Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

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Kim Sanders-Fisher

When the Russia report was finally allowed to land yesterday it came down with an almighty crash as the new independent and fair minded Chair, former Tory Julian Lewis, graciously deferred to two opposition MPs, Kevan Jones for Labour and Stewart Hosie for the SNP, giving them the opportunity to conduct a blunt presentation of their findings. While this made perfect sense as both had served on the previous Intelligence and Security Committee, who had drafted the report, and both were to continue to serve on the new ISC, I very much doubt it would have occurred had Johnson/Cummings pick Chris ‘failing Grayling’ been planted in the chair to deliver ‘damage control’ for the PM. Of course, I say former Tory as Julian Lewis had the Conservative Whip removed, probably by Cummings in a fit of peak, but that now means the Tories no longer have a majority on this crucial nine MP committee so Boris Johnson’s dictatorship took a nasty hit. Despite several attempts to negate the report by cramming the air waves with positive news of public sector pay rises the Tories failed to blunt the impact.

A Byline Times Article elaborated on this pathetic crusade with the headline, “THE RUSSIA REPORT Pro-Brexit Spin Operation Goes Into Overdrive,” as “Sam Bright explained how Brexiteers are desperately trying to warp the findings of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s long-awaited report into Russian influence in British political and public life.” Saying, “After an unprecedented nine month delay, the report into Russian interference in UK democracy was published this morning, with Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee announcing yesterday that ‘advance copies will not be available’.” He then remarked that, “Yet, in keeping with the privileged status of right-wing media in the UK, the Telegraph this morning splashed details of the report, while pro-Government blog Guido Fawkes even managed to release the full document half an hour before the committee presented its findings to MPs.” I must say reading of this bias dented my initial confidence in the independence and integrity of the new ISC.

Sam Bright concluded that, “…the instigators of Brexit have been given more than enough time to construct their version of events. And, as usual, they have relied on half-truths, verging on outright distortion.” He said, “Byline Times readers won’t be surprised to learn of the main culprit in this effort to massage the facts. In response to the report, Leave.EU – the group operated by the ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore – posted a graphic with the following quote: ‘HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] had not seen… evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes or any activity that has had a material impact on an election, for example influencing results’.” Saying, “This, they claim, proves that there was no Russian interference in the 2016 EU Referendum. ‘Intelligence report kills Kremlin conspiracy,’ they cried – seemingly unconcerned that they have wilfully misread and misinterpreted the report.” This fake news was resoundingly debunked when Hosie tore into their argument with a truth bomb!

As I noted the other day SNP committee member Stewart Hosie was “scathing and emphatic in his revelation that the reason no interference was found was that no one bothered to look! He stated that this was astounding given that there was clear evidence of interference in IndiRef and the US 2016 Election.” It formed the most impactful component of his presentation that despite these recent examples providing probable cause for serious concern over the need to protect the integrity of our democracy no defence was in place and after the result he described it as a “hot potato” no one wanted to touch. Both during press questions and in later news interviews there were repeated attempts to claim that Intelligence services should have initiated a probe off their own bat. However, Labour MP Kevan Jones rightly insisted this was not their job and that our Intelligence and Security Services implement the instructions of Government Ministers. They aren’t entitled to make decisions independently and should not be scapegoated.

Although the article relays how, “In reality, the report highlights credible ‘open source’ evidence that Russia used media channels such as RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik, along with social media bots and trolls, to influence the referendum,” in his latest blog post Craig Murray questions the ‘credibility’ component of that claim. Sam Bright quotes the report claim that, “Open source studies have pointed to the preponderance of pro-Brexit or anti-EU stories on RT and Sputnik, and the use of ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’, as evidence of Russian attempts to influence the process.” However, I feel it is somewhat inappropriate to lump the TV station RT and Sputnik in with ‘bots’ and ‘trolls.’ While, ‘bots’ and ‘trolls’ lack honesty and transparency in their manipulative manoeuvres online, RT and Sputnik should have just as much right as the BBC and ITV to broadcast an alternative perspective. In reality the BBC, once the reliable news source affectionately called ‘Auntie’ has recently morphed into a right-wing Tory mouthpiece spouting toxic propaganda!

Bright says, “It makes the argument that neither Government officials nor intelligence agencies have attempted to verify the validity of this available evidence. In this regard, the Leave.EU quote above omits an important phrase.” The report states that “HMG had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes or any activity that has had a material impact on an election, for example influencing results – meaning that the Government hasn’t tried to ascertain the scale of Russian influence in 2016, and therefore the committee cannot draw a firm conclusion.” So he notes that, “The authors of the report instead recommend that a comprehensive study should be carried out by the Government and intelligence agencies to determine the facts.” This request was shot down in flames even before the ISC had an opportunity to lodge a formal request. The foot dragging Tory Government had already been trailing their “out of date, must move on” stance for several days trying to rebury the report.

