All posts by Tyler Durden

The Guardian Faceplants As Manafort’s Passport Stamps Don’t Match ‘Fabricated’ Assange Story

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Further evidence that The Guardian "entirely fabricated" a report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in 2013, 2015 and the spring of 2016; his passports...

The Washington Times reports that Manafort's three passports reveal just two visits to England in 2010 and 2012, which support his categorical denial of the "totally false and deliberately libelous" report in The Guardian, which said that Manafort visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy - ostensibly to coordinate on the WikiLeaks release of Hillary Clinton's emails. 

The Times does note that Manafort could have conceivably entered the UK from another European country and not received a stamp - however a representative for Manafort insisted to the Times that Manafort has only made those two visits to England since 2008, and that a libel suit against the Guardian is under discussion. 

While two of Manafort's passports were entered as evidence at his tax evasion trial - something that The Guardian's Luke Harding and Dan Collyns could have easily looked up - the Times has obtained a copy of his third passport which confirms the two visits. 
His attorney explained the passports this way: One was lost, one was used to submit to foreign embassies for visas, and one was used as a backup. Manafort later found the third passport. -Washington Times
WikiLeaks immediately fired back at The Guardian - betting the paper "a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange." 

Manafort, meanwhile, issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon through a spokesman, saying: "This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false."

Blaming Russia

Following The Guardian's epic faceplant, an ex-CIA agent penned an article in Politico suggesting that Russia tricked The Guardian into writing the Manafort-Assange story. 

Journalist and attorney Glenn Greenwald called them out in a scorching series of tweets - while dismantling The Guardian's original report the day before

As Greenwald notes of Politico's response, it looks like "the whole thing is a fraud."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

MI6 Scrambling To Stop Trump From Releasing Classified Docs In Russia Probe

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The UK's Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, has been scrambling to prevent President Trump from publishing classified materials linked to the Russian election meddling investigation, according to The Telegraph, stating that any disclosure would "undermine intelligence gathering if he releases pages of an FBI application to wiretap one of his former campaign advisers."

Trump's allies, however, are fighting back - demanding transparency and suggesting that the UK wouldn't want the documents withheld unless it had something to hide. 
The Telegraph has talked to more than a dozen UK and US officials, including in American intelligence, who have revealed details about the row. 

British spy chiefs have “genuine concern” about sources being exposed if classified parts of the wiretap request were made public, according to figures familiar with discussions. 

“It boils down to the exposure of people”, said one US intelligence official, adding: “We don’t want to reveal sources and methods.” US intelligence shares the concerns of the UK. 

Another said Britain feared setting a dangerous “precedent” which could make people less likely to share information, knowing that it could one day become public. -The Telegraph
The Telegraph adds that the UK's dispute with the Trump administration is so politically sensitive that staff within the British Embassy in DC haver been barred from discussing it with journalists. Theresa May has also "been kept at arms-length and is understood to have not raised the issue directly with the US president." 

In September, we reported that the British government "expressed grave concerns" over the material in question after President Trump issued an order to the DOJ to release a wide swath of materials, "immediately" and "without redaction." 

Trump walked that order back days later after the UK begged him not to release them.
Mr Trump wants to declassify 21 pages from one of the applications. He announced the move in September, then backtracked, then this month said he was "very seriously" considering it again. Both Britain and Australia are understood to be opposing the move. 

Memos detailing alleged ties between Mr Trump and Russia compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, were cited in the application, which could explain some of the British concern. -The Telegraph
The New York Times reported at the time that the UK's concern was over material which "includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele," the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous "Steele Dossier." The UK's objection, according to former US and British officials, was over revealing Steele's identity in an official document, "regardless of whether he had been named in press reports."

We noted in September, however, that Steele's name was contained within the Nunes Memo - the House Intelligence Committee's majority opinion in the Trump-Russia case.

