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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: h r mcmaster

Bombshell Report Uncovers Right-Wing 'Sting' Plot Against McMaster, FBI

Undercover operatives from the right-wing Project Veritas worked with a former British spy and Betsy DeVos' brother Erik Prince to wage a smear and sting operation to discredit "deep state" federal government officials on President Donald Trump's enemies list while he was in office, including the White House National Security Adviser and unnamed FBI agents.

The New York Times broke the bombshell story, reporting that the "campaign included a planned sting operation against Mr. Trump's national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and secret surveillance operations against F.B.I. employees, aimed at exposing anti-Trump sentiment in the bureau's ranks.

""The campaign," the Times reports, "shows the obsession that some of Mr. Trump's allies had about a shadowy 'deep state' trying to blunt his agenda — and the lengths that some were willing to go to try to purge the government of those believed to be disloyal to the president."

"Central to the effort, according to interviews, was Richard Seddon, a former undercover British spy who was recruited in 2016 by the security contractor Erik Prince to train Project Veritas operatives to infiltrate trade unions, Democratic congressional campaigns and other targets. He ran field operations for Project Veritas until mid-2018."

Last year, The New York Times reported that Mr. Seddon ran an expansive effort to gain access to the unions and campaigns and led a hiring effort that nearly tripled the number of the group's operatives, according to interviews and deposition testimony. He trained operatives at the Prince family ranch in Wyoming.

The Times' extensive reporting, which runs about 2700 words, does not reveal who initiated or who bankrolled the campaign.

The Times reports the operation was run out of a Washington, D.C, townhouse that rented for $10,000 a month, and that it is not known if President Trump or his closest advisors, including family members, were aware of the operation or had anything to do with it.

"The operation against Mr. McMaster was hatched not long after an article appeared in BuzzFeed News about a private dinner in 2017. Exactly what happened during the dinner is in dispute, but the article said that Mr. McMaster had disparaged Mr. Trump by calling him an 'idiot' with the intelligence of a 'kindergartner.'"

Those allegations were never proven, although they echo what some others inside the administration, like first Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, had allegedly stated.

In the end, McMaster resigned amid far right-wing attacks, but no recordings emerged of him calling Trump an "idiot."

Read the entire New York Times investigation here.




The Times' extensive reporting, which runs about 2700 words, does not reveal who initiated or who bankrolled the campaign.The Times reports the operation was run out of a Washington, D.C, townhouse that rented for $10,000 a month, and that it is not known if President Trump or his closest advisors, including family members, were aware of the operation or had anything to do with it.Last year, The New York Times reported that Mr. Seddon ran an expansive effort to gain access to the unions and campaigns and led a hiring effort that nearly tripled the number of the group's operatives, according to interviews and deposition testimony. He trained operatives at the Prince family ranch in Wyoming.

The Times' extensive reporting, which runs about 2700 words, does not reveal who initiated or who bankrolled the campaign.The Times reports the operation was run out of a Washington, D.C, townhouse that rented for $10,000 a month, and that it is not known if President Trump or his closest advisors, including family members, were aware of the operation or had anything to do with it.


Danziger: Call Of Duty

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Danziger: Another Menacing Sploosh

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

Was Trump Cabinet’s Loyalty Ritual Funny — Or Scary?

If you’ve been wondering what “loyalty” means to President Trump, his most recent cabinet meeting provides an illustration. Hint: it doesn’t necessarily include loyalty to the United States of America.

Rather, to the assorted Wall Street billionaires, politicians and captains of industry that the president has surrounded himself with, loyalty equates with obsequious, sycophantic praise for Trump himself.

The televised spectacle has to be seen to be believed. And the question is, was it more laughable or more scary? I confess being of two minds. 

On the comic side, I couldn’t help but think of the “mighty Emperor of Lilliput, Delight and Terror of the Universe” in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. To determine which of his courtiers gained preference, the Emperor—every bit of six inches tall—conducted public exhibitions of “leaping and creeping,” rather like dog agility trials. The winners particularly excelled at groveling.

That would be quite a competition in Trump’s cabinet. In an obviously scripted moment, Vice President Pence set the tone by piously intoning how serving the great man was the honor of his life.

He’s really good at piety, Pence.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus then thanked Trump “for the opportunity and blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” Around the table it went, each cabinet secretary striving to outdo the others in expressing devotion to Trump.

Oleaginous HHS Secretary Tom Price may have taken the prize: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”

This isn’t a cabinet, it’s a fan club.

