As it stands now, the entire effort is drenched in partisanship.
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee have spent the vast majority of their impeachment hearings trying to persuade voters that bureaucrats believe Donald Trump is impulsive, self-serving, and misguided — all of which is unsurprising, and completely irrelevant to the matter at hand.
Quite often, in fact, the most breathless coverage of these tedious hearings has absolutely nothing to do with the allegedly impeachable offenses of quid pro quo or “bribery” — or whatever focus group-tested terminology Democrats are deploying today. Take the newest blockbuster witness, Fiona Hill, a Russia expert whose testimony nearly every outlet promised would be “explosive.” She “lashes Rs for siding w Russian theory instead of us on 2016,” Politico’s Jake Sherman informs us.
Having a witness repeat “Russia” a whole bunch of times in front of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment panel isn’t nearly as fascinating or significant as reporters might imagine. Certainly, it has little to do with the supposed investigation undertaken to ferret out impeachable behavior.
For one thing, Hill’s broader contention is dubious. While Trump hasn’t called out Russia for interference, various other GOP leaders have done so on numerous occasions, including in a Senate intel report. And a person can simultaneously believe that both the Russians and Ukrainians meddled in 2016 to various degrees (and the Iranians.)
Even if one doesn’t, though, failing to adopt the Democrats’ histrionic tone over the threat of Twitter bots is neither criminal nor unconstitutional. (Reacting to 2016 as if it were Pearl Harbor, in fact, is likely quite pleasing to Putin.) If selling conspiracy theories to the American public for partisan reasons were a crime, Representative Adam Schiff would be serving consecutive life sentences in Supermax.
Hill ended up making a compelling case that she, and others, disapproved of the White House’s haphazard handling of foreign policy. But she offered no evidence of “bribery.” Yesterday, Ambassador Gordon Sondland also offered compelling testimony that he disapproved of how the White House was conducted foreign policy over Ukraine. Yet, Sondland, like all other bombshell witness, offered no real evidence of any arrangement proving Trump traded on U.S. military aid for a Biden investigation. Indeed, Sondland basically conceded that he didn’t believe Trump cared one way or another whether Zelensky launched an investigation — Trump simply wanted the Ukrainian president to announce one.
None of this means it didn’t happen, it only means that the dramatic tone of the coverage is unwarranted and the hearings have been a waste of time. Everything we know now that matters we already knew when first reading the report of Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky. Either you believe Trump should be impeached for asking a foreign leader to investigate his opponent’s son for corruption or you do not. It’s unlikely we will ever have any hard proof of whether or not there was a quid pro quo.
To me, there’s little question such a call from the president — whether he was explicitly favor trading or not — is at the very least unethical and at most an abuse of power. Is it impeachable? That’s a political decision. Because, no matter how hard liberals try and convince you otherwise, the Trump presidency doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Republicans believe they’ve been living life under two sets of rules. Considering what previous administrations have gotten away with — and what many of the people now clamoring for impeachment helped them get away with — it’s difficult to blame them. Perhaps if Democrats and operatives within government hadn’t spent three years cooking up a fantastical Manchurian Candidate conspiracy to delegitimize Trump this impeachment inquiry might be playing out differently. As it stands now, the entire effort is drenched in partisanship. Which makes it extremely unlikely that many voters will be pried from their previously held positions. Nothing that’s been said during these hearings changes that fact.
By The Hill•
Behind the scenes, some major events were set in motion last autumn that could soon change the tenor in Washington, at least as it relates to the debunked Russia collusion narrative that distracted America for nearly three years.
It was in September 2018 that President Trump told my Hill.TV colleague Buck Sexton and me that he would order the release of all classified documents showing what the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other U.S. intelligence agencies may have done wrong in the Russia probe.
About the same time, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under then-Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), voted unanimously to send 53 nonpublic transcripts of witnesses in its Russia review to the director of national intelligence (DNI) for declassification. The transcripts were officially delivered in November.
Now, nearly a year later, neither release has happened.
To put that into perspective, it took just a couple of months in 2004 to declassify the final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks after a presidential commission finished its work, which contained some of the nation’s most secretive intelligence revelations.
