U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sellout

Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador.

.. “It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government,”

.. During President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Putin pivoted a question about extraditing the 12 Russian intelligence officers whom Robert Mueller has indicted into a quid pro quo for going after longtime betes noire currently beyond his reach.

.. Putin singled out Bill Browder, whose exposure of widespread Russian tax fraud led to the passage of a U.S. human rights sanctions law Putin hates. Standing next to Trump, the Russian president accused Browder of masterminding an illegal campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton and alleging vaguely that he had “solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions.” Should Trump permit the Russians to question people around Browder, Putin hinted, he will let Mueller’s people be “present at questioning” of the intelligence officers.

.. On Wednesday, Russian prosecutors escalated the stakes. The prosecutor-general’s office said it wanted to interview Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, another Putin bete noire. McFaul—the Obama-era ambassador to Moscow—replied on Twitter that the Russians know well that he wasn’t even in Russia during the relevant time frame for any case against Browder.

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out permitting the Russians to question McFaul. Sanders said that there had been “some conversation” in Helsinki about the issue, though Trump made no “commitment.”
.. Heather Nauert called the Russian request for McFaul “absolutely absurd”—which was closer in line with how former U.S. diplomats viewed Putin’s gambit.If the U.S. would make a former diplomat avail for questioning by a foreign government without evidence of wrongdoing, then that would be quite horrifying,” said Ron Neumann,

.. Susan Rice, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Barack Obama’s national security adviser, tweeted that the lack of commitment to protecting McFaul was “beyond outrageous.
.. If the White House cannot defend and protect our diplomats, like our service members, they are serving a hostile foreign power not the American people.”
.. “To even hint that there’s some element of credibility to Russian disruptions and distractions puts a bullseye on the back of any diplomat and invites authoritarian regimes to bully and threaten American public servants for the crime of doing their job
.. Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesman for the Obama National Security Council, said Sanders’ comments made Trump look “even weaker” than during Trump’s Monday press conference with Putin. “Trump has always been all too eager to cave to Putin, but, as far as we know, it’d been largely in the abstract. He sells out our intelligence community, attacks NATO, shelves our commitment to human rights. But Putin now has specific demands in the form of human beings—one of them formerly our designated representative to Russia,” Price said.
.. “By failing to reject the idea out of hand – immediately and forcefully – Trump signaled that absolutely nothing is off limits when it comes to Putin. And just as shocking, he’s willing to play Putin’s brand of ball, in which the world is purely transactional and lives are expendable.”
.. The current U.S. diplomat said the openness to turning over McFaul capped off a shocking week for U.S. geopolitics.
.. The president has first and foremost his interests at the top of his mind, as opposed to the government’s. That’s very clear over the past week and a half, between shitting on our NATO allies and kissing Putin’s ass,” the diplomat said. “He cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it.”The diplomat continued: “Either he’s compromised by Putin or he’s a pussy, in which case he should grab himself.”

The Two Things That Will Determine Netanyahu’s Fate

With the Israeli police recommending that he be indicted, the prime minister is entering a major battle for political survival.

.. Twenty-one years ago, in early 1997, the Israeli police announced its recommendation that Benjamin Netanyahu, then a 47-year-old first-term prime minister, be criminally indicted for breach of public trust.

.. The attorney general in 1997—a well respected jurist beyond suspicion—decided that the case was too weak for trial. Nor did the police recommendation alone cause Netanyahu’s coalition partners to leave the government or go to new elections. And so, the 1997 police recommendation notwithstanding, Netanyahu survived politically and continued to serve until 1999, when he was defeated in the ballot box.

 .. he is entering a major, perhaps final battle for political survival.
.. Case 1000, involves a longstanding Netanyahu household practice of receiving regular gifts from a small set of multi-millionaires, some with business interests in Israel.
.. “Receiving gifts from friends is not forbidden” is the Netanyahu public defense.
.. the case reflects the widespread perception that the Netanyahu family enjoys the good life just a little too much for public servants, and often disregards norms and perhaps even the law in pursuit of perks. Netanyahu, in this regard, ushered in an age of leaders who didn’t espouse the modest, even austere image of the early-day Israeli leaders.  

.. Case 2000, involves the media, and it is in many ways far more troubling. Netanyahu has been media-focused and media-savvy, more than any other Israeli leader.
.. he Madrid peace conference of 1991. He was armed with perfect English, a baritone voice, and an American style of speaking, replete with well-crafted sound-bites, visual gimmicks, and—a novelty in 1990s Israel—an interest in the minutiae of interviews: how to apply makeup and which camera angle to choose for best effect.
.. He seemed then to be part of a wave of young, attractive American-style politicians around the democratic world, such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schroder, even if ideologically he was much closer to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl.
.. Over the decades, he has paid a great deal of attention to message management, and, increasingly, to management of the media itself.
.. In 2007, however, something dramatic changed. The main newspapers in Israel suddenly found themselves outmatched in their own game: a new publication, Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”) appeared on Israeli streets. Rather than a hostile tone toward Netanyahu, Israel Hayom (also known as the Bibi-paper) propagated an adoring tone toward Netanyahu and his family, and a hostile one toward Olmert, the center, and the left. Israel Hayom’s cover price was unbeatable: 0.00 shekels.
.. No one suffered more from the entry of Israel Hayom than the old papers, chief among them Yediot Ahronot. The Israeli public took up the free publication; when Netanyahu became prime minister Israel Hayom also adopted a positive, optimistic tone about the direction of the country, and all this at no financial cost to the reader. It became the mostly widely read publication, dethroning Yediot Ahronot after many years, and causing havoc throughout the press scene.
.. Case 2000 surrounds a shocking revelation: a tape recording unearthed in a separate investigation of apparent negotiations between Netanyahu and the publisher of Yediot Ahronot. The purported deal was a detente between the two warring factions: the publisher, Noni Mozes, would provide more favorable coverage for Netanyahu in his paper, and Netanyahu would limit the circulation of the competitor Israel Hayom to weekdays, leaving the lucrative weekend editions to Yediot Ahronot.
.. Netanyahu has claimed that he was just bluffing; there was no real quid-pro-quo, merely a proof of precisely what Netanyahu had been saying all these years: The media moguls were out to get him
.. the deal never came to fruition
.. the police claim, Netanyahu was not bluffing; he convened parliamentarians to see what legislation might be promoted to limit his own ally publication and looked into implementing the deal. He was, they claim, conspiring to use his official position to the benefit of a commercial entity in exchange for a political favor. If a correct interpretation of the facts, that is bribery.

.. Netanyahu has now publicly acknowledged that the “Israel Hayom bill” (not Iran, or the Palestinians, or economic affairs) was the reason for calling the elections
.. Some members of his own party would hope that he resign without an election, meaning that one of them
would replace him temporarily.
.. He may point to the letter of Israeli law, which does not require a prime minister’s resignation until conviction (despite precedent to the contrary
.. Israelis are correct, however, that the string of corruption cases in the past two decades have brought a new a level of shamelessness to Israeli political life.
.. If his term ends in the coming year it will be because he is forced to: most likely his partners eventually force him to resign, or the voting public opts for someone holding a broom.

The Great American Tax Heist

when this bill leads to these predicted deficits, Republicans will return to their sidelined deficit rhetoric armed with a sickle, aiming the blade at the social safety net, exacerbating the egregious imbalance of the tax bill’s original sins.

.. That’s the strategy: Appease the rich on the front end; punish the poor on the back. Feed the weak to the strong.

.. No matter how folks try to rationalize this bill, it has nothing to do with a desire to help the middle class or the poor. This is a cash offering to the gods of the Republican donor class. This is a bill meant to benefit Republicans’ benefactors. This is a quid pro quo and the paying of a ransom.

.. Last month at a rally in Missouri, Trump said of the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me.” He continued:

.. “This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s O.K. You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.”

That, too, was a lie.

..  It also lines the pockets of people like Senator Bob Corker, who mysteriously “coincidentally” switched his vote from a no to a yes on the bill after the language was added.

.. Donald Trump is a plutocrat masquerading as a populist. He is a pirate on a mission to plunder.

.. Republicans in Congress rushed the bill through for other reasons: to combat the fact of their own legislative incompetence, to satisfy their donors and to honor their long-held belief that the rich are America’s true governing force.

.. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.