Saturday, December 30, 2017

New York Times again fronting for Ben Rhodes echo chamber.

 False information planted by FBI and Justice Department intended to hide their support and use of the fictitious Russian dossier.  See: The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Gur by David Samuels May  5, 2016

How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt
New York Times DEC. 30, 2017

WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.

While some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy,” interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.

The F.B.I. investigation, which was taken over seven months ago by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s first year in office — even as he and his aides repeatedly played down the Russian efforts and falsely denied campaign contacts with Russians.

They have also insisted that Mr. Papadopoulos was a low-level figure. But spies frequently target peripheral players as a way to gain insight and leverage.

F.B.I. officials disagreed in 2016 about how aggressively and publicly to pursue the Russia inquiry before the election. But there was little debate about what seemed to be afoot. John O. Brennan, who retired this year after four years as C.I.A. director, told Congress in May that he had been concerned about multiple contacts between Russian officials and Trump advisers.
Russia, he said, had tried to “suborn” members of the Trump campaign.

‘The Signal to Meet’
Mr. Papadopoulos, then an ambitious 28-year-old from Chicago, was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign, desperate to create a foreign policy team, named him as an adviser in early March 2016. His political experience was limited to two months on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign before it collapsed.

Mr. Papadopoulos had no experience on Russia issues. But during his job interview with Sam Clovis, a top early campaign aide, he saw an opening. He was told that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump’s top foreign policy goals, according to court papers, an account Mr. Clovis has denied.

Traveling in Italy that March, Mr. Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a now-defunct London academy who had valuable contacts with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Mifsud showed little interest in Mr. Papadopoulos at first.
But when he found out he was a Trump campaign adviser, he latched onto him, according to court records and emails obtained by The New York Times. Their joint goal was to arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow, or between their respective aides

In response to questions, Mr. Papadopoulos’s lawyers declined to provide a statement.

Before the end of the month, Mr. Mifsud had arranged a meeting at a London cafe between Mr. Papadopoulos and Olga Polonskaya, a young woman from St. Petersburg whom he falsely described as Mr. Putin’s niece. Although Ms. Polonskaya told The Times in a text message that her English skills are poor, her emails to Mr. Papadopoulos were largely fluent. “We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” Ms. Polonskaya wrote in one message.
More important, Mr. Mifsud connected Mr. Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, a gathering of academics that meets annually with Mr. Putin. The two men corresponded for months about how to connect the Russian government and the campaign. Records suggest that Mr. Timofeev, who has been described by Mr. Mueller’s team as an intermediary for the Russian Foreign Ministry, discussed the matter with the ministry’s former leader, Igor S. Ivanov, who is widely viewed in the United States as one of Russia’s elder statesmen.

When Mr. Trump’s foreign policy team gathered for the first time at the end of March in Washington, Mr. Papadopoulos said he had the contacts to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump listened intently but apparently deferred to Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama and head of the campaign’s foreign policy team, according to participants in the meeting.
Mr. Sessions, now the attorney general, initially did not reveal that discussion to Congress, because, he has said, he did not recall it. More recently, he said he pushed back against Mr. Papadopoulos’s proposal, at least partly because he did not want someone so unqualified to represent the campaign on such a sensitive matter.

If the campaign wanted Mr. Papadopoulos to stand down, previously undisclosed emails obtained by The Times show that he either did not get the message or failed to heed it. He continued for months to try to arrange some kind of meeting with Russian representatives, keeping senior campaign advisers abreast of his efforts. Mr. Clovis ultimately encouraged him and another foreign policy adviser to travel to Moscow, but neither went because the campaign would not cover the cost.

Mr. Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr. Trump’s first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in  the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr. Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr. Timofeev that it should be taken as “the signal to meet.”

“That is a statesman speech,” Mr. Mifsud agreed. Ms. Polonskaya wrote that she was pleased that Mr. Trump’s “position toward Russia is much softer” than that of other candidates.

Stephen Miller, then a senior policy adviser to the campaign and now a top White House aide, was eager for Mr. Papadopoulos to serve as a surrogate, someone who could publicize Mr. Trump’s foreign policy views without officially speaking for the campaign. But Mr. Papadopoulos’s first public attempt to do so was a disaster.

