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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will change the face of Europe for ever

It will take years for the consequences of 24 February to play out, but there is still much the west can do to help Ukrainians

By Timothy Garton AshThe Guardian

Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare for the Guardian.
Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare for the Guardian.

Why do we always make the same mistake? Oh, that’s only trouble in the Balkans, we say – and then an assassination in Sarajevo sparks the first world war. Oh, Adolf Hitler’s threat to Czechoslovakia is “a quarrel in a faraway country, between people of whom we know nothing” – and then we find ourselves in the second world war. Oh, Joseph Stalin’s takeover of distant Poland after 1945 is none of our business – and soon enough we have the cold war. Now we have done it again, not waking up until it is too late to the full implications of Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea in 2014. And so, on Thursday 24 February 2022, we stand here again, clothed in nothing but the shreds of our lost illusions.

At such moments we need courage and resolution but also wisdom. That includes care in our use of words. This is not the third world war. It is, however, already something much more serious than the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. The five wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s were terrible, but the larger international dangers that flowed from them were not on this scale. There were brave resistance fighters in Budapest in 1956, but in Ukraine today we have an entire independent, sovereign state with a large army and a people who declare themselves determined to resist. If they don’t resist, at scale, this will be an occupation. If they do, this could be the largest war in Europe since 1945.

Against them is arrayed the overwhelming force of one of the strongest military powers in the world, with well-trained and equipped conventional forces and some 6,000 nuclear weapons. Russia is now the world’s largest rogue state. It is commanded by a president who, to judge from his hysterical rants this week, has departed the realm of rational calculation – as isolated dictators tend to do, sooner or later. To be clear: when, in his declaration of war on Thursday morning, he threatened anyone “who tries to stand in our way” with “consequences you have never encountered in your history”, he was threatening us with nuclear war.

There will be a time to reflect on all our past mistakes. If, starting in 2014, we had got serious about helping to build up Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself, reduced European energy dependence on Russia, purged the sewage lakes of Russian dirty money swilling around London and imposed more sanctions on the Putin regime, we might be in a better place. But we have to start from where we are.

In the early fog of a war that is just beginning, I see four things Europe and the rest of the west need to do. First, we need to secure the defence of every inch of Nato territory, especially at its eastern frontiers with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, against all possible forms of attack, including cyber and hybrid ones. For 70 years, the security of west European countries including Britain has ultimately depended on the credibility of the “one for all and all for one” promise of article 5 of the Nato treaty. Like it or not, the longtime security of London is now inextricably intertwined with that of the Estonian city of Narva; that of Berlin with Białystok in Poland; that of Rome with that of Cluj-Napoca in Romania.

Second, we have to offer all the support that we can to the Ukrainians, short of breaching the threshold that would bring the west into a direct war with Russia. Those Ukrainians who choose to stay and to resist will be fighting by military and civilian means to defend the freedom of their country, as they have every possible right in law and conscience to do, and as we would do for our own countries. Inevitably, the limited scope of our response will lead to bitter disappointment among them. Emails from Ukrainian friends speak, for example, of the west imposing a no-fly zone, denying Ukrainian airspace to Russian planes. Nato is not going to do that. Like the Czechs in 1938, like the Poles in 1945, like Hungarians in 1956, Ukrainians will say: “You, our fellow Europeans, have abandoned us.”

But there are still things we can do. We can continue to supply weapons, communications and other equipment to those who are entirely legitimately resisting armed force with armed force. As important in the medium term, we can help those who will be using the well-tried techniques of civil resistance against a Russian occupation and any attempt to impose a puppet government. We must also stand ready to assist the many Ukrainians who will flee westward.

Third, the sanctions we impose on Russia should go beyond what has already been prepared. Beside comprehensive economic measures, there should be expulsions of Russians in any way connected with the Putin regime. Putin, with his war chest of more than $600bn, and his hand on the gas tap to Europe, has prepared for this, so sanctions will take time to have their full effect.

In the end, it will have to be the Russians themselves who turn round and say: “Enough. Not in our name.” Many of them, including the Nobel prizewinner Dmitry Muratov, already express their horror at this war. Likewise, the Ukrainian journalist Nataliya Gumanyuk has written movingly of a Russian journalist crying on the telephone with her as the Russian tanks moved in. That horror will only increase when the corpses of young Russian men return in body bags – and as the full economic and reputational impact becomes apparent at home in Russia. Russians will be the first and last victims of Vladimir Putin.

That brings me to a final, vital point: we must be prepared for a long struggle. It will take years, probably decades, for all the consequences of 24 February to be played out. In the short term, the prospects for Ukraine are desperately bleak. But I think at this moment of the wonderful title of a book about the Hungarian revolution of 1956: Victory of a Defeat. Almost everyone in the west has now woken up to the fact that Ukraine is a European country being attacked and dismembered by a dictator. Kyiv today is a city full of journalists from all over the world. This experience will shape their views of Ukraine for ever. We had forgotten, in the years of our post-cold war illusions, that this is how nations write themselves on to the mental map of Europe: in blood, sweat and tears.


Russia’s War On Ukraine In Global Perspective

By Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi

The Russian Federation’s illegal invasion cum genocidal war against the sovereign state of Ukraine as well as against the entire European continent and the world, are nothing but the ruthless culmination of President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s illusionary attempt at restoring Mother Russia to greatness by reuniting the historically Russian imperial territories against  NATO’s superiority over his shrinking domain on the continent and, more globally, on the seas, trade, finance as well as culture.  However, in his narcissistic and reality-denying hate-filled mind, he has concluded from the time he replaced his predecessor Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, that the only way he could accomplish his revanchist vision is by employing brutal violence and overwhelming coercion on the small as well as medium sized formerly Soviet and presently sovereign states.  Hence, the so-called “Second Russian-Chechen War” from August 1999 to April 2000 between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria; the so-called Transnistrian Moldova-Russian War between 1990 and 1992, in which the western part of Moldova became a de facto Russian ruled independent entity; the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008, in which the former cannibalized the territory of the latter by creating two so-called “Republics” in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; and finally, the occupation and annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, as well as the occupation cum recent recognition of the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as independent People’s Republics.

The consequences of President Putin’s habitual aggressions have been prolonged instability in the European continent that has become less and less tolerable to all the nations across the globe.  History is like statistics or election polls.  Depending on one’s preferences or loathings, everything  can be proven by them, including their opposites.  Accordingly, the diametrically different historical narratives of Russian, Ukrainian and foreign politicians, scholars as well as media pundits, although carrying significant relevance in understanding the underlying importance of national identities, have never been as revealing as the timely strategic and political consideration of the decision makers involved.  The current geopolitical crisis does not constitute an exception.  Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s competing interpretations could be useful in explaining the cultural and mental motives of their actions but are less revealing about the root causes  of the Russo-Ukrainian war.  In order to separate the limited view of the trees from the more global perspective of the forest, we must look for  one overarching principle of the Russian and Ukrainian national identities.  

From time immemorial, there has been a symbiotic relationship between foreign and domestic affairs of almost every nation.  As far as Russia as a monarchy, then as an empire, more recently as a Socialist/Communist joke, and presently as a fake democracy cum antediluvian despotism are concerned, their foreign policies have been both absurd and fatal primarily to their own subjects cum slaves and beyond.  Domestically their rulers and so-called governments have been the foolhearted dupes and miserable victims of their boundless greed for power, money and utter incompetence.  Far from creating good governance and bolstering positive authority, these repeatedly absurd miseries have perpetuated inhumanity, oppression by unimaginably brutal force as well as nacked trickery, and an insane level of corruption that has entrenched incurable immorality.  For these reasons, Russia always has faced the insoluble problem of survival on the edge of a slippery dometic as well as foreign precipice.  Should it free up the creative resources and energies of their subjects cum slaves, or should it continue despotism at home and unchained military blackmail and terror abroad?  Should it seek gradual integration in the rest of the world in order to improve the lot of Russia’s miserable subjects cum slaves?  Should it abandon chasing the mirage of world domination, or should it manage an untenable as well as paradoxical situation that ultimately will drive the Russian pseudo-civilization to extinction?  Should it continue being the eternal menace to European peace and stability, or should it cooperate constructively and not destructively for a lasting stability in the continent and beyond?

The Russian Federation’s despot de jour, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, is clearly imbued with all those immoral and ruthless characteristics that have shaped the uniquely Russian identity for many centuries.  Having been born and grown up in St. Petersburg, in a hopelessly discombobulated family, in which he was the only surviving child, he has  become a psychopath and a rebellious adult, mentally deeply submerged in the paranoid notion of victimhood.  In his youth, he wandered around aimlessly committing plenty of violent crimes.   These manifest violent aggressions have intensified with each failure and disappointment that he experienced until he reached the pinnacle of power in 2000.  His stint with the KGB in East Germany was mired in repeated disappointments.  His first steps in politics with the assistance of the mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak, his job as the Director of the Federal Security Service, the domestic successor of the KGB, and the Secretary of Yeltsin’s Security Council, has established him not as an effective administrator, as his official biography states, but a malcontent rebel and a first rate bungler, a person with no definite character who gravitated from one extreme to another without any rational motive – an individual who has not commanded genuine loyalty or respect.  

In reality, initially he owed his promotions to the fact that no one feared him.  Sadly, he has not belied his negative and repugnant nature since.  After having served as a true believer of the Communist ideas, he has turned his back on Socialism/Communism and has begun to wholeheartedly embrace Russian orthodoxy, racist nationalism, imperialism and colonialism.  In this manner, he has positioned himself as the bridge between the old and the ancient to which all the careerist gamblers and adventurers have tried to hitch themselves.  Yet, President Putin has proven to be a feckless chief executive.  Lacking both the character and the permanency of convictions, he has ended up as a corrupt, duplicitous, fidgety and conniving hoax of a statesman.  His downfall is predetermined and Russia’s economic destruction is inevitable.  

Thus, having been imbued with both conscious and subconscious sense of personal injuries, he has reveled at the thought of alone possessing the historical truths that has made him a superhuman loner amidst all the fools lacking even the semblance of historical perspectives.  In his prejudiced mind, he is laying claim to territories that are unattainable, which again deepens his hatred toward everyone who dares to oppose his extremism.  While he knows that his sick vision is in direct conflict with the rest of the world, he demands blind loyalty and even sycophancy.  By thus oversimplifying his own place and role in the universe, he attempts to overcome his fears and convoluted inferiority complexes by evil deeds.  In his core, President Putin is just another bitter, burned out politician, who is incapable of any meaningful compromise.  Moreover, lacking human creativity and locking himself in his self-erected pseudo-intellectual penitentiary, he denies himself and his country any progression toward a liberating self-determination.           

Just a reminder – the failure of Tsarist and Soviet totalitarianism ultimately brought down Russia itself in 1917 and in 1991.  Under Presidents Yeltsin and Putin, the Russian Federation has morphed into a sort of mafia state with a criminal syndicate economy, run by a quasi-government that allowed its political favorites to plunder state enterprises in the name of “privatization.”  This mafia state has delivered precious little to the average Russian, but enriched those with ties to the Kremlin.  Illimitable corruption has become the lifeblood of Russia’s resurgent despotism.  

President Putin is not a victor but a victim of his illegitimate aggression.  His  old/new  national symbol, the Russian bear, has been depicted as proud and big-hearted, but shrewd , unpredictable and prone to extreme violence when provoked.  These are the qualities that have combined to create and sustain Putin the Gambler, who has proved to be intuitively decisive, but narrow-minded, with little capacity to develop anything resembling a global vision, while impervious to the long-term consequences of his willingness to sacrifice everything for immediate self-aggrandizement.   

This almost mythical, yet in reality fraudulent Putin has become a hero to the overwhelming majority of the Russian people in the wake of seizing and incorporating Crimea into Russia.  The return of Crimea to Mother Russia and the illegal occupation of the Donetsk as well as Luhansk Oblasts was presented at home as well as abroad as a defensive reaction to save Russian civilization from the barbaric assaults of semi-Westernized Ukrainians.  This Savior of Russian civilization has repeated his act of aggression in Ukraine, hoping that the world’s reaction would be as muted as it was in 2014.  What should have been apparent to the latter was that a grand bargain with Putin’s Russia is impossible.  With a historically abysmal economy, a hopelessly corrupt financial establishment, and an autocratic political system devoid of meaningful ideas, while relying on appeals of raw revanchism for legitimacy, Russia will always respond to strength and force alone.  Presently too, this miscreant Despot in the Kremlin understands nothing but strength and the willingness to use that strength, if need be.

  Deplorably, succession of American Presidents, their so-called expert advisors and administrations, with no or little knowledge of Russian culture and imbued with insane naivete, have allowed their policies to degenerate into the sad spectacle of an illusory competition between the United States of America as well as its allies and the Russian Federation for the honor of who is being more concerned about establishing stability in Europe and the world.  The wholesale invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been a rude wakeup call for the rest of the world.  Politicians across the globe have started to view the Russian-Ukrainian War as a global war between democracy and despotism, believing that for the sake of the future of mankind, the former must be victorious regardless of the costs.

  The current occupant of the White House is more a Doofus than a Commander in Chief.  Lacking the mental ability to think lucidly, he is the prisoner of a bunch of incompetent and misguided bureaucrats.  After ruining the American economy in less than a year, he has embarked on destroying the United States of America’s international standing too.  From his monumentally destructive “Build Back Better” idiocy to the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, President Biden has demonstrated his lack of mental capacity to think coherently.  Clearly stated, the fraudulent redeemer of America’s division and the God-like savior of world peace   of the 2020 campaign is all hat and no cattle.  More unambiguously, he is a disgrace for America and an unmitigated disaster for mankind.  With him at the helm of American foreign policy, the United States of America appears to be a headless giant.  Moreover, his family’s shady involvements in corrupt Russian, Chinese and Ukrainian businesses disqualify him from being an honest defender of the Free World in the Russo-Ukrainian War.   

To wit, the ghost of the Cold War is back in its unresolved splendor.  So long to President George H.W. Bush’s disdain for the “vision thing,” to President Bill Clinton’s “peace dividend,” to President Bush’s son’s “I looked in President Putin’s eyes” primitive illusion, President Barack Obama’s incompetent “reset,” President Donald Trump’s futile personal diplomacy, and demented President Joe Biden’s,  his incompetent Secretary of State Blinken’s and his clueless Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s laughable attempts at squaring their imaginary circles on the ruthless stage of world politics.

Meanwhile, Ukraine, which since its independence in 1991, has been oscillating between waves of constructive and destructive revolutions, which have sidetracked, paralyzed and occasionally killed its progress toward a more open society, is crying out against the scandalous degree of corruption and the usurpation of democratic principles of the past.  On the verge of national annihilation by a militarily mightier foreign power, the people have awakened under the leadership of a former actor cum comedian and a Jew in a previously anti-Semitic society.  Yet, there has always been more to President Volodymyr Oleksandrovich Zelenskyy’s personality than his acting career.  He grew up speaking only Russian until he learned Ukrainian in his thirties.  He graduated from a law school and as a businessman produced his own show.  Upon his election in 2019, in his inaugural address he stated:  “I do not want my picture in your offices: the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait.  Hang your kid’s photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.”  

Having risen from a lightweight figure to a national hero, a statesman and a real leader as a result of his uncompromising  and righteous patriotism in the midst of the murderous Russian invasion, President Zelenskyy has pulled the curtain wide open for Ukraine to find its true identity in the unity of fighting to the end for his nation’s collective liberty.  He alone has understood that President Putin is the product of Russia’s troubled culture and, therefore, the underlying rationale of the latter’s policies, like the invasion of Ukraine, is fear.  Fear of his own people, fear of being called out as a despot in the guise of a savior, fear of his own fragile despotism and fear of his adversaries who are much stronger militarily, economically, financially and politically than he is.  Finally, President Zelenskyy knows that his counterpart in the Kremlin is horrified, for the problems he is expected to solve have been and are still insoluble without the total destruction of the historically slumbering Russia.  

Generally speaking, the histories of the Russian and Ukrainian people were characterized by nomadic migrations, invasions, separations as well as melding of populations and displacements.  After a brief but overrated reign of the Scandinavian Varangians between the tenth and twelfth centuries in the Kievan Rus, the Euroasian Steppe was conquered around 1240 by the Mongol Horde.  The Mongol conquest was brutal, ruthless and unforgiving.  Towns were completely destroyed and the nobility was mercilessly slaughtered.  Dschinghis Khan and his successors erected a World Empire upon the mountain of human skeletons and the enormous expenses of barren lands.  When the occupation of the Mongol Horde ended in 1502, two distinctly different political and military communities were formed.  One was the Ukrainian Zaparozhian Sich on the Dnieper bend and the other was the Don Cossacks on the Don River bend.  In addition, the Khanate of Crimea was also formed, supported by the Ottoman Empire.  

In its mentality, the emerging Tsardom of Russia in the early 16th century was the spiritual heir of the Mongol Horde’s regime. It had a relatively large and effective army that began to expand mostly to the south by gradually defeating several khanates.  Importantly, there were no clear boundaries among the permanently warring parties.  What is today’s north and west Ukraine, alternated between Poland and Lithuania that with time merged into the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.  With the so-called Union of Lublin in 1569, Ukraine was transferred from Lithuania to Poland.  Subsequently, multiple uprisings against Poland resulted in the emergence of Bohdan Khmelnytsky who in 1654, became a vassal of Russia by the Treaty of Pereyaslav.  Then the Russo-Polish War followed.  As a result, Russia came to the possession of Smolensk and Chernihiv.  Moreover, Tsarist Russia occupied the territories east of the Dnieper, including Kyiv.  Then again, eastern Ukraine was divided into four distinct areas in 1667.  Poland, Russia, the Cossack Hetmanate and Sloboda (Free) Ukraine shared suzerainty over the landmass stretching from the north to the south of today’s Ukraine.  Additional wars and conquests followed between 1686 and 1792.  In 1793, Tsarist Russia under Catherine the Great occupied the Right-bank of Ukraine and Belarus.  Finally, the Congress of Vienna in 1815, again divided Poland and Ukraine between Tsarist Russia and the Austrian Hapsburg Empire.  

This division lasted until late 1917, when Poland and Ukraine regained their independence.  On December 30, 1922, the Declaration and Treaty on the Formation of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, originally composed of the Russian SFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Belarusian SSR and Transcaucasian SFSR was signed.  In the 1930s, in the 1940s and in the beginning of the 1950s, Stalin’s Mongolian hatred toward the Ukrainians knew no bounds.  According to historian accounts, during the Holodomor – Russian for killing by starvation -, also known as the Terror Famine or the great Famine, millions of Ukrainians were brutally murdered by Stalin’s criminal henchmen.  Since 2006, this Soviet genocide has been recognized as such by many states across the globe.  Finally, on December 26, 1991, the USSR was self-dissolved by the Council of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.  Prior to the actual dissolution of the USSR, the Ukrainian legislator, the Verkhovna Rada, on July 16, 1990, adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine.  On August 24, 1991, Ukraine officially declared itself an independent state.  On December 1, 1991, over 90% of the Ukrainian voters approved a referendum formalizing independence from the Soviet Union.  Ethnic Russians in the Crimea and in the eastern part of Ukraine also voted overwhelmingly for independence.  The Soviet Union legally ceased to exist on December 16, 1991, when the presidents of the founding members, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, decided in Belovezhskaya Pushcha to dissolve their union.

Independent Ukraine was ruled successively between 1991 and 2004 by two former Communist Leonids – Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma.  Their combined reign for almost a decade-and-a-half benignly could be characterized as the establishment and maintenance of a giant criminal syndicate of former Communist potentates.  After the elections of 2004, Ukrainian history has taken another turbulent turn.  As has been entrenched in Russia’s political culture for many centuries, lying, cheating and rigging political occurrences have gotten the better of Viktor Fedorovich Yanukovich and his followers by scheming to commit a chain of egregious voting frauds.  The public outrage triggered the so-called Orange Revolution that resulted in new elections elevating Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko to the Presidency.  His campaign program called for Ukraine joining the European Union as well as NATO.  In 2008, NATO promised him that one day in the future Ukraine could join the alliance.  

In 2010, Viktor Yanukovics returned triumphantly as the President of Ukraine.  In 2013, his administration backed out of association talks with the European Union, triggering another revolution in Kyiv and the rest of the country.  The so-called Maidan Revolution stripped Viktor Yanukovich of his presidency.  Threatened to be charged with genocide and corruption he fled to Russia.  The Kremlin response was immediate.  Russian troops, disguised as Crimean residents, seized the local parliament and raised the Russian flag.  After quickly annexing Crimea illegally, a fake referendum was held on March 16th that, in turn, resulted in the incorporation of the peninsula into the Russian Federation.  To add another illegal insult to its already existing international terrorism injury, the Kremlin arranged for some ethnic Russians in the eastern region of Ukraine to declare independence by establishing the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic respectively.

In the ensuing May 2014 presidential elections, Petro Oleksandrovich Poroshenko won with a pro-Western agenda.  True to his campaign promise, in 2017 he signed  an association agreement with the European Union that opened the markets for free trade of goods and services, and visa-free travel to the European Union member states for Ukrainians.  In April 2019, Poroshenko was decisively defeated by Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky, a popular Jewish actor and comedian.  In January 2021, President  Zelensky appealed to President Biden to consider NATO membership for Ukraine.  As an answer, President Putin ordered the military to send troops to Ukraine’s borders.

The strategic as well as economic importance of the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk for Russia cannot be overestimated.  Geostrategically, Russia’s interest in Crimea goes back to the Russo-Ottoman Empire war of 1768-1774, which ended in the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, providing the former direct access to the Black Sea region through the Kerch and Azov ports.  In 1783, utilizing the continual unrest in Crimea, Prince Grigory Potemkin occupied militarily and Catherine II annexed the entire peninsula.  The same year, Russia built the city of Sevastopol in Crimea.  In 1954, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s merger with Tsarist Russia, the then Soviet Dictator Nikita Khrushchev “gifted” the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainian SSR.      

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the new leadership of the Russian Federation became obsessed with the notion of “near abroad.”  Thus, Ukrainian Crimea was again elevated to major strategic importance for the Kremlin.  However, in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States of America, Russia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine, with the support of France and the People’s Republic of China, jointly guaranteed the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the Crimean peninsula, in exchange for Ukraine’s surrender of all the nuclear weapons left behind after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In clear violation of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 as well as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation of 1997, which mandated the recognition of the inviolability of existing borders, the principles of mutual respect for territorial integrity and the commitment not to use their territories to harm the security of each other, Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.

Contrary to the beliefs of Western politicians and the feckless media reporting, these agreements have been interpreted in the Kremlin as faint attempts at temporary normalization and not as binding international obligations to define with absolute finality the relationship between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.  In fact, the Kremlin has  viewed these “peace agreements” as simple calls for non-belligerence.  Accordingly, in President Putin’s eyes peace only meant temporary armistice without actual normalization.  Moreover, in light of Putin’s interpretation, these agreements are legally suspect and even invalid, because they were concluded between a legitimate state, namely Russia, and a non-state entity that, in reality, never existed as a legitimate state.  Intoning in his speech, in which he justified Russia’s lawlessness, that “Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood,” he appointed himself the supreme arbiter of deciding which state in Europe and beyond could be considered as legitimately sovereign.  In the same vein, President Putin has also declared that there are no Ukrainian people as such and, consequently, the latter are essentially Russians whose only desire is to be embraced as brothers and sisters by their kinfolks in Greater Russia. 

 Sadly, by that kind of pseudo-historical reasoning, every politician or every state that possesses superior military capabilities would be entitled to one-sidedly misinterpret the status quo to further its nefarious ambitions and produce geopolitical cataclysms  – up to and including war, genocide and civilizational disintegration.  In case President Putin’s primitively ahistorical rationale is not challenged, the world would become the playground of psychopaths, enabled by politicians lacking in basic courage and contemptibly feckless rationalizers.          

Closely related to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula has been its military intervention in Syria, in September 2015.  In addition to propping up the defunct minority Alawite dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad, presently, Russia operates an air base in Latakia and feverishly expanding its naval base in Tartus.  Moreover, it was hoped in the Kremlin that the Syrian Civil War would become President Putin’s military laboratory for future conflicts and wars against NATO and Ukraine too.  The plan was to give the inexperienced Russian military combat experience and train its soldiers to learn synchronizing ground maneuvers with air and drone attacks.  President Putin rationalized his intervention in the Civil War in Syria thus:  “We are acting preventively, to fight and destroy militants and terrorists on the territories that they already occupy, not wait for them to come to our house.”  However, his Islamic anti-terrorism crusade quickly turned into an unabashed defense of the Assad regime.  As Foreign Minister Sergeyy Lavrov later admitted, the Russian military fought whoever it defined as “terrorists.”  Yet, the first week of the invasion has confounded those hopes and expectations in Ukraine.  President Putin and his advisors have been confident that the Russian military could employ the same double-talk to justify their illegal war in Ukraine.  In this manner, suddenly, Ukraine has become full of “Nazis,” “Drug Lords” and “Genocidal Murderers,” who only deserve ruthless extermination by any means.  

Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, since the Alawites in Syria are considered by Iran as well as by most of the Sunni Muslims a Shi’ite Sect, Russia has become a tactical partner of the Islamic Republic of Iran in securing the so-called “Shi’ite Crescent” from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.  Considering Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Israel’s resolve not to allow the former to establish itself as a nuclear power, the greater Middle East could become another major geostrategic theater of military confrontation between Russia and NATO.        

President Putin’s artificial construction of false historical realities is most outrageously glaring in the case of the Donbas region, also known as the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.  It is also a typically erroneous presentation of his sick mind’s perceived worldview to accommodate a small minority, namely the ethnic Russians, who for centuries have suffered pathological limitations vis-a-vis the Ukrainian majority.  These pathological limitations have led the former to mentally poison reality by first embracing and subsequently celebrating their self-defeating victimhood.  The geopolitical danger of President Putin’s violation of all the agreements that he signed to recognize the inviolability of Ukraine sovereignty is that by the use of military force to radically change the status quo he has replaced reality with the mirage of unilateral use of military power.

Misinformation as well as disinformation have been inexorably fixed in Russian culture.  Lying has never been a vice but has always been a virtue among Russians.  Successfully misleading and outsmarting one’s opponents, even by cunning as well as outrageous lies, has always been a sign of superior intellect as well as spiritual domination over the inferior, naive and gullible non-Russian people.  Hence, President Putin’s raving about “Fascist and Genocidal” Ukraine and his statements about the “Nazi and Drug Dependent” Ukrainian politicians, including the Jewish President Zelenskyy.  Yet, President Putin’s lying does not stop with attempting to justify under false pretenses his illegal war on Ukraine.  He and his administration also lie to their own military about their invasion into Ukraine.  The poor and miserable Russian soldiers were told that they are in Russia participating in “training exercises.”  Infuriated Russians with access to foreign media reportings as well as aggrieved relatives of conscripted soldiers charge President Putin of lying and of using their kins as “cannon fodder.”  In a video released to the foreign press, a mother shouts down Sergey Tsiviles, the governor of Kuzbass region in Siberia, who tried to present President Putin’s war as a “special operation” thus:  “We are all deceived, all deceived.  They were sent there as cannon fodders.  They are young.  They are unprepared.”   Yet, the gold medal of obscene lying about the Ukrainian war indisputably has to go to Russian  Foreign Minister, Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov.  In his recent press conference in Antalya, Turkey, he claimed with a straight face that it was not Russia that invaded Ukraine, but inversely Ukraine that invaded the territory of the Russian Federation.  

To quote Foreign Minister Lavrov:  “We do not plan to attack other countries, we did not attack Ukraine either.”  Then, to pile up on his monumental lie, he explained that Ukraine had been planning to attack the breakaway Donbas region.  Again, to justify his lie, he “revealed” that the Russian authorities suddenly and mysteriously have found a “secret document,” allegedly dated January 22, 2022, and signed by National Guard of Ukraine Commander, Colonel General Nikolay Balan, ordering a joint forces operation in Donbas.

Another extensively propagated Russian lie has been the invincibility of its military.  Yet, reality again contradicts the official Russian lies.  Going back no farther than Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, who attacked the weakened Livonian Confederation and lost, through Peter the Great’s humiliating defeat in the Russo-Ottoman War of 1710-1713, continuing with the Crimean War of 1856, which ended in the Treaty of Paris excluding Russia from the Black Sea, then arriving at the well known events of World War I, which resulted in the collapse of the Tsarist Empire, and the so-called Winter War that is also known as the First Soviet-Finish War, in which the much vaunted Red Army suffered severe losses and the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations for illegally attacking the sovereign state of Finland.  Finally, the Soviet-Afghan War that lasted for ten years and ended in 1989, must be mentioned as a more realistic depiction of the effectiveness of Russia’s conscription-based military.

Judging by the unprofessional and amateurish performance of the Russian military in the preceding two weeks in Ukraine, Putin’s War has already been a failure for the absence of the strength of effective coordination among the various institutions of the state.  These institutions do not guarantee transparency that, in turn, also rob the Kremlin of the public support that it would need in the long run.  More generally, as long as Putin’s despotism rules, he will not enjoy the confidence of the majority that is the only sentiment capable of securing protracted peace and stability within the Russian Federation.  Here again, it is time for the despot and his minions to face reality.  Everything that has happened since 1991, has been a lie ending in the inevitable and recurring collapse of the mendacious Russian political despotism.  Oppression, corruption and deliberate fallaciousness must yield to clear-sightedness, honesty and the courage of the undiscriminating mind.  More plainly speaking, Russia needs real and normal leaders who live in the real world and not in a psychopathologically artificial construct that resembles more a closed mental institution than a civilization of sane people.                

Never mind that President Putin does know how absurd his narratives are.  Yet, he hopes that he would be able to create a “cult impression” among the majority of ill-informed and less educated Russians mostly in the countryside.  Moreover, President Putin is also convinced that his illusionary concoctions would serve in the future to start a political campaign through the use of force to replace reality with his lies to their fullest.  Therefore, his unlawful invasion cum war against Ukraine is a part of his desperate attempt to change the world from what it is now to a new one that would be transformed to what it should be in the future in line with his pathological desires.  In this manner, he expects to portray his enemies, namely, the entire non-Russian world, as abnormal, while the Russian people as the only truly normal human being.  

In reality, his psychopathological antics are as old as the lies of all the utopian World Revolutionaries of the past.  More recently, the useful idiots of the French Revolution as well as the mentally dysfunctional Fascists of Mussolini’s, the deluded enthusiasm of Hitler’s Germany, and the Soviet Communists of Lenin and Stalin’s, demonstrated the fleeting successes of such destructive nonsense.  Clearly, what the democracies of the world have not understood sufficiently has been that the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist intellectual garbage is a life or death proposition for all normal civilizations. 

Recognizing President Putin’s false reality is essential for countering it successfully.  Thus, the idiocy of all the destructive movements in the United States of America and even within the international organizations, including NATO, must be resisted with decisive force as well as relentless endurance.  Conversely, the more indulgent rational people are toward these psychopathological misfits, the more emboldened the latter are to ruthlessly spread their false narratives.  Moreover, accepting President Putins’s deliberately twisted dialectics, humanity would inexorably descend and, ultimately disappear, into the bottomless black hole of bogus realities.

The overwhelming majority of states across the globe have woken up to the new reality that beyond President Putin’s Russia there is its fundamental inhumanity.  President Putin’s laughable justifications for his illegitimate invasion of Ukraine have been “Denazification” and “Demilitarization.”  In reality, he wants to reincorporate Ukraine into the Russian Federation.  In this pseudo-state, the Despot and his criminal syndicate are more important than the people.  Men and women are not sovereign individuals.  They are considered to encompass the Russian nation, the collective Russian soul.  This collective identity, in turn, comes from its religion, namely Orthodoxy; Autocracy, namely Despotism; and Nationality, namely pan-Slavism, which is the uniquely twisted presence of Slavic Racist Chouvinism.  In this cruel and unreal world, exaggerated demands will be manufactured against all opponents that realistically cannot be fulfilled, rendering automatically the latter responsible for all the failures that will accrue from any refusal or incorrect implementation of Russia’s brutal and immoral regime.  Accordingly, President Putin’s Russian Federation has a single credo:  “If you do not obey unconditionally, I will crush you.”  To wit, it is a tragic world of mentally challenged individuals that, in the long run, means death and annihilation for everyone. 

For this reason alone, the March 2, 2022, UN General Assembly vote, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is of fundamental importance.  In an emergency session, 141 of the 193 member states voted for the resolution, 35 member states abstained and five voted against, stating:  “The UN deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”  Furthermore, the UN demanded that “the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine” and “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces.”  Delving more deeply into the votes cast, the Russian Federation essentially has become isolated in the world – it’s only support came from Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria.  Noteworthy that long standing Russian allies, such as China, Bolivia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Nicaragua all decided to abstain.  Hungary and Serbia, with close ties with Moscow , voted for the resolution.  However, while Hungary’s by now unprincipled  equivocation was manifest in it’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister’s unprofessional explanations, Serbia did not mince words: “The Republic of Serbia is committed to observing principles of territorial integrity and political independence of states as one of the basic principles of international law.”  True to his government’s form, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya cynically shrugged off the significance of the non-binding vote thus:  “This document will not allow us to end military activities,” while simultaneously blaming the war on “radicals and nationalists” in the Kyiv government.

In this context, the People’s Republic of China’s stand is interesting.  While President XI Jinping has refused to call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “invasion” and condemned Western-led sanctions, Chinese state-owned financial institutions discreetly distanced themselves from Russia’s troubled economy.  Bank of China’s Singapore operations already ceased financing deals involving Russian oil and other firms, according to the Reuters news agency.  In a previous article, Bloomberg reported that the Bank of China and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China had restricted financing of Russian commodities.  On the other hand, Russia and China signed several trade deals, mostly supplying Russian gas to China.  Meanwhile, trade between the states have risen to $146.9 billion at the end of 2021.  The People’s Republic of China’s balancing act could face severe strains when the United States of America and its European allies ratchet up their sanctions against the Russian Federation.  Out of this ambiguous Chinese karaoke game comes one certain conclusion – Xi Jinping’s firm message to the rest of the world that his country and the Russian Federation are definitely not allies.            

Be that as it may, the Kremlin’s isolation and its sense of an approaching domestic as well as international disaster will surely grow in the near and the longer future too.  The ominous signs of a worldwide upheaval against President Putin’s revanchism are multiplying by the hour.  The list of political, economic and financial sanctions against Russia is appropriately long and getting longer daily.  The United States of America, the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, etc., have instituted a series of sanctions against Russia targeting banks, oil refineries and military exports.  Admittedly, these sanctions are designed to “asphyxiate Russia’s economy.”  In addition, Russia’s banks have been barred from the SWIFT international payment system.  Moreover, wide restrictions on oil and gas imports, airspace, travel, semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics and maritime technologies have been put in place.  Simultaneously, Russia’s military industry has been targeted too.  Finally, thus far, at least twenty four Russian and Belarussian so-called oligarchs and entities have been sanctioned.  To add insult to injury, Switzerland has expressed its solidarity with the sanctions imposed by the European Union by adapting them to the fullest.              

President Putin and his accomplices must learn ones and for all that flaunting international law, promoting illegal use of military aggression, and any attempt to destroy the harmony and balance of the European continent and the world are never constructive, but unequivocally destructive, and will not be tolerated by the world community.  Moreover, President Putin and his accomplices must be taught that peace and stability cannot be imposed upon sovereign states externally by military force, according to the will of the stronger states.  Finally, rogue states, such as the Russian Federation, cannot replace legitimate national interests with reckless and irresponsible expediency.  For these reasons, NATO, the European Union and the rest of the world must be unyielding in their demand for the Kremlin to fully restore the status quo ante of 1991.  

Accordingly, tyranny is no alternative for legitimate governments.  In the long run, freedom and democracy will prevail over lawlessness and despotism.  The existing sanctions must be maintained and, if needed, new and more severe sanctions must be instituted until President Putin and his accomplices return all the illegally seized territories from the beginning of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  For lasting peace in the world can only exist where equitable principles are strong enough to govern relations between the strong and weak states.  The alternative is the exclusive belief in violence, and that through illegitimate use of force the stronger could accomplish everything, including creating vassal governments and even a world order, in which chaos and anarchy would reign.  No politician or ordinary person should be under any illusion that presently Russia is not a partner in solving the Ukrainian crisis.  It is because of preventing a protracted stalemate and the accompanying  global ignominy, the world must remain firm in its intention to erase the scourge of Putin’s Russia from the face of the earth.    


Biden Tries a Great Reset

And fails

By Matthew ContinettiThe Washington Free Beacon

President Biden Delivers His First State Of The Union Address To Joint Session Of Congress
Getty Images

The goal of President Biden’s State of the Union Address Tuesday: reset his presidency after one of the worst inaugural years in American history. Mission unaccomplished.

How bad was 2021? Biden’s omissions in the State of the Union were telling. He didn’t mention last summer’s catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal. Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t come up. The phrase “Build Back Better” never crossed Biden’s lips. Instead, he talked about “building a better America”—subtle, I know. Biden focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, his two legislative successes, and a host of proposals that have little chance of passing a closely divided Congress in an election year.

The two major bills he signed into law are no trifle. The $2 trillion American Rescue Plan was a massive expansion of government that many economists believe helped fuel the inflation ripping through America’s economy. The $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was a rare example of both parties reaching a compromise on an issue several presidents have tried to resolve. Importantly, the success of the infrastructure plan undermined legislative support for the $4 trillion Build Back Better law, which Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) pronounced dead last December.

Not that you could tell Build Back Better is dead from Biden’s speech. He repeated the same proposals he’s been talking about all year, without the “Build Back Better” branding. Biden’s plan is no more likely to pass this year than last. This lengthy portion of his speech was directed to his Democratic base. Stands to reason. It’s all he has left.

That base won’t be enough to salvage Biden’s dismal job approval rating, however. Nor will it rescue the Democrats from the shellacking awaiting them in November. With the exception of masks and returning federal workers to office buildings, Biden gave no sign of changing course on his liberal agenda.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a historical turning point. The moment demands a serious reevaluation of current energy policy, of defense spending levels, of strategic weaponry and arms control. Biden gave no indication that he is ready to engage in such thinking. But he gave every sign that his biggest worry is losing more soft-Democratic voters who dislike his style of leadership and are unhappy at inflation and the direction of the country.

More evidence that Biden is aware of his predicament was his mention of the crisis at the southern border. “We need to secure the border and fix the immigration system,” Biden said to a bipartisan round of applause. Then he went on to outline policies that will do little to stop the flow of illegal immigration and an immigration reform that won’t pass Congress during his term.

The entire speech had this dream-like quality: Biden outlined an agenda that a popular president with substantial majorities in Congress would have a hard time passing into law, while Biden is an unpopular president with the narrowest congressional majorities in a century. He began and ended with gestures toward national unity, by invoking Ukraine and the danger of Russia at the outset and ending with calls to address the opiate crisis and help veterans. The bulk of the speech was a Democratic wishlist divorced from political and electoral reality.

If Biden wants to turn his presidency around, conditions in the country and the world need to change. For that to happen, though, Biden must reorient his agenda. The State of the Union demonstrated that Biden has no interest in doing so. Maybe November will change his mind.


4 New Things We Just Learned About The Special Counsel Investigation

When will the corrupt media begin reporting on this biggest political scandal of the last century?

By Margot ClevelandThe Federalist

Hillary Clinton campaigning for president
GAGE SKIDMORE / FLICKR

Since Friday, several developments have exposed more of the behind-the-scenes details of the special counsel investigation into Spygate, including the public release of the deposition of Tech Executive-1, Rodney Joffe. Joffe’s deposition, coupled with other details previously known, reveals several significant facts while highlighting the many questions that remain unanswered.

Here’s what we learned and what investigative trails require further probing.

1. Rodney Joffe Pled the Fifth Twice

Earlier this month, the Russian-connected Alfa Bank filed a motion in a Florida state court seeking an extension of time to serve the numerous “John Doe” defendants it had sued there in June 2020. Alfa Bank had sued “John Doe, et al.” as stand-ins for the defendants it claimed were responsible for executing “a highly sophisticated cyberattacking scheme to fabricate apparent communications between [Alfa Bank] and the Trump Organization” in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

After filing suit, Alfa Bank began discovery in an attempt to learn the identity of the individuals responsible for what the large, privately owned Russian bank alleged was the creation of a fake computer trail connecting it to the Trump Organization. Among others Alfa Bank sought information from was Joffe, the man identified as Tech Executive-1 in Special Counsel John Durham’s indictment against former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann.

Joffe’s attempts to quash Alfa Bank’s subpoena failed. On February 11, 2022, the tech executive alleged by Durham to have exploited sensitive data from an executive branch office of the federal government to mine for derogatory information on Trump sat for his deposition. On Friday, an internet sleuth discovered the public filing of Joffe’s deposition, which revealed that Joffe had finally been deposed by Alfa Bank.

In addition to revealing that Joffe’s deposition had taken place, the transcript from the deposition established that Durham had asked to interview Joffe more than a year earlier, but Joffe refused to speak with Durham’s team. After Joffe refused to submit to a voluntary interview, the special counsel’s office subpoenaed him to testify before a grand jury.

Joffe told Alfa Bank lawyers that he refused to answer questions before the grand jury, exercising his Fifth Amendment rights. The former Neustar tech executive likewise asserted his Fifth Amendment rights in response to a subpoena for documents served by the special counsel’s office.

2. Joffe Seeks to Jump into the Sussmann Criminal Case

Friday also saw Joffe’s attorneys, Steven Tyrrell and Eileen Citron, file notices of appearances for Joffe as a proposed “intervenor” in the special counsel’s criminal case against Sussmann. Joffe could seek to intervene in the case to challenge a subpoena, to seek a protective order—maybe because of purported attorney-client communications Joffe had with Sussmann or to prevent Durham from discussing his alleged role in public filings—or to otherwise protect a legal right or interest.

We should know more shortly, when Joffe’s attorney files the related motion to intervene. That motion is likely to come within the next week or so, given that on Friday, the court in United States v. Sussmann scheduled a hearing for March 7, 2022, to address potential conflicts of interests between Sussmann and his current attorneys, and Joffe is likely interested in ensuring Durham’s team does not further implicate him in the matter.

3. Joffe’s Seemingly Contradictory Testimony About Ops-Trust

The transcript of Joffe’s deposition testimony discovered on Friday consisted mainly of the former tech executive refusing to answer questions because of the special counsel’s pending investigation, with Joffe responding to Alfa Bank’s inquiries by pleading the Fifth. However, several times Joffe responded to questions about specific individuals by saying he had not heard of the person or organization.