Steele also had extensive contacts with DOJ official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, who - along with Steele - was paid by opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the anti-Trump campaign. Trump called for the declassification of FBI notes of interviews with Ohr, which would ostensibly reveal more about his relationship with Steele. Ohr was demoted twice within the Department of Justice for lying about his contacts with Fusion GPS. 

Perhaps the Brits are also concerned since much of the espionage performed on the Trump campaign was conducted on UK soil throughout 2016. Recall that Trump aid George Papadopoulos was lured to London in March, 2016, where Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud fed him the rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was later at a London bar that Papadopoulos would drunkenly pass the rumor to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer (who Strzok flew to London to meet with). 

Also recall that CIA/FBI "informant" (spy) Stefan Halper met with both Carter Page and Papadopoulos in London. 
Halper, a veteran of four Republican administrations, reached out to Trump aide George Papadopoulos in September 2016 with an offer to fly to London to write an academic paper on energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Papadopoulos accepted a flight to London and a $3,000 honorarium. He claims that during a meeting in London, Halper asked him whether he knew anything about Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails.

Papadopoulos had other contacts on British soil that he now believes were part of a government-sanctioned surveillance operation. -Daily Caller
In total, Halper received over $1 million from the Obama Pentagon for "research," over $400,000 of which was granted before and during the 2016 election season.

Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying about his conversations with a shadowy Maltese professor and self-professed member of the Clinton Foundation, has publicly claimed he was targeted by UK spies, and told The Telegraph that he demands transparency. Trump's allies in Washington, meanwhile, have suggested that the facts laid out before us mean that the ongoing Russia investigation was invalid from the start. 

In short, it's understandable that the UK would prefer to hide their involvement in the "witch hunt" of Donald Trump since much of the counterintelligence investigation was conducted on UK soil. And if the Brits had knowledge of the operation, it will bolster claims that they meddled in the 2016 US election by assisting what appears to have been a set-up from the start.

Steele's ham-handed dossier is a mere embarrassment, as virtually none of the claims asserted by the former MI6 agent have been proven true. 
Steele, a former MI6 agent, is the author of the infamous and unverified anti-Trump dossier. He worked as a confidential human source for the FBI for years before the relationship was severed just before the election because of Steele’s unauthorized contacts with the press.

He shared results of his investigation into Trump’s links to Russia with the FBI beginning in early July 2016.

The FBI relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to fill out applications for four FISA warrants against Page. Page has denied the dossier’s claims, which include that he was the Trump campaign’s back channel to the Kremlin. -Daily Caller
That said, Steele hasn't worked for the British government since 2009, so for their excuse focusing on the former MI6 agent while ignoring the multitude of events which occurred on UK soil, is curious. 

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Iran’s Leadership Must Decide ‘If They Want Their People To Eat’ – Pompeo

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Less than a week after US Secretary of State Secretary Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that the "Iranians are responsible for the starvation' of Yemeni civilians" he's again issued hugely provocative words, telling the BBC during an interview that Iranian "leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat" in reference to the latest round of US sanctions.

As the interview was with BBC Persian, Pompeo's words were immediately translated from English and broadcast to the Iranian public through BBC's Persian-language publication. Pompeo repeated his theme that Iran is the world's foremost state sponsor of terror and a "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East while ultimately blaming the country's economic suffering on the intransigence of the country's leaders.

Pompeo's words came on the heels of Iran's foreign ministry issuing a formal response to this week's US sanctions snap back on the energy sector, publishing a 3-minute video of FM Javad Zarif on Tuesday wherein Zarif emphasized that the sanctions mainly targeted average Iranian citizens, referencing "the economic warfare that directly targets the Iranian people."

The most contentious segment of the BBC interview was as follows:  
QUESTION: You say you are not punishing the people. You say that the sanctions are not targeting the people. But what if --

SECRETARY POMPEO: No, they’re not.

