Posted tagged ‘Media and Trump’

Permanent Investigation: How the Media Uses the Anti-Netanyahu Playbook Against Trump

November 7, 2017

Permanent Investigation: How the Media Uses the Anti-Netanyahu Playbook Against Trump, FrontPageMagazine, Daniel Greenfield, November 7, 2017

Taking out Flynn left Trump with few options except McMaster. And that allowed the swamp to reclaim the National Security Council and protect the eavesdropping operation against Trump. The likely Flynn charges have little to do with the reason he was forced to resign or any accusations against Trump.

But that doesn’t matter. The real goal was to remove Flynn. The details don’t matter.

Thinning out a target’s inner circle makes it harder for him to find competent and loyal replacements. And that makes it all too easy for the swamp to plant its own people in his inner circle. And even if the staffers and allies stay loyal, the investigations make it harder for them to get anything done.

In free countries, the left operates on two tracks: the democratic and the undemocratic. When it loses democratically, it redoubles its undemocratic efforts to retain power. Scandals and investigations are the tools of an undemocratic establishment. But they can’t overthrow the will of the people.

When conservative leaders stay strong, the scandals and investigations blow away like the wind

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The latest news from Israel’s left-wing media outlets is that Ratan Tata, an Indian billionaire, testified to the Israeli police about Prime Minister Netanyahu. The story turned out to be fake news. And that’s true of most of their anti-Netanyahu hit pieces along with the police investigations that accompany them.

But that doesn’t matter.

Americans are just now being introduced to the permanent investigation and its scandal rolodex. Israelis have been living with this Deep State assault against their democracy for much longer. Over eight long years, leftists in the judicial system and the media have manufactured a non-stop campaign of scandals and investigations against Netanyahu. The investigations and the scandals fall apart, but it doesn’t matter because there are usually several being rotated in and out from the scandal rolodex.

The scandals and investigations fall into two categories that should be familiar to Trump supporters.

Category one scandals link some random billionaire to Netanyahu through a chain of connections. The random billionaire in this case is Indian. Then there’s an Australian billionaire in Mexico, German shipbuilders and whatever part of the globe the media-judicial alliance throws a dart at next.

The fake news media in this country is following the same game plan. The latest media hit pieces target Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, in much the same way. Indeed the Russia scandal developed out of media hit pieces that used Trump’s international network of businesses to build up very similar conspiracy theories about foreign interests and influences.

These types of scandals constantly imply corruption without ever actually proving it. But by generating a whole lot of them, they create the sense that Netanyahu or Trump must have done something wrong.

Though no one can say what, because no one can keep track of all the fake scandals.

Category two scandals are character attacks. “He’s a bad person.” Typical examples are Trump’s condolence call controversy and accusations that Netanyahu’s wife is mean to employees.

These types of scandals are straightforward gossip. But lefties have tried to transform them into legal cases. Just about anyone who has ever worked for the Netanyahu family can walk out of the door and have a standing offer to file a lawsuit and do a tour of the media alleging horrible treatment. And the left is trying to advance similar lawsuits against President Trump.

There are lessons to be learned for Trump and Trump supporters from Netanyahu’s experiences.

First, permanent investigations don’t resolve. Trying to wait them out doesn’t work. They never go away until the left wins. An investigation that doesn’t pan out gets swapped out for another one. There are three investigations targeting Netanyahu. If none of them get results, there will be three others.

Everyone knows that.

Second, the purpose of a permanent investigation isn’t to get results. The left would love it if their investigations finally brought down Trump or Netanyahu, but they know that’s a long shot.

The permanent investigation’s real goals are to inflict electoral and policy damage: tying down a targeted politician in scandals so that the public loses confidence in him and preventing him from focusing on his policies. What the left wants is to win elections and stop conservative policies.

The scandals and investigations are political sabotage. And should be treated that way. They’re not about Trump or Netanyahu. They’re about protecting illegal immigration and Islamic terrorists.

Third, the investigations isolate their target by harassing staffers, friends, donors and political allies.

The investigations are a political operation. And so their targets are political. The purpose of the attack is to take out loyal staffers and force allies to keep their distance out of fear that they’ll be next.

Taking out Flynn left Trump with few options except McMaster. And that allowed the swamp to reclaim the National Security Council and protect the eavesdropping operation against Trump. The likely Flynn charges have little to do with the reason he was forced to resign or any accusations against Trump.

But that doesn’t matter. The real goal was to remove Flynn. The details don’t matter.

Thinning out a target’s inner circle makes it harder for him to find competent and loyal replacements. And that makes it all too easy for the swamp to plant its own people in his inner circle. And even if the staffers and allies stay loyal, the investigations make it harder for them to get anything done.

And that too is the point.

This may seem like a grim picture of what the next term or two will look like. But it’s not all grim.

Netanyahu made it through eight years by not letting the scandals drag him down. Even when the attacks against him and his family were as vicious, nasty and personal as the left could get.

He even turned the constant scandals and investigations into a hilarious campaign ad.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted them as a fact of life in a political system where the left’s anti-Israel extremism has made it toxic to voters even while it still controls much of the establishment.

The permanent scandal has been met with permanent scandal fatigue by the public. Israelis have been living through years of hysterical headlines about Netanyahu’s ice cream eating (CNN did its own version of a Trump ice cream scandal with “Trump gets 2 scoops of ice cream, everyone else gets 1”), his wife’s bottle deposits, their children’s misbehavior, their nannies and his bed.

Hardly anyone outside the media bubble cares. Netanyahu’s reputation has been damaged with the media’s low information voters, but he’s still Israel’s longest serving consecutive prime minister.

The Israeli lefty media reacted to its narrative failures the same way that its American counterparts did.

After Trump’s win, the media launched a crusade against “fake news” enlisting Google and Facebook to censor results based on the opinions of the media’s “fact check” operations. Their Israeli counterparts were even more brazen. After a previous Netanyahu victory, they rolled out the “Law for the Advancement and Protection of Written Journalism in Israel”.

The law “advanced and protected” written journalism by banning the distribution of successful free newspapers. The real purpose of the law was to ban the pro-Netanyahu paper, Israel Hayom.

But the media’s censorship crusade didn’t accomplish anything.

The media has an exaggerated sense of its own power and of the gullibility of the public. The two fallacies are interrelated. When people don’t listen to it, the media assumes that since they’re too stupid to have their own ideas, they must be getting all their ideas from some other source. Stamp out this other source, online or offline, and the people will go back to believing what they’re told.

It doesn’t work so well when the media has a worldview and interests that are at odds with the people.

Netanyahu is still around because he represents the public better than the establishment does. The same is true of Trump. And the establishment can’t look in the mirror long enough to understand that.

In free countries, the left operates on two tracks: the democratic and the undemocratic. When it loses democratically, it redoubles its undemocratic efforts to retain power. Scandals and investigations are the tools of an undemocratic establishment. But they can’t overthrow the will of the people.

