FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2019 Volume 6, Number 13 EIR Daily Alert Service P.O. Box 17390, Washington, DC 20041-0390
EIR Daily Alert
|U.S. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC|
North Korea’s Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol To Meet Jan. 18 with Pompeo and Trump
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—The South China Morning Post and several other media have confirmed that North Korean Vice Chairman Kim Yong-chol, the Pyongyang government’s chief negotiator for nuclear talks with the U.S., will meet Friday morning, Jan. 18, in Washington with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and most likely with President Donald Trump as well.The meeting will reportedly be to prepare the groundwork for the next summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, said to be planned for some time in March or April. Danang, Vietnam has been mentioned as a likely venue for the summit.Yonhap news agency reported today that Kim Yong-chol will be carrying a letter for President Trump from Chairman Kim Jong-un, and according to the Washington Post, following his meeting with Kim Yong-chol, President Trump may announce the date and the venue for the next meeting as early as tomorrow.At the same time, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui arrived in Stockholm, where she’ll be attending a seminar, but may also meet with Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for Pyongyang. This would be their first meeting.Also today, Yonhap reports, South Korean and U.S. officials met by video-conference, to discuss pending North Korea-related issues, including Seoul’s push for a humanitarian program for the North. Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk reported in a press briefing that there was also general discussion about resuming Seoul-Pyongyang dialogue, including “consultations on video reunions of separated families, and the exchange of video letters,” referring to those with family members on the other side of the demilitarized zone.
China Confirms Vice Premier Liu He Will Confer with Lighthizer and Mnuchin Late January
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson Gao Feng has confirmed that Vice Premier Liu He, the top economic adviser to President Xi Jinping, will be visiting Washington for two days of meetings on Jan. 30-31. His meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will follow last week’s lower-level trade talks in Beijing, which ended on a positive note.According to ABC News, the invitation to Liu extended by Lighthizer, is intended to carry out the Dec. 1, 2018 agreement between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires, to suspend further tariff increases for 90 days in order to resolve the trade conflict between the two nations. This next round of talks will take up more complex issues, involving U.S. complaints about China’s policies, that lower-level officials couldn’t deal with.Leading up to the Jan. 30-31 talks, rumors are swirling. This afternoon, the Wall Street Journal caused a stock surge after claiming that the U.S. is considering lifting tariffs levied against China in order to facilitate a deal. The Journal claimed that Mnuchin favors lifting the tariffs, but Lighthizer does not. Shortly afterward, the Treasury provided a statement to CNBC, saying that neither Mnuchin nor Lighthizer “have made any recommendations to anyone with respect to tariffs or other parts of the negotiation with China. This is an ongoing process with the Chinese that is nowhere near completion,” it concluded.
Ohr Testimony Implicates Justice Department Higher-ups in FISA Fakery against Trump
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—Investigative reporter John Solomon continues to explore the implications of August testimony to Congress by Bruce Ohr, former Associate Deputy Attorney General, in a column for The Hill published last night.Solomon focuses on the fact that Bruce Ohr told both the FBI and the highest levels of the Justice Department, including counsel to then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, that former MI6 agent Christopher Steele was highly biased against Trump, and that his 2016 dossier on Trump was a piece of opposition research for the Clinton campaign rather than a reliable intelligence product. Nonetheless, all involved completely obscured these facts when seeking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page based on Steele’s dodgy British intelligence hoax document.According to Solomon: Ohr testified that, “I certainly told the FBI that Fusion GPS [which employed Steele] was working with, doing opposition research on Donald Trump,” and was hired by somebody connected to the Clinton campaign. Ohr also told the FBI and DOJ lawyers that “Steele expressed bias” during their conversations. “I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected,” he said. “So, yes, of course I provided that to the FBI.” All of this preceded the DOJ/FBI application for a FISA warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page in October 