Friday, February 17, 2017

Family Ties

Just when one thinks the current political climate in these United States can't get anymore surreal, Washington has once again found a way to up the ante. For those of you living under a rock, on February 13th recently-sworn in National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn resigned amidst allegations that he had illegally discussed sanctions with a Russian ambassador in late December. These revelations were initially brought to the public by a journalist for The Washington Post with a long history of regurgitating to the public what he is fed by the CIA. Reportedly the source(s) for said Washington Post report and other that soon followed from The New York Times and the like is from within the US intelligence community.

As one might expect, the mainstream media and the Democratic Party are in rare form. Many within these institutions are already hailing the Flynn revelations and Trump's reputed Russian connection to be the most serious security breach in this nation's history. The air is thick with the invigorating vapers of neo-McCarthyism.

In many ways, the Democrats have completed their transformation into the Cold War-era Republican Party. The process was begun in earnest in the early 1990s with the party's embrace of neo-liberalism at the expense of economic justice. Under Obama, what semblance of the anti-War Left that was still standing within the Party soon gave way to the glories of the Imperial Presidency and the vast national security apparatus. Today's Democrats appear to be more certain of the rightness of a World War with Russia than ole Tail-Gunner Joe ever was.

And be assured, Flynn's removal had everything to do with escalating tensions with Russia. The general was easily one of the most moderate voices concerning Russia within Trump's administration and a major proponent of detente.

Trump may not totally abandon such a policy, one of the few rational ones his administration has rolled out. He still has another major Russian-backer in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and I do not expect a major reversal until Tillerson is forced out.

Glory to the Deep State

No doubt the wheels are already in motion in this regard. Elements of the US intelligence community opposed to Trump are throwing down the gauntlet:
"On Wednesday, former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler provided some insight into the reaction of national security officials.
" 'Now we go nuclear,' he wrote on Twitter. '[Intelligence community] war going to new levels. Just got an [email from] senior [intelligence community] friend, it began: "He will die in jail." '
" 'US intelligence is not the problem here,' Schindler added in another tweet. 'The President’s collusion with Russian intelligence is. Many details, but the essence is simple.' "
This comes after reports that the Us intelligence community has been withholding intelligence reports from Trump, allegedly out of fear over his Russian connections. Such claims are utterly absurd. Even if Trump has extensive financial ties to the Russians, he would hardly be the first key US official to have lucrative dealings with countries not entirely friendly to the United States. The Clinton Foundation, for instance, received funds from a Chinese billionaire with close ties to the communist government. This was hardly the first brush the Clintons had with China, and appear to have been on the payroll since Bill's presidency.

Elsewhere, there is compelling evidence that congressional Republicans are almost totally subservient to the Israeli government. Mike Lofgren, a Republican congressional aide who worked in congress for over twenty-five years, has noted:
"The other factor is that domestic political considerations involving money increasingly determined foreign-policy. A visitor from outer space would find it peculiar that Netanyahu, a foreign head of government, has been called the leader of the Republican Party – the same party that habitually flaunts its xenophobic 'America First' patriotism. Senator Graham has gone so far as to say he would follow whatever policies the Israeli prime minister might propose, and arresting statement in light of the senator's oath to the Constitution and the voters he represents. It is all the more strange if one considers that well within living memory the Israeli prime minister and his coreligionists would have been barred from entering many of the social establishments run by the people who were once called 'country-club Republicans.'..."
(The Deep State, Mike Lofgren, pg. 69) 
Lofgren goes on to note of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC):
"When Tom DeLay was House majority leader, I found out that any legislative provisions having anything to do with the Middle East had to be vetted and approved by AIPAC before the bill could move forward."
(The Deep State, Mike Lofgren, pg. 69n) 

And be assured, the US intelligence community itself is hardly immune to foreign dollars and overtures. Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator that work on highly classified projects, has detailed the extent to which the US intelligence community has been penetrated by foreign assets and dollars in her groundbreaking Classified Woman. As to the former, she notes the following from her time with the FBI:
"I was told of frequent internecine sabotage: between the Hebrew division and Muslim Arab-origin translator; between the Indian and Pakistani Muslim translators – all were at war with one another, and it sometimes erupted in actual bloodshed. People were accusing one another of being spies: of spies spying on each other. Classified files were stolen, documents went missing, locks were tampered with. Rearranging how these groups were clustered within the unit seem to be the only department response; that and tepid reassurances."
(Classified Woman, Sibel Edmonds, pg. 34)

Foreign influences is one of the dirtiest secrets of Washington and the deep state as a whole. As such, it is typically dramatically downplayed by the mainstream media. Except when it comes to Trump, apparently. This smacks of desperation, for if the foreign ties of one politicians are extensively investigated, then others may also find themselves in the spotlight. And this would potentially lead to the type of revelations that would lead to the public questioning the legitimacy of the American government on the whole. Unless of course that is the ultimate plan.