The report goes on to say: “We have not been provided with any post-referendum assessment of Russian attempts at interference. This situation is in stark contrast to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, where an intelligence community assessment was produced within two months of the vote, with an unclassified summary being made public. Whilst the issues at stake in the EU referendum campaign are less clear-cut, it is nonetheless the Committee’s view that the UK Intelligence Community should produce an analogous assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU referendum and that an unclassified summary of it should be published.” Although Russia has continued to be blamed for the DNC leaks in the US it is far more likely that the files were downloaded onto a memory stick and released by a Democrat Whistleblower annoyed at the unfair tactics used to sink the campaign of Bernie Sanders: WikiLeaks will not divulge their source, but say it was not Russian.

Sam Bright decries the “spin pushed out by the Telegraph,” that he says has asserted, “the report concludes there is no direct evidence of Russian influence in the 2016 Brexit referendum.” He says this set the pre-release tempo where, sight unseen, many jumped to the conclusion that, “it was going to be a damp squib.” He adds, “Perhaps they would have reacted differently had the Telegraph more accurately reported that the committee is actually calling for an investigation into Russian influence on the Brexit vote as there is credible evidence to suggest that foreign actors did try to warp public opinion.” Although Bright does use the expression “foreign actors” I believe the ISC may have failed to realize that not only might those “foreign actors” not be confined to Russian operatives, but they might include malevolent domestic sources of interference in our democratic process. This remains the perennial blind spot that no one is willing to contemplate, but an investigation might well inadvertently expose disquieting facts.

Labour MP Kevan Jones began the presentation of findings from the Russia Report by explicitly detailing the timeline that was deliberately sabotaged by Boris Johnson. With each pathetic excuse the PM had proffered, Jones countered with an emphatic, “not true!” His string of emphatic “not true” exposures landed a heavy blow before and analysis of the report really got under way, graphically screaming the obvious dishonesty of Johnson: he lied, he lied and he lied! This was a powerful echo of exactly what the former Chair, Dominic Grieve had said in his Newsnight interview: “Boris Johnson personally blocked, for ‘bogus’ reasons, the imminent publication of a cross-party report on Russia meddling in UK politics by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.” There’s now absolutely no question that Johnson lied profusely to keep this report under wraps; as sharp Investigative Journalists wade through the quagmire of dirty money and undue influence this dishonest PM has incentivised a search for the reason why?

What has Johnson managed to get away with so far and will it be his badly managed cover-up that exposes his deceit and finally undoes the worst harm of his continuing disastrous premiership? That depends on the diligence and integrity of our media that have not proven themselves worthy of out trust for a very long time. It will take a dedicated investigative sleuth chasing down all of the leads in the unredacted publication of this document, but there is a prize winning scoop in hounding the PM; he attached a massive target to his own back! Intense public pressure demanding that this Tory Government must abide by the recommendation of the ISC, “that the UK Intelligence Community should produce an analogous assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU Referendum.” We cannot afford the woefully impotent opposition of Keir Starmer in full enablement mode. Expect more “will of the people,” bile to be spewed by the hard core Brexiteers as they cling to their precious self-destructive project: do not move on!

In the Byline Times Article entitled, “the RUSSIA REPORT Puts Johnson on the Spot, they start into the can of worms this report has opened up and how Johnson is now in the crosshairs. They report, “With its calls for an inquiry into Russian interference in Brexit, Peter Jukes reports on why the Prime Minister wanted to suppress the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report and what it reveals about Putin’s ongoing war on the West.” He describes, “…the overall picture is one of the UK being penetrated by Russian hackers and a ‘muddy nexus’ of criminal gangs and spies, its citizens being killed by Russian nuclear weapons and nerve agents, while the country’s security services were asleep at the wheel and its political classes entranced by a vortex of Russian dirty money and billionaire oligarchs.” While it’s clear that Byline Journalists swallowed the Salisbury Red Flag incident and Hillary Clinton’s cover story of how the Russians sabotaged her Presidency, this article contains some really important information.

Kevan Jones was not the first to dub our Russia-corrupted capitol “Londongrad;” it has been the dirty little not so secret for a very long time; the report just documented the sordid details. Jukes describes it as, “Londongrad: Co-Opted by Greed” and says, “The report is blunt about the corruption of the UK through the influx of wealthy Russian oligarchs from the late 1990s onwards. ‘There are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth,’ the report explains. It traces this lax attitude back to previous administrations which emphasised the economic benefits of the ‘opening up of the UK to Russian investment… to the extent that the UK now faces a threat from Russia within its own borders’. Though the report does not name these ‘Russians with very close links to Putin’ any reading of the works of Byline Times, Catherine Belton’s Putin’s People or Luke Harding’s Shadow State will reveal who they are.

Jukes goes on to name a few, “Now departed, sanctioned or awaiting extradition to the US, former big players in the UK political and commercial scene include Roman Abramovich, Oleg Deripaska and Dmytro Firtash. Others, apparently independent of Putin a decade ago, now apparently support his more belligerent stand since the Ukrainian Maidan independence movement and the annexation of the Crimea in 2014. These include figures close to the Prime Minister such as Alexander Temerko, who said he plotted with Johnson when he was Foreign Secretary on how to bring down Theresa May; and the former London KGB officer who owns the Evening Standard and the Independent, Alexander Lebedev. Boris Johnson regularly partied at Lebedev’s properties in the UK and Italy and met him soon after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.” It was widely reported that on one such jaunt to Italy, then Foreign Secretary Johnson, ditched his security team which left him unacceptably compromised.

