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THE KGB COMES TO THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 26, 2018 at 12:08 am

More than a year and a half after taking office, President Donald Trump remains haunted by “the Russian connection.”   

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  

And many of those he has appointed to office have strong ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of these was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2013, as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, he was presented with the 2013 Order of Friendship award. He had just signed deals with the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft. Its chief, Igor Sechin, is a loyal Putin lieutenant.

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Rex Tillerson

Another such official is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the 2016 campaign, Sessions—then serving as a surrogate for Donald Trump’s campaign—twice spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But during his Senate nomination hearings, Sessions denied that he had had “communications with the Russians” during the campaign.  

The discovery of numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to investigate Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 Presidential election. That investigation is still ongoing.

So did the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

On March 30, 2017, Clinton Watts, an expert on cyber warfare, testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. As part of his testimony, he presented a prepared statement on “Disinformation: A Primer In Russian Active Measures And Influence Campaigns.” 

Image result for Images of the seal of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives. But winning a single election is not their end goal.

Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies….from the inside out [by] creating political divisions….

[Their ultimate goals are]  the dissolution of the European Union and the break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).  

Achieving these two victories against the West will allow Russia to reassert its power globally and pursue its foreign policy objectives bilaterally through military, diplomatic and economic aggression.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

On July 27, at a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.  

On numerous occasions, Trump has fiercely denied any Russian connections. For example:  

July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.”

January 11, 2017: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” 

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy.”

Yet, in 2008, Donald Trump, Jr. said at a New York real estate conference: “In terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.  Say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo, and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

And Trump’s son, Eric, has been quoted as saying in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.”

The Moscow Project is an initiative of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Its objective: “Analyzing the facts behind Trump’s collusion with Russia and communicating the findings to the public.”

According to its March 21, 2018 report (updated on July 10): “In total, we have learned of 80 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives, including at least 23 meetings.

“And we know that at least 24 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisors were aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition. None of these contacts were ever reported to the proper authorities. Instead, the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them….

“The Trump campaign issued at least 15 blanket denials of contacts with Russia, all of which have been proven false.”   

Members of the Trump team who had contacts with Russians during the campaign or transition include:

  • Michael Cohen
  • Roger Stone
  • Donald Trump Jr.
  • Jeff Sessions
  • Paul Manafort
  • Jared Kushner
  • Carter Page
  • Michael Flynn
  • Erik Prince
  • George Papadopoulos
  • Anthony Scaramucci
  • Rick Gates 

Flynn and Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to making false statements about their contacts with Russians to investigators.

Manafort faces trial for money-laundering relating to his work for the government of Putin-supported government of Ukraine.  

In July, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller charged 12 officers of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, with crimes committed to the high-profile hacking and leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign.

As trials begin and indicted men begin to sweat, expect more revelations to come.

THE KGB COMES TO THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2018 at 12:09 am

On July 16, President Donald Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election. 

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

“Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016,” Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire said to Trump. “Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?” 

Trump chose to attack Democrats and the FBI as partners in a conspiracy: “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?  

“…Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying….

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”

Clinton Watts is a consultant and researcher on cyberwarfare. He has served as

  • An FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF);
  • The Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC); and
  • As a consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) and National Security Branch (NSB). 

In a statement he prepared for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Watts outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to subvert the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

He delivered this on March 30. 2017. Part of this reads as follows: 

Through the end of 2015 and start of 2016, the Russian influence system….began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.

Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views toward the Kremlin. The final months leading up to the election have been the predominate focus of Russian influence discussions to date.

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Clinton Watts

However, Russian Active Measures were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed. 

The final piece of Russia’s modern Active Measures surfaced in the summer of 2016 as hacked materials from previous months were strategically leaked.

On 22 July 2016, Wikileaks released troves of stolen communications from the Democratic National Committee and later batches of campaign emails. Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks revealed hacked information from a host of former U.S. government officials throughout July and August 2016.

For the remainder of the campaign season, this compromising material powered the influence system Russia successfully constructed in the previous two years.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump—as the Republican nominee for President—steadfastly refused to acknowledge the efforts of Vladimir Putin’s government to ensure his election:  

October 24, 2016: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.” 

December 11, 2016 “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.” 

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

Even after the release of this Intelligence statement, Trump continued to deny that Russia had played a role in his election. 

On February 16, 2017, as President, he tweeted: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!”

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: This pattern of Russian falsehoods and social media manipulation of the American electorate continued through Election Day and persists today.

Many of the accounts we watched push the false Incirlik story in July now focus their efforts on shaping the upcoming European elections, promoting fears of immigration or false claims of refugee criminality.  

They’ve not forgotten about the United States either. This past week, we observed social media campaigns targeting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hoping to foment further unrest amongst U.S. democratic institutions, their leaders and their constituents. 

As we noted two days before the Presidential election in our article describing Russian influence operations, Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives.

But winning a single election is not their end goal. Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies through the pursuit of five complementary objectives: 

  1. Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance;
  2. Foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures;
  3. Erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions;
  4. Popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations;
  5. Create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

From these objectives, the Kremlin can crumble democracies from the inside out creating political divisions resulting in two key milestones:

  1. The dissolution of the European Union and 
  2. The break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).

PROTECTING TRUMP–TO SAVE THEMSELVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2018 at 12:06 am

A Pew Research Center survey released on August 29, 2017, found that 36% of Americans approved of President Donald Trump. Most other polling rated his approval between 35 and 40%.

About Republicans, the survey found:

  • Just over two-thirds agreed with his positions;
  • 19% didn’t like his conduct;
  • 46% said they had mixed feelings;
  • 34% liked the way he behaved as President.

When asked what they liked most about Trump’s Presidency, those who approved of his performance cited his personality and conduct four times more often than his policies.

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Donald Trump

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon tackled this group head-on: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

It described these voters as representing about one-third of the Republican party:

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

Image result for Images of people giving the "Sieg heil" salute to Trump

Supporters giving the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute to Trump

According to the Pew survey, they only comprise 16% of the population. That leaves 65% of Republicans who are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior. But they are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told the Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.” 

It’s precisely these hard-core Fascists who come out in mid-term elections—and they’re scaring the remaining 65% who make up the GOP establishment.

That’s one reason why the vast majority of Republicans continue to fanatically support Trump: They fear he will turn his hate-filled base on them.

But there’s a second reason why Republicans back Trump—especially against Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe of Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. 

Many House and Senate Republicans have received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

In 2017, for example, Russian oligarch Len Blavatnik gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham. 

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Alexander Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and  Simon Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017.

Of this, 99% went to Republicans—including Senator John McCain and Governors John Kasich and Scott Walker.

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, the donations are entirely legal.

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will destroy the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as:

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • An incorruptible Justice Department
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion.

Trump has furiously attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

Republicans don’t fear that he has all but destroyed decades of solid relations between the United States and longtime allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.

Republicans don’t even fear that he will sell out the Nation to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The American Intelligence community—the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—has unanimously determined that Russia subverted the 2016 Presidential election. But Trump—who has repeatedly praised Putin—has repeatedly denied it.

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What Republicans fear is that Trump will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him. 

But it isn’t even Trump they most fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation—like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

ANN COULTER: HE’S NOT MY FUHRER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 23, 2018 at 12:17 am

On November 6, 2012, Ann Coulter, the Right-wing activist and propagandist, was devastated by the re-election of President Barack Obama. 

“People are suffering. The country is in disarray,” she whined during an interview. “If Mitt Romney [the Republican Presidential nominee] cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.”

Mitt Romney

So, naturally, Coulter and her fellow Rightists felt dejected.   

But by 2016, Coulter no longer felt dismayed. She felt rejuvenated—for she had found her perfect Presidential candidate: Donald Trump.

Appearing on the Right-wing radio program, “The Eric Metaxes Show,” she said: “It is like the fall of Rome but, thank God, and I am not using the Lord’s name in vain, I mean that absolutely literally, thank God for raising up Donald Trump and giving us a chance to save the country.

Donald Trump

“What is the point of talking about abortion or anything else unless you get Donald Trump in to build the wall, deport illegals, end this ‘anchor baby’ nonsense, stop importing 100,000 Muslims a year, in addition to two million Third Worlders per year. It’s madness what this country has been doing.” 

Coulter not only spoke on Trump’s behalf–she sang his praises in a 2016 book: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Ann Coulter (Gage Skidmore photo)

According to its dust jacket: “[Ann Coulter] argues that a bull in the china shop is exactly what we need to make America great again.

“In this powerful book, Coulter explains why conservatives, moderates, and even disgruntled Democrats should set aside their doubts and embrace Trump:

“He’s putting America first in our trade deals and alliances, rather than pandering to our allies and enemies.

“He’s abandoned the GOP’s decades-long commitment to a bellicose foreign policy, at a time when the entire country is sick of unnecessary wars.” 

To Coulter’s delight, Trump defeated Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on November 9, 2016.

Although Clinton got almost 2.9 million more popular votes, he swamped her in the Electoral College–304 votes to Clinton’s 227. 

Suddenly, for Trump, the Electoral College wasn’t “phoney.”  

But by May, 2017, four months after Trump had taken office as President, Ann Coulter was ready to abandon him. Her chief complaint: He hadn’t built the wall along the United States-Mexican border he had promised to erect.

“We want the ruthless businessman we were promised,” she told the Right-wing website, The Daily Caller.

I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out.

“This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.” 

And, on March 28, 2018, she had more choice words for him: “I knew he was a shallow, lazy ignoramus, and I didn’t care.  “

“I’d been waiting 30 years for someone to say all these things,” she added, referring to his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

On April, 1, she—by her own account—had a shouting match with Trump in the Oval Office. 

On the Right-wing “Howie Carr Show,” she claimed to have told him: “You’re not doing what you promised to do. Where’s the end of NAFTA? Where’s the wall? Where are the deportations? What are you doing talking about the DREAMers?”  

Coulter (doing a Trump impersonation) claimed that Trump said: “I appointed Gorsuch.” 

“And I said that doesn’t count. Jeb, exclamation point, would have done that. Rubio would have done that. How is your Presidency different than from Rubio would have done?”

“He’s failing right now,” Coulter told Carr. “The presidency isn’t over yet, he can still come back and do it. But people who voted for him shouldn’t be cheering for him every time he betrays them and this is a total betrayal for him to sign that [government appropriations] bill. It’s a total betrayal for him not to build the wall. And to pretend like it isn’t—yeah he can come back.

“And as I told The New York Times, if he does I’ll start a committee to put him on Mount Rushmore, if he builds that wall. But, right now, if you want to make a bet I don’t think we’re getting the wall.” 

But for all her fury at Trump, she’s still peddling her 2016 book, In Trump We Trust, on her website—www.anncoulter.com.

And on April 18, she attacked former FBI Director James Comey, who has strongly criticized Trump during his nationwide tour to promote his newly-released memoir, A Higher Loyalty. 

Comey had been fired by Trump on May 9, 2017, for—by Trump’s admission—pursuing “the Russia thing”—a probe into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election. 

According to Coulter: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to Comey for showing the American people why he was so badly in need of firing.”

In short: She backed a monster to wreak destruction on those she hated. And now she’s upset with him because he hasn’t acted monstrously enough.

DID COMEY LOSE CLINTON THE WHITE HOUSE? PARTTWO (END)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 18, 2018 at 12:02 am

May 9 will mark one year since James Comey was fired as FBI director by President Donald Trump.

On April 17, Comey’s memoirs, A Higher Loyalty, appeared in bookstores. The book has generated massive publicity for Comey. And it has also re-ignited the controversial charge that he cost Hillary Clinton the White House during the closing days of the 2016 election. 

But is this true?

Actually, there were at least nine reasons for Clinton’s defeat.  Part One of this series explored the first five. This part will explore the remaining four.

#6 The coalition that twice elected Barack Obama deserted Hillary Clinton.

Clinton did worse-than-expected among all the groups she was counting on to support her: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics.

  • In 2012, Obama got 93% of the black vote; in 2016, Clinton got 88%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 55% of the women’s vote; in 2016, Clinton won 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 60% of the vote of those under 30; in 2016, Clinton got 54%.
  • In 2012, Obama got 71% of the Hispanic vote; in 2016, Clinton got 65%.

Clinton proved less popular even among whites than Obama: In 2012, Obama won 39% of their votes; in 2016, Clinton won 37%.

#7 Trump, adopting the role of a populist, appealed to blue-collar voters. Clinton offered a “love-your-CEO” economic plan—and suffered for it.

Trump visited “Rustbelt” states like Michigan and Pennsylvania and vowed to “bring back” jobs that had been lost to China, such as those in coal mining and manufacturing. Clinton didn’t deign to show up, assuming she had those states “locked up.”

Most economists agree that, in a globalized economy, such jobs are not coming back, no matter who becomes President.

Even so, voters backed the man who came to promise them a better future, and shunned the woman who didn’t come to promise them any future at all.

In May, 2016, Democratic pollster CeLinda Lake had warned Clinton to revamp her economic platform. Clinton ignored the advice.

“Democrats simply have to come up with a more robust economic frame and message,” Lake said after the election. “We’re never going to win those white, blue-collar voters if we’re not better on the economy. And 27 policy papers and a list of positions is not a frame. We can laugh about it all we want, but Trump had one.”

#8 Hillary Clinton gave only one memorable speech during the campaign.

This was the “basket of deplorables” speech, delivered at a New York fundraiser on September 9. It was the only Clinton speech to be widely quoted by Democrats and Republicans.

She divided Donald Trump’s supporters into two groups. The first group were the “deplorables,” for whom she showed open contempt:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.

“He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”  

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Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore photo)

But the second group, she said, consisted of poor, alienated Americans who rightly felt abandoned by their employers and their government:

“But….that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from.

“They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.” 

#9 After giving this speech, Clinton threw away the good it might well have done her. 

First, the day after making the speech, she apologized for it: “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half–that was wrong.” 

Many of Trump’s followers were racists, sexists and xenophobes—who deserved condemnation, not apologies. By apologizing, she looked weak, indecisive, even cowardly.  

Second, having eloquently reached out to many of the men and women who were a prime constituency for Trump, she failed to offer an economic package to quickly and effectively address their vital needs for jobs and medical care.

The reason: She had failed to put one together long ago.

And all she had to offer now was boilerplate rhetoric, such as: “Education is the answer.”

Worst of all, Trump turned her speech against her, tweeting: “Wow, Hillary Clinton was SO INSULTING to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard working people. I think it will cost her at the Polls!”

It did.

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Blaming people like James Comey for her defeat only proves that Hillary Clinton has learned nothing from her failed campaigns of 2008 and 2016.

As long as Democrats and their supporters blame everyone else—and refuse to correct their own weaknesses—they will continue to remain a minority political party.

DID COMEY LOSE CLINTON THE WHITE HOUSE? PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 17, 2018 at 12:10 am

“If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president,” Hillary Clinton told CNN in May, 2017.

“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off.”

On October 28, 2016, then-FBI director James Comey announced that the bureau was reopening its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

Comey wrote in a letter to Congress that the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation “in connection with an unrelated case.”

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

In national exit polls, Clinton’s use of a private email server troubled 63% of voters. Even so, 24% of those voted for her.

Up until then, Clinton had seemed on her way to winning the election. Even Comey believed she would become the first female President of the United States.

And Clinton did win the popular vote: 65,844,954 (48.2%) to Trump’s 62,979,879 (46.1%), beating him by almost 2.9 million votes.

But Trump emerged the victor in the Electoral College, which actually determines the Presidential winner—with 304 votes compared to Clinton’s 227.

Since November 8, 2016, Clinton and her infuriated allies have blamed Comey more than anyone for her loss. And Comey himself has said that the thought of him swinging the election made him “mildly nauseous.”

If Comey’s action played a role in Clinton’s loss, it was just one of several factors that sent Trump to the White House.

Among these:

#1 Hillary Clinton was an uninspiring candidate. When Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw compared his rallies to Hannah Montana concerts. Audiences were excited by his charisma, eloquence, relative youth (47) and optimism (“Yes We Can!”).

Clinton radiated none of these qualities. She was 67 when she declared her candidacy for President—and looked it. Her speaking voice grated like the proverbial fingernail on a blackboard.

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Hillary Clinton

She seemed to have been around forever—as First Lady (1993-2001), as Senator from New York (2001-2009) and as Secretary of State (2009-2013). Those born after 2000 thought of the Clinton Presidency as ancient history. She was offering a resume—and voters wanted an inspiration.

#2 Clinton brought a lot of baggage with her. In contrast to Obama, whose Presidency had been scandal-free, Clinton—rightly or wrongly—has always been dogged by charges of corruption.

During the Clinton Presidency, a failed land deal—Whitewater—while Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas triggered a seven-year investigation by a Republican special prosecutor. No criminality was uncovered, and no charge was brought against either Clinton.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up the Clinton Foundation, a public charity to bring government, businesses and social groups together to solve problems “faster, better, at lower cost.”

As Secretary of State, more than half of Clinton’s meetings with people outside government were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. If a “pay-to play” system wasn’t at work, one certainly seemed to be.

She cast further suspicion on herself by her unauthorized use of a private email server. This wasn’t revealed until March, 2015–after she was no longer Secretary of State.

She claimed she had used it to avoid carrying two cell-phones. But, as Secretary of State, she traveled with a huge entourage who carried everything she needed. Her critics believed she used a private email system to hide a “pay-for-pay” relationship with Clinton Foundation donors.

#3 As a candidate for President, she “secretly” worked with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, to ensure that she would get the nomination.

As DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz was expected to be impartial toward all Democratic candidates seeking the prize. This included Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s chief competitor.

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Bernie Sanders

So Sanders and his supporters were outraged when, on July 22, WikiLeaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the DNC.

The emails revealed a clear bias for Clinton and against Sanders. In one email, Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist.

#4 The Obamas’ support proved a plus/minus for Clinton. Understandably, President Obama wanted to see his legacies continued—and she was the only candidate who could do it.

So he—and his wife, Michelle—stormed the country, giving eloquent, passionate speeches and firing up crowds on Clinton’s behalf.

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President Barack Obama

So long as either Obama stood before a crowd, the magic lasted. But once the event was over, the excitement vanished. Hillary simply didn’t arouse enough passion to keep it going.

Obama’s supporters found Clinton wanting—in attractiveness, grace, eloquence, trustworthiness and the ability to inspire.

#5 Democrats and liberals fell prey to hubris. They dismissed Donald Trump as a bad joke: Surely voters would reject a bombastic, thrice-married “reality show” host who had filed for corporate bankruptcy four times.

Many liberals believed Clinton would bury him at the polls: Blacks, women, youth and Hispanics will turn out huge for her. Democrats will retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House.

They didn’t.

A REPUBLICAN–AND RED–PRESIDENT?

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on April 16, 2018 at 4:36 pm

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Donald Trump

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however—as both Presidential candidate and President—has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia.  An example of this occurred during his exchange with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:  

CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before. 

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: [After insisting that Clinton wanted “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump finally deigned to address Wallace’s question.]  Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. 

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else….

CLINTON: …17 intelligence—do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP:  And our country has no idea.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that there has been “no collusion” between himself and anyone from Russia. 

But he has tried hard to shut down any investigation of ties between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

He has attacked reputable news organizations—such as CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times—as “fake news” for reporting on the expanding network of proven ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

On February 15, 2017, Trump privately asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey resisted that demand. 

On May 9, 2017, Trump suddenly fired Comey, claiming his motive for doing so was that Comey had mistreated Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential race. 

But on May 10, he unintentionally gave away the real reason. It happened during a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  

Kislyak was reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He had been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Flynn.  

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Comey’s firing resulted in demands for a Special Counsel to investigate Russian efforts to subvert the 2016 election. On May 17, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III to do so. 

Since then, Trump has repeatedly threatened to fire Mueller to shut down the investigation. 

On April 15, during an interview on ABC’s “20/20” to promote his upcoming book, A Higher Loyalty, Comey was asked: Do you think the Russians have compromising material on Trump? 

And he answered: “I think it’s possible. I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

WHY REPUBLICANS REALLY SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2018 at 12:05 am

As President Donald Trump lurches daily from one crisis to another—most of them of his own making—many Americans ask: “Why do Republicans continue to support him?” 

The answer lies in what happened 73 years ago in Berlin—when the “Thousand-Year” Third Reich collapsed after little more than 12 years.

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

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And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no German admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front.

Countless Germans claimed to have hidden Jews in their attics. If so, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

And almost universally, they blamed the conflict on the man they had embraced as their Fuhrer.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8, 2017 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2018 at 12:04 am

Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

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Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero—James Brien Comey (December 14, 1960)

Comey served as United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Southern District of New York (2002-2003).

As United States Deputy Attorney General (2003-2005), he opposed the warrantless wiretapping program of the George W. Bush administration. He also argued against the use of water boarding as an interrogation method.

In 2005, he entered the private sector as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the biggest contractor for the Department of Defense. 

On July 29, 2013, the United States Senate voted 93 -1 to confirm Comey as director of the FBI, the seventh in its history.

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James B. Comey

He directed the FBI from his appointment in 2013 by President Barack Obama until his firing on May 9 by President Donald Trump.

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump gave no warning of his intentions. Instead, he sent Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s dismissal.

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump:

  • Steadfastly denied those revelations;
  • Repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post; and
  • Attacked the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security. 

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

Two days later, on May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” 

But shortly afterward, it appeared Trump was the one who should worry: Reports surfaced that Comey had written memos to himself immediately after his private meetings with Trump. 

He had also told close aides that Trump was trying to pressure him into dropping the investigation into close ties between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign staffers.

As for Trump’s threat of having tapes of his and Comey’s conversations: Like Trump’s claim that he could prove that Barack Obama wasn’t an American citizen, this, too, proved to be a lie.

And Comey’s firing led directly to a result Trump did not anticipate: Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yielded to demands from Democrats and appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III as a special prosecutor to investigate those ties.

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Three heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russian; the third is an American.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); one American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky)

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 20 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends–to his ultimate misfortune–was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him. 

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