The Unbearable Anti-Left Russia Hysteria

On February 16, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted  13  Russians on  charges of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through social media. Much of the information in the indictments had previously been reported, in Russia and in the U.S. The focus was the St. Petersburg-Internet Research Agency, also known as the “troll factory,” and how it allegedly disrupted the 2016 election and — it is increasingly suggested — elected Donald Trump.

The indictments will not likely lead to any extraditions or prosecutions, but the media’s obsessive focus on the topic has convinced just about everyone that Russian election interference was sweeping and decisive. And of course anyone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries or Jill Stein in the general election are now generally seen as dupes of the Russian operation — even though the ads in those candidates’ favor were poorly funded, tiny in number and often based around memes that were already widely circulating.

Overall, Rob Goldman, VP of Advertising at Facebook, tweeted, “The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Trump and the election.” Goldman was savaged for this in the press — especially after Trump tweeted out his comments –and later apologized, but what he had said about the timing was true.

These realities haven’t stopped mainstream media and establishment pundits from suggesting that Sanders’s entire campaign was tainted. “Sanders silent on claim that Russians backed him in 2016” ran a Politico headline. Also joining in were MSNBC’s Ari Melber and Joy Reid, and Clinton superfan Peter Daou, who all thought it imperative that Sanders apologize because Russian trolls paid for ads, without his knowledge, such as this “Buff Bernie” ad, which we are to believe influenced large numbers of LGBT voters. By the same logic, Reid should apologize for having her work boosted more than 200 times by Russia trolls.

Jill Stein has also been effectively accused of treason and turned into a major scapegoat for Trump’s election based on the now accepted assumption that every one of her voters would have cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton if she hadn’t run. Various studies and polls suggest otherwise, and it’s hard to imagine that the one Russia ad cited in the indictment won her any support: “On or about November 3, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased an advertisement to promote a post on the ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account “Blacktivist” that read in part: “choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”

At this point the Russia-gate narrative is targeting the left — Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Black Lives Matter, and other activist groups — with almost as much fervor as it is Trump. The hysteria surrounding these claims is having a profound impact on the political discourse, to the point that expressing concern about the Parkland school shootings can now make you an unwitting dupe of Russian trolls.

 

This May Be Year That Country Officially Goes Nuts

When future historians look back upon this era it will be very hard to conclude that the Russiagate tale did not drive the country completely, and perhaps permanently, off the deep end. It’s become virtually impossible to have a rational discussion on the topic, because the debate isn’t about facts, it’s about politics.

Let me state here — as one still must do when writing about Russiagate while not simultaneously demanding the immediate impeachment of Donald Trump — that I’m not a fan of the president. I spent most of 2017 working on a project for Global Witness that looked at a Trump project in Panama and how he benefited from a massive inflow of funds from Russian criminal networks and Colombian narcotics traffickers.

So I must be in the tank for the Democrats, right? On the other hand, I wrote a lot of critical pieces about Hillary Clinton in 2016 — hey, I thought she was going to be president — so clearly I’m pro-Trump.  In today’s environment, if you don’t explicitly take one side, you must be on the other side. (Disclosure: My side is I hope Trump gets voted out of office but I’m against impeachment unless someone can show he committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”)

Liberal paranoia and craziness on the topic of Russiagate has not matched the right’s lunacy during the Obama years, i.e. Birtherism, but it may yet. And just as right-wing hysteria about Obama proved to be a cash cow for conservatives, plenty of liberals are cashing in on the anti-Trump movement.

Just over the weekend, came fresh signs of duplicity among some in the #Resistance. Eric Garland‏, who became a hero to the anti-Trump crowd with his deranged “game theory” tweet “storm,” had a new thread where he proposed that the Ferguson protests and riots in 2014 may have been a “PsyOp.” Why did anyone ever take this guy seriously?

Then there was a tweet from Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive who has attracted quite a following among liberals. “Well, this is telling: The Economist has downgraded the US from ‘full democracy’ to ‘flawed democracy because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials under Trump,” she wrote.

What was more telling was that thousands of people retweeted her post even though she linked to the magazine’s 2016 “Democracy Index,” released over a year ago, during Trump’s first week in office, and which specifically said Trump was not a factor in the downgrade. “By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr. Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which U.S. voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation,” said the Index.

By the way, The Economist‘s 2017 Index recently came out. The U.S. is still rated as a “flawed democracy” and it’s overall score remained the same as it was for 2016, and for the same reasons. Trump may be a danger to democracy, but our political system was broken for a long time before he took office. indeed, that’s why he holds it.)

Democratic consultant Scott Dworkin, another top #Resistance figure, tweeted over the weekend  that he had an “exclusive” story about a decade-old interview Eric Trump gave to the Russian publication Home Overseas. In the interview, he said, “in the New York hotel-condominium Trump SoHo the bulk of buyers are foreigners, among whom there are a lot of Russians…We very much count on good demand from the Russians.”

It’s an interesting quote, but this “exclusive” was reported by Seth Hettena in August 2017, so there is nothing exclusive about it. But it’s part of a pattern by Dworkin, who raises a lot of money, much which goes into his own pockets, and uses “scoops” like this to raise his standing, and more money.

“The liberal grift is on,” is the headline of a new story by Ryan Cooper in The Week. He writes “that the fact of people being totally unhinged about Russia does not mean Russia did not interfere with the 2016 election in various ways.” (In fact, he believes Russia did interfere and that figures in the Trump administration asked for its help.) But, he adds, it’s “critical to remain grounded and not give into the cheap dopamine hit of hysterical conspiracy nonsense.”

Good luck.

 

A Short History Of Louise Mensch

For the latest fake news on Russiagate, the first place I turn to is Louise Mensch, the British Parliament member-turned-conspiracy theorist and one-time New York Times op-ed contributor.

As of November 2017, Mensch had tweeted 110,000 times since she joined Twitter in 2009, averaging 38 a day, according to The Independent’s calculation.

Upon leaving government, Mensch became a columnist for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun, where she took up the cause of feminism by getting involved in a series of high-profile “bosom battles,” to use a term coined by the other Howard Rushmore.

She clashed in the media with the Education Secretary’s wife, who saw Mensch’s photo in GQ magazine and concluded that she had “pert, but modest-sized breasts.

Then the venerable British magazine Tatler nicknamed Mensch “Twitter Tits” when it included her in its special “Titler” issue, featuring “the most magnificent and marvellous breasts in all society.”

Mensch was not amused, tweeting, “Please don’t edit magazines drunk. #feminism.” She also used her column to chastise a Parliament member’s wife who had a habit of posting her buxom cleavage selfies on social media.

In response to Mensch’s “#feminism,” Alexandra Jones of The Guardian noted: “This is the very same Louise Mensch who has a column in The Sun. I’m not sure if she’s noticed but The Sun features a different topless woman every day.”

Mensch now lives in the USA with her rock-star-manager hubby, Peter Mensch, and has traded in #feminism for Russiagate.

She reinvented herself as an investigative tweeter, and “began reporting stories using information no other journalist seemed to have,” as The Independent observed.

Mensch specializes in “informed speculation” and other forms of hard evidence that are intended to prove that Vladimir Putin snatched the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton’s rightful grasp.

Convinced that Putin’s alleged theft was an act of war, Mensch tweet-demanded that then-President Obama go to war with Russia. “I want precision bombing raids. Mass cyber war. Bank hacks.”

For unknown reasons, Obama didn’t listen.

In April 2017, she claimed on Twitter that Black Lives Matter activists were paid by Russia to demonstrate in Ferguson. “That’s because you, Russia, funded riots in Ferguson,” she tweeted.

And while most conspiracy theorists think Andrew Breitbart’s sudden death in 2012 was orchestrated by Barack Hussein Obama, you know who Mensch thinks did it. “I absolutely believe that Andrew Breitbart was murdered by Putin, just as the founder of RT was murdered by Putin.”

She even tried to explain the law to Preet Bharara, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, when he derided her reporting that there were sealed indictments against Trump.

Truly, Mensch is “the Sy Hersh of our time,” as former New York Times writer Virginia Heffernan called her.

She also has a blog called Patribotics, which I think is the same thing as probiotics, so you can get your Russiagate facts and increase your gut flora at the same time.

Last November, she broke the story on “Mike Flynn’s Treason Tour,” describing how “Flynn and his son assisted Vladimir Putin in targeting Russian propaganda not only in the United States, but also right across Europe.”

She later absolved Mike Flynn Jr. for going on the treason tour, because he told her that he was forced to do it, and said so “in such a way” that led her to believe him. She did, however, accuse the younger Flynn of being “addicted to tweeting hate-ridden Russian messaging.”

Mensch’s former employer The Sun was not known for its accuracy  Alas, Mensch has gotten a number of stories rather spectacularly wrong, including a report that Trump had secretly been replaced as president.

“Trump’s Presidency Ended May 9th – Hatch Getting Security Briefings,” Patribotics exclusively reported last May. “Several sources familiar with the matter say that Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is being given security briefings to prepare him for the Presidency,” the story said. “Sources close to the legal community indicate that matters are proceeding rapidly in the forthcoming proceedings to remove Donald Trump from office, and to indict the co-conspirators around him.”

Mensch kicked off 2018 with a New Year’s Day blog post, revealing that the Russians hacked The New York Times because it is the “paper of record” and because it is read by liberals. Perhaps Putin had read The Times’ advertising data card, and logically concluded from the demographic profile that it would be a good hack.

Patribotics sometimes has guest bloggers, most notably Claude Taylor, who is best-known for breaking the news about Donald and Melania Trump’s aborted divorce plans. In May 2017, Taylor tweeted: “I was just told by MSM member that Donald and Melania’s divorce papers were signed prior to election and settlement agreed to. Then he won.”

Another guest blogger, Peter Evans, dropped a Patribotic bombshell last November when he revealed that China was Putin’s “partner in crime” when he stole the 2016 election.

Evans wrote: “Fact is that the biggest geopolitical heist in history occurred when Donald J Trump was elected as President. Because he was elected not by the people, for the people, but by and for the interests of the Russian Federation – and the People’s Republic of China.”

Russia is uniquely devious, Evans pointed out, because it “does things strategically” – unlike other governments, which just wing it.

A particularly sinister example of Russian strategy is the “international intrigue we are seeing now over with North Korea,” which “is nothing but a Kabuki Dance designed to confuse and distract the Western public from what is really going on.” (Note to Evans: Kabuki is not Korean.)

Meanwhile, on Twitter Mensch has recently claimed that a certain Vermont senator is also in on the Russian plot to undermine America. “Bernie Sanders’ links to Putin discredited Bernie Sanders,” she tweeted.

For a long time Mensch’s loopy conspiracy theories were quite popular with liberals. who were — and still are — desperate to believe anything that furthers the Russiagate/impeachment narrative. But by now, her fan base, and credibility, has diminished significantly. “Louise Mensch’s Destructive Fantasies,” the conservative but generally anti-Trump National Review headlined one story. “Louise Mensch and the rise of the liberal conspiracy theorist,” Slate ran above another piece.

Well, no she can’t. Instead, she responded by outing Mr. Mensch as a “fucking commie,” according to The London Times.

 

Did Moby Spread Anti-Trump Message For CIA? If He Did, Agency Probably Broke The Law

During a radio interview last week, Moby stated that “active and former CIA agents” who were “truly concerned” about Trump’s “collusion” with Russia had asked him to express alarm about that on social media, as reported here by Pitchfork.  “They were like, ‘This is the Manchurian Candidate, like [Putin] has a Russian agent as the President of the United States,’” he was quoted as saying. “So they passed on some information to me and they said, like, ‘Look, you have more of a social media following than any of us do, can you please post some of these things just in a way that … sort of put it out there.’”

This is consistent with what Moby said last February in an Instagram post, when he claimed “friends in DC”  had told him the famous Trump dossier was “100% real” and that Putin’s government was “blackmailing” the president. “He’s being blackmailed by the russian government, not just for being peed on by russian hookers, but for much more nefarious things,” he wrote. “the trump administration is in collusion with the russian government, and has been since day one.”

The story has been treated as an innocuous form of entertainment, like much political coverage these days, but if Moby really spread such information — true or not — at the behest of CIA officials, the officials may have broken the law. Under its rules, the agency is forbidden from seeking to get journalists or journalism outlets to spread information inside the continental United States that’s intended to influence public opinion.

OK, the agency has obviously repeatedly broken its charter over the years, including when it comes to working with journalists and seeking to influence domestic opinion.  But if Moby is telling the truth, it raises a few obvious questions that someone should be asking the CIA:

1/ Who were the officers who passed this information to Moby?

2/ Did they do so at the request of acting CIA officials as part of a planned effort to influence public opinion, or did they merely share the information in casual conversation over drinks? (Either way, it doesn’t seem proper for CIA officers, especially active ones, to be using celebrities to spread partisan political information.)

3/ Has the CIA filed a crimes report with the FBI and Justice Department to get answers to the questions above?

Given how many leaks to journalists we’ve seen from the intelligence community, this may seem like a small matter, but if it’s true imagine the consequences and possibilities. Do we really want the CIA passing information to Ted Nugent about Barack Obama and having him spread it on his demented Twitter feed and Fox News?

 

William Browder, The Man Behind The Magnitsky Act, And The Origins Of Russiagate

[Editor’s note: One of the key but still little known figures in the ongoing hysteria concerning alleged Russian influence and meddling in the U.S. is William Browder, an American-born oligarch who renounced his U.S. citizenship to become British, apparently for tax purposes. Browder got rich in Moscow running a hedge fund and was friendly towards Vladimir Putin’s government until he  was accused of defrauding it of significant tax revenues.

Browder, who has spoken extensively about Russia in the media and also testified before congress, is not exactly an impartial observer. But he has received tremendously favorable coverage in the mainstream press, where the consensus narrative is that he is a selflessly seeking to expose corruption and Russian influence in America. Indeed, various journalists I’ve spoken to have said it’s been all but impossible to write critically about Browder because of the smothering consensus that has formed around him.

To get a fuller portrait of Browder,  I’m publishing this piece by Lucy Komisar, a longtime financial reporter. It originally ran last fall at 100 Reporters and at Lucy’s website, thekomisarscoop.com, but the story it tells is generally unavailable to an American public being bombarded with a flow of news about Russian meddling, much of it badly informed.]

The controversial New York meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump’s campaign team and a group of Russians, initiated as a talk about finding dirt on Hillary Clinton, is drawing new scrutiny of US economic sanctions against targeted Russians.

.

At the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump confederates, lured by a promise of compromising information on Trump’s rival, instead stumbled upon a quagmire: a fraud that bilked the Russian treasury of $230 million; a trans-Atlantic dispute over offshore accounts and tax evasion, and a U.S.-born investor, William Browder, who once ran the largest foreign investment fund in Russia, and who plays the eminence grise in this drama.

