Why Did the FBI Leak the Comey Memo?

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Yves here. Trust me. Just read or listen to this Real News Network interview.

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that a memo written by James Comey states that President Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into General Flynn. Now, this was all about Flynn’s contacts with the Russians. He had attended an RT — the Russian television network — dinner in Moscow, he apparently held some discussions there, he was paid for attending that dinner. He also did some lobbying on behalf of Turkey and was paid for that, and the investigation also has to do with whether Flynn has something to do with the alleged interference of the Russians in the American elections. And this is a big breach of etiquette for a president to … More than etiquette, I suppose — protocol, even the law — to tell an FBI director not to investigate something. I guess that’s illegal. Trump, of course, and the White House denies this.

But underlying all of this, and all the furor, is a fundamental assumption. It’s a term that’s used constantly in the media and by the various political pundits on the media, which is “Russia is our adversary.” You have to basically assume that the adversary, Russia, has an antagonistic relationship with the United States, and then underneath all of that, then you have Flynn and Comey investigation and so on. Because if Russia isn’t the great adversary, then it’s unlikely there’d be such a to-do about all of this.

Now joining us to talk about the Comey affair, the Trump affair, and just what is the issues in terms of the US-Russia relationship, is Robert English. Robert is a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. He specializes in Russian and post-Soviet politics, US-Russian relations, and national security policy. He formerly worked for the US Department of Defense and the Committee for National Security, and has published widely in both academic and policy journals. Thanks very much for joining us, Robert.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Happy to be here.

PAUL JAY: Okay, so every day another storm, another drama. First of all, what do you make of … Maybe the most interesting thing in all of this Comey thing today isn’t Trump asking him to stop the investigation; that’s not a great shocker. The more interesting thing is somebody at the FBI who has access to the Comey memo reads it to a journalist at the New York Times. There’s a lot of people out to get Trump here.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Yeah, you’re pointing to this larger problem, which is this chaos, this infighting, and not just in a sort of careerist bureaucratic way, but a kind of serious pitched battle between different factions — in this case, between those in the Trump administration who seem to want a fresh start with Russia, to try to begin cooperation on things like Syria, terrorism, and so forth, and those dead set against it, who are now using leaks and so forth to … In part, to fight their battles. And so the bureaucratic, the nasty, the backstabbing, the leaking, is one area of issues, but you’re pointing to this larger fundamental. Can we get along with Russia? Is it worth trying to reset relations? And even if he’s not the best executor so far — and he’s not — is Trump’s basic idea of “We can get along with Russia, let’s give it a try” a good one? And I happen to think it is; it’s just being carried out awfully clumsily.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, I think one needs to separate the intent of Trump for wanting better relation with Russia, which one can analyze, and the policy itself. The policy of having a détente, although why there even needs to be a détente is kind of a question mark … But why is so much of the American foreign policy establishment, the political class, the military leadership, the vast majority of that whole stratum wants to maintain a very antagonistic position towards Russia, and why?

ROBERT ENGLISH: You know, four or five reasons that all come together, pushing in this Russophobic direction. We’ve always had sort of unreconstructed Cold Warriors, people who never were easy with the new Russia, right? Zbigniew Brzezinski and people of that ilk, who wanted to just push Russia in a corner, take advantage of its weakness, never give it a chance. Then you have people in the military-industrial complex, for lack of a better term, whose vested interests lie in a continued rivalry, and continued arms-racing, and continued threat inflation. You have other people who normally would be liberal progressive, but they’re so angry at Hillary Clinton’s loss, they’re so uncomprehending of how someone they see as vulgar and unqualified as Trump could get elected, that they’re naturally unwilling to let go of this “the Russians hacked our election, the Russians got Trump elected” theme, and therefore, Russia is even bigger enemy than they would be otherwise. These and other strains all come together in a strange way. Some of this is the hard right, all right? Some of it is from the left, some is from the center. And across the board, we have ignorance. Ignorance of Russia.

PAUL JAY: Now, in an article you wrote recently, you went through some of the history, and we’re going to do another segment that digs into this history more in depth, but when you look at the history of the ’90s, and Yeltsin, and the whole role of the United States in helping bring down the Soviet Union, the whole point of bringing down the Soviet Union, and standing Yeltsin up, and interfering in Russian elections to make sure Yeltsin wins, and so on, was to open Russia for privatization for American oligarchs. I don’t think the idea was to do it for Russian oligarchs, but that’s how it turned out. Is that part of what is making this section of the American oligarchs so angry about it all?

ROBERT ENGLISH: You know, when people look at Russia today, they try to explain it in terms of one evil man, Putin, and that sort of conceals an assumption that if we could just get rid of Putin, everything would be better, and that Putin is the way he is — anti-American — because he’s from the KGB. You don’t need to go back to his youth or his time in intelligence to understand why he’s very skeptical, why we have bad relations with Putin and all those around him. You don’t have to go back to the ’50s or ’40s. You can go back just to the ’90s, when we interfered in Russia, when we foisted dysfunctional economic policies on them, when we meddled in their elections repeatedly, and basically for an entire decade, we were handmaidens to a catastrophe — economic, political, social — that sowed the seeds of this resentment that continues to this day. It’s a-

PAUL JAY: Yeah, you mention in your article that the consequences of the ’90s depression in Russia far surpassed anything in the ’07-’08 recession in the United States.

ROBERT ENGLISH: They far surpassed that. They even far surpassed anything in our own Great Depression of the early 1930s, of ’29, ’30, ’31 — you know, the Great Depression, under Hoover and then Roosevelt. At that time, our economy contracted by about a quarter, and the slump lasted about three years before growth resumed. Russia’s economy contracted almost by half, and the slump lasted an entire decade, and it resulted not just in widespread poverty, but millions of excess deaths, of suicides, of people dying of despair, of heart disease, of treatable illnesses caused by the strains, the … This deep, unbelievable misery of that decade. It’s no wonder that there is deep resentment towards the US, and this underlies a lot of the Putin elites’ attitudes towards us. It’s not something pathological, Putin being a bad guy. If you got rid of Putin tomorrow, the next guy who came along, the person most Russians would probably elect in democratic elections, wouldn’t be so different. It wouldn’t be another Yeltsin or pro-Western liberal, believe me.

PAUL JAY: Well, even if everything they say about Putin is true, and I doubt and … Quite sure not everything is true. If he is such a dictator, United States foreign policy has never had any trouble with dictators, as long as they’re our dictators, so the thing drips with hypocrisy.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Hypocrisy and double standards all around are what Russians see, okay? I mean, where do you begin? Look at the recent … The vote, the referendum in Crimea to secede from Ukraine, and of course, then Russia annexed it into Russian territory, and we find that outrageous, a violation of international law, and the Russians say, “Yeah, and what did you engineer in Kosovo? You yanked Kosovo out of Serbia, you caused Kosovo to secede from Serbia with no referendum, no international law. How is that different? Right? When it’s your client state it’s okay, but when it’s ours, it’s not?” And of course the list is a long one; we could spend all afternoon going through them. So the first thing we need to do is stop the sanctimony, and deal with Russia as an equal great power.

