Friday, July 20, 2018

Brennan and the 2016 Spy Scandal
Kimberley A. Strasseln WALL STREET JOURNAL July 19, 2018

Obama’s CIA director acknowledges egging on the FBI’s probe of Trump and Russia.

The Trump-Russia sleuthers have been back in the news, again giving Americans cause to doubt their claims of nonpartisanship. Last week it was Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Peter Strzok testifying to Congress that he harbored no bias against a president he still describes as “horrible” and “disgusting.” This week it was former FBI Director Jim Comey tweet-lecturing Americans on their duty to vote Democratic in November.

But the man who deserves a belated bit of scrutiny is former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan. He’s accused President Trump of “venality, moral turpitude and political corruption,” and berated GOP investigations of the FBI. This week he claimed on Twitter that Mr. Trump’s press conference in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.” This is rough stuff, even for an Obama partisan.

That’s what Mr. Brennan is—a partisan—and it is why his role in the 2016 scandal is in some ways more concerning than the FBI’s. Mr. Comey stands accused of flouting the rules, breaking the chain of command, abusing investigatory powers. Yet it seems far likelier that the FBI’s Trump investigation was a function of arrogance and overconfidence than some partisan plot. No such case can be made for Mr. Brennan. Before his nomination as CIA director, he served as a close Obama adviser. And the record shows he went on to use his position—as head of the most powerful spy agency in the world—to assist Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and keep his job).

Mr. Brennan has taken credit for launching the Trump investigation. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in May 2017, he explained that he became “aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons.” The CIA can’t investigate U.S. citizens, but he made sure that “every information and bit of intelligence” was “shared with the bureau,” meaning the FBI. This information, he said, “served as the basis for the FBI investigation.” My sources suggest Mr. Brennan was overstating his initial role, but either way, by his own testimony, he as an Obama-Clinton partisan was pushing information to the FBI and pressuring it to act.

More notable, Mr. Brennan then took the lead on shaping the narrative that Russia was interfering in the election specifically to help Mr. Trump—which quickly evolved into the Trump-collusion narrative. Team Clinton was eager to make the claim, especially in light of the Democratic National Committee server hack. Numerous reports show Mr. Brennan aggressively pushing the same line internally. Their problem was that as of July 2016 even then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t buy it. He publicly refused to say who was responsible for the hack, or ascribe motivation. Mr. Brennan also couldn’t get the FBI to sign on to the view; the bureau continued to believe Russian cyberattacks were aimed at disrupting the U.S. political system generally, not aiding Mr. Trump.

The CIA director couldn’t himself go public with his Clinton spin—he lacked the support of the intelligence community and had to be careful not to be seen interfering in U.S. politics. So what to do? He called Harry Reid. In a late August briefing, he told the Senate minority leader that Russia was trying to help Mr. Trump win the election, and that Trump advisers might be colluding with Russia. (Two years later, no public evidence has emerged to support such a claim.)

But the truth was irrelevant. On cue, within a few days of the briefing, Mr. Reid wrote a letter to Mr. Comey, which of course immediately became public. “The evidence of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to mount,” wrote Mr. Reid, going on to float Team Clinton’s Russians-are-helping-Trump theory. Mr. Reid publicly divulged at least one of the allegations contained in the infamous Steele dossier, insisting that the FBI use “every resource available to investigate this matter.”

The Reid letter marked the first official blast of the Brennan-Clinton collusion narrative into the open. Clinton opposition-research firm Fusion GPS followed up by briefing its media allies about the dossier it had dropped off at the FBI. On Sept. 23, Yahoo News’s Michael Isikoff ran the headline: “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” VoilĂ . Not only was the collusion narrative out there, but so was evidence that the FBI was investigating.

In their recent book “Russian Roulette,” Mr. Isikoff and David Corn say even Mr. Reid believed Mr. Brennan had an “ulterior motive” with the briefing, and “concluded the CIA chief believed the public needed to know about the Russia operation, including the information about the possible links to the Trump campaign.” (Brennan allies have denied his aim was to leak damaging information.)

Clinton supporters have a plausible case that Mr. Comey’s late-October announcement that the FBI had reopened its investigation into the candidate affected the election. But Trump supporters have a claim that the public outing of the collusion narrative and FBI investigation took a toll on their candidate. Politics was at the center of that outing, and Mr. Brennan was a ringmaster. Remember that when reading his next “treason” tweet.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The ‘If Only Israel’ Syndrome

by David Harris

The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The “If Only Israel” (IOI) syndrome is the misguided notion — peddled in the name of Israel’s “best interests” by some in the diplomatic, academic, and media worlds — that if only Israel did this or that, peace with the Palestinians would be at hand. But since Israel doesn’t, then the Jewish state constitutes the principal, perhaps the only real obstacle to a new day in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Striking, isn’t it?

Poor Israel. If only it had the visual acuity of these “enlightened” souls, including, most recently, a slim majority of Irish senators, then all would be fine. After all, according to them, Israel holds all the cards, yet refuses to play them.