Where did they find such an assemblage of brown-nosers? And why would a confident chief executive want them? Good luck anybody at that table ever telling Trump anything he doesn’t want to believe.

Not that he ever listens.  

Anyway, even with his disapproval rating in Gallup’s daily tracking poll at 60 percent (versus 36 percent favorable), Trump positively wallowed in the warm bath of his underlings’ praise.  I’ve seen cocker spaniels more resistant to petting. Who’s a good boy? Donald’s a good boy!

The president modestly allowed that only Franklin Delano Roosevelt had accomplished as much during his first months in office.

Nobody laughed.

Thankfully, I suppose, only Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis resisted the urge to flatter the president. Instead, he spoke highly of serving “men and women of the Department of Defense,” as well he should. I actually believe it’s the patriotic duty of Mattis and beleaguered National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster to remain on duty almost regardless of the president’s follies.

During the assembly of Trump's Cabinet, on Monday, members around the table spoke effusively about the president. He sat beaming, soaking it all in. It was the first formal gathering of his most senior officials at the White House.As he struggles with myriad crises, the lavishing of praise and adulation contrasted with the storm enveloping the president. Prominent is an investigation into possible ties between his election campaign and Russian meddling in the race.For him, the meeting was a welcome rendering of what he feels are major accomplishments ignored by his detractors. Major legislative achievements have eluded him thus far.

Somebody’s got to man the watch.

Because on the scary side, you’d have to go somewhere like North Korea or, yes, Russia to find contemporary examples of the “Dear Leader” school of political leadership. That said, if Vladimir Putin appears to be Trump’s role model, there’s no reason to think the cunning Russian dictator is anywhere near as susceptible to flattery as our man-child president.

Nor as vulnerable, ultimately, to public opinion. In Russia, anybody as dangerous to Putin as Gen. Michael Flynn appears to be to President Trump would already be dead. A figure like former FBI Director James Comey would be in prison or exile. He’d be well-advised to avoid high balconies and open windows.

But this ain’t Russia.

Trump’s feckless attempts to co-opt, then fire Comey—a cagey, experienced political infighter—track almost exactly with Flynn’s legal perils. He first sought the FBI director’s personal loyalty one day after Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Kremlin operatives had compromised Flynn. Trump then asked Comey to lay off Flynn the day after newspaper accounts forced his firing. Why?

The president’s attempts at damage control have failed spectacularly. “Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton asked during Comey’s recent Senate testimony.

“That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an open setting,” Comey answered, definitely not the response Cotton was looking for. He said a final answer would have to come from the ongoing FBI investigation.

Did I mention how cagey Comey can be?

Meanwhile, if upwards of one-third of American voters appear to have chosen party (in the person of Trump) over country, the rest of us surely have not.  Moreover, Trump supporters’ loyalty to him is based less upon indifference to Russian meddling in U.S. elections than simple disbelief. Many seem to be buying the president’s (pardon me) childish alibi that Democrats have made it all up to explain away Hillary Clinton’s losing the election.

How these things normally work is that zealous supporters cling to Dear Leader until the day after it all comes crashing down. Then suddenly nobody knows him anymore.   

Officials: Trump Revealed Intelligence Secrets To Russians In Oval Office

By Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation, two U.S. officials said on Monday, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Trump’s short tenure in office.

The intelligence, shared at a meeting last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, was supplied by a U.S. ally in the fight against the militant group, both officials with knowledge of the situation said.

The White House declared the allegations, first reported by the Washington Post, incorrect.

“The story that came out tonight as reported is false,” H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, told reporters at the White House, adding that the leaders reviewed a range of common threats including to civil aviation.

“At no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known…I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” he said.

The White House also released a statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said the Oval Office meeting focused on counterterrorism, and from Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, who called the Washington Post story false.

Still, the news triggered concern in Congress.

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, called Trump’s conduct “dangerous” and “reckless”.

Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations “very, very troubling” if true.

“Obviously, they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to come to grips with all that’s happening,” he said of the White House.

The latest controversy came as Trump’s administration reels from the fallout over his abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey and amid congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

One of the officials said the intelligence discussed by Trump in his meeting with Lavrov was classified “Top Secret” and held in a secure “compartment” to which only a handful of intelligence officials have access.

After Trump disclosed the information, which one of the officials described as spontaneous, officials immediately called the CIA and the National Security Agency, both of which have agreements with a number of allied intelligence services around the world, and informed them what had happened.

While the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardize a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement, the U.S. officials said.