When conservative leaders stay strong, the scandals and investigations blow away like the wind.

What Trump koi fish controversy? Watch what really happened

November 7, 2017

What Trump koi fish controversy? Watch what really happened, Fox News via YouTube, November 6, 2017

(“Journalists” will be “journalists.” — DM)

From Mueller to Mandelblit

November 2, 2017

From Mueller to Mandelblit, FrontPage MagazineCaroline Glick, November 2, 2017

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

By making it clear through their actions to date that they will not stop their investigation until they get Trump, Mueller and his associates apparently view their investigation as a means to either overturn the election results or render them irrelevant. If Trump is either pushed out of office or denied the ability to govern in accordance with the agenda he ran on, then Mueller will have achieved that goal.

Netanyahu and his political camp’s victory came as a shock to Israel’s elites. Led by the media, which was itself an adjunct of the anti-Netanyahu campaign, and assisted by the Obama administration, which siphoned US government funds into anti-Netanyahu political groups, Israel’s elites were flummoxed by the election results.

Shortly after the election, the anti-Netanyahu media, with the support of police investigators, went on a hunt to find something – anything – to force Netanyahu from office. In the end, all they could come up with were two otherwise absurd allegations.

In the Mueller probe and the incessant probes against Netanyahu we see the new face of the Left. Unable to win elections, they exploit their control over the bureaucracy and media to overturn election results.

There can be no greater threat to the health of a liberal democracy than that.

Two things must happen for this situation to be corrected.

First, we must recognize what is happening and what it means for our systems of governance. Second, lawmakers in Congress and the Knesset alike need to stand up to the media and the legal fraternities and bravely restore the power to govern to those in whom the public has vested it.

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There are stunning parallels between US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of alleged collusion between US President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia and the ongoing criminal probes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara.

Monday, after a weekend filled with speculation due to an illegal media leak regarding sealed grand jury indictments, Mueller and his team indicted two former Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, for offenses related to their business and lobbying actions allegedly carried out between 2006 and 2014.

Mueller also announced that George Papadopoulos, a junior campaign aide, pled guilty to lying to investigators about a meeting he tried to arrange between then candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As commentators across the political spectrum have noted, none of the charges against Manafort and Gates have anything to do with Trump’s presidential campaign.

As for Papadopoulos, his story exculpates rather than implicates Trump’s campaign in collusion with Russia.

Not only did Papadopoulos’s boss on the campaign reject his offer to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, the actions described in his indictment demonstrate that the Trump campaign had no significant ties to the Russian regime.

And yet, despite the apparent absence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, no one expects Mueller to close down shop. To the contrary.

The Manafort and Gates indictments and the Papadopoulos plea tell us that Mueller has abandoned the stated purpose of his investigation. Having found no evidence of collusion – criminal or otherwise – between the Trump campaign and Russia, he has decided to investigate the business dealings of Trump and his associates going back decades.

Mueller’s move demonstrates that he does not view it as his job to incriminate or exonerate Trump regarding alleged collusion with Russia. Indeed, he doesn’t view it as his responsibility to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 elections at all.

If he thought that was his job, then Mueller would not be expanding his writ to include alleged crimes carried out by Trump’s associates that any US attorney could be investigating. He would be expanding his probe to include the growing mountain of evidence of collusion on the part of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and their attorneys, as well as Mueller’s friend and successor as FBI director, James Comey, with foreign agents, including Russian government officials, during and in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mueller’s apparent refusal to follow the evidence where it leads him regarding Russian involvement in the 2016 elections and his decision instead to investigate any and all suspicions against Trump and his associates whenever the events in question may have taken place tells us that he views himself as a hunter, not an investigator. His prey is Trump.

Mueller will continue to hunt Trump until one of three things happen.

Mueller may eventually find something – anything – to charge Trump with. Such a finding will precipitate an impeachment hearing in Congress that could lead to Trump’s removal from office.

His hunt may find nothing against Trump, but just as it netted Manafort, Gates and Papadopoulos this week, it may bring down other people related to Trump. At a minimum, his continued probe will keep those close to Trump under continuous investigation. In this case, Mueller’s probe will dominate Trump’s presidency and make it impossible for Trump to govern in accordance with the agenda he was elected to advance.

The third possible outcome is that Trump fires Mueller and ends his probe or that Congress defunds his probe or limits its duration. Such moves would require the unanimous support of congressional and Senate Republicans, which currently is not on offer.

The threat that Mueller’s investigation represents to US democracy couldn’t be clearer.

By making it clear through their actions to date that they will not stop their investigation until they get Trump, Mueller and his associates apparently view their investigation as a means to either overturn the election results or render them irrelevant. If Trump is either pushed out of office or denied the ability to govern in accordance with the agenda he ran on, then Mueller will have achieved that goal.

This then brings us to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and the political Right won a massive electoral victory in 2015. For the first time in many years, the Right won indisputably. There are no coalition partners who place appeasing the PLO at the top of their governing agenda or even in the middle of their agenda.

Netanyahu and his political camp’s victory came as a shock to Israel’s elites. Led by the media, which was itself an adjunct of the anti-Netanyahu campaign, and assisted by the Obama administration, which siphoned US government funds into anti-Netanyahu political groups, Israel’s elites were flummoxed by the election results.

Shortly after the election, the anti-Netanyahu media, with the support of police investigators, went on a hunt to find something – anything – to force Netanyahu from office. In the end, all they could come up with were two otherwise absurd allegations.

First, that Netanyahu received too many gifts from his wealthy friends. Specifically, he allegedly received too many cigars from his friend Arnon Milchen. Second, Netanyahu taped himself discussing with his nemesis, Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes, the possibility of winning less adversarial coverage from Yediot Ahronot in exchange for lobbying Israel Hayom, which is owned by Netanyahu’s friend Sheldon Adelson, to cut back its circulation and so diminish its competitive edge over Yediot. This discussion, which came to nothing, was discovered by police investigators during their investigation of Netanyahu’s former chief of staff for alleged crimes unrelated to Netanyahu.

If the allegations were directed against any other politician, there is no doubt that they would not have led to police investigations. The late president Shimon Peres’s legendary use of the public trough to pay for his lavish parties and lifestyle were never the subject of investigation. Former prime minister Ehud Barak never faced investigation over his allegedly sketchy business dealings or his deeply suspect campaign financing operations. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was never investigated for the massive collection of expensive pens that he was showered with by “friends” during his tenure in government.

And none the 43 lawmakers who voted in favor of a bill backed by Mozes to shut down Israel Hayom were ever investigated for their votes.

But with Netanyahu, with the prodding and active support of the media the police are pursuing multi-million shekel investigations around the world to find and interrogate Netanyahu’s friends and ask them about their gifts to him. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich has hired Lior Horev, one of Israel’s top anti-Netanyahu political consultants, to serve as the police’s public relations representative.

