Sunday, December 23, 2018

(Mad) Dog Gone, Jim Con't

The Dec. 14 call came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu agreed to have the two presidents discuss Erdogan’s threats to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels in northeast Syria, where American forces are based. The NSC then set up the call.

Pompeo, Mattis and other members of the national security team prepared a list of talking points for Trump to tell Erdogan to back off, the officials said.

But the officials said Trump, who had previously accepted such advice and convinced the Turkish leader not to attack the Kurds and put U.S. troops at risk, ignored the script. Instead, the president sided with Erdogan.

In the following days, Trump remained unmoved by those scrambling to convince him to reverse or at least delay the decision to give the military and Kurdish forces time to prepare for an orderly withdrawal.

“The talking points were very firm,” said one of the officials, explaining that Trump was advised to clearly oppose a Turkish incursion into northern Syria and suggest the U.S. and Turkey work together to address security concerns. “Everybody said push back and try to offer (Turkey) something that’s a small win, possibly holding territory on the border, something like that.”

Erdogan, though, quickly put Trump on the defensive, reminding him that he had repeatedly said the only reason for U.S. troops to be in Syria was to defeat the Islamic State and that the group had been 99 percent defeated. “Why are you still there?” the second official said Erdogan asked Trump, telling him that the Turks could deal with the remaining IS militants.

With Erdogan on the line, Trump asked national security adviser John Bolton, who was listening in, why American troops remained in Syria if what the Turkish president was saying was true, according to the officials. Erdogan’s point, Bolton was forced to admit, had been backed up by Mattis, Pompeo, U.S. special envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey and special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, who have said that IS retains only 1 percent of its territory, the officials said.

Bolton stressed, however, that the entire national security team agreed that victory over IS had to be enduring, which means more than taking away its territory.

Trump was not dissuaded, according to the officials, who said the president quickly capitulated by pledging to withdraw, shocking both Bolton and Erdogan.

Caught off guard, Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal, according to one official. While Turkey has made incursions into Syria in the past, it does not have the necessary forces mobilized on the border to move in and hold the large swaths of northeastern Syria where U.S. troops are positioned, the official said.

The call ended with Trump repeating to Erdogan that the U.S. would pull out, but offering no specifics on how it would be done
, the officials said.

 And now it appears that the media pointing out that Mattis's resignation letter was an indictment of Trump's ridiculous foreign policy means the General will now be terminated on January 1 instead.

President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that Defense Secretary James Mattis will depart the Pentagon by January 1, a date earlier than anticipated, and will appoint Patrick Shanahan — the agency’s number 2 official — as acting Secretary.

The president’s announcement, made via Twitter, comes days after Mattis stunned Washington by announcing his resignation, prompted by what the former marine said were policy differences with Trump. Amid tensions with Mattis, the president sent shock waves through the global security establishment by announcing troop drawdowns in both Syria and Afghanistan, moves that Mattis was said to oppose.

So Mattis will be out on New Year's Day, all to cover up the fact that Trump has given Vladimir Putin the biggest Christmas present he could have possibly wanted.

It's almost like he's having a fire sale before new management arrives.

It's Mueller Time In The Supreme Court

The sealed grand jury ruling that has prompted mystery after mystery in the Mueller probe has now reached the US Supreme Court.

A new legal filing appears to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene for the first time in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election.

The document, which is under seal, stems from a Dec. 18 federal appeals court ruling that required an unidentified company, owned by an unidentified foreign country, to turn over information to a grand jury.

The dispute is believed to be tied to Mueller’s probe, although public information about the case doesn’t mention him or the investigation. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction by President Donald Trump.

The grand jury dispute has been shrouded in mystery, in part because officials closed an entire floor of a federal courthouse in Washington during arguments on Dec. 7. Politico linked the case to Mueller in October, citing a conversation overheard by a reporter in the court clerk’s office.

The appeals court order described the company only as a “corporation” owned by “Country A.” The three-judge panel rejected contentions that a federal sovereign-immunity law shielded the company from having to comply.

The new filing asks Chief Justice John Roberts to temporarily block that ruling
. The Supreme Court’s online docket includes the number of the appeals court case but doesn’t say who submitted the application.

So, who is the corporation in "Country A"? Vox's Andrew Prokop has a few ideas:

If this is in fact Mueller’s grand jury we’re talking about, it certainly is intriguing that they want information from a corporation owned by a foreign country.

Considering what’s been reported about Mueller’s focus so far, there appear to be two particularly likely possibilities here: 
A Russian company: For obvious reasons, this could be a state-owned Russian company. The Steele dossier made various uncorroborated claims about planned payoffs to Trump associates involving the oil company Rosneft. Trump transition adviser Erik Prince met the manager of a Russian sovereign wealth fund in Seychelles. There have been claims that the bank VTB was involved in the Trump Tower Moscow talks, and the chair of a different bank, VEB, met with Jared Kushner during the transition. (None of these companies have been accused of wrongdoing in connection with the Mueller probe.) 
A Gulf state company: Many reports this year have made clear Mueller is scrutinizing money trails and influence operations from Gulf states — the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are said to have come under scrutiny. It’s unclear why exactly Mueller has focused on this, and no charges have been brought on the topic just yet.

Intriguingly, the Daily Beast’s Erin Banco recently reported that Mueller is soon expected to issue “court filings” on two intriguing topics: “Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influenceAmerican politics,” and “Trump associates’ conversations about sanctions relief” for Russia. Perhaps this sealed appeal is related to either topic.

We don't know.  But whoever it is, they are now turning to the US Supreme Court in order to avoid handing evidence over to Mueller.

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