In a May 4, 2016, interview with The Times of London, Mr. Papadopoulos called on Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize to Mr. Trump for criticizing his remarks on Muslims as “stupid” and divisive. “Say sorry to Trump or risk special relationship, Cameron told,” the headline read. Mr. Clovis, the national campaign co-chairman, severely reprimanded Mr. Papadopoulos for failing to clear his explosive comments with the campaign in advance.

From then on, Mr. Papadopoulos was more careful with the press — though he never regained the full trust of Mr. Clovis or several other campaign officials.

Mr. Mifsud proposed to Mr. Papadopoulos that he, too, serve as a campaign surrogate. He could write op-eds under the guise of a “neutral” observer, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email, and follow Mr. Trump to his rallies as an accredited journalist while receiving briefings from the inside the campaign.

In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee’s computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.

Whether Mr. Papadopoulos shared that information with anyone else in the campaign is one of many unanswered questions. He was mostly in contact with the campaign over emails. The day after Mr. Mifsud’s revelation about the hacked emails, he told Mr. Miller in an email only that he had “interesting messages coming in from Moscow” about a possible trip. The emails obtained by The Times show no evidence that Mr. Papadopoulos discussed the stolen messages with the campaign.

Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.

It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.

“As a matter of principle and practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters relevant to active investigations,” the statement said. The F.B.I. declined to comment

A Secretive Investigation
Once the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.

Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.

With so many strands coming in — about Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Page, the hackers and more — F.B.I. agents debated how aggressively to investigate the campaign’s Russia ties, according to current and former officials familiar with the debate. Issuing subpoenas or questioning people, for example, could cause the investigation to burst into public view in the final months of a presidential campaign.
It could also tip off the Russian government, which might try to cover its tracks. Some officials argued against taking such disruptive steps, especially since the F.B.I. would not be able to unravel the case before the election.
Others believed that the possibility of a compromised presidential campaign was so serious that it warranted the most thorough, aggressive tactics. Even if the odds against a Trump presidency were long, these agents argued, it was prudent to take every precaution.

That included questioning Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was compiling the dossier alleging a far-ranging Russian conspiracy to elect Mr. Trump. A team of F.B.I. agents traveled to Europe to interview Mr. Steele in early October 2016. Mr. Steele had shown some of his findings to an F.B.I. agent in Rome three months earlier, but that information was not part of the justification to start an counterintelligence inquiry, American officials said.

Ultimately, the F.B.I. and Justice Department decided to keep the investigation quiet, a decision that Democrats in particular have criticized. And agents did not interview Mr. Papadopoulos until late January.

Opening Doors, to the Top
He was hardly central to the daily running of the Trump campaign, yet Mr. Papadopoulos continuously found ways to make himself useful to senior Trump advisers. In September 2016, with the United Nations General Assembly approaching and stories circulating that Mrs. Clinton was going to meet with Mr. Sisi, the Egyptian president, Mr. Papadopoulos sent a message to Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive, offering to broker a similar meeting for Mr. Trump.

After days of scheduling discussions, the meeting was set and Mr. Papadopoulos sent a list of talking points to Mr. Bannon, according to people familiar with those interactions. Asked about his contacts with Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Bannon declined to comment.

Mr. Trump’s improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos’s hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.

Mr. Millian has bragged of his ties to Mr. Trump — boasts that the president’s advisers have said are overstated. He headed an obscure organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, some of whose board members and clients are difficult to confirm. Congress is investigating where he fits into the swirl of contacts with the Trump campaign, although he has said he is unfairly being scrutinized only because of his support for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires “who are not under sanctions” and would “open all doors for us” at “any level all the way to the top.”

One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. “I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,” he wrote.

Nothing came of his proposals, partly because Mr. Papadopoulos was hoping that Michael T. Flynn, then Mr. Trump’s pick to be national security adviser, might give him the energy portfolio at the National Security Council.

The pair exchanged New Year’s greetings in the final hours of 2016. “Happy New Year, sir,” Mr. Papadopoulos wrote.

“Thank you and same to you, George. Happy New Year!” Mr. Flynn responded, ahead of a year that seemed to hold great promise.

