The Maskirovka Slips XI*: Updates to Four Ongoing Components

Three quick updates to our ongoing coverage of Putin’s campaign of active measures, dezinformatziya, kompromat, and cyberwarfare against the US, the EU and its member states, and NATO and its member states.

First up, if you’re going to try for clever keep your mouth shut!

Additionally Congressman Nunes had not actually seen anything that he talked about at his two press conferences or with the President on Wednesday. He does not actually know what, if anything, was incidentally collected or if anything even was.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know “for sure” whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president’s wiretapping claims against the Obama administration, according to a spokesperson.

“He said he’ll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,” a spokesperson for Nunes said Thursday. Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team executive committee.

And that was before he destroyed what was left of his committee this morning.

It is important to note that Congressman Schiff is a former Federal prosecutor who has successfully prosecuted an FBI agent who was working for the Russians. He understands counterintelligence and he has successfully prosecuted a criminal case that arose out of a counterintelligence investigation. Congressman Nunes has a masters degree in agricultural science.

Secondly, and still involving the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Paul Manafort wants to come in out of the cold.

And now Roger Stone and Carter Page are looking to get a foot in the door to play let’s make a deal!

But, you ask, what about LTG Flynn? Surely you couldn’t forget LTG Flynn? No, I have not. Our third entry this Friday afternoon is that LTG Flynn, while working for both the Turkish government as an unregistered foreign agent and the President as his campaign’s national security advisor, proposed kidnapping Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania and rendering him back to Turkey – outside of the actual, formal, and required by law extradition process. This is usually referred to as kidnapping. It is also, usually, a crime!

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, while serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign, met with top Turkish government ministers and discussed removing a Muslim cleric from the U.S. and taking him to Turkey, according to former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey, who attended, and others who were briefed on the meeting.

The discussion late last summer involved ideas about how to get Fethullah Gulen, a cleric whom Turkey has accused of orchestrating last summer’s failed military coup, to Turkey without going through the U.S. extradition legal process, according to Mr. Woolsey and those who were briefed.

Mr. Woolsey told The Wall Street Journal he arrived at the meeting in New York on Sept. 19 in the middle of the discussion and found the topic startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal.

 Mr. Woolsey said the idea was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The discussion, he said, didn’t include actual tactics for removing Mr. Gulen from his U.S. home. If specific plans had been discussed, Mr. Woolsey said, he would have spoken up and questioned their legality.It isn’t known who raised the idea or what Mr. Flynn concluded about it.

You know you have lost what little grip on reality you may have had when you’re proposing things that make DCI Woolsey uncomfortable.

Finally, we have our fourth update: Marine Le Pen has traveled to Russia to meet with her handler, boss, and krysha, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin has received Marine Le Pen in the Kremlin in a surprise move likely to reignite fears in Europe about Russian support for the European far right.

Putin told Le Pen Russia had no intention of meddling in the French presidential elections, though the meeting is likely to send the opposite message.

 

Speaking after their meeting, Le Pen said Putin represented “a sovereign nation” and “new vision”.

“A new world has emerged in the past years. This is Vladimir Putin’s world, Donald Trump’s world in the United States, Mr [Narendra] Modi’s world in India,” she added.

“I think I am probably the one who shares with all these great nations a vision of cooperation and not one of subservience – a hawkish vision that has too often been expressed by the European Union.”

Putin, of course, stated that Russia has no intention of interfering in the upcoming French elections.

“We do not want to influence events in any way, but we retain the right to meet with all the different political forces, just like our European and American partners do,” said Putin.

Bloomberg Politics reports that Le Pen’s visit is all about the money. Le Pen and the Front National are a bought and paid for arm of the Russian government. Which makes sense because otherwise a nationalist party that believes that the nation it seeks to lead should be dominated by Russia would be hard to understand.

“Russia is a decisive element of the balance of power that could help bring peace to the world,” she said during her Feb. 23 speech in Paris on foreign policy. “Russia has been mistreated by the EU and its vassal France,” she said.