Browder is perhaps best known as an investor in Russia turned an anti-corruption activist, and the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, the battery of economic sanctions aimed at Russian officials. However, an examination of Browder’s record in Russia and his testimony in court cases reveals contradictions with his statements to the public and Congress, and raises questions about his motives in attacking corruption in the Kremlin.

Browder has insisted that his departure from Russia resulted from his anti-corruption activities. However, Russian authorities revoked his visa in November 2005, two years after a provincial court convicted Browder of evading some $40 million in taxes. The Russian federal government next took up the case. Magnitsky was interrogated in 2006 about the tax evasion and detained over it in 2008.

Nevertheless, by 2012 Browder had convinced key U.S. politicians that Magnitsky was his lawyer, hired to investigate the theft of three of Browder’s companies and jailed by corrupt Russian authorities, who engineered his death in prison. The Magnitsky Act banned visas and business ties for a number of Russians allegedly linked to Magnitsky’s death. The impact of that legislation has spread, with US and European human rights advocates pressing for a global Magnitsky Act against public officials and corporate officers everywhere accused of corruption or rights violations.

It is the theft of the three companies that ties Browder to the controversial Trump, Jr. meeting. In 2007, shell companies that had once been owned by Browder were used to claim a $230 million tax refund based on trumped-up financial loses. Browder has said the companies were stolen from him, and indeed in a murky operation organized by a convicted fraudster, they were re-registered in the names of others.  

About five years later, Browder went after a company he said had gotten money laundered in the tax refund fraud. He persuaded the Justice Department to bring charges in 2013 in New York against Prevezon, a Russian real estate investment firm, and others. Browder accused Prevezon of receiving $1.9 million from the tax refund fraud. It used the money to buy New York real estate, he said.

That New York lawsuit is what brought Prevezon’s Russian lawyer, Nataliya Veselnitskaya, to the United States several times in 2016, including to the June 2016 meeting with Trump Jr.

Veselnitskaya says the Prevezon suit was a distraction Browder used to cover up his own tax evasion and–she claims–collusion in the tax refund fraud. She bases her accusation in part on the role of Magnitsky. She has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, deriding it as Browder’s way of protecting himself from Russian legal trouble.

Browder declined repeated requests for an interview about the Russian charges, his time as an investor in Russia, and his campaigns for the Magnitsky Act. Browder went so far as to have the author of this article banned from a public talk he gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, in December 2016.

But this summer, in sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Browder made statements that appear to contradict his testimony in the Prevezon case. Statements by Browder in this article come from the printed record of his Senate testimony, and his various public appearances and writings.

A Nested Russian Tale

“While working in Moscow I learned that Russian oligarchs stole from shareholders, which included the fund I advised,” Browder told the Senators during the Washington, DC hearing this summer.

There is, however, a record that suggests Browder knew well more about suspicious transactions involving the companies he controlled. That record questions the prevalent depiction of Browder as an entrepreneur wronged by a rough-and-tumble Russian business community.

A 100Reporters investigation, published in 2014, illustrated how Russian titanium company, Avisma, in which Browder was an investor, used an Isle of Man shell company to “buy” titanium at fake low prices and sell it abroad at higher market prices, cheating both minority share-holders and Russian tax authorities. A lawsuit showed Browder knew that was the business plan.

According to corporate documents, Browder’s holding company, Hermitage Capital Management, was built on corporate registrations authored by the Mossack Fonseca law firm.

That firm is the source of more than one million documents made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in its Panama Papers investigation, involving assets hidden through the use of shell companies and secret offshore accounts. Its disclosures have led to resignations by government officials worldwide, criminal investigations and charges of corruption against bureaucrats and business leaders.

Mossack Fonseca set up two companies in the British Virgin Islands, Berkeley Advisors and Starcliff, to hold shares in Hermitage. The Browder family home in Princeton, New Jersey, is registered by a Mossack Fonseca shell, Pepperdine Holdings Ltd. Browder’s $11-million vacation home in Aspen is also “owned” by a shell registered in an agent’s name. The US taxes offshore earnings. In 1998, Browder traded his US citizenship for one in the UK, which does not.

How Hermitage Got Started

In Browder’s time in Russia, a key figure was accountant Konstantin Ponomarev, who in 1995 founded Firestone Duncan with American lawyer Jamison Firestone as a minority partner. Ponomarev hired Magnitsky, with whom he had studied at the Russian Economics Academy. He named Magnitsky deputy head of the new firm’s audit department and assigned him to Hermitage. According to Ponomarev, the firm – and Magnitsky — set up an offshore structure that Russian investigators would later say was used for tax evasion and illegal share purchases by Hermitage.

In a series of emails to the author, Ponomarev said that Firestone Duncan set up a number of Hermitage shell companies in the Russian republic of Kalmykia. They held stocks in some Russian companies that Browder had purchased for himself and clients. Ponomarev said the structure helped Browder execute tax-evasion and illegal share purchase schemes.

He said the holdings were layered to conceal ownership: The companies were “owned” by Cyprus shells Glendora and Kone, which, in turn, were “owned” by an HSBC Private Bank Guernsey Ltd trust. Ponomarev said the real owner was Browder’s Hermitage Fund. He said the structure allowed money to move through Cyprus to Guernsey with little or no taxes paid along the way. Profits could get cashed out in Guernsey by investors of the Hermitage Fund and HSBC.

Ponomarev said Hermitage wanted to obtain shares of Gazprom, the giant Russian energy conglomerate. Company policy and then Russian law prohibited direct purchases of Gazprom shares by foreigners, including foreign companies and investment funds. Foreigners could buy shares only through ADRs (American Depository Receipts) sold in London, but they could not buy them in such numbers – or at the same prices – as Russians could. Ponomarev said that in 1996, the firm developed for Browder “a strategy of how to buy Gazprom shares in the local market, which was restricted for foreign investors.”

It did the same for the Ziff brothers, then owners of Ziff Davis Media, whose investments Hermitage managed. Ziff Brothers Investments did not return repeated requests for comments.

Tax Breaks and Disabled Employees

A central charge by Russian tax fraud investigators is that Hermitage’s shell companies falsely claimed they employed disabled workers and invested in the local economy. Ponomarev said the two claims would cut a company’s taxes by 40 percent.

In 2001, Hermitage shell companies Dalnaya Steppe and Saturn Invest declared on tax returns that a majority of their Kalmykian employees were disabled, complying with a law aimed at social rehabilitation of the disabled. But they hadn’t hired anyone, since they were just stock holding companies.

Russian tax authorities investigated the claim that disabled workers were “analysts” for the two companies. A legal judgementfound that the employees were working at other locations as physical laborers. It said of the workers: “Bukayev has no education or qualifications. Badykov is a worker. Byatkiyev is a machine engineer. They had nothing to do with Saturn and were only used by the Claimant to get the income tax relief.”

The tax authority demanded overdue taxes plus a fine and interest. Russian court decisions show that Browder failed to pay, then later put the companies into bankruptcy. Back taxes could not be collected.

In a deposition he gave in the Prevezon case in 2015, Browder was asked, “Who came up with the idea that you could use this tax regime?”

“[W]e were advised by Arthur Andersen, Firestone Duncan, Ernst & Young and various other firms that this was a proper way of organizing our affairs,” Browder replied.

An important point, Ponomarev said, was that other companies had lowered taxes this way, but had actually hired disabled workers.

The alleged tax frauds came to $40 million, Russian tax authorities charged. Allegedly illegal purchases of shares in Gazprom through the use of offshore shell companies were reportedly valued at another $30 million, bringing the total figure to $70 million.

In his Prevezon deposition, Browder said that in 2004 he “transferred (Dalnaya Steppe) to be liquidated” by Visao Risk Management Group (VRMG), a Moscow security firm run by Jakir Sha‘ashoua, whom Browder has identified a former agent of the Mossad.

The Raid

On June 2, 2007, Russian tax investigators raided the offices of Hermitage and Firestone Duncan. They seized Hermitage company documents, computers and corporate stamps and seals.

In a statement to US senators, Browder said that interior ministry officials “seized all the corporate documents connected to the investment holding companies of the funds that I advised. I didn’t know the purpose of these raids so I hired the smartest Russian lawyer I knew, a 35-year-old named Sergei Magnitsky. I asked Sergei to investigate the purpose of the raids and try to stop whatever illegal plans these officials had.”

Magnitsky, however, had been Browder’s Firestone Duncan accountant for a decade.

In questioning by Russian investigators in 2006, Magnitsky said he was an auditor on contract with Firestone Duncan. Though Browder continued to say Magnitsky was his lawyer in this summer’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, two years ago, in his testimony in the US government’s Prevezon case, Browder told a different story.

He was asked if Magnitsky had a law degree in Russia.

“I’m not aware that he did,” Browder said.

Did he know if Magnitsky “went to law school?”

“No,” Browder answered.

Creative Tax Refunds

All this leads to a second Russian investigation involving three Browder shell companies.

Browder told the Senate committee that Magnitsky “went out, investigated, and came back with an astounding conclusion. . . that the purpose of stealing our companies was to try to steal our assets, which they didn’t succeed in doing. However, they did succeed in stealing $230 million in taxes that we paid to the Russian government from the Russian government.”

The companies were re-registered in the names of straw men and used in fake lawsuits that demanded damages for alleged contract violations. Once the damages were paid, the companies filed for tax refunds that came to $230 million. Browder says that the companies’ documents taken when his firm and Firestone Duncan were raided were to enable the re-registration. He said that he received none of the funds.

Moscow lawyer Andrey Pavlov in an interview in New York, told 100Reporters that he assisted in obtaining court orders based on the fake lawsuits claiming liabilities for the Hermitage companies that resulted in the $230 million tax refund fraud.

However, Pavlov contends that Browder knew the purpose of the raids on his company and on Firestone Duncan: authorities were looking for evidence to support Russian charges of tax evasion and illegal purchase of shares of Gazprom by his and the Ziffs’ companies. He disputes Browder’s contention that the tax investigators who did the raid were responsible for the Treasury scam.

Pavlov said the tax refund fraud he participated in was common in Russia at the time: firms agreed to settle claims from fake shell companies about bogus contract violations. The companies would then file amended tax returns to deduct the settlements, recouping money as tax refunds.

Pavlov said he was approached by Viktor Markelov, a convicted felon, who wanted to hire him. Markelov wanted Pavlov to obtain a court order based on an invented liability for the Hermitage companies, which would then lead to a claim for a tax refund. Pavlov said the refund application would require detailed information from the companies’ books for the year, which he said pointed to inside involvement. However, Pavlov said he was never told the identity of the client who would benefit from the refund scheme.

Pavlov was questioned by Russian authorities, and Markelov was convicted and sentenced to five years for the scam. At his trial, Markelov testified that one of the people he worked with to secure the fraudulent tax refund was Sergei Leonidovich. Magnitsky’s full name was Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky.

“In October [2007] the whole Browder team knew about these claims and didn’t appeal the decision [allowing the take-over of his companies] which had been granted,” Pavlov said. “They did nothing till the money was paid out of the budget [the Russian Treasury].”  This corresponds with Browder’s book, which states that he and Magnitsky found out about the theft of the companies in October 2007. Just the same, Browder didn’t immediately go to court to challenge the re-registration of the companies and the court’s decision.

However, it would appear that Browder knew, or should have known, about the theft months before.  Financial documents for 2007-08 for HSBC Private Bank, which owned about 10 percent of Hermitage, state that as of July 27, 2007 Hermitage had set aside $7 million to cover legal expenses related to getting back Russian companies Hermitage owned. The document said others had taken control of the Hermitage companies to create fraudulent liabilities – and facilitate the fake lawsuit payouts. Deposed in the Prevezon case, Albert Dabbah, chief financial controller for HSBC, confirmed the document’s authenticity.

Magnitsky in Prison

Browder told the Senators, “On Nov 24, 2008, about six weeks after Sergei testified against a bunch of corrupt officials, some of the same officials he testified against, came to his home at eight in the morning in front of his wife and two children arrested him and put him in pre-trial detention where he was then tortured to get him to withdraw his testimony.”

But Magnitsky’s testimony in October 2008 does not mention any corrupt officials.

In his Senate testimony this summer, Browder said “they put [Magnitsky] in cells with 14 inmates and eight beds and left lights on 24 hours a day to impose sleep deprivation.  They put him in cells with no heat and no window panes in December in Moscow so he nearly froze to death. They put him in cells with no toilet, just a hole on the floor where the sewage would bubble up. They moved him from cell to cell to cell in the middle of the night.”

A report by the Russian Public Oversight Commission for Human Rights Observance, which Browder links to on his website, does not echo all Browder’s charges, but confirms that prison conditions were bad for everyone, not Magnitsky alone.  The group reported that one cell lacked a cold-water tap, and another hot water. On occasion, raw sewage spewed up from the in-ground toilet, covering the floor of Magnitsky’s cell. It took 35 hours for authorities to move Magnitsky and two cellmates. In important ways, Magnitsky did appear to suffer especially from harsh—and ultimately fatal—mistreatment. For six days, for example, Magnitsky had no access to boiled water, which worsened his already fragile health, the commission wrote. Despite documented need for ongoing medical attention, he was transferred to a prison where none was available.

In his written statement, Browder said Magnitsky wrote over 400 complaints detailing instances of mistreatment. “He was able to pass his hand-written complaints to his lawyers, who dutifully filed them with the Russian authorities. Although his complaints were either ignored or rejected, copies of them were retained. As a result, we have the most well-documented case of human rights abuse coming out of Russia in the last 35 years,” Browder wrote. The complaints were never made public.

In prison, Magnitsky turned to a fellow inmate, Oleg Lurie, for help in filing complaints about conditions. Lurie is a well-known Russian journalist who was accused of attempting to blackmail a member of the Duma, and later exonerated. Inmates often sought Lurie out for jailhouse advice. Deposed in the Prevezon case, Lurie described Magnitsky as initially “confident” that his employers were working to get him out.

But in a subsequent meeting, Lurie said, Magnitsky’s demeanor had changed. He was distraught, Lurie recalled, and said his employers were now selling him out and wanted him to sign documents that had nothing to do with his charges. On October 13, 2009, Magnitsky filed a complaint accusing police of “possible participation” in the theft of the Hermitage companies.

Magnitsky died on November 16, 2009.  Browder testified in the Senate that “eight riot guards with rubber batons beat him until he died.” He said elsewhere that the assault lasted eight hours. On a website devoted to Magnitsky, Browder posted the hospital death certificate, highlighting the notation, “closed craniocerebral injury?” But the report put a question mark after the finding, which wasn’t explained, and provided no evidence to indicate Magnitsky was beaten to death.

2011 analysis by the Physicians for Human Rights International Forensics Program of  documents provided by Browder found no evidence he was beaten to death. However the analysis also described the conditions of Magnitsky’s imprisonment as  “torturous,” and said that his lack of medical treatment was “calculated, deliberate and inhumane.” Conflicting and absent medical records undermined their confidence in the official determination of Magnitsky’s cause of death.

Meanwhile, in 2013, a Russian court, relying on investigations that included the testimony of Konstantin Ponomarev, convicted Browder of tax evasion. Browder was in London.

Though Browder claims Magnitsky was convicted, a Russian legal document shows the case against him was closed because he had died.

Two weeks ago, Kirill Nogotkov, a Russian bankruptcy receiver on the trail of assets that Browder transferred out of Dalnaya Steppe, won a case in Russia against HSBC bank, the Hermitage trustee. The bank paid $30 million of evaded taxes.

 

 

Russiagate Circus Promoter Scott Dworkin Blocks Critics, Falls For Gorilla Channel Hoax

Last week, we published a story by Amy Sterling Casil showing how Democratic Coalition Against Trump Super PAC leader Scott Dworkin was cashing in on Russiagate. Dworkin, a #Resistance heartthrob who claims to have “helped uncover” Russiagate, raised $229,000 for the Super PAC in 2017, of which 80 percent went to his for-profit consulting firm, Bulldog Finance Group, and to four political operators he works with.

Dworkin has apparently used very little of the money for his stated goal of impeaching Trump. A billboard slamming California congressman Devin Nunes is the only identifiable non-salary or overhead expenditure directly related to “opposing Trump” on the Super PAC’s mid-year 2017 report. Total cost to Dworkin’s organization: $1,917, less than 1 percent of its revenue.

Dworkin responded to the story by by blocking Amy and I on Twitter, as well as Geoff Campbell, who also reported on the topic, and people who retweeted our stories as well. He also took to Twitter and urged MSNBC hack  Joy Reid to come to his defense. What Dowrkin didn’t do was rebut the information in the stories.

Meanwhile, Dworkin’s Twitter feed continues to be unintentionally amusing. He recently fell for a bogus story about the White House creating a fake “Gorilla Channel” to entertain the president, which just goes to show, some commentators noted, how desperate liberals are to believe anything about Trump. (Though admittedly, with Trump there’s not a lot that can be dismissed as unbelievable.)

Dworkin tweet, deleted after gorilla story was swiftly revealed to be bogus.

 

The general IQ os his Twitter feed can be seen in the cover image that accompanies this story: “Trump the Fraud dissolved the voter fraud commission that was a fraud in the first place. He’s the biggest fraud out of frauds. Congrats Crooked Donald!”

Dworkin should be careful about calling anyone a fraud and he doesn’t appear to be any smarter than our dimwit president This would all be funny if not for the fact that Russiagate has consumed the country and is destroying innocent people’s lives. Trump’s economic and social policies are mostly terrible, they should be vigorously opposed. Instead, Dworkin and other #Resistance grifters continue to promote Russiagate to advance their Clintonesque political agenda,  and to profit.

 

The Resistance Inc: Scott Dworkin and the Anti-Trump Gravy Train

Twitter personality, MSNBC regular and Democratic Coalition against Trump co-founder Scott Dworkin has led the effort to uncover alleged collusion — or what Dworkin now calls “collaboration” — between Vladimir Putin’s government and Donald Trump’s campaign and administration.

 

Dworkin, who has 279,000 Twitter followers and is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” show hosted by Joy Reid, has a long resume and knows a lot of influential people.

 

 

Last February, Dworkin threatened Democratic opposition researcher Will Caskey with a lawsuit because Caskey questioned Dworkin’s social media requests for money to “research” Donald Trump.

 

 

Caskey responded with the Coalition’s FEC report from the time period.

 

 

After the threats of litigation last February, Caskey wrote a very useful Medium article explaining how Super PACs operate. Dworkin’s Super PAC, The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, raised more than $221,000 in 2017 according to FEC filings.

 

 

One would think, given the name of the organization, that the Coalition would spend this money opposing Donald J. Trump.

Think again.

During the second quarter of 2017, the Coalition paid Dworkin’s for-profit consulting firm, Bulldog Finance Group, a total of $22,500. The organization’s mid-year report to the FEC also showed payments of $11,500 to FWD Communications, a business operated by Jarad Geldner, who is identified as “Senior Advisor” on the Coalition’s website.

The organization rents office space at a Green Desk location in Brooklyn for $1,300 a month and appears to pay its Executive Director Nathan Lerner $2,750 bi-monthly. Next Level Digital, a company owned by Chuck Westover, a “Senior Advisor” to the Coalition, received $11,670.11.

 

 

Total payments made to the four men and to Dworkin’s Bulldog Finance Group come to more than $180,000 over a twelve month period. That’s more than 80 percent of what Dworkin’s SuperPAC raised in 2017.

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump advertises for interns on its website and via college and university blogs. The internships are unpaid, although an unnamed “stipend” is offered to “campaign associates” willing to work at least 20 hours a week. “National Fundraising Director” Demitri Dawson received one payment for $398.31 on the Coalition’s second quarter 2017 report.

For the second quarter of 2017 alone, more than 140 people donated to the Coalition, in amounts ranging from a few dollars up to $10,000. Among them were nurses, homemakers, retirees, artists, writers, investment advisers and members of local government commissions.

With some Super PACs raising tens of millions of dollars, the $229,000 raised by Dworkin’s organization seems like small change.

Just like The Democratic Coalition Against Trump’s 2017 media footprint. Between June and December, @Funder produced no news articles. The June news article in the image below ran at Breitbart.

 

 

The much-advertised billboard slamming California member of Congress Devin Nunes cost Dworkin’s organization $1,917 — less than 1 percent of its revenue. It’s the only identifiable non-salary or overhead expenditure directly related to “opposing Trump” on the Super PAC’s mid-year 2017 report.

 

 

The cost of the Democratic Coalition’s website dedicated to impeaching Trump, boycotting Trump and hosting “Artists Against Trump” cost — well, see for yourself.

 

 

As Will Caskey pointed out in February, even the most ridiculously false statements made by Super PACs are considered protected speech and protected against lawsuits or punishment by court rulings.

Dworkin’s Twitter bio prominently states he “helped uncover the Trump-Russia scandal” and Dworkin regularly makes ridiculous claims on MSNBC and social media. No matter how much you hate or fear Donald Trump, no one should contribute to Dworkin’s Super PAC and if you do, at least know that your money won’t be primarily used to impeach him.

Indeed, impeachment would be bad news for Dworkin because it would bring an end to the Russiagate gravy train that has been a steady source of income for him and his friends. @Funder paid himself $57,000 during the first quarter of 2017 to “Fight Trump.” He doesn’t need any more of your money to maintain his toxic Twitter feed.

 

 [Note: A version of this story appeared at Medium.com.]

Hey, Resistance, It’s Time To Surrender: There Was No Trump-Russia Collusion

There’s really no excuse for peddling the Russia interference story at this point other than sheer stupidity or craven opportunism, or both. I know it’s a challenge for #Resisters to read anything longer than a Tweet, but take a look at Jackson Lears’s story in the London Review of Books.

Anyone who reads this honestly knows that Donald Trump, as vile as he is — and that is plenty vile — did not collude with Vladimir Putin. Beat him at the ballot box with ideas, if you have any, but stop the ongoing campaign of regime change.

Here is the top from this devastating story. Game. Set. Match.

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

And here’s one more particularly interesting section.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment.

To #TheResistance, make sure to turn the lights out on your way out the door.

Hey, Resistance, It's Time To Surrender: There Was No Trump-Russia Collusion

There’s really no excuse for peddling the Russia interference story at this point other than sheer stupidity or craven opportunism, or both. I know it’s a challenge for #Resisters to read anything longer than a Tweet, but take a look at Jackson Lears’s story in the London Review of Books.

Anyone who reads this honestly knows that Donald Trump, as vile as he is — and that is plenty vile — did not collude with Vladimir Putin. Beat him at the ballot box with ideas, if you have any, but stop the ongoing campaign of regime change.

Here is the top from this devastating story. Game. Set. Match.

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

And here’s one more particularly interesting section.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment.

To #TheResistance, make sure to turn the lights out on your way out the door.

EXCLUSIVE: RussiaGate Investigators Looking At DC Political Consultant With Ties To Russian Oligarchs, Putin Allies

Washington Babylon has confirmed that a Bulgarian-born, Washington-based political consultant and lobbyist is being looked at by special counsel Robert Mueller’s RussiaGate investigation. The consultant, Alexander Mirtchev, is not believed to be a direct target of the probe but investigators are interested in his personal and professional ties to two close cronies and advocates of Vladimir Putin: the oligarch Oleg Deripaska and the media magnate Konstantin Remchukov.

Deripaska is a former client of Mirtchev’s. He is an “aluminum magnate who survived the gangster capitalism of the 1990s and the financial crisis of 2008,” according to the Washington Post. The newspaper further described him as “a shrewd self-made billionaire who has managed to stay on the right side of power, whether by marrying into “the family” of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, or by making himself indispensable to its current one, Vladimir Putin.”

Remchukov is close to Deripaska and has ties to Mirtchev as well (see below). At one time he championed political reform and ran an independent newspaper, but, to the disgust of Russia’s intelligentsia, he ultimately moved firmly into Putin’s camp and had top-level access at the Kremlin.

Mirtchev did not reply to emails or a phone call seeking comment. If he does, I’ll update this story. The special counsel’s office declined comment.

Mirtchev is well connected across Washington, having been business partners or friends with Henry Kissinger and a number of former CIA and FBI directors, among them David Petraeus, William Sessions, James Woolsey and William Webster. Mirtchev told me several years ago that he donated to the Clinton Foundation and attended a 2006 special invitation foundation fundraiser for Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday party, where the Rolling Stones performed. (The foundation told me it had no record of him donating.) He’s also a major donor to the Atlantic Council –and from all appearances has influenced the content of their events — and to the Wilson Center.

Mirtchev and Kissinger at Wilson Center event, along with Daily Beast blogger Eleanor Clift.

I don’t know of any direct ties between Mirtchev and Donald Trump, but he is very close to Georgette Mosbacher. She’s the wife of former Treasury Secretary Robert Mosbacher, a leading political socialite and GOP fundraiser, and was a strong supporter of Trump’s campaign.

According to accounts in the state-controlled Bulgarian media from the late-1980s, Mirtchev served as the head of Komsomol, the Communist Youth Party of Bulgaria. The party liked to present Komsomol as an innocent organization for kids, akin to the Boy Scouts. In fact, it was a key institution of Soviet rule that was founded by Lenin and refined by Stalin to identify promising young recruits and spread communism abroad.

“Komsomol’s title suggested it was a benign organization that promoted youth involvement,” says a former senior CIA officer who was stationed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. “In fact, it was the main feeder for the Communist Party. It didn’t look like an infiltration operation, but that’s what it was—a mechanism to expand Communist ideology. It had deep reach. It didn’t just operate in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—it had close ties to European youth movements and U.S. outfits.”

The Soviet state “needed an organization to funnel young people up through the system, to get fresh blood and youth,” says Graham Fuller, a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA and a former senior political scientist at RAND. Komsomol was “a stepping stone for any rising young person in the Communist Party.”

Thanks to his leadership of Komsomol, Mirtchev, according to local press accounts, rose quickly through the party’s ranks. In February 1990 — just as street protests forced the Communists to surrender power — he was elected to serve on the Supreme Soviet, the sham parliaments set up in Bulgaria and other Soviet-ruled satellites. According to reports in the Bulgarian media, he was still sitting on the supreme council six months later.

Communist-era photo from Bulgarian press shows Mirtchev, seated at back, at Komsomol congress.

Then something strange happened. Mirtchev moved to America in 1991, and his Communist past seemed to disappear overnight. He went to work for Stewart & Stewart, a law firm that was seeking business in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

At the time firms like Stewart & Stewart were scrambling to do business with the Russian oligarchs who were divvying up the Soviet spoils. “When the Berlin Wall came down, all the accounting firms, corporations and intelligence agencies came rolling into Eastern Europe,” says the former senior CIA officer. “It was a lot of fun to watch, and a lot of positive things happened. You had young people who had lived under communism who were being interview for jobs by companies like Arthur Andersen, which was one of the firms that set up shop early and started hiring. But there were also a lot of opportunists in the mix, people trying to make a quick buck.”

As a former high-ranking communist, Mirtchev was perfectly situated to take advantage of the capitalist free-for-all. He had extensive contacts from his days in the party and he understood the culture and mindset of the former Soviet Union. At Stewart & Stewart, former associates say, Mirtchev quickly established himself as the go-to man for lining up lucrative deals in the former Soviet bloc. He was mentored by Gary Litman, a Russian emigrant who nurtured him through his early years at the firm. It proved to be the first of many fortuitous connections: Litman now serves as vice president of international strategic initiatives at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Given his expertise and contacts, it didn’t take Mirtchev long to set up shop on his own. He later opened a firm called Krull Corp., USA, which, according to its website, is “a macroeconomic consultancy with a focus on new economic trends and emerging policy challenges.”

Over the years Mirtchev has worked for or with a number of Russian and Eastern European clients, including the regime of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazerbayev. Mirtchev served as a “middleman” between President Nursultan Nazarbayev and U.S. energy companies, advising the dictator on “which companies and projects may be more beneficial to his country,” according to a confidential report prepared by the private intelligence firm Stratfor and published by Wikileaks.

He has served as one of three “independent directors” of Kazakhstan’s $64 billion sovereign wealth fund, which owns many of the nation’s most lucrative enterprises, including its oil and gas company, the state uranium company, the national rail and postal service, the state-run airline, and a host of financial groups. Revenues from the fund are supposed to provide welfare to Kazakhstan’s neediest citizens, but it has reportedly been very badly managed.

One of the reasons RussiaGate investigators are interested in Mirtchev is his relationship with Deripaska, a one-time client. Deripaska was also previously represented by Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Deripaska’s name features heavily in Manafort’s indictment.

Manafort allegedly offered to provide Deripaska with personal briefings about the 2016 presidential election less than two weeks before Trump accepted the Republican nomination,” the Washington Post has reported. “It is unclear whether such an offer reached Deripaska, and a spokesman for the businessman denied that it did. But Manafort’s apparent readiness to share information with an oligarch known to be part of a trusted circle of businessmen near Putin is one of the most concrete revelations to emerge from the probe into Trump’s Russia links.”

Deripaska owns the world’s second-largest aluminum producer and has major interests in agribusiness, aviation, insurance, construction, and automobile manufacturing. He allegedly enjoyed close ties to the Russian mob, which prompted U.S. officials to bar him from entering the country.

Oleg Deripaska at World Economic Forum meeting. Credit: WikiCommons.

According to Wall Street Journal story in 2008, Deripaska retained GlobalOptions, a DC firm in which Mirtchev was heavily involved, and paid it at least $9.75 million in a single wire transfer. (Mirtchev declined to discuss the transaction, but insisted through his lawyers that the money was used for “lawful purposes.”) Mirtchev was reportedly helping the oligarch burnish his image in Washington and “deal with inquiries and lawsuits over his alleged ties to organized crime,” the Journal said.

