Travelin’ man: The Big Story, and another strange place Spygate master John Brennan was, at a weird time

Travelin’ man: The Big Story, and another strange place Spygate master John Brennan was, at a weird time
John Brennan in an interview with Graham Allison at the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard, in 2016. Harvard U. video, YouTube

Sooner or later, life seems to imitate all that art has afforded over the centuries of human endeavor.  In the movie Wag the Dog, Barry Levinson’s 1997 film about faking the news for political profit, politicos Robert De Niro and Anne Heche work with Dustin Hoffman, as a Hollywood producer, to “produce” a “war” that will distract the media and get an unpresentable president through the last 11 days before his reelection bid.

In the course of the movie, Willie Nelson is called in to come up with musical themes for the production.  His problem?  The war is set in Albania.  Albania, he complains, is hard to rhyme with, at least sticky-meme-ish-lyrics-wise.

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

Fortunately, the focus of the production goes a slightly different direction, and instead of rhyming Albania, Nelson’s character is able to write a fake “1930s folk song” about a “good old shoe.”  (Which commemorates the boots worn by a fake combat hero – Woody Harrelson – being heralded for his fake part in the fake war.)

The war planners in Wag the Dog resort to Albania as their venue because Americans tend not to know from Albania.  In 1997, there were probably more Americans than there are today who knew that the Belushi brothers, Jim and the late John, were of Albanian descent.  Other than that, even coming off half a decade of war in the Balkans, Albania had managed to stay mostly off the front pages in the American news.

But Albania is where then-CIA Director John Brennan was, holding talks, we are told, with Albanian officials, at the peculiar time of 4-7 December 2016.

Those who have followed Spygate closely will have a pretty good idea what to do with this information.  We’ll consider some suggestions here – and we’ll be going lightly over the more obvious ground, because there’s a profounder lesson to be absorbed from the context.

Brennan confers with Albanian President Bujar Nishani in December 2016. Govt of Albania image

The globe-trotting Brennan’s timeline

The Albania visit makes a fascinating bookend to Brennan’s travel history in the Spygate period.  The first eye-catching Brennan venture was his quiet, virtually unreported visit to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 1-3 August of 2015.  This was the visit with Brennan, Bill Clinton, an Air Force aircraft at Brennan’s disposal for three days on a tarmac out in the sticks, and a billionaire physician’s medical technology conference that both men were participating in, for some reason.

Fast-forward to the action-packed month of March 2016, and sometime before 14 March (probably either just before it, or about 10 days before it), Brennan was in Moscow for a secretive meeting at the headquarters of the FSB, Russia’s federal security service (the successor to the KGB, and a kind of hybrid of the FBI and the clandestine operations arm of the CIA).

I’ve discussed before how unusual this visit was, and won’t rehash the points here.  I will reiterate that it is in the highest degree unlikely that Brennan was there to talk to anyone in the Russian government about Syria, which was given as the official excuse for the visit.

In light of these noteworthy previous excursions and the timing of the December 2016 visit, it doesn’t look like John Brennan was in Albania to discuss either the security problem of resettling Iranian dissidents from Iraq in Albania (the purported purpose) or the problem of finding a rhyme for “Albania.”

The competing timeline of December 2016

Spygate-watchers will also recall that 4-7 December 2016 – a Sunday-to-Thursday interval – fell just before the timeline watershed of the 9 December 2016 Washington Post stories on the intelligence community assessment (ICA) about Russia and the 2016 election.

The burden of the stories was that representatives of the intel community had just been briefing Congress on the findings of the ICA, and that President Obama had received a brief on it himself on 6 December, and had ordered a full-scale intelligence effort to prepare for action against Russia and the release of an assessment to the American public.

The CIA was one of the two agencies in the U.S. intelligence community prepared to certify that Vladimir Putin himself was behind a specifically identified, top-directed Russian meddling strategy in the U.S. election.  With a policy issue of this gravity developing, it is arresting that the CIA director was in Albania rather than in Washington, D.C.

Albania: Not as out-of-the-way as you’d think, in Spygate terms

Albania is one of a handful of countries with a curious, if seemingly incidental, prominence in the drama’s various sub-narratives.

Nothing has arisen to directly implicate Albanian actors, per se, in Spygate.  It’s more a matter of others with indubitable roles in Spygate having Albanian connections.

And a refinement of this proposition is what’s important.  To unpack Spygate, analysts have to look for the patterns of common elements in the various threads that connect them.  This is doubly so because the fictional narrative that drove Spygate was built around a set of facts known to the Spygate planners – but not necessarily to everyone else.

The overwhelming majority of those facts had nothing to do with Donald Trump.  They came, rather, from the backgrounds and knowledge of the planners themselves.  The planners worked with the settings they knew and tried to weave damaging implications about Trump into them.

We will see how that worked in a moment.  To start with, however, let’s quickly survey the “Albania connection” apparent in Spygate.

One on the front line is Joseph Mifsud. I’ve recounted his connections to Albania before.  In his position as president of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Slovenia (EMUNI), he was reported in a diplomatic press article in 2014 to be involved in training Albanian diplomats.  He was on the editorial board of an academic journal published by the University of Tirana as well.

One Internet researcher, Brian Whitaker, noted that Mifsud also appeared in an undated photo posted on social media with Prasenjit Kumar Singh, a colleague who was the owner of the London School of Executive Training, and two members of the Albanian parliament, one of them described at the time as the deputy prime minister of Albania.

Joseph Mifsud with colleague Prasenjit Kumar Singh (L) and Albanian parliamentarians: then-Deputy PM Edmond Haxhinasto (R), Unidentified on Mifsud’s right. Ca. 2012-13. Kumar Singh image via Facebook, Medium (see text)

Kumar Singh posted the photo on Facebook in July 2017, according to Whitaker.  That may or may not be when the photo was taken, however.

The taller of the two Albanians, at far right, is Edmond Haxhinasto, who was indeed deputy prime minister of Albania from 2011 to 2013 (in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha).  In 2017 he was still in the Albanian parliament, but did not hold a cabinet post.

The photo could have been from any time between 2012 and 2017 (Mifsud went into hiding at the end of 2017).  I suspect, given Haxhinasto’s relatively youthful appearance, that it was closer to 2012.  Of note, Mifsud was in Albania to receive a think-tank award in the summer of 2012, while Haxhinasto was serving as deputy PM.

Haxhinasto, meanwhile, met with Hillary Clinton in 2010, when she was secretary of state.

2010: Hillary Clinton meets with Edmond Haxhinasto at the U.S. State Department. DOS image

Haxhinasto was the Albanian foreign minister at the time (he assumed the additional role of deputy PM in 2011).

The other gentleman, on Mifsud’s right in the photo, is apparently an Albanian parliamentarian.  I haven’t been able to identify the individual, but he can be seen in this next photo with Arben Ahmetaj (on the left), a member of the Socialist Party who has held positions in the government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, in office since 2013.

Arben Ahmetaj, Socialist Party member and cabinet official in governments of PM Edi Rama, with unidentified parliamentarian from Kumar Singh photo with Mifsud. May 2019. Via ShkodraNews

Perhaps someone from Albania, or at least someone who can identify him, will let us know.

The other major Spygate actor with an Albanian connection is, of course, Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish-Dutch businessman who contracted for lobbying with the Flynn Intel Group in August 2016.

It has never appeared accidental that Alptekin approached Michael Flynn’s intelligence firm through middleman Bijan Rafiekian at just that time, in the two weeks when Crossfire Hurricane was cranking up.

So it doesn’t seem inconsequential either that Alptekin has been an honorary consul of Albania in Turkey since 2010.  Alptekin certainly doesn’t regard it as inconsequential.  It’s the first thing he lists in his “experience” history at LinkedIn, and something he emphasizes in all the biographies posted for speaking events and membership lists.

Screen cap 26 Mar 2020

Other than that, and his roles with business councils in Turkey and the United States, Alptekin’s professional biography is curiously spotty and often garbled.  It looks, in fact, like an intelligence asset’s bio, similar to those of Stefan Halper and his Cambridge protégé Steven Schrage (the man who invited Carter Page to the conference at Cambridge in July of 2016).  Alptekin’s bio, laid out in standard resume format, is a string of long silences punctuated by one-off government jobs, showy memberships, and businesses without actual achievements attached to them, in industries for which Alptekin had no apparent background or preparation.

There is one elliptically interesting element from the biographical lore on Alptekin.  Reports from 2017 state that from 2005 to 2008, Alptekin ran a business in which he consulted for the government of Turkey on counterterrorism.

There is no record of a business name to go with that claim, but it’s certainly possible.  It can’t fail to be of interest that this period exactly overlaps John Brennan’s stint as president of The Analysis Corporation, which involved contracting with the FBI and the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on counterterrorism – Brennan’s area of focus his last few years at the CIA.

For some reason, however, Alptekin makes no mention of this consulting business in his LinkedIn profile.  The period in question is simply left blank.

Ekim Alptekin gives an interview in Turkey in 2019. Haber Turk video, YouTube

The best known detail about Alptekin – other than his involvement in business councils in the U.S. and Turkey – is that he formed the company Inovo BV in the Netherlands and used it to make the 2016 lobbying contract with the Flynn Intel Group.

The package of transactions around Inovo BV is fully documented and not in doubt.  However, there is no mention of Inovo at all in Alptekin’s LinkedIn profile.

Perhaps that’s related to the fact that in 2017, BuzzFeed published an article based on documentation showing Inovo with a connection to the Israeli company Ratio Oil Exploration Lp.  Alptekin denies there is such a connection.

Ratio’s CEO participated in the same oil industry conference in Israel at which George Papadopoulos spoke in early April of 2016. Alptekin then attended an Israeli energy convention in Tel Aviv in November 2016, hosted during his visit by Ratio.  It’s not clear why Alptekin or Inovo would want to insist that the links documented by BuzzFeed didn’t exist.  But it compounds the interest of that, when Alptekin leaves Inovo BV off his professional profile.

Israeli oil and gas conference in April 2016; panel member George Papadopoulos at far right. Ratio CEO Yigal Landau far left. Israel Defense image

Oh, and he has been a member for some years of the European Council on Foreign Relations.  In that capacity, Alptekin effectively represents Turkey.

The latter membership puts him in the orbit of ECFR sponsor George Soros, and both Joseph Mifsud and Stefan Halper, who have attended ECFR conferences.

A hint of Soros

This brings us back full circle to Brennan’s 2016 visit to Albania, which some skeptical regional observers believe was related to Soros’s long-running political influence project in the nations of Southeastern Europe.  (The other Balkan nation where there has been consistent reporting of this pattern is the Republic of Macedonia.)

This is where the little dangling thread starts unraveling fast.  It begins with a hint of Soros on the edges, but if you can stand to spend some quality time with an online translator and find out what Albanians themselves have to say, it turns out Soros is all over the place.

For one thing, when Brennan visited Albania in December 2016, numerous members of the cabinet of Prime Minister Edi Rama – including Rama himself – were long-time alumni of Soros-sponsored institutions.  Dubious Albanian commentators regarded Rama’s ascendancy as a victory for Soros’s excessive influence; many considered Rama an outright thug, and accused him in 2011 and 2013 of inciting heated street demonstrations to gain power.  (Victor Gaetan has a good, accessible summary in English at The American Spectator.)

George Soros (Image: YouTube screen grab)

Arben Ahmetaj, the parliamentary associate of the unidentified man from the photo with Joseph Mifsud, is also a Soros alum, and has held positions with Rama’s governments.  (This makes for an interesting mix: Mifsud’s little gathering seems to have one Albanian in it, Haxhinasto, who is not “wired in” with the Rama faction, and another who apparently is: the seeming associate of Arben Ahmetaj.)

There is far too much detail connected to the Soros-oriented factionalism in the Balkans to go into all of it.  But one of the highlights tells us a very great deal.

Friends of George

It’s this.  Prime Minister Edi Rama – who as Gaetan points out is the red-diaper scion of a prominent hard-core Communist family from the Enver Hoxha era – is such an entrenched satellite in George Soros’s orbit that he was one of the distinguished guests at Soros’s 2013 wedding in New York.

That puts Rama in some elite Spygate company.  There is one other national leader in this category whose nation figures with counterintuitive prominence in Spygate.  We’ve met him before: Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia.  Ilves attended Soros’s 2013 wedding too – they’ve been friends for decades – and he was president of Estonia throughout 2016, when John Brennan was supposedly receiving Estonian intelligence about “Trump and Russia.”  Ilves left office in December 2016.

One East European leader with this profile is a one-off.  Two is a pattern no competent analyst would ignore.

A concentration of patterns

Part of the significance of Albania arises from the convergence of patterns in the meta-narrative of Spygate: the one that the planners concocted, and the emerging reality that clarifies who the planners were, and what their motive was.

In this regard, it’s no surprise that John Kerry also visited Albania in February 2016.  His visit sparked a frenzy of commentary from Edi Rama’s critics about the connections among Soros, the Rama government, and Kerry (to whose 2004 campaign Soros had contributed more than $20 million).

John Kerry and Albanian PM Edi Rama arrive for a joint press conference in Feb 2016. AP video, YouTube

Long before the Alptekin-Flynn saga of Spygate took wing, moreover, Albanians were acutely aware of the issue of “dissident” Turkish cleric Fetulleh Gulen, because it’s an issue between Turkey and Albania as well as Turkey and the U.S.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has a special interest in Albania as a Muslim enclave of the former Ottoman Empire, presses Tirana relentlessly to refrain from lending any support to Gulen or “Gulenists” (and indeed presses them to hand over Gulenists to Turkey, which Albania has just started doing in 2020).

One reason Erdogan does this is that the Obama administration has also pressed Tirana for cooperation on another matter due to Albania’s Muslim heritage.  The matter in question is the resettlement of Iranian dissidents from Iraq, mentioned earlier as the ostensible purpose of Brennan’s December 2016 visit.

The dissidents are from the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) group that lived in Iraq at Saddam Hussein’s invitation for a number of years, designated by the U.S. and other nations as a terrorist group.  (The MEK, which dates to the 1960s, had killed Americans in Iran before the Shah fell, in the 1970s.)  The terrorist designation was removed by the Obama administration in 2012.  For their safety after the 2003 war, meanwhile, the MEK “dissidents” had to be housed in a protected enclave in Iraq.  They were enemies of the revolutionary Islamic regime in Tehran, and came under attack from Iran-backed militia units.

Eventually, in the period from about 2013 to 2016, the Obama administration arranged for Albania to resettle them.  If this was explicitly linked by American policymakers to the negotiations with Iran for the “nuclear deal” (the JCPOA), I haven’t been able to find such a reference.  But the timing and topic make that likely.  Clearing the MEK out of Iraq was something the Iranian regime wanted done one way or another, for more reasons than it is necessary to go into here.

The larger point is that with the MEK resettlement, Albania intersects with one of the core features of Spygate: the anti-Trump motive – an urgent one for a top faction of Spygate’s Obama administration planners – of preserving, at any cost, the JCPOA with Iran.

Kerry as well as Brennan was assumed to have the MEK resettlement in view when he visited Albania in 2016.

But some Albanian commentators also found significance in a Kerry foray into Central Asia the previous fall, in company with George Soros.

In October 2015, Kerry and Soros descended on Kyrgyzstan to inaugurate a new Soros-sponsored university.  Albanian critics opined, based on their country’s experience, that this would function as a mill to turn out “Open Society” connected political leaders who would one day seize power in parliamentary government.

John Kerry speaks at the grand opening of the Soros-funded American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, Oct 2015. AUCA TV video, YouTube

The timing of this joint ceremony in Kyrgyzstan turns out to be especially interesting in light of an odd visit by Soros to the Obama White House on 8 October 2015.  Soros was escorted in the White House by Rob Malley, the “Hamas Whisperer” and NSC staffer with the Iran-JCPOA portfolio during the negotiations in 2015.

The choice of escort would in part have been because Malley worked for the Soros-funded International Crisis Group (ICG) before he formally joined the Obama administration in in its second term.  When Obama left office, Malley took over at the helm of the ICG – which now churns out anti-Trump copy on foreign affairs and national security issues.

The Albanian connection opens a broad “picture window” on how the Obama administration saw the years 2015 and 2016: as preparation for continued influence through connections with think tanks, consulting firms, “civil society institutions,” and foreign governments.  The markers Team Obama had to call in were supposed to remain valid, because Hillary Clinton was supposed to be elected president.

The same connections have kept cropping up in the backdrop of Spygate.  A good way to see that is to look briefly at three particular instances of “intersection” between Albania as a focal point and other aspects of the Spygate saga.

Three telling tales: The MEK

The MEK subplot is in a special category of interest because it was consciously deployed as an anti-Trump theme in the media.  Readers probably don’t remember it – and have no need to, because it’s not about anything real, and it’s ridiculous.  But it does highlight how the Spygate planners work.