But 2017 did not unfold that way. Within months, Mr. Flynn was fired, and both men were charged with lying to the F.B.I. And both became important witnesses in the investigation Mr. Papadopoulos had played a critical role in starting.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Year in Trump-Russia Hysteria
What the country can learn from ‘Z’ and ‘Seven Days in May.’
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr
Wall Street Journal Dec. 29, 2017

Not all writers on the left succumbed to Trump-Russia panic in 2017. January saw Masha Gessen in the New York Review of Books dissecting the “muddled thinking” behind the U.S. intelligence community’s published analysis of Russia’s role in the election.

Glenn Greenwald, hand-holder of Edward Snowden, has spent the year cataloging at the “extraordinarily numerous, consequential, and reckless stories that have been published—and then corrected, rescinded, and retracted” by the mainstream media.

Distinguished Rutgers historian Jackson Lears, in a year-end essay in the London Review of Books, laments his Democratic Party’s intoxication with Trump-Russia conspiracies. The episode, he writes, is “like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anticommunist hysteria during the early 1950s.”

Few and far between are lapses into sanity by sources Americans actually read. Ms. Gessen herself points to a rare example in the New York Times last March, on the subject of Trump-Russia contacts:
“There have been courtesy calls, policy discussions and business contacts, though nothing has emerged publicly indicating anything more sinister. . . . Former diplomats and Russia specialists say it would have been absurd and contrary to American interests for the Trump team to avoid meetings with Russians, either during or since the campaign.”

In contrast, the Washington Post spent 6,700 words last week puzzling over President Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge Russia’s meddling without ever noticing that a calculated, orchestrated (and documented) Democratic strategy to paint him as a Russian mole might play a role.

In another revealing misjudgment the Post, by way of examining the Kremlin’s propaganda machinations in the U.S., this week accused the Obama administration of a “misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.”

It takes 0.03 seconds of reflection to recognize that Moscow’s troll postings, email hacks and Facebook ads amounted to nothing. Only the gleeful willingness of U.S. elites to use Russia as a club on each other has had any real impact, which even the Obama administration showed some reticence to invite.

Our system can survive Russian trolls. It’s the sliminess of our contestants for power that is always and ever the threat, as the framers of the Constitution understood. The danger to study is not what comes out of Russia, but what goes on inside of Russia—the takeover of its domestic politics by security officials, the siloviki. The totality of Russian meddling in U.S. politics did not have one-millionth the impact of the Steele dossier, via the Democratic Party and FBI’s attempt to secrete its Russian-spawned innuendo into the nation’s bloodstream, or the FBI’s intrusion into the Hillary Clinton email matter, using secret Russian “intelligence” (according to the Washington Post, no less) as a pretext.

Yes, one could wish President Trump would stay as far away as possible from these matters, trusting others to investigate and clean up.

A useful reference is the 1962 novel “Seven Days in May,” written in the backwash of Richard Neustadt’s theory of a presidential power limited to persuasion. In the book (though not the movie) a fictional president wrestles with how his vast unpopularity with the American people not only invites the securocrat conspiracies that beset his administration. It limits, as his closest advisers fail to grasp, his ability to fight back openly, by firing those whom he suspects.

If you don’t see the same lesson seeping through the Trump administration, you aren’t paying attention.

What will 2018 bring? Though the media resist the knowledge, it becomes clearer than ever that there is a direct connection between the FBI’s Clinton email investigation and its Trump-Russia investigation. The same personnel were involved. You don’t have to believe in a conspiracy exactly, or overinterpret the anti-Trump text messages of the FBI’s Peter Strzok, to understand that the same spirit also animated both: It was necessary and inevitable that Hillary should win, and necessary and inevitable that Trump should lose.

Then came Mr. Trump’s improbable victory. Suddenly their pre-election activities would be subjected to a scrutiny they didn’t anticipate. That’s when Obama intelligence officials began sprinkling deniable innuendo about the Trump campaign in the media. And before you decide this is OK as long as it happens to a president you dislike, think how you’ll feel when the same tactics are used against a president you like.

