Doing Advance Work

News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Tinker, Tailor, Clapper, Carter, Downer, Halper, Spy, by Mark Steyn...("Special relationship:" Free round trip airfare from US to London along with invitations to posh UK events with dignitaries given to two Trump volunteers in 2016)

8/1/2013, The US government has paid at least £100m [$139,426,261 US dollars] to the UK spy agency GCHQ [equivalent of US NSA] over the last three years [2009-2012] to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes. The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands." Aug. 1, 2013, "Exclusive: NSA pays £100m [$137,290,032] in secret funding for GCHQ," UK Guardian, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger
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Free round trip air fare from US to London, England provided to two Trump volunteers in 2016:

1. George Papadopoulos: "So the Trump aide woke up one August [2016] morning to an email from a Cambridge academic he'd never heard of, inviting him on an all-expenses paid trip back to Britain to give a speech for $3000. Once in London, Halper casually inquired of his new friend, "George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?"" (image of Papadopoulos below from Daily Caller)

George Papadopoulos,











2. Carter Page: "And while he [Carter Page] did not speak at the [London] event [July 11 and 12, 2016], he says the organizers paid his round trip air fare from New York....Mr. Page says the invitation to that event came much earlier-the end of May or early June. Mr. Page declined to say who invited him but says it was someone other than Mr. Halper....Mr. Halper kicked off the opening session on July 11. Mr. Page confirms he met Mr. Halper for the first time at the symposium."...5/22/18, "When Carter Page met Stefan Halper," Wall St. Journal Editorial Board..."A timeline that contradicts claims by Justice and the FBI."

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5/22/18, "Tinker, Tailor, Clapper, Carter, Downer, Halper, Spy," Mark Steyn, Steyn on America
As I think most persons paying attention now realize, the investigation into foreign interference with the 2016 election was created as a cover for domestic interference with the 2016 election.

It was run at the highest (or deepest) Deep State levels by the likes of James Clapper and John Brennan, whose frantic and hysterical Tweets are like no utterances of any CIA director in history. That also explains one of the puzzling aspects of the last year that I've occasionally mentioned here and on TV and radio: If you were truly interested in an "independent" Special Counsel, why would you appoint Robert Mueller? He's a lifetime insider and the most connected man in Washington - a longtime FBI Director, and Assistant Attorney-General and acting Deputy Attorney-General at the Department of Justice.

Exactly. His most obvious defect as an "independent" counsel is, in fact, his principal value to the likes of Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein: He knows, personally, almost every one in the tight little coterie of discredited upper-echelon officials, and he has a deep institutional loyalty to bodies whose contemporary character he helped create. In other words, he's the perfect guy to protect those institutions. As for the nominal subject of his investigation, well, he's indicted a bunch of no-name Russian internet trolls who'll never set foot in a US courthouse. That's not even worth the cost of printing the complaint. Rush Limbaugh has been kind enough to quote, several times, my line that "there are no Russians in the Russia investigation". Which is true.  






or, to use today's preferred term, "Commonwealth citizens". All the action in this case takes place not in Moscow but in southern England.

Let's start at Cambridge University with a two-day conference  called "2016's Race to Change the World", held on July 11th and 12th 2016 - or three weeks before the FBI supposedly began its "counterintelligence" operation against Trump, codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane"....

I do my share of international junketing, but the bill of fare for this curious symposium is so bland as to be almost generic - panels titled "Europe and America", "2016 and the World", "Global Challenges Facing the Next President".  

Compared to the laser-like focus of a typical Cambridge confab ("A Westphalia for the Middle East?"), it's almost as if someone were trying to create an event so anodyne and torpid no one would notice it. All that distinguished these colorless presentations was the undoubted eminence of the speakers: former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind; and Sir Richard Dearlove, former C (that's M, for 007 fans) at MI6. 

The conference appears to have been put together at a couple of weeks' notice by Steven Schrage, former "Co-Chair of the G8's Anti-Crime and Terrorism Group" and a well-connected man on the counterterrorism cocktail circuit: Here he is introducing Mitt Romney to the director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, and here he is spending election night in the UK at a party with Scotland Yard elite counterterrorist types. Make of that what you will - it's a somewhat odd background for the convenor of an insipid, vanilla, cookie-cutter foreign-policy seminar - but among the small number of strangely prestigious attendees at Mr Schrage's conference were:
~Carter Page, a petroleum-industry executive and Trump campaign volunteer;
~Christopher Steele, the former head of the Russia house at MI6;
~Stefan Halper, a University of Cambridge professor with dual UK/US citizenship.
Today, Mr Page [who "was an FBI cooperating asset in 2013, and remained the primary FBI witness through May of 2016"] is better known as the endlessly surveilled "person of interest" whose eternally renewable FISA warrant was the FBI's gateway into the Trump campaign; Mr Steele is a sometime FBI asset who, a week before the Cambridge conference, had approached the G-men with the now famous "dossier" that provided the pretext for the FISA application; and Professor Halper turns out to be not some tweedy academic but a man with deep connections to MI6 and the CIA, on the payroll of something at the Pentagon called the "Office of Net Assessment", and (one of) the supposed FBI informant(s) inside the Trump circle. 

Carter Page says that in the course of this two-day conference he met Professor Halper for the first time. But I was struck by this aside Mr Page made to Sara Carter: 

"Madeliene Albright was always trying to get me to go into public debates. I told her I was there just as a listener, just as an attendee."...

At the FISA court, the FBI, to bolster their reliance on the Steele dossier, pointed to newspaper stories appearing to corroborate aspects of it - even though, as he subsequently testified under oath at the Old Bailey, those stories were in fact fed to those reporters by Steele himself. Nevertheless, it works like a charm on gullible FISA judges. You take one thing and you make it two things. Or even better, you take nothing and you make it a thing: Here, from yesterday's letter by Senator Ron Johnson, are McCabe, Sally Yates and other FBI/DOJ honchos arranging for Comey to brief Trump on the Steele dossier for the sole purpose of giving CNN a news peg for leaking details about what's in it. 

It's almost as if that's what Madeleine Albright is doing here, isn't it? It's one thing to invite Carter Page to show up at some tedious yakfest at Cambridge with Halper sitting in front of him and Chris Steele sitting behind.

But what if you could get Page to stand up and say something? Then you could find a friendly journo to report it and, instead of just a nobody on the fringes of the campaign, you'd have a "senior Trump advisor" sharing his thoughts on the global scene with Madam Albright and Sir Richard and Sir Malcolm and all the other bigshots, and then you could use that story three weeks later at the FISA court, to demonstrate how deep into the heart of the campaign the Russkies had penetrated. 

Instead, Professor Halper has to make do with chit-chatting to Mr Page over the tea and biscuits, and planting the seeds for a friendly relationship. 

Herewith a note on the academic circuit: emeritus professors and visiting fellows are popular covers with espionage agencies because there's minimal work and extensive foreign travel, to international talking shops like the one above. If you make the mistake of being a multinational businessman and go to foreign countries to meet with other businessmen, you'll be investigated up the wazoo. But, if you're a professor and you go to foreign countries to meet with other professors, the world is your oyster. You also get to meet young people, who are the easiest to recruit.

Here's another professor, and from another Commonwealth country: Malta. Joseph Mifsud is (was) a professorial fellow at the University of Stirling in Scotland, but is (was) based in London as a principal of the "London Centre of International Law Practice" and a director of the "London Academy of Diplomacy", both of which sound fancy-schmancy but are essentially hollow entities operating from the same premises - 8, Lincoln's Inn Fields, a tony address (next to the London School of Economics and the Royal College of Surgeons) but the "London Centre/Academy"'s fifth in three years and at which they and a handful of other endeavors are holed up in a minimally furnished back room filled by four interns round a trestle table on fifty quid a week. 

Professor Mifsud also has (had) similarly undemanding academic sinecures at the "Euro-Mediterranean University" in Slovenia and "Link Campus University" in Italy. At the beginning of March last year [2016], a young man called George Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign. On March 14th, traveling through Italy, he met with Professor Mifsud. They got together again in Britain, and at some point Papadopoulos became head of the "London Centre of International Law Practice"'s soi-disant "Centre for International Energy and Natural Resources Law and Security", a post for which he had no obvious qualifications. 

Happily, like most other jobs at the "London Centre", it didn't require work, or showing up at the "London Centre" or even being in London.

Mifsud is said to have ties to high-ranking figures in Moscow, but there seems to be more prima facie evidence of ties to high-ranking figures in London. That's Professor Mifsud above with my old friend Boris Johnson, Britain's Foreign Secretary, at some Brexit event last October 19th. On October 31st [2017] Joseph Mifsud disappeared and has not been seen since. 

I know how he feels: The same thing happened to me twelve days after I lunched with Boris at The Spectator in early 2006. Is (was) Mifsud an FSB asset? An MI6 asset? Both? Neither? Well, there's more circumstantial evidence of Mifsud's ties to British intelligence, including multiple meetings with, inter alia, Claire Smith of the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee.

At any rate, back in London on April 26th 2016, Professor Mifsud told young Papadopoulos that the Russians have all this "dirt" on Hillary, "thousands of emails". A couple of days later, a friend of George's at the Israeli Embassy, Christian Cantor, introduced him to Erika Thompson, who worked for Alexander Downer, Canberra's High Commissioner in the UK, at Australia House. On May 4th, Papadopoulos was quoted in The Times of London denouncing David Cameron for calling Trump "divisive, stupid and wrong". On May 6th, Ms Thompson called Papadopoulos to say that Mr Downer wanted to meet him. On May 10th they met for drinks at the Kensington Wine Rooms. Young George claims that the High Commissioner told him to "leave David Cameron alone". Which doesn't sound quite right to me....

Somewhere in the course of the evening a pretty squiffy Papadopoulos lifted his head up from the bowl of cocktail olives and started blabbing about Russian "dirt" on Hillary. 

Another digression: Mr Downer was Australia's longest serving foreign minister and, as I used to say in those days, "my favorite foreign minister". Since then, he has spent many years on the "advisory board" of Hakluyt, a curiously named body set up by former MI6 chaps.... As for Hakluyt, its website is here....

At any rate Mr Downer relayed the information about young George to Aussie Intelligence back home. Canberra sat on the info for two months and then passed it along to the Yanks in late July [2016], just in time for that FISA application.

And so, as July turned to August [2016], Peter Strzok bade farewell to his "paramour" Lisa Page and flew to London for a sit-down with the High Commissioner at Australia House. When Strzok reported back to Washington, the FBI sicced the omnipresent "professor" Stefan Halper on George Papadopoulos. 

So the Trump aide woke up one August [2016] morning to an email from a Cambridge academic he'd never heard of, inviting him on an all-expenses-paid trip back to Britain to give a speech for $3,000. Once in London, Halper casually inquired of his new friend, "George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?"

Right. As Rush put it, the day before I guest-hosted last week: 

"He was a nothing. He was a nobody, which made him a perfect mark. He was a young guy who wanted to go places... He actually put on his résumé that he had participated in Model UN in high school." 

Just so: Papadopoulos was the perfect mark. And the easiest way to reel him in is to get him off his home turf. In your own neighborhood, you have your routine - your usual bars, favorite restaurants; you notice if something's off. But, flown to London, you have no routine, no old haunts. You go where you're invited, you're introduced to important people - like "High Commissioners", woshever the hell thash ish, hic - and you want them to think you're important, too, so you reveal that you know all about the Russian "dirt" on Hillary. 

So you got that from the Russians, right? Er, no. I got it from a Maltese guy in Italy who's a Scottish professor and plugged in to MI6, and then I told it to an Australian bloke in London who's also plugged in to MI6 and told me to lay off David Cameron, and then an American guy in Cambridge who's plugged in to MI6 reminded me about it to see if I'd deny all knowledge of it, which would be suspicious, wouldn't it..? 

As I said, and as Rush likes to quote, there are no Russians in the Russia investigation....You just put these things out there and a few months later they come back to you, via Canberra and the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing program and suddenly it's "independently" "corroborated" "evidence" from a respected ally and you can take it to a FISA judge. 

There were two investigations into presidential candidates during the 2016 election. But, as Andrew McCarthy reminds us, these two investigations were not the same. The Clinton "matter" was a criminal investigation - because there was credible evidence that Hillary had committed criminal acts. 

The FBI had no such clear-cut goods on Trump. So they had to find something else: 

"The scandal is that the FBI, lacking the incriminating evidence needed to justify opening a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign, decided to open a counterintelligence investigation. With the blessing of the Obama White House, they took the powers that enable our government to spy on foreign adversaries and used them to spy on Americans — Americans who just happened to be their political adversaries." 

And the advantage of a "counterintelligence investigation", unlike a criminal investigation, is that everything in it is "classified". So that even an obvious set-up at a Cambridge confab or Kensington wine bar is "intelligence" that has to be "protected" for "national security" reasons.  

It's a brazen, audacious scheme, and unlikely to have been loosed without the approval, however discreetly stated, of the then President. 

Occam's Razor suggests that the man running the operation was the CIA's John Brennan through the "inter-agency taskforce" that met at Langley. But Brennan isn't that reckless: Go back to Madeleine Albright urging Carter Page to speak up at a Cambridge conference; Christopher Steele leaking parts of his dossier to the newspapers; a staffer at Australia House inviting George Papadopoulos for a drink... The best way to turn nothing into something is to plant it somewhere far away and wait for it to work its way back to you: 

"Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives the Guardian has been told."

Golly, you don't say! I wonder who "told" The Guardian that. A conference here, a speech there, a cocktail round the corner, and pretty soon you have the simulacrum of "counterintelligence" concerns from America's closest allies: 

"According to one account, GCHQ's then head, Robert Hannigan, passed material in summer 2016 to the CIA chief, John Brennan. The matter was deemed so sensitive it was handled at "director level". After an initially slow start, Brennan used GCHQ information and intelligence from other partners to launch a major inter-agency investigation." 

Er, wait a minute. If it's "so sensitive" it's being handled "director-to-director", why isn't the head of GCHQ meeting with his opposite number at NSA? Why's he meeting with Brennan?

Hey, don't get hung up on details. It all went brilliantly - except for one tiny detail: Hillary managed to do the impossible and lose. On January 23rd 2017, three days after Trump's inauguration, GCHQ at Cheltenham Tweeted the sad fate of Mr So Sensitive: 

"We're sorry to announce that Robert Hannigan, our Director since 2014, has decided to step down as head of GCHQ." 

Oh, dear. Well, enjoy your sudden retirement, old boy. Unfortunately, for Brennan and Comey and McCabe and Strzok and the others on this side of the Atlantic in the third week of January, it wasn't quite that simple. Because, instead of protecting Hillary, they were now protecting themselves - so it was necessary to dig in and double-down on the "Russia investigation".

Which sounds super-credible except for one small point: there was never a Russia investigation. As Andrew McCarthy sums it up: 

"Opening up a counterintelligence investigation against Russia is not the same thing as opening up a counterintelligence investigation against the Trump campaign." 

Which is what they did - Brennan and Clapper and Comey and McCabe. They took tools designed to combat America's foreign enemies and used them against their own citizens and their political opposition.  

It was an intentional subversion of the electoral process conducted at the highest level by agencies with almost unlimited power. 





That's what Brennan's telling us on Twitter, and Clapper on "The View":

Yeah? So what? Whatcha gonna do about it? [Come and get us, chumps.]

Good question."

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Comment: They planned for the message to be: Never again must anyone even think about running for US president if he or she is outside the Beltway Establishment. The US will be joined by governments all over the world in attempting to destroy such a person.

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Among comments
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In the present day and age I'd have problems applying the term 'respected ally' to the UK....Unfortunately it has probably gotten to the tipping point where there are more UK 'citizens', or perhaps I should say 'inhabitants', that are particularly hostile towards President Trump and his vision for America....They're working towards tighter integration with the EUtopia and the continued destruction of Britain. Prime Minister May is most certainly among them."...

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Added: Two UK Guardian articles: 1. 2013, UK was indebted to Obama after he gave them $139 million in free spy equipment; 2. 2017, UK proudly gave its Obama admin. benefactors "first " information of Trump team's alleged "links" to Russia
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Obama gave $139 million in spy equipment to UK government from 2009 to 2012. UK was expected to fulfill Obama and US NSA surveillance needs. UK’s more lenient surveillance regulations were a key selling point:

Aug. 1, 2013, “Exclusive: NSA [US taxpayers] pays £100m  in secret funding for GCHQ,” [$139,426,261 US dollars] UK Guardian, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger 

*Secret payments revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden 
*GCHQ expected to ‘pull its weight’ for Americans
*Weaker regulation of British spies ‘a selling point’ for NSA 

The US government has paid at least £100m [$139,426,261 US dollars] to the UK spy agency GCHQ [equivalent of US NSA] over the last three years [2009-2012] to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes. The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. “GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said. 

The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ [UK spy operations] and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.

In one revealing document from 2010, GCHQ acknowledged that the US had “raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSA’s minimum expectations”. It said GCHQ “still remains short of the full NSA ask”.

Ministers have denied that GCHQ does the NSA’s “dirty work”, but in the documents GCHQ describes Britain’s surveillance laws and [more lenient] regulatory regime as a “selling point” for the Americans.

The papers are the latest to emerge from the cache leaked by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has railed at the reach of the US and UK intelligence agencies.

Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic. “It’s not just a US problem,” he said. “They are worse than the US.”

As well as the payments, the documents seen by the Guardian reveal:

GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to “exploit any phone, anywhere, any time”.

Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive programme expressed concern about “the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved”.

The amount of personal data available to GCHQ from internet and mobile traffic has increased by 7,000% in the past five years – but 60% of all Britain’s refined intelligence still appears to come from the NSA.

GCHQ blames China and Russia for the vast majority of cyber-attacks against the UK and is now working with the NSA to provide the British and US militaries with a cyberwarfare capability.

The details of the NSA payments, and the influence the US has over Britain, are set out in GCHQ’s annual “investment portfolios”. 

The papers show that the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9m in 2009. 

The following year (2010) the NSA’s contribution increased to £39.9m, which included £4m to support GCHQ’s work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2m for the agency’s Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of “raw” information ready for analysis.

The NSA also paid £15.5m towards redevelopments at GCHQ’s sister site in Bude, north Cornwall, which intercepts communications from the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic. “Securing external NSA funding for Bude has protected (GCHQ’s core) budget,” the paper said.

In 2011/12 the NSA paid another £34.7m to GCHQ. [Running tally: 113.2 million British pounds= $157,671,696 US dollars].  

The papers show the NSA [US taxpayers] pays half the costs of one of the UK’s main eavesdropping capabilities in Cyprus

In turn, GCHQ has to take the American view into account when deciding what to prioritise....

Other documents say the agency must ensure there has been “an appropriate level of contribution … from the NSA perspective”.

The leaked papers reveal that the UK’s biggest fear is that “US perceptions of the…partnership diminish, leading to loss of access, and/or reduction in investment … to the UK”.

When GCHQ does supply the US with valuable intelligence, the agency boasts about it. In one review, GCHQ boasted that it had supplied “unique contributions” to the NSA during its investigation of the American citizen responsible for an attempted car bomb attack in Times Square, New York City, in 2010....

It raises the possibility that GCHQ might have been spying on an American living in the US. The NSA is prohibited from doing this by US law.

Asked about the payments, a Cabinet Office spokesman said: “In a 60-year alliance it is entirely unsurprising that there are joint projects in which resources and expertise are pooled, but the benefits flow in both directions.”

A senior security source in Whitehall added: “The fact is there is a close intelligence relationship between the UK and US and a number of other countries including Australia and Canada. There’s no automaticity, not everything is shared. A sentient human being takes decisions.”

Although the sums represent only a small percentage of the agencies’ budgets, the [US taxpayer] money has been an important source of income for GCHQ. The cash came during a period of cost-cutting at the agency that led to staff numbers being slashed from 6,485 in 2009 to 6,132 last year.

GCHQ seems desperate to please its American benefactor and the NSA does not hold back when it fails to get what it wants. On one project, GCHQ feared if it failed to deliver it would “diminish NSA’s confidence in GCHQ’s ability to meet minimum NSA requirements”. Another document warned: “The NSA ask is not static and retaining ‘equability’ will remain a challenge for the near future.”

In November 2011, a senior GCHQ manager working in Cyprus bemoaned the lack of staff devoted to one eavesdropping programme, saying: “This is not sustainable if numbers reduce further and reflects badly on our commitments to the NSA.”

The overriding necessity to keep on the right side of the US was revealed in a UK government paper that set out the views of GCHQ in the wake of the 2010 strategic defence and security review. The document was called: “GCHQ’s international alliances and partnerships: helping to maintain Britain’s standing and influence in the world. It said: “Our key partnership is with the US. We need to keep this relationship healthy. The relationship remains strong but is not sentimental. GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight.”

Astonishingly, the document admitted that 60% of the UK’s high-value intelligence “is based on either NSA end-product or derived from NSA collection”. End product means official reports that are distillations of the best raw intelligence.

Another pitch to keep the US happy involves reminding Washington that the UK is less regulated than the US. The British agency described this as one of its key “selling points”. This was made explicit two years ago when GCHQ set out its priorities for the coming years.

“We both accept and accommodate NSA’s different way of working,” the document said. “We are less constrained by NSA’s concerns about compliance.”

GCHQ said that by 2013 it hoped to have “exploited to the full our unique selling points of geography, partnerships [and] the UK’s legal regime”.

However, there are indications from within GCHQ that senior staff are not at ease with the rate and pace of change. The head of one of its programmes warned the agency was now receiving so much new intelligence that its “mission management … is no longer fit for purpose”....

The Snowden documents show GCHQ has become increasingly reliant on money from “external” sources."...

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Second UK Guardian article, 4/13/2017: Subservient UK is naturally thrilled when describing what it believes  are services rendered to Obama, as outlined in above 2013 article.

UK spies were "first," had "crucial" role in foreign meddling in 2016 US election, supplied alleged anti-Trump info dating from 2015 to Obama admin.

"Exclusive: GCHQ [UK Government Communications Headquarters] is said to have alerted US agencies after becoming aware of contacts in 2015....Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told."...UK GCHQ of course says they didn't target Trump, acquired data incidentally and gave it to Obama officials:

 April 13, 2017, "British spies were first to spot Trump team's links with Russia," UK Guardian, Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Nick Hopkins

Exclusive: GCHQ [UK Government Communications Headquarters] is said to have alerted US agencies after becoming aware of contacts in 2015.

"It is understood that GCHQ was not carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team, but picked up the alleged conversations by chance."
"Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said. 

The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence – known as sigint – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said. Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors. 

It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information. The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets. Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the US. 

The issue of GCHQ’s role in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into possible cooperation between the Trump campaign and Moscow is highly sensitive. In March Trump tweeted that Barack Obama had illegally “wiretapped” him in Trump Tower.... 

Both US and UK intelligence sources acknowledge that GCHQ played an early, prominent role in kickstarting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, which began in late July 2016.

One source called the British eavesdropping agency the “principal whistleblower”. 

The Guardian has been told the FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow ahead of the US election. This was in part due to US law that prohibits US agencies from examining the private communications of American citizens without warrants. “They are trained not to do this,” the source stressed. 

“It looks like the [US] agencies were asleep,” the source added. “They [the European agencies] were saying: ‘There are contacts going on between people close to Mr Trump and people we believe are Russian intelligence agents. You should be wary of this.’ 

“The message was: ‘Watch out. There’s something not right here.’” 

According to one account, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, passed material in summer 2016 to the CIA chief, John Brennan. The matter was deemed so sensitive it was handled at “director level”. After an initially slow start, Brennan used GCHQ information and intelligence from other partners to launch a major inter-agency investigation. 
 
