beginning Saturday was announced on Wednesday, just one day after the country’s parliament, stacked with Sisi supporters, approved the proposed amendments to the Egyptian constitution by an overwhelming margin of 554 to 22 with one abstention. The vote was staged as a patriotic event, with legislators waving small Egyptian flags and national hymns being played in the background. The referendum is being staged under conditions in which there has been no time for the Egyptian population to even consider the sweeping amendments to the constitution, which not only extend the presidential term to six years but also establish a transitional period allowing Sisi to override a two-term limit and run for a third term, remaining in office until at least 2030. They provide him with complete control over the judiciary, while expanding the already overwhelming role of the military in the country’s political affairs. One of the amendments states:

The military has the responsibility for safeguarding the Constitution and democracy, preserving the basic foundations of the State and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals.

The constitutional reform institutionalizes the already widespread practice of trying civilians in military courts. Some 15,000 people including 150 children have faced such drumhead trials since the 2013 coup that overthrew Mohammed Morsi and brought Sisi to power, according to the estimates of human rights organizations. Sisi consolidated his rule with the massacre of over 1,000 people at Cairo’s Rabaa Square in 2013. Since then over 60,000 people have been thrown into the regime’s jails for political reasons, facing rampant torture. Since the beginning of 2019, the regime has executed 15 political prisoners, sentenced to death on the sole basis of confessions extracted under torture. In truly Orwellian style, the regime plastered the streets of Cairo with propaganda posters and hung giant banners in Tahrir Square calling for Egyptians to “do the right thing” and vote “yes” in a referendum whose contents had not even been made known. Amnesty International issued a statement denouncing the constitutional amendments as designed to “strengthen impunity for human rights violations by members of the security forces,” while HRW stated that they were written to “institutionalize authoritarianism.” Speaking at a press conference called by human rights groups in Paris, Amr Waked, one of Egypt’s best-known actors banned in his own country, He said:

These amendments would take us back to a dictatorship fit for the Middle Ages. Why are you giving the dictatorship legitimacy? Why are you selling arms to it? Have you turned into arms dealers? Those who are backing Sisi today will one day pay a price higher than their investments in keeping him in power.

Faschingstein stands first and foremost among those supporting the blood-stained dictatorship, with Congress approving the Trump administration’s request for $3bn in aid to the Sisi regime, with another $1.4b in the pipeline for 2020. Trump welcomed Sisi to the White House last week, praising him for doing “a fantastic job in a very difficult situation” and declaring “We agree on so many things!” No doubt one of them was support for draconian methods of repression against domestic opposition, with Trumpt clearly wishing he could use the same measures in Pindostan that Sisi does in Egypt. Earlier this year, facing rising social protest at home, Macron flew to Cairo to sign approximately 30 deals with the Sisi regime, with whom Paris has declared a “strategic partnership.” Germany has likewise established close ties with the Sisi regime, while Sisi hosted heads of state who flew in from across Europe to embrace him at a first-ever summit of the European Union and the League of Arab States held in Sharm el-Sheikh in February.

The support of Pindostan & its Euro vassals is not merely due to the mercenary considerations of the major arms corporations. They have embraced him precisely because of his leading role in suppressing the revolutionary movement of workers and young people that toppled Mubarak in 2011, which threatened to spread throughout the region and inspired millions across the globe. The Egyptian regime has blocked more than 34,000 websites in an attempt to shut down an internet opposition campaign being waged under the title Batel or “Void”, seeking to express rejection of the amendments and the government’s rigged referendum. Nearly 300,000 people have registered their support for the campaign, despite the government crackdown, which has disrupted a large number of websites belonging to businesses, religious organizations and others unconnected to the opposition effort. The referendum will have no more legitimacy than the two elections Sisi has staged for the presidency. He won the last one by 97% after disqualifying and locking up any credible opponents. Yet there is no-one in the West suggesting that his rule is “illegitimate.” In addition to violently suppressing the resistance of the Egyptian working class, Sisi plays an increasingly central role in counter-revolutionary conspiracies throughout the region. On Monday, he staged a meeting with Gen Khalifa Haftar, even as his “Libyan National Army” escalated its siege of Tripoli, in which over 200 have been killed and 600 wounded so far. Sisi issued a statement saying:

We salute Gen Haftar’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremist groups and militias in order to achieve security and stability.

According to news reports, he also offered Haftar sophisticated military equipment including night-vision goggles and anti-aircraft jamming devices, to aid in his attack on the Libyan capital. Meanwhile, high-level Egyptian delegations have gone to Khartoum to assist the Sudanese military in strangling the mass popular rebellion that has forced out the country’s ruler, Omar al-Bashir last Thursday. The millions of workers and young people who have been on the streets of Algeria since February, forcing the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, are calling attention to the bloody Egyptian events as the Algerian army headed by Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah claims that it will oversee a transition and unleashes escalating repression against the protests. The approval of Sisi’s dictatorship by Wall Street and Western finance capital found expression Wednesday with Moody’s raising Egypt’s rating to B2 with a “stable” outlook, with assurances that “profitability will remain strong” in the subjugated country. Under conditions in which 40% of the population lives in desperate poverty, subsisting on less than $2 a day and with even these meager incomes being eroded by an inflation rate that has risen to 15%, such stability may soon prove short-lived, along with Sisi’s dreams of becoming president for life. The powerful movement of the working class in the textile mill towns of the Delta and in Egypt’s ports that brought down Mubarak will inevitably erupt once again.

Background:

With Egypt’s withdrawal, hopes for MESA are diminished but not dead
Joyce Karam, UAE National, Apr 15 2019

Even before Egypt’s withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance last week, the Trump administration was struggling to launch the bloc as disagreements over its goals, threats and structure marred consultations. Cairo told Faschingstein and other MESA participants of its decision to withdraw before a meeting of the group in Riyadh on Apr 7, Reuters reported. Two official sources from the proposed alliance confirmed to The National that Egypt had left the talks and was officially out. Pres Trump has been hoping to launch the security and economic alliance, informally called the Arab NATO, since mid-2017. It would include Pindostan, the Toads, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and would be focused on countering Iran, deepening defence relations, energy co-operation and dealing with other threats. The concept is not new. In 1953, Gen Eisenhower tried to build an Arab bloc to counter communism in the Middle East, and several Pindo Fuhrers have tried unsuccessfully since. The Trump administration now faces a major setback, given Cairo’s strategic and military significance, and may have to restructure the proposed alliance. A Pindo boxtop said:

Egypt plays a very important role in regional security and is a critical strategic partner for Pindostan. Pindostan & all of the MESA vassals want Egypt to be part of the alliance, which will have many benefits. We will continue over the coming months to solicit input from member countries and work together to shape the alliance. We will continue our engagement with the government of Egypt, and hope they will seize the opportunity to play a leadership role as the alliance is formed.

