Converting Khashoggi Into Cash

Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama:

“Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history. 

Accused “FX Cartel” Members Joined Forces After Trying To “End” Each Other

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan press ahead with the trial of three London-based currency traders – members of the infamous “FX Cartel” who allegedly colluded to move exchange rates in their favor during the brief moments before the daily fix – more amusing details from the cartel’s group chat where most of the alleged collusion took place have started to emerge.

In one anecdote that helps explain the genesis of the cartel conspiracy, two of the three traders, former JPMorgan Chase & Co. trader Richard Usher and ex-Citigroup Inc. trader Rohan Ramchandani, share how they used to “end” each other on opposing trades before they finally “got together.”

As he has done for the duration of the trial, government star witness Matt Gardiner, a former colleague who agreed to plead guilty to avoid prosecution, explained the text messages to the jury.

Cartel

Here’s Bloomberg:

Prosecutors presented the transcripts as evidence of the cooperation. In the following excerpt, Usher wrote to a colleague about Ramchandani:

he used to kill me at ecb fix, that’s why I called him up and said let’s get together cos i rather have u onside

Ramchandani also wrote to an ex-colleague:

u know how rich and me started talking

we used to end each other on fixes

eventually we met

chat now

and never are on the other side!

hahaha

Gardiner, a former currency trader at Barclays and UBS Group AG, was asked by a defense lawyer whether the widespread market practice of seeking and sharing information could be considered coordination. Michael Kendall, a lawyer for Usher, suggested in cross-examination that all the traders acted independently to maximize profits for their banks.

In a prime example of the “market color” that the traders’ lawyers said they would swap in the chat group, the conspirators would often swap congratulations when one of their trades was paying off while “discussing” situations where they were on opposing sides in “sometimes angry exchanges.” The government has called a handful of other witnesses, including Jeremy Tilsner, a senior director at consultant Alvarez & Marsal, to testify about his analysis of the traders’ transactions, while prosecutors also called witnesses from CLS Group Holdings AG, Barclays, JPMorgan and Citigroup to discuss the currency-settlement processes.

All told, global banks have paid a combined $14 billion in fines related to charges of currency rigging.

FX

If the men are convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison. And after a jury earlier this week handed down convictions for two Deutsche Bank traders for rigging Libor, despite what appeared to be a fumbling performance by the prosecution, we imagine the former “Cartel” members are starting to feel anxious. 

Alhambra: China’s Economy Is Not Crashing, It’s Worse Than That

Authored by Jeffrey Snider via Alhambra Investment Partners,

China’s economy is not crashing. Hyperbole works both ways. Last year and this, the smallest increment above a prior number was broadcast out as the greatest thing ever (US wage growth in particular), irrefutable proof of globally synchronized growth. Now that that’s over with, largely, there will be a tendency toward the other extreme.

The latest Chinese economic statistics are for several of them the lowest in some time. Starting with real GDP, at just 6.5% in Q3 2018 it’s the slowest pace since the first quarter of 2009. That’s not good especially for a statistic of such dubious practices often specifically crafted to be the best it can be.

What that suggests is not immediate catastrophe, offering instead more complete confirmation that this major economy is slowing. Again. This is the real story in China and therefore for everywhere else.

In other words, the real danger presented by these statistics is not imminent crash but rather the total disappearance of any upside potential. Even during 2017, the narrative about globally synchronized growth continued as a future property. The global economy in that year was clearly better than it was during the worldwide downturn 2015-16, easy comparison, and that was expected only as the first step toward meaningful acceleration and then recovery.

Where Economists and central bankers jumped the gun was in assuming that 2017’s improvement was the only evidence they needed for those complete expectations. As it has turned out, as it always turns out, changing from minus to plus signs is a necessary condition for better days but not by itself a sufficient one.

Acceleration requires momentum among other factors, and momentum is derived from conviction. The best days of 2017 never really had that, the absence perhaps clearest in China (particularly the hollow rebound of CNY which “somehow” lacked “capital inflows”).

Everyone kept waiting for the Chinese to zoom on ahead and bring the whole up with them. Meanwhile, in China they kept waiting for the rest of the world to take the lead so as to pull them up out of their funk. That’s been the thing about “global growth” since 2011, everyone expects that someone else will solve their economic problems for them. Momentum will arrive, you see, it’ll come from somewhere else.