In late August and September [2016] Brennan gave a series of classified briefings to the Gang of Eight, the top-ranking Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. He told them the agency had evidence the Kremlin might be trying to help Trump to win the presidency, the New York Times reported. [April 6, 2017, "C.I.A. Had Evidence of Russian Effort to Help Trump Earlier Than Believed," NY Times, Eric Lichtblau]

One person familiar with the matter said Brennan did not reveal sources but made reference to the fact that America’s intelligence allies had provided information. Trump subsequently learned of GCHQ’s role, the person said.

The person described US intelligence as being “very late to the game”. The FBI’s director, James Comey, altered his position after the election and Trump’s victory, becoming “more affirmative” and with a “higher level of concern”.

Comey’s apparent shift may have followed a mid-October decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court to approve a secret surveillance order. The order gave permission for the Department of Justice to investigate two banks suspected of being part of the Kremlin’s undercover influence operation.

According to the BBC, the justice department’s request came after a tipoff from an intelligence agency in one of the Baltic states. This is believed to be Estonia.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the same order covered Carter Page, one of Trump’s associates. It allowed the FBI and the justice department to monitor Page’s communications. Page, a former foreign policy aide, was suspected of being an agent of influence working for Russia, the paper said, citing US officials. [The reverse is true. Carter Page was an FBI cooperating asset in 2013, and remained the primary FBI witness through May of 2016 and FBI's successful completion of Buryakov case].

The application covered contacts Page allegedly had in 2013 with a Russian foreign intelligence agent, and other undisclosed meetings with Russian operatives, [From 2013-2016 Carter Page was an FBI asset: Carter Page was an FBI cooperating asset in 2013, and remained the primary FBI witness through May of 2016] the Post said. Page denies wrongdoing and complained of “unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance”.

Late last year [2016] Comey threw more FBI resources into what became a far-reaching counter-intelligence investigation. In March he confirmed before the House intelligence committee that the agency was examining possible cooperation between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign to sway the US election.

Comey and the NSA director, Admiral Michael Rogers, said there was no basis for the president’s claim that he was a victim of Obama “wiretapping”. Trump had likened the unproved allegation to “McCarthyism”.

Britain’s MI6 spy agency played a part in intelligence sharing with the US, one source said. MI6 declined to comment. Its former chief Sir Richard Dearlove described Trump’s wiretapping claim on Thursday as “simply deeply embarrassing for Trump and the administration”.

  “The only possible explanation is that Trump started tweeting without understanding how the NSA-GCHQ relationship actually works,” Dearlove told Prospect magazine.

A GCHQ spokesperson said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters”.

It is unclear which individuals were picked up by British surveillance.

In a report last month the New York Times, citing three US intelligence officials, said warning signs had been building throughout last summer but were far from clear. As WikiLeaks published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, US agencies began picking up conversations in which Russians were discussing contacts with Trump associates, the paper said.

European allies were supplying information about people close to Trump meeting with Russians in Britain, the Netherlands and in other countries, the Times said.

There are now multiple investigations going on in Washington into Trump campaign officials and Russia. They include the FBI-led counter-espionage investigation and probes by both the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House committee, has expressed an interest in hearing from Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer whose dossier accuses the president of long-term cooperation with Vladimir Putin’s Moscow. Trump and Putin have both dismissed the dossier as fake.

One source suggested the official investigation was making progress. “They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,” the source said.

“This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.”"
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Added: More on US-UK "special relationship:" From Washington Post, 2013: UK is free to massively surveil Americans in the US which NSA is supposedly not allowed to do: "To widen its access, it [US NSA] teamed up with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ....The NSA believed it did not need permission from Congress or judicial oversight. Data from hundreds of millions of U.S. accounts flowed over those Google and Yahoo links, but classified rules allowed NSA to presume that data ingested overseas belonged to foreigners."...

Dec. 23, 2013, "Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission's accomplished," Washington Post, Barton Gellman

"Using PRISM, the cover name for collection of user data from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and five other U.S.-based companies, the NSA could obtain all communications to or from any specified target. The companies had no choice but to comply with the government's request for data.

But the NSA could not use Prism, which was overseen once a year by the surveillance court [FISA], for the collection of virtually all data handled by those companies. To widen its access, it teamed up with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, to break into the private fiber-optic links that connected Google and Yahoo data centers around the world.

That operation, which used the cover name MUSCULAR, tapped into U.S. company data from outside U.S. territory. The NSA, therefore, believed it did not need permission from Congress or judicial oversight. Data from hundreds of millions of U.S. accounts flowed over those Google and Yahoo links, but classified rules allowed NSA to presume that data ingested overseas belonged to foreigners."...

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Added: Reuters, 2013: UK's GCHQ "is sharing vast quantities of personal information with the U.S. National Security Agency."

June 21, 2013, "British spy agency taps cables, shares with U.S. NSA-Guardian," Reuters, London

"Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has tapped fibre-optic cables that carry international phone and internet traffic and is sharing vast quantities of personal information with the U.S. National Security Agency, the Guardian newspaper said on Friday....

Earlier this month, in response to questions about the secret U.S. data-monitoring program Prism, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament that GCHQ always adhered to British law when processing data gained from eavesdropping. He would not confirm or deny any details of UK-U.S. intelligence sharing....


“In line with long-standing practice we do not comment on intelligence matters,” a GCHQ spokesman said on Friday. 

NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel rejected any suggestion the U.S. agency used the British to do things the NSA cannot do legally. Under U.S. law, the NSA must get authorization from a secret federal court to collect information either in bulk or on specific people.

“Any allegation that NSA relies on its foreign partners to circumvent U.S. law is absolutely false. NSA does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself,” Emmel said."
 
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Added: The entire notion that US government personnel or institutions are concerned about "national security" is fake. References to "national security" are only to shut us up and prevent us from having a safe country. If anyone in the "intelligence community" or entire US political class cared in the slightest about the safety of Americans, they'd long ago have done two things: closed and barricaded the southern US border and forbidden Muslims from entering the country. Instead, they flood the country 24/7 with dangerous people in any way they can, even creating such things as "Diversity Lotteries" to bring unvetted third world persons from violent cultures to the US to overwhelm if not commit mass murder of Americans. If we say one word about not wishing to participate in our own genocide, we're called "racist."


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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Trump eases draconian rules on small and community banks, bill passes both House and Senate with bipartisan support. Changes part of Dodd Frank law that favored big banks at expense of those "too small to save" -NY Times

Obama financial reforms gave big banks "a market advantage over smaller banks (those Paul Volcker calls too small to save”)."
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May 22, 2018, Congress Approves First Big Dodd-Frank Rollback,  NY Times, Alan Rappeport, Emily Flitter

Congress agreed on Tuesday to free thousands of small and medium-sized banks from strict rules that had been enacted as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to prevent another meltdown.
The bill stops far short of unwinding the toughened regulatory regime put in place to prevent the nation’s biggest banks from engaging in risky behavior, but it represents a substantial watering down of Obama-era rules governing a large swath of the banking system. The legislation will leave fewer than 10 big banks in the United States subject to stricter federal oversight, freeing thousands of banks with less than $250 billion in assets from a post-crisis crackdown that they have long complained is too onerous.
Republican lawmakers and the banking industry cheered a measure they said would help unshackle banks--and the economy--from regulatory burdens.
Paul D. Ryan, the House Speaker and Wisconsin Republican, said the bill’s passage was a step toward “freeing our economy from overregulation.”
“It’s a bad bill under the guise of helping community banks,” Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic minority leader, said during debate on the House floor on Tuesday. “The bill would take us back to the days when unchecked recklessness on Wall Street ignited an historic financial meltdown.”
The Dodd-Frank bill was a Democrat-led initiative that passed with the support of just three Republicans and it has been under constant attack from Republicans ever since. Left-leaning lawmakers like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio have blasted their more moderate colleagues, like Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, for supporting the legislation, and Democratic leaders have tried to prevent any lawmakers from crossing the aisle to support the bill....
The overtures did not prevent several Democrats from crossing party lines in favor of the legislation — 33 Democrats voted for it, and one Republican, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, voted against it....
Once the bill is signed by Mr. Trump, small and medium-sized banks will no longer be required to undergo “stress tests” aimed at measuring their ability to withstand a severe economic downturn. The legislation also offers a reprieve to big — but not behemoth — banks, allowing large institutions like American Express and BB and T to no longer be deemed “systemically important” and subject to stricter oversight....
While the legislation does little to help the very largest banks like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, the Trump administration has been working behind the scenes through its regulatory agencies to weaken capital requirements and ease other restrictions on such firms....
Republicans saw Tuesday’s vote as merely the beginning, not the end, of the Dodd-Frank legislative rollback....
Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said the bill was a victory for Americans who depend on small banks and credit unions.
“The Main Street banks and credit unions that these people depend on, they’ve been suffering, they’ve been suffering for years under the weight, the load, the volume, the complexity and cost of heavy Washington bureaucratic red tape,” he said.
Mr. Hensarling said he remained hopeful that the Senate would consider some of the other, smaller deregulation bills that the House has passed, but their fates remain uncertain....
Conservative groups that have been strong opponents of Dodd-Frank say more must be done to fix the regulatory overreach created by the crisis.
The legislation unfortunately leaves intact the bulk of Dodd-Frank, including its most crushing burdens on consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs,” said John Berlau, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank. “To provide real financial relief for Americans, much more is required of Congress, the president and regulatory agencies.”…
Senior White House officials said after the bill passed that they hoped to get it to Mr. Trump’s desk for signing before Memorial Day. While they would not say that it fulfilled the president’s promise of repealing Dodd-Frank, they called it an important step toward ridding the economy of regulations that have held back growth.”
 “Correction: 
Earlier versions of this article incorrectly identified the name of the think tank where John Berlau is a senior fellow. It is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, not the Conservative Enterprise Institute.”
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Added: From AP. The bill also gives consumers a break in cases of data breaches, requires credit freezes to be granted at no charge to all consumers affected by data breaches. The Equifax breach exposed 145 million Americans:
May 22, 2018, “Bill rolling back Dodd-Frank regulations goes to Trump, AP via Breitbart
"The House voted 258-159 on Tuesday to approve legislation rolling back [one part] the Dodd-Frank law, notching a legislative win for President Donald Trump, who made gutting the landmark law a campaign promise....The Senate voted 67-31 to approve it in March....
In response to the Equifax breach that exposed personal information for more than 145 million Americans, the bill requires free credit freezes for all consumers affected by data breaches. Currently most states allow the credit reporting companies to charge consumers a fee for freezing their credit."...
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Added: "Obama's big sellout" to Wall Street, Rolling Stone article, Dec. 2009archived, copied here by Infinite Unknown blog 
Obama financial reforms gave big banks "a market advantage over smaller banks (those Paul Volcker calls “too small to save”)."
"What’s taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside....Sen. Maria Cantwell [Democrat] of Washington...went so far as to say the [Obama's] new laws would make things worse."
12/12/2009, "Obama's Big Sellout," Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine

"The president has packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway.
Image from Rolling Stone
 and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers “at the expense of hardworking Americans.” Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it’s not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing.
Then he got elected.
What’s taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.
How could Obama let this happen? Is he just a rookie in the political big leagues, hoodwinked by Beltway old-timers? Or is the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests we’ve been seeing on TV this fall who Obama really is?
Whatever the president’s real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial “reforms” that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street’s political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer’s role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama’s top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.
How did we get here? It started just moments after the election — and almost nobody noticed.
Just look at the timeline of the Citigroup deal,” says one leading Democratic consultant. “Just look at it. It’s fucking amazing. Amazing! And nobody said a thing about it.”
Barack Obama was still just the president-elect when it happened, but the revolting and inexcusable $306 billion bailout that Citigroup received was the first major act of his presidency. In order to grasp the full horror of what took place, however, one needs to go back a few weeks before the actual bailout — to November 5th, 2008, the day after Obama’s election.
That was the day the jubilant Obama campaign announced its transition team. Though many of the names were familiar — former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, long-time Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett — the list was most notable for who was not on it, especially on the economic side. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who had served as one of Obama’s chief advisers during the campaign, didn’t make the cut. Neither did Karen Kornbluh, who had served as Obama’s policy director and was instrumental in crafting the Democratic Party’s platform. Both had emphasized populist themes during the campaign: Kornbluh was known for pushing Democrats to focus on the plight of the poor and middle class, while Goolsbee was an aggressive critic of Wall Street, declaring that AIG executives should receive “a Nobel Prize — for evil.”
But come November 5th, both were banished from Obama’s inner circle — and replaced with a group of Wall Street bankers. Leading the search for the president’s new economic team was his close friend and Harvard Law classmate Michael Froman, a high-ranking executive at Citigroup. During the campaign, Froman had emerged as one of Obama’s biggest fundraisers, bundling $200,000 in contributions and introducing the candidate to a host of heavy hitters — chief among them his mentor Bob Rubin, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs who served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Froman had served as chief of staff to Rubin at Treasury, and had followed his boss when Rubin left the Clinton administration to serve as a senior counselor to Citigroup (a massive new financial conglomerate created by deregulatory moves pushed through by Rubin himself).
Incredibly, Froman did not resign from the bank when he went to work for Obama: He remained in the employ of Citigroup for two more months, even as he helped appoint the very people who would shape the future of his own firm. And to help him pick Obama’s economic team, Froman brought in none other than Jamie Rubin, a former Clinton diplomat who happens to be Bob Rubin’s son. At the time, Jamie’s dad was still earning roughly $15 million a year working for Citigroup, which was in the midst of a collapse brought on in part because Rubin had pushed the bank to invest heavily in mortgage-backed CDOs and other risky instruments.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting. It’s three weeks after the election. You have a lame-duck president in George W. Bush — still nominally in charge, but in reality already halfway to the golf-and-O’Doul’s portion of his career and more than happy to vacate the scene. Left to deal with the still-reeling economy are lame-duck Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former head of Goldman Sachs, and New York Fed chief Timothy Geithner, who served under Bob Rubin in the Clinton White House. Running Obama’s economic team are a still-employed Citigroup executive and the son of another Citigroup executive, who himself joined Obama’s transition team that same month.
So on November 23rd, 2008, a deal is announced in which the government will bail out Rubin’s messes at Citigroup with a massive buffet of taxpayer-funded cash and guarantees. It is a terrible deal for the government, almost universally panned by all serious economists, an outrage to anyone who pays taxes. Under the deal, the bank gets $20 billion in cash, on top of the $25 billion it had already received just weeks before as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But that’s just the appetizer. The government also agrees to charge taxpayers for up to $277 billion in losses on troubled Citi assets, many of them those toxic CDOs that Rubin had pushed Citi to invest in. No Citi executives are replaced, and few restrictions are placed on their compensation. It’s the sweetheart deal of the century, putting generations of working-stiff taxpayers on the hook to pay off Bob Rubin’s fuck-up-rich tenure at Citi. “If you had any doubts at all about the primacy of Wall Street over Main Street,” former labor secretary Robert Reich declares when the bailout is announced, “your doubts should be laid to rest.”
It is bad enough that one of Bob Rubin’s former protégés from the Clinton years, the New York Fed chief Geithner, is intimately involved in the negotiations, which unsurprisingly leave the Federal Reserve massively exposed to future Citi losses. But the real stunner comes only hours after the bailout deal is struck, when the Obama transition team makes a cheerful announcement: Timothy Geithner is going to be Barack Obama’s Treasury secretary!
Geithner, in other words, is hired to head the U.S. Treasury by an executive from Citigroup — Michael Froman — before the ink is even dry on a massive government giveaway to Citigroup that Geithner himself was instrumental in delivering. In the annals of brazen political swindles, this one has to go in the all-time Fuck-the-Optics Hall of Fame.
Wall Street loved the Citi bailout and the Geithner nomination so much that the Dow immediately posted its biggest two-day jump since 1987, rising 11.8 percent. Citi shares jumped 58 percent in a single day, and JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley soared more than 20 percent, as Wall Street embraced the news that the government’s bailout generosity would not die with George W. Bush and Hank Paulson. “Geithner assures a smooth transition between the Bush administration and that of Obama, because he’s already co-managing what’s happening now,” observed Stephen Leeb, president of Leeb Capital Management.
Left unnoticed, however, was the fact that Geithner had been hired by a sitting Citigroup executive who still had a big bonus coming despite his proximity to Obama. In January 2009, just over a month after the bailout, Citigroup paid Froman a year-end bonus of $2.25 million. But as outrageous as it was, that payoff would prove to be chump change for the banker crowd, who were about to get everything they wanted — and more — from the new president.
The irony of Bob Rubin: He’s an unapologetic arch-capitalist demagogue whose very career is proof that a free-market meritocracy is a myth. Much like Alan Greenspan, a staggeringly incompetent economic forecaster who was worshipped by four decades of politicians because he once dated Barbara Walters, Rubin has been held in awe by the American political elite for nearly 20 years despite having fucked up virtually every project he ever got his hands on. He went from running Goldman Sachs (1990-1992) to the Clinton White House (1993-1999) to Citigroup (1999-2009), leaving behind a trail of historic gaffes that somehow boosted his stature every step of the way.
As Treasury secretary under Clinton, Rubin was the driving force behind two monstrous deregulatory actions that would be primary causes of last year’s financial crisis: the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (passed specifically to legalize the Citigroup megamerger) and the deregulation of the derivatives market. Having set that time bomb, Rubin left government to join Citi, which promptly expressed its gratitude by giving him $126 million in compensation over the next eight years (they don’t call it bribery in this country when they give you the money post factum). After urging management to amp up its risky investments in toxic vehicles, a strategy that very nearly destroyed the company, Rubin blamed Citi’s board for his screw-ups and complained that he had been underpaid to boot. “I bet there’s not a single year where I couldn’t have gone somewhere else and made more,” he said.
Despite being perhaps more responsible for last year’s crash than any other single living person — his colossally stupid decisions at both the highest levels of government and the management of a private financial superpower make him unique — Rubin was the man Barack Obama chose to build his White House around.
There are four main ways to be connected to Bob Rubin: through Goldman Sachs, the Clinton administration, Citigroup and, finally, the Hamilton Project, a think tank Rubin spearheaded under the auspices of the Brookings Institute to promote his philosophy of balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation. The team Obama put in place to run his economic policy after his inauguration was dominated by people who boasted connections to at least one of these four institutions — so much so that the White House now looks like a backstage party for an episode of Bob Rubin, This Is Your Life!
At Treasury, there is Geithner, who worked under Rubin in the Clinton years. Serving as Geithner’s “counselor” — a made-up post not subject to Senate confirmation — is Lewis Alexander, the former chief economist of Citigroup, who advised Citi back in 2007 that the upcoming housing crash was nothing to worry about. Two other top Geithner “counselors” — Gene Sperling and Lael Brainard — worked under Rubin at the National Economic Council, the key group that coordinates all economic policymaking for the White House.
As director of the NEC, meanwhile, Obama installed economic czar Larry Summers, who had served as Rubin’s protégé at Treasury. Just below Summers is Jason Furman, who worked for Rubin in the Clinton White House and was one of the first directors of Rubin’s Hamilton Project. The appointment of Furman — a persistent advocate of free-trade agreements like NAFTA and the author of droolingly pro-globalization reports with titles like “Walmart: A Progressive Success Story” — provided one of the first clues that Obama had only been posturing when he promised crowds of struggling midwesterners during the campaign that he would renegotiate NAFTA, which facilitated the flight of blue-collar jobs to other countries. “NAFTA’s shortcomings were evident when signed, and we must now amend the agreement to fix them,” Obama declared. A few months after hiring Furman to help shape its economic policy, however, the White House quietly quashed any talk of renegotiating the trade deal. “The president has said we will look at all of our options, but I think they can be addressed without having to reopen the agreement,” U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk told reporters in a little-publicized conference call last April.
The announcement was not so surprising, given who Obama hired to serve alongside Furman at the NEC: management consultant Diana Farrell, who worked under Rubin at Goldman Sachs. In 2003, Farrell was the author of an infamous paper in which she argued that sending American jobs overseas might be “as beneficial to the U.S. as to the destination country, probably more so.”
Joining Summers, Furman and Farrell at the NEC is Froman, who by then had been formally appointed to a unique position: He is not only Obama’s international finance adviser at the National Economic Council, he simultaneously serves as deputy national security adviser at the National Security Council. The twin posts give Froman a direct line to the president, putting him in a position to coordinate Obama’s international economic policy during a crisis. He’ll have help from David Lipton, another joint appointee to the economics and security councils who worked with Rubin at Treasury and Citigroup, and from Jacob Lew, a former Citi colleague of Rubin’s whom Obama named as deputy director at the State Department to focus on international finance.
Over at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is supposed to regulate derivatives trading, Obama appointed Gary Gensler, a former Goldman banker who worked under Rubin in the Clinton White House. Gensler had been instrumental in helping to pass the infamous Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which prevented deregulation of derivative instruments like CDOs and credit-default swaps that played such a big role in cratering the economy last year. And as head of the powerful Office of Management and Budget, Obama named Peter Orszag, who served as the first director of Rubin’s Hamilton Project. Orszag once succinctly summed up the project’s ideology as a sort of liberal spin on trickle-down Reaganomics: “Market competition and globalization generate significant economic benefits.”
Taken together, the rash of appointments with ties to Bob Rubin may well represent the most sweeping influence by a single Wall Street insider in the history of government. “Rather than having a team of rivals, they’ve got a team of Rubins,” says Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. “You see that in policy choices that have resuscitated — but not reformed — Wall Street.”
While Rubin’s allies and acolytes got all the important jobs in the Obama administration, the academics and progressives got banished to semi-meaningless, even comical roles. Kornbluh was rewarded for being the chief policy architect of Obama’s meteoric rise by being outfitted with a pith helmet and booted across the ocean to Paris, where she now serves as America’s never-again-to-be-seen-on-TV ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Goolsbee, meanwhile, was appointed as staff director of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, a kind of dumping ground for Wall Street critics who had assisted Obama during the campaign; one top Democrat calls the panel “Siberia.”
Joining Goolsbee as chairman of the PERAB gulag [Siberia] is former Fed chief Paul Volcker, who back in March 2008 helped candidate Obama write a speech declaring that the deregulatory efforts of the Eighties and Nineties had “excused and even embraced an ethic of greed, corner-cutting, insider dealing, things that have always threatened the long-term stability of our economic system.” That speech met with rapturous applause, but the commission Obama gave Volcker to manage is so toothless that it didn’t even meet for the first time until last May. The lone progressive in the White House, economist Jared Bernstein, holds the impressive-sounding title of chief economist and national policy adviser — except that the man he is advising is Joe Biden, who seems more interested in foreign policy than financial reform.
The significance of all of these appointments isn’t that the Wall Street types are now in a position to provide direct favors to their former employers. It’s that, with one or two exceptions, they collectively offer a microcosm of what the Democratic Party has come to stand for in the 21st century. Virtually all of the Rubinites brought in to manage the economy under Obama share the same fundamental political philosophy carefully articulated for years by the Hamilton Project: Expand the safety net to protect the poor, but let Wall Street do whatever it wants. “Bob Rubin, these guys, they’re classic limousine liberals,” says David Sirota, a former Democratic strategist. “These are basically people who have made shitloads of money in the speculative economy, but they want to call themselves good Democrats because they’re willing to give a little more to the poor. That’s the model for this Democratic Party: Let the rich do their thing, but give a fraction more to everyone else.”
Even the members of Obama’s economic team who have spent most of their lives in public office have managed to make small fortunes on Wall Street. The president’s economic czar, Larry Summers, was paid more than $5.2 million in 2008 alone as a managing director of the hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and pocketed an additional $2.7 million in speaking fees from a smorgasbord of future bailout recipients, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. At Treasury, Geithner’s aide Gene Sperling earned a staggering $887,727 from Goldman Sachs last year for performing the punch-line-worthy service of “advice on charitable giving.” Sperling’s fellow Treasury appointee, Mark Patterson, received $637,492 as a full-time lobbyist for Goldman Sachs, and another top Geithner aide, Lee Sachs, made more than $3 million working for a New York hedge fund called Mariner Investment Group. The list goes on and on. Even Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who has been out of government for only 30 months of his adult life, managed to collect $18 million during his private-sector stint with a Wall Street firm called Wasserstein-Perella.
The point is that an economic team made up exclusively of callous millionaire-assholes has absolutely zero interest in reforming the gamed system that made them rich in the first place. “You can’t expect these people to do anything other than protect Wall Street,” says Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida. That thinking was clear from Obama’s first address to Congress, when he stressed the importance of getting Americans to borrow like crazy again. “Credit is the lifeblood of the economy,” he declared, pledging “the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money.” A president elected on a platform of change was announcing, in so many words, that he planned to change nothing fundamental when it came to the economy. Rather than doing what FDR had done during the Great Depression and institute stringent new rules to curb financial abuses, Obama planned to institutionalize the policy, firmly established during the Bush years, of keeping a few megafirms rich at the expense of everyone else.
Obama hasn’t always toed the Rubin line when it comes to economic policy. Despite being surrounded by a team that is powerfully opposed to deficit spending — balanced budgets and deficit reduction have always been central to the Rubin way of thinking — Obama came out of the gate with a huge stimulus plan designed to kick-start the economy and address the job losses brought on by the 2008 crisis. “You have to give him credit there,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders, an advocate of using government resources to address unemployment. “It’s a very significant piece of legislation, and $787 billion is a lot of money.”
But whatever jobs the stimulus has created or preserved so far — 640,329, according to an absurdly precise and already debunked calculation by the White House — the aid that Obama has provided to real people has been dwarfed in size and scope by the taxpayer money that has been handed over to America’s financial giants. “They spent $75 billion on mortgage relief, but come on — look at how much they gave Wall Street,” says a leading Democratic strategist. Neil Barofsky, the inspector general charged with overseeing TARP, estimates that the total cost of the Wall Street bailouts could eventually reach $23.7 trillion. And while the government continues to dole out big money to big banks, Obama and his team of Rubinites have done almost nothing to reform the warped financial system responsible for imploding the global economy in the first place.
The push for reform seemed to get off to a promising start. In the House, the charge was led by Rep. Barney Frank, the outspoken chair of the House Financial Services Committee, who emerged during last year’s Bush bailouts as a sharp-tongued critic of Wall Street. Back when Obama was still a senator, he and Frank even worked together to introduce a populist bill targeting executive compensation. 
Last spring, with the economy shattered, Frank began to hold hearings on a host of reforms, crafted with significant input from the White House, that initially contained some very good elements. There were measures to curb abusive credit-card lending, prevent banks from charging excessive fees, force publicly traded firms to conduct meaningful risk assessment and allow shareholders to vote on executive compensation. There were even measures to crack down on risky derivatives and to bar firms like AIG from picking their own regulators.
Then the committee went to work — and the loopholes started to appear.
The most notable of these came in the proposal to regulate derivatives like credit-default swaps. Even Gary Gensler, the former Goldmanite whom Obama put in charge of commodities regulation, was pushing to make these normally obscure investments more transparent, enabling regulators and investors to identify speculative bubbles sooner. But in August, a month after Gensler came out in favor of reform, Geithner slapped him down by issuing a 115-page paper called “Improvements to Regulation of Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets” that called for a series of exemptions for “end users” — i.e., almost all of the clients who buy derivatives from banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Even more stunning, Frank’s bill included a blanket exception to the rules for currency swaps traded on foreign exchanges — the very instruments that had triggered the Long-Term Capital Management meltdown in the late 1990s.
Given that derivatives were at the heart of the financial meltdown last year, the decision to gut derivatives reform sent some legislators howling with disgust. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, who estimates that as much as 90 percent of all derivatives could remain unregulated under the new rules, went so far as to say the new laws would make things worse. “Current law with its loopholes might actually be better than these loopholes,” she said.
An even bigger loophole could do far worse damage to the economy. Under the original bill, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission were granted the power to ban any credit swaps deemed to be “detrimental to the stability of a financial market or of participants in a financial market.” By the time Frank’s committee was done with the bill, however, the SEC and the CFTC were left with no authority to do anything about abusive derivatives other than to send a report to Congress. The move, in effect, would leave the kind of credit-default swaps that brought down AIG largely unregulated.
Why would leading congressional Democrats, working closely with the Obama administration, agree to leave one of the riskiest of all financial instruments unregulated, even before the issue could be debated by the House? “There was concern that a broad grant to ban abusive swaps would be unsettling,” Frank explained.
Unsettling to whom? Certainly not to you and me — but then again, actual people are not really part of the calculus when it comes to finance reform. According to those close to the markup process, Frank’s committee inserted loopholes under pressure from “constituents” — by which they mean anyone “who can afford a lobbyist,” says Michael Greenberger, the former head of trading at the CFTC under Clinton.
This pattern would repeat itself over and over again throughout the fall. Take the centerpiece of Obama’s reform proposal: the much-ballyhooed creation of a Consumer Finance Protection Agency to protect the little guy from abusive bank practices. Like the derivatives bill, the debate over the CFPA ended up being dominated by horse-trading for loopholes. In the end, Frank not only agreed to exempt some 8,000 of the nation’s 8,200 banks from oversight by the castrated-in-advance agency, leaving most consumers unprotected, he allowed the committee to pass the exemption by voice vote, meaning that congressmen could side with the banks without actually attaching their name to their “Aye.”
To win the support of conservative Democrats, Frank also backed down on another issue that seemed like a slam-dunk: a requirement that all banks offer so-called “plain vanilla” products, such as no-frills mortgages, to give consumers an alternative to deceptive, “fully loaded” deals like adjustable-rate loans. Frank’s last-minute reversal — made in consultation with Geithner — was such a transparent giveaway to the banks that even an economics writer for Reuters, hardly a far-left source, called it “the beginning of the end of meaningful regulatory reform.
But the real kicker came when Frank’s committee took up what is known as “resolution authority” — government-speak for “Who the hell is in charge the next time somebody at AIG or Lehman Brothers decides to vaporize the economy?” What the committee initially introduced bore a striking resemblance to a proposal written by Geithner earlier in the summer. A masterpiece of legislative chicanery, the measure would have given the White House permanent and unlimited authority to execute future bailouts of megaconglomerates like Citigroup and Bear Stearns.
Democrats pushed the move as politically uncontroversial, claiming that the bill will force Wall Street to pay for any future bailouts and “doesn’t use taxpayer money.” In reality, that was complete bullshit. The way the bill was written, the FDIC would basically borrow money from the Treasury — i.e., from ordinary taxpayers — to bail out any of the nation’s two dozen or so largest financial companies that the president deems in need of government assistance. After the bailout is executed, the president would then levy a tax on financial firms with assets of more than $10 billion to repay the Treasury within 60 months — unless, that is, the president decides he doesn’t want to! “They can wait indefinitely to repay,” says Rep. Brad Sherman of California, who dubbed the early version of the bill “TARP on steroids.”
The new bailout authority also mandated that future bailouts would not include an exchange of equity “in any form” — meaning that taxpayers would get nothing in return for underwriting Wall Street’s mistakes. Even more outrageous, it specifically prohibited Congress from rejecting tax giveaways to Wall Street, as it did last year, by removing all congressional oversight of future bailouts. In fact, the resolution authority proposed by Frank was such a slurpingly obvious blow job of Wall Street that it provoked a revolt among his own committee members, with junior Democrats waging a spirited fight that restored congressional oversight to future bailouts, requires equity for taxpayer money and caps assistance to troubled firms at $150 billion. Another amendment to force companies with more than $50 billion in assets to pay into a rainy-day fund for bailouts passed by a resounding vote of 52 to 17 — with the “Nays” all coming from Frank and other senior Democrats loyal to the administration.
Even as amended, however, resolution authority still has the potential to be truly revolutionary legislation. The Senate version still grants the president unlimited power over equity-free bailouts, and the amended House bill still institutionalizes a system of taxpayer support for the 20 to 25 biggest banks in the country. It would essentially grant economic immortality to those top few megafirms, who will continually gobble up greater and greater slices of market share as money becomes cheaper and cheaper for them to borrow (after all, who wouldn’t lend to a company permanently backstopped by the federal government?). It would also formalize the government’s role in the global economy and turn the presidential-appointment process into an important part of every big firm’s business strategy. “If this passes, the very first thing these companies are going to do in the future is ask themselves, ‘How do we make sure that one of our executives becomes assistant Treasury secretary?'” says Sherman.
On the Senate side, finance reform has yet to make it through the markup process, but there’s every reason to believe that its final bill will be as watered down as the House version by the time it comes to a vote. The original measure, drafted by chairman Christopher Dodd of the Senate Banking Committee, is surprisingly tough on Wall Street — a fact that almost everyone in town chalks up to Dodd’s desperation to shake the bad publicity he incurred by accepting a sweetheart mortgage from the notorious lender Countrywide. “He’s got to do the shake-his-fist-at-Wall Street thing because of his, you know, problems,” says a Democratic Senate aide. “So that’s why the bill is starting out kind of tough.”
The aide pauses. “The question is, though, what will it end up looking like?”
He’s right — that is the question. Because the way it works is that all of these great-sounding reforms get whittled down bit by bit as they move through the committee markup process, until finally there’s nothing left but the exceptions. In one example, a measure that would have forced financial companies to be more accountable to shareholders by holding elections for their entire boards every year has already been watered down to preserve the current system of staggered votes. In other cases, this being the Senate, loopholes were inserted before the debate even began: The Dodd bill included the exemption for foreign-currency swaps — a gift to Wall Street that only appeared in the Frank bill during the course of hearings — from the very outset.
The White House’s refusal to push for real reform stands in stark contrast to what it should be doing. It was left to Rep. Pete Kanjorski in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate to propose bills to break up the so-called “too big to fail” banks. Both measures would give Congress the power to dismantle those pseudomonopolies controlling almost the entire derivatives market (Goldman, Citi, Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America control 95 percent of the $290 trillion over-the-counter market) and the consumer-lending market (Citi, Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo issue one of every two mortgages, and two of every three credit cards). On November 18th, in a move that demonstrates just how nervous Democrats are getting about the growing outrage over taxpayer giveaways, Barney Frank’s committee actually passed Kanjorski’s measure. “It’s a beginning,” Kanjorski says hopefully. “We’re on our way.” But even if the Senate follows suit, big banks could well survive — depending on whom the president appoints to sit on the new regulatory board mandated by the measure. An oversight body filled with executives of the type Obama has favored to date from Citi and Goldman Sachs hardly seems like a strong bet to start taking an ax to concentrated wealth. And given the new bailout provisions that provide these megafirms a market advantage over smaller banks (those Paul Volcker calls “too small to save”), the failure to break them up qualifies as a major policy decision with potentially disastrous consequences.
“They should be doing what Teddy Roosevelt did,” says Sanders. “They should be busting the trusts.”
That probably won’t happen anytime soon. But at a minimum, Obama should start on the road back to sanity by making a long-overdue move: firing Geithner. Not only are the mop-headed weenie of a Treasury secretary’s fingerprints on virtually all the gross giveaways in the new reform legislation, he’s a living symbol of the Rubinite gangrene crawling up the leg of this administration. Putting Geithner against the wall and replacing him with an actual human being not recently employed by a Wall Street megabank would do a lot to prove that Obama was listening this past Election Day. And while there are some who think Geithner is about to go — “he almost has to,” says one Democratic strategist — at the moment, the president is still letting Wall Street do his talking.
Morning, the National Mall, November 5th [2009]. A year to the day after Obama named Michael Froman to his transition team, his political “opposition” has descended upon the city. Republican teabaggers from all 50 states have showed up, a vast horde of frowning, pissed-off middle-aged white people with their idiot placards in hand, ready to do cultural battle. They are here to protest Obama’s “socialist” health care bill — you know, the one that even a bloodsucking capitalist interest group like Big Pharma spent $150 million to get passed.

These teabaggers don’t know that, however. All they know is that a big government program might end up using tax dollars to pay the medical bills of rapidly breeding Dominican immigrants. So they hate it. They’re also in a groove, knowing that at the polls a few days earlier, people like themselves had a big hand in ousting several Obama-allied Democrats, including a governor of New Jersey who just happened to be the former CEO of Goldman Sachs. A sign held up by New Jersey protesters bears the warning, “If You Vote For Obamacare, We Will Corzine You.”

I approach a woman named Pat Defillipis from Toms River, New Jersey, and ask her why she’s here. “To protest health care,” she answers. “And then amnesty. You know, immigration amnesty.”

I ask her if she’s aware that there’s a big hearing going on in the House today, where Barney Frank’s committee is marking up a bill to reform the financial regulatory system. She recognizes Frank’s name, wincing, but the rest of my question leaves her staring at me like I’m an alien.

“Do you care at all about economic regulation?” I ask. “There was sort of a big economic collapse last year. Do you have any ideas about how that whole deal should be fixed?”
“We got to slow down on spending,” she says. “We can’t afford it.”
“But what do we do about the rules governing Wall Street....”
She walks away. She doesn’t give a fuck. People like Pat aren’t aware of it, but they’re the best friends Obama has. They hate him, sure, but they don’t hate him for any reasons that make sense. When it comes down to it, most of them hate the president for all the usual reasons they hate “liberals” — because he uses big words, doesn’t believe in hell and doesn’t flip out at the sight of gay people holding hands. Additionally, of course, he’s black, and wasn’t born in America, and is married to a woman who secretly hates our country.
These are the kinds of voters whom Obama’s gang of Wall Street advisers is counting on: idiots. People whose votes depend not on whether the party in power delivers them jobs or protects them from economic villains, but on what cultural markers the candidate flashes on TV. Finance reform has become to Obama what Iraq War coffins were to Bush: something to be tucked safely out of sight.
Around the same time that finance reform was being watered down in Congress at the behest of his Treasury secretary, Obama was making a pit stop to raise money from Wall Street. On October 20th, the president went to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York and addressed some 200 financiers and business moguls, each of whom paid the maximum allowable contribution of $30,400 to the Democratic Party. But an organizer of the event, Daniel Fass, announced in advance that support for the president might be lighter than expected — bailed-out firms like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were expected to contribute a meager $91,000 to the event — because bankers were tired of being lectured about their misdeeds.
“The investment community feels very put-upon,” Fass explained. “They feel there is no reason why they shouldn’t earn $1 million to $200 million a year, and they don’t want to be held responsible for the global financial meltdown.”
Which makes sense. Shit, who could blame the investment community for the meltdown? What kind of assholes are we to put any of this on them?
This is the kind of person who is working for the Obama administration, which makes it unsurprising that we’re getting no real reform of the finance industry. There’s no other way to say it: Barack Obama, a once-in-a-generation political talent whose graceful conquest of America’s racial dragons en route to the White House inspired the entire world, has for some reason allowed his presidency to be hijacked by sniveling, low-rent shitheads. Instead of reining in Wall Street, Obama has allowed himself to be seduced by it, leaving even his erstwhile campaign adviser, ex-Fed chief Paul Volcker, concerned about a “moral hazard” creeping over his administration.
“The obvious danger is that with the passage of time, risk-taking will be encouraged and efforts at prudential restraint will be resisted,” Volcker told Congress in September, expressing concerns about all the regulatory loopholes in Frank’s bill. “Ultimately, the possibility of further crises — even greater crises — will increase.”
What’s most troubling is that we don’t know if Obama has changed, or if the influence of Wall Street is simply a fundamental and ineradicable element of our electoral system. What we do know is that Barack Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe it’s our fault, for thinking he was different."

http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2009/12/12/obamas-big-sellout-rolling-stone-magazine/
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Comments: Trump has done similar about faces. To the extent that he's stood for us, we appreciate it but understand that he's the last one who ever will. Not a single person in the entire political class is on the side of Americans. Meaning we're global slaves, everyone knows it, and there's nothing we can do about it. Trump was our last chance. All the money in the world is invested in making America Last. 


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I'm the daughter of an Eagle Scout (fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mets) and a Beauty Queen.