One such exchange proved intriguing and seemingly contradictory to an email obtained pursuant to a Right-to-Know request served on Georgia Tech, the university where two of the researchers who allegedly mined data for Joffe worked.

“Just a few questions more,” Alfa Bank’s attorney began, before asking, “Mr. Joffe, are you a member of the so-called Union of Concerned Nerds as described by L. Jean Camp?” “Basically, she’s used it as a description to describe a group of computer researchers who search for malware and other malicious content and actors on the internet,” the attorney for the Russian bank continued.

Joffe responded that he “can’t remember having heard that term,” before adding: “And I don’t belong to any organization.” However, when asked whether he was “a member of a group of individuals who sought to investigate potential foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election” or compiled supposed evidence of the Alfa Bank server connecting to the Trump campaign, Joffe pled the Fifth.

In posing these questions, Alfa Bank sought to connect Joffe to the reports of the supposed secret communication channel between it and the Trump administration and specifically to Slate’s reporting from October 31, 2016, headlined: “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?”

Author Franklin Foer opened the article by highlighting “a small, tightly knit community of computer scientists . . . some at cybersecurity firms, some in academia, some with close ties to three-letter federal agencies,” who claimed to have discovered the Alfa Bank-Trump server connections. Foer then quoted Indiana University computer scientist L. Jean Camp’s “wry formulation” of the group: “We’re the Union of Concerned Nerds.”

Apparently, Joffe was not in on Camp’s joke, even if he was in on the research, as Durham’s indictment of Sussmann suggests.

But what about Joffe’s second claim that “I don’t belong to any organization?” As I reported last week, a random email included in a trove of documents provided by Georgia Tech in response to a Right-to-Know Request showed Joffe forwarding an email sent to [email protected] to university researcher Manos Antonakakis. That Joffe had received the ops-trust.net email and then forwarded it to Antonakakis proves important because Ops-Trust matches many of the details included in the Slate article (and later two New Yorker articles) discussing the researchers behind the Alfa Bank claims.

For instance, “Ops-Trust is a self-described ‘highly vetted community of security professionals,” which includes, among other experts, DNS administrators, DNS registrars, and law enforcement officials. Membership in Ops-Trust is extremely limited, with new candidates accepted only if nominated and vouched for by their peers.

Unfortunately, Alfa Bank’s attorney did not quiz Joffe on Ops-Trust, but his denial of belonging to any organization raises several questions. What was his connection to Ops-Trust? Did Joffe use that connection to obtain non-public information to mine for data to destroy Trump? Is he no longer connected to Ops-Trust, and is that why he claimed not to be a member of any organization?

Requests last week to Joffe’s attorney and other individuals connected to Ops-Trust seeking information concerning Joffe’s continued involvement with Ops-Trust went unanswered. A request to Camp on whether she was a member of Ops-Trust in 2016 and whether she knew Joffe or the Georgia Tech researchers through that organization also went unanswered.

4. It’s Not Just the FBI and CIA We’re Talking About Here

In the special counsel’s criminal case against Sussmann, Durham’s team revealed that Sussmann had provided the “evidence” of the Alfa Bank-Trump covert communication channel to the FBI on September 19, 2016 and shared an updated version of the Alfa Bank allegations with the CIA on February 9, 2017. According to the special counsel’s office, Sussmann also provided the CIA data that purported to show traffic at Trump-related locations connecting to the “internet protocol” or “IP addresses” of a supposedly rare Russian mobile phone provider.

The questioning of Joffe by Alfa Bank’s attorney now suggests Sussmann may have also provided that same data to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It has been known for some time that after Americans elected Trump, Democrats regrouped and continued to push the Russia collusion hoax, including the Alfa Bank angle. The New Yorker, in a 2018 article rehashing the Alfa Bank claims and referring to Joffe with the pseudonym “Max,” wrote that after Trump’s inauguration two Democrat senators “had reviewed the data assembled by Max’s group.”

One of the “Democratic senators approached a former Senate staffer named Daniel Jones and asked him to give the data a closer look,” The New Yorker article continued. Jones then spent a year researching the Alfa Bank allegations and writing a report for the Senate.

According to The New Yorker’s coverage, then, the senators had the data and provided it to Jones. Jones confirmed that sequence when a former Sen. Dianne Feinstein staffer and founder of the left-wing The Democracy Integrity Project sued Alfa Bank seeking to keep confidential his deposition testimony and documents provided to the Russian bank.

In his complaint, Jones stated in court filings that in early-to-mid 2017, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee asked him to research the alleged connections between Alfa Bank and the Trump Organization. Specifically, the Senate committee “requested that Mr. Jones evaluate information it had received about DNS look-ups between Alfa Bank servers and Trump Organization servers.”

Significantly, Jones stated that the Senate Committee informed him “that the source of the DNS records had a history of providing accurate information, a lengthy history of reliably assisting the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities and was an individual or entity with sensitive contracts with the U.S. government.” Jones added that he met with a representative for the source of the DNS records at the committee’s request.

While Jones does not identify that source or the source’s representative with whom he met, in Joffe’s deposition, Alfa Bank lawyers stated that Jones had testified he had “liaised with Mr. Joffe on various issues related to the server allegations.” The “sensitive contracts” language from Jones’ filing also seems eerily like Durham’s charge that Joffe had exploited internet data, including some accessed under sensitive government contracts.

Alfa Bank’s questioning of Joffe also seems to suggest a similar theory: “Were you aware that Mr. Sussmann provided documents including white papers and data files to Congress?” Alfa Bank’s counsel asked, clarifying that she meant not just the actual senators or representatives but also their staff. And “did you direct Mr. Sussmann to provide such documents to Congress?” the Russian bank attorney continued.

While Joffe refused to answer the questions, again pleading the fifth, Joffe admitted in his deposition that he knew Kirk McConnell. McConnell worked as a staffer for Sen. Jack Reed and in that role McConnell served as a contact for Jones related to the Alfa Bank research.

If Sussmann had provided the Alfa Bank data to the two Democrat senators on behalf of Joffe, as appears possible from these details, that would represent the fourth time Sussmann had served as an intermediary for Joffe with federal officials: In addition to the FBI and CIA, we know from Durham’s filings that Sussmann also provided the DOJ’s inspector general information purporting to show that Joffe “had observed that a specific OIG employee’s computer was ‘seen publicly’ in ‘Internet traffic’ and was connecting to a Virtual Private Network in a foreign country.”

While at this point there is no evidence that Joffe’s tip to the DOJ’s inspector general connects to the other efforts undertaken by Joffe and his lawyer to push a Trump-Russia conspiracy theory within the Deep State, questions remain that are only heightened by the possibility that the Joffe-Sussmann team also fed senators on the Armed Services Committee their “intel.”

How exactly did Joffe “see” this internet connection? Did he exploit any government or private data? Was he specifically watching computer traffic at the DOJ? Where else was he monitoring internet connections? And why?

Of course, the more global question remains as well: When will the corrupt media begin reporting on the biggest political scandal of the last century?


To Renew America, Look to the Past

By Peter RoffNewsweek

America is disjointed. Its people have split into factions. The government is dysfunctional, and the economy is beginning to sour. Nearly two-thirds of the nation say things are on the wrong track, according to the latest RealClearPolitics poll averaging various national polls, while only just 28 percent say things are headed in the right direction.

America needs a strong leader, a person of vision, an individual who will take up the responsibility for making the hard decisions necessary to renew the nation and its people. To take the helm of the ship of state to ensure our country is once again on a course that is straight and true.

To find them, however, we must look to our past, to George Washington.

Who among us today can boast they achieved anything close to what he accomplished in his lifetime? First president of the United States. He was the presiding officer at the convention at which the U.S. Constitution was written. Leader of the army that secured America’s independence from Great Britain. Pioneer agronomist and planter. Successful farmer. Accomplished horseman and dancer. Lover. A leader who was a true man of the people.

What Washington told us about the need to limit the powers of the central government so that human freedom might flourish is as relevant today as it was then. His wise leadership has produced what has become the greatest, freest, most prosperous, most generous society ever to exist. No American should be allowed to forget that no matter how large a blot his ownership of slaves might have made on his copy paper.

At one time, Washington was celebrated because he was deemed worthy of the adulation shown him by a grateful nation. Today, with his birthday having been combined with Abraham Lincoln’s to create Presidents’ Day and with his reputation reduced by cultural commentators and pseudo-academics who insist on emphasizing his ownership of slaves above his many accomplishments, it has become unfashionable to talk of his greatness.

Portrait of President George Washington
Pedestrians walk past an advertisement at Christie’s for a portrait of President George Washington.SPENCER PLATT/NEWSMAKER/GETTY IMAGES

This all comes with a cost. The effort to rewrite history to place Washington in a subordinate position over Americans of lesser accomplishments erases the cultural reference points that each generation of new Americans must look to for guidance in determining current civic virtues.

All this should have been foreseen when the nation chose, for the most mundane of reasons, to end the celebration of Washington’s birthday as a separate holiday, a day on which we could consider the man, his flaws—which were mercifully few—and his greatness, which was evident in abundance throughout his life.

Washington the man was once a venerated American institution. He was held separate and apart from every other president and every other leader purposefully. Even those who do not subscribe to the so-called Great Man theory of history must acknowledge he was central to the creation of a new nation based on values like liberty that ended up changing the world, but only because his enlightened leadership in its earliest days allowed the United States to survive its infancy.

No American leader, before or after, can match his record of accomplishment. This we, his grateful descendants, did and should once again observe his birthday as a national holiday. It is time to put him back on the cultural pedestal of which he began to be pulled once his birthday became Presidents’ Day on the cultural and commercial calendar.

Washington, a towering figure, stood head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. He belongs in that place of honor, his birthday as a national day of celebration and remembrance bestowed upon him. We let those who would downgrade him succeed at our peril. We cannot forge ahead together toward a better day, and we cannot bring the nation and its people together if we do not have a fully informed understanding of where we began. It is time for Congress to strike a blow against historical revisionism by restoring Washington’s birthday on the calendar and moving it back to Feb. 22, where it belongs.

In our contemplation of George Washington and his legacy, we can once again find the commonality of belief that made the United States what Lincoln later said made America “the last, best hope for mankind.” Rather than even attempt to present a more balanced approach to his life and story, those who are happy with the eradication of his former stature from our collective memory see this as a necessary step toward removing him and the other founders from the pantheon of American heroes who are worthy of our admiration.


Statement by Frontiers of Freedom on Senator Rand Paul’s plans to force a vote on travel mask mandates

Does Constitutional Government Still Matter? Or Can Unelected Bureaucrats Unilaterally Crown Themselves Our Healthcare Emperors and Demand that We, their Subjects, Obey their Decrees?

Americans from coast-to-coast are applauding U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) because he is going to force a vote on his resolution to repeal travel mask mandates on public transportation and airplanes. The science is clear, mask mandates have not saved lives and have not slowed the spread. Yet, despite the clear evidence from the last two years, many continue to insist on mask mandates. Curiously, these were some of the loudest and most shrill voices demanding that Americans follow the science — yet, they now clearly defy and ignore the science. 

Thankfully, Sen. Paul, also a medical doctor, is requiring government to be accountable and be reasonable. While many in government seek to use fear and demagoguery to keep Americans worked up and living in fear, it is clearly time to learn to live with COVID and mitigate its impact. But the insistence on perpetual COVID mandates and the fear mongering and threats of mandates do nothing to save lives or improve health. Senator Paul’s resolution to repeal travel mask mandates on public transportation and airplanes can be found HERE

If requiring people to perpetually wear masks is a good idea, why not follow the constitutional process of law-making? Why not ask Congress, the people’s representatives, to vote on it? It is stunning that for almost two years, Americans have been forced to follow the baseless edicts of bureaucrats and over-zealous executives. But not once have those supporting mandates followed the constitutional process of voting on proposed laws in the legislature and then asking the executive to sign the law into effect. And no one exercising (or actually abusing) these powers has bothered to explain where in the Constitution, the government has the power to issue all these so-called healthcare mandates. And they also don’t bother to explain why their mandates are needed or supported by the data.

It is time for this abuse of power to stop and for Congress to vote. While we do not believe that the Federal government has the legal authority to force Americans to wear masks, it is certainly well within Congress’ purview to put an end to abuses of federal power and usurpations of constitutional power. And we thank Sen. Rand Paul for seeing to it that Congress at least goes on record as whether constitutional government still matters or whether unelected bureaucrats can simply crown themselves healthcare emperors and hand out edicts that their subjects must follow.


11 implications of Durham probe threaten to undermine Biden

This story should reverberate far beyond the next election

By Jason ChaffetzFox News

The bombshell revelations filed late last week by Special Counsel John Durham, and ignored by most of the mainstream media, could have profound implications on Americans’ ability to trust our institutions.  

It’s significant that the Durham filing further confirms what so many voters already suspected – that President Donald Trump was right about his opponents infiltrating his private information, and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign consistently lied to the American people.  

Hillary Clinton on Dec. 12, 2021. (Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton on Dec. 12, 2021. (Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

But beyond those obvious top line revelations, there are even more sweeping implications that threaten to undermine the Biden Administration, the Democrat Party, and our country for years to come. Based on this and previous filings, we must now confront the following truths:

Government can’t be trusted to protect our data.

The Clinton campaign, according to Durham, “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data” and “enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.” That means data collected on us by the federal government has now been used for partisan political activities.  How much other data is out there and who can access it?

White House Communications are not secure.

No one should be able to access them.  The fact that the Clinton campaign was able to reflects a severe national security threat.  Who else has access to White House communications?

The Biden Administration has a clear conflict of interest.

The filing implicates current National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.  As a result, there should be no interference in the investigation by the administration.  Such would be presumed to be self-serving.  

Sullivan is the last person who should be advising the President on national security. 

Sullivan, in promoting the false Trump narrative revealed he is a mere partisan hack.  He should not be trusted as Biden’s point person on national security, especially with potential war between Ukraine and Russia. America cannot trust him and he is not to be believed. A leave of absence until the Durham probe is complete is appropriate.

Intelligence Agencies can be weaponized for partisan politics.

Americans must think twice about anything they hear from intelligence agencies.  Though the CIA had no business engaging in a domestic investigation, they eagerly jumped aboard.  The FBI continued to investigate even after concluding there were no links between Trump and Alpha Bank in February 2017.

No one can trust mainstream news outlets who buried this story. 

Though we knew this, the traditional and social media reinforces this fact with their obvious double standard in the way they ignore and actively suppress the Clinton corruption story (which is true) versus their saturation coverage of the purely speculative Trump/Russia collusion story (which has been debunked).

There is no justice if Clinton and her minions not held accountable.

The Clinton campaign was the architect of a disinformation campaign aimed at government, media, and Congress.  Team Clinton allegedly lied to all three.  The Biden Administration has pointedly criticized misinformation and must hold Clinton’s team to the same standard as anyone else they have targeted.

The lying was not accidental.

Durham’s filing indicates Clinton’s team, upon contacting the various agencies about the Alpha Bank allegations, excluded facts that would have cast doubt on the connection to Trump, including the fact that the DNS pings in question began years before Trump took office.

Clinton’s team knew they were lying.

Clinton’s team knew the Alpha Bank allegations were a “red herring,” according to Durham’s indictment of Sussman. One participant admitted in August 2016 that they would need “to expose every trick we have in our bag to even make a very weak association,” adding that “the only thing that drive[s] us at this point is that we just do not like [Trump].”

Security clearances are not secure.

The fact that Jake Sullivan still has a security clearance, despite his role in this whole sordid affair and the scrutiny over potentially false statements he made to Congress creates doubt about the efficacy of our security clearance process.  Has the Biden Administration given high level clearances to other compromised individuals?  Further, House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) should also be stripped of their security clearances for reviewing classified information and then repeatedly lying to the American public about it.

The DOJ is compromised.

Analysis by Margot Cleveland at the Federalist revealed Durham’s filing also “highlighted the revolving door that exists between the D.C. proletariat and government employment.”  She noted that an attorney who represented Clinton’s lawyers and appeared with Sussman before the House Intelligence Committee now serves at the DOJ.  Furthermore, one of Sussman’s current attorneys previously worked at DOJ, where the lawyer “appears to have developed a professional relationship” with DOJ lawyers who are witnesses in the case. 

After being shamed into reporting on the story, some mainstream outlets released bare-bones reports on their websites days after the Durham filing became public.  But make no mistake – this story is a bombshell, potentially bigger than Watergate, that should reverberate far beyond the next election.


Letter to Senator James Lankford on Postal Reform

February 22, 2022

The Honorable Senator James Lankford
316 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Lankford and Staff,

We write knowing full well that you and our organization are aligned in our commitments to promote the principles of individual freedom, limited government, free markets, and traditional American values. The purpose of our message today is to recognize your strong work and introspection into the problems that have plagued the deeply indebted and dysfunctional U.S. Postal Service. 

As you are aware, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, of which you are a key member, last held a hearing with USPS leadership to discuss its finances and operations on August 21, 2020 as part of the 116th Congress.1 At that time, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy outlined the case for legislative action to reposition the Medicare program as a defacto financial backstop for addressing the Postal Service’s “unaffordable retirement payments,” given that the USPS has been encumbered by its “management strategy that has not adequately addressed these issues.”2 The Committee has not convened to consider postal legislation in 2022, nor in 2021. 

As you are also aware, the House passed version of the Postal Service Reform Act (H.R. 3076) was subject to a clerical error during transmittal to the Senate, prompting an objection by your colleague Sen. Rick Scott on February 14th.3 With this motion, Sen. Scott further communicated how this postal legislation “does nothing to secure the future of postal workers and Medicare recipients or make the Postal Service more efficient.” 

This should be of great concern to all legislators who espouse the values of responsible, accountable governance, and dedication to public service. 

To this end, Sen. Scott also sent a letter to the Congressional Budget Office seeking clarity on the budgetary effects of H.R. 3076 in years ahead, along with requesting demonstration of fiscal impacts on the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, costs to the Medicare program, and effects on Medicare premiums.4. Such information was not sufficiently provided in the CBO’s recently released “Estimated Budgetary Effects” of H.R. 3076.5 The CBO’s initial findings were not subject to formal discussion in the House Ways & Means Committee, and the House bill was ushered to a full chamber vote three days later, on February 8, 2022. 

Given your strong judgment, Senator Lankford, and your unique position in membership of both Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and the Senate Committee on Finance, we respectfully call upon you to provide the requisite level of scrutiny that the current Postal Service Reform Act deserves. We urge you and your staff to exhaustively pursue all Committee measures that will allow for honest debate on a reformulated bill that is in the best interest of postal customers and American taxpayers. 

Earlier in February, your colleague and Senate Finance Ranking Member, Sen. Mike Crapo, discussed the depths of the Medicare program’s fiscal distress and what that could mean for beneficiaries. Sen. Crapo stated: “Moreover, with each passing year, we are steadily moving closer to the Medicare Trust Fund’s exhaustion date, at which time the program will no longer be able to pay full benefits for our nation’s seniors.  We must be thoughtful and cautious to avoid exacerbating the fiscal challenges we face.”6

In our evaluation, the Postal Service Reform Act will invoke significant harm on the Medicare program’s ability to rightfully fulfill its promises to Americans.

In closing, we have included with this letter our recent opinion piece published in The Oklahoman, “Does the Postal Service Reform Act address core problems?,”7 which highlights the lack of honest discussion around the bill. We recognize your unwavering service on behalf of Oklahomans and thank you for this opportunity to share our views.  

Sincerely,


George Landrith
President
Frontiers of Freedom



Letter to the Editor 

The Oklahoman

February 4, 2022

A recent opinion article relies on faulty logic and omission of facts about the USPS (“Postal Service steps up to the challenge, needs Congress to deliver reform,” Jan. 12). The USPS lost $87 billion in recent years and carries $188 billion in debts. 

The author omits his ideas for how USPS would address this problem. His preferred “Postal Service Reform Act” would set in motion the plan to slowdown mail delivery times for everyone and have the federal government conduct a $58 billion bailout. The proposed bill does nothing to fix the Post Office’s core problem: they ship packages for less than their true costs. 

Hopefully Sen. James Lankford and Sen. Jim Inhofe can see that the Postal Service Reform Act is simply a bad deal for Americans and has no plan to help the USPS achieve financial sustainability.

– George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, Virginia

Link:  https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-oklahoman/20220204/281728387922471 



FOOTNOTES:

1 – “Examining the Finances and Operations of the United States Postal Service During COVID-19 and Upcoming Elections,” hearing, HSGAC, August 21, 2020, https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/examining-the-finances-and-operations-of-the-united-states-postal-service-during-covid-19-and-upcoming-elections

2 –  “STATEMENT OF POSTMASTER GENERAL AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER LOUIS DEJOY before HSGAC,” testimony of Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, August 21, 2020, https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Testimony-DeJoy-2020-08-21.pdf 

3 –  “Sen. Rick Scott on Senate Floor: Postal Reform is Needed; But it Can’t Be at the Cost of Medicare Recipients, Postal Worker,” press release, Office of Sen. Rick Scott, February 14, 2022, https://www.rickscott.senate.gov/2022/2/sen-rick-scott-on-senate-floor-postal-reform-is-needed-but-it-can-t-be-at-the-cost-of-medicare-recipients-postal-workers 

4 –  Sen. Rick Scott letter to Director Phillip Swagel, Congressional Budget Office,” February 14, 2022, https://www.rickscott.senate.gov/services/files/5FD84464-1455-4E95-9E31-96143650F647 

5 –  “Estimated Budgetary Effects of Rules Committee Print 117-32 for H.R. 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022,” CBO, February 4, 2022, https://www.cbo.gov/publication/57821 

6 –  “Crapo Statement at Hearing on Youth Mental Health,” Sen. Mike Crapo, February 8, 2022, https://www.finance.senate.gov/ranking-members-news/crapo-statement-at-hearing-on-youth-mental-health 

7 –  “Does the Postal Service Reform Act address core problems?,” George Landrith, Frontiers of Freedom, The Oklahoman, February 4, 2022, https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-oklahoman/20220204/281728387922471    


Coalition Letter by 37 Groups Supporting the Right of Veterans to Choose Their Consultation and Representation as They Navigate a Confusing System

February 15, 2022

The Honorable Mark Takano
Chairman                                                                                
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

The Honorable Jon Tester
Chairman
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

The Honorable Mike Bost
Ranking Member
House Veterans Affairs Committee

The Honorable Jerry Moran
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs


Dear Chairmen Takano and Tester, and Ranking Members Bost and Moran:

In 2021, Frontiers of Freedom launched the Veterans Choice Initiative, a grassroots effort committed to supporting disabled veterans by protecting their right to choose how to best navigate the bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration and secure the disability benefits they rightly deserve. 

Providing access to high quality disability benefits support is one of our most important obligations to the brave men and women who have served this country. Unfortunately, the current government-run and volunteer system is both confusing and under-resourced, leaving veterans at a disadvantage when seeking the benefits, they are ethically, medically, and legally entitled to. 

As you look to set the Committee’s priorities for the New Year, we ask that you not repeat the mistakes of the past. 

In 2021, Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act (S. 2141) was introduced in the Senate which in effect criminalized “unaccredited actors,” that wish to help veterans with their claims. This includes private consultants that provide necessary and life-changing assistance to millions of veterans around the country.  

These proposed changes will limit a veterans’ choice and leave the initiation phase of the claims solely on the backs of VSOs or veterans themselves. While VSOs are filled with well-meaning and sometimes qualified individuals and volunteers, most of the organizations do not have the manpower or expertise to handle the massive inflow that is expected over the next few years. 

This latest attempt built upon a 2019 bill that aimed to amend title 38 of the United States Code, to provide criminal penalties for individuals acting as agents or attorneys for the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of a claim. Thankfully, the initial bill was rightfully defeated. 

Our veterans have earned the right to choose their consultation and representation, regardless of Accreditation status, as they navigate a confusing system. 

As you consider reforms to the veterans’ benefits system in 2022, we ask that any legislation around this issue in Congress will ensure a veteran’s right to choose is not jeopardized.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

George Landrith, President
Frontiers of Freedom

Richard Manning, President
Americans for Limited Government

Charles Sauer, Founder & President
Market Institute

David Williams, President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Seton Motley, Founder & President
Less Government

James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman
60 Plus Association

Andrew Langer, President
Institute for Liberty 

Chuck Muth, President
Citizen Outreach

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President
60 Plus Association

David Wallace, Founder
Restore America’s Mission

Judson Phillips, Founder
Tea Party Nation

Ryan Ellis, President
Center for a Free Economy

Governor Mike Huckabee
Former Governor of Arkansas

C. Preston Noell III, President
Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Gerard Scimeca, Chairman
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Nicholas Willis, President
Americans for Liberty & Security

Susan Taylor, President
Strengthening America for All 

John Cooper, President
Defending America Foundation 

Scott Vanandler, President
The Last Best Hope on Earth Institute

Mark Thomas, Founder
Freedom & Prosperity Caucus

U.S. Senator Larry E Craig (retired)
United States Senate Retired

Paul Caprio, Director
Patriotic Veterans

Steve Moore, Co-Founder
Committee to Unleash Prosperity

Horace Cooper, Director
Project 21 

Phil Kerpen, President
American Commitment 

James Taylor, President
Heartland Institute

Morton Blackwell, President
The Leadership Institute

The Honorable George K Rasley Jr
Managing Editor, ConservativeHQ.com

Elaine Donnelly, President
Center for Military Readiness

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Martha Boneta, President
Vote America First

Becky Norton Dunlop, Director
Reagan Alumni Association

Bob Carlstrom, President
AMAC Action 

Ed Martin, President
Phyllis Schlafly Eagles 

Mario H. Lopez, President
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Bob McEwen
U.S. House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs 
Former Member, Ohio

Dee Stewart, President
Americans for a Balanced Budget


Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders Call on Congress to Stop Medicaid Funding of Faulty Prenatal Tests

February 14, 2022


Honorable Debbie Stabenow, Chair
Honorable Steve Daines, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Healthcare
U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6200


Honorable Anna Eshoo, Chair
Honorable Brett Guthrie, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Health
U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6115


Dear Chair Stabenow, Ranking Member Daines, Chair Eshoo and Ranking Member Guthrie:

We write to you today on behalf of the millions of pro-life Americans we represent across the country to express our concern regarding the faulty science underpinning prenatal genetic testing. This situation requires immediate attention from Congress because these all too often inaccurate and flawed tests have tragically misled pregnant women into terminating otherwise healthy pregnancies. We therefore respectfully request that both the Senate Subcommittee on Healthcare and the House Subcommittee on Health investigate whether the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is properly regulating non-invasive prenatal tests (NIPTs). 

These tests, which are marketed to expectant families as a way to determine whether their unborn child suffers from a rare genetic condition, are wrong a remarkable 85% of the time according to one recent report  Considering the fact that these unreliable tests are now used by more than a third of pregnant women in America and that many families have tragically opted for an abortion when a potentially false positive is rendered instead of seeking another test to confirm the result, the lives of millions of unborn children are at risk.

While there are many companies involved in the rapidly expanding field of prenatal testing, none is more responsible for pushing these tests on unsuspecting, vulnerable, pregnant women and their unborn children than Natera. The company’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Chapman has described Natera as “by far the market leader, testing roughly 25% of all pregnancies in the U.S. and growing rapidly.” Shockingly, Natera and other NIPT makers are misleading pregnant women into believing these tests accurately detect extraordinarily rare chromosomal microdeletion disorders when, in fact, they are correct in only 15% of cases. Even with regards to Down Syndrome, the disorder the tests most accurately detect, only 33% of low-risk pregnant women who receive a positive test result are actually carrying unborn babies with the disorder.

Outrageously, a trade association for the companies that sell the tests, the American Clinical Laboratory Association issued a statement calling reporting from the New YorkTimes on this issue “misleading.” The statement went on to say that “These tests, like all screening tests, are optional and intended to provide a preliminary assessment of the potential risk for certain health issues and are not equivalent to, nor intended to be used as, diagnostic tests for specific fetal conditions.” Pregnant women, however, are frequently mislead, either intentionally or otherwise, into believing that the results of these tests are near certain. In fact, the New York Times further found that out of 17 patient brochures the paper reviewed, ten never even mentioned the possibility of a false positive.
 
In light of these concerning reports, we respectfully request that lawmakers on Capitol Hill take immediate action. First, Congress should ensure that anyone receiving an NIPT is warned that the tests are largely inaccurate. Second, the financial models of these testing companies are based on Medicaid covering the costs of these tests for average and low risk pregnancies. Just as the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of federal funds to cover the cost of abortion, under no circumstances should Medicaid be extended to cover tests that may mislead women into killing their unborn children.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter. At a time when our health care system should be doing everything it can to encourage healthy pregnancies and to promote a culture of life, we look forward to you exercising your jurisdiction to protect Americans from companies that prey on the fears and anxieties of expectant parents and their families.

Sincerely,

Robert Chambers
Vice President of Policy and Legislative Affairs
American Family Association

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie
Senior Fellow
Catholic Association

Chad Connelly
President
Faith Wins

Tim Head
Executive Director
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Kristan Hawkins
President
Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action

Colleen Holcomb
President
Eagle Forum

Dr. Alveda King
Founder
Speak for Life

George Landrith
President
Frontiers of Freedom

Dr. Jeanne Mancini
President
March for Life Action

Ed Martin
President
Phyllis Schlafly Eagles

Penny Nance
President
Concerned Women for America

Terry Schilling
President
American Principles Project


Cc: Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services


Press Release: Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders Call on Congress to Stop Medicaid Funding of Faulty Prenatal Tests

Rampant false positives lead to tragic, unnecessary abortions


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2022
Contact: George Landrith, [email protected]


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a coalition of leading pro-life groups sent a letter to Congress highlighting a disturbing report regarding prenatal genetic testing, and the rampant false positives that have caused many women to terminate their pregnancies based on wrong information.

The coalition urges Congress to stop any Medicaid funding of these prenatal tests, and to require informed consent to users of the prevalence of false positives.

“Prenatal genetic testing has become standard in American health care, now used by more than one-third of pregnant women,” said Frontiers of Freedom President George Landrith. “Accuracy is crucial because the stakes are so high: Some choose to terminate their pregnancies based on testing results. While any abortion is a tragedy, those based on false positives are especially awful. When the New York Times is reporting false positive rates as high as 85 percent, it is time for Congress to step up and do something about it.”

The letter, addressed to Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Steve Daines (R-MT), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health, and Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

The coalition letter can be found in full HERE and below:

February 14, 2022


Honorable Debbie Stabenow, Chair
Honorable Steve Daines, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Healthcare
U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6200


Honorable Anna Eshoo, Chair
Honorable Brett Guthrie, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Health
U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6115


Dear Chair Stabenow, Ranking Member Daines, Chair Eshoo and Ranking Member Guthrie:

We write to you today on behalf of the millions of pro-life Americans we represent across the country to express our concern regarding the faulty science underpinning prenatal genetic testing. This situation requires immediate attention from Congress because these all too often inaccurate and flawed tests have tragically misled pregnant women into terminating otherwise healthy pregnancies. We therefore respectfully request that both the Senate Subcommittee on Healthcare and the House Subcommittee on Health investigate whether the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is properly regulating non-invasive prenatal tests (NIPTs). 

These tests, which are marketed to expectant families as a way to determine whether their unborn child suffers from a rare genetic condition, are wrong a remarkable 85% of the time according to one recent report  Considering the fact that these unreliable tests are now used by more than a third of pregnant women in America and that many families have tragically opted for an abortion when a potentially false positive is rendered instead of seeking another test to confirm the result, the lives of millions of unborn children are at risk.

While there are many companies involved in the rapidly expanding field of prenatal testing, none is more responsible for pushing these tests on unsuspecting, vulnerable, pregnant women and their unborn children than Natera. The company’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Chapman has described Natera as “by far the market leader, testing roughly 25% of all pregnancies in the U.S. and growing rapidly.” Shockingly, Natera and other NIPT makers are misleading pregnant women into believing these tests accurately detect extraordinarily rare chromosomal microdeletion disorders when, in fact, they are correct in only 15% of cases. Even with regards to Down Syndrome, the disorder the tests most accurately detect, only 33% of low-risk pregnant women who receive a positive test result are actually carrying unborn babies with the disorder.

Outrageously, a trade association for the companies that sell the tests, the American Clinical Laboratory Association issued a statement calling reporting from the New YorkTimes on this issue “misleading.” The statement went on to say that “These tests, like all screening tests, are optional and intended to provide a preliminary assessment of the potential risk for certain health issues and are not equivalent to, nor intended to be used as, diagnostic tests for specific fetal conditions.” Pregnant women, however, are frequently mislead, either intentionally or otherwise, into believing that the results of these tests are near certain. In fact, the New York Times further found that out of 17 patient brochures the paper reviewed, ten never even mentioned the possibility of a false positive. 
 
In light of these concerning reports, we respectfully request that lawmakers on Capitol Hill take immediate action. First, Congress should ensure that anyone receiving an NIPT is warned that the tests are largely inaccurate. Second, the financial models of these testing companies are based on Medicaid covering the costs of these tests for average and low risk pregnancies. Just as the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of federal funds to cover the cost of abortion, under no circumstances should Medicaid be extended to cover tests that may mislead women into killing their unborn children.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter. At a time when our health care system should be doing everything it can to encourage healthy pregnancies and to promote a culture of life, we look forward to you exercising your jurisdiction to protect Americans from companies that prey on the fears and anxieties of expectant parents and their families.

Sincerely,

Robert Chambers
Vice President of Policy and Legislative Affairs
American Family Association

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie
Senior Fellow
Catholic Association

Chad Connelly
President
Faith Wins

Tim Head
Executive Director
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Kristan Hawkins
President
Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action

Colleen Holcomb
President
Eagle Forum

Dr. Alveda King
Founder
Speak for Life

George Landrith
President
Frontiers of Freedom

Dr. Jeanne Mancini
President
March for Life Action

Ed Martin
President
Phyllis Schlafly Eagles

Penny Nance
President
Concerned Women for America

Terry Schilling
President
American Principles Project


Cc: Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services


# # #


Swerving Toward the Edge of a Geopolitical Precipice: NATO’s and Russia’s Ukrainian Cat-and-Mouse Game

By Dr. Miklos K Radvanyi

Once again, the European continent is being shaped  by a global power struggle between NATO and a gradually declining – yet militarily stubbornly assertive – Russia with renewed imperialistic ambitions.  Those in the Kremlin say that the main catalyst has been Washington’s and Brussels’ aggressive push to freeze Russia within its post-1991 borders and, simultaneously, to prevent the latter from meaningfully engaging in the affairs of the “near abroad,” meaning in this context Central and Eastern Europe.  On the contrary, leaders of NATO claim that their intention has never been to box Russia in, but to allow the newly sovereign states of Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states and Ukraine, to assert their freedom of choice and strengthen their sense of overall security.  

From their respective perspectives both parties are correct.  Yet, on a higher plane, neither the European Union nor Russia could have long-term stability and prosperity by persistently insisting on digging up the problems of the past in order to reinforce their mutually exclusive narratives.  Therefore, notwithstanding all the hysterical rhetoric surrounding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, two critical considerations stand out.  First, the European continent was the self-inflicted victim of two major military confrontations – World War I and World War II – in the first half of the 20th century.  The sparks that then torched Europe and the rest of the world were in neither case lit by the Tsarist Russia or the Soviet Union.    Second, after 1945, the yearning for national sovereignty and individual freedoms within an institutionally guaranteed international order has yielded unparalleled prosperities throughout Western Europe, North America and South-East Asia.  Counterintuitively, in the Soviet Union and in the states of Central and Eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army as well as in mainland China and the former Indo-China, ubiquitous progress was prevented by an arrogant, destructive and incompetent ideology that used the promise of perfect utopia to keep their miserable subjects in permanent slavery.  As a result, the politically, economically, financially and morally bankrupt Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist construct collapsed in 1991, leaving behind a vacuum that had to be filled.  Thus, contrary to President Putin’s assertion that the greatest tragedy of the 20th century was the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the disappearance of the Soviet Communist Party’s fraudulent despotic regime opened the door for every oppressed state, including Russia, to build a new society based on truth and freedom.  Unfortunately, after 1991, Russia first sunk into criminal chaos and then, following the Yeltsin era, to the fallaciously redeeming escape of Putin’s mild authoritarianism that, again, has evolved in today’s despotic dictatorship. 

Within NATO, in spite of the usual disagreements about tactics, the resolve to contain Russia’s eponymous strategy of military imperialism is beyond controversy.  Equally, above discussion within NATO is the belief that President Putin is more a gambler as opposed to the creator of a stable and prosperous society, in which the people’s sovereignty and the rule of law reign supreme.  The symbolic Russian bear of many centuries was restored to its mythical heights by the military occupation and subsequent annexation of the Crimea in 2014.  Then, not being content with breaching the agreements guaranteeing the inviolability of the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine, Putin ordered an all out attack of eastern Ukraine, resulting in the illegal occupation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.  This Ukrainian adventure was presented inside Russia and to the world as a defensive reaction to save the old Russian civilization from the Russophobic assault of the semi-Westernized Ukrainians.  In reality, however, it was a gamble based on Putin’s belief that Ukraine would collapse and her Western defenders would do nothing to reverse the illegal occupation of Ukrainian territories.  Clearly, Putin’s gamble in Ukraine seemingly was a low risk affair considering his military campaign and illegal occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia of the sovereign state of Georgia since 2008. 

The most important lesson for the United States of America and its allies to draw from what has happened in the former territories of the Soviet Union thus far is that a grand bargain with Putin’s Russia is impossible.  With a historically weak economy, a hopelessly corrupt political establishment and an autocratic political regime devoid of meaningful ideas, while relying on appeals to raw nationalism as well as the subservient orthodoxy of the Russian Orthodox Church for legitimacy, Russia will always respond to the logic of strength and force alone.  Therefore, only strength and the willingness to use that strength if need be, is the only message that the gambler Putin understands.

For all these reasons, Putin’s ranting about Russia’s “red line,” his outrageous ultimatums to NATO and separately to the United States of America about the latter’s “expansionism” and his irresponsible threats of outright invasion, must be firmly and unequivocally rejected.  Corresponding to this dangerous situation that Putin himself created, is his true personality which does not match the widely popularized image of a cool-headed, disciplined former KGB officer.  In actuality, the more he rules Russia the more the real Putin emerges – a man in whom no one has confidence and a man who cannot be respected – because of his unbridled ambition and sick megalomania.  Thus, the conclusion is unmistakable – genuinely peaceful and productive cooperation can only exist between parties that both domestically and internationally are guided by the respect for the sovereignty of nations and ruled uncompromisingly by the rule of law.

Clearly, as far as foreign policy is concerned, Russia is again at a crossroads.  Putin’s dilemma is whether to let NATO expand freely or take up arms against it?  Yet, this dilemma of Putin’s is compounded by an equally complex conundrum at home.  Strangely, it appears that neither Putin nor his advisors have understood the significance of the problems caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Since the Soviet version of Communism/Socialism failed abysmally, the alternative solution was Westernization.  However, in the eponymous struggle between the minority Westernizers and the majority adherents of Russophilia, the latter carried the day.  For this reason, today’s Russia is still radically different in its institutions and culture from the West.  In order to stay in power, Putin had to adapt himself to the old imperial official nationality discipline of historic Russia, namely, to Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality.  The result is that Putin had to assume a schizophrenic personality – he has been the eternally revolting autocrat par excellence and the obedient servant simultaneously.  Accordingly, during his initial two terms in office, he was considered to be a genius and a hero.  Presently, in opposition to this exalted status, he appears to act like a bumbling amateur who lost his sound judgment and mental balance.  This Sisyphean struggle with himself means that Putin no longer knows who he is and what he represents.  What remains of his more sober self is a cunning autocrat and a miserable former hero. This contradictio in terminis, this critical oxymoron, has dominated Putin’s political career after 2012, to the detriment of Russia as well as the rest of the world.

Woefully, Putin’s chief counterpart within NATO is American President Joe Biden.  Indisputably suffering from a grave case of dementia, he personifies more a Doofus in Chief than a Commander in Chief.  Having been elected under extremely suspicious circumstances in November 2020, and having assembled a largely incompetent cabinet, his presidency has been falling to pieces with the alacrity of an intercontinental missile.  Since his administration is ruled by a random collection of irreconcilable and utterly failed extreme Leftist ideologies and not by sound policies, the Biden presidency is a ship without rudder or sails that has already begun to founder.  This maddening state of affairs in the United States of America is unprecedented in the Republic’s history, for it is the most troubling instance when the question of the legitimacy of presidential powers has really arisen.  The emergence of an extreme minority’s tyranny on the land of the free, is suddenly a not so distant possibility.  Under a gravely demented president, the United States of America has entered the age of undemocratic usurpation of political, economic, financial, cultural and moral powers.

Into this mutual disorder has entered again the sovereign state of Ukraine with its chaotic history and culture.  Following a short but glorious history from the 9th to the 13th centuries, the Kievan or Kyivan Rus was conquered by the Mongols Hoards in the 1240s.  After the middle of the 14th century the lands that comprise today’s Ukraine were ruled by the Mongols, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland and the Crimean Khanate.  A rebellion by the Cossacks in 1648, again partitioned the same territories.  The partition of Poland at the tail end of the 18th century gave what is Ukraine today to the Habsburgs and the Russian Tsars.  The 1917 Bolshevik power grab in Russia resulted in the Ukrainian-Soviet War between 1917-1921, which led to the integration of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic into the newly formed Soviet Union.  In the 1930s forced Russification and ruthless oppression by Moscow decimated the Ukrainian population.  During World War II and after, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army unsuccessfully attempted to regain Ukrainian independence.  

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, opened the door for Ukrainian independence.  Yet, independence has not ended the turbulence in Ukrainian history.  During the first decade-and-a-half, Ukraine’s governments evolved into crime syndicates headed by former Communist Party potentates.  The so-called Orange Revolution of 2004-2005 brought to power Viktor Yushchenko, who only lasted for four years.  His successor, Viktor Yanukovich, had to face another violent uprising against his presidency in November 2013.  The so-called Euromaidan was the second revolution against government corruption, gross violation of human rights and Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement.  Also dubbed the Revolution of Dignity, it resulted in Yanukovich’s flight to Russia.  In June 2004, a businessman by the name Petro Poroshenko was elected president.  He remained in office until May 2019.  During his presidency, Russia annexed the Crimea and occupied the Donbas region.  Internally, his administration’s corruption revived the ever present political, moral and intellectual disorder of Ukrainian societies.  The great reconstruction that he promised in his campaign never materialized.  Instead, Ukraine sunk even deeper into the bottomless swamp of autocracy and corruption.  On so many occasions during its troubled history, Ukrainian society had to be saved again.  This putative savior of the state was found in the person of Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky, a former actor and comedian, on May 20, 2019.  

President Zelensky is the product of the Ukrainian people’s utter desperation and their collective disappointment with the corrupt political and business establishments.  Hence, he is the first truly amateur politician in Ukraine’s modern history.  He is also the first Jewish President in a country that has been deeply anti-Semitic.  Unfortunately, his tragedy has been that he, as an amateur politician, was asked to make great decisions.  Another misfortune of his is the painful fact that the majority of the Ukrainian people and, therefore, Ukrainian society, lack a sense for universal and individual principles.  Thus, in a nation that has never practiced democratic politics, President Zelensky has been asked to govern as a constructive leader espousing democratic principles.  His only practical solution to this almost irreconcilable dilemma has been his faint attempts to govern by executive fiat, through administrative ruling.  Thus, the feeling that the Ukrainian people are ruled once again by dishonest politicians, who are hell bent to circumvent democratic politics and who cannot be held to account, has surely contributed to his loss of popularity and the accompanying anger and disappointment.  

From the viewpoint of the average Ukrainian, the distinction between fraudulent government and corrupt oligarchs sounds again as an old story that has been the subject of so many irreverent jokes throughout the country.  Thus, what is left for the freedom-loving Ukrainians is their patriotism that might spill into extreme nationalism.  Matched by the same Russian feelings, the Ukrainian-Russian confrontation could blossom into a toxic mix of violent catastrophe.

Meanwhile, politicians of all ranks, nationalities and persuasions, egged on by a completely incompetent and irresponsible media, have taken stands for and against the parties involved in and issues discussed concerning the Ukraine Question.  Since these statements and actions have been neither minimally constructive nor promisingly creative, together they only deserve brief summaries.  To begin with the Russians, naturally all the blame goes primarily to Washington and secondarily to the European Union as well as Kiev.  These enemies of Russia and even the Ukrainian people have been determined from 1991 on to turn Ukraine into a Western puppet against the peace loving Russian state and its people.  As proof of their accusations they have cited the Orange Revolution, which, according to their narrative, was planned in Washington and executed in Kiev by the American CIA and its local agents.  More emotionally, they point to the Euromaidan, which in their narrative was a coup d’etat against the legitimately elected pro-Russian president.  The illegality of this “counterrevolution,” created a dangerous situation for the Russian ethnic minority throughout Ukraine.  Thus, Russia’s intervention on behalf of its kins was not only justified but also necessary to prevent a bloody civil war.  As Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stated, Russia’s military actions in Crimea were undertaken by forces of the Black Sea Fleet were justified  by “threat to lives of Crimean civilians” and danger of “takeover of Russian military infrastructure by extremists.”  As far as the occupations of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are concerned, their so-called People’s Republics declared independence from Ukraine as a result of fraudulent status referenda in May 2014.  Immediately thereafter, the two fake-states merged to form the short-lived Confederation of Novorossiya.  Following some unserious attempts to entice Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to recognize the new “state,” the confederation of Novorossiya died an inglorious death on the account of absolute disinterest even by the Kremlin’s staunchest allies.  

Most recently, the entire Russian political establishment, led by President Putin, have declared that, as far as Moscow is concerned, Ukraine is not a sovereign state, because Kiev does not have the luxury of choosing between Russia and the West.  Thus, if Ukraine refuses to abandon its desire to join the European Union and NATO, Russia will prevent it from exercising its sovereignty, if needed by military force.  Using a blatantly false historical narrative that utilizes the myths of “Slav Blood Brotherhood” and the “Great Patriotic War’” of World War II, Putin has repeatedly emphasized Russia’s sacred mission to reunite Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine under the joint banner of Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality.  Accordingly, on July 12, 2021, Putin penned an article titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”  In it, he stated that Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians historically are “one people” and this fact overrides the freedom of the Ukrainian people to choose.     

On the Western part of the European continent and in North America, all member states of NATO have shown remarkable and almost unparalleled unity in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.  Collectively they know that they have no other alternative but to ensure that Russia does not invade Ukraine.  If the member states of NATO do not want to witness a new international imbalance created jointly by China and Russia, they cannot submit their states and their organization to the unlawful blackmail of Moscow.  They also know that they cannot repeat their toothless performance following the invasion and annexation of the Crimea.  The mirror-image of their shadow-vision then would be the illusory belief in a Russia that occasionally might be an adversary but not an enemy of the rest of Europe and North America.  They finally realized that the roots of the most recent crisis can be found within Russia and Putin’s inability to differentiate between realities and wishful thinking.  The latter is mired in a shadowy world view, in which imaginary theories prevent him from according due reverence for facts.  Thus, he has concealed his individual greed and political ambition under the cloak of seductive nativism and populism.  The result is that Russia is a miserable wreck.  Weak institutions, politically incompetent and economically illiterate politicians, over dependence on natural resources and moribund industries, unabashed corruption, and dogged diregard for domestic and foreign market realities, have caused severe economic decline and countless political tragedies.  Russia’s catastrophes have been self-inflicted.  The rivalry will continue as long as Putin and his colleagues believe that NATO and the European Union are not united in their opposition to Russian military revanchism.

The overarching reality is that neither Russia nor Ukraine could gain stability without maintaining peace in their bilateral relations.  Stability is also the most important precondition for long overdue domestic political, economic, legal and social reforms in both states.  If Presidents Putin and Zelensky are forced to fight daily for keeping their respective states in a minimal state of normal existence, they would not be able to carry out meaningful reforms and would also fail in their efforts to inspire confidence in the international community toward their respective administrations.  This requirement applies in particular to Russian President Putin.  Unless President Putin can convince the leaders of NATO and the European Union that he would be a reliable partner in maintaining peace and stability in Europe and Asia as well, Washington and Brussels would not be able to look upon his ethno-revanchist militarism kindly.  The ball, therefore, is in Putin’s court.  Having maneuvered himself in a corner, he must extricate himself from it in order to avoid domestic chaos and international anarchy.  Otherwise, unpredictable disorder will be made permanent in the relationship between the West and Russia.  To accomplish such a result, President Putin must give up being a gambler and stop striving to attain goals that are beyond his and his state’s realistic abilities.  President Putin must also remember that the abuse of force has historically been more lethal to those who used it than those who became its victims.

On the other hand, NATO and the European Union must fight for a world, in which the new balance of power will not lead to a nuclear catastrophe.  In this quest, one reaction must be avoided – to become a prey to an irrational and ubiquitous panic.  This again will demand intellect, courage and perspicacity.  Finally, there will be neither permanent peace nor an enduring balance of power in Europe and beyond until each and every state can exercise its full sovereignty under the auspices of international and regional organizations and the rule of international law. 


The Problem With Ideological Purity in Congress

By David BradyReal Clear Politics

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

When Sen. Joe Manchin announced on Fox News that he could not support President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation even at its reduced price, he took heat from White House Press Secretary Jan Psaki, followed quickly by criticism from journalists and pundits.

“How will the nation ever address the enduring market failures, glaring inequality, and big social-safety-net gaps that the Build Back Better plan was designed to tackle?” asked New Yorker columnist John Cassidy. Manchin was also accused of voting against his state’s interests, while others attributed his no vote to the fact that he takes campaign money from the coal, oil and gas industries. This week, the coal miners’ union upped the pressure by calling on West Virginia’s senior senator to vote for BBB.

As a political scientist who has studied and written about Congress for over 50 years, I do not find it surprising that an incumbent more conservative than the average Democratic senator should balk at legislation he considers too liberal. Nor was it surprising when a Republican who occupied a space on the spectrum to the left of the average GOP senator vexed party leaders by voting at the last minute to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which is what John McCain did.

I don’t find any of that surprising because I was around when Bill Clinton came to office —  after 12 years of Republican presidents — with high hopes for universal health care, a large jobs stimulus plan, tax increases, family leave, and a major energy tax. A brief review of some of these measures and who determined their fate is useful.

The energy tax (calculated on British thermal units) was reduced to a small increase at the gas pump by moderate Senate Democrats from oil patch states, most specifically John Breaux of Louisiana and Oklahoma’s David Boren. That duo, plus Sun Belt moderates such as Sam Nunn and Dennis DeConcini made sure that Clinton didn’t derail the North American Trade Agreement over environmental and labor issues, which is what labor-friendly colleagues were pressuring the administration to do. In order to get his job stimulus bill through Congress, Clinton jettisoned some urban spending and an expansion of student loan grants. Legislation expanding national service programs had to be cut by over half before centrist Democrats would vote for it. And the much-touted universal health care bill shepherded by first lady Hillary Clinton never made it out of the relevant House committees. Reps. Mike Andrews of Texas and Jim Cooper of Tennessee were among those who objected to the cost.

The same pattern held when the Republicans took over Congress in 1995 for the first time in 40 years and tried to enact various elements of their “Contract With America.” The Senate during 104th Congress had only 52 Republicans, meaning that it needed the votes of every centrist Republican to pass anything. Two states alone prevented conservatives from acting on balanced budget legislation, term limits, and efforts to curb unfunded mandates. Oregon’s delegation (Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood) and Maine’s (William Cohen and Olympia Snowe) were made of confirmed moderates. These four, along with Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, and Democrat-turned-Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado forced the leadership to simply abandon the idea of reducing Medicare and Medicaid. 

Given this history, no one should be surprised that a moderate (or conservative, if you prefer) Democrat elected from a conservative state that Joe Biden lost by nearly 40 percentage points should balk about transformative progressive legislation or that such a lawmaker can determine the fate of major legislation. As I say, it’s happened before. The George W. Bush administration began with a 50/50 Senate with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote in case of ties. Some of Bush’s conservative policies ranging from tax cuts to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were watered down by a combination of more liberal Republicans (including Snowe and Specter), along with newer additions Lincoln Chafee and Susan Collins of Maine. Jim Jeffords actually left the GOP, swinging the balance in the upper chamber.

Yet today things are different. What distinguishes Manchin and his treatment from that of Breaux, Boren,  Specter, Snowe and the others?  The first thing is that there are not many Democrats elected to the Senate from “red” states anymore. I’m talking about Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. In Clinton’s first Congress, 20 of the 26 Senate seats representing these states were held by Democrats. In the present Senate, there is one, and only one, Democrat elected from those 13 states. Yes, his name is Joe Manchin.

In the 103rd Congress, the states of Delaware, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington had more Republican than Democratic senators. In the present Senate these states have no Republican senators. The sorting and polarization that has occurred over the last three decades results in fewer moderate senators of either political party. The smaller the number of such lawmakers the more likely they are to be targeted for criticism and electoral challenge. In the Clinton era it was harder to assail them because there were more of them — and they were people whom liberals might need on the next key legislative vote.

The overall effect of party sorting is that voting in the Congress has become much more polarized. In the Senate during Bill Clinton’s first term in the White House, Americans for Democratic Action (a liberal organization that awards numerical scores to members of Congress) recorded an average of 75% percent support among Democratic senators for liberal policy, with 13 of them showing less than two-thirds support for ADA-backed legislation.

In the same Congress, the ADA gave Republican senators an average score of 20%, with seven moderates registering scores between 40% and 75%. These scores are in sharp contrast to the contemporary Senate where, in 2020 (the last year data are available), the average Democratic score was over 95% percent while Republicans averaged less than 4%. The lowest Democratic senator — no surprise — was Manchin, who voted the liberal position 75% of the time, a score equal to the average in the 103rd Senate.

On the Republican side there were only two senators who scored over 10% on the liberal index with the high score being 25%. In sum, in the sorted and polarized Congress there are fewer and fewer moderates. And while moderates like Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema still impact legislative results, they increasingly face scathing attacks from members of their own party. Manchin’s position was labeled “anti-Black, anti-child, anti-woman and anti-immigrant” (Rep. Cori Bush)  and his reasoning “bullshit” (Ilhan Omar). House Progressive Caucus leader Pramila Jayapal claimed publicly that Manchin “betrayed his commitment not only to the president and Democrats in Congress but, most importantly, to the American people.” 

In the days when there were more centrists in Congress, one did not find the intensity and number of such intra-party attacks. Much is lost in addition to civility. Those senators closest to the 50th vote in the chamber have always transformed policy. The end result in the Clinton and Bush presidencies was legislative compromise that, in each case, prevented the party in power from veering too far in the direction of the ideological purists and their party’s left or right base.

In the politically sorted and polarized Congress today, there is little tolerance for anything other than extreme policy. This is one obvious reason why the American people do not think highly of the Congress and its policy process. In the final YouGov poll of Donald Trump’s presidency, only 14% of registered voters approved of the job Congress is doing. Those numbers have ticked up slightly in the past year, but in the RealClearPolitics poll average, a solid two-thirds of voters disapprove of Congress.

The ultimate question that liberal purists must ask themselves is: How do we win a majority — or get anything accomplished — if Democrats such as Joe Manchin and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (pictured) of Virginia are not progressive enough? Republicans face an even more difficult quandary: How do they build sustainable majorities if everyone who accepts the outcome of the 2020 presidential election is not fit to be a GOP candidate for elective office?

It is these days hard to imagine West Virginia electing a Democrat. If Manchin were not in the Senate, where would the liberal agenda be? Without winning Senate and House races in more moderate or conservative states like Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it is hard to see how Democrats will maintain control of Congress in future elections. The intense criticism of Manchin and Sinema for defending the filibuster and questioning Build Back Better is unlikely to move crucial centrist-minded independents to maintain Democratic control of both branches of the Congress. If and when Republicans regain the majority, they will be faced with the same purity problem but over a different set of issues, mainly those revolving around Donald Trump’s ambitions. In sum, for both parties, purity is fatal for solving problems and sustaining majorities.


Supreme Court To Reconsider Affirmative Action for College Admissions

Case could heighten pressure on President Biden to deliver on racial-equity agenda

By Kevin DaleyThe Washington Free Beacon

Photo by Glen Cooper / Getty Images

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will reconsider whether colleges and universities can use race as a factor in admissions.

The justices took up a pair of challenges to affirmative action policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Both broadly allege that the schools discriminate against Asian and white applicants to admit a preferred number of black and Hispanic students. The plaintiffs’ group behind both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, is urging the High Court to scuttle its affirmative action precedents and ban race-conscious admissions.

“Both the Pew Research Center and Gallup have released surveys which indicate that nearly 75 percent of Americans of all races do not believe race or ethnicity should be a factor in college admissions,” said Students for Fair Admissions president Ed Blum. “In a multi-racial, multi-ethnic nation like ours, the college admissions bar cannot be raised for some races and ethnic groups but lowered for others.”

A victory for the plaintiffs would heighten pressure on President Joe Biden to deliver on his racial-equity agenda. As a candidate, he promised sweeping reforms on voting rights and policing, but a year of legislation on both topics is languishing in Congress with little prospect of success. And as Biden has struggled to convince lawmakers to support him, he faces an uphill battle in Monday’s cases before the right-leaning Court.

The plaintiffs have compiled evidence suggesting bias against Asians in admissions. At Harvard, admissions personnel rank students on a numerical scale of four different criteria: academics, athletics, extracurriculars, and a personal rating. Though Asian applicants exceed or are competitive with all racial groups in the first three domains, their personal scores are inexplicably lower than all other racial groups.

Students for Fair Admissions says those low scores reflect “model minority” bias. Asian applicants, they say, are victims of stereotypes that pigeonhole them as highly intelligent but boring and shy. In the evidence-gathering phase of the case, the plaintiffs obtained internal memos from Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research that flagged the disparate scoring outcomes, but the reports did not lead to any policy changes. The plaintiffs also note admissions rates by racial group hold steady over time.

“This manifest steadiness in the racial composition of successive admitted classes speaks for itself,” the petition reads.

In the UNC case, Students for Fair Admissions obtained instant messages traded among admissions officers that show staff speaking crudely about race.

In one representative exchange, an admissions officer alerted a colleague to an applicant with a 2400 SAT score and top marks in Advanced Placement courses. The second officer asked whether the applicant was “brown.” “Heck no. Asian,” the first officer replied. “Of course,” said the second officer. “Still impressive.”

Monday’s news is unwelcome for progressives, who are already bracing for setbacks on abortion and gun rights this term. In their judgment, it’s another signal that the right-leaning Court will be an active force in politics, rather than a passive, reactive institution.

“The goal of these suits—to end the consideration of race in college admissions—is extreme, ignores the history of race discrimination, and threatens diversity and inclusion on campuses,” said Sarah Hinger, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s racial justice program.

The Biden administration urged the justices to steer clear of Monday’s cases. They emphasized that the government’s personnel goals are tied to race-conscious admissions at the nation’s top colleges. Biden has prioritized minority appointments across the government, even as a handful of Democrats pan the dearth of Asian appointees in the cabinet and White House senior staff.

“Among other things, the government has a vital interest in drawing its personnel—many of whom will eventually become its civilian and military leaders—from a well-qualified and diverse pool of university and service academy graduates,” the brief reads.

The administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, solicitor general Elizabeth Prelogar, received a waiver from ethics officials to participate in the case, even though she is a former Harvard employee. A watchdog group, Protect the Public’s Trust, is pressing the administration for information related to the waiver.

The plaintiffs emphasize that race-conscious policies aren’t necessary to make sure disadvantaged students get a fair shot at admission. Eliminating legacy admissions, awarding preferences by zip code, and shoring up community college transfers will keep campuses open to all comers, the plaintiffs say.

There’s a strategic bonus to simultaneously attacking Harvard and UNC’s practices. UNC is a public school, so the plaintiffs can attack its program on statutory and constitutional grounds. Harvard is a private institution, though it is bound by federal anti-discrimination laws because it accepts tax dollars each year.

It’s most likely that the appeals will be heard during the Court’s next term, which begins in October. But it’s plausible that the cases could be scheduled for this term’s last argument session, which begins in April.


5 Takeaways From The Latest Filings In The Carter Page Spygate Lawsuit

Will Carter Page succeed in fending off dismissal of his case against the DOJ, FBI, and litany of Crossfire Hurricane agents?

By Margot ClevelandThe Federalist

Over last weekend, attorneys for Carter Page filed responses to motions to dismiss filed by the FBI and eight agents involved in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation that led to the government illegally obtaining four surveillance warrants to spy on Page.

In November 2020, Page, who had briefly served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump campaign, sued the defendants in a D.C. federal court alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Patriot Act, and the Privacy Act. In response, the government and the individual defendants argued Page’s claims were time-barred or that Page had no legal grounds on which to sue. Page’s responses counter those arguments while providing five key take-aways.

1. The Swamp Is So Swampy

With Spygate developments few and far between, it is easy to forget the breadth and depth of the scandal. The briefs docketed on Saturday in Page’s lawsuit against the FBI and the agents involved in obtaining the four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrants serve as an important refresher of what our government did to an innocent man in the hopes of “getting Trump.” As Page’s brief against the individual defendants noted in its opening, this case is extraordinary because they “were not mere field agents bending the rules to pursue criminals, but rather the highest level FBI executives.”

Even the case name, Page v. Comey, confirms the truth of that assertion, with former FBI Director James Comey named as one of the eight defendants. Page’s brief details Comey’s alleged involvement in the Department of Justice obtaining four FISA surveillance orders against the Naval Academy graduate, stressing that Comey was not merely a “supervisory” who signed the FISA applications, but was personally involved.

Establishing Comey and the other agents’ personal involvement proved a key feature of the briefs, because, to avoid dismissal of the complaint, Page needed to show the allegations of the complaint could reasonably support a finding that the individual defendants did more than merely supervise employees who violated Page’s Fourth Amendment rights and rights under FISA.

The 70-page omnibus brief addressing the claims against the individual defendants detailed the personal involvement of each. For instance, for the former FBI director, the brief stressed that “on or about August 17, 2016, Comey received information from the CIA establishing that Dr. Page was an ‘operation contact’ for the CIA during the period of 2008-2013.”

Comey also knew from a September 7, 2016, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) communique that Hillary Clinton had approved “a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server,” according to the court filing. Comey nonetheless approved the use of the fabricated Christopher Steele dossier to obtain the FISA surveillance orders, and eventually signed three of the four FISA surveillance applications.

Next named in Page’s lawsuit was Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI. McCabe was also personally involved in obtaining the illegal FISA surveillance order, according to Page’s most recent court filing.

Among other things, McCabe signed the affidavit the FBI submitted in support of the final FISA application. McCabe’s involvement went further, Page’s attorneys argued, pointing out that he hosted an August 15, 2016 meeting with co-defendants Peter Strzok and Lisa Page discussing “an insurance policy” to prevent a Donald Trump election, and he had approved the FISA applications even though he knew they omitted Carter Page’s past assistance to the CIA.

The brief next discussed Kevin Clinesmith’s involvement in the FISA abuse. Clinesmith, who served as an assistant general counsel in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, falsely told the FBI that Page was never a source. Then, when asked for written confirmation of that representation, Clinesmith altered the text of the email he had received from the CIA liaison, making the email read that Page was “not a ‘source.’”

Clinesmith then forwarded the altered email to the FBI. Clinesmith later pleaded guilty to making a false statement related to this conduct.

Strzok and Lisa Page’s involvement in the FISA surveillance scheme received attention next. Strzok, who served at the time as the FBI deputy assistant director for counterintelligence, also knew of the CIA’s warning that Clinton had approved a plan to claim Trump had colluded with Russia to “distract the public” from her misuse of a private server. Strzok also stated an intention to “stop” Trump from becoming president and discussed “an insurance policy” to prevent a Trump election.

Lisa Page’s personal involvement mirrored that of Strzok’s, but in addition she attended a briefing with McCabe, at which “Bruce Ohr advised them that Steele’s work product was not for the U.S. Government but, rather, was political opposition research for a private political party.”

The briefs repeated this process for the remaining individual defendants: Joe Pientka, who served as a supervisory agent on the Crossfire Hurricane team; Stephen Somma, an FBI agent who represented himself as “Steve Holt” to Page; and Brian Auten, an FBI supervisory intelligence analyst.

Pientka, Carter Page stressed, had falsely certified that the information in the first FISA warrant was verified for accuracy and later failed to correct the application, even after learning in November 2016 from Ohr that Steele was not a reliable source and had been paid to conduct the opposition research against Trump.

The response filed on Saturday also detailed Somma’s involvement, noting that he had pushed initially for the FISA warrant. Further, according to Page, “Defendant Somma personally provided incomplete, inaccurate, and conflicting information to the DOJ Office Attorney who asked whether Dr. Page had been a source for the CIA.”

In fact, according to Page, Somma actually knew he had served as an “operational contact” for the CIA from 2008-2013, but failed to accurately describe that relationship to others. Somma also did not inform the FISA court that Igor Danchenko, Steele’s primary sub-source for his fabricated dossier, contradicted Steele’s supposed intel.

The final defendant, Auten, also held personal responsibility for violating Page’s Fourth Amendment rights and violations of the Patriot Act, according to Page’s lawyer. Auten “played an instrumental role along with the agents preparing the FISA applications—including reviewing the probable cause section of the applications.”

In preparing the applications, Auten “falsely enhanced the credibility of information obtained from Steele,” according to Page, writing “that information from Steele had been ‘corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,’ although none of Steele’s past reporting as an informant had been corroborated and had never been used in any criminal proceedings.”

Auten also “intentionally failed to disclose the negative feedback that he had received from British Intelligence Service colleagues regarding Steele,” according to the court filing, including a caution from “Steele’s former colleagues that Steele exercised ‘poor judgment’ and pursued as sources ‘people with political risk but no intel value.’”

2. So Much Still Unknown

Even with the details noted above and additional ones included in the 100-plus pages of combined briefs filed by Page’s legal team this weekend, so much remains unknown because the government holds sole possession of the information. That lack of knowledge, Page argued in his briefs, makes dismissal of his lawsuit at this stage premature.

“It is also abundantly clear that there is a trove of currently non-public documents and facts that relate to Dr. Page’s claims, which are presently in the exclusive possession of the Individual Defendants and the United States and its agencies, but which will undoubtedly further support and vindicate Dr. Page’s claims,” Page’s attorney wrote.

Then, as a perfect illustration of the point, Page’s legal team pointed to the fact that after they initially filed suit in November 2020, “additional facts concerning Defendant Clinesmith’s role with respect to the alteration of the email were disclosed when the Department of Justice filed its sentencing memorandum in Defendant Clinesmith’s criminal prosecution, including internal FBI emails not referenced in the Horowitz Report.”

Also unknown at this time is which defendants, if any, leaked information to the press. The brief suggests Lisa Page and Strzok hold responsibility for the leaks, noting that “on Monday, April 10, 2017, Defendant Strzok sent [Lisa Page] another text message stating, ‘I had literally just gone to find this phone to tell you I want to talk to you about media leak strategy with DOJ before you go.’”

“Two days later,” the brief continued, Strzok “sent Defendant Lisa Page a text message to alert her that two media articles were coming out about her ‘namesake’ [Dr. Page] and that one was worse than the other.” Then, later the same week, “the Washington Post and the New York Times published articles about Dr. Page and the government’s investigation of him, including that FISA warrants were used,” with Strzok that weekend texting Lisa Page: “article is out!” and “Well done, Page.”

The briefs filed this weekend also stressed that after the FISA warrant was issued, “a stream of information about Dr. Page . . . and his supposed status as a Russian agent working to undermine the nation, began to flood the airwaves and the newsstands.” “The source of that information can only have been the Crossfire Hurricane team,” the brief argued.

In addition to Strzok and Lisa Page, in the separate brief Carter Page’s legal team filed this weekend in response to the government’s motion to dismiss, lawyers claimed that defendants Comey and McCabe also “leaked information and records concerning Dr. Page to media outlets, including but not limited to the existence of the FISA warrants, the contents of the warrant applications, and the results of the warrants, that were protected from disclosure under FISA and the Privacy Act.”

Without discovery, however, Page lacks the ability to establish the party or parties responsible for the leaks with certainty, which supports his argument that dismissing his claims at this point is premature.

3. It’s David and Goliath All Over Again

Reading Page’s briefs also reminds one of the lopsided battle he faced in trying to clear his name when he went up against the Crossfire Hurricane team. He literally wrote Comey. He reminded the FBI that he had worked with the CIA. He voluntarily submitted to multiple interviews with FBI agents. His lawyer spoke with Clinesmith.

Yet they persisted. It was one individual against the mammoth monstrosity that calls itself the intelligence community.

Now Page is taking on the same monster that is proving itself as regenerative as the mythical hydra. Not only does Page face the federal government, represented by Department of Justice attorneys, but each defendant has his or her own group of powerhouse D.C. lawyers combatting Page’s push for justice, leaving Page’s small legal team fighting against nine separate teams of defense attorneys.

One wonders who is paying for all those private law firms, and whether it is taxpayers?

4. Zingers Galore

While Page’s legal team may be outgunned, their briefing proves top-notch, both in its legal advocacy and its ability to point out the absurdity of many of the defendants’ arguments with a flair that cuts through legal niceties.

Early on, Page’s attorneys honed in on the key strategy the defendants seem to have settled on—point the finger at someone else. Each defendant sought to “outdo each other in minimizing their respective roles in the fiasco,” the brief noted, “each claiming their culpability in deceiving the FISC, unlawfully disclosing information, and violating Dr. Page’s rights was too minor to impose civil liability on them.” “If the individual defendants are to be believed,” the brief quipped, “these unlawful and false warrants wrote themselves.”

As quoted from Ian Fleming in “Goldfinger,” “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action,” crystalized another point by Page’s legal team: that the defendants’ conduct cannot be put down to mistakes or even sloppiness but creates the reasonable inference that they intentionally caused the violation of Page’s rights.

Then, in summing up their argument on behalf of Page, the brief closed by reminding the judge that “the FBI unlawfully used the power of the federal government, in the form of secret, anti-terrorism surveillance tools, to violate the rights of an innocent American.” “It is long past time for the United States to step up to the plate and do right by Dr. Page,” the brief closed.

5. Tough Legal Question

Whether Carter Page will succeed in fending off dismissal of his case against the DOJ, FBI, and litany of Crossfire Hurricane agents will not be known for some time. The defendants will all have a chance to reply to Page’s briefing, meaning another nine briefs to counter Page’s two court filings.

The district court will then face many tough legal questions, beginning with whether Page waited too long to sue. Next, the court will need to determine whether Page adequately alleged sufficient facts under his various theories of liability and specifically whether each individual defendant holds responsibility for the illegal FISA warrant under an “aiding and abetting” theory.

Carter Page also presents a unique claim against the federal government under The Privacy Act, arguing that his rights were violated by the inspector general when the IG refused to allow Page to review and respond to the report discussing the four FISA warrants obtained against Page.


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