Category Archives: Donald Trump

Seymour Hersh: Trump Ignored Intel Before Bombing Syria

Aaron Maté speaks with veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh who reports that President Trump bombed a Syrian military airfield in April despite warnings that U.S. intelligence had found no evidence that the Assad regime used a chemical weapon. His latest piece for Die Welt is titled: Trump’s Red Line(The Real News)

The National Enquirer’s Fervor for Trump

Jeffrey Toobin writes for The New Yorker:

Image result for The National Enquirer’s Fervor for Trump[…] The Enquirer is defined by its predatory spirit—its dedication to revealing that celebrities, far from leading ideal lives, endure the same plagues of disease, weight gain, and family dysfunction that afflict everyone else. For much of the tabloid’s history, it has specialized in investigations into the foibles of public personalities, including politicians. In 1987, the Enquirer published a photograph of Senator Gary Hart with his mistress Donna Rice, in front of a boat called the Monkey Business, which doomed Hart’s Presidential candidacy. Two decades later, the magazine broke the news that John Edwards had fathered a child out of wedlock during his Presidential race. When Donald Trump decided to run for President, some people at the Enquirer assumed that the magazine would apply the same scrutiny to the candidate’s colorful personal history. “We used to go after newsmakers no matter what side they were on,” a former Enquirer staffer told me. “And Trump is a guy who is running for President with a closet full of baggage. He’s the ultimate target-rich environment. The Enquirer had a golden opportunity, and they completely looked the other way.”

Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, the Enquirer embraced Trump with sycophantic fervor. The magazine made its first political endorsement ever, of Trump, last spring. Cover headlines promised, “donald trump’s revenge on hillary & her puppets” and “top secret plan inside: how trump will win debate!” The publication trashed Trump’s rivals, running a dubious cover story on Ted Cruz that described him as a philanderer and another highly questionable piece that linked Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

It was even tougher on Hillary Clinton, regularly printing such headlines as “ ‘sociopath’ hillary clinton’s secret psych files exposed!” A 2015 piece began, “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clintonto an early grave, The National Enquirer has learned in a bombshell investigation. The desperate and deteriorating 67-year-old won’t make it to the White House—because she’ll be dead in six months.” On election eve, the Enquirer offered a special nine-page investigation under the headline “hillary: corruptracistcriminal!” This blatantly skewed coverage continued after Trump took office. Post-election cover stories included “trump takes chargesuccess in just 36 days!” and “proof obama wiretapped trumplies, leaks & illegal bugging.

Pecker and Trump have been friends for decades—their professional and personal lives have intersected in myriad ways—and Pecker acknowledges that his tabloids’ coverage of Trump has a personal dimension. All Presidents seek to influence the media, but Trump enjoys unusual advantages in this regard. He is also in close contact with Rupert Murdoch, whose empire includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. (While the Times and the Washington Post have produced repeated scoops about Trump and Russia, the Journal, which employs a large investigative staff, has largely been silent on the issue.) Unlike Murdoch, Pecker heads a fading and vaguely comic archetype of Americana; sales of the Enquirer are down ninety per cent from their peak in 1970. But the impact of the tabloids, particularly their covers, remains substantial. A.M.I. claims that a hundred million people see the Enquirer in more than two hundred thousand checkout lines around the country every week. And the Enquirer’s covers invariably include statements about celebrities that are deeply misleading, if libel-law-compliant, as well as claims about politicians that are outright lies.

Pecker is now considering expanding his business: he may bid to take over the financially strapped magazines of Time, Inc., which include TimePeople, and Fortune. Based on his stewardship of his own publications, Pecker would almost certainly direct those magazines, and the journalists who work for them, to advance the interests of the President and to damage those of his opponents—which makes the story of the Enquirer and its chief executive a little more important and a little less funny.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Part of Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect Before Ruling on Constitutionality

Amy Goodman speaks with Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate.com. She is their senior legal correspondent and Supreme Court reporter, about the U.S. Supreme Court announcing that it will allow for the partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries while the court examines the constitutionality of the order. Trump’s executive order called for a 90-day ban on travellers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees. The court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case in October. Three justices—Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch—issued a separate ruling supporting the full implementation of the travel ban. (Democracy Now!) 