The second reason Mirtchev is in the eye of investigators owes to  his ties to Putin shill Konstantin Remchukov, who is also extremely close to Deripaska. At one time, Remchukov was “chairman of Basic Element, an investment firm owned in part by” Deripaska, according to the New York Times. He was also elected to the Duma as a candidate of the Union of Rightist Forces and “served as deputy chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, apparently while simultaneously working for Deripaska.”

Several sources told me Mirtchev and Remchukov were close and had been seen together at Washington events. Records show that for many years the two men had a common address at a building on “N” Street in Washington, not far from Georgetown, where Mirtchev has long resided in a luxury condo.

Mueller’s team is said to be interested in Mirtchev’s ties to Deripaska and Remchukov because the two Russians are so close to Putin that they are seen as being unofficial PR agents. Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as “among the two to three oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.” Manafort had “secretly worked” for Deripaska a decade ago to advance Putin’s interests, the AP reported, a charge both Manafort and Deripaska denied.

Personally, I think the entire RussiaGate affair is highly dubious, and there’s no solid evidence thus far that Trump’s ties to Russia are improper. But the investigation is turning up interesting information about how foreign lobbyists and consultants operate in Washington.

It seems clear that Mueller believes that Deripaska is a PR agent for Putin and that Manafort was as well, by virtue of his working for Deripaska. Mirtchev also worked for Deripaska so, by that logic, he would have been Putin’s PR agent as well. But since Mirtchev doesn’t have strong connections to Trump or his campaign, my bet is that he’s not a direct target of the RussiaGate probe — and there’s no evidence thus far that his work for Deripaksa was illegal — but someone who investigators believe has useful information about others.

CNN's Bogus RussiaGate Story Again Shows Media's Fervor To Publish Fake News

The trend to jump to conclusions or run outright false stories about Trump-Russia have developed into a post-2016 election past time for mainstream media outlets. On November 24, 2016 The Washington Post published a controversial interview with anonymous sources from PropOrNot, a poorly-constructed website that listed several actual news sites as Russian propaganda outlets.
Due to the backlash it received, the Post added an editor’s note claiming that it could not “vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings.” However, the Post found the story valuable, in clicks and in propagating its own agenda, and has refused to take down the story.
On December 31, 2016, the Pospublished another false story claiming the Vermont Utility System had been hacked. The story was debunked shortly after publication, but not before several politicians and pundits ran with its bogus allegations.
An editor’s note was added to article: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” Not only was the computer not attached to the grid, but the malware code found on the laptop is common and in no way implied that the genesis of it was the Russian government.
 
A January 12, 2017 C-SPAN show was interrupted for 10 minutes with the broadcast of RT (Russia Today). C-SPAN concluded that the error was the result of a routing glitch. However, mainstream media outlets sensationalized the glitch and hypothesized that a Russian government hack was responsible The same month, BuzzFeed published a report on the Trump Dossier, despite the opposition research document that it was based on — and which the outlet also published — being riddled with errors and unverifiable assumptions.
 
Louise Mensch, a former Heat Street editor, and Claude Taylor, a former Bill Clinton White House volunteer coordinator, have built large followings by throwing out conspiracy theories and wild speculation about alleged  Trump-Russia ties. In August 2017, the Guardian reported:
Explosive allegations about Donald Trump made by online writers with large followings among Trump critics were based on bogus information from a hoaxer who falsely claimed to work in law enforcement.

Claude Taylor tweeted fake details of criminal inquiries into Trump that were invented by a source whose claim to work for the New York attorney general was not checked, according to emails seen by the Guardian. The allegations were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch.

The source’s false tips included an allegation, which has been aggressively circulated by Mensch and Taylor, that Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.

Despite their overt lack of credibility, they still maintain large followings on social media, and Mensch has been published in the New York Times op-ed section, and featured on MSNBC to discuss the Russia narrative. Other media pundits, such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have built large audiences with sensationalism, jingoism and false reporting on the Trump-Russia narrative. 

In June 2017, three CNN journalists resigned after publishing a fake story involving short-lived White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment bank under congressional investigation. Three months later, several mainstream outlets reported on a fake story that 21 states had their voting systems hacked by the Russians. The story was allegedly sourced from the Department of Homeland Security, but was later debunked by several states cited in the reports.

Two weeks ago, ABC News‘s Brian Ross’ breaking report that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors included a false claim that Flynn was going to testify that he was instructed by Trump to communicate with the Russians during his campaign. Ross was suspended for four weeks due to the egregious error. 

For all the hysteria over fake news, several mainstream media outlets lend credence to the polarizing partisan rift on the subject when they willingly push and sensationalize fake stories, only to delay correcting them and scoff at the criticisms of their mistakes. The climate that has developed around the Faux Resistance and Trump-Russia narrative enables grifters, lazy reporting, and sensationalism to thrive. Rationality has been abandoned in favor of Cold War era rhetoric that has replaced constructive — and factual — ways to criticize the Trump Administration and the forces that enabled its ascendance into office. 

Trump & Twitter: Whose Fingerprints Are On The President’s Blackberry?

For a good chunk of the past week, the media has been furiously pursuing a story about a December 2 tweet by Donald Trump (image above), in which our Dear Leader typed out, on his chubby little fingers, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

This caused quite a furor, especially amongst #TheResistance types, because they claim, as a Slate article put it, that in doing so, “Trump may have admitted to something that could get him in trouble in the future because his tweet suggested he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him.” The article was hopefully titled, “Did Trump Just Admit to Obstructing Justice on Twitter?”

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff replied to Trump on Twitter, writing, “If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn? Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to ‘let this go’?” (Incidentally, Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is actually pretty funny because sources have told me he’s a total moron. Indeed, I’m told that he’s even dumber than the typical member of congress.)

Then came news, as reported by the Washington Post, that it was Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, who drafted the tweet and not Trump Jong-un himself. I’d tell you more about the Post’s story but it’s not available online without a subscription so I only saw Slate‘s brief summary of it, and it’s too much of a hassle to read it for free by opening an Incognito window.

Anyway, everyone is talking about the story but as usual, no one is asking the right questions. So let me help out here.

Maybe Dowd is lying when he says he drafted the tweet, to protect the president. But that would be really dumb to do since he’s a lawyer and this is all part of Robert Mueller’s more-boring-than-watching-paint-dry RussiaGate investigation. So if Dowd made that up, he could have created a big problem for himself.

I have no way of knowing this but let’s assume Dowd is telling the truth, and he did effectively draft the tweet in question. That raises a host of issues and questions.

For example, what other tweets have gone out under the president’s name that he didn’t write? And who wrote them? Who else has had access to Trump’s Blackberry? Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon or the lunatic National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, a ghostwriter of some renown?

Twitter is central to how the president communicates with the American people, sort of like FDR’s fireside chats. It was also central to his election victory. Some people cite Trump’s Twitter feed as evidence that he’s off his rocker, which is hard to gainsay.

Look, everyone suspects that most politicians’ Twitter feeds are largely ghostwritten, from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders. But the president claims that Twitter is how he best communicates with the people, that it’s unfiltered Trump.

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders stands up, we all know she’s merely Trump’s spokeswoman. But this is different. It seems clear that when he was a businessman Trump was writing his own tweets, and on the campaign trail, too. When his aides threatened to take away his Blackberry to control his tweeting, Trump threw a temper tantrum like a 3-year-old. It was all in character and so it seemed genuine.

So what’s going on here? Are Dowd and others really writing Trump’s tweets? Is Trump actually occupied for a few hours a day running the country, and thus doesn’t have time to tweet like he used to?

Here’s the biggest question of all. If we can’t trust the integrity of Donald Trump’s loopy Twitter, what do we have left? Without that certainty, we are a nation of naked children lost in a storm.

Mr. President, it’s time for a Fireside Chat.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump & Twitter: Whose Fingerprints Are On The President's Blackberry?

For a good chunk of the past week, the media has been furiously pursuing a story about a December 2 tweet by Donald Trump (image above), in which our Dear Leader typed out, on his chubby little fingers, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

This caused quite a furor, especially amongst #TheResistance types, because they claim, as a Slate article put it, that in doing so, “Trump may have admitted to something that could get him in trouble in the future because his tweet suggested he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him.” The article was hopefully titled, “Did Trump Just Admit to Obstructing Justice on Twitter?”

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff replied to Trump on Twitter, writing, “If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn? Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to ‘let this go’?” (Incidentally, Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is actually pretty funny because sources have told me he’s a total moron. Indeed, I’m told that he’s even dumber than the typical member of congress.)

Then came news, as reported by the Washington Post, that it was Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, who drafted the tweet and not Trump Jong-un himself. I’d tell you more about the Post’s story but it’s not available online without a subscription so I only saw Slate‘s brief summary of it, and it’s too much of a hassle to read it for free by opening an Incognito window.

Anyway, everyone is talking about the story but as usual, no one is asking the right questions. So let me help out here.

Maybe Dowd is lying when he says he drafted the tweet, to protect the president. But that would be really dumb to do since he’s a lawyer and this is all part of Robert Mueller’s more-boring-than-watching-paint-dry RussiaGate investigation. So if Dowd made that up, he could have created a big problem for himself.

I have no way of knowing this but let’s assume Dowd is telling the truth, and he did effectively draft the tweet in question. That raises a host of issues and questions.

For example, what other tweets have gone out under the president’s name that he didn’t write? And who wrote them? Who else has had access to Trump’s Blackberry? Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon or the lunatic National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton, a ghostwriter of some renown?

Twitter is central to how the president communicates with the American people, sort of like FDR’s fireside chats. It was also central to his election victory. Some people cite Trump’s Twitter feed as evidence that he’s off his rocker, which is hard to gainsay.

Look, everyone suspects that most politicians’ Twitter feeds are largely ghostwritten, from Hillary Clinton to Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders. But the president claims that Twitter is how he best communicates with the people, that it’s unfiltered Trump.

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders stands up, we all know she’s merely Trump’s spokeswoman. But this is different. It seems clear that when he was a businessman Trump was writing his own tweets, and on the campaign trail, too. When his aides threatened to take away his Blackberry to control his tweeting, Trump threw a temper tantrum like a 3-year-old. It was all in character and so it seemed genuine.

So what’s going on here? Are Dowd and others really writing Trump’s tweets? Is Trump actually occupied for a few hours a day running the country, and thus doesn’t have time to tweet like he used to?

Here’s the biggest question of all. If we can’t trust the integrity of Donald Trump’s loopy Twitter, what do we have left? Without that certainty, we are a nation of naked children lost in a storm.

Mr. President, it’s time for a Fireside Chat.

 

 

 

 

 

Whitey Bulger And The FBI: What Did Robert Mueller Know And When Did He Know It?

[Part 1 of this story ran on December 5. To read it click here.]

In May of 2011, days after Osama bin Laden was captured in Pakistan, that country’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, publicly insisted that his government had had no idea about where the terrorist leader had been hiding. When this claim was greeted with skepticism in certain quarters in America, Haqqani countered that his story was every bit as plausible as  the FBI’s claim that after 16 years, it had no idea where Most Wanted mobster “Whitey” Bulger was holed up.

At right around that same time, Angela Helton got a phone call from a friend who worked for the FBI. Would she like to make a video for the Bureau? the friend asked. Helton operated a one-woman media relations firm in South Portland, Maine, called Northeast Media Associates. As someone who always wanted to work for the FBI, who took inspiration from the TV show “Alias” and by her own admission had “a bit of a big mouth,” Helton would be the natural choice for the job.

“Of course! Hello!” she told her FBI friend, and soon Helton, whose clients included Modern Pest Services, had teamed up with Charlie Berg of Blackfly Media, a former collaborator on projects for the Portland Visitors Bureau and Madgirl World, to make what the Bureau called its first video public service announcement. The PSA, she and Berg were told, would be the latest weapon for nabbing the deadly fugitive. They were sworn to secrecy.

Agents swooped down on Berg’s home in Saco, Maine, with surveillance video and sheaves of old photographs of Bulger and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig. It was all very “Men in Black,” Berg later told a reporter for the Bangor Daily News. They soon got on like a house on fire, as the agents would take “finished video back to their superiors, run it up and down the chain, and email over revisions.” Finally, after toiling 11 to 14 hours a day, Helton, Berg and their bffs from the Bureau could rest. The PSA was ready.

On Monday, June 20, the FBI publicly announced the spot would run in 14 media markets beginning Tuesday, June 21. Less than 72 hours after that announcement, Bulger and Greig were in custody in Santa Monica, California.

Greig: Wanted.

The national press relayed news of the capture with almost as much thought-free fanfare as it would, six years later, the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign. But just as Mueller’s apparent long indifference to Bulger’s whereabouts deserves scrutiny, as seen in Part 1, so too does the Bureau’s lightning-quick resolution of the case, a mere seven weeks after President Obama surprisingly reappointed Mueller to lead the FBI beyond his 10-year congressionally limited term.

It’s a truism in journalism that for any big story, any scandal, the first 24 to 48 hours are key: whatever narrative takes hold then is likely to remain the story. The official story of Bulger’s capture, in general contour, goes as follows.

The Bureau’s June 20 presser and the PSA itself became news on many local TV stations, CNN and other cable networks as well as the Internet that Monday. On Tuesday, June 21, the PSA, which the FBI says it paid for, began to run during “The View,” “Dr. Oz” and other daytime television programs geared toward women.

The ad was 30 seconds long and focused on Catherine Greig. It showed photos from the 1990s and mentioned her extensive plastic surgery. It described her as “harboring” Whitey Bulger, and included pictures of them together, surveillance footage of Whitey and a reference to his violent temper.

In announcing capture of its elusive quarry, the FBI initially said little other than that the arrest came about as a result of a tip generated by the ad. It did not identify anything about the tipster, who stood to gain $100,000 for Greig and $2 million for Bulger.

According to Boston Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers, the call came into the Bureau’s Los Angeles office on Tuesday at 8 PM Pacific time. The caller gave an exact address in Santa Monica. Just after 4 PM the next day, June 22, members of the FBI and the LAPD began conducting surveillance at the address. At about 5:45, having determined it was indeed Bulger’s apartment building, they lured him out and arrested him and then Greig.

The next day, WBUR radio in Boston reported that, according to “law enforcement sources,” the tip had come from a woman in Iceland who saw a report on CNN and immediately rang up.

The Boston Globe dispatched reporters to Iceland. In October, the paper reported that the woman was Anna Bjornsdottir (aka Anna Bjorn), a graphic designer, yoga instructor, animal lover, model, actress and Miss Iceland of 1974. As “one of the world’s most beautiful and successful models” in the 1970s, according to a People magazine profile, Bjorn had appeared in one of Noxzema’s “Take it off” shaving cream ads, as well as in movies and TV shows, including “More American Graffiti” and “Fantasy Island.” She and her second husband were dividing their time between Reykjavik and Santa Monica, where they lived near Bulger and Greig.

Anna Bjornsdottir in “The Sword and the Sorcerer.”

According to neighbors, Bjornsdottir bonded with Greig over their shared devotion to a stray cat. Miss Iceland didn’t win Miss Congeniality for nothing.

Unremarked during any of the breathless reporting at the time were a number of curiosities, not least that, by the FBI’s timeline, it would have been 4 AM in Reykjavik when Bjornsdottir happened to catch CNN’s news report on the FBI’s ad and lunged for the phone. As it turned out, of the hundreds of calls that the FBI says it received in response to the ad campaign, the only call from a Santa Monica resident was that one from the erstwhile, and faraway, Miss Iceland.

****

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Angela Helton exclaimed upon hearing the news that the ad she’d produced had had such stunning success. Her exuberant cry unwittingly summarized the response of those familiar with Whitey’s long history with the FBI, especially residents of the city of Boston.

Despite the suggestion in the Bureau’s statement that its eureka moment in cracking the case came when it decided to focus the search on Greig instead of Bulger, this was not the FBI’s first Greig-centered campaign. In May 2010, it took out an ad in “Plastic Surgery News,” an industry trade journal, which featured old photos of Greig and even the serial numbers of her breast implants.

News of that ad, the FBI’s first public effort of any kind in years, was greeted with derision in Boston, where its esoteric appeal was considered to be mainly an effort to convince the public that the FBI was actively seeking Bulger. Initially, the PSA approach was considered the same, doomed to fail but intended to convince the public that the FBI was still even interested.

After the first flush of excitement that the infamous mob boss had been caught, Boston reporters grew agitated. At a news conference in Boston they peppered Special Agent DesLauriers and federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz with questions that quickly soured the feds’ triumphal mood. Because Whitey had previously been sighted in the LA area and was actually arrested there, why had the Bureau run the ad in locations like Biloxi and Milwaukee but not in Los Angeles? The official response – the ad ran “in California” (it did, in San Francisco and San Diego) – was not satisfactory. You run the ad in cities near a location where Whitey has been seen but not in the city itself?

And where were the booking photos? Although that question is audible throughout recordings of the press conference, Prosecutor Ortiz ignored it until it was the only one left. “We don’t release booking photos,” she brusquely replied. Although in some cases the Justice Department had not released booking photos (like that of former presidential candidate John Edwards arrested for campaign finance violations), the very same week of Bulger’s arrest the booking photos of two alleged New Jersey terrorists (Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte) were disseminated widely. Ortiz’s response only raised more questions. After all, no booking photos, presto, no possible comparison with the PSA.

At this point, the Iceland connection had not yet been reported, but the FBI got defensive. It released a statement refuting press reports that the tip initially received low priority, given the time lag between when the FBI got the call and when it deployed agents at Bulger’s address. It issued a fuller press release, noting that the PSA “focused on the 60-year-old Greig’s physical appearance, habits, and personality traits and…[had] other details including her love of animals.”

The PSA, though, is silent on Greig’s habits and personality. Beyond its 20-year-old images, it suggests nothing about the 60-year-old Greig’s appearance. It also makes no mention of her love of animals. It does include a single photograph of Greig and Bulger wearing huge sunglasses and walking a dog.

Perhaps the Bureau’s PR department is just shoddy and muddled up what the PSA actually contained and what was in its own press release of June 20. The latter mentioned that Greig, a former dental hygienist, was likely to have good teeth, that she was five foot six, had blue eyes, frequented beauty salons and “loves dogs and all kinds of animals.” None of those details, along with Whitey’s own enthusiasm for animals and books about Hitler, appear in the PSA.

So what are the odds that at 4 AM in Iceland, a yoga instructor who vacations in Santa Monica caught the CNN report, glimpsed Greig’s much younger face, zeroed in on the animal angle from what at best would have been a quick reference and immediately made the connection? This, while having no prior reason to associate the elderly couple with Bulger or organized crime.

What are the odds, moreover, that among Greig’s many neighbors – especially retirees who saw her and Bulger on a regular basis, interacted with them and were acutely familiar with the woman’s passion for stray cats – not one would have also seen the PSA on CNN and made the split-second connection?

In fact, those residents could not believe that their two neighbors were the notorious couple.  Their apartment building manager, who was quite friendly with Bulger and routinely interacted with him, never recognized the gangster, despite having attended Boston University. Miss Iceland is not known to have any Boston connection.

As incredible as all that seems, it is not as if the FBI had never previously received a tip about Bulger in Santa Monica. In 2008, after “America’s Most Wanted” aired a segment on the wanted criminal, a viewer called in saying he’d seen a man who looked like Whitey playing chess on the Santa Monica beachfront. The show’s creator, John Walsh, confirmed that the tip came in and was passed on to the FBI. The FBI did nothing.

In July of 2011 this fellow, Keith Messina of Las Vegas, complained to the Boston Herald: “They are saying someone in Iceland found Whitey? Who is that person? I found Whitey three years ago. I didn’t make the call for the reward. I just wanted the guy caught. But now the FBI is lying and saying the reward is going to Iceland. I saw the guy. I did the right thing and called. I left my name and number. I should be at least entitled to something.”

Walsh, no doubt protective of his access to the Bureau, took pains to say that Messina’s tip had no specifics, but the man never got a call from the Bureau to elaborate. And how specific would one need to be when, as it turned out, Bulger and Greig lived only a few blocks from the beach – and, incidentally, about five miles from the FBI’s Westwood office?

It was not until August 1, and then only after Reuters had filed an FOIA request, that the US Marshals Service released the mugshots. By that time the national media caravan had moved on, and national consciousness with it. In Boston, though, where Whitey’s story has legs to this day, the pictures were major news. Bulger, completely bald, bearded and looking more like a monk than a wiseguy, was indistinguishable from pictures on the PSA or the Most Wanted list. Lyndsey Cyr, the mother of his only child, said publicly that she would never have recognized him. Upon close and prolonged inspection, Greig’s nose and mouth bear a trace of her youthful photos, but the 30-second PSA gave its viewers no such time to linger.

It is worth mentioning that numerous studies on memory, facial recognition and eyewitness reliability have shown that people have an extraordinarily difficult time accurately identifying a person’s face, even when no significant time has passed. Again, what are the odds that a person caught unawares by a news report at 4 in the morning would accurately identify a face from 20-year-old photographs briefly glimpsed?

Anna Bjornsdottir got the $2 million for Bulger, according to the Boston Globe (the FBI says the full $2.1 million went to more than one person). She has never spoken publicly about the case. When confronted by Boston Globe reporters in Reykjavik, she fled into her apartment building. Her husband, Halldor Gudmundsson, a long time CEO of Iceland’s largest ad agency, has also been silent, except to send an email saying that Anna values her privacy.

She’s not likely to fear retribution, as reports in the Icelandic press indicate that she returned to visit her old haunts in Santa Monica even after her identity was disclosed. Whitey is in jail, officially a rat, hated by his former associates, so there is no danger there. Her story is worth additional media millions, yet she has not cashed in.

Although the official version of Whitey’s arrest was ultimately grudgingly accepted by Boston media, chiefly because they could never prove otherwise, many in Boston have never accepted it, and interest in anything Bulger persists. Dick Lehr is the co-author of the book “Black Mass,” and is also considered the gold standard of journalists following the Bulger saga. He followed up in 2013 with “Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.” There Lehr writes that an argument with Whitey over Bjornsdottir’s stated admiration for Barack Obama was an additional factor in her recognizing him. Bulger’s anger and subsequent refusal to acknowledge her reportedly made quite an impression on her.

While Whitey’s famous temper was mentioned in the PSA and his racist attitudes were legendary to those who already knew him, an argument over Barack Obama being translated into recognizing him as a crime boss from a 30-second ad sounds farfetched. How many elderly, cranky white men would have had exactly the same attitudes in 2011?

The superintendent of Bulger’s building, Joshua Bond, told Lehr about a similar run-in he’d had, but the dispute did not lead him to imagine he was fighting with a fugitive organized crime kingpin. Lehr never spoke personally to Anna Bjornsdottir, and has said that the Obama incident was confirmed by “sources.” While Bulger’s neighbors might have provided this information, it might also have come from law enforcement intent on convincing a skeptical public with information that can’t be disputed, understanding that the stray cat fable alone was a real stretch.   

The Bulger manhunt “was the most expensive in FBI history…whatever we asked for, we got,” according to a former Boston Police Department detective and member of the Bulger task force until 2003. That makes it hard to believe that, as the FBI told Lehr, the Bureau didn’t run the ad in Los Angeles because it couldn’t afford the media buy.

Whitey had been on the lam for sixteen years when all of a sudden the Bureau hired a tiny shop in Maine to produce an advertisement in a process that required breakneck speed. Why the urgency? Why suddenly work 11- to 14-hour days to produce a public service announcement? Politicians of both parties and the media at large have never fully grasped the depths of the Bulger-FBI scandal and the dark shadow it should cast on Bob Mueller’s reputation. Did Mueller’s confirmation meeting with Obama stimulate this rapid-fire publicity campaign? Had the Pakistani ambassador hit too close to home and taken away leverage in one of the US’s most complicated foreign policy relationships?

Nobody believes Pakistan’s government knew nothing about Osama Bin Laden’s lair. Why should anyone believe that the FBI knew nothing about Bulger’s retirement home location until a former beauty queen in Iceland picked up the phone?

Trump & Russia: There Was MASSIVE Collusion

Actually, I don’t believe that, about collusion, but as far as I can tell my friend Seth Hettena does. I have a lot of respect for Seth, the proprietor of the TrumP Россия website, and I do believe in being openminded and in diversity (of opinion, and everything else), so I’m going to have him on my podcast soon.

But for now, I noticed that Seth recently ran an interesting story called “Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen” on his site, so I’m going to share it with readers here. It doesn’t prove collusion, or even try to, but it’s a great read and it had some nice pictures,  which I’ve appropriated too. So enjoy, and you’ll be hearing from Seth on my podcast soon.

***

Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen

Oxana Fedorova was a tall, raven-haired beauty from Pskov, a old Russian city near Estonia.  She was studying to be a police officer in St. Petersburg, Russia when she decided to try her luck in a local modeling contest. Fedorova entered the 1999 Miss St. Petersburg pageant and won. Two years later, the 23-year-old police lieutenant became Miss Russia, which awarded her a new Mercedes and a Cartier watch.

Vladimir Putin, newly installed as Russia’s president, was said to be a keen admirer of the reigning Miss Russia, a karate black belt and an excellent shot. A photo of Fedorova was on display near his office in the Kremlin. The Telegraph of London reported that the organizers of the Miss Russia pageant had crowned Fedorova “in a feudal display of loyalty to the head of state.” She was even rumored to be Putin’s secret lover. Not true, Fedorova said. “It’s just a coincidence that we are both from St. Petersburg, the work of fate. There are no links with the president.”

Fedorova’s real boyfriend wasn’t the president. He was a Russian mobster from St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Semenovich Golubev, aka “Barmeley,” got out of  in prison and became a gangster in St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Golubev was a silent partner in Adamant Holding, a real estate company founded in 1992 that today controls 29 shopping malls in St. Petersburg.  (See Russian Forbes.)

Vladimir Golubev

The Russian press reported that Golubev had links to the Tambov gang, a criminal syndicate that dominated St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Back then, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, a man named Vladimir Putin, was collaborating with the Tambov gang to launder money and gain control of the gambling business. (See Karen Dawisha’s excellent book Putin’s Kleptocracy.)

According to Russian press reports, Golubev had supported Fedorova since she she had won Miss St. Petersburg as a teenager. Fedorova reportedly traveled either in his company or with guards he sent to accompany her. Officials with Miss Universe noted that money never seemed to be a problem for the beauty queen.  She was like a beautiful bird living in Golubev’s gilded cage.

PART II: MISS UNIVERSE

To read more click here.

 

Trump & Russia: There Was MASSIVE Collusion

Actually, I don’t believe that, about collusion, but as far as I can tell my friend Seth Hettena does. I have a lot of respect for Seth, the proprietor of the TrumP Россия website, and I do believe in being openminded and in diversity (of opinion, and everything else), so I’m going to have him on my podcast soon.

But for now, I noticed that Seth recently ran an interesting story called “Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen” on his site, so I’m going to share it with readers here. It doesn’t prove collusion, or even try to, but it’s a great read and it had some nice pictures,  which I’ve appropriated too. So enjoy, and you’ll be hearing from Seth on my podcast soon.

***

Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen

Oxana Fedorova was a tall, raven-haired beauty from Pskov, a old Russian city near Estonia.  She was studying to be a police officer in St. Petersburg, Russia when she decided to try her luck in a local modeling contest. Fedorova entered the 1999 Miss St. Petersburg pageant and won. Two years later, the 23-year-old police lieutenant became Miss Russia, which awarded her a new Mercedes and a Cartier watch.

Vladimir Putin, newly installed as Russia’s president, was said to be a keen admirer of the reigning Miss Russia, a karate black belt and an excellent shot. A photo of Fedorova was on display near his office in the Kremlin. The Telegraph of London reported that the organizers of the Miss Russia pageant had crowned Fedorova “in a feudal display of loyalty to the head of state.” She was even rumored to be Putin’s secret lover. Not true, Fedorova said. “It’s just a coincidence that we are both from St. Petersburg, the work of fate. There are no links with the president.”

Fedorova’s real boyfriend wasn’t the president. He was a Russian mobster from St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Semenovich Golubev, aka “Barmeley,” got out of  in prison and became a gangster in St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Golubev was a silent partner in Adamant Holding, a real estate company founded in 1992 that today controls 29 shopping malls in St. Petersburg.  (See Russian Forbes.)

Vladimir Golubev

The Russian press reported that Golubev had links to the Tambov gang, a criminal syndicate that dominated St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Back then, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, a man named Vladimir Putin, was collaborating with the Tambov gang to launder money and gain control of the gambling business. (See Karen Dawisha’s excellent book Putin’s Kleptocracy.)

According to Russian press reports, Golubev had supported Fedorova since she she had won Miss St. Petersburg as a teenager. Fedorova reportedly traveled either in his company or with guards he sent to accompany her. Officials with Miss Universe noted that money never seemed to be a problem for the beauty queen.  She was like a beautiful bird living in Golubev’s gilded cage.

PART II: MISS UNIVERSE

To read more click here.