As for the probes against Sara Netanyahu, every day the public is treated to yet more salacious, unsubstantiated tales of her alleged abuse of workers at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

While Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit did not initiate the probes against Netanyahu, he has done nothing to stop them. This despite their demonstrably prejudicial nature. Mandelblit is a product of the system that has turned the police, media and state prosecution into a political party united in their common goal of hunting the political Right. As a result, he can be expected to go along with whatever they do. If the police recommend indicting Netanyahu, Mandelblit can be counted on to dutifully indict him, even though the acts he is suspected of committing are not crimes.

Given the current dynamic, the only way for Netanyahu not be forced from office for actions that aren’t even criminal is for his political associates to rein in the out of control police and state prosecution by limiting their authority. So far, the media have cowed them into inaction.

In the Mueller probe and the incessant probes against Netanyahu we see the new face of the Left. Unable to win elections, they exploit their control over the bureaucracy and media to overturn election results.

There can be no greater threat to the health of a liberal democracy than that.

Two things must happen for this situation to be corrected.

First, we must recognize what is happening and what it means for our systems of governance. Second, lawmakers in Congress and the Knesset alike need to stand up to the media and the legal fraternities and bravely restore the power to govern to those in whom the public has vested it.

Implausible Deniability

October 29, 2017

Implausible Deniability, American ThinkerClarice Feldman, October 29, 2017

The aftermath of the 2016 election has revealed the criminality of the Democrats, the perfidy of the Deep State, the corruption of the press, and the bought and paid for motives of the scribblers in the conservative pundit class. And Trump won despite all that. In many ways it reminds me of a Soviet operation called The Trust. If you missed Reilly — Ace of Spies, Edward Jay Epstein describes how the Soviets created a fake anti-Soviet group called The Trust and used it to nab dissidents plotting to overthrow the regime.

Fusion GPS’ dossier was a replay of a classic Soviet disinformation campaign.

“The Trust was not an anti-Soviet organization, it only imitated one.” In reality, he continued, the Trust was a creature of the Soviet secret police. Its purpose was not to overthrow Communism, but to manipulate real anti-communist organizations into misleading the West.

In much the same way, I believe, Russian agents working for the Clintons and the DNC through Fusion GPS and its hireling Christopher Steele provided fake information in a dossier which the FBI (headed by James Comey) and the Department of Justice (headed by Loretta Lynch ) used to craft an affidavit to obtain a FISA warrant authorizing electronic surveillance on people connected, however tangentially, to the Trump campaign. This, after previous such warrants had — and this is unusual — been turned down by the FISA court. Then-president Obama allowed the surveilled communications to be widely circulated throughout the government, so that the names of the targets caught up in the surveillance and their communications were thus widely available for leaking, and were leaked.

As Byron York noted in a series of tweets, here were some of the dossier’s sources:

1/6 — Looking at dossier itself, sure seems Kremlin-linked Russians were participating in anti-Trump effort…

2/6 — For example, dossier Source A is described as ‘senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure.’

3/6 — Dossier Source B is described as ‘former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin.’

4/6 — Dossier Source C is ‘senior Russian financial official.’

The Trust was funded by émigrés who believed it was legit. And the Russian anti-Trump phony dossier was, we now know, funded by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, which would have us believe that their lawyer Marc Elias, who received over $9 million for unspecified work, did this without their consent or knowledge.

(Fusion GPS was also funded during the nomination period — and before Fusion GPS and Steele were poking around Russia, by Washington Free Beacon, something that it — like Elias — admitted shortly before a likely court ruling that Fusion’s bank account information had to be provided to congressional investigators.) In any event, their work with Fusion GPS ended with the nomination of Trump. They had nothing to do with the hiring of Fusion GPS and the creation and distribution of the dossier.

The Washington Free Beacon is a right-of-center publication, and certainly has done some fine work in the past, but its links to the anti-Trump crowd of the right is unmistakable. The publication is largely funded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who strongly supports gay rights and open borders. Among its original board members were Bill Kristol, and both the present editors, Michael Goldfarb (formerly deputy communications director for John McCain) and Matthew Continetti (Kristol’s son-in-law) both worked for the Weekly Standard while Kristol was its editor. Kristol, as you may recall, worked hard to promote others to run against Trump for the nomination. Singer financially supported Marco Rubio for the nomination. His aide, Dan Senor, was a senior advisor to vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan and reportedly retains strong ties to him.

I seriously doubt that any candidate Paul Singer would prefer could ever have won the general election. Singer strongly opposed both Ted Cruz and Trump.

The dossier was a means for the Russians at no cost the them to provide the Democrats with disinformation to be used against Trump.

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist does the most thorough job of clearing the air on the dossier

Space and copyright limitations keep me from quoting more of it, but here are theten things about the dossier Hemingway thinks you should know:

 “1) Russian officials were sources of key claims in dossier”

“2) No, the Russian dossier was not initially funded by Republicans”

“3) The dossier is chock full of discredited information”

“4) The dossier was used as a basis for wiretaps on American citizens”

5) The FBI also paid for the dossier

…When Trump asked about the FBI payment, many political journalists feigned shock and outrage that he would make such a claim.

They should not have. Their outlets had already reported that the FBI had tried to pay for the dossier and had, in fact, reimbursed expenses for the dossier. We do not know if those expenses include the payments to the Russian officials for salacious stories on Republican nominee for president Trump.

6) Dossier publisher Fusion GPS works with shady outfits”

7) Fusion GPS’ ties to media are problematic

The principals at Fusion GPS are well-connected to mainstream media reporters. They are former journalists themselves, and know how to package stories and provide information to push narratives. They are, in fact, close friends with some of the top reporters who have covered the Russia-Trump collusion story.

Fusion GPS has placed stories with friendly reporters while fighting congressional investigators’ attempts to find out the group’s sources of funding. Fusion GPS leaders have taken the Fifth and fought subpoenas for information about the group’s involvement with Russia.

8) Jim Comey personally briefed Trump on the dossier, shortly before CNN reported it

What really got the ball rolling on last year’s Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, then, was not the dossier itself but the briefing of it by Obama intelligence chiefs to President-elect Trump in January. Former FBI head Jim Comey admitted under oath that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked him to personally brief President Trump about this dossier. The fact of that meeting was quickly leaked to CNN.

Given the dossier’s many problems, was the entire purpose of the meeting to produce the leak that the meeting happened?

9) Mueller investigation spurred by dossier and illegal leaks from intelligence operatives about Trump.

We know from previous reporting that the dossier of Russia-supplied information or disinformation was used by the FBI to secure a warrant to spy on an American citizen advising an opposing political party’s presidential campaign. We know that this dossier was funded at least in part by the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the FBI. The firm that produced the report was itself funded by Russians.

10) The Steele dossier was a Clinton/DNC-funded operation supported by the FBI and influenced heavily by Russian operatives in the Kremlin The Clinton campaign, the DNC, and the FBI all worked wittingly or unwittingly with Russians to affect the results of the 2016 election. Far from just meeting with a Russian and not getting dirt on a political opponent, these groups wittingly or unwittingly paid Russian operatives for disinformation to harm Trump during the 2016 election and beyond.