Without a clear path to that next step toward recovery, doubts multiply rather than abate. What was for a time mild opportunity, reflation, sinks back toward the malaise of liquidity risks that over time can only return to self-reinforcing.

This is what’s significant about China’s numbers today. They practically declare reflation dead and gone. There is no upside left, what you saw in 2017 was the best of it – and it wasn’t very good. It was, in honest analysis, not really that much better than 2016 at all; certainly less than the prior peak.

The rest of the statistics bear this out. Nominal GDP, perhaps a more appropriate measure of China’s economic conditions, decelerated yet again in Q3. Year-over-year, it rose just 9.6%, down from 9.8% in Q2 and a peak of 11.7% set way back in Q1 2017. The more time passes without clear acceleration, the more it has to sink in (everywhere but Washington DC) that this really is a rising dollar “L.”

The world economy has never recovered from the 2011 eurodollar crisis (squeeze). The system broke in August 2007, and created all sorts of devastation immediately thereafter. But for a time in 2010 and the first half of 2011 it looked like recovery was at least possible if unusually weak.

Economists, incapable of appreciating the global monetary system for their modern practice of neglect, mistook 2011 for a lack of sufficient time; they crafted monetary policies (with no money in them) so as to buy the financial system enough of it thinking that would be the magic elixir.

Instead, time has proven beyond all doubt that 2011 was the last stand for recovery. It just isn’t possible so long as the global reserve currency, the eurodollar not dollar, remains dysfunctional. There can never be enough momentum to escape, opportunity surrendered by this neglect.

The more Chinese statistics in particular show this to be true the more it will spread and eventually become self-reinforcing (again). In certain places, it may have already.

The rest of the data follows along this way; not crashing but what may be worse as the end of any upside.

Chinese Industrial Production rose just 5.8% year-over-year in September, the first month below 6% in two and a half years going all the way back to the trough of the last downturn in February 2016. As noted at the outset, there can be an inclination to make more out of that comparison when, for now, it simply confirms there just isn’t any recovery.

Along those lines, it stands in sharp contrast to sentiment which even in China had gotten way ahead of economic reality. It’s another element of 2017 and globally synchronized growth that is being slowly, steadily undone in 2018. Sentiment has proved a worthless indicator, and well beyond the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

Retail sales was practically the lone bright spot, which merely means there wasn’t as much slowing as there had been. Rising 9.2% in September, it was the fastest pace in five months, but still materially less than the 10%+ rate that prevailed 2015 forward.

Fixed asset investment managed to tick a little higher last month as private capex remained steady while government investment rebounded slightly. Overall, FAI was up 5.4% on an accumulated basis (YTD) compared to August’s record low 5.3%. Private FAI also on an accumulated basis stayed at 8.7%. State-owned FAI gained 1.2% last month compared to 1.1% the month before.

China’s economy is not crashing. However, it is slowing and from an already weakened level. The Chinese system did not actually recover from the last downturn despite now three years distance. What these numbers show is that, like the eurodollar system, there is now very little chance that it ever will. It may not seem like much compared to a full-blown breakdown, but pretty conclusive evidence for a worldwide, multi-year (decade?) “L” should be terrifying.

A world without opportunity is a far more dangerous one than a world only temporarily stripped of it. The V can be scary but only on the way down. The L is, well, I think we’re going to find out.

“Marijuana Impairment” – Stoned Drivers Cause More Traffic Accidents In Pot Legal States 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found, in a new study published Thursday, that traffic accidents are up 6% in four states where recreational use of marijuana has been legalized. 

Earlier in the week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a press release about a 2017 traffic accident linked to the “use of marijuana in combination with the misuse of a prescription medication” that killed 12 in Texas. 

“The last thing in the world that we want is to introduce another legal substance where we may be adding to that toll and to the carnage on our highways,” David Harkey, president of the IIHS’s Highway Loss Data Institute told Bloomberg. “With marijuana impairment, we’re just now starting to understand what we don’t know.”  

In a separate interview with NBC, Harkey said the new reports do not confirm there is a direct risk by the use of marijuana among motorist, but certainly raises caution flags, especially since law enforcement has limited ways to test drivers if they are under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. 