Russia’s First Czech-Russian Bank OOO helped her finance an earlier campaign with a 9-million-euro loan in 2014. In the same year, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen’s political fund Cotelec received another 2-million-euro loan from a Russian-backed fund based in Cyprus, news website Mediapart reported.

Le Pen is still seeking a loan to help her finance her presidential run. She says French banks are refusing to lend her the millions of euros she needs. So far, she has a 6-million-euro loan from Cotelec, according to wealth filings with authorities made public this week.

A couple of final odds and ends. Putin has taken advantage of all the tumult in DC this week, as well as the successful attack in London, to escalate his war against Ukraine and to make some mischief in Belarus.

One last note: I’ve mentioned in comments a couple of times that all of the open source reporting and documentation is showing more and more penetration and penetration at all levels. This includes conservative organizations such as the NRA. If anyone was wondering how Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Trump campaign surrogate wound up in Moscow getting a briefing from Russia’s Foreign Ministry, well we now know:

In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin—a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s defense industry and longtime opponent of American power—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.

The NRA delegation’s 2015 trip to Russia took place the same week, lasting from Dec. 8-13, according to Clarke’s public financial disclosure forms, (PDF), and included not only the people who met with Rogozin but a number of other NRA dignitaries, including donors Dr. Arnold Goldshlager and Hilary Goldschlager, as well as Jim Liberatore, the CEO of the Outdoor Channel.

Here’s the link to Clarke’s disclosure form.

I’ll have more about this next week.

Stay frosty!

* This is the actual eleventh maskirovka post, I misnumbered number ten as eleven. I apologize for any inconvenience.



Late Night Open Thread: Nazi Pajama Games

The Repubs have soooo much respect for our military, they want to use it as a dumpster for all the fantasists and grifters who aren’t sharp enough for the business grifts:

Mattis was widely embraced on both sides of the aisle when President Donald Trump nominated him. Republicans and Democrats alike expressed hope that the retired four-star general would be a moderating force on the volatile commander in chief.

But Republican lawmakers and senior congressional aides said in recent interviews they’re running out of patience with Mattis’ staffing decisions, which have disappointed Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee hoping to see their ideological allies elevated to senior levels in the Defense Department. Others are grumbling about Mattis’ refusal to advocate a bigger increase in the defense budget, which defense hawks believe was gutted disastrously under President Barack Obama.

“He certainly has got a tough job, but it sometimes feels like he forgets that we won the election,” said one aide to a GOP senator on the Armed Services Committee, who declined to speak on the record for fear of publicly alienating the defense secretary.

“We’ve waited eight years for this, to be able to fill these posts with Republicans,” said another top GOP Hill staffer. “We know Trump isn’t part of the establishment and that it’s going to be a bit different, but it should go without saying that a Republican administration is expected to staff federal agencies with Republicans.”…

Defense Department veterans say the White House has put Mattis in a nearly impossible position given that a large swath of the Republican foreign-policy establishment was openly critical of Trump during the campaign. Some say that has left Mattis with little choice but to turn to Democrats and to those without a political background to fill senior posts.

“In picking Mattis, the president got someone who had bipartisan credibility and was seen as a tough national security official who wasn’t going to toe the White House or the GOP line,” said Jeremy Bash, a former Pentagon spokesman under Secretary Leon Panetta. “Independence is an important attribute in a SecDef. But when you get that, you get frustration from the political folks. When you’re not coming out of the establishment, you have the credibility to do bipartisan things. You’re just going to take incoming from Democrats and from Republicans from time to time.”…

There’s also a longwinded story about Mattis paying insufficient attention to Senators Cotton and Cruz and their Very Serious Military Theorists cosplay, and a sidebar that he’s not sympathetic to re-introducing GOP grifters into Pentagon budget planning.

… Others said it’s crucial that Mattis embrace the reality of navigating the Hill. “Everybody thinks very highly of him, but he doesn’t have any political sense, and he doesn’t think he needs any political sense,” said one former Bush administration Defense Department official. “But it’s quintessentially a political job.”

