Tuesday, July 17, 2018

TRUMP CALLS OFF COLD WAR II


By Pat Buchanan


Beginning his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin, President Trump declared that U.S. relations with Russia have “never been worse.”

He then added pointedly, that just changed “about four hours ago.”

It certainly did. With his remarks in Helsinki and at the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump has signaled a historic shift in U.S. foreign policy that may determine the future of this nation and the fate of his presidency.

He has rejected the fundamental premises of American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War and blamed our wretched relations with Russia not on Vladimir Putin, but squarely on the U.S. establishment.

In a tweet prior to the meeting, Trump indicted the elites of both parties: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

Trump thereby repudiated the records and agendas of the neocons and their liberal interventionist allies, as well as the archipelago of War Party think tanks beavering away inside the Beltway.

Looking back over the week, from Brussels to Britain to Helsinki, Trump’s message has been clear, consistent and startling.

NATO is obsolete. European allies have freeloaded off U.S. defense while rolling up huge trade surpluses at our expense. Those days are over.

Europeans are going to stop stealing our markets and start paying for their own defense.

And there will be no Cold War II.

We are not going to let Putin’s annexation of Crimea or aid to pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine prevent us from working on a rapprochement and a partnership with him, Trump is saying. 

We are going to negotiate arms treaties and talk out our differences as Ronald Reagan did with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Helsinki showed that Trump meant what he said when he declared repeatedly, “Peace with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

On Syria, Trump indicated that he and Putin are working with Bibi Netanyahu, who wants all Iranian forces and Iran-backed militias kept far from the Golan Heights. 

As for U.S. troops in Syria, says Trump, they will be coming out after ISIS is crushed, and we are 98 percent there.

That is another underlying message here: America is coming home from foreign wars and will be shedding foreign commitments.

Both before and after the Trump-Putin meeting, the cable news coverage was as hostile and hateful toward the president as any this writer has ever seen. The media may not be the “enemy of the people” Trump says they are, but many are implacable enemies of this president.

Some wanted Trump to emulate Nikita Khrushchev, who blew up the Paris summit in May 1960 over a failed U.S. intelligence operation – the U-2 spy plane shot down over the Urals just weeks earlier.

Khrushchev had demanded that Ike apologize. Ike refused, and Khrushchev exploded. Some media seemed to be hoping for just such a confrontation.

When Trump spoke of the “foolishness and stupidity” of the U.S. foreign policy establishment that contributed to this era of animosity in U.S.-Russia relations, what might he have had in mind?

Was it the U.S. provocatively moving NATO into Russia’s front yard after the collapse of the USSR?

Was it the U.S. invasion of Iraq to strip Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction he did not have that plunged us into endless wars of the Middle East?

Was it U.S. support of Syrian rebels determined to oust Bashar Assad, leading to ISIS intervention and a seven-year civil war with half a million dead, a war which Putin eventually entered to save his Syrian ally?

Was it George W. Bush’s abrogation of Richard Nixon’s ABM treaty and drive for a missile defense that caused Putin to break out of the Reagan INF treaty and start deploying cruise missiles to counter it?

Was it U.S. complicity in the Kiev coup that ousted the elected pro-Russian regime that caused Putin to seize Crimea to hold onto Russia’s Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol?

Many Putin actions we condemn were reactions to what we did.

Russia annexed Crimea bloodlessly. But did not the U.S. bomb Serbia for 78 days to force Belgrade to surrender her cradle province of Kosovo?

How was that more moral than what Putin did in Crimea?

If Russian military intelligence hacked into the emails of the DNC, exposing how they stuck it to Bernie Sanders, Trump says he did not collude in it. Is there, after two years, any proof that he did?

Trump insists Russian meddling had no effect on the outcome in 2016 and he is not going to allow media obsession with Russiagate to interfere with establishing better relations.

Former CIA Director John Brennan rages that, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki … was … treasonous. … He is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Well, as Patrick Henry said long ago, “If this be treason, make the most of it!”

Monday, July 16, 2018

President Trump and Russia's Putin Just Held a Historic Press Conference, Here's What They Said


By Katie Pavlich | Townhall


President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up a historic meeting and press conference in Helsinki, Finland Monday afternoon and addressed a number of pressing issues facing both countries. 

"Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process, but we’ve taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought," President Trump said.

Both leaders started their remarks at the lectern by saying their discussions went well, although serious differences remain. Here are the major topics they covered. 

Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election: 

"During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections," President Trump said. 

Putin flat out denied his government has ever attempted to influence a U.S. election, despite the Department of Justice indicting a dozen Russian military operatives last week for hacking state election systems, the DNC and stealing sensitive digital documents for publication. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, after summit with @POTUS, again denies meddling in U.S. elections.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 16, 2018

When asked whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community or Putin on the issue of Russian interference, President Trump gave Putin credibility by accepting his denial and failed to accept the U.S. assessment.

@POTUS: “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” 
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 16, 2018

President Trump's tweets about the U.S.-Russia relationship:

President Trump was asked about this tweet, which he sent this morning. 

Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018

“I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish, I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago," he said. "I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward.”

Robert Mueller's Special Counsel Probe:

President Trump was asked about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 presidential election and said it has been terrible for the country. 

@POTUS: “There was no collusion at all.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 16, 2018

When asked by a reporter if the Russian government had any salacious or damning information about President Trump, Putin laughed.

Syria: 

“Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Trump said about the situation in Syria. 

Energy:

President Trump didn't call Putin an enemy, but rather a "good competitor"  in reference to energy issues in the region. He said there will be competition in the future over gas and oil pipelines in Europe.

Near the end of the press conference, Putin handed President Trump a soccer ball and said, "The ball is in your court." President Trump then threw it to first lady Melania Trump, who was sitting in the front row, and said it will be great for his son Barron.

You can watch the press conference in full below:

Joint Press Conference from Helsinki, Finland:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018


____________________

Mueller’s Politicized Indictment of Twelve Russian Intelligence Officers

By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY | National Review


If the idea was to give Vladimir Putin and his thug regime a new way to sabotage the United States, nice work.

So, is Russia now presumed innocent of hacking the 2016 election?
If not, it is difficult to understand any proper purpose served by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of twelve military officers in the Kremlin’s intelligence services for doing what everybody in America already knew that they did, and has known since before Donald Trump took office — indeed, since before the 2016 election.

Make no mistake: This is nakedly politicized law enforcement. There is absolutely no chance any of the Russian officials charged will ever see the inside of an American courtroom. The indictment is a strictly political document by which the special counsel seeks to justify the existence of his superfluous investigation.

Oh, and by the way, the answer to the question posed above is, “Yes, it is now the official position of the United States that Russia gets our Constitution’s benefit of the doubt.” 

Here is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announcing the Friday the 13th indictment: “In our justice system, everyone who is charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”

Of course, the indicted Russians are never going to be proven guilty — not in the courtroom sense Rosenstein was invoking.

As is so often the case in today’s politicized Justice Department, Rosenstein was trying to make a different political point. As he went on to note, if people whom we have formally charged are presumed innocent, then, a fortiori, people who have not been accused — implicitly, Rosenstein was talking about President Trump — must also be presumed innocent. 

But, see, you can’t make that point without stepping on the political purpose of Friday’s charade: We have taken the not only pointless but reckless step of indicting operatives of a hostile foreign power who cannot be prosecuted and whose schemes could easily have been exposed — and, in fact, have been exposed, multiple times — in public government reports.

So now, due-process rules oblige us to caution you that we must presume the Russians did not do what we have formally accused them of doing. They are entitled to that presumption unless and until we convict them in court, which is never going to happen.

Rosenstein made another telling remark at his big press conference. The Justice Department, he explained, will now “transition responsibility for this case to our Department’s National Security Division while we await the apprehension of the defendants.”

Now, stop giggling over that last part — the bit where we hold our breath until Russian dictator Vladimir Putin extradites his spies into the FBI’s waiting arms.

I’m talking about the first part: Mueller’s case, the definitive case about what Russia did to interfere in the 2016 election, is no longer Mueller’s case. 

It is being “transitioned” — i.e., buried — in the Justice Department unit that deals with counterintelligence matters that do not result in public trials.

This underscores what we have been arguing here since before Mueller was appointed: There was no need and no basis in federal regulations for a special counsel.

A special counsel is supposed to be appointed only when there are:

(a) a concrete factual basis to believe federally prosecutable crimes have been committed, calling for a criminal investigation, and

(b) a conflict of interest that prevents the Justice Department from conducting the criminal investigation.

As we’ve observed countless times, there was no basis for a criminal investigation of President Trump or the Trump campaign. 

