“The Stakes Here Go Beyond Trump’s Future” WSJ Editors Demand Truth About FBI Spying, from Zero Hedge

The Wall Street Journal is asking awkward questions and making troublesome demands. From the Journal via zerohedge.com:

Amid all the liberal media’s meltdown over President Trump’s “interference” in the ‘investigation’ by “hereby demanding” that potential crimes by Obama’s FBI be investigated – and The Deep State’s insistence that any exposure of the already-leaked name of the Trump campaign spy would damage national security – The Wall Street Journal refuses to back off its intense pressure to get to the truth.

President Trump dropped a three-tweet quote this morning…

John Brennan is panicking. He has disgraced himself, he has disgraced the Country, he has disgraced the entire Intelligence Community. He is the one man who is largely responsible for the destruction of American’s faith in the Intelligence Community and in some people at the…

…top of the FBI. Brennan started this entire debacle about President Trump. We now know that Brennan had detailed knowledge of the (phony) Dossier…he knows about the Dossier, he denies knowledge of the Dossier, he briefs the Gang of 8 on the Hill about the Dossier, which…

…they then used to start an investigation about Trump. It is that simple. This guy is the genesis of this whole Debacle. This was a Political hit job, this was not an Intelligence Investigation. Brennan has disgraced himself, he’s worried about staying out of Jail.”

– Dan Bongino

This “odd” action of actual news reporting comes as a shock to many as The Editorial Board asks some very awkward questions of various messianic people and institutions as reporter Kimberley Strassel’s findings are proved correct and the truth is demanded

Well, what do you know. The Federal Bureau of Investigation really did task an “informant” to insinuate himself with Trump campaign advisers in 2016. Our Kimberley Strassel reported this two weeks ago without disclosing a name.

To continue reading: “The Stakes Here Go Beyond Trump’s Future” WSJ Editors Demand Truth About FBI Spying

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FBI Informant Stefan Halper Paid Over $1 Million By Obama Admin; Spied On Trump Aide After Election, by Tyler Durden

This sure looks like the FBI inserted a well-connected political and intelligence operative into the Trump campaign to gather what dirt he could. He apparently didn’t come up with much. It also appears the Obama administration knew about it. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Less than a week after Stefan Halper was outed as the FBI informant who infiltrated the Trump campaign, public records reveal that the 73-year-old Oxford University professor and former U.S. government official was paid handsomely by the Obama administration starting in 2012 for various research projects.

A longtime CIA and FBI asset who once reportedly ran a spy-operation on the Jimmy Carter administration, Halper was enlisted by the FBI to spy on several Trump campaign aides during the 2016 U.S. election. Meanwhile, a search of public records reveals that between 2012 and 2018, Halper received a total of $1,058,161 from the Department of Defense.

Halper’s contracts were funded through four annual awards paid directly out of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA). Established as the DoD’s “internal think tank” in 1973 by Richard Nixon (whose administration Halper worked for), the ONA was run by foreign policy strategist Andrew Marshall from its inception until his 2015 retirement at the age of 93, after which he was succeeded by current director James H. Baker.

One of the four DoD awards Halper received

Halper’s most recent award was noted recently by Trump supporter Jacob Wohl, which piqued the interest of internet researchers who continued the analysis.

Award ID Recipient Name Start Date End Date Amount Awarding Agency
HQ003416P0148 HALPER, STEFAN 9/26/2016 3/29/2018 $411,575 Department of Defense
HQ003415C0100 HALPER, STEFAN 9/24/2015 9/27/2016 $244,960 Department of Defense
HQ003414C0076 HALPER, STEFAN 7/29/2014 7/31/2015 $204,000 Department of Defense
HQ003412C0039 HALPER, STEFAN 5/30/2012 5/29/2013 $197,626 Department of Defense

(h/t ProHeat)

According to the Website USASPENDING.gov, the payments to Halper are for “RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES (2012),” “RESEARCH AND STUDIES – THE YEAR 2030, (2014)”, “RUSSIA-CHINA RELATIONSHIP STUDY. (2015),” and “INDIA AND CHINA ECON STUDY (2016).”

The most recent award to Halper for $411,575 was made in two payments, and had a start date of September 26, 2016 – three days after a September 23 Yahoo! News article by Michael Isikoff about Trump aide Carter Page, which used information fed to Isikoff by “pissgate” dossier creator Christopher Steele. The FBI would use the Yahoo! article along with the unverified “pissgate” dossier as supporting evidence in an FISA warrant application for Page.

To continue reading: FBI Informant Stefan Halper Paid Over $1 Million By Obama Admin; Spied On Trump Aide After Election

The Battle For The Iranian Nuclear Deal: China Vs The US, by James Dorsey

An interesting analysis of the Chinese perspective on the Middle East, and China’s role in it. From James Dorsey at middleeastsoccer.blogspot.com:

Conventional wisdom has it that China stands to benefit from the US withdrawal from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran, particularly if major European companies feel that the risk of running afoul of US secondary sanctions is too high.

In doing so, China would draw on lessons learnt from its approach to the sanctions regime against Iran prior to the nuclear deal. China supported the sanctions while proving itself adept at circumventing the restrictions.

However, this time round, as China joins Russia and Europe in trying to salvage the deal, things could prove to be different in ways that may give China second thoughts.

The differences run the gamut from an America that has Donald Trump as its president to a Middle East that is much more combative and assertive and sees its multiple struggles as existential, at least in terms of regime survival.

Fault lines in the Middle East have hardened because of Israel, Saudi and United Arab Emirates assertiveness, emboldened by both a US administration that is more partisan in its Middle East policy, yet at the same time less predictable and less reliable.

Add to this Mr. Trump’s narrow and transactional focus that targets containing Iran, if not toppling its regime; countering militancy, and enhancing business opportunities for American companies and the contours of a potentially perfect storm come into view.

That is even truer if one looks beyond the Gulf and the Levant towards the greater Middle East that stretches across Pakistan into Central Asia as well as China’s overall foreign trade.

China’s trade with the United States stood last year at $636 billion, trade with Iran was in that same period at $37.8 billion or less than five percent of the US volume.

The recent case of ZTE, one of China’s largest IT companies, tells part of the story.

Accused of having violated sanctions, the US Department of Commerce banned American firms from selling parts to ZTE, bringing the company to near bankruptcy. Mr. Trump appears to be willing to help salvage ZTE, but the incident significantly raises the stakes, particularly as China and the United States try to avoid a trade war.

That is but one consideration in China’s calculations. Potentially, other major bumps in saving the nuclear agreement lurk around the corner and could prove to be equally, if not more challenging.

To continue reading: The Battle For The Iranian Nuclear Deal: China Vs The US

Trump Meeting With Rosenstein, Wray On Spying Concludes: Congress To See All “Highly Classified” Information, by Tyler Durden

The wheels are coming off the FBI and Department of Justice’s efforts to cover their tracks on Russiagate, the 2016 election, and the investigations, or lack thereof, of Hillary Clinton. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

As previewed earlier, on Monday afternoon president Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in a discussion of the latest developments in the bombshell report that the Obama administration used a longtime FBI and CIA asset, identified as 73-year-old Cambridge professor Stefan Halper, to infiltrate and spy on Trump’s campaign.

With the meeting concluded, the White House issued a statement according to which the DOJ said it has asked the inspector general to “expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign” and adds that “White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.”

Full statement below:

“Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign. It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.”

Translated: a lot of dirty laundry is about to become public.

As Sean Davis points out, the statement confirms Mollie Hemingway’s reporting that contrary to claims from the Washington Post and anonymous DOJ officials made last week, “the White House was never on board with Rosenstein’s plan to obstruct a congressional subpoena.”

To continue reading: Trump Meeting With Rosenstein, Wray On Spying Concludes: Congress To See All “Highly Classified” Information

7 Reasons Why European Banks Are in Trouble, by Philipp Bagus

European banks, especially southern European banks, are one of SLL’s odds on favorites to kick off the next financial crisis. From Philipp Bagus at mises.com:

While the euro crisis seems far away as all Eurozone countries ran government deficits below 3 percent of GDP, there is one problem for the euro that quietly keeps growing: the unresolved banking crisis. And this is not a small problem. The Eurosystems´and euro banks´ balance sheets totaled €30 trillion in January 2018, that is about 291 percent of GDP.

European banks are in trouble for several reasons.

First, banking regulation has become tighter after the financial crisis. As a consequence regulatory and compliance costs have rise substantially. Today banks have to fulfill demands by national authorities, the European Banking Authority, the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the European Securities and Markets Authority and the national central banks. Being at a staggering 4% of total revenue currently, compliance costs are expected to rise to 10% of total revenue until 2022.

Second, there are risks hidden in banks´ balance sheets. That there is something fishy in European banks´assets can quickly be detected when comparing banks market capitalization with their book value. Most European banks have price-to-book ratios below 1. German Commerzbank´s price-to-book ratio stands at 0.49, Deutsche Bank´s is at 0.36, Italian UniCredit´s at 0.23, Greek Piraeus Bank at 0.14, and Greek Alpha Bank at 0.34.

With a price-to-book ratio below 1, buying a bank at the current prices and liquidating its assets at book value, an investor could make profits. Why are investors not doing that? Simply, because they do not believe in the book value of the banks´assets. Assets are too optimistically valued in the eyes of market participants. Considering that the equity ratio (equity divided by balance sheet total) of the Euro banking sector is at only 8.3%, a down valuation of assets could quickly evaporate equity.

Third, low interest rates have contributed to increasing asset prices. Stocks and bond prices have increased due to the monetary policy of the ECB, thereby leading to accounting profits for banks. Monetary policy has, thereby, artificially propped up banking profits during the last years.

Fourth, according to the ECB non-performing loans (NPLs), i.e. loans where borrowers have fallen behind in their payments, amount to €759 bn., that is 30% of the banks´ equity.

To continue reading: 7 Reasons Why European Banks Are in Trouble

He Said That? 5/21/18

From Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist:

A DEAD STATESMAN
I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
from EPITAPHS OF THE WAR 1914-18

Thoughts On The Coming Events, by The Zman

Strap on the blast shields and helmets and batten down the hatches; it’s going to get rough on the political front these next few months. From The Zman at theburningplatform.com:

Since it appears we are going to have lots of political news break over the next few weeks, I thought it might be a good idea to do some more political posting, which I have not been doing much of lately. The IG report on how the FBI handled the Clinton e-mail crimes is due out this week or next. Trump is laying the groundwork to fire Mueller and possibly behead his own Justice Department. It’s midterm season and there will be a summer battle over the next round of government budgets. Lots on tap this summer.

The first item is what we see happening with the FBI spying scandal. I must admit that I followed initially it because I liked boasting about having predicted it. Then I moved into cynical mode, assuming it would be swept under the rug like all of the crimes perpetrated by our rulers. I may have been wrong on that score. The people slowly unearthing the details and revealing them to the public appear to be extremely savvy political operators. I see now why the Democrats tried to assassinate Devin Nunes. He is a dangerous man.

One of the rare things in American politics these days is the smart politician who is not desperate to ham it up for the cameras. Nunes, Grassley, Goodlatte and their staffers have carried out this probe in a way we just never see. They took turns nibbling away at bits of the story, working with IG Horowitz, while quietly confronting the FBI and DOJ each step of the way. The level of coordination is what I find intriguing. It feels like maybe there is an inside player making sure everyone in on the same page and working their role.

On the other side of the ledger, the insane things coming from the Brennan camp are jaw-dropping. For the former CIA head to not-so-subtly threaten the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader on social media is incredible. Either the guy is insane or he really feels he is bullet proof. That would be an incredibly ballsy move to do behind closed doors with no witnesses. This guy is basically telling the political class they better remove the sitting president or else. It is not the sort of thing I ever expected to see in my lifetime.

To continue reading: Thoughts On The Coming Events