Thursday, January 4, 2018

Today's Links

1--Manafort’s application for Judicial Review pinpoints how Mueller’s probe is running amok

Manafort’s suit runs to 17 pages of closely reasoned legal argument.  However it is in essence very simple....
Manafort argues that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s Appointment Order appointing Mueller Special Counsel was improperly drafted because it purports to give Mueller in advance carte blanche to investigate any matter even if it is wholly unrelated to the collusion allegations which are supposed to be the subject of Mueller’s inquiry, this being contrary to the Justice Department’s own Code for appointing Special Counsel and to the will of Congress, which in 1999 specifically limited the remit of Special Counsel’s investigations precisely because of concerns about the way they had been abused previously....

Mueller’s inquiry has become “completely unmoored from the Special Counsel’s original jurisdiction” and has so far exceeded its limits that its amounts to an abuse of process.

Manafort makes the point that none of the matters for which Mueller has investigated and indicted him have any connection to the Trump campaign, the Russians, or the 2016 election, which are supposed to be the subjects of Mueller’s inquiry.
Instead all the matters for which Mueller has investigated and indicted Manafort predate Manafort’s involvement in the Trump campaign and concern (1) his various business dealings extending all the way back to 2005; and (2) his publicly disclosed work for the pre-Maidan government of Ukraine, which is a matter of public knowledge, and which Manafort says he repeatedly discussed at the time when he was doing this work with the US’s ambassador to Ukraine.
Manafort moreover says that all of the allegations for which Mueller has investigated and indicted him were previously investigated by the FBI, which in 2014  – ie. before Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign and two years before the 2016 Presidential election – fully cleared him and closed down the case against him.
Manafort also says that contrary to what some reports are saying Mueller has indicted him on no fresh evidence but wholly on the basis of the same evidence which was disclosed to the FBI before 2014 and upon which they cleared him and closed down the case.  Manafort moreover says that most of this evidence was disclosed to the FBI by himself....

Needless to say, if Manafort is successful then that will be the end of Mueller’s inquiry and of the Russiagate investigation.
I cannot see either Rosenstein or Mueller remaining in their positions if the Court – especially if the court is the Supreme Court of the United States – decides that they have acted beyond their powers and quashes Mueller’s indictment.  At that point I would expect them both to resign.
With them gone the credibility of the Russiagate investigation will be shot to pieces, and will be effectively over.

2--Fusion's Russia Fog

Let’s see. The Clinton campaign hires Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm, to investigate the Trump campaign. Fusion hires a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who produces a dossier based on Russian sources full of rumor, hearsay and an occasional fact to allege collusion between the Kremlin and Trump campaign. The dossier gets to the FBI, which uses it to justify opening a counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign, perhaps including a judicial warrant to spy on Trump officials. Then Fusion has Mr. Steele privately brief select media reporters, ensuring that the dossier’s contents become public before the election.
And now Fusion GPS complains about being a victim? Only in Washington, folks.


That’s the sob story spun by Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch Wednesday in a New York Times op-ed that matches the Steele dossier for disinformation. The Fusion duo portray themselves as valiantly working to “highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties” by providing the FBI with “intelligence reports” that corroborated “credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia.”
For exercising their “right under the First Amendment,” Fusion laments that it has been subject to Congressional harassment and a “succession of mendacious conspiracy theories,” including by us. Oh my.

Fusion is talented at producing dirt for hire, including for Russians to smear human-rights activist Bill Browder. The problem is the veracity of its work, and the cofounders don’t name a single example in their op-ed of something that proves the dossier’s claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Eighteen months after the dossier hit Washington, the FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller and Congress have also offered no public validation of its collusion allegations.
The Fusion boys pat themselves on the back for “having handed over our relevant bank records,” but the firm stonewalled Congressional committees for most of 2017, refusing to divulge the names of its clients (the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee) and even suing to prevent access to its bank records. In court documents, Fusion has also admitted to paying journalists during the election, though it refuses to disclose the names, amounts or purposes of the payments.
As Mr. Browder notes on Twitter , the Fusion op-ed also “conveniently omits” that it “worked for Russian gov’t interests trying to repeal Magnitsky Act [sanctions] at the same time [it] was working on the dossier.” Mr. Simpson met with his Russian client, Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, before and after she sat with Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower in June 2016.
Mr. Simpson continues to claim he knew nothing about her Trump meeting and that she knew nothing of his Steele dossier work—though you’ll have to take his word for the coincidence. As for Fusion’s deep concern about “an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power,” the firm’s concern about Russia—and its human-rights abuses, for which the Magnitsky sanctions were imposed—would seem to stop at its bank account.
Far from being victimized, Fusion has been protected by a Beltway press corps stocked with allies who rely on the firm for scoops. Fusion also has friends in the FBI and Justice Department who have a mutual interest in blocking Congress from discovering how the dossier was used to investigate the Trump campaign.
Toward that end, the New York Times reported on the weekend that the real Rosetta Stone of the Trump-Russia probe was a drunken conversation in May of 2016 by junior Trump staffer George Papadopoulos. This narrative would have us believe that the FBI hinged its probe on a man it didn’t bother to interview until 2017, and about whom it didn’t brief Congress until months after the election... 


Fusion now says it wants Congress to release transcripts of Mr. Simpson’s interviews with committees, a change from his refusal last year to appear in public session before the Senate Judiciary Committee. By all means, disclose it all, along with FBI agent-source reports on the Steele dossier and the surveillance warrant applications that Justice refuses to release.
Americans deserve to know what really happened last year—not merely accept the obfuscation of Fusion’s political hit men.

What evidence did the FBI cite to get FISA court warrants to surveil and wiretap Trump’s team?
Republican congressmen have for months been demanding answers to these questions. And, as Mueller’s men have stonewalled, suspicions have arisen that this investigation was, from the outset, a politicized operation to take down Trump.
Feeding those suspicions has been the proven anti-Trump bias of investigators. Also, wiretap warrants of Trump’s team are said to have been issued on the basis of a “dirty dossier” that was floating around town in 2016 — but which mainstream media refused to publish as they could not validate its lurid allegations.

Who produced the dossier?
Ex-British spy Christopher Steele, whose dirt was delivered by ex-Kremlin agents. And Steele was himself a hireling of Fusion GPS, the oppo research outfit enlisted and paid by the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Writes the Washington Times, Steele “paid Kremlin sources with Democratic cash.”
Yet, if Steele’s dossier is a farrago of falsehoods and fake news, and the dossier’s contents were used to justify warrants for wiretaps on Trump associates, Mueller has a problem.
Prosecutions his team brings could be contaminated by what the FBI did, leaving his investigation discredited.

Over the course of the past three decades, Iran’s government has been led by different factions of the political elite, including so-called “reformists” and Shia populists like Ahmadinejad. All have further rolled back the social concessions made to working people in the wake of the 1979 revolution and savagely suppressed the working class.

The Western press has long sought to vilify Iranian politics and social life. But at its core, the experience of the working class in Iran mirrors that of workers around the world, who for decades have faced an unrelenting assault on their social rights and politically have been utterly disenfranchised....

But the period in which the class struggle could be suppressed is coming to an end.

Since Dec. 28, tens of thousands have defied the Islamic Republic’s repressive apparatus and taken to the streets in cities and towns across the county. They have done so to voice their anger over food price rises, mass unemployment, gaping social inequality, years of sweeping social spending cuts and a pseudo-democratic political system that is rigged on behalf of the ruling elite and utterly impervious to the needs of working people.
The scope and intensity of this movement and its rapid embrace of slogans challenging the government and the entire autocratic political system have stunned Iranian authorities and western observers alike. Yet, it was preceded by months of worker protests against job cuts and plant closures and unpaid wages and benefits.

In the days immediately prior to the eruption of the antigovernment protests, discussion of the ever-deepening divide between Iran’s top 1 and 10 percent and the vast majority who live in poverty and economic insecurity raged on social media. The trigger for this explosion of popular discontent was the government’s latest austerity budget. It will further slash income support for ordinary Iranians, raise gas prices by as much as 50 percent, and curtail development spending, while increasing the already huge sums under the control of the Shia clergy...

The claim that the current protests are akin to those mounted by the Green Movement in 2009 is a base slander meant to justify a bigger crime. The Green challenge to the results of the 2009 Iranian presidential election was a long-prepared political operation that followed the script of similar US-orchestrated “color revolutions” in the Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon and elsewhere. It was aimed at bringing to power those elements of the Iranian elite most eager to reach a quick rapprochement with US and European imperialism. It drew its popular support almost exclusively from the most privileged layers of the upper middle class, who were mobilized on the basis of neoliberal denunciations of the populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for “squandering” money on the poor.
The current challenge to the Iranian regime is of an entirely different character. It is rooted in the working class, including in smaller industrial cities and district towns; draws its greatest support from young people who face an unemployment rate of 40 percent or more; and is driven by opposition to social inequality and capitalist austerity

6-- Dispelling the Iranian Terrorism Myth (important) 

7--(archive) ElBaradei to the Rescue

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