 

"Everyone thinks he was whacked": BuzzFeed Strikes Again With Russian Fake News Whopper

Last July 28, BuzzFeed put out a story co-authored by eight reporters, which sought to demonstrate that Mikhail Lesin, “Vladimir Putin’s former media czar,” had been assassinated in a Washington hotel on Dupont Circle “on the eve of a planned meeting with the US Justice Department.”
The much hyped story was part of “an ongoing BuzzFeed News investigation” — one installment of the series was headlined “From Russia With Blood” — and it claimed that a two-year investigation by the website “revealed explosive evidence pointing to Russia in 14 suspicious deaths on British soil that the UK government had largely ignored”:
Four high-ranking US intelligence officials confirmed that those deaths had been linked to Russian security services or mafia gangs, two groups that sometimes work in tandem, by “intelligence gathered in the field and analyzed” by US spies and handed to Britain’s security services. But the UK police publicly declared that none of the 14 incidents involved foul play. As a result, the public has been kept in the dark about what national security officials have long suspected: Russian assassins may have murdered in the UK with impunity.
Now, with Lesin’s death in the heart of America’s capital, BuzzFeed‘s squadron of reporters had spoken to American officials — unnamed, of course — who “fear the threat has hit home.”
Lesin’s death raised “concerns” that the Kremlin would start “doing here what they do with some regularity in London,” said a former high-level national security official who recently left government. Altogether, 18 current and former intelligence, law enforcement, and other federal officials told BuzzFeed News that they question the official story of how Lesin died.
Of course, a spokesperson for the DC Metropolitan Police, which led the investigation into Lesin’s death, had told BuzzFeed there was “no evidence to suggest…foul play.” Lesin, a notorious drunk, was believed to have gotten trashed and, the U.S. investigation had concluded, “died alone in his room due to a series of drunken falls after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.” Prosecutors closed the case and ruled his death an accident.

BuzzFeed heaped scorn on the cops’ explanation and the investigation. Citing a battery of unnamed intelligence officials and FBI agents “whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death,” BuzzFeed determined that “Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death.”

None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were. “Lesin was beaten to death,” one of the FBI agents said. “I would implore you to say as much. There seems to be an effort here to cover up that fact for reasons I can’t get into.”

He continued: “What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”

In another previously unreported revelation, the two FBI agents said it was the Department of Justice that paid for the hotel room where Lesin died. DOJ officials had invited the Russian to Washington to interview him about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that Lesin founded, they said. But Lesin never made it to the interview. He died the night before it was scheduled to take place.

It was a reckless story — we’re talking about BuzzFeed, after all, so that’s essentially a tautology — but, what the hell, editor-in-chief Ben Smith must have concluded, we already published the famously inaccurate Trump dossier when no other news outlet would, we can get away with peddling this yellow journalism too. And in the current news climate, you can accuse Putin — a dictator not above killing his enemies, to be sure — of stealing the Washington Monument and the U.S. press would run a story without confirming if it was still there.

Sadly for BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, which has published its own fair share of Fake News, obtained the 58-page D.C. police report on the investigation and it obliterated the case for Lesin being murdered (and cast doubt on the rest of BuzzFeed’s “explosive” series, whose key findings were provided almost entirely by unnamed sources whose veracity is impossible to evaluate.)

Here’s an excerpt of the Post‘s story, which ran yesterday:

A onetime senior Russian political aide who died in 2015 in a Dupont Circle hotel room had been drinking heavily over the three days before his body was found, including consuming beer, wine and liquor from small bottles kept in the hotel’s mini-fridge and larger bottles of tequila and Johnnie Walker whiskey…
George Bush and Boris Yeltsin, another famously pickled Russian political figure. Photo credit: WikiCommons.
Much of the report is blacked out, including key pages that detail the autopsy, thus leaving unanswered how authorities reached their conclusion that the 57-year-old died accidentally after falling and hitting his head in his hotel room. The death had sparked conspiracy theories because of Lesin’s links to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.
The report says Lesin had been drinking in excess from nearly the time he checked in to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown on Nov. 2, 2015, until he was found dead three days later in a ninth-floor penthouse room at the Dupont Circle Hotel.
Extensive timelines from both hotels show that Lesin was confronted numerous times by security staff as he wandered drunk through the halls, sometimes wearing only a blue shirt and black underwear. Hotel officials once called the Secret Service, who advised a guard be posted at his door. He twice walked behind a hotel bar and grabbed bottles of liquor after he was cut off, the report says…
The reports say Lesin checked into the Four Seasons on the afternoon of Nov. 2. He took a Coke and a small airline size bottle of vodka from the minibar five minutes after he entered the room, according to the report.
The report says Lesin met a friend at the hotel at 1:45 p.m. on Nov 3, though it’s not clear where the friend went. Seven minutes later, a security guard went to Lesin’s room and found Lesin “passed out on the bed.” Four hours later, Lesin took more alcohol from the minibar. The report does not mention the friend again, although it does say that after the guard visited, “both returned to the lobby” and “[redacted] stays at the hotel.” Numerous interviews with witnesses are blacked out.
On the night of Nov. 3, the report says, a security guard noticed a contusion under Lesin’s left eye. It does not say how he was injured.
Through the night and into the morning of Nov. 4, police said, Lesin left his room and returned, often escorted by security. Once, a security guard told police that he noticed a contusion under Lesin’s left eye. Twice Lesin left the hotel grounds and returned with alcohol, once a bottle of Johnnie Walker whiskey.

He left the Four Seasons about 5 a.m. on Nov. 4 and checked into the hotel at Dupont Circle at 5:30 a.m. He then returned to the Four Seasons, where for several more hours he went back and forth to his room, once with more alcohol from a convenience store. The hotel locked him out of his room and he took a taxi back to Dupont Circle.

The report notes that video surveillance from him entering that hotel shows “the only visible injury is to the left eye” and that it appeared Lesin was not in pain, although a desk clerk noted he “appeared to be very intoxicated.”

About 2 p.m. that day, a security guard visited Lesin’s room and described him as “stumbling drunk.” Another guard returned at 2:23 p.m. and asked Lesin whether he needed medical help. The report says Lesin put his arm on the guard’s shoulder and said, “Nyet.” At 8:16 p.m., another guard went into his room and found Lesin facedown on the floor, but breathing. The guard couldn’t wake him.

At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 5, police said a security guard again went to his room, this time to remind him to check out. The report says Lesin was still facedown on the floor. The guard called 911. Lesin was pronounced dead.

Police reported finding numerous empty bottles of liquor from the minibar, and also three full bottles of Guinness beer and two unopened bottles of red wine.

Whacked? This guy was pickled.

After this debacle, BuzzFeed should go back to publishing kitty pix and listicles. It’s just as mindless, but at least there’s no pretense that the website is reporting the news.

All Of Mueller’s Men

We’ve got a great piece today by Phil Gibbons that looks at RussiaGate special counsel Robert Mueller’s curious involvement in the case of Whitey Bulger, the mobster and FBI informant.

It’s pretty stunning that the former FBI director, along with former senior CIA officials Michael Hayden and John McLaughlin, have been turned into heroes by the Trump #Resistance and the media. As Phil’s story notes, in regard to Mueller, this is a man whose history is being largely ignored, including:

His role in the post-9/11 roundup of thousands of Muslims (subjected to arbitrary detention, beatings, humiliation), his botching of the anthrax investigation by ignoring a solid lead and fingering an innocent man (government legal settlement: $5.8 million), his silence as the Bush administration lied about Iraq as a pretext for war, and his his accommodation to Bush’s torture program (against protests by his own agents), which led one court to conclude that he and Attorney General John Ashcroft, “met regularly with a small group of government officials in Washington, D.C., and mapped out ways to exert maximum pressure on the individuals arrested in connection with the terrorism investigation.

None of this matters to #TheResistance or the media, which remains obsessed with impeaching Trump, no matter what the cost to the constitution and due process. As I’ve repeatedly said before, I remain open to new evidence but thus far I haven’t seen anything that remotely suggests Trump should be impeached. Until and if emerges, I’m against what appears to be a regime change operation and favor Trump being removed, if the people want it — and I do — at the polls.

Anyway, Mueller and his team are finally getting a little more scrutiny after yesterday’s stunning revelations that, as CNN reported:

A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock President Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey’s description of how former secretary of state Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless,” the sources said.

Strzok sent his text messages to an FBI employee with whom he was reportedly having an affair. Smart. Now imagine what #TheResistance would have to say if Mueller were a Republican prosecutor who had to can a top aide because of text messages he had sent to his paramour about Barack Obama, and this same top aide had softened language about the conduct of a senior Obama administration staffer. I’m pretty sure there would be maximum outrage.

(It’s pretty curious too that, as the New York Times reported today, Mueller is now said to have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank “for information on its business dealings with President Trump.” Probably a coincidence but it sure does change the narrative that emerged yesterday — which doesn’t mean the bank records won’t contain interesting information, just that the timing of this story/leak seems propitious from Mueller’s point of view.)

There are a few other Mueller staffers whose past conduct has raised serious eyebrows — and none more so than Andrew Weissmann, who the Times, in a glowing story, has described as the special counsel’s “Legal Pit Bull.” That story said that:

Mr. Weissmann was credited with acting on a hunch that Ben F. Glisan Jr., the former Enron treasurer who had already pleaded guilty without agreeing to cooperate, might be willing to say more. United States marshals hauled in Mr. Glisan from prison, at Mr. Weissmann’s direction, to appear before a grand jury. He became a key witness.

Prosecutors also initially earned a conviction of Arthur Andersen, an accounting firm charged with illegally destroying documents related to its audit of Enron, for obstruction of justice. Colleagues praised his resourcefulness and legal guile. Opponents accused him of overreach, citing a series of overturned convictions and higher-court losses. 

The Daily Caller ran a less sanitized version — and I get tired of saying this, but you may not like the publication, but please rebut the facts, not the outlet:

Mr. Glisan pleaded guilty to a five-year count and just wanted to do his time. The problem was he refused to “cooperate” with Mr. Weissmann.

Federal authorities took Mr. Glisan to prison. He was placed straight into solitary confinement — a hole of a cell with a slit for light and barely enough room to stand. Men far tougher than Ben Glisan will tell you that 24 hours in solitary confinement can drive a man insane.

Mr. Weissmann and his Enron Task Force left Mr. Glisan in solitary for almost two weeks. The broken Ben Glisan then faced hardened criminals in the daily prison population. That is how Mr. Weissmann got that “hunch.”

Solitary at Gitmo. No problem.

Prosecutors have enormous power of suspects and can almost always get them to cut a deal and flip, or face lengthy prison terms. That may well be the way that Mueller and Weismann convinced Michael Flynn to take a deal last week. As I said, I’m open to evidence that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but thus far Mueller and his “dream team” don’t seem to have much.

All Of Mueller's Men

We’ve got a great piece today by Phil Gibbons that looks at RussiaGate special counsel Robert Mueller’s curious involvement in the case of Whitey Bulger, the mobster and FBI informant.

It’s pretty stunning that the former FBI director, along with former senior CIA officials Michael Hayden and John McLaughlin, have been turned into heroes by the Trump #Resistance and the media. As Phil’s story notes, in regard to Mueller, this is a man whose history is being largely ignored, including:

His role in the post-9/11 roundup of thousands of Muslims (subjected to arbitrary detention, beatings, humiliation), his botching of the anthrax investigation by ignoring a solid lead and fingering an innocent man (government legal settlement: $5.8 million), his silence as the Bush administration lied about Iraq as a pretext for war, and his his accommodation to Bush’s torture program (against protests by his own agents), which led one court to conclude that he and Attorney General John Ashcroft, “met regularly with a small group of government officials in Washington, D.C., and mapped out ways to exert maximum pressure on the individuals arrested in connection with the terrorism investigation.

None of this matters to #TheResistance or the media, which remains obsessed with impeaching Trump, no matter what the cost to the constitution and due process. As I’ve repeatedly said before, I remain open to new evidence but thus far I haven’t seen anything that remotely suggests Trump should be impeached. Until and if emerges, I’m against what appears to be a regime change operation and favor Trump being removed, if the people want it — and I do — at the polls.

Anyway, Mueller and his team are finally getting a little more scrutiny after yesterday’s stunning revelations that, as CNN reported:

A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock President Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey’s description of how former secretary of state Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless,” the sources said.

Strzok sent his text messages to an FBI employee with whom he was reportedly having an affair. Smart. Now imagine what #TheResistance would have to say if Mueller were a Republican prosecutor who had to can a top aide because of text messages he had sent to his paramour about Barack Obama, and this same top aide had softened language about the conduct of a senior Obama administration staffer. I’m pretty sure there would be maximum outrage.

(It’s pretty curious too that, as the New York Times reported today, Mueller is now said to have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank “for information on its business dealings with President Trump.” Probably a coincidence but it sure does change the narrative that emerged yesterday — which doesn’t mean the bank records won’t contain interesting information, just that the timing of this story/leak seems propitious from Mueller’s point of view.)

There are a few other Mueller staffers whose past conduct has raised serious eyebrows — and none more so than Andrew Weissmann, who the Times, in a glowing story, has described as the special counsel’s “Legal Pit Bull.” That story said that:

Mr. Weissmann was credited with acting on a hunch that Ben F. Glisan Jr., the former Enron treasurer who had already pleaded guilty without agreeing to cooperate, might be willing to say more. United States marshals hauled in Mr. Glisan from prison, at Mr. Weissmann’s direction, to appear before a grand jury. He became a key witness.

Prosecutors also initially earned a conviction of Arthur Andersen, an accounting firm charged with illegally destroying documents related to its audit of Enron, for obstruction of justice. Colleagues praised his resourcefulness and legal guile. Opponents accused him of overreach, citing a series of overturned convictions and higher-court losses. 

The Daily Caller ran a less sanitized version — and I get tired of saying this, but you may not like the publication, but please rebut the facts, not the outlet:

Mr. Glisan pleaded guilty to a five-year count and just wanted to do his time. The problem was he refused to “cooperate” with Mr. Weissmann.

Federal authorities took Mr. Glisan to prison. He was placed straight into solitary confinement — a hole of a cell with a slit for light and barely enough room to stand. Men far tougher than Ben Glisan will tell you that 24 hours in solitary confinement can drive a man insane.

Mr. Weissmann and his Enron Task Force left Mr. Glisan in solitary for almost two weeks. The broken Ben Glisan then faced hardened criminals in the daily prison population. That is how Mr. Weissmann got that “hunch.”

Solitary at Gitmo. No problem.

Prosecutors have enormous power of suspects and can almost always get them to cut a deal and flip, or face lengthy prison terms. That may well be the way that Mueller and Weismann convinced Michael Flynn to take a deal last week. As I said, I’m open to evidence that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but thus far Mueller and his “dream team” don’t seem to have much.

Whitey Bulger And The FBI: What Did Robert Mueller Know And When Did He Know It?

Earlier this year, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to investigate connections between the Russian government and the campaign of Donald Trump. From both sides of the aisle came praise for Mueller, the former FBI director with an alabaster image.

The media was also nearly unanimous in its glowing coverage. Mostly ignored were Mueller’s role in the post-9/11 roundup of thousands of Muslims (subjected to arbitrary detention, beatings, humiliation), his botching of the anthrax investigation by ignoring a solid lead and fingering an innocent man (government legal settlement: $5.8 million), his silence as the Bush administration lied about Iraq as a pretext for war, and his his accommodation to Bush’s torture program (against protests by his own agents), which led one court to conclude that he and Attorney General John Ashcroft, “met regularly with a small group of government officials in Washington, D.C., and mapped out ways to exert maximum pressure on the individuals arrested in connection with the terrorism investigation.”

To the extent that anyone, in hailing his bona fides, paid attention to Mueller’s role in the notorious case of Boston criminal kingpin James “Whitey” Bulger, it was to describe Bulger’s arrest in 2011 as a masterful job of FBI investigation. In fact, the case of Whitey Bulger, a fugitive eluding capture for 16 years, had been one of the biggest scandals in the history of the FBI, and the Bureau’s official story of its resolution is so preposterous that it either casts a withering light on the competence of Mueller and his G men or reeks of something smellier in Mueller’s domain.

From 1979 to 1995, Whitey Bulger engaged in a criminal reign of terror that eventually established him as the most powerful underworld boss in New England. As so often in the annals of organized crime, the outlaw and the law were partners in a dread dance, and in late 1994, tipped off by his FBI handler, one John Connolly, that indictments were imminent, Bulger went on the lam and disappeared.

Whitey’ Bulger’s former FBI handler, John Connolly.

Beyond putting Bulger on the Ten Most Wanted list (and then not until 1999), the FBI went nowhere with the case for six years. After ascending to the Bureau’s leadership in 2001, Mueller likewise demonstrated indifference to apprehending Bulger until, a decade later and on the heels of his reappointment to the job, it was politically expedient both for himself and the U.S. government (of which more in a moment).

Questions about the FBI’s relationship with Bulger while he dominated Boston’s criminal underworld in the 1980s and ’90s have never been fully resolved. That a corrupt relationship existed is undisputed. From the 1970s Bulger had been a confidential informant of the FBI, recruited to help the Bureau take down the Italian Mafia. It was a toxic combination, through which Bulger only gained power.

To give but a taste of the dirty work: H. Paul Rico, who’d had a long, tainted career with the Bureau in Boston, was indicted for helping Bulger and an associate plan a murder in 1981 while Rico was head of security for World Jai Alai, a company Bulger was skimming. (Rico died in 2004 before he could be tried.)

John Connolly, Bulger’s handler beginning in the 1970s, is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence in Florida for the murder of a Bulger associate who was rumored to be cooperating with a criminal investigation.

Connolly’s supervisor, John Morris, has admitted to tipping off Bulger about another cooperating witness – information that Bulger used to murder this man, a mobster desperately seeking witness protection – and an innocent bystander in 1982. Morris, who got immunity for his cooperation, additionally admitted to receiving $7,000 in cash bribes from Bulger.

John Morris, Connolly’s supervisor.

When Connolly alerted Bulger that he was about to be arrested, it was not the first time the agent acted to protect the crime boss. Connolly had thwarted previous investigations of the Boston PD and the Massachusetts State Police by telling Bulger of specific wiretaps and surveillance; as a result, those agencies had long been wary of cooperating with the Boston FBI.

By numerous accounts, Bulger and his partner in crime Stephen Flemmi, who eventually turned state’s evidence against Whitey, believed they were shielded from prosecution, if only because of the secrets they could spill. “If I’m going to jail, you’re going to jail,” Bulger once thundered to Morris, who soon after suffered a heart attack. Bulger’s defense lawyer has argued that a senior official in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, had offered Bulger immunity. O’Sullivan is dead and Connolly, who introduced the two, is disgraced, but the tangle of evidence suggesting systemic corruption or tacit accommodation has been richly documented in books and dramatized in film.

And where was the nation’s future top cop in the 1980s as Bulger and Flemmi routinely engaged in murder, extortion and drug trafficking, and as FBI agents waded in the gore? In what is doubtless an inconvenient coincidence for a man now characterized as a bloodhound for truth and justice, Robert Mueller was a criminal prosecutor in the Boston office of the Justice Department in the early ’80s and then acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in 1986-87.

It is possible that prosecutor Mueller, having earlier lost an infamous racketeering case against the Hells Angels in San Francisco, decided that securities fraud, New Cold War skullduggery and more mundane corruption better suited his ambitions. It is possible that FBI director Mueller, beset with the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack and his duties as an apparatchik in the Global War on Terror, had more pressing matters than Bulger.

But it’s at least as likely that Mueller was well aware from his time in Boston that the rot emanating from there went far beyond a few bad actors; that, as scandalous as the Bureau’s failure to capture Bulger was, it would be more scandalous still if Bulger had a chance to reveal the full extent of the rot; thus, the best way to protect ugly secrets about Mueller’s flailing agency and the Justice Department would be to let the crime boss run out his days in the shadows.

We may never know the reasons Mueller didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass for the Bulger investigation beyond the pro forma inquiry, when visiting the Boston Bureau as FBI director, “Where are we on Whitey Bulger?” And because Bulger, a high order rat, ultimately never did spill the secrets, preferring to hold to the fiction that he had never informed for the FBI, we still do not know the extent to which the government enabled racketeering and murder.

But if we don’t have answers, there are questions — not least of those being: how, once Mueller’s attentions were roused, did it take the Bureau a mere seven weeks to accomplish what had supposedly flummoxed it for 16 years? The official explanation for this amazing feat is absurd, involving, as we shall see in Part II, a PR agent inspired by the TV show “Alias,” photos of the crime boss that even the mother of his child couldn’t recognize, and a former Miss Iceland.

Anna Bjornsdottir, former Miss Iceland.

This part of the story begins in the aftermath of the U.S. government’s assassination of Bulger’s fellow mark on the Most Wanted list, Osama Bin Laden, in 2011. Much was being made of the fact that Bin Laden had lived so long untroubled in Pakistan, the implication being that Pakistani officials were wily Orientals and all-around friends of terror who also probably hated America for our freedoms.

Enter Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, who got on the phone with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg to say: “If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long, why can’t Osama Bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?”

If the Pakistani ambassador was saying this to the press, one can only imagine what he was telling U.S. government officials behind closed doors. Haqqani may have said more than he intended, for it is as hard to believe that his country’s intelligence agency knew nothing of Bin Laden’s whereabouts as it is to believe that the FBI knew nothing of Bulger’s. But in all events Haqqani had picked a scab.

That conversation was reported on May 2. Ten days later, Mueller had a sit-down with President Obama, who afterward proclaimed the director had “set the gold standard” and deserved another two years of public service. The extension had no precedent since Congress established a 10-year term limit for the FBI director in 1972, a reaction to the long, vicious reign of J. Edgar Hoover.

Still, if Mueller was smart, he might have felt some pressure. Congress would have to vote to reconfirm him. It did so almost exactly a month after the FBI stunningly captured Whitey Bulger, on June 22, 2011.

[End, Part 1]

How To Spot A Deranged Democrat: A Primer

I’m traveling today so you may not hear much from me until tomorrow, but we’ve got a lot planned this week, with our final Hack List 2017 story before a final column ranking the Top Ten; a two-part series on Robert Mueller, the sainted head of the RussiaGate investigation, and, hopefully, a serious look at the bizarre diet of Tom Brady and how he sells his idiotic claims to the public for big bucks.

But for now I just want to call to your attention this great article by Crispin Sartwell in Russ Smith’s Splice Today. He thinks Donald Trump is going to be impeached and explains why — I remain highly skeptical — but urges Democrats and the rest of the lunatic #Resistance to chill the fuck out and wait for the process to play out:

Here’s an excerpt:

One of the big problems with the opposition to Donald Trump is that it’s extremely undiscriminating. If you’re Charles Blow, Eugene Robinson, Jake Tapper or Joe Scarborough, every day brings a new outrage that jacks you up to max hyperbole about mental illness, unfitness for office, clear and present danger, and so on. A nasty crack about Elizabeth Warren or CNN seems to worry these people as much as the tax code or the specter of war.

Their problem really is that Trump is radically the wrong sort of person, that he’s constantly behaving “inappropriately” by these folks’ lights, and they’ve dedicated their lives to policing appropriateness. They’re constantly freaking out because they need a presidential president to feel safe. For people like that—people desperate to be blandly subordinated—an inappropriate tweet is as bad as an obstruction of justice, or worse.

A pretty good indication of this inability to make basic distinctions is provided by the pro-impeachment ads of the hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, now in heavy rotation. He doesn’t appear to be actually thinking about impeachment, just about venting a variety of complaints, and it remains mysterious how a television campaign, aimed at people who already agree, could help bring about a real impeachment. Steyer always seems to lead with North Korea, for example, but there’s nothing even remotely impeachable there. Seriously, he appears to think that insulting Kim Jong Un is an impeachable offense.

And he concludes by saying, “One reason I’ll be happy to see Trump go is that CNN and The New York Times will be able to regain a semblance of composure.”

Keep reading the whole story by clicking here.

The Sham Indictment of Michael Flynn & Robert Mueller’s Bogus Investigation

Well, well, well, Hillary-crats all over America must be rubbing their hands in glee: Michael Flynn has been indicted and obviously is going to flip to get a lighter sentence!!!

Give me a fucking break.

I’m not particularly fond of Flynn’s policies, especially his moronic obsession with Iran, but frankly he sounds like a lot of fun. As I noted in this previous item — Who Would You Rather Have a Drink With, Michael Flynn or Ezra Klein and Josh Marshall? The choice is painfully clear — Trump’s former national security advisor “graduated in 1977 from Middletown High School Class, where he was known lovingly as Flynnie, was co-captain of the state championship football team and loved surfing and Roxy Music.” What’s not to like? (OK, that last two things are not so cool.)

More to the point, Flynn’s worst misconduct involves legally accepting $400,000 from Turkish interests — not Russian, please note — and registering late as a foreign lobbyist. Should he have registered promptly? Sure, but we are talking about $400,000, which is chump change in Washington.

Hardly anyone in Washington registers to lobby. Countries like Qatar and China have countless influence peddlers on retainer, but only a few are officially registered with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act office. They just pretend they’re doing PR or something else that somehow falls short of lobbying. Meanwhile, Qatar, among others, pours vast sums into crooked think tanks, who are unregistered lobbyists par excellence.

Über Sleaze Henry Kissinger has been peddling influence for decades and has never registered. And by the way, I’ll have a story about his unregistered activities for China next week. I can’r wait for RussiaGate special prosecutor Robert Mueller to haul him in.

Someone arrest this man!

Let me also point to Michael Tracey’s Twitter post, which says, “Grand irony: the underlying action that Flynn now admits he lied to the FBI about was urging de-escalation with a nuclear power, which is now no longer permissible.” (You should all be following Michael on Twitter, especially so you don’t miss his excellent work on the whole RussiaGate affair.)

Look, Washington is rotten to the core and I’m sure Flynn is no saint. (Check out this Washington Post story on his son’s activities, for example.) But today’s indictment merely confirms what has been apparent for ages, and which I’ll stick to until I see evidence to the contrary:

Trump, Flynn and Manafort are dirty as hell, but there is nothing so far that indicates they did anything out of the ordinary, in politics or business. That’s sad, but true.

Mueller’s whole strategy is to get Trump, and anyone else he can bag, on obstruction of justice or perjury or some other charge that was committed after the fact. There was no quid pro quo between Trump and Russia. He should be voted out of office, not railroaded by Mueller and his minions in the press.

The Sham Indictment of Michael Flynn & Robert Mueller's Bogus Investigation

Well, well, well, Hillary-crats all over America must be rubbing their hands in glee: Michael Flynn has been indicted and obviously is going to flip to get a lighter sentence!!!

Give me a fucking break.

I’m not particularly fond of Flynn’s policies, especially his moronic obsession with Iran, but frankly he sounds like a lot of fun. As I noted in this previous item — Who Would You Rather Have a Drink With, Michael Flynn or Ezra Klein and Josh Marshall? The choice is painfully clear — Trump’s former national security advisor “graduated in 1977 from Middletown High School Class, where he was known lovingly as Flynnie, was co-captain of the state championship football team and loved surfing and Roxy Music.” What’s not to like? (OK, that last two things are not so cool.)

More to the point, Flynn’s worst misconduct involves legally accepting $400,000 from Turkish interests — not Russian, please note — and registering late as a foreign lobbyist. Should he have registered promptly? Sure, but we are talking about $400,000, which is chump change in Washington.

Hardly anyone in Washington registers to lobby. Countries like Qatar and China have countless influence peddlers on retainer, but only a few are officially registered with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act office. They just pretend they’re doing PR or something else that somehow falls short of lobbying. Meanwhile, Qatar, among others, pours vast sums into crooked think tanks, who are unregistered lobbyists par excellence.

Über Sleaze Henry Kissinger has been peddling influence for decades and has never registered. And by the way, I’ll have a story about his unregistered activities for China next week. I can’r wait for RussiaGate special prosecutor Robert Mueller to haul him in.

Someone arrest this man!

Let me also point to Michael Tracey’s Twitter post, which says, “Grand irony: the underlying action that Flynn now admits he lied to the FBI about was urging de-escalation with a nuclear power, which is now no longer permissible.” (You should all be following Michael on Twitter, especially so you don’t miss his excellent work on the whole RussiaGate affair.)

Look, Washington is rotten to the core and I’m sure Flynn is no saint. (Check out this Washington Post story on his son’s activities, for example.) But today’s indictment merely confirms what has been apparent for ages, and which I’ll stick to until I see evidence to the contrary:

Trump, Flynn and Manafort are dirty as hell, but there is nothing so far that indicates they did anything out of the ordinary, in politics or business. That’s sad, but true.

Mueller’s whole strategy is to get Trump, and anyone else he can bag, on obstruction of justice or perjury or some other charge that was committed after the fact. There was no quid pro quo between Trump and Russia. He should be voted out of office, not railroaded by Mueller and his minions in the press.

Hack List 2017: PutinTrump.org, formerly known as Mother Jones, makes its case

[Note: I’m not rolling out Hack List 2017 in any special order. We’ll rank the Top Ten after posting applications from all the finalists and then I’ll milk all this for another easy post where I rank them. I’m not sure how long this process will take but it will surely be done by the end of the year. You can read the last installment, “Jeff Bezos, Modern Day Pinkerton Head Cracker, and the Washington Post,” here. Previous entries include “Why the New Yorker Sucks, In One Annotated Story,” here, and New York TimesThe Intercept and Vox, links for which can all be found in the last installment.]

Why does Mother Jones, a once very solid if predictable lefty magazine which published many fine writers (including me), totally and completely suck? There’s one reason for that and it’s very simple: Clara Jeffery, David Corn, Kevin Drum and Bill “BuzzKill” Buzenberg, a former executive at Minnesota Public Radio who makes Garrison Keillor look edgy.

Well, there’s another reason, which I’ll get to below as well, namely cynical political opportunism and a willingness to stoop as low as necessary, and beyond, to suck money out of the wallets of rich donors, especially those hoping to force Donald Trump from office and impose on our doddering Republic a Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton junta, a cause for which Mother Jones is perhaps the nation’s leading advocate.

As self-installed editor-in-chief — after engineering a coup against her former co-editor, the far more principled Monika Bauerlein — Jeffery is the primary person responsible for Mother Jones‘s current sad state of affairs. And she’s also the person responsible for hiring fellow co-No. 1 reason for why the magazine sucks, its Washington bureau chief and hack extraordinaire David Corn (admittedly he was low on her list and she only turned to him after various candidates turned the job down, including me.)