QUESTION: But what if the sanctions hurt the Iranian people, the ordinary lives of them?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The folks who are hurting the Iranian people are the ayatollah and Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian leadership. That’s who is bringing the difficulties to Iran today. And you see this. You see this when you read of the protests. You see this when Iranian people have a chance to speak, although we know the human rights there don’t permit the Iranian people to speak freely. It’s the regime that is inflicting harm on the Iranian people, not the world and not the United States.

QUESTION: But as you – but you say that this is not a democratic regime. You say that the regime doesn’t care for Iranian people. But you say you do care for Iranian people.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We do.

State Dept. transcript of the BBC Persian interview
But with hundreds of thousands of common Iranians reportedly now struggling to find life-saving medicines due to the sanctions, we doubt the Iranian public is going to be convinced of Washington's "care" and "concern" for common Iranians.

In the weeks leading up to the November 5th round of sanctions European governments attempted to persuade the White House to agree to guarantees or waivers of Iranian imports of basic foods and medicine — pleas that were reportedly rebuffed.

Addressing the medicine issue in the BBC interview, Pompeo denied that the US was disallowing the flow of life-saving drugs into the country, and made the following assertion: "Not only are the transactions themselves exempted – that is, the transactions in medicine, for example – but the financial transactions connected to that activity also are authorized," he said.

Pompeo also claimed that "None of the sanctions that have been imposed prevent humanitarian assistance and, indeed, there are big exemptions for medicine for sure, pharmaceuticals, but also more broadly than that for agricultural imports too."

However, Pompeo seemed to contradict his prior denial that the sanctions were impacting medicines, saying it was ultimately up to Tehran to change its behavior in the face of the sanctions. Pompeo said:
Well, remember, just so you remember, the leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund Qasem Soleimani’s travels around the Middle East with – causing death and destruction. That’s the Iranian Government’s choice on how to use Iranian wealth.
Recent words out of Tehran suggest that Iranian leadership is prepared to settle in for a "long siege" which could result in a years-long stalemate, while continuing to find ways to circumvent US sanctions and while urging Europe to help it weather the storm.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

The US ‘Cannot Win Militarily’ In Afghanistan, Says Top Commander In Shocking Interview

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Historians of the now seventeen-year old US war in Afghanistan will take note of this past week when the newly-appointed American general in charge of US and NATO operations in the country made a bombshell, historic admission. He conceded that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan.

Speaking to NBC News last week, Gen. Austin Scott Miller made his first public statements after taking charge of American operations, and shocked with his frank assessment that that the Afghan war cannot be won militarily and peace will only be achieved through direct engagement and negotiations with the Taliban — the very terror group which US forces sought to defeat when it first invaded in 2001.

"This is not going to be won militarily," Gen. Miller said. "This is going to a political solution."

Miller explained to NBC:
My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So if you realize you can't win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.
He gave the interview from the Resolute Support headquarters building in Kabul. "We are more in an offensive mindset and don't wait for the Taliban to come and hit [us]," he said. "So that was an adjustment that we made early on. We needed to because of the amount of casualties that were being absorbed."

Starting last summer it was revealed that US State Department officials began meeting with Taliban leaders in Qatar to discuss local and regional ceasefires and an end to the war. It was reported at the time that the request of the Taliban, the US-backed Afghan government was not invited; however, there doesn't appear to have been any significant fruit out of the talks as the Taliban now controls more territory than ever before in recent years.

Such controversial and shaky negotiations come as in total the United States has spent well over $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency while also paying for relief and reconstruction in a seventeen-year long war that has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which was the reconstruction effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.

Even the New York Times recently chronicled the flat out deception of official Pentagon statements vs. the reality in terms of the massive spending that has gone into the now-approaching two decade long "endless war" which began in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

As of September of this year the situation was as bleak as it's ever been after over a decade-and-a-half of America's longest running war, per the NYT's numbers:
But since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any time since the American invasion. In just one week last month, the insurgents killed 200 Afghan police officers and soldiers, overrunning two major Afghan bases and the city of Ghazni.