Remember what we know from the record recounted above.  The Obama administration de-listed the MEK as a terror group, and asked Albania to take in the MEK for resettlement.

In late November 2016, however, a story in Politico let loose a torrent of vituperation against the undoubtedly weird but now aging and increasingly harmless MEK.  This article appeared on 23 November 2016, about 10 days before John Brennan went to Albania, officially to discuss the resettlement of the nasty, unseemly former-terrorist group, the logistics of which had been completed in September 2016.  As the article at the second link indicates, Brennan reportedly warned the Albanians that the Trump administration would lost interest, and wouldn’t continue to aid Albania in the endeavor.

According to the author, Brennan told Albanian officials “it will be the Albanian Government itself which must deal with internal security and must confront a group trained militarily from the time of Saddam Hussein.”  They shouldn’t expect Trump to help them out.

The Politico article, on the other hand, breezed through the point that Albania was resettling the MEK; a careful reader might have divined from the timeline that the administration of Barack Obama was the instigator of the resettlement effort, but that wasn’t clarified in the text.  This article was obviously written for a different audience.

What was the purpose of such an article?  To report that in years past, the MEK had paid Trump associate Rudy Giuliani for speeches and lobbying in Washington; and to proclaim that to be a terrible thing.  The clear implication: that the Trump administration would be too friendly and attentive to the MEK.

Sky News video

The author, who worked MEK policy himself in the Obama administration, lambasted John Bolton and Newt Gingrich for advocating for the MEK as well.  This is downright odd, juxtaposed with the message Brennan is supposed to have delivered to the Albanians.  To hear Daniel Benjamin tell it, the Obama administration had no agency in its own MEK policy.  All the pro-MEK developments were the fault of paid political thugs like Giuliani, Bolton, and Gingrich.

No one else, of course, recalls them having any influence over policy during the Obama administration.  But that reality, like what the Albanians report being told by Brennan, doesn’t fit the anti-Trump narrative.

Harry Sargeant

A flamboyant individual named Harry Sargeant III briefly flashed in the pan in the fall of 2019 as a purported associate of Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine-fixers, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.  Most readers probably missed the flash, which is just as well.  It didn’t mean anything, and it isn’t going to.

But it’s another set of facts (or quasi-facts) the Spygate planners had at hand to work with.  Fiona Hill, the NSC official who also had brief fame as a witness for Adam Schiff in the Ukraine phone call kerfuffle, let drop Sargeant’s name as someone perhaps connected with Parnas’s and Fruman’s activities in Ukraine.  According to her, she really didn’t know much about him, but had heard he was bad news, an allusion for which she mentioned a link to Venezuela.  (Sargeant categorically denies having the links to Parnas, Fruman, and Ukraine alleged by the media reporting that erupted after Hill’s testimony.)

Sargeant, a former Marine fighter pilot turned oil merchant, would probably be considered bad news by people who have sued him, including a member of the Jordanian royal family who at one time facilitated a Sargeant fuel contract with the U.S. military in Iraq by getting permits for him to transport his cargo through Jordan.

But it’s his links to Venezuela and Albania that interest us here.  I take leave to doubt that Ms. Hill heard much if anything about Harry Sargeant before she was being briefed up for the Schiff committee deposition, because Sargeant seriously doesn’t matter to anti-Trump story lines – even to the Giuliani-in-Ukraine soap opera put out by the media.  There’s no there there.

Harry Sargeant, not the droid we’re looking for. worldnewsbrasil video, YouTube

He looks instead like the kind of character Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS specialize in polishing up to overhype and try to tar their targets with, when hired by someone to dirty up an opponent.

Sargeant is a walking exemplar of Spygate concatenation.  He’s got an Albania connection.  He’s in bad odor there after working with our friend Arben Ahmetaj to “save” a failing oil refinery, which Sargeant was supposed to invest in and bring back to operation, but which never benefited from his promised ministrations.

He’s got, more recently, a Venezuela connection.  His excursion in Venezuela involved a furtive arrival at an airport crawling with armed thugs, and then being wined and dined by the inexcusable Nicolas Maduro.  The life of a spot-oil merchant is often unsavory.

The media have also been at pains to portray Sargeant as a mainstay of the Republican Party, due to his connection to the Florida Republican Party of … the Charlie Crist era.  That would be Charlie Crist, the born-again former Republican who endorsed Barack Obama in 2012, and now represents Florida’s 13th district as a Democrat.

In Sargeant’s heyday as a political party official, he was also noteworthy for supporting that token of bona fides for the true Trump fan, John McCain.

Although Marco Rubio and Rick Scott undoubtedly know who Sargeant is, it’s a good bet that Trump and his senior officials and advisers would have no idea Sargeant made a shady oil deal with an Edi Rama crony in Albania, or tooled around Venezuela yukking it up with Maduro in 2017.

The Spygate crowd would know exactly those details: because they know Edi Rama and his cronies, and they’re plugged in with a network that tracks the doings, not so much of Sargeant, per se, as of Maduro and other organized politicos in Venezuela.

Interestingly, there’s one academic expert in particular with a vista on both countries.  He was mentioned by Albanian commentators on Kerry’s February 2016 visit, in part because he worked through the Soros network to prepare an economic development proposal for Albania and the Edi Rama government in 2013.  His proposal was implemented from 2013 to 2015, and deemed a success.  The gentleman is Ricardo Hausmann, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

He more recently performed a similar office for the shadow government of Juan Guaido of Venezuela.  His integration with the Guaido shadow government was such that he had been tapped to represent it with the Inter-American Development Bank, until he bowed out because he couldn’t keep his chair at Harvard if he accepted the position with Guaido.

Although Fiona Hill, who did research work in the Kennedy school throughout the 1990s, probably knows Hausmann, I very much doubt he had any hand in alerting her to the peripheral eruption in Venezuela of Harry Sargeant.  (If I had to guess, I’d look to Fusion GPS for that one.)

Fiona Hill. EU Reporter video, YouTube

But both of them swim in the same tank, along with a host of others who peopled the Obama agencies and now adorn consulting firms and think-tanks around Washington, D.C.  They would need no scene-setting or explanation to understand the portrait of Harry Sargeant that Hill conveyed in her brief sketch of him to Schiff’s committee. The team of lawyers involved in preparing the extensively footnoted “whistleblower complaint” that led to Hill’s testimony would know exactly where to find an oppo research firm that could pull Harry Sargeant out of its hat – especially if the research firm (let’s call it Fusion GPS) was under contract for other Spygate services to a long-time Capitol Hill insider like Dianne Feinstein’s former aide Daniel Jones.

Dmitry Zaikin

Spygate-heads who really like to feel their eyeballs bleed will recognize the name Dmitry “David” Zaikin.  In 2017, a reporter named Isaac Arnsdorf framed this Ukrainian-born Canadian, in articles for Politico and ProPublica (a Soros-funded media group), as Ekim Alptekin’s shadow partner in approaching the Flynn Intel Group in the summer of 2016.

Zaikin was depicted as a broker of access to highly placed Russians.  And Arnsdorf’s treatment emphasized his role in the 2000s in brokering sales for the Trump International Tower in Toronto.

Arnsdorf also wove in information about Zaikin’s involvement in a mining deal in Siberia in the mid-2000s, and more recent experience advising supposedly “pro-Kremlin” parties in Eastern European countries, including Albania.  (Arnsdorf depicts the party Edmond Haxhinasto belongs to, the Socialist Movement for Integration, or LSI, as pro-Kremlin – a dubious reading, to say the least.  In essence, what Arnsdorf presents is a Soros reading of which party isn’t in the Soros tank.)

Journalist Armin Rosen followed up on this reporting for Tablet Magazine in a December 2019 article, and found the evidence for Zaikin’s alleged role in the Flynn drama to be paper-thin.  One thing we may note about it is that Robert Mueller never showed the slightest interest in Zaikin as his team probed the Flynn episode.  Rosen points out that Zaikin appears nowhere in Mueller-generated documents on Flynn’s case.

Nor did Mueller conclude that the Flynn group’s lobbying connection with Turkey had anything to do with Russia.  Rosen highlights that as well.

Standing back from the Zaikin profile, we can see that Zaikin apparently did have real connections: with Russia, mining interests (which invariably involve oligarchs), Ukraine, Albania, Macedonia, and Turkey, as well as the Trump Tower in Toronto.  If Trump (or Flynn, or even Alptekin) knew this guy from Adam, we can be assured Mueller would have been all over him like white on rice.

None of them did.  And this next is very important, so feel free to imagine a trumpet fanfare here: the Zaikin subplot appears to have been concocted from things other people knew – perhaps a researcher like Nellie Ohr; perhaps people at State familiar with Zaikin’s links to Soros-opposing parties in the Balkans; perhaps FBI or DOJ analysts, or beat reporters, who track the connections of Russian oligarchs.

The subplot was then deployed in a media story to – as Armin Rosen recognized – insinuate that the Flynn group’s lobbying for Turkey had a Russian connection.

This is a perfectly characteristic pattern of Spygate.  And note this about the concocted Zaikin tale.  Whoever was behind it needed to know enough about the situation to be sure of his ground: not to be sure that it would prove out, but to be reasonably certain it wouldn’t be easily disproved.

It was a tale put together by someone – probably more than one person – who had some in-depth knowledge of the milieux involved (Russian mining, politics pro- and anti-Kremlin in Eastern Europe, etc.).

That kind of knowledge is typical of the government employees, media veterans, consultants, think-tankers, and politicos on the Democratic side of Russiagate/Spygate.  It defines the atmosphere people like John Brennan, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and Glenn Simpson come from (and Rob Malley, John Kerry, Stefan Halper, James Comey, Hillary Clinton, and Sidney Blumenthal, for that matter).

It has nothing to do with what Donald Trump or his stable of campaign advisers was familiar with.

There was one member of Trump’s campaign and early administration who was equipped to quickly understand what he was looking at in such an information environment, even if he didn’t have exact prior knowledge of the individuals or circumstances involved.  That person, of course, was Michael Flynn.

That’s why it was so important to remove him from his job as national security adviser.  Flynn would see through concocted narratives about blameless Ukrainian-Canadians, and red-herring allusions to spot-oil merchants with attitude who’ve been sued once too often.

(Image: Screen grab of White House video, YouTube)

He’d see through them the way he saw through the stonewalling and flimsy counter-narratives used by the Obama administration to justify watching the rise of ISIS in Technicolor and doing nothing about it.

The Spygate life

It’s a mental adjustment to recognize that it’s bread and butter for the Spygate orchestrators to move in a fog of self-created narrative like this.  That’s what you see when you peel back the layers of Spygate: that this is how these people live.  Spygate is less a campaign operation that they undertake for a while and then walk away from than it is a way of life.

The current COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has the same aspect to it: of media personalities (and probably tale-spinning “war rooms” in the background) who live and breathe a sort of self-propulsive fiction, colliding daily with the Trump administration’s prosaic, earnest briefing squad.

The American people have picked up on the con more quickly with the virus, because the “war rooms” and editorial shops of the media didn’t know any more about viruses and pandemics before COVID-19 than we do.  They didn’t have the signature advantage they’ve had with Spygate: specialized knowledge of the landscape on which they’ve been trying to paint Trump and his associates as fairy tale villains.

When you do recognize that this is a professional lifestyle, that’s when you realize that no matter where John Brennan traveled as CIA director, or when, his movements had a purpose that may or may not have matched the official narrative about them.  Interpreting patterns of circumstance is more likely to yield valid explanations than checking the official narrative.

That isn’t peculiar to Brennan.  It’s characteristic of a whole group of actors, one that has increasingly gotten hold of the levers of societal power over the last century.

Trump is not in this group, nor are most of his current advisers.  Trump has to send Rudy Giuliani to find out what the U.S. State Department has been up to with Soros in Southeastern Europe, and where the billions of missing dollars went – because who would imagine all the shenanigans that were entailed?  Likewise, Trump would have to scramble from behind to track down who an Ekim Alptekin is, say, or a Konstantin Kilimnik, the scary “Russian intelligence” associate of Paul Manafort who turned out to be a confidential source for U.S. agencies that work out of the American embassy in Ukraine.

The Spygate group to which Brennan, Kerry, Clapper, and others in the U.S. and abroad belong?  It already knows.

Wag the Dog

Have a look at these screen grabs from the trailer for the film Wag the Dog.  Select figure:

Wag the Dog trailer, YouTube

Insert into landscape…

Wag the Dog trailer, YouTube

Tell story.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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