Jukes reports that, “Like the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee report on disinformation and fake news last year, the ISC recommends a British equivalent to the US Foreign Agent Registration (FARA) Act, to flush out potential intermediaries working on behalf of foreign powers. But it concedes that this would only be ‘damage limitation’ because the infusion of dirty Russian money into British life is already so toxic and vast.” Despite being too little scrutiny applied too late it is necessary. The SNPs Stewart Hosie described the unworkable fragmentation of responsibility between agencies as a, “complex wiring diagram of responsibility.” The report states: “A large private security industry has developed in the UK to service the needs of the Russian elite, in which British companies protect the oligarchs and their families, seek kompromat on competitors, and on occasion help launder money through offshore shell companies and fabricate ‘due diligence’ reports, while lawyers provide litigation support.”

Another important input from the ISC was presented by Hosie who exposed the fact that there was currently no requirement for members of the House of Lords to document the source of donated funds as was required by MPs. I latter heard the term “Lords Onboard” applied to Peers corrupted by unregulated foreign money to accomplish specific objectives through their unelected position in our second Chamber of Governance. Jukes reports, “Most of the domestic wealth of Russia is held overseas by a handful of oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. As the money laundering capital of the world, London has been the main recipient of this dark money stolen from the Russian people. Just two known cases – the Moldovan Laundromat scheme and the Deutsche Bank ‘mirror trades’ scam – saw £20 billion poured into the UK through shell companies and LLPs in the past decade alone, effectively corrupting large swathes of the service industries which process them and, of course, buying undue political influence.”

In highlighting, “The Missing Brexit Threat Assessment” Jukes points out that, “It has taken Parliament more than 14 years to recognise the true nature of the Russian President’s regime. With the KGB-trained Putin now ensconced for life, conducting wars in Ukraine and Syria, and funding far-right parties across Europe to destabilise any institutions that can challenge his interests, this is – as the report makes clear in its remarks on MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – a deadly oversight. The lethal nature of the threat from the Kremlin should have been obvious with the assassination of Alexander Livtinenko in 2006. A former colleague of Putin’s in the Russian security service, the FSB, Litvinenko had become a British citizen and was exposing Kremlin links to crime syndicates based in Spain when he was assassinated using a lethal and rare isotope of Polonium manufactured in a Russian state facility.”

According to Jukes, “Apart from the Lebedev and Temerko connections, Johnson had a wealth of other contacts with wealthy Russian oligarchs as Mayor of London. In the past few years, the Conservative Party has been a major beneficiary of donations from Russian expatriates.” Sam Bright’s article had revealed that, “The report doesn’t spell out which political party has received this Russian cash – but an openDemocracy report handily details the £3.5 million raked in by the Conservatives from Russian funders since 2010.” That OpenDemocracy report is a must read. Jukes documents that, “…several senior Brexit-supporting businessmen such as Jim Mellon and the Chandler brothers made extensive fortunes in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and some senior parliamentary figures, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, still have major investments there now.” It is so hypocritical for any MP to rant about the evil enemy Russia while rolling in the profits from their Russian investments.

Jukes exposes a few more dodgy links like, “Johnson’s controversial chief advisor Dominic Cummings spent three years in Russia in the late 1990s, and his brother-in-law Jack Wakefield was a director of Firtash’s foundation until a US grand jury indicted Firtash for corruption. Both the Conservative Party and Nigel Farage’s UKIP were targeted by two alleged Russian spies, Sergei Nalobin and Alexander Udod. Nalobin met Johnson and senior Conservative Brexiters. Udod met Leave.EU founder Arron Banks at a UKIP conference and invited him to, what turned out to be, multiple visits to the Russian Embassy in the run-up to the EU Referendum where lucrative diamond and gold deals were discussed.” He then shares a shocking point, “The Russian Ambassador at the time, Alexander Yakovenko, returned to Moscow last year to be awarded the Alexander Nevsky Order of Merit from Putin. He is reported to have told colleagues: ‘We have crushed the British to the ground. They are on their knees and will not rise for a very long time’.”

Jukes admits that, “…all these connections could be innocent, and given the Kremlin’s penchant for disinformation, the claims of disruption have a destabilising effect if true or not. But the only answer to the high public concern about these suspicions is a clear and unambiguous investigation.” Johnson is adamant he will block that! Jukes asks, “Is he afraid that it would expose that he and his Vote Leave colleagues were beneficiaries of Russian interference?” As I wrote the other day, “We cannot quantify the threat if we refuse to investigate: that was made clear by this report. It represents the exact same reason why I am still Petitioning for a Comprehensive Investigation into the Covert 2019 Rigged Election.” Also, “Just like the malign foreign influence that was known about well before the Brexit vote, the vulnerability of our Electoral System to Industrial scale fraud has been ignored for over a decade.” Johnson has been severely compromised by the Russia Report, he is a vulnerable target; time to take the Tories out!