|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|trump baku money laundering – Google Search|
Carbonated.tv (blog)–5 hours ago
Trump Family Made A Fortune Through Drug Cartels And Money Laundering … The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama and the Trump Tower Baku …
ThinkProgress–Nov 18, 2017
Meanwhile, the development of Trump Tower Baku was so poorly … of the corruption and money laundering drenching Ivanka’s pet projects.
The New Yorker–Mar 6, 2017
Donald Trump’s Worst Deal … The Trump Tower Baku never opened. …. in the Baku deal, actively participated in bribery, money laundering, …
Donald Trump’s hotel in Azerbaijan linked with corruption, Iran’s …
Highly Cited–Business Insider–Mar 6, 2017
HuffPost–Jun 29, 2017
There were concerns about corruption and money laundering in the … the future Trump Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan before canceling the deal in …
The New Yorker–Aug 14, 2017
Trump’s Business of Corruption … described to me as “red flags” for bank fraud and money laundering; moreover, it intertwined ….. license his name to, and provide oversight of, a luxury hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, a deal that I …
The Mercury News–Mar 10, 2017
The 33-story luxury Trump International Hotel and Tower Baku, which … Corrupt Practices Act and may have enabled money–laundering and …
Azerbaijan’s Trump Tower and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Independent Australia–Mar 10, 2017
Vox–May 12, 2017
According to Adam Davidson, investment in Trump Tower Baku was … political corruption in Azerbaijan and even money laundering by the …
The Guardian–Sep 4, 2017
Danske Bank said “money laundering and other illegal practices” had …. in a project to build a luxury Trump Tower in Baku also appear in the …
New Republic–Jul 14, 2017
Now, following the release of Donald Trump Jr.’s staggering … Not only has the government in Bakunever overseen a free or fair election, but it even … is known as one of the world’s leading practitioners of money laundering.
The blackmail factor: Trumpworld’s Russia lies are a major risk to …
In-Depth–Vox–Jul 12, 2017
Columbia Journalism Review–Oct 6, 2017
She may well have been involved in a money laundering operation,” Davidson says. “From what … The Trumps pulled out of Trump Tower Baku in 2016. And as …
|trump baku mafia – Google Search|
Carbonated.tv (blog)–5 hours ago
Trump Family Made A Fortune Through Drug Cartels And Money Laundering … The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama and the Trump Tower Baku … all thanks to drug cartels, the Russian mafia and international criminals.
The New Yorker–Mar 6, 2017
For an expensive hotel, the Trump Tower Baku is in an oddly unglamorous location: the underdeveloped eastern end of downtown, which is …
‘The New Yorker’ Uncovers Trump Hotel’s Ties To Corrupt Oligarch …
In-Depth–NPR–Mar 7, 2017
New Republic–Jul 14, 2017
Baku has been described as a “mafia state.” Foreign Policy has referred to the Aliyevs as the “Corleones of the Caspian.” An American …
The Mercury News–Mar 10, 2017
A lengthy new investigative story in the New Yorker reveals that Donald Trump and his TrumpOrganization helped build a hotel in Baku, the …
Washington Post–Jan 13, 2017
Donald Trump will enter the White House with a network of unorthodox foreign contacts — some of them high-living risk-takers, some with past …
Huffington Post–Mar 20, 2017
Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin and allegations of Russian hacking of the …. pleaded guilty in a Mafiastock manipulation scheme, and worked as a U.S. … Soviet bloc countries, including Ziya Mammadov in Baku, Azerbaijan.
One Trump Adviser Really Does Know All About Putin
In-Depth–Daily Beast–Mar 20, 2017
PBS NewsHour–Jun 4, 2016
Trump’s choice of partners in Baku was Anar Mammadov, the son of the … in 2007 that Satter was Sater and had historical ties to the Mafia.
Washington Post–May 30, 2016
BAKU, Azerbaijan — In the center of downtown, an unfinished five-star …. with the Corleones, the Mafiafamily from the “Godfather” movies.
<a href=”http://NOLA.com” rel=”nofollow”>NOLA.com</a>–Jun 6, 2016
But Trump had not researched the allegations against the Baku … with a real estate whose executives included a former Mafia stock fraud …
The Guardian–Mar 21, 2017
The German bank that loaned $300m (£260m) to Donald Trump played a prominent role in a money laundering scandal run by Russian …
|Trump Family Made A Fortune Through Drug Cartels And Money Laundering|
The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama and the Trump Tower Baku reportedly had deep ties to international criminals and drug cartels.
President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and favorite child, Ivanka Trump, was exceptionally involved in two international projects tied to her father’s name before the business mogul ran for the highest office in the United States.
As the Think Progress reported, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama was supposed to be Ivanka’s “baby” while she personally oversaw and “approved everything” at the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan.
Neither of these international business ventures worked out for the Trump Organization, as the luxury resort in Panama City later dismissed Trump’s management company over reported budget misuse and the hotel in Baku never opened due to budget overruns and construction oversights.
However, that does not mean the Trump family did not profit from these endeavors.
As a couple of recent investigative reports have revealed, the Trump family earned millions in revenue from these seemingly failed projects – all thanks to drug cartels, the Russian mafia and international criminals.
“Since he became President of the United States, numerous investigations and articles have probed Trump’s business dealings and his alleged links to criminals and other shadowy characters,” anti-corruption group Global Witness wrote in its recent report. “It is understood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation under the Department of Justice will also examine his real estate business. This is important because it seems likely that, following his various bankruptcies, at least a part of Trump’s business empire has been built on untraceable funds, some apparently linked to Russian criminal networks.”
A joint investigation by the NBC News and Reuters also found some investors and customers of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City had deep ties to crime and drug trafficking. For instance, David Murcia Guzmán, a Colombian business executive with financial ties to terrorist organization FARC who is currently detained in the U.S. for laundering money on behalf of drug cartels, had bought several units in the project.
Other buyers included Arkady Vodovozov, who was convicted of kidnapping in Israel according to Reuters; Stanislav Kavalenka a Russian national charged for “compelling” and “procuring” women into prostitution in Canada; Igor Anapolskiy, convicted for forging travel documents in Ukraine in 2014; and Louis Pargiolas, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine in Miami back in 2009.
A former Brazilian car salesman, Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who reportedly collaborated with the Trumps to sell the condo units and met Ivanka several times, claimed the U.S. president and his family were unaware of the investors’ businesses or buyers’ criminal background – but they never asked any questions either.
“I had some customers with questionable backgrounds,” Nogueira, who is currently a fugitive from law for real estate fraud, told NBC under disguise from an undisclosed European city. “Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask.”
He also said he met the president and his sons at least once, and attended the 2008 celebratory event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after his firm, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, fulfilled its promise of quickly selling units at high prices and sold about $100m worth of property, according to the Reuters and NBC.
Meanwhile, the project in Azerbaijan was a site for illegal activities as well. According to the reports, the Azeri dictatorship and those close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard allegedly used the Baku hotel to launder money.
If it was not clear already, Trump did not own these properties. Instead, he leased his name out to the project in order to boost sales while his company, or his daughter in this case, oversaw the project. While it does not appear the president or his children knew of the criminals investing and buying the property, they did profit from whatever alleged shady business was going on there.
“Licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains,” the Global Witness report continued. “Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries.”
To put things into perspective, Trump had made nearly $74.2 million through his association with the Panama hotel by 2010. He earned another $13.0 million between 2014 and 2017.
However, the Trump organization has since attempted to distance itself from the controversy.
“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” the statement said. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.”
Well, playing down the organization’s role in the project doesn’t really justify the fortune Trumps earned through them, does it?
Thumbnail / Banner : Reuters, Yuri Gripas
|Trump Family Made A Fortune Through Drug Cartels And Money Laundering – Carbonated.tv (blog)|
|Trump urged to sell $50 million in lethal weapons to Ukraine|
National security officials are urging President Trump to approve the sale of nearly $50 million worth of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, which has confronted what it sees as military aggression from Russia and pro-Russian separatists for years.
It was unclear whether Trump, who has been reluctant to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin, will approve the plan.
Congressional and State Department officials said Monday the weapons proposal had gained traction in the National Security Council. The officials asked not to be named discussing internal deliberations.
At the urging of Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, the GOP platform was watered down at the Republican National Convention in 2016 to remove a call to sell lethal weapons to Ukraine — a position long favored by the Republican establishment and ultimately by the Obama administration.
It was later revealed that Manafort had worked for pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders opposed to U.S. support for the government in Kiev. Manafort was indicted last month on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty.
The weapons sale under discussion would likely include Javelin anti-tank missiles and other high-tech weapons that go beyond defensive arms, a State Department official said. Some details of the package were first reported by ABC News.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has repeatedly urged the Trump administration to supply Ukraine with weapons. Doing so would garner bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
“It is long past time for the United States to provide Ukraine the defensive lethal assistance it needs to deter and defend against further Russian aggression,” McCain said in a statement. “As long as the status quo remains, Russia has no reason to change its behavior, and we should only expect more violence and more death.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), another member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote Trump last week to urge stronger support for Ukraine.
“The military land-grab Russia has launched in Ukraine is unprecedented in modern European history,” he wrote. “Our response should include lethal military hardware as part of a broader effort to help Ukrainians defend themselves and deter future aggression.”
Congress has already approved up to $500 million in assistance for Ukraine and its defense, though not specifically for lethal weapons.
Ukraine’s pro-West government has been battling pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since forces loyal to Putin annexed Crimea in 2014.
|How the Mafia Fueled Richard Nixon’s Political Career – VICE|
|Macron, Trump and Putin would all like to see Merkel go – CNN|
|Rudy Giuliani – Google News: Rudy Giuliani turns up in Ukraine with pro-Russia official linked to Paul Manafort’s clients – Raw Story|
Rudy Giuliani – Google News
|Trump Ocean Club|
My friend Ken Silverstein has a great new story out via Global Witness about Trump’s tower in Panama.
Put simply, it’s is the most revealing look we’ve had into how Russians were recruited for Trump’s towers.
Part of the business strategy at Trump Ocean Club was luring wealthy and “secretive” Russians — who didn’t want any questions asked about where their money came from.
The money quote in this story for me comes from a broker involved with the project named Alexandre Henrique Ventura Nogueira. Half of Nogueria’s customers were Russian.
Ventura Nogueira was asked point blank about this: Did the Trump Organization know there were some Russians there with strange backgrounds involved in buying? I dont know.
There are a lot of things to like about this story. (Story is the wrong word. It’s a 28-page report.) Not only does it reveal the corruption that built the Trump Ocean Club, but it goes a step further. Ken’s story offers solutions — a rarity in journalism — to eliminate the pervasive money laundering in real estate that built not only Trump’s tower in Panama, but his tower Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, Azerbaijan, and other places.
The story calls the Trump Ocean Club one of Trump’s most lucrative deals. How lucrative? We don’t know.
You should also check out Ken’s popular blog, Washington Babylon.
|As the FBI Closes In, Trump’s Lawyers Are Scrambling to Keep Him Calm – Vanity Fair|
|Where the Trump campaign and Russian actors overlapped – Washington Post|
|James Clapper on Donald Trump, Russia, and the First Line of His Obituary|
“I’ve been a political appointee in both Democratic and Republican administrations,” he said, his voice a phlegmy rumble. “Support the commander in chief. That was the first order of business. But this one, you know…” He reached for his coffee, leaned back, took a sip. “It’s hard. This is a unique situation. We’ve never had a president like this before.”
The Clappers live in a well-to-do suburb outside Washington, in a brick house with heavy shutters. Clapper’s wife, Susan, a retired NSA administrator, answered the door. Her husband, she said, was at work in the basement. I followed her down a carpeted staircase past some paintings of bald eagles. We found James Clapper sitting at a small round table. He was dressed casually, in sandals, a polo shirt, and board shorts.
He seemed to be transitioning smoothly into the life of an ex-official, what D.C. types call a “former.” He now socializes with some of the capital’s more august senators, meeting them for lunch and bumping into them with the grandkids behind home plate at Nationals games. He had sworn off his trademark martinis, hit the gym, and lost 20 pounds. He would soon buy a Chevy Camaro. A friend told him that he was having a midlife crisis at age 76.
“Well, this is my man cave,” he said, gesturing at a meticulously arranged trophy room with a rolltop desk and two couches. Two glass cases contained a glittering array of polished medals from his time in the Air Force, which he joined in 1963. The far wall had built-in shelves showing off a dim series of objects. Clapper dismissed my interest with a wave of his hand, calling it “various other junk from across the course of my career.”
Clapper was one of the first hundred Air Force intelligence officers to go to Vietnam. “I hated the war,” Clapper said. “What we were doing to the country—our own country—was bad.” For a time, he worked alongside his father, who was the NSA’s deputy country chief. Susan gave birth to a daughter while he was overseas. She was 7 months old the first time he saw her.
He stuck with the Air Force after his tours, was promoted “below the zone”—before almost all of his contemporaries—and went on to a career in military intelligence, eventually leading the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. In the years after the September 11 attacks, he clashed with Donald Rumsfeld over how to re-organize the country’s spying apparatus, which today consumes roughly $70 billion a year. Rumsfeld won the argument and fired Clapper, but it wasn’t long before he himself was out of a job. Clapper’s willingness to stand his ground impressed Rumsfeld’s replacement, Bob Gates, who recommended him to Obama as director of national intelligence in 2010.
Clapper forged close ties with Obama, whom he often briefed personally. He could be brutally frank; he had no qualms about bringing the president bad news. When the time came to make policy recommendations, Clapper would stick to intelligence and remain silent. Obama staffers would sometimes wonder if he was secretly a Republican.
The worst day of Clapper’s career came on March 12, 2013, when he was called to testify before an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ron Wyden, the senior senator from Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans.”