Trump‘s Red Line

Seymour M. Hersh reports for Die Welt:

Retaliation: Tomahawk missiles from the "USS Porter" on the way to the Shayrat Air Base on April 6, 2017On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

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The Reichstag Fire Next Time

Masha Gessen writes for Harper’s Magazine:

When each day brings more news than we are used to seeing in a week, and the kind of news that only the most catastrophic imagination can accommodate, we find ourselves talking about the Reichstag fire. Time feels both accelerated and slowed down, and so we imagine that we have been talking about the fire for years. It is the new president’s new clothes: invisible, yet always present in our perception of him.

The Reichstag fire, it goes almost without saying, will be a terrorist attack, and it will mark our sudden, obvious, and irreversible descent into autocracy. Here is what it looks like: On a sunny morning you turn on the television as you make coffee, or the speaker in your shower streams the news, or the radio comes on when you turn the ignition key in your car. The voices of the newscasters are familiar, but their pitch is altered, and they speak with a peculiar haste. Something horrible has happened—it is not yet clear what—and thousands are dead, and more are expected to die. You hear the word “terror.” You feel it.

You reach for your cell phone, but the circuits are busy, and will be for hours—it will take you the rest of the day to check in with your loved ones. They are safe, but changed. And so are you. So are all of us. Tragedy has cast its shadow over every space where you encounter strangers: the subway, your child’s school, your lunch spot. People are quieter, less frivolous, yet they are not subdued. They share a sense of purpose that is greater than their fear. They are experiencing something they’d only read about: War has come to their land. Everyone is a patriot now.

You used to scoff at that word, or argue that dissent was the highest form of patriotism. But now you find that the word expresses what you are. Now is not the moment for dissent. A couple of public intellectuals insist that it is, and you feel embarrassed for them. They quickly fade from the scene, and this serves to underscore an unprecedented sort of unity.

Nowhere is this unity more evident than in Washington. Bills are passed unanimously. These laws give new powers to the president and his security apparatus. The president, unpopular and widely considered incompetent before the attack, now steps up to direct the war effort. His demeanor—which some used to deride as primitive—is well suited for this new black-and-white era. His administration institutes sweeping surveillance to ferret out enemies at home, and wages one war and then another abroad.

American public life is profoundly transformed. The press becomes uncritical of the government. There is no outright censorship; correspondents are part of the effort now, as they were during the Second World War. American casualties pile up, the foreign carnage is enormous and unmeasured, but there is scant domestic resistance. Only at the margins of politics and the media do some people question the usefulness and legality of the war effort.

The government pushes the limits further, cutting off access to the judiciary for those deemed the enemy. The president is no longer unpopular, and he can impose his will on Washington and the country. The country is in a forever war, a state of exception that has taken away many American freedoms, some of which were ceded voluntarily.

That is what we talk about when we talk about the Reichstag fire, and it has already happened. Like sad versions of the characters in The Wizard of Oz, who set off in search of traits they already possess, we are living in fear of an event that will catapult us into a terrifying future, when the event has already occurred—and has given us our terrifying present.

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The Megyn Kelly Interview with Infowars’ Alex Jones

Here’s the full segment of Megyn Kelly’s interview with right-wing talk radio host and conspiracy kingpin Alex Jones of Infowars. An interesting enough piece but there’s no mention of the role Matt Druge played in elevating Jones to his current position. Also included is Alex Jones’ response where he plays clips of the pre-interview phone call between  himself and Megyn Kelly. (NBC News/Infowars)

Why the White House Is Reading Greek History

Michael Crowley reports for Politico:

Image result for ThucydidesThe Trump White House isn’t known as a hot spot for Ivy League intellectuals. But last month, a Harvard academic slipped into the White House complex for an unusual meeting. Graham Allison, an avuncular foreign policy thinker who served under Reagan and Clinton, was paying a visit to the National Security Council, where he briefed a group of staffers on one of history’s most studied conflicts—a brutal war waged nearly 2,500 years ago, one whose lessons still resonate, even in the administration of a president who doesn’t like to read.

The subject was America’s rivalry with China, cast through the lens of ancient Greece. The 77-year-old Allison is the author of a recent book based on the writings of Thucydides, the ancient historian famous for his epic chronicle of the Peloponnesian War between the Greek states of Athens and Sparta. Allison cites the Greek scholar’s summation of why the two powers fought: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” He warns that the same dynamic could drive this century’s rising empire, China, and the United States into a war neither wants. Allison calls this the “Thucydides Trap,” and it’s a question haunting some very important people in the Trump administration, particularly as Chinese officials arrive Wednesday for “diplomatic and security dialogue” talks between Washington and Beijing designed, in large part, to avoid conflict between the world’s two strongest nations.

It might seem curious that an ancient Greek would cast a shadow over a meeting between a group of diplomats and generals from America and Asia. Most Americans probably don’t know Thucydides from Mephistopheles. But the Greek writer is a kind of demigod to international relations theorists and military historians, revered for his elegant chronicle of one of history’s most consequential wars, and his timeless insights into the nature of politics and warfare. The Yale University historian Donald Kagan calls Thucydides’ account “a source of wisdom about the behavior of human beings under the enormous pressures imposed by war, plague, and civil strife.”

Thucydides is especially beloved by the two most influential figures on Trump’s foreign policy team. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has called Thucydides’ work an “essential” military text, taught it to students and quoted from it in speeches and op-eds. Defense Secretary James Mattis is also fluent in Thucydides’ work: “If you say to him, ‘OK, how about the Melian Dialogue?’ he could tell you exactly what it is,” Allison says—referring to one particularly famous passage. When former Defense Secretary William Cohen introduced him at his confirmation hearing, Cohen said Mattis was likely the only person present “who can hear the words ‘Thucydides Trap’ and not have to go to Wikipedia to find out what it means.”

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Tillerson Calls for Regime Change in Iran

Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani reports for Think Progress:

The new U.S. policy towards Iran includes regime change, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson was asked on Wednesday whether the United States supports regime change inside Iran. He replied in the affirmative, saying that U.S. policy is driven by relying on “elements inside of Iran” to bring about “peaceful transition of that government.”

He made the comments in a hearing on the 2018 State Department budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson about U.S. policy towards Iran, including whether the U.S. government would sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and whether the U.S. supported “a philosophy of regime change.”

“They are doing bad things throughout the world, on behalf of terrorism and destroying human rights of many people,” Poe said, referring to the IRGC. “I’d like to know what the policy is of the U.S. toward Iran. Do we support the current regime? Do we support a philosophy of regime change, peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state. So is the U.S. position to leave things as they are or set up a peaceful long-term regime change?”

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No Is Not Enough: Naomi Klein on Her New Book

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with journalist and author Naomi Klein about her book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. (Democracy Now!)

 

Erik Prince’s Dark Plan for Afghanistan: Military Occupation for Profit

Matthew Pulver reports for Salon:

Erik Prince's dark plan for Afghanistan: Military occupation for profit, not securityLost in the cascade of stories of potential White House criminality and collusion with foreign governments is the Erik Prince affair. It is reported that Prince, the brother of controversial  Education Secretary Betsy Devos who established his power in Washington with his mercenary army Blackwater during the Iraq war, met with Russian intermediaries in an obscure Indian Ocean archipelago to establish back-channel communication with Moscow, possibly in coordination with the efforts of Jared Kushner, who last week was reported to have sought a White House back channel to the Kremlin.

Bloomberg reports that during the presidential transition late last year “Prince was very much a presence, providing advice to Trump’s inner circle, including his top national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.” While President-elect Trump, in reality show style, paraded administration applicants through the gilded front doors of of Trump Tower for the gauntlet of cameras, Prince “entered Trump Tower through the back,” reports Bloomberg.

Prince met at least several times with the Trump team, according to the multiply sourced reporting, including once on a train from New York to Washington, where Prince met with Peter Thiel associate Kevin Harrington, who would later join the National Security Council and be tasked with “strategic planning.” Prince is said to have advised Harrington, Flynn and others on the Trump transition team on the “restructuring of security agencies” and “a thorough rethink of costly defense programs.”

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James Mattis: U.S. Committed to Global Intervention

Julian Borger reports for The Guardian:

US secretary of defense James Mattis has urged allies to “bear with us”, noting it would be a “crummy world” if Americans retreated into isolationism.

Mattis was responding to questions at a conference in Singapore about US leadership and commitment to a rules-based international order, in the wake of Donald Trump’s announcement that his administration will leave the Paris climate change accord, putting the country in the company of only Nicaragua and Syria.

“As far as the rules-based order, you know, obviously we have a new president in Washington DC,” Mattis said at the event organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “We’re all aware of that. And there is going to be fresh approaches taken.”

He defended Trump, pointing out that the president had just made his first foreign trip, “straight into the heart of one of the most bewildering and difficult challenges” in the Middle East. However, the defense secretary did acknowledge a historical “reluctance” among Americans to engage with the world.

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Trump Uses London Attack to Call for SCOTUS to Back Travel Ban Blocked by Multiple Courts

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak with Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, about President Trump launching a tweet storm after the London attacks calling for the United States to impose his proposed Muslim travel ban, which would prohibit all refugees and citizens of six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. (Democracy Now!)

Climate Scientist: Why Trump Pulling Out of the Paris Accord Won’t Be the End of the World

Kate Arnonoff writes for In These Times:

Donald Trump announced today that he’ll pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which would make the country just one of three worldwide—joining Nicaragua and Syria—to refuse participation in the landmark climate deal. Trump claimed “we are getting out, but we will start to negotiate and see if we can make a deal that’s fair.”

With today’s declaration, Trump kicked off a four-year process that could eventually be reversed by his successor and will involve numerous bureaucratic hurdles. With or without the United States, however, all countries will need to drastically ratchet up their plans for reducing emissions to get anywhere close to meeting the goals set out in Paris in 2015.

While news about climate change often raises fears that the end of the world is coming, today’s announcement may not be as bad as it seems. Trump’s move is troubling, but climate scientist Glen Peters suggests that the mood need not be all doom and gloom. I spoke with Peters, a senior researcher at Norway’s CICERO Center for International Climate Research, about Trump, what’s next for the Paris Agreement and why not all hope is lost.

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Why Trump Actually Pulled Out Of Paris

Michael Grunwald writes for Politico:

17_donald_trump_92_gty_1160.jpgDonald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement was not really about the climate. And despite his overheated rhetoric about the “tremendous” and “draconian” burdens the deal would impose on the U.S. economy, Trump’s decision wasn’t really about that, either. America’s commitments under the Paris deal, like those of the other 194 cooperating nations, were voluntary. So those burdens were imaginary.

No, Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from this carefully crafted multilateral compromise was a diplomatic and political slap: It was about extending a middle finger to the world, while reminding his base that he shares its resentments of fancy-pants elites and smarty-pants scientists and tree-hugging squishes who look down on real Americans who drill for oil and dig for coal. He was thrusting the United States into the role of global renegade, rejecting not only the scientific consensus about climate but the international consensus for action, joining only Syria and Nicaragua (which wanted an even greener deal) in refusing to help the community of nations address a planetary problem. Congress doesn’t seem willing to pay for Trump’s border wall—and Mexico certainly isn’t—so rejecting the Paris deal was an easier way to express his Fortress America themes without having to pass legislation.

