Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the allegations that Attorney General Bill Barr is now somehow “implicated” in the Ukraine controversy because he spoke with counterparts in England, Italy, and Australia about assisting in the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham. If those calls were truly about the Durham investigation, it would be entirely proper for Barr to ask for such assistance. I have always maintained that the Congress has a legitimate interest in investigating the Ukraine controversy. However, the chorus of recriminations on the Barr matter reveal the hype triggering much of the hypoxia.
Here is the column:
With all of the breathless headlines of the last two weeks, it is astonishing that the entire city of Washington is not swooning from hypoxia. Much of the media have blasted out the news that Attorney General William Barr is “implicated” in the Ukraine scandal, after sources said he pressed leaders in Australia, Italy and England to supply evidence about the origins of the Russia investigation. Esquire Magazine was a tad more descriptive, proclaiming Barr was now “far up s–t creek” because of his calls.
Yet not only is there a valid reason for such calls, but they could indicate that the creek could become a storm of sorts for Democrats over the coming weeks. The calls made by Barr were reportedly linked to the ongoing investigation by United States Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation. It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials. A call to request assistance for the Durham investigation would “implicate” Barr in nothing other than an official investigation.
I supported the appointment of a special counsel after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. I also supported an investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation. The country is divided on the merits of both with legitimate concerns raised on each side. With the start of a House impeachment inquiry, it is more important than ever to have transparency along with a review of both investigations.
Moreover, Durham could answer some disturbing aspects of the origins of the Russia investigation, including the mysterious role of Professor Joseph Mifsud. Efforts by Durham to gain cooperation from Australia, England, and Italy likely concern figures such as Misfud. The professor seemed eager and focused in revealing that there were “thousands of emails” in the hands of the Russians in conspicuously opportunistic meetings with key figures.
An academic from Malta, Mifsud has long been tied to Russian interests and appears at critical moments throughout the Russia investigation. He met with former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in both Rome and London. In one of those meetings, he referenced the existence of hacked emails.
We have never established the real facts or loyalties of Mifsud. Some have suggested that he may have been a Western asset working for American, British, or Italian intelligence services. Fueling that speculation was the fact that the special counsel report indicates Mifsud lied repeatedly to investigators on sensitive national security issues. While Robert Mueller charged others for minor discrepancies in the stories that they told investigators, Mifsud somehow escaped any such charge.
Information on Mifsud would be found in countries like Australia, England, and Italy, as would be information on the work of former British spy Christopher Steele. The Clinton campaign paid him and an American opposition research firm a large sum of money to seek dirt on Trump, including Russian and other foreign sources. Such information is not easily shaken loose without a high level prompt from someone like Barr.
However, many of the very same figures in Congress and in the media who previously called for full disclosure of every aspect of the Russia investigation are now criticizing the effort to gather evidence in the Durham investigation. It appears the public “right to know” does not extend that far. The reason is that a key report by Durham likely would come at a most importune time in advance of the 2020 election.
Democrats already are moving to impeach Trump on the Ukraine matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have told fellow Democrats to focus on Ukraine instead of on Russia conspiracy or obstruction, which led to more than two years of investigation. One reason for this is that Trump would be able to call his own witnesses during a Senate trial, particularly with a Republican majority dictating the rules. If the Russia investigation winds up as part of an impeachment trial, then Trump would be able to use these reports and earlier disclosures to place the conduct of the Obama administration under the spotlight before the public.
Trump would have plenty to work with in such a trial. The original focus was on his campaign aide Carter Page, who ultimately was not indicted on any crime. Mueller could not find a single crime by George Papadopoulos other than a marginal false statement that led to a whole 12 days in jail. Mueller ultimately found that no Trump official knowingly dealt with Russian hackers or trolls. If Durham finds irregularities and improper conduct in the Russia investigation, it will reinforce the claim by Trump that his campaign was improperly targeted by hostile FBI officials.
Even worse is there could be a one two punch coming on the Russia investigation. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is said to be close to releasing his report on the secret surveillance targeting Trump officials. The report is expected to be both comprehensive and damaging for many involved in the start of that investigation. Durham and Horowitz will not be easily dismissed. Both are widely respected and are working with career investigators. If either finds improper conduct, it could reinforce the position of Republicans and moderate Democrats in voting against the impeachment or removal of Trump, who strongly maintains that the Obama administration not only improperly targeted his campaign for investigation but proved lax in investigating allegations against Democrats ranging from Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden.
Convicting a president in an impeachment trial requires evidence and clarity. Even if Democrats only proceed on the Ukraine call, Trump will be able to claim that he sought evidence tied to the Russia investigation to assist Horowitz and Durham in their own investigations. He will be able to call witnesses like Hunter Biden on his business dealings in Ukraine while his father handed out more than a billion dollars in aid.
It is doubtful that Democrats could resist references to the Russia investigation in an impeachment trial, which would trip the wire for Trump to bring in countervailing evidence from the Horowitz or Durham reports. Esquire Magazine could right about the nature of this river, but while it may lead to many things, clarity is not likely one of them.
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
Two airlines sanctioned by the United States for enabling Iran’s global terrorist operations appear to have played a central role in moving illicit missile components from Ukraine to the Islamic Republic, according to information obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Ukrainian authorities confirmed this week they had seized a shipment of missile system components bound for Iran, which could put the Islamic Republic in violation of international bans prescribed under the nuclear agreement.
Video of the seizure show Ukrainian authorities uncovering 17 boxes of missile parts bound for Iran and meant to be used in its Fagot anti-tank guided missile system.
Sources familiar with the incident told the Free Beacon that the airlines involved in this illicit activity have long been sanctioned by the United States for providing support to Iran’s global terror network. Continue reading
By Charles Krauthammer • The Washington Post
His secretary of defense says, “The world is exploding all over.” His attorney general says that the threat of terror “keeps me up at night.” The world bears them out. On Tuesday, American hostage Kayla Mueller is confirmed dead. On Wednesday, the U.S. evacuates its embassy in Yemen, a country cited by President Obama last September as an American success in fighting terrorism.
Yet Obama’s reaction to, shall we say, turmoil abroad has been one of alarming lassitude and passivity. Continue reading
Despite Ukraine’s September 5 cease-fire, a “protracted conflict” continues in the East, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Wednesday. Over 3,600 people have been killed in fighting since April, with nearly 10% of those fatalities occurring since the cease-fire. Rebels continue to fight for control of key sites, including the Donetsk airport, while Russian forces have increased their presence east of Mariupol, raising concern that rebels plan to launch a new offensive against that strategic port city or even to establish a land bridge to Crimea. Meanwhile, the separatists are using the relative lull to solidify their hold over their self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, replete with their own nascent KGB. As the U.N. noted, “Armed groups continued to terrorize the population in areas under their control, pursuing killings, abductions, torture, ill-treatment and other serious human rights abuses.” Continue reading
‘Spike’ in Bear H flights over past week seen as test of U.S. air defenses
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
Russian strategic nuclear bombers conducted at least 16 incursions into northwestern U.S. air defense identification zones over the past 10 days, an unusually sharp increase in aerial penetrations, according to U.S. defense officials.
The numerous flight encounters by Tu-95 Russian Bear H bombers prompted the scrambling of U.S. jet fighters on several occasions, and come amid heightened U.S.-Russia tensions over Ukraine.
Also, during one bomber incursion near Alaska, a Russian intelligence-gathering jet was detected along with the bombers. Continue reading
by Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
In the book entitled “The Documentary History of the Roots of the German Hanseatic Cities” it is stated that already in the 14th century the Hanseatic confederation laws absolutely prohibited the citizens of its member cities to provide Russians goods on credit; lending them money under any circumstances, including humanitarian assistance; or even borrowing money of them, under the threat of speedy and drastic punishment. This draconian criminal provision was inserted in the law as a consequence of frequent complaints by German merchants about serial Russian dishonesty in the form of sham furs; false trademarks; lying about the existence or non-existence of contracts; tinkering with quantity and quality of exported goods; forced bribes that were pocketed by ruthless bureaucrats; and other unimaginable deceits perpetrated with impunity by Russians of all walks of life. Continue reading
by Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 departed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at 11:14 am GMT with 298 people on board, including 15 crew members. At 2:15 GMT the flight lost contact and disappeared from the radar as it flew over Ukrainian airspace. Shortly thereafter, it crashed north of Torez, next to the village of Chomukhine, Luhansk Oblast, some fifty miles northwest of Donetsk, and about twenty-five miles of the Russian border. Continue reading
NATO faces a challenge to modernize and sustain its nuclear posture and missile defense deployments in Europe at a time of declining defense budgets on the one hand and expanded threats on the other. The threats from Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa are serious and growing from both ballistic missile arsenals and nuclear programs.
At the same time, there are political pressures within NATO pushing for the adoption of a “zero nuclear” posture as well as efforts to delay significantly U.S. and allied missile defense and nuclear modernization deployments. This comes as threatening countries adopt military and political doctrines that emphasize the use of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as instruments of state power. Continue reading
Putin orders military exercises amid new Ukraine tensions
Russian strategic air forces fired six new, precision-strike cruise missiles in test launches Friday amid new tensions between Moscow and the West over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced Friday that the missile firings took place during exercises involving eight Tu-95 Bear bombers—the same type of strategic bomber recently intercepted 50 miles off the California coast by U.S. jets.
Russian bombers, meanwhile, continued saber-rattling air defense zone incursions against Canada’s arctic and in Europe over the Baltic Sea. Continue reading
Russia’s cutoff of natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Monday is a reminder that Ukraine is still highly dependent on its powerful neighbor.
“They’re going to need the gas, there’s no question about it,” said Ian Brzezinski, an analyst at the Atlantic Council who was deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO under former president George W. Bush.
Ukraine’s economy is so dependent on Russian natural gas that the cutoff threatens manufacturing plants, could cause massive layoffs and imperils newly elected President Petro Poroshenko to turn the economy toward Europe, Brzezinski said. Continue reading
In his Allegory of the Cave Plato asserts that the universe revealed by our senses is not the actual world but the shadow of reality. Thus, this virtual reality is merely an illusion designed to obscure the true differences between the causes and the consequences of events and phenomena. Today too, politicians and peoples alike stare at the walls of their own caves where shadows fight shadows with deadly intensity, while realities are ignored, or even ridiculed. Indeed, in our hyper-ideologized and hyper-mediatized domestic and international politics the fallacious appearances of the shadows are perceived to be more authentic than the blunt facts. In this manner, the silhouettes present enticingly idolatrous images that partially or completely conceal the truth. Continue reading
by Kirit Radia
The Obama administration hit 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with sanctions today as punishment for Russia’s support of Crimea’s referendum. Among them: aides to President Vladimir Putin, a top government official, senior lawmakers, Crimean officials, the ousted president of Ukraine, and a Ukrainian politician and businessman allegedly tied to violence against protesters in Kiev.
It remains to be seen whether the sanctions will dissuade Russia from annexing Crimea, but one an early clue that they will not be effective came just hours later when President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state, perhaps an early step towards annexation. Continue reading
Although the immediate cause for the people’s uprising against Viktor Yanukovych’s reign was his rejection of a trade agreement with the European Union, the ultimate responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis lies with Vladimir Putin, the revanchist president of the Russian Federation. Now that the Ukrainian people put an end to Putin’s pyrrhic victory over the European Union, the anachronistic character of his attempts at the restoration of the bygone imperial glory of the Soviet Union is becoming all too apparent.
For present-day Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Putin is not Stalin, or even the latter’s successors. The symbol of hope and change of the late 1990s is a disappointment in his second presidential reincarnation. His annual state of the nation address last December was a litany of domestic problems that cannot be solved by increasing repression and over-centralization. His foreign policy of rogue militarism only radicalizes Russia’s neighbors and invites resentment, and even hostility, from the rest of the world. Thus, instead of his promise of “building a new Russia”, Putin is destroying the present and the future of his people, in order to resurrect the past. Continue reading