“It’s certainly early in the game,” Harkey told NBC News. But he warned: “We’re seeing a trend in the wrong direction.” 

The IIHS study notes that after retail sales of recreational cannabis began, the frequency of collision insurance claims in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington rose about 6%, however, this trend was not observed in surrounding states where marijuana is illegal. 

Another IIHS study shows a 5% increase in the rate of auto crashes per one million vehicle registrations reported to police in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington versus neighboring states that have not legalized the drug, reported Bloomberg. 

“The bottom line of all of this is that we’re seeing a consistently higher crash risk in those states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes,” Harkey told Bloomberg. 

There are now 30 states that have legalized medical marijuana, with Oklahoma recently joining the ranks. Recreational marijuana is legal in California, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

The most recent Gallup poll shows near record-high support for legalizing marijuana in the US, as more states are set to follow, including Michigan, where recreational pot use is on the November ballot. 

Gallup poll results show Americans are craving pot, with an explosion in acceptance since the financial crash of 2008: 

  • Americans’ support for marijuana legalization was at a record high of 64% in Gallup’s most recent update in October 2017. This represents a continuing increase in support for legalization over the past several decades, with half or more generally favoring it since 2011. 

Since the legalization wave began, safety experts have been trying to quantify the potential impact on highway safety, as two IIHS studies show traffic accidents in legal pot states have increased. With so many more states set to allow recreational marijuana use, regulators, law enforcement, and medical authorities need to address the future challenges of stoned drivers on America’s highways. 

From “Soft” Tyranny To Totalitarian Rule: America’s Unrelenting Data Collection

Authored Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces ) via SHTFplan.com,

Totalitarian – Of or being a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute control over all aspects of life and opposition is outlawed; a practitioner or supporter of such a government.

– American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Ed.

We have almost reached the point where the country can be referred to as “totalitarian” in accordance with the definition provided. Incrementally, it creeps forward: the “soft” tyranny. Curing, refining itself, and hardening, there will be a point of no return that is reached… a point where it has metastasized until it is both all encompassing and ubiquitous.

The problem is twofold: the incremental spread as mentioned, and the complacency and inability of people to recognize it for what it is. Someone posted a comment recently with a paragraph from Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” where the author regretfully lamented the complacency displayed by the Russians as the country turned Communist overnight. His regret was that the citizenry could have stopped it with hatchets and pitchforks at that point if they had acted and been of one accord. I have recommended it as a “must read,” and strongly advise you to consider it as a “window” to what is happening in the U.S.

Two articles surfaced this week that are astonishing: they show the surveillance and data-collection “culture” that is being inflicted upon us, dulling our already stultified public into vapidity and inaction by desensitization. This latter term: the outrage of yesterday becomes the “accepted” and commonplace of today, and even further/worse tomorrow. Paradigm shift.

First, one written by Betsy Mikel entitled “Walmart just made an announcement that may make you never want to shop there again,” published on 10/9/18 by Inc. Here is an excerpt:

Walmart is interested in what’s going on in your body while you shop.

The company wants to collect this data in a particularly creepy way: through the handles of their shopping carts. Walmart recently submitted a patent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called “System and Method for a Biometric Feedback Cart Handle,” CBInsights reports.

These innovative shopping cart handles would collect your biometric data, meaning your stress level, your body temperature, and heart rate — all while you’re strolling through the aisles of your local store, filling your cart with Walmart’s everyday low-priced items.

The article proceeds to explain Walmart’s “spin” on it is to provide a way to “check on a customer with a physical problem.”

Since when has Walmart ever been concerned about anyone’s physical well-being? Isn’t this the company that settled out of court for millions to pay for stolen labor time and breaks from employees? Isn’t this the same Walmart that twenty years ago put small stores in to break local competitors (Mom and Pop stores) in small towns…and when they went belly up, closed their small Walmarts and “plopped” a Super-Walmart down in the center of where five small ones used to be? Then all the little serfs could come from miles around to service the monolith with their play money, as the local economies of the small towns died, right? Worse. Being a “too big to fail” type of business, they’re deep in bed with the governments, federal and state. Simple data collection “for your own safety and well-being,” right?