The American military says the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56 percent of the country. But that assessment relies on statistical sleight of hand. In many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest.
For this reason Gen. Miller spoke to NBC of an optimal "political outcome" instead of "winning" — the latter being a term rarely if ever used by Pentagon and officials and congressional leaders over the past years.

Miller told NBC: "I naturally feel compelled to try to set the conditions for a political outcome. So, pressure from that standpoint, yes. I don't want everyone to think this is forever."

And ending on a bleak note in terms of the "save face" and "cut and run" nature of the US future engagement in Afghanistan, Gen. Miller concluded, "This is my last assignment as a soldier in Afghanistan. I don't think they'll send me back here in another grade. When I leave this time I'd like to see peace and some level of unity as we go forward."

Interestingly, the top US and NATO commander can now only speak in remotely hopeful terms of "some level of unity" — perhaps just enough to make a swift exit at least.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

NATO Is At War With NATO In Northern Syria

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Not for the first time the Turkish army has attacked US-backed forces in northeastern Syria on Sunday in yet another absurd contradiction of American policy in the region. It highlights the awkward fact that in northern Syria for over the past year one NATO country (Turkey) is at war with another NATO country's proxy force, namely the Pentagon armed and trained Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, of which the YPG is a core part).

The new flair up of tensions comes as President Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again vowed to eliminate "terrorists and separatists" from near its border. Speaking at the four-way Syria summit involving Russia, Germany, and France in Istanbul over the weekend, Erdogan said, "We will continue eliminating threats against our national security at its root in the Euphrates' east as we have done so in its west."

Notably the Saturday summit with two major European/NATO powers did not include the United States.

Syrian Kurdish groups, for their part, have accused Turkey of committing ethnic cleansing on Syrian soil in a bid to essentially annex territory while conducting a campaign of "Turkification" — a charge for which there's ample evidence. As a new AFP report finds in the northwest Syrian town of Azaz: "From Turkish-language classes for Syrian children to the state-owned Turk Telekom company erecting its first cell towers on Syrian soil, Ankara's role in the rebel-held region around Azaz has been expanding."

And on Sunday amidst a continuing slow onslaught of pro-Turkish forces, the Associated Press reported:
The Turkish army shelled on Sunday positions held by the US-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, in a new spike in tension along the borders.
The report further noted the timing of Turkey's shelling US-backed fighters east of the Euphrates, coming just after Erdogan, Putin, Macron, and Merkel met in order to talk Syria, and among other things shore up the shaky ceasefire over Idlib brokered between Turkey and Russia.

The fact that major European powers went to Istanbul to negotiate the future of Syria — all without the United States — represents a huge shift and diplomatic win for both Putin and Erdogan, both in Washington's cross hair of late, especially over Syria policy.

Per the AP:
The rare Turkish shelling east of the Euphrates comes a day after an international summit on Syria hosted by Turkey, which called for an inclusive political process and for creating conditions to allow the return of millions of refugees.
Thus Turkey seems to be signalling Washington that it is now firmly within Putin's orbit on Syria — both Putin and Erdogan are interested in American forces getting booted from Syria, yet with separate geopolitical ends in mind.

The Turkish strikes hit the village of Zor Moghar, in rural northern Aleppo, across the Euphrates River that separates pro-Turkish Syrian rebel forces and the YPG. The Kurdish YPG issued a statement confirming one death in the "unprovoked" attack, and further said, "Any illegitimate attack against northern Syria will not go unanswered."

Meanwhile the Pentagon was relatively silent on the matter, only saying the US-led Coalition would regain territory lost by its SDF allies, and added that the fighting was "difficult." Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the coalition, said in a statement: “It is very difficult because we are in the last stages, where almost every (ISIS) fighter is in a suicide belt.”

And in another significant development, this week McGurk finally dropped the figleaf of the Pentagon's justification for keeping over 2000 troops in northern Syria as "fighting ISIS" - but now says it is to "counter Iran." This, as NATO member Turkey effectively remains at war with NATO member US inside of Syria.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Facebook Sells Disabled Iraq Vet $300,000 In Ads, Then Deletes His Influential Pages

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Facebook banned several pages operated by disabled by Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, after he says he spent $300,000 on advertising. The social media giant removed without warning Kolfage's Right Wing News and Military Grade Coffee Company (which donates 10 percent of all profits to veteran organizations), in a site-wide effort to crack down on "misinformation" on the network.

Right Wing News alone had over 3 million followers at the time of its banning. 

According to his new wesbite, Kolfage, a triple amputee, explains: 
I’m not a 'conservative.' I’m not a 'liberal.' I’m an American, with deep beliefs in what our country stands for. I proved this by vowing to protect and fighting for Americas greatest tenet: free speech.

Many Americans have fought for these political freedoms … freedom of speech … and every American has enjoyed those freedoms … UNTIL TODAY. On October 11, 2018, Facebook shut down thousands of Facebook accounts for their political opinions, saying in effect that they don’t have a 'legitimate political argument.' STOP SOCIAL MEDIA CENSORSHIP NOW! -Fight4freespeech.com
Kolfage says his "income as a father and husband is threatened," and that he "invested over $300,000 in ads at Facebook's own request," according to Breitbart's Lucas Nolan. 

In a Facebook post on his personal page, Kolfage wrote "Facebook lied, they shut down my page because it was conservative, powerful, and the elections are in 2 weeks.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

In 2004, Kolfage was on his second deployment in Iraq when his airbase came under rocket attack. He would lose both legs and an arm as a 107mm rocket shell "exploded about three feet" away, throwing him into the air and against a wall of sandbags.
Airman Kolfage’s best friend was thrown from his bed during the attack. He heard the screams and rushed outside to find his friend bloody, mangled, and clinging to life. The Airman and a medic rushed to help Airman Kolfage, who was struggling to breathe with only one lung after the other had collapsed. Brian’s friend desperately tried to divert his attention from the seriousness of his injuries, but calmly, Airman Kolfage assured him that he already knew the extent of his wounds, and that he just wanted to go home to his family. -Briankolfage.com 
Brian spent 11 months at Walter Reed medical center, and claims that to this day he is "still the most severely wounded Airman to survive any war." 

Not going quietly

"If I have to roll into their headquarters and sit there with people in the media, I will," said Kolfage of his plans to fight Facebook's decision. "I will be there exposing everything they’ve done to me and my family and our employees. We’re going to take legal action if we don’t get our pages back. It’s just going to turn into a sloppy mess for them. I think they’ve underestimated what they’re dealing with, attacking me, attacking conservatives in general, right before the elections. Never once did Facebook come to us to say there was any issue with RWN or our other pages. Never. But they sure loved taking our money." 

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

US Intel Officials Publicly Contradict Netanyahu’s UN Speech On ‘New’ Iran Atomic Facility

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Netanyahu's Thursday UN General Assembly speech predictably included the familiar props and visuals condemning Iran over what the Israeli prime minister says is a continuing nuclear program it is hiding from the world's view.

Like pretty much all prior Netanyahu speeches focusing on Iran, he held up a physical "evidence" to illustrate his points as he spoke — this time it was a "proof" that Iran has yet another secret warehouse holding nuclear-related material in the form of an aerial photograph of the Iranian capital marked with a red arrow pointing to a large building.

Though this was perhaps a step up from the cartoon bomb performance at the UNGA in 2012, the act is now a fixture and entirely predictable after many others spanning years, barely eliciting much media excitement compared to six years ago.

But unlike the last number of similar speeches, US intelligence officials have told Reuters that the claims are not true.

“I am disclosing for the first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran, a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and materiel from Iran’s secret nuclear program,” Netanyahu said as if breathlessly leading a breaking news press conference.

He said the site had previously held some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material that has since been moved in a curiously specific claim that would now seem very hard if not impossible to prove — given that... well it's all been moved according to the claims. He called on the UN atomic agency to initiative immediate inspection with Geiger counters.

“Since we raided the atomic archive, they’ve been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse. Just last month they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material. You know what they did with it?” he said. “They took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence.”

And on Twitter the Israeli prime minister began making a public appeal in parallel to his speech, asking people to "Google it" and offering the coordinates "35.5022 51.2997. It’s Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran. Look for it and share it asking people to."

Iranian officials were quick to seize upon his once again attempting to persuade through ample use of props and visuals, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif mocking, "No arts & craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is only regime in our region with a *secret* and *undeclared* nuclear weapons program - including an *actual atomic arsenal*. Time for Israel to fess up and open its illegal nuclear weapons program to international inspectors."

And elsewhere foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “The world will only laugh loudly at this type of false, meaningless and unnecessary speech and false shows,” according to Fars news.

Considering this usual run of events anytime Netanyahu address the UN, the only surprise came later in the day, when Reuters cited US intelligence officials who immediately contradicted the content of his speech.

Reuters called the claims of the freshly revealed purported atomic facility "nothing new" to the Americans, according to an unnamed intelligence source:
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is aware of the facility Netanyahu announced and described it as a 'warehouse' used to store 'records and archives' from Iran’s nuclear program.
And further citing a second intelligence official, the report continued:
A second US intelligence official called Netanyahu’s comments 'somewhat misleading. First, we have known about this facility for some time, and it’s full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminum tubes for centrifuges, and second, so far as anyone knows, there is nothing in it that would allow Iran to break out of the JCPOA any faster than it otherwise could.'
A separate Israeli media report also noted the contradiction between Netanyahu's speech and US intelligence: "The claims gainsay the remarks made by Netanyahu, who said that the site, which sits a short distance from Shourabad, contained some 15 kg (33 pounds) of radioactive material that has since been moved."

Thus it appears the media — including Israeli media — aren't so lockstep in uncritically repeating Netanyahu's talking points anymore.

Also on Thursday the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) made more claims connected with the UN speech, tweeting satellite images via its official account that claim Iran is establishing at least three missile factories inside Lebanon in partnership with Hezbollah, specifically in dense civilian neighborhoods of Beirut.

Israel has lately vowed to continue attacking Iranian forces stationed in Syria, and Thursday's media information and propaganda blitz portend it is prepping for more rounds of strikes.

With Russia threatening response and now set to deliver the S-300 air defense system to Syria, it could be that Israel sets its sites on these purported Hezbollah "missile factories" on Lebanese soil.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

The White House Has A Step-By-Step ‘Program Of Escalation’ For Venezuela

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The White House has prepared an intelligence blueprint for regime change in Venezuela, according to a bombshell Monday evening report in Axios.

According to the report, which follows a New York Times story from early this month that confirmed the administration had previously established a "clandestine channel" involving covert meetings with Venezuelan military coup plotters targeting President Nicolás Maduro, the White House has prepared for multiple scenarios involving dramatic military escalation that could trigger US invasion of the small Latin American country.

Per Axios:
The White House National Security Council drafted a step-by-step “program of escalation” for Venezuela after President Trump took office, including the grounds for military intervention, a former senior official said today.
The plans were revealed by Fernando Cutz, who was a top adviser to former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and the top National Security Council official on South America, while speaking at an event at the Wilson Center.

Cutz said he was part of a working group to lay out potential scenarios of escalating crises in Venezuela and corresponding options detailing the US reaction to events.

Among the scenarios Cutz outlined included the potential for a Venezuelan military assault and takeover of the US embassy in Caracas, or a massacre of 1,000 civilians which could trigger an America military response on humanitarian grounds.

However Cutz voiced skepticism over the success of many of the plans, questioning what would come the day after if a coup d'état or even complete regime collapse were to occur.

According to Axios:
He said other steps the White House “had ready” included a full oil embargo, which would severely restrict Venezuela's cashflow but presented the question: “If we destroy Venezuela, and we make the situation worse for the people of Venezuela, what comes next?” They didn't have a satisfactory answer.
Concerning prior reports that Trump White House officials had previously met with Venezuelan military coup plotters to discuss potential support for fomenting regime change:
Cutz was asked about the meetings and said the White House “never debated supporting a coup” or offered support or tacit approval to coup plotters, but was “open to listening” to “any significant players.” He also said he had “no idea” why Trump had mentioned military action, adding that it “wasn’t in the script.”
Several secret meetings between the Trump administration and Venezuelan military officers reportedly took place to talk about potential coup plans, but according to administration sources "the coup plans stalled". The meetings were said to have been spearheaded by someone simply described as a "career diplomat".

According to the New York Times reporting in early September, "American officials did not provide material support, and the plans unraveled after a recent crackdown that led to the arrest of dozens of the plotters." The secret talks were reportedly dropped and the mutinous officers on their own.

Meanwhile Cutz suggested that if things got bad enough in Venezuela, citing a refugee crisis that could possibly swell to 5 million displaced, or a coup scenario or mass uprising, Trump could take steps to intervene: "the least bloody of those is probably going to be a foreign military intervention,” he said, echoing the usual pro-regime change Washington calculus.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

UK Begged Trump Not To Declassify Russia Docs; Cited ‘Grave Concerns’ Over Steele Involvement

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The British government "expressed grave concerns" to the US government over the declassification and release of material related to the Trump-Russia investigation, according to the New York Times. President Trump ordered a wide swath of materials "immediately" declassified "without redaction" on Monday, only to change his mind later in the week by allowing the DOJ Inspector General to review the materials first.

The Times reports that the UK's concern was over material which "includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele," the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous "Steele Dossier." The UK's objection, according to former US and British officials, was over revealing Steele's identity in an official document, "regardless of whether he had been named in press reports."

We would note, however, that Steele's name was contained within the Nunes Memo - the House Intelligence Committee's majority opinion in the Trump-Russia case.

Steele also had extensive contacts with DOJ official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, who - along with Steele - was paid by opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the anti-Trump campaign. Trump called for the declassification of FBI notes of interviews with Ohr, which would ostensibly reveal more about his relationship with Steele. Ohr was demoted twice within the Department of Justice for lying about his contacts with Fusion GPS.

Perhaps the Brits are also concerned since much of the espionage performed on the Trump campaign was conducted on UK soil throughout 2016. Recall that Trump aid George Papadopoulos was lured to London in March, 2016, where Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud fed him the rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was later at a London bar that Papadopoulos would drunkenly pass the rumor to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer (who Strzok flew to London to meet with).

Also recall that CIA/FBI "informant" (spy) Stefan Halper met with both Carter Page and Papadopoulos in London.
Halper, a veteran of four Republican administrations, reached out to Trump aide George Papadopoulos in September 2016 with an offer to fly to London to write an academic paper on energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Papadopoulos accepted a flight to London and a $3,000 honorarium. He claims that during a meeting in London, Halper asked him whether he knew anything about Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails.

Papadopoulos had other contacts on British soil that he now believes were part of a government-sanctioned surveillance operation. -Daily Caller
In total, Halper received over $1 million from the Obama Pentagon for "research," over $400,000 of which was granted before and during the 2016 election season.

In short, it's understandable that the UK would prefer to hide their involvement in the "witch hunt" of Donald Trump since much of the counterintelligence investigation was conducted on UK soil. And if the Brits had knowledge of the operation, it will bolster claims that they meddled in the 2016 US election by assisting what appears to have been a set-up from the start.

Steele's ham-handed dossier is a mere embarrassment, as virtually none of the claims asserted by the former MI6 agent have been proven true.
Steele, a former MI6 agent, is the author of the infamous and unverified anti-Trump dossier. He worked as a confidential human source for the FBI for years before the relationship was severed just before the election because of Steele’s unauthorized contacts with the press.

He shared results of his investigation into Trump’s links to Russia with the FBI beginning in early July 2016.

The FBI relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to fill out applications for four FISA warrants against Page. Page has denied the dossier’s claims, which include that he was the Trump campaign’s back channel to the Kremlin. -Daily Caller
That said, Steele hasn't worked for the British government since 2009, so for their excuse focusing on the former MI6 agent while ignoring the multitude of events which occurred on UK soil, is curious.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

UK Begged Trump Not To Declassify Russia Docs; Cited ‘Grave Concerns’ Over Steele Involvement

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The British government "expressed grave concerns" to the US government over the declassification and release of material related to the Trump-Russia investigation, according to the New York Times. President Trump ordered a wide swath of materials "immediately" declassified "without redaction" on Monday, only to change his mind later in the week by allowing the DOJ Inspector General to review the materials first.

The Times reports that the UK's concern was over material which "includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele," the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous "Steele Dossier." The UK's objection, according to former US and British officials, was over revealing Steele's identity in an official document, "regardless of whether he had been named in press reports."

We would note, however, that Steele's name was contained within the Nunes Memo - the House Intelligence Committee's majority opinion in the Trump-Russia case.

Steele also had extensive contacts with DOJ official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, who - along with Steele - was paid by opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the anti-Trump campaign. Trump called for the declassification of FBI notes of interviews with Ohr, which would ostensibly reveal more about his relationship with Steele. Ohr was demoted twice within the Department of Justice for lying about his contacts with Fusion GPS.

Perhaps the Brits are also concerned since much of the espionage performed on the Trump campaign was conducted on UK soil throughout 2016. Recall that Trump aid George Papadopoulos was lured to London in March, 2016, where Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud fed him the rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was later at a London bar that Papadopoulos would drunkenly pass the rumor to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer (who Strzok flew to London to meet with).

Also recall that CIA/FBI "informant" (spy) Stefan Halper met with both Carter Page and Papadopoulos in London.
Halper, a veteran of four Republican administrations, reached out to Trump aide George Papadopoulos in September 2016 with an offer to fly to London to write an academic paper on energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Papadopoulos accepted a flight to London and a $3,000 honorarium. He claims that during a meeting in London, Halper asked him whether he knew anything about Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails.

Papadopoulos had other contacts on British soil that he now believes were part of a government-sanctioned surveillance operation. -Daily Caller
In total, Halper received over $1 million from the Obama Pentagon for "research," over $400,000 of which was granted before and during the 2016 election season.

In short, it's understandable that the UK would prefer to hide their involvement in the "witch hunt" of Donald Trump since much of the counterintelligence investigation was conducted on UK soil. And if the Brits had knowledge of the operation, it will bolster claims that they meddled in the 2016 US election by assisting what appears to have been a set-up from the start.

Steele's ham-handed dossier is a mere embarrassment, as virtually none of the claims asserted by the former MI6 agent have been proven true.
Steele, a former MI6 agent, is the author of the infamous and unverified anti-Trump dossier. He worked as a confidential human source for the FBI for years before the relationship was severed just before the election because of Steele’s unauthorized contacts with the press.

He shared results of his investigation into Trump’s links to Russia with the FBI beginning in early July 2016.

The FBI relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to fill out applications for four FISA warrants against Page. Page has denied the dossier’s claims, which include that he was the Trump campaign’s back channel to the Kremlin. -Daily Caller
That said, Steele hasn't worked for the British government since 2009, so for their excuse focusing on the former MI6 agent while ignoring the multitude of events which occurred on UK soil, is curious.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.