Which brings us to a final fictional citation. The 1969 movie “Z,” about a failed Greek military plot, ends memorably with a sequence of beribboned officials called before a Mueller-like prosecutor to hear their indictments. With just the right absurdist note, the prosecutor directs them to a back door to the street so they can avoid the waiting photographers, but the door is locked.

That scene probably won’t be replayed in 2018 for the benefit of America’s meddling securocrats, but perhaps it should.

Appeared in the December 30, 2017, print edition.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Death Rattle of Obama’s Reputation

Commentary Magazine     Dec. 22, 2017

The members of Barack Obama’s administration in exile have become conspicuously noisy of late—even more so than usual. Former CIA Director John Brennan accused Donald Trump and his administration of engaging in “outrageous,” “narcissistic” behavior typical of “vengeful autocrats” by threatening proportionate retaliation against countries that voted to condemn the United States in the United Nations, as though that were unprecedented. It is not. James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, all but alleged that the president is a Russian “asset.” Perhaps the most acerbic and incendiary series of accusations from the former Democratic president’s foreign-policy professionals were placed in the New York Times by Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice. In her estimation, America has abdicated its role as a “force for good.”

It’s no coincidence that these overheated condemnations accompany abundant evidence that the Trump administration is finding its legs. As the last administration’s undeserved reputation as sober-minded foreign policy rationalists is dismantled one retrospective report at a time, its jilted members are lashing out.

Rice’s attacks on the Republican administration deserve the most attention, if only because they are the most apoplectic. Donald Trump’s recently released national-security review paints a “dark,” “almost dystopian” vision of the world, Rice contended. His world is full of “hostile states and lurking threats.” Rice claimed that there is “no common good” in Trump’s worldview. What’s more, there is no “international community” and no “universal values.” There are just “American values.”

Rice takes a theatrically dim view of what is essentially a restatement of the bedrock principle of almost all international-relations theory: The international environment is anarchic. There is no “international community,” because there is no enforceable “international law.” To the extent that such a thing exists, it is dependent upon the willingness of nation states to subordinate their sovereignty to international institutions. There’s no mechanism to make them do this, save for the threat of force. The recognition that nation states exist in a state of perpetual competition is not some grim surrender to the darkest of human impulses. It is reality, the acknowledgment of which only conveys to other nations firm parameters in which they can operate without accidentally triggering a conflict with another sovereign power.

Rice acknowledges that Moscow is a threat to regional stability and peace, “Western values,” and U.S. sovereignty. She implies that Trump is a menace because he declines to recognize that. In fact, it was Obama much more so than Trump who has failed to see the obvious.

Barack Obama was inarguably the least Atlanticist president since the end of World War II. Within a year of Russia’s brazen invasion and dismemberment of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Obama scrapped George W. Bush-era agreements to move radar and missile interceptor installations to Central Europe. In 2013, the last of America’s armored combat units left Europe, ending a 69-year footprint on the Continent. By 2014, there were just two U.S. Army brigades stationed in Europe. The folly of this demobilization became abundantly clear when Vladimir Putin became the first Russian leader since Stalin to invade and annex territory in neighboring Ukraine.

A year later, Putin intervened militarily in Syria, where U.S. forces were already operating, resulting in the most dangerous escalation of tensions between the two nuclear powers since the end of the Cold War. Putin’s move in Syria should not have come as a surprise; Barack Obama outsourced the resolution of the Syrian conflict to Moscow in 2013, if only to avoid making good on his self-set “red line” for intervention in that conflict despite the norm-shattering use of WMDs on civilians. Even Rice’s chief complaint about Trump, his failure to condemn Putin’s brazen intervention in the 2016 election, didn’t elicit a reaction from Barack Obama until the final month of his presidency.

By contrast, and to the surprise of just about everyone, the Trump administration has been tough on Russia. Trump has ordered harsh sanctions on Moscow’s Iranian allies for violating United Nations resolutions—a course the Obama administration declined to take even if it allowed Hezbollah terrorists with direct links to Putin to operate with impunity. He ordered long overdue airstrikes on Putin’s vassal regime in Syria, halting any further use of chemical weapons in the process. Trump not only declined to lift Obama-era sanctions on Moscow, as many feared he would, but expanded them. This administration closed Russian consulates and annexes in the United States. It has targeted Putin allies like Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act—the same act that Kremlin cutout Natalia Veselnitskaya lobbied the Trump campaign to scuttle. Trump has even gone so far as to open U.S. arms sales to Ukraine, representing a significant blow to Putin’s ambitions in Europe. It is without a doubt that Trump now has a stronger record on Russia than Barack Obama ever did. No wonder Susan Rice is so angry.

Rice further alleged that Trump recklessly accused China of being an “avowed opponent” of the U.S. rather than just a competitor, and then insisted that China has not “illegally occupied its neighbors.” Tell that to Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, or Taiwan, each of which lay claim to strategic territory in the South China Sea that the People’s Republic seized and turned into forward air and naval bases. Rice suggested that Trump’s “realists” decided to “lump” Beijing in with Moscow, not because it is a rising military and economic power, but because they wanted to “placate” American nationalists. Though this White House declined to defibrillate the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement back to life when it inherited its corpse, it has done a far more comprehensive job of working with Beijing to isolate Pyongyang than Obama did. As the North Korean nuclear crisis intensifies, China has backed fresh sanctions on North Korean financial institutions, cut off all access to Chinese iron, lead, and coal, and may even scale back petroleum deliveries to the Stalinist state by as much as 90 percent. And all in the space of one year.

Rice bemoaned the fact that Trump’s national security document contained no nods to America’s core ideological principles, such as democracy promotion and human rights. Except it does. The strategy review did declare perfunctory fealty to the idea that America cannot “impose its values” on others, but it criticized nations like China and Russia for making their economies “less free and less fair” and for censoring information “to repress their societies.” It professed America’s intention to oppose “rival actors” who “use propaganda and other matters to discredit democracy.” The document added that this administration intends to “support the dignity of individuals” who “live under oppressive regimes and who seek freedom” and “rule of law.” The U.S. will use “every tool” to “isolate states and leaders who threaten our interests and whose actions run contrary to our values,” including “repressive regimes and human rights abusers.” After all, Dr. Rice, America values are universal values.

Rice contended that the document failed to itemize the discrete identities on whose behalf the U.S. should labor: LGBT people, people in poverty, people with AIDS, people under 30, et cetera. Rather, the document insists that all mankind, regardless of conditions or accidents of birth, are objects of U.S. interest. Rice complained that climate change is no longer viewed as a threat to national security. Good. Climate change is not itself a threat to American national security but a threat multiplier, as the weather has always been. Save for some valid concerns about the prospect of an overly restrictive immigration policy and the precariousness of U.S. free-trade obligations, Rice painted a picture not of a radical administration but one that is returning to a familiar status quo ante. In nearly all respects, it was Obama’s White House, not Trump’s, that adopted an ideological foreign policy and rendered the U.S. and the world less safe as a result.

Even as early as March of 2017, it was clear that the Obama administration’s foreign-policy professionals were quite insecure about how posterity would remember their stewardship of American interests abroad. They had every reason to be. For now, at least, the Trump administration has declined to govern as Trump campaigned; not as a populist firebrand but a conventional Republican. Susan Rice and her former White House colleagues have every reason to worry, but not for the United States. 

Their reputations, however, are another matter entirely.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Obama Echo Chamber Manufactures Media Narrative Ahead Of Investigations Into Hezbollah Scandal

The former Obama officials who manufactured a media “echo chamber” to sell the Iran deal are now working to undermine a bombshell report that revealed how former President Barack Obama’s administration derailed its own Drug Enforcement Agency’s efforts to stop Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah from developing a global narcotics syndicate.

The Obama administration gave Hezbollah a pass, according to a bombshell Politico piece, in order to protect the Iran deal — one of the few remaining pillars of Barack Obama’s legacy.
Two Republicans on the House oversight committee, Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan announced a congressional investigation into the scandal on Thursday, calling on the Department of Justice to release all documents on the subject.

Former deputy national security Ben Rhodes has spearheaded an effort to discredit the Politico report, attacking it as a made up right-wing conspiracy, even though Politico is a left-leaning news organization.

Other Obama officials, including former National Security Council officials Tommy Vietor and Ned Price, have mobilized to spin an exculpatory media narrative ahead of coming investigations into the scandal.

Organizations funded by the Ploughshares Fund, a left-wing donor group that helped the Obama administration manufacture positive Iran deal coverage, have pushed that same narrative smearing the Politico story.

There are many reasonable critiques of Obama's foreign policy. The idea that he was soft on Hezbollah is not one of them. The story is so manufactured out of thin air that it's hard to push back except to say that it's a figment of the imagination of two very flawed sources.

Rhodes, Vietor and Price have been “blatantly lying” about the story since it broke, Politico reporter Josh Meyer stated Wednesday night.
“You’ve either not read it or are willfully disregarding the many other people quoted, the documents people can link to and the obvious facts,” Meyer said in a series of tweets addressed to the trio.

“I’m compiling a list of [questions] to post for you guys, and for the congressional hearings,” Meyer said. 

Rhodes bragged to the New York Times last year that he duped reporters who “literally know nothing” into helping him create an “echo chamber” around the Iran deal.

The Obama administration also used outside groups including Ploughshares to help create their echo chamber.

Ploughshares, it was revealed after the Iran deal was struck, funded media organizations and reporters as part of their efforts to manufacture a favorable media narrative. National Public Radio was among the complicit outlets and accepted $100,000 from Ploughshares.

Rhodes, Prince and Vietor have all remained in the public forum, attacking Trump and pushing pro-Iran deal talking points since leaving the White House. Rhodes’ attacks on Trump are often quoted in the media, while Prince is now an NBC contributor and Vietor co-hosts popular left-wing podcast Pod Save America.

Ploughshares, meanwhile, is still churning out narratives in favor of the Iran Deal.

Immediately after the Politico story broke, Ploughshares president Joe Cirincione, an MSNBC contributor, attacked it as a “shabby neocon hit piece.”

Ploughshares-funded members of the echo chamber have been pushing out the same talking points as the Obama officials in response to the Hezbollah scandal.

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian-American council, wrote an opinion piece for HuffPost defending the Obama administration against the Politico report. Parsi insisted that Obama’s treatment of Hezbollah had nothing to do with the Iran deal and dismissed the Politico report as “based on a conspiracy theory.”
What Parsi’s column did not disclose is that Ploughshares has given his organization $263,000 in grants between 2013 and 2017 for work in support of the Iran deal, according to a Daily Caller review of Plougshares’ annual reports over that time.

Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East director at the Ploughshares-funded Center for New American Studies, similarly trashed the Politico report as as a “conspiracy theory.”

Meyer said Thursday that he is the target of “an orchestrated smear campaign which STILL hasn’t contested a single fact” in his story.

Happy to discuss my @politico stry on TV, especially given the orchestrated smear campaign, which STILL hasn’t contested a single fact in it

Ploughshares declined to comment on whether they have coordinated their response to the Hezbollah scandal with other groups.

Florida Republican Rep. Ron Desantis told the Washington Free Beacon that the Obama administration’s actions toward Hezbollah may be the biggest Obama-Iran scandal yet.

“I’ve long believed that the Obama administration could not have done any more to bend over backwards to appease the Iranian regime,” DeSantise said, “yet news that the Obama administration killed the investigation into a billion dollar drug ring that lined the terrorist group Hezbollah’s pockets in order to save its coveted Iran deal may very well take the cake.”

DeSantis said it would be “unconscionable for American policy to deliberately empower” Hezbollah, which he described as “a brutal terrorist group with American blood on its hands.”

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is also demanding an official investigation following the Politico report.

“If the Obama administration failed to use the authorities that Congress has authorized to stop Hezbollah terrorists and their associates from pouring cocaine onto our streets to fund terrorism and acquire weapons of mass destruction, it was a colossal mistake,” Sasse said in a letter to the Justice, Treasury, and State Departments.
“If the administration did so in order to shore up its foolish nuclear deal with Iran, it was a mistake of historical proportions, a mistake the consequences of which reach from the battlefields of Syria to the streets of Omaha and Scottsbluff,” Sasse said.

But even as congressmen demand an investigation into whether the Obama administration deliberately gave a pass to a global terrorist organization, the Obama echo chamber appear to be succeeding.

By the time this article was published Thursday evening — four days after the Politico report — The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN and have combined for zero articles about the scandal.