But the long wait for transparency may soon end.
The foot-dragging inside the intelligence community (IC) that occurred under now-departed DNI Dan Coats and his deputy, Sue Gordon, could halt abruptly. That’s particularly true if Trump appoints a new IC sheriff, such as former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the current ambassador to the Netherlands, or longtime national security expert Fred Fleitz.
Likewise, the president has an opportunity to speed up and organize the release of declassified information by simply creating an Office of Transparency and Accountability inside his own White House, run by a staffer empowered at the level of a formal assistant to the president. That would prevent intelligence agencies from continuing their game of public keep-away.
Nunes, who helped to unravel the Russia collusion farce, has identified five buckets of information he’d like to see released. One of those buckets, the FBI’s interview reports on Bruce Ohr’s cooperation, was released last week — not through a Trump declassification order but, rather, through litigation brought by Judicial Watch, and with heavy redactions.
My reporting, including interviews with four dozen U.S. officials over the last several months, actually identifies a much larger collection of documents — about a dozen all together — that, when declassified, would show more completely how a routine counterintelligence probe was hijacked to turn the most awesome spy powers in America against a presidential nominee in what was essentially a political dirty trick orchestrated by Democrats.
Here are the documents that have the greatest chance of rocking Washington, if declassified:
1.) Christopher Steele’s confidential human source reports at the FBI. These documents, known in bureau parlance as 1023 reports, show exactly what transpired each time Steele and his FBI handlers met in the summer and fall of 2016 to discuss his anti-Trump dossier. The big reveal, my sources say, could be the first evidence that the FBI shared sensitive information with Steele, such as the existence of the classified Crossfire Hurricane operation targeting the Trump campaign. It would be a huge discovery if the FBI fed Trump-Russia intel to Steele in the midst of an election, especially when his ultimate opposition-research client was Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The FBI has released only one or two of these reports under Freedom of Information Act lawsuits and they were 100 percent redacted. The American public deserves better.
2.) The 53 House Intel interviews. House Intelligence interviewed many key players in the Russia probe and asked the DNI to declassify those interviews nearly a year ago, after sending the transcripts for review last November. There are several big reveals, I’m told, including the first evidence that a lawyer tied to the Democratic National Committee had Russia-related contacts at the CIA.
3.) The Stefan Halper documents. It has been widely reported that European-based American academic Stefan Halper and a young assistant, Azra Turk, worked as FBI sources. We know for sure that one or both had contact with targeted Trump aides like Carter Page and George Papadopoulos at the end of the election. My sources tell me there may be other documents showing Halper continued working his way to the top of Trump’s transition and administration, eventually reaching senior advisers like Peter Navarro inside the White House in summer 2017. These documents would show what intelligence agencies worked with Halper, who directed his activity, how much he was paid and how long his contacts with Trump officials were directed by the U.S. government’s Russia probe.
4.) The October 2016 FBI email chain. This is a key document identified by Rep. Nunes and his investigators. My sources say it will show exactly what concerns the FBI knew about and discussed with DOJ about using Steele’s dossier and other evidence to support a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting the Trump campaign in October 2016. If those concerns weren’t shared with FISA judges who approved the warrant, there could be major repercussions.
5.) Page/Papadopoulos exculpatory statements. Another of Nunes’s five buckets, these documents purport to show what the two Trump aides were recorded telling undercover assets or captured in intercepts insisting on their innocence. Papadopoulos told me he told an FBI undercover source in September 2016 that the Trump campaign was not trying to obtain hacked Clinton documents from Russia and considered doing so to be treason. If he made that statement with the FBI monitoring, and it was not disclosed to the FISA court, it could be another case of FBI or DOJ misconduct.
6.) The ‘Gang of Eight’ briefing materials. These were a series of classified briefings and briefing books the FBI and DOJ provided key leaders in Congress in the summer of 2018 that identify shortcomings in the Russia collusion narrative. Of all the documents congressional leaders were shown, this is most frequently cited to me in private as having changed the minds of lawmakers who weren’t initially convinced of FISA abuses or FBI irregularities.