“It does not?” asked Wyden. He looked surprised.
“Not wittingly,” said Clapper. The corners of his mouth bent down into his Grumpy Cat face. “There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
Wyden believed, and still believes, that Clapper was being intentionally deceptive. Clapper told me that he made a mistake and misunderstood the question. Wyden holds a grudge to this day. “There’s no other way to describe this than he lied to Congress. He lied to the American people,” Wyden told me. “And that, in my judgment, is unacceptable.”
|James Clapper on Donald Trump, Russia, and the First Line of His Obituary – GQ Magazine|
|Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner face new scrutiny in Russia investigation – ABC News|
|Confirmed: Robert Mueller has far more Trump-Russia evidence than previously known|
Confirmed: Robert Mueller has far more Trump-Russia evidence than previously known
Confirmed: Robert Mueller has far more Trump-Russia evidence than previously known
|Confirmed: Robert Mueller knows about even more Trump-Russia meetings than the public does|
All along, it’s appeared that Special Counsel Robert Mueller knows far more about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal than Congress, the media, or the public knows. Although Mueller keeps his cards close to the vest, his actions periodically suggest that he’s several steps ahead of the game. Now comes confirmation that Mueller knows about a whole new set of Trump-Russia meetings that are not yet public.
Buried all the way down in the fifteenth paragraph of a new Washington Post article, you’ll find this key revelation: “Witnesses questioned by Muellers team warn that investigators are asking about other foreign contacts and meetings that have not yet become public, and to expect a series of new revelations.” (link). In other words, this week the media managed to expose Donald Trump Jr’s contacts with WikiLeaks and Jared Kushner’s contacts with a suspected Russian mobster, and yet those are stillfar from the last of the Trump-Russia contacts that Mueller already knows about.
So just what are we looking at here? The WaPo article hints that many of the secret meetings involved Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is reportedly on the verge of being arrested on a variety of charges which may include conspiracy to commit kidnapping (Flynn denies the charges). So even as the media has been recently exposing Trump-Russia meetings involving members of Donald Trump’s family, Robert Mueller is focused on Trump-Russia meetings of an entirely different nature.
Another remarkable part of the WaPo article in question is the revelation that Donald Trump and his attorney Ty Cobb are both insisting Robert Mueller’s investigation will be completed soon, and that Trump will be exonerated. That’s nothing short of delusional. Mueller is just getting started, and has only arrested three of the dozens of Trump-Russia players he’s targeting. Moreover, Mueller’s entire gameplan is based around getting these targets to flip on Trump himself. Trump isn’t just a target of the investigation; he’s the target.
The post Confirmed: Robert Mueller knows about even more Trump-Russia meetings than the public does appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Insider: Donald Trumps staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them like Pac-Man|
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally managed to breach Donald Trump’s inner circle. It was revealed last week that he interviewed White House senior adviser Stephen Miller about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal. Now it turns out Mueller is aggressively working his way through Trump’s top people as we speak, and it’s clearly making them nervous. In fact one insider says they’re panicking as Mueller kicks into high gear.
A Trump White House insider claims that Mueller is chewing through Trump’s senior staff “like Pac-Man” and that they’re all panicked about how deep the investigation is running, summing it up by saying that “its going to be a long winter,” according to a new Washington Post report (link). That same article points to Hope Hicks and Don McGahn as being Mueller’s next two targets, which offers some hints about what Mueller is specifically pursuing.
Hope Hicks is essentially the gatekeeper for Donald Trump himself, filtering his emails and deciding what to loop him in on. This week it was revealed that Hicks was aware of Donald Trump Jr’s ongoing coordination with WikiLeaks, which means almost for certain that Donald Trump knew. Hicks will have to decide whether to admit to Mueller that Trump knew, or commit obstruction of justice by refusing to truthfully answer the question. White House counsel Don McGahn nixed a letter that Trump and Miller wrote justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey. McGahn will have to decide whether to risk incriminating Trump, or risk incriminating himself. He does not share attorney-client privilege with Trump.
It’s important to keep in mind that Robert Mueller has consistently been several steps ahead of the media and the public when it comes to these matters. For instance it was widely reported by the media that Mueller’s first White House senior staff target would be Hope Hicks. Then it was later revealed that Mueller had already interviewed Stephen Miller instead. The “Pac-Man” reference strongly suggests that Mueller has already interviewed far more of Trump’s inner circle than is publicly known.
The post Insider: Donald Trump’s staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man” appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Insider: Donald Trumps staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man”|
Insider: Donald Trumps staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man”
Insider: Donald Trumps staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man”
|Donald Trumps ticking clock may expire after Thanksgiving|
Since the start of Donald Trump’s illegitimate and toxically unpopular presidency, the public has asked the same question every day: why hasn’t he been ousted yet? The simple answer is that because his approval rating hasn’t yet dropped into the twenties, the Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t feel like it has to oust him. But the main reason they’ve been keeping him around may be about to expire.
The Republican Congress is still trying to find a way to pass its tax scam legislation for the wealthy. But up to this point, every major piece of legislation it’s attempted has failed, partly due to Trump’s instability and unpopularity. The real reason the GOP wants Trump to remain in place: it’s been allowing the party to ram through the appointment of several conservative federal judges. However, according to Axios (link), that streak may be about to end after Thanksgiving.
In fact Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been ramming through the confirmations of these judges as quickly as he can. Trump’s instability means that he could self destruct on his own at any minute and once he does, the focus will be on his demise and ouster, making Senate confirmations more difficult. But even if Trump doesn’t self destruct, the Republicans in Congress are increasingly uneasy about the idea of leaving him in power as they head into the midterms. They just got wiped out across the nation in the November 2017 elections, as a direct result of Trump’s unpopularity.
Once the Republican Congress finishes ramming through its judges after Thanksgiving, it’ll be in position to strategically throw Donald Trump overboard. Once he’s out the door, Trump’s crimes in the Russia scandal will no longer directly be the party’s problem. The GOP’s haste with confirmations, a process which now appears to be reaching its conclusion, suggests that it may be ready to oust Trump soon. Tick tock.
The post Donald Trump’s ticking clock may expire after Thanksgiving appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Report: Mueller’s Russia Probe Seeks Justice Department Emails on Comey Firing – Daily Beast|
|Robert Mueller is going after the Department of Justice to take down Donald Trump|
A few days ago, it was revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Donald Trump campaign a month ago. It served as a reminder that Mueller is always several steps ahead of the media and the public. It also demonstrates that Mueller is going directly after Trump himself, and not merely settling for taking down Trump’s underlings. Now another new development points to how Mueller plans to get to Trump.
Mueller has requested a treasure trove of documents from the Department of Justice which relate to Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, according to an ABC News report (link). This means Mueller is targeting Trump for obstruction of justice. It also suggests that Mueller may be targeting Sessions for some criminal charge related to the reason he had to recuse himself.