Let all of this sink in for a moment: Elements of the US intelligence community are openly proclaiming that they're going to take down a sitting US president and the mainstream media and much of the Democratic Party are cheering them on. And they're going to do it on the basis that Trump is compromised by a former government, something that could be said of virtually every major figure in Washington. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

What is the appropriate response when the self-proclaimed champions of civil liberties and democracy championing the deep state's bid to overthrow a siting president? And be sure, it is this dire. Consider the latest intellectual navel gazing in this regard:
"With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most—perhaps the only—credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s 'wrecking ball presidency.'
"The leaders of these agencies are generally disturbed by Trump’s cavalier treatment of their intelligence findings and particularly worried about contacts between Trump’s entourage and Russian intelligence officials."
The Deep State, the very definition of a shadow government, is the only "credible check in Washington" of Trump's presidency?  Wow, just wow.

Its Not Over Till Its Over

Trump, never one to sit ideally by, appears to have a counteroffensive in the works: an investigation into the leaks that are plaguing his administration. He already has support in Congress and what is described as a "close alley' lined up to head the investigation. The New York Times reports:
"President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.
"The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump blamed leaks from the intelligence community for the departure of Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, whose resignation he requested.
"There has been no announcement of Mr. Feinberg’s job, which would be based in the White House, but he recently told his company’s shareholders that he is in discussions to join the Trump administration. He is a member of Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council.
"Mr. Feinberg, who has close ties to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, declined to comment on his possible position. The White House, which is still working out the details of the intelligence review, also would not comment.
"Bringing Mr. Feinberg into the administration to conduct the review is seen as a way of injecting a Trump loyalist into a world the White House views with suspicion. But top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies.
 "Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, according to current and former intelligence officials and Republican lawmakers, had at one point considered Mr. Feinberg for either director of national intelligence or chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, a role that is normally reserved for career intelligence officers, not friends of the president. Mr. Feinberg’s only experience with national security matters is his firm’s stakes in a private security company and two gun makers."
Stephen A. Feinberg
The Time's is being a bit disingenuous about Mr. Feinberg's ties to national security. Consider the holdings it goes on to acknowledge that his private equity firm, Cerberus Capital, possess:
"Through Cerberus, his private equity company, Mr. Feinberg has strong ties to the government contracting industry. Cerberus owns DynCorp International, which has had a wide array of large contracts providing security to the State Department and other agencies. DynCorp is now locked in a major legal dispute over the fate of a $10 billion State Department contract that it previously held to provide air support for counternarcotics operations overseas.
"John F. Kelly, the new Homeland Security secretary, was paid $166,000 a year as a DynCorp adviser until he was named to the new administration.
"Cerberus also owns Remington Outdoor, a major firearms manufacturer."

DynCorp was one of the first modern private military companies and still of the most powerful operating today. While it is not as well known as Blackwater, it has been involved in its fair share of controversy. And like Blackwater, it has been employed by both the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command to conduct highly classified work. Evidence has even emerged that DynCorp assisted the CIA in its Rendition Program.

The Times noted that Feinberg had even considered buying Blackwater itself in 2008. Curiously, he went to Blackwater's North Carolina facility in 2005 for firearms training as well. But the same could be said for Cerberus on the whole --it being curious, that is.

The New York Times has previously noted that Cerberus and Feinberg are highly secretive, with Feinberg generally avoiding even having his picture taken. Cerberus is a Byzantine organization and no doubt many of their business interests are fairly standard. But its ownership of DynCorp and several arms manufacturers strongly indicate that it has extensive involvement in national security. DynCorp alone is tasked with many highly sensitive projects, many of which being potentially illegal.

This is further evidence of Trump's closeness to the private military industry, which works closely with the JSOC and the CIA's National Clandestine Services. The latter is where I suspect much of Trump's support within the CIA comes from. As was noted before here, Trump has been meeting with Blackwater founder Erik Prince of late as well. Interestingly, Trump had apparently considered appointing Feinberg to head the National Clandestine Service, which Prince's Blackwater (and presumably DynCorp) did a lot of contract work for in the Special Activities Division.

Cui Bono?

As per usual, the person who appears to be benefiting the most from these shenanigans is veep Mike Pence. Unsurprisingly, Pence is keeping a safe distance from the chaos rocking the young Trump administration. Some have even gone so far as to describe Pence as being "not totally in the loop":
"Some close to Pence report that he was “blindsided” and “frustrated” by the misleading information. Pence was said to have urged Flynn to publicly apologize instead of resigning, however. It was the White House that found what Flynn did to be unacceptable and took action. After Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Don McGahn had a conversation with Flynn, Pence decided the former lieutenant general should go.
"According to the Post, Pence and Priebus were both troubled by the conversation, 'expressed dismay both with Flynn’s answers and the dawning reality that Flynn had deceived Pence.'
"White House officials told the Post that keeping Pence out of the loop wasn’t intentional, rather it was a result of confusion. Despite a long relationship with McGahn, the White house counsel briefed Trump, Priebus and Steve Bannon, assuming that they would pass the information on to the vice president if he needed to know."
Mike Pence
Pence is thus being depicted as a kind of outsider in the Trump regime despite multiple reports that he played a key role in sacking Flynn. This is rather shrewd of Pence, or whoever his directing his play. On the one hand, he is distancing himself from the increasingly dysfunctional Trump inner circle.

On the other hand, he has used this apparent slight to force out Flynn, a Trump loyalist, as the National Security Advisor. The NSA, along with the Director of the CIA (DCIA) and Director of National Intelligence (DNI), are arguably the three most senior figures in the US intelligence community. And it just so happens that the current DCIA and presumptive DNI are reportedly close to Pence:
"Against this backdrop, Mr. Trump has appointed Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, to run the C.I.A., and former Senator Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, to be the director of national intelligence (he is still awaiting confirmation). Both were the preferred choices of the Republican congressional leadership and Vice President Mike Pence and had no close or longstanding ties to Mr. Trump. In fact, they each endorsed Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for president during the 2016 Republican primaries."
Ah, but there's more. You see dear reader, Pence, Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are also members of the fundamentalist cult variously known as "The Family" or "The Fellowship":
"Certain Trump picks point to a religious-criminal cabal preparing for a Pence presidency. What do Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and certainly not least, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have in common? Membership in ‘The Fellowship’, a quasi-religious organization-unregistered lobby with fingerprints all over past USA international crimes sprees. These three significant personalities all are under the ‘spiritual’ tutelage of Doug Coe, leader of ‘The Family’ where if you are ‘chosen’ there is a different standard, an unaccountable standard, where everything up to and inclusive of child rape is excused..."

Dan Coats (top) and Jeff Sessions (bottom)
This powerful Evangelical network is highly secretive and extensively connected to the deep state. Jeff Sharlet, who first exposed The Family in his classic 2008 work The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, noted in 2003:
"A lot of their key men in a country would be the intelligence officers in the American embassy. Throughout their correspondence, that's the kind of guy they would like to have involved. They always had a lot of Army intelligence guys involved, Pentagon guys. 
"Doug Coe in the early 70's was touring the frontlines in Vietnam with intelligence officers and South Vietnamese generals. That's the level of connections they are talking about, like the Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova [convicted by a Florida jury for the torture of thousands] and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez [a minister also linked to the CIA and death squads]. They are the people who brought those people in. They said you need to meet this person. That's how it works."
Much more information on The Family can be found here.

But The Family does not appear to be the only cabal of religious extremists represented in the Trump regime. As was noted here, infamous campaign manager turned "chief strategist" Steve Bannon is close to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), an organization Trump cozied up to during his campaign. Many SMOM members are as reactionary Catholics as one is apt to encounter. And given the close ties Trump's regime has to the Pentagon, there are probably ample SMOM and Opus Dei members hiding within the ranks. As award winning journalist Seymour Hersh noted, SMOM and Opus Dei have extensively penetrated the Pentagon.

Effectively then various Christian fascists have secured positions of immense power within the Trump regime, up to the Vice-Presidency. And the only thing holding them at bay is Trump himself. And if Trump is removed, whether it be via assassination, coup or impeachment, this is who will be assuming the reigns of power.

It makes one wonder just where exactly those leaks plaguing the Trump regime are coming from. The standard answer is Obama holdovers or former officials such as ex-CIA director John Brennan. But Pence, with fellow Family members overseeing the Justice Department (which will be especially relevant if impeachment procedures are begun against Trump) and a key post in the US intelligence community, has as much to gain as anyone from Trump's ouster.

Pence is already carefully positioning himself as an outsider in the Trump regime, and if he is revealed to be one of the leakers and assists in bringing down the Trump presidency in the process, will no doubt become a major media darling --a patriot through and through who crossed party lines to remove an out of control president.

And curiously, no one in the Democratic Party, the press, or even the power brokers behind these groups seems overly concerned with what will happen next once a group of radical Christian fundamentalists bent on stealthy co-opting the government will do once they have the run of the White House.

Be afraid dear reader. Be very afraid.

P.S.: I've received many great comments and emails these past few weeks that I am once again behind in responding too. I shall make an effort to catch up during this weekend. I'm sorry that it takes me so long to respond, but many of you leave such thoughtful comments that require an in depth response. Please be patient and I will try to come up with something that rewards your patience.