But, you know, can I say one more thing about the ’90s that connect it with what’s going on today? In 1991, we had George Herbert Walker Bush in the White House. It was still the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was still in power for the rest of the year, and a warning came from our ambassador in Moscow, Jack Matlock, which was passed on to the White House. He had inside information from sources, from confidential sources, that a coup attempt was being planned. And, by the way, of course it happened in August of that year. That information came from our Ambassador Matlock, from his sources in Moscow, to the White House. George Bush had been instructed that this was highly sensitive, do not reveal the source of the information, keep it confidential. Bush fouled up, and within hours, he got on the phone to Moscow, a line that was open, monitored by the KGB, trying to reach Gorbachev, and he revealed the information, and he revealed the source, which went straight to the KGB. This was an unbelievable breach of confidentiality, dangerous, potentially deadly results, and the greatest irony is that George Herbert Walker Bush had been Director of the CIA before.

Now, why am I telling this story? Obviously, my first point is, presidents have fouled up, and have declassified unwittingly, or sometimes for political purposes, highly sensitive information all the time. I’m not excusing what Trump did — it looks like he was very sloppy — but the first thing to note is it’s not unusual, this happens a lot. The second thing, and let’s talk about this, is sharing information intelligence with the Russians. Guys, we’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years. After 9/11, the Russians offered us valuable intelligence on the Taliban, on Afghanistan, to help us fight back against bin Laden, and we’ve been exchanging intelligence on terrorists ever since. A lot of people wish we’d exchange more information; we might have prevented the Boston bombing. So this hysteria about sharing intelligence with our adversary, no, we are cooperating with Russia because we have a common enemy.

PAUL JAY: Now, I said in the beginning that I thought we should separate Trump’s intent from a policy, which seems more rational, not to treat Russia as such an adversary, and try to work both in Syria and other places, negotiate more things out. But when you do look at the side of intent, I don’t think you can negate or forget about the kind of historic ties that Trump has with Russian oligarchs. Some people suggest Russian Mafia. Tillerson’s energy play, they would love sanctions lifted on Russia, and I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be lifted, but the motive here is they want to do a massive play in the energy sector. So it’s not … I don’t think we should forget about what drives Trump and his circle around him, which is they have a very big fossil fuel agenda and a money-making agenda. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean the policy towards Russia isn’t rational. I mean, what do you … I don’t know if you agree or not.

ROBERT ENGLISH: You know, yeah, you’re right, those are important points, and whether you agree or not with people ranging from Ron Wyden to Lindsey Graham, they’re all saying “follow the money,” and in this case, I think they’re right. All these probes, and all these suspicions that the Trump team colluded with Russian intelligence to throw the election, that they were cooperating, even coordinating with the Russians on the hacking, and then the release, I don’t believe it. It could be true — you know, I don’t have access to the evidence — but to me, it seems much more likely that what will turn up instead are financial crimes or malfeasance. People taking speaker’s fees, people consulting with oligarchs, people aiding … You know, helping with the elections with shady people, and depositing the money in the Cayman Islands or in Cypriot banks, not declaring income. I think that’s what we’re likely to find; I think that’s probably what Flynn is guilty of. But the more serious charge of collusion with an adversary, even of treason to undermine our election, I doubt it very much. You’re right to look at the energy business money, and sort of big-business oligarchic efforts to just get rich together.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, because this is so much tied up with partisan politics. The Democratic Party leadership, you know, Schumer types, they just want to wound Trump any way they can, and this is a good way to cut some knives there, to get their knives out. But the real story is the financial shenanigans, and maybe Flynn was on to that. I’m not … Excuse me, not Flynn, Comey. Maybe Comey was on to that, and maybe that’s where this thing will lead. That’s where Trump needs to fear, not the Flynn stuff.

ROBERT ENGLISH: I think you’re probably right, and again, I can only infer what might be going on, what evidence there might be, based on the subpoenas that are going out, but what we’ve heard says yeah, financial records, all these documents, evidence of … I mean, let’s go back to this issue that was the scandal of the week about five scandals ago, which means five days ago, and that was that … The reason that Flynn was fired, you’ll recall that after the election but before the inauguration, he met with the Russian ambassador, and they discussed all kinds of policy issues, including the possibility of moving towards removing the sanctions. When he got back to the White House, apparently he told Pence that they talked about other things, but he didn’t admit that the sanctions subject had come up. Therefore, he lied; therefore, he was fired. And Sally Yates, right, the … From the Attorney General’s office, has made an important point that she briefed the White House on this, she warned that Flynn had been compromised, because the Russians had something on him now.

Okay, technically they did, but come on, guys, hold on a second. Trump was about to be inaugurated, right? It wasn’t as if he somehow — Flynn — could undermine a policy of Obama’s when there were about five minutes left in the Obama administration. Secondly, the Russians and the Trump administration wanted openly — it was no secret — to move towards a removal of sanctions if they could find cooperation on Ukraine, cooperation on terror in the Middle East. There’s no secret here. Therefore, what did the Russians have on Flynn that they could have blackmailed him with? How was he compromised? Yeah, because they’d caught him in a fib, but big deal. You see how these things are being exaggerated. No doubt Flynn broke the rules, he told a lie, but it’s not a lie … It’s not the kind of information in the Russians’ possession that’s the equivalent of catching him in bed with another woman, or [inaudible 00:16:53].

PAUL JAY: And you have to even believe that he did tell the lie, because we’re being told he didn’t tell Pence. We don’t know if he’s falling on his sword to some extent here in order to protect Pence. I mean, who knows the truth of any of that? And the rest of what he did, as far as we know, with the Russians is all public. There’s a video of him speaking at an RT interview in Moscow that took place at the same time as this dinner that he was paid to attend on the 10th anniversary of RT, where he sits near Putin. There’s nothing secret about any of this; this stuff’s been out on YouTube for, like, ages.

ROBERT ENGLISH: So what you have here when you add them up is a sequence of events or small misdeeds: telling a fib about this here, Trump leaking classified information there. None of them are of the magnitude that they’re being portrayed with in the media, but when you string them together, it sounds like a hysterical series of …

PAUL JAY: So I can understand the Democratic Party, but in terms of what people call the permanent state, the deep state, they’re very engaged in this. The leaks from the FBI … We still don’t, I don’t think, unless I missed something, this thing where he … Trump talks to the Russian ambassador and the Foreign Minister, Lavrov, and gives this … Reveals this intelligence. Well, how do we know that? I mean, who’s in that room that leaked that? Or, apparently, after it took place in Washington, some White House staffers phone the NSA and the CIA. Well, you think they’ve got to call the heads of these organizations at this kind of level of information. So who’s leaking that stuff? The state apparatus — CIA, FBI, maybe NSA — they’re really antagonistic to this Trump administration. What is that about?

