All posts by Tyler Durden

China Accuses US Of ‘Gangster Logic’ For Defending Meetings With HK Independence Activists

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China hit back Friday over the developing fresh diplomatic crisis centered on a US State Department official caught meeting with notable Hong Kong independence activists. The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said Washington is applying “gangster logic” after the day prior a US spokesperson called Beijing a “thuggish regime”.

“The spokesperson at the commissioner’s office denounced the claim as a blatant slander against China, which has confounded right with wrong and again exposed US gangster logic and hegemonic thinking. China deplores and firmly opposes the remarks,” the statement said.

A woman identified as Julie Eadeh, chief of the US consulate in Hong Kong's political unit - which Chinese media figures had denounced as a "subversion expert" - had been photographed early in the week holding a secretive meeting with key anti-Beijing protest leaders at a downtown hotel in the semi-autonomous city.

As the photograph went viral in China, fueling outrage - and for Beijing validating its recent accusations that the US is covertly fueling the protests and unrest that have gripped Hong Kong streets - state media dug up more information on Eadeh.
The South China Morning Post reports what made the US State Department so outraged as to issue its stern rebuke:
Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao published personal details of Julie Eadeh, chief of the US consulate’s political unit, including her children’s names, and a photograph of Eadeh meeting pro-democracy activists including Joshua Wong Chi-fung. Also attending the meeting were Nathan Law Kwun-chung and other members of local political party Demosisto.
On Thursday afternoon State Dept spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told a news briefing,"I don't think that leaking an American diplomat's private information, pictures, names of their children, I don't think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do." She added, "That is not how a responsible nation would behave."

Referring to China lodging a formal protests over the incident, Ortagus said she objected “to the Chinese saying they issued a formal protest when in fact they harassed an American diplomat”.

“American diplomats meet with formal government officials, we meet with opposition protesters, not just in Hong Kong or China,” she said. “This literally happens in every single country in which an American embassy is present.”

But given the context of Hong Kong witnessing its worst popular unrest since 1997, we can imaging how US officials would react if Chinese or Russian diplomats were photographed meeting with American anti-government protesters at a moment of serious unrest in US cities.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Evidence Of CIA Meeting HK Protest Leaders? China Summons US Diplomats Over Viral Photo

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Hong Kong protest activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung seen meeting Julie Eadeh, political chief of US Consulate.

After a viral photo surfaced this week revealing continuing contact between well-known Hong Kong pro-independence protest leaders and a US diplomatic officer, China has summoned US consulate officials stationed in the city, Bloomberg reports.

According to a statement from Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, Chinese officials asked the Americans to clarify media reports that a US diplomat had contacted the local protest leaders. Bloomberg reports the clear firm message sent that "China firmly opposes any contacts with them and urges US to stop sending wrong signals to violent law breakers in Hong Kong."

As well organized anti-Beijing protests have raged and continued to escalate this summer over the deeply controversial extradition bill, Beijing authorities have repeatedly blamed a US "hidden hand" for fueling the crisis.

Pro-Beijing publications reported that protest leaders and key organizers Joshua Wong and Nathan Law had met with American consular official Julie Eadeh in the late afternoon on Tuesday at the JW Marriott Hotel in the Admiralty area of Hong Kong.

The viral photograph confirms the meeting took place and is driving outrage in China. State media claimed Eadeh - identified as the political unit chief of US Consulate General - met with the activists to discuss plans regarding the controversial extradition bill.
According to the UK's The Standard, Joshua Wong brushed off the significance of the meeting while admitting it did happen:
Wong dismissed the allegation following an inquiry by The Standard, saying: "I even went to Washington several times, so what's so special about meeting a US Consul?"
Wong explained he did meet with the US official to discuss the extradition bill, but also in order to urge the United States to cease exports of tear gas and rubber bullets to the Hong Kong SAR government.
It wasn't his first meeting with US officials, Wong stated further: "We also met the US Consul that visited the Legislative Council and have a meeting with pro-establishment and pan-democrat legislators," according to his statement.
The contact between the anti-China force and a US diplomat is "solid evidence" the US is behind the riots in Hong Kong, Li Haidong, a professor with the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times. — China's Global Times
Likely, Wong's rebuttal will not appease Chinese media and authorities who point to the incident as proof of US subversive action against Beijing inside the semi-autonomous city.

