Inside the Spy Scandal at the Heart of Jeff Bezos’ War With the National Enquirer

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos rocked American politics yesterday by exposing an effort by his nemesis American Media Inc., publisher of The National Enquirer, to blackmail the multibillionaire mogul. By publicly taking on the country’s most notorious scandal sheet, Bezos opened the door to an espionage scandal that threatens to rock the nation’s capital and beyond.

Posting salacious accusations of criminality on the web is no routine matter, especially when it’s the world’s wealthiest man doing it, but that’s just what Bezos did by explaining that AMI  attempted to coerce him into stopping his investigation into The National Enquirer’s activities.

This sordid saga burst into public view last month, when The National Enquirer published a salacious account of Bezos’ extramarital affair, complete with images of private text messages of an amorous nature between the Amazon CEO and his mistress. Bezos and his wife of 25 years soon announced their intent to divorce.

Not surprisingly, Bezos wanted to know how AMI got hold of his private messages, and when you’re worth upwards of $130 billion you can hire top-notch investigators. That’s when things got interesting. The National Enquirer isn’t accustomed to being in the hot-seat when it comes to having secrets exposed, since their business model is based on being the exposer, not the one being exposed. AMI, whose acquaintance with journalistic ethics can charitably be termed fleeting, has secrets to hide in this high-profile case.

Read the rest at The Observer …

In Moscow, There’s No Longer Any Line Between Spies, Lies & Terrorists

These days there’s no term more likely to attract the nut fringe than “false flag.” Citing it is a surefire way to rally online monomaniacs who believe that nothing in the world is as it seems to be. The belief that nefarious secret forces pull the strings behind events is for some as addictive as opioids.

This is unfortunate, since false flag is a perfectly legitimate term in the espionage world, and it’s far from new. Spies have masqueraded as someone else during their secret operations for as long as there have been spies. In extreme cases, intelligence services have undertaken terrorist attacks under a false flag to smear opponents and fool the public. Such cases, while rare, do occur.

They still happen today. A fair amount of the time, these incidents involve Russians, since the Kremlin perfected this dark art over a century ago, when professional provocateurs ran the tsar’s terrorism problem bloodily into the ground. A recent case of false flag terrorism illustrates that not much has changed in the last 120 years.

On February 4, 2018, unidentified assailants fire-bombed a Hungarian cultural center in Uzhhorod, the capital of Ukraine’s westernmost region. There were no casualties, but the attack raised worries among the 100,000 Hungarians who live around Uzhhorod, on the border with Hungary, their ancestral homeland. The status of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority has become a hot-button issue between Kiev and Budapest, and the terrorist incident made the touchy situation worse.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Donald Trump, the Kremlin and the ghost of Alger Hiss

Judging from the weekend’s ‘modern presidential’ tweets – always a decent metric of Donald Trump’s mood swings – the Special Counsel investigation into his Russian links is weighing heavily on our 45th president.

And no wonder. New reports indicate that Donald J. Trump may be in a lot hotter water than his MAGA legions want to believe. According to the New York Times, the FBI in the opening months of Trump’s administration opened a counterintelligence investigation into the new president to assess whether he is a pawn of the Kremlin, wittingly or otherwise.

Then the Washington Post reported that President Trump concealed the content of his one-on-one discussions with his Russian counterpart, even from senior administration officials and the US intelligence community. Whatever he and Vladimir Putin discussed is something President Trump doesn’t want known, even in classified channels of the government he heads. Calling this abnormal is being very charitable.

Airing of these troubling matters flummoxed the president, and during a softball interview with Fox News – whose nightly talkers fulfill a role in Trump’s Washington roughly analogous to KCNA’s in Pyongyang – Trump waffled a straight-up query, ‘Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia?’ The president replied in his customary word-salad fashion how ‘insulted’ he was by the Times’sreport, never answering the up-or-down question.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

Maybe it’s time to accept that Huawei is a Chinese intelligence front

Established in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in 1987, it didn’t take long for Huawei Technologies to become a top player in global telecommunications. Since 2012, it’s been the world’s biggest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. Last year, Huawei displaced Apple as the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker, after South Korea’s Samsung. Active in 170 countries, Huawei matters – to China and to the global economy.

Yet there have long been questions raised about the company, starting with the fact that Huawei’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, is a former senior technologist for the People’s Liberation Army. For years, Western counterintelligence has quietly warned about the company’s connections to the PLA and other Chinese security agencies.

Recently, those cautions have grown distinctly audible. Last February, the heads of the ‘big three’ US intelligence agencies warned Americans against buying Huawei phones, which they deemed a security risk. As FBI Director Christopher Wray explained, ‘We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values…It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.’

Read the rest at Spectator USA … 

Exclusive: Mueller Is Holding Top Secret Intelligence That Will Sink the Trump Presidency

Another day, another bombshell emanating from the Special Counsel investigation into President Donald Trump and his links to the Kremlin. We now have more proof that Robert Mueller really does know everything about 2016—and I can exclusively tell you how he knows it.

This latest reveal comes from a legal screw-up of gargantuan proportions. Yesterday, attorneys for Paul Manafort, the president’s disgraced campaign manager for the decisive phase of the 2016 election, filed papers with the Justice Department trying to prevent their client from spending the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary. They asserted that Manafort did not lie to Team Mueller, as the Special Counsel believes, but in the process, they made an epic redaction fail that blows the case wide open.

Manafort’s lawyers accidentally revealed that Team Mueller believes—and Manafort confirmed—that their client shared campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, one of Manafort’s closest friends and a longtime business partner. Moreover, Manafort conceded, he had discussed a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion.” Worst of all, Manafort met with Kilimnik in Madrid to discuss these matters, he admitted, without saying when (Manafort’s spokesman later stated the Madrid meeting was in January or February 2017).

Read the rest at The Observer …

What Do Mueller and the Kremlin Know About Michael Cohen’s Alleged Prague Trip?

No aspect of the scandal surrounding President Donald J. Trump’s hidden relations with Russia has been more controversial than the reputed summer 2016 trip to the Czech Republic by Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime consigliere. Now, a confluence of intelligence that’s found its way into the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller may finally provide some long-awaited answers.

As reported in the contested dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the former British senior intelligence officer and Russia expert, Cohen sojourned to Prague in late August or early September of our election year to secretly parley with Kremlin representatives. In Steele’s telling, Cohen went to the Czech Republic to deliver cash to Russian hackers to help swing the 2016 election Trump’s way. This account, if true, describes unambiguous collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin—exactly what the president has always denied occurred. If Cohen met with Russian spies in the late summer of 2016 to conspire against Hillary Clinton, that’s something a lot of Americans would term treason.

But did it happen? Cohen has always denied it did, while Team Trump have gone out of their way to attack the story, and Steele generally. Except Steele never claimed that everything in his dossier was corroborated. It’s raw human intelligence, taken from sources Steele couldn’t always talk to directly, and it undoubtedly includes some Russian disinformationIn particular, the Kremlin has spread lies about the Prague meeting, which indicates there may be something they’re trying to hide there.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Mike Flynn’s Disastrous Day in Court Blows Apart Trump’s Deep State Conspiracy Theory

Every day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, his White House has been dogged by allegations surrounding his 2016 campaign’s illicit involvement with Russia. For almost two years, his administration has been under scrutiny by the press and the Justice Department over suspect ties to Moscow.

President Trump’s defense has been not just stout denials of any untoward activities but turning the tables on his accusers. In a classic Trumpian move, the president insists he’s the victim of a far-reaching plot involving Democrats and various organs of the Federal government, which colluded in a doomed effort to keep the Republican nominee from the White House.

This is the up-is-down approach, where nothing is as it seems to be, and where not only was there NO COLLUSION but his accusers are the real colluders, and all their assertions fake news. To term this properly, it’s a conspiracy theory, and to believe it you must have no idea how the alleged “Deep State” actually works.

Conveniently for Trump, most Americans have no idea how our intelligence agencies function in reality, so millions of citizens have swallowed the president’s ridiculous narrative hook, line and sinker. That our commander-in-chief constantly reinforces its central tenets in tweets helps to keep his MAGA legions on-side.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Is the Cohen-in-Prague mystery about to be revealed at last?

Yesterday, Michael Cohen, the president’s disgraced consigliere, accepted his fate. Although Cohen has assisted the Department of Justice in its inquiry into Donald J. Trump’s Kremlin connections, he nevertheless was sentenced to three years in Federal prison for myriad crimes, including hush-payoffs to two Trump mistresses, as well as lying to Congress.

The old Cohen, brimming with bravado about taking a bullet for his only client, taunting TV talking heads in Trump’s defense, is long gone. The new Cohen sounds contrite about his crimes, which he admitted. In the Federal court in Manhattan, he explained that his ‘blind loyalty’ to the president and Trump’s ‘dirty deeds’ constituted his downfall. Cohen added defiance: ‘The irony is today is the day I am getting my freedom back,’ exchanging a criminal client for the penitentiary.

On cue, the president took to Twitter this morning to lambaste his former attorney while explaining that there were no crimes committed at all. Trump pinned full responsibility on Cohen (‘He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.’) who must now be wondering what he’s going to prison for if there were no crimes.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

President Trump Really May Go to Jail—For the Rest of His Life

Nearly two years ago, in the first month of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, I touched off a firestorm by telling the public what our Intelligence Community—publicly attacked as Nazis by our 45th president on the eve of his inauguration—felt about their new commander-in-chief. As I tweeted, passing on the viewpoint of a senior IC official: “He will die in jail.”

This utterance outraged the president’s defenders and was considered outré, even though everybody in the IC I’ve encountered who’s familiar with the Trump case—not a short list—feels similarly. America’s spies before Trump took his oath of office concluded that the Kremlin helped elect the president, and the IC, which deals in facts rather than spin, has never wavered on this point.

Simply put, our president has most likely committed crimes, above all conspiring with a hostile power to boost his 2016 campaign (including seeking financial gain from that unfriendly foreign country), which none of his predecessors did, so it’s increasingly likely that Trump will accrue punishments never visited on any American president.

Just how much hot water the president and his retinue are in came into focus last week with multiple bombshells dropped by the Department of Justice. First, the Special Counsel on Tuesday informed a Federal court that Michael Flynn, the president’s short-lived first national security adviser, had decisively flipped on Team Trump.

Read the rest at The Observer …

As Trump Panic-Tweets, Putin Cracks His Whip and Shows Him Who’s Boss

This was the week that the bottom fell out of Donald Trump’s presidency. After almost two years of White House denials that Candidate Trump had any ties to Russia in 2016, that turns out to be just one more Trumpian lie. No amount of “NO COLLUSION” tweets from the Oval Office can undo the damage that has now been done.

The decisive moment was the appearance of Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney, in Federal court in New York on Thursday to admit he lied to Congress about Trump’s commercial interests in Russia. To protect his client, Cohen covered up the reality of Trump’s Moscow contacts—an issue that has been of the highest interest to Robert S. Mueller, III and his Special Counsel investigation.

Lying to Congress, although a felony, is a rare charge, but here it matters. Back in August, Trump’s consigliere pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance law violations relating to his client’s hush-payments to Trump’s former lovers, an issue that was headline-grabbing but peripheral to the Mueller probe. What Cohen stated in court on Thursday was vastly more damaging to the president.

Cohen explained that he knowingly lied to the Senate and House intelligence committees regarding his client’s efforts during Trump’s presidential run to develop a luxury hotel and condominium complex in Moscow. This relationship is something the president repeatedly denied, most famously with his January 2017 tweet, days before his inauguration: “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

Read the rest at The Observer …