ROBERT ENGLISH: Again, that’s where we started, with not only the battle over “Should we try to improve relations with Russia, or are they incorrigible foes?” That’s one thing, but now this sort of bureaucratic infighting, the use of leaks, of innuendo. And again, Trump gives them the fuel to do so with these continual misdeeds and misstatements. That’s another whole arena of battle, and it’s not healthy, right, to have … And it’s his fault too. He went to war with the intelligence community on day one. But this is so dysfunctional. It’s causing us much more harm than the Russians ever could, and …

PAUL JAY: We’re going to keep this conversation going in a future segment. I do want to add … Anyone who watches The Real News knows this already. I mean, I think the Trump/Pence administration is going to prove to be more dangerous than the Bush/Cheney. I think it’s extremely dangerous what they have in mind in terms of foreign policy. But all that being said, let’s concentrate on the real stuff. Trump’s in Saudi Arabia, and they’re planning some bad stuff in the Middle East, and targeting of Iran, and back here, we’re focusing on really what should be a sideline soap opera.

ROBERT ENGLISH: Yeah. The series, the daily scandals that we’re talking about — the Comey letter today, the leak to the Russians yesterday, on and on — are kind of distracting us from the bigger picture. Not only the question of, you know, what are our common interests, if any, with Russia, and can we seriously work towards them, but also, what are we going to do in the Middle East, and what are we doing in East Asia? These pivotal foreign policy strategic issues aren’t getting much attention because of the daily soap opera. You’re absolutely right.

Let me just add at the end here — I know we’re running out of time — I’ve noted the accidental clumsy careless leak that could’ve had tragic consequences of the first Bush president. We might also note that the second Bush presidency, that administration leaked like a sieve from, you know, exaggerated false intelligence on Iraq to the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, when it suited their purposes. And the Obama administration wasn’t a lot better. People like McCain and others were furious at some of the leaks, whether it was the Stuxnet cyber war tactic that was used against Iran, to a whole series of other military facts that were leaked selectively by the Obama administration to serve their purposes. Let’s just remember this context. Mistaken leaks, strategic leaks, dishonest leaks go on all the time in Washington, and against that backdrop, let’s not fall off the cliff here over Trump sharing some intel about terror attacks with the Russians, about our common enemy, the Islamic State in Syria.

PAUL JAY: All right, thanks very much for joining us, and thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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87 comments

  1. Tony of CA

    The behavior of the corporate democrats with this Russian has completely turned me off. They sold their souls to the Neocon.

    1. Benedict@Large

      The corporate Dems have sold their souls to just about anyone who would put up a dime. With one exception, of course. The petroleum interests have been for years the “property” of the Republican Party, and as I’ve been saying for a good time now, this whole mess is a battle between those interests, who see Russian petroleum as the next giant financial play in their sphere, if only relations between the US and Russia can be somewhat normalized, and the MIC, who sees Russia as the cornerstone of almost every new weapons build-up for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately it’s these later interests who have hooked up with the Trump Derangement Class being orchestrated out of the Clinton Camp, and it’s these folks who own the news media, and are thus preventing any rational discussion from taking place over what started as Trump’s simple idea that maybe we could get along with the Russians. No wonder the world thinks we are crazy.

      1. John k

        Well said. A war of oligarchs. One side has an incompetent with the bully pulpit, the other side has the press. And the liberals, or at least the ones that aren’t liberal.

      2. Jim

        With the exception of the Hammer family , a big supporter of three generations of Gores.

    2. oh

      What makes you think that they had souls in the first place? Lord O is cashing in big time. He made the deal with te banks, insurance companies et al and played the people like a violin. Now the Dims want to somehow get back in at any cost. I hope the people see the plan. Anyone who votes for the DIms or the Repugs will just facilitate the horrors.

      Comey’s was just dancing with the masters who brung him to the party.

  2. Anonymous

    Some issues that are not mentioned. First, the 100 billion dollar a year cost of sanctions which gives Putin and the oligarchs incentive to do a lot of things. Second, the track record of journalists, human rights advocates and attorneys being killed in Russia. Third, the funds paid to Trump from oligarchs via over priced real estate deals.
    Guess they all fall into the “strategic issues aren’t getting much attention”.
    If the Putin administration or oligarchs are found to have acted illegally in the US it will be a different discussion.

    1. timbers

      About that 100 billion cost of sanctions you speak of – do you mean the cost Europe is bearing from sanctions or the benefits to sections of the Russian economy like farming? What “incentives” does that give Putin & oligarchs? Second, what about the track record of journalists and leakers in the U.S. like Seth Rich (murdered by Team Hillary?), Julian Assange, Bradly Manning (imprisoned & tortured by Obama)? And about the incentives that might have played a role in our President Obama wrecking Ukraine destroying its economy & illegally installing a new Nazi regime that seeks to mass murder millions of Russian speaking people? Why did Obama blame Russia for downing that plane in Ukraine when evidence says Kiev did it not Russia or why did Obama say Assad gasses his own people when even Obama himself admitted it likely the CIA did so by supplying the chemicals to terrorists so they can claim Assad did it?

      1. Marco

        With what we now know about vehicle hacking and IoT vulnerabilities when can Michael Hastings grisly death?

      2. Vatch

        A lot of what you are saying is pure speculation. We simply do not know what happened in a lot of these cases. On the internet, of course, people on diametrically opposed sides of these disputes are 100% certain of the truth.

        1. timbers

          Do not completely agree. The not 100% proof of what I said plus motive points strongly in those directions, some more than others. Certainly more strongly than at Russia.

          There is room for doubt. But their is no reason from what I’ve read to blame for example Syria/Russia/Putin.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Putin’s approval has gone up since the US imposed the sanctions. Until very recently, even the Moscow intelligensia, a thorn in his side, backed him in the face of US pressure. Even though the economy has been hit a bit, this is a blip compared to the hit of the early 1990s. Putin has overseen a long period of solid growth. He has also responded intelligently to the sanctions by making Russia more of an autarky.

      In other words, Russia is not desperate, which is what you seem to be insinuating.

      1. Anonymous

        Sorry, I do not mean to insinuate desperation, more motivation. How much of the 100 billion a year is affecting oligarchs? As you say the 100 billion a year decrease in EU trade is a blip on the entire economy. Any disruption is but an opportunity to drive out the weak competition and consolidate economic power.
        Did sanctions inspire the Rosneft purchase or motivate Igor Sechin, Putin or others?
        The administration’s failures to make appointments and to execute tactically and strategically is I think inherent in Trump and every thinking person in the world knows it. Odds are that there will be different US policies within the next 4 years after Trump. There will either be indictments or there won’t.

  3. si

    Great post Yves -thankyou.

    There is a coup under way in the US I believe and it seems to be getting more chaotic.

    If there had been similar interest in the link between Clinton and the Russians (re uranium mining), and the Clinton Foundation (slush fund), I might be more inclined to think the investigative/legal establishments and the media were doing a bipartisan job. It is clear that they are not.

  4. kimsarah

    The Clinton faction and their puppet masters are behind all this hullaballoo. If the Dem clowns that have come out of the woodwork acted with just one-tenth of the spine they’re showing now, over the past 8-15 years, then we wouldn’t have been in a predicament where Trump would have emerged as president, the lesser of evils.

  5. Skip Intro

    It is daring, if not insanely stupid, for the blob to infer corruption based on Flynn accepting money for attending/speaking at some event in Russia.

