Mueller The Magnificence

Step right up. Ladies and gentlemen. We’ve reserved you a seat. We know you’re going to enjoy the show. Not quite the greatest show on earth but it could be. Greatness really does depend on what happens next. Guaranteed to bring the house down. Well, at least one house that I can think of.

How often can you say you, me and everyone alive in the year 2017, got  to play an important role in  the making of history? And you have. We have. Simply by being alive and an eyewitness. To what? You might ask? A cataclysm? A force of nature? A biblical event.? Here’s a hint. Not quite Sodom and Gomorrah  but you’re getting the idea. Certainly the creation of a major piece of American political history. Trust me they’ll be talking about, what we are now witnessing ,100 years from now.

Breaking news. Former National Security advisor to President Donald Trump, Mike Flynn, pleads guilty to lying to the FBI. Who would /could think that such a short sentence has such significance?  Of course like most matters of major significance the importance lies in what is NOT said. And what isn’t said in the indictment is the real story here. Was there Russian collusion in the election that resulted in Donald Trump becoming President? And did Donald Trump and key members of his campaign team aid and abet that collusion?

To truly understand what is going on with these latest developments you have to follow the bouncing ball.

If you read the Flynn indictment, the silent assassin in this drama, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller charged Mike Flynn with the very least serious of a clutch of potentially serious offences. Similarly the lie Flynn told, is the smallest of lies he could have told in the big picture of this investigation.

Of course Flynn could still go to prison for what he did. But if he does, it won/t be for very long or he may avoid jail time all together. So. What’s going on?

There are two questions here: how has Flynn managed to get such an easy time from the Special Prosecutor ? And why? Why wouldn’t Mueller throw the book at him?

Flynn is a sitting duck for way more serious charges. Try these two for size just as an example. Acting as a foreign agent for Turkey without a license and being a key player in the plot to kidnap a Turkish Opposition politician ,who is living in exile in the United States, for the purpose of returning him to Turkey.

The reason for Mueller’s generosity,  is both intriguing and compelling. But in order to understand it you have to engage in some reasoned speculation. But it’s speculation based on pretty solid ground.

Flynn did a plea deal with the special prosecutor. And not just any old plea deal. For an explanation and understanding of the legal twists and turns of this, I’ve relied heavily on the opinions of Harvard Law teacher, Seth Abramson, who is also a former experienced public defender.

The way Abramson tells it, for Mueller to be so generous, Flynn had to give him everything. And I do mean everything.  Flynn, don’t forget, enjoyed a unique status and relationship with the Trumps so you could say with certainty he has plenty to give. Mueller would only be interested in a deal if Flynn could help with information about players further up the food chain. In Flynn’s case, that can only be the President and Vice President of the United States. Now you are beginning to see where this is all going. 

If you really want to appreciate how important Flynn is to this investigation, cast your mind back a few months ago when Donald Trump allegedly asked the then head of the FBI ,James Comey, to drop the investigation into Flynn’s Russian links. When Comey refused, Trump fired him. That’s how important Flynn is. The fact that Mueller managed to turn him into a co operative witness, is massive and catastrophic news for the White House. Not one word has been uttered by Trump or the WH about Flynn’s plea. What can they say?

So, what could Flynn have told Mueller? No one knows except Robert Mueller and his team of investigators.  What we do know, is that Flynn had extensive contact with the Russians. He, for example, could tell Mueller that Trump not only knew about those contacts and exchanges of information but he (Flynn) was acting on the express orders of Donald Trump. Flynn’s last contact with the President occurred in April of 2017 where Trump told him to ‘stay strong’. But prior to that ,the two men had more than a year and a half of contact which represents the bulk of Trump’s political career. Flynn had access to, and influence over ,Trump on national security issues for that entire time. What he can tell Mueller, could be hugely significant and that is an understatement.

Flynn worked closely with the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. And Kushner could well be the next shoe to drop to use the words of Republican Senator, John McCain.

Kushner, like Flynn, is a person of great interest to the Mueller investigation. This is not speculation. It is fact. It has been revealed that Kushner directly ordered Flynn to engage with the Russians during the dying days of the Obama Presidency.

And Mueller’s dealings with Kushner, is yet another example of how well Mueller plays his poker hand. Mueller clearly knows he has no chance of turning Jared Kushner in the same way he turned Mike Flynn As the husband of Trump’s high profile daughter Ivanka, Kushner will never rat on his in laws. So what does Mueller do? The next best thing. He lays a trap for Kushner. He contacts Kushner’s lawyer and tells him he wants to meet with his client. Kushner agrees and two weeks ago Mueller and Kushner  had that meeting.

Consider this: What if Mueller went into that meeting, armed with everything Flynn could have told him about Flynn’s dealings with Kushner especially when it came to the Putin Government? That would place Mueller in the box seat to know if Kushner lied to him at the meeting. We don’t know what was said between the two men so we have no way of knowing if Kushner fell for the trap and tried to lie his way out of trouble. I will leave open to speculation on which option Kushner took. Truth? Or lie? If he lied he committed a crime and he will surely go to prison.

But the question almost certainly terrifying the White House ,right at this moment, is how many  more individuals might be implicated by Mike Flynn in what he told Robert Mueller?