Eadeh has been engaged in diplomatic missions across the globe, especially in political "hot spots" from Baghdad to Beirut to Jerusalem to Taipei and Shanghai during her lengthy career with the US State Department, according to a short biographical essay she recently penned for Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Chinese state media pundits, however, have pointed to her career stationed in war zones such as Beirut during the 2006 war and in Baghdad and Mosul as suggesting she may be more than a mere "consular officer". Covert CIA officers often pose as State Department consular staff in order to conceal their identity, while also giving them diplomatic immunity in host countries.

One columnist for the Communist Party state newspaper, China Daily, went so far as to say the US diplomatic meeting with protesters points to CIA involvement in the unrest on Hong Kong's streets.

The newspaper's Europe bureau chief, Chen Weihua, wrote on Twitter:
There were reports suggesting Julie Eadeh is a trained subversion expert at the US consulate in Hong Kong. Her meeting with HK protesters would be evidence of US inciting and instigating the riots in Hong Kong. Is she under the direct order of former CIA chief Mike Pompeo?
Whether this is the case or not, we can imaging how US officials would react if Chinese or Russian diplomats were photographed meeting with American anti-government protesters at a moment of serious unrest in US cities.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

UK ‘Up To Its Neck’ In RussiaGate Affair, Secret Texts Reveal British Role In Trump Coup Effort

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While hysteria raged about possible Russian “interference” in the 2016 US election, British intelligence officials were secretly playing a “key role” in helping instigate investigations into Donald Trump, secret texts have shown.
'Turns out it was Britain that was the foreign country interfering in American affairs,' former MP George Galloway told RT, speaking about the new revelations published by the Guardian about early British involvement in the ‘Russiagate’ investigation.
The Guardian reported on texts between former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and Jeremy Fleming, his then counterpart at MI5, who now heads GCHQ. The two men met in 2016 to discuss “our strange situation” – an apparent reference to Russia’s alleged interference in US domestic politics.

British intelligence “appears to have played a key role in the early stages,” the report said.

Galloway told RT that the revelation was not surprising because people “already knew” that British intelligence had played a part in the Russia-related investigations in the US. He recalled that it was former British spy Christopher Steele who drew up the now-infamous Steele dossier, which made multiple unverifiable and salacious claims about Trump and has since been largely discredited.

Britain is “up to its neck in the whole Russiagate affair,” he said.

The texts also reveal that the Brexit vote was viewed by some in the FBI as something that had been influenced by Russia.

Asked what the UK stood to gain by trying to implicate Russia in a US election scandal at a time when then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson was dismissing baseless claims of Russian interference in the Brexit campaign, Galloway noted that Johnson’s comments on Russia have appeared to strangely sway between friendly and antagonistic.
Johnson is like 'a sofa that bears the impression of the last person to sit upon him,' the former MP quipped. What happens next will depend on who is leading the tango, 'the orange man in Washington or the blonde mop-head in London.'
In June 2016, the FBI opened a covert investigation codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane" into Trump’s now disproven collusion with Moscow, which was later taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Ultimately, the two-year-long probe that followed came up short, producing no evidence to prove a conspiracy or collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump To Unleash Hell On Europe: EU Announces Channel To Circumvent SWIFT And Iran Sanctions Is Now Operational

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With the world waiting for the first headlines from the Trump-Xi meeting, the most important and unexpected news of the day hit moments ago, when Europe announced that the special trade channel, Instex, that will allow European firms to avoid SWIFT and bypass American sanctions on Iran, is now operational.

Following a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer and called Instex, is now operational.

