IN EARLY 2018, the American national security apparatus was fixated on reports that North Korea was building nuclear weapons that could reach the U.S. or that Russia was plotting chemical weapons assassinations in Europe. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was busy targeting his idea of an enemy of the state: late night host Jimmy Kimmel.
The then-president, according to two former Trump administration officials, was so upset by Kimmel’s comedic jabs that he directed his White House staff to call up one of Disney’s top executives in Washington, D.C., to complain and demand action. (ABC, on which Jimmy Kimmel Live! has long aired, is owned by Disney.)
In at least two separate phone calls that occurred around the time Trump was finishing his first year in office, the White House conveyed the severity of his fury with Kimmel to Disney, the ex-officials tell Rolling Stone. Trump’s staff mentioned that the leader of the free world wanted the billion-dollar company to rein in the Trump-trashing ABC host, and that Trump felt that Kimmel had, in the characterization of one former senior administration official, been “very dishonest and doing things that [Trump] would have once sued over.”
The incident was so bizarre that news of it spread around the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Other administration officials who had nothing to do with the pressure campaign began hearing from their contacts at Disney about how confused they were that the White House kept telling them Trump wanted Kimmel to tone down his anti-Trump humor.
“At least one call was made to Disney [that I know of],” a third former official, who worked in the Trump White House, recalls. Sources spoke to Rolling Stone on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely and to preserve ongoing relationships in Trumpworld and conservative circles. “I do not know to who[m], but it happened. Nobody thought it was going to change anything but DJT was focused on it so we had to do something…It was doing something, mostly, to say to [Trump], ‘Hey, we did this.’”
Rolling Stone was able to identify one target of the White House’s ham-fisted, destined-to-fail pressure campaign: former Disney top lobbyist Richard Bates. The sources say Trump’s staff reached out to Bates to convey the president’s anger regarding Kimmel’s monologues and jabs. Bates, who served as a prominent Disney executive and was a Washington fixture for over 30 years, passed away in December 2020.
The pressure campaign ultimately failed, but the previously unreported effort marked yet another moment in which Trump showed an eagerness to wield the immense powers of his office for personal gain and highly petty reasons. (Indeed, one of Trump’s two impeachments was caused by this very impulse.)
And now, as Trump campaigns for the White House once again, there is no sign that his desire to use federal power in this way has ebbed an inch. In a recent radio interview, the former president said he’s entitled to a “revenge tour” if he wins the presidency in 2024 while claiming he wouldn’t avail himself of the opportunity in the event he’s reelected.
But throughout his presidency, Trump devoted inordinate amounts of time toward threatening late night television shows and celebrities over their jokes about the famously thin-skinned former game show host.
Sunday, February 26, 2023
The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.
The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.
The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.
The Energy Department made its judgment with “low confidence,” according to people who have read the classified report.
The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence” and still holds to this view.
So the majority of the country's agencies that have looked into Covid-19's origins, and the DNI's office, still are concluding that it's natural spread of the virus, most likely from a Chinese "wet market". It would be nice to know what this new intelligence is, frankly. The agency that did change its mind still assesses the reality with "low confidence" at best.
Perhaps the House GOP Circus of the Damned will make its own "lab leak" to explain why the DoE changed its mind.
The bigger issue remains though that the majority of the agencies involved still consider the natural occurrence theory to be correct three years later.
That didn't change today.
Nobody who has followed ZVTS over the last 14 years and change should be surprised that the US Military has been training African officers to take over their respective countries in military putsches over the last several years, because our chief export is "coups" and has been for longer than my entire lifetime. Rolling Stone's Nick Turse has the details:
ONE YEAR AGO, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba was a military leader on the rise. The 41-year-old officer had just overthrown Burkina Faso’s democratically-elected government and was about to be sworn in as the West Africa’s nation’s new president. Wearing a red beret and military fatigues, he appeared on TV and threw down a gauntlet. “To…gain the upper hand over the enemy, it will be necessary… to rise up and convince ourselves that as a nation we have more than what it takes to win this war,” he said.
Just nine months later, an upstart underling—34-year-old Captain Ibrahim Traore—decided Damiba did not have what it takes to win the war and toppled him. Traore, now the youngest world leader, recently shored up his popularity by ordering a withdrawal of French forces fighting a long-running Islamist insurgency by groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Burkina Faso.
When Damiba seized power last year, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) admitted that the United States had mentored him over many years. Damiba’s putsch was just the latest in a recent spate of coups in West Africa by U.S.-trained officers. But when Rolling Stone asked AFRICOM if Traore was the latest to follow in this tradition, they couldn’t say. “We are looking into this,” said Africa Command spokesperson Kelly Cahalan, noting the command needed to “research” it. “I will let you know when I have an answer.”
Four months later, AFRICOM still hasn’t provided an answer. In fact, the U.S. government appears unwilling to address its role in mentoring military officers who have sown chaos in the region; men who have repeatedly overthrown the governments the U.S. trains them to prop up.
For decades, U.S.-trained officers —from Haiti’s Philippe Biamby and Romeo Vasquez of Honduras to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan— have overthrown U.S.-allied governments all over the world. Rarely, however, have so many coups been so concentrated in a region over such a short period of time.
Last fall, after returning from a trip, alongside other top State Department and Pentagon officials to the Sahelian states of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, Ambassador Victoria Nuland was upbeat. “We went to the region in force. We were looking, in particular, at how the U.S. strategy towards the Sahel is working. This is a strategy that we put in place about a year ago to try to bring more coherence to our efforts to support increased security,” she said during an October conference call with reporters.
After Rolling Stone pointed out that U.S.-trained military officers had conducted seven coups in these same countries—Burkina Faso, three times; Mali, three times; and Mauritania, one time—since 2008, Nuland was less sanguine. “Nick, that was a pretty loaded comment that you made,” she replied. “Some folks involved in these coups have received some U.S. training, but far from all of them.”
The fact is the leaders of all of these coups have received significant U.S. training. Before Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba overthrew Burkina Faso’s president last year, for example, he twice participated in an annual U.S. special operations training program known as the Flintlock exercise. He was also previously accepted into a State Department-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance course; twice attended the U.S.-sponsored Military Intelligence Basic Officer Course-Africa; and twice participated in engagements with a U.S. Defense Department Civil Military Support Element.
In 2014, another U.S.-trained officer, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida—schooled via a Joint Special Operations University counterterrorism training course at Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base and a military intelligence course that was financed by the U.S. government—seized power, during popular protests against a presidential power-grab, in Burkina Faso. The next year, yet another coup in that country installed Gen. Gilbert Diendéré, another prominent Flintlock attendee.
Col. Assimi Goïta, worked with U.S. Special Operations forces for years, participating in both Flintlock exercises and a Joint Special Operations University seminar at MacDill Air Force Base—and also headed the junta that overthrew Mali’s government in 2020. After staging the coup, Goïta stepped down and took the job of vice president in a transitional government charged with returning Mali to civilian rule. But less than a year later, he carried out his second coup.
Similarly, in 2012, Captain Amadou Sanogo, who learned English in Texas, received infantry-officer basic training in Georgia, and underwent military intelligence schooling in Arizona, and overthrew Mali’s democratically elected government. “America is a great country with a fantastic army,” he said after the coup. “I tried to put all the things I learned there into practice here.” In 2008, the Pentagon-funded Stars and Stripes reported that Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the leader of a coup against Mauritania’s elected president, had also “worked with U.S. forces.”
Why did these officers who were trained by the United States to defend their governments topple them instead? If Nuland has any idea, she won’t say. “You need to talk to them about why they are overthrowing their governments,” she told Rolling Stone, referring to the coup-makers.