The article in question makes no reference to subpoenas, which means that as of yet, the DOJ hasn’t said no to anything Mueller is requesting. Ironically, because Sessions has recused himself, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will make any decisions on what evidence to turn over, meaning Sessions can’t prevent incriminating evidence against himself from being turned over. Rosenstein can be counted on to cooperate with Mueller, as it was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller to begin with.
Although Robert Mueller can be counted on to pursue every possible criminal charge against Donald Trump, ranging from conspiracy against the United States to money laundering on down, proving obstruction of justice will likely be his quickest and most efficient path for establishing Trump’s criminal nature. Now we know that Mueller is going after the Department of Justice to not only prove Trump guilty of obstruction of justice, but likely to take down Jeff Sessions as well.
The post Robert Mueller is going after the Department of Justice to take down Donald Trump appeared first on Palmer Report.
|Should The FBI Be Abolished?|
For the last few years, the media has been dominated by a number of sensational stories: that Trump colluded with Russia to influence the presidential election; that the Trump team was wiretapped by Obama intelligence officials; that Hillary used a private email server to transmit classified information; that Hillary and the DNC colluded with Russian sources to compile a dossier on Trump, and finally, that Russia acquired 20% of America’s uranium supply during the same time period $145 million miraculously appeared in the Clinton Foundation’s bank account. It all stinks to high heaven but it’s created a confusing array of facts that has bewildered most Americans. They all know something is seriously wrong with their country even if they can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem is.
But there is a common denominator in all these scandals or alleged scandals, and that would be the FBI and the actions they took or didn’t take. Indeed, it’s hard to not conclude that the agency’s actions in these events were improper if not illegal. If so, this validates the warnings by constitutionalists in the early 1900s that a federal police force would someday be used to prop up the ruling elites and attack those who dare challenge the establishment.
Under FBI Director James Comey, Hillary was allowed to escape prosecution, even though he presented compelling evidence that she committed numerous felonies by transmitting classified documents using her private email server. Comey also leaked classified information to a friend to be disseminated to the media, another felony, and his FBI was the recipient of a dossier full of sensational but false allegations traced to Putin-connected individuals. Instead of investigating the dossier’s sources, Comey used the phony intel as the basis for his allegation that the Russians intervened in our election, a charge later proven to be without factual basis. It also appears that Comey likely used the dossier’s claims to convince a FISA court to authorize a phone tap on various Trump aides and possibly even Trump himself.
Lastly, Comey refused to demand that the DNC hand over the computer servers they claimed were hacked by Russia, but nevertheless, he announced that the Russians had hacked into the DNC, thereby helping to create the phony Trump/Russia collusion narrative. But a group of cyber experts led by former high-ranking NSA cyber expert Bill Binney have concluded that the hack simply could not have occurred for technical reasons and that the leaked DNC emails had to come from an inside source. Regardless, for Comey to create a phony “Russia hacked the DNC” narrative without his agency ever analyzing the DNC server calls into question his honesty and his integrity.
On top of all that, former FBI director Robert Mueller — now Special Counsel — is investigating Trump for collusion with Russia when the evidence is now revealing that the only party that colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 campaign was the Democratic Party. But Mueller doesn’t have the integrity to widen his investigation to cover the Clinton/GPS Fusion/Russian dossier scandal but instead is spending millions on investigating alleged crimes by former Trump campaign workers that occurred years ago and had nothing to do with Trump, Russian collusion, or the 2016 election.
Lastly, when Mueller was FBI Director, he served on the board of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the agency that approved the sale of uranium to Russia by the Uranium One company only a short time after his own agency had arrested a Russian official attempting to bribe American uranium officials. But there is no record of Mueller warning his fellow CFIUS members about the illegal Russian efforts. It likewise begs logic to believe that Mueller knew nothing about the $145 million the Clinton Foundation received from Putin-connected sources shortly after the CFIUS vote. It is also inconceivable that Mueller, as FBI Director from 2001-2013, was not aware that the Clintons were using their foundation and Hillary’s Secretary of State position to operate a massive pay-to-play scam that went far beyond the Uranium One scandal.
It has become abundantly clear that Mueller is a partisan, as is Comey. Both of them have jeopardized national security in order to protect the Democratic Party. This is an unprecedented situation and both men should be investigated. Moreover, Mueller should be removed as the Special Counsel. The foxes are guarding the hen house.
Mueller and Comey have turned the FBI into a partisan force that ignores crimes by the left and fabricates crimes on the right such as the Trump/Russian collusion theory. Again, such corruption of the FBI was predicted by constitutionalists at the time the agency was formed. That time has arrived.
Within most conservative circles today it would be considered sacrilegious to argue in favor of abolishing the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Indeed, older Americans still think of the FBI as an agency full of incorruptible, efficient, clean cut guys in suits tracking down mobsters and exposing communist subversion. Younger Americans are influenced by popular shows such as television’s Criminal Minds, which, again, portray the G-Men as squeaky clean heroes.
However, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that this agency has become so politicized, so corrupt, and so large and bureaucratic that it may no longer be an effective agency. The time has come to discuss its abolition.
The FBI was started in 1935, although its predecessor — the Bureau of Investigation — was founded in 1908. In the early 1900s, crime was becoming more nationalized with multi-state mob crime families and the creation of large prostitution smuggling rings that crossed state lines. As a result, advocates of a federalized police force argued that a federal law enforcement agency was necessary in order to keep up with the criminals. The main argument was that the local police forces didn’t have the resources or the flexibility to investigate complex criminal cases or to chase mobsters from state to state.
But note that the FBI did not come into existence until 132 years after the country declared its independence. This was because the founders never envisioned a federal role for law enforcement. It is not one of the “enumerated” duties of the federal government listed in the constitution.
There were reasons for that. Our founders were skeptical of a large federal government and, indeed, not even the “federalist” faction argued for a federal law enforcement role. The Constitution’s authors all assumed that most of the country’s governing would be carried out by state and local governments; the Federal government was created simply to take care of things that states were not well suited to do, such as maintaining a military, minting currency, and negotiating trade treaties. Indeed, for most of America’s first century, the highest law enforcement officer was the county sheriff.
Except for treason, the idea of federal crimes was not even mentioned in the Constitution. Our founders had a healthy fear of America turning into a tyrannical government such as those which existed all over the world at the time. They wanted to maximize freedom; hence the Bill of Rights. They assumed the creation of a federalized police force would make it far easier for the federal government to abuse the rights of its citizens. This is why neither the Constitution, the ratification debates, nor the Federalistpapers ever mention anything about a federal law enforcement role. Nada. Nothing. Indeed, in FederalistNo. 45, James Madison specifically singles out “internal order” as an “unenumerated power” that must “remain in the state governments.”
In the last few decades, Congress has created over 3,000 federal crimes, thereby undermining the authority of local law enforcement and ultimately making the federal government more powerful and more prone to corruption and tyranny. As the late Washington Times columnist Sam Francis wrote, “Over the last 30 years or so, the creeping federal incursion into law enforcement has yielded some 140 agencies at the federal level that have such a role… but everyone knows the federal engulfment of law enforcement has failed miserably to control crime and make the country safe. That’s because, by its very nature, effective law enforcement is local.”
And there’s no doubt that national police forces in other countries have been used to transition a country to a dictatorship. Historian William L. Shirer wrote in his famous history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Rich, “On June 16, 1936, for the first time in German history, a unified police as established for the whole of the Reich — previously the police had been organized separately by each of the states …the Third Reich, as is inevitable in the development of all totalitarian dictatorships, had become a police state.”
But the FBI has never seemed concerned about its growing powers. Indeed, in the aftermath of WWII, the FBI was so impressed with Hitler’s police state, they secretly hired hundreds of Nazis as spies and informants. As Rutherford Institute president and conservative civil rights lawyer John Whitehead writes, the FBI “then carried out a massive cover-up campaign to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. Moreover, anyone who dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.”
But long before the rise of Hitler, America’s founders understood that the more locally controlled law enforcement is, the more accountable they are, whereas, a federal police force tends to be abused by a central government and is largely unaccountable to local and state governments. Indeed, it is unsettling to review the long list of incidents in which the FBI abused the rights of Americans and was clearly used by one political faction or another to carry out police state-like tactics. Let’s take a trip down memory lane:
Prosecuting Opponents of World War 1. President Woodrow Wilson used the FBI’s predecessor to illegally harass and prosecute thousands of peaceful opponents of World War 1, a war most conservatives would argue America had no business entering.
COINTELPRO. This was the FBI’s covert internal security program in the 1950s and ’60s, created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government deemed to be enemies. It was carried out under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover with the consent of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Congressional hearings found that “Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that … the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association…” Many conservatives of the day cheered on COINTELPRO since it targeted Marxists and antiwar groups, but that cheering ended when the FBI set its sights on the right.
FBI Preparations for Martial Law. MuckRock, a group that exposes governmental corruption, obtained a 1956 FBI document via a FOIA request that described the FBI’s plans to implement martial law and round up dissidents in the event of nuclear war. The document, titled “Plan C,” states that ‘”as of April 17, 1956, 12,949 individuals were scheduled for apprehension in an emergency.” The FBI’s secretive list of “anti-government” citizens they felt needed to be rounded up has never been revealed but it’s clear the FBI was keeping files on anti-government individuals.
The Ruby Ridge Murders. In 1992, a BATF informant convinced former Green Beret Randy Weaver to sell him two shotguns which had barrels shortened illegally, thus creating the pretext for the FBI to launch a military-style assault on Weaver’s remote Idaho cabin, eventually killing his wife and fatally shooting his son in the back. The FBI agents violated numerous rules of engagement and an Idaho jury found Weaver innocent of almost all charges. According to author James Bovard, “Judge Lodge issued a lengthy list detailing the Justice Departments misconduct, fabrication of evidence and refusal to obey court orders.” No one was held accountable; indeed the agent in charge, Larry Potts, was promoted to FBI Deputy Director.
The Waco Massacre. In 1993, 76 citizens — including 26 children — were burned to death when the FBI laid siege to a Branch Davidian compound in Waco on the grounds they believed cult leader David Koresh possessed unauthorized weapons. However, there was no reason for the FBI to use police state tactics. Koresh visited town almost every week and could have easily been arrested during these excursions. Six years later the FBI admitted during the course of a civil lawsuit that the tear gas it fired into the compound was, in fact, pyrotechnic tear gas, which, probably caused the fire that killed most of the people. The shells were even stamped with a fire warning. Moreover, a law enforcement infrared video revealed muzzle flashes from the FBI’s positions, so contrary to the FBI’s testimony that they did not fire “a single shot,” it appears its snipers were shooting people as they tried to escape the compound. Indeed, a Policy Analysis report by the Heritage Foundation stated that “numerous crimes by government agents were never seriously investigated or prosecuted” and therefore, “the people serving in our federal police agencies may well come to the conclusion that it is permissible to recklessly endanger the lives of innocent people, lie to newspapers, obstruct congressional subpoenas, and give misleading testimony in our courtrooms.”
Helping Bill Clinton Collect Dirt on his Enemies. Often referred to as “Filegate,” in 1993-94, the FBI willingly turned over as many as 900 background check files on Republicans to the Clinton White House. Nothing came of the investigation into this as the Clintons claimed it was all a big mistake. Right.
Project Megiddo. This was another shady FBI project, launched in 1999, created for the purpose of monitoring groups on the right, such as constitutionalists, devout Christians, anti-tax activists, anti-UN and pro-gun groups and individuals, all considered by the FBI to be budding terrorists. Such descriptions cover just about everyone on the right. It is not known if Project Megiddo violated the rights of individuals as the FBI did with previous similar programs, such as COINTELPRO, but it’s likely. Not surprisingly, much of the info used by Project Megiddo was fed to them by hysterical leftist groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as even the FBI has publicly acknowledged. Shameful.
Use of Criminals as Undercover Agents. Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead writes, “FBI agents are also among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers. In fact, in addition to creating certain crimes in order to then ‘solve’ them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law… USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums.”
Operation Vigilant Eagle. This FBI program initiated in 2009 targeted anti-government activists such as Tea Party activists and, alarmingly, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are, as one FBI document states, “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering for the psychological effects of war.” The purpose of this program was allegedly to counter terrorism, but there’s not a shred of evidence veterans are more prone to terrorism than any other citizen. Nonetheless, the FBI actually claimed that veterans who challenge the government are suffering from “Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).” One of the program’s first targets was 26-year-old decorated Marine veteran Brandon Raub. Due to posting anti-government statements on his Facebook page, the FBI arrested Raub with no warning, labeled him mentally ill and placed him in a psych ward against his will. Thankfully, Rutherford Institute attorney John Whitehead intervened and secured his release. Whitehead writes that he “may have helped prevent Raub from being successfully ‘disappeared’ by the government.” And this has happened to other veterans. If the FBI paid as much attention to jihadists as it does to military veterans, it would have stopped every domestic terror plot!
Targeting Pro-Lifers. In 2010, The FBI held a joint training session on terrorism with Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. The main message of the seminar was that all pro-lifers are potential terrorists, an outrageous allegation. Indeed, material passed out by the pro-aborts at the seminar listed three pages of “anti-abortion web sites,” including those of National Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, the American Center for Law and Justice, and Human Life International. None of those groups advocate violence. This is another example of how the FBI allows itself to be used by the left to go after its enemies. Similarly, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, the FBI created a project called VAAPCON to create files on pro-life religious leaders such as Rev. Jerry Falwell. Indeed, Judicial Watch, representing Falwell, sued the Clinton White House, seeking info on the project, but all the files mysteriously disappeared, Clinton style.