As a reminder, last September, in order to maintain a financial relationship with Iran that can not be vetoed by the US, Europe unveiled a "Special Purpose Vehicle" to bypass SWIFT. The mechanism would facilitate transactions between European and Iranian companies, while preventing the US from vetoing the transactions and pursuing punitive measures on those companies and states that defied Trump. The payment balancing system will allow companies in Europe to buy Iranian goods, and vice-versa, without actual money-transfers between European and Iranian banks.

The statement came after the remaining signatures of JCPOA gathered in Vienna for a meeting that Iranian ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called "the last chance for the remaining parties...to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran."

Until today, Tehran was skeptical about EU's commitment to the deal and threatened to exceed the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed it by the deal after US had imposed a series of sanctions on the country.

Meanwhile, opponents of Instex - almost exclusively the US - have argued that the mechanism is flawed because the Iranian institution designated to work with Instex, the Special Trade and Finance Instrument, has shareholders with links to entities already facing sanctions from the US

The announcement sent oil sharply lower, with crude futures falling about $1/bbl in closing minutes before settlement, extending daily loss, as it means Iran now has a fully functioning pathway to receive payment for oil it exports to anyone it chooses.

The announcement will likely send president Trump off the rails, because in late May Bloomberg reported that as part of Trump's escalating battle with "European allies" over the fate of the Iran nuclear accord, he was "threatening penalties against the financial body created by Germany, the U.K. and France to shield trade with the Islamic Republic from US sanctions" including the loss of access to the US financial system.

According to Bloomberg, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, sent a letter on May 7 warning that Instex, the European SPV to sustain trade with Tehran, and anyone associated with it could be barred from the US financial system if it goes into effect.

“I urge you to carefully consider the potential sanctions exposure of Instex,” Mandelker wrote in an ominous letter to Instex President Per Fischer. "Engaging in activities that run afoul of US sanctions can result in severe consequences, including a loss of access to the US financial system."

Germany, France and the U.K. finalized the Instex system in January, allowing companies to trade with Iran without the use of US dollars or American banks, allowing them to get around wide-ranging US sanctions that were imposed after the Trump administration abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year.

“This is a shot across the bow of a European political establishment committed to using Instex and its sanctions-connected Iranian counterpart to circumvent US measures,” said Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

Here is a simpler summary of what just happened: this was the first official shot across the bow of the USD status as a global reserve currency, and not by America's adversaries but by its closest allies. And once those who benefit the most from the status quo openly revolt against it, the countdown to the end of the USD reserve status officially begins.

* * *

When asked to comment on the letter, the Treasury Department issued a statement saying “entities that transact in trade with the Iranian regime through any means may expose themselves to considerable sanctions risk, and Treasury intends to aggressively enforce our authorities.”

The US ire was sparked by the realization - and alarm - that cracks are appearing in the dollar's reserve status, opponents of Instex argue - at least for public consumption purposes - that the mechanism is flawed because the Iranian institution designated to work with Instex, the Special Trade and Finance Instrument, has shareholders with links to entities already facing sanctions from the US

Separately, during a visit to London on May 8, Mike Pompeo also warned that there was no need for Instex because the US allows for humanitarian and medical products to get into Iran without sanction.

“When transactions move beyond that, it doesn’t matter what vehicle’s out there, if the transaction is sanctionable, we will evaluate it, review it, and if appropriate, levy sanctions against those that were involved in that transaction,” Pompeo said. “It’s very straightforward.”

In conclusion, one month ago we said that "In 2018, Europe made a huge stink about not being bound by Trump's unilateral breach of the Iranian deal, and said it would continue regardless of US threats. But now that the threats have clearly escalated, and Washington has made it clear it won't take no for an answer, it will be interesting to see if Europe's resolve to take on Trump - especially in light of the trade war with China - has fizzled. "

The answer, it appears is that Europe felt unexpectedly emboldened, just hours before Trump's meeting with Xi, and that it is ready and willing to call Trump's bluff; it goes without saying, that if the US does indeed retaliate and proceed with sanctions against European banks, than the global trade war is about to turn far, far uglier.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump To Unleash Hell On Europe: EU Announces Channel To Circumvent SWIFT And Iran Sanctions Is Now Operational

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With the world waiting for the first headlines from the Trump-Xi meeting, the most important and unexpected news of the day hit moments ago, when Europe announced that the special trade channel, Instex, that will allow European firms to avoid SWIFT and bypass American sanctions on Iran, is now operational.

Following a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer and called Instex, is now operational.

As a reminder, last September, in order to maintain a financial relationship with Iran that can not be vetoed by the US, Europe unveiled a "Special Purpose Vehicle" to bypass SWIFT. The mechanism would facilitate transactions between European and Iranian companies, while preventing the US from vetoing the transactions and pursuing punitive measures on those companies and states that defied Trump. The payment balancing system will allow companies in Europe to buy Iranian goods, and vice-versa, without actual money-transfers between European and Iranian banks.

The statement came after the remaining signatures of JCPOA gathered in Vienna for a meeting that Iranian ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called "the last chance for the remaining parties...to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran."

Until today, Tehran was skeptical about EU's commitment to the deal and threatened to exceed the maximum amount of enriched uranium allowed it by the deal after US had imposed a series of sanctions on the country.

Meanwhile, opponents of Instex - almost exclusively the US - have argued that the mechanism is flawed because the Iranian institution designated to work with Instex, the Special Trade and Finance Instrument, has shareholders with links to entities already facing sanctions from the US

The announcement sent oil sharply lower, with crude futures falling about $1/bbl in closing minutes before settlement, extending daily loss, as it means Iran now has a fully functioning pathway to receive payment for oil it exports to anyone it chooses.

The announcement will likely send president Trump off the rails, because in late May Bloomberg reported that as part of Trump's escalating battle with "European allies" over the fate of the Iran nuclear accord, he was "threatening penalties against the financial body created by Germany, the U.K. and France to shield trade with the Islamic Republic from US sanctions" including the loss of access to the US financial system.

According to Bloomberg, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, sent a letter on May 7 warning that Instex, the European SPV to sustain trade with Tehran, and anyone associated with it could be barred from the US financial system if it goes into effect.

“I urge you to carefully consider the potential sanctions exposure of Instex,” Mandelker wrote in an ominous letter to Instex President Per Fischer. "Engaging in activities that run afoul of US sanctions can result in severe consequences, including a loss of access to the US financial system."

Germany, France and the U.K. finalized the Instex system in January, allowing companies to trade with Iran without the use of US dollars or American banks, allowing them to get around wide-ranging US sanctions that were imposed after the Trump administration abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year.

“This is a shot across the bow of a European political establishment committed to using Instex and its sanctions-connected Iranian counterpart to circumvent US measures,” said Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

Here is a simpler summary of what just happened: this was the first official shot across the bow of the USD status as a global reserve currency, and not by America's adversaries but by its closest allies. And once those who benefit the most from the status quo openly revolt against it, the countdown to the end of the USD reserve status officially begins.

* * *

When asked to comment on the letter, the Treasury Department issued a statement saying “entities that transact in trade with the Iranian regime through any means may expose themselves to considerable sanctions risk, and Treasury intends to aggressively enforce our authorities.”

The US ire was sparked by the realization - and alarm - that cracks are appearing in the dollar's reserve status, opponents of Instex argue - at least for public consumption purposes - that the mechanism is flawed because the Iranian institution designated to work with Instex, the Special Trade and Finance Instrument, has shareholders with links to entities already facing sanctions from the US

Separately, during a visit to London on May 8, Mike Pompeo also warned that there was no need for Instex because the US allows for humanitarian and medical products to get into Iran without sanction.

“When transactions move beyond that, it doesn’t matter what vehicle’s out there, if the transaction is sanctionable, we will evaluate it, review it, and if appropriate, levy sanctions against those that were involved in that transaction,” Pompeo said. “It’s very straightforward.”