      1. 3.14e-9

        Right, Yves. And I’ve been wondering how much David Brock and his donors have to do with this. Do you remember his “confidential” memo, released in January IIRC, that lays out the strategy for Media Matters, CREW, Shareblue, and other groups of his?

        The memo lays out Brock’s vision for Shareblue as a sort of “investigative journalism” resource for media, grassroots opposition, and leadership on the Hill. Second on Shareblue’s list of editorial priorities is “[n]onstop coverage of the influence of Vladimir Putin and Russia on Trump and his administration.” The list also includes:

        “Demystifying Trump’s ‘conflicts of interest’ and calling them what they are: Subversions of the nation’s interests.”

        “Relentlessly beating the drum that he has no mandate, lost the popular vote, and is the least-popular president-elect in American history.

        “Exposing Trump as a weak, thin-skinned ‘loser’ vulnerable to goading.”

        The memo also discusses how Brock’s organizations plan to enlist thousands of social media users, a.k.a. trolls.

        I don’t know how much influence Brock himself has, but the elite donors in the room at his little Inauguration Day get-together presumably have it in $pades.

        Anyway, terrific interview. Thanks for the link!

        1. Damson

          And Brock is of course intimately linked with Alfantis of Pizzagate notoriety.

          So he has personal skin in the game.

      2. Expat

        This goes deeply into the problem. Trump, his team, and his supporters believe that they can do whatever they want, however they want because they believe they are right and will make America great again. They fail to understand that belief is personal. Governing is about image and creating a convincing story to get people to go along with the plan.

        It seems perfectly rational for Trump opponents to question all motives and see fire where there’s hardly any smoke based on Trump’s behavior and the behavior of this staff.]

        Trump made an enemy of the press so they won’t sell his messages. And now he made an enemy of the FBI by firing Comey the way he did. That’s why the memo was released.

        1. ambrit

          Trump seems to have made a large segment of the FBI work force very happy with the way he fired Comey. The top, “political” segment of the FBI are probably worried that this “loose canon” President will clean house all over Washington.
          Love him or hate him, Trump is the duly elected President. If you don’t like that, then change the electoral system. But watch out for all the other shades and djinns that flow out of that Pandora’s Box.

          1. mtnwoman

            “Trump seems to have made a large segment of the FBI work force very happy with the way he fired Comey. ”

            From what data are you making this statement? I’ve not seen anything to support this.

        2. Carolinian

          It seems perfectly rational for Trump opponents to question all motives and see fire where there’s hardly any smoke based on Trump’s behavior and the behavior of this staff.

          No it doesn’t. There’s nothing remotely rational about any of this. The job of the press is to report, not to decide who is or is not acceptable as president.

          It used to be said that the justification for our dysfunctional American election system was that it at least gave us an orderly transition of power without coups or assassinations. The Clinton faction of the Dems with their neocon partners have thrown all that out the window and the two major dailies, the Post and the NYT, have played a big role since they were literally out to get Trump from day one.

          My personal view is that increasingly unequal societies, not just here but all over the world, have created an attitude among the elites that the whole “will of the people” thing has to go. “If you can keep it” said Franklin and that’s looking increasingly at risk. Trump may indeed be a boob but the way to oppose him is in Congress and that is happening even with Republicans in charge. Impeaching Trump would be the worst thing in the world for this country. It would confirm that those who arbitrarily declare “Russia is our adversary” are running the show.

          1. nowhere

            I’m sorry but: “The job of the press is to report, not to decide who is or is not acceptable as president.” Has not been true for a VERY long time. The right-wing media has been conducting garbage reporting, lying, and Swift Boating for a long time. The left-wing media sources did’t delve deeply, and hold to account, some of the terrible actions of the Obama administration. All involved in the various mainstream media outlets have been corrupted for decades, and it isn’t some new development caused by Democrats anymore than it is caused by the current batch of Republicans.

            Let’s not pretend that this is somehow new just because Trump is in the White House. It’s getting to the point that anytime Russia is mentioned here, that a cavalcade of DEMOCRATS, DEMOCRATS is sure to follow.

            1. Carolinian

              What’s new is the “normalization” of impeachment and the notion that the press can just scandal the president out of office. The problem with Watergate–regardless of the substance–is that this cadre of stenographers and hangers-on who make their living writing down what other people say finally touched the ring of power. Given that our media is now highly concentrated (also not always true) and the plaything of billionaires their new hubris is very dangerous.

              And yes the Repubs were the villains in this particular game back in Clinton times. But isn’t it interesting that the current situation is almost the mirror image of Monica-gate? Not a dime’s worth of difference, as Nader once said.

              1. nowhere

                The historical precedent for billionaires controlling large swathes of the media isn’t new. I’d argue that the media is much less consolidated than it used to be. Previously, most people only had access to newspapers, a few radio or television stations, and during the 80s the expansion of cable news. With the explosive growth of the internet, there is an outlet for whatever genre of position you want to find, and you can now more easily sample a wide variety of thoughts and opinions.

                Trump has been such a ratings boost to the traditional media outlets (largely because of self-inflicted fumbling and bumbling) that there is no reason to stop what has been ongoing for a year. He is perfectly emblematic of the current societal consumptive practices of reality tv and getting tiny bits of news in 140 character snips – each person one-upping the other in ever more acerbic ways.

                This seems to be another in a long line of systemic features that are impervious to change. Does the maxim of “if you don’t like it, then don’t consume it” help reduce the the shallow nature of current media frothing? Does not voting for establishment candidates help lessen the LoTE strategies that we are forced into ad naseum? Does blaming Democrats over Republicans (or the reverse) produce choice and change?

                In my opinion, the current answer to all of these is no. I’d like to figure out a way to make some/all of them a yes.

                1. nowhere

                  I’d also argue that it was the same establishment media that always pushed the narrative that Democrats are weak on defense and FEAR, FEAR, FEAR throughout the Bush II administration.

                  I think the media is less enthralled in Ds and Rs (unless the games played between the parties that always helps tribal ratings) as much as they always pursue what is driving eyeballs and profits.

            2. Jean

              Oh hell no. Did you just write that the left-wing media did not hold Obama to account? WTF do you call left-wing media? MSDNC? I haven’t read a pretty word about Obomber from the left in years. Not since he ran the first time. Come on.

              1. nowhere

                I should have written main stream. Many publications on the actual left were very diligent in their coverage. It doesn’t really change my primary point, however.

        3. John Wright

          I remember when Comey first went public with his Hillary email investigation, one back story was that he was pushed into this by lower level FBI agents who were not happy with his lack of response to a HRC violation of government regulations in handling government private information.

          If that is true, Trump’s firing of Comey might make him somewhat of a hero to the FBI’s rank and file.

          While Trump might have the many of the lower-level FBI supporting him, he could have those at the Comey associated top worried about future employment.

          But then, I cynically see “must preserve MY income stream” as a big motivator for many of the elite’s ostensibly civic actions..

          1. Art Eclectic

            Our entire country, top to bottom, is about preserving their income stream. Elections are held to decide who will get to preserve their income streams. A fair number of people want a stupid wall thinking it will preserve their income stream. People want all immigration shut down in order to preserve income streams. Legislation gets written by companies preserving income streams.

        4. Wisdom Seeker

          “Trump made an enemy of the press so they won’t sell his messages.”

          You have this completely backwards. Who do the media work for? Their corporate oligarch owners and advertisers. Trump was their enemy simply because of his platform and independent approach to politics. He didn’t make them an enemy, they made themselves his enemy. For him not to have been their enemy, he could not have run his campaign as he did. Nor would he have won.

          Break up the media conglomerates, and the other corporate behemoths, so that there’s much more diversity in who-pays-who to write to the public, and we might get a better press. But no one is touching that issue yet.

  6. screen screamer

    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting take and I had forgotten some of the history of shared intel between the two countries. It makes one wonder why all of the gnashing of teeth and hand wringing.
    It isn’t as if there is a new vote coming up to bail out the banks or some new huge tax in the form of health care is coming up.

  7. Lambert Strether

    I’ve noticed that “Never tell the truth” seems to be Rule #1 in our political class. (For both the Podesta mails and Rosenstein’s letter, we are told — I hate that formulation, but so be it — to consider the source and the motive, and not the truth or falsity of the content itself. But in both cases, the content was true.)

    So, Robert English needs to watch his back, because telling the truth can have really bad consequences.

  8. R Foreman

    I don’t think this interview addresses the question of why the FBI leaked the Comey memo.. just a general thing about infighting, partisanship. The title made me think there was something more specific.

  9. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    I suppose that Trump being so easily cast as the pantomime villain, is something of a gift for his adversaries, & for a sizeable proportion of the American people schooled in Hollywood myth & the output from a venal media, it is probably much easier for them to accept the presented face, than to even imagine that there is a true portrait somewhere in the equivalent of an attic that shows the full ugliness.

    It is of course not only an American phenomenon & after a reasonably long time spent lifting stones, I should really no longer retain the propensity to be shocked at what I discover.

    1. kristiina

      Well it is not quite at this stage here in the “rest of the world”.

      I hate it that reality confirms what I said after the elections to some people (shocked about trump election): a well-mannered horse could be elected and handle the office just as well as any two-legged candidate. And these people were shocked at what I said. The US president has real power, they said. What it looks like is the president can have power if executing the orders of the handlers. So being well-mannered is the important qualification.

      The interesting thing (thank you Yves for picking this!) is that all of this starts to draw the contours of the real system. For those with eyes to see, and ears to hear, of course. There is a book by Guy Debord: society of the spectacle. 1967. Forty years ago the shape of the spectacle was not so easy to discern.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        I meant in the sense of empire or hegemony – substitute all the brown people being blown to bits with the unknown number of Chinese supplied with opium & the famines in Ireland & India due to strict adherence to a so called free market.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        So being well-mannered is the important qualification.

        +1000

        That in a nutshell is what all this Russia RUSsia RUSSIA! nonsense is all about. These DC nutjobs don’t hate Trump because of what he does (they all do the same things every day) but because of who he is. He’s a boor who doesn’t follow the proper Beltway decorum. He doesn’t do the corporate doublespeak but is blunt. Rather than being insulting by using “With all due respect…” as is the norm, he just calls people losers. His lack of manners makes them look bad and exposes them as the greedy grifters they are. Now they want to put that genie back in the bottle.

  10. Carl

    I can barely read about this subject anymore; it’s become completely deranged. Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, do I wonder what the hell kind of country I’m in.

    1. blue streak

      Agree that the country is deranged. Propaganda rules. Everyone’s string is being pulled and they’re playing on emotions. And as little as I care for Trump, his administration and supporters, I hold the Democrats in far, far lower regard. And the MSM, they’re bordering on evil.

      1. ambrit

        The scary part is that, before, the “elites” had the decency to try and hide their machinations from the public. Now, the mask is coming off, and I wonder what new levels of depravity are next.

      2. mtnwoman

        Really, you hold Dems in ” far, far lower regard than Trump and his Admin?

        It’s Trump and his Admin not the Dems that are are attempting to turn the country back to some imagined Patriarchal Christian White motherland where the populace will be fed creationism for an education — if they can afford and education once the public schools are axed; where it’s full steam ahead to extract and burn more fossil fuels — from oilwells in our national parks and monuments — climate crisis be damned; his EPA is axing regulations such that our lands and skies will look like the worst of 3rd world nations; their idotic healthcare “plan” will literally kill and bankrupt tens of thousands of plebes so the 1% class can be richer fat cats… etc,etc…

        I get not liking Dems, but this Trumpism apologia is disturbing. I will be thrilled to rid the world of the ignorance, racist authoritarianism and cruelty that Trumpism personifes. And then deal with the Dems — yes, a lesser evil in my mind. How to deal with the craven media will be a challenge.

        1. Michael

          Its always “…and then deal with the Dems…”
          When are you going to start?
          You had 8 years…

          1. jrs

            maybe they would rather be stuck with the Dems, bad as they are and they are, permanently. And for most things, who wouldn’t? I mean we put Trump in power and policies take a turn for the even worse, and I’m not convinced the other Republicans are any better.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          ALL of the things you listed are policies the Democrat party had a large hand in bringing about.

          Obama deprted more people than any pres in history. His EdSec Arne Duncan was a school privatizer, just like Devos. Hillary Clinton was promoting fracking all around the world. The ACA was a corporate giveaway that is imploding all on its own and single payer was never even considered. Obama started a few racist wars on brown people all on his own. And lets not forget the disastrous deregulation Bill Clinton pushed for.

          This isn’t apologizing for Trump. It’s looking at the reality of the situation and understanding that Trump didn’t start any of this and these problems existed way before he came along, and the Democrat party was happy to play along.

          1. nowhere

            As was/is the Republican Party. So rather than always calling out Democrats, why not use something more correct, like entrenched power or some such? The biggest difference is that Democrats have become conservative, in that they want the existing system to largely stay the same, and the Republicans have become retrograde.

            Democrats = conservatives
            Republicans = regressives

            Sound better?

            1. bruce

              Since Republicans have been for decentralized government, the only thing the Democrats want to “conserve” is centralized power, and since the trend is not going their way they are prone to trying whatever they can get away with to revert to “staying the same.” Although democrats want things to stay the same, which means continuance and primacy of their version of authority, others don’t feel the love of the destruction of liberty from bloated, overextended, corrupt, centralized bureaucracies.

    2. Roger Smith

      It is almost as if actual discourse has devolved into emoticon lashings back and forth. Certainly any real substance is gone.

  11. Northeaster

    “Hypocrisy and double standards all around are what Russians see, okay?”

    Hypocrisy and double standards all around are what Americans see, okay?

    /Fixed

  12. Dean

    I see this less through a party lens (D v R) and more as the elite establishment (dare I say deep state?) doing everything in its power to destroy Trump the Outsider (and not even a true outsider at that).

    To wit: Bernie Sanders was kneecapped by the same elites. I believe Sanders would have received similar treatment from the entrenched elites had he been elected President.

    Past examples of US hypocrisy towards Russia (great perspectives and examples in the interview!) are simply ignored by the media and elites.

    Once on strips away the D v R labels, it becomes clear: the elites will do whatever it takes to retain their power and their policies, especially in opposition to an ‘outsider’.