The thinking goes: Why can’t those shortsighted Israelis figure out what needs to be done — it’s so obvious to us, isn’t it? — so that the conflict can be brought to a screeching halt?

If only Israel reversed its settlements policy. If only Israel understood that Gaza’s tunnel-diggers and kite-flyers are just exercising their right to “peaceful protest.” If only the IDF restrained itself. If only Israel stopped assuming the worst about Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. If only Israel went the extra mile with President Mahmoud Abbas. If only Israel got beyond its Holocaust trauma. If only Israel ______. Well, go ahead and fill in the blank.

The point is that for the IOI crowd, it essentially all comes down to Israel. And IOI syndrome has only been strengthened by its adherents’ assessment of the current Israeli government, of course.

After all, many media outlets, from the Associated Press to CBS News to Der Spiegel, branded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “hardline” from the get-go. Their word choice simply reinforces the notion that the conflict is all about alleged Israeli intransigence, while generally avoiding any descriptive judgement of Abbas and his entourage.

At moments like this, it’s important to underscore a few basic points too often lost in the din.

First, the Netanyahu government follows on the heels of three successive Israeli governments that sought to achieve peace based on a two-state settlement with the Palestinians — and failed. Each of those governments went very far in attempting to strike a deal, but, ultimately, were turned away.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak, joined by President Bill Clinton, tried mightily to reach an agreement with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. As confirmed by Clinton himself, the answer was a thunderous rejection, accompanied by the launching of a deadly wave of terror attacks on Israel.

And, not to be forgotten, a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon also took place during the Barak era. It was met by the entrenchment of Hezbollah, committed to Israel’s destruction, in the vacated space.

Then, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defied his own Likud Party — indeed, he left it to create a new political bloc — and faced down thousands of settlers and their supporters to leave Gaza entirely. It was the first chance ever for Gaza’s Arab residents to govern themselves.

Had Gazans seized the opportunity in a responsible manner, they could have created unstoppable momentum for a second phase of significant withdrawal from the West Bank. Instead, Gaza quickly turned itself into a terrorist redoubt, realizing Israelis’ worst fears.

Finally, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, joined by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and urged on by Washington, pressed hard for a deal with the Palestinians in the West Bank. According to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, the Israeli offer “talked about Jerusalem and almost 100 percent of the West Bank.” Not only was the far-reaching offer not accepted, but there wasn’t even a counter-proposal from the Palestinian side.

Prime Minister Netanyahu inherited a situation in which: (a) Hamas holds the reins of power in Gaza, spends precious funds on digging tunnels to attack Israel, flies kites to set extensive fires in Israel, and teaches kids to aspire to “martyrdom”; (b) Hezbollah is continuing to gain strength in Lebanon, thanks to Iranian largesse, and has tens of thousands of missiles and rockets in its arsenal; (c) the Palestinian Authority has been AWOL from the negotiating table; and (d) Iran continues to call for Israel’s destruction while enhancing its military capability, entrenching itself in Syria, and funding Hamas.

So before Israel gets any further lectures on what needs to be done, perhaps we should take stock of what’s transpired — and why.

There have been at least three bold Israeli efforts since 2000 to create a breakthrough — and three successive failures. And that’s not to mention Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement freeze and the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to seize this opportunity to break the stalemate.

The vast majority of Israelis yearn for peace, and understand the considerable price the country will have to pay in territory and displaced population. Poll after poll proves their readiness, but only if they are assured that lasting peace, not new phases in the conflict, will be the outcome. Tellingly, few see that possibility on the horizon anytime soon.

Israelis don’t have to be pushed, prodded, nudged, cajoled, or pressured to seek a comprehensive peace beyond the current treaties with Egypt and Jordan. More than any other nation on the planet, they have lived with the absence of peace for 70 years, and know full well the physical and psychological toll it has inflicted on the country.

Rather, they must be convinced that the tangible rewards justify the immense risks for a small state in a tough area. Those rewards begin with its neighbors’ acceptance of Israel’s rightful place in the region as a Jewish and democratic state within secure and recognized borders. And that, far more than settlements, checkpoints, or any of the other items on the IOI bill of particulars, gets to the essence of the conflict.

The Gaza disengagement in 2005 demonstrated that settlements and checkpoints can be removed when the time comes. But unless and until the Palestinian side recognizes Israel’s legitimacy, and stops viewing the Jewish state as an “interloper” that can be defeated militarily or swamped by “refugees” — who are in most cases third- and fourth-generation descendants of the original refugees from a war started in 1948 by the Arab world — then whatever the IOI folks call for will inevitably be a secondary issue in the real world.

Only when this recognition is reflected in Palestinian textbooks, where children have been taught for generations that Israelis are modern-day “Crusaders” to be driven out, can there be hope for a brighter future.

Unless and until the Palestinian Authority succeeds in building a serious and accountable governing structure, including an enhanced capacity and will to combat extremism and incitement, then Israel will have no choice but to operate in the West Bank to prevent attacks against its civilian population.

