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 …

Putin turns up the heat on Ukraine – again

Although seldom noticed by anyone west of Warsaw, there has been a war going on in Europe for almost five years now. It began in early 2014 with a Russian secret operation in mid-February that annexed Crimea and soon spread to overt Kremlin military intervention in eastern Ukraine as well. Serious fighting followed, and that conflict remains unfrozen and deadly.

While there has been no sustained combat in eastern Ukraine in years, neither is that front quiet. Kyiv has never accepted the Russian theft of Crimea and the “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk, Kremlin-run pseudo-states that serve as bases for Russian military units on Ukrainian soil. Those units regularly shell Ukrainian positions, because they can. Casualties are commonplace – a few at a time, on a sufficiently low-boil that the West makes little fuss – but hundreds of Ukrainian troops have been killed or wounded since 2015. Twelve were lost to Russian shelling, with five of them dead, on one bad day this August.

As is his wont, Russian President Vladimir Putin occasionally turns up the heat on Ukraine, because he can. The latest aggressive Kremlin provocation came on Sunday, when Russian Coast Guard vessels in the Black Sea attacked Ukrainian navy boats in the strategically vital Kerch Strait, which divides Crimea from Russia. For months, tensions have been rising around the narrow waterway, particularly since Moscow opened a bridge across it in May. This is the sole land connection between Russia and its Crimean reconquest and is therefore of preeminent importance to the Kremlin.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

Democrats Have Their Own Kremlin Influence Problem, Starting with Al Gore and Maxine Waters

Democrats now fervently believe that the White House is infected by illicit Russian influence since Donald Trump moved in almost two years ago. Democrats are ignoring that this isn’t the first time this has happened.

new poll indicates how far left-wing paranoia has run recently. When asked if “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected,” 67 percent of Democrats indicated that was “definitely true” or “probably true” while a mere eight percent said it was “definitely not true” (compared to 54 percent of Republicans).

One problem: While there is overwhelming evidence that Russian intelligence interfered with our 2016 election in terms of espionage and propaganda, venerable Kremlin spy techniques they term Active Measures speeded up for the online age, there’s zero evidence that Russians manipulated any vote tallies in 2016. Our Intelligence Community has examined this touchy subject closely and found, well, nothing. As an NSA official told me recently, “There’s just no ‘there’ there, no matter what MSNBC says.”

Read the rest at The Observer …

Mueller is coming – and Trump can do nothing to stop him

The central fact of Donald Trump’s presidency is that it was never supposed to happen. Running for the White House was a publicity stunt, The Donald’s biggest yet, a bold effort to pump up his brand several notches and get more money for his myriad gigs. It was never a serious run for office. Yet, somehow, it worked.

Anecdotal evidence abounds. There was the stunning lack of a bona fide victory speech on the night of November 8, 2016. What Trump delivered in response to his unexpected victory was incoherently ad hoc even for him. Winning was never part of the Trumpian plan. As Howard Stern, who has known our 45th president for decades, explained, ‘Believe me, nobody wanted Hillary to win more than Donald Trump.’

Being president is a massive hassle, no how much of a part-time job Trump has endeavored to make it, with vast blocs of nebulous ‘executive time’ on the presidential calendar. Worse, winning the White House has exposed Trump’s decades of shady dealings to serious investigation and exposure for the first time.

Conducting secret meetings with Kremlin representatives to get dirt on your political rivals is not something done by normal Western politicos, but Team Trump was never normal. By parleying with shady Russians in 2016 they were merely doing what they had done for many years. Why stop just because you’re running for president?

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

A Kremlin Spy Mystery in Vienna Shakes the World Capital of Espionage

For a century, Vienna has been the world capital of espionage. It’s a city of world-class mystery and intrigue, as depicted in countless spy novels and films. Vienna has it all: lovely vistas, great food and wine, affordable prices, and an extraordinarily permissive environment for espionage.

In Austria, you’re free to spy on nearly whomever you want, and there are plenty of targets. Everybody has an embassy in Vienna, plus it’s the second city of the United Nations. When it comes to espionage, the only way to get in trouble in Vienna is by spying on your hosts—and that’s just what the Russians got caught doing.

The recent arrest of a retired Austrian army colonel on charges of spying for Moscow has shed light on something nobody in Vienna or the Kremlin wanted discussed openly. The suspect, identified only as Martin M. due to stringent privacy laws, is facing a raft of charges. He stands accused of passing Austrian secrets to Russian military intelligence, that is GRU, for a generation.

The 70-year-old Colonel M., now retired in bucolic Salzburg, began spying for GRU in 1992 and his treachery continued until September of this year, well after his retirement from the military. He had been assigned to the headquarters of the defense ministry in Vienna, where co-workers described him as being “a U-Boat,” utterly nondescript, barely visible.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Team Mueller is Holding ‘Dozens of Sealed Indictments,’ According to Intel Source

For every day of his presidency—657 so far, if you’re counting—the issue of Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia has darkened the Oval Office door. Since May 17, 2017, when former FBI director Robert S. Mueller was appointed Special Counsel to unravel Trump’s secret Kremlin linkages, the president has seethed, his rage seeping into his tweets. From its first day, President Trump has wanted to quash the Mueller investigation, and now he’s making his move.

But is it already too late? There’s mounting evidence it is, specifically that Team Mueller is ready to strike imminently with indictments, no matter what the White House does.

All the same, the feat was impetuous even for Trump. He could not wait even one day, dropping his bomb on Wednesday afternoon, on the heels of his wild, angry press conference about the midterm elections. Although Tuesday’s midterms were hardly the personal success that Trump presented them as—with the Democratic takeover of the House muted by GOP gains in the Senate—the hotly desired Democratic Blue Wave never quite swelled. The midterms were a setback for the White House, but hardly an unprecedented one. Barack Obama in 2010 and Bill Clinton in 1994 took worse midterm hits and got reelected.

Read the rest at The Observer …

The Mystery of Donald Trump’s Secret Kremlin Ties Just Got a Lot Deeper

Many Americans regard President Donald Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin as uncomfortably cozy. Some, top intelligence officials among them, believe our president has a concealed relationship with Russia, and that it’s nothing new.

To anyone versed in counterintelligence, Trump’s summer 1987 inaugural visit to the Soviet Union, ostensibly to develop Moscow’s never-developed Trump Tower, looks like Ground Zero. The KGB habitually monitored visits by Western VIPs, and since Trump’s junket came by invitation of the Soviet foreign ministry, it’s certain that his trip did not escape the KGB’s attention.

KGB veterans have said as much. Oleg Kalugin, once the youngest general in the KGB and an expert on counterintelligence, confirmed to author Craig Unger “that Trump had fun with lots of girls during that trip and he was almost certain that the KGB had kompromat [compromising material] on that.” Since Kalugin spent several years in the 1980s as the deputy chief of the KGB’s office in Leningrad—a city visited by Trump in 1987—it’s safe to assume that his comment was not speculative.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Yes, Mr. President, the Kremlin Murders Its Enemies—Even in the USA

On 60 Minutes Sunday night, President Trump finally admitted that Vladimir Putin “probably” murders his opponents abroad, but he insisted the Kremlin wouldn’t do such a thing in the United States. Many in U.S. intelligence would disagree.

The mystery on everyone’s mind right now is the October 2 disappearance of the Saudi journalist-turned-dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. As I explained in my last column, there’s good reason to believe that Khashoggi, a legal resident of the United States, was murdered by Saudi intelligence, a conclusion that looks firmer with each day he fails to appear.

Khashoggi’s disappearance is a problem for the White House, given the close relationship between the Trump administration and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Kingdom’s de facto leader, whose dislike for the dissident was no secret. Worse, the National Security Agency gave the White House advance warning that the Saudis planned to harm Khashoggi, but Team Trump apparently did nothing (or at least nothing effective) to protect the doomed journalist.

Read the rest at The Observer …