Tag: Vladimir Putin (page 1 of 11)

Clinton Mocks Trump: “How Does He Get Anything Done Between Tweeting And Golfing?”

Just a few short hours after President Trump challenged his former friend-turned-rival Hillary Clinton to run against him again in three years, Clinton shot back by questioning how the president has time to get anything done in between feuding with perceived enemies on twitter and slicing up the back nine.

"Honestly, between tweeting and golfing, how does he get anything done? I don’t understand it," she said, according to the Hill. "Maybe that’s the whole point."

She also claimed that Trump is “obsessed” with her repeated claims that her rival only managed to wi because he had the help of Russia, the FBI, email-gate, systemic misogyny….the list goes on.

Even her own husband broke with her on Saturday when, during an interview, former President Bill Clinton said believed former FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen an investigation into her handling of classified information on a private email server just days before the election had little to do with the outcome of the vote, the Hill reported.

Still, Hillary Clinton was undeterred:

"I’m going to keep speaking out," Clinton said at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of former President Bill Clinton's 1992 electoral victory. "Apparently my former opponent is obsessed with me speaking out."

Since emerging from the woods of Chappaqua, New York, where she had retreated following her embarassing electoral flop, Clinton has tried to position herself as a leader of the “resistance." She has persistently criticized his conduct in office, and repeatedly insisted that the Trump campaign purposefully colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted: Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in three years!

 

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Bill Clinton said the decision to reopen the investigation wouldn't have been as damaging had the controversy surrounding her emails not been overblown in the first place.

"We have a slight disagreement about this," the former president said, speaking alongside the former secretary of State at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of his 1992 presidential victory.

"If the voters hadn't really been told that the email … was the most important issue since the end of World War II, I doubt if the FBI director could have flung the election at the end."

Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes, though Trump has disputed this figure by insisting that millions of illegal immigrants likely voted to help their preferred candidate. Yet Trump dominated the electoral college, sweeping swing states in the Midwest and south, and smashing through the Democrats famed “Wall of Blue.”
 

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Russia-Gate Spreads To Europe

Authored by Robert Parry via ConsortiumNews.com,

Ever since the U.S. government dangled $160 million last December to combat Russian propaganda and disinformation, obscure academics and eager think tanks have been lining up for a shot at the loot, an unseemly rush to profit that is spreading the Russia-gate hysteria beyond the United States to Europe…

British Prime Minister Theresa May

Now, it seems that every development, which is unwelcomed by the Establishment – from Brexit to the Catalonia independence referendum – gets blamed on Russia! Russia! Russia!

The methodology of these “studies” is to find some Twitter accounts or Facebook pages somehow “linked” to Russia (although it’s never exactly clear how that is determined) and complain about the “Russian-linked” comments on political developments in the West. The assumption is that the gullible people of the United States, United Kingdom and Catalonia were either waiting for some secret Kremlin guidance to decide how to vote or were easily duped.

Oddly, however, most of this alleged “interference” seems to have come after the event in question. For instance, more than half (56 percent) of the famous $100,000 in Facebook ads in 2015-2017 supposedly to help elect Donald Trump came after last year’s U.S. election (and the total sum compares to Facebook’s annual revenue of $27 billion).

Similarly, a new British study at the University of Edinburgh blaming the Brexit vote on Russia discovered that more than 70 percent of the Brexit-related tweets from allegedly Russian-linked sites came after the referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union. But, hey, don’t let facts and logic get in the way of a useful narrative to suggest that anyone who voted for Trump or favored Brexit or wants independence for Catalonia is Moscow’s “useful idiot”!

This week, British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of seeking to “undermine free societies” and to “sow discord in the West.”

What About Israel?

Yet, another core problem with these “studies” is that they don’t come with any “controls,” i.e., what is used in science to test a hypothesis against some base line to determine if you are finding something unusual or just some normal occurrence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. (Screen shot from CNN broadcast)

In this case, for instance, it would be useful to find some other country that, like Russia, has a significant number of English speakers but where English is not the native language – and that has a significant interest in foreign affairs – and then see whether people from that country weigh in on social media with their opinions and perspectives about political events in the U.S., U.K., etc.

Perhaps, the U.S. government could devote some of that $160 million to, say, a study of the Twitter/Facebook behavior of Israelis and whether they jump in on U.S./U.K. controversies that might directly or indirectly affect Israel. We could see how many Twitter/Facebook accounts are “linked” to Israel; we could study whether any Israeli “trolls” harass journalists and news sites that oppose neoconservative policies and politicians in the West; we could check on whether Israel does anything to undermine candidates who are viewed as hostile to Israeli interests; if so, we could calculate how much money these “Israeli-linked” activists and bloggers invest in Facebook ads; and we could track any Twitter bots that might be reinforcing the Israeli-favored message.

No Chance

If we had this Israeli baseline, then perhaps we could judge how unusual it is for Russians to voice their opinions about controversies in the West. It’s true that Israel is a much smaller country with 8.5 million people compared to Russia’s 144 million, but you could adjust for those per capita numbers — and even if you didn’t, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that Israel’s interference in U.S. policymaking still exceeds Russian influence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on May 10, 2015, at the Kremlin. (Photo from Russian government)

It’s also true that Israeli leaders have often advocated policies that have proved disastrous for the United States, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s encouragement of  the Iraq War, which Russia opposed. Indeed, although Russia is now regularly called an American enemy, it’s hard to think of any policy that President Vladimir Putin has pushed on the U.S. that is even a fraction as harmful to U.S. interests as the Iraq War has been.

And, while we’re at it, maybe we could have an accounting of how much “U.S.-linked” entities have spent to influence politics and policies in Russia, Ukraine, Syria and other international hot spots.

But, of course, neither of those things will happen. If you even tried to gauge the role of “Israeli-linked” operations in influencing Western decision-making, you’d be accused of anti-Semitism. And if that didn’t stop you, there would be furious editorials in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the U.S. mainstream media denouncing you as a “conspiracy theorist.” Who could possibly think that Israel would do anything underhanded to shape Western attitudes?

And, if you sought the comparative figures for the West interfering in the affairs of other nations, you’d be faulted for engaging in “false moral equivalence.” After all, whatever the U.S. government and its allies do is good for the world; whereas Russia is the fount of evil.

So, let’s just get back to developing those algorithms to sniff out, isolate and eradicate “Russian propaganda” or other deviant points of view, all the better to make sure that Americans, Britons and Catalonians vote the right way.

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Kushner “Forgot” To Disclose Contact With Putin Ally

After being accused in a letter earlier this week sent by the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee of failing to turn over emails from September 2016 pertaining to a range of topics including Wikileaks, it appears Kushner is being punished for his obstinance with a series of embarrassing leaks presumably from the same committee that publicly chastised him only days before (bonus points for subtlety). The new allegations are likely to provoke more spurious speculation that Kushner and other members of the Trump camp (Sessions etc.) perjured themselves during Congressional testimony.

According to the leaks, Kushner neglected to disclose that Aleksander Torshin, a powerful Russian central banker and former senator with ties to both President Vladimir Putin and Russian organized crime, had reached out to the campaign with a "dinner invite" and an offer to connect Trump with Putin. Kushner, who was on the email chain, reportedly instructed junior campaign aides to rebuff the meeting.

Aleksander Torshin

Also, when asked if he was aware of any contact between Wikileaks and the campaign, Kushner reportedly said he didn’t recall any contact, even though Donald Trump Jr. informed Kushner, and several other senior campaign staff, that Wikileaks had made contact. Kushner reportedly even forwarded Trump Jr.’s Wikileaks email to another campaign staffer, Hope Hicks.

Here’s NBC, which was first to report on the Torshin emails:

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, failed to disclose what lawmakers called a "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite" involving a banker who has been accused of links to Russian organized crime, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

 

An email chain described Aleksander Torshin, a former senator and deputy head of Russia's central bank who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as wanting Trump to attend an event on the sidelines of a National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016, the sources said. The email also suggests Torshin was seeking to meet with a high-level Trump campaign official during the convention, and that he may have had a message for Trump from Putin, the sources said.

 

Kushner rebuffed the request after receiving a lengthy email exchange about it between a West Virginia man and Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn, the sources said.

 

Kushner responded to the email by telling Dearborn and the handful of other Trump campaign officials on the email that they should not accept requests from people who pretend to have contacts with foreign officials to aggrandize themselves, according Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell. Dearborn currently serves as a deputy chief of staff in the White House.

 

"Pass on this," Kushner responded, according to a letter Lowell sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday evening. "A lot of people come claiming to carry messages. Very few we are able to verify. For now I think we decline such meetings."

And here’s CNN on Wikileaks…

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told congressional Russia investigators that he did not communicate with WikiLeaks and did not recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had, a source with knowledge of his testimony told CNN.

 

But Kushner did receive and forward an email from Donald Trump Jr. about contact Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks, according to a new report this week and a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, was asked in July during his closed-door congressional testimony if he had any contacts with WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange and he responded that he had not, according to the source. He also told Congress he did not know of anyone on the campaign who had contacted WikiLeaks.

 

A separate source familiar with Kushner's interview with congressional investigators said he accurately answered questions about his contact and didn't recall anyone else in the campaign who had contact.

Of course, Kushner isn’t the only person in Trump’s orbit to deny the Wikileaks’ contacts. When asked in October 2016 if the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with Wikileaks, Mike Pence claimed “nothing could be further from the truth. But that’s beside the point. As Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell is pushing back against the Judiciary committee, claiming there were no "missing documents," as the committee has alleged, while criticizing the panel's leaders for going to the media on Thursday with their accusations.

"I would have assumed that, if there were any questions about our productions or exchanges, that would have been communicated to me directly before you made this a media event," Lowell wrote.

Lowell (who has, we imagine, racked up his fair share of billable hours this week) defended Kushner’s responses by pointing out that Kushner said he did not recall contact with Russian entities and Wikileaks, not that they didn’t happen. Kushner’s busy schedule ( he is, after all, in charge of a range of White House initiatives from streamlining the federal government to bringing peace to the Middle East) now, and during the campaign, when he was a senior political adviser, has made it impossible for him to remember many of these details, his lawyers have argued.

And while many on the left have been quick to cry perjury, proving that somebody deliberately lied when testifying about their recollections is notoriously tricky.

Lowell also pointed out in his rebuttal to the allegations that his client voluntarily testified before the House and Senate committees that are investigating Russian interference (or other malfeasance) related to the 2016 election.

Furthermore, Kushner endured grueling six-hour sessions, and answered every question he was asked.

"Mr. Kushner was asked if he had contacts with Wikileaks, Guccifer or DC Leaks and said no. He also said he did not know of such contacts by the campaign. From all I have now seen, his statement was accurate then as it is now. In over 6 hours of voluntary testimony, Mr Kushner answered all questions put to him and demonstrated that there had been no collusion between the campaign and Russia."

Kushner famously neglected to include meetings with Russian officials, including former ambassador Kislyak, during his security-clearance application, something his office confirmed was the result of a clerical error.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats have already capitalized on these embarrassing leaks to insist that Kushner return for more testimony – possibly in a public forum, which hints at the real reason these documents were leaked.

  Since the investigations began, Congress have been trying, unsuccessfully, to push Kushner to testify in a public hearing – an event that would inevitably create a media circus and allow Democrats on the committee a tantalizing opportunity for grandstanding. We imagine those calls will only grow louder as the coming holiday-shortened week begins.

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America’s Righteous Russia-gate Censorship

Authored by Robert Parry via ConsortiumNews.com,

Arriving behind the anti-Trump “resistance” and the Russia-gate “scandal” is a troubling readiness to silence dissent in the U.S., shutting down information that challenges Official Narratives…

A stark difference between today’s Washington and when I was here as a young Associated Press correspondent in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is that then – even as the old Cold War was heating up around the election of Ronald Reagan – there were prominent mainstream journalists who looked askance at the excessive demonization of the Soviet Union and doubted wild claims about the dire threats to U.S. national security from Nicaragua and Grenada.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall, Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Robert Parry)

Perhaps the Vietnam War was still fresh enough in people’s minds that senior editors and national reporters understood the dangers of mindless groupthink inside Official Washington, as well as the importance of healthy skepticism toward official pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community.

Today, however, I cannot think of a single prominent figure in the mainstream news media who questions any claim – no matter how unlikely or absurd – that vilifies Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country. It is all Russia-bashing all the time.

And, behind this disturbing anti-Russian uniformity are increasing assaults against independent and dissident journalists and news outlets outside the mainstream. We’re not just entering a New Cold War and a New McCarthyism; we’re also getting a heavy dose of old-style Orwellianism.

Sometimes you see this in individual acts like HuffingtonPost taking down a well-reported story by journalist Joe Lauria because he dared to point out that Democratic money financed the two initial elements of what’s now known as Russia-gate: the forensic examination of computers at the Democratic National Committee and the opposition research on Donald Trump conducted by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

HuffingtonPost never contacted Lauria before or after its decision to retract the story, despite a request from him for the reasons why. HuffPost editors told a BuzzFeed reporter that they were responding to reader complaints that the article was filled with factual errors but none have ever been spelled out, leaving little doubt that Lauria’s real “error” was in defying the Russia-gate groupthink of the anti-Trump Resistance. [A version of Lauria’s story appeared at Consortiumnews.com before Lauria posted it at HuffPost. If you want to sign a petition calling on HuffPost to restore Lauria’s article, click here.]

Muzzling RT

Other times, the expanding American censorship is driven by U.S. government agencies, such as the Justice Department’s demand that the Russian news outlet, RT, register under the restrictive Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires such prompt, frequent and detailed disclosures of supposed “propaganda” that it could make it impossible for RT to continue to function in the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

This attack on RT was rationalized by the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” that was, in reality, prepared by a handful of “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency. Their report included a seven-page addendum from 2012 accusing RT of spreading Russian propaganda – and apparently this Jan. 6 report must now be accepted as gospel truth, no questions permitted.

However, if any real journalist actually read the Jan. 6 report, he or she would have discovered that RT’s sinister assault on American democracy included such offenses as holding a debate among third-party candidates who were excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates in 2012. Yes, allowing Libertarians and Greens to express their points of view is a grave danger to American democracy.

Other RT “propaganda” included reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and examining the environmental dangers from “fracking,” issues that also have been widely covered by the domestic American media. Apparently, whenever RT covers a newsworthy event – even if others have too – that constitutes “propaganda,” which must be throttled to protect the American people from the danger of seeing it.

If you bother to study the Jan. 6 report’s addendum, it is hard not to conclude that these “hand-picked” analysts were either stark-raving mad or madly anti-Russian. Yet, this “Intelligence Community Assessment” is now beyond questioning unless you want to be labeled a “Kremlin stooge” or “Putin’s useful idiot.” [An earlier State Department attack on RT was equally ridiculous or demonstrably false.]

And, by the way, it was President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who testified under oath that the analysts from the three agencies were “hand-picked.” That means that they were analysts personally selected by Obama’s intelligence chiefs from three agencies – not “all 17” as the American public was told over and over again – and thus were not even a full representation of analysts from those three agencies. Yet, this subset of a subset is routinely described as “the U.S. intelligence community,” even after major news outlets finally had to retract their “all 17” canard.

So, the myth of the intelligence community’s consensus lives on. For instance, in an upbeat article on Tuesday about the U.S. government’s coercing RT into registering as a foreign agent, Washington Post reporters Devlin Barrett and David Filipov wrote, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the network and website push relentlessly anti-American propaganda at the behest of the Russian government.”

In the old days, even during the old Cold War and President Reagan’s ranting about “the Evil Empire,” some of us would have actually examined the Jan. 6 report’s case against RT and noted the absurdity of these claims about “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.” Whether you want to hear the views of the Greens and Libertarians or not – or whether you like “fracking” and hate Occupy Wall Street – the opportunity to hear this information doesn’t constitute “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.”

The U.S. government’s real beef with RT seems to be that it allows on air some Americans who have been blacklisted from the mainstream media – including highly credentialed former U.S. intelligence analysts and well-informed American journalists – because they have challenged various Official Narratives.

In other words, Americans are not supposed to hear the other side of the story on important international conflicts, such as the proxy war in Syria or the civil war in Ukraine or Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Only the State Department’s versions of those events are permitted even when those versions are themselves propagandistic if not outright false.

For example, you’re not supposed to hear about the huge holes in the Syria-sarin cases, nor about Ukraine’s post-coup regime arming neo-Nazis to kill ethnic-Russian Ukrainians, nor about Israel’s evolution into an apartheid state. All right-thinking Americans are to get only a steady diet of how righteous the U.S. government and its allies always are. Anything else is “propaganda.”

Also off limits is any thoughtful critique of that Jan. 6 report – or apparently even Clapper’s characterization of it as a product of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies. You’re not supposed to ask why other U.S. intelligence agencies with deep knowledge about Russia were excluded and why even other analysts from the three involved agencies were shut out.

No, you must always think of the Jan. 6 report as the “consensus” assessment from the entire “U.S. intelligence community.” And you must accept it as flat fact – as it now is treated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other mainstream news outlets. You shouldn’t even notice that the Jan. 6 report itself doesn’t claim that Russian election meddling was a fact. The report explains, that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

But even quoting from the Jan. 6 report might make an American reporter some kind of traitorous “Russian mole” whose journalism must be purged from “responsible” media and who should be forced to wear the journalistic equivalent of a yellow star.

The Anti-Trump/Russia Hysteria

Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from the year-long fury about the shocking election of Donald Trump. From the first moments of stunned disbelief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the narrative was put in motion to blame Trump’s victory not on Clinton and her wretched campaign but on Russia. That also was viewed as a possible way of reversing the election’s outcome and removing Trump from office.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The major U.S. news media quite openly moved to the forefront of the Resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as it unleashed its journalists to trumpet the narrative of some disloyal Americans spreading Russian propaganda. Darkness presumably was a fine place to stick people who questioned the Resistance’s Russia-gate narrative.

An early shot in this war against dissenting information was fired last Thanksgiving Day when the Post published a front-page article citing an anonymous group called PropOrNot smearing 200 Internet news sites for allegedly disseminating Russian propaganda. The list included some of the most important sources of independent journalism, including Consortiumnews.com, apparently for the crime of questioning some of the State Department’s narratives on international conflicts, particularly Syria and Ukraine.

Then, with the anti-Russia hysteria building and the censorship ball rolling, Congress last December approved $160 million for think tanks and other non-governmental organizations to combat Russian propaganda. Soon, reports and studies were flying off the shelves detecting a Russian behind every article, tweet and posting that didn’t toe the State Department’s line.

The New York Times and other leading news organizations have even cheered plans for Google, Facebook and other technology companies to deploy algorithms that can hunt down, marginalize or eliminate information that establishment media deems “fake” or “propaganda.” Already Google has put together a First Draft coalition, consisting of mainstream media and establishment-approved Web sites to decide what information makes the cut and what doesn’t.

Among these arbiters of truth is the fact-check organization PolitiFact, which judged the falsehood about “all 17 intelligence agencies” signing off on the Russian “hacking” claim to be “true.” Even though the claim was never true and is now clearly established as false, PolitiFact continues to assert that this lie is the truth, apparently filled with the hubris that comes with its power over determining what is true and what is false.

But what is perhaps most troubling to me about these developments is the silence of many civil liberties advocates, liberal politicians and defenders of press freedom who might have been counted on in earlier days to object to this censorship and blackballing.

It appears that the ends of taking down Donald Trump and demonizing Vladimir Putin justify whatever means, no matter the existential danger of nuclear war with Russia or the McCarthyistic (even Orwellian) threats to freedom of speech, press and thought.

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How America’s Deep State Operates To Control The Message

Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

It is not possible to overstate the power of certain constituencies and corporate lobbies in the United States.

These pressure groups, joined by powerful government agencies, many of which have secret agendas that focus on national security, constitute what is increasingly being recognized as “Deep State America.” Deep State is the widespread belief that there exists in many countries an entrenched and largely hidden infrastructure that really controls the national narrative and runs things. It explains why, for example, a country like the United States is perpetually at war even though the wars have been disastrous failures ever since Korea and have not made the nation more secure.

To be sure, certain constituencies have benefitted from global instability and conflict, to include defense industries, big government in general, and the national security state. They all work together and hand-in-hand with the corporate media to sustain the narrative that the United States is perpetually under threat, even though it is not.

The recent exchanges over the Russia-US relationship exhibit perfectly how the Deep State operates to control the message. American President Donald Trump briefly met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vietnam. Putin reportedly told Trump that Russia “absolutely had not meddled” in the 2016 US election and Trump then told reporters that he believed the Russian leader meant what he said, “which is good.” As détente with Russia is not considered desirable by the Deep State, there was an immediate explosion of a contrary narrative, namely that Trump believes a Russian “enemy” and does not trust what his own intelligence agencies have told him about 2016 because he is being "played" by Putin.

This story was repeated both on television news and in all the mainstream newspapers without exception, eventually forcing Trump to recant and say that he does believe in US intelligence.

Not a single major media outlet in the US reported that it just might be possible that Putin was telling the truth and that the intelligence community, which has been wrong many times over the past twenty years, might have to look again at what it considers to be evidence. No journalist had the courage to point out that the claims of the Washington national security team have been remarkably devoid of anything credible to support the conclusions about what the Russian government might or might not have been up to. That is what a good journalist is supposed to do and it has nothing to do with whether or not one admires or loathes either Putin or Trump.

That the relationship between Moscow and Washington should be regarded as important given the capability of either country to incinerate the planet would appear to be a given, but the Washington-New York Establishment, which is euphemism for Deep State, is actually more concerned with maintaining its own power by marginalizing Donald Trump and maintaining the perception that Vladimir Putin is the enemy head of state of a Russia that is out to cripple American democracy.

Beyond twisting narratives, Russiagate is also producing potentially dangerous collateral damage to free speech, as one of the objectives of those in the Deep State is to rein in the current internet driven relatively free access to information. In its most recent manifestations, an anonymous group produced a phony list of 200 websites that were “guilty” of serving up Russian propaganda, a George Soros funded think tank identified thousands of individuals who are alleged to be “useful idiots” for Moscow, and legitimate Russian media outlets will be required to register as foreign agents.

Driven by Russophobia over the 2016 election, a group of leading social media corporations including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have been experimenting with ways to self-censor their product to keep out foreign generated or “hate” content.

They even have a label for it: "cyberhate". Congress is also toying with legislation that will make certain viewpoints unacceptable or even illegal, including a so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness Act that would potentially penalize anyone who criticizes Israel and could serve as a model for banning other undesirable speech. “Defamatory speech” could even eventually include any criticism of the government or political leaders, as is now the case in Turkey, which is the country where the “Deep State” was invented.

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Mark Zuckerberg’s Long Litany Of Failings – Mainstream Media Turns On Social Media

The mainstream media is a fickle beast beholden to the direction of the prevailing political winds. Unfortunately for Facebook, Google and Twitter, those winds have turned about face in recent weeks as the political establishment thrashes about in its misguided efforts to prove that – aided by social media – Russia changed the course of the 2016 presidential election. While Facebook’s share price has suffered very little so far, the mainstream media is going to work on the reputations of Facebook and its billionaire founder. For example, according to Vanity Fair last month.

"…the tech giant is broadly focused on repairing its reputation following revelations that its platform was weaponized by Russia in the 2016 election."

“Weaponized” seemed a very strong word to use.

With the social media platform deemed “fair game” in the mainstream media, the Financial Times has lined up Mark Zuckerberg in its crosshairs. The FT journalist who penned the piece on Zuckerberg, Edward Luce, is cut from establishment cloth…and then some. Luce is the son of Richard Luce, now Baron Luce, the former MP, former Lord Chamberlain to the Queen and Knight of the Garter. Edward Luce read PPE at Oxford, took a sabbatical as a speech writer for Larry Summers and is the FT’s chief US commentator.

We are no fans of Zuckerberg and sympathise with some of it, but we recognise a hatchet job when we see it. In the article, Luce accuses Zuckerberg of…

Self-evident observation, or “stating the bleeding obvious”, to use the English vernacular:

Here is what Mark Zuckerberg learned from his 30-state tour of the US: polarisation is rife and the country is suffering from an opioid crisis. Forgive me if I have to lie down for a moment. Yet it would be facile to tease Mr Zuckerberg for his self-evident observations. Some people are geniuses at one thing and bad at others. Mr Zuckerberg is a digital superstar with poor human skills.

Political inadequacy and insincerity:

Facebook’s co-founder is not the first Silicon Valley figure to show signs of political inadequacy – nor will he be the last. But he may be the most influential. He personifies the myopia of America’s coastal elites: they wish to do well by doing good. When it comes to a choice, the “doing good” bit tends to be forgotten. There is nothing wrong with doing well, especially if you are changing the world. Innovators are rightly celebrated. But there is a problem with presenting your prime motive as philanthropic when it is not. Mr Zuckerberg is one of the most successful monetisers of our age. Yet he talks as though he were an Episcopalian pastor. “Protecting our community is more important than maximising our profits,” Mr Zuckerberg said this month after Facebook posted its first ever $10bn quarterly earnings result — an almost 50 per cent year-on-year jump.

Self-promotion, acting like a Soviet dictator and losing touch with ordinary people:

When a leader goes on a “listening tour” it means they are marketing something. In the case of Hillary Clinton, it was herself. In the case of Mr Zuckerberg, it is also himself. Making a surprise announcement that Mr Zuckerberg would be having dinner with an ordinary family is the kind of thing a Soviet dictator would do — down to the phalanx of personal aides he brought with him. This is not how scholars find out what ordinary families are thinking. Nor is it a good way to launch a political campaign. Ten months after Mr Zuckerberg began his tour, speculation of a presidential bid has been shelved. Say what you like about Donald Trump but he knows how to give the appearance of understanding ordinary people.

Helping Russia in its attempts to secure Trump’s election victory:

More to the point, Facebook has turned into a toxic commodity since Mr Trump was elected. Big Tech is the new big tobacco in Washington. It is not a question of whether the regulatory backlash will come, but when and how. Mr Zuckerberg bears responsibility for this. Having denied Facebook’s “filter bubble” played any role in Mr Trump’s victory — or Russia’s part in helping clinch it — Mr Zuckerberg is the primary target of the Democratic backlash. He is now asking America to believe that he can turn Facebook’s news feed from an echo chamber into a public square. Revenue growth is no longer the priority. “None of that matters if our services are used in a way that doesn’t bring people closer together,” he says.

Avoiding Tax (indirectly via Facebook) and masking self-interest:

How will Mr Zuckerberg arrange this Kumbaya conversion? By boosting the community ties that only Facebook can offer. Readers will forgive me if I take another lie down. Mr Zuckerberg suffers from two delusions common to America’s new economy elites. They think they are nice people — indeed, most of them are. Mr Zuckerberg seems to be, too. But they tend to cloak their self-interest in righteous language. Talking about values has the collateral benefit of avoiding talking about wealth. If the rich are giving their money away to good causes, such as inner city schools and research into diseases, we should not dwell on taxes. Mr Zuckerberg is not funding any private wars in Africa. He is a good person. The fact that his company pays barely any tax is therefore irrelevant.

Destroying communities and the noble profession of journalism:

The second liberal delusion is to believe they have a truer grasp of people’s interests than voters themselves. In some cases that might be true. It is hard to see how abolishing health subsidies will help people who live in “flyover” America. But here is the crux. It does not matter how many times Mr Zuckerberg invokes the magic of online communities. They cannot substitute for the real ones that have gone missing. Bowling online together is no cure for bowling offline alone. The next time Mr Zuckerberg wants to showcase Facebook, he should invest some of his money in an actual place. It should be far away from any of America’s booming cities — say Youngstown, Ohio. For the price of a couple of days’ Facebook revenues, he could train thousands of people. He might even fund a newspaper to make up for social media’s destruction of local journalism. The effect could be electrifying. Such an example would bring a couple more benefits. First, it would demonstrate that Mr Zuckerberg can listen, rather than pretending to. Second, people will want to drop round to his place for dinner.

Having dinner with Mark Zuckerberg was way down the list at ZH, with top choices including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Margaret Thatcher (if she was still alive), David Bowie (if he was still alive), John Lennon (ditto) and John F. Kennedy (ditto).

While we are finding the FT’s attempts at ridiculing Zuckerberg and his company entertaining, we are questioning whether it merely reflects the shifting political winds. Maybe there is more to it. When Pearson sold the Financial Times in 2015 after being the “proud proprietor” for almost 60 years, it cited the “inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social”. 

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Russia Names The 9 US News Outlets It Will Retaliate Against

After hinting that retaliation was imminent, Russian lawmakers in the Duma – Russia’s lower house of Parliament – have approved a law that would require nine US news outlets to be labeled “foreign agents” in response to Washington's decision to require Russia Today to register as a foreign agent last week, a decision that Moscow has slammed as hypocritical and infringing on free speech.

Reuters reports that Russia’s lower house of Parliament has approved the law – which allows Moscow to force foreign media to brand news they provide to Russians as the work of “foreign agents” and to disclose the source of their funding.

The law must now pass the upper house, which is likely to happen next week. Once President Vladimir Putin signs it, it will become law. The path to passage looks relatively straightforward, and it's likely the bill will become a law.

The Russian Justice Ministry on Thursday published a list of the news outlets that it said could be affected by the law.

Meanwhile, the outlets are the US-government-sponsored Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE), otherwise known as Radio Liberty, radio channels, along with seven separate Russian or local-language news outlets run by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

One of the seven outlets provides news on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, one on Siberia, and one on the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region. Another covers provincial Russia, one is an online TV station, another covers the mostly Muslim region of Tatarstan, and the other is a news portal that fact-checks the statements of Russian officials.

Russia's attack on US-funded media is part of the fallout from allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the US presidential election last year in favor of Donald Trump, Reuters noted.

US intelligence officials accuse the Kremlin of using Russian media organizations it finances to influence US voters. Meanwhile, the US has funded organizations like RFE since the early days of the Cold War. RFE was founded to broadcast pro-capitalist messaging to Soviet Satellites in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Kremlin denies meddling in the election and has said the restrictions on Russian broadcasters in the US amount to an attack on free speech. After the US forced RT to register, Kremlin spokespeople hinted that the government had a “surprise” retaliation at the ready.

The draft legislation would allow Russian authorities to designate foreign media as "foreign agents", making them subject to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organizations under a 2012 law. Under that law, "foreign agents" must include in any information they publish or broadcast to Russian audiences a mention of their "foreign agent" designation.

They also must apply for inclusion in a government register, submit regular reports on their sources of funding, on their objectives, on how they spend their money, and who their managers are.

They can be subject to spot checks by the authorities to make sure they comply with the rules, according to the 2012 law, which has forced some NGOs to close.

Radio Free Europe said in a statement it did not want to speculate what steps Russia might take against it next, and looked forward to continuing its journalistic work. Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett has said the station remains committed to providing independent news to global audiences.
 

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Shep Smith’s Humiliating Uranium One ‘Debunking’ Draws Harsh Rebuke From Angry Viewers

Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

Fox News viewers are demanding the network fire resident liberal Shep Smith after the host embarrassed himself in a wildly inaccurate and poorly researched “fact check” of the Uranium One scandal on Tuesday, following reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was exploring a special counsel to investigate the sale of Canadian firm Uranium One to state-owned Russian energy giant Rosatom. 

The nuclear deal, which ultimately resulted in the transfer of 20 percent of American Uranium to Russia so they could sell it back to US nuclear plants at an enormous profit, was approved by the Obama administration after significant donations in excess of $140 million were made to the Clinton Foundation by Uranium One affiliates.

Unlike Sean Hannity – Ol’ Shep clearly hadn’t done his homework – consistently mispronouncing the names of people involved in the case, telling viewers that Canada-based Uranium One is a South African company, and spewing inaccurate and misleading facts regarding the CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) which approved the deal.

Shep’s selective timeline

While Smith claimed that the majority of donations to the Clinton Foundation were from Frank Giustra – a mining financier who sold his stake in Uranium One before it was acquired by Russia, and before Clinton was Secretary of State – he fails to mention the history between Giustra and the Clintons.

As Breitbart reports:  “it is Smith who is being inaccurate. As noted in Clinton Cash and the New York Times, the Clintons helped Giustra acquire Kazakh uranium assets in 2005. Mukhtar Dzhakishev, then head of the Kazakh state nuclear agency, who met with the Clintons in Chappaqua, declared in 2010 that Hillary Clinton extorted and pressured Kazakh officials to grant those uranium concessions to Giustra.Shortly after they granted those concessions, $30 million was dropped into Clinton Foundation coffers by Giustra. Smith never mentions any of this.”

Smith also misled viewers over the fact that while while nine agencies which comprise the CFIUS, the decision to approve the Uranium One deal was ultimately Obama’s. This is incorrect, as any one of the nine agencies involved had the power to veto the deal.

Another key fact omitted by Smith was the timing of funds flowing to the Clintons – including the $500,000 speaking fee Bill Clinton was paid by a Russian bank which issued a “buy” rating to Uranium One during the CFIUS review process.

Notably, Bill Clinton was at Vladimir Putin’s HOUSE the same day he gave the speech. Maybe he was checking out Vlad’s Russian tie collection?

Shep’s lies continue

Smith, in his crappy debunking, declared that “no uranium from Uranium One’s US mines has left the country.”

FALSE

Reports from both the New York Times and The Hill reveal that yes – uranium left the US on multiple occasions. In fact, the Obama administration approved its export through a Uranium trucking firm based in Canada.

Shep fails to mention the FBI’s involvement

An October 17 article in The Hill reveals that Obama’s FBI, headed by Robert Mueller, discovered that “Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow

No mention by Smith, of course.

The Hill also reported that an FBI mole embedded in the Russian nuclear industry gathered extensive evidence that Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – a scheme of bribes and kickbacks to the company which would ostensibly transport the U.S. uranium sold in the ’20 percent’ deal.

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials. –The Hill

Smith also leaves out a new report that the FBI scrambled to issue records-retention requests to all 9 member agencies of the CFIUS weeks after they cracked into Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.

No mention of the Podesta Group

Shep also fails to mention that the Podesta Group received $180,000 to lobby for Uranium One during the same period that the Clinton Foundation was receiving millions from U1 interests, and after Russia took majority ownership in the “20 percent” deal (source – you have to add up the years).

Moreover, a former executive of the Podesta Group told Fox’s Tucker Carlson that Tony Podesta regularly met with the Clinton Foundation to coordinate the Uranium One deal, and was “basically part of the Clinton Foundation.” Moreover, the former exec claims that John Podesta – Clinton’s Campaign manager and long time DNC operative, recommended  David Adams, Hillary Clinton’s chief adviser at the State Department, giving them a “direct liaison” between the group’s Russian clients and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

Let’s review the timeline:

Between 2008 – 2010, parties involved with Uranium One donated $145 Million to the Clinton Foundation. You can read more about the parties here.

June 2009, Russian State Nuclear Agency Rosatom (through a subsidiary) takes a 17% stake in Uranium One.

June 2010, Rosatom takes majority (51%) ownership of Uranium One, granting the Kremlin control over 20 percent of U.S. uranium – which Hillary Clinton’s State Department signed off on. The FBI uncovers massive bribery scheme before CFIUS approves deal.

June 29th, 2010Bill Clinton meets with Vladimir Putin at his home in Russia. Later that day Clinton earns $500,000 for a speech in Moscow to Kremlin-linked investment bank Renaissance Capital, which assigned a “buy” rating to Uranium One stock.

January 2013,  Rosatom State Nuclear Agency acquires the remainder of Uranium one and takes it private.

Watch Shep Smith fumble the ball and cover for Hillary Clinton, horribly

 

Sitting down with Mother Jones, Hillary Clinton called any investigation into the Uranium One deal “an abuse of power” – of course.

  

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Trump And Putin: What Comes Next?

Authored by Nikolas Gvosdev via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Will a future, formal Trump-Putin summit be a game changer?

Last week, I noted that any encounter between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that would take place at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, would have to address two critical questions if there was to be any clarity in U.S.-Russia relations.

We’ve now gotten a first draft of answers.

I argued that, for the Russian side, the overarching issue is whether or not Donald Trump is calling the shots on U.S. policy. Seven days ago, the White House press operation was signaling that there would be a formal encounter between the two presidents, a scheduled meeting with a defined agenda. As the week progressed, the United States began to back away from those announcements. By the end of the week, the encounter was a far less structured event, essentially folded in around an informal stroll to a photo opportunity and brief chats in between APEC sessions – nothing at all like the meeting that took place at the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July. What happened? And does it suggest that Donald Trump has a George W. Bush problem – the apparent inability to take a personal rapport with Vladimir Putin and transform it into concrete policy directives?

As the APEC summit drew nearer, it became clear that the Russian president would not bring any agenda to Vietnam that suggested a willingness to reverse course or offer major concessions to U.S. preferences regarding Russian policy on North Korea, Syria, Iran and Ukraine. At best, the Russian leader might seek to bargain with President Trump, seeking concessions from Washington in some areas in return for Russian acquiescence to American proposals in others. There are, of course, two major items being prepared for the president’s review and approval. First is the application of U.S. sanctions, authorized by congressional legislation, both against Russian companies and against third parties that do business with them. Here, a critical test is pending within weeks, should the Italian energy conglomerate ENI go ahead with a joint project with Rosneft in the Black Sea—a deal grandfathered in under European regulations, but one that will certainly draw the attention of U.S. regulators for any violations of U.S. financial or technological sanctions. The second is the final decision on whether or not the United States will provide advanced weaponry, especially antitank missiles, to the Ukrainian military.

Because of the way the United States geographically boxes Russia in as only a “European” state, Trump’s “Russia hands” were not scheduled to join his delegation to APEC. Thus, there were concerns that any substantive meeting between Trump and Putin would occur without the U.S. officials who would be most likely to provide necessary expertise (and who would wind up implementing any results). Linked to that were fears that, if another meeting followed the Hamburg precedent (of just the two presidents and their chief diplomatic officers), Putin might convince Trump to accept a series of compromises: trading Russian support of Trump’s initiatives in return, for instance, for concrete sanctions relief and acceptance of Russian preferences for Syria and Ukraine. There had already been some advance warning of this, such as, when Saudi Arabia’s King Salman visited Moscow last month in an historic summit, the Saudi delegation seemed to suggest that a Russia playing a more constructive and stabilizing role in the Middle East would outweigh the logic of maintaining the full raft of U.S. sanction, imposed after the 2014 incursions into Ukraine and after the 2016 elections.

Keeping the tenor of the encounters between the two presidents at Da Nang informal precluded the chance of any intense bargaining sessions on the sidelines. But for the Russian side, it also raises questions – of whether Trump is in fact inclined to bargain with the Kremlin, or whether he has the clout to carry through any agreement in the face of stiff domestic opposition, not only from his own national-security team, but from Congress, where opposition to any concessions to Vladimir Putin is one of the few genuine bipartisan issues left. There is no support (even from his own appointees) for any compromise with Moscow that leaves Bashar al-Assad in power in Damascus, or that ratifies any of the gains Russia has made in Ukraine since 2014 – not when there is still a sense that strong, concerted U.S. action could lead to different outcomes. Indeed, with the European Commission recognizing that Russian plans to bypass Ukraine by 2019 are moving ahead, even despite existing sanctions, new efforts are underway to find ways to block the expansion of the Nord Stream line and forestall the expansion of the Turkish Stream export route to Europe. There is confidence that expanded sanctions, plus a renewed commitment to the Syrian opposition, could change Russia’s calculations—and therefore there is no reason to prematurely concede anything to the Kremlin.

But then we have Trump’s comments to the press following the Da Nang summit. Much of that coverage has focused on Trump’s willingness to accept Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election at face value, but two other items deserve greater attention.

The first is that the president, having been convinced, guided, or maneuvered into not having a formal sit-down with Putin in Vietnam, is apparently committing to a full-fledged summit meeting of the two presidents and their respective “teams” at some indefinite point in the future. If so, then how the agenda for that meeting is set, and what parameters are established for the negotiations, will be critical.

 

The second is what role Trump himself intends to play in Russia policy. What struck me at times about his comments on Air Force One was how he seemed to view himself, as “the president,” as something separate and distinct from the executive branch as a whole. As chief executive, Trump is in charge of the U.S. intelligence community, the diplomatic corps and the military. Yet his comments seem to suggest that, at times, the government is pursuing a policy towards Russia that he personally disagrees with but somehow has little power to change.

So while we’ve gotten a first set of answers, the questions still remain unresolved. Sideline encounters at the G-20 and at APEC were not successful in changing the dynamic of the U.S.-Russia relationship. So will a direct Trump-Putin summit be a game changer? Only if those original questions can be answered definitively.

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“Russian Interference” Now Being Blamed For Swaying Vote In Favor Of Brexit

Was Brexit also Putin’s fault?

The simmering anti-Russia hysteria that has emerged in the UK recently has finally boiled over, and it appears last night’s story in the        Times of London claiming that a swarm of Twitter bots reportedly created by a troll farm possibly linked to Russian intelligene (sound familiar?) posted more than 45,000 messages about Brexit in 48 hours during last year’s referendum to try and “so discord” among the public was the grain of rice that tipped the scale.

Details that will sound familiar to anybody who’s been following the ongoing hysteria surrounding the multiple investigations into Russian influence in the US election, the suspicious twitter accounts shared messages that promoted both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns, purportedly a “sophisticated” ploy to confuse and bewilder voters.

Most of the tweets seen by this newspaper encouraged people to vote for Brexit, an outcome which Russia would have regarded as destabilising for the European Union. A number were pro-Remain, however, suggesting that the Russian goal may have been simply to sow division.

 

“This is the most significant evidence yet of interference by Russian-backed social media accounts around the Brexit referendum,” said Damian Collins, the Tory MP who chairs the digital, culture, media and sport select committee.

 

“The content published and promoted by these accounts is clearly designed to increase tensions throughout the country and undermine our democratic process. I fear that this may well be just the tip of the iceberg."

According to the Times, more than 150,000 accounts based in Russia, which had previously confined their posts to subjects such as the Ukrainian conflict, switched attention to Brexit in the days leading up to last year’s vote, according to research for an upcoming paper by data scientists at Swansea University and the University of California, Berkeley.

In other words, after months of tweeting about pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, these bots started firing off messages amplifying the voice of the ‘Leave’ campaign into the void.

The researchers said Russian activity spiked on June 23, the day of the referendum, and on June 24 when the result was announced. From posting fewer than 1,000 tweets a day before June 13, the suspicious accounts posted 39,000 tweets on June 24 before dropping off almost entirely.

The Swansea and Berkeley paper says that a “massive number of Russian-related tweets was created a few days before the voting day, reached its peak during the voting and the result and then dropped immediately afterwards”. Tho Pham, one of the paper’s authors, said that “the main conclusion is that bots were used on purpose and had influence”.

Of course, the Times report neglected to explain the Swansea researchers methodology. Facebook, Twitter and Google used the inadequate standard of having one’s browser language set to Russian. It’s unclear whether these researchers something that, like browser language, can be easily changed or mimicked by other groups.

On Monday, Theresa May accused Moscow of using fake news to “sow discord” and of meddling directly in elections. Her remarks followed a brief, impromptu meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at an Asian economic summit in Vietnam.

In what appeared to be an attempt to deflect attention away from a challenge to her leadership, UK Prime Minister Theresa May blasted Russia Monday evening, using her speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet to accuse them of interfering in foreign elections.

May accused Moscow of attempting to "weaponize information" as part of a "sustained campaign of cyberespionage and disruption." Russia's actions were "threatening the international order," she said.

"We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us," May said.

May listed off a litany of ills she ascribed to Russia since its annexation of Crimea, including fomenting conflict in eastern Ukraine, violating the airspace of European countries, and hacking the Danish ministry of defense and the German Parliament. Russia has also been accused of interfering in elections in the US, the Brexit referendum in the UK, and the independence vote in Catalonia.

Following May’s speech, reports emerged that individuals working on behalf of the Kremlin tried to set up meetings with conservative MPs, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Last night, one of the UK's cyber-defense chiefs adding to the anti-Russia sentiment by accusing Russian intelligence of attacking Britain's media, telecommunications and energy sectors over the past year.

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), echoed May’s claim that Russia was "seeking to undermine the international system."

Of course, there were at least two prominent British polls who decided to question the dubious accusations of interference.

Jeremy Corbyn wants to “see more evidence” that Russia is trying to undermine Western democracy, his spokesman said Wednesday.

And of course, as we noted yesterday, Nigel Farage pointed out during a speech at the European Parliament that financier George Soros has spent billions of dollars to push his political agenda across Europe, the US and the UK.

“How many of you have taken money from Open Society?” He asked his peers, referring to Soros’s Open Society foundation.

While the Russian hysteria has been raging for a year in the US now, in the UK, it’s only just beginning. In time, we will see of May’s government will continue to use Vladimir Putin as a boogeyman on which they can blame their failure to successfully negotiate amenable Brexit terms for the UK.

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Sessions Pushes Back Against Republican Calls For Clinton, Comey Special Counsel

Jeff Sessions testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was about as contentious as many observers probably expected, with Sessions jousting with lawmakers who pressed him about troubling omissions in his previous testimony.

But nestled among questions about Sessions’ campaign-season interactions with Russian officials and former Trump campaign national security adviser George Papadopoulos, one lawmaker asked Sessions whether a report that the DOJ said it would approve AT&T’s proposed takeover of Time Warner only if the latter agreed to sell CNN was accurate. Sessions responded that it wasn't.

“I don’t think I’m able to accept as accurate news reports that have come out,” he said when asked if the president or anyone at the White House had asked him about the acquisition.

The news outraged some Democrats, who accused Trump of improperly using his influence to punish the network, which he has frequently decried as “fake news”. Trump had insinuated during the campaign that he might try to block the deal if he won the presidency.

Sessions refused to say exactly what would be required for the AT&T-Time Warner deal to win approval.

When asked later by another lawmaker if the White House had attempted to interfere, or had reached out to the DOJ about the deal. Sessions said that he couldn't answer questions involving the White House's communications with the Justice Department.

Last night, the Washington Post reported that Sessions had asked prosecutors to look into whether certain prominent Democrats and Obama-era federal law-enforcement officials should be investigated for a range of purported misdeeds.

During the testimony, several Republican reps pushed Sessions to confirm that he would appoint the special counsel, something Sessions declined to do since he said to do so would reveal the existence of an ongoing investigation.

Instead, in a heated exchange with Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Gordon, Sessions  pushed back on the immediate need for a second special counsel to investigate Clinton.

It would take "a factual basis that meets the standard of a special counsel" for the Justice Department to make such an appointment, Sessions said.

"We will use the proper standards and that’s the only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan," Sessions said. "You can have your idea but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standards it requires."

It would take "a factual basis that meets the standard of a special counsel" for the Justice Department to make such an appointment, Sessions told Gordon.

Jordan suggested that the Clinton campaign and the DNC broke the law by paying for the infamous “Trump dossier” via Clinton lawyer Marc Elias and not disclosing the true purpose of those funds to the FEC.

"And it sure looks like the FBI was paying the author of that document and it sure looks like a major political party was working with the federal government to then turn an opposition research document – the equivalent of some National Enquirer story – into an intelligence document take that to the FISA Court so they could then get a warrant to spy on President Trump’s campaign."

"That’s what it looks like and I’m asking you, in addition to all the things we know about James Comey in 2016, doesn’t that warrant naming a second special counsel?"

Sessions at first demurred, noting that Comey is no longer the director of the FBI and praising the current director, Chris Wray. But pressed further by Jordan -"He's not here today, Attorney General Sessions, and you are" – Sessions appeared to throw cold water on the immediate need for a special counsel.

"I would say 'looks like' is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel," he said sharply. He added that it would be "wrong" to use the powers of the DOJ for political purposes.

"The Department of Justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents. That would be wrong."

Asked early in the testimony about his previous public comments that he was not aware of any contacts between Trump campaign associates and the Russians – comments that have since been proven incorrect because Sessions attended a March meeting with George Papadopoulos where the latter said he could arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sessions said that during his confirmation hearing, Papadopoulos’s comments had slipped his memory.

Furthermore, Sessions said on Tuesday he now recalls the meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump and aides where campaign connections to Russia were discussed.

Sessions, addressing the House Judiciary Committee, said he recalled the March 2016 meeting where foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos was present, “But I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting."

Later, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries pressed Sessions about an interview he did with Lou Dobbs where he criticized Hillary Clinton for telling the FBI she didn’t remember certain details during its investigation of her alleged mishandling of classified information. During the interview, Sessions told Dobbs that conveniently failing to remember could constitute perjury.

Jeffries asked if he believed the intentional failure can constitute as a criminal act?

Sessions said yes.

He later said the implication that he lied by saying he didn't recall those comments was unfair, and harshly rebuked Jeffries, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn.

Most of the most controversial subjects have been well-trod at this point, but Sessions’ testimony has not yet ended. You can watch along below:

 

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Ominous Russophobia In America

Authored by Stephen Lendman,

It infests America like a malignant tumor, exceeding the worst of the post-WW I “Red Scare” and its repeat following WW II.

Beginning in 1938, House Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunt hearings into alleged disloyalty and subversive activities became headline news.

Starting in the late 1960s, more of the same followed by the renamed House Committee on Internal Security.

Notorious McCarthyism in the 1950s was a demagogic smear campaign against prominent figures, slandering them, ruining careers, even accusing General George Marshall of being “soft on communism.”

Notable Hollywood figures were blacklisted. McCarthyism was baseless slander, unscrupulous fear-mongering, and political lynchings.

Harvard Law School dean Ervin Griswold once called McCarthy “judge, jury, prosecutor, castigator, and press agent, all in one.”

Modern-day Russophobia includes a second Cold War, Russia under Vladimir Putin again considered the “evil empire,” relentless Washington and media Russian bashing, along with endless congressional and special counsel witch-hunt investigations suggesting the worst, revealing nothing.

Russia expert Stephen Cohen said “(w)e’re in the most dangerous confrontation with Russia since the Cuban missile crisis.”

He underestimated the threat. It’s much worse now than then. Jack Kennedy explained he “never had the slightest intention of” attacking or invading Cuba.”

Obama was no Jack Kennedy. Nor is Trump, his administration and Congress infested with neocons, Democrats as ruthlessly dangerous as Republicans.

The late political theorist Sheldon Wolin once called undemocratic Dems the “inauthentic opposition,” as infested with neoliberal Russophobic neocons as the Republican party.

Virtually everyone in Washington is part of the anti-Russia crowd, Bernie Sanders among them, a progressive in name only.

During his presidential campaign, he sounded like a modern-day Joe McCarthy, shamefully claiming “the evidence is overwhelming” that Russia “help(ed) elect the candidate of their choice, Mr. Trump, to undermine in a significant way American democracy.”

In a YouTube video, he repeated the Big Lie, saying “the US intelligence community has concluded that Russia played an active role in the 2016 election with the goals of electing Donald Trump as president.”

“The Trump campaign had repeated contacts with the senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

The phony “dossier” showed Russian agents able to “blackmail” the White House. Like most others in Congress, Sanders is a cold and hot warrior, a self-serving con man, supporting wealth, power and privilege like the rest of Washington’s political establishment, pretending otherwise.

Feelthebern.org states:

“Bernie supports enforcing economic sanctions and international pressure as an alternative to any direct military confrontation when dealing with Russia.”

 

“To temper Russian aggression, we must freeze Russian government assets all over the world, and encourage international corporations with huge investments in Russia to divest from that nation’s increasingly hostile political aims.”

 

“The United States must collaborate to create a unified stance with our international allies in order to effectively address Russian aggression.”

 

“(T)he United States should isolate Putin politically and economically…The entire world has got to stand up to Putin.”

Shocking stuff, exposing the real Bernie Sanders, not the persona he publicly displays!

Former CIA counterintelligence official/whistleblower John Kiriakou was invited to participate in a European Parliament panel – then removed at the last moment because panelist Winnie Wong, co-founder of People for Bernie, refused to appear with him, Kiriakou saying:

“(S)he didn’t want the appearance of Bernie Sanders appearing to endorse the Russian media.”

Kiriakou hosts a Sputnik News radio show called Loud & Clear, why she objected, supporting Sanders’ Russophobia.

Kiriakou remarked saying “American politics rear(ed) its ugly head in Brussels.” No problems arose when he appeared on another panel with Cuba’s EU ambassador.

It’s the “red scare all over again,” Kiriakou explained.

Anything remotely connected to Russia is toxic. Failing to be Russophobic in Washington is a likely career-ender, much like what happens to Israeli critics.

Intense anti-Russian sentiment in America risks the unthinkable – possible catastrophic nuclear war, humanity’s survival at stake.

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From “BTFD” To “Sell The Rip”: Global Stocks Slide, Nikkei Tumbles, Pound Plunges

S&P futures gave up early gains and were trading down -0.2%, as Donald Trump completes his first Asian tour and as pressure mounts on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, sending the pound plunging. European stocks fell, tracking many Asian shares as the Nikkei plunge accelerated.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 fell as much as 0.4%, resuming last week’s pull-back. 17 of 19 industry groups fall, with financial services, retail and banking shares leading the selloff; the broad European index is down 2.7% from the intraday high hit on Nov. 1. The Stoxx 600 drop also triggered a key technical level, with the Stoxx 600 sliding below the 50-DMA for first time since early September, while the Stoxx 600 Bank index dropped below the 200 DMA following a downgrade of European banks by Kepler Cheuvreux.

“Nothing has changed in the past few weeks in terms of fundamentals. Investors are just looking for excuses to book some profits after what has been a pretty strong year,” Fabrice Masson, head of equities at BFT Investment Managers, told Bloomberg: “Some of the stocks have risen 50% since the start of the year. If their earnings are good but don’t show a clear acceleration in the trend, it’s tempting to just sell.”

Well, something did change: earlier in the session, investment bank Kepler downgraded European stocks to underweight, saying last week’s pull-back marks the point at which equity markets shift from “buy-on-dip” to “sell-on-strength.”

In equities, the big mover overnight was Japan, where shares slumped and the Nikkei 225 tumbled by 1.3%, down to 22,380.99, its biggest drop since April 6, as investors found no new reasons to buy after driving benchmarks to their highest in a quarter century just one week ago. The Nikkei is now down 4.3% from the intraday high on Nov. 9. The Topix index slid for a third day and the Nikkei 225 retreated for a fourth session following gains last week that pushed them to levels unseen since 1991 and 1992 respectively. A combination of solid quarterly results, positive economic data and massive foreign buying had driven the rally. U.S. shares fell Friday after U.S. consumer sentiment data unexpectedly dropped by the most in a year amid expectations for faster inflation and higher interest rates.

“Investors who were hoping for the market to stage a rebound during the day may have sold in disappointment towards the end” exacerbating the decline, said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “With corporate results behind us and no major economic data in sight, the market is in for a tussle between those waiting to buy and those trying to take profits.” The benchmark indexes finished at the day’s lows as declines accelerated in the last half hour of trading. “Stock futures, which started declining in late afternoon, dragged down stocks and the leveraged funds,” said Mitsuo Shimizu, deputy general manager at Japan Asia Securities. Next Funds Nikkei 225 Leveraged Index ETF, an exchange traded fund product managed by Nomura Holdings Inc., fell 2.7% , the most since April 6. As investors and market observers try to gauge the extent of a downward correction in domestic equities that begun late last week, optimism has yet to fade among some participants.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘correction’ — it’s too tough to predict these markets,” Chris Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Markets have gotten ahead of themselves and “I’ll call it a pause to refresh.” The yen is a concern, but the fund is very optimistic about Abenomics and in favor of Japan’s corporate governance overhauls, he added.

Elsewhere in Asia, equities also retreated, with industrial and material shares leading declines, after tax-cut pessimism weighed on U.S. equities Friday. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.6% to 170.25, falling for a second trading day. Industrial stocks led losses, dropping the most in almost a year. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. fell the most among South Korean shipyards after losing an offshore order to a Singapore rival. Iida Group Holdings Co. plunged by record in Tokyo after first-half results missed the company’s targets. “Uncertainties over U.S. tax cuts are prompting investors to take profit after big rallies in the last few weeks,” said Linus Yip, Hong Kong-based strategist at First Shanghai Securities.South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.5%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.3% to close at its highest in almost a decade after reversing an earlier loss.

Curiously, the Shanghai Composite ignored the noise from its neighbors, and staged an impressive comeback, closing up 0.4% at 3,447, the highest level in 22 months, led by banks, steelmakers and chipmakers.

More interesting, however, was the plunge in China’s government bonds: the 10Y yield rose to the highest level in 3 years, while 10-yr treasury futures plunged 0.67%, the biggest since the end of October, as bond yields kept climbing and the curve kept inverting with the 5-year yield breaking 4% at one point this morning, while the 10-yr yield approaches 4%.

In FX, the big mover was the pound, which came under heavy selling pressure as the U.K.’s political and Brexit troubles mount (see below); the dollar inched modestly higher, shrugging off stronger Treasuries; Gilts pushed higher from the open, providing support as European bonds gained across the board; the euro and the yen steadied on gamma trading.

The UK Brexit drama reached new heights over the weekend. As discussed earlier, 40 Conservative MP’s are reportedly calling for UK PM May to step down. This number is 8 short of the amount required to trigger a leadership challenge Other sources also suggest that UK PM May is facing a rebellion from pro-European Tory MPs who have vowed to vote against her “crass” plans to enshrine the date the Britain leaves the European Union in law. Sources suggest that a menacing secret memo from Boris Johnson & Michael Gove to UK PM May dictating terms for a hard Brexit has triggered a new Cabinet rift. Britain must not cave in to EU demands for a bigger Brexit divorce bill after Brussels set a two-week deadline for the UK to concede, allies of Boris Johnson have warned. Brexit Secretary Davis stated that he still believes that a trade deal with the EU can be negotiated within the given timeframe. However, separately, Chief EU Brexit Negotiator Barnier noted that the EU is preparing for possible collapse of Brexit talks. 

The U.K. data won’t be the only numbers on investors’ minds. U.S. inflation and growth numbers are also on the docket, and they could be key to the Federal Reserve’s determination to lift rates next month. Talks on tax legislation may also play into market thinking; pessimism over the likelihood of successful reforms helped drag global equities down from this month’s record high late last week. Measures of equity-market volatility have risen, albeit from low levels.

Over in Catalonia, Spain PM Rajoy visited the region for the first time since the government retook control. He called on “the silent or silenced majority” voters that oppose secessionism to “convert its voices into votes” in the upcoming 21 December regional election. Further, he noted “it’s urgent to return a sense of normality to Catalonia” and that he “ask all companies that have worked in Catalonia not to leave”.

In rates, the yield on 10Y TSY dropped two bps to 2.37%, the largest drop in more than a week. Germany’s 10Y yield fell two basis points to 0.39 percent, also the biggest fall in a week. Britain’s 10Y gilt fell three basis points to 1.309 percent.

In commodities, gold and most industrial metals rose, and West Texas oil dropped below $57 a barrel.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.1% to 2,578.20
  • MXAP down 0.6% to 170.26
  • MXAPJ down 0.3% to 558.68
  • Nikkei down 1.3% to 22,380.99
  • Topix down 0.9% to 1,783.49
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.2% to 29,182.18
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.4% to 3,447.84
  • Sensex down 0.8% to 33,061.20
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.1% to 6,021.77
  • Kospi down 0.5% to 2,530.35
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.4% to 387.11
  • German 10Y yield fell 2.2 bps to 0.388%
  • Euro down 0.1% to $1.1649
  • Brent Futures down 0.1% to $63.43/bbl
  • Italian 10Y yield rose 3.0 bps to 1.58%
  • Spanish 10Y yield fell 2.4 bps to 1.552%
  • Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,278.27
  • U.S. Dollar Index up 0.2% to 94.58

Top Overnight News

  • Trump attends two days of meetings on regional security affairs hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations before heading home
  • Sterling fell for the first time in three days; May has a bad start to the week following a Sunday Times report saying 40 of her own Conservative lawmakers have agreed to sign a letter of no confidence in her, nearly enough to trigger a leadership challenge, just days after the EU gave the U.K. two weeks to make “clarifications” so Brexit talks can advance
  • The U.K. Labour Party offered May a cross-party Brexit deal saying she’s lacking the support within her Conservative Party to deliver the Brexit she aims for
  • AT&T’s Merger Fight Is Said to Head Toward Thanksgiving Showdown
  • China Credit Growth Trails Estimates as Deleveraging Prioritized
  • Tesla Model 3 Depositors Staying Put as Wait in Line Lengthens
  • Noble Group Is Said to Lose Key Bank Prop as DBS Cuts Loans
  • Trump Hails ‘Great’ Ties With Duterte, Skirts Human Rights
  • Trump Is Shattering His Own Tweet Records With Non-Stop Barrage
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia
  • It prompted the opposition Labour Party to question her ability to deliver the Brexit transition period she’s proposed
  • Fed Bank of Philadelphia President Harker said he’s looking for another rate increase this year and the balance sheet unwind will be “boring”
  • “With a labor market this tight, inflation is likely to reassert itself at some point,” he says in text of speech in Tokyo
  • There’s been a marked turnaround in Europe’s economy. The 19-nation euro-zone bloc is already enjoying the strongest growth in a decade; economists at Credit Suisse Group AG and Oxford Economics are declaring that it’s heading toward a golden period of low- inflationary expansion
  • ECB Vice President Constancio said on Monday the recovery was broad-based, robust and resilient

Asian indices were mixed, with no fresh catalyst for a decisive move. Japan’s Nikkei 225 (-0.1%) continued to edge away from the multi decade highs set last week. Elsewhere Australia’s ASX (-0.1%) ebbed lower, while China’s Shanghai Comp. (+0.4%) and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (+0.2%) tiptoed higher supported by a record breaking Singles’ Day event at the end of last week. Fixed income dealing was rangebound with Treasuries edging away from worst levels in a modest bull flattening move, despite FOMC voter Harker reiterating that he had pencilled in a December hike and three further hikes in 2018, inflation dependent. JGB’s moved lower as the BoJ refrained from engaging in Rinban operations today, with the long end experiencing a degree of mild underperformance. PBoC sets the CNY mid-point at 6.6347 vs. Prev. 6.6282. RBA Deputy Governor Debelle said that there is a risk that wages will stay lower for longer, although he did concede that some pockets of the economy are exhibiting wage pressure, and that he expects the recent uptick investment to last a while.

Top Asian News

  • Alibaba’s Rise Creates 10 Billionaires Not Named Jack Ma
  • Widening Citizenship Fiasco Threatens Aussie Confidence
  • Hong Kong Stocks Rise to 10-Year High as AAC Tech and AIA Jump
  • Noble Group Shares Extend Slump to 16% as DBS Said to Cut Loans

European bourses have kicked the week off modestly higher/flat (Eurostoxx 50 +0.1%) with outperformance in the FTSE 100 amid the softer GBP. In terms of sector specific moves, health care names have seen a modest bout of outperformance with Novartis at the top of the SMI following a positive drug update. Elsewhere, financial names underperform after Italian banks have seen little benefit from news on Friday that ECB can only impose capital requirements on banks to provide for bad loans on a case-by-case basis. Bunds and Gilts have slowly extended their respective recoveries from last Friday’s closes and intraday lows, the former finding traction when intraday tech support at 162.18 held, and gathering a bit of momentum when 162.34 (resistance and 50% retrace of the previous session sell-off) was surpassed. The next upside objective on some charts is the 162.50-56 area vs a  162.49 high so far, and if that is achieved then 162.73 will close a gap. Market contacts suggest that longs may not get twitchy unless Friday’s 162.13 low is breached. The 10 year UK debt future has traded up to 124.66 for a  35 tick gain on the day, and aside from short covering after the pre-weekend there has been plenty of incentive for bulls to step back in on the latest PM May/Government turmoil. US Treasuries also stabilising following recent bear-steepening that was deemed to be at least partly due to re-positioning (ie flatteners unwound).

Top European News

  • Ultra Electronics Drags Defense Stocks on CEO Ouster, Forecast
  • Four in 10 London Homesellers Cutting Prices in Tough Market
  • U.K. Labour Says May Lacks Power to Deliver Brexit Transition
  • European Stocks Downgraded, Seen as Vulnerable Zone at Kepler

In FX markets, GBP has been the main mover overnight with pressure mounting on UK PM May amidst reports of a rising rebellion within the Conservative Party ranks. Cable has now retreated through 1.3100 and bears will be targeting the post-BoE rate hike low of 1.3040, if 1.3050 is breached on the downside (reportedly an objective for one major bank). Elsewhere, the EUR is firmer vs the Greenback as the pair consolidates recent gains above 1.1650, but a confirmed topside break of the 1.1550-1.1170 range only seen if 1.1690 (21 DMA) near term chart resistance is breached. Comments from ECB’s Constancio this morning have come in on the dovish side, stating that “Much-feared inflationary pressures have not materialised, nor can they be foreseen in the immediate future”. AUD is currently capped below 0.7700 after dovish or bearish on balance comments from RBA deputy Governor Debelle (wages to remain low for some time).

In energy markets, WTI and Brent crude futures trade modestly lower with reports of an earthquake in Iraq and tensions in the Gulf
region ultimately doing little for oil prices. Additionally, press reports from over the weekend suggested that the Saudi King has no
plans to step down while the Iraqi oil minister has ordered an acceleration of repair works at the Bai Hasan and Avana oilfields near
Kirkuk; exports remain at a halt. In metals, gold prices have ticked higher in recent trade in a mild retracement of Friday’s losses.
Elsewhere, Chinese steel rebar futures were supported overnight amid output reductions in some of the nation’s lager steelmaking
cities. Finally, Chinese iron ore demand is forecast to fall by 6mln tonnes in November as China plans to curb steel production
during the winter to meet air pollution targets, according to the CISA (China Steel & Iron Association)
Oman Oil Minister says does not believe there will be deeper production cuts. (Newswires)
The Iraqi oil minister has ordered an acceleration of repair works at the Bai Hasan and Avana oilfields near Kirkuk. However,
exports remain at a halt

US Event Calendar

  • Nov. 13-Nov. 17: MBA Mortgage Foreclosures, prior 1.29%
  • Nov. 13- Nov. 17: Mortgage Delinquencies, prior 4.24%
  • 2pm: Monthly Budget Statement, est. $58.0b deficit, prior $45.8b deficit

DB’s Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

It’s almost a pleasure to get back to work to see what happens next after a fascinating last couple of days for markets (ok it’s all relative). Although 2016 marked a turning point for our structural view on rates and inflation (higher) due to populism (more fiscal), peak QE, demographics (peak labour supply around middle of this decade), and perhaps peak regulation, we must admit that the dovish taper from the ECB over two weeks ago made us wonder whether the next leg to our trade might delayed for a few months. We still felt the unfunded US tax cut was under-priced by markets which was still the main avenue for higher yields. However up until Wednesday evening everything was becalmed – equities continued to hit new record or multi-year highs, bonds were moving towards multi-month lows in yields and volatility was low again with the VIX back below 10 and the MOVE index (Treasury vol) back down around all-time lows. Then Thursday started with a wild (in today’s terms) swing in the Nikkei and we then saw a rare simultaneous sell-off in equities, rates and spreads.

Just for ease, below we’ll detail the 2-day sell off in a number of assets with Friday’s move in brackets. All bond market moves are 10yr yields. USTs +6.4bp (+5.7bp), Bunds +8.4bp (+3.5bp), Gilts +11.7bp (+7.9bp) and BTPs +9.9bp (+3bp). In equities, DAX -1.91% (-0.42%), CAC -1.66% (-0.50%), FTSE -1.28% (-0.68%), FTSE-MIB -1.18% (-0.36%), and the Bovespa -2.96% (-1.05%). In credit, Crossover +10.6bp (+1.4bp) and CDX HY +8.2bp (+1.1bp).
Obviously these moves are still relatively small in the greater scheme of things and only bring us back to levels days before rather than months before in most indices (HY US ETFs an exception as back to March levels) but the suddenness of the move without warning or catalyst has provoked a lot of attention. The blame has been placed on the following factors, none of which fully explain the reversal but are worth highlighting. Weak EMFX and (US) HY over the last few weeks, continuous flattening of global yield curves since the ECB meeting, difficulties in the tax reform plan, and Saudi tensions from last weekend and the associated rise in Oil that this has encouraged.

Indeed Oil is up 9.3% over the last three weeks and up 30.4% since the lows in June. Maybe with this rise in Oil, 10 year Bunds shouldn’t be flirting with 30bps as they did on Wednesday regardless of the ECB. Given these moves, this week’s inflation numbers are the perfect opportunity for things to calm down or volatility to continue to pick up. The most significant is the October CPI report in the US on Wednesday. The consensus is for a small +0.1% mom lift in the headline and +0.2% mom lift in the core. Remember though that the latter has missed relative to market expectations in six out of the last seven months. We think we may see more positive surprises in 2018 but not necessarily yet. Also due this week will be final October CPI revisions for Germany and the UK tomorrow, France on Wednesday and the Euro area on Thursday. In the UK the older inflation measure RPI is expected to go above 4% for the first time since December 2011. Looking further back, since May 1992 we’ve only seen RPI above this level for 42 months (13.8% of the time) out of the last c25 years. Meanwhile even with the late week Gilt sell off, 10-year yields remain at a lowly 1.34%. Not a brilliant real return potential in our opinion!

So inflation is the big thing this week but we’ll also see Euroarea Q3 GDP tomorrow although no change from the +0.6% qoq flash print is expected. Also tomorrow China sees its monthly bulk activity numbers and US retail sales is out on Thursday. As you’ll see in the week ahead at the end its a packed week for central bank speakers with the highlight being tomorrow’s ECB policy panel discussion in Frankfurt which includes a star studded line up with the ECB’s Draghi, Fed’s Yellen, BoE’s Carney and BoJ’s Kuroda all participating. Elsewhere Mr Trump’s Asia tour comes to an end in the first half of the week where he will attend the East Asia Summit to discuss strategic political and security issues in the region and tomorrow Mrs May’s Brexit legislation is the subject of two days of examination in the House of Commons. The full day-by-day week ahead is available at the end and a reminder that our  new “Next Week… This Week” document from Friday includes all this and an easy to read cut-out and keep of all upcoming events.

Now on to the US tax plan, the House’s version of the tax bill is expected to go to a full House vote this week (either Thursday or Friday), while the Senate’s plans will begin its mark-up process today with an expectation for a full senate vote before 23 November. Over the weekend, there was more rhetoric across the spectrum. The House and Means Committee Chairman Brady noted he will not budge on certain things, noting that “I’m committed to” a compromise that would preserve the deduction for state and local proper taxes vs. the Senate’s plans which expect a full elimination. Elsewhere, President Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn said he expects the tax bills go to a conference committee that reconciles differences between the House and Senate versions before returning a report to both chambers for final passage. He noted that the conferees “will decide what stays and what goes” and they’ll pick and choose the different parts that they think are important”. Indeed, it feels like both versions of the tax plans are opening gambits and the hard work begins when the bills are reconciled. Our US economist believes there is a decent chance that some version of tax reform can be achieved, but this is likely to be a Q1 event with potential stumbling blocks along the way.

In the UK, the Sunday Times reported that 40 Conservative MPs have agreed to sign a letter of no confidence in the UK PM, almost enough to trigger a leadership challenge (need eight more MPs). This morning, Sterling is down 0.56% against the USD and as mentioned earlier, PM May’s Brexit legislation will be debated in the House of Commons this week.

This morning in Asia, markets are mixed. The Nikkei (-0.68%), Kospi (-0.45%) and ASX 200 (-0.24%) are down modestly, while Hang Seng is up 0.17% as we type. Elsewhere, Bitcoin has dropped -10.21% this morning (c17% in two days), in part as Bloomberg reports that traders are buying its alternative instead (Bitcoin cash). Over in Japan, the October PPI was above expectations at 0.3% mom (vs. 0.1% expected) and 3.4% yoy (vs. 3.1% expected).

Now briefly recapping other markets performance on Friday. US bourses softened and posted its first down week since September (-0.21%) amid uncertainty over US tax reforms. The S&P (-0.09%) and Dow (-0.17%) fell slightlywhile Nasdaq was virtually flat. Within the S&P, modest gains in the consumer staples and telco sector were more than offset by losses from energy and healthcare names. The US dollar index dipped 0.06%, while Euro and Sterling gained 0.20% and 0.39% respectively. The VIX jumped 7.52% and was up 23.5% for the week at 11.29.

Despite the pull back in US equities last week, our global asset strategists remain bullish. They note the duration of the equity rally “without” a typical 3-5% pullback has been very unusual. Further the speed and the size of the current rally have not been unusual and that while multiples are high relative to their historical averages, they are in line with their historical drivers. Overall, they see S&P 500 EPS growth of 11% in 2018, supported by stable robust US growth, a pickup in global growth and assuming a range bound dollar. At 19.5x PE, they have an S&P target of 2850 for 2018 but expect more regular (3%-5%) pullbacks to resume next year. Refer to the link for more details.

Over in Catalonia, Spain PM Rajoy visited the region for the first time since the government retook control. He called on “the silent or silenced majority” voters that oppose secessionism to “convert its voices into votes” in the upcoming 21 December regional election. Further, he noted “it’s urgent to return a sense of normality to Catalonia” and that he “ask all companies that have worked in Catalonia not to leave”.

Back to China’s financial sector liberalisation measures announced back on Friday, including: i) foreign investors can own controlling stakes (51%) in local securities JVs, ii) removing restriction that foreign companies can only own less than 20% of a Chinese bank and iii) allowing foreign insurance companies to own up to 51% of local individual insurance company 3 years from now (100% in 5 yrs). Our China Chief economist notes that this is a big step toward opening up the service sector to the world and consistent with the message from the 19th Party Congress. They expect the reform will help to promote FDI inflows and offset some of the capital outflows. Refer to the link for more details.

Before we take a look at the calendar, we wrap up with other data releases from Friday. In the US, the November University of Michigan consumer confidence was lower than expectations at 97.8 (vs. 100.8). At the end of last week, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate of 4Q GDP growth was 3.3% saar while the NY Fed’s Nowcast estimate sits at 3.2% saar.

In the UK, the macro data was above expectations. The September IP was 0.7% mom (vs. 0.3% expected) – the 6th consecutive month gain, leading to annual growth of 2.5% yoy (vs. 1.9% expected). Elsewhere, manufacturing production also beat at 0.7% mom (vs. 0.3% expected) and 2.7% yoy (vs. 2.4% expected). In France, the September IP slightly beat at 0.6% mom (vs. 0.5% expected) and 3.2% yoy (vs. 3.1% expected), but manufacturing production was lower than expected at 0.4% mom (vs. 0.8%) and 3.1% yoy (vs. 3.4% expected). Italy’s September IP also disappointed, at -1.3% mom (vs. -0.3% expected) and 2.4% yoy (vs. 4.8% expected).

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Trump Reverses, Sides With Intel Agencies Over Russia Election Meddling; Offers To Mediate South China Sea Dispute

One day after Trump caused the latest round of broad media outrage when he reportedly sided with Putin over Russia’s alleged “election interference”, while slamming US intel agencies, and repeating his allegation that the investigation is a ‘hoax’, and the FBI a “bunch of hacks,” Trump reversed himself and “cleared up confusion” over whether he accepts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of meddling in the U.S. election last year.

Speaking at a news conference in Vietnam with President Tran Dai Quang on Sunday morning local time, Trump distanced himself from remarks he made one day earlier in which he suggested he believed Putin when he said there had been no Russian meddling in the election that took him to the White House. The comments drew a backlash of criticism at home because US intelligence agencies have long since “concluded” there was Russian meddling.

As a result, Trump was careful to make clear he sided with the intelligence agencies under his own leadership: “What I said is, I believe Putin believes that,” Trump told reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam. “I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. What he believes is what he believes.”

Trump then added that “as to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted, with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly.”

The comment was made shortly after Trump tweeted that “When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!”

Still, despite the backlash driven clarification, Trump has repeatedly called allegations of campaign collusion with Moscow a hoax, angering US intel chiefs. U.S. intelligence agencies have also concluded Russians interfered to tip the election in Trump’s favour through hacking and releasing emails to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and spreading social media propaganda, in a year-long attempt to deflect attention from Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss, and scapegoat it on outside actors.

On Saturday, former U.S. intelligence director James Clapper told Reuters: “the fact the president of the United States would take Putin at his word over that of the intelligence community is quite simply unconscionable.”

As noted above, Trump’s comments siding with intel agencies bizarrely also come after he hit former U.S. intelligence officials by name, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey. 

“I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks,” Trump said on Air Force One, according to White House pool reports. He was discussing the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump. “So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey,” he continued. “Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker.”

Separately,  also during his meeting with the Vietnam president, Trump offered to mediate and arbitrate in the dispute over the South China Sea, where four Southeast Asian countries and Taiwan contest China’s sweeping claims to the busy waterway. “I am a very good mediator and a very good arbitrator,” President Trump said during his meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi.  “If I can be of help in any way let me know.”

Trump also said that U.S. and Vietnam “will be great trade partners” and added that “we’re going to do a tremendous amount of trade…billions and billions.”

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Trump Slams Intel Chiefs After Meeting With Putin: “They’re Political Hacks”

While President Donald Trump was effectively forced to cancel a formal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin due to the glare of the Mueller indictments – despite the fact that the charges had seemingly little to do with his campaign – the two leaders still took a minute to chat on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific conference in VIetnam on Saturday. Photos captured Putin ominously whispering a message into his surrogate’s ear, before posing for a few photos alongside other world leaders, with one photo featuring a much discussed handshake between Putin and Trump.

Afterward, when reporters asked if he was worried about the Mueller probe, Trump repeated his allegation that the investigation is a ‘hoax’, with the president calling the FBI a “bunch of hacks,” according to the New York Post.

“They’re political hacks,” Trump said of the former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former FBI chief James Comey, who have said that the evidence of Russian meddling is clear.

 

“You have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker. So you look at that,” Trump said. “And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that."

 

But he fell short of saying that he took Putin’s word.

 

“Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him,” Trump said. “I would rather have him get out of Syria, to be honest with you. I would rather … get to work with him on the Ukraine rather than standing and arguing about whether or not— because that whole thing was set up by the Democrats."

Of course, this isn’t the first time Trump has lashed out at his own intelligence community over its finding that Russia actively intervened to try and sway the November 2016 election in Trump’s favor. It’s also not the first time he’s said he believes Putin’s claim that Russia had nothing to do with the hacks.

Two days ago, the DOJ declared that Russia Today would need to register as a Foreign Agent, or its staff would risk arrest in the US.

President Trump on Saturday brushed off allegations that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, and implied he would take Vladimir Putin’s word on the matter more seriously than the opinions of some US intelligence officials.

Meanwhile, the CIA has reaffirmed that the Russia interference narrative remains the official position of the US intelligence community by issuing a rebuttal to the president’s statement.

Trump also said the suspicions about Putin are hurting his ability to develop a closer relationship with the leader in order to have more productive discussions on North Korea, the Hill reported.

“We could really be helped a lot with Russia having to do with North Korea,” Trump said.

 

“You know you are talking about millions and millions of lives. This isn’t baby stuff, this is the real deal. And if Russia helped us, in addition to China, that problem would go away a lot faster."

Trump and Putin met Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Danang, Vietnam. Though they didn’t have a “formal” meeting scheduled, Trump says they will issue a joint statement later in the day. What that statement is about is unclear.. Trump said the two leaders had “two or three very short conversations” during the larger forum and discussed Syria.

Predictably, Trump said Putin is “very insulted” by the suggestion Moscow attempted to hack the election.

Because presumably, if Putin had done it, he would’ve done a much better job…

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