The NSC’s top Russia expert was sacked three weeks ago, but was the problem Russia … or was it Iran?

Andrew Peek is the son of a Fox News contributor frequently retweeted by Donald Trump. He formerly worked as an adviser to two Republican senators. Peek was also formerly the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council—a post he held for less than three months before being escorted out of the White House on Jan. 17 of this year.

An NSC director being hustled out of the White House under guard is very unusual, to say the least. Shortly after he was dismissed, stories indicated that Peek had been under investigation for some time, possibly even before he was asked to step into the role formerly held by Fiona Hill. But none of those stories explained exactly what Peek might have done to merit being marched off the property. 

And three weeks later, no one is talking.

The impression that Fiona Hill made on millions of Americans when she testified in the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump was one of a consummate professional—the epitome of the type of person anyone would want working at high levels of the American government. But Hill was replaced by the overtly political Tim Morrison, and after Morrison came Peek. And after Peek came security officers.

Peek first joined the Trump White House in a role at the State Department, where he worked on Middle East issues, particularly issues related to Iran. According to The Daily Beast, it was new national security adviser and former State Department official Robert O’Brien who selected Peek to come with him to the NSC after O’Brien assumed his new position in September, replacing John Bolton.

But if the investigation into Peek relates to something that happened before he came to the NSC, that leads to an obvious question: Is the subject of that investigation something that happened while Peek was in his role at the State Department? If it is, does that issue also involve O’Brien? Or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

Days after his departure, multiple sources indicated that Peek was removed for issues related to security, and possibly to an incident that result in the revocation of the clearance to handle classified information necessary for a role at the NSC. Considering the casual way in which the Trump White House has handed out clearance to staff who have absolutely failed to qualify for it, that seems severe. Or, as one expert indicated to TPM in the days after Peek was removed, “It could be a particularly egregious security violation.” Within the State Department and national security community, rumors flew. Whatever the truth behind them, the way Peek left his position definitely raised more than a few eyebrows.

But there is one rumor that has come up repeatedly, in this case expressed by National Iranian American Council organizer Reza Marashi. According to Marashi, “One of Trump's top Iran advisers got suckered into a honey trap, had their laptop/iPhone stolen and hacked before they woke up, and the White House refused to take precautionary measures regarding their security clearance.” While that statement doesn’t name Peek directly, the timing of the events and the subject of Iran would make Peek a possible candidate for the honey-trapped adviser. Other reports have featured Peek as being trapped by Russian honeys.

That one of the Pompeo State Department’s political appointees might have wandered into such a trap seems possible—though it should be noted there is nothing that directly connects Peek to this account other than timing and a lot of pointing fingers.

But if Peek’s removal comes courtesy of his having handed over classified U.S. information to Iran, that would reinforce the idea that the new wave of Trump-approved officials at lower tiers are proving every bit as incompetent as his more visible White House staff. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Iraqi officials don’t believe that Iranian militias were behind a rocket aimed at an Iraqi base occupied by American forces on Dec. 27.

In response to that attack, Donald Trump ordered the bombing of multiple sites in both Iraq and Syria that were supposedly connected to Iranian-supported militias. In turn, those attacks generated fresh uprisings in Baghdad, including a very visible assault on the huge U.S. embassy compound. And that led directly to a U.S. attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani along with several Iraqi militia leaders. Which generated unrest in both Iraq and Iran, and brought a response that not only injured dozens of American troops stationed in Iraq, but brought about the accidental downing by Iran of a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing hundreds of civilians.

This whole spiral of disasters was set off on U.S. claims that the original attack had come from a specific Shiite militia group with ties to Iran. But Iraqi officials say that the rocket was launched from a Sunni area where militants were supported by the Islamic State. So as the U.S. and Iran began hurling military threats, the big winner may well have been ISIS.

Was Peek—a National Security Council member fresh off the role of Iran expert at the State Department—consulted following the rocket attack? Did he play a role in either the U.S. response on Dec. 27 or the Jan. 3 attack that killed Soleimani? Were U.S. officials particularly on guard over the idea that Iranian officials may have gained access to classified information, and did this contribute to a desire to make a forceful response? Was the whole idea of some impending action on the part of Iran based on the idea that Iranian forces had U.S. information in hand?

None of this is clear.

Why Andrew Peek was removed from White House grounds on Jan. 17 remains unknown, and the latest article from The Daily Beast doesn’t really say anything more than was already broadly acknowledged. But if Peek was the subject of a monthslong security investigation that began before he was named to a critical post at the National Security Council, it certainly seems possible that someone might have expressed some concern before he slid into Fiona Hill’s vacated chair.

Former Amb. Bill Taylor on Alexander Vindman, Mike Pompeo and Ukraine

Bill Taylor served as the top American diplomat in Ukraine following the dismissal of Amb. Marie Yovanovitch. The former ambassador was a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry and subsequently left his post. Taylor sits down with Nick Schifrin to discuss the firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, his view of Sec. of State Mike Pompeo and why Ukraine is a critical strategic ally of the U.S.

Trump Uses Profanity to Describe Russia Probe

On Thursday, President Trump gave his first post-impeachment trial remarks and did not hesitate to go after his political enemies, where things got a little salty at moments.

“We’ve all been through a lot together. It’s been a very unfair situation,” Trump said in an address from the White House’s East Room.

Trump on Impeachment

“We’ve been going through this now for three years. It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers. It was a disgrace. Had I not fired James Comey, who was a disaster, by the way, it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now,” he continued before pivoting briefly to his accomplishments.

RELATED: Adam Schiff Claims ‘I Don’t Know Who the Whistleblower Is’

“We’ve done more than any president, any administration, you look at all of the things we’ve done,” he added.

Trump went on to say that he believes the stock market would have crashed if had he not become president.

“That’s all our credit. One of the reasons it’s going up … and one of the reasons the stock market has gone up so much in the last few days is people think we’re doing so well, they liked the State of the Union speech,” Trump said.

The president then told everyone he wasn’t giving a speech, per se.

‘We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bull****’

“This is really not a news conference, it’s not a speech, it’s not anything, it’s just we’re sort of — it’s a celebration because we have something that just worked out. It worked out. We went through hell unfairly. Did nothing wrong. Did nothing wrong,” Trump said, holding up a copy of the Washington Post and its headline that read, “Trump acquitted.”

“We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bull****,” Trump continued.

“Little did we know we were running against some very, very bad and evil people with fake dossiers, with all of these horrible, dirty cops that took these dossiers and did bad things,” he said. “They knew all about it.”

RELATED: New Video Shows Pelosi Practicing Ripping Up Trump’s State Of The Union Speech

Taking Aim at Schiff and Pelosi

Trump did not hesitate to take direct aim at Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi.

“They made up facts. A corrupt politician named Adam Schiff made up my statement to the Ukrainian president,” he said about Schiff’s parody of Trump’s phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person, and she wanted to impeach a long time ago when she said, ‘I pray for the president.’ She doesn’t pray. She may pray but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all,” Trump concluded. “These are vicious people.”

The post Trump Uses Profanity to Describe Russia Probe appeared first on The Political Insider.

For the sake of our country, read this 2016 article again, because every word of it is coming true

It’s stunning to look back and realize it now, but this was written just two days after the 2016 election.  Along with Adam Serwer's piece in the Atlantic, bluntly titled “The Cruelty is the Point,” and Timothy Snyder’s tract, “On Tyranny,” Masha Gessen’s brief essay in the New York Review of Books,  “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,”  warning us of the threat Donald Trump posed to our nation’s continued existence as a functioning republic, has proved itself over and over as a frighteningly prescient and disturbingly accurate prediction of how this would all play out, down almost to its very last word.

Gessen, a Russian-American writer and National Book Award winner, has lived in autocracies most of her life. As an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, she was one of the first to point out that Trump would, based on all evidence at the time, essentially govern in Putin’s shadow, slowly and inexorably transforming the American Republic by imposing a corrupt, autocratic system on so-called American “institutions.”  As it turned out, Gessen’s assessment of the looming danger posed by Trump and his collaborators in the Republican Party, and her pithy but sound advice on what to expect from a regime that considered itself unbound by such institutions, resounds even more prophetically today as we watch another supposedly hallowed institution, the United States Senate, crumble into dust and irrelevancy, right before our eyes.

The purpose of this is not to revisit the entirety of Gessen’s essay. Most here have already read it (if not you should read it now). Briefly, she sets down a list of six immutable rules of autocratic behavior and explains how ordinary citizens must react, cope, and counter this type of tyranny; and she predicts how the Trump administration would fulfill each of those rules in its efforts to transform our government into something as near a dictatorship as possible. Those rules are: 1) Believe the autocrat—do not for a minute believe anything he says is intended simply to shock or exaggerate; 2) Do not be taken in by small signs of normality; 3) Institutions will not save you; 4) Be outraged; 5) Don’t make compromises; and 6) Remember the future.  Each one of these principles is followed by a prediction of how Trump would turn them into reality for our nation.  And each one, more or less, turned out to be accurate.

If you have any doubt as to the legitimacy of Gessen’s analysis or the soundness of her advice, then consider the following excerpts from it, written two days after the 2016 election and two months before Trump actually took office. The signs of just how perilously weak the American Republic would be in withstanding such an assault were evident in the concession speeches of Hillary Clinton, the words of the Democratic runner-up Bernie Sanders, and even former President Barack Obama, all of whom offered varied forms of the standard “olive branch” owed by the politically vanquished to the victor. Expecting Trump, whose real goal was absolute power, to respond to these platitudes was a depressing exercise in outright naivete, masking as political politesse. Gessen saw it for what it was: ridiculous and dangerous.

However well-intentioned, this talk assumes that Trump is prepared to find common ground with his many opponents, respect the institutions of government, and repudiate almost everything he has stood for during the campaign. In short, it is treating him as a “normal” politician. There has until now been little evidence that he can be one.

Gessen first predicted that contrary to the common assumption that Trump could never command the allegiance of so-called “mainstream” conservatives, the  Republican Party would instead rush to embrace Trump. In this she was, again, absolutely correct.

He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

After what is expected to be a full-blown acquittal of Trump in the Republican Senate next week (possibly accompanied by a few shiny votes of some Democratic quislings fearful of Trump’s wrath), there is no doubt whatsoever that the Republican Party, including nearly every elected Republican official in the country, is prostrate under Trump’s boot-heel. It was almost amusing to watch the media circus solemnly placing the fate of an autocratic monster in the hands of proven cowards such as Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander.  The Republican-controlled  Senate is now as laughable an entity as was the Roman Senate in Caligula’s age, and it seems only a matter of time before Trump sees fit to place a horse in the chamber.

Gessen also assured us with dead-on certainty that Trump would continue with his campaign-stated plans to dismantle not only the Affordable Care Act (which he has tried to do, with some success), but most if not all of the legislation and rulemaking passed in the Obama administration (which he has done), and would continue to use the functions of government whenever possible to punish his political opponents.

Observers and even activists functioning in the normal-election mode are fixated on the Supreme Court as the site of the highest-risk impending Trump appointment. There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court. And since Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas, his pick for attorney general will be no less important.

With the nomination of Executive Power ideologues  Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr, Trump again has performed exactly how Gessen predicted. She suggested that a Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani could be chosen for AG, specifically for the purpose of investigating Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, Trump found someone possibly worse than that in Barr, while retaining Giuliani as his personal consigliere.

Gessen also predicted how the stock market would respond to Trump--it would leap to embrace his lies as if on cue: “Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people. Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words about how the world as we know it has not ended.”  This is exactly what (until the Coronavirus reared its head) the financial markets have done in response to Trump’s lies about the “trade war” with China. They and the financial press have reacted like trained monkeys, eager to accept the most absurd assurances about Trump’s tariffs and his trade “policy.”

But the harshest prediction has been the most devastating. Gessen, asserting that “institutions will not save us,” first noted that Vladimir Putin took a year to totally assimilate the Russian media landscape and an additional four years to dismantle its electoral system, so-called “institutions” which Americans also claim as their own. The same dismantling of the “cherished bulwarks” of these paper-thin “democracies”  occurred in Turkey and Poland over the span of a few years.

Gessen acknowledges that the United States has stronger institutions than these second-world nations, as we were continually reminded at the start of Trump’s term in office. But here’s the thing:

The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them—including the ones enshrined in law—depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.

The abdication of its responsibilities by fully one-half of the United States Congress and Senate in support of a wannabee dictator like Donald Trump—and the complete and wholesale embrace of corruption that this represented—is the most visible demolition of our institutions, but the pollution of our Federal judiciary with rabid  (and in many cases totally incompetent) ideologues is no less corrosive to the American constitutional order. For our Democracy to survive it is necessary that certain rules and norms be observed, rules and norms that everyone accepts.  When one party is willing to forego the truth in pursuance of contrived conspiracies and outright lies; when one party through procedural manipulation ensures that no legislation will proceed or even receive debate, then that essential good faith has clearly been abandoned. As a result, the “institution” dies an ignominious death. The dissolution of our federal government under Trump has also been accelerated by the perversion of our federal agencies, now tasked with working not for the interests of the American people, but for a narrow corporate donor base.

The dismantling of institutions is not limited to our Constitutional structure; Gessen also predicted exactly what would happen to the press after Trump. At the risk of being repetitious, remember this was two days after the election itself, and well before Trump even entered the White House:

The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.

The power of the investigative press—whose adherence to fact has already been severely challenged by the conspiracy-minded, lie-spinning Trump campaign—will grow weaker. The world will grow murkier. Even in the unlikely event that some mainstream media outlets decide to declare themselves in opposition to the current government, or even simply to report its abuses and failings, the president will get to frame many issues...[.]

Trump now has an army of voters numbering in the tens of millions who simply do not believe legitimate news sources, since they report negative news about Trump. Attacks on journalists and media outlets are a staple of his Nuremberg-like rallies. Seasoned reporters and news agencies, from CNN to NPR, are now routinely singled out and denied access to a White House that has all but abandoned press briefings.  Again, Gessen was spot on in her prediction: indeed, “institutions” will not save us. It only remains to be seen whether foreign influence in the form of Russian-generated propaganda will topple our last remaining institution—our elections themselves. Significantly, Gessen’s essay was written before the Mueller investigation was even conceived, let alone the degree of Russian influence on the 2016 electorate discovered.

So where does that leave us? There are only three rules left.

Of those, the first is  “Be outraged.”  Do not normalize anything this administration does. Never forget that this is not normal.  It can never be allowed to be normal. Most of us here have learned  through the bitter experience of the last three years to never stop fighting against this nightmare. We are not alone in our outrage, and we should never forget the fact that there are millions of us—in fact we are the majority.

The second, Don’t make compromises. This should go without saying, but somehow some Democrats need to be reminded. There can be no cooperation—ever--with this regime. As Gessen states, to do otherwise is not only corrupting, but soul-destroying. Willfully or even expediently ignoring the corruption of this fledgling autocracy will destroy any future this country may still possess.

Finally: Remember the future. Trump and Trumpism will come to an end one day. The man himself will no longer be around in a few years and his unique brand of insouciance and arrogance has already shown itself not to play well in the form of pale imitations. Trumpism and Trump’s personality are not as transferable or convertible as the Republican Party believes. 2018 showed that very, very clearly, and we all have the power to ensure that 2020 will demonstrate it to the Republicans again.

Most importantly, Gessen urges that the Democrats must offer up a powerful and compelling alternative vision to counterbalance Trump’s conjuring of an imaginary, lily-white past that appeals so much to his racist, xenophobic base. That is the challenge of not only of our nominee, but for all Democrats who want to wrest our country back from the brink of tyranny where it now rests. We failed to do that in 2016. We cannot and must not fail again.

World Health Organization Declares Coronavirus a Global Health Emergency

By David Kamioner | January 30, 2020

As the first case of person to person transmission of the coronavirus has been reported in the U.S., the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday labeled the virus a global health emergency.

WHO stated the main reason for their announcement was the spread of the disease to countries outside of China.

Russia has shut down its long border with China and international flights continue to avoid the country.

Inside China millions are quarantined and whole regions are under strict restrictions regarding public transportation and meetings.

RELATED: Coronavirus Spreading: Flights Canceled, Four U.S. States Affected

As rumors fly that the virus is a Chinese biowarfare weapon gone awry, nations all over the Earth are taking stringent measures to guard their populations against the deadly strain.

The coronavirus has killed 170 people in China as of Thursday and has infected 7,711, the Chinese government reports. The number of cases in the last 24 hours has grown by over 20% and climbing.

16 countries are known to be affected, with 6 cases now in the U.S. Common symptoms of the virus first appear as the flu but then increase in respiratory severity until hospitalization is warranted.

Information though is limited at best because the Chinese are not allowing any foreign medical personnel into China to research and combat the disease.