And unless and until the forces seeking Israel’s annihilation — from Iran’s current regime to Hamas and Hezbollah — are contained, then there will always be a long shadow cast over the road to peace. Some would argue that this view gives the spoilers too much power over the process. Rather, it simply acknowledges the inescapable and ominous realities faced by Israel, a country the size of New Jersey and one percent the size of Saudi Arabia.

Israel doesn’t need sanctimonious lectures, however well-intentioned some might be, on the path to peace. Rather, it needs genuine partners. Without them, peace remains elusive. With them, it becomes inevitable.

David Harris is the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

1. Trump’s   actions:

7 ways Trump has been tough on Russia and  8 X's Obama sold USA out to Russia.  Trump stands up to Putin

7-18-18  Seven ways Trump has been tough on Russia
Russian diplomats and intelligence officers expelled.
Enforcing arms control violations.
Weapons to Ukraine.
Enforcing the “red line” in Syria
Trump approved pre-summit indictments

7-19-18   Trump Stood Up to Putin, Obama Appeased Him
Just ask Ukraine and Poland. 
---7-16-18  Eight Times Obama Sold Out America to Russia


2. New York Times /CIA  Anti-Trump  Campaign Continues:From the Start,  Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered  NEW YORK TIMES     July 18, 2018

James B. Comey, James R. Clapper Jr. and John O. Brennan at a Senate hearing on Russia’s election interference in January 2017.Al Drago/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

The shifting narrative underscores the degree to which Mr. Trump regularly picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes. That has never been more clear than this week.

On Monday, standing next to the Russian president in Helsinki, Finland, Mr. Trump said he accepted Mr. Putin’s denial of Russian election intrusions. By Tuesday, faced with a bipartisan political outcry, Mr. Trump sought to walk back his words and sided with his intelligence agencies.

On Wednesday, when a reporter asked, “Is Russia still targeting the U.S.?” Mr. Trump shot back, “No” — directly contradicting statements made only days earlier by his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who was sitting a few chairs away in the Cabinet Room. (The White House later said he was responding to a different question.)

Hours later, in a CBS News interview, Mr. Trump seemed to reverse course again. He blamed Mr. Putin personally, but only indirectly, for the election interference by Russia, “because he’s in charge of the country.”

In the run-up to this week’s ducking and weaving, Mr. Trump has done all he can to suggest other possible explanations for the hacks into the American political system. His fear, according to one of his closest aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that any admission of even an unsuccessful Russian attempt to influence the 2016 vote raises questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.

The Jan. 6, 2017, meeting, held at Trump Tower, was a prime example. He was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command.

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was also there; after the formal briefing, he privately told Mr. Trump about the “Steele dossier.” That report, by a former British intelligence officer, included uncorroborated salacious stories of Mr. Trump’s activities during a visit to Moscow, which he denied.

According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Jan. 6, 2017, the day he was briefed on cyberattacks designed to sway the 2016 American election.Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.

And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role.

That included one particularly valuable source, who was considered so sensitive that Mr. Brennan had declined to refer to it in any way in the Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration, as the Russia investigation intensified.

Instead, to keep the information from being shared widely, Mr. Brennan sent reports from the source to Mr. Obama and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security.

Mr. Trump and his aides were also given other reasons during the briefing to believe that Russia was behind the D.N.C. hacks.

The same Russian groups had been involved in cyberattacks on the State Department and White House unclassified email systems in 2014 and 2015, and in an attack on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They had aggressively fought the N.S.A. against being ejected from the White House system, engaging in what the deputy director of the agency later called “hand-to-hand combat” to dig in.

The pattern of the D.N.C. hacks, and the theft of emails from John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, fit the same pattern.

After the briefings, Mr. Trump issued a statement later that day that sought to spread the blame for the meddling. He said “Russia, China and other countries, outside groups and countries” were launching cyberattacks against American government, businesses and political organizations — including the D.N.C.

Still, Mr. Trump said in his statement, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Mr. Brennan later told Congress that he had no doubt where the attacks were coming from.

“I was convinced in the summer that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election,” he said in testimony in May 2017. “And they were very aggressive.”

For Mr. Trump, the messengers were as much a part of the problem as the message they delivered.

Mr. Brennan and Mr. Clapper were both Obama administration appointees who left the government the day Mr. Trump was inaugurated. The new president soon took to portraying them as political hacks who had warped the intelligence to provide Democrats with an excuse for Mrs. Clinton’s loss in the election.

Mr. Comey fared little better. He was fired in May 2017 after refusing to pledge his loyalty to Mr. Trump and pushing forward on the federal investigation into whether the Trump campaign had cooperated with Russia’s election interference.

Only Admiral Rogers, who retired this past May, was extended in office by Mr. Trump. (He, too, told Congress that he thought the evidence of Russian interference was incontrovertible.)

President Trump, meeting with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, said he accepted Mr. Putin’s denial of Russian election intrusions.Doug Mills/The New York Times
And the evidence suggests Russia continues to be very aggressive in its meddling.

In March, the Department of Homeland Security declared that Russia was targeting the American electric power grid, continuing to riddle it with malware that could be used to manipulate or shut down critical control systems. Intelligence officials have described it to Congress as a chief threat to American security.

Just last week, Mr. Coats said that current cyberthreats were “blinking red” and called Russia the “most aggressive foreign actor, no question.”

“And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy,” he said.

Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, also stood firm.

“The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed,” Mr. Wray said on Wednesday at the Aspen Security Forum. “My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

The Russian efforts are “aimed at sowing discord and divisiveness in this country,” he continued. “We haven’t yet seen an effort to target specific election infrastructure this time. We could be just a moment away from the next level.”

“It’s a threat we need to take extremely seriously and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”

Almost as soon as he took office, Mr. Trump began casting doubts on the intelligence on Russia’s election interference, though never taking issue with its specifics.

He dismissed it broadly as a fabrication by Democrats and part of a “witch hunt” against him. He raised unrelated issues, including the state of investigations into Mrs. Clinton’s home computer server, to distract attention from the central question of Russia’s role — and who, if anyone, in Mr. Trump’s immediate orbit may have worked with them.

In July 2017, just after meeting Mr. Putin for the first time, Mr. Trump told a New York Times reporter that the Russian president had made a persuasive case that Moscow’s cyberskills were so good that the government’s hackers would never have been caught. Therefore, Mr. Trump recounted from his conversation with Mr. Putin, Russia must not have been responsible.

Since then, Mr. Trump has routinely disparaged the intelligence about the Russian election interference. Under public pressure — as he was after his statements in Helsinki on Monday — he has periodically retreated. But even then, he has expressed confidence in his intelligence briefers, not in the content of their findings.

That is what happened again this week, twice.

Mr. Trump’s statement in Helsinki led Mr. Coats to reaffirm, in a statement he deliberately did not get cleared at the White House, that American intelligence agencies had no doubt that Russia was behind the 2016 hack.

That contributed to Mr. Trump’s decision on Tuesday to say that he had misspoken one word, and that he did believe Russia had interfered — although he also veered off script to declare: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

Friday, July 13, 2018

A glimps at Europe’s true face

The time has come for Israel to finally stop taking European rhetoric seriously.

Due to an unusual conflation of events, over the past two weeks we’ve caught a rare glimpse of the face of European foreign policy. We shouldn’t let it pass unremarked.
Last Friday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini presided over a curious summit in Vienna. In the same hall where she and her colleagues concluded the nuclear deal with Iran three years ago, Mogherini and her comrades tried to concoct ways to save the deal by undermining American power and defying its decision to abandon the deal.
Mogherini was joined in her efforts by the German, French and British foreign ministers. Sitting opposite them were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers. Together they brainstormed ways to undermine the economic sanctions the US will begin implementing next month against Iran and anyone from anywhere that trades with Iran.
The Europeans made some suggestions. For instance, the European Investment Bank, they said, is authorized to invest in projects in Iran. European governments are willing to make direct deposits in Iranian banks to get around US restrictions on bank transfers to Iran.
The Germans apparently are the keenest to continue the money flow to Tehran. Bild, a Berlin-based tabloid, reported on Tuesday that Iran has asked the European-Iranian Trade Bank, which is majority owned by Iranian state-owned banks but registered in Hamburg with the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, to permit it to withdraw €350 million in cash. The Iranians intend to fly the cash to Tehran to avoid the prospect of the accounts being frozen once US sanctions are reimposed. According to the Bild report, the German government supports the cash transfer. The Merkel government believes the Iranian claim that the money will be distributed to Iranian businessmen who will be barred from using credit cards in international commerce due to the US sanctions.
The Germans apparently are happy to ignore the fact that Iran routinely uses cash to pay for its wars in Syria and Yemen. Iran regularly transfers millions of dollars in cash to Hamas in Gaza. Cash is its routine method of financing Hezbollah and its terror empire in Lebanon and throughout the world – including in Germany.
The Germans don’t care about that. Their goal is not to prevent terror. Their goal is to flood Iran with money.
Mogherini’s summit in Vienna was a statement of deep contempt for the US. Days before US President Donald Trump was scheduled to arrive on the continent, the leaders of Europe publicly colluded with Iran, China and Russia to undermine and weaken America. While shocking in and of itself, Europe’s behavior didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
Mogherini has been publicly attacking the US for walking away from the nuclear deal and declaring her allegiance to the pact three times a day, every day since May 8 when Trump announced he was pulling the US out of it and reimposing sanctions on Iran.

What we didn’t know until recently is why Mogherini and her colleagues have chosen to stand with Iran against America. We got the answer on June 30.
Six days before the Vienna summit, Belgian security forces arrested members of an Iranian terror cell as they made their way to Paris to blow up a rally held that day by the Iranian opposition movement Mujahedin e-Khalq. The cell was led by Asduallah Asadi, the head of Iran’s intelligence network in Europe. Asadi is registered as the Iranian intelligence attachĂ© at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. He is an officer of the Revolutionary Guards’ al-Quds Brigade, which is responsible for Iran’s foreign terror operations.
Thousands attended the rally in Paris. Among the many VIPS present were former prime minister Ehud Barak, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The arrests in Belgium drove home the fact that Iran has developed a massive terror infrastructure in Europe. The terror operatives who were arrested lived and operated in at least four countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium and France.
On the face of it, it is amazing than right after terrorists under the direct command of the Iranian regime were caught en route to carrying out an attack in Paris, Europe’s top diplomats sat down with the leaders of the regime and brainstormed how to shower them with cash in open defiance of the United States.

And that isn’t all. It is true that Mogherini and her colleagues insist the nuclear deal they love so much prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But it is also true that they know they are lying.
The Europeans don’t need Trump or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell them the deal gives Iran a clear path to a full-blown nuclear arsenal within a decade. They have known that all along. And it’s never bothered them.
So in under a week, an Iranian terror cell tried to blow up a rally in Paris and Europe’s leaders reacted by hosting their bosses in a fancy hall and promising them billions of dollars and a nuclear arsenal within a decade in defiance of the US.
WHY WOULD the Europeans do this? What does this tell us about the nature of their policy?

The first thing all of this tells us is that Europe has a very clear Iran policy. It tells us that there is no connection whatsoever between Europe’s rhetoric – which insists that Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons and that Iran must end its sponsorship of terrorism – and Europe’s policy.
As to the policy itself, Europe’s Iran policy is a policy of pure appeasement, based on profound weakness. Mogherini and her comrades are fully aware that Iran can cause them harm and intends to cause them harm. Through payoffs and betrayal of the US they hope to convince the Iranians to attack someone else instead of them. They don’t care if it’s Israel or Saudi Arabia or America. As far as the Europeans are concerned, Iran can kill whoever it wants, so long as it doesn’t attack Europe.
This is Europe’s Iran policy. It has no other policy.

There is nothing unique about Europe’s Iran policy. Appeasement predicated on weakness and an absence of any will to defend itself stands at the heart of Europe’s policies towards all of its enemies. As for its allies, Europe expects them to serve its needs, and appease it in exchange for nodding, condescending approval.
At the NATO summit on Wednesday, Trump exposed this basic fact in relation to Europe’s Russia policy. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, no one condemned the move more passionately than the Europeans. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood at the front of the column of denouncers proclaiming Russia’s aggression would not stand.
And yet, as Trump revealed in his blunt repartee with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, while Germany passionately declaimed about Russian aggression and the threat Russia poses to Europe, Merkel was signing massive gas deals with Russia to build and expand the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. The strategic implication of Germany’s dependence on Russian gas is that the country screaming loudest about Russia has voluntarily rendered its economy dependent on Russian gas.
Merkel did this, Trump noted, while refusing to spend the requisite 2% of German GDP on its national defense and while expecting the US to defend Europe from Russia it on its own dime.
As with Iran, so with Russia, when you see the full spectrum of European actions, you realize there is no connection whatsoever between European rhetoric and European policy. As with Iran, so with Russia, Europe’s actual policy is to appease Russia by paying it off. As with Iran so with Russia, Europe expects the US to pull its fat from the fire when the going gets tough – and pay for the privilege of doing so.
Trump scares the Europeans. He doesn’t scare them because he expects them to pay for their own defense. All of his predecessors had the same expectation. He frightens the Europeans because he ignores their rhetoric while mercilessly exposing their true policy and refuses to accept it. They are scared that Trump intends to exact a price from them for their weak-kneed treachery.

Europe’s policies towards Israel follow a similar script as its other policies. As is the case with Iran and Russia, there is no connection whatsoever between Europe’s rhetoric and its actual policies. With Iran, Europe claims that it is committed to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran while its actual policy is to enable Iran to build a nuclear arsenal. In Israel’s case, Europeans say they strive to advance international law, human rights and peace when their actual policy negates international law, harms human rights and diminishes any possibility of peace.
Whereas Europeans fear the Iranians and the Russians, they hate Israel. And the goal of Europe’s Israel policy is to weaken the Jewish state through delegitimization, political and legal subversion and the constant threat of commercial sanctions.
Israel’s great error in contending with Europe is that we fail to recognize, as Trump recognizes, that European rhetoric doesn’t represent its actual policy. It camouflages it. We send our best lawyers to Europe to explain that our policies conform with international law. We deploy our most talented diplomats to Europe to prove that our actions advance human rights. And our greatest statesmen have spent decades trying to prove our commitment to peace.

And all these efforts are completely irrelevant. The Europeans couldn’t care less about the truth. They aren’t here to promote truth. They prefer lies. Lies help them to hide their policy predicated on hatred of Israel.
The summit in Vienna was a dud. Like Trump, the Iranians understand that European rhetoric gets them nowhere. European banks aren’t willing to lose the American market for Iran. Likewise, European conglomerates are pulling out of deals with Iran one after another to avoid US sanctions.
We don’t know where Trump wants to lead US relations with Europe. But it is clear that he intends to exact a price from Europe for its hostile policies, its weakness towards US adversaries and its double dealing with America.
Israel should draw the appropriate lessons from Trump’s actions and from the truth revealed about the nature of European policy by the events of the past two weeks.
The time has come for Israel to finally stop taking European rhetoric seriously. The time has come for Israel to begin exacting a painful price from Europe for its hostile and damaging policies towards us.
Slavery: What They Didn't Teach in My High School

By Larry Elder   Published July 12,2018

A man I have known since grade school changed his name, years ago, to an Arabic one. He told me he rejected Christianity as "the white man's religion that justified slavery." He argued Africans taken out of that continent were owed reparations. "From whom?" I asked.

Arab slavers took more Africans out of Africa and transported them to the Middle East and to South America than European slavers took out of Africa and brought to North America. Arab slavers began taking slaves out of Africa beginning in the ninth century — centuries before the European slave trade — and continued well after.

In "Prisons & Slavery," John Dewar Gleissner writes: "The Arabs' treatment of black Africans can aptly be termed an African Holocaust. Arabs killed more Africans in transit, especially when crossing the Sahara Desert, than Europeans and Americans, and over more centuries, both before and after the years of the Atlantic slave trade. Arab Muslims began extracting millions of black African slaves centuries before Christian nations did. Arab slave traders removed slaves from Africa for about 13 centuries, compared to three centuries of the Atlantic slave trade. African slaves transported by Arabs across the Sahara Desert died more often than slaves making the Middle Passage to the New World by ship. Slaves invariably died within five years if they worked in the Ottoman Empire's Sahara salt mines."

My name-changing friend did not know that slavery occurred on every continent except Antarctica. Europeans enslaved other Europeans. Asians enslaved Asians. Africans enslaved other Africans. Arabs enslaved other Arabs. Native Americans even enslaved other Native Americans.

He accused me of "relying on white historians" who, he insisted, had a "vested interest to lie."

What about Thomas Sowell, the brilliant economist/historian/philosopher, who happens to be black? Sowell writes: "Of all the tragic facts about the history of slavery, the most astonishing to an American today is that, although slavery was a worldwide institution for thousands of years, nowhere in the world was slavery a controversial issue prior to the 18th century.

"People of every race and color were enslaved — and enslaved others. White people were still being bought and sold as slaves in the Ottoman Empire, decades after American blacks were freed."

Sowell also wrote: "The region of West Africa ... was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent — before, during, and after the white man arrived. It was the Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. Even at the peak of the Atlantic slave trade, Africans retained more slaves for themselves than they sent to the Western Hemisphere. ... Arabs were the leading slave raiders in East Africa, ranging over an area larger than all of Europe."

I asked my friend if his anger over slavery extended to countries like Brazil. "Brazil?" he said.

Harvard's Department of African and African American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. — who also happens to be black — wrote: "Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That's right: a tiny percentage. In fact, the overwhelming percentage of the African slaves were shipped directly to the Caribbean and South America; Brazil received 4.86 million Africans alone!"

African tribes who captured other tribes sold them into slavery. For this reason, in 2006, Ghana offered an official apology. Emmanuel Hagan, director of research and statistics at Ghana's Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, explains: "The reason why we wanted to do some formal thing is that we want — even if it's just for the surface of it, for the cosmetic of it — to be seen to be saying 'sorry' to those who feel very strongly and who we believe have distorted history, because they get the impression that it was people here who just took them and sold them. It's something we have to look straight in the face and try to address, because it exists. So we will want to say something went wrong. People made mistakes, but we are sorry for whatever happened."

Over 600,000 Americans, in a country with less than 10 percent of today's population, died in the Civil War that ended slavery. "While slavery was common to all civilizations," writes Sowell, "...only one civilization developed a moral revulsion against it, very late in its history — Western civilization. ... Not even the leading moralists in other civilizations rejected slavery at all."

And, no, after all this, my friend did not reconsider his name change.

Monday, July 9, 2018

 Sheldon Adelson


Where have we seen one of the foremost contributors to politics in the world dedicate his influence to the interests of his people over and above any personal consideration?

To his critics, Sheldon Adelson is an all-knowing, all-powerful, near mythical figure. A man capable of bending governments to his will, coercing them into recognizing capitals, moving embassies, and terminating international agreements. He is the force behind the election of presidents and the appointment of prime ministers. A man graced with the alchemic capacity to spin lead into gold, he can even cast a spell on hundreds of thousands of young Birthright participants to embrace a hard-right ideology on Israel.

Call it, the apotheosis of Sheldon Adelson.

To those who know him, however, Adelson is simply a man, one of incredibly humble beginnings, whose irreducible essence is an unequaled passion to champion his people and an unshakable will to safeguard their future. A man who will not rest until he has seen Israel prosper in the face its enemies, triumph over its adversaries, and serve as a focus of inspiration for Jewish youth the world over.

In a few weeks time Adelson will be celebrating an important birthday (he actually shares a birthday with Barack Obama). It is appropriate on such an occasion to recognize the virtues of a man who has arisen as one of the most important Jewish philanthropists in modern times and a guiding force behind the rejuvenation of Jewish identity.

I have met few Jewish men or women in my life who breathe in Israel so deeply. Even Adelson’s most vociferous political opponents, who believe he wields near-divine malevolent influence, admit that he leverages that influence almost entirely with regard to policies that promote Israel. To be sure, they disagree with his positions. They either do not want America to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or they want Israel to give away biblical lands like Hebron, or they want US President Donald Trump to be more evenhanded between the dictatorship of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the democracy over which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presides. But it’s always about Israel and not about himself.

Where have we seen one of the foremost contributors to politics in the world dedicate his influence to the interests of his people over and above any personal consideration? A man who has the ear of world leaders is accused of flexing political muscle not for his own ends but to protect the Jews and promote the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.

SHELDON AND his wife, Miriam, have contributed close to have a billion dollars to Birthright Israel. It was a project started not by them but by my friend Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman. And while they have been honored by the organization, nowhere does their name appear on anything permanent related to Birthright. Rather, as Sheldon has explained many times, his taxi-driver father who struggled to support his family never had the funds to visit the Jewish state. And the Adelsons wanted to make sure that every young Jewish man and women on earth would not suffer a similar fate.

Sheldon famously wore his father’s shoes upon his first visit to Israel, so that his father, who was no longer alive, could join him in his first steps in the Holy Land. I thought of that story when I watched the recent viral video of a young Jewish woman named Katie Fenster waiting till the last day of her Birthright trip to criticize the organization and the trip and announce she was going to join Breaking the Silence in a trip to Hebron.

Fenster gave the media two interesting quotes. The first was “Judaism is about asking questions. It seems so surprising that they would be upset at us for asking questions.”

The second was this: “[Birthright] is not just a free trip, it’s not an apolitical organization.

It has explicitly political goals. Its donors are all far-right-wing extremists, like Sheldon Adelson.”

Yes, Katie. Judaism is indeed about asking questions. I led two Birthright trips and fielded hundreds of questions on every subject under the sun, from politics to religion to relationships to Jewish history. But there is a difference between asking questions and driving a political agenda.

As to the second point, Judaism is about gratitude. Moses is not allowed to punish even inanimate objects like the Nile River and the dust of Egypt because they saved his life.

Those two plagues had to be performed by his brother, Aaron.

You take Sheldon Adelson’s money to go on a free trip to Israel, and then you trash him to the media? Seriously? Have you no decency? Where are your manners? Are you aware that Sheldon grew up in the most extreme poverty? Are you aware that he faced virulent antisemitism as a boy in Boston and vowed that, as a result, he would commit his life to protecting his people? Are you aware that his own father died without seeing Israel because he could not afford the plane ticket? And are you aware, finally, that, as a result, he and his wife, Miriam, committed their wealth to providing free trips to the ancient Jewish homeland so that no Jew should go through life without having seen it? And contemplating that fact, could you not be just a tad more grateful? Steinhardt famously reacted to Birthright protesters by shooting his middle finger at them at a Birthright gala in New York last April. Tactless? Perhaps. But for some of the major funders of Birthright, it captures a certain sentiment. If you don’t want to accept Birthright’s generosity, by all means reject it.

But to accept it and have zero appreciation, well, isn’t that the very definition of being entitled? THE PRECEDENT of directing hundreds of millions of dollars without his name attached to a charitable project is something Sheldon pursues again and again, most notably with his medical philanthropy, a passion he enjoys, given that Miriam is a physician and addiction specialist. And when I asked Miriam why she and Sheldon do so much of their charitable work anonymously, she told me that they do it for the people and never for the credit.

From what I have witnessed, Sheldon’s greatest passion is his family, including two young sons whose birth inspired the creation of the Adelson Campus in Las Vegas because Sheldon and Miri, though not Orthodox, were insistent that their children attend a Jewish day school and have a solid Jewish education.

Jewish history has been distinguished by a predilection to lose our most distinguished sons and daughters. Secularism and assimilation have hollowed out some of the core fiber of the Jewish people, as some of the world’s wealthiest and most accomplished Jews gradually drifted away from Jewish tradition.

Whereas, say, Mormons have to tithe first and foremost to their Church, about 80% of all modern Jewish philanthropy is directed to mainstream and secular universities, museums, hospitals and other charities. Worthy? Absolutely. But does it prioritize Jewish continuity? Not exactly.

And that’s where Sheldon has made his greatest mark. He may be one of the richest men in the world, but his people have always been his priority. Sheldon and Miriam support countless mainstream secular charities.

But they have always prioritized Israel and the Jewish people unapologetically as their greatest passion.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about visiting the US Capitol is when you look up through the oculus of the dome and see the beautiful fresco painted in the rotunda in 1865 by Greek-Italian artist Constantino Brumidi. The unforgettable painting is called “The Apotheosis of Washington,” capturing a mythical moment when Washington ascends to godlike stature and takes his place in the heavens with the goddess Victoria and the Goddess of Liberty by his side. America is, of course, a religious country and clearly does not deify its founder. “In God We Trust” refers squarely to the Creator and not to America’s founding father. So what is the meaning of the painting? There are individuals who come to define a moment, an era, a hinge of history so completely that humans wish to elevate them to the stature of gods.