7.) The Steele spreadsheet. I wrote recently that the FBI kept a spreadsheet on the accuracy and reliability of every claim in the Steele dossier. According to my sources, it showed as much as 90 percent of the claims could not be corroborated, were debunked or turned out to be open-source internet rumors. Given Steele’s own effort to leak intel in his dossier to the media before Election Day, the public deserves to see the FBI’s final analysis of his credibility. A document I reviewed recently showed the FBI described Steele’s information as only “minimally corroborated” and the bureau’s confidence in him as “medium.”
8.) The Steele interview. It has been reported, and confirmed, that the DOJ’s inspector general interviewed the former British intelligence operative for as long as 16 hours about his contacts with the FBI while working with Clinton’s opposition research firm, Fusion GPS. It is clear from documents already forced into the public view by lawsuits that Steele admitted in the fall of 2016 that he was desperate to defeat Trump, had a political deadline to make his dirt public, was working for the DNC/Clinton campaign and was leaking to the news media. If he told that to the FBI and it wasn’t disclosed to the FISA court, there could be serious repercussions.
9.) The redacted sections of the third FISA renewal application. This was the last of four FISA warrants targeting the Trump campaign; it was renewed in June 2017 after special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe had started and signed by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It is the one FISA application that House Republicans have repeatedly asked to be released, and I’m told the big reveal in the currently redacted sections of the application is that it contained both misleading information and evidence of intrusive tactics used by the U.S. government to infiltrate Trump’s orbit.
10.) Records of allies’ assistance. Multiple sources have said a handful of U.S. allies overseas — possibly Great Britain, Australia and Italy — were asked to assist FBI efforts to check on Trump connections to Russia. Members of Congress have searched recently for some key contact documents with British intelligence. My sources say these documents might help explain Attorney General William Barr’s recent comments that “the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign, to me, is unprecedented and it’s a serious red line that’s been crossed.”
While the press portrayed Hope Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality she testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Following the Thursday release of the transcript from Hope Hicks’s testimony before the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee, the media quickly concentrated on the questions Trump’s former communications director refused to answer. But while the press portrayed Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality Hicks testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And that testimony established yet again that the Russia collusion narrative was a hoax.
One theme of Democrats’ questioning of Hicks concerned the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. Several times Hicks confirmed the lack of contacts between top Trump campaign members and Russia.
“I’m telling you,” Hicks testified, “I wasn’t aware in the campaign of any contacts with Russian officials.” Later, when asked again what, if any, communications and contacts there were between the Trump campaign and Russian or Russian officials, Hicks noted that during the campaign she wasn’t aware of any but later learned of insignificant contacts, such as Jeff Sessions meeting the Russian ambassador at a foreign policy speech.
Hicks further testified that a Russian official’s post-election comment that Russia was “in constant communication or constant contact with members of Trump’s inner circle throughout the campaign,” “was not true.” “I’m not aware of anybody that regularly interacted with Mr. Trump that was a decisionmaker that advised him on a frequent basis that had, ‘regular contacts’ with any Russian officials,” Hicks stressed.
Hicks, who had previously worked for the Trump organization, also testified that she was not aware of any financial ties between Russia and the Trump Organization during the campaign. Nor did Hicks have any knowledge of any “foreign government providing cash or any other thing of value to Mr. Trump during the campaign,” or of any conversations during the campaign about Trump traveling to Russia (other than for the Miss Universe Pageant), or meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hicks further told the committee that she only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press.
Democrats on the committee nonetheless pushed the Russia collusion narrative by attempting to portray an email Hicks received from the editor-in-chief of the Russian internet newspaper Vzglyad as evidence of a Russian conspiracy. Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse flipped to the much-referenced Robert Mueller report to read the special counsel’s finding that “one day earlier the publication’s founder and former Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Rykov had registered two Russian websites, Trump2016.ru and DonaldTrump2016.ru.”
But Neguse’s attempt to implicate the Trump campaign in Russia’s online efforts to interfere in the election failed badly. “I don’t recall receiving the interview request,” Hicks noted, “I received hundreds of interview requests, sometimes daily.” Because Trump had no intention of participating in the interview, Hicks explained, she was not concerned about the identity of the outlet, and hadn’t even realized until after the fact that the email had come from a Russian.
Concerning the WikiLeaks hacks, Hicks made clear that the only discussion the campaign had was “speculation about if there would be more emails or information released, but that was prompted by things in the media,” and it wasn’t with certainty that more leaks would happen, but “with speculation and skepticism.”
“No,” Hicks stressed, Trump did not talk about WikiLeaks or the hack, nor did anybody else in the campaign, other than what was discussed in the public domain. Hicks also testified that during the campaign she had heard nothing about Roger Stone and his supposed relationship with WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange, or about WikiLeaks’ “divulgence of information about the emails of Hillary Clinton and Mr. Podesta,” beyond media coverage.
In short, Hicks stated that during the campaign, Trump never indicated that he knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was responsible for the Democratic National Committee hacks or that he had knowledge that additional information would be released. Hicks also confirmed that before the election she had not been told that anyone at the Trump campaign had been offered information about Hillary Clinton.
The Trump Tower meeting was another focus of committee questions: Hicks told the committee that she did not know about the Trump Tower meeting or Donald Trump Jr.’s emails about that meeting until after Trump was elected president. She had also never heard “any discussion from any Trump Organization employee or Mr. Trump about an ongoing effort to pursue a potential Trump Tower Moscow at that time,” another thread weaved into the Russia collusion hoax.
Hick’s responses during last week’s hearing also provided fresh insight into Trump’s behind-the-scenes response to news of Russian interference. Hicks noted that the campaign only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press. The president’s former confidant added that any conversations she was privy to during the campaign concerning Russia interference in the election mirrored what Trump said publicly.
Then, when asked what specifically Trump said during the campaign about public reports that his team was coordinating with Russia, Hicks relayed that Trump called it “nonsense.” Trump believed that the Russia collusion conspiracy “was something that the Clinton campaign had made up to deflect from the information that they viewed as harmful to their candidate, to their campaign,” Hicks explained.
Hicks also testified that she agreed with his assessment and that the “unsubstantiated claims that [the Trump campaign] were coordinating with Russia was an attempt to distract and deflect.” The former communications director added that the Trump campaign obviously knew there was no collusion, but admitted that had she been working instead for the Clinton campaign, she “probably would have taken a similar strategy.” Hicks further noted that, whether the Russia collusion hoax was being peddled by the “Clinton campaign or speculated about in the media,” her discussions with candidate Trump focused on how to respond to the false claims.
Hicks also shared details of her conversation with Trump following his late-July 2016 off-the-cuff remark: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Hicks explained that she informed Trump that “some in the media had taken the expression quite literally, and that they were concerned he was encouraging foreign governments to, you know, locate those emails, and that that was obviously something that the media felt was extremely inappropriate and demanded a response from Mr. Trump and the campaign as to what exactly he meant by that.”
Hicks stated that, “both from Trump’s remark and her discussion with him after,” she understood the comment as a joke. When pushed about what Trump had said, Hicks conveyed that he noted “it was intended as a light-hearted comment.”
In practice, however, Trump took concerns about Russia’s meddling seriously, Hicks explained. For instance, according to Hicks, after the media began questioning Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Trump, not realizing Manafort’s close relationship with Richard Gates, asked Gates to keep an eye on Manafort.
Trump questioned some of Manafort’s “past work with other foreign governments, foreign campaigns,” and stressed that “none of that would be appropriate to be ongoing during his service with the Trump campaign,” Hicks elaborated. He also asked Gates to let him know “if anything led him to believe that was ongoing.”
When, following Trump’s election, then-President Barack Obama raised questions about Michael Flynn to Trump, Hicks explained that warning tainted Trump’s view of Flynn going forward. Trump “was a bit bewildered that, you know, of all the things that the two of them could have been discussing,” it was Flynn that came up. (This detail also raises the question of Obama’s motivation and his efforts to sour the president-elect’s relationship with Flynn.)
Hicks’ testimony also negated several other Democratic and media talking points on Russia interference and collusion. While Democrats attempted to portray Trump as unperturbed by Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, Hicks countered, “I think he was concerned, but I think he was simultaneously concerned that folks with a political agenda were going to weaponize that assessment to try to undermine the legitimacy of this election.”
She similarly exposed how the media misrepresented information to further the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, when Rep. Ted Lieu attempted to do the same during the hearing.
“In 2008, Donald Trump, Jr., was quoted as saying ‘In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,’” Lieu quoted to Hicks. Hicks acknowledged that she had spoken with Trump Jr., about this statement, but only to ensure “the media wasn’t misrepresenting the remark or presenting it in any misleading way.”
“And how was the media mischaracterizing Donald Trump, Jr.’s remarks?” Lieu quizzed. The media “made it seem like there was Russian money coming into the Trump Organization in a way that was inappropriate or somehow sinister,” when Trump Jr., was merely “describing the kinds of clientele that were purchasing luxury apartments, both in New York City, Chicago, and in South Florida.”
“They’re a luxury, globally recognized real estate company,” Hick explained, so “it would be odd if [the Trump Organization] weren’t selling to people just because they’re affiliated with Russia.”
By the end of her nearly eight hours of testimony last week, Hicks obliterated many of the Russia-collusion talking points pushed by Democrats and the media for the last three years, even more expertly than Mueller did in his special counsel report. As one Democrat noted during the hearing, Hicks was “with [Trump] every day,” during both the primary and general election. She would have known had the campaign colluded with Russia.
Yet her testimony made clear there was no Russia strategy, significant contact, collaboration, or collusion, which is why when Hicks was asked whether she thought the president “might be angry about [her] testifying before Congress today,” her ready reply punctuated her significant—but unreported—testimony: “I think the president knows that I would tell the truth, and the truth is there was no collusion. And I’m happy to say that as many times as is necessary today.”
The long overdue actions taken by the European Parliament on September 12, 2018, and by the United States Senate through Resolution 30 of January 25, 2019, authored by Senators Feinstein, Durbin and Murphy, condemn in no uncertain terms the Viktor Orban led government’s dismantling of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. Based on the Sargentini Report, the European Union charged the Hungarian government with political as well as economic and financial corruption. Pursuant to this Report, since 2010, Hungary has increasingly become a rogue state. Actually, Hungary has been taken over by political gangsters, headed by the Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who have shamelessly robbed the Hungarian people blind. Democracy has been replaced by “illiberal democracy”, meaning the personal cult of Viktor Orban. The Alliance of Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: FIDESZ) dominated Parliament passed a new constitution which was already amended seven times to accommodate the changing needs of the Prime Minister and his accomplices. This new constitution has curtailed the independence of the judiciary, has made a mockery of the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association, the right of equal treatment, the right of minorities, and has practically abolished the main economic and social rights. Continue reading
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Russia has deployed a suspicious satellite the United States says is part of Moscow’s plans to attack orbiting satellites in a future conflict, a State Department official revealed in Geneva on Tuesday.
Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, made the accusation in a speech declaring Moscow is promoting a draft treaty aimed at banning arms in space while advancing an array of space weaponry.
Russia in October conducted tests of a “space apparatus inspector” that was detected by U.S. intelligence maneuvering and taking other unusual actions in space.
“Its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Poblete stated during a session of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament.
“We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior by a declared ‘space apparatus inspector.'” She did not elaborate on the suspect activities.
With the exception of an infinitesimal number of individuals and media outlets, the hate filled, asymmetrical political warfare against President Trump is continuing with unwavering vehemence. The latest fuel on the seemingly eternal fire of the anti-Trump resistance was supplied by his trip to Europe and, in particular by his meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
As a prelude to President Trump’s visit to Brussels, London, and Helsinki, the usual pack of anti-Trump Democrats, Obama appointees and their allies in the highly politicized media started a full throated campaign against the Putin meeting. The narrative was as primitive as idiotic. Accordingly, President Putin was declared a superman, the embodiment of the most perfect statesman in human history, while President Trump was depicted as a bumbling amateur who will be consumed by Putin the master spy within minutes. Indeed, they demanded in unison that President Trump cancel the meeting all together or, at least, be surrounded by an army of advisors. Clearly, all of sudden there were millions of little presidents who felt empowered to render their authoritative opinions on the most complex foreign policy matters.
Of course, President Trump ignored their advice. Conversely, the irrational politics of hatred continued unabated. Since Helsinki, this has centers around President Trump’s answers to Jeff Mason’s and Jonathan Levine’s questions, in which the President appeared to side with President Putin and not with the assessment of the US intelligence agencies concerning the so-called “Russian Interference” in the 2016 elections. The Reuters correspondent’s question originally was directed at President Putin. In essence Mason challenged the Russian President by asking why should the Americans and President Trump believe his statement that Russia did not interfere in the election, given the evidence the US intelligence agencies provided. President Trump’s answer was more complex than reported in the media. “….the concept of that (namely interference) came up perhaps a little before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election….” He continued by saying: “….there was no collusion with the campaign….” Jonathan Levine of AP followed up with a more direct and clearly provocative question: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency concluded that Putin did. My first question for you, sir, who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin – would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”
In his reply President Trump first addressed the issue of the Democratic National Committee’s server. Rightly, he pointed out that the Committee’s refusal to hand over the server to the FBI for inspection is inexplicable. Most probably, the examination of the server would have supplied important documentary evidence as to who was responsible for the hacking. Moreover, it would have provided the FBI with a true record about what really happened. Barring excess for the FBI clearly meant that the Committee had something to hide or, in the alternative, the results of its examination of the server failed to conform to the narrative of the rigged elections. Then President Trump continued thus: “I have Mr. Putin. He just said it is not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really want to see the server.”
As usual, President Trump’s answers were immediately taken out of context and presented as proofs that he is not an American patriot, but a Russian stooge. Never mind that during the 2008 presidential campaign Barack Hussein Obama regaled the attendees and the world in his Berlin speech as being “a citizen of the world”, while his better half opined about being proud of America only because her husband was elected president.
But more importantly, President Trump’s answers must be viewed within the framework of his opening remarks at the press conference. There he said: “As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct. Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia forwards the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world. I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As president, I always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.” Then he went on to say that he thought the best way to discuss interference and related issues is in person with Mr. Putin, which he did.
Placing his answers to the correspondents’ questions in the context of his opening remarks make it abundantly clear that President Trump behaved as a statesman, while his critics took a very narrow tactical approach to US-Russia relations. As president, he had to focus on the big picture, which is the overall strategic relationship with Russia, and leave the other related matters to future negotiations. Once agreement is reached on the nature of the strategic relationship and a measure of trust has been established between the two states, most, if not all, the outstanding matters can be discussed and hopefully solved within the framework of such a strategic understanding.
To place the entire anti-Trump mania into an even broader context, the United States of America has been since November 2016, in a rapidly worsening democratic anarchy. For this reason alone, the American citizenry cannot remain indifferent to what is happening to the constitutional Republic. Moreover, it would be a grave misconception to suppose that if this democratic anarchy is allowed to fester unchecked, the already chaotic situation abroad would not be affected. On the contrary. The vicissitudes that the world has suffered since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of the People’s Republic of China as a formidable military, economic, and financial power, and the unrelenting invasion of the developed world by the army of desperate migrants, compel the United States of America to assume once again the leadership role for the rest of the world.
Leadership, in turn, means that the president and the congressional leaders must not dwell exclusively on the past but deal in a bipartisan manner with the challenges of the present and their repercussions for the future, unless those challenges will remain unresolved. More importantly, no one should search for artificial causes to seize and maintain power. Rather, policymakers must look for solutions to remedy as many problems as they possible can across the globe. Clearly, this is not the time for hesitation, vacillation, oscillation, and sanctimonious speeches that are not followed by decisive actions. Indeed, every responsible politician in Washington, D.C. must defend the interests of the United States of America and that of its allies throughout the world.
Presently, President Trump appears to be the only adult in the playground sandbox. Sitting down with his Russian counterpart is not treason. Neither is it collusion, nor is it interference. It is diplomacy that allows two heads of states to explore common interests. Common interests, in turn, will enable them to communicate and hopefully reach compromises peacefully on major and lesser challenges too. Among those challenges the overall situation in the greater Middle East is the most explosive. Within the Middle East, the Syrian problem has the most potential to trigger a regional war. Information available of the two hour private meeting and the follow-up lunch in Helsinki indicate that a broad agreement on the principles of de escalating the conflict has been reached. Accordingly, both presidents have agreed that the security of Israel is paramount. Secondly, they have been in agreement concerning the destructive role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Syria, in Lebanon, in the Gaza Strip, in Yemen, in Libya, and beyond. To counter the Mullahcracy’s appetite for steady expansion, the two presidents have resolved to limit Iranian military presence and political influence in Syria. Thirdly, the fate of the Assad family remains on the table. Finally, if provoked, Israel will have a free hand militarily to retaliate in a proportional manner.
As far as Islamic terrorism is concerned, Russia is exposed to it more closely than the United States of America or Europe. Clearly, President Putin is not averse to reach an agreement on this topic.
The Ukraine is not just a political and strategic question for Russia, but also a historical and emotional one. After all, the cradle of today’s Russia was the Kiev Russ in the 9th and 10th centuries. For the United States of America, the Ukraine has been a sovereign country since the late 1990, the boundaries of which have been violated by Russia continuously since the overthrow of the late President Viktor Yanukovych. On this issue, an agreement that would satisfy all the parties involved will need more time and negotiations. For now, the objective should be to arrest the conflict that will provide for the restoration of domestic tranquility. As a first step in this direction, the United States of America should push for the quick conclusion of a permanent armistice between the opposing forces.
Russia’s relations with the rest of Europe, in particular the European Union are multifaceted and thus are more complex. Again, it is important not to rash to premature judgments, and allow time for all the parties involved to find a modus vivendi among the conflicting political positions and interests. The principle of non-intervention in the affairs of all parties must be made sufficiently plain. The continent needs a new equilibrium through additional treaties to show that the Russian Federation will adhere to its responsibilities, in order to provide neither reason nor pretext for military conflicts in the future.
In closing, President Trump is absolutely right to pursue good relations with President Putin. Only through continuous dialogue between these two preeminent nuclear powers could the maintenance of universal peace guaranteed.
It is virtually impossible to have a sane, temperate conversation about President Donald J. Trump and what the Russians might or might not have done to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. From the corner bar to the White House briefing room, folks have their heels dug in and aren’t budging, with each side passionately determined to prove the other wrong.
Most Republicans—except the ones who somehow manage to show up on the news chat shows with astonishing regularity—seem to regard the whole business as a tempest in a teapot at best, and at worst, a Machiavellian effort undertaken by entrenched liberals inside the U.S. government to remove Trump from office.
Democrats, meanwhile, mainly think that Trump and the Russians conspired to steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton. How could she have possibly lost the election otherwise? Continue reading
By Richard M. Ebeling • Foundation for Economic Education
In August of 1993, I was invited to participate in a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on “Liberty and Private Business.” This was less than two years after the formal disappearance of the Soviet Union as a political entity on the map of the world.
During our time there, my wife and I were offered the opportunity to be given a tour of the building that had served as the headquarters of the local KGB, the infamous Soviet secret police. Our guide was a man who had been a prisoner in its walls in the late 1950s. The most nightmarish part of the tour was the basement containing the prison cells and the interrogation rooms.
Going Through Hell at the Hands of the KGB
As we reached the bottom Continue reading
Nobody can ever wholly escape the mixture of positive and negative influences of his or her times and country. Neither are politicians across the globe exempt from the deeply ingrained ethical, cultural, and intellectual foibles and prejudices of their respective societies. Accordingly, trust among political leaders of all ages and places has always been either non-existent or of short supply. This dearth of trust, fundamentally rooted in a mutual failure to comprehend the other nation’s mentality, has characterized the over two centuries old history of US-Russia relations too. Avoiding the temptation of expanding on this history, suffice it to state that as Russian domestic and foreign policies could not be understood by the pragmatic, result oriented American mind, so has been the emotional mindset of the Russians mostly incapable to objectively judge the domestic and foreign policies of the United States of America.
The “Cold War” ended with several agreements between the two states. At the Malta summit in December 1989, then President George H. W. Bush assured Mikhail Gorbachev that the United States of America will not take advantage of the unfolding events in Central and Eastern Europe. The same assurance was echoed by then Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of the Federal Republic of Germany on January 31, 1990, in the Bavarian town of Tutzing. Less than a month later, Continue reading
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The Trump administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on 19 Russians and two Russian intelligence agencies for their role in the 2016 election meddling and costly cyber attacks and penetrations.
The Russian spy agencies included the Federal Security Service and the GRU military intelligence service, along with six GRU officers.
No FSB officers were named in the Treasury Department list of sanctioned Russians, although 13 Russians indicted last month in a separate action, were named.
The Russians are linked to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg operation that used social media to interfere with the presidential election.
Government officials did not say whether the Internet Research Agency was a front organization for the Russian government.
Officials also revealed that Russian cyber actors conducted reconnaissance into industrial control systems related to the U.S. electrical grid in a bid to obtain sensitive information that could be used in future attacks aimed at shutting down power networks. Continue reading
By Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in language suggesting the start of a new Cold War, revealed Russia is building nuclear-powered cruise missiles, drone submarines, and other strategic arms designed to attack the United States.
During an annual address, the Russian leader boasted the new cruise missile was tested in December and utilizes small nuclear reactor technology recently developed by Russian weapons designers.
Videos shown during the speech showed a model of the new missile and other high-tech arms, including one that simulated a Russian nuclear strike on the United States. Continue reading
The news is replete of reports of Russia developing new missile systems, escalating a war in Ukraine, selling missile technology to Iran, and intercepting US jets in provocative ways. In this perilous environment, it is easy to see the folly and danger of dealing with these serious risks by unilaterally disarming. The behavior of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and organizations like ISIS make it obvious that unilateral disarmament only invites more bad behavior and puts America at risk.
This important lesson applies to the economic world as well. International trade is an important economic engine for American jobs and American prosperity. But most nations heavily subsidize their own industries to make their products cheaper and more appealing in the international marketplace. That harms American jobs and stifles American prosperity. In this environment, economic unilateral disarmament makes no sense.
Yet, that is precisely what some assert we should do when they argue we should abolish the Export-Import Bank. Continue reading
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The United States faces a growing threat of ballistic and cruise missiles from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to a military intelligence report.
“Ballistic and cruise missiles present a significant threat to U.S. and allied forces overseas, and to the United States and its territories,” states the latest report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center in Ohio.
The report warns that both China and Russia are expanding their force of strategic nuclear missiles with new multi-warhead weapons.
North Korea now has three intercontinental-range missiles and is moving ahead with a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Continue reading
By Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Iran and Russia are moving closer together in their military alliance, working to boost ties and coordination in Syria and elsewhere in the region following the U.S. decision to launch a military strike in Syria, according to regional reports and experts.
Iran’s defense minister is slated to visit Moscow at the end of the month to discuss increased military ties, a move that is meant to deter U.S. action in the region and show a sign of increased force, according to regional experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
The Tehran-Moscow axis has been growing since the landmark Iran nuclear deal, with Russia making good on a series of weapons deliveries, including the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system. The two countries have been signing an additional number of military deals in recent months and that cooperation is likely to increase in light of the Trump administration’s decision to launch strikes against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being backed by both Russia and Iran. Continue reading
by Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon
U.S. adversaries are rapidly catching up to America’s fifth generation fighter aircraft capabilities—a risk that has exacerbated given ongoing cyber vulnerabilities in the F-35 fighter jet program, according to an Air Force major general.
Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris Jr., the vice commander of Air Combat Command at the Langley, Va., base, said Thursday that while the United States maintains an advantage in the stealth and weapons capacities inherent in fifth generation fighter aircraft models, adversaries are “quickly closing the gap.”
“We are trying to maximize our ability to procure fifth generation airplanes and go from a 100 percent fourth generation fleet to a significant mix of fifth generation [planes] so that we have the opportunity to operate in these hostile environments against these threats that are catching us faster than we thought they would,” Harris testified before the House Armed Services Committee. Continue reading