The fact that Russia interfered in an American election — as it routinely does — never meant that the perceived beneficiary of the interference was criminally complicit in it. 

There is no known evidence that Trump-campaign officials had any involvement in hacking by the Russian intelligence services. 

Mueller’s new indictment powerfully suggests that this could not have happened — the Russians were expert in their cyberespionage tactics, they did not need anyone’s help, and they took pains to conceal their identity from everyone with whom they dealt.

Moreover, even though Trump-campaign officials have been charged with other crimes (having nothing to do with the 2016 election), and some of those Trump officials had “contacts” with Russians, Mueller has never charged one of them with a crime related to Russia’s espionage attack on the election.

Nor has he ever elicited from any defendant who pled guilty an admission of any such crime. 

The only known allegations of such a crime are contained in the unverified, Clinton-campaign-sponsored Steele dossier, and the Trump-campaign figures implicated in it have either not been charged at all (e.g., Carter Page, Michael Cohen), or not been charged with a “collusion” crime (Paul Manafort).

Thus, among the worst aspects of Mueller’s new indictment is its continuation of the Justice Department’s politicized perversion of its critical counterintelligence mission.

Lacking the requisite basis to conduct a criminal investigation, the Justice Department used its counterintelligence mission as a pretext for appointing a special counsel. 

This was grossly improper:

(1) Counterintelligence work, which is geared at thwarting the operations of hostile foreign powers, is not the prosecutor work of building criminal cases;

(2) not surprisingly, then, there is no authority in the regulations to assign a special counsel to a counterintelligence investigation; and

(3) because counterintelligence authorities do not afford Americans the due-process protections required in criminal investigations, the Justice Department is not permitted to use counterintelligence as a pretext for conducting what is actually an effort to build a criminal prosecution.

Now Mueller has taken the next logical wayward step: He has woven an indictment that can never be tried out of counterintelligence work against foreign governments that is not supposed to be the subject of criminal prosecution — i.e., the subject of public courtroom testing under due-process rules.

This is not the way counterintelligence is supposed to work. 

And the Justice Department knows it. 

That is why Mueller’s indictment will now be the property of DOJ’s National Security Division, the home of other non-prosecutable foreign counterintelligence work that is never intended to see the light of day in a public courtroom.

And why such an easy transition? 

Because there is no conflict of interest.

There never was. 

Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was never something that the Justice Department was unable to investigate in the normal course. 

In fact, for months, the Trump Justice Department was investigating it in the normal course, just as the Obama Justice Department had done. 

Then, President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. 

It was this event that prompted Rosenstein to appoint Mueller. 

We got a special counsel not because of Russia’s espionage or any evidence indicating actual Trump-campaign complicity in it; we got a special counsel because Rosenstein was deeply involved in Comey’s ouster and wanted to fend off Democratic attacks on him over it.

The only point of the new indictment is to justify Rosenstein’s decision and Mueller’s existence. 

Proponents of the unnecessary special counsel want to say, “See, we really needed this investigation.”

But that can be said with a straight face only if the goalposts are moved.

To be clear, we did need an FBI counterintelligence investigation of Russia’s espionage operation against the 2016 election, and we already had a quite aggressive one before Mueller came on the scene. 

But we would have needed a special-counsel investigation only if there had been a concrete factual basis to believe the Trump campaign conspired in Russia’s espionage operation against the 2016 election.

There never was. 

So now, the purported need for Mueller is being rationalized on two fictitious premises.

The first is that the new indictment shows we needed Mueller to get to the bottom of Russia’s perfidy. 

This is false: There is nothing new in Mueller’s indictment.

His participation was unnecessary to discover what our counterintelligence investigators have learned.

The intelligence they have gathered should not have been put in an indictment — aggression by hostile foreign powers is not a law-enforcement issue.

It is a mockery of the justice system to charge foreign aggressors and pretend we presume them innocent of their attacks against our country.

The second is that the number of indictments Mueller has generated proves that there were solid grounds to suspect Trump-campaign “collusion” in Russia’s election-meddling. 

The blatant, partisan dishonesty of this claim is best encapsulated in this passage from the Washington Post’s report on Mueller’s new indictment:

Mueller and a team of prosecutors have been working since May 2017 to determine whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia to interfere in the election. With the new indictment, his office has filed charges against 32 people on crimes including hacking, money laundering and lying to the FBI.

