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Where Trump Might Be Vulnerable

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It’s still not clear to me the particular crime for which special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump.

Was it illegal for Vladimir Putin to support Trump for president instead of Hillary Clinton?

Nope.

Was it illegal for Trump to receive advice, support, and consultation from Vladimir Putin or any other Russian politico on how best to defeat Clinton?

Nope.

In fact, imagine if George W. Bush and his English poodle Tony Blair had “colluded” to defeat Bush’s presidential opponent, Al Gore. Would the Pentagon, the CIA, and their assets in the mainstream press be making the same brouhaha that they’re making today about Trump’s supposed “collusion” with Russia to defeat Clinton? We all know they wouldn’t have. It’s the anti-Russia obsession that the Pentagon and the CIA instilled in the American people throughout the Cold War that is driving the current anti-Russia brouhaha.

Ordinarily, a special prosecutor would have evidence that a certain crime has been committed and would be investigating whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an indictment for that crime.
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Isolated Trump Flails Helplessly as He Bows to Irrational Policies on Russia and Europe Imposed by Congress

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President Donald Trump has signed the sanctions bill against Russia, North Korea, and Iran. With the near-unanimous, veto-proof margin by which the so-called "Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" was passed by both the House and the Senate, Trump was in a lose-lose position.

In the signing statement issued by the White House, Trump and his advisers tried to put a brave face on what can only be seen as a humiliating defeat. Despite some cosmetic changes...
...the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice. 

Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary. 
To suggest this absurd, dangerous, and unconstitutional law can be characterized as representing a desire "to see Russia take steps to improve relations" with the US is the opposite of the truth.
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Russia Sanctions and The Coming Crackdown on Americans

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Last week I wrote an article and did an interview explaining that in my reading of the new Russia sanctions bill just signed by President Trump, there is a measure opening the door to a US government crackdown on some of the non-mainstream media. In particular, Section 221 of the "Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" would punish "persons" who are "engaging in transactions with the intelligence or defense sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation."
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US Ignores Saudi Beheading of 14 Activists, Labels Venezuela Dictatorship Despite Elections

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This week, the Trump administration condemned the Venezuelan government following the country’s recent election. But as the US imposes sanctions on Venezuela and vocally decries their lack of democracy, President Trump’s outrage is all but nonexistent as a US ally preparing to behead 14 students for protesting. Though the Venezuelan regime is undoubtedly corrupt, the president’s outrage is meaningless in light of his lack of concern for the victims of US allies.

In June of last year, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court ordered the beheadings of 14 young people they convicted of waging an armed rebellion against the regime during pro-democracy protests in 2011 and 2012. Amnesty International summarized the charges against them:
They were convicted of a range of charges that included ‘armed rebellion against the ruler’ by, among other things ‘participating in shooting at security personnel, security vehicles,’ ‘preparing and using Molotov Cocktail bombs,’ ‘theft and armed robbery’ and ‘inciting chaos, organizing and participating in riots.’
However, both Amnesty International and Reprieve, another human rights organization, assert that according to court documents, these convictions were largely based on confessions extracted through torture. The beheadings were finalized this month, and the SCC failed to investigate the defendants’ claims they were forced to confess.

The demonstrators were recently moved to a Saudi prison in Riyadh where individuals awaiting execution are housed. One of those individuals is a Saudi student who was on his way to study at Western Michigan University in 2012 when he was intercepted at a Saudi airport in 2012 and held for years before trial. Multiple entities have intervened on his behalf, specifically. Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat is partially deaf and partially blind and attended protests against the monarchy in 2011 and 2012.
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Groupthink at the CIA

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Long ago, when I was a spear carrying middle ranker at CIA, a colleague took me aside and said that he had something to tell me “as a friend,” that was very important. He told me that his wife had worked for years in the Agency’s Administrative Directorate, as it was then called, where she had noticed that some new officers coming out of the Career Trainee program had red tags on their personnel files. She eventually learned from her boss that the tags represented assessments that those officers had exceptional potential as senior managers. He added, however, that the reverse appeared to be true in practice as they were generally speaking serial failures as they ascended the bureaucratic ladder, even though their careers continued to be onward and upward on paper. My friend’s wife concluded, not unreasonably, that only genuine a-holes had what it took to get promoted to the most senior ranks.

I was admittedly skeptical but some recent activity by former and current Directors and Acting Directors of CIA has me wondering if something like my friend’s wife’s observation about senior management might indeed be true. But it would have to be something other than tagging files, as many of the directors and their deputies did not come up through the ranks and there seems to be a similar strain of lunacy at other US government intelligence agencies. It might be time to check the water supply in the Washington area as there is very definitely something in the kool-aid that is producing odd behavior.

Now I should pause for a moment and accept that the role of intelligence services is to identify potential threats before they become active, so a certain level of acute paranoia goes with the job. But at the same time, one would expect a level of professionalism which would mandate accuracy rather than emotion in assessments coupled with an eschewing of any involvement in the politics of foreign and national security policy formulation. The enthusiasm with which a number of senior CIA personnel have waded into the Trump swamp and have staked out positions that contradict genuine national interests suggests that little has been learned since CIA Director George Tenet sat behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the UN and nodded sagaciously as Saddam Hussein’s high crimes and misdemeanors were falsely enumerated.
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Trump Calls On Police To Be Rougher In Handling Suspects In Speech Denounced By Police Organizations

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Controversial statements by President Donald Trump in the past have often been treated by his supporters as hyperbole or not to be taken strictly or even seriously. However, a speech last Friday had some particularly chilling elements for anyone who believes in the rule of the law. Trump was speaking to law enforcement officers and urged them not to be “too nice” to suspected criminals and gang members.