In conclusion, one month ago we said that "In 2018, Europe made a huge stink about not being bound by Trump's unilateral breach of the Iranian deal, and said it would continue regardless of US threats. But now that the threats have clearly escalated, and Washington has made it clear it won't take no for an answer, it will be interesting to see if Europe's resolve to take on Trump - especially in light of the trade war with China - has fizzled. "

The answer, it appears is that Europe felt unexpectedly emboldened, just hours before Trump's meeting with Xi, and that it is ready and willing to call Trump's bluff; it goes without saying, that if the US does indeed retaliate and proceed with sanctions against European banks, than the global trade war is about to turn far, far uglier.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Rep. Meadows: FBI Knew ‘Within 60 Days’ That Russia Probe ‘Built On A Foundation Of Sand’

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Rep. Mark Meadows confirmed what many have suspected about the Trump-Russia for a long time; the FBI knew early on that the foundation of its counterintelligence investigation against the Trump campaign was built on 'a foundation of sand,' reports the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross. 

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R) told Hannity Friday night that the FBI knew "within 60 days of them opening the investigation, prior to [Robert] Mueller coming on, the FBI and the [Department of Justice] knew that Christopher Steele was not credible, the dossier was not true, George Papadopoulos was innocent." 

Meadows did not elaborate on why he believes the FBI knew their investigation was built on a mountain of lies, however according to The Hill's John Solomon last month, memos which were retroactively classified by the DOJ reveal that a high-ranking government official who met with Christopher Steele in October 2016 determined that information in the Trump-Russia dossier was inaccurate, and likely leaked to the media. 

Meadows also suggested that the FBI had exculpatory information on Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who was fed the rumor that Russia had negative information on Hillary Clinton, and later bilked for said information by a Clinton-linked Australian diplomat. Papadopoulos would later be subject to a spying operation in which the FBI sent in two operatives to trick the Trump adviser in a failed business / honeypot operation. 
The bureau opened its investigation of the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016, after receiving a tip about Papadopoulos from the Australian government. Within those two months, the FBI team leading the investigation received information from Steele’s dossier. The FBI also dispatched a longtime FBI informant, Stefan Halper, to meet with Papadopoulos.

The pair met in London in mid-September 2016 after Halper offered Papadopoulos $3,000 to write a policy paper. Halper, a former Cambridge professor, was accompanied by a woman he claimed was his assistant, Azra Turk. She is reportedly a government investigator.

Meadows in the past has suggested the FBI had exculpatory information on Papadopoulos that showed the Trump aide was not working with Russia. -Daily Caller
The FBI relied on the Steele dossier to obtain surveillance warrants on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, ostensibly allowing the Obama administration to surveil those Page was in contact with.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Mueller Caught In Another Deception; Key ‘Russia Link’ Exposed As Informant For US, Ukraine

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A Ukrainian businessman painted in the Mueller report as a sinister link to Russia was actually a "sensitive" intelligence source for the US State Department who informed on Ukrainian and Russian issues - and passed messages between the Washington and Kiev, according to The Hill's John Solomon.

Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was described on page 6 of the Mueller report as having "ties to Russian intelligence" - and was cast in a sinister light as a potential threat to democracy. Mueller completely omitted the fact that Kilimnik was working as an informant and intermediary between America and Ukraine, and subsequently indicted him for obstruction of justice.
Kilimnik was not just any run-of-the-mill source, either.

He interacted with the chief political officer at the US Embassy in Kiev, sometimes meeting several times a week to provide information on the Ukraine government. He relayed messages back to Ukraine's leaders and delivered written reports to US officials via emails that stretched on for thousands of words, the memos show.

The FBI knew all of this, well before the Mueller investigation concluded. -The Hill
What's more, the chief political officer at the Kiev embassy from 2014 to 2017, Alan Purcell, told the FBI that State officials - including senior embassy officials Alexander Kasanof and Eric Schultz, thought Klimnik was such a valuable asset that they wouldn't mention his name in official cables out of fear that WikiLeaks would expose him.

"Purcell described what he considered an unusual level of discretion that was taken with handling Kilimnik," said one FBI interview report reviewed by Solomon. "Normally the head of the political section would not handle sources, but Kasanof informed Purcell that KILIMNIK was a sensitive source."
Purcell told the FBI that Kilimnik provided "detailed information about OB (Ukraine's opposition bloc) inner workings" that sometimes was so valuable it was forwarded immediately to the ambassador. Purcell learned that other Western governments relied on Kilimnik as a source, too.

