For The Real News, I speak to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the latest salvo in the war of words between Trump and North Korea’s dictator. According to Col. Wilkerson, Trump’s speech at the United Nations was “horrible, atrocious, unbelievable” and the “most embarrassing speech.” Even more troubling is Col. Wilkerson’s view that Trump is perfectly capable of ignoring advice from his military advisers to exercise restraint. My interview of Col. Wilkerson can be seen here:
On April 4, just before Trump’s attack on the Syrian government, I interviewed Yves Engler for the Real News. The question which Yves and I discussed was whether Canada truly has an independent foreign policy. As Yves explains in this interview, there are few if any material differences between Canadian and U.S. foreign policy on the key foreign policy issues confronting the Canadian government. Sure enough, within days of this interview, the Trudeau government expressed unqualified support for Trump’s attack on the Syrian government. Trudeau declared his support for Trump’s attack despite the facts that Trump has demonstrated utter contempt for human rights, and Trudeau had just acknowledged that it was not yet known who had committed the gas attack in Syria. It therefore appears that Trudeau will continue Canada’s inglorious tradition of reflexive and unqualified support for U.S. foreign policy. With a man like Trump in the White House, this should be deeply worrying to all Canadians.
My interview of Yves can be seen here:
27 Former Attorneys of Wall Street Law Firm Sullivan & Cromwell Call on Trump’s Nominee for SEC Chair to Denounce Trump’s Travel Ban
I have joined 26 other former attorneys of Sullivan & Cromwell in signing an open letter to Jay Clayton, a Sullivan & Cromwell partner who has been named by Donald Trump to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In our letter, we call upon Mr. Clayton to speak out against Donald Trump’s travel ban. The full text of our letter is set forth below.
A NY Times article discussing our open letter can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/business/dealbook/sec-nominee-travel-ban-trump-jay-clayton.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share.
[Open Letter of March 16, 2017]
We the undersigned are former attorneys of Sullivan & Cromwell. As your colleagues in the legal profession and your former colleagues at the firm, we congratulate you on your recent nomination by President Donald J. Trump to the position of Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Not all of us have worked directly with you. But by observation and reputation each one of us regards you as a person of professionalism and integrity and as a leader of the firm, our profession and our community.
We write to ask you, as a leader of the firm, our profession and our community, to speak out against President Trump’s Executive Order 13769 of January 27, 2017 and subsequent Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017—both entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”—and the actions of the current administration relating to the Executive Orders.
We are certain that you are familiar with the recent actions and statements of the President, and the administration you have been asked to serve, regarding individuals of the Islamic faith and regarding the entry into the United States of refugees and immigrants.
We have observed these actions and statements with growing alarm.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769, which, among other things, suspended for 90 days the entry into the United States of citizens of the Muslim-majority countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya; suspended all United States refugee admissions for 120 days; and suspended indefinitely the entry of all Syrian nationals as refugees.
We are aware, as you must be, of the disturbing reports and allegations regarding the implementation of Executive Order 13769 by officials of this administration. Those reports and allegations include: that such officials have detained individuals to whom the United States has already granted legal permanent residency; that they have pressured holders of lawfully issued U.S. visas to waive their rights under those visas and leave this
country under threat of deportation; that they have barred detainees from speaking with legal counsel; and that they have acted in contempt of federal court orders to desist.
We hope you understand that we oppose any such actions and the harm they threaten to inflict on countless individuals and their families, and the moral standing and security of the United States.
On March 6, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13780, to take effect March 16, 2017, superseding Executive Order 13769 and modifying its terms in response to judicial scrutiny and public criticism. Among other things, the March 6 Executive Order exempts U.S. legal permanent residents and individuals holding valid visas on the effective date of the Executive Order (Sections 3(a), 3(b)), and no longer suspends entry to the United States by Iraqi nationals (Sections 1(g), 2(c)).
Executive Order 13780 again suspends for 90 days the entry to the United States of any citizen of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia or Libya who is not covered by an exemption or a discretionary waiver by U.S. officials, and states that these individuals “present heightened risks to the security of the United States” (Sections 1(e), 2(c)). The revised Executive Order also reinstates the President’s suspension of refugee admissions for
120 days (Section 6(a)).
We cannot predict either the further modifications that may be made to the
Executive Order, or the course of the ongoing litigation relating thereto. We have noted, however, the administration’s statements that the revised Executive Order does not reflect any change in the intentions or the policy of this administration. We believe that despite any such modifications, the revised Executive Order will continue to cause needless confusion,
suffering and fear.
Among those directly affected by the Executive Orders are members of the
legal profession seeking to join U.S.-based firms such as Sullivan & Cromwell. Thanks to the uncertainty created by the Executive Orders, for example, law graduates who have earned and accepted offers of employment at U.S. firms now fear they will be unable to practice in the
United States, merely because they are citizens of countries identified in the Executive Orders. Signatories to this letter already know of students who have been so affected.
We believe the issues surrounding the Executive Orders to be of such importance that all of President Trump’s nominees to serve this administration should be asked, during the confirmation process, to state for the record whether they support or oppose the Executive Order, either in its original or revised form; whether they agree with the actions that have been taken to implement the Executive Orders; and whether they accept or reject this administration’s ongoing efforts to ban refugees and Muslims—including many of our colleagues in the legal profession and, in all likelihood, some of your past, present and future colleagues at the firm—from entering the United States. We intend to call on our congressional representatives to demand as much.
When the time comes to record your own position, we ask that you honor the values of our profession, our community and our country by unequivocally opposing the Executive Orders and the unlawful, cruel and shameful actions of this administration.
We have no doubt that as Chairman of the SEC you will fulfill your
responsibilities with integrity and in keeping with those values. We trust that, in carrying out those responsibilities, you will continue to oppose unlawful actions and abuse of power by this administration, as we are asking you to do now.
By refusing to remain silent on this matter, you will join us and the many others in our community who have stood, and will continue to stand, in defense of those targeted at the order of the President you are about to serve—in the courts, in the streets, in airport terminals in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. We believe that our present circumstances demand no less.
Very truly yours,
M. Shams Billah
Julie Bellware Crampton
Marine Le Quillec
Damien G. Scott
Benjamin J. Wolfert
I have just reviewed the newly released declassified version of the U.S. ‘intelligence’ community’s report on Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the outcome of the U.S. election. I did not find in that report any proof that the Russian government or persons acting on its behalf committed the hacking activities it is alleged to have committed by the U.S. government.
On the contrary, the report contains nothing but unsubstantiated allegations of hacking, and a whole lot of circumstantial evidence that Putin strongly preferred that Trump rather than Clinton win the election.
The mere fact that Putin preferred that Trump win the election (which is hardly surprising, given Trump’s stated desire to work constructively with Putin) or that Putin’s government wanted to discredit the warmonger Hillary Clinton (also, hardly a surprise) does not amount to proof of Russian hacking.
Standing alone, a motive to commit an act does not prove that the alleged perpetrator committed the act. Take, for example, an individual who is desperately poor – such an individual may well have a motive to steal food or clothing, but the existence of that motive does not prove that the individual committed theft.
Furthermore, a rational evaluation of these accusations obliges us to examine not only the motives of the accused, but also the motives of the accusers.
The Democratic establishment has a strong motive to accuse Putin falsely of undermining Clinton through hacking. The election of Trump is an unmitigated disaster and, by pointing the finger at Putin, the Democratic establishment deflects attention away from its shameless efforts to undermine Bernie Sanders, who was far better qualified and positioned than Clinton to defeat Trump.
The U.S. intelligence and military establishments also have a powerful motive to generate fear and loathing toward Russia: such sentiments can be exploited – and frequently have been – to justify ever larger budgetary outlays on intelligence services and the military.
Quite apart from all of this, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a proven liar. It is now beyond reasonable dispute that Clapper committed perjury when he responded “no, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Yet Clapper has evaded prosecution. Why would anyone believe a government official who is known to have lied under oath to lawmakers on a matter of national importance, and who has never had to pay any price for his criminal lies?
Finally, note the following statement from the newly released report on Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election:
Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise bases for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future. Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.
Again and again, Western intelligence services have demanded that we simply trust them, because the disclosure of their sources and methods would imperil national security. Yet these same intelligence services urge or provide support for military actions that undermine our security.
The most notorious example of this from recent history is the CIA’s woefully erroneous assessment that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, an assessment used by the Bush administration to justify a criminal war of aggression against Iraq. Islamic State, a terrorist organization widely considered to be worse than Al-Qaeda, rose to power precisely because of the devastation wrought by the Iraq war. Therefore, we should be sceptical that the reason for the U.S. intelligence community’s refusal to disclose its sources and methods is a desire to protect the American people.
For the time being, there are plenty of reasons to criticize Trump and Putin. An as yet unsubstantiated allegation of hacking isn’t one of them.