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Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all

May 21, 2018

12,232

http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/388549-stopping-robert-mueller-to-protect-us-all

The “deep state” is in a deep state of desperation. With little time left before the Justice Department inspector general’s report becomes public, and with special counsel Robert Mueller having failed to bring down Donald Trump after a year of trying, they know a reckoning is coming.

At this point, there is little doubt that the highest echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules to end the Hillary Clinton “matter,” but we can expect the inspector general to document what was done or, more pointedly, not done. It is hard to see how a year-long investigation of this won’t come down hard on former FBI Director James Comey and perhaps even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who definitely wasn’t playing mahjong in a secret “no aides allowed” meeting with former President Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac.

With this report on the way and congressional investigators beginning to zero in on the lack of hard, verified evidence for starting the Trump probe, current and former intelligence and Justice Department officials are dumping everything they can think of to save their reputations.But it is backfiring. They started by telling the story of Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, as having remembered a bar conversation with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. But how did the FBI know they should talk to him? That’s left out of their narrative. Downer’s signature appears on a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. You don’t need much imagination to figure that he was close with Clinton Foundation operatives who relayed information to the State Department, which then called the FBI to complete the loop. This wasn’t intelligence. It was likely opposition research from the start.

In no way would a fourth-hand report from a Maltese professor justify wholesale targeting of four or five members of the Trump campaign. It took Christopher Steele, with his funding concealed through false campaign filings, to be incredibly successful at creating a vast echo chamber around his unverified, fanciful dossier, bouncing it back and forth between the press and the FBI so it appeared that there were multiple sources all coming to the same conclusion.

Time and time again, investigators came up empty. Even several sting operations with an FBI spy we just learned about failed to produce a Delorean-like video with cash on the table. But rather than close the probe, the deep state just expanded it. All they had were a few isolated contacts with Russians and absolutely nothing related to Trump himself, yet they pressed forward. Egged on by Steele, they simply believed Trump and his team must be dirty. They just needed to dig deep enough.

Perhaps the murkiest event in the timeline is Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of a special counsel after he personally recommended Comey’s firing in blistering terms. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions shoved out of the way, Rosenstein and Mueller then ignored their own conflicts and took charge anyway. Rosenstein is a fact witness, and Mueller is a friend of Comey, disqualifying them both.

Flush with 16 prosecutors, including a former lawyer for the Clinton Foundation, and an undisclosed budget, the Mueller investigation has been a scorched-earth effort to investigate the entirety of the Trump campaign, Trump business dealings, the entire administration and now, if it was not Russia, maybe it’s some other country.

The president’s earlier legal team was naive in believing that, when Mueller found nothing, he would just end it. Instead, the less investigators found, the more determined and expansive they became. This president and his team now are on a better road to put appropriate limits on all this.

This process must now be stopped, preferably long before a vote in the Senate. Rather than a fair, limited and impartial investigation, the Mueller investigation became a partisan, open-ended inquisition that, by its precedent, is a threat to all those who ever want to participate in a national campaign or an administration again.

Its prosecutions have all been principally to pressure witnesses with unrelated charges and threats to family, or just for a public relations effect, like the indictment of Russian internet trolls. Unfortunately, just like the Doomsday Machine in “Dr. Strangelove” that was supposed to save the world but instead destroys it, the Mueller investigation comes with no “off” switch: You can’t fire Mueller. He needs to be defeated, like Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton.

Finding the “off” switch will not be easy. Step one here is for the Justice Department inspector general report to knock Comey out of the witness box. Next, the full origins of the investigation and its lack of any real intelligence needs to come out in the open. The attorney general, himself the target of a secret investigation, needs to take back his Justice Department. Sessions needs to act quickly, along with U.S. Attorney John Huber, appointed to conduct an internal review of the FBI, on the Comey and McCabe matters following the inspector general report, and then announce an expanded probe into other abuses of power.

The president’s lawyers need to extend their new aggressiveness from words to action, filing complaints with Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility on the failure of Mueller and Rosenstein to recuse themselves, and going into court to question the tactics of the special counsel, from selective prosecutions on unrelated matters, illegally seizing Government Services Administration emails, covering up the phone texts of FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and operating without a scope approved by the attorney general. (The regulations call for the attorney general to recuse himself from the investigation but appear to still leave him responsible for the scope.)

The final stopper may be the president himself, offering two hours of testimony, perhaps even televised live from the White House. The last time America became obsessed with Russian influence in America was the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s. Those ended only when Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) attacked an associate of the U.S. Army counsel, Joseph Welch, and Welch famously responded: “Sir, have you no decency?” In this case, virtually every associate and family member of the president has been subject to smears conveniently leaked to the press.

Stopping Mueller isn’t about one president or one party. It’s about all presidents and all parties. It’s about cleaning out and reforming the deep state so that our intelligence operations are never used against opposing campaigns without the firmest of evidence. It’s about letting people work for campaigns and administrations without needing legal defense funds. It’s about relying on our elections to decide our differences.

Mark Penn served as pollster and adviser to President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during his impeachment. He is chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.

Siblings attacked in suspected anti-Semitic incident in Australia

May 21, 2018

A Jewish brother and sister were attacked on Saturday. The attacker fled the scene.

Maia Shani

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/world-news/the-jewish-world/jewish-brother-and-sister-attacked-in-melbourne-35866

Police car in Australia Photo Credit: EurovisionNim via Wikimedia Commons

A Jewish brother and sister were attacked while standing outside of a home in Melbourne, Australia, the Australian Herald Sun reported on Saturday.

The siblings were apparently wearing religious symbols at the time of the attack. The 22-year-old victim was struck on his head while his 25-year-old sister, who was attacked with a sharp object, suffered wounds to her shoulder and cheek.

According to the report, the attacker left the scene immediately after the attack, and local police are investigating the case. The incident is being treated as a suspected anti-Semitic attack.

Dr. Dvir Abramovich, the Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman, responded to the incident and said it was “shocking on many levels” and “was in fact driven by anti-Semitism.” He added that the incident should be treated as a hate-crime.

Report: Europe, China, Russia discussing new deal for Iran

May 20, 2018
Five world powers reportedly mulling offering Tehran financial aid in exchange for it adhering to 2015 nuclear accord, curbing its missile program and limiting its meddling in the region.
https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5265665,00.html

Diplomats from Europe, China and Russia are discussing a new accord to offer Iran financial aid to curb its ballistic missile development and meddling in the region, in the hope of salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

The officials will meet in Vienna in the coming week under the leadership of senior European Union diplomat Helga Schmid to discuss next steps after the May 8 decision by US President Donald Trump to pull out of a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper said, citing senior EU sources.

Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China would participate in the meeting, but the United States would not, it said. It was not immediately clear if Iran—which has resisted calls to curb its ballistic missile program in the past—would take part.

L to R: leaders of Germany, Russia, US, Iran, Britain and France (Photo: AP, AFP, EPA, GPO)

L to R: leaders of Germany, Russia, US, Iran, Britain and France (Photo: AP, AFP, EPA, GPO)
Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions. One of the main complaints of the Trump administration was that the accord did not cover Iran’s missile program or its support for armed groups in the Middle East which the West considers terrorists.
Concluding a new agreement that would maintain the nuclear provisions and curb ballistic missile development efforts and Tehran’s activities in the region could help convince Trump to lift sanctions against Iran, the paper said.

“We have to get away from the name ‘Vienna nuclear agreement’ and add in a few additional elements. Only that will convince President Trump to agree and lift sanctions again,” the paper quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying.

No immediate comment was available from the German foreign ministry.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: EPA)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (Photo: EPA)

 

The EU’s energy chief sought to reassure Iran on Saturday that the 28-member bloc remained committed to salvaging the nuclear deal, and strengthening trade with Tehran.

Officials from the EU, Germany and other countries that remain committed to the deal have said it would disastrous if EU efforts fail to preserve it.

Iran has struggled to achieve financial benefits from the deal, partly because remaining unilateral US sanctions over its missile program deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran.

The officials are looking for a new approach given an understanding that it would be difficult for European firms to work around new US sanctions, the newspaper reported.

It said the new deal could include billions of dollars of financial aid for Iran, in line with an EU deal that provided billions in aid to Turkey for taking in millions of migrants and closing its borders, which helped end a 2015 migrant crisis.

Iran and European powers have made a good start in talks over how to salvage the 2015 deal but much depends on what happens in the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said last week.

Trump ME peace plan: Half West Bank for Palestinians, Abu Dis as capital

May 20, 2018

May 20, 2018 @ 10:04

https://www.debka.com/trump-me-peace-plan-half-west-bank-for-palestinians-abu-dis-as-capital/

President Donald Trump sees his peace plan as a springboard for shaping an Israel-Arab track – even  if spurned by the Palestinians at first. He is preparing for the second time to unveil the all-but complete peace plan in mid-June i.e., after the month of Ramadan, subject to the situation in the region, five administration officials informed US media on Friday, May 18. His son-in-law and senior advise Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, his special adviser for international negotiations, had originally been instructed to tie up the last ends in time for its launch with the US embassy dedication in Jerusalem on May 14. The spadework was in hand. The president had discussed the peace plan’s content with three Arab leaders, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, UAE emir Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, the Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, as well as thoroughly briefing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was invited to come aboard, but he rebuffed the offer – and that was even before he generated a crisis with Israel for its deadly confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.
Some of the elements incorporated in the Trump peace plan were revealed by DEBKA Weekly 798 on April 27

  • The plan will be released on the date scheduled by Washington, regardless of a boycott by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.
  • The Arab world is expected to publicly nix the blueprint while keeping it afloat by offering to make the acceptable elements the basis for further discussions for an eventual peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel.
  • In search of a measure of Palestinian assent, the White House, Egypt and Gulf nations agreed to headhunt Palestinian figures living outside the PA domain, who hold different views from the Ramallah elite, and would be willing to underwrite the plan. Five eminent Palestinians have been found as possible candidates, including Abbas’ arch-foe Muhammed Dahlan. Feelers are still ongoing.
  • The Israeli prime minister will issue a cautious statement proposing that the Trump plan be the springboard for immediate negotiations with Arab governments on certain mutually acceptable points. Administration emissaries have buttonholed a wide range of Israeli political leaders, both in the government coalition and on opposition benches, who have agreed to look with favor on the Trump plan and not obstruct it.
  • Kushner and Greenblatt are assigned exclusively with the task of shepherding the peace plan from one stage to the next.
    The Trump plan is not a definitive document. It is designed to generate momentum for key Arab governments, notably the three Gulf emirates and Egypt, to sit down with the US and Israel and start the ball rolling for peace talks. Since this will be a long process, the Palestinians will have a chance to jump in at some point. At all events, the Arab and Israeli governments are expected to establish a mechanism for airing common issues that will be open to co-optiong Palestinians.

Sources who have had access to the text told DEBKAfile that it addresses the subjects at issue in detail, including Jerusalem. They disclosed the following nine elements:

  1.  A Palestinian state will be established with limited sovereignty across about half of the West Bank and all the Gaza Strip.
  2. Israel will retain security responsibility for most of the West Bank and the border crossings.
  3. The Jordan Valley will remain under Israel sovereignty and military control.
  4. .The Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will pass to the Palestinian state, excepting the Old City, which will be part of Israeli Jerusalem.
  5. Abu Dis east of Jerusalem is the proposed capital of Palestine.
  6. Palestine and Jordan will share religious jurisdiction over the city’s mosques.
  7. Gaza will be integrated in the new Palestinian state provided Hamas agrees to disarm.
  8.  There is no provision in the plan for the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” – but a compensation mechanism will be established and managed by the international community.
  9.  The Trump plan mandates Israel’s recognition as the homeland of the Jewish people, and Palestine with limited sovereignty as the Palestinian homeland.

Congress to Consider Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights

May 17, 2018

New measure recognizes Israel’s control of Syrian territory

Israeli soldiers are seen in the Golan Heights

Israeli soldiers are seen in the Golan Heights / Getty Images

BY:

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/congress-to-consider-recognition-of-israeli-sovereignty-over-golan-heights/

Congress is set to consider a new measure to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region that separates Israel from Syria, a key piece of territory that has become all the more important since the civil war in Syria brought scores of jihadist fighters, including those backed by Iran, into the region.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced on Thursday a resolution that could lead to an historic recognition by the United States that the contested area fully belongs to Israel, according to a copy of the amendment obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981 following the Six Day War with Arab nations in the region. The United States has declined for decades to take a position on the status of this territory, but following President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, DeSantis and others see an opportunity for the United States to recognize another territorial reality—that the Golan Heights will not be given back to Syria, particularly in light of the strife gripping the country.

The amendment puts the United States on Israel’s side in the land dispute and describes the Golan Heights as a key piece of territory that cannot fall into the hands of Iran, which has staked claims in Syria and continues to threaten Israel’s northern border.

“It is the sense of the Congress that the Golan Heights represent an integral part of the state of Israel and are crucial to the ability of Israel to safeguard its borders and maintain its existence,” the measure states.

“Given the civil war in Syria and the expansion of Iranian influence in Syria, the United States should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the amendment adds.

The House Rules Committee is in possession of the measure, but have yet to take a stance.

DeSantis told the Free Beacon the Golan Heights territory is key to thwarting Iranian influence across the region and that the United States’ recognition that Israel owns the territory could send a powerful message across the region.

“The continuing turmoil in Syria and the steady expansion of Iranian influence illustrate why the Golan Heights are so important to the state of Israel and the anti-terror alliance,” DeSantis said. “The Golan provides Israel with a necessary buffer against the malevolent actors that are wreaking havoc in Syria.”

If Israel was forced to give back the territory it would leave itself vulnerable to an increase in terror attacks from Iranian controlled forces and other malevolent actors who would use the Golan region to stage strikes, DeSantis said.

“Indeed, Israel would be hard-pressed to ward off such threats without the Golan,” the lawmaker explained. “Given the interest of the U.S. in rolling back Iranian influence and combating terrorism, it is time for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

As with the United States’ recent recognition that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city, the recognition that the Golan Heights cannot be given back to Syria represents a factual reality on the ground, DeSantis said.

“There is no conceivable scenario in which it makes sense for Israel to abandon such a strategically significant location so that terrorists can fill the vacuum left behind,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister calls on ICC to investigate Israeli ‘war crimes’ in Gaza

May 17, 2018

Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in a Thursday interview that the International Criminal Court should investigate Israel over the killing of Palestinians on the Gaza border this week.

Omri Ariel

http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/world-news/the-israeli-connection/turkish-fm-calls-to-investigate-israel-in-the-hague-35835

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians along the Gaza border Photo credit: Wissam Nassar, Flash 90

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is calling for a probe into Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the killing of protesters on the Gaza border.

In an interview with local media on Thursday, Çavuşoğlu accused Israel of committing war crimes and called for an international committee to issue a report on the violence in Gaza.

He also condemned the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, urging the UN to deliver a strong response.

Addressing the public humiliation of the Israeli ambassador to Turkey at the Ankara airport, Çavuşoğlu said Israel is “trying to make itself appear like a victim” as part of its “chase after cheap politics.”

IDF airstrikes target 6 Hamas bases in northern Gaza Strip — Palestinian media

May 17, 2018

Reported incident comes hours after machine gun fire from Strip hits nearby Israeli homes in Sderot in one of three cross-border exchanges Wednesday

Illustrative: A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli flares illuminating the Palestinian coastal enclave, on July 7, 2014. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

Israel carried out a series of airstrikes on Hamas bases in the northern Gaza Strip overnight Wednesday-Thursday, according to Palestinian media reports, hours after several homes in the Israeli city of Sderot were hit by machine gun fire apparently fired from across the border.

According to the reports, six separate site were targeted by dozens of air force missiles.

The IDF declined to comment on the reports.

The reported strikes may have come in response to three separate cross-border exchanges earlier Wednesday, including shots said to have been fired from Gaza that hit residential buildings in Sderot causing damage but no injuries.

According to the city of Sderot, the shots were aimed at an army aircraft that had been flying overhead, and the bullets struck the homes as they fell back down to earth.

“A short while ago, shots were fired at an [Israel Defense Forces] aircraft. Rounds hit a number of homes in Sderot,” the city said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, shots were fired at Israeli soldiers stationed on the border, according to the army. There were no reports of injuries.

In response, an IDF tank fired on a Hamas military position in the northern Gaza Strip, the military said.

A few hours after the machine gun fire hit the Sderot homes, Israeli troops on the border were again shot at, that time near southern Gaza, the army said.

In response, an Israeli tank destroys two Hamas observation posts in southern Gaza, according to the IDF.

The bullets that hit Sderot, a city in southern Israel that has frequently been the site of rocket attacks over the past 20 years, were large caliber rounds that were fired from a heavy machine gun by members of a terrorist group in Gaza, the IDF said.

The army would not immediately comment on whether the aircraft had also been hit in the shooting attack.

“The IDF sees this as a serious event and holds Hamas responsible for everything that occurs in the Gaza Strip,” the army said.

In one case, a bullet shattered a window. In others, the rounds smashed into external walls, according to pictures of the houses posted on social media.

One of the homes hit belonged to a former mayor Sderot, Eli Moyal, who told the Ynet news site he heard a “terrible noise” and when he ran outside to see what had happened he found bullet fragments.

Police were called to the scenes, sealing off the areas around the homes that were hit as forensic investigators were called in.

The army said it was investigating the issue in order to determine the origins of the gunfire.

The two shootings followed two days of clashes along the Gaza border.

On Monday, over 40,000 Palestinians took part in “unprecedentedly” violent riots along the security fence, which included at least one gun battle with Israeli troops, as well as attempts to infiltrate into Israeli territory and to plant improvised explosive devices along the border, the army said.

On Tuesday, approximately 4,000 people rioted along the border, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said 62 people were killed in the demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday, 53 of whom were later identified as members of Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.