In a statement Flynn said his guilty plea ” and agreement to co operate with the Special Counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and our country.”

Watergate was a huge political story that resulted in the resignation of a President. But this is much, much bigger than Watergate. It involves a lot more people. Unlike Watergate, this President will never voluntarily resign under any circumstances which means the only way of getting rid of him is to impeach him. And because Trump won’t go willingly he will literally tear the Republican Party apart.

Interestingly, in the last 24 hours, Former FBI head James Comes wrote two intriguing tweets.

The first was a passage from the scriptures: “ But justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

The second is a quote from Winston Churchill: “ The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. Ignorance may deride it. But in the end, there it is.”


You Got An Armchair View Of History Being Made

I love the English language. I especially love the way it uses metaphors to describe important stuff. Over the past day I’ve been trying to think of a metaphor for US special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

The Quiet Achiever, the Silent Assassin. Whatever it is, the word ‘silent’, has to be part of the narrative. Mueller likes to do everything very, very quietly and in the background.

For months, he’s beavered away without so much as a peep. Not one leak of any kind which is extraordinary in itself. But his silence is the silence of the lambs.

And after months of silence Mueller finally spoke. Or should I say he let the justice system do the talking. Explosive, incendiary, ballistic. Call it what you will. Most importantly, the White House never saw it coming. We now know what Robert Mueller was doing for the past four months, gathering evidence against three former Trump advisors, enough evidence to lay criminal charges. And at least one is squealing already. The first to rollover, George Papadopoulos, one of President Trump’s former foreign policy advisors.

Apparently, and unbeknown to anyone, Papadopoulos was arrested in July of this year. And in the months following, negotiated a deal resulting in a rollover guilty plea. Cooperation in exchange for lenient treatment. He will probably still go to prison but for not as long as he might have. You can bet the farm on two certainties: Papadopoulos told Mueller everything he knew and secondly, at some point, he wore a wire to record conversations. What Papadopoulos knows or gave Mueller we can only speculate but it will be enough, at the very least, for Mueller to go further up the food chain.

Did the White House know about Papadopoulos’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea? Judging by the body language of Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders, at a post revelations press briefing, the WH had no idea until they read about it or watched it on television like everyone else.  Talk about uncomfortable. Huckabee Sanders squirmed noticeably every time the name Papadopoulos, Russia and collusion were mentioned in the same sentence. Mueller is the play maker and it’s playing perfectly so far.

In the past 24 hours, Mueller added another two formidable names to the ever-growing web of alleged criminality. Former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard Gates. Both men very much in the Trump inner sanctum. Both men now facing very, very serious criminal charges including, in Manafort’s case, a charge of conspiring against the United States. Mueller again played it perfectly. Manafort is charged with, among other things, money laundering, failing to file a tax return on income earned. He is facing the prospect of many, many years spent in a Federal Prison if he’s found guilty. Manafort surrendered himself, pleaded not guilty and was released on US$10 million dollars bail and house arrest. Gates was granted US$5 million bail. That gives some idea of how serious this is. Now the fun will really start. Manafort and Gates will have lawyers representing them. And what do you think those lawyers are going to advise their clients? It can be summed up in one word: cooperate.

If you read the indictments, Mueller crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’. It is a simple yet compelling and watertight case against Manafort in particular. Proving guilt is not going to be a big ask.

You can expect, no make that definitely expect, Manafort, or Gates, or both, to rollover and become Mueller’s snitching bitches.

It won’t be a question of if.

The Mueller indictment is also extremely clever. It only relates to what Manafort was doing in 2006 and makes no mention of the 2016 Presidential election campaign.

Of course, to the Twitter maniac and POTUS for now, this was a signal that he’s off the hook.  NO COLLUSION he thundered in capital letters on Twitter, as if that makes it more compelling.

Donald Trump is mistaken if he thinks it’s the end of the matter. Throwing Papadopoulos, Manafort and Gates metaphorically under a bus won’t help. The WH can try and distance itself from those men but it will be futile.

This is the beginning not the end.

Robert Mueller has thrown a lasso over the White House. At this point in time it is sitting relatively loosely and only managed to damage some low hanging fruit when it was first thrown. But expect that lasso to tighten in the coming days, weeks and months. Make no mistake Mueller’s ultimate target is Donald Trump but the Special Prosecutor knows to get a Republican, dominated Congress, to impeach the President, his case must be watertight and bullet proof. A lot more dominos will fall before reaching that point.

Over the years, that famous quote from film actress Betty Davis has been misquoted many times, and it’s about to be misquoted yet again by me: Fasten your seatbelts we’re in for a bumpy ride. Trump’s in trouble and he knows it and he also knows there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s too late to stop Robert Mueller. The genie is out of the bottle and we are all going to be lucky enough to get an armchair view of a very significant moment in history.




Trump Revelations Of Alleged Collusion

Sometimes the Trump story behind the story is the best story of all. Let me explain.

America is all agog, and rightly so, at the latest revelations of alleged collusion between the Trump Presidential campaign, and Russia’s Putin regime, to get Donald Trump elected President of the United States.

One of the fruit of the President’s loins, some cynics might describe him as spoiled and damaged fruit, Donald Trump Junior, just released a series of emails which suggest he was ready, willing and able to collude with the Russians to get Daddy into the White House.

Donald Junior may well have unleashed a firestorm that could burn down the White House but that is another story for another time. His father, the President, took a long time to come to junior’s defence, which is interesting in itself.

When he did, he took to Twitter, of course, his preferred form of communication. And it’s his preferred form of communication because no one can contradict him. If anyone does, or tries to, they’re banned.

The President praised Donald Junior’s “transparency” and “openness”, in releasing the email correspondence. The Trumps use the words transparency and modesty in the same way. Neither applies to them. For example, there was nothing transparent or open about Donald Junior releasing the emails. The New York Times newspaper already had them and was going to publish. Donald Junior got in first to try and steal the newspaper’s thunder.

While the President might be praising his son publicly, privately he would be calling him a jackass because he’s provided the FBI’s special prosecutor, appointed to investigate Russian collusion in the Presidential election campaign, part, if not all of the smoking gun he needs to prove the case.

Now I am not going to mine the nitty gritty of the emails and the whole Russian election thing. Plenty of others are doing that right now and doing it better than I ever could.

I’m more interested in the other intriguing questions that have come out of this. Such as, who leaked the emails to the New York Times? And what did they hope to achieve in doing so?

Leaked information is done with three goals in mind: the first is the explosive nature of the information being released publicly, the second is the hysterical publicity that almost always accompanies it, and the third is a higher purpose of some kind.

In other words it is always done, selectively, carefully and for a good reason. And the Donald Trump Junior emails leak is no exception.

So let’s start with the first question: Who might have leaked the emails to the New York Times?

The list of potential suspects would have to be small. The first, and most obvious, is that the leaker is someone close to Donald Junior who had access to his private computer. But it is a less likely scenario, I would have thought. Donald Junior could very easily narrow down and successfully identify a suspect and they would be made the scapegoat. Donald Junior would then be able to spin the narrative to be all about the betrayal rather than the contents of the emails. The fact that he hasn’t done so, would suggest the leaker isn’t someone close to him.

Could it have been someone in the intelligence service? Or the FBI? Who could remotely access Donald Junior’s computer? These days that seems perfectly achievable if the latest publicity concerning computer hacking and ransom demanded, is any kind of guide. So if the leaker was the FBI or someone connected to the Special Prosecutor’s office, the question is why would they do it?

That is a much tougher question to answer.

But one reason might be that whoever obtained the emails from Donald Junior’s computer, would have to, or be wanting to prove that Donald Junior wrote them. Just finding them on his computer is not enough and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. Someone else could have written the emails to try and discredit him. This would be especially so if Donald Junior denied being the author of the emails. Proving that he wrote them in the face of his denials would not be impossible but it would be difficult and time consuming. And we are talking about proving them to a legal and possibly criminal standard.

So why not roll the dice to see what Donald Junior does? Leak the emails to the New York Times and see if they can flush him out and get him to publicly say he was the author, which of course is what he did, almost on cue.

Donald Trump Junior is clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He has just opened a Pandora’s box worth of trouble for the President.

He has also placed a great deal of pressure on Congressional members of the Republican Party.

The Republicans hold the majority in the Congress and it is the Congress alone that can get rid of the President. Republican Senator John McCain made an interesting observation when he said that more shoes are going to drop before this has ended. Maybe he knows something we don’t.

In many ways President Trump is his own party’s worst nightmare. If they do decide to get rid of him by a Congressional majority he will hardly go quietly into the night. He will go kicking and screaming accusing everyone of a vendetta and a witch hunt. More disturbingly he has plenty of supporters, armed supporters, who believe him when he says it.

Consider this. What if the FBI knew in advance of Trump Junior’s meeting with the Russians and secretly recorded the conversation? Junior says the meeting was a dud and nothing of any substance in relation to the Presidential election was discussed. But… we only have his word for it. All I can say is watch this space.

I am reminded of the Chinese curse: May we live in interesting times. Except it’s not a curse anymore. We are.

Mystery Plane, Drugs, Cash And Maybe CIA 5

This is a fascinating mystery. And I’m a little bit obsessed. It’s the story of a ghost plane with confirmed links to the American CIA, which mysteriously turned up in Australia. It’s also a story about a significant quantity of illegal drugs and cash seized by New South Wales police, as well as a daring and dangerous under the radar flight operation into Australia.

As I have said more than once, it really is the story that keeps on giving. So many intriguing twists and turns. Here is part five. But first, some background to put the story in context.

At the heart of this tale, is a plane, a US-registered Swearingen Merlin 3 with twin turbo props, which arrived illegally in Australia. How it managed to end up parked at Wollongong airport, a tiny regional hub south of Sydney is a complete mystery.

The Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, raided the eight-seater private plane in 2014 while it was parked on the tarmac. The day of the raid was a real old fashioned cops and robbers type operation. The plane was surrounded by about 20 armed police, even though no one was on board.

A 43-year-old Wollongong pilot, Bernard Stevermuer, who is listed as the owner of the plane, was arrested and charged with being part of a criminal organisation and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The News South Wales Police case, is that a major international crime syndicate was using the airport to import guns and drugs, for distribution throughout southwest Sydney.

The syndicate was allegedly operated by two men who, police claim, have links to a number of New South Wales outlaw motorcycle gangs. What their precise connection might be to Stevermuer has not been revealed.

Police clearly had Stevermuer under surveillance. They also claim to have documents showing that the syndicate commissioned Stevermuer to buy the plane in the United States for $US400,000, with money provided by a mortgage company in Sydney. But as you will discover, the purchase was anything but straightforward and is full of intrigue.

Police also allege the documents show Stevermuer, had access to large reserves of cash and was prepared to pay $A1.5 million to buy two aviation businesses based at the same airport where the plane was raided.

Several aviation sources have confirmed that Stevermuer was in negotiation to buy a flight training company, NSW Air and another company, Aerial Patrol shark-spotting.

Police allege these two aviation companies were to act as legitimate fronts in order to hide criminal activity. But when Stevermuer offered a $300,000 cash deposit, the seller became suspicious and the sale fell through. When Police arrested the Wollongong pilot, they discovered 36 kg of an illegal drug, which they now are refusing to name, but believed to be heroin, with a street value of $A9 million.

But then the story gets even more intriguing.

If you do a search of US Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) records, you will discover, that an organisation called the Oregonian Aero Club, with an address listed in Wilmington, Delaware in the United States, owns the Swearingen Merlin 3 aircraft.

But the fact that this club has its registered office in Delaware, might be an extremely significant development. Delaware is one of the strangest American states in terms of corporate law, especially if you happen to be in the business of asset management.

Companies, incorporated in Delaware, enjoy similar freedoms and secrecy  as do the clients of other highly secretive organisations, such as the Vatican Bank or financial institutions based in the Cayman Islands. Asset Management companies, which own aircraft and yachts, register them in Delaware as a way of minimising tax and personal liability and also because the assets are automatically registered as belonging to a trustee corporation rather than an individual, making it a great place to hide true ownership if that was your desire.

And according to FAA records, it turns out the person listed as a Director of the Oregonian Aero Club, which owns the mystery plane, is none other than Australian pilot Bernard Stevermuer, who was arrested by Australian police.

The papers list Stevermuer as the purchaser of the plane on behalf of Oregonian Aero Club.

Now you might ask, why would an Australian pilot and skydiving instructor, bother to travel across the world to buy a 42-year-old plane? There is nothing in the least exceptional about this model of aircraft apart from its age.

Even more unusual, Why would an Australian who doesn’t live in the United States, be listed as a Director of a fictitious American aviation club? None of this makes sense unless of course unless there was a darker purpose behind the deal.

The Oregonian Aero club has no headquarters, no web address, telephone numbers, aircraft (apart from this one 42 year old plane) or members. In fact none of the other aero clubs in the Oregon area have ever heard of it.

And, as it turns out, the plane at the centre of this intrigue, the Swearingen Merlin 3 twin turbo prop aircraft, could best be described as a ghost plane. By that I mean there is no record, whatsoever, of it ever arriving in Australia.

In fact, the last known official record concerning this aircraft reveals that it flew into the Philippines on May 5, 2014, after a two-month journey from the United States. But the Swearingen Merlin 3 was doing a lot of flying right up until the time it left for the Philippines. It flew for a couple of weeks from Punta Gorda in Florida via Missouri and Texas and then to California and finally Washington State.

Flight records indicate the plane left Seattle, Washington on the 30th of April 2014. It touched down at Cold Bay, Alaska, a village of 108 people, one shop, one hotel and an airport. The next day the aircraft flew to Honolulu and then the Marshall islands, a series of atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Next stop was the US airbase at Guam before arriving in the Philippines capital, Manila.

But what happened to the plane after that is a total mystery. It clearly entered Australia some way but what route it took and who was flying it is anyone’s guess. What is also apparent, whoever was flying this plane, took extraordinary steps to avoid detection. By that I mean entering Australia at one of its most remote and least habited geographic points, flying visually, without instruments, at low altitude, for long periods so it wouldn’t be detected by radar.

That would have taken the expertise and daring of an extremely skilled pilot.

The next official record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Albion Park airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

The next obvious question is who flew the plane illegally into Australia? At this point in time we don’t know the answer to that question. So let’s talk about what we do know. Sometimes fact can be way stranger than fiction.

The contract to ferry the Swearingen Merlin 3 from the United States to the Philippines was undertaken by an Australian company called Snow Goose International.

Snow Goose was engaged by the Oregonian Aero Club, which of course exists in name only. So it might be fair to assume that Snow Goose might know the principals behind Oregonian. If they do, they are not saying. In fact Snow Goose released a statement making the point that it was their job to ferry the plane to the Philippines, which they did, At all times the flights were planned and approved by the appropriate authorities. Communication was maintained at all times by High Frequency Radio in accordance with international requirements. Snow Goose had no knowledge of what happened to the plane after they ferried it to the Philippines nor does it have any knowledge of how it ended up illegally in Australia.