The IRS Scandal. The government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, obtained documents revealing that the FBI was involved with the illegal IRS effort to investigate — and thus silence— around 500 conservative and Tea Party groups during Obama’s 2012 reelection. Perhaps the worst use of the IRS in American history, this was about manipulating the 2012 presidential election and the FBI was complicit in this abuse of governmental power. As JWs Tom Fitton writes, “Both the FBI and Justice Department collaborated with Lois Lerner and the IRS to try to persecute and jail Barack Obama’s political opponents.”
FBI Worked With the SPLC. For much of the Obama era, the FBI listed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on its website as part of its effort to combat “hate crimes.” However, many of the groups identified by the SPLC as “hate groups” are not. One example is the Family Research Council, a mainstream pro-family organization. As a result of the FBI’s promotion of SPLC’s phony hate group list, a shooter entered FRC’s headquarters in 2012, wounding the front desk security guard and attempted to slaughter all the FRC employees. He was subdued by the wounded guard. Indeed, the SPLC believes all Christian groups that oppose the gay agenda or abortion are “hate groups,” a bizarre notion that has never been condemned by the FBI even though it did, in 2014, quietly drop the SPLC from its website.
Data Mining Innocent Americans. In 2013, Bloomberg exposed the FBI’s data mining project carried out on hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of whom were not guilty of any crimes.
Raids on Homes of Anti-Government Activists. Repeatedly, the FBI has raided homes on the flimsiest of evidence. In 2014, it raided the home of prepper Martin Winters, claiming he was some kind of domestic terrorist. But nothing was found aside from food stocks and other survivalist gear. Then there’s Terry Porter, also a prepper, whose house the FBI raided in 2012 using twice as many agents as in the Branch Davidian raid. Again, nothing alarming found there. Since when did anti-government preppers become terrorists? The FBI raids group meetings as well, such as when it raided a Republic of Texas secessionist movement meeting in 2015. No one was arrested because no one did anything illegal. But once again, the FBI treated a handful of elderly men discussing constitutional issues as a terrorist plot.
Fraudulent Forensics. Special Agent and whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst revealed in 2015 that FBI crime lab technicians routinely testified falsely about crime lab samples throughout the 1980s and 1990s. As former Judge Andrew Napolitano writes, “its agents and lab technicians who examine hair samples testified falsely in 257 of 268 cases that resulted in convictions. Of the convictions, 18 persons were sentenced to death, and of those, 12 have been executed.” Yes, innocent people died, thanks to the FBI.
FBI High School Informer Network. In 2016, the FBI launched an effort to enlist the help of high school students to ostensibly identify terrorists, but the FBI documents in question reveal they were also urging students to report on anti-government groups such as libertarian and constitutional groups. This effort is shockingly similar to the informant networks set up by the KGB in the USSR and the Stasi in East Germany.
The FBI Record on Fighting Terrorism.
And there are many other examples that can’t be cited here due to lack of space, but it’s difficult to find a domestic terrorist investigation that the FBI hasn’t screwed up. The above incidents alone cost the lives of almost 3,200 Americans. One would think that in the aftermath of 9/11, the FBI would make an effort to become more efficient when it comes to counter-terrorism, but with the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the FBI not only remained overly bureaucratic but became hyper politically correct.
Incredible as it may seem, in 2011, Obama’s FBI Director, Robert Mueller, met with a coalition of radical Islamic groups and agreed to purge thousands of files “offensive” to Muslims. Judicial Watch said the “purge is part of a broader Islamic ‘influence operation’ aimed at our government and constitution.”
In other words, the FBI caved in to groups that do not have our best interests at heart. Indeed, two of the groups Mueller met with, ISNA and CAIR, were unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terror funding case. Many terror experts believe this purge crippled the FBI’s abilities to detect some of the terror plots that occurred during the Obama years. Due to its desire not to offend Muslims, the FBI jeopardized the lives of many Americans.
Conservatives Should Quit Defending the FBI
Indeed, the Wall Street Journal has reported that “nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database,” even though most of them have not been convicted of a crime. Does anyone really believe our founding fathers would be fine with such sweeping federal law enforcement powers?
The aforementioned conservative civil rights attorney, John Whitehead, summarizes today’s FBI: “In additions to procedural misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, the FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, and harassment.” President Harry Truman once said, “We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is trending in that direction.” And that was 72 years ago.
It’s Time to Turn Over FBI Investigations to the States
Moreover, all these agencies are equipped with crime labs and the latest forensic tools. At one time, such tools were prohibitively expensive for state police agencies to acquire, but technological advances have brought the cost of such equipment down, resulting in most states having the latest forensics equipment that at one time was monopolized by the FBI. For example, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is famous for its forensic work: “The Division of Forensic Sciences envisions a future in which we continue to build and develop an internationally recognized forensic laboratory system that partners with governmental and private entities….”
Today, much of the FBI’s work entails the investigation of federal crimes committed within one state. There is no reason why the states can’t handle these investigations and if the case does happen to cross over into other states, then the states simply coordinate. Those days in which a criminal would escape the law by crossing a state line are long gone. Indeed, that practice was one of the reasons why the FBI was created, but with today’s advances in communication technology, that simply doesn’t happen anymore. All states today have the technology to easily track criminals as they cross state lines and it’s not difficult for two states or more to work together in the apprehension of a criminal. Already, states today cooperate on a wide array of governmental actions; there is no reason why they can’t coordinate on a police investigation or criminal apprehension.
Some of the FBI’s workload involves complex white collar cases such as tax evasion, money laundering, bank fraud, and commodities fraud, but if a state police agency feels it doesn’t have the expertise to investigate such crimes, it can enlist the assistance of existing agencies that already investigate such crimes. The IRS, Securities Exchange Commission, Treasury Department and the Secret Service all have investigative branches that handle different aspects of financial crimes.
Then, of course, there are the federal crime data bases largely maintained by the FBI, including the National Crime Information Center database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the Integrated Fingerprint Identification System, and the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). These databases should be turned over to the Department of Justice, which, in part, already play a role in maintaining them. More importantly, the state police agencies will need to be given ready access to these databases if they are to take on cases formerly handled by the FBI.
State law enforcement agencies are not perfect but it is far more difficult for the federal government to politicize the actions of a state agency. Moreover, it is much easier to hold state agencies accountable for any abuses they commit, just by virtue of being closer to the people.
Indeed, with access to federal crime data bases, most state police agencies have the capability to handle cases the FBI now handles, including domestic terrorist investigations. It’s a good bet that, given the FBI’s record on terrorism, the states will do a better job at stopping and preventing terrorism.
America’s founders were wise men and they knew not to make law enforcement a federal responsibility. They foresaw how the federal government could use a national police agency to play favorites, wreck havoc on our democratic institutions, and ultimately move us closer to a police state. The only question that remains is whether any politician will have the guts to initiate discussion on abolishing the FBI.
|Should The FBI Be Abolished? – American Spectator|
|Russias Gay Demons | by Robert Cottrell|
by Masha Gessen
Riverhead, 515 pp., $28.00
Early in Vladimir Putin’s first presidency I spoke to a Moscow banker, with reason to care on this point, who said he detected no trace of anti-Semitism in Putin personally, but that Putin would encourage popular anti-Semitism in a second if he thought that doing so would serve his interests. So far, Putin has not felt the need to demonize Russia’s Jews. He has instead identified the enemy within as Russia’s homosexuals, whose persecution is one of the main themes of The Future Is History, Masha Gessen’s remarkable group portrait of seven Soviet-born Russians whose changing lives embody the changing fortunes and character of their country as it passed from the end of Communist dictatorship under Mikhail Gorbachev to improvised liberalism under Boris Yeltsin and then back to what Gessen sees as renewed totalitarianism under Putin.