2016, in which the bogus British dossier was extensively used. As former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in Congressional testimony, without the Steele dossier, there would have been no FISA warrant.Solomon writes: “Ohr divulged his first contact with the FBI was on July 31, 2016, when he reached out to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and FBI attorney Lisa Page. He then was referred to the agents working Russia counterintelligence, including Peter Strzok, the now-fired agent who played a central role in starting the Trump collusion probe…. He said in August 2016, nearly two months before the FISA warrant was issued, that he was asked to conduct a briefing for senior Justice officials. Those he briefed included Andrew Weissmann, then the head of DOJ’s fraud section; Bruce Swartz, longtime head of DOJ’s international operations, and Zainab Ahmad, an accomplished terrorism prosecutor who, at the time, was assigned to work with Lynch as a senior counselor.” Both Ahmad and Weissmann are now working for Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
STRATEGIC WAR DANGER
Rand Paul Reports, Trump Going Ahead with Syria Pullout, Despite Deadly ISIS Attack
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—During a meeting with a group of Republican Senators yesterday, President Donald Trump let them know he plans to stick to his withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, according to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who also had a one-on-one meeting with the President, reported Sputnik.“Not only is he following through with his Syria policy, I really do think there will be changes in Afghanistan as well,” Paul said. “If you look at the polling data for the American people, I think the American people are with the President and they’re tired, frankly, of both parties, who are unwilling to stand up and say enough is enough,” Paul said. From now on, in terms of Afghanistan, he said, “we’re going to do things differently.”In a particularly insightful comment, Paul observed, “I will tell you that, if you look at [Trump’s] language and his tweets on endless wars, and you hear him talk about how long this has gone on, I think you’re really seeing one of the extraordinary things that people couldn’t figure out: How did Donald Trump get elected? It was because he doesn’t fit neatly into a box. He was a different kind of Republican who actually looked at the issues of war and said, ‘You know what? We ought to think of America first.’ ”Paul further reported that, “We talked extensively about Syria. He talked about how we will continue to make sure that ISIS is not a problem, but at the same time, we will not just go into theater and stay forever. I think he was steadfast in that.”An ISIS suicide bombing in Manbij yesterday killed four Americans—two service members and two civilians—as well as ten non-Americans, mostly civilians. Three American service members were also among the wounded.
UN Security Council Approves Expanded Yemen Monitoring Mission
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—The UN Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to authorize an expanded UN monitoring mission in Hodeidah that will monitor implementation of the ceasefire agreed on in Sweden last month, and the withdrawal of rival forces from that port city. The agreement, if fully implemented, could offer a potential breakthrough in Yemen’s four-year civil war, reports the Associated Press. Britain’s UN Ambassador Karen Pierce called it “an important moment for the UN” to solidify the Stockholm agreement. “This is by no means the end of the story,” Pierce told reporters before the vote. “This is going to be a very important issue for 2019. But with the deployment of this substantive mission, we can start to make progress on the ground.”The new mission, called the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), will be led by Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert (ret.), who led the advance monitoring mission of about 20 people that began work in Hodeidah days after the ceasefire agreement was signed last month.As the UN Security Council was acting, a report appeared questioning the supposed reduction of U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition. Investigative journalist Nick Turse, of TomDispatch, obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act that show that the U.S. Air Force has been providing training to F-16 units of the air force of the United Arab Emirates that then participate in combat operations in Yemen. The documents underscore the continuing frustrations for critics of the war, including those in Congress, over the lack of transparency around U.S. military support for a war that has killed thousands of civilians and pushed the country to the brink of famine, Turse writes in the Jan. 16 report for Yahoo News. The document, which details training given to U.A.E. F-16 pilots both in the U.S. and at Al Dhafra Airforce Base in the U.A.E., explicitly says that they were being prepared for combat operations in Yemen.
