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Russiagate-Trump Gets Solved by Giant of American Investigative Journalism

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Lucy Komisar, who is perhaps the greatest living investigative journalist, has discovered — and has documented in detail — that the source of the Russiagate charge against Russia, the source of the charge that Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign had connived with Russians in order to be able to win the U.S. Presidency, can be found in explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of the key event, when Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, met with Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya, in Trump Jr.’s Trump Tower office, on 9 June 2016. Komisar figured it out: Veselnitskaya, thinking that Trump might become America’s President, lured (through George Papadopoulos, the Trump-campaign volunteer whom Komisar unfortunately doesn’t mention, but he was the contact between Veselnitskaya and the Trump team) Trump’s team, into that meeting, by promising (as communicated to them via Papadopoulos) to inform them of dirt against Hillary Clinton. But that wasn’t Veselnitskaya’s real purpose, Komisar has found.

Komisar’s investigation wasn’t into Russia-Trump, but instead into the actual source of the first set of economic sanctions that were instituted against Russia, the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which source was a major former American investor in Russian companies, Bill Browder. He had successfully lobbied into law, both in the U.S. and in the EU, the Magnitsky Act. Komisar’s focus on this Browder-versus-Russia issue caused her not even to mention George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign volunteer, who had served as Veselnitskaya’s contact and set up that fateful June 2016 meeting. This non-political focus has also caused Komisar’s brilliant reporting on the matter — her latest such article being published on 10 February 2018, which article will subsequently be linked-to here — to have been ignored in the general news-reports about the Russiagate-Trump story.

Komisar’s investigation found and reported on 20 October 2017, that the reason why Veselnitskaya wanted to meet Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner, was to enable them — and she hoped ultimately Donald Trump himself — to come to know that the company she was representing, Prevezon, was being subjected to a lengthy legal battle to defend itself against a lawsuit by the former American, William Browder, the owner of Hermitage Capital Management in Russia, and that:

Veselnitskaya says the Prevezon suit [suit against Prevezon — Prevazon was’t actually the bringer of this suit, but was instead the suit’s target] was a distraction Browder used to cover up his own tax evasion and – she claims – collusion in the tax refund fraud [by Hermitage Capital Management]. She bases her accusation in part on the role of Magnitsky [Hermitage’s accountant]. She has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, deriding it as Browder’s way of protecting himself from Russian legal trouble.

Browder declined repeated requests for an interview about the Russian charges, his time as an investor in Russia, and his campaigns for the Magnitsky Act. Browder went so far as to have the author of this article banned from a public talk he gave at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, in December 2016.

The Magnitsky Act placed sanctions against the Russian Government, on the basis of accusations by Browder and his agents, that Hermitage’s ‘lawyer’, who was actually no lawyer at all but instead Hermitage’s accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, had been supposedly beaten to death in prison, because he had been, supposedly, a ‘whistleblower’ against corruption, by those police who, according to Browder’s team, had stolen three companies from Hermitage (i.e., from Browder), not stolen $230 million in taxes from the Russian national Treasury — as was charged by the Russian Government. Supposedly, these police had supposedly beaten Magnitsky to death, in order to protect themselves. That storyline, that viewpoint, ‘documenting’ ‘corruption’ in Russia, is embodied as sacrosanct and unchallengeable fact, in the Magnitsky Act, but Komisar disproves all of its essential assertions, linking to the actual documents in the case, and proves a damning case against Browder and his team.

The Browder viewpoint was recently reinforced by an article in National Law Journal, as well as in a report by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Komisar exposed their fraudulence, in her 12 January 2018 “Evidence? The National Law Journal doesn’t need it”, and in her 10 February 2018 “CFR Report, with no evidence, promotes fake Browder-Magnitsky story”. The former reported:

The fraud was not uncovered by Magnitsky, who was an accountant, not a lawyer.

Magnitsky talked about the matter for the first time in an interrogation by Russian tax investigators in June 2008. (It identifies him as an auditor.) But, he was not a whistleblower. He was called to answer questions as a suspect. He did not expose the fraud. He cited an article by the Russian business daily Kommersant article, which two months earlier had printed the information with Browder’s response.

Magnitsky said: “On 3 April 2008, Kommersant published an article which, referring to the law-enforcement authorities, reported that Parphenion, Limited Liability Company, Realand, Limited Liability Company, and Machaon, Limited Liability Company, had allegedly used «tax evasion schemes» and criminal proceedings were launched to prosecute those at fault.” See Kommersant (in Russian) April 3, 2008 and April 4, 2008 .

Rimma Starova was a hired “name” fronting as a director of the company to which the shells had been transferred. She saw the Kommersant articles. By then the re-registered companies had participated in the $230 million tax refund fraud. Investigators might have discovered the scam. She didn’t want to take a fall and went to the police. Her complaint April 9th detailed the fraudulent theft of three Hermitage companies.

The latter said:

the authors write: “… the summer of 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act — a set of tough sanctions on eighteen Russian officials involved in the “torture and death in prison of Russian human rights whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky.” I don’t comment on the rest of the report, but this part shows they didn’t bother to research, ignored facts, or deliberately reported falsehoods.

Torture? The Wall Street Journal links to the definitive prison report. Not exactly a left-wing media. The report describes awful conditions and medical care, says nothing about torture.

Whistleblower? The first step in the theft of budget funds from the Russian Treasury was reported to police April 9, 2008 by Rimma Starova, a hired director for Boily Systems, a shell controlling Browder’s stolen companies. She returned to testify again July 10th. The companies had been used in the scam to get a fake tax refund [to the benefit of Browder’s Hermitage] from the Treasury. She didn’t talk about the theft of funds, but she gave police a roadmap.

Rimma Starova July 10, 2008 testimony

Then, Paul Wrench, director for Browder companies registered in the offshore tax haven of Guernsey, filed complaints of the tax refund fraud July 23. The story was published in Vedomosti, July 24. This link is on Browder’s own website!

Not till his Oct 7 interrogation did Magnitsky, before his arrest for complicity in tax evasion, refer to “fraud of budget monetary assets in the amount exceeding 5 (five) billion rubles.” A three-months-later whistle-blower? For his Oct 7 testimony, see 100Reporters story with link to what Magnitsky said.

This is what Veselnitskaya was hoping that, if Trump would become President, he’d check out and investigate for himself. But, apparently, Trump wasn’t at all interested.

So: You, dear reader, now can investigate it for yourself (clicking onto those links), if you want to understand what may very possibly produce (either in Syria or in Ukraine or elsewhere) what could easily expand to nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, World War III, as a result of those sanctions, and the subsequent Ukraine-war-based sanctions, and the subsequent massing of U.S. missiles and troops on and near Russia’s border in Ukraine and elsewhere, on the basis of almost entirely false allegations by the U.S. Government (plus the latter’s own illegal invasion/occupation of Syria, plus the latter’s own illegal and very brutal coup in Ukraine during February 2014). The Magnitsky matter was actually a corporate tax dispute, between U.S. investor (now instead a British citizen in order to avoid some U.S. taxes), Bill Browder, versus Russia’s Government.

The world could end, over that (and over lots of lies about it, which are routinely spread in the mainstream, and in much of the ‘alternative news’ media).

Some people’s greed, apparently, knows no limits — not even when it could produce a world-ending nuclear war.

PS: As regards the leaks that occurred from the computers of the DNC (in June 2016) and from Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager John Podesta (in September 2016), here are articles that set forth evidence these leaks probably were from DNC worker Seth Rich, and-or, from another Democratic Party worker on the inside (angered against Hillary Clinton’s theft of the nomination away from Bernie Sanders), and weren’t hacks, at all, but purely leaks:

In other words: These probably weren’t authentically “hacks” — not from Russians, nor from anyone else. The Democratic Party didn’t need whatever the Russian Government did (or not) in order to lose the 2016 election; the Democratic Party managed quite well, on their own, to lose — to lose, by Election Day, enough Sanders-voters (progressive populist Democrats) so that Trump (the pretended-populist Republican) was able to win. Some Sanders-voters hated Hillary Clinton, and were unsure which side of Trump’s mouth to believe and voted for the progressive-populist side of it, because there wasn’t anything at all progressive-populist about Hillary. That’s no real democracy (but instead a choice between two fascists), no honest choice at all, and Russia didn’t make it that way — and going to war as if it had been Russia’s fault, would be entirely the U.S. regime’s fault, yet another of its many incredibly vicious lies, such as were used to ‘justify’ invading Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, and much more.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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