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Forgetting the ‘Dirty Dossier’ on Trump

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 10, 2017

Yes, I realize that the editors of The New York Times long ago cast aside any journalistic professionalism to become charter members of the #Resistance against Donald Trump. But the latest frenzy over a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was dangling the possibility of information about the Democrats receiving money from Russians represents one of the more remarkable moments of the entire Russia-gate hysteria.

Essentially, Trump’s oldest son is being accused of taking a meeting with a foreign national who claimed to have knowledge of potentially illegal activities by Trump’s Democratic rivals, although the promised information apparently turned out to be a dud.

Yet, on Monday, the Times led its newspaper with a story about this meeting – and commentators on MSNBC and elsewhere are labeling Trump Jr. a criminal if not a traitor for hearing out this lawyer.

Yet, no one seems to remember that Hillary Clinton supporters paid large sums of money, reportedly about $1 million, to have ex-British spy Christopher Steele use his Russian connections to dig up dirt on Trump inside Russia, resulting in a salacious dossier that Clinton backers eagerly hawked to the news media.

Also, the two events – Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer and the Clinton camp’s commissioning of Steele’s Russia dossier – both occurred in June 2016, so you might have thought it would be a journalistic imperative to incorporate a reference or two to the dossier.

But the closest the Times came to that was noting: “Political campaigns collect opposition research from many quarters but rarely from sources linked to foreign governments.” That would have been an opportune point to slide in a paragraph about the Steele dossier, but nothing.

The Times doesn’t seem to have much historical memory either. There actually have been a number of cases in which American presidential campaigns have ventured overseas to seek out “opposition research” about rivals.

For instance, in 1992, President George H.W. Bush took a personal role in trying to obtain derogatory information about Bill Clinton’s 1970 student trip to Eastern Europe, including to Moscow.

That effort started out by having senior State Department officials rifle through the passport files of Clinton and his mother, looking for a purported letter in which some Republican operatives thought Clinton might have renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Bush and his team were called out on that caper, which became known as “Passport-gate.” During the Oct. 11, 1992 debate, Clinton even compared Bush’s tactics to Joe McCarthy’s during the 1950s Red Scare. But the Bush campaign didn’t let the issue entirely go.

Czech-ing on Bill

In the days after the debate, phone records revealed a flurry of calls from Bush’s campaign headquarters to Czechoslovakia, another stop on Clinton’s student tour. There were also fax transmissions on Oct. 14 and 15, 1992, according to a later official investigation.

On Oct. 16, what appears to have been a return call was placed from the U.S. Embassy in Prague to the office of ad man Sig Rogich, who was handling anti-Clinton themes for the Bush campaign.

Following those exchanges, stories about Clinton’s Prague trip began popping up in Czech newspapers. On Oct. 24, 1992, three Czech newspapers ran similar stories about Clinton’s Czech hosts. The Cesky Denik story had an especially nasty headline: “Bill Was With Communists.”

The Czech articles soon blew back to the United States. Reuters distributed a summary, and The Washington Times, over three consecutive days, ran articles about Clinton’s Czech trip. The Clinton campaign responded that Clinton had entered Czechoslovakia under normal procedures for a student and stayed with the family of an Oxford friend.

Despite those last-minute efforts to revive the Clinton’s loyalty issue, the Democrat held on to defeat Bush in a three-way race (with Ross Perot).

You also could go back to Republican contacts with South Vietnamese officials to sabotage President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 and similar meetings with Iranian emissaries to frustrate President Jimmy Carter’s Iran hostage negotiations in 1980, including a curious meeting involving senior Ronald Reagan campaign aides at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.

But the Steele dossier is a more immediate and direct example of close Hillary Clinton supporters going outside the United States for dirt on Trump and collaborating with foreign nationals to dig it up – allegedly from Kremlin insiders. Although it is still not clear exactly who footed the bill for the Steele dossier and how much money was spread around to the Russian contacts, it is clear that Clinton supporters paid for the opposition research and then flacked the material to American journalists.

The Mystery Dossier

As I wrote on March 29, “An irony of the escalating hysteria about the Trump camp’s contacts with Russians is that one presidential campaign in 2016 did exploit political dirt that supposedly came from the Kremlin and other Russian sources. Friends of that political campaign paid for this anonymous hearsay material, shared it with American journalists and urged them to publish it to gain an electoral advantage. But this campaign was not Donald Trump’s; it was Hillary Clinton’s.

“And, awareness of this activity doesn’t require you to spin conspiracy theories about what may or may not have been said during some seemingly innocuous conversation. In this case, you have open admissions about how these Russian/Kremlin claims were used.

“Indeed, you have the words of Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement at [a] public hearing on so-called ‘Russia-gate.’ Schiff’s seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the script prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was hired as an opposition researcher last June [2016] to dig up derogatory information on Donald Trump.

“Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia, said he tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including leadership figures in the Kremlin, to piece together a series of sensational reports that became the basis of the current congressional and FBI investigations into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.

“Since he was not able to go to Russia himself, Steele based his reports mostly on multiple hearsay from anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into ‘raw’ intelligence reports.

Besides the anonymous sourcing and the sources’ financial incentives to dig up dirt, Steele’s reports had numerous other problems, including the inability of a variety of investigators to confirm key elements, such as the salacious claim that several years ago Russian intelligence operatives secretly videotaped Trump having prostitutes urinate on him while he lay in the same bed in Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton used by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“That tantalizing tidbit was included in Steele’s opening report to his new clients, dated June 20, 2016. Apparently, it proved irresistible in whetting the appetite of Clinton’s mysterious benefactors who were financing Steele’s dirt digging and who have kept their identities (and the amounts paid) hidden. Also in that first report were the basic outlines of what has become the scandal that is now threatening the survival of Trump’s embattled presidency.”

The Trump Jr. Meeting

So, compare that with what we know about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, which Donald J. Trump Jr. says he agreed to because someone was claiming knowledge about Russian payments helping Hillary Clinton.

Sergei Magnitsky

Trump Jr. said Russian lawyer Natalie Veselnitskaya “stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

According to Trump Jr.’s account, Veselnitskaya then turned the conversation to President Vladimir Putin’s cancellation of an adoption program which had sent Russian children to American parents, a move he took in reaction to the so-called Magnitsky Act, a 2012 punitive law passed by the U.S. Congress in retaliation for the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian jail.

The death became a Western cause célèbre with Magnitsky, the accountant for hedge-fund executive William Browder, hailed as a martyr in the cause of whistleblowing against a profoundly corrupt Russian government. After Magnitsky’s death from a heart attack, Browder claimed that his “lawyer” Magnitsky had been tortured and murdered to cover up official complicity in a $230 million tax-fraud scheme involving companies ostensibly under Browder’s control.

Because of Browder’s wealth and political influence, he succeeded in getting the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress to buy into his narrative and move to punish the presumed villains in the tax fraud and in Magnitsky’s death. The U.S.-enacted Magnitsky Act in 2012 was an opening salvo in what has become a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Only One Side Heard

The Magnitsky narrative has now become so engrained in Western geopolitical mythology that the storyline apparently can no longer be questioned or challenged. The New York Times reports Browder’s narrative as flat fact, and The Washington Post took pleasure in denouncing a 2016 documentary that turned Browder’s version of events on its head.

The documentary was essentially blocked for distribution in the West, with the European Parliament pulling the plug on its planned premiere in Brussels shortly before it was scheduled for showing.

When the documentary got a single showing at the Newseum in Washington, a Washington Post editorial branded the documentary Russian “agit-prop.”

William Browder (r) with Magnitsky’s widow and son,
along with EU parliamentarians.

The Post sought to discredit the filmmaker, Andrei Nekrasov, without addressing his avalanche of documented examples of Browder’s misrepresenting both big and small facts in the case. Instead, the Post accused Nekrasov of using “facts highly selectively” and insinuated that he was merely a pawn in the Kremlin’s “campaign to discredit Mr. Browder and the Magnitsky Act.”

The Post concluded smugly: “The film won’t grab a wide audience, but it offers yet another example of the Kremlin’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to spread its illiberal values and mind-set abroad. In the European Parliament and on French and German television networks, showings were put off recently after questions were raised about the accuracy of the film, including by Magnitsky’s family.

“We don’t worry that Mr. Nekrasov’s film was screened here, in an open society. But it is important that such slick spin be fully exposed for its twisted story and sly deceptions.”

Given the fact that virtually no one in the West was allowed to see the film, the Post’s gleeful editorial had the feel of something you might read in a totalitarian society where the public only hears about dissent when the Official Organs of the State denounce some almost unknown person for saying something that almost no one heard.

What the Post didn’t want you to know was that Nekrasov started off his project with the goal of producing a docu-drama that accepted Browder’s self-serving narrative. However, during the research, Nekrasov uncovered evidence that revealed that Magnitsky was neither a “lawyer” nor a whistleblower; that the scam involving Browder’s companies had been exposed by a woman employee; and that Magnitsky, an accountant for Browder, was arrested as a conspirator in the fraud.

As the documentary unfolds, you see Nekrasov struggling with his dilemma as Browder grows increasingly abusive toward his erstwhile ally. Nekrasov painfully concludes that Browder had deceived him.

But, don’t worry, as a citizen in the Free World, you probably will never have to worry about viewing this documentary, since it has been effectively flushed down the memory hole. Official references to Magnitsky are back in the proper form, treating him as a Martyr for Truth and a victim of the Evil Russians.