Two of Gessen’s central characters, Masha* and Lyosha, were born into the educated middle class of the 1980s. Two more characters of the same generation have lives touched by great privilege: Seryozha is the grandson of Alexander Yakovlev, who was Gorbachev’s close adviser and a longtime member of the Central Committee; Zhanna is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, a minister under Yeltsin and a dissident murdered under Putin. All four are encountered first in childhood and referred to throughout by their childhood names. Three characters appear first as adults, with private and public lives. Alexander Dugin is a philosopher who develops an ideology of Russian exceptionalism that wins him fame and favor under Putin. Lev Gudkov is a sociologist who seeks to model the emerging new Russia. Marina Arutyunyan is a psychologist who reestablishes the practice of psychoanalysis in Russia after its disappearance under communism.
Gessen’s deft blending of these stories gives us a fresh view of recent Russian history from within, as it was experienced at the time by its people. It is a welcome perspective. In turbulent periods, anything seems possible. Only with hindsight does causality creep in, and with it the illusion of inevitability. The infinite possibilities of the moment are lost. Through the eyes of her characters, Gessen manages to restore those possibilities, to convey how it felt to imagine that life in the new Russia could go in any direction.
The tension between experience and hindsight is there within Gessen’s writing. She alternately zooms in on the lives of her characters and zooms out to give more general accounts of the major events of the time—the putsch against Gorbachev in 1991, Yeltsin’s shelling of the Russian White House in 1993, the reelection of Yeltsin as president in 1996, the handover of power to Putin in 2000, and so on. How familiar these events appear when Gessen arranges them in their historical order, and how unfamiliar they appear when we see them as fragments of experience. On one side is the historian explaining the rise of Putin as a logical reaction to the failings of Yeltsin. On the other is Masha’s mother, wondering how on earth that dull man she met while selling insurance in St. Petersburg a few years back is now the prime minister.
Gessen was born in Moscow, emigrated to America with her family as a teenager in 1981, and returned to Russia ten years later to pursue a distinguished career as a journalist and LGBT activist. She came back to America in 2013, fearing that if she stayed in Russia, official hostility toward homosexuals could result in her children being seized by the state. Russia’s persecution of homosexuals is the strand of Gessen’s book that shows Putin at his cruelest. She arranges this narrative around Lyosha, who was born near Perm in 1985, and who was fifteen, on holiday in Crimea, when he recognized himself as gay:
The early post-Soviet period was not the very worst of times to be gay in Russia. Between 1989 and 1994, according to surveys conducted by the Russian sociologist Yuri Levada, support for “liquidating deviants” fell from 31 percent to 23 percent. It fell again to 15 percent in 1999, shortly before Lyosha had his realization. Homosexuality was no longer illegal. Teachers and doctors could talk about it if they wanted to. Lyosha did not much want to talk, but after a horrible beating from a local thug who was tipped off by a suspicious classmate, he opened up to a school counselor and discovered the liberating power of a sympathetic ear. He returned energized to his studies, graduated with distinction, and came out.
Lyosha built an academic career as a pioneer of gender and LGBT studies at Perm University, but when government-sanctioned hate campaigns made his work impossible and put his life in danger, he left the country. The sadistic murder in 2013 of a young gay man in Volgograd made a deep impression on him, and Gessen’s account of it will make a deep impression on you too. Whatever Putin’s legacy, it includes—among other results of his state-approved homophobia—three bloody beer bottles and one dead boy.
Demonizing homosexuality is, most obviously, a way for Putin to assert Russia’s superiority over the West. The West’s acceptance of homosexuality is given as proof of its moral and social collapse. Putin also sees, correctly, that the equality of all sexual orientations is widely proclaimed in the West but not uniformly accepted, allowing Russia to pose as a beacon of hope for Western reactionaries. To make homosexuality seem truly evil even to Russians who had ceased to think of it as such, Putin conflated it with pedophilia. If, in the age-old anti-Semitic narrative, “they” were conspiring to steal the nation’s money, in Putin’s anti-gay narrative “they” are conspiring to steal the nation’s children.
As Gessen recounts, Putin encountered few obstacles in selling this notion to the public. Politicians competed to imagine new crimes with which LGBT people could be charged and new punishments for them. Even to contest the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia marked the objector as a friend of the pedophile conspiracy. The crudeness and viciousness of views expressed in parliament and the media verged on the medieval. According to Dmitry Kiselev, a host on state-owned television: “If [gays] should die in a car accident, we need to bury their hearts underground or burn them; they are unsuitable for the aiding of anyone’s life.”
I suppose it is worth pointing out that just as my banker friend did not think Putin to be personally anti-Semitic, so I doubt that Putin hungers to murder homosexuals with his own bare hands. He might even enjoy the company of a gay grandson. When Oliver Stone asked him a question about gay rights in a recent series of interviews, Putin responded much as a middle-aged Western male might have responded forty years ago, jocularly and gingerly:
At such moments, thinking of a young man on a park bench in Volgograd with three beer bottles up his rectum, you have to wonder about the mixture in Putin’s character of the stupid, the brilliant, the evil, and the naive.
While Lyosha very wisely gets out of Russia, Seryozha gets by there, Zhanna gets on, and Masha gets involved with the 2011 protest movement organized by Boris Nemtsov—Zhanna’s father—and by Alexei Navalny, a younger dissident. It is an uneasy alliance. Navalny is a nationalist, whereas Nemtsov is the last and best survivor of Yeltsin-era liberalism, perhaps the last true liberal to have held any meaningful political power in Russia. When Nemtsov is murdered within sight of the Kremlin in 2015, apparently for his opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Zhanna blames the killing squarely on Putin. Others report that Putin is both surprised and angered by Nemtsov’s murder, less because he has any affection for Nemtsov than because a high-profile assassination in the center of Moscow is a direct challenge to his own monopoly on violence.
The outlier among Gessen’s seven is Alexander Dugin, the only one to favor repression, to reject freedom, to want more and better Putinism. He is too big and too strange to fit easily into the story, and instead haunts its margins. Dugin has always seemed to me a bogus thinker, a fantasist, an opportunist. But others take him seriously, and he emerges from Gessen’s account as a prodigious consumer and manipulator of philosophy and political science.
Dugin was expelled from college and has been deeply influenced by Heidegger and Hitler. He’s allegedly capable of learning a new European language in two weeks merely from reading books in that language. He appropriates the arguments of the Russian Eurasianists, including the émigré linguist Nikolai Trubetskoy and the Soviet ethnographer Lev Gumilev, to the effect that Russia’s geographical sprawl between Europe and Asia gives the nation a unique, non-Western character. Russia is not a country, but a civilization. The Russian identity belongs not to the Russian Federation but to the “Russian World,” and the West is the natural enemy of the Russian World.
Dugin had his wilderness years in the 1990s, but with the arrival of Putin his influence rocketed. His Eurasian Youth Union marched through Moscow. He was given a teaching job at Moscow State University. When, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin referred on television to “a Russian person, or, to speak more broadly, a person of the Russian World,” Dugin’s happiness was complete. He was putting words into Putin’s mouth that articulated in a suitably lofty manner their common vision of ethnic, cultural, and religious Russian supremacy. Dugin wants his Russian World to be totalitarian, which is to say, a world in which the state polices everybody’s thoughts as well as everybody’s actions. He opposes universal human rights and the rule of law as alien ideas from the hostile West.
Gessen claims in her title that Russia is already totalitarian. I imagine that Dugin would disagree. And from a different perspective, so would I. Take, for example, Gessen’s account of a moment after Masha has been arrested as a political protester in 2012. Under prolonged police investigation, she goes to stay in her mother-in-law’s dacha outside Moscow. The neighboring dacha belongs to a senior police officer called Natalia. The two fall into conversation:
That is not my idea of how life proceeds in a totalitarian society. I sense in this brief exchange humanity and sincerity on both sides. I do not want to generalize too much from this. Many horrible things happen in Russian police stations. But totalitarianism ought surely to be total, if only among the police.
The idea of categorizing dictatorships as either authoritarian or totalitarian is a twentieth-century one. Totalitarianism took as its examples Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The distinction was of practical significance during the cold war, when there was a political need in the West to distinguish between cruel regimes that the US supported (Pinochet’s Chile, the Shah’s Iran) and cruel regimes that the US opposed (China, the USSR). The former were deemed authoritarian, the latter totalitarian. Totalitarian regimes were beyond hope of improvement; authoritarian regimes were not.
If we accept the distinction between an authoritarian desire to control behavior and a totalitarian desire to control thought, then, as Gessen shows, Russia crossed that line some time ago under Putin. But what if you set Russia alongside North Korea? Putin wants all Russians to think like him, whereas Kim Jong-un would rather his subjects not think at all. That is not a very encouraging distinction, but at the darker end of government, it is surely one worth maintaining.
One problem with trying to understand totalitarianism is that, to the extent it succeeds, it is impenetrable to outsiders. Everything that is said and thought is the product of propaganda. Lev Gudkov, the sociologist in Gessen’s book, has a lucid account of this problem that merits quoting at some length, in Gessen’s paraphrase:
Another problem with trying to arrive at an account of totalitarianism—at least from a Western point of view—is that totalitarian societies are by definition the enemy, so we are not terribly interested in what their better points might be. “After the fall of the Soviet Union made it easier to study the country that had been,” Gessen writes, referring to the work of Sheila Fitzpatrick and others, “academics began noting how much richer private life had been in the USSR than they had once thought, how inconsistent and how widely disregarded the ideology, and how comparatively mild police enforcement became after Stalin’s death.”
This seems to be borne out by the lives of Gessen’s older characters. Even in the 1960s and 1970s, long before Gorbachev cracked open the old certainties, Arutyunyan the psychologist and Gudkov the sociologist were finding that Soviet academia allowed them a fair amount of room to maneuver, as long as this was exercised discreetly and deniably. For example, although you could not study the problems of Soviet society (Soviet society had only solutions), you could still study sociology so long as you pretended to be denouncing Western sociological theories, or if you called it something else. Gudkov’s mentor, Yuri Levada, was allowed to set up a department within the Academy of Sciences called the Institute for Concrete Social Studies. I also admire Gessen’s line that “the Soviet system offered not a vision of the future but the ability to know one’s future, much as tradesmen did in feudal times, and to make very small-scale, manageable decisions about the future.” If this was totalitarianism, you start to see why so many Russians wanted Putin to turn the clock back.
Gudkov argues that, in fact, the clock never moved. It was always striking thirteen. Institutions and systems designed for a totalitarian Soviet Union survived with little or no change into the new Russian state, encouraging totalitarian behavior to return through them. Elections became public displays of support for the regime, just like parades. Public protest was more frequent in Putin’s Russia than it had been in the Soviet Union, but only because the regime had reached a new understanding that street demonstrations changed nothing—on the contrary, they helped to maintain the existing order. Dissidents revealed themselves and were arrested. The rest of society was reassured by the regime’s show of power in shutting the demonstrations down.
Gudkov fears that the Soviet system has reshaped the Russian national character to such an extent that Russians can willingly recreate a totalitarian society among themselves even without compulsion from the state to do so. A corollary of that argument is that Russia can have a totalitarian society even without a totalitarian state—a useful formulation if one takes the view that the ultimate aim of the Putin regime is the accumulation of wealth even more than the accumulation of power. Thus Gessen, when she discusses the ideas of the Hungarian political scientist Bálint Magyar, can speak of Russia as a “mafia state ruling over a totalitarian society.”
With all due respect to Gessen and to Gudkov, the term “totalitarian” is being used loosely here. It may be useful to invoke the prospect of totalitarianism as a rhetorical way of alerting Russians to the fact that their government is a danger to themselves and to others. But to claim that Russia is already totalitarian is to absolve Russians in general from what is done in their name by proposing that they have been indoctrinated into acquiescence. One risks imagining a Russian nation which, freed from thought control, reveals itself to be liberal and freedom-loving. This is exactly the mistake that Westerners made when Soviet communism was on its last legs thirty years ago—and when, as Gessen so poignantly shows, what was revealed was the appetite for a newer and better dictator.
My own view of Putin is that he came to power fully intending to be an authoritarian leader but also to allow some small degree of pluralism in politics and some larger degree of liberalism in private life and business, on the purely pragmatic grounds that he knew from Soviet times the weakness of totalitarianism. He would rather be Lee Kuan Yew than Robert Mugabe. But he found it personally intolerable to be criticized, let alone thwarted, so freedom to oppose him politically soon disappeared. Economics was a closed book to Putin when he took power, but he came to understand that a thriving market economy required a well-functioning rule of law capable of constraining even government—and that was the death knell for the market economy. Freedom in private life lasted rather longer, but was eventually curtailed, most obviously in the sexual domain, when the stagnating regime needed new ways to mobilize popular support.
The theater and film director Andrei Konchalovsky, quoted by Christian Neef in Der Spiegel, sees roughly the same trajectory in Putin’s career, but attributes it to pressure from below:
We are close here to the dilemma of Bertolt Brecht’s poem “The Solution,” about the anti-Communist uprising in East Germany in 1953, and a thought that must have struck every observer of Russia at some time or other:
|John Raines, 84; was accomplice in 1971 burglary that revealed FBI abuses – The Boston Globe|