We don’t want capable people with experience! We want cushy berths for our grifters and ideologues!

Bonus watching, another Trump ‘terrorism expert’ gets Bee-burned..



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Some Dare Call It Treason

As perceived by the ex-CIA, #NeverTrump candidate in 2016:

There’s an old political story about LBJ deciding not to run for reelection once the major news media started reporting unvarnished details about the ongoing war in Vietnam: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Trump has only been in office for two months, but he’s already lost at least two Very Serious Media Voices. Thomas Friedman, aka ‘the Moustache of Understanding’:

The last time our country faced such a cancer on the presidency, the Republican Party’s leadership stood up and put country before party to get to the truth. But today’s G.O.P. is a pale imitation of that party. With a few exceptions, it has declared moral bankruptcy and abdicated its responsibility to draw any red lines for President Trump…

If you say and do nothing when the nation’s leader smears his predecessor — and then maintains his fantasy as fact — not only will he never have the credibility to call on any other country to uphold the highest standards for rule of law, democracy and human rights, but neither will all of you. We will become a lesser country and the world a more dangerous place.

Friedman’s fellow NYTimesman Nick Kristof:

The greatest political scandal in American history was not Aaron Burr’s shooting of Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps wasn’t even Watergate. Rather it may have been Richard Nixon’s secret efforts in 1968 to sabotage a U.S. diplomatic effort to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s initiative, long rumored but confirmed only a few months ago, was meant to improve his election chances that year. After Nixon won, the war dragged on and cost thousands of additional American and Vietnamese lives; it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but treason.

Now the F.B.I. confirms that we have had an investigation underway for eight months into whether another presidential campaign colluded with a foreign power so as to win an election. To me, that, too, would amount to treason…
Read more



Late Night Open Thread: Pathologically Small Man in A Big, Big Job

Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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Politico, “Trump’s penchant for vengeance casts shadow on health care vote”:

Donald Trump didn’t have to issue his threat seriously — “I’m gonna come after you,” he said jokingly Tuesday to a ringleader of House GOP hard-liners opposing his health care bill — to be taken seriously by the 200 Republicans gathered in the Capitol basement.

For a president with a penchant for vengeance — who named “an eye for an eye” as his favorite biblical passage, who banned media outlets from campaign events when he didn’t approve of their coverage, who after the election ousted a GOP state chairman whom he viewed as disloyal, who just last week reminded a GOP governor who hadn’t endorsed him that “I never forget” — the roll-call vote on the Republican health care plan, expected Thursday, will be the first accounting of who’s with him and who’s against him on Capitol Hill…

Greg Sargent, at the Washington Post — “Trump’s lies are failing him, and it is making him deeply frustrated”:

The events of this week are revealing with a new level of clarity that President Trump and the White House have ventured far beyond unconventional levels of dishonesty. Instead, they are revealing on their part something more remarkable and challenging to our system: a kind of deep rot of bad faith — a profound contempt for democratic process and the possibility of agreement on shared reality — that is wildly beyond anything in recent memory and strains the limits of our political vocabulary.
Read more



Open Thread: That’s Not A Whip, It’s A Doormat

At the Washington Post, “The GOP’s new Obamacare repeal bill is a big defeat for conservatives”:

Republicans announced a set of changes to their proposed health-care overhaul Monday night, and while the revisions make symbolic nods to hard-line GOP conservatives, the most significant changes are social spending boosts aimed at wooing the party’s most moderate members.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan conceded last week that the original bill needed changes to rally enough Republicans to move it through the House. But as members of Ryan’s party were pulling him in opposite directions, he had a choice: He could work to draw in more centrist GOP lawmakers concerned about the projections that the initial proposal would force millions of Americans to go uninsured, or he could try to win over more of the party’s conservative members who said the bill still spent too much — especially on social programs aimed at helping Americans buy health insurance…

…[T]he real concessions went to moderate lawmakers. Between Medicaid and a system of tax breaks for working- and middle-class households purchasing private insurance, the bill includes some $150 billion in new federal spending to help make sure that Americans can buy insurance. It is a tangible expansion of federal power in the health-care sector, compared with the first draft, that indicates an appetite among moderate Republicans for a more robust social safety net.