Snow Goose is a very interesting company. It’s Director and Chief Pilot is David Baddams, who was awarded an MBE, a Member Of The British Empire by the Queen of England. On the company website, he is listed as an ex-Navy fighter pilot with 40 years flying experience on many aircraft types including the Sea Harrier, BAE Hawk and the Douglas A4 Skyhawk. Since leaving the Navy in 1999, Baddams has remained closely involved in aviation as the business development manager of a military flying training school, a highly experienced flying instructor, an aircraft salesman and as the Chief Pilot and director of an airborne surveillance company.  He has many years and many hours experience on numerous aircraft.

I am certainly not inferring or suggesting that David Baddams had anything whatsoever to do with ferrying the Swearingen from the Philippines to Australia. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest or infer he was involved. Nor is there any evidence to suggest or infer that he was involved in anything illegal.

But there is also no denying that he had the flying expertise and the skill set to undertake the most perilous of flying journeys in a small plane, for example, from the United States to the Philippines. Snow Goose International regularly posted photographic updates of the Swearingen ferrying job to the Philippines on its company Facebook page. A photo posted by Snow Goose International on April 30 showed Baddams and a man seated beside him the cockpit of a plane, with the caption: “It’s Bernie!!! He is back!” The man sitting next to him is Bernie Stevermuer.

Another photo, posted on June 13, was captioned: “Here she comes! On the pan at Clark about to continue on her journey with the owner!” The caption is referring to the tarmac at Clark Air Force base in Manila.  You might want to ask yourself the question: How is it possible that a private plane obtained the necessary permission to land and take off from a highly restricted US airforce base in the Phillipines?

On the same date, Baddams commented: “Here she comes to Australia! It’s N224HR, the one we brought across the Pacific!”

The next record of contact between this plane, registered NH224HR, and a control tower, was at Coffs Harbour in northern New South Wales on the 27th of June 2014. The plane radioed in that it was bound for Albion Park airport. And that’s where it’s been ever since, on the tarmac, until the police raid.

But would this mystery be solved if we were able to trace the full ownership of this plane from the time in rolled off the assembly line?

As I already established in a past blog post, the U.S. Forest Service was the first owner of the Swearingen Merlin 3 in the early 1970s.

The Forest Service has a track record of an activity known in aviation circles as sheep dipping planes on behalf of the CIA. You sheep dip a plane when you conceal or disguise its true owner. Sheep dipping explains how some Forest Service owned aircraft were discovered in exotic locations like Colombia and Mexico being used by drug cartels instead of fighting forest fires.

Are there any significant clues such as who might have owned the plane, before it was sold to the Oregonian Aero Club? Again a search of U.S. FAA records reveals the previous owner was a company called Sterling Strategic Consulting LLC based in Salem Oregon. Nothing unusual in that you might think except that Sterling Strategic Consulting LLC is owned by a dentist based in Colombia, Missouri on the other side of the United States. He bought the Swearingen Merlin 3 in 2011 and sold it to the Oregonian Aero Club a few months later. There is no suggestion or implication that any of these transactions were illegal. But they were definitely unusual and as per usual we end up with more questions than answers.

There is another interesting element to this story that invites further scrutiny. The fact that this plane began its mysterious odyssey across the world, from Charlotte County Airport at Punta Gorda in Florida, could be an indication of its true origin and purpose.

Punta Gorda, would have to be one of the more unusual locations in the United States and it’s all to do with its history. Punta Gorda could easily and humorously be re-named Spooksville. The founding fathers of Punta Gorda happen to be a pair of CIA spooks, Bud Cole and Al Johns, who turned a vast tidal flat into upmarket home sites complete with canals. As a CIA agent, Al Johns, was fairly gung-ho if you’ll pardon the pun. The CIA posted him to the East China Sea in the 1950s where his job was to supply pirates for junks used to attack Communist Chinese shipping. In fact, Punta Gorda seems to act as a magnet for CIA agents past and present. Porter Goss, former CIA Director during the Presidency of George W. Bush, was a long time resident of Punta Gorda and served as a local Mayor.

With that kind of history of CIA connectivity, it’s little wonder that Punta Gorda’s Charlotte County Airport has been home to some interesting characters and even more interesting allegations. For example at least one Congressional committee heard allegations that the airport was used to transport arms to the Contras in Nicaragua and to smuggle drugs, principally cocaine. Of course the allegations were never proven and no one was ever prosecuted or served jail time.

And there’s the case of the 23 helicopters that mysteriously disappeared from Charlotte County Airport. One of the helicopters was later discovered in Chile of all places. No one can explain how they managed to disappear, how they managed to leave the United States or who was responsible but the local Sheriff has suggested publicly that he has a pretty good idea even if he’s not saying.

Maybe it isn’t so surprising that a ghost plane that flew out of a mysterious place like Punta Gorda would end up thousands of miles away in Australia, linked to drugs and organised crime and with no record of it ever entering Australia in the first place.

So what might have happened to Bernie Stervermuer? He allegedly purchased the plane on behalf of a drug syndicate, and was also allegedly buying two companies so that the syndicate could launder dirty money. It turns out that Stervermuer bought not one but three planes on behalf of the syndicate between 2012 and 2014. NSW police say from 2012 to mid-2014, Stevermuer bought tplanes, in the United States, Malaysia and Cambodia, using money supplied to him.

Investigations by police reveal a “highly suspicious” paper trail linked to the purchase of at least two of the planes.

In the case of the US plane, which was infamously raided at Albion Park airport last July, $450,000 was paid through six bank transfers from five Chinese accounts, none of which had legitimate links to Stevermuer.

The US Department of Homeland Security told NSW investigating officers at least one of the accounts was used suspiciously in the past to transfer large amounts of money from Asia to the United States.

Two hundred thousand dollars was transferred to pay for the plane purchased in Malaysia, again using suspicious accounts, allegedly linked to drug operations.

Investigators couldn’t find any evidence to show who paid for the Cambodia plane or how it was paid.

When police raided Stevermuer’s house on the same day they raided the Merlin plane at Albion Park, they discovered $70,000 in cash, which, they say, was payment to Stevermuer for his involvement in transporting the Merlin to Australia.

After his arrest, Stevermuer decided to plead guilty to charges of dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime and knowingly participating in a criminal group. But here’s where it gets even more interesting.

At the time, Stevemuer’s lawyer, Mark Savic, described his client as a “gentle, devoted and trustworthy family man” whose inherent naivety had been his undoing.

‘‘His love of flying caused him to be blind to what others might see were obvious signs to what was going on around him,’’ Mr Savic said, telling the Magistrate, hearing the case, that his client was extremely remorseful.

‘‘He’s not shied away from the charges, he has deep remorse and shame for being before the court today.

‘‘There was no intention on my client’s part to be involved in breaking the law. He didn’t go out to seek people in the underworld, he was approached by people with an agenda.’’

The Magistrate was clearly unimpressed with the submissions on behalf of Stevermuer, sentencing him to 19 months imprisonment.

However, Stevermuer appealed to the District Court of New South Wales and surprise, surprise won his appeal. His prison sentence was suspended and he walked away from everything a free man who will never spend a solitary second inside a jail cell.

Like I said, this story remains a fascinating and intriguing mystery.

Another Letter To America

Dear United States of America and Donald Trump,

Here I am writing to you again.

You’ll be pleased to know it’s not about guns this time. The truth is I can’t take my eyes off you and your politics. Suddenly you’re a catastrophe waiting to happen. And if the news over the last 24 hours is any guide, the catastrophe’s already happening. In slow motion, of course, but nonetheless moving inevitably towards a massive fallout and collateral damage. Your White House is in daily disarray, in case you haven’t noticed. It lurches from one crisis to another. It’s disastrous, it’s damaging, it’s chaotic. It’s also fascinating. Apologies if I seem to be basking in the warmth of someone else’s misfortune. But the chaos won’t last forever. It can’t. Something has to give.

As a spectator in the relatively safe backwater known as Australia, and a very long way away from you, I can only look on with shock and awe. I could write pages and pages and pages about your President, Donald Trump. Whoever writes his biography will have endless sources of amusement and negativity to wade through. No point in me joining the chorus. It is stating the obvious.

I do want to try and understand you. And the only way I can do that, is to liken you to a famous historic figure of tragedy. A figure, created by the master of dramatic tragedy, Mr William Shakespeare. Donald Trump you really are Shakespeare’s modern day Julius Caesar. So many parallels. You are a man who thinks rules, governance and the law don’t apply to him. So did Julius Caesar. You fly above it all in a private jet. Ok. Not Julius Caesar, but you get my point.

Like Julius Caesar, your biggest flaw is vanity. You want to bask in public adulation. Adored and admired. To be recognised as a man, way bigger than the sum of many or even any parts. You stand alone. A colossus. But like Caesar your fate is foretold. To be dispatched, to a political gulag. It won’t be at the hands of obvious enemies. No sir. Your biggest enemies are your friends, Republican friends in the Congress.

This tornado is getting ready to touch ground, gathering strength for some time. But really the catalyst for what will happen began with the reasons behind the arbitrary sacking of  FBI Director, James Comey. You couldn’t help himself. Your press lackeys give one version while you give another contradicting them. You blindside your own people. Never tell them of your plans. Why should you? You’re Donald Trump. You can say and do whatever you like. Well actually no you can’t. You’re not Donald Trump the businessman anymore nor are you Donald Trump the TV host who simply says your fired. You are Donald Trump, President of the United States and different rules apply. If you don’t believe me, look at Richard Nixon. In fact the word, Watergate is getting used a lot lately.

Why Watergate? Because you are said to be trying to do what Nixon wanted to do and couldn’t. Stop an official investigation. You see, your security advisor, General Michael Flynn was sacked after it emerged he lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Now, news has broken that former FBI Director Comey, allegedly wrote a memo, accusing you of trying to stop the investigation into Michael Flynn. If it’s true, that’s political interference of the worst kind. Using your office and power to try and thwart an independent, lawful investigation. That is intolerable. It will not be tolerated by Republican or Democrat. No one admits to seeing the memo. No one knows, for sure, it even exists. But plenty of people are now saying they desperately want to follow the paper trail. And in really bad news for you, one of those people is a Republican. And not just any old Republican. Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. It is the one Congressional committee with the power to follow the paper trail.

“On the surface that seems like an extraordinary use of influence to try to shut down an investigation being done by the FBI,” Mr Chaffetz said.

“(We are) going to get the Comey memo, if it exists. I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready.”

