Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Drums Of War, Con't

With Trump reeling from the FBI raid on his personal lawyer, Michal Cohen, the move for a "wag the dog" style distraction is now in 110% overdrive.  Trump wants cover to fire Rosenstein, Mueller, and anybody with them.

Rod J. Rosenstein, the veteran Republican prosecutor handpicked by President Trump to serve as deputy attorney general, personally signed off on Monday’s F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney and longtime confidant, three government officials said.

The early-morning searches enraged Mr. Trump, associates said, setting off an angry public tirade Monday evening that continued in private at the White House as the president fumed about whether he should fire Mr. Rosenstein. The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

Searching a lawyer’s files is among the most sensitive moves federal prosecutors can make as they pursue a criminal investigation. Mr. Rosenstein’s personal involvement in the decision signals that the evidence seen by law enforcement officials was significant enough to persuade the Justice Department’s second-in-command that such an aggressive move was necessary.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have spent the last 24 hours trying to convince the president not to make an impulsive decision that could put the president in more legal jeopardy and ignite a controversy that could consume his presidency, several people close to Mr. Trump said. The president began Tuesday morning with a pair of angry tweets, calling the raids “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!” and venting that “attorney–client privilege is dead!”

Mr. Trump has long been mistrustful of Mr. Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, who appointed the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and now oversees his investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign and possible obstruction of justice by the president. In his remarks Monday night, the president lashed out at Mr. Rosenstein for having “signed a FISA warrant,” apparently a reference to the role Mr. Rosenstein played in authorizing the wiretap of a Trump associate in the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump considered firing Mr. Rosenstein last summer. Instead, he ordered Mr. Mueller to be fired, then backed down after the White House counsel refused to carry out the order, The New York Times reported in January. Mr. Trump is now again telling associates that he is frustrated with Mr. Rosenstein, according to one official familiar with the conversations.

That distraction and cover is already being set up. Trump has already canceled his trip to Latin America this weekend for the Summit of the Americas and is sending VP Mike Pence in his place. 

President Donald Trump is scrapping his plans to travel to Lima, Peru, later this week to attend the Summit of the Americas, instead staying in the United States to "oversee the American response to Syria," the White House said Tuesday.

Vice President Mike Pence will take Trump's place at the meetings, while the president will "monitor developments around the world," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The news comes a day after Trump said the United States had “a lot of options militarily” to respond to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend. He said Monday that his administration would decide how to react in the next "24 to 48 hours." No response has yet been announced.

The suspected poison gas attack on Saturday in the suburbs of Damascus killed dozens of people. After a similar chemical attack a year ago, Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base. Before the weekend attack, however, he had said he wanted “to get out” of the civil-war-ravaged country.

Yes, before this weekend he wanted to get out of Syria.  Now he realizes just how much he needs the US in Syria to rally the country around the flag. And if the trip cancellation wasn't a dead giveaway that major military action against Assad is imminent, the sudden resignation of homeland security advisor Tom Bossert should be.

President Donald Trump's top homeland security advisor, Tom Bossert, is stepping down, the White House announced Tuesday.

The White House did not give a reason for Bossert's departure, which came as a surprise while the president pushes to ramp up border security.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNBC that the move "seems like a natural turnover with a new [National Security Council] director." John Bolton, a foreign-policy hardliner, started as Trump's national security advisor Monday, replacing H.R. McMaster.

A Bloomberg News reporter, citing a source, said Bossert resigned at the request of Trump's new national security advisor, John Bolton.

Just two days ago Bossert was on the Sunday shows saying "all options were on the table" as far as a military response to Syria.  My guess is that Bolton's mustache wants a massive military response as the chief option on this table and Bossert objected. He's gone now as a result, and in less than 48 hours.

Things are moving very, very quickly towards something ugly in Syria.  Tomahawk missiles aren't going to cut it.  This is going to be something more. We know this because Israel has already attacked a Syrian air base in response.

Syria and its most powerful ally, Russia, blamed Israel for striking an air base in the war-torn country on Monday, following a suspected chemical gas attack that drew condemnation from world powers.  
Russia's Defense Ministry claimed two Israeli F-15 warplanes launched eight guided missiles from Lebanese territory, targeting the T-4 base in central Syria. The Defense Ministry said Syrian defense units destroyed five of the incoming missiles. 
The Lebanese Army issued a statement alleging a number of violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft between Sunday and Monday. The statement stopped short of accusing Israel of being behind the attack on the T-4 base. 
Syrian state media said that a number of people were killed or injured in the strikes and cited a military source blaming Israel for the military action. 
Israeli officials have not issued any response to reports of the strike, but its warplanes hit the same facility in February, after Israel said an Iranian drone had infiltrated its airspace. Israeli officials said Iran, a key backer of the Syrian government, was using the T-4 facility as a command center.

As I've long been saying, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life, facing multiple bribery scandals and calls for his resignation.  He needs a major escalation in Syria as much as Trump does right now and he's playing his part to get back in the good graces of the international community after scrapping a migrant relocation deal that still remains in limbo.

Taken separately, the sudden Trump reversal on Syria, the Cohen raid, the Latin American trip cancellation, Bossert's firing and the Israeli strike all would be disconcerting.  All of them happening in rapid succession is a screaming air raid siren that considerable military action will be taken this week.

It's possible that this is all a feint, but a betting man would put his chips down on a major series of attacks and soon (within days), by the US and possibly by more than one ally in the region, on Assad's forces.  Whether that will be the cover Trump needs to also remove Rosenstein and Mueller, I can't tell you.  Remember, he has already tried to fire Mueller once before.

It gets hairy and scary from here. The question was always going to be when he was going to try again, and now all indications are that this is coming.  Maybe Mueller and Rosenstein will be spared by bloodlust in Syria, but at this point I rule nothing out.

Stay tuned.

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