Friday, March 31, 2017

Devin Nunes Exposed As Bannon's Punk and Trump As Putin's Pawn

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"Hey! I thought I was tweeting real news! I didn't know it came from the Russians!"

The comments in serious online forums, from The Financial Times to the New York Times, all echoed the same chords: the White House is now coming apart literally at the seams. All the efforts and energy put out to try to put the Russian 'genie' back into the bottle have basically gone for naught. The path to the final collapse - which as former Repub strategist Rick Wilson said will likely occur by the fall, commenced when Trump-Bannon 'waterboy' Devin Nunes, e.g.
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Devin Nunes - acted as Steve Bannon's trained monkey in blowing up  the House investigation.

was exposed yesterday for the corrupt fabulist he is, having essentially torched the House Intelligence Committee hearings by leaking classified "pseudo documents" from two sources - while on the WH premises.  We also now know the names of the two "unnamed" sources who took him into their confidence - as revealed by the NY Times: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council (and a pal of Jared Kushner), and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel to Mr. Nunes’s committee.  In other words, NO outside special sources delivered any documents to Nunes, it was all an inside job - instigated and fomented from the White House. Obviously, to provide cover for Trump, and stonewall the House Russian investigation. When the heat gets too much the culprits need a trained monkey (or punk) to deflect the target - and that was Devin Nunes.

As for Kushner pal Cohen -Watnick, he was an NSA liaison (on the National Security Council)  that newly appointed National Security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. Mc Master wanted gone. As in out of there, fired. Vamanos! But on learning of McMaster's intent from a proxy, the little imp (and Mike Flynn mole)  ran to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner (later to NSC Counsel John Eisenberg too) and  begged them for reprieve.  So McMaster, who was promised when he came on that he'd have final say on NSC staff - especially not having to tolerate any Flynn 'leftover' - got punked by the Trumpy Triumvirate of Bannon, Kushner and Eisenberg.

As Counterterrorism and Intelligence Analyst Malcolm Nance noted last night:

"You've seen the limits here of a four star general who could not get rid of a junior intelligence analyst. I mean, Watnick is thirty years old, graduated with a Bachelor's degree in 2004 and got a year's training at DIA so he'd have only four years experience in an intelligence position. How he got to this (NSC) position at the White House is a disgrace - because with that background at most other agencies like the CIA, you're just the guy who goes out and gets coffee."

In other words, Cohen-Watnick was the perfect foil for Bannon to use in a revenge op for a fake "security briefing" with Devin Nunes as the recipient.

Bannon, whose feral hands are all over this Nunes intel play (leaving Devin the patsy), told Trump to let him stay on - certainly as a Flynn proxy  - now that Flynn was exposed as the key contact with the Russkies.

Flynn, according to the WSJ,  is now begging for "immunity" to testify in any hearings as the rest of the rats get set to jump ship. It's all coming together - or apart - depending on one's point of view. Some of us are in the process of watching the biggest collapse of a corrupt executive branch since Nixon and Watergate. As Sen. John McCain put it as the Senate's own Intelligence hearings opened:

"There's a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede"


Anyway, the fact that both Ellis and Cohen-Watnick are White House insiders tells me the whole Nunes' show was conceived as a clever (well, half clever) pushback op  by none other than Steve Bannon,  to toss a monkey wrench in the House investigation. The reason is simple to grasp, as I noted in my previous posts (Mar. 21,  Mar. 23): Just when Nunes, Gowdy and Co.  thought they'd successfully steered the initial House hearings into leak territory, FBI Director Jim Comey blew their fantasies to smithereens.  

Comey openly acnowledged before the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was conducting an active investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russians blew all Nunes' leak first fantasies into a cocked hat.  In essence, Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said bluntly agents would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.”  Typically, only extraordinary conditions would see an FBI Director admitting this in an open hearing, and to quote Comey: "This is one of those circumstances.

By this time Nunes could only have watched the spectacle unfolding before him appalled, if not in sheer terror. It went further south when Comey dismissed Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor  during the campaign. Comey’s response (to Adam Schiff's question about Trump's tweet) that "no information" was available to show any wiretapping had the analogous effect of squashing a bug with a sledgehammer. The final blow was NSA's Mike Rogers confirming there was no wiretap evidence, i.e. to affirm GCHQ (the Brit NSA) had assisted in any surveillance of Trump Tower.

By now Steve Bannon, watching the proceedings on FOX, was also seething but also pondering what kind of retribution might sink the House investigation once and for all. Also get back at the damned leakers that enabled things to get to this stage. Bannon, as an information warfare and fake news provocateur, knew he just needed a plausible ploy that could be turned against the investigators and at least make the media pause and think maybe Trump in his wiretap tweets wasn't batshit nuts after all.

What to do?