Jeffery used to be a very good editor at Harper’s, where she worked with a variety of fine writers, including me, the magazine’s former Washington Editor. She even edited rather terrifically one of my favorite stories, “Licensed to Kill,” which tells the story of arms dealer Ernst Werner Glatt, who covertly worked with the CIA for decades, a tale which sits sadly behind the Harper’s paywall, like virtually everything else the magazine has published since 1865. But enough about Harper’s.

How did Jeffery go from being a senior editor at a prestigious place like Harper’s, which still publishes me, at least as of a year ago, to presiding over a shit show like Mother Jones in its current incarnation (not withstanding the fact that some great people still work at the magazine, which periodically, in the rare moments it’s not attempting to impose the Clinton Triumvirate, publishes amazing work)?

One can only guess but my personal stab, from what I know to be true, is Jeffery’s desperate quest to be approved by the mainstream even as she poses as an outsider, and the fact that she’s essentially an unconventional conformist whose politics are pretty centrist, which would be fine if she were running Minnesota Public Radio or some other outlet whose highest aspiration was to be bland, dull and nondescript.

Jeffery’s self-evidently phony outsider pose is seen in her regular attendance, along with the groveling Corn, at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual suckfest at which Washington journalists and politicians do what they do best: pretending they have an adversarial relationship while kissing each other’s asses. Jeffery pretends — like so many other people who love to have their picture taken at this awful affair while feigning indifference — that she is above it all by calling the event the “Nerd Prom,” an all too reverential description of this sad, sad spectacle.

I’d quickly note two other things that people have pointed out to me over the years in seeking to explain Mother Jones‘s descent into the pit of journalism hell: a self-conscious strategy to get people to promote its stories by linking to their work, no matter how atrocious; and, as alluded to above, a willingness to do anything necessary to get tech and other shit head billionaires to fork over cash.

And that leads directly to Mother Jones‘s reverse merger with PutinTrump.org, whose Editorial Director (and fundraising guru) is BuzzKill “Buzzy” Buzenberg, who you can follow on Twitter — please don’t — @NoPutinTrump. PutinTrump.org — whose logo is actually a hammer and sickle, as if Russia were still a Communist state or, more likely given the idiocy of these clowns, Trump were preparing to create the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of America — “was an election-season blog funded by the Progress for USA Political Action Committee, which was launched by Internet entrepreneur Rob Glaser, founder of RealNetworks and an early employee at Microsoft,” in other words, a big time tech donor behind the ongoing Clintonian coup attempt.

(Full disclosure: I truly don’t like Buzzy but I’ll admit I like him even less because he once criticized an undercover story I did about Washington lobbyists shilling for dictators, calling it unethical. This from a man who is currently seeking to promote regime change at home on behalf of the 1 percent and war with Russia, which would get a lot of people killed even if it doesn’t lead to nuclear holocaust. Buzzy launched his tip-less dart, where he essentially said that a journalist going undercover is worse than a lobbyist flacking for evil, when he was at the once respectable — and perhaps again, now that he’s gone — Center for Public Integrity.)

In May 2017, Buzzy and PutinTrump.org took over Mother Jones, which has been publishing ever since a stream of propaganda about Russiagate that is too lame and stupid to even mention or link to. But I will say that Mother Jones pimping for the crudest version of Russiagate is seriously bad, because the magazine is still perceived as being on the left.

So, on a smaller scale because Mother Jones has very little influence outside of the corridors of power at MSNBC, this is something akin to the New York Times promoting the Iraq War and thereby allowing the George W. Bush administration to claim that “even the liberal” Times backed that stupid conflict. And I’ll also say that Mother Jones‘s coverage of Russiagate is every bit as sleazy, dishonest and dangerous as the Times‘s coverage during the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. (See more below.)

Before summing up I would be remiss not to note Jeffery’s horrifying Twitter feed, where she kisses the ass of the 1 percent she’s hoping to get money from (just yesterday she fantasized that if “I were a billionaire,” she’d fund local news coverage); berates homeless people she encounters while walking the wild streets of San Francisco; and, among other unbelievably dumb things, promoted a “tweet storm” by moron Eric Garland and likened it to a new Federalist Paper and the “single greatest thread I have ever read on Twitter.

(See this excellent story from Paste which goes over some of the same ground I’m covering here. Also see this hilarious story in Deadspin about Garland’s “tweet storm.”)

Before turning to Corn and banging on “political blogger” Drum, let me note that I recently sought comment from Jeffery and Corn about what’s happening at the magazine and about alleged misconduct by David Corn (more below). I wrote, lightly edited, in part:
I don’t like David’s work and I think Mother Jones is a disgrace; your merger with Putin Trump is only the latest sign of your intellectual bankruptcy. It’s sad to see what you’ve done to the magazine. I don’t really give a rat’s ass about David…And by the way, my source has no animus towards David. I don’t really even have any animus towards David anymore, he’s a joke. And I apologize for any errors, I’m dictating. Let me know if you need any clarification.
I never heard back from either of them.
Turning to the milquetoast Democratic lapdog Corn, let me disclose that much, but by no means all, of what follows has been extracted from an article I wrote not long ago for the New York Observer, “David Corn: 47 Percent ÷ Liberal Bullshit = Boring Journalism; Amid hefty speaking fees and endless TV appearances, Mother Jones’ star investigative reporter has gone native.” That story began:

When it comes to the national liberal media, few names shine brighter than David Corn, Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief. He’s a regular on cable news networks, where he can reliably be counted on to serve as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, and he regularly attends events like the White House Correspondents Dinner… 

In an Observer story about the 2009 Dinner, the first of the Obama era, the “omnipresent” Mr. Corn was seen dashing about here and there and “in a conversation every time you looked up.” Mr. Corn is also an active member of the Gridiron Club, another group of ass-kissing journalism insiders that holds an annual white-tie dinner.

In addition, Mr. Corn is the author of a number of predictably dull books, for example The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception and Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party, which he described as “a behind-the-scenes narrative covering the White House from the disastrous 2010 midterm elections until the promising start of 2012. It is a reporting-driven tale of how President Barack Obama got his groove back in time for the reelection campaign.” (Note to Ambien addicts: Buy this book, you’ll sleep like a baby.)

(Disclosure: I wrote for Mother Jones for a long time but no longer do and guess I probably won’t in the future.)

Corn, let me add, directly plagiarizing further from my Observer story, is best known for breaking the secret videotape in which Mitt Romney told a group of GOP donors that 47 percent of the American people were freeloaders and would always vote for Democrats so it would be hard for the GOP ever to win an election. (In fact, the GOP can’t win elections primarily because they are mostly retrograde lunatics who hate women, gays and minorities. The Democrats are more or less the same but not as retrograde on social issues.)

But to say Corn “broke” the story is a bit of a stretch. He published it only because a source dropped the videotape in his lap and actually the Huffington Post — which also annoys me because it is so beholden to the Democratic Party — broke the story, to the best of my recollection, and Corn and his editors at Mother Jones hogged the credit.

Corn loves to be on cable news and the 47 percent story helped him enormously. His desperate desire to get on TV was the subject of mockery at Mother Jones’ Washington office. “It’s almost time for me to go see Chris [Matthews] on Hardball,” he’d say in a phony self-deprecating way, while the staff laughed behind his back. Several people alleged that he kept a coatrack outside his office where he’d loudly muse over his sartorial options for that evening’s television duty.

Anyway, the 47 percent story was typical of Corn because he’s not a reporter, he’s a bloviator who does easy stories and he mostly works on articles that back his own political agenda and especially if they don’t piss off anyone in the Washington media who might advance his career. In short, Corn will not shit in his own living room, which leads to safe and boring journalism.

(To read about Corn’s speaking fees, about the disgusting nature of Washington night life, and to see my brilliant daughter’s photography, some of which accompanied the Observer story, make sure to click here.)

One last thing about Corn. When I wrote to him and Jeffery recently it was to inquire about rumors and very specific allegations of sexual misconduct. “It would really look bad if you’re Hillary Clinton for David the way Hillary protects Bill,” I wrote in a line directed rather clearly at Jeffery.

As noted above, I never heard back, which is sort of odd under the circumstances, but yesterday Politico published a story on the same rough topic. Here’s an excerpt:

Mother Jones magazine’s editor and chief executive acknowledged on Thursday that they investigated Washington bureau chief David Corn for inappropriate workplace behavior three years ago, warning him about touching female staffers and insensitive descriptions of sexual violence, and would now probe the allegations further in light of two emails written by former staffers in 2014 and 2015 and obtained by POLITICO.

One of the emails, written in 2015 by a former staffer outlining concerns she had heard from other women in the Washington office, said Corn, now 58, made “rape jokes,” “regularly gave [several women] unwelcome shoulder rubs and engaged in uninvited touching of their legs, arms, backs, and waists,” and “made inappropriate comments about women’s sexuality and anatomy.” The other email, from 2014, was by a former female staffer who claimed that Corn “came up behind me and put his hands and arms around my body in a way that felt sexual and domineering.”

Corn, in a statement to POLITICO, said that neither his comments nor his touching of colleagues was in any way sexual.

“I am an exuberant person and have been known to pat male and female colleagues on the shoulder or slap them on the back, but always in a collegial or celebratory way,” he said. “I have never touched any work colleague in a sexual manner. Once concerns were raised about this type of contact, I have been mindful to avoid it to prevent any misperception. If anyone ever perceived any of this as ‘sexual’ or ‘domineering,’ I am sorry—that was never my intent.”

“Sexual violence is not funny, and I have never joked about it, or about women’s sexuality and anatomy,” Corn wrote.

“Oh,” wrote a story at boingboing.net, “That clears it right up.”

As to political blogger Kevin Drum, I recently asked Washington Babylon‘s chief research assistant, the excellent Theo Papathanasis, to do a round up about him. “You’ll have to forgive me if this is a bit muddled, but reading about RussiaGate all day has been positively brain-desiccating and I had no choice but to supplement what’s left of my cerebral fluids with Old Grand-Dad,” he wrote when reporting back. “You know, for health.”
Actually, Theo’s memo wasn’t muddled at all. He unearthed an interview from 2005, which provides a good deal of insight into Drum’s intellectual caliber:
Q: Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?
 
A: The Iraq war. I supported it initially, but before the war started I switched to opposition on practical grounds (i.e., that George Bush’s approach was incapable of accomplishing the goals it was meant to accomplish). Since then, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that, in fact, I should have opposed it all along on philosophical grounds: namely that it was a fundamentally flawed concept and had no chance of working even if it had been competently executed.
Note here that those aren’t philosophical grounds, but tactical ones. A philosophical reason might have been to invoke Just War Theory or Clausewitz or something. There’s none of that here. He effectively says he changed his mind, opposed the war for practical reasons, but should have opposed it for…practical reasons. There’s no real difference between saying a goal can’t be accomplished and that the same thing has no chance of working. This is pure babble.
Then there was this:
 
 Q: What personal fault do you most dislike?
 
A: Loudmouthism. I just made up that word, but I imagine it’s clear enough not to really need a definition.
To begin with English has a few ways to better construct that word. The gerund “loudmouthing” would have been slightly pithier and “loudmouthery” would have, at least, provided comedic effect.
But that’s not the juice here, Theo noted in his memo. The personal fault he dislikes the most is the same thing he uses — in the same interview — to describe the essence of political blogging, the only thing for which he’s known:
So if you do it (i.e. blog), do it because you enjoy mouthing off for its own sake.
The man appears to be totally clueless and oblivious. It calls to mind the Delphic inscription, “Know thyself.” It also calls to mind Trump’s contribution to the world’s great aphorisms: “I do it to do it.”
Moving on.
Q: What talent would you most like to have?

A: That’s easy: the ability to write great fiction. Or even good fiction. I’ve gotten so much pleasure from reading fiction during my life that I very much wish I could pay the world back by writing some of my own. Sadly, I lack the imagination to do so.

Yes, Drummy, you do, not to mention the lack of talent, creativity, intelligence or wit.

I don’t really have the time or patience to do more about Drum, but here is a link that’s representative of what he’s been up to more recently, “Are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Really BFFs?“, and an inadvertently funny story by his colleague Denise Clifton, “Putin’s Pro-Trump Trolls Just Targeted Hillary Clinton and Robert Mueller.”
Jesus, that’s just pathetic and entirely reflective of what a joke Mother Jones has become. Vandalic Russians trolling American democracy into complete dissolution,  Barbarians at the Gates and all the rest of the nonsense that Americans are currently being bombarded with.
So that’s about it, but I’m sure you all agree by now that Mother Jones‘s application for Hack List 2017 should be strongly considered by our elite panel of judges.

EXCLUSIVE: Top Secret Leaker Reveals Key Russiagate Inside Infomation

I received a fascinating, unsolicited email recently from a source who clearly has access to the highest levels of special counsel Robert “Bob” Mueller’s Russiagate investigation. Either that or the source has a very common name and I can’t discover who he is. A university professor? The man who lives next door? Yet another possibility is that it’s down-on-her-luck-and-plenty-of-free-time Hillary Clinton using a pseudonym.
Whatever, I didn’t ask, but this person has some pretty interesting thoughts on Russiagate, which I thought I’d post here. I’m not sure I agree with his assessment, but it’s definitely worth publishing information any time a whistleblower comes forward. So here we go:
Trump got cut off from banks and went to the Russian oligarchs and their friends for cash. He’d dealt with the NY and NJ mob families, NY pols and other pols, did fine.
 
I don’t think he realized that dealing with the Russian mob was playing in a a different league. They’re an arm of the state; i.e, Putin’s instruments. A candidate for president of the U.S., who has never expressed much interest in Ukraine, just happens to want to further a competitor’s main European strategic goal?
Through a “deal” in which the US would appear to get nothing important in return? That’s like a candidate talking about ceding the South China Sea to China in return for sending them more frozen chicken wings.
 
Trump and his gang’s bizarre fixation on Ukraine, cutting some kind of deal with Putin to neutralize it and, in the process, all but shatter Transatlantic unity, just doesn’t make sense outside of some kind of debt-to-be-paid-things-go-bad-if-it’s-not situation. Putin owns Trump in a way that could be without historical precedent. Not just for the US. But for any hegemonic power. 
Trump’s collusion with Putin damaged democracy, yes. But it also undermined American sovereignty in a way that has yet to sink in, and could be historically unique. A ruler or faction in a small client regime seeks assistance from a far more powerful state to gain or retain power. A contender for the throne in a hegemonic power does not. Trump didn’t appear to actually want power that badly to hand the country’s fate to a rival state. That leaves much narrower interests.
 
Any proof on all this? Who knows. We’ll see what Mueller squeezes out of Manafort et al. But none of this is amenable to the usual political analysis.
One question with Manafort: Why did he become Trump’s campaign manager? He had to know his dirty doings, which you and others have documented, would come under the scrutiny they never had.

Did someone have his balls in a vice? The same someone who has Trump’s there?