The committee Mr Chaffetz heads sent a letter to the FBI requesting it to provide the memo – and any other relevant materials from Mr Comey.

Another senior Republican figure, former presidential nominee John McCain, openly compared the current situation to the Watergate scandal.

“I think we’ve seen this movie before. I think it appears at a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale,” Mr McCain said to former TV anchor Bob Schieffer at a dinner.

“The shoes continue to drop, and every couple of days there’s a new aspect,” he said. “Get it all out. It’s not going to be over until every aspect of it is thoroughly examined and the American people make a judgment. The longer you delay, the longer it is going to last.”

As you might expect, other Republicans are ducking for cover. It prompted CNNs political reporter Chris Cilliza to say: “ If you are a Republican in Congress, now is the time to panic.”

The story, about the former FBI Director’s alleged memo, was broken by the New York Times newspaper. The Times says it hasn’t seen the memo, but says one of the former FBI Director’s associates, allegedly read excerpts from it, to one of its reporters.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go, you allegedly told Mr Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Now, I’m telling what you already knew. Please forgive the re telling, I know it’s boring and repetitive but I like to re tell a story because it helps me understand what’s going on.

I also know it’s hard to predict what will happen next. But in my experience these things tend to have a mind and a life of their own. I wouldn’t put money on betting you won’t be in office by Christmas.

It’s a real pity, Bill Shakespeare isn’t around. I’m sure he’d love to write about you. What am I saying? He already did. Just called you by a different name. And the setting was Rome, not Washington DC. Smart bloke that Will Shakespeare.

Anyhow, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I remain your friend as always.

Take care and kind regards.

Welcome To World Of Donald Trump

A man walks into a bar in Kansas City. I’m not telling a joke by the way. Many of the patrons are from countries other than the United States. Their physical appearance is a dead give away. The man asks them, as if he had some God given right, what visa did they hold? Were they in the United States illegally? There is cold blooded method in his madness. He leaves and returns to the bar with a gun, killing one person, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian born engineer working for Garmin in the United States. Two other people are wounded, one seriously. The seriously wounded man, is incredibly lucky to be alive and still walking. The bullet narrowly misses his carotid artery and spinal column. This is a racially motivated hate crime. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

A celebrated Australian author of children’s books, Mem Fox, goes to the United States on business. She holds a valid visa and Fox is a regular traveller to the US. By regular, I mean 116 times before, without incident. But this time it’s different. This time she’s travelling directly in the wake of Donald Trump’s anti immigration rantings, his executive order on immigration. Fox is detained and questioned for two hours by US Customs officials. “I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” she would later say. “I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby. And I’m 70 years old.”

Fox tells Australian reporters the Customs officials seem turbocharged with the power granted them by Trump’s order. Fox complains. She receives an apology, but says this will be her last trip to the United States. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The White House holds a press conference. The media, the fifth estate, exists to hold people like Donald Trump accountable. Now there’s a fine word with a multitude of meaning. Accountable. You see the media exists as a free and independent entity in a flourishing democracy. In fact it is one of the foundations of a true democracy. Politicians are criticised, questioned and held to account. They can be caught out lying. Now there’s another good word. Lying. But when a number of media organisations, like CNN, the BBC and the New York Times, try entering the briefing room, they are barred. Barred from entering? Are you serious? In stark contrast the ‘friendly’ to Donald Trump news services like Fox, One America News Networks and the hideous Breitbart news have no problem attending the White House briefing. In fact they are welcomed with open arms. Trump calls the media, purveyors of fake news. They tell lies according to Trump. It’s a bit like that story of the pot, the kettle and the colour black. If Donald Trump really wants to see mendacity he should look in the mirror more often. Terrorist attack in Sweden anyone? Is this Stalinist Russia? Not it’s the good old USA, the greatest democracy in the world. Yeah right. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

This media ban is unprecedented. It is a disgrace. Nothing like it in the history of American democratic politics. By democratic, I mean democracy. Not the party. These are the actions of a dictator. A man who thinks he’s above the law and now that he’s President, can do whatever he likes, whenever he likes, to who ever he likes. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

The son of the late, Mohammed Ali, the greatest American heavyweight world boxing champion of all time, is detained at a Florida airport and questioned about being a Muslim. I guess the name is a dead giveaway. The same name as Dad. But who cares in Trump America. He sounds like a muslim. And all Muslims are dangerous. Right? Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

Ali junior and his mother, Mohammed Ali’ s second wife, are returning to the United States from a vacation in Jamaica. Ali junior’s lawyer, tells a Louisville, Kentucky newspaper, his client was detained and questioned for two hours by Immigration officials, who repeatedly asked him: Where did you get your name from? Are you Muslim?

Clearly they were not boxing fans. For the record, Ali junior, was born in Philadelphia and holds a US passport. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

Trump’s besieged. He’s taking a beating in the polls. Loved, loathed and despised equally by many including members of his own Government, who keep feeding the media with damaging leaks designed to embarrass and humiliate. So what does he do? Trump takes his message to the American people. Mass rallies of supporters. Hang on. Didn’t we just have a Presidential election campaign? Trump tells them the mainstream media are liars and the economy is going great. And guess what? He says I’m going to keep having rallies, keep talking to the people because I can’t trust anyone. Only a fool would believe him. This man is a bombast. A wrecker and a hater. He can’t be trusted and will trash alliances, relationships and all the goodwill the United States spent decades cultivating. Welcome to the world of darkness. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump.