Worse, these efforts perverted our justice system by forcing the attorney general to recuse himself for the crime of having served as a surrogate on the Trump campaign, spawning a massive, sprawling, limitless probe over Russia.[/quote]

Fusion GPS was also doing work directly for the Russians, which makes its claims doubly suspect:

You see, the Russian lawyer — often carelessly presented as a “Russian government lawyer” with “close ties to Putin” — Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump, [sic — actually it was Donald Trump, Jr.] also worked recently with a Washington, D.C. “commercial research and strategic intelligence firm” that is also believed to have lobbied against the Magnitsky Act. That firm, which also doubles as an opposition research shop, is called Fusion GPS—famous for producing the Russia dossier distributed under the byline of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent for hire.[snip]

Yet at the same time that Fusion GPS was fueling a campaign warning against a vast Russia-Trump conspiracy to destroy the integrity of American elections, the company was also working with Russia to influence American policy — by removing the same sanctions that Trump was supposedly going to remove as his quid pro quo for Putin’s help in defeating Hillary.Yet it is rare to read stories about comms shops like Fusion GPS because traditional news organizations are reluctant to bite the hands that feed them. But they are the news behind the news—well known to every D.C. beat reporter as the sources who set the table and provide the sources for their big “scoops.” The ongoing transformation of foundering, profitless news organizations into dueling proxies for partisan comms operatives is bad news for American readers, and for our democracy. But it is having a particularly outsized effect on reporting in the area of foreign policy, where expert opinion is prized—and easily bought—and most reporters and readers are only shallowly informed.

The record clearly belies the Clinton-DNC (Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and John Podesta) claim that they didn’t know about the dossier.

In the first place, it is impossible to believe that they handed over $9 million to their lawyer without restriction or oversight. (Yes, I know the Department of State under then-secretary Clinton cannot account for $6 billion dollars, but this was their money, not ours, and I expect they paid more serious attention to it.) Once the bills are turned over to investigators, we’ll see who signed off on them. And we’ll find out soon whether Fusion was listed as a vendor in campaign-finance filings as the law requires.

Interestingly enough, one of Elias’ partners engaged Crowd Strike, ostensibly to review the claim that the DNC server had been hacked by Russia, and Comey’s FBI accepted their review without ever demanding to examine it themselves.

Daniel Greenfield once again does a fine job of analyzing the use made of the dossier and why Fusion GPS was engaged to dish the dirt.

The DNC, Hillary campaign and Obama Administration used former British intelligence agent Fusion GPS’ Christopher Steele as an interface to create deniability, allowing them, in effect, to launder the dossier and create a pretext for snooping on Trump and publicizing whatever dirt they might dig up on his campaign no matter how incredible the sources and product.

Hiring Fusion GPS and then Steele created two degrees of separation between the dossier and Hillary. A London ex-intel man is a strange choice for opposition research in an American election, but a great choice to create a plausible ‘source’ that appears completely disconnected from American politics. [snip]

The official story is that Steele was a dedicated whistleblower who decided to message an FBI pal for reasons “above party politics” while the Fusion GPS boss was so dedicated that he spent his own money on it after the election. Some figures in the FBI decided to take Steele’s material, offering to pay him for his work and reimbursing some of his expenses. Portions of the dossier were used to justify the FISA eavesdropping on Trump officials and were then rolled into the Mueller investigation. [snip]

But there isn’t supposed to be a link between the Democrats and the eavesdropping.

That’s why Marc Elias, the Clinton campaign and DNC lawyer who hired Fusion GPS, had denied it in the past. It’s why Fusion GPS fought the investigation so desperately. Opposition research isn’t a crime. A conspiracy to eavesdrop on your political opponents however is very much a criminal matter.

A forensic examination of the dirty dossier’s journey shows us that this modern Watergate was a collaborative effort between an outgoing Democrat administration and its expected Dem successor.

Greenfield details how the dossier was used to astroturf and create a demand for an investigation, which ultimately resulted in Sessions’ recusal and the appointment of a special counsel. He reminds us that the Obama administration had done such stuff before, spying on congressional opponents on the Iran Deal. (Recall how that spying was used to tar Congresswoman Jane Harmon); giving money to non-profit organizations to spur the media coverage, whispering tidbits to complaisant media shills, and smuggling billions to Iran. And, as he notes, there was the IRS shutdown of conservative groups (for which they finally apologized this week) and the lies about Libya.

Notably, when they thought the Russia “collusion” fairytale was not gathering enough steam, Steele personally briefed David Corn, the same propagandist who confected the story that Valerie Plame was a covert agent deliberately targeted by the Bush Administration as payback against her husband Joe Wilson.

But even more damning is the fact that Hillary herself started tweeting about the dossier shortly after GPS was hired — even though she claims she knew nothing about it.

The first FISA request was made in June and was turned down. In July Fusion GPS was hired. According to James Comey, the FBI began investigating “collusion” reports in July of 2016, Beginning on August 15, Hillary started tweeting about Trump and Russia. She tweeted again on September 7, September 26, October 7, October 25, October 31. The second request was made in October. It was on October 31 when Corn, now atMother Jones “broke the story of a ‘veteran spy’ who gave the FBI information on Trump’s alleged connections to Russia.” It wasn’t until Buzz Feed published the dossier that we could see how preposterous the story was. Mother Jones was just a small part of the media collaboration in spreading the manure — Slate worked it also, and larger outlets got involved.

Former CIA case officer Lee Smith reveals how shoddy was the dossier:

The dossier was designed to dig up “dirt” on Trump and his associates, but, more to the point, it was clearly intended from the start to do so by manufacturing and nurturing a Russian angle. It sought to discredit Donald Trump and to deceive the public, which suggests that Trump has been right all along regarding something like a conspiracy against him which included the active participation of the FBI and possibly other national security agencies.

The president also comes across as credible vis-à-vis his critics because of what has become evident since the dossier was surfaced. The clearly politically motivated multiple investigations carried out so far in which no rock has been unturned have come up with absolutely nothing, either in the form of criminal charges or in terms of actual collusion with a foreign government. And, one might add, there has been little in the way of evidence to sustain the charge that Russia sought to influence the election and might even have succeeded in doing so. But there is one thing new that we do know now: Russiagate began within the Clinton Campaign headquarters.

Trey Gowdy tweeted: “Did FBI rely on a document that looks like the National Enquirer prepared it?” Looks that way. Andrew McCarthy at National Review tweets “Trump DOJ should declassify & disclose FISA app to show what representations were made to court about source of dossier claims.”

That seems uncontestable.

 

Conway to CNN: We Can’t Get You to Cover Russia ‘Now That the Shoe Is on the Other Foot’

October 27, 2017

Conway to CNN: We Can’t Get You to Cover Russia ‘Now That the Shoe Is on the Other Foot’, Washington Free Beacon , October 27, 2017

(Thought experiment: If it were revealed that Melania Trump had promised Putin that President Trump would let Russia get 20% of America’s Uranium in exchange for a $500,000 campaign contribution, what would the reaction of CNN et al have been? — DM)

 

Camerota asked Conway whether Trump wants the former FBI informant to testify, noting, “Clearly he has some interest.”

The Justice Department has given the informant the green light to testify before Congress, CNN reported.

“Shouldn’t you?” Conway responded. “Shouldn’t we all? CNN is so vested in Russia, Russia, Russia, don’t you want to hear from everybody now? Or are we just going to drop the word Russia forever morning because it gets a little too close to the woman who ran last time?”

**********************************

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Friday rebuked the media for not covering a controversial deal that gave Russia control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, arguing the press was “obsessed” with Moscow when the main story concerned potential Russian ties to President Donald Trump.

Conway sparred with CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota about U.S. relations with Russia, focusing on the sale of a Canadian uranium mining company, Uranium One, to Russia’s Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, that was approved by the Obama administration in 2010.

The White House counselor first said that she wanted to talk about the current opioid epidemic in the United States, which Trump declared a public health crisis on Thursday, before addressing the Uranium One deal.

“Well, first of all, the president is not worried about Uranium One. The people who should be worries about Uranium One are the people who benefited from it,” Conway said. “His spouse didn’t go make a half-a-million-dollar speech in Russia while he was secretary of state, then turn around and be part of the decision-making process for them to get 20 percent of our rights. He wasn’t secretary of state or president at the time when Russian folks were trying to infiltrate the State Department and get an advantage for this particular deal.”

Conway was referencing how former President Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and the Clinton Foundation received millions in donations from parties interested in the uranium deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a government body that approved the agreement.

Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit the Clinton Foundation, the Hill reported last week, adding that, according to FBI and court documents, “federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings, and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Camerota asked Conway whether Trump wants the former FBI informant to testify, noting, “Clearly he has some interest.”

The Justice Department has given the informant the green light to testify before Congress, CNN reported.

“Shouldn’t you?” Conway responded. “Shouldn’t we all? CNN is so vested in Russia, Russia, Russia, don’t you want to hear from everybody now? Or are we just going to drop the word Russia forever morning because it gets a little too close to the woman who ran last time?”

“We have talked about this for the last year so let’s at least close the loop, can’t we?” Conway added. “And look at what the Clinton campaign and the Democrats did.”

Camerota pressed Conway on what about the uranium deal bothered her if the deal should have been struck.

Zero,” Conway said. “What bothers me it is that we can’t get all of you who have been obsessed about Russia, Russia, Russia to cover it now that the shoe is on the other foot.”

“I think it’s exactly what people hate about corruption and politicians and the swamp,” she added. “I think they look at that and it’s not difficult for them to connect the dots that you have one spouse giving a half-a-million-dollar speech, [and] you have another one that’s the secretary of state.

“Whole 20 percent of the US. uranium rights go to a Russian interest. That’s not difficult for people to understand,” she added.

How Sore Loser Hillary Created a National Obsession With Russia

October 27, 2017

How Sore Loser Hillary Created a National Obsession With Russia, Power Line,  Paul Mirengoff, October 27, 2017

“In short,” Sperry concludes, “Hillary couldn’t beat Trump with the political dirt she secretly purchased during the campaign, so she tried to cripple his presidency with help from an overwhelmingly anti-Trump media.” And, it appears, from elements of the U.S. government.

***************************************

Scott has linked to an article by Paul Sperry in the New York Post called “How Team Hillary played the press for fools for fools on Russia.” Sperry’s article is also one of our “Power Line picks.”

Many of our readers will come across Sperry’s article, either via Power Line or in some other way. However, I think portions of it are worth quoting here, just in case.

Sperry writes:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign didn’t just pay for the Kremlin-aided smear job on Donald Trump before the election; she continued to use the dirt after the election to frame her humiliating loss as a Russian conspiracy to steal the election.

Bitter to the core, she and her campaign aides hatched a scheme, just 24 hours after conceding the race, to spoon-feed the dirty rumors to an eager liberal media and manufacture the narrative that Russia secretly colluded with her neophyte foe to sabotage her coronation.

The hatching of this scheme is documented by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in their book“Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.” They reported:

Within 24 hours of [Clinton’s] concession speech, [campaign chair John Podesta and manager Robby Mook] assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

The plan succeeded. As Sperry reminds us: “After the election, coverage of the Russian ‘collusion’ story was relentless, and it helped pressure investigations and hearings on Capitol Hill and even the naming of a special counsel, which in turn has triggered virtually nonstop coverage”

How relentless was that coverage? Sperry tells us:

A new Media Research Center study finds that, since the inauguration, major TV news networks have devoted an astonishing 1,000 minutes out of a total 5,015 minutes of Trump administration coverage discussing speculation that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Moscow in hacking Clinton campaign emails, “which means the Russia story alone has comprised almost one-fifth of all Trump news this year.”

In contrast, they so far have devoted just 20 seconds to the more substantive scandal of Hillary and her husband possibly trading US uranium rights for Russian cash.

Who fuels the nonstop coverage?

MRC analysts also found that more than a third of the networks’ Russia “scandal” coverage was based on anonymous sources who worked in the Obama administration, including Hillary’s State Department.

Thus, Team Hillary’s plan is working. Sure, stories it planted have been retracted and reporters fired. But that’s just collateral damage. Sperry is right: “Trump’s approval ratings have suffered, and the Russia investigation has distracted the administration.”

This is just what Team Clinton intended, as former Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri made clear to the Washington Post in March.

There is no doubt, then, that Team Clinton played the press. In my view, many in the press were happy to be played.

It’s worth noting, however, that even our gullible, left-leaning mainstream media didn’t take the bait when the Trump dossier, put together with Russian collusion for the Clinton campaign, was dangled before it. The mainstream media refused to run with the dossier because its assertions couldn’t be corroborated and, perhaps, because some of them seemed ridiculous.

It was our intelligence community that ran with the dossier, though I doubt it was duped. The full extent of its reliance on the dossier is not clear. However, James Comey certainly put it to use, and by sharing it with the president, helped make it news.

“In short,” Sperry concludes, “Hillary couldn’t beat Trump with the political dirt she secretly purchased during the campaign, so she tried to cripple his presidency with help from an overwhelmingly anti-Trump media.” And, it appears, from elements of the U.S. government.

Trump’s a Big Mouth; Journalists are Villains

October 22, 2017

Trump’s a Big Mouth; Journalists are Villains, PJ Media, Andrew Klavan, October 21, 2017

Has the press at long last no decency? The short answer: No decency at all. Trump is a big mouth but the press is despicable. Democrat operatives masquerading as journalists, they are the prime engine of division in this country. Skewing every story in one direction, they keep us from discussing issues in a reasonable way so as to reach compromise. And squealing like scorched cats at every Trump remark, they manufacture a sense of crisis that has nothing to do with the true state of America.