Cairo’s exit relates to larger concerns about the alliance and how its formation would evolve. Initially there were hopes for a grand vision that would state the alliance’s goals and mission, before going into details about its locations and tasks. Some of the partners felt that Faschingstein was putting the cart before the horse by discussing defence issues first. Yasmine Farouk of the Carnegie Endowment was not surprised by Egypt’s exit. Ms Farouk said:

Since the beginning, Mesa’s conception was incompatible with Egyptian policy. Egypt is systematically conservative when it comes to the deployment of its military in the region, is not part of the open confrontation with Iran and is sensitive to operating under foreign command and control. Egypt’s withdrawal is not necessarily a detriment to forming the alliance. It might ease an agreement between the administration and Gulf countries. The administration is more interested in a defence co-operation among Gulf countries than in a co-operation that involves Egypt anyway.

Other differences have constrained the alliance and forced Washington to delay the launch summit. Defining the threats is a major point of contention that is likely to continue after Egypt’s exit. Disagreements about how to view groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, how to address Iran, collective defence and defence relations with Russia and China have not yet been resolved. But some see little to no room for MESA to emerge soon. Daniel Serwer of the Middle East Institute said:

It was dead even before Egypt’s exit, which put a last nail in the coffin. Congressional tension with the Toads over Yemen and the Khashoggi affair are also stumbling blocks. This is an attempt to keep MESA alive, but only as a zombie, the walking dead.

nazi israel

Netanyahu prepares to form far-right government in Israel
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Apr 19 2019

Pres Rivlin called on Netanyahu to form Israel’s next coalition government following the final confirmation of the general election results on Apr 17. This marks a watershed, as Rivlin obliquely indicated, saying:

We’ve been through a difficult election campaign. A lot of things were said from all sides that shouldn’t have been said, not in a Jewish state and not in a democratic state.

The election was held amid an escalating political, economic and social crisis. Netanyahu called it ahead of schedule in a desperate gamble to outmaneuver Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over his expected indictment for corruption for allegedly granting regulatory concessions to businessmen in return for lavish gifts or favourable news coverage. The Likud won 35 seats, the religious parties 16, largely at the expense of the far-right. The Rightist Union, in an alliance brokered by Netanyahu with the Kachist Otzma Yehudit, won 5, Beiteinu 5 and Kulanu 4, giving the right-wing bloc 65 seats, compared to 67 in 2015. Feiglin’s Zehut Party and the New Right, led by outgoing ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, did not make it across the electoral threshold. Kahol Lavan, an alliance of former generals led by Benny Gantz with Yair Lapid’s party Yesh Atid, tied with Likud at 35, but with Labour plummeting to just 6 and Meretz 5, despite the stench of corruption surrounding him, it was unable to unseat Netanyahu, whose election pledge to annex the West Bank signalled his public adoption of the fascist and religious-nationalist settler agenda. Israel’s blockade of Gaza and its repeated military assaults on Gaza’s defenceless Palestinian citizens are creating a humanitarian catastrophe. Repeated aerial strikes on Syria, ostensibly against Hezbollah targets, threaten a far broader conflagration with Iran. Bibi now views his initial indictment hearing, postponed from July to September at his request, as off the table or at least capable of being dragged out for years. As it became clear that he and his far-right and ultra-religious partners had won, he cynically declared:

I intend to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel, right and left, Jews and non-Jews.

This comes from someone whose government last year introduced the “Nation-State Law” that enshrines Jewish supremacy as the legal foundation of the state, ends any commitment to equality and openly aligns the state with brutal oppression of an entire people, the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s real agenda is war on all opposition to the dictates of Israel’s capitalist elite. On Monday, speaking in the wake of a sick-out by a handful of transportation workers that brought rail services to a halt, he pledged to prevent strikes in essential services. In obedience to his command, Transportation Minister Israel Katz proposed a mandatory arbitration law for essential services. Nevertheless, major differences between his right-wing partners, particularly over the law to draft Orthodox Jews into the army, mean that constructing a coalition will not be straightforward. Two factors dominated the final days of the campaign. The first was the very public interference in the elections by Trump in favour of Netanyahu, designed to bolster Netanyahu’s position as a figure of international significance, which included his invitation to Netanyahu to visit Faschingstein in the run-up to the election, his dispatch of Pompeo to Israel during a tour of the Middle East, his recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan heights and his decision on the day of the election to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. It is also widely assumed that Netanyahu would not have made his statement junking the two-state solution in favour of the outright annexation of the West Bank without encouragement from the White House, yet there was no hue and cry over Faschingstein’s interference, even from the EU, which has long sought to position itself as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. The second factor was the spineless character of the so-called “opposition” of Labour and Meretz which sought to profit from popular disgust with Netanyahu’s right-wing policies without offering an alternative. They vied with the right-wing bloc to demonstrate their hostility to the Palestinians and Iran and to compete over who had a more belligerent record against Hamas in Gaza. They demonstrated that the “two-state” solution that had once been their political mantra was dead.

So devastating was the collapse in the share of the vote for Labour, the party that had ruled Israel for the first three decades of the state’s existence and briefly re-emerged in the 1990s, that there are discussions as to whether Labour and Meretz should merge to ensure they pass the polling threshold in future elections. The opposition had no solution to soaring housing costs, overcrowded hospitals and schools and the inadequate transportation system. In a country wracked by social tensions, the highest poverty rate of any of the so-called developed countries and mounting anger over the way Israel’s banks write off business tycoons’ debts at the expense of their ordinary customers, support for the Blue and White coalition and its potential government partners was to be found mainly in the more affluent parts of the country around the Tel Aviv heartland. Nearly 40% of all those eligible to vote did not do so. A third factor was the collapse of the Arab vote. Less than 50% of Israel’s Palestinian citizens went to the polling booths, compared with 85% in recent local elections, marking their alienation from official Israeli politics, particularly in the wake of the “Nation-State Law” and the upsurge in racist attacks against the Palestinians. In gross violation of election law, Netanyahu sent in more than 1,000 activists armed with hidden video cameras to monitor polling stations in Palestinian communities, signalling that elections were for Jewish Israelis only. The four Palestinian parties, instead of running as a single Joint List as they did in 2015, ran on two lists, winning just 10 seats, down from 13 in the previous Knesset. In the 1930s, with the rise of fascism in Germany, Leon Trotsky stated that the “political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” This assessment retains all its validity today in Israel, a country whose founding was defended with the claim that it would provide a refuge from fascism and anti-Semitism.

Israeli court upholds expulsion of human rights defender
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Apr 18 2019

An Israeli court on Tuesday upheld a government decision to expel Omar Shakir, the director of the Jerusalem office of HRW. The court based its ruling on a 2017 law that bars entry to people who advocate for a boycott of Israel or of its settlements in the OPT. This comes as the campaign to stop international firms from profiting from Israel’s settlements scored several new successes.

The NYC-based organization stated:

In a new and dangerous interpretation of the law, the court found that HRW research and advocacy calling for businesses to stop facilitating abuses in Israeli settlements in the OPT (West Bank) constitutes a call for boycott. The ruling sets a precedent that could hamper the work of other advocacy organizations and jeopardize the status of other rights workers in Israel.

According to HRW, this is the first case in which the Israeli government has relied on the 2017 amendment of its so-called Law of Entry to expel a person who is present in the country lawfully, as far as Israel is concerned. The court claimed that Shakir has called for boycotts since he was a student activist in Pindostan more than a decade ago, as well as his subsequent work promoting HRW’s research on the activities of businesses, including global tourism companies Airbnb and Booking.com, that participate in and profit fromIsrael’s theft of Palestinian property. HRW has stated:

Companies that do business in Israel’s settlements inevitably benefit from and contribute to Israel’s policies that dispossess, discriminate against and abuse the human rights of millions of Palestinians. Following Tuesday’s court ruling, HRW reasserted its position that businesses should halt their activities in illegal West Bank settlements.

Businesses that operate in Israeli settlements, all of which are illegal under international law, are coming under increasing global pressure to stop aiding colonization of occupied land. In what the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) called a significant victory, the largest trade union in the Netherlands with more than one million members has dropped Hewlett-Packard as a partner in discount offers to its members. The union informed members:

As long as we do not know for certain that HP is not complicit in human rights abuses, we will no longer include them as an offer in FNV membership offers.

HP has long been a focus of activists because HP-branded businesses have supplied the IOF with racial profiling technology for its checkpoints restricting the movement of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. And this week it emerged that France-based insurance and financial giant AXA quietly divested last year from Israeli arms maker Elbit.

AXA is facing an ongoing campaign to divest from all Israeli companies involved in violations, including Israel’s top banks that finance settlements.

International banking giant HSBC also divested from Elbit last year following a grassroots campaign. And this week, Palestinians are stepping up their campaigndemanding that sportswear company Puma end its sponsorship of football teams based in Israeli settlements.

HRW does not explicitly support the broader BDS movement, but it notes a significant detail in the ruling to expel Shakir:

The Israeli judge held that Israel’s anti-boycott law does not distinguish between boycotts directed at Israel and those directed at only West Bank settlements.

Israel’s interior ministry and strategic affairs ministry began their effort to expel Shakir last May, ordering him out of the country within 14 days. But the decision was stayed pending court appeals by HRW. The strategic affairs ministry, which leads Israel’s well-funded effort to combat the growing global movement in support of Palestinian rights, compiled a dossier of Shakir’s activities, which it said demonstrates his support for BDS. Most activities listed in the dossier predate Shakir’s employment with HRW and relate to his activism as a student at Stanford University, calling for full and equal rights for Palestinians. One pretext cited in the dossier for expelling Shakir is that he shared on Twitter an article written by Steven Salaita and published by The Electronic Intifada in 2014:

The Center for Constitutional Rights stated Wednesday:

Israel’s attempts to deport Omar Shakir are part of its broader efforts to prevent human rights defenders from witnessing and documenting human rights violations, as well as to stifle any opposition to those abuses.

The civil liberties group noted that last year Israel prohibited its executive director Vince Warren and board chair Katherine Franke from entering Israeli-controlled territory on political grounds. The Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan condemned the Israeli court decision:

This is a serious escalation of the legislative and judicial attacks by Israel against human rights defenders, despite the legitimacy of their work and their use of peaceful means such as research and advocacy to protect rights guaranteed by international conventions.

The Israeli judge ordered Shakir out of the country by May 1, but said implementation would be delayed while the legal process continues. HRW is appealing the ruling to Israel’s high court. Israel’s attempts to silence human rights defenders appear to have the support of the Pindo government, which earlier this month barred entry to Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, despite the fact that he had a valid visa.

The ACLU called the Pindo government’s “ideological exclusion” of Barghouti “political censorship” and a violation of the First Amendment.

Greece bids for role in Israeli settler railway
Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada, Apr 18 2019

Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Xinhua

Encouraged by the Greek government, state-owned public transport firm STASY is bidding for a role in the Jerusalem light rail, which links Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. This would make the firms and the Greek state complicit in Israel’s illegal colonization. Greek and Israeli transport ministers signed an agreementto cooperate in transport sectors in 2017. This came after a summit between the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus aimed at drawing the countries closer together. Greece’s nominally left-wing ruling party Syriza demanded to know why the government is supporting a Greek role in Israel’s colonial expansion. Metro workers union SELMA has also denounced STASY for its plan to bid for a role in the construction, operation and maintenance of the Israeli project. The union SELMA stated last month:

The light rail’s Green Line, which the Greek firm wants to be involved in, begins and ends in the occupied West Bank. This means that the Greek companies are directly engaged in supporting illegal Israeli settlements. SELMA is completely against the participation in any illegal business activity of STASY, especially when it is about the violation of human rights and the just struggle of a people about its national existence and independence. The companies participating in the project face being included in the database mandated by the UNHRC of firms doing business in or with Israeli settlements in occupied territory. This could have legal and judicial consequences.

The Jerusalem light rail network connects Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank with Jerusalem. Some 200,000 of the 600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank live in and around East Jerusalem. The transfer of Israel’s civilian population to the settlements is a war crime under international law. Israel’s colonization of the land around Jerusalem aims to isolate the city’s Palestinian population from their kin in the rest of the West Bank, and splits the West Bank north from south eliminating the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. When Christos Spirtzis, Greece’s transport minister, signed the agreement with Israel in Jul 2017, Georgios Thomopoulos, CEO of state-owned STASY, was also in Israel leading a delegation that visited sections of the Jerusalem light rail network. STASY quickly joined a consortium of companies planning to bid for the extension of the existing Red Line and the development of the new Green Line. The consortium, led by Israeli-based Pangea Israel Projects, includes Pindo company IDT Telecom as the main financier, while state-owned China Railway Engineering Group would provide rolling stock. Privately owned Greek construction company GEK Terna is also a member of the consortium. The extension of the Red Line will connect the settlements of Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov, which are part of the ring of Israeli colonies around Jerusalem. The second line will run from Mount Scopus in occupied East Jerusalem to the settlement of Gilo, southwest of Jerusalem. STASY president Stavros Stefopoulos saw the move as the first step in a “more general national goal” of opening markets outside Greece for Greek public enterprises. This means that Greece in effect is trying to solve its chronic economic and debt problems at the expense of Palestinians and their rights. STASY’s parent company OASA, which organizes transport for Athens, approved the step. OASA is also a state company whose managing director is appointed by the government. The Greek government is giving its full backing to STASY’s bid. Deputy transport minister Nikolaos Mavraganis declared:

The company’s participation in the settlement project symbolizes the fact that Greece of yesterday, the Greece of stagnation, isolation, univocal external economic policy ceased to exist.

Mavraganis thanked the STASY board for executing government policy, which suggests the government pushed the company to participate in the Jerusalem light rail. This year, several groups in Greece organized protests against STASY and GEK Terna’s aspirations to participate in the light rail expansion. Concerned MPs from the governing Syriza Party of PM Alexis Tsipras submitted questions to transport minister Spirtzis. They refer to reports that the new tram line will be built on Palestinian land without permission of the Palestinians. They asked the minister whether OASA, STASY’s parent company, knows if participation in the expansion of the tramway violates international law. The PA has also urged Greece to pull out of the project, asserting that to proceed would constitute a “flagrant violation” of international law and harm historically friendly Palestinian-Greek relations. Yet along with Cyprus, Greece has developed close partnerships with Israel, especially in energy, including construction of a EU-funded subsea cable that will link Israeli settlements to Europe’s electricity grid. The light rail is part of the 1990 Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan sponsored by the Israeli government and the occupation authorities running the Jerusalem municipality. Developing an efficient transport network to illegal settlements around East Jerusalem contributes to Israel’s colonization and occupation of the West Bank. human rights organizations and the UN have all warned against complicity in Israel’s settlements through trade or business. AI Greece has called on STASY, GEK Terna and the transport minister to take these warnings seriously. Tom Moerenhout, a legal research scholar at Columbia University, told EI:

Under international law, Greece has a responsibility not to recognize or assist Israel’s settlement enterprise. One could reasonably question the support of the Greek ministry of transport to state company STASY. This may constitute implicit recognition, which is equally prohibited. Indeed, if STASY and GEK Terna are awarded the contracts for the expansion of the settler tramway they will be complicit in aiding and abetting Israel’s crimes.

Earlier this year the workers council of the Spanish train manufacturer CAF voted to reject that company’s bid for a role in the Israeli settlement railway.

lighthizer is not looking for an agreement, he’s looking for pretexts to walk out & let the pentagon take over

New round of Pindo-China trade talks
Nick Beams, WSWS, Apr 19 2019

Pindostan & China are reported to have agreed to two more face-to-face meetings between their top-level trade negotiators in the hope that Trump and Xi may sign a deal, possibly by the end of May. Citing people familiar with the situation, the WSJ reported that under the so-far tentative schedule, Lighthizer would go to Beijing in the week starting Apr 29. The chief Chinese negotiator and vice-premier Liu He would come to Faschingstein in the week starting May 6. Hopes of an agreement could still be dashed. There are reports that many issues remain unresolved. There is a question whether any deal would satisfy anti-China hawks in both parties in Congress. They are insisting that the issues go far beyond trade and concern the very functioning of the Chinese economy and the role of its state institutions. Among the most contentious issues that remain unresolved are the establishment of an enforcement mechanism, and the related question of which tariffs imposed by Pindostan on $250b worth of Chinese goods would remain in force. Various proposals have been floated regarding enforcement, including one foreshadowed by Lighthizer earlier this year that would involve meetings between trade officials, leading to top-level meetings between the two sides to examine whether the terms of any agreement were being adhered to. The baseline position of Pindostan, set out in a wide-ranging document presented to the Chinese side last May, is that Pindostan should retain the right to unilaterally impose tariffs, without any retaliation from China, either directly or by taking action against Pindostan in the WTO. Chinese negotiators have continually rejected such a one-sided arrangement as a version of the unequal treaties imposed by the imperialist powers on China during the 19th and 20th centuries. Earlier this month, Mnuchin caused some eyebrows to be raised when he said in an interview with CNBC:

Agreement has pretty much been reached on an enforcement mechanism. We’ve agreed that both sides will establish enforcement offices that deal with the ongoing matters. This is something both sides are taking very seriously.

Mnuchin followed this up last weekend with remarks at the IMF’s spring meeting in Faschingstein, indicating that Pindostan had agreed to measures being enacted by China if Beijing felt that the agreement was not being honoured. Mnuchin said:

I would expect that the enforcement mechanism works in both directions, that we expect to honour our commitments, and if we don’t, there should be certain repercussions, and the same way in the other direction.

These comments appear to be a concession to Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen, who said last month that any enforcement mechanism had to be “two-way, fair and equal.” However, it was significant that after both sets of comments by Mnuchin, Lighthizer’s office refused to respond to a request for comment. Lighthizer, appointed by Trump over Mnuchin, is regarded as more hardline on China. He is among those who insist that the key questions are “structural reforms” in the Chinese economy, including the protection of intellectual property rights and state subsidies to key industries, especially in the high-tech areas. It was Mnuchin, not Lighthizer, who made the statement. Thug Sen Chuck Grassley, who heads the Senate Finance Committee that oversees trade, hailed Mnuchin’s news but noted “one caveat.” In an interview with the WSJ last week, Pindo Chamber of Commerce executive vice-president Myron Brilliant, who is in regular touch with both sides of the talks, welcomed Mnuchin’s “encouraging comments” but remarked:

In my view, enforcement and tariffs are critical issues that are linked. At the end of the day, the Chinese will not agree to a final package without tariffs being removed, and Pindostan in return must have assurances that the enforcement mechanism has teeth.

The Pindo side wants to keep tariffs in place and only begin to remove them as it deems China complies with any agreement. It is unclear how such a procedure would take place. The tariffs comprise two components. Pindostan initially imposed tariffs of 25% on $50b worth of goods and then raised a levy of 10% on $200b worth of products. The first package saw China respond with tariffs on agricultural products, which have had had a significant impact on Pindo producers. Bloomberg has reported that some Pindo producers have said the economic pressure is the most severe since the farm crisis of the 1980s and profits are half what they were in 2013. There is concern that any lifting of tariffs by China may only involve a limited range of goods such as soybeans and pork. Both sides face pressure not to make concessions. Xi will come under criticism, if not publicly then at least within the regime, if it appears that he has capitulated to Pindostan. On other side, Trump, who is anxious to secure what he continually touts as a “great deal” in order to boost financial markets and his electoral stocks, will come under fire if he is seen to be conceding too much to the Chinese. Sen Marco Rubio, one of the main anti-China hawks in the Thug Party, indicated some of the forms that opposition might take, saying:

Beyond the field of trade, we have to deal with what’s a relentless onslaught, including cyber-attacks and Chinese soft power. All these things have to be taken into account.

Steve Bannon noted in recent comments that opposition to any deal could come from both sides of the political establishment. Bannon said:

So far no one has gotten to the right of Trump on China, but once the details of the proposed deal emerge, criticism could emerge from e.g. Rubio, Schumer and Trumka (AFL-CIO President), saying the agreement isn’t tough enough.

julian in the belly of the beast

Pindostan preparing more charges against Julian Assange
Kristina Betinis, WSWS, Apr 19 2019

On Wednesday, according to a newly unsealed document, CNN reported that federal prosecutors confirmed there is an “ongoing criminal investigation” of Julian Assange and “affiliates.” According to the CNN report, at least one document related to this investigation has been withheld from the public due to “ongoing activity.” The revelation, CNN reported, “confirms CNN and other news outlets’ reporting in recent days that WikiLeaks is connected to at least one probe that could result in more criminal charges.” The report confirms the warnings that the charges related to computer hacking leveled against Assange are merely a pretext for his extradition to Pindostan, after which additional charges would be brought against him. On Apr 11, Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrested by British officials on the public charge of conspiracy to bypass a password. That charge dated back to events in the 2011 WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs. Chelsea Manning turned over more than half a million documents exposing Pindo war crimes and corruption to WikiLeaks for publication. The expulsion and arrest of Assange has been accompanied by an unrestrained campaign of media vilification aimed at transforming Assange into a non-person undeserving of democratic rights, but since Assange has been imprisoned in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison, public comments made by leading Demagogs and Pindo media mavens indicate that charge was not the primary aim of the Pindo investigation. Demagog Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer tweeted:

Now that Julian Assange has been arrested, I hope he will soon be held to account for his meddling in our elections on behalf of Putin and the Russian government.

Demagog chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel tweeted:

He time after time compromised the national security of Pindostan & our vassals by publicly releasing classified government documents and confidential materials related to our 2016 presidential election.

Pindo, British and Ecuadorian governments have claimed Assange’s extradition is proper because Pindostan is indicting on a single charge, of attempting to help Chelsea Manning bypass a password. But this has now been revealed to be only the pretext. The real reason that Pindostan wants custody of the whistleblower was stated by Schumer and Engel. On Apr 15, we wrote that these statements demonstrate the extradition proceedings are being conducted under false pretenses:

The single public charge is a cover. The government is planning to interrogate Assange, compel him to provide testimony and further prosecute him for exposing Pindo war crimes.

In Dec 2017, Pindo prosecutors told a federal judge they wanted to keep the charges Assange might face secret, because learning of them might have caused him to flee the Ecuadorian embassy. According to CNN, the recently unsealed documents indicate that a grand jury in Virginia indicted Assange in 2018, and prosecutors again demanded the charges be kept secret for the same reason, and added their worries about evidence tampering and witness intimidation. Cassandra Fairbanks of Gateway Pundit visited Assange more than once during his imprisonment in the London embassy offices. She confirmed her visits with Assange have been the subject of the recent investigation. She told WSWS:

I was informed on Monday that there is a secret grand jury against Julian, and two witnesses were questioned about me meeting with him, though they have not subpoenaed or questioned me directly. The witnesses told me that they were asked separately if they knew any Pindo persons who had met with Assange. When they didn’t really answer the question, they were asked specifically about me, and also a list of other people who have visited Assange.

Since Assange’s arrest, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was prosecuted by the Obama administration in 2012 for exposing the torture of detainees, has taken to social media to emphasize:

A fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, under Judge Leonie Brinkema, is utterly impossible. They don’t call EDVA the ‘Espionage Court’ for nothing.

hunt the thimble

Robert Mueller Did Not Merely Reject the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theories. He Obliterated Them.
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, Apr 18 2019

The two-pronged conspiracy theory that has dominated Pindo political discourse for almost three years, that (1) Trump, his family and his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, and (2) Trump is beholden to Putin, was not merely rejected today by the final report of Mueller. It was obliterated: in an undeniable and definitive manner. The key fact is this: Mueller, contrary to weeks of false media claims, did not merely issue a narrow, cramped, legalistic finding that there was insufficient evidence to indict Trump associates for conspiring with Russia and then proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That would have been devastating enough to those who spent the last two years or more misleading people to believe that conspiracy convictions of Trump’s closest aides and family members were inevitable. But his mandate was much broader than that: to state what did or did not happen. That’s precisely what he did: Mueller, in addition to concluding that evidence was insufficient to charge any Pindo with crimes relating to Russian election interference, also stated emphatically in numerous instances that there was no evidence, not merely that there was insufficient evidence to obtain a criminal conviction, that key prongs of this three-year-old conspiracy theory actually happened. As Mueller himself put it:

In some instances, the report points out the absence of evidence or conflicts in the evidence about a particular fact or event.

With regard to Facebook ads and Twitter posts from the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, for example, Mueller could not have been more blunt:

The investigation did not identify evidence that any Pindo persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.

Note that this exoneration includes not only Trump campaign officials but all Pindos:

To get a further sense for how definitive the Report’s rejection is of the key elements of the alleged conspiracy theory, consider Mueller’s discussion of efforts by George Papadopoulos, Joseph Misfud and and “two Russian nationals” whereby they tried “to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian officials” to talk about how the two sides could work together to disseminate information about Hillary Clinton. As Mueller puts it:

No meeting took place.

Several of the media’s most breathless and hyped “bombshells” were dismissed completely by Mueller. Regarding various Trump officials’ 2016 meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Mueller said they were “brief, public and non-substantive.” Concerning the much-hyped change to GOP platform regarding Ukraine, Mueller wrote:

The evidence does not establish that one campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Thug platform was undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.

Mueller further noted that such a change was consistent with Trump’s publicly stated foreign policy view (one shared by Obama) to avoid provoking gratuitous conflict with the Kremlin over arming Ukrainians. Mueller also characterized a widely hyped “meeting” between then-Senator Jeff Sessions and Kislyak as one that did not “include any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.” Regarding one of the most-cited pieces of evidence by Trump/Russia conspiracists, that Russia tried once Trump was nominated to shape his foreign policy posture toward Russia, Mueller concluded that there is simply no evidence to support it:

In other crucial areas, Mueller did not go so far as to say that his investigation “did not identify evidence” but nonetheless concluded that his 22-month investigation “did not establish” that the key claims of the conspiracy theory were true. Regarding alleged involvement by Trump officials or family members in the Russian hacks, for instance, Mueller explained:

As for the overarching maximalist conspiracy, that Trump and/or members of his family and campaign were controlled by or working for the Russian government, Mueller concluded that this belief simply lacked the evidence necessary to prosecute anyone for it:

And Mueller’s examination of all the so-called “links” between Trump campaign officials and Russia that the Pindo media has spent almost three years depicting as “bombshell” evidence of criminality met the same fate: the evidence could not, and did not, establish that any such links constituted “coordination” or “conspiracy” between Trump and Russia:

Perhaps most amazingly, even low-level ancillary hangers onto the Trump campaign that even many Russiagate skeptics thought might end up being charged as Russian agents were not. All the way back in Mar 2017, in reporting that even anti-Trump intelligence officials were warning Demagogs that there was no solid evidence of a Trump/Russia conspiracy, I predicted that the appointment of a Special Counsel (which I vehemently favored) would likely end up finding evidence of financial impropriety by Paul Manafort unrelated to the 2016 election, as well as a possible indictment of someone like Carter Page for acting in concert with the Russian government:

But so vacant is the Mueller investigation when it comes to supporting any of the prevailing conspiracy theories that it did not find even a single American whom it could indict or charge with illegally working for Russia, secretly acting as a Russian agent, or conspiring with the Russians over the election – not even Carter Page. That means that even long-time Russiagate skeptics such as myself over-estimated the level of criminality and conspiracy evidence that Robert Mueller would find:

In sum, Demagogs and their supporters had the exact prosecutor they all agreed was the embodiment of competence and integrity in Robert Mueller. He assembled a team of prosecutors and investigators that countless media accounts heralded as the most aggressive and adept in the nation. They had subpoena power, the vast surveillance apparatus of the Pindo government at their disposal, a demonstrated willingness to imprison anyone who lied to them, and unlimited time and resources to dig up everything they could. The result of all of that was that not a single Pindo, whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise, was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election. No Pindos were charged or even accused of being controlled by or working at the behest of the Russian government. Not one of the key White House aides at the center of the controversy who testified for hours and hours, including Don Jr & Jared, was charged with any crimes of any kind, not even perjury, obstruction of justice or lying to Congress. These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned Pindo discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the Pindo government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President. They got the exact prosecutor and investigation that they wanted, yet he could not establish that any of this happened and, in many cases, established that it did not.

The anti-climactic ending of the Mueller investigation is particularly stunning, given how broad Mueller’s investigative scope ended up being, extending far beyond the 2016 election into years worth of Trump’s alleged financial dealings with Russia and, obviously, Manafort’s with Ukraine and Russia. There can simply be no credible claim that Mueller was, in any meaningful way, impeded by scope, resources or topic limitation from finding anything for which he searched. Despite efforts today by long-time conspiracist theorists to drastically move goalposts so as to claim vindication, the historical record could not be clearer that Mueller’s central mandate was to determine whether crimes were committed by Trump officials in connection with alleged Russian interference in the election. The first paragraph of the NYT article from May 2017, announcing Mueller’s appointment, leaves no doubt about that:

The DoJ appointed Robert S Mueller III, a former FBI director, as special counsel on Wednesday to oversee the investigation into ties between Pres Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Mr Trump’s four-month-old presidency.

As recently as one month ago, former CIA Director and current NBC News analyst John Brennan was confidently predicting that Mueller could not possibly close his investigation without first indicting a slew of Americans for criminally conspiring with Russia over the election, and specifically predicted that Trump’s family members would be included among those so charged:

Obviously, none of that happened. Nor were any of the original accusations that launched this three-year-long mania, from an accusatory Aug 2016 online commercial from the Clinton campaign, corroborated by the Mueller Report:

Indeed, so many of the most touted media “bombshells” claiming to establish Trump/Russia crimes have been proven false by this report. Despite an extensive discussion of Paul Manafort’s activities, nothing in the Report even hints, let alone states, that he ever visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy, let alone visited him three times, including during the 2016 election. How the Guardian could justify still not retracting that false story is mystifying. Faring even worse is the Buzzfeed bombshell from January claiming:

Pres Trump directed his long-time attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did, in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

Mueller himself responded to the story by insisting it was false, and his Report directly contradicts it, as it makes clear that Cohen told Mueller the exact opposite:

Equally debunked is CNN’s major blockbuster by Jim Sciutto, Carl Bernstein, and Marshall Cohen from last July:

Michael Cohen, Pres Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the Jun 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.

The Mueller Report says the exact opposite: that Cohen had no knowledge of Trump’s advanced knowledge. And the less said about the Steele Dossier, pee-pee tapes, secret meetings in Prague, and indescribably unhinged claims like this one, the better:

But beyond the gutting of these core conspiracy claims is that Mueller’s investigation probed areas far beyond the initial scope of Trump/Russia election-conspiring, and came up empty. Among other things, Mueller specifically examined Trump’s financial dealings with Russia to determine whether that constituted incriminating evidence of corrupt links:

Because Trump’s status as a public figure at the time was attributable in large part to his prior business and entertainment dealings, this Office investigated whether a business contact with Russia-linked individuals and entities during the campaign period—the Trump Tower Moscow project, see Volume I, Section IV.A.1, infra—led to or involved coordination.

Indeed, Mueller’s examination of Trump’s financial dealings with Russia long pre-dates the start of the Trump campaign, going back several years before the election:

Mueller additionally made clear that he received authorization to investigate numerous Pindos for ties to Russia despite their not being formally associated with the Trump campaign, including Michael Cohen and Roger Stone. And regarding Cohen, Mueller specifically was authorized to investigate any attempts by Cohen to “receive funds from Russia-backed entities.” None of this deep diving to other individuals or years of alleged financial dealings with Russian resulted in any finding that Trump or any of his associates were controlled by, or corruptly involved with, the Russian government. Then there is the issue of Manafort’s relationship with the Ukrainians, and specifically his providing of polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, an episode which Trump/Putin conspiracist Marcy Wheeler, along with many others, particularly hyped over and over. To begin with, Mueller said his office “did not identify evidence of a connection” between that act and “Russian interference in the election,” nor did he “establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-inteference efforts”:

Also endlessly hyped by Wheeler and other conspiracists were the post-election contacts between Trump and Russia: as though it’s unusual that a major power would seek to build new, constructive relationships with a newly elected administration. Indeed, Wheeler went so far as to cite these post-election contacts to turn her own source into the FBI on the ground that it constituted smoking gun evidence, an act for which she was praised by the Washington Post (nothing Wheeler claimed about the evidence “related to the Mueller investigation” that she claimed to possess appears to be in the Mueller Report). Here again, the Mueller Report could not substantiate any of these claims:

The centerpiece of the Trump/Russia conspiracy, the Trump Tower meeting, was such a dud that Jared Kushner, halfway through the meeting, texted Manafort to declare the meeting “a waste of time” and then instructed his assistant to call him so that he could concoct a reason to leave. Not only could Mueller not find any criminality in this meeting relating to election conspiring, but he could not even use election law to claim it was an illegal gift of something of value from a foreigner, because, among other things, the information offered was of so little value that it could not even pass the $2k threshold required to charge someone for a misdemeanor, let alone the $25k required to make it a felony. Neither the Trump Tower meeting itself nor its participants, for so long held up as proof of the Trump/Russia conspiracy, could serve as the basis for any finding of criminality. Indeed, the key Trumpworld participants who testified about what happened at that meeting and its aftermath (Don Jr & Jared) were not even accused by Mueller of lying about any of it.

None of this is to say that the Mueller Report exonerates Trump of wrongdoing. Mueller makes clear, for instance, that the Trump campaign not only knew that Russia was interested in helping it win the election but was happy to have that help. There’s clearly nothing criminal about that. One can debate whether it’s unethical for a presidential campaign to have dirt about its opponent released by a foreign government, though anyone who wants to argue that has to reconcile that with the fact that the DNC had a contractor working with the Ukrainian government to help Hillary Clinton win by feeding them dirt on Trump and Manafort, as well as a paid operative named Christopher Steele working with Russian officials to get dirt on Trump.

As is true of all investigations, Mueller’s team could not access all relevant information. Some was rendered inaccessible through encryption. Other information was deleted, perhaps with corrupt motives. And some witnesses lied or otherwise tried to obstruct the investigation. As a result, it’s of course possible that incriminating evidence existed that Mueller, armed with subpoena power, unlimited resources, 22 months of investigative work and a huge team of top-flight prosecutors, FBI agents, intelligence analysts and forensic accountants, did not find. But anything is possible. It’s inherently possible that anyone is guilty of any crime, but that the evidence just cannot be found to prove it. One cannot prove a negative. The only way to rationally assess what happened is by looking at the evidence that is available, and that’s what Mueller did. After heralding Mueller and his team as the top-notch investigators that they are and building up expectations about what this would produce, there’s simply no persuasive way for any honest person to deny that the end of the Mueller investigation was a huge failure from the perspective of those who pushed these conspiracies. Mueller certainly provides substantial evidence that Russians attempted to meddle in various ways in the election, including by hacking the DNC and Podesta and through Facebook posts and tweets, but there is no real evidence that Putin himself ordered this, as was claimed since mid-2016. But that Russia had done such things has been unsurprising from the start, given how common it is for Pindostan and Russia to meddle in everyone’s affairs, including one another’s, but the scope and size of it continues to be minute in the context of overall election spending:

To reach larger Pindo audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of Pindo audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100k.

The section of Mueller’s report on whether Trump criminally attempted to obstruct the investigation is full of evidence and episodes that show Trump being dishonest, misleading, and willing to invoke potentially corrupt tactics to put an end to it. But ultimately, the most extreme of those tactics were not invoked (at times because Trump’s aides refused), and the actions in which Trump engaged were simply not enough for Mueller to conclude that he was guilty of criminal obstruction. As Mueller himself concluded, a reasonable debate can be conducted on whether Trump tried to obstruct his investigation with corrupt intent. But even on the case of obstruction, the central point looms large over all of it: there was no underlying crime established for Trump to cover-up. All criminal investigations require a determination of a person’s intent, what they are thinking and what their goal is. When the question is whether a President sought to kill an Executive Branch investigation, as Trump clearly wanted to do here, the determinative issue is whether he did so because he genuinely believed the investigation to be an unfair persecution and scam, or whether he did it to corruptly conceal evidence of criminality. That Mueller could not and did not establish any underlying crimes strongly suggests that Trump acted with the former rather than the latter motive, making it virtually impossible to find that he criminally obstructed the investigation.

The nature of our political discourse is that nobody ever needs to admit error because it is easy to confine oneself to strictly partisan precincts where people are far more interested in hearing what advances their agenda or affirms their beliefs than they are hearing the truth. For that reason, I doubt that anyone who spent the last three years pushing utterly concocted conspiracy theories will own up to it, let alone confront any accountability or consequences for it. But certain facts will never go away no matter how much denial they embrace. The sweeping Mueller investigation ended with zero indictments of zero Pindos for conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election. Don Jr and Jared, the key participants in the Trump Tower meeting, both testified for hours and hours yet were never charged for perjury, lying or obstruction, even though Mueller proved how easily he would indict anyone who lied as part of the investigation. And this massive investigation simply did not establish any of the conspiracy theories that huge parts of the Demagog Party, the intelligence community and the Pindo media spent years encouraging the public to believe. Those responsible for this can refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing. They can even claim vindication if they want and will likely be cheered for doing so. But the contempt in which the media and political class is held by so much of the Pindo population, undoubtedly a leading factor that led to Trump’s election in the first place, will only continue to grow as a result, and deservedly so. People know they were scammed, that their politics was drowned for years by a hoax. And none of that will go away no matter how insulated media and political elites in Washington, northern Virginia, Brooklyn, and large West Coast cities keep themselves, and thus hear only in-group affirmation while blocking out all of that well-earned scorn.

Correction: A paragraph was originally included that misread a tweet from earlier today by the NYT’s Kenneth Vogel in which he asserted that the Mueller Report confirmed rather than negated the NYT’s original and now retracted report about Paul Manafort. In that tweet, Vogel was suggesting that the NYT’s retraction was wrong, as Marcy Wheeler argued, not that the original story was wrong. That paragraph, which also critiqued Wheeler’s analysis of the NYT’s retraction, was in error and was deleted almost immediately after publication of this article.

dream wars

Mueller report re-ignites political warfare in Faschingstein
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Apr 19 2019

The release on Thursday morning of the Mueller report has become the occasion for a resumption of full-scale political warfare in Faschingstein between two equally right-wing factions: the Trump administration, with its fascistic base of support, and the Demagog Party, aligned with dominant sections of the military intelligence apparatus. Within minutes of the issuance of the slightly redacted document, Congressional Demagogs were claiming confirmation of their charges of Trump’s collaboration with Russia, while the White House and Fox News were hailing the president’s complete vindication. Both sides found ammunition for their claims in the 448-page report. Mueller’s nearly two-year-long investigation focused on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign, and Trump’s subsequent efforts to block and shut down the investigation. The Mueller report is divided into two books: one on the claims of Russian intervention, the other on possible charges of obstruction of justice. The Mueller report accepts as good coin the assertion by Pindo intelligence agencies that Russian hackers stole documents from the Demagog Party and delivered them to WikiLeaks, which published them in Jul-Oct 2016. These documents demonstrated that the DNC sought to rig the primary campaign for Clinton against her main challenger, Bernie Sanders, and revealed the text of speeches Clinton delivered behind closed doors to Wall Street audiences, assuring the bankers that a Clinton administration would serve their interests. Far from representing illicit intervention by Moscow, the WikiLeaks revelations were a rare injection of truth into an election campaign dominated by the endless lies of both sides, each claiming to represent the interests of Pindo working people when both parties, the Demagogs as much as the Thugs, represent big business and the financial aristocracy. The revelations about Clinton had considerable impact, but they hardly decided the outcome of the election, in which Clinton demonstratively refused to make any appeal to the working class, relying instead on her support from the national security establishment. As for the social media campaign, the other supposed component of Russian election interference, it was trivial in its impact. By one calculation, Russian entities spent $75k on Facebook ads, emails and texts, a drop in the bucket for an election campaign in which the Demagogs, Thugs and billionaires backing one side or the other spent close to $5b.

The report’s categorical declaration that the Russian intelligence agencies were the source of the leaked emails published by WikiLeaks, a claim that cannot be verified by any publicly-available evidence, will set the stage for an escalation of the bipartisan efforts to criminalize WikiLeaks, jail its publisher Julian Assange, and drastically crack down on the freedom of expression on the internet. After reviewing in detail the incidental contacts between Trump campaign aides and Russians, both government boxtops and private citizens, the Mueller report concludes that no Trump aides worked on behalf of the Russian government and that there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to collaborate against Clinton. Mueller rejected the word “collusion” as legally meaningless. This finding refutes the core of the anti-Russia campaign waged by the Demagogs and their media allies for the past two years, three years if one includes the claims of Russian support for Trump by Clinton’s own campaign. In the most fevered version, Trump is an agent of Vladimir Putin in the White House. Commenting on the report, journalist Glenn Greenwald noted:

The result of all of that was that not a single Pindo, whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise, was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election. No Pindos were charged or even accused of being controlled by or working at the behest of the Russian government. These facts are fatal to the conspiracy theorists who have drowned Pindo discourse for almost three years with a dangerous and distracting fixation on a fictitious espionage thriller involved unhinged claims of sexual and financial blackmail, nefarious infiltration of the Pindo government by familiar foreign villains, and election cheating that empowered an illegitimate President.

Since Trump entered the White House, the Demagogts have chosen to focus their opposition to Trump on the claims of a Russian connection, not his attacks on immigrants, open appeals to fascists, or tax cuts for the wealthy. Rather than mobilize popular opposition to this ultra-right government, the Demagogs have resorted to the methods of a palace coup, aligning themselves with the faction of the national-security apparatus that sought to continue the aggressive anti-Russian policy in Syria, Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, adopted during the second term of the Obama administration. The second volume of the Mueller report details a series of 10 episodes, each of which could constitute an instance of obstruction of justice, ranging from Trump’s efforts to obtain leniency for his former NSA Michael Flynn, to his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his attempts to fire Mueller himself, and his dangling pardons in front of witnesses ranging from former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to Michael Cohen, former attorney and “fixer” for the Trump Organization. Mueller rejects the authoritarian argument of Trump’s legal counsel that the president cannot be charged with obstruction of justice because, as head of the executive branch, he is in charge of all its activities, including decisions to investigate and prosecute crimes. This is an updated version of the doctrine of Richard Nixon that was ultimately exploded in Watergate:

If the president does it, it must be legal.

On each of the 10 episodes, Mueller gives lengthy details, then makes a three-part analysis: was there an overt act of obstruction, was this connected to an ongoing investigation, and was the president’s intent to obstruct? In nearly every instance, he answers all three questions in the affirmative. The conclusion of this section, however, is that Trump is neither exonerated nor indicted, a finding trumpeted by Attorney General William Barr last month in a four-page letter to Congress announcing the completion of the investigation. According to the Mueller report, however, the failure to indict is not the result of lack of evidence, as Barr suggested. In a key section, at the beginning of the second volume, Mueller explains that his investigation was bound by a ruling of the Office of Legal Counsel, another part of the DoJ, that a sitting president cannot be indicted on criminal charges. The only constitutional remedy for criminal conduct in the White House is congressional action, he writes:

The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

In other words, the only available recourse is impeachment. This portion of the report paints a picture of a White House under siege from the campaign being waged by sections of the military intelligence apparatus, backed by the Demagog Party and the media, using the bogus Russia allegations to provoke Trump into engaging in brazen interference in the Russia investigation, while key White House aides and advisers try to hold him back. Mueller writes:

The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or acceded to his requests.

The response of the Demagogs to the Mueller report was to redouble the claims of Russian interference, while at the same time highlighting the charges of obstruction of justice. Rep Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which would handle any impeachment proceeding, said that there would be hearings on the report immediately, beginning with the summoning of Mueller to testify about the evident conflict between his assessment of the case against Trump and that delivered by Barr in his letter to Congress, where he emphasized that Trump had been cleared on all counts. Most leading congressional Demagogs were hedging their bets on impeachment, however, citing the likelihood that the Thug-controlled Senate would refuse to convict Trump and remove him from office. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and HPSCI chair Adam Schiff all cautioned against any rush to impeachment without significant support from the Thugs.