    1. nowhere

      This seems pretty accurate to me. It’s less about Democrats than about the underlying structures that support them; and, it’s about the underlying structures that support the Republicans.

      Please, will someone explain it to me, why does the focus seem to revolve around Democrats?

      1. John k

        The angst is that the dems used to be democratic, plus maybe most here are or used to be democrats, plus the fantasy that they can be reformed or taken over by progressives. Knowing third party is tough, standard bearer too old, etc leads to frustration of no way out.
        And maybe even worse as the election and aftermath reveals how corrupt the system has become.

      2. Jean

        I love your question, Nowhere. Sad to say, it’s been a thing for decades. John k is right on. More to John’s last sentence… there’s a lot of history of betrayal. The Dems weren’t taken over, Clinton-Blair style, overnight. Thirty some years ago it was pointed out to me, by one who might have been called a fellow-traveller, that many of the rank-and-file of the Massachusetts Dem Party were co-affiliated with the SPUSA or CP or that other Socialist Party of the day. Yeah, all that was still alive, in an aging kinda way. They had influence. They got public housing done, and labor rights. They were quiet. They had gone to the Dems to make good things happen. RIP all of them. And now, DNC heads make policy and planks, and the rank and file have very little, if any, input.
        I don’t know how many people remember and are angry and focus it on the Dem Party, or just feel excluded (because they are) from a rhetorical home, or see that the Dem Party actively derides and attacks their left flank.
        In other words. Hell hath no fury.

    2. hemeantwell

      Right. Sanders challenged and at least partially discredited corporate Democrats. What he, and we, can make of this is an open question. Trump successfully displaced the Republican anointed and threatened them with a collection of policies, or at least policy proposals, that busted their droning We Love Main Street and We Love Freedom message. Just as NC thinks of the Dems as wanting to get back to their routine human rights + corporate rule ways, the Rs hope to return to theirs line. In neither case is it possible, the position of the US in the world is changing permanently in too many ways. So what, though, elites want to show us that TINA to them, and blunder on after that.

      And this was an excellent interview!

  13. b1daly

    From the point of a “regular US citizen,” the whole mess appears as a nest of vipers who have turned on each other. It’s vipers all the way down.

    I’ve generally thought Trump is such a catastrophe as President, that using any means available to diminish him seemed like a perfectly reasonable plan of attack, even if the details don’t all add up. The repubs perfected this form of cutthroat governing during the Clinton administration. It’s hard to begrudge the Dems their chance to spin up a conspiracy from the dust, and use it to hammer their opponents.

    One of the many delusions Trump seems to have bought into was that once he was President, his total lack of political, and leadership, ability could be overcome with his usual bluster.

    I have to admit, the weird news coming out of Washington in the past few days seems rather ominous.

    I still think Trump, as US President, is a unique menace to the world at large. Even though the sight of Pence makes my skin crawl, if he were President, the US could go back to being the type of menace it’s been, historically. Which is still terrible, but not without the occasional redeeming action.

    As to this being a power struggle between big energy business factions and the MIC, I tend to agree with Trump, that it might not be so bad to be on friendly terms with the Russians. It would be much preferable to have some big energy deals going down, as opposed to big arms deals. To bad Trump seems utterly incapable of executing the handful of sensible notions he put forth.

  14. PH

    I am not convinced that there is a unitary narrative, or even a predominent narrative to this story.

    Elements of the speculation often presented here ring true. Bluedog Dem leaders eager to beat Trump with scandal, and to change the subject. That sounds right. Media gobbling like spooked turkeys; the usual

    Beyond that, i see nothing clearly.

    Who, exactly, is the anti-Russia faction in the Deep State, and what do they want?

    Maybe there is an organized web with organized goals. Who?

    There are known Neo-con think tank guys. Who do you suggest are in the cabal? There are Hillary advisers formerly at State. Who is in the cabal?

    I do not see the Pentagon lined up against Trump. I do not see NSA lined up against Trump. Do you? On what explicit or impicit evidence?

    It is easy for me to imagine Neo-Con think tank or Hillary politicals working the press, but what power in what bureaucracy do you think what persons weild?

    The issue is particularly important for the FBI — not the typical Nei-Con or Hillary supporter stomping ground, as I understand it. Indeed, I do not see FBI as either Neo-liberal hot house or Neo-Con foreign policy shop.

    The more simple answer is that Trump is a crook, and an irratic crook. So are many of his cronies. The crook part is probably not that uncommon, but the erratic crook combinationmay scare some people. Or may offend their righteous sensibilities. There are some people in DC who take their jobs seriously.

    I do not see any convincing evidence of a highly organized conspiracy on either side of the issue. But maybe I just lack the informstion. Or lack the imagination.

  15. Damson

    English is on the money about the energy cartels operating behind the scenes, though studiously avoiding the elephant in the room.

    A French site reveals that the Syrian ‘opposition’ has been laundering the funds received for the overthrow of Assad and elimination of Hezbollah into offshore accounts.

    Cuí bono?

    Which ‘ally supplied the info to Trump that is now so ‘troubled’ about it?

    An ally which strangely has never experienced the depredations of the takfiris, unlike Muslims and Christians?

    Who has been caught fraternizing with Al Quaeda in the Levant (Al Nusra), even rescuing them in the occupied Golan Heights?

    The Russians know ISIS is largely a proxy for cartels using certain nation – states resources to decimate Syria and control the flow of energy as well as the water supply in the surrounding region.

    The prize is the destruction of Iran, and control over the huge Pars gasfield, half of which is in the puppet statelet of Qatar.

    Machine translate for those who don’t speak French :

    http://www.madaniya.info/2017/05/02/l-adoubement-des-dirigeants-de-l-opposition-off-shore-syrienne-par-israel-un-blanchissement-de-leurs-turpitudes/

    1. PH

      Are you saying it is Saudia Arabia/USA v. Russia/Iran?

      And Trump is on Iran’s side?

      If not, what are you saying?

        1. Bukko Boomeranger

          Why is it so hard for some people just to write “Israel”? Is it because they want to play silly-sly wordsmithy games? Because they’re worried that other Internet commenters, who they don’t know and will never meet in person, might label them as anti-Semitic? Who give’s a rosy rat’s arsse about what unseen person on the Internet thinks?

          Y’know, it’s possible to disagree with the current government of Israel WITHOUT hating on all Jews. There’s truth to what Damson said about Israel assisting some ISIS-linked fighters in the Golan Heights, and how Israel has oddly NOT been targeted by ISIS with the vehemence that the head-choppers have attacked Shiites, and that it’s to Israel’s advantage that ISIS/al Qaeda-linked insurgents are hobbling the (admittedly brutal) Syrian regime. But really, people, do you think you’re being cutesy-clever by writing stuff such as “certain nations” and “the state that must not be named”? “Israel” is not a curse word. If you’re going to make a point, don’t beat around the burning bush.

          1. Damson

            I used the term ‘certain nations’ (in reality, secret cliques and secret services) in the interests of economy, because I was pressed for time.

            I will be happy to list them now for you:

            US

            ISRAEL

            UK

            FRANCE

            KSA

            QUATAR

            TURKEY

            The ‘ally’ was revealed in the posted link – Israel.

            Which is inextricably linked via the Rothschild and Rockefeller clans to the ruling elites of the UK and US. (Though not only them – other clans like the Murdoch are players too, as well as the Clintons.)

            Since I am well aware the Zionist colony is overwhelmingly composed of settlers of East European origin-sometimes called Khazars, after the ancient Kingdom that preceded the current nation-states, and which comprised much of current Eastern Ukraine), I have always found the charge of ‘anti – semitism’ routinely lobbied at critics of Zionism risible.

            Trust me, I do not give a rats ass what charges hasbara level at me on the net.

            Many of them are dupes anyway.

  16. Watt4Bob

    My impression is that Trump is opposed by defenders of the status quo, the makers of the ‘Plan’, those who are, and have been profiting from what has been called the ‘Washington Consensus’.

    Put simply, the elites opposing Trump are doing quite well by vilifying Russia, and perpetuating chaos in the Middle East, not to mention ‘Globalization’, meaning Wall $treet runs the ‘New World Order’.

    Trump threatens the heretofore sacrosanct ‘Plan’.

    Up until now, all the Presidents since Carter left office, have been protectors of the ‘Plan’, and collaborators with the ‘Planners’ and all have been satisfied to accept their fair share of the subsequent profits in return for their help, or at least their non-interference with what ever the ‘Planners’ cook up.

    The ‘Planners’ are now up-in-arms because for the first time in a generation, they are facing a President who isn’t committed to the ‘Plan’ and the ‘Planners’.

    The ‘Plan’, by consensus, has come to rely on eternal war, and Russia as the perpetual enemy, as its foundational features, and Trump’s rejection, or even his questioning of those sacred dogmas has evidently resulted in his being marked for elimination.

    In short, Trump does not ‘Go Along to Get Along’ so he isn’t going to be allowed to ‘get Along’.

    I’m not the first to observe the obvious, that in all likelihood, Pence poses no threat to the ‘Plan’.

      1. kgw

        So, you acknowledge it, but just want to know its form? Is this to discover how many angels can carry it and still dance on the head of a pin?

      2. lyman alpha blob

        It’s a written document and it’s 20 years old.

        I can’t find the original website, it may have been taken down, but in cased you missed it the first time – Project for a New American Century.

        Take a look at the signatories – many are still involved with government in an official or advisory capacity. These are the people who control the military industrial complex, the masters of war.

  17. justanotherprogressive

    Thank you for this Yves!
    Finally, some common sense about Russia!! If Trump can work to make better relations with Russia, then I am all for it! And it really bothers me that a segment of our political elites would rather have increased tensions with Russia to even a war with Russia rather than admit that their policies were so bad that they were beaten by the likes of Trump.

  18. DJG

    Thanks for this, YS: I greatly esteem Robert English’s way of getting across much helpful information succinctly. He manages to describe the U.S. bureaucracy, the recent history of Russia, and neoliberal / neocon fantasies about what the Russians deserved. Also, those wrapup paragraphs about selective leaking are important. Ahhh yes I’m so old I remember the scandal-free Obama administration.

    Also: Every once in a while, someone turns up here claiming that NC is a hotbed of disgruntled conservatives along with fellow-traveling HillaryHaters. This article in fact sums up the discussion here: Our constitutional structure is greatly damaged (by both parties), our economy is rapacious (looting the U.S. and sacking the rest of the world), and the surveillance state has not be held to account (ahhh, the Obama administration and all of those challenges in FISA courts that didn’t happen).

    In short, Trump (a scoundrel who was elected) is in a battle with an unelected bureaucracy of un-elected scoundrels, the so-called intelligence community, that has wreaked havoc throughout the world for years. Check with the Chileans on that. And now the war has come home.

    1. beth

      “And now the war has come home.”

      And that is what I have said about fracking.

      I agree.

  19. digi_owl

    To me it is simple. After the fragmentation of the USSR, financial interests moved in to loot Russia via oligarch proxies.

    This worked fine as long as the drunkard Yeltsin was in charge.

    But then came Putin, and he wanted none of that.

    So now the looters have put on a smearing campaign of epic proportions to make Putin the big bad.

    Problem is, Putin plays their game better than they do.

  20. Michael C.

    The constant drive to demonize Russia and Putin, the latter admittedly no saint, due to ulterior motives is analagous to the demonization of Sadaam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, again neither one a saint, for ulterior motives. We saw how the long-term ramifications of the Iraq/Afghanistan/Libya overthrows turned out, so we should never give any real credibitlity and intelligence to those who are determining our foreign policy. Unless of course you are a defence contractor or a general in the military, the latter of whom will end up hired by a corporation linked to arms and defence.

    The US should have tried to bring Russia into the fold of Europe after the dissolution of the Soviet Union instead of greededly looking at it as an opportunity to isolate and undermine it, but of course that thought assumes that we are run by a government that does anything because it is right and because it is looking long-term to the creation of a better, more peaceful, and sustainable world.

  21. mtnwoman

    Has this Dutch documentary by Zembla been discussed here? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bEdMuKq30I
    Or is Zembla also the “Deep State” wrangling to take down the ever so benevolent and honest Donald Trump?

    Most of this was all known in 2016. Why wasn’t the media all over this back then?

    “ZEMBLA is investigating another explosive dossier concerning Trump’s involvement with the Russians: Trump’s business and personal ties to oligarchs from the former Soviet Union. Powerful billionaires suspected of money laundering and fraud, and of having contacts in Moscow and with the mafia. What do these relationships say about Trump and why does he deny them? How compromising are these dubious business relationships for the 45th president of the United States? And are there connections with the Netherlands? ZEMBLA meets with one of Trump’s controversial cronies and speaks with a former CIA agent, fraud investigators, attorneys, and an American senator among others.”

  22. Jeremy Grimm

    “… what are we going to do in the Middle East, and what are we doing in East Asia? These pivotal foreign policy strategic issues aren’t getting much attention because of the daily soap opera.”
    This statement near the end of this post is what most worries me.

    The soap opera itself is interesting also in terms of what Trump has done … and hasn’t done. He’s getting a lot of flack from high level people in what I believe are appointed positions. As POTUS he could pull an Andrew Jackson — but he hasn’t. He’s blustered and “tweeted” and helped stir the pot. I believe Trump is acting the clown.

    What is the left hand doing?

  23. Deloss

    A lot of those FBI guys are law-and-order types. I suspect that somebody leaked the memo because 1. Trump had committed a crime, or 2. Trump wanted to commit a crime, or 3. Trump was about to commit a crime–and there was no other way to notify the citizenry about that fact. Did you expect it to be announced by Sean Spicer?

    ” I mean, I think the Trump/Pence administration is going to prove to be more dangerous than the Bush/Cheney. I think it’s extremely dangerous what they have in mind in terms of foreign policy. But all that being said, let’s concentrate on the real stuff.”

    Oh, really? I thought that the danger of the Trump/Pence administration was real enough. And not just in foreign policy, but in their cheerful appointment to positions of power people who have a track record of enriching themselves at public expense. Betsy DeVos, queen of vouchers, as Secretary of Education. Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, as Secretary of State. Rick Perry, a global-warming denier, as Secretary of Energy. Tom Price, an anti-vaccine proponent, as Secretary of Health.

    I admit I am very biased against Donald Trump, and favor anything that puts a monkey-wrench into his rickety machinery. But I also believe that in his relations with Russia, he is acting in his own interest, not the national interest, and his behavior may well have been treasonous. We will find out, perhaps, when Comey testifies. Meantime, his destructive intents have received a short, sharp shock, which I think is all to the good.

    It is your blog, ma’am, and you can post whatever you like. But this “Real News,” it seems to me, is not worth your while.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, “law and order” types know it is against the law to leak, particularly people not at the top. Anyone in a private sector organization is told repeatedly never never to talk to the press and that presumably goes double in a law enforcement settings, where leaks can compromise an investigation (taint the jury pool, give the defense lawyers a clue re your prosecution strategy and allow them time to find experts or legal theories to counter it, allow the defendant to claim bias or intimidation). And consider this:

      Ben Wizner, who heads the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project and is Edward Snowden’s principal legal advisor, told The Daily Beast that Sessions and Trump have extraordinary powers to prosecute and incarcerate leakers——powers that have largely been untapped by previous administrations.

      “The laws that can be deployed against government leakers are broad and draconian,” Wizner said. “And for all of our history, those laws have been broken but not enforced on a daily basis. A president and attorney general who are committed to enforcing those laws widely could change the legal landscape dramatically.”

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/05/16/doj-we-are-ready-to-find-and-prosecute-leakers

      1. Damson

        According to John Helmer – generally reliable – one of the leakers to the WaPo Miller story on Trump ”s supposed sharing of’ classified information ‘was none other than Fiona Hill – Director of National Intelligence.

        Here is a’ psychological profile ‘of Putin written in her Brooking Institute days:

        https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-makes-putin-tick-and-what-the-west-should-do/

        I think the National Enquirer should have hired her instead – the breathless tabloid-style’ revelations’ would be right at home
        .

        Have to admit to more than a little astonishment at the quality of upper level intelligence apparatchiks these days.

        Then again, real analysts with anything approaching a healthy psychology probably constitute a liability for the sociopaths running the circus….

  24. AnnieM

    So, an anonymous “source” provides a reading of a supposedly existent memo that Trump verbally requested Comey to stop the investigation of Flynn a few days after the “I hope there isn’t a tape” comment. Is this a hunting expedition to flush out whether Trump has audio tapes from his meetings?

  25. Inquiring Mind

    Judging from the released quotes of Trump nudging Comey to give Flynn a pass, it seems all about saving Flynn from getting skewered…not Trump saving his own skin. (Yes, his subsequent firing of Comey could be more about saving his own skin). The statement is not at all Nixonian (“stay the hell away from this!”)…Trump sounds much more like a pal trying to pull some strings to save another pal.

    Trump appears to have something in the range of a 5th grade understanding of how the Federal Government and Presidency actually work. Something along the lines of: “I’m the President of the United States…and you’re not! I can do what I want and you can’t stop me!” Ever since inauguration it has been case after case of his realizing, “wait…there are procedures for this?!? I can’t just tell people to do what I want them to do, and they do it?!?” It doesn’t help that Trump’s default attitude is arrogant asshole.

    This Comey meeting seems like it happened after some of that realization…so it sounds like he’s asking Comey nicely – trying to persuade him: “C’mon, Flynn’s a good guy…he didn’t mean it”.

    Now, everyone who has an axe to grind (i.e. everyone who has ever been within 50 miles of DC) is out to play up these actions/words of an ignoramus into a nefarious tyrannical conspiracy to subvert the Constitution.

    Trump is dangerous because he is an arrogant amateur blundering around in a world he doesn’t understand. What is happening to him is well-deserved, but will result in winners who are likely very much worse than he is because they are nefarious, and they are effective professionals.

  26. Reader

    I don’t understand all the talk of impeachment coming from the dems. Trump gives them so many easy opportunities to maintain the circus atmosphere they’ve created since the election, to maintain the appearance of being the opposition party so they can continue their grifting while the populace is distracted. I think with Pence as president they’d have to work a lot harder.

    Or is the impeachment talk just additional fodder to fool dem voters into thinking the party actually represent their interests?

  27. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    But underlying all of this, and all the furor, is a fundamental assumption. It’s a term that’s used constantly in the media and by the various political pundits on the media, which is “Russia is our adversary.” You have to basically assume that the adversary, Russia, has an antagonistic relationship with the United States, and then underneath all of that, then you have Flynn and Comey investigation and so on. Because if Russia isn’t the great adversary, then it’s unlikely there’d be such a to-do about all of this.

    You know your opponent is a great master when you realize no one on this side is addressing that assumption.

    The bystanders, like us, are all too busy trying to find out if Trump didn’t do this or he did do that.

  28. B.J.M.

    Hey this is blasphemous non-sense! Putin vivisects kittens for pleasure! We aren’t supposed to think rationally about any of this. One of the foremost experts on Russia, Princeton’s Stephen F. Cohen is rarely heard in the U.S. because the corporate media isn’t interested in the truth or rationality. There is always some narrative of the deep state that needs to be perpetuated.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-kovalik/rethinking-russia-a-conve_b_7744498.html

  29. RMO

    We survived the original cold war (just barely and by chance – go ahead and look up how many times we came within a gnat’s eyelash of global Armageddon) w don’t need another one. The Washington DC elite have gone so far round the bend that General Jack D. Ripper looks calm, sane and trustworthy by comparison.

  30. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thanks for this informative interview with Robert English. I too share the view that a significant opportunity was squandered in the early to mid-1990s to build a constructive relationship with Russia, with the key actors mostly those who were unable to put the Cold War behind them, and who used the opportunity to debilitate Russia economically and expand U.S. power globally; as well as US and Western European financial and economic interests to a more limited extent.

    That the Trump administration is attempting to move the needle toward a more constructive geopolitical and economic relationship with Russia is a positive development IMO, as I agree with Trump that U.S. and Russian geopolitical, economic and environmental interests are often aligned, albeit not always. However, I remain concerned about global organized crime, oligarchic political and economic control, corruption and impairment of civil liberties, issues which transcend national boundaries and are not unique to Russia; and those politicians and their sponsors in the U.S. who are seeking expanded military conflict.

    I view the conversation reflected in this interview on two levels: Those predominantly interested in preserving (the perception of) U.S. global hegemony, and those primarily seeking to disempower and replace Trump as president, although they are not necessarily mutually exclusive groups. In any event, there is little question who presently has the media megaphone. It has been educational to see how pervasive their narrative can be.

  31. Elizabeth

    Yves, thank you for posting a great interview with Prof. English. I hope this is circulated widely and maybe people will wake up to what is really going on – a coup to get rid of Trump. I agree with the professor, it all boils down to Trump wanting to have better relations with Russia, which ruins a lot of plans to go to war. I think the U.S. is going down a very dangerous path with all this hysteria and it sets a precedent for next election (if there is one), to get rid of someone the intelligence agencies don’t want. It’s scary.

    Democracy died years ago – not on January 20, 2017.

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