They are villains. Within the parameters of the First Amendment, the entire industry needs to be reformed.

********************************

As Trump-loving readers of this blog have frequently complained, I am not always a fan of Donald Trump’s personal style. I don’t like bullies and I prefer a president who thinks before he opens his mouth. I do, on the other hand, very much like many of the things Trump has accomplished: the great judicial nominations, the taming of the regulatory state, the restoration of the rule of law at the border, leaving the silly Paris accord, the annihilation of ISIS, the attempts to hurry the implosion of Obamacare by suspending utterly illegal payments to insurance companies, calling out the NFL on its lack of patriotism, and calling out the media on a leftward bias that now amounts to simple malfeasance and corruption. That’s an awful lot of good stuff, and it surely makes up for the big mouthery.

Aside from a few stupid remarks that seemed to show a lack of respect for the First Amendment — remarks that have so far not been followed up by any bad actions — I can’t think of one instance in which Trump has behaved in a way that endangers the norms of American governance. He hasn’t misused the IRS like Barack Obama did, or corrupted the Justice Department like Obama did, or made illegal payouts to insurance companies like Obama did, or extended the power of regulatory agencies until they became a threat to constitutional democracy like Obama did, or lied to the people about health care or Benghazi like Obama did, or behaved so autocratically and unconstitutionally that he lost more cases before the Supreme Court than any other modern president like Obama did. In fact, Trump has been incredibly transparent with the public and has generally thrown legislative decisions to Congress — where they belong.

The press, on the other hand, in their seething hatred of Trump and the people he represents, and in their likewise seething bitterness at the loss of the election, have transformed themselves into the mustache-twirling villains of American society. If they could see themselves as they are, they would be ashamed, but because they all agree with one another, they are invisible to themselves.

This week, Donald Trump made a clumsy and defensive remark about the fact that presidents generally don’t call the families of those who die in battle. I took him to mean that they didn’t always call. I think any reasonable person would have taken him to mean that. But the media takes every word Trump speaks to mean the worst possible thing it can mean, and so the big story this week was not the revelation that the Obama administration covered up an investigation into Russian malfeasance in order to give Putin ownership of twenty percent of our uranium supply. Well, that was the big story but the mainstream media covered it up. Instead, the big story on the news was what the media said Trump said.

Enter the genuinely hideous Florida Democrat Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. She listened in on Trump’s call to the family of a dead soldier and reported Trump said the soldier “knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurts.” I took this to mean that every soldier knows he is doing a dangerous job, but when the worst comes, the knowledge doesn’t ease the pain. I think any reasonable person would take it to mean that. But the media takes every word Trump speaks to mean the worst possible thing it can mean and so the hideous Frederica was on TV, making political hay out of a soldier’s death.

Then Trump pointed out that Barack Obama had not called Trump’s chief of staff General John Kelly after his son was killed by a landmine in Afghanistan. So now, after allowing and encouraging the hideous Frederica to make political hay out of a soldier’s death, the media began screaming that President Trump was making political hay out of a soldier’s death.

Then John Kelly made a measured and emotional speech that shamed the news media and the hideous Frederica. So the media — which had excoriated Trump for criticizing Gold Star father Khizr Khan — now excoriated Gold Star father John Kelly as everything from racist to the engineer of a coup.

Has the press at long last no decency? The short answer: No decency at all. Trump is a big mouth but the press is despicable. Democrat operatives masquerading as journalists, they are the prime engine of division in this country. Skewing every story in one direction, they keep us from discussing issues in a reasonable way so as to reach compromise. And squealing like scorched cats at every Trump remark, they manufacture a sense of crisis that has nothing to do with the true state of America.

They are villains. Within the parameters of the First Amendment, the entire industry needs to be reformed.

How Corrupt Are American Institutions?

October 20, 2017

How Corrupt Are American Institutions? American Thinker,  Stephen McGhee, October 20, 2017

(The author complains that “The relentlessly tweeting Trump hasn’t mentioned the story as of this writing.” Apparently the article was written a day or so ago, since President Trump has tweeted repeatedly about it since yesterday. It will be interesting to learn how the “uniparty” and the “mainstream media” deal with the issues–  DM)

If we are to remain a country of laws and not of men, the people we’ve chosen to uphold our institutions are going to have to do better than this. It’s one thing if our system of justice and our national security have been put up for sale; it’s quite another if the politicians and bureaucrats who did it face no consequences.

How corrupt are American institutions? We’ll know very soon.

******************************

Blame Sean Hannity. Or give him all the credit. The intrepid talk show host has been claiming for months that there is nothing to the Trump-Russia allegations, that the real tale of Russian collusion is linked to Hillary Clinton. The fact that very few people have taken this seriously has only caused the firebrand conservative to dig in deeper and repeat his talking points both more often and more fervently.

His insistence the Russian story would “boomerang” against the Democrats has been largely based on his communications (both on- and off-air) with Julian Assange and investigative reporters John Solomon and Sara Carter.

It seems like only yesterday justice was closing in on the Travel Office, Whitewater, the Clinton-era transfer of missile technology to the Chinese government, Fast and Furious, Solyndra, IRS harassment of conservative groups, the Clinton emails, Benghazi and a dozen others.

We might have believed Sean Hannity’s predictions, but we’d seen this movie before. Then came Tuesday. John Solomon and Alison Spann of the Hill and Sara Carter of Circa News had a story that may have broken open the largest national security scandal since the Rosenbergs.

In 2009, the Obama Justice Department began investigating a Russian plan to expand Russia’s atomic energy business by acquiring uranium in the United States. Through bribery, kickbacks, money laundering and extortion, the Russians were able to acquire 20% of the uranium mining rights in the United States. Shareholders in the Russian firm Rosatom funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation in the months leading up to the Obama administration’s approval of the transaction.

The sale was officially approved in 2010 by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), whose members included both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder. Apparently neither Holder nor Clinton informed the other members of the committee just what an historic act of corruption they were participants to. Not only did the DOJ and FBI let the sale proceed, they sat on the information they had gathered and let the investigation drag on until 2015, when Rosatom executive Vadim Mikerin and other defendants reached plea deals to little fanfare.

Current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the FBI’s investigation, as did Andrew McCabe, the current deputy FBI director. And the man in charge of the FBI during most of the Rosatom investigation was none other than Robert Mueller, the special counsel now investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election.

The government informant at the heart of the case was (and remains) forbidden to speak to Congress by an Obama Justice Department gag order (that gag order has yet to be lifted by the Trump Justice Department).

If this story is true, then all our worst fears have been confirmed, and we are indeed living in a banana republic, with one set of rules for the rich and powerful, and another set of rules for everybody else.

