Trump had an opportunity to redefine American foreign policy. He blew it

Donald J. Trump is home from his whirlwind weekend trip to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War’s end. Even by The Donald’s formidable china-breaking standards, this was a doozy which will be discussed with opprobrium by the Transatlantic smart set for some time.

President Trump seemed to go out of his way to upset his French counterpart and host Emmanuel Macron, who’s hit a political rough patch and needed some brotherly love. That bromance is dead and buried, however, and Trump fired off a mocking tweet at Macron as he boarded Air Force One for Paris that denounced the French president’s backing of a European army as ‘very insulting.’

This rattled the Élysée Palace yet, while Trump’s use of Twitter to conduct diplomacy was its usual silliness, the point stands. Washington has always opposed any EU army, on the sensible grounds that it will weaken NATO. Since hardly any European NATO members spend the ‘required’ two percent of GDP on defense, the notion that there’s enough cash on hand to have a viable European army while keeping the Atlantic Alliance afloat is laughable. Not to mention there are only two major EU countries that take defense seriously, fiscally and otherwise – Britain and Poland – and the former is on its way out of the Union while Brussels is doing its best to evict the latter.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

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 …

What Makes a Blue Wave?

On Tuesday, American voters will give the president his first official performance review. There will be no opportunity to tell Donald J. Trump ‘You’re fired!’ in the reality TV verbiage he relishes – that will have to wait two more years – setbacks for the Republicans in Congress will inevitably be interpreted negatively for The Donald, who has pulled out the stops exhorting his loyal fanbase to the polls on November 6.

But will it happen? American political history is filled with stern midterm rebukes for presidents, especially Democrats who get ahead of their skis like Bill Clinton in 1994 or Barack Obama in 2010, when their party lost 54 and 63 seats in the House of Representatives, respectively.

Few expect such a historic setback to hit the GOP this year, though broad Beltway consensus has it that the Republicans may well lose control of the House, where the opposition needs to win only 23 seats to ‘get gavels’ as Hill wonks put it.

That’s an alarming prospect for the beleaguered White House, since Democratic control of committees, above all the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, promises subpoenas and investigations of President Trump’s Kremlin ties beyond the existing Special Counsel inquiry led by Robert Mueller for the Justice Department. For the last two years, the Republican-controlled HPSCI, chaired by the obsequious Rep. Devin Nunes, a full-bore Trumpist, has kept that powerful committee off Trump’s back.

Read the rest at The Spectator USA …

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 …

NSA: White House Knew ‘Disappeared’ Saudi Dissident Was In Danger. Why Didn’t They Protect Him?

What did U.S. intelligence and the White House know about the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi—and when did they know it? Those are the Top Secret questions haunting Washington right now. A National Security Agency official tells me that the codebreakers, as usual, have some answers.

For a week, the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi has been one of the world’s top news stories, a bona fide international mystery. A prominent Saudi journalist with deep connections to the Kingdom’s leadership circles, the 59-year-old Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and has not officially been seen since.

While the Middle-Eastern rumor mill can’t agree whether the unfortunate man was murdered or merely abducted, few expect to see Khashoggi alive and well again. At a minimum, he has been disappeared, to use the jargon of repressive regimes. Turkish authorities claim that Khashoggi was killed then dismembered inside the consulate, like something out of a low-budget horror movie, while unconfirmed rumors assert that the missing man is being held against his will in his home country, having been smuggled out of Turkey by Saudi intelligence. In any event, the Khashoggi case has become a sore point between Ankara and Riyadh, as well as a black eye for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its allegedly reformist leadership.

Read the rest at The Observer

Why the FBI’s Kavanaugh Investigation is a Minefield—for the FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation occupies an exalted and somewhat awkward position in American society. It’s simultaneously our lead federal law enforcement agency, with a broad remit, and our main domestic intelligence agency. The FBI catches Mafiosi, bank robbers, spies and terrorists, among other duties. Its national security activities are protected by a steep wall of classification. Although it rankles the FBI and its defenders, using the term “secret police” to describe the storied Bureau is not inaccurate.

One of the FBI’s missions, which is little understood by the public, is its role in conducting background investigations of senior executive branch officials. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, currently besieged by allegations of sexual misconduct, successfully passed no less than six FBI “BIs” (as they’re called in the trade) during his federal career in Washington, which stretches back to the early 1990s.

Since such BIs include a comprehensive look at the applicant’s personal and professional life, to include finances, foreign contacts, illegal activities, addictions, and even mental fitness, how someone as manifestly unfit as Judge Kavanaugh—if you believe the evolving Democratic accusations against him—could have passed FBI muster six times does seem more than a little odd.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Outgunned U.S. Army Isn’t Prepared For War With Russia

Ever since our lopsided victory in the Gulf War in early 1991, the U.S. military has been venerated by many Americans as an unbeatable force. How rapidly our combined air-ground offensive crushed Saddam’s large yet ponderous army gave the Pentagon an aura of invincibility. Military leaders and defense thinkers proclaimed the dawn of new era in warfare. With our advanced technology and precision strikes, everything was different.

But was it? In hindsight, the Gulf War merely confirmed what military historians always knew, namely that better weaponry and command-and-control habitually crush large numbers of less well-equipped enemies. A generation on, the “lessons” of 1991 appear no more noteworthy than the “lessons” of Omdurman in Sudan in 1898, when two brigades of British regulars easily crushed a force of 50,000 jihad-fueled natives because, as the wags of the day put it, “We have got the Maxim Gun, and they have not.”

Yet since the Gulf War, the U.S. Army’s technological edge over its potential foes— what defense doyens term overmatch—has dwindled, slowly but irrevocably. Through the decade after 1991, the army was busy managing post-Cold War cutbacks and peacekeeping in the Balkans and saw no peer-competitors anywhere. Since 9/11, as plausible rivals like Russia and China have slowly come into focus, our army has been busy managing costly and ultimately futile campaigns in the Greater Middle East. Our diffident war in Afghanistan, America’s longest by a good margin, is in its 17th year, and strategic victory is now as far off as it has ever been there.

Read the rest at The Observer …

‘Idiocracy’ Come True: Even Pentagon Says Morons Are Inheriting the Earth

In a couple of weeks, Idiocracy the movie (not to be confused with: Idiocracy the American President) will celebrate twelve years since its release. Only, nobody will be celebrating, because the film appeared with zero fanfare back in 2006. The dark comedy’s edgy message—that America was doomed to a future of dystopian idiocy—was deemed too controversial for a major release a dozen years ago, and its distributor, 20th Century Fox, pretty much buried it, showing the film in only a handful of cities.

Over the past dozen years, however, Idiocracy has become a cult classic, its inevitably weak performance in cinemas notwithstanding. Its creator, Mike Judge, who has given us such pop-culture classics as King of the Hill and Office Space, now looks like a prophet without honor back in 2006. Judge’s essential message, that idiocy was taking over the country, seems to have been borne out by recent events, above all the election of Donald J. Trump as president in 2016.

It’s difficult to expunge the whiff of Idiocracy surrounding our 45th president, with his error-filled tweets betraying a shaky command of the English language, contrary to his claim of possessing “a very good brain.” As candidate, Trump proclaimed, “I love the poorly educated,” and that, unlike many of his assertions, may actually be true. This, after all, is a commander-in-chief who belligerently can’t tell the difference between napalm and Agent Orange.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Donald Trump’s Nightmare Isn’t Robert Mueller

Judging from the unhinged tone of his tweets—which is nothing new, but still perhaps the best barometer of our 45th president’s mood on any given day—Donald Trump is worried about his future. He should be, as the Special Counsel investigation of his Russia ties inches ever-closer to the president’s inner circle. Since his first day in the Oval Office 19 months ago, our commander-in-chief has employed Twitter as his bullhorn to the public and, in an irony which Trump won’t appreciate until it’s too late, tweeting may prove to be his undoing.

Take President Trump’s recent tweet regarding the infamous June 9, 2016 meeting in Manhattan’s Trump Tower between representatives of the then-Republican presidential candidate, led by Trump’s oldest son, Don Jr., and several Russians, led by Natalya Veselnitskaya, a Moscow attorney who was there due to her Kremlin connections. That meeting has been the focus of attention by the media as well as Robert Mueller and his Special Counsel investigators. From the moment word of the secret encounter went public, Team Trump has stuck to the storyline that the meeting was innocuous, about nothing more than adoptions. The president insisted this was the case, as has Don Jr., who sold that story to the Senate Judiciary Committee last September.

This was the sort of absurd lie that the president and his entourage excel in, and it was only a matter of time before the mendacious cover exploded. Few, however, expected President Trump to set off the fuse, yet that was exactly what he did last Sunday with this: “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”

One flick of the thumbs blew apart more than a year’s worth of increasingly threadbare lies about the June 9, 2016 meeting which, as the president has now admitted, was an effort to obtain derogatory information on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. Trump’s panicked advisers have reportedly urged him to tweet no more about that meeting, but it’s too late, the grievous damage to the president has already been done—by his own feed.

Read the rest at The Observer …