He further seemed to encourage intentional acts of harm and abuse in the handling of prisoners. The comments were irresponsible and should be be corrected by the White House. We 
recently discussed Trump’s praise for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has bragged about extrajudicial killings and encouraged police abuse.  This is obviously not that extreme but it is still highly disturbing in a speech where the President has pledged that “We have your backs 100 percent” while encouraging them to be rough in handling of suspects. His comments have led to police organizations publicly rejecting the comments and assuring the public that they will not engage in such conduct.

In his speech in Brentwood, New York, Trump departed from his prepared comments to encourage police to be tougher in handling suspects:
'When you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough,' he said, referring to the arrest of alleged gang members. 'I said, please don’t be too nice.'

'When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over,' [mimicking an officer protecting the head of a suspect] Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head? 'I said, you can take the hand away, OK?'
He went on to praise his  acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan  as “a tough guy”  and his agents as “Rough guys. They’re rough.”
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America Declares Economic War Against Europe

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On Friday night, July 28, US President Donald Trump said that he would sign into law the 
increased economic sanctions (passed by 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House) against any business that is declared to have "knowingly provided goods or services... for construction, modernisation, or repair of Russia’s energy export pipelines."

Russia is the largest energy-supplier to the world’s largest energy-market, which is Europe, or the EU. The biggest proportion of that trade is in Europe’s main source of energy, which is gas, which is pipelined into Europe from Russia. So: those pipelines are vitally important not only to Russia’s economy but to Europe’s.

President Trump had gotten Congress to agree to limit the application of this provision only to "The President, in coordination with allies of the United States, may impose five or more of the sanctions described in section 235 with respect to a person if the President determines that the person knowingly, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act, makes an investment described in subsection (b) or sells, leases, or provides to the Russian Federation, for the construction of Russian energy export pipelines, goods, services, technology, information, or support."

But the new law still does include "SEC. 232. SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF PIPELINES IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION." That Section punishes "Goods, services, technology, information, or support described in this subsection are goods, services, technology, information, or support that could directly and significantly facilitate the maintenance or expansion of the construction, modernization, or repair of energy export pipelines by the Russian Federation." That includes the crucial Nord Stream pipeline, which is maintained by Russian and German companies to transport gas from Russia to the EU.

US firms have thus now gotten their stooges in Congress to punish European and Russian companies that will be determined by "The President, in coordination with allies of the United States," to be working together in these ways, to get Russia’s gas to Europe’s markets.
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Russia’s Expulsion of Staff From the US Embassy in Moscow is Unprecedented and Huge

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Last autumn, as the Obama administration considered mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from the US in response to the burgeoning Russiagate scandal, John Tefft – the US ambassador to Russia – is reported to have warned against taking this step.  Tefft’s reasons for opposing it were that the likely strong response from the Russians, which would lead to expulsions of US diplomats from Russia, would threaten the effective work of the US embassy in Moscow and of the US consulates in Russia.

The Obama administration in the end failed to heed Tefft’s warning.  Though in the event the Russians in December stayed their hand as they waited to see what the new Trump administration would bring, now that the US Congress has voted to increase the sanctions on Russia and with the return of seized Russian diplomatic properties in the US ruled out, the Russians have finally responded.  Their response must however go beyond Tefft’s worst fears

The Russians order to the US to reduce the staff at their embassy and consulates in Russia by 755 persons is in fact unprecedented.  As the BBC rightly says, though a large part of the reduction will no doubt be accounted for by non-diplomatic staff, the Russian announcement still constitutes what is by far the single biggest expulsion of diplomats in modern history
The decision to expel staff was made on Friday, but Mr Putin has now confirmed the number who must go by 1 September. 

It brings staff levels to 455, the same as Russia’s complement in Washington.

This is thought to be the largest expulsion of diplomats from any country in modern history, says the BBC’s Laura Bicker in Washington.

The number includes Russian employees of the US diplomatic missions across Russia, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Moscow adds.

Staff in the embassy in Moscow as well as the consulates in Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St Petersburg are affected, she says.
Moreover the Russian decision now establishes the principle that the number of personnel at US embassies and consulates in Russia will in future be held to the same level – currently 455 – as the number of personnel at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.
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North Korea or Iran…Where Will President Trump Attack First?

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President Trump seems to be impatiently racing toward at least one disastrous war. Maybe two. The big question is who will be first? North Korea or Iran? Over the past several days President Trump has sent two nuclear-capable B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula to send a clear message that he is ready to attack North Korea.
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Countdown To War On Venezuela

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On Sunday Venezuela will hold an general election of participants of a constitutional assembly. Half of the representatives will be elected from regular electoral districts. The other half will be elected from and by eight special constituencies like "workers", "farmers", "employers", etc. The second part may be unusual but is no less democratic than the US system which gives voters in rural states more weight than city dwellers.

The new assembly will formulate changes to the current constitution. Those changes will be decided on in another general vote. It is likely that the outcome will reinforce the favorite policies of a great majority of the people and of the social-democratic government under President Manduro.

The more wealthy part of the population as well as the foreign lobbies and governments have tried to prevent or sabotage the upcoming election. The US  has used various economic pressure points against the Venezuelan government including economic warfare with ever increasing sanctions. The opposition has held violent street rallies, attacked government institutions and supporters and called for general strikes.

But the NYT propaganda pictures of opposition rallies in the capitol Caracas show only small crowds of dozens to a few hundred of often violent youth.
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