Not so Judaism, whose greatest prophet, Moses, is referred to simply as the “servant of God.” Ever since then, the great Jewish leaders who have followed have distinguished themselves by seeking to simply be servants of their people.

On the occasion of a significant milestone in his life, it is time that a grateful community come together to proclaim Sheldon Adelson – one of the foremost Jewish benefactors in history – an inspired, dedicated and worthy servant of Israel and the Jewish people.

Happy Birthday, Sheldon. May God grant you long life, abundant health and endless prosperity.

The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 32 books, including his just published work Lust for Love, co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Justice Department covers up possible spy ring scandal in Democratic congressional offices

Frank Miniter   7-3-18

Report Uncovers New Details About Dem IT Staffer Scandal

In an incredible sweetheart plea deal, Imran Awan – a former IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and other congressional Democrats – pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of making a false statement on a home equity loan.

I sat flabbergasted in the courtroom in Washington as the plea agreement was entered.

I spent the last year interviewing hundreds of people and chasing leads for my upcoming book –titled “Spies in Congress” – about the alleged spy ring believed led by Awan that may have operated in the offices of more than 40 Democratic members of Congress.

If not for my extensive research on this case, I might have assumed the government just couldn’t find enough evidence to make a solid case against Awan on more serious charges than bank fraud.

When I asked Justice Department prosecutor J.P. Cooney why the government made this odd plea deal he just smiled and waved me away as he told me to ask the Justice Department Office of Public Affairs. The office declined to answer my questions.

Shockingly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia issued a news release about Awan’s plea agreement that made no mention of his IT work for Democrats in Congress, no mention of Wasserman Schultz, and made his case sound like a minor local criminal matter of little interest to anyone. It was headlined: “Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Making False Statement on Application for Home Equity Loan.”

Ho-hum, right? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Awan is due to be sentenced Aug. 21 and could get off with no jail sentence, according the plea agreement. Prosecutors said they would not recommend jail time – in effect, giving Awan a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Just like that, the Department of Justice is making an important case go away as if nothing much happened.

Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, is having all charges against her dismissed as part of the agreement.

Awan, as a part of this plea agreement, also “will not be charged” for any other nonviolent crimes he may have committed in Washington prior to the agreement, according to this deal.

The plea deal agreement even exonerates Awan by saying in part that “the Government agrees that the public allegations that your client (Imran Awan) stole U.S. House of Representatives (‘House’) equipment and engaged in unauthorized or illegal conduct involving House computer systems do not form the basis of any conduct relevant to the determination of the sentence in this case.”

But there is so much more to this case. Even on the simple theft of government equipment there is a lot there for prosecutors. One of Awan’s former tenants, a retired U.S. Marine, even found and turned over to authorities several computers and smart phones with government markings on them that he found in Awan’s rental property.

There is also internal U.S. House of Representatives’ paperwork detailing some of what went on in the offices Awan and his associates who did contract IT work for congressional Democrats.

Internal House Inspector General findings have also determined that Awan copied the emails of up to 44 Democratic House members and other personal data and backed them up to a server that reportedly went missing and to a Dropbox account.

Awan, his wife and other relatives and friends were also all paid exorbitant salaries for working as IT contractors for members of Congress for years – even though many of them didn’t have any expertise in IT and even though they didn’t undergo background checks.

It is also likely that a few of Awan’s associates didn’t even show up to earn all the money they were paid. Still, no charges have been filed against Awan or his brothers relating to alleged thefts, possible espionage and for providing false information (an image of the Democratic House Caucus computer server) to Capitol Police.

It is actually very hard to sum-up all that this group of IT aides (who are almost all from Pakistan) did and the crimes they might have committed.

Writing a book on the topic was like piecing together an international spy thriller filled with anonymous sources, encrypted conversations, off-the-record meetings, foreign documents and hard facts from various court filings and from internal investigations in the House.

What is clear to me, after interviewing so many people, is there is a lot of evidence here for investigators, but also a lot of political reasons why they might want this case to go away.

Awan was even Wasserman Schultz’s IT aide when she headed the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which incidentally was when the DNC was hacked and the information given to Wikileaks.

I have no evidence that Awan was in any way responsible for the leak. Still, it is incredible how much of all this interconnects circumstantially.

Real court scenes (when Awan pleaded guilty and waved his right to a trial by jury), possible depositions of House staffers and members of Congress, and the investigations that would take place if the Justice Department pursued additional charges would have necessarily dug into a lot of things the Washington establishment would rather not deal with publicly. It also would have forced investigators to follow the trail to Pakistan.

Still, I didn’t think these investigating agencies would be brazen enough to agree to this kind of a sweetheart deal for Imran Awan and Hina Alvi.

Now Awan will not face prosecution where the more serious allegations against him can be judged.