Robert Eringer visits D.C. and reports on everything from presidential race to Russia to Monaco
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Once in a while I have to check in with the usual suspects to find out what’s really going on. And that means a pilgrimage to The Swamp — a petty political place I’ve referred to in espionage novels as “The Beltway Bog.”
Everyone knows that our nation’s capital was built (with symbolic architecture by founding-father Freemasons) on a swamp. But few know why the Potomac River is so brown and polluted. Here’s the reason: Numerous poultry farmers north of D.C. in Maryland are allowed to dump their fowl waste into the river (heading downstream).
So: if you always wanted to know why Washington DC is a chicken-**** town, now you do.
First stop after jumping the redeye is the Eastern Shore — more specifically, Easton, on the Chesapeake, a charming colonial town settled in 1711 and recently adopted (and restyled) by New York billionaire Paul Prager, who has brought a touch of class and taste by opening a number of food and wine emporiums more usually found in the most sophisticated of cities. (The difference between Mr. Prager and Montecito tycoon Ty Warner: During COVID-19, Mr. Prager kept all 70 employees on the payroll …)
This isn’t a travel column, and it is preferred I don’t stray too far from my role as The Investigator. Suffice to say, I thoroughly investigated the fine food and wine and even finer whiskey offered here, from The Stewart (a bar devoted to top-shelf Scotch and French champagne) to The Wardroom (a charcuterie/fromagerie by day and a restaurant by night devoted to gnocchi) to Bonheur (fruit pies and ice cream) to Weather Gage (a caffeination parlor) and Bas Rouge (fine dining at its finest). Mr. Prager has out Polo’d Ralph Lauren by creating a kind of Disneyland for gourmands.
This region is also known for its CIA safe-houses, where defectors from the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere were squirreled away for their own safety and for extensive debriefing by agency handlers.
Russian intelligence eventually figured out where the spies formerly among them were being housed. By the time two-timer Vitaly Yurchenko came along in 1985 (the “Year of the Spy”), CIA had moved its safehouse ops away from prying ears to rural Virginia.
Needless to say, a few days in a “safe” spot is a good way to prepare for an expedition into the swamp.
THE GEORGETOWN INN
I’ve been staying at The Georgetown Inn in Washington, DC, for over 40 years. I first learned of its existence while a student at American University in 1975 when a prominent photographer for Playboy (Sam Wu, I think) was reported to be luring coeds to his Georgetown Inn suite and photographing them for that magazine’s “Campus issue.”
It wasn’t until four years later I had enough bread to stay there myself. And I’ve been returning ever since to this colonial landmark in the heart of historic Georgetown.
In the late 1990s, inside The Daily Grill downstairs, I rused Cuban diplomats (they were really Intelligence officers) for FBI Counterintelligence.
On another occasion, in this same bar, as part of a well-planned operation, I disrupted a Russian SVR agent from gaining the secrets of a British intelligence officer.
Later, in the mid-2000s, this inn became the de facto Washington station of the Monaco Intelligence Service, which I designed for Prince Albert II of Monaco.
The Georgetown Inn is also where I first met (in 1988) legendary CIA spymaster Clair George — and got initiated by him into the proverbial wilderness of mirrors (or, as another CIA legend, John MacGaffin called it, “smoke and urinals”).
THE DURHAM INVESTIGATION
The Durham University investigation has now established beyond any reasonable doubt that the “Trump-Russia” hoax was choreographed and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
We have learned through a source close to Durham’s team that the university’s investigation is now focused on an individual who was the linchpin between the Clinton campaign and Christopher Steele (of famed fraudulent “dossier”) — to be revealed in an upcoming column.
The “Trump-Russia” hoax, as we know, resulted in a costly investigation ($32 million, your money) overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, known to Swamp-ville’s “deep state” insiders as Bobby Three Sticks for his proclivity to use III after his name.
An admission: I have been a spy and a reporter (though never both at the same time).
Intelligence/espionage and journalism are essentially the same business: Gather information, validate it with reliable sources, write it up. The difference is the recipient.
With journalism, you’re looking for the widest audience possible.
With intelligence, your readership is secret, hence limited to your client.
During the 1990s my client was FBI counterintelligence.
Thereafter, for seven years during the 2000s, my client was the prince/ruling monarch of a European country, a dream mission that morphed into a nightmare due to the prince’s resistance to cleaning up corruption, as he had promised to his subjects. That was his basis for retaining me and collecting intelligence.
In service to my princely client, I forged liaison relationships with foreign intelligence services, including the CIA, Britain’s MI6 and the French secret services, among others.
I also sought to create a relationship with the FBI, my former client, after I uncovered intelligence implicating several Monaco-based U.S. citizens in criminal activity — the bureau’s domain.
Thus, I met with a pair of FBI special agents at (where else?) The Daily Grill inside the Georgetown Inn. They explained that a new “blanket policy” necessitated that I submit to a polygraph examination as a condition of having any further contact with the bureau.
“I’m not applying to the FBI for a job,” I told them. “I wish to give you intelligence, on the prince’s behalf, about U.S. citizens who appear to be committing crimes.”
“We understand that,” said one of the agents. “But we can no longer have any contact with you unless you take a polygraph examination.”
“That’s interesting,” I said. “So, if I or anyone else learns that a bank robbery is about to happen, we’re not allowed to report it to the FBI because we haven’t taken a polygraph?”
Both agents squirmed in discomfort. Because what they really meant was: We’ve singled you out because you already know too much, and now you’re doing intelligence for someone else and hence we need to mess with you and try our best to keep you under our thumb.
After discussing the matter with my client, the prince, we decided I would write a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller III to seek clarification:
“Dear Director Mueller:
“As you know, I work as a security advisor to the Prince. In this capacity, I facilitated the Prince’s meeting with you on April 25, 2003.
“You may be aware that for a nine-year period (1993-2002) I operated secretly for the FBI on at least a half-dozen sensitive cases. Because I took FBI-sponsored trips to Moscow and Havana, operating undercover without diplomatic immunity, I believe I earned the appreciation and respect of various special agents and special agents-in-charge in field offices and also inside Headquarters.
“In my role as advisor to the Prince I have striven to facilitate a good-faith relationship with the Bureau, with a view toward keeping the FBI apprised of any criminal activity pertaining to U.S. citizens.
“Two weeks ago, I met with FBI Special Agents. They told me that due to a “blanket policy” I would be required to take a polygraph examination in order for me to have any further contact with FBI agents
“When I met with the Prince last week, we discussed this issue, and frankly, we are bewildered. I am not applying for a job with the FBI. Furthermore, I do not, on the Prince’s behalf, wish to receive classified information from the FBI. We simply wish to give the Bureau information we believe the Bureau should possess.
“We would be grateful if you consider the position set down by your agents and clarify the apparent suggestion that I am no longer allowed to report criminal activity to the FBI.
“Please help us put this situation into perspective so that the Prince and I may weigh how best to coordinate the distribution of important information to those who may benefit by such information and who may be in a position to act upon it effectively.
“Once we know your final decision, we can determine our options, which range from calling the FBI ANSIR hotline to report alleged crimes (from which we may eventually reap a reward of up to $500,000, although a financial reward has never been our motive) to contacting U.S. Senators as a conduit for passing information directly to your office.
“Respectfully yours …”
When I showed former CIA spymaster Clair George this letter, he laughed his head off.
Seven weeks later, I received this terse reply from an FBI assistant director:
“The FBI appreciates your past support. As you are aware, the FBI welcomes reporting from anyone regarding criminal activity that falls within its investigative jurisdiction.
‘In the future, should you wish you relay information of interest to the FBI, you are requested to contact the local FBI representative at the United States Embassy in the country where you currently reside.”
We never did.
It was clear to us that the FBI had become much too disconnected (within itself) and was in severe need of an overhaul — an overhaul that still hasn’t happened as the bureau becomes more insidiously politicized.
Instead, we provided our information to the CIA and a U.S. senator on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the former of which did not share it with the bureau (business as usual). The latter gave it directly to the director.
AND SPEAKING OF MONACO (ANOTHER SWAMP)
Where is Princess Charlene?
This is the question being asked by everyone inside the principality (along with reporters at all of the glamor and gossip mags in Paris, Rome and London).
Prince Albert announced that his somewhat estranged wife is suffering from “fatigue that’s not just physical.”
Which seems like self-serving code for “she’s nuts and I need her out of the public eye for my own convenience.”
What is known is this: After being absent from Monaco for 10 months (in favor of her native South Africa, supposedly due to a “sinus infection”), she abruptly departed for a mystery facility, location unknown, only 11 days after returning to the principality.
One report places Charlene at a “calm and peaceful” private clinic in Lauenen, Switzerland.
A South African friend of Charlene’s told the New York Post: “It is unfair that she is being portrayed as having some kind of mental issue. We don’t know why the palace is downplaying that she almost died in South Africa” from “severe sinus and swallowing issues stemming from an earlier surgery.” (Another story doing the rounds is that Charlene has been suffering from myositis, an autoimmune disease that inflames the muscles — a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine?)
We believe that Albert and his minions, embarrassed over the strange state of his marriage (which began badly when she reportedly attempted to flee from the altar only days before the $50 million nuptials), lured Charlene back to Monaco from South Africa with a premeditated plan to park her in a place beyond the press’ reach.
We believe this because she has reportedly been placed in solitary confinement with no visitation rights. Says a source, “She is imprisoned for drug treatment.” Even her father is forbidden to visit her.
And so, our question is this: Did Charlene voluntarily admit herself to a psychiatric facility or was she committed against her will?
If it is the latter — and knowing how royal courts operate (especially Monaco’s) — we worry for her safety, especially as she has apparently lost weight and is down to 95 pounds.
On another Monaco front: Censorship is alive and well inside the once-glamorous principality, these days best known for its rampant corruption and large Russian presence.
A secretive entity called “Dossiers du Rocher” has created various internet sites reproducing internal Monaco communications that reveal corruption at the very top. However, the powers that be inside the principality have striven to quash and censor all attempts to make these very credible documents available to the public.
THE OTHER INVESTIGATOR
In September 1981, a short-lived magazine called The Investigator, created by syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, published my in-depth investigation of Liberty Lobby, a neo-Nazi organization that masqueraded as being populist. The article exposed a man named Willis Carto as the mysterious figure behind Liberty Lobby and its weekly anti-Semitic newspaper, The Spotlight.
Mr. Carto took umbrage and sued The Investigator (the magazine) and Jack Anderson for defamation. That case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against Liberty Lobby on the basis that the plaintiff “had not provided clear and convincing evidence.” (Apparently, this case is now required reading in law schools across the nation.)
Liberty Lobby — some called it Liberty Lobotomy — could not name me as a defendant even though I was the true author, having researched, investigated and written the piece. This was because The Investigator’s editor improperly gave the byline to a magazine staffer, Charles Bermant, who had conducted supplemental research.
I have not, until now (40 years later), refuted the nonsense spewed by all parties.
I, of course, had evidence in my possession to back up every aspect of my story, including tape recordings and transcripts of interviews conducted with ex-Liberty Lobby employees, among others who’d had unpleasant dealings with Willis Carto.
Oddly, these extensive notes/recordings/transcripts were never requested for review, either before the piece was published or after the lawsuit was filed. Jack Anderson’s attorney, David Branson of White & Case, flew to London to meet me. We had tea at the hotel where he stayed, Inn on the Park. When I asked what Mr. Branson wanted of me, he whimsically stated that he just needed to be able to tell the court that he had met me in person and that I truly exist.
The assertion (in Liberty Lobby’s lawsuit) that “Carto often observes interviews of prospective employees through a mirror” came from a former senior Liberty Lobby employee who claimed (to me directly) that he had personally witnessed this behavior. A second source, also an ex-Liberty Lobby employee, corroborated that point (to me directly, no duplicate sourcing). This was old-fashioned, by-the-book investigative reporting (remember that?) as taught to me on Fleet Street.
As for “a drawing of a Hitleresque person, allegedly Carto”: The draft I submitted to The Investigator was a typescript without illustrations of any kind. Hence, this drawing did not come from me, as Charles Bermant erroneously testified, but most likely was created by The Investigator’s own art department.
That said, I have no doubt, based on my investigation, that Willis Carto admired Adolph Hitler; that the illustration truly reflected his leanings. It was Carto, for instance, who created (from behind the scenes) the notorious Institute for Historical Review, which published books and held conventions to promote a revisionist theory that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Every other point in my story that Liberty Lobby alleged to be “defamatory” was similarly sourced and documented as true. Neither Mr. Bermant nor Joseph Spears — a key lieutenant to Jack Anderson who negotiated my fee — ever asked me about my sources nor asked to see evidence that supported my story.
Had I been a named defendant in the action, all of my files would have been “discovered,” and Liberty Lobby would have been sent packing long before its case reached the Supreme Court.
Lesson to publications: Don’t steal credit/bylines from freelance journalists.
As usual, those who benefited most were lawyers.
2024 PRESIDENTIAL SWEEPSTAKES
Even though President Joe Biden recently announced he will run for re-election, given his age, mental frailty and strong disapproval rating, this prez is already (in the opinion of many D.C. insiders, with whom The Investigator has spoken) a very lame duck.
Furthermore (they tell us), his VEEP, Kamala Harris, has proven to be a non-entity (worse, “a liability”) and little more than Mr. Biden’s insurance policy against being asked to vacate the White House before his term is up. (Think Spiro Agnew.)
Terry McAuliffe (a Clintonite from way back) was supposed to be the Democratic Party’s new darling and leading contender for the White House next go-round. That’s why his loss to Glenn Youngkin in Virginia’s gubernatorial election — recoloring the state from blue to red — was a kick in the teeth not only to Mr. McAuliffe but to the whole party, as he is now dead before arrival. (And If the other Democratic contenders from last time weren’t such a motley crew — aside from John Kasich, former governor of Ohio — how could Mr. Brandon, uh, Biden have nailed the nomination in 2020?)
On the other side of the great divide, the Republicans have an impressive roster of potential candidates.
Donald Trump will undoubtedly throw his hat into the ring because he resides in a tower built not of ivory but, like his bathroom faucets, of gilt gold, and he has already begun interviewing — at Mar-a-Lago — a series of potential running-mates.
Few in the swamp, however, want a rerun of divisive politics and incessant tweets.
And since Mr. Biden did not even attempt to keep his promise to reunite the country, a reformation is necessary unless the U.S.A.’s deeply-divided population is looking for a civil war — something our adversaries such as Russia and China and Iran are deeply promoting from behind the scenes.
Thus, the most likely Republican candidates, in the opinion of insiders, are these: Rick DeSantis, governor of Florida, a state to which so many disenfranchised voters from California and New York and other blue states have flown and are still fleeing; Ted Cruz, who has demonstrated his moxie and incisive cunning while grilling Biden appointees.
Tom Cotton, Republican U.S. senator, is the most likely to “arise from nowhere” due to his hush-hush Establishment connections (a la Jimmy Carter in 1976 and George H.W. Bush in 1980 — VP to Reagan, later president himself).
Their ideal running mates would be former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley (a presidential candidate in her own right) