first, the boring bits (the eye candy is beneath)

Senate hearing revives Demagog campaign over Trump’s alleged Russia connections
Patrick Martin, WSWS, May 10 2017

A hearing before a Senate subcommittee Monday became the occasion for the Demagog Party and the bulk of the corporate media to revive their campaign of unsupported allegations that the Trump presidential campaign collaborated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 election. The two witnesses were former DNI Clapper and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who served as acting attorney general for the first 10 days of the Trump administration. She was fired by Trump on Jan 30 for opposing his executive order to ban travel from seven predominately Muslim countries. Clapper added little to his previous appearances before House and Senate committees, in which he repeatedly claimed there is massive evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, while declining to detail any of it on the grounds that the subject is classified. These unsupported allegations are accompanied by the declaration that there is no evidence of collusion between Trump campaign aides and the alleged Russian hackers. The testimony of Yates was widely anticipated, because of the dramatic circumstances of her dismissal from the DoJ after she instructed federal attorneys not to defend Trump’s first executive order imposing a temporary ban on visitors and refugees from seven mainly Muslim countries. She has not previously spoken in public either about her firing or about the discussions she had with White House officials that led to the ouster of Michael Flynn.

Yates described a series of meetings and phone calls with White House Counsel Donald McGahn between Jan 26-30, during the second week of the Trump administration. Yates requested a meeting with McGahn on Jan 26 to inform him, and through him Trump, that the DoJ had become aware that Flynn had given a false account of his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, during the transition period between the Nov 8 election and Trump’s inauguration on Jan 20. In particular, Flynn had denied that in a phone conversation with Kislyak on Dec 29 2016 he discussed the sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on the Russian government for its alleged interference in the Pindosi elections, including the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats stationed in Pindostan. Yates told McGahn that these denials were false, and that Flynn had lied about the matter to VP Pence. Furthermore, she argued, since the Russians knew Flynn had lied, they could use this as leverage to pressure him on other issues, rendering him vulnerable to blackmail. At the Senate hearing, Yates declined to say how she knew Flynn had lied, citing secrecy concerns. But media reports, including a WaPo article from Feb 9 that led directly to Flynn’s firing, claim that Pindosi intelligence agencies monitored the Flynn-Kislyak phone call as part of routine surveillance of Kislyak, and that the transcript of their conversations had been made available to Yates, who took the matter to the White House.

The three-hour Senate hearing was dominated by wrangling between Demagogs, who sought to present the Flynn firing in the most unflattering light, repeatedly raising the question of why it took Trump 18 days to fire the national security adviser after his lying had been exposed, and Reputhugs seeking to turn the spotlight onto the question of who in the military-intelligence apparatus or the Obama administration had leaked the Flynn-Kislyak report to the media. Both Clapper and Yates denied that they had been the anonymous sources for the media reports, or that they had authorized subordinates to do the leaking. They also rebuffed suggestions that the “unmasking” of Flynn’s name was a criminal act. Intelligence reports on phone calls to and from Kislyak would normally list any Pindosi interlocutors as “Pindo person #1” etc rather than naming them. Richard Durbin, the Demagog minority whip, cited the 18-day delay, declaring:

And during those 18 days, General Flynn continued to hire key senior staff on the NSC, announced new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, met with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe along with Pres Trump at Mar-a-Lago, participated in discussions about responding to a NK missile launch, and spoke repeatedly to the press about his communications with Russian Ambassador Kislyak!

Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota noted darkly:

After they knew about this on Jan 28, Flynn was allowed to join Pres Trump on an hour-long telephone call with Pres Putin!

Al Franken cited press reports that Obama had warned Trump at a private meeting shortly after the election not to bring Flynn into his White House. Franken asked rhetorically whether Trump feared firing Flynn because it might draw attention to “all these other people in the administration who have had contacts.” The NYT wrote:

Yates’s testimony seemed to contradict public statements made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Evidently, they described her meeting with McGahn as a “heads-up” about Flynn, while Yates described her purpose as delivering a warning of some urgency. Charges of “Russian hacking” during the elections have been employed by the Demagogs, speaking for a powerful section of the military-intelligence apparatus, to torpedo any shift by the Trump administration away from the confrontational policy towards Russia adopted by the Obama administration, particularly since the 2014 ultra-right coup in Ukraine that was heavily backed by Faschingstein. The anti-Russian propaganda has served two additional purposes. The Demagogs have used it to conceal the actual content of the tens of thousands of hacked emails from the DNC + Podesta made public by WikiLeaks. These emails demonstrated both Clinton’s close ties to Wall Street, providing the text of several flattering and lavishly paid speeches she made to financial industry audiences, and the machinations of top DNC officials to insure that Clinton and not Bernie Sanders won the Demagog presidential nomination. Even more importantly, the anti-Russian campaign has been developed as a political diversion. The Demagogs have intervened repeatedly at protest demonstrations and town hall meetings, seeking to direct popular hostility to Trump behind their efforts to pressure the White House for a more aggressive foreign policy, particularly in relation to Syria and more generally throughout the MENA and Eastern Europe.

Trump firing of FBI director touches off political storm
Patrick Martin, WSWS, May 10 2017

The surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey, announced late Tuesday afternoon, is a sign of a deep and intensifying crisis of the Trump administration. Trump’s firing of Comey smacks of desperation on the part of a White House under siege. The firing sparked widespread condemnation by Demagogs and some Rethugs, along with demands for the appointment of a special prosecutor or independent commission to investigate charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election campaign. Powerful sections of the Pindo ruling elite are moving against the Trump White House, which is so steeped in corruption that any one of a series of scandals, not just the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections, could leave it politically crippled. There were numerous media comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Watergate scandal of 1973–74, when the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned rather than carry out orders from President Richard Nixon to dismiss special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. That effort to torpedo an investigation failed: ten months later, Nixon was forced to resign as president. Unlike Watergate, however, there is no democratic principle being asserted, even in a limited fashion, by the Demagog Party opponents of the Trump administration. This is a conflict within the Pindo ruling elite and its military-intelligence apparatus, driven largely by differences over foreign policy.

No significant evidence has been produced in support of the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 Pindo elections. The real purpose of the campaign of Russia-baiting is to push the Trump administration into a more confrontational foreign policy in Syria, Central Asia, MENA and Eastern Europe, where Pindo imperialism regards Moscow as its principal obstacle. Trump has attempted to satisfy these concerns with last month’s missile strikes against Syria and a harsher rhetorical line towards Iran and Russia, but the divisions persist, as shown in the hearing Monday before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The circumstances surrounding Trump’s decision to fire Comey remained murky Tuesday night, with the White House withholding further comment following the announcement of Comey’s firing at 5:41 pm. Press reports suggest that the decision had been in preparation for at least a week, and that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who took office on Apr 26, had been commissioned to provide a rationale. The NYT reported on its website:

Senior White House and DoJ boxtops had been working on building a case against Mr Comey since at least last week, according to administration officials. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been charged with coming up with reasons to fire him, the boxtops said.

The argument for the firing elaborated in a three-page memorandum prepared by Rosenstein has no credibility. The memo focuses on Comey’s decisions about the Hillary Clinton email investigation, condemning him not for the substance of the decision that there was no crime to prosecute, but for holding a press conference to announce that decision and proceeding to attack Clinton’s conduct as “extremely careless.” The memo also criticizes Comey for the Oct 28 letter in which he informed Congress that the FBI was reopening the Clinton investigation, only 11 days before Election Day. Trump’s expressed opinions are the direct opposite of the Rosenstein memorandum. Last July, he denounced Comey’s decision not to prosecute Clinton, while “lock her up” became a standard chant at Trump rallies and at the RNC. Later, Trump hailed the Oct 28 letter as an action in which Comey “showed guts.” Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that Comey had been “the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton,” and that his decision on the email server prosecution was “a free pass for many bad deeds.” There are further contradictions. Sessions declared during his confirmation hearing that he would recuse himself from any actions relating to the case against Clinton, because of his own role in the Trump election campaign. Yet he has now countersigned the decision to fire Comey, supposedly because of the FBI director’s actions in the Clinton investigation. Sessions also said that he would recuse himself from decisions related to the ongoing investigation into possible collaboration between the Trump campaign and alleged Russian hacking of the DNC + Podesta. The firing of Comey removes the head of the agency conducting that investigation.

It is absurd to suggest that Trump fired Comey for his transgressions against Hillary Clinton, particularly when he has attacked the FBI director for going easy on her. Moreover, all the events cited in the Rosenstein memo took place before the 2016 election, while Trump reiterated his support for Comey continuing in office as recently as February. He observed that Comey was serving a fixed ten-year term until 2023. What has changed in the interim? On Mar 20, at a nationally televised House Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey confirmed for the first time that the FBI had opened an investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Since then, a series of former campaign advisers and aides has been interrogated by the FBI, each undoubtedly pressured to save their own skins at the expense of those higher up, in a chain leading inexorably to Trump himself. Most serious appears to be the attention given to Michael Flynn, who has been publicly accused of failing to report significant income from individuals and businesses linked to Russia, and who was so close to Trump that he was actively considered as a possible running mate. The extreme sensitivity in the White House to Comey’s role in the Russia investigation was indicated in the second paragraph of the official letter from Trump to Comey informing him of his dismissal. Trump wrote:

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the DoJ that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.

The White House apparently informed only a handful of congress critturs ahead of the firing, including Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein, the top Rethug & Demagog on the Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee that oversees the FBI. Graham publicly endorsed the firing, while Feinstein did not oppose it. Among other Demagog senators and congressmen, however, there was near-unanimous opposition. Richard Durbin declared on the Senate floor:

Any attempt to stop or undermine this FBI investigation would raise grave constitutional issues. We await clarification by the White House as soon as possible as to whether this investigation will continue and whether it will have a credible lead so that we know that it’ll have a just outcome.

Charles Schumer noted Trump’s firing of Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and now Comey, saying on Twitter:

If we don’t get a special prosecutor, every Pindostani will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire Comey was part of a cover-up.

Richard Burr, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation into the Russian hacking allegations, declared:

I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Jim Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order.

Walnuts McCain chairman of the Armed Services Committee, reiterated his support for a special investigating committee, saying in a statement:

I have long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The president’s decision to remove the FBI director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee.

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