The House Freedom Caucus, a crucial conservative bloc, will allow its members to vote as they please on the legislation.

Still, the group’s leader — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) ripped the proposed changes Monday night. “After investing hours and hours and hours of trying to find common ground between our moderate members and conservative members, and believing, because of the White House’s engagement in the process, that we could find common ground; I’ve now reached a conclusion that our leadership is going to put forth a bill that does not address any of the concerns in a meaningful way and will dare us to vote against it,” he told Axios

(Details of the proposed changes at the link.)



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: You Repubs Think You’re Sick of This Crap?


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Apart from saying I TOLD YOU SO, what’s on the agenda for the day?

The testimony of Mr. Comey and that of Adm. Michael S. Rogers, his National Security Agency counterpart, will most likely enervate and distract Mr. Trump’s administration for weeks, if not longer… But it’s the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trump’s pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse.

Mr. Trump’s allies have begun to wonder if his need for self-expression, often on social media, will exceed his instinct for self-preservation, with disastrous results both for the president and for a party whose fate is now tightly tied to his.

And Mr. Trump’s fixation on fighting is undermining his credibility at a time when he needs to toggle from go-it-alone executive action to collaborative congressional action on ambitious health care, budget and infrastructure legislation…

The problem, from the perspective of Mr. Trump’s beleaguered political fire brigade, is that the president insists on dealing with crises by creating new ones — so surrogates, repeating talking points the president himself ignores, say they often feel like human shields….

Focus groups and polls conducted by two Democratic strategists this month have shown that many voters, even some who support Mr. Trump, have grown weary of his tweets as president. That was also borne out by a Fox News poll last week, showing that a mere 35 percent of Trump voters approve of his Twitter habits, and that only 16 percent of all voters approve of them. Some 32 percent said they “wish he’d be more careful” with his feed.

“His tweeting defines him, and not in a good way,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster. “Voters not only think Trump’s use of Twitter is unpresidential, they also see the tone and content of his tweets as an indication that he is lacking in self-control.”…

COULD NOT HAPPEN TO A MORE DESERVING BUNCH OF GONIFFS.



Muslim Ban 2.0 — First Time Tragedy; Second Time Tragic Farce

I’ll leave it to the more knowledgeable among us to dissect (looking at you, Adam…). But the greatest hits are about what I’d expected.  Iraq’s off the list as we owe too much to too many there.  The other six countries from the original order remain, though the specific restrictions are a little different than in Fear The Furriner version one.  Here’s The Washington Post‘s take:

President Trump signed a new travel ban Monday that administration officials said they hope will end legal challenges over the matter by imposing a 90-day ban on the issuance of new visas for citizens of six majority-Muslim nations, authorities said.

In addition, the nation’s refu­gee program will be suspended for 120 days, and it will not accept more than 50,000 refugees in a year, down from the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration.

 

The goal is obviously to deliver some red meat to the Trump base while sliding past inconvenient judicial reality tests. Trumpistas are already suggesting that the administration should not have to justify the order in court, despite evidence that there is no net national security gain from a Muslim ban:

A Department of Homeland Security report assessing the terrorist threat posed by people from the seven countries covered by President Trump’s original travel ban had cast doubt on the necessity of the executive order, concluding that citizenship was an “unreliable” threat indicator and that people from the affected countries have rarely been implicated in U.S.-based terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, criticized the report as being incomplete and not vetted with other agencies, and he also asserted the administration should not be pressed by the judiciary to unveil sensitive national security details to justify the ban.

“This is not something that the Department of Justice should have to represent to a federal-district court judge,” the official said.

We shall see.

Over to y’all.

Image: Benjamin West, The Ambassador from Tunis with His Attendants as He Appeared in England in 1781, 1781