Since taking office in January, Trump has careened from controversy to controversy, complaining on the first day about news coverage of his inauguration crowds; charging his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, with wiretapping; and just last week firing the FBI director who was overseeing an investigation into potential ties between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Trump, a Republican who has called allegations of links between his campaign team and Russia a “total scam,” sharply criticized his 2016 election rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her handling of classified information as secretary of state, when she used a private email server.

The FBI concluded that no criminal charges against Clinton were warranted, but Comey said she and her colleagues had been “careless” with classified information.

In his conversations with the Russian officials, Trump appeared to be boasting about his knowledge of the looming threats, telling them he was briefed on “great intel every day,” an official with knowledge of the exchange said, according to the Post.

Some U.S. officials have told Reuters they have been concerned about disclosing highly classified intelligence to Trump.

One official, who requested anonymity to discuss dealing with the president, said last month: “He has no filter; it’s in one ear and out the mouth.”

One of the officials with knowledge of Trump’s meeting with the Russian called the timing of the disclosure “particularly unfortunate,” as the President prepares for a White House meeting on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, an ally in the fight against Islamic State.

Trump’s first foreign trip also begins later this week and includes a stop in Saudi Arabia, another Islamic State foe, and a May 25 NATO meeting in Brussels attended by other important U.S. allies. He also has stops planned in Israel and the Vatican.

The president’s trip and latest uproar over his meeting with Russian officials come amid rumors that he might shake-up his senior staff in a bid to refocus his administration.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Mark Hosenball, Susan Cornwell, Ayesha Rascoe and Steve Holland; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Tarrant)

FILE PHOTO: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) walks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas /File Photo

Trump Removes Steve Bannon From National Security Council

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump removed his chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council on Wednesday, reversing his controversial decision early this year to give a political adviser an unprecedented role in security discussions.

Trump’s overhaul of the NSC, confirmed by a White House official, also elevated General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence who heads all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. The official said the change moves the NSC “back to its core function of what it’s supposed to do.”

It also appears to mark a victory for national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who had told some national security experts he felt he was in a “battle to the death” with Bannon and others on the White House staff.

Vice President Mike Pence said Bannon would continue to play an important role in policy and played down the shake-up as routine.

“This is just a natural evolution to ensure the National Security Council is organized in a way that best serves the president in resolving and making those difficult decisions,” Pence said on Fox News.

Trump’s White House team has grappled with infighting and intrigue that has hobbled his young presidency. In recent days, several other senior U.S. foreign policy and national security officials have said the mechanisms for shaping the Trump administration’s response to pressing challenges such as Syria, North Korea and Iran still were not in place.

Critics of Bannon’s role on the NSC said it gave too much weight in decision-making to someone who lacked foreign policy expertise.

Bannon, who was chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign in the months leading to his election in November, in some respects represents Trump’s “America First” nationalistic voice, helping fuel his anti-Washington fervor and pushing for the president to part ways at times with mainstream Republicans.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bannon headed Breitbart News, a right-wing website.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called the shift in the NSC a positive step that will help McMaster “gain control over a body that was being politicized by Bannon’s involvement.”

“As the administration’s policy over North Korea, China, Russia and Syria continues to drift, we can only hope this shake-up brings some level of strategic vision to the body,” he said.

Bannon’s removal from the NSC was a potential setback for his sphere of influence in the Trump White House, where he has a voice in most major decisions.

But a Trump confidant said Bannon remained as influential as ever.

“He is still involved in everything and still has the full confidence of the president but to be fair he can only do so much stuff,” the confidant said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The White House official said Bannon was no longer needed on the NSC after the departure of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Flynn was forced to resign on Feb. 13 over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, prior to Trump’s taking office on Jan. 20.

The official said Bannon had been placed on the NSC originally as a check on Flynn and had only attended one of the NSC’s regular meetings.

The official dismissed questions about a power struggle between Bannon and McMaster, saying they shared the same world view.

However, two current national security officials rejected the White House explanation, noting that two months have passed since Flynn’s departure.

McMaster, they said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also has dueled with Bannon and others over direct access to Trump; the future of deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News commentator; intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a Flynn appointee; and other staffing decisions.

Trump is preparing for his first face-to-face meeting on Thursday and Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs a key component of their talks.

Bannon’s seat on the NSC’s “principals’ committee,” a group that includes the secretaries of state, defense and other ranking aides, was taken by Rick Perry, who as energy secretary is charged with overseeing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott)

Danziger: Bone Spurs Are Hell

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

Will McMaster And Trump Clash On Russia?

IMAGE: Newly named National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque