Senator Charles Grassley Has One Important Question For the FBI

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-iowa, looks at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during a markup hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee as they prepare to vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Sen. Graham was the only republican to vote to approve Kagan's nomination which passed 13-6. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray in which he asks one very important question:

After he was fired, Mr. Comey acknowledged in public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Trump had never been one of the individuals under investigation. Recent news articles have claimed that Paul Manafort was one of the campaign associates under FBI investigation.1 This raises the question of whether the FBI ever alerted Mr. Trump to the FBI’s counter-intelligence concerns regarding his campaign manager and others associated with the campaign—so that he could take defensive action to prevent the campaign from being infiltrated. Such briefings are one of the tools that the FBI often uses to thwart attempts by foreign intelligence services to infiltrate organizations or compromise U.S. citizens. Such a briefing allows innocent, unwitting organizations and individuals to take defensive action to protect themselves.

In short, if these accounts are accurate it appears that in at least one prior presidential campaign (editor’s note, McCain 2008), U.S. intelligence alerted a candidate’s team about counterintelligence concerns it had regarding campaign associates’ connections with Russia. This makes sense, given that sophisticated foreign intelligence services likely seek to exploit presidential campaigns through various means. The circumstances leading to those prior alerts to a campaign by U.S. intelligence seem substantially similar to the circumstances surrounding President Trump’s campaign.

If the FBI did provide a defensive briefing or similar warning to the campaign, then that would raise important questions about how the Trump campaign responded. On the other hand, if the FBI did not alert the campaign, then that would raise serious questions about what factors contributed to its decision and why it appears to have been handled differently in a very similar circumstance involving a previous campaign.

You can read the full letter here.

There are a lot of very bizarre things about the behavior of the FBI during the 2016 campaign. Surveillance was resumed sometime in the fall and stayed in place until January. We don’t know if the surveillance was in place after Trump was inaugurated.

Allegedly, the FBI had a FISA warrant covering Paul Manafort in place throughout the primary season and up until some time after the convention. I say allegedly because James Clapper, who has claimed (I know, I know) that he was informed about all FISA warrants, now says he was unaware of Manafort being under surveillance:

Considering the second FISA warrant was allegedly issued while Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan were fouling their drawers, it is hard to imagine a FISA warrant on Manafort just slipping his mind. Clapper lying is not totally outside the realm of possibilities but we also need to consider whether a warrant was ever issued and if not are the leaks about the warrant a) simply made up or b) do they represent some other means of surveillance outside the FISA world?

Comey’s bizarre and near criminal behavior on the Clinton investigation has been noted.

Grassley’s question, of course, is one that should have been asked vigorously at Comey’s hearing. If Manafort was covered by a FISA warrant when he joined the Trump campaign, did the FBI alert Trump to this fact. If they elected not to, and then elected to seek another FISA warrant on Manafort as he was working in some capacity on Trump’s transition and still not notify him, the FBI needs to explain their reasoning. Likewise, if Trump was twice warned, he needs to explain why he decided to ignore the warnings.

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Russia Threatens to Strike US Forces in Syria

This undated frame grab from video posted online Monday, May 29, 2017, by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, shows people inspecting damage from airstrikes and artillery shelling in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS. Airstrikes have intensified over the past days as U.S.-backed fighters have marched toward the city, getting closer to besieging it from all sides. (Aamaq News Agency via AP)

Random people pass through a typical Arab city. (Aamaq News Agency via AP)

As the war on ISIS approaches end-game (amazing how soon that happened once the Obama crew left the White House and Trump let the military get down to business rather than using the war on ISIS as a stalking horse for allowing Iran to expand its influence) a new war is shaping up between the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an amalgam of al-Qaeda-lite militias and Kurdish forces of the YPG/YPJ, and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), also known as the regime’s army.

Last Saturday, the SDF was hit by a Russian/Syrian airstrike:

“At 3:30 am (0030 GMT) on September 16, 2017, our forces east of the Euphrates River were targeted by Russian and Syrian regime warplanes in the Al-Sinaaiya area,” the SDF said.

It said six of its fighters were wounded.

Al-Sinaaiya is an industrial area northeast of the city of Deir Ezzor, about seven kilometres (four miles) from the east bank of the Euphrates.

“At a time when the SDF’s brave forces are scoring great victories against IS in Raqa and Deir Ezzor… some parties are trying to create obstacles to our progress,” the statement said.

Now the Russians are claiming the SDF have shelled SAA positions and are talking of dire consequences:

Russia on Thursday raised the threat of a direct confrontation with U.S. forces in ­Syria, saying that it would target areas occupied by American units and U.S.-backed militias if its troops came under fire.

The warning was issued amid rising tensions in the Syrian desert between the United States and its Kurdish and Arab allies on the one hand, and Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias on the other, as both converge on territory held by the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

A Russian military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, had twice in recent days shelled Syrian government positions outside Deir al-Zour, a strategic city in the region.

Konashenkov said Russian special forces are helping Syrian government troops fight Islamic State militants in the battle for the city.

Moscow has conveyed to the U.S. military command “in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “Firing positions in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”

As the kids say, “Bitch, please.”

The Russians have made a big showing of firing missiles into random swatches of desert:

But, in reality, Russia doesn’t have the military competence to retaliate in any meaningful way. But there is a very real danger of a needless conflict. There is American artillery firing in support of the SDF

And unlike Syrian artillery, we tend to hit what we shoot at. Russia has “special forces” (a word about Russian special forces, I’ve yet to talk to anyone who has been around them that came away impressed with their skill level) advising the SAA, one can infer from Konashenkov’s mewling that some Russians were killed or injured in that shelling. The wording of his statement seems to imply that he at least blames US artillery for the shelling.

Right now, CENTCOM staff and representatives of the Russian forces in Syria are meeting to sort out the mess and re-establish what had been fairly clear separation lines. But it is going to be difficult to do that with two hostile armies jockeying to secure the spoils of victory. (BTW, that Axios article in the link seems to think Obama is still president. The decision to suspend US-Russian military cooperation was a presidential one, there is no “ban” on cooperation to violate.)

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Mattis: Seoul Will Not Be at Risk in a War With North Korea. Experts: Yeah, No

James-Mattis

Everyday it is getting more difficult to see how the current situation with North Korea ends without either a humiliating climb-down by one of the parties involved or in war at some level. A climb-down is becoming more expensive for both sides. For Kim Jong Un, capitulation and agreement to abide by UN Security Council resolutions would probably result in his chubbly little head being hoisted on a pike and paraded through downtown Pyongyang. Trump backing down would effectively destroy US power and influence in the Far East for a couple of generations if not forever. In short, we are at a position where war of some type looks appealing to both sides.

On Monday, Defense Secretary James Mattis addressed the likelihood of war and stunned a lot of observers:

The United States and its allies have not shot down any North Korean missiles because Pyongyang has yet to launch one that directly threatens American or Japanese territory, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday.

But he said that could change. North Korean missiles have been falling “in the middle of the ocean,” Mr. Mattis said. “Were they to be aimed at Guam, or U.S. territory,” he added, “that would elicit a different response.”

The defense secretary also said he believed that the United States had found military options to handle the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula that would not put the South Korean capital, Seoul, at grave risk, though he refused to elaborate on what those might be.

American officials also do not have high confidence that the military could find and destroy North Korea’s entire arsenal of long-range missiles and nuclear warheads. It would then be up to American missile defenses to knock out any that survived and that North Korea might use to attack the United States or its allies.

Even a limited strike — on, say, a North Korean missile on its launching pad or a missile in midair — would pose risks that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, might retaliate, setting off a spiral of escalation that could plunge the Korean Peninsula into war.

Mr. Mattis would not say how the United States might bypass that risk while exercising military options. “I won’t go into detail,” he told reporters at the Pentagon during an unannounced news conference on Monday. He also declined to say specifically whether those options would be “kinetic” — military-speak for lethal force like bombings, airstrikes or ground combat.

This was met with some derision by the cadre  of nuclear experts who have zero training, education and experience in the field of nuclear weapons targeting or military strategy. Via Huffington Post Attack On North Korea Could Spare Allies, Secretary Mattis Says. Analysts Aren’t So Sure.

“I don’t know what plan would not put Seoul at risk,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “The bottom line is: North Korea does have the artillery. It’s vague enough that I want to give [Mattis] the benefit of the doubt, but I cannot conceive of a way where you would militarily engage with North Korea and not put Seoul at risk.”

and

Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution specializing in Korea and China, was puzzled by Mattis’ statements, arguing that the defense secretary is usually a “voice of real reason” in the Trump administration.

“He’s a very sober, careful guy,” Pollack said. “Frankly, I haven’t got a clue about what he’s talking about … He knows what the terrain looks like, he knows what the risks are, he knows how deeply buried and dispersed the North Koreans are… I guess I’m having difficulty connecting the dots.”

and

<blockquoteVipin Narang, an associate professor at MIT studying nuclear proliferation, said any expectation otherwise seemed like “extremely heroic assumptions.”

>“It is more likely that we cannot have 100 percent certainty in disarming the country,” he said in an email. “Any attack on North Korea that doesn’t fully annihilate its conventional and WMD forces exposes Seoul ―and U.S. forces and dependents, Japan, U.S. territories, and even possibly the U.S. homeland ― to potentially massive destruction.”

I’ve held for quite some time that the view that Seoul is at some extreme risk is utter bullsh**. The most important reason is that shooting missiles at Seoul doesn’t fit in with either a NK invasion plan (North Korea’s army is forced by geography to pass through Seoul if it heads south and demolishing the city makes that advance impossible) or some kind of kimchee Götterdämmerung (in this scenario, Kim will volley his missiles at Tokyo or any US territory he can reach).

Somehow these think-tankers seem to think war is some sort of giant capture-the-flag exercise where the guy who captures or destroys the other guy’s capital wins the war automatically.

If one has to make the choice here who to believe, a handful of self-declared experts with no real world experience of any kind, or Mattis, I know who I’m going with. YMMV.

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US and Allies Seem to Be Looking to Evacuate Citizens From South Korea

Republic of Korea Army chief of staff Gen. Jang, Jun Gyu welcomes his American counterpart Gen. Mark Milley Aug. 19 at the ROK Ministry of National Defense. (Photo by Tim Oberle, Eighth Army Public Affairs)

Republic of Korea Army chief of staff Gen. Jang, Jun Gyu welcomes his American counterpart Gen. Mark Milley Aug. 19 at the ROK Ministry of National Defense. (Photo by Tim Oberle, Eighth Army Public Affairs)

Nothing is happening yet, but you get the distinct picture of all the potential combatants in a new Korean War are looking for ways to ensure they can get their citizens out of harms way if bullets begin to fly.

Japan

Around 60,000 Japanese citizens currently reside in South Korea, the news outlet reported. About 38,000 are long-term residents, while roughly 19,000 are tourists or short-term visitors.

“If the U.S. decided on a military strike against the North, the Japanese government would start moving toward an evacuation on its own accord regardless of whether the American plans are public,” a Japanese government source told the Nikkei Review.

Japan’s proposed plan is comprised of four steps: seek to limit unessential travel to South Korea, discourage all travel to the South, advise Japanese citizens to evacuate and encourage them to shelter in place.

China

Chinese people living and working in North Korea were warned to return home immediately as dictator Kim Jong-un pushes the world to the brink of World War 3.

The Chinese embassy in North Korean capital Pyongyang issued the warning as its volatile neighbour and ally geared up for an expected sixth nuclear test.

It is the first time any such order has been issued.

And this is the most interesting:

Elisabeth Cordray, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, visited South Korea after North Korea’s latest nuclear test to check on preparations for evacuating U.S. citizens in the event of war, it emerged Tuesday.

The visit has sparked speculation of an impending U.S. military attack against North Korea, but the U.S. Forces Korea claimed Cordray’s visit was a “routine inspection.”

Cordray visited the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the logistic support arm of the Eighth Army, in Daegu on Sep. 13 and met its commander, John Sullivan, according to her Facebook page.

The command said Tuesday that Cordray “familiarized” herself with the process of evacuating U.S. citizens from South Korea in case of an emergency. She also discussed the readiness level of U.S. troops and was briefed on progress in relocating the main USFK military garrison in Yongsan to Pyeongtaek.

There are, according to official South Korean numbers, 136,663 American citizens living in South Korea. This is 7.6% of the foreign residents of South Korea. China is the largest source of foreign nationals with 898,654. Vietnam has 129,973, Thailand has 94,314 and the Philippines has 53,538.

If war breaks out we can go about it in one of two ways. We can go from a standing start and deal with evacuation of our non-combatants when we can, or we can order an evacuation and hope that North Korea does not strike while that is going on. Short of ordering people out of the country, keep an eye out for the US to discourage travel to South Korea, restrict the ability of military dependents to travel to Korea, and finally to order military dependents out of the country.

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Former Secret Squirrel Valerie Plame Outs Herself as a Flaming Anti-Semite

Former U.S. CIA operative Valerie Plame arrives for the screening of the film " Fair Game " at the 36th American Film Festival, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010, in Deauville, Normandy, France. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Former U.S. CIA operative Valerie Plame sticks out her tongue at critics after her anti-Semitic tweets come to light. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)

Scratch a leftist and you inevitably find a raving, frothing anti-Semite just waiting to get out. Anti-Semitism is at the heart of the whole Bondage, Domination, Sadism, sorry, I mean the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. But it is rare indeed when one of them waves as points to themselves and declares their Jew-hatred. That happened today on Twitter. The protagonist is the former faux deep cover, non-official cover CIA ANALYST (yeah, try to figure out how that worked) Valerie Plame who was “outed” by Colin Powell’s minime Richard Armitage but somehow resulted in Scooter Libby getting a felony conviction.

Set up:

There are a couple of simple fixes for the dominant involvement of American Jews in foreign policy issues where they have a personal interest due to their ethnicity or family ties. First of all, don’t put them into national security positions involving the Middle East, where they will potentially be conflicted. Let them worry instead about North Korea, which does not have a Jewish minority and which was not involved in the holocaust. This type of solution was, in fact, somewhat of a policy regarding the U.S. Ambassador position in Israel. No Jew was appointed to avoid any conflict of interest prior to 1995, an understanding that was violated by Bill Clinton (wouldn’t you know it!) who named Martin Indyk to the post. Indyk was not even an American citizen at the time and had to be naturalized quickly prior to being approved by congress.

Those American Jews who are strongly attached to Israel and somehow find themselves in senior policy making positions involving the Middle East and who actually possess any integrity on the issue should recuse themselves, just as any judge would do if he were presiding over a case in which he had a personal interest. Any American should be free to exercise first amendment rights to debate possible options regarding policy, up to and including embracing positions that damage the United States and benefit a foreign nation. But if he or she is in a position to actually create those policies, he or she should butt out and leave the policy generation to those who have no personal baggage.

For those American Jews who lack any shred of integrity, the media should be required to label them at the bottom of the television screen whenever they pop up, e.g. Bill Kristol is “Jewish and an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel.” That would be kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison – translating roughly as “ingest even the tiniest little dosage of the nonsense spewed by Bill Kristol at your own peril.”

As none of the above is likely to happen, the only alternative is for American citizens who are tired of having their country’s national security interests hijacked by a group that is in thrall to a foreign government to become more assertive about what is happening. Shine a little light into the darkness and recognize who is being diddled and by whom. Call it like it is. And if someone’s feelings are hurt, too bad. We don’t need a war with Iran because Israel wants one and some rich and powerful American Jews are happy to deliver. Seriously, we don’t need it.

If this sounds like something you’d find in a back issue of Der Stürmer, it is because it is very much like what you’d find. The author, some guy named Philip Girardi, seems to have made a career of hatred of Israel and/or Jews.

The Twitter reaction has been fascinating:

Indeed, this “dual loyalty” thing is something the progressive left and the alt-right have been using for decades.

Plame has responded:

plame1
plame2

This is not a one-off for Plame, she’s been a fan of this guy for a while. This, from 2014:

Buzzfeed has found more stuff. But she does have defenders:

On a serious note, there is this:

This is absolutely correct.

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President Trump Announces New US Sanctions on North Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walks to his seat at a luncheon with President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in New York. From left, Vice President Mike Pence, Abe, Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walks to his seat at a luncheon with President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in New York. From left, Vice President Mike Pence, Abe, Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Just a short while ago, President Trump, flanked by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Vice President Mike Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a new round of sanctions directed at North Korea. The venue was a luncheon with the prime ministers of Japan and South Korea

President Trump announced an executive order Thursday to grant additional authority to the Treasury Department to enforce economic sanctions on North Korea and foreign companies and individuals that do business with the rogue nation in Northeast Asia.

The president also said that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered Chinese banks to cease conducting business with North Korean entities. Trump called the move “very bold” and “somewhat unexpected,” and he praised Xi.

“North Korea’s nuclear program is a grave threat to peace and security in our world, and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said in brief public remarks during a meeting with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to discuss strategy to confront Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

He added that the United States continues to seek a “complete denuclearization of North Korea.”

Trump said the United States had been working on the North Korea problem for 25 years, but he asserted that previous administrations had “done nothing, which is why we are in the problem we are in today.”

He added that the order will give Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin the “discretion to target any foreign bank knowingly facilitating specific transactions tied to trade with North Korea.”

These are the key takeaways.
1. The administration is acknowledging that it has gotten all that it will get from the UN Security Council.
2. The administration realizes that trade embargoes are weak sauce but with the UN sanctions in place it can strike at the money involved in evading sanctions.
3. These sanctions were prepared before Trump’s speech on Tuesday.
4. These sanctions were coordinated, at some level, with the Chinese and obviously supported by Japan and South Korea.
5. North Korea is facing the most concerted diplomatic/economic response to its adventurism since 1950. It many not be sufficient to stop North Korea’s nuclear program but it is sufficient to say that peaceful means were given every chance to work before moving on to Plan B.

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REPORT: President Trump Has Decided to Refuse to Certify Iran’s Nuclear Deal Compliance

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, leaves the parliament after his speech in a session to debate his proposed cabinet, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Iran's president issued a direct threat to the West on Tuesday, claiming his country is capable of restarting its nuclear program within hours — and quickly bringing it to even more advanced levels than in 2015, when Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, leaves the parliament after his speech in a session to debate his proposed cabinet, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Iran’s president issued a direct threat to the West on Tuesday, claiming his country is capable of restarting its nuclear program within hours — and quickly bringing it to even more advanced levels than in 2015, when Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

 

NBC is reporting, citing several sources, that President Trump will refuse to certify that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, and he will do so before the October 15 deadline to report to Congress on Iran’s performance.

President Trump is leaning toward decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and putting the decision of whether the U.S. will withdraw from the accord in the hands of Congress, according to four sources — including one senior administration official — familiar with the White House deliberations.

Such a move would come prior to an Oct. 15 deadline and would trigger a 60-day window for lawmakers to determine whether to reimpose sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement. The president’s goal during that time is to prod America’s European allies, who are part of the nuclear deal, to agree to renegotiate some provisions, and pressure Iran back into talks.

Still, several of the sources caution the president could change his mind over the next three weeks as he faces pushback from allies internationally.

As I posted a few days ago, Trump has several paths he could take on certification:

These are the options and there are factions in the government in favor of all of them:

1 – Decertify and stay in the deal, then focus on Congressional action — this is the mainstream “waive & slap then decertify & fix” option. It came out of policy shops like FDD and ISIS, and was outlined last week by Ambassador Haley. The deal should be decertified because it fails condition 4 (it’s not “vital to national interest”) and/or condition 1 (Iran is not “fully implementing” the paragraph 28 of the JCPOA, the weapons and personnel prohibitions of UNSCR 2231, the military site access requirements of the Additional Protocol, etc. The administration would then use leverage created by the threat or reality of Congressional action to strengthen weaknesses in the deal.

2 – Decertify and stay in the deal, then threaten to reimpose secondary sanctions — this is a new option. It comes from a plan that’s been circulating but hadn’t been described before today’s AP story. Here’s the AP outline: “… decertify Iran and threaten to restore nuclear sanctions on Iran at any point as well as so-called “secondary sanctions” that could cut off European and other banks and businesses that do business with Iran from the U.S. financial system.” The administration would then threaten to get physical with banks unless the Iranians modified their behavior and agreed to strengthen the deal.

3 – Decertify and stay in the deal, then focus on executive action — Here’s the AP outline: “… have Trump issue a new executive order setting out a timeline for the agreement to be amended or supplemented with bans or further limitations on uranium enrichment and ballistic missile testing.” The administration would then use leverage created by the move to strengthen weaknesses in the deal.

4 – Decertify and withdraw from the deal — this option has been outlined and advocated most prominently by Amb Bolton. The argument is that the deal can’t be enforced or fixed. In August Bolton published a white paper charting the tactics and strategy that would be used to manage to withdrawal.

5 – Certify — this is the State Department option. Secretary Tillerson says he disagrees with the president on the Iran deal and the State Department is reportedly in “open war” against the White House on the issue. After the July certification, Iran deal advocates inside the State Department launched multiple open-ended initiatives to ‘test’ and ‘strengthen’ the deal, which would allow them to indefinitely argue that decertification is premature. This AP report says Tillerson presented the president with the latest version of State’s certification plan this week, which promised to pursue ‘fixes’ earlier this week.

According to NBC, Trump has added an additional course of action:

The senior administration official said the president has resolved not to continue the “status quo,” but that he’s considering at least one other option related to the deal.

That option, according to two officials, would give European allies the option of 90 days to get on board with renegotiation — rather than punt the decision to Congress. Administration officials are still in talks with those allies, and with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

I don’t see this happening, not that the Euros won’t get on board but that Rouhani can’t politically survive the climb down that would be necessary for Iran to renegotiate the deal.

My personal view is that the best solution here is for Trump to declare Iran out of compliance and kick the matter to Congress. Hopefully, he can use that as an opportunity that will structure future sanctions against Iran in a way that requires Congressional approval of lifting/modifying them rather than giving the president carte blanche to lift sanctions, as was the case with Obama. Going forward will require close coordination between Congress and the White House and not is a good time to get everyone on the same sheet of music.

Well, good luck with that.

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Iran’s Hassan Rouhani Makes an Demand of President Trump

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani  listens during a news conference on his visit for the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani listens during a news conference on his visit for the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

While much attention was focused on the message President Trump directed at North Korea in his speech to the UN General Assembly yesterday, he also blistered the criminal regime in Tehran:

We face this decision not only in North Korea. It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime — one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.

Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction. It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained. And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protestors, and imprison political reformers.

Tehran used to eight years of being sucked up to by the Obama regime seemed taken aback by the speech.

And this nugget:

Mr. Rouhani followed his United Nations speech about an hour later with an hourlong news conference, in which he denounced what he called Mr. Trump’s “completely baseless allegations” about Iran, demanded an apology and said the Iran nuclear agreement was final and could not be amended, reopened or renegotiated.

I’m sure if Rouhani consulted with a rando rug merchant in Tehran’s bazaars he’d discover that there is no such thing at a deal that can’t “be amended, reopened or renegotiated.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that this is probably not going to happen.

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President Trump Slams North Korea and Iran in United Nations Speech

President Donald Trump speaks to the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump speaks to the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

 

President Trump gave his inaugural address to the UN just moments ago. It had some of that James Bond martini quality, I don’t know if they were stirred or not but some were definitely shaken.

It was pretty much not what any US president has ever said to the UN. (I’m relying on the NYT because of my inability to find an actual transcript.)

North Korea.

If the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” President Trump told the gathering.

In his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump denounced North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, saying the nation “threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life” as a result of its nuclear weapons program.

“If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,” he said.

Mr. Trump emphasized that it was against the interest of the entire world for North Korea — which he called a “band of criminals” — to obtain missiles and nuclear weapons.

“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself,” he said of Mr. Kim.

“Rocket Man,” of course, is Kim Jong Un and refers to this tweet

Keep in mind that North Korea’s UN delegation was seated in the front row.

Unilateralism is back.

But the president also said America would act alone if needed. He emphasized an “America first” agenda, and said that while the United States would “forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies,” his primary responsibility was to Americans.

“All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens,” Mr. Trump said. “Our government’s first duty is to its people.”

“In foreign affairs we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty,” he said. “As president, I will always put America first, just like you as the leaders of your countries will always — and should always — put your countries first.”

Clearly, this is aimed at North Korea but it seems to be a backhanded shot at the EU which is trying to muscle Poland and Hungary into taking more Arab refugees and they are balking.

Iran.

After condemning North Korea, Mr. Trump pivoted to the next “rogue nation” — Iran.

He slammed the Iran nuclear deal, calling it “an embarrassment” and one of the worst that the United States has ever entered into.

Mr. Trump has long portrayed Iran as a sponsor of terrorism and has suggested that the United States may abandon the 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration and five other major powers that limited Iran’s nuclear activities. So far Mr. Trump has grudgingly accepted the nuclear agreement despite having described it as a disgrace.

“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction,” Mr. Trump told the United Nations on Tuesday.

Over the past couple of weeks, it has become nearly crystal clear that the decision to not certify the Iran nuclear deal to Congress in October has been made. Tillerson, one of the biggest supporters of the deal, characterized Iran as being in violation of the non-nuclear components. McMaster, another backer of the deal, characterized it as a terrible deal over the weekend. Key members of Congress have been saying the same thing.

I’m not sure what the impact of this will be but it is certainly a speech they will talk about for a while.

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BREAKING. Paul Manafort Was Wiretapped and Threatened With Indictment

Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Former Trump Campaign Chairman and Russian mob bagman Paul Manafort contemplates spending his declining years fetching Bubba sammiches from the prison canteen. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

 

So, after a hiatus, the leaks are again flowing from the Mueller investigation. Two new bits of information popped today.

Paul Manafort was wiretapped.

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.

Hopefully, the people who bashed Devin Nunes as a crank will not be so smug now–but it is doubtful because smug is mostly what they are.

A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the sources told CNN.

The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.

The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.

Sources say the second warrant was part of the FBI’s efforts to investigate ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives. Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.

If you’re interested, “at least into early this year” means that well after Trump was president-elect…and quite possibly while he was president, because January 20 is pretty damned early in the year…Manafort’s communications were being intercepted under FISA. And, by the way, “wiretap” is a very inaccurate term. FISA warrants allow surveillance of communications. Period. Full stop. In the only governing case of its type, the courts have ruled that FISA does not prohibit the use of video surveillance. So Manafort’s emails were being monitored, his landline was under surveillance, his smartphone was under surveillance and quite possibly his smart phone had been compromised to allow video surveillance.

While Manafort has a residence in Trump Tower, it’s unclear whether FBI surveillance of him took place there.

This is nonsense. If he was targeted under FISA, he was under surveillance no matter where he was. There are no “safe zones.”

Mueller’s prosecutors threatened Manafort with indictment.

Like the CNN story, this one is anonymously sourced.

Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

It is unusual for a prosecutor to seek a search warrant against someone who, like Mr. Manafort, had already put his lawyer in contact with the Justice Department. No search warrants were executed during the investigations by Mr. Starr or Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a special counsel appointed during the George W. Bush administration to investigate the leak of the name of a C.I.A. officer.

To get the warrant, Mr. Mueller’s team had to show probable cause that Mr. Manafort’s home contained evidence of a crime. To be allowed to pick the lock and enter the home unannounced, prosecutors had to persuade a federal judge that Mr. Manafort was likely to destroy evidence.

Said Mr. Gurulé, the former federal prosecutor, “Clearly they didn’t trust him.”

My level of sympathy for Manafort approaches zero. Manafort epitomizes P. J. O’Rourke’s observation: “When you looked at the Republicans you saw the scum off the top of business. When you looked at the Democrats you saw the scum off the top of politics.” He is basically a wholly owned entity of the Russian mob. His indictment was a foregone conclusion if the scope of Mueller’s inquiry ever went beyond investigating “collusion” with Russia and took in his business dealings. Likewise, I have no sympathy or respect for people who throw their weight around just because they can. Mueller and his posse fit squarely in this. They are obviously out for scalps to hang on towel dispenser in the rest room or wherever prosecutors keep their trophies and they are going to do it one way or another.

We can bet, however, when he is indicted it will be on garden variety money laundering and tax evasion charges and not on anything to do with Russia. And then the question will be will Trump allow the prosecution to proceed?

Ben Shapiro summarizes nicely

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Source: Red State