The question going forward: what kind of country will we live in tomorrow? Now that we know that Russian collusion is real and that the Obama administration engaged in it, what will be done about it? Will the laws against government corruption finally be enforced, or will the guilty walk again as we’re treated to another round of Congressional committee show hearings?

This scandal will be a true test — perhaps the final test — of whether American government can still work for the people. If Republicans walk away from this story for fear of ruffling Democrat feathers, we will know that the fix is in.

A lot of reputations are on the line, beginning with that of Donald Trump. Will he demand of his administration that it faithfully execute the law, without fear or favor.

Then there’s Jeff Sessions. Our attorney general will have to determine if the Trump DOJ has the stomach to investigate the Obama DOJ. Sessions has a chance to end this affair with a reputation as a true champion of law and order. Then again, he may cement his image as a chivalrous knight of old, merciless to peasants who cross borders and deal drugs, but always ready to give his social and political peers the benefit of the doubt.

Congress’ reputation is on the line, too. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP will have a lot to answer for if they fail to demand answers to hard questions. This isn’t a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-Trump anymore. The implications of the Clinton/Rosatom story can’t be overstated, and Congress must lead the charge in determining whether Andrew McCabe, Rod Rosenstein, and Robert Mueller should now have any role in an investigation dealing with Russian influence, and more importantly, whether they should have any role in government at all.

And finally, there’s the media. The New York Times recently announced an ad campaign with the slogan: “the truth is more important than ever.” It’s time to prove it. If Russian collusion was a problem yesterday – and the media has breathlessly told us this for ten months – then Russian collusion is a problem today, and the Clinton story should get all the attention the Trump story received and then some, especially seeing as how there’s actual evidence in the Clinton story. It’s probably too much to hope that the media will flip on the Democrats and report the truth, but if justice runs its course while the media pretends there’s nothing to see here, folks, then whatever shred of credibility the press has remaining will be gone.

The early returns aren’t promising. The relentlessly tweeting Trump hasn’t mentioned the story as of this writing. Jeff Sessions, in Capitol Hill testimony on Wednesday, offered only a cryptic statement that he would “review” Charles Grassley’s request that he look into the Clinton matter. (The ever-disappointing Sessions also suggested that Rod Rosenstein might be in charge of reviewing the propriety of an investigation that was led by Rod Rosenstein). On the bright side, Grassley’s committee has opened an inquiry into the matter, but then again, it’s hard to imagine a satisfying outcome to a story that begins with “Grassley’s committee has opened an inquiry…” As for the non-Hannity media, the Clinton story was met with stony silence (no denials, just silence). The big story Wednesday was not $145 million in bribes to the Clintons, but rather a controversy about whether Trump said something inappropriate or awkward to the wife of a soldier killed in battle during a phone call in which Trump offered his condolences.

If we are to remain a country of laws and not of men, the people we’ve chosen to uphold our institutions are going to have to do better than this. It’s one thing if our system of justice and our national security have been put up for sale; it’s quite another if the politicians and bureaucrats who did it face no consequences.

How corrupt are American institutions? We’ll know very soon.

 

Report: North Korean Generals’ Favorite American Show Is … “Morning Joe”

October 20, 2017

Report: North Korean Generals’ Favorite American Show Is … “Morning Joe”, Hot Air, Allahpundit, October 19, 2017

Makes sense. It’s the only show more hostile to Trump than North Korea’s own propaganda is.

The funniest thing about this report is that “Morning Joe” is, relatively speaking, a hard show for most *Americans* to understand, let alone North Koreans. It’s the ultimate Beltway insider program, tailored to the tastes of political junkies. Imagine being an average guy or gal channel-surfing for some general interest news in the morning and stumbling upon an MJ colloquy between Steve Schmidt, Nicolle Wallace, and Donny Deutsch on the “dog whistles” in Trump’s latest speech on tax reform. Imagine trying to make sense of that. Now imagine a North Korean military officer, separated by geography, language, and a lot of culture, trying to make sense of it.

I take it back. The funniest thing about this is that the entire crew seems to take the report at face value instead of recognizing that the North Korea officer was just blowing smoke up the NBC correspondent’s ass about what his favorite American news shows are.

NBC News correspondent Kier Simmons landed a rare interview with a North Korean military official on Thursday and learned that officials in the communist country watch “Morning Joe” specifically for reports and discussions about their country…

“He quite plainly said he believes President Trump is mentally ill,” Simmons told “Morning Joe” co-hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. “And he was unequivocal in saying he believes North Korea could win a war with America.”

“Be it no doubt that the senior officials here pay attention to what is being said in the U.S.,” Simmons added. “One telling me that he watches ‘Morning Joe’ every day specifically for the segments about North Korea.”

Everyone knows that the place to be for in-depth coverage of the crisis on the peninsula isn’t BBC World News, it’s “Morning Joe.” What?

Actually, though, I can kinda sorta see why North Koreans might be monitoring the program. It’s not for the North Korea coverage, of course, it’s because their intelligence people probably know that Scarborough and Brzezinski know Trump personally and therefore might have special insights into his thinking. The NorKs are, reportedly, confused about Trump’s intentions and eager for experts in Washington to clue them into whether Trump’s a blowhard or he really is planning a nuclear first strike. Watching “Morning Joe” would be of a piece with that. And hey, everyone enjoys political television that confirms their own intellectual biases. The NorKs think Trump is crazy and evil; Scarborough and Brzezinski call him crazy and evil pretty much every day. Someday, when the definitive historical account of the U.S./North Korean nuclear exchange of 2019 is written, we may learn that it was an especially febrile, white-knuckled attack on Trump’s mental stability on MSNBC one morning that convinced Kim Jong Un to order full release.

A frightening thought: If the NorKs are monitoring “Morning Joe” because the hosts know Trump, they’re probably monitoring “Hannity” too. They must be on the edge of their seats wondering if the Seth Rich case will ever be cracked.

The Kerfuffle Before the Storm

October 8, 2017

The Kerfuffle Before the Storm, PJ MediaClaudia Rosett, October 7, 2017

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, center, poses for a group photo with Senior Military leaders and spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House on Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The first priority for any president inheriting this virulent global mess should be to try as far as possible to reclaim America’s credibility; to persuade America’s enemies  that the bargain sale on U.S. interests is over, and America will, if necessary, wield its full military might to defend itself, its allies and interests. That is vital to deterrence, which — if genuinely effective — is vastly preferable to war.

The conundrum is how America can regain the credibility needed for deterrence, without having to resort to war in order to prove the point. For instance, unless Kim Jong Un truly believes that the U.S. might actually attack North Korea despite the potential horrific cost, why should he back down? Why should he worry about U.S. warships and submarines in the region? It’s an impressive show of military hardware, but is it a credible threat?

For an American president faced with this problem, one move worth attempting would be to gather America’s top military commanders for a meeting at the White House, followed by a dinner with their spouses, and invite the press to come witness and report on this conclave. If, in the midst of this genial scene, the president mentions that this is the calm before the storm, it may be baffling and frustrating to reporters — whose job includes nailing down details. But in capitals such as Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, it might just help prompt a rethink about the assumption — gleaned from their success in rogue ventures during the tenure of Obama — that America is a hamstrung giant.

There’s always the possibility that it was more than a broad warning — that perhaps Trump is indeed about to launch a specific military action. But to whatever extent this cliffhanger helps concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang on just how unpleasant it could be to provoke an American storm,  it was an important message. Quite possibly a bid to avert a war, rather than start one. Worth the kerfuffle in the press.

***********************************

With the phrase “the calm before the storm,” President Trump on Thursday evening kicked off one of the biggest media kerfuffles since his late-night tweet in May about “the constant negative press covfefe.” That mysterious locution produced a spate of stories speculating sardonically on what the president meant. We’re now hearing a similar round of mockery. But this was no late-night typo in a tweet, and while offended members of the media default to derision, it’s worth considering that the president quite likely sent a useful message to an audience that extends way beyond the White House press corps.

The setting was a dinner for top U.S. military commanders and their spouses, hosted by Trump in the White House State Dining Room. Trump invited reporters in for a brief photo-op. Flanked by military officials who have dedicated themselves to defending America and winning its wars, all gathered with their spouses under a big portrait of President Lincoln. Trump asked the reporters, “You guys know what this represents?”

“Tell us, sir,” said one of the reporters.

“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” said Trump. A reporter asked, “What storm?” Trump gave the oblique reply, “We have the world’s greatest military people in this room, I will tell you that.” A reporter asked, again, “What storm?” Trump said, “You’ll find out.”

The entire exchange lasted about 30 seconds. The reporters were thanked and dismissed. The media were left to speculate on whether the “storm” referred to impending military action again North Korea, or maybe plans to back away from President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, or something else, or nothing at all. Asked again by reporters on Friday what he meant by “the calm before the storm,” Trump again declined to clarify, saying again, “You’ll find out.”

This has been playing as a crazy-Trump story. CNN came out with the headline: “Trump is treating a potential war like a reality show cliffhanger,” and warned, “This is no reality show… His words — whether he means them as a tease, a threat or something in between — can have very real consequences.” Esquire called Trump “Our Reality TV President” and asked, “Will the season finale involve nuclear war with North Korea?” The New York Times called Trump’s comment “ominous.” NBC called it “provocative.” Politico called it “unprompted.” The Huffington Post, in a headline, called it “Bizarre.”

I’d call it smart. We don’t know precisely what the president had in mind. But we do know — or we ought to know — this: In world politics, there is a gathering storm that threatens America and our allies. There is a rising network of tyrannies hostile to American interests and values, including most prominently Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The U.S. superpower can face down any one of these actors if it must, but the disturbing trajectory is that for years now — whatever their differences — they have effectively been making common cause against America and the requirements of a free and peaceful world order. They do illicit business together; they often back each other diplomatically, and they learn from each other just how much it is possible to get away with. Russia and China have been carrying out joint military maneuvers. North Korea, longtime weapons dealer to Iran, is cultivating an arsenal of nuclear missiles. The threats compound.

This trend accelerated dramatically during the years of America’s policies of retreat, appeasement, and surrender under President Obama. China, as part of its military buildup, sped up its construction of artificial islands topped with military bases clearly designed to threaten freedom of navigation along vital shipping routes in Southeast Asia. Russia snatched Crimea from Ukraine, and got away with it. Terrorist-sponsoring Iran extended its reach in the Middle East, and is currently benefitting from a rotten nuclear deal that paves its way to the bomb, accessorized with ballistic missiles. Syria disintegrated into war, which opened the way for both the rise of ISIS and military inroads by Vladimir Putin’s Russia into the Middle East. Libya, with America leading-from-behind, disintegrated into terrorist-infested chaos.

And North Korea, which had carried out one nuclear test in 2006 on the watch of President Bush, conducted four more tests during the tenure of Obama, along with scores of ballistic missile tests, while Kim Jong Un consolidated his hold on the totalitarian throne inherited in 2011 from his father. Taking advantage of Obama’s “strategic patience” to ramp up a rogue nuclear program, Kim Jong Un’s regime was ready to greet the Trump administration with an arsenal that by now appears quite convincingly to include long-range missiles, miniaturized warheads and the hydrogen bomb.

None of this is a figment of Trump’s imagination. Neither is it a prop on some reality TV show. It is real.

This is not of Trump’s making. But given the rate at which the threats and crises have been compounding, it falls to him to cope with a greatly emboldened group of increasingly well armed and predatory powers. This has been made all the more difficult by the enormous amount of U.S. credibility that was squandered by Obama — who gutted the U.S. military, bore passive “witness” to upheaval in Iran, erased his own red line over chemical weapons in Syria, threw away the hard-won progress in Iraq, bungled Afghanistan and Libya, promised (and delivered) flexibility to Putin, deferred to China, embraced Cuba, shrugged off the rising nuclear threat of North Korea, and assured the American public that the tide of war was receding.

The first priority for any president inheriting this virulent global mess should be to try as far as possible to reclaim America’s credibility; to persuade America’s enemies  that the bargain sale on U.S. interests is over, and America will, if necessary, wield its full military might to defend itself, its allies and interests. That is vital to deterrence, which — if genuinely effective — is vastly preferable to war.

The conundrum is how America can regain the credibility needed for deterrence, without having to resort to war in order to prove the point. For instance, unless Kim Jong Un truly believes that the U.S. might actually attack North Korea despite the potential horrific cost, why should he back down? Why should he worry about U.S. warships and submarines in the region? It’s an impressive show of military hardware, but is it a credible threat?

For an American president faced with this problem, one move worth attempting would be to gather America’s top military commanders for a meeting at the White House, followed by a dinner with their spouses, and invite the press to come witness and report on this conclave. If, in the midst of this genial scene, the president mentions that this is the calm before the storm, it may be baffling and frustrating to reporters — whose job includes nailing down details. But in capitals such as Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang, it might just help prompt a rethink about the assumption — gleaned from their success in rogue ventures during the tenure of Obama — that America is a hamstrung giant.

Whether that was Trump’s intention, I don’t know. It sure looked that way. In the phrase that so alarmed CNN and Esquire, there was a useful ambiguity. Trump didn’t guarantee a storm; he merely suggested it could happen. Surrounded by his top military commanders, in the seat of American power that is the White House, the commander-in-chief prefaced his statement about “the calm before the storm” with “maybe.” It was, in a genteel and peaceful setting, a warning not to mess with America.

There’s always the possibility that it was more than a broad warning — that perhaps Trump is indeed about to launch a specific military action. But to whatever extent this cliffhanger helps concentrate minds in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang on just how unpleasant it could be to provoke an American storm,  it was an important message. Quite possibly a bid to avert a war, rather than start one. Worth the kerfuffle in the press.