Plus, if you rely on The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN and the rest of the U.S. mainstream media for your news, you won’t have to think about the far more substantive case of the Steele Dossier in which Hillary Clinton’s allies spent gobs of money seeking out sources in Russia to serve up dirt on Donald Trump.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK ignores Russian request on former Magnitsky boss Browder – prosecutor

RT | August 20, 2013

Great Britain was the only state that refused to fulfill the official request of Russian law enforcers in the search for William Browder, the former head of an investment fund wanted for embezzlement and tax evasion.

Russia’s Deputy Prosecutor General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev said at a Tuesday press conference in Moscow, “I have signed several requests addressed to Great Britain, Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia. All these countries excluding Great Britain fulfilled the international investigation instructions ahead of time.

We hope that Great Britain heeds the international community’s call and hands us over the people who have violated the law. In the whole history of Russian-British relations the UK has only handed one person over to us – and this was an ordinary hooligan. As for the rest – the multi-millionaires and billionaires who continue to launder money in Albion – unfortunately, these are not extradited,” Zvyagintsev added.

William Browder is a US-born British citizen who founded the Hermitage Capital Management investment fund – a major firm working with Russian securities since the mid-1990s that earned its owners hundreds of millions of dollars. Browder fled Russia in 2006 after law enforcers showed interest in some of the fund’s financial schemes.

The investigation continued and led to a court process in which Browder was found guilty of large-scale tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison in absentia.

Another person convicted in this case is the now famous auditor, the late Sergey Magnitsky, whose name became known after his tragic death in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in 2009. According to forensic report, Magnitsky died of pancreatitis and a heart condition, but Browder and his colleagues have claimed that Russians law enforcers deliberately tortured and killed the accountant.

The case was intensely covered in the mass media and promoted in US political circles, eventually leading to the so-called Magnitsky Act – a US law imposing sanctions on Russian state and justice officials suspected in human rights violations.

Russia blasted the move as an attempt to influence an independent court in a sovereign state and retaliated with its own Guantanamo list – an act imposing sanctions on US officials suspected of violating Human Rights.

The spat between the two countries apparently allowed the General Secretariat of Interpol to refuse Russia’s warrant for Browder in July this year, claiming that the case was influenced by politics. It also ordered to delete all information about Browder from Interpol’s international databases.

Russia’s Interior Ministry replied with a statement that it was “puzzled by Interpol’s General Secretariat’s decision.”

[The ministry] continues to consider Interpol an organization which is not motivated by political and judgmental decisions in its work, but acts solely in accordance with international law and the organization’s constitution,” the statement read.

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on UK ignores Russian request on former Magnitsky boss Browder – prosecutor

Russia extends blacklist of American citizens

By Robert Bridge | RT | January 18, 2013

No longer limited to US citizens suspected of human rights abuses at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the updated list of Americans prohibited from entering Russia now includes new categories of individuals.

­In December, the number of US citizens declared persona non grata in Russia stood at 11; now this number has been increased by 49 more people as new categories of individuals are added to the list, Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday.

The new names, which contain both government officials and ordinary Americans, can be divided into three categories, Pushkov said.

The first category is comprised of “judges, investigators, secret service agents and Justice Department members” who are believed to be connected with the criminal prosecution and sentencing of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, Russian nationals who were arrested by US officials, tried on American soil, and are now serving their prison sentences in the US.

Bout, a former Soviet officer who became the owner of an air transport company, was arrested in 2008 by US agents in Thailand. In November 2011, he was convicted by a jury in a New York federal court of intending to provide military weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), which the United States ranks as a terrorist organization, and conspiracy to kill US citizens. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Bout has pleaded his innocent to all charges.

Yaroshenko, a pilot, was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and transported to America on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The second category of individuals prohibited from entering the Russian Federation include US Senators who were responsible for initiating the so-called Magnitsky Act, which was signed into law by US President Barack Obama in December.

The new US legislation attempts to punish Russian nationals who Washington believes are responsible for the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a detention facility in Moscow in 2009 awaiting a tax evasion investigation.

The final category of persona non grata individuals include American adoptive parents who were found guilty of abusing their adopted Russian children or guilty of their deaths.

On December 28, 2012, President Putin signed the Dima Yakovlev bill, named after a Russian orphan who died of heat stroke after being left in a car for an extended period by his American adoptive parents.

Judges who delivered “inadequate” verdicts on such cases, as well as psychiatrists who claimed that those children allegedly had congenital deficiencies that supposedly caused their deaths are also prohibited from entering Russia.

January 18, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Russia extends blacklist of American citizens

Sergei’s Law — Revenge of the Oligarchs

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | June 3, 2012

In the Brave New World of digital activism, government legislation often comes with its own promotional video. In response to a seemingly ingenuous question by ABC’s Jake Tapper about whether a “remarkable viral video” had anything to do with the decision to send U.S. special forces to Central Africa, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney intimated that “Kony 2012” was most likely on President Obama’s mind as he signed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. And if the president one day signs the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, don’t be surprised if some “pushy” reporter like Tapper asks if anyone in the White House has seen “Sergei’s Law.”