"One time, in a meeting with the Italian embassy, Purcell heard the Italian ambassador echo a talking point that was strikingly familiar to the point Kilimnik had shared with Purcell," the FBI report states. -The Hill
And Mueller mentioned none of this in his report despite knowing about it since 2018 - more than a year before the final report.
Three sources with direct knowledge of the inner workings of Mueller's office confirmed to me that the special prosecutor's team had all of the FBI interviews with State officials, as well as Kilimnik's intelligence reports to the US Embassy, well before they portrayed him as a Russian sympathizer tied to Moscow intelligence or charged Kilimnik with participating with Manafort in a scheme to obstruct the Russia investigation. -The Hill
Kilimnik was described by Purcell's predecessor, Alexander Kasanov, as one of the few reliable informants spying on former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, whose Party of Regions had hired Manafort's lobbying firm.
Kasanof described Kilimnik as one of the few reliable insiders the US Embassy had informing on Yanukovych. Kilimnik began his relationship as an informant with the US deputy chief of mission in 2012-13, before being handed off to the embassy's political office, the records suggest.

'Kilimnik was one of the only people within the administration who was willing to talk to USEMB,' referring to the US embassy, and he 'provided information about the inner workings of Yanukovych's administration,' Kasanof told the FBI agents.

'Kasanof met with Kilimnik at least bi-weekly and occasionally multiple times in the same week,' always outside the embassy to avoid detection, the FBI wrote. 'Kasanof allowed Kilimnik to take the lead on operational security' for their meetings. -The Hill
And, despite the Mueller report suggesting Kilimnik is a Russian stooge, state officials told the FBI that he did not appear to hold any allegiance to the Kremlin, and had been "flabbergasted at the Russian invasion of Crimea."

"Most sources of information in Ukraine were slanted in one direction or another," Kasanof told the FBI. "Kilimnik came across as less slanted than others."

Solomon corroborated the FBI interviews with Kasanov and Purcell with "scores of State Department emails" which contain regular intelligence dispatches from Kilimnik on what was going on inside of the Yanukovych administration, the Crimea conflict, and Ukrainian and Russian politics.

Not a threat

Contrary to the dire threat to national security implied in the Mueller report, Kilimnik was allowed to enter the United States twice in 2016 to meet with State officials - meaning he clearly wasn't flagged in visa databases as a foreign intelligence threat.

Mueller also painted a one-sided picture of Kilimnik's peace plan for Crimea which he had presented to the Trump administration - suggesting that it was a "backdoor" way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine. In fact, Kilimnik had presented the idea to the Obama administration in 2016.

As Solomon notes "That's what many in the intelligence world might call 'deception by omission.'"
Specifically, the Mueller report flagged Kilimnik's delivery of a peace plan to the Trump campaign for settling the two-year-old Crimea conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel's Office was a 'backdoor' way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine," the Mueller report stated.

But State emails showed Kilimnik first delivered a version of his peace plan in May 2016 to the Obama administration during a visit to Washington. Kasanof, his former handler at the US Embassy in Ukraine, had been promoted to a top policy position at State, and the two met for dinner on May 5, 2016.

The day after the dinner, Kilimnik sent an email to Kasanof's official State email address recounting the peace plan they had discussed the night before. -The Hill
While Kilimnik did not respond to The Hill for comment, he slammed the "made-up narrative" about him in a May email to the Washington Post, adding "I have no ties to Russian or, for that matter, any intelligence operation."

That said, as Solomon writes "Kilimnik holds Ukrainian and Russian citizenship, served in the Soviet military, attended a prestigious Russian language academy and had contacts with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. So it is likely he had contacts over the years with Russian intelligence figures. There also is evidence Kilimnik left the US-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) in 2005 because of concerns about his past connections to Russia, though at least one IRI witness disputed that evidence to the FBI, the memos show."

However Mueller's omission of his "extensive, trusted assistance to the State Department seems inexplicable."

We learn this four days after deceptive edits were found in the Mueller report regarding a phone call between attorneys for President Trump and former national security adviser Mike Flynn designed to make it appear as though Trump was attempting to strongarm Flynn and possibly obstruct justice by shaping witness testimony.

As Solomon concludes - "A few more such errors and omissions, and Americans may begin to wonder if the Mueller report is worth the paper on which it was printed."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Assange Hit With Espionage Act Violations As DoJ Unveils 17 New Charges

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The worst fears of Julian Assange's legal team have just been realized.

Just as Wikileaks' editor in chief anticipated, the DoJ has revealed that a grand jury in Virginia has returned a new 18-count superseding indictment against Assange that includes violations of the Espionage Act stemming from his role in publishing the classified documents leaked by Chelsea Manning, as well as his original charge of conspiring to break into a government computer, per the New York Times.

The DOJ said with the indictment that Assange will face a maximum of 10 years for each of the 17 Espionage Act violations, plus the five-year penalty for his earlier hacking charge.

In addition to significantly raising the punishment threshold (from a maximum of 5.5 years under the previous indictment to the prospect of a death sentence for violating the Espionage Act), the new charges will raise serious first amendment issues as Assange will become the first journalist charged under the Espionage Act.

Though it's not a guarantee, Espionage Act violations have, in the past, carried the prospect of a death sentence, though Assange's specific violations will likely spare him the possibility of such a fate (read more about Assange's charges here).

For context, the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used to convict suspected spies - most famously Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were famously put to death by electric chair in 1953.
The Justice Department’s decision to pursue Espionage Act charges signals a dramatic escalation under President Trump to crack down on leaks of classified information and aims squarely at First Amendment protections for journalists. Most recently, law enforcement officials charged a former intelligence analyst with giving classified documents to The Intercept, a national security news website.

Legal scholars believe that prosecuting reporters over their work would violate the First Amendment, but the prospect has not yet been tested in court because the government had never charged a journalist under the Espionage Act.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.
Per the NYT, the Obama administration considered bringing the Espionage Act charges against Assange, but balked because it didn't want to raise the First Amendment issue. While Wikileaks had warned of this possibility, they suspected that the US would wait until Assange was on American soil before bringing Espionage Act-related charges, since they would carry a much more severe penalty.

Wikileaks said the new charges were "madness" and that this would be "the end of national security journalism."

Remember, the UK and Ecuador promised that no serious harm would befall Assange - ie that Assange wouldn't be put to death, or face the possibility of rotting in prison for the rest of his life. Whether these new charges will help or hurt Assange's chances of successfully battling extradition remains to be seen.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump De-escalating? Satellite Intel Based On Tehran ‘Misreading’ US Intentions

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Soaring tensions of the past nearly two weeks paving the way for a potential direct military clash in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran could be de-escalating as rapidly as they began as the president attempts to reign in hawks in his own administration, per a new report in FT:
President Donald Trump said he hoped the US would not go to war with Iran, cooling tensions at the end of a week in which worries spiked over the risk of conflict between the US and the Islamic republic. As he stood outside the West Wing waiting to meet Swiss president Ueli Maurer on Thursday, Mr Trump was asked by a reporter whether the US was going to war with Iran. He replied: “I hope not.”
This as the WSJ also reports Trump is fast reigning in his two Iran hawk horsemen of the apocalypse Bolton and Pompeo: "There are sharply differing views within the Trump administration over the meaning of intelligence showing Iran and its proxies making military preparations, people familiar with the matter said," according to the report.

So Trump doesn't want war, and now with the Senate demanding it be given a comprehensive briefing on just what the increased Iran threat constitutes and the intelligence consensus behind it (or lack thereof), it looks like the war train could be grinding to a halt.