The Post goes on grudgingly to point out that 26 of the 32 charged are Russians “who are unlikely to ever be put on trial in the United States.” 

Unlikely? 

But the paper conveniently omits mention of the fact that none of the 32 have been charged with a Trump–Russia conspiracy to interfere in the election. That’s the only thing Mueller was needed for.

As I pointed out on Twitter over the weekend, besides the two-dozen-odd Kremlin operatives already charged, there are 144 million other people in Russia who will never see the inside of an American courtroom.

If Mueller indicts every one of them, his stats will look really impressive . . . and there will still be no Trump conspiracy against the election.

What there will be, though, is a new international order in which nation-states are encouraged to file criminal charges against each other’s officials for actions deemed to be provocative.

Or, more accurately, actions that can be exploited for domestic political purposes. 

Of all government officials in the world, American officials are the most active on the global stage — and that includes meddling in other countries’ elections.

I doubt our diplomats, intelligence operatives, elected officials, and citizens will much like living in the world Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein have given us. 

If the idea was to give Vladimir Putin and his thug regime a new way to sabotage the United States, nice work.

ANDREW C. MCCARTHY — Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review@andrewcmccarthy


https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/07/muellers-latest-indictments-russians-politicized-pointless/

Friday, July 13, 2018

President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump meet Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle



President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump met Queen Elizabeth II Friday at Windsor Castle.  (AP)

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump joined Queen Elizabeth II in an official greeting ceremony at Windsor Castle Friday, in the first meeting between the two heads of state since the 2016 election.

The monarch welcomed Trump and Mrs. Trump in the courtyard of the castle for a social visit with the queen, who does not share her political views.

The 92-year-old has met every U.S. president who held office since her coronation in 1952, with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson. She also met Harry Truman when she was a princess, meaning she has met 12 sitting U.S. presidents.

Queen Elizabeth II, left, and President Trump, right, met for the first time Friday.  (AP)

rump and the queen walked up and down the garden, inspecting a guard of honor, formed by the Coldstream Guards. They then spent around 30 minutes getting acquainted over tea inside the castle.

The president’s visit with the queen came after a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May. The two leaders pledged their full cooperation on trade and other issues, easing tensions after Trump gave an explosive interview with The Sun in which he criticized May’s handling of Brexit and called into question a U.S.-U.K. trade deal.

RELATED STORY:

Despite comments in the interview, Trump on Friday said he supported whatever decision May comes to regarding Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union.

“Once the Brexit process is concluded—and perhaps the U.K. has left the EU, I don’t know, whatever you’re going to do is okay with us,” Trump said. “Just make sure we can trade together. That’s all that matters.”

First Lady Melania Trump, left, Queen Elizabeth II, center, and President Trump, right, stand for the National Anthem at Windsor Castle.  (AP)

May promised a trade deal with the U.S. and with others around the world, noting that she and Trump came up with an “ambitious deal that works for both countries,” that would build on the U.K.’s independent trade policy.

RELATED STORY:

Trump touted the U.S. relationship with the U.K. as “the highest level of special.”

The queen poses for a photo with President Trump and Melania in the Grand Corridor during their visit to Windsor Castle  (AP)

Trump also used the interview to praise the queen, calling her a "tremendous woman".

"If you think of it, for so many years she has represented her country, she has really never made a mistake," he said. "You don't see, like, anything embarrassing. She is just an incredible woman. My wife is a tremendous fan of hers. She has got a great and beautiful grace about her."

Trump will travel to Scotland over the weekend, and then to Helsinki, Finland for a highly-anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which will be his last stop on his four-country European tour.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


__________________

In London, pro-Trump counter-protesters hit with abuse, some violence


Trump supporters face off with anti-Trump protesters in London.  (Fox News/Adam Shaw)

LONDON –  A small enclave of pro-Trump supporters were hit by waves of verbal abuse, and even a few moments of violence, on Friday as they made their stand for the U.S. president amid widespread protests. 

The group of about two-dozen Trump supporters camped out outside The Silver Cross pub and were quickly surrounded by anti-Trump protesters and a circle of police who tried to keep the peace.

The supporters chugged beer and sang pro-Trump football chants, waved U.K. and U.S. flags and threw back counter-slogans at the glowering protesters who accused them of being fascists and Nazis.

“Nazi scum, off our streets,” the anti-Trump crowd yelled, countered by chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

While a tense truce held for the most part, one protester broke through the police cordon and hit a Trump supporter before being dragged away. He told Fox News that he had been told by police that the protester had been arrested but later released.

“We’re here to show that President Trump is welcome,” James Goddard, sporting a shiny red ear, told Fox News. He accused the protesters of ignoring controversial figures such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others and being brainwashed by the mainstream media.

Later, another anti-Trump protester tried to break through, but was intercepted by police and thrown up against the wall.

Augustine Chukwuma Obodo said he loves “everything” about Trump and was representing “Friends of Trump UK.”

“They are surprised to see a black man as a Trump supporter,” he said, wearing a red MAGA cap.

Sure enough, an anti-Trump protester pointed her finger through the police barrier at him: “Excuse me, what’s a black guy doing there?”

The supporters also chanted in support of Tommy Robinson, a controversial right-wing activist who was jailed last month after filming outside a court room. A pro-Robinson rally is planned for Saturday.

“Tommy’s not coming home,” one Trump and Robinson opponent yelled at them.

Avi Yemini, of the Australian Liberty Alliance, said he had come to support Trump.

“He stands for freedom, he stands for everything that’s right in the world,” he said, then gestured toward the protesters. “These people, they hate freedom.”

“I questioned them today at the blimp and I was called a Nazi,” he said. “I’m wearing a kippah on my head and I was called a Nazi.”

Police presence ramped up and kept distance between pro- and anti-Trump supporters, but it didn’t stop a few bottles being thrown from the anti-Trump side.

Despite being massively outnumbered, the pro-Trump enclave didn’t appear to be spooked by the hundreds of anti-Trump protesters hurling abuse at them.

“From previous experience, we’ve got nothing to worry about,” Tom English, from Manchester, told Fox News.

Adam Shaw is a reporter covering U.S. and European politics for Fox News.. He can be reached here.

_________________


IN OTHER NEWS

Russian officers indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign, DNC emails



A federal grand jury has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic Party during the 2016 election, the Justice Department announced Friday.

“The internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a press conference.

All 12 defendants are members of GRU, the Russian intelligence agency.

The case stems from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. It comes as President Trump plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for a summit in Helsinki on Monday.

The indictment amounted to the clearest allegation yet of Russian meddling in the election, blaming Moscow for the email hacking scandal that rocked the 2016 race by revealing embarrassing and politically damaging discussions by major Democrats. The charges swiftly fueled calls from Democratic lawmakers for Trump to cancel his Putin summit.

But as Trump continues to describe the probe as a "witch hunt," the White House downplayed the allegations.

“Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,” said Lindsay Walters, the deputy White House press secretary. “This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

Of the 12 defendants, 11 are charged with conspiracy to commit computer crimes, eight counts of aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money. Another is charged with a separate conspiracy to commit computer crimes.

The 29-page indictment says starting in March 2016, the Russian agents used “a variety of means to hack the email accounts of volunteers and employees” of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, famously had his emails leaked during the campaign.

They also targeted campaign committees, like the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the indictment said.

“The conspirators covertly monitored the computers of dozens of DCCC and DNC employees, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code and stole emails and other documents from the DCCC and DNC,”  it read.

By April 2016, according to the documents, the defendants began to release the hacked materials to the public by using fictitious online personas like DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.

The indictment comes as Mueller's team has investigated whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign assisted the Russians.


But during his press conference, Rosenstein said, "there is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime."

He also said, "There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result. The special counsel's investigation is ongoing.”

The announcement came at the same time Trump was meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in England, with plans to meet Putin for a summit on Monday.

Trump has previously cited Putin's denials of election interference, while saying he would like their two countries to get along.

“President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday. "Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy.”

Rosenstein said he briefed the president on the charges this week.
  
Though the indictment listed the Democratic groups, Rosenstein made a point of not naming the political affiliation of the hacked organizations during his press statement, saying it’s important to think “patriotically” and not politically in the face of such threats.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the time period, took aim at Trump in a statement.

“I’m pleased that the Justice Department is following the facts wherever they may lead, despite Donald Trump’s dangerous distortions and his refusal to acknowledge the conclusions reached by the American intelligence community,” she said.

Russian individuals have previously been indicted as part of the case. In February, Mueller brought a case against 13 Russians and three Russian companies who are accused of setting a “strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.”

In that case, the defendants are accused of spreading derogatory information about Clinton, denigrating Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio -- and ultimately supporting Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Fox News' Jake Gibson and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.