Bannon came up with the plan to involve House Committee Chairman Nunes via Ellis and Cohen-Watnick - as two 'dummy' sources with ostensible "secret" documents that would shed light on Nunes' House investigation. Also, show that,  hey!....maybe there was something to Trump's wacko wiretap claims after all.  And like a trained monkey, Nunes obliged and played the role Bannon assigned him to a tee. In front of the press corps Nunes claimed he  "recently confirmed" that  "on numerous occasions the intelligence community had  incidentally collected info about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition."  

But when the otherwise somnolent media tried to pin him down, he got slippery with his responses as a trained monkey will do. Did something illegal happen? "Uh, sorry, can't say for sure, maybe".  Are you saying President Trump's personal communications were intercepted? "Uh, no, I think when we talk about intelligence products we have to be very careful". So the answer was a 'no'. as to Trump's communications being monitored.

Kasie Hunt: "So were POTUS'  communications intercepted incidentally but not specifically targeted?"

"Uh, yes, it is possible but we won't know until we get further information on Friday."

Nunes then continued his trained monkey act at the behest of Trump and Bannon  through the beginning part of this week, playing it coy with the press, and even at times snarky in response. "My sources? Why should I tell you?"   

But some honest broker, a patriotic leaker - did reveal those "sources" to the NY Times yesterday, and now we know what a dog and pony show Bannon put on  - with his waterboy's help and using two NSC lackeys, Ellis and Cohen - Watnick.   I call Nunes a "water boy" because he's obsessed with finding leaks, not the facts behind the case tying the Trumpies to the Russkies.  I call Ellis and Cohen-Watnick lackeys because Bannon merely inserted them as fake security fronts for Nunes to exploit in his waterboy-monkey show.

The giveaway, as Chris Hayes and Rick Wilson pointed out last night ('All In'), was the very fact this cloak and dagger meet took place on the White House premises. Given we know NO one gains entry without being documented, the stink of suspicion turned to absolute exposure of an inside con job - on the press, the rest of the House Committee and the American public. Is Bannon laughing? Yep, he is for now, at least until he gets dragged before one of the investigations - or both the FBI's and the Senate's.

As for Trump, based on testimony at the Senate Intelligence hearing yesterday - the opening round- we now know Trump the 'great' was played as a dupe by the Russians. When I write 'dupe' I mean he acted as a dumb, willing conduit for circulation of false news, propaganda.  Clint Watts of George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, bluntly informed the Committee:

"Part of the reason active measures have worked in this US election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian active measures at time [sic] against his opponents,”

Of course, his main opponent was Hillary Clinton, against whom he made use of the most vile, recirculated  fake news stories, including that "illegal votes" were being cast and "the election was rigged". Each such tweet or remark played directly into the Russkie active measures agents hands  and dopey ass Trump didn't even know what a pawn he was. As ignorant as Devin Nunes in the trained monkey role he played for Steve Bannon.

Watts, a former FBI special agent and army officer  came under personal siege from Russian-backed hackers, told the panel  that social media accounts associated with spreading pro-Russian fake news were visible as far back as 2009.  He added that Russia possessed unreleased hacked information on thousands of Americans it could “weaponize” to discredit inconvenient sources. Those and other measures provided Russia with an inexpensive tool to check its wealthier adversaries in the US and NATO, as several scholars and former US officials assessed.

When asked why  Putin felt the 2016 US election provided the Kremlin an opportunity to intervene – the consensus position of US intelligence agencies – Watts pointed to Trump.

Wittingly or not, Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, embraced and promoted narratives, including false ones, convenient to Russian interests, including a fake story about a terrorist attack on the Turkish airbase at Incirlik used by US forces and baselessly doubting the US citizenships of Barack Obama and Ted Cruz.

Bottom line here? You don't have to be a fully conscious dupe to act as a dupe, spreading megabytes of false information, like Michael Flynn did with the Pizzagate nonsense.

Watts further testified, to the rapt attention of the Senate panel:

On 11 October, President Trump stood on stage and cited what appears to be a fake news story from [the Russian propaganda outlet] Sputnik News that disappeared from the internet. He denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claimed that the election could be rigged – that was the number one theme pushed by RT, Sputnik News,”

In his parting statements Watts urged  a response to the Russian interference in the election. He also said the US approach to Russia was provocatively ambiguous. He said:

I’m not sure what our policy or stance is with regards to Russia at this point in the United States. I think that’s the number one thing we’ve got to figure out, because that will shape how they interface with us."

So now, by this stage, the political miasma we've entered the past two weeks begins to become clearer. Two things we know now, as of today are: Nunes willingly acted as Steve Bannon's punk and Donald Trump - wittingly or not - acted as a grade A Russian dupe to spread malicious, false information about Hillary.  Both of these monkeys should be forced to account, and definitely to resign.

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