TBR News February 3, 2019

Feb 03 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. February 3, 2019:”From various sorces, official and unofficial, I have been compiling bits and pieces of interesting information that might prove to be of interest to the average citizen.

  • If you have a cell phone and are not using it, keep it in a box lined with sheet lead.


Because the pointy-heads can always use it to listen to you, even if it is turned off.

  • Note that if you send an email outside the country, the NSA automatically downloads it for future inspection.

This allows one to put all kinds of disinformation into the septic tank.

  • And if you want to send any confidential information by US Mail, always use a fake sender address.


Because the FBI has the USPS scan all mail and packages and send the daily results to them.

They haven’t gotten around to having the USPS open letters and read them but that no doubt will be coming soon.

I recommend using ‘Mike Hunt’ or ‘Ben Dova’ as possible new sender names.

  • If you are on the telephone, you never know if the pointy-heads might be listening

so keep them interested.

Say to someone: ‘I had no idea Trump did sickening things like that. My friend in the CIA sent me a raft of inside dirt on Trump just yesterday from the Secret Service reports but I didn’t see that gem.’

Or: ‘The meeting will be in Maryland on Saturday but the General can’t come. Did you see his report on the new missle?’

I have enough material to write a book but I doubt if I could ever find an American publisher.

More later.


The Table of Contents

  • Chaos at Orlando airport as TSA agent leaps to death in alleged ‘statement suicide’
  • Merchants of Truth by Jill Abramson review – journalism’s troubles
  • Trump Lost the Shutdown, But At Least God Made Him President, and He’s Building That Wall
  • Under pressure to recalibrate, defiant Trump tackles big speech
  • A watershed moment’: Trump faces crossroads amid mounting threats on all sides
  • Vladimir Putin to the West: ‘We Will Bury You!’
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations


Chaos at Orlando airport as TSA agent leaps to death in alleged ‘statement suicide’

February 3, 2019


A TSA agent has jumped off a hotel balcony inside Orlando International Airport in an apparent suicide. The incident saw panicked passengers rushing through checkpoints, causing nearly 100 flights to be cancelled.

A man in his 40s, later confirmed as an off-duty Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent, jumped from the upper floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel located within the airport and landed near a security area. The Saturday morning freefall provoked mayhem, scaring many passengers into breaching security checkpoints in the ensuing chaos.

The airport authorities made the decision to rescreen all the passengers in dozens of gates affected by the incident, which led to massive backlogs. At least 45 outbound and 49 inbound flights were cancelled. Photos on social media show long lines of people at security checkpoints, as the airport asked passengers to arrive early to be on time for their flights.

Some of the passengers appeared to cross police lines, struggling to cram into the narrow waiting space.

The TSA said in a statement that the agent “fell from hotel balcony,” without providing further details on the incident.

Orlando police said that according to preliminary reports, the man appeared to have committed suicide.

The identity of the agent has not been immediately revealed. Neither was an explanation of what might have prompted him to allegedly kill himself in an airport area bustling with people. However, an ABC affiliate in Miami, Florida, reported, citing a source, that police believe the man was hoping to send a message to the public by ending his life in such a dramatic way.

A spokesman for the TSA said the deceased man just wrapped up his shift before his demise. A witness told the news outlet he saw the agent climbing over the railing but thought that he was merely inspecting the security area.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has sent his condolences to the family and all impacted by the incident.

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) appeared to drag politics into the so far unexplained death, tweeting that the apparent suicide “only adds to tragedy experienced at Orlando International” due to the record-long government shutdown.

Trump ended the 35-day shutdown, the longest in American history, on January 25 by signing a stopgap bill to fund the government through February 15. The move came after air traffic controllers at New York’s LaGuardia Airport started calling in sick, disrupting air traffic along the East Coast.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Trump at the time to reopen the government, tweeting that it was pushing “airspace to the breaking point.”

In the run-up to the temporary resolution, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) also threatened to call a general strike to stop the shutdown, which affected 800,000 federal workers, with half being forced to work without pay.


Merchants of Truth by Jill Abramson review – journalism’s troubles

A former editor of the New York Times takes an unsparing look at the decline of US journalism

January 30, 2018

by Heidi N Moore

The Guardian

This book about the commercial takeover of the news business is sure to make a lot of powerful people very angry. Jill Abramson takes an unsparing look at US journalism’s moral decline; as former executive editor of the New York Times, she is someone who knows where most of the bodies are buried and is prepared to draw the reader a detailed map. Names are named, mistakes are exposed, and the writing is unforgiving and unadorned, as befits a woman with “balls like iron cantaloupes”, as one veteran journalist tells her. It is a cracking read, and a complicated one, flawed in many places yet absorbing in its frank desire to hold journalism to account for becoming overly willing to sell out to advertisers and thereby endangering its own future.

Abramson compares four media organisations: the New York Times; its longtime rival the Washington Post; BuzzFeed; and Vice. These last two digital media companies, born of early viral content and gonzo reporting, are often the madcap foils to the gravitas of the Times and Post – though by the end it’s clear that all four are closer to each other than they may think. In fact, both the digital and traditional publications have shown great adaptability; BuzzFeed and Vice have unquestionably succeeded, in a short time, in producing compelling journalism, even in Abramson’s telling. As well as a Pulitzer nomination, both have won highly respected awards, including Emmys and Peabodys.

The occasion for the book is the inescapable collapse of journalism as we know it; newsroom jobs have fallen 23% in 10 years, according to Pew Research, and each month brings more closures and layoffs. (A thousand jobs were lost in newsrooms – including at BuzzFeed and Huffington Post – last week.) In other words, it looks like the end times and it is natural, after the Flood, to look up to the heavens and ask why, Lord, why. Merchants of Truth feels biblical in length – 544 pages – and, as it turns out, is biblical in purpose: Abramson sets out on a quest in search of the original sin that has brought journalism low. And the poisoned apple she finds? The fruit of advertising that media executives are all too willing to eat and by so doing, to destroy the industry’s claim to unbiased truth-telling.

During her tenure as editor of the NYT (2011-14), Abramson was among those who refused to nibble. She knows she is not a digital native, that this was her achilles heel, but nevertheless maintains that the internet, with its fast pace and fake news, chipped away at the soul of the industry: “I didn’t think technological change should sweep in moral change.” As far as this goes, Abramson is, in the words of William F Buckley, standing athwart history and yelling “stop!” She maintained a chilly approach to the Times’ business executives: “I was not willing to sacrifice my ethical moorings for business exigencies,” she says. She took exception to the launch of a Thursday lifestyle section not for journalistic reasons – the paper already had a Sunday lifestyle section – but primarily because the idea, meant to goose luxury advertising revenue, came from the commercial side of the company.

But this resistance, multiplied over months and years, took a personal toll. Abramson, eager to be in the scrum of news, found the constant fight against financial imperatives life-negating. By the end, she says, “I felt lonely and depressed at work … everything was about saving or generating money.”

She criticises news outlets that, in her opinion, allowed too close a relationship with advertisers: after describing “a recurring BuzzFeed segment, the ‘Giant Little Story’”, she adds pointedly that it was “brought to you by Wendy’s Giant Junior Bacon Cheeseburger”. She contends that one of her peers, who raised the Washington Post’s traffic numbers by double digits, did so by “dumbing down” some of the coverage and pandering to readers with clickbait. Among the executives she discusses is Arthur Sulzberger Jr, the NYT publisher who abruptly fired her, and with whom she achieved a kind of reconciliation – but she nonetheless manages to repeat a dig at him by the writer Gay Talese: “Every once in a while you get a bad king.”

A book of this scope gives Abramson the chance to relay her performance reviews of the man who fired her and her successor, Dean Baquet, who backed her removal. It is an opportunity she takes often throughout the book. Times Kremlinologists – of whom there are many in the US – will have much to discuss, especially in her account of the NYT’s controversial coverage of the 2016 election (which Abramson praises for taking Trump to task).

The closest thing the book has to comic relief – the laughs here are dark – is Vice co-founder Shane Smith. Bullshitter Shane, as he is dubbed, aggressively chases advertisers’ favour and their money. He has a penchant for cocaine and animal suits, on one occasion pranced naked through the office and once tweeted gleefully: “let’s fuck news in its naughty ass”. Whenever he enters a scene in the book, one imagines that Abramson has chosen as his musical accompaniment not the pounding of heavy metal but the distant sound of kazoos.

These characterisations don’t give the reader much faith in the leadership of the news business as we know it, and perhaps that is Abramson’s point. Yet while the leaders have made notable mistakes, they had help. Facebook, which might be considered the Lucifer in the story of journalism’s embrace of advertising, gets some mention, but it should be more central to any account of journalism’s struggles since 2015. It was Facebook’s role as a provider of all that internet traffic that lured newsrooms to adapt their coverage to attract mass readership. The rise of bots on such social networks as Facebook and Twitter spread fake news, destabilising the authority of real journalism. Along the way, Facebook did an end-run around newsrooms and took much of the advertising for itself, and Google took much of the rest. The industry may well have sold itself out for ad dollars; the tragedy is, it did so for Facebook’s table scraps.

There is also the question not just of the dangers of the advertising money coming into the industry, but the ethics of how and where that money was distributed once it got there. A great deal went into ill-fated pivot-to-video strategies, which drove several newsrooms to their deaths within months. It certainly didn’t go into salaries, nor did it fend off redundancies, which have occurred in every digital and traditional newsroom in the past five years. (She quotes a departing NYT copy editor’s poignant and cutting note in response to a cull among the editorial ranks at the paper; it ends, “excuse me while I go cease to exist”.) Abramson describes the pain of laying off talented journalists at the Times and mentions the “indentured status of the workforce” at Vice, earning $28,000 a year on average while their boss Smith, casually posing as a rebel, became increasingly rich. (How anarchic can someone be with a $23m mansion to go home to, after all?)

Abramson never becomes polemical and one gathers that she believes journalism can dig itself out by emphasising quality and giving up on the pursuit of scale in favour of appealing to discerning readers (who will pay for subscriptions). Where her account shines is in her stories of the thrill of the news chase: she describes talented journalists, from BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman and Jason Leopold to Vice’s Elle Reeves, following tips and tracking down difficult, award-winning stories.

But she is as hard on younger journalists – who have walked into a broken business for little pay – as she is on their elders, who, with ample time and resources, drove that business into the ground. There is a dismissive reference to “hipster phenotypes”, and the way in which young workers in digital media style their hair and clothing to signal disdain for hierarchies; she describes a group of diverse Vice correspondents as “impossibly hip, with interesting hair” – which is, to say the least, reductive.

She is also quick to describe anyone under 40 as having scant experience. This strange disconnect falls into place later when she notes that Cliff Levy, at 40, was considered by the Times mandarins to be remarkably young to earn one of the paper’s prestigious foreign postings. “The average age in the newsroom,” Abramson writes, “was 50, and many reporters were in their 60s and 70s.”

Similarly, in several places Abramson seems perplexed by how news has changed, particularly around the growing interest in social movements concerning gender and race. She attributes BuzzFeed’s coverage of LGBT and gender issues to their being “reliable traffic drivers” that allowed the media outlet to “ingratiate itself with the younger generations”. What she misses is that coverage of these issues is not a matter of the latest fashion; it’s a shift in American history.

Despite that, her best storytelling in the book is about women in journalism, including herself. The chapters on her departure from the NYT are engaging, as honest about her own motivations and failings as those of her rivals.

Yet as Abramson recounts her shortcomings the question hovers: would these flaws have been as fatal to her career at the Times if she were a man? Sulzberger, she comments, once called her, in a sexist phrase, “his go-to girl”. In her telling, her firing came just as she asked for higher pay. She relates that the current Times editor Dean Baquet lashed out in an email to a reporter using the phrase: “I hope your colleagues rip you a new asshole.” Even though Abramson had left by then, and she provides no commentary, the reader can sense her implied question: if she, or any woman, had said such a thing to a reporter, would she have been allowed to keep her job?

Abramson knows she is not alone in raising these issues. She mentions, often, the open sexism that women in journalism face – some are refused promotions, some shown the door, most are told to be nicer to men – and in those stories, her deadpan scepticism gives way to curiosity and sympathy.

Merchants of Truth in its frankness is an essential read, and its skewering of journalism’s leaders will earn Abramson some new enemies, as well as provoke old ones. But it’s unlikely that a woman with balls like iron cantaloupes will much care about that, as long as she sounds the alarm


Letter from Trump’s Washington

Trump Lost the Shutdown, But At Least God Made Him President, and He’s Building That Wall

February 1, 2019

by Susan B. Glasser

The New Yorker

Shortly after 7 A.M. on Thursday, President Trump began doing what increasingly passes for his workday: looking at the television and tweeting about it. “So great to watch & listen to all these people who write books & talk about my presidential campaign and so many others things related to winning, and how I should be doing ‘IT,’ ” he tweeted. “As I take it all in, I then sit back, look around, & say ‘gee, I’m in the White House, & they’re not!’ ” This statement is as close as Trump comes to a governing philosophy. Still defiant and tweeting several hours later, the President went on to brag about the thousands of additional troops being sent to the southern U.S. border to combat an “attempted Invasion of Illegals.” Never mind that there is no such invasion, or that the troops will be there to spread concertina wire and not to fire bullets at the nonexistent rampaging hordes; if Trump says it’s true, it must be. After all, he became President.

Those tweets on Thursday morning were among dozens that Trump has sent out since last week, a period of time in which he was confined inside the White House, making no public appearances beyond a few photo ops and leaving the building only once, for a private fund-raiser at his Trump International Hotel. This is, even by the President’s standards, an epic stretch of brooding, and no wonder: the truth at the moment is pretty terrible for President Trump. Of course he is waging war on it.

Trump suffered the worst defeat of his Presidency when, after single-handedly shutting down a large part of the federal government for more than a month in order to demand billions of dollars in funding for his border wall, he was forced to end the shutdown without getting a single dollar. (This has been misportrayed in some accounts as a “deal” with congressional Democrats; it was not a deal—Trump, losing support from Republicans to keep the government shut down, simply caved.) The same day, the F.B.I. arrested Roger Stone, one of Trump’s oldest political associates and the first person who believed Trump could, and would, become President someday. Stone now faces up to forty-five years in prison, on charges that he secretly coördinated with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign on the release of Russian-hacked Democratic e-mails from the 2016 Presidential campaign and then lied to Congress about it.

It’s hardly surprising that, in the days since his shutdown humiliation, Trump has retreated into the virtual seclusion of Twitter, holed up watching cable news and tweeting his alternative reality as America struggles with an actual deep freeze. For Trump, the fake world is much better than the real one. There is no extreme weather in his White House; in fact, climate change does not exist inside its walls. Trump’s policy has decreed it. He’s avoiding more than just the frigid air outside; in the cocoon of the Oval Office, there are only invited guests and staff who, while they may be secretly leaking unflattering accounts, at least have the good sense to be nice to Trump’s face. In recent days, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has compared Trump to a petulant toddler and openly wondered what Russia has on him. Why would Trump want to spend his time negotiating with her? Much better, from Trump’s point of view, to simply announce, as he did to reporters on Thursday, that “Nancy Pelosi will be begging for a wall,” and spend the day with his own press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who this week told an interviewer that God “wanted Donald Trump to become President.”

On Wednesday, Trump created another mini-furor by openly disputing the intelligence assessments of his own government. A day earlier, his spy chiefs had testified to Congress about their annual global-threats report, and it was lost on no one that their findings clashed mightily with the key assumptions underpinning the President’s approach to Iran, North Korea, and ISIS. Trump seemed to have missed the testimony, but he caught the negative TV coverage, and his tweets Wednesday burned with anger at the officials he had appointed. They were “extremely passive and naive,” he tweeted, and hadn’t a clue about the great success of his major foreign-policy initiatives. Trump was rightfully barraged with criticism from the fact-based community; in response, he hauled the unhappy-looking spy chiefs in for an Oval Office photo op on Thursday and blamed the media for misreporting their televised testimony. “We are all on the same page!” he tweeted. But neither Trump nor the intelligence community backed down a bit on the substance of the controversy, even as it perfectly distilled this low moment in Trump’s Presidency: with reality looking so grim, why not pretend to live in a world where North Korea is disarming, Iran is the deal-breaker, and a big, beautiful, soon-to-be-built wall is defending us from the southern invaders? Anything can be true in a world where God himself made you President and everybody who disagrees with you is wrong.

Of course, it is already a well-established truth that the Trump Presidency has been replete with reality-distorting lies. According to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, the President made 7,645 false or misleading claims over the first seven hundred and ten days of his term, for an average rate of eleven per day. That total is as of December 30th, which means it does not account for the blizzard of fakery kept up by Trump through much of the thirty-five-day government shutdown and a subsequent week of post-shutdown spin.

From the beginning, the question was not whether Trump would lie but what the rest of Washington would do about it. And, on that point, I have long been struck by how successful Trump seems to be at getting others to go along with previously unthinkable plans (and in getting rid of those who do not). That “invasion” from the south may be fake, but those are real troops that the Pentagon agreed to send to the border just days before last fall’s midterm elections; it is now sending more than three thousand additional U.S. soldiers, for a deployment whose total cost, officials testified this week, will exceed six hundred million dollars by September. How is this not a bigger deal? We have deployed thousands of troops, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, for a nakedly political fake war, to combat an “invasion” on U.S. soil that does not exist. This has gone well beyond tweets.

And yet Sanders is far from the only remaining true believer in Trump. In the hours after the intelligence chiefs’ testimony, the faithful at Fox News defended the President against his treacherous subordinates, especially the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. “What the hell is wrong with the D.N.I.?” the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, a longtime confidant of Trump, demanded. In response, his guest Fred Fleitz, a former senior official on Trump’s National Security Council, said that Coats should be fired. “Intelligence . . . is not supposed to second-guess Presidential policy,” he said.

Fleitz, who served as a C.I.A. analyst for nineteen years before briefly becoming the chief of staff on Trump’s N.S.C., last year, was sticking with that line the next day, when I called him to ask about the incendiary segment. Coats “crossed the line,” he told me, by “undermining the President in a public setting and grandstanding.” Still, Fleitz wanted to be clear, he wasn’t against intelligence analysts disagreeing with Trump but against the fact that they were doing so in public. He added, “I’ve been reading all kinds of things on the Internet that sound like I disagree with intelligence analysts that provide analysis that goes against the President. I don’t. I’m against public spectacles that are trying to judge the President’s policy, that are going to undermine the President’s policy.” For Trump’s embattled supporters, we may be reaching the shoot-the-messenger phase of the Presidency.

Still, there have been signs in recent days, if embryonic ones, that Trump’s shutdown debacle has weakened him politically, even among the previously loyal Republicans of Capitol Hill. “Trump administration faces an increasingly adversarial Congress—in both parties,” a Washington Post headline read on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, pressed ahead with a rare measure to rebuke Trump for aspects of his foreign policy, specifically the planned military withdrawals from Afghanistan and Syria. And McConnell, embarrassed by Trump’s shutdown ploy, which came over his objections, was reported to have told members that he would be open to a measure to stop such shutdowns from ever being allowed in the future.

This is even before Congress receives a report from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, whose investigation, the acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, told reporters this week, is almost complete. Events may be closing in on the President. Indictments and convictions and the Mueller report, whatever it is and whenever it is delivered, will be harder for Republicans on Capitol Hill to dismiss than much of the bluster that preceded them. Which is why I think the recent shift in the congressional G.O.P.’s mood is significant.

To be clear: these folks may still vote with Trump, they may stick with him to the finish, and they will undoubtedly continue to use him opportunistically for their policy ends. But they do not love him, and many will abandon him if pragmatism and the politics of the moment demand it. This is true not only of the typically treacherous members of Congress, who invariably prioritize their own political survival over their fealty to the President. In the Trump era, even the loyalty of the President’s own men is suspect, another fact we were reminded of this week, by the latest tell-all books to emerge with titillating scenes of internal dysfunction in Trumpworld. “Team of Vipers,” by Cliff Sims, whose bio says he served as “director of White House message strategy” for Trump, is one of the most damning insider accounts yet. Sims is currently on his book tour, saying he was proud to work for Trump while portraying the White House as a pit of self-interested snakes unleashed and encouraged by the President himself. A book that shows the most powerful man in the world demanding that a relatively junior aide help him to make an enemies list of possible leakers on his own staff is not the flattering work of an admirer. No wonder an angry Trump couldn’t be restrained from tweeting vitriol at Sims the other day.

Another self-professed fan of the President, the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, also has a new book out this week. Despite being fired as the chief of Trump’s transition team, in 2016, Christie has remained an outside adviser and confidant to Trump. And yet there he was, on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night, sipping tequila as he mocked Trump for a loser shutdown. “The President blew it,” Christie said. At what point? Colbert asked Christie. “When he shut the government down with no plan on how to reopen it,” Christie replied. And this was from one of Trump’s most vocal supporters. If ever there was a week when the truth hurt, this was it.

Amid all the noise, a striking finding from the latest Washington Post–ABC News poll did not get much attention: fifty-six per cent of registered voters said they would “definitely” not vote to reëlect the President in 2020. Of course, this is neither a promising number for Trump nor comparable to any electoral environment that other recent Presidents have faced. In fact, Trump is the first President since Gallup began taking its national surveys, in 1935, never to have commanded a majority approval rating in the country even once. At this rate, it’s very likely he never will. “Facts,” as John Adams said, “are stubborn things.”


Under pressure to recalibrate, defiant Trump tackles big speech

February 1, 2019

by Steve Holland


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Under pressure from fellow Republicans to reset his contentious presidency, Donald Trump plans to offer Democrats a choice in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday: Work together to make progress, or fight each other and get nothing done.

He signaled on Friday that the address, an annual rite of American politics, will include extensive remarks about his standoff with Democrats over building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the subject of an intense partisan battle that prompted a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended a week ago.

Dwelling at length on this could undermine any attempt by Trump to strike a compromising tone, which many Republicans, including some close to the White House, are urging him to offer in an effort to temper his rhetoric and move past the shutdown fight.

Beyond the wall, a senior White House official told Reuters that Trump will outline what he sees as areas where Republicans and Democrats may be able to find agreement. These include a plan to fund infrastructure improvements across the country, lower the cost of prescription drugs and work to resolve long-standing differences over healthcare.

An excerpt of the speech released by the White House on Friday made clear Trump would strike a compromising tone in at least part of his address.

“Together we can break decades of political stalemate, we can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make,” Trump will say.

Whether the two sides are prepared to work together in any significant way is far from clear, with tensions still high over the shutdown fight and another deadline approaching on Feb. 15.

“He will offer a choice of either working together and doing great things or fighting each other and doing nothing,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The speech comes as Trump begins the second two years of his first term facing major challenges: a long-running probe into whether his 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia; investigations by House Democrats of his presidency and his business ventures; and difficult trade negotiations with China, among many others.

He and his advisers do not believe the shutdown fight will give him lasting scars. Many Republicans are urging him to focus on the U.S. economy in his speech and beyond, to try to broaden his appeal beyond a hard-core conservative base of voters that make up about a third of the electorate.

“I would hope he would choose the pathway of broadening his appeal to voters who might want to consider voting for him in the next couple of years,” said Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution fellow who advised the presidential campaigns of Republicans Marco Rubio in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Presidential aides said Trump would still talk about immigration and his demand for a border wall in his speech. “Some of it will be border-related,” said one.

Nancy Pelosi, who took over as speaker of the House of Representatives after Democrats won big in November elections, has vowed not to support funding for a border wall, and the issue has increased partisan tensions across the board.

Trump’s speech was delayed from January after a fight with Pelosi that stemmed from the dispute on border wall funding.

Republicans anxious about the 2020 election – not just holding the White House, but also control of the Senate – are urging him not to get bogged down in immigration in his speech.

“Trump really needs to change the subject. This is an opportunity to get back on offense on his terms. As opposed to being reactive to the Democrats in the House. I really see the State of the Union for Trump as a potential reset, because like it or not the government shutdown was a political loser and it hurt a lot of people,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

Trump is also expected to cover foreign policy. He said on Thursday he will likely announce the site of his late-February summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the speech, with Hanoi a leading candidate.

He may also cite progress in peace talks between the government in Afghanistan and Taliban rebels. Trump has signaled that a peace deal would allow the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after 17 years of war triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He and his advisers have been discussing withdrawing half of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, officials have said, a steep drop that could prompt criticism that Trump is putting U.S. gains in the volatile country in jeopardy.

Trump is expected to declare in his speech that the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria is largely complete, reinforcing his decision to pull 2,000 troops out of Syria, another abrupt move that angered many in his own party.

Trump, along with chief speechwriter Stephen Miller, plans to work on the address during a trip this weekend to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, aides said.

Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Jonathan Oatis


‘A watershed moment’: Trump faces crossroads amid mounting threats on all sides

February 3, 2019

by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and  Toluse Olorunnipa

Washington Post

When President Trump delivers his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, a Democrat will be seated at the rostrum over his shoulder for the first time.

The presence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will bring into fresh relief not only the power shift in the Capitol, with the opposition party now able to thwart the president’s agenda, but also the converging pressures on Trump that have brought his presidency to a crossroads.

Trump dealt himself a political defeat with the 35-day government shutdown. He has secured no funding to construct a border wall and is preparing to declare a national emergency to fulfill his campaign promise. He is newly at odds with the nation’s intelligence chiefs and some senators in his own party. The Russia investigation, which has ensnared several of the president’s allies, appears to be nearing its conclusion. New congressional oversight investigations will start soon. And the race to defeat him at the ballot box has kicked off in earnest.

This is a watershed moment,” said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers,” a history of White House chiefs of staff. “Time is running out. This is a last chance to really get things right.”

The challenges mount at a moment when Trump is as unencumbered and isolated as ever. Inside the White House, aides describe a chaotic, freewheeling atmosphere reminiscent of the early weeks of Trump’s presidency.

Power has consolidated around presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior adviser who is functioning as a de facto White House chief of staff. With counterweights like ousted chief of staff John F. Kelly now gone, some advisers say the West Wing has the feel of the 26th floor of Trump Tower, where an unrestrained Trump had absolute control over his family business and was free to follow his impulses.

Mick Mulvaney, who has replaced Kelly in an acting capacity, has said he is trying to manage the staff but not the president, according to administration officials. He has told friends that he shuttles in and out of the Oval Office and meets alone with Trump twice a day — once in the morning and once in the evening, for about 15 minutes each. Asked at a recent dinner whether he was acting as a gatekeeper, Mulvaney laughed and said, “I’m not trying to stop him from doing things,” according to the officials.

“I don’t think he’s even trying to mask the fact that he is operating as the head of a family-owned business instead of the head of one of the most powerful countries in the world,” said Omarosa Manigault Newman, who starred on Trump’s NBC reality show, “The Apprentice,” and worked for him in the White House before having a public falling out with the president after she was fired.

Trump’s popularity, meanwhile, is at an ebb. Polls show many more Americans blame him for the shutdown than Democrats, and growing majorities disapprove of his job performance — despite Trump’s stewardship of a robust economy and his declared intentions to withdraw U.S. troops from unpopular foreign wars.

This raises the question of whether Trump on Tuesday might use his annual address to a joint session of Congress — and to a prime-time national television audience — to make a course correction and seek to expand his appeal or to burrow in on conflicts with the opposition party, chiefly over illegal immigration and border security.

Trump said last week that his “State of the Union” would be about “unification,” but that theme belies the president’s combative instincts and the indifference — even hostility — he has shown toward congressional negotiations.

“He may mouth bromide of national unity, but if he points to people in the gallery and says, in effect, immigrants of color are coming to kill you, that would undermine whatever pretense,” said Michael Waldman, who as chief White House speechwriter helped pen President Clinton’s State of the Union in the wake of two government shutdowns between 1995 and 1996.

“At other points, presidents facing dropping poll numbers have chosen to be very conciliatory or very optimistic,” Waldman said. “That would surprise everyone here. I don’t know that it’s in Trump’s repertoire. When he does it, it feels like he’s reading under duress from the teleprompter — and everybody knows when he gets back to the White House, he’ll start tweeting again.”

Although the fight for a border wall has been a chief focus of Trump’s for the past two months, the president’s advisers said his address would not be an immigration-centric jeremiad, but rather would set a governing agenda for the year ahead. For instance, Trump plans to talk about infrastructure development and prescription-drug pricing, two issues with broad bipartisan appeal, according to a senior White House official.

The president also is expected to talk about foreign affairs and highlight his administration’s recent moves in Venezuela to force President Nicolás Maduro from power, as well as Trump’s ongoing trade negotiations with China and his planned summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, conservative leaders are urging Trump to weave in heavy language on abortion after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) sparked national outcry last week for comments interpreted as defending infanticide. The senior official said Trump is likely to bring up the issue, which aides described as an effective way to energize his political base after he caved to Democrats in January to end the shutdown.

“For Trump, right now, this is ‘go time,’” Republican pollster Frank Luntz said. “This speech, on this night, is not what you are against. It is what you are for. Tell the American people what you want to do and why.”

Yet, Trump’s natural disposition is to fight, and this is an especially adversarial moment for the president as he battles for building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and chastises congressional Democrats and the news media.

Trump has said he is on the verge of declaring a national emergency, which would trigger executive powers to attempt to redirect some federal funds toward border wall construction without approval from Congress.

“We’ve set the stage for what’s going to happen,” Trump said last week.

Any such move is likely to draw legal challenges and spark a political firestorm, and some administration lawyers have questioned the president’s authority to do so, but plans have been developed for an emergency declaration nonetheless.

Mulvaney has told Trump a national emergency would be “viable” and has looked for pools of public money to exercise the option. Officials at the Army Corps of Engineers have reviewed draft declarations while identifying at least three companies that might be able to begin work on the wall under no-bid contracts, according to people familiar with the administration’s planning.

In pursuit of a wall, Trump has few options. He does not want another government shutdown, believing that he was politically pummeled over the last one, and House Democrats have made clear they will not vote to fund wall construction ahead of the Feb. 15 deadline to pass a new homeland security spending bill.

Senate Republicans also are overwhelmingly resistant to declaring a national emergency, according to two senior GOP aides. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately cautioned Trump last week that doing so could divide the GOP, and told the president that Congress might pass a resolution disapproving an emergency declaration.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a Trump confidant, said, “It’s not their call. There is not a single president over there in the Senate. There are, quite frankly, a few of them over there who ran for president.”

The administration is also preparing for what one ally called “a subpoena blizzard” once House Democrats launch their promised oversight investigations, which are expected to probe the president’s conduct and personal finances as well as alleged corruption in the administration.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and deputy counsel Michael Purpura have met with leaders of individual agencies to provide instructions about responding to oversight requests and examining their staffs. The lawyers have been strategizing about what they expect to come, and Mulvaney has met with agency chiefs of staff to help them prepare, according to a person who attended the meeting.

Chase Untermeyer, who served as director of presidential personnel under former president George H.W. Bush, said he was “puzzled” Trump has left so many top political positions in his government either unfilled or staffed by “acting” officials. Those vacancies could prove especially problematic once the Democrat-led investigations begin, he said.

“Regardless of storm clouds, you have to have a team fully deployed in the field, not just inside the White House, but inside the departments and agencies,’’ Untermeyer said.

Meanwhile, Trump was brooding last week over a former White House aide, Cliff Sims, whose tell-all book depicts dysfunction and disloyalty in the West Wing. Staffers brought excerpts of Sims’s book to the president and defended themselves against their ex-colleague’s portrayal, which advisers said only further agitated Trump, who dismissed Sims as a low-level “gofer.”

Trump has been less focused on the memoir of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — who wrote scathingly about Kushner but sympathetically about the president — though he told aides he has not “loved” all of Christie’s comments during his media tour, according to a senior White House official.

The president also was angered by news coverage of his intelligence leaders, including Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, and their testimony before Congress, where they contradicted the president on several national security issues, including North Korea, Iran and the status of the Islamic State. But officials said he did not read the testimony — he only saw the news accounts — and was assuaged when the intelligence officials explained to him what they told senators.

Over the weekend, Trump tried to escape the troubles in Washington by making his first trip in two months to Mar-a-Lago. After spending Christmas at the White House, the president jetted to Palm Beach, Fla., where he played golf with two sports legends.

“Great morning at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida with @JackNicklaus and @TigerWoods!” Trump tweeted Saturday along with a photo of the three smiling.


Vladimir Putin to the West: ‘We Will Bury You!’

February 2, 2019

by Gilbert Doctorow


I have given this essay a “fake news” title for a good reason: to direct your attention to the fact that the incumbent President of Russia is too gentle for his and our good. He does not make threats the way his predecessor, the party boss of the Soviet Union did in 1956. He does not bang his shoe on the desk in front of him while speaking to the General Assembly of the United Nations as Nikita Khrushchev also did. Thus, we Europeans and Americans are oblivious to the dangers of a hot war with Russia that we risk by pursuing our present-day foreign policy of driving Russia into a corner. War could not be further from our minds, since, we tell ourselves, no one wants war.

Because of his behavior cited above, because of the launching of the first Sputnik during his time in office and the invasion of Soviet forces in Hungary for purposes of regime change, because of the atmospheric tests of the vastly powerful hydrogen bombs that his country was producing to wage war on us, Khrushchev made a strong impression on the broad public and also on the political classes in the West as a person who was aggressive, impolite and at the head of a dangerous country.

Khrushchev proposed to us a policy of “peaceful co-existence,” allowing us to understand that non-acceptance by the West equated to the nonexistence of life on our planet. Consequently, Khrushchev and his country were always treated with respect and fear by our countries. We considered him to be a crude fellow, but no one dared to say that he was a thug, a murderer of journalists, etc. that one hears today regularly applied when our politicians and mass media describe Vladimir Putin. No one spoke back then of Russia as “a gas station not a country,” as a place that produced nothing that the world wanted or said that it was just a regional power that acted badly, all of which Barack Obama used to justify his decision to isolate Russia and cut all possible relations with this pariah state, even the channels of communications established decades ago following the Cuban Missile Crisis to give some stability and predictability in conditions of a Cold War.

In contrast to Khrushchev and the other government leaders of the USSR, Mr. Putin acts and speaks in a very civilized manner. Even today, in a period of New Cold War, of permanent confrontations with the West, of severe economic sanctions imposed on his country and provocative NATO military exercises unprecedented in scale being held on Russia’s borders, Putin still speaks of the “colleagues” and “partners” in the West, for the purpose of keeping the peace and avoiding an escalation of tensions which could, in his belief, quickly lead to armed clashes.

Where does Putin’s finesse come from? One must understand that his past takes in a lot more than his service in the KGB. During the 1990’s he served in the administration of the liberal mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. In his capacity as deputy mayor with responsibility for foreign investment, he met a whole procession of businessmen and politicians from Europe and the United States. He was part of the pro-Western entourage of the mayor and when he ascended to the presidency in 1999 he kept many of his liberal comrades close to him. They constitute even today an influential faction in Kremlin politics.

From his first days in power, Putin hoped to integrate Russia in NATO and, more generally, in the Western world. Putin was the first head of state to phone George W. Bush after the attack on the World Trade Center and generously offered substantial help, opening up Russia’s back yard in Central Asia to American forces to provide logistical support of the operation the USA would launch against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, Putin’s hopes for reciprocal warming of relations and integration were rejected. At this time Washington considered Russia to be a country in long-term decline and a marginal power. In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, one of the first landmark arms limitation treaties dating from 1972, showing its disregard for Russian interest in stability and transparency, and pursuing a policy of altering the strategic balance of power in its favor. Following this, we see the progressive deterioration of relations between Russia and the West that has lasted up to the present. Following this, we see the development by Russia of new weapons systems called “asymmetrical” using state of the art technologies that Putin finally spoke about publicly in his speech to the joint houses of the Russian parliament on 1 March 2018. He said then with perfect clarity, but in calm and nonthreatening language that these arms could penetrate everything that the United States had put in place to assure for itself the possibility of a decapitating first nuclear strike. He reclaimed for Russia full strategic parity with the United States, and, of course, with NATO, despite Russia’s having a military budget that is 12 time smaller than America’s.

Putin’s speech of 1 March 2018 was addressed to his people in the midst of a presidential election campaign. It was also addressed to America’s political classes and military. Regrettably, it did not speak to the American or European peoples as bluntly as Khrushchev had once done. And so we were allowed to slumber on.

Today, we the people tend to ignore the fact that Russia is the only country in the world capable of reducing the United States and/or Europe to ashes within 30 minutes. We lack any sense of the risks of war that arise from the operations of our military forces in close proximity with Russian and their proxy forces in Syria, in Ukraine…and possibly soon in Venezuela. This, under conditions of near absence of reliable communications between our civilian and military leaderships and total lack of mutual trust between all parties.

During the original Cold War, there was some limited time during which false alarms of attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles or bombers might be sorted out. Today there may be 15 minutes between alarm and incoming total destruction. Anticipating the possibility of a first strike decapitating the national leadership, response launches have been automated and function on the “dead hand” principle. In effect, the Doomsday scenario described so brilliantly by Stanley Kubrik in his ‘60s film Dr. Strangelove has become operative here and now, though the public has not a clue.

That, my friends, is the reason I say Vladimir Putin has done his and our people a disservice by not engaging in public diplomacy with the American and European peoples, by not scaring us properly so that we can come to our wits and compel our politicians and media to do likewise


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

February 2, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

Conversation No. 15

Date: Wednesday, May 22, 1996

Commenced:  12:15 PM CST

Concluded:  12:45 PM CST

GD: Am I interrupting anything?

RTC: No, nothing important. Mostly I do paperwork in the morning, lunch, nap a little and not much else. Gregory, a question here. Have you ever heard of Richard Condon?

GD: Yes, I have read two of his books. He just died, I think last month I read about it.

RTC: The Manchurian Candidate?

GD: That’s one of his first books. Interesting concept. I saw the movie with Frank Sinatra in the early ‘60s. Very complex man with his plots and the brainwashing business was too much. They get ahold of an idea and run off with it.

RTC: The Company was deeply into brainwashing. It was an utter fiasco and we can talk about it in some detail later but I am glad you know about the book and the concept.

GD: Right. Brainwashed a POW and then got him to shoot at a politician. I smelt the Kennedy business in there. He hated Nixon.

RTC: He hated everybody.

GD: Depressing, Robert. Authors pour out their sublimated hatred for their wives, their parents, their teachers and God alone knows who else. What was it about the Condon book?

RTC: Just some report I came across last night while I was putting some of my papers into new files. “The Manchurian Candidate” was the title of the study. Actually, we were watching someone who had been a POW during the Vietnam business.

GD: You think he was brainwashed and is going to shoot the mayor of Buffalo Breath, Montana?

RTC: No, not brainwashed, Gregory, turned.

GD: The North Koreans turned one of our prisoners?

RTC: No, the Russian KGB did.

GD: Well, that makes more sense. I know a number of Russians, met a really sharp one in Bern when I was living there. That I could believe, but I can’t see them using brainwashing. I’ve heard about the CIA’s giving people drugs and using microwaves and so on. The Russians are not that idiotic.

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, not everything we did was lunatic. No, the Russians had access to some of the prisoners and we think they turned at least one of them. Not brainwashing, money.

GD: Yes, yes, now you make sense. Using secret radio waves…I knew a nut one time who wore a beret lined with aluminum foil to prevent Martian radio waves from getting through. Now don’t laugh, he actually did. I ran a group therapy class once and he was a patient. Oh, nuttier than usual, but I prevailed on the head doctor to let him wear his beret and he calmed right down after punching two nurses and a food attendant. A sort of metallic pacifier but it did work and it kept the place calm. Money, of course, is more immediate and more effective than brainwashing. So they got to a prisoner of war, did they? He must have been someone they could use. Some stupid grunt from Alabama would be useless unless they wanted him to let the family hogs run out onto an interstate when an unwanted politician’s motorcade was passing.

RTC: Gregory, there are time when I can see why poor Kimmel can’t put up with you. Do try to be serious, won’t you? Yes, a person who was perhaps important but more likely someone who could become important later.

GD: Makes sense. I don’t think the Cong ever captured a Senator on a goodwill tour of Saigon whorehouses. And I don’t think they captured any really high ranking officers, did they? Is that what you’re talking about?

RTC: Now you’re coming down to reality from the clouds. No, they did not have any Generals or Admirals in the Hanoi Hilton but they did have someone almost as important but it was a potential, not an actual.

GD: And?

RTC: And if there was such a captive, the Russians, who worked with the North Vietnamese…had liaison people there and we knew it…so they looked over the captive list and perhaps found someone that could be useful, if they could turn him. Suppose they found one?

GD: I suppose they did, didn’t they?

RTC: Well, we were not…are not…certain but we believe this happened. You know, we and the Russians were supposed to be deadly enemies then but in our game, there really are no enemies, just different shades of gray.

GD: That I am aware of. A Russian friend of mine told me that there was a regular connection with the Americans and that information went back and forth. Luxembourg as he told me…

RTC: Yes, indeed.

GD: So what? Professionals helping each other to make each other look good. I’d do it. I mean if you had an agent at some altitude who was fanatically anti-Soviet, he would be blind to the subtleties of reality, wouldn’t he? Narrow-minded fanatics are of very limited use, I have found out.

RTC: Exactly so, Gregory, exactly so. I was a specialist on the KGB and I knew a few people from the other side. That’s where I got my indication that their people had turned one of ours. A hint, but a strong one. And then we went through lists of people, vetted the ones that were likely candidates…

GD: But not Manchurian ones?

RTC: No, Moscow candidates.

GD: You know, I had a Russian friend tell me one time that he was constantly amazed at how easy it was to turn Americans. He used the phrase, the three Bs…

RTC: ‘Booze, bucks and broads?’

GD: Precisely. He said that money or pussy got them far more than threats or blackmail. He had a rather low opinion of Americans, I hate to say.

RTC: They aren’t perfect either, but he has a point.

GD: What did they turn your suspect with? Not booze in a prison. Money? Cunt? If he has potential, probably money, right?

RTC: Yes, just that, money. Oh, and little special treatments like more baths, a little better food and things like that.

GD: Well, if he was in with others, they couldn’t have been too lavish. Others would have noticed. One has to be careful. No television sets, visiting whores or lobster dinners for him. I can see a few extra cigarettes here and there, a glass of booze while having a medical exam. I suppose small things like that are possible and very useful tools. You know, Robert, Mueller was a master interrogator. He was a very intelligent man and instead of beating people he talked to them. He said if you were proper with them and even extended small courtesies during the interrogation, you could work wonders.

RTC: He’s right. But in this case, greed and envy….

GD: Envy? Now that’s interesting. Competition? Now there’s a piano to play on. A military prisoner of war. Potentially important somewhere down the road. Competition? With whom? Another officer? A former golf partner? Not strong enough. With whom? A relative perhaps? A more successful relative? Striving, Robert, striving. I did read…

RTC: Now, Gregory, let’s not drive down that road. Enough is enough.

GD: Now, Robert, it was you who asked me about Condon, don’t forget. You want to stop me while on a roll? That’s like your girl friend letting you touch her just a little bit right down there but not too much or too long. That’s called prick teasing. Competition with a relative? Someone living under the shadow of a famous relative? Did we have any prisoners with famous parents or siblings? Perhaps an exalted father…mothers don’t count except in the Oedipal way. Now I was recently reading about someone who was a prisoner of war. Injured badly, came from a distinguished military family. I’m sure you know the name, Robert. That one. That fits. Position to be helpful. If he gets unhappy, there are little reminders of past favors that it would be wise not to talk about. They help your career and you help them. Money. Senior military officers have a decent pension, but it ceases when they die, I believe.

RTC: Gregory, you are hopeless, but I love the way your mind works. A wealthy marriage is possible.

GD: Have a glass of beer, Bob.

RTC: Do be quiet about this, Gregory. This person has serious ambitions and there is no concrete proof of anything.

GD: If a stupid person like myself could put a scenario together so quickly, given your valuable hints, couldn’t others?

RTC: I doubt it, Gregory. Now we won’t be talking about this episode, will we?

GD: I suppose that depends, Robert. I wouldn’t want a Soviet…pardon, Russian…agent in too high a level, would I? And neither would you.

RTC: It’s a waiting game.

GD: Do we have something concrete besides a neat guessing game?

RTC: Yes, a copy of an interrogation file complete with future plans.

GD: My, my. And I suppose with that, your people could turn this individual, turn him to feed the Russians false information. I mean not obvious fake material but with just enough real bits in the dinner to make it pleasant to eat. You would turn him back to the paths of righteousness and fuck the enemy. That’s what I would do, Robert. A fool would expose him or shoot him when he’s taking a hike in the desert.

RTC: You got all this from Mueller?

GD: No, but he and I got on very well because we thought the same way. I suspect the reason why I get on with you is that we think the same way. Robert, I am only a shopworn observer of the human condition. Who would want to hire me? Don’t forget, Kimmel has called me a loose cannon, so that must be true and no one wants to hire a loose cannon. What he means by that is that clever as I know I am, I am not a whore and they could never get me to do something I thought was wrong. Never. And they know that very well. Mueller said my psyche was rooted in the Middle Ages and Heini was dead on. Simplistic as it is, there was a code of behavior and social interaction that they don’t have now. Why? Humanity has been reduced to a common denominator, Robert. This makes inferior people feel secure and happy in their knowledge that it is good to be mediocre. Or worse. So and So went to Harvard. Or Yale. Or Princeton. So and So thinks he is a walking god. He might be a useless twit but he went to Harvard.

RTC: We had legions of those in the Company, Gregory. I was a lace-curtain mick from Chicago and I didn’t fit in with the sailing and horsey crowd.

GD: And neither did Mueller and he was a better man than any of those effete twits. Bring back the old days, Robert, when merit and merit alone got you to the top. And do make sure I can get that file on the Candidate if anything happens to you.

RTC: What would you do with it?

GD: Wait and see.

RTC: We will see indeed.

(Concluded at 12:45 PM CST)






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