Bloomberg also agrees, per its latest report:
President Donald Trump is wary of drawing the US into a war with Iran, in part out of concern that an armed conflict with the Islamic Republic would imperil his chances at winning a second term, according to people familiar with the matter. US’s evidence of Iran threat readied for release by Pentagon.
But the Pentagon war machine's next move could hinge on what's been revealed as the initial key piece of intelligence "evidence" of Iran's "attack preparations" that got us here in the first place, starting with Bolton's May 5th announcement of a major Iranian threat escalation. The "smoking gun" that started it all apparently hinges on satellite photos showing Iranian paramilitary forces moving missiles on boats in the Persian Gulf (perhaps even in their own territorial waters!?).

The New York Times cited three defense officials who confirmed that, “The intelligence that caused the White House to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran came from photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf that were put on board by Iranian paramilitary forces.”

But crucially, according to US intelligence officials cited by the WSJ, the "missile movement" satellite photographs may have just been picking up on Iranian defensive measures that came in reaction to Tehran's belief that a US military attack was on the horizon.

"Intelligence collected by the US government shows Iran’s leaders believe the US planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, according to one interpretation of the information," reports The Wall Street Journal's Warren Strobel, Nancy Youssef, and Vivian Salama.
However, what was originally set in motion itself has momentum enough to spark confrontation, given on Thursday two Navy destroyers have entered the Persian Gulf as the American military continues to add to its assets in the region to head off any planned Iranian "aggression," USNI reported.

The USS McFaul and USS Gonzalez traveled through the Strait of Hormuz Thursday afternoon without being challenged by IRGC forces. They joined the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is stationed in the Gulf of Oman, as well as a strike force that includes several B-52 bombers out of Qatar.

So there it is: formula for de-escalation; however, the chances of some "accident" happening which leads to clashes remains high and unpredictable, at which point the intelligence debate Congress is demanding could turn into a moot afterthought, as is the pattern with many US wars.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Top British Commander In Rare Public Dispute With US Over Iran Intelligence

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An awkward public exchange unfolded between the US military and its closest allied military coalition force during a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday wherein a top British commander in charge of anti-ISIS coalition forces rebuked White House claims on the heightened Iran threat.

“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” British Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, a deputy head of the US-led coalition, asserted confidently in a videolink briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon in response to a CNN question. “We’re aware of that presence, clearly. And we monitor them along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in. We are monitoring the Shia militia groups. I think you’re referring to carefully and if the threat level seems to go up then we’ll raise our force protection measures accordingly.”

The British commander's words prompted a rare and swift rebuke from the US side hours later into the evening when US Central Command (CENTCOM) issued its own statement slamming Gen. Ghika's words as inaccurate, insisting coalition troops in Iraq and Syria were an a "high level of alert" due to the "Iran threat".

“Recent comments from OIR’s deputy commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from US and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region,” the CENTCOM statement said.

“US Central Command, in coordination with OIR, has increased the force posture level for all service members assigned to OIR in Iraq and Syria. As a result, OIR is now at a high level of alert as we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats to US forces in Iraq.”
The US statement went so far as to imply the British general didn't have a grasp of troop readiness and the state of alert of the very soldiers under his command.

And further, it's saying something when you've even lost The Guardian, which has over the past years sought to crush any level of dissent or skepticism of the western mainstream narrative on Syria. The Guardian noted:
The remarkable comments heightened concerns that fabricated or exaggerated intelligence may be being used by administration hawks led by the national security adviser, John Bolton, to further the case for war against Iran, in a manner reminiscent of the buildup to the Iraq invasion.
The incredible public clash among allies came as the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group is en route to the Persian Gulf, along with a B-52 bomber group monitoring the air from Qatar, and new Patriot missile batteries.

Also overnight the State Department ordered the immediate evacuation of all non-essential personnel from the US embassy in over unspecified Iranian threats.

Washington and Tehran have recently exchanged threats of direct conflict while jostling to assert control over the vital Strait of Hormuz narrow oil shipping passage, which has further left global oil markets on edge and rattled.

The military build-up is claimed to be in response to intelligence the White House says confirms that US troops face imminent threat of attack by Iran and its regional proxy forces in places like Iraq, Syria, and the gulf.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.