No. They’re going to tie this data in with all of the other micro-data and metadata they are already gathering…filming you with their little cameras…filming Johnny Jones Junior and Daddy Jones as they pick up a box of shells for the shotgun…amount and type recorded and filed next to the photos and film with their names and biometrics.

They want every piece of information on you and your family, and they’re not going to stop until they have it…all of it.

Article number two is even worse, as you may deduce from the title. Published by Maggie Fox of NBC News, it is entitled “DNA databases can send the police or hackers to your door, study finds.” Take a look at this excerpt:

More than 60 percent of Americans who have some European ancestry can be identified using DNA databases – even if they have not submitted their own DNA, researchers reported Thursday.

Enough people have done some kind of DNA test to make it possible to match much of the population, the researchers said. So even if you don’t submit your own DNA, if a cousin does, it could lead people to you.

They said their findings, published in the journal Science, raise concerns about privacy. Not only could police use this information, but so could other people seeking personal information about someone.

The article goes on to talk about Joseph DeAngelo, a former cop in California suspected of murder, and how they nabbed him by using DNA submitted by a “distant cousin” that narrowed down the list for cops on his trail. Read the article for more specifics and demographics on these DNA “commercial” test kits.

The point here is the stupid, faddish public is dumb enough to submit the material…the very DNA being used by the “trusted” authorities…either out in the open or by back-door methods…to round up all of the DNA for the surveillance state.

I invite anyone to comment who has experience with a “transfer station,” or other garbage collection facility, and anyone in the healthcare/hospital industry with some inside info as to their nefarious methods. You can easily see from these examples how they are hard on the trail…relentless bloodhounds that have the scent of their quarry…and they will not stop until everyone is categorized and monitored. Then the real fun begins.

To digress: this is why we must all be of one accord, and disseminate this information and take steps while there is still time. As the weeks, months, and years roll by; the hellish apparatus of what was once termed “government” becomes a machine for rule by enslavement. That machine is perfecting itself. When control is finally obtained…total, unchallenged control? That’s when the liquidations…the killings…will begin, for the ownership of the resources and for the control and enslavement of all humanity.

China Unveils World’s Largest Transport Drone 

China has successfully tested the world’s largest commercial drone developed and manufactured by the China Academy of Aerospace Electronics Technology (CAAET) made its first successful test flight at Baotou Airport in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Tuesday, reported Ecns.cn, the official English-language website of China News Service. 

SF Express Co., Ltd, a Chinese transport company based in Shenzen, conducted the first public test flight on Oct. 16 with the new delivery drone, named Feihong-98, in cooperation with CAAET. 

Feihong-98 is a Chinese copy of the Soviet Antonov An-2, which is China’s first domestically-built transport aircraft, the Shiefei Y-5B has a 60-year history since its first flight in 1957.  

According to Liu Meixuan, president of CAAET, the FH-98 is now the most affordable and advanced transport drone in the world.

The plane has a maximum weight of 5.25 tons, with a payload of 1.5 tons, and a volume space of 15 cubic meters. It can reach a max flight altitude of 15,000 ft. while cruising at 112mph.

SF Express and CAAET signed an exclusive agreement in 2017, with the intentions of operating a large-scale drone delivery fleet in the next several years. 

Pandaily said it took about eight months for researchers to apply the technologies and complete the research and development of core technologies that converted the plane into a fully autonomous drone.

Feihong-98 completed its first flight test in August. It received an operational approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and should finish up testing by June 2019. 

With a takeoff and landing distance of roughly 500 ft., the FH-98 could be the most affordable transport drone for world governments, in need for a low-cost solution to handle emergency and disaster relief missions, and or just a cheap option to transport goods. 

In the last twenty years, China has emerged as one of Washington’s top competitors in the global drone market. China is offering affordable drone technology, that has been rapidly gaining global market share. 

China manufactures several types of drones. The Caihong 5 (CH-5) Rainbow, its newest multi-role capable drone, has seen increased activity in the Middle East — especially the Yemeni Civil War. The CH-5 competes with the American Reaper and Israeli Heron TP. 

China is a major exporter of multi-role strike capable drones. Between 2008 and 2017, China exported a total of 88 drones to eleven different countries. 

Regarding total drone sales, however, China lags the US (as shown above). Since the financial crisis to 2017, the US has sold 351 drones to numerous countries, followed by Israel’s 168 drone export. 

China’s drone exports have greatly benefited from American export controls. The US has historically slapped some countries with weapon bans, which has allowed China to fill the void. If countries cannot buy arms from US defense companies, they usually resort to China. With a wide variety of drones, and now the addition of the world’s largest transport drone, it seems China is threatening Washington’s global drone market share — a move that does not sit well with America’s military-industrial complex. 

Judge Orders Mueller To Prove Russian Company Meddled In Election

A Washington federal judge on Thursday ordered special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to clarify election meddling claims lodged against a Russian company operated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Bloomberg

Concord Management and Consulting, LLC. – one of three businesses indicted by Mueller in February along with 13 individuals for election meddling, surprised the special counsel in April when they actually showed up in court to fight the charges. Mueller’s team tried to delay Concord from entering the case, arguing that thee Russian company not been properly served, however Judge Dabney Friedrich denied the request – effectively telling prosecutors ‘well, they’re here.’ 

Concord was accused in the indictment of supporting the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian ‘troll farm’ accused of trying to influence the 2016 US election. 

On Thursday, Judge Freidrich asked Mueller’s prosecutors if she should assume they aren’t accusing Concord of violating US laws applicable to election expenditures and failure to register as a foreign agent. 

Concord has asked Dabney to throw out the charges – claiming that Mueller’s office fabricated a crime, and that there is no law against interfering in elections. 

According to the judge’s request for clarification, the Justice Department has argued that it doesn’t have to show that Concord had a legal duty to report its expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Rather, the allegation is that the company knowingly engaged in deceptive acts that precluded the FEC, or the Justice Department, from ascertaining whether they had broken the law. –Bloomberg

On Monday, Friedrich raised questions over whether the special counsel’s office could prove a key element of their case – saying that it was “hard to see” how allegations of Russian influence were intended to interfere with US government operations vs. simply “confusing voters,” reports law.com.

During a 90-minute hearing, Friedrich questioned prosecutor Jonathan Kravis about how the government would be able to show the Russian defendants were aware of the Justice Department and FEC’s functions and then deliberately sought to skirt them.

You still have to show knowledge of the agencies and what they do. How do you do that?” Friedrich asked.

Kravis, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, argued that the government needed only to show that Concord Management and the other defendants were generally aware that the U.S. government “regulates and monitors” foreign participation in American politics. That awareness, Kravis said, could be inferred from the Russians’ alleged creation of fake social media accounts that appeared to be run by U.S. citizens and “computer infrastructure” intended to mask the Russian origin of the influence operation.

That is deception that is directed at a higher level,” Kravis said. Kravis appeared in court with Michael Dreeben, a top Justice Department appellate lawyer on detail to the special counsel’s office. –law.com

Concord pleaded not guilty in May. Their attorney, Eric Dubelier – a partner at Reed Smith, has described the election meddling charges as “make believe,” arguing on Monday that Mueller’s indictment against Concord “doesn’t charge a crime.” 

“There is no statute of interfering with an election. There just isn’t,” said Dubelier, who added that Mueller’s office alleged a “made-up crime to fit the facts they have.” 

Dubelier added that the case against Concord Management is the first in US history “where anyone has ever been charged with defrauding the Justice Department” through their failure to register under FARA. 

 

 

Opportunities Abound After Khashoggi-Gate

Authored by Tom Luongo,

Every crisis is also an opportunity.  Don’t worry I’m not about to go all Rahm Emmanuel, Mr. Realpolitik, on you today.  The death/dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi is both a crisis and an opportunity for the worst people in the world.

And all of them are seizing the day, as it were. ..

Frankly, most of it makes me sick to my stomach. Because where were these virtue-signaling champions of human rights like Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan or Lindsay Graham (R – AIPAC) for the past three years as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) prosecuted a starvation campaign in Yemen with U.S. complicity?

Does Lindsay not know that MbS is funding the U.S. occupation in eastern Syria he’s so in love with?

Now all of a sudden, every war-monger in Washington and Wall St. wants to cut ties with him because killing a political opponent is “beyond the pale?”  Even Christine LaGarde of the IMF will be a no-show at MbS’s big “Davos in the Desert” conference. 

This is a political hit job. 

If this faux outrage wasn’t so transparent it would be pathetic.  On second thought, it is pathetic.

The truth is MbS is a monster.  But, he’s our monster, unfortunately.  We’ve known this since the moment he entered the scene. 

Since getting Trump’s stamp of approval in early 2017 MbS has used that to go too far a number of times which the U.S. has had to clean up behind him.  His blockade of Qatar didn’t have Washington’s approval. 

I’m sure killing Khashoggi in the Saudi Turkish consulate didn’t either.

His consolidation of power was swift and brutal. 

It’s only just now dawning on American media companies that the Saudis are a bunch of brutal thugs that make the Lannisters look like Quakers?

MbS has upset the apple carts of long-standing relationships within the U.S. and European elites and bureaucracies while Trump and Jared Kushner attempt to rebuild the U.S./Saudi/Israeli alliance which languished under Obama.

And that’s the key to understanding this situation.  They want their satraps back. 

The over-the-top moralistic chest-beating by the U.S. media is a clear sign that the The Davos Crowd ­– the unelected elites and their government quislings who think they run the world — wants things returned to the way they were before Trump.

And with Trump’s huge victory over them in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, Mueller’s Russia-gate nonsense coming to a close and polls tightening like nooses around the DNC’s neck it was time to launch that last ditch effort to derail Trump before he consolidated power post mid-terms.

So, with that as the motivation all that is lacking is the catalyst. 

There must have been a reason why MbS went after Khashoggi now, at a time when it could do the most political damage to Trump.  What that could be I have no idea. Better minds than mine are working on that.  What I know is that all of this stinks of former CIA Director John Brennan and Hillary Clinton trying to derail Trump’s recent domestic political victories and possibly save their own hides.

Why else would Brennan be all over MSNBC being spoon-fed the official narrative by the talking head in this video if there wasn’t an angle here

Because they all know that if the Democrats fail to retake at least the House of Representative on November 6th, they will have almost zero leverage left on Capitol Hill to protect them from their myriad of crimes.  The Senate is a lost cause, the Republicans will likely take 58 seats into 2020.

So, the timing here is what is interesting to me. 

This situation screams manufactured crisis and everyone is looking at this as an opportunity to get something out of it.  Either MbS was set up or he was provoked (thanks to his now legendary poor impulse control) into offing Khashoggi. 

There are almost as many theories out there as to why he would do this as there are motives for someone to go after MbS himself. 

Turkey is looking for a way out of Trump’s dog house.  President Erdogan offered up Pastor Brunson as a peace offering.  Turkey also wants concessions on U.S. backing of Kurdish militias in Syria and buying Iranian oil in two weeks. 

Wayne Madsen covers the Game of Thrones happening within the Gulf Cooperation Council which only adds to the murk.

That said, regardless of MbS’s motivations he’s taking the brunt of this.  But the real target is Trump.  And Trump may be forced to ditch MbS along the way. 

None of this, in the end, is a bad thing.  Trump will survive this thing with Khashoggi because his base doesn’t care.  They care that the Saudis are awful people, though, so eventually Trump will have to wind down the love affair.

And while I’m loathe to be happy about the ‘bad guys’ winning a battle in some ways, anything that weakens Saudi Arabia’s hold over both U.S. media and foreign policy is a welcome development.

The Saudis cannot survive without friends.  The Night of the Long Knives is coming within the GCC and MbS hasn’t made many friends in the past four years. 

It’s time for the Trump administration to end its quixotic quest to overthrow Iran and keep the world safe for Neoconservatism.  We may have gotten an early inkling of this with the removal of Nikki Haley from the U.N. and Trump calling out Defense Secretary James Mattis as “something of a Democrat.”

Since Mattis and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster were the strongest supporters of staying in both Syria and Afghanistan which Trump reluctantly went along with.  But, I think, the IL-20 shootdown has Trump in a different state of mind. 

The real opportunity here isn’t for the dead-enders in D.C. and Davos.  The real opportunity is for Trump to remake his cabinet and retake control of his foreign policy from the Israeli Firsters and Neocons he’s had to surround himself with now that he’ll be in charge of the GOP next month.

Beginning the process of loosening ties with Saudi Arabia in light of Khashoggi-gate would be a good start.