Report Documents Saudi-Led Coalition’s Grim Destruction of Yemen
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—A “Periodical Report on the General Situation in the Republic of Yemen” for November 2018, put out by the government in Sana’a, paints a grim picture of conditions in Yemen as a result of the Saudi-led bombardment campaign. The report includes a chart of economic assets damaged or destroyed by Saudi air strikes. It includes water tanks and water pumps, factories, agricultural fields, chicken and cattle, agricultural equipment, business establishments, and airports and sea ports, among other things. “The living conditions of farmers and fishermen have been exacerbated due to the direct targeting of their properties by the coalition States, which led to the loss of farming- [and] fishing-related livelihood for farmers and fishermen through targeting many agricultural facilities and crops, as well as boats on the coasts of the Republic of Yemen and its maritime region by the Coalition States,” it says.The report goes into some detail on the lack of medicines, especially for diabetes and kidney transplant patients, many of whom have since died. The Ministry of Health reports that some 120 vital medicines needed to treat chronic diseases, including for cardiopathy, liver, hemophilia, and cancer, are completely unavailable. Patients with these conditions are left “waiting silently to die in their homes.”The report also counts 106 civilians killed by coalition military operations in the month of November, and 244 wounded. This includes 29 children killed and 88 wounded, and 14 women killed and 27 wounded.
COLLAPSING WESTERN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
Italian MEP Zanni Tells ECB’s Draghi, You and the Euro Have Been Failures
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—Member of European Parliament Marco Zanni slammed European Central Bank President Mario Draghi during a ceremony on the 20th anniversary of the euro single currency in the European Parliament on Jan. 15, telling Draghi that he has failed as central banker and the euro has failed as a currency. Draghi had just given testimony before the parliament admitting there was a slowdown in the economy, while claiming the Eurozone’s economy is not heading for a recession. In typical Draghi doubletalk, he said, “It’s a slowdown, which is not heading towards a recession, but it could be longer than expected. The ECB has the tools to address (a potential recession) but our present monetary policy stance is very accommodative already.”This means there will not be interest rate hikes, at least until the summer; and the ECB will roll over the €2.6 trillion ($4 trillion) mountain of debt it has bought.After Draghi’s performance, Zanni, a member of Italy’s Lega, which is part of the Europe of Nations and Freedom Group in Strasbourg, took on Draghi. Zanni declared that he sees little ground for celebration: “None of the promises that were made to European citizens concerning the coming of the euro have been fulfilled. In these 20 years, the euro has brought gaps in incomes and performance among countries, and low growth. Today the Eurozone is the continent, or the agglomerate which grows less than all its competitors. Unemployment is high, twice as high as in the United States.“Your mandate as president of the central bank has not even reached the statutory targets of the ECB. Core inflation especially has remained flat, and far from the self-sustainable 2%. The ECB has printed a lot of money which has not reached the real economy. For every €100 printed by the central bank, only €29 has reached families and enterprises. Well, I believe that looking at this picture, there is little to celebrate, and that this is an important moment to reflect on the failures of the euro and of your mandate as president of this central bank.”Draghi replied with his usual fake arguments, claiming that 9.6 million jobs had been created since 2013, and the countries suffering from low growth had only themselves to blame for failing to reform their economies.
Deputy Prime Minister Salvini Accuses the ECB of Wrecking Italian Banking Sector
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has accused the ECB of wanting to destroy the Italian banking sector. Salvini called “abusive” the ECB ultimatum to the bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena, by which the ECB mandates placing a zero value on the backlog of non-performing loans (NPLs).“The newest hard tack by the ECB can create €15 billion in damage to Italy,” Salvini said in a written statement. Salvini called for more transparency in the ECB choices, “to drive away the doubt that the ECB is making a political use of its powers.” The ECB action is a demonstration “that the Banking Union … has not only failed to make our financial system more stable, but it rather causes instability, threatening citizens’ savings and a banking system, such as Italy’s, which had withstood the big financial crisis better than all others in 2008.”The ECB has adopted “abusive behavior” and bypasses “recent decisions by the [European] Commission.” (Salvini refers to an EU Commission decision to apply the new rules only to future NPLs.) “Independence does not mean irresponsibility,” Salvini stated.In an article entitled, “The Conflict Between Italy and the ECB Escalates” of Jan. 15, Reuters leaked that the ECB has sent guidelines to all Italian banks, similar to those sent to Monte dei Paschi di Siena, setting a deadline for selling their NPLs on the market. The deadline varies bank to bank.As EIR has reported, such an ultimatum forces banks to accept the prices offered by vulture funds, which buy NPLs for a dime and make up to 400% gains by seizing the attached collateral. Nevertheless, the ECB is now demanding that NPLs be valued not even at that discounted price, but at zero value on the banks’ books, forcing banks to put up additional loan loss reserves amounting to 100 percent of the face value of those loans.Salvini is totally right when he accuses the ECB of destroying the commercial banking sector. It is outrageous that the ECB values defaulting commercial loans at zero, while at the same time allowing investment banks to keep toxic assets at par value on their books. For instance, Deutsche Bank values at €23 billions its level 3 derivatives, which are super-toxic, and have no market price and no collateral attached. The ECB has not asked Deutsche Bank to remove those losses from the assets on its balance sheet. (Indeed, if the ECB did so, Deutsche Bank’s losses would be greater than its capital.)
Zombie Theresa May Lives Another Day
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—Britain’s zombie Prime Minister Theresa May will live another day, but it is not clear whether the country will survive. Even the media are saying that May won the no-confidence vote only because her party fears elections will lead to an even greater loss than in 2017, and bring Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to power. So the vote was along party lines, with the all the Tories and the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party voting in support of May, and every other party opposing her. She won by 325-306, a majority of 19.May now has five days to come up with a Brexit plan B1 and bring it again to the Parliament. She has invited the opposition for discussions and to propose amendments. Nonetheless, there is no sign that she will change her “red lines,” which are unacceptable to the opposition. Although the Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, met May last night, and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable also accepted her invitation, Corbyn has not.Blackford later wrote to May, that the SNP would take part in cross-party talks only if she was able to confirm “that the extension of article 50, a ruling out of a no-deal Brexit, and the option of a second EU referendum would form the basis of those discussions.”Corbyn called her bid for cross-party talks a “stunt” from someone who suffered the biggest defeat in Parliament in history. Corbyn declared he will not engage in talks with May unless she takes the no-deal option off the table, which she has refused to do.The DUP was quick to stress that without its 10 MPs, the government would have lost the no-confidence vote, and called on May to focus on tackling their concerns with the Irish backstop.
Stephen Cohen Exposes ‘Anti-Trump Russiagate Allegations’ as ‘Gravest Threat to Security’
Jan. 17 (EIRNS)—In his Jan. 16 article in The Nation, entitled “Anti-Trump Frenzy Threatens To End Superpower Diplomacy,” whose kicker reads, “Baseless Russiagate allegations continue to risk war with Russia,” New York University Professor Emeritus Stephen Cohen documents the flood of “ever-more frenzied allegations that President Donald Trump has long had a conspiratorial relationship—why mince words and call it ‘collusion’?—with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin.” Much of his argument, he stresses, is spelled out in his new book, War with Russia: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.Cohen asks, why is there now such a wild anti-Trump frenzy, which he appropriately calls “cult-like commentary.” Perhaps, he suggests, it’s because Russiagate promoters in high places “are concerned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will not produce the hoped-for ‘bombshell’ to end Trump’s Presidency.” He points to a multitude of comments, such as that of the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, who demands, “The President must go,” yelling “what are we waiting for?” In some countries, Cohen states, articles like Leonhardt’s “would be read as calling for a coup.”Despite the fact that “there is no new credible evidence” in the case against Trump, Cohen points out that Russiagate “has become a political-media cult that no facts, or any lack of evidence, can dissuade or diminish.” Even in its latest rant, the New York Times had to issue a disclaimer, although buried deep in the article, that “no evidence has emerged publicly” that Trump was in secret contact with Russian government officials.As for the current hysterical demands from “Congressional zealots” that the interpreter’s notes from the Trump-Putin meeting be confiscated, or that the interpreter be subpoenaed (Democrat Adam Schiff’s idea), Professor Cohen recounts a useful history of past Presidents whose private meetings with foreign leaders were never made public. He referenced a knowledgeable, unnamed former American ambassador who stated “the secrecy of presidential private meetings … has been the rule, not the exception. … There’s nothing unusual about withholding information from a bureaucracy about the President’s private meetings with foreign leaders. Sometimes they would dictate a memo afterward, sometimes not.”If current recklessness prevails, Cohen warns, “it will be the end of the nuclear-superpower summit diplomacy that has helped to keep America and the world safe from catastrophe for nearly 70 years.”
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