Trump was keeping a campaign promise, and his Rose Garden announcement was essentially a campaign speech; it was not by accident that he name-dropped the cities of Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, factory towns in the three Rust Belt states that carried him to victory. Trump’s move won’t have much impact on emissions in the short term, and probably not even in the long term. His claims that the Paris agreement would force businesses to lay off workers and consumers to pay higher energy prices were transparently bogus, because a nonbinding agreement wouldn’t force anything. But Trump’s move to abandon it will have a huge impact on the global community’s view of America, and of a president who would rather troll the free world than lead it.

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On Tyranny: Yale Historian Timothy Snyder on How the U.S. Can Avoid Sliding Into Authoritarianism

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder about his new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, which draws on his decades of experience writing about war and genocide in European history in order to find 20 key lessons that can help the United States avoid descending into authoritarianism. (Democracy Now!)

Did Trump Campaign Rhetoric Empower the White Extremist Who Killed Two Bystanders on Portland Train?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, about how for the second time in a week, a military man was killed by a white extremist. (Democracy Now!)

Bilderberg 2017: Trump Tops Agenda at Annual Secret Meeting of Global Elite

Charlie Skelton writes for the International Business Times:

Image result for Bilderberg 2017With all the supple silence of a python sliding round the gut of a sleeping monkey, Bilderberg 2017 is slipping unobtrusively into life.

Throughout today (1 June), limousine after limousine will come purring through the heavily guarded gates of the Westfields Marriott hotel, just outside Washington DC, gently depositing politicians, party leaders and public officials into happy laps of some of the world’s most powerful financiers.

Bilderberg is an annual three-day political summit, held entirely in private, and hosted and paid for by big business.

It’s currently led by a board member of HSBC, Henri de Castries, and is run by a steering committee which includes the heads of Google, Deutsche Bank, Santander and Airbus.

They’re joined this year by the heads of AXA, Bayer, ING, Lazard, Fiat Chrysler and the IMF. And the King of Holland, who owns great chunks of Royal Dutch Shell. In short, Bilderberg is so high powered that if it were a car Richard Hammond would have killed himself in it.

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Bilderberg 2017: Secret Meeting of Global Leaders Could Prove a Problem for Trump

Charlie Skelton writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Bilderberg 2017The storm around Donald Trump is about to shift a few miles west of the White House, to a conference centre in Chantilly, Virginia, where the embattled president will be getting his end-of-term grades from the people whose opinion really matters: Bilderberg.

The secretive three-day summit of the political and economic elite kicks off on Thursday in heavily guarded seclusion at the Westfields Marriott, a luxury hotel a short distance from the Oval Office. The hotel was already on lockdown on Wednesday, and an army of landscapers have been busy planting fir trees around the perimeter, to protect coy billionaires and bashful bank bosses from any prying lenses.

Perched ominously at the top of the conference agenda this year are these words: “The Trump administration: a progress report.” Is the president going to be put in detention for tweeting in class? Held back a year? Or told to empty his locker and leave? If ever there’s a place where a president could hear the words “you’re fired!”, it’s Bilderberg.

The White House is taking no chances, sending along some big hitters from Team Trump to defend their boss: the national security adviser, HR McMaster; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; and Trump’s new strategist, Chris Liddell. Could the president himself show up to receive his report card in person?

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Secretive Bilderberg Group To Meet In Chantilly, Virginia This Weekend

RT reports:

Many of the world’s most powerful people are gathering for the annual meeting of the mysterious Bilderberg Group this week. Russia, the Trump administration and ‘The war on information’ are among key topics up for discussion.

This year’s gathering takes place in Chantilly, Virginia, less than 30 miles from the White House, and goings on in the Oval Office are top of the agenda for the 131 people who’ve confirmed they’re attending.

Many top White House figures will be at the four-day event, including the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor HR McMaster and Assistant to the President Christopher Liddell.

Other topics up for discussion include ‘Russia in the international order,’ ‘China,’ ‘The Trans-Atlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks,’ ‘The war on information,’ ‘Direction of the EU’ and ‘Why is populism growing?’

[…] As well of some of Trump’s top brass, other attendees this year include Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Republican senators Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham, and Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai.

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John F. Kennedy Had a Russian Back Channel

Tim Naftali reports for Slate:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy On a day in early December, one of Moscow’s agents in the United States, working undercover as a journalist for Izvestia, reported a private meeting with the president-elect’s “closest adviser.” The adviser, who met privately with the Russian spy, was frank and hopeful about a significant improvement in relations from the previous administration. He “stressed that was not merely expressing his personal opinion but the position of the future president.” The two men met alone, and there was no American record made of the encounter.

This is not a report about Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose activities during the transition are now being investigated. Nor it is about Jared Kushner, who, the Washington Post reported on Friday, approached Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last December to propose a secret communications channel. The meeting described above took place in 1960, and the “close adviser” was the incoming president’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy. It is not unusual for the Russians to want to establish contacts with an incoming presidential administration, especially when there is tension between the two countries. It is also not unusual for an American administration to use back channels to probe the intentions of adversarial powers. But December 1960 was not December 2016. The RFK meeting likely came at the request of the Russians, not the Americans. It was not held in secret—it was noted on RFK’s telephone log. And Robert Kennedy, despite general encouraging words, made no promises, suggested no follow-up, and was in no way working against the outgoing Eisenhower administration. The Russians were smart in focusing attention on the president-elect’s brother. He would eventually be involved in historic back channel activity, but well after the inauguration. And all these years later, such communications have been revealed as a canny and patriotic initiative by the Kennedy administration.

This Monday John F. Kennedy would have turned 100, and it has taken nearly this long to develop a full picture of his presidency: The more we learn about it, the more impressive he becomes. Much of the biographical work until recently has been filling in the gaps created by censors—mainly close allies and family members—who did not want the public image of the fallen leader to be tarnished by his addiction to sex and his physical frailties. But what should most dramatically change how we view his presidency is the flood of new information (and some of it not new but underappreciated from Russian records) about how he did his job. JFK had a taping system installed in the White House a decade before Nixon, and these recordings have only been fully opened since late 2012. Unlike the technophobic Nixon, whose taping system would turn on at the literal drop of a hat, Kennedy’s was controlled by a button usually pressed by him alone. The Kennedy tapes, and the increasing release of that era’s national security documents, are revising the picture of a very creative moment in U.S. foreign policy.

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The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like Manchester is to End the Wars Which Allow Extremism to Grow

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

trump-saudi.jpeg[…] The bombing in Manchester – and atrocities attributed to Isis influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.

The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria – that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which Isis and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow.

But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.

Of course, the degree to which his bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.

On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.

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Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

On the Internet today you will find thousands, perhaps even millions, of people gloating about the death of elephantine Fox News founder Roger Ailes. The happy face emojis are getting a workout on Twitter, which is also bursting with biting one-liners.

When I mentioned to one of my relatives that I was writing about the death of Ailes, the response was, “Say that you hope he’s reborn as a woman in Saudi Arabia.”

Ailes has no one but his fast-stiffening self to blame for this treatment. He is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America’s vicious and bloodthirsty character.

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we’re that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

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I Wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ With Trump, His Self-Sabotage Is Rooted In His Past

Tony Schwartz writes for The Washington Post:

Image result for trump art of the dealWhy does President Trump behave in the dangerous and seemingly self-destructive ways he does?

Three decades ago, I spent nearly a year hanging around Trump to write his first book, “The Art of the Deal,” and got to know him very well. I spent hundreds of hours listening to him, watching him in action and interviewing him about his life. To me, none of what he has said or done over the past four months as president comes as a surprise. The way he has behaved over the past week — firing FBI Director James B. Comey, undercutting his own aides as they tried to explain the decision and disclosing sensitive information to Russian officials — is also entirely predictable.

Early on, I recognized that Trump’s sense of self-worth is forever at risk. When he feels aggrieved, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

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As Trump Travels to Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s D.C. Lobbying Surge Is Paying Off

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

An examination by The Intercept of lobbyist disclosures filed with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act shows that Saudi Arabia has greatly expanded its spending on influence peddling during the past two years. Since 2015 the Kingdom has expanded the number of foreign agents on retainer to 145 individuals, up from 25 registered agents during the previous two year period.

Perhaps not coincidentally, President Trump, who less than a year ago vilified Saudi Arabia’s influence over the American political establishment, is now marching to the Saudi lobbyists’ tune.

The selection of Saudi Arabia as the first foreign nation Trump will visit as president when he embarks on his maiden overseas trip is just the latest example of Trump changing his behavior to embrace a country responsible for widespread human rights violations, a growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and the export of an intolerant form of Islam.

Gone are the days when Trump mocked a prominent member of the Saudi royal family for wanting to “control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money,” openly alleged that the Kingdom was behind the September 11 terror attacks, and demanded that the U.S. receive free oil for protecting the Saudi elite. During his trip this week, Trump is expected to give an address that backs the Saudi government as a strong Muslim ally and a partner in

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Democrats Are Falling For Fake News About Russia

Zack Beauchamp writes for Vox:

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sandersand Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

[…] The unfounded left-wing claims, like those on the right, are already seeping into the mainstream discourse. In March, the New York Times published an op-ed by Mensch instructing members of Congress as to how they should proceed with the Russia investigation (“I have some relevant experience,” she wrote). Two months prior to that, Mensch had penned a lengthy letter to Vladimir Putin titled “Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess” — in which she claims to have discovered that Edward Snowden was part of a years-in-the-making Russian plot to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Last Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was forced to apologize for spreading a false claim that a New York grand jury was investigating Trump and Russia. His sources, according to the Guardian’s Jon Swaine, were Mensch and Palmer.

Members of the Russiasphere see themselves as an essential counter to a media that’s been too cautious to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russian ties.

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Could Narrow Scope of New Special Counsel Miss Wider Corruption in Trump White House?

Amy Goodman speaks with Marcy Wheeler, an independent journalist who covers national security and civil liberties. She runs the website EmptyWheel.net. (Democracy Now!)

Special Counsel Investigating Trump Campaign Has Deep Ties to the Deep State

Paul Jay speaks with former FBI agent and 9/11 whistleblower Colleen Rowley who says former FBI head Robert Mueller, now appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, participated in covering up the pre 9/11 role of the U.S. intelligence agencies and the Bush Administration, helped create the post 9/11 national security/surveillance state, and helped facilitate the pre-Iraq war propaganda machine. (The Real News)

John Kiriakou on Blowing the Whistle on CIA Torture and Why Trump’s Presidency Worries Him

Amy Goodman speaks with CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou about his own case and the significance of Trump divulging classified secrets to Russia. (Democracy Now!)

Alex Jones and Roger Stone: Trump Must Go After His Critics

Alex Jones and Roger Stone continue to show their fascist tendencies by calling on President Trump to go after his critics on the left and within the Democratic Party. (Right Wing Watch)

Trump Expanding War From Syria to Afghanistan As Media Focuses on Comey

Paul Jay speaks with Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College and the author of around 20 books, who says while the media continues its frenzy over James Comey’s firing and the ‘Russia connection’, Trump is readying his ‘global war against Islamic Fascism’ to be fought ‘without restraint’, (The Real News)