This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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Senate Impeachment Trial Moves Coming Fast and Furious, Biden Livid

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Why Do Democrats Suddenly Hate Russia?

By David Kamioner | January 25, 2020

There was a time, it feels like centuries ago, when the Democratic Party fought America’s enemies all over the globe. During a good part of that time the main adversary was the communist Soviet Union.

After unsuccessfully ridding itself of communist influence in the 40s and 50s, Dems like Harry Truman fought the communists in Korea, John Kennedy fought them very badly in Cuba, and Lyndon Johnson fought them in Vietnam. We know how that turned out.

But after the Johnson era in the Dem party it was taken over by appeasers and blatant communist sympathizers like George McGovern, Frank Church, and Ted Kennedy.

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For two decades starting in the 1970s the Dems urged patience and caution with the Soviets. They championed every Soviet “peace” initiative that came down the pike. They openly sided with communist forces in the field in Vietnam, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. At the very least they wanted “peaceful coexistence.” At the most, a Soviet parity then superiority to American influence around the world.

But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan seemed to use the Dems as a reverse barometer. He executed everything they despised from labeling the Soviets an “evil empire” to confronting them behind their own lines. It worked and the Soviets bit the dust on Christmas Day of 1991.

And soon, the Dems fell out of love with Russia.

True, during the Boris Yeltsin era of the 90s the Clinton administration was close to them. But when Putin took over in 1999 the Dems began actively opposing the country. Why?

I would stipulate, because the Russians were no longer communist.

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When the Russians were powerful geopolitical rivals they were just fine to Dems. When they were Marxist Leninists, no problem. But have Putin wrap Russia in the Greek Orthodox faith and go bonkers for wild west capitalism and the Dems lose their long term crush on the nation.

This is not an apology for Putin’s Russia. I would not want to live there. But then, I’m not Russian.

What has happened is that the long dormant, then influential, and now dominant authoritarian socialist faction of the Dems, as evidenced in the popularity in that party of Bernie Sanders and AOC, hates Russia for turning its back on communism.

And worse for the Dems, the Russian people like America, Americans, and Donald Trump.

Enough to drive the Dems to barking madness.

This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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Schiff Ressurrects Domino Theory

By David Kamioner | January 23, 2020

This article is far too short a space to list all of the instances from 1945-1991 that the U.S. Democratic Party hosted communist agents of influence or worse or took the communist line in national security matters.

From Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White to Henry Wallace, from Tom Hayden to the Dear Commandante Letter, from Ted Kennedy asking the Soviets to intervene in the 1984 American presidential election to the modern socialist ideals of today’s Dems, this party has tilted hard left even at the expense of U.S. combat troops in the field.

So that gives them little credibility in bringing up the scary Russians now, especially after said Russians were defanged by GOP defense and foreign policies they consistently opposed for decades.

But credibility and the massive lack of it does not concern Dems.

Hence why Adam Schiff felt comfortable invoking the Domino Theory (the idea that if one nation falls others will as well, leading right up to our shores. It was used by LBJ to rationalize our involvement in the Vietnam War) in a Senate impeachment trial diatribe against President Trump.

RELATED: States Speak Up Asking Senate to Throw Out Impeachment

“As one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here,” Schiff incredibly said.

Wow. Just wow. It is akin to Martin Bormann standing in front of a synagogue and vowing, “Never Again.”

Aside from Schiff’s unintentionally comic highlight day two proceeded much like day one, substituting nonstop Dem babbling for a GOP 11-0 rout of the disloyal opposition.

Schiff, in his amazing capacity to shock with sheer stupidity, also made the argument that the president needed to be removed because he poses a threat to an election that hasn’t happened yet and which the outline of is nowhere near clear. Yes, Trump has already, by Schiff’s reasoning, fixed the 2020 bout.

RELATED: Chief Justice Roberts Forced to Play Referee During Impeachment Trials

Neat trick, that.

Well, by that logic, let’s exclude any candidate from any future election because they potentially could “cheat” (Schiff’s favorite word as of late) and thus render democracy impotent.

Does the hair bronzer-using guy ever listen to his own words? Or are they drowned by the sharply pinging sounds of his mental process throwing pistons?

Either way, we only have another two days of it and the GOP mercifully comes to bat.

Proof, there is a God.

This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

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