Dealing to Australia’s US Immigration Deal?

There is something very tawdry going on. I’m sure of it.

Something grubby, shabby and very underhand. It isn’t nice. It might even be illegal or at the very least immoral.

It is the immigration deal that Australia has made with the United States to re settle refugees in America. In a sense it has everything and nothing to do with Donald Trump. Let me explain. I will do my best because quite frankly much of the deal is very unclear and crucial information missing from the narrative.

The deal relates to 1,250 refugees held in Australia’s offshore Pacific detention camps on Nauru and Manus Islands. Many of these refugees are from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq. The refugees are stateless, having spent years languishing in these offshore detention camps, that I would call prisons, which the United Nations has repeatedly criticised as cruel and illegal. The refugees are in a no man’s land. They are unable to go home, but cannot come to Australia – even when their right to protection as refugees is confirmed – because they travelled to Australia by boat and that is a no go as far as the Australian Government is concerned. The vast majority of those in Australia’s offshore detention regime are confirmed to have a valid claim to refugee status, meaning they are legally owed Australia’s protection. On Nauru, 983 of the 1,200 refugee status determinations were positive, while 217 were negative. On Manus Island, 78% of 859 the people finally assessed were found to be refugees, while 190 were found not to have a claim for protection. The deal with the United States was also to include hundreds of refugees previously held on Manus or Nauru, or who were in Australia receiving medical care, provided they had been found to be refugees.

Here is where it starts to get very murky. In November the US Obama administration agreed to take an undisclosed number of refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres. It was both extraordinarily generous and totally inexplicable. Why would the Americans do such a thing? Why indeed. It is a deal that made no sense when Obama was President and even less so now that we have the Donald.

The American resettlement option was accompanied by some strict caveats. It was only to be available for detainees found to be refugees (under the refugee convention). Others who were assessed and found to not have an entitlement to protection would be deemed ineligible. Applicants were to be interviewed twice by US officials before being resettled, in a process that would take between six and 12 months. If a refugee missed out on US resettlement, the existing options of re settlement in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia were still available.

This deal was seen as a significant political win for the Turnbull government. Australia has searched in vain for a sustainable plan for refugees. For more than three years Australia consistently maintained it will never settle asylum seekers on the Australian mainland that come here by boat, a position that has been popular with some voters and is still supported by both of Australia’s main political parties. But the policy has led to regular reports of human rights abuses, and is bitterly condemned by refugee advocates inside and outside of Australia.

At the time of the US agreement, only 24 refugees had resettled in PNG, and a handful in Cambodia. The Manus Island detention centre, was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Papua and Australia is under international pressure over allegations of the sexual abuse of women and children, assaults of children, rape, widespread mental harm and epidemic rates of self-harm and suicide attempts in the Nauru detention centre.

You can see why Turnbull striking a deal to resettle these people in the United States was a godsend. Which again, leads me back to the question: Why would the United States agree to this deal?

Enter the new American President Donald Trump. There is no one on this planet more likely to torpedo a deal like this than President Trump. One of the very first orders he signed as President was to ban Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States. So Australian Prime Minister Turnbull had good reason to be worried. Bilateral arrangements like this refugee deal, are made by the President of the day. They can just as easily be altered or revoked, at the stroke of a pen, by a new President. But even with the possibility of a Trump Presidency on the horizon, Turnbull seemed relatively untroubled. “ We deal with one administration at the time,” he said. “ There can only be one President at the time.”

So you can just imagine what a priority it might have been for Australia to ensure that this deal was ratified by the new American President, come hell or high water or Donald Trump.

Last Sunday a phone call took place between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and newly inaugurated President, Donald Trump. It would be fair to say the phone conversation didn’t go well. Trump told Turnbull it was “the worst deal ever” and accused Australia of trying to send the US the “next Boston Bombers” Then he abruptly ended the conversation by hanging up the phone on the Australian Prime Minister. We know all of this courtesy of a leak to a Washington Post journalist who duly reported it. Which brings me to my second intriguing question: Who leaked this information? Was it the White House? Or someone else? Whoever did leak the information has a nice sense of irony in choosing the Washington Post. A newspaper that has no love for the Donald. Watergate anyone? The Trump people denied they leaked the conversation. Why would they? They certainly have nothing to gain from the embarrassing spectacle of an American President treating one of his closest allies with incredible rudeness. Trump later added insult to injury by tweeting; “Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”

I think it more probable than not that Australia was the source of that Washington Post story. Of course, I can’t prove it but we had everything to gain and nothing to lose from making it all public. President Trump while maintaining the rage says the deal will most likely be honoured subject to a strict vetting of the refugees. I was not surprised at all by Trump’s reaction. What I am surprised about is his change of mind. If this deal goes through it will be because we have done or are about to do a huge favour to the United States. They clearly owe us. And because all of this is shrouded in such secrecy it only makes me more determined, and hopefully you as well, to know what it is.

I smell a rodent.