Tag: biden administration
Hunter Biden

Busted Biden Informant -- And GOP Witness -- Had Contact With Top Kremlin Spies

The FBI informant who was indicted late last week for allegedly fabricating allegations about President Joe Biden and his son Hunter also reportedly had contact with officials in Vladimir Putin's regime, according to a new court filing.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, was charged last week with making false statements to federal authorities over his claim that both Joe and Hunter Biden solicited a $5 million bribe from Ukrainian company Burisma in exchange for protecting it from an investigation by the Ukrainian government. However, a new 28-page filing submitted in US District Court on Tuesday arguing for his continued pretrial detention suggests Smirnov may have had political motivations in concocting the alleged scheme.

"In December 2023 Smirnov reported to his handler about a recent overseas trip, where Smirnov attended a meeting with Russian Official 2, who Smirnov has described as a high-ranking member of a specific Russian intelligence service," read the filing, which was originally tweeted by Politico legal correspondent Kyle Cheney. "During this same trip, Smirnov apparently attended a separate meeting with Russian Official 1, the individual who controls groups that are engaged in overseas assassination efforts."

Revealingly, the filing said that Smirnov told his FBI handler that Russian intelligence officials obtained cell phone calls from "prominent US persons" that the Putin regime "may use as 'kompromat' in the 2024 election,' depending on who the candidates will be." The filing also read that Smirnov is "actively peddling new lies that could impact US elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November."

"Smirnov's contacts with Russian officials who are affiliated with Russian intelligence services are not benign," the DOJ argued in the filing. "The court should consider this conduct as well when evaluating his personal history and characteristics... In light of that fact there is a serious risk he will flee in order to avoid accountability for his actions."

Aside from his alleged fabrications about the Bidens, Smirnov has also been accused of lying about his finances. Even though he told the FBI he only had access to $1,500 in cash and another $5,000 in a savings account, the Tuesday filing read that he withdrew more than $1.7 million in cashier's checks between 2020 and 2022 in the name of "Avalon Group, Inc." It was not made clear from the filing where the money originated.

The lies Smirnov allegedly told make up the core of Republicans' arguments to impeach President Biden, with both House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer (R-KY) both citing his work with the FBI as justification for their impeachment crusade. They have not yet dropped their efforts to impeach Biden despite the president's calls for them to do so in light of Smirnov's indictment.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Israel And Gaza: The Cold Calculus Of A Ground Invasion

Israel And Gaza: The Cold Calculus Of A Ground Invasion

Sixteen days after suffering the loss of 1,400 of its citizens to the surprise daybreak attack by Hamas terrorists out of Gaza, Israel is facing a terrible dilemma: Do they go into Gaza with ground troops, and if so, how hard? Even after counting the bodies of the dead and enduring their funerals and hearing the stories of rape and torture and point-blank murder of young children and babies, deciding what kind of retribution you will exact on your enemies and how much is not an easy decision. As President Biden reminded the Israelis a week ago, our country made some very bad decisions after the terrorist attack on 9/11 that took more than 3,000 American lives. Due to those decisions, we went on to lose more than twice that many Americans in the wars we waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we caused the deaths of several hundred thousand Iraqi and Afghan civilians.

Military historians use phrases like proportional response to describe what is seen as the correct way to react to attacks by an enemy, especially when the targets of the attack involve civilians. In World War II, Nazi Germany was accused of war crimes when the entire French village of Oradour-Sur-Glane, 643 civilians in all, were massacred by a German Waffen SS company after partisans had captured and killed a Waffen SS Sturmbannfuhrer and bombed resupply trains headed north to reinforce German defenses along the French coast after the Allied invasion at Normandy. Two hundred and forty-seven women and 205 children were locked in a church, and the Germans set it on fire with an incendiary grenade. When the women and children tried to escape through windows and doors, they were machine-gunned by SS soldiers. Those not killed by bullets burned alive in the church.

So, the question for Israel is, what is a proportional response to the massacre of 1,400 Israelis, the great majority of them civilians, by Hamas on October 7? Israel is already rocketing and bombing the Gaza strip with so-called smart weapons capable of hitting pin-point targets on the ground. Israel says it is targeting Hamas weapons stores, headquarters, and places Hamas fighters are known to use as platforms to launch missiles into Israel. Hamas announced today that more than 5,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in strikes by Israel since October 7, with 463 people killed last night alone in Gaza since Israeli airstrikes have increased recently. Casualty figures in Gaza are controlled by Hamas, and the New York Times reported today that Hamas has refused to back up its claims that more than 400 civilians were killed last week when a missile struck the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City.

Experts are now saying that the missile that struck the hospital was fired at Israel by Islamic Jihad fighters and blew up in the air over the hospital. Examination of the damage such as I did using photographs last week, shows that the explosion occurred in the hospital parking lot and that no damage was done to the hospital itself. The Times reports that American intelligence agencies now estimate that between 100 and 300 Palestinians were killed. The truth of what happened with the hospital explosion will never be known, because Hamas has done away with any fragments of the weapon that exploded, claiming falsely that it “vaporized” in the explosion. Experts say that it almost never happens that an explosion does not leave behind evidence that can be examined.

Do you see how quickly this war is devolving into “he-said, she-said” style charges and counter-charges in the fog of the war between Hamas and Israel? What is not foggy, however, is the fact that Hamas slaughtered 1,400 Israelis on October 7, and ever since, Israel has been hitting what it calls Hamas targets in Gaza with many, many airstrikes every day.

And now what? Israel has massed more than 300,000 of its troops and tanks and artillery on its border with Gaza in contemplation of a ground assault that has yet to happen. It was reported yesterday that President Biden has asked Israel not to go into Gaza on the ground until there has been more time to arrange for the 200 hostages Hamas is holding to be released and more humanitarian aid to be trucked into Gaza. National security spokesman John Kirby held a press conference at the White House today and said that the U.S. is not “dictating terms” to Israel’s military and telling them what to do or not to do to defend Israel, but the White House would not confirm or deny that Biden has asked Netanyahu to delay a ground invasion of Gaza.

These are delicate matters for both countries. Netanyahu, whose political career is said to be in ashes because of his failure to protect Israel from the Hamas attack, does not want to be seen as failing to exact an adequate revenge. The U.S. does not want to be seen as blindly backing everything Israel is doing, especially if a ground assault were to result in heavy civilian casualties. Every military estimate of what would result from a ground invasion of Gaza predicts that it would cost a huge number of civilian casualties. Israel runs the risk of losing the support it now enjoys on the international stage after suffering so many civilian losses in the Hamas attack. The U.S. runs an equivalent risk if Israel ends up invading Gaza and many civilians die.

The calculus for any sort of military action such as that which Israel is contemplating is grim in the extreme. If Israel launches an all-out invasion of Gaza on the ground, complete with infantry, tanks, artillery, and air support, thousands will die, both Hamas fighters and Palestinian civilians, while Israel’s military losses will be limited. If instead Israel were to decide on a limited invasion of some kind – say, leaving its tanks out of Gaza and using small units of infantry to move house-to-house looking for hostages and killing Hamas fighters, they know the number of Israeli military casualties will be much higher, while fewer Hamas militants would be killed. The number of civilian Palestinian dead would also be lower.

Every military action is a trade-off. The savage reality of war is that you trade the dead bodies of your own soldiers for a greater toll on the enemy, creating what is called a kill-ratio. This is just a blind estimate, but in any Gaza invasion, Israel would probably be looking for a 10 to 1 kill ratio, losing one Israeli soldier for every ten Hamas dead. But no matter the size of the invasion, Israel will lose hundreds if not thousands of its soldiers.

The final question is, in return for what? Israel has always used the slogan birthed by the Holocaust, “never again,” as the starting point for its own defense. Today, Israel speaks of Hamas in Gaza in terms of “once and for all,” as in ridding themselves of the threat from Palestinian terrorists forever.

Israel tried that strategy when they invaded Lebanon in 1982 in an attempt to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from its strongholds around Beirut. This is a rough distillation, but it didn’t work. PLO leader Yasir Arafat left Beirut and moved his headquarters to Tunisia, and Israel occupied West Beirut for a few months. Over the next three years, Israel did a phased withdrawal of its troops and formed what they called an Israeli Security Zone south of the Litani River in Lebanon, finally pulling out of Lebanon altogether. But read today’s headlines. Hezbollah is shelling and rocketing Israel from southern Lebanon, and Israel is retaliating almost daily.

There is no such thing as “once and for all” in the Middle East. I have written before at length about the thousands of years of war in the Cradle of Civilization. Three religions claim ownership of holy sites in Jerusalem, where many wars have been fought. But the thousands of years of wars pre-date all three religions, and if history teaches us anything at all, wars in that region will outlast them, as well.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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East Palestine

The Right's Fake Indignation Over East Palestine Conceals Essential Facts

While the citizens of a small Ohio village suffer in the aftermath of a train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals there, the usual gang of noisemakers is depicting the accident as a conspiracy to harm them — because they're white, or conservative, or residents of a red state. None of it is true, but the Biden administration's halting response to the accident has allowed that false narrative to gain traction among voters. And amid the din of recriminations from the right, too many Americans have lost sight of what really happened in East Palestine and how to keep it from happening in another place.

Among the noxious accusations promoted on Fox News and its countless imitators, perhaps the nastiest is the notion that the Biden administration punished East Palestine for partisan or even racial reasons. Spewing this nonsense with foam-flecked fervor, Fox's Tucker Carlson declared that the people of East Palestine, unlike (Black) citizens of urban districts, aren't "favored" by the Biden White House. They are "forgotten," said freshman Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, a far-right Republican, because "they're our voters." They are neglected, claimed ultra-MAGA Charlie Kirk, because "Democrats hate working-class whites."

Today's quasi-fascist Republican Party promotes such poisonous rhetoric while simultaneously proclaiming its "America First" patriotism." But their constant campaign to divide the nation along racial lines for political advantage mirrors the online propaganda that the Kremlin used to boost Donald Trump in 2016. It is treacherous, not patriotic. And it obscures fundamental facts about the East Palestine incident.

First, the derailment itself was caused not by the Biden administration, but by the negligence of Norfolk Southern, the railroad giant that fights relentlessly against the strict safety regulations and adequate train staffing that might have prevented this disaster. Norfolk Southern and its lobbyists, both in Ohio and Washington, D.C., have succeeded in weakening regulations on train technology and crew size despite years of union protest. The worst executive decisions on railroad safety in recent years were made under the Trump administration, although the former president, while distributing expired bottles of "Trump Water" in East Palestine, insisted it had "nothing to do" with him.

Second, there would be nothing magical about a visit to East Palestine by Biden, who was pilloried for traveling to Ukraine instead right after the derailment occurred. In fact, a presidential visit to Ohio would have hampered cleanup and relief efforts. Only Putin's GOP stooges could mock Biden for venturing to Kyiv on a dangerous, arduous, and vital mission at 80 years of age. It is worth noting that neither Trump nor his transportation secretary Elaine Chao visited a single derailment site during his presidency.

Third, any delays in bringing badly needed federal assistance to East Palestine are more likely the fault of Ohio's Republican Gov. Mike DeWine than Biden — who immediately called DeWine after the accident to offer "anything you need." For reasons that still seem obscure but may involve reducing Norfolk Southern's ultimate liability and expense, DeWine has refused to issue a disaster declaration. That strange decision has limited the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Administration to act.

As reported by investigative news site The Lever, DeWine has long maintained very close ties with Norfolk Southern, which has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, and to its lobbyists, at least one of whom recently held a top position in his office. He has vowed to make the railroad pay for the cleanup, but whether he will press that demand remains to be seen. Railroad safety legislation has languished and died during his administration.

Finally, the salient question for the Republicans barking at Biden is what they will do to prevent future rail disasters. With longer trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials over great distances, something much worse than East Palestine could easily occur in another town or city, possibly killing hundreds of innocent people.

Will Biden's critics now support efforts by the president, congressional Democrats and the railway unions to improve freight rail safety, as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg challenged them to do? Or will they simply move on to the next opportunity for a fake indignation campaign, and leave working-class communities to their fate?

Keep your expectations low.

To find out more about The National Memo's editor-in-chief Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Biden Names First Black And LGBT White House Press Secretary

Biden Names First Black And LGBT White House Press Secretary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden said on Thursday he has chosen Karine Jean-Pierre as White House press secretary to replace Jen Psaki, who leaves on May 13.

Jean-Pierre would be the first Black woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as press secretary, Psaki said on Twitter after the president issued his statement.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Tim Ahmann)