According to film’s website, the seven-minute video is the work of “a group of Russian and American students pushing for justice” in the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer “tortured to death in 2009 for exposing a $230 million heist … [whose] killers got away clean.” Visitors to the site are invited to watch the video and “make a difference” by signing its petition — Pass the Magnitsky Act! A click on the “About Us” section, however, reveals that this is no ordinary group of students:

The College-100 (C-100) is a network of student presidents from elite schools (including the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Oxford, Cambridge, McGill, top liberal arts schools, and flagship state schools); Rhodes, Truman, and Gates scholars; Olympians; and other distinguished young people.

Moreover, this elite student network has benefited from the counsel of some rather extraordinary mentors:

The C-100′s advisors include Ambassadors Ed Perkins, Stape Roy and Tom Pickering; US senators; Governor Bill Richardson; and other distinguished national figures.

Edward J. Perkins has served as Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Corps, a position that would have required a close working relationship with America’s intelligence services. J. Stapleton Roy was Assistant Secretary of State for intelligence and research from 1999 to 2000 and is currently Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc. Thomas R. Pickering served as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Russia, India, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, and El Salvador — a posting that led to the dubious distinction of being called “a Reagan point man in Central America’s dirty wars.” Pickering currently chairs the Board of Trustees of the International Crisis Group, an NGO financed by George Soros, who could hardly be described as a disinterested party in the “push for justice” in Russia.

To be continued…

June 2, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sergei’s Law — Revenge of the Oligarchs

Israel partisans stoke “human rights” crisis in U.S.-Russia relations

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | May 25, 2012

According to a Reuters report on the recent Group of Eight Summit at Camp David, Russia’s G8 liaison Arkady Dvorkovich warned of a potential crisis between Moscow and Washington over the issue of human rights:

Dvorkovich said that at a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev will raise opposition to attempts by some U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation which will address human rights violations in Russia.

Such legislation could take a form of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky bill, named after the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009. The Kremlin human rights council says he was probably beaten to death.

The bill would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians or others with links to his detention and death as well as those who commit other human rights violations.

“New legislation which will address new political issues as imagined by some U.S. congressmen or senators is unacceptable,” Dvorkovich said, promising a retaliation.

The Magnitsky bill was introduced last year by Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission). In a August 9, 2011 Washington Post op-ed to promote the legislation, Senator Cardin wrote:

The case of Sergei Magnitsky has come to symbolize the rampant and often violent corruption plaguing the Russian state. Sergei, a 37-year-old tax lawyer, husband and father working for an American firm in Moscow, blew the whistle on the largest known tax fraud in Russian history. For that he was arrested in 2008 by those he accused, and he was imprisoned under torturous conditions for nearly a year. He was denied medical care and beaten by prison guards; he died alone in November 2009 in an isolation cell as doctors waited outside his door. These facts are accepted at the highest levels of Russia’s government, yet those implicated in his death remain unpunished, in positions of authority. Some have even been decorated and promoted.

Sergei joins a heartbreaking list of Russian heroes who lost their lives because they stood up for principle. These ranks include Natalya Estemirova, a brave human rights activist whose bullet-riddled body was found on a roadside in 2009 in the North Caucasus; Anna Politikovskaya, an intrepid reporter shot in Moscow in 2006 while carrying home groceries; and too many others.

Ben Cardin’s apparent concern about Russia’s human rights abuses stands in marked contrast to his staunch support for Israel, however. Notwithstanding the equally heartbreaking — and arguably longer — list of Palestinian heroes who have lost their lives because they too stood up for principle, the Senator for Maryland’s May 24, 2011 statement regarding President Obama’s speeches on the Middle East peace process and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a Joint Session of Congress leaves little doubt as to his passionate attachment to the Jewish state despite its egregious human rights abuses:

This week, the President highlighted what I have always believed – unyielding U.S. support for Israel’s security, U.S. rejection of Palestinian terrorism, and most importantly, the necessity for the parties to commit to negotiations as the means of resolving the conflict. I also met with Prime Minister Netanyahu today and after that discussion, I am similarly confident that that what bonds our countries is an unbreakable alliance. As he stated before Congress, “Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”

Apart from the Washington Post’s championing of the Magnitsky bill, a cursory look at other stridently pro-Israel media such as The Weekly Standard and Commentary shows that Senator Cardin is not alone in his selective outrage over human rights abuses. So, as Moscow contemplates its “retaliation” against this “unacceptable” legislation, it should also consider whether Tel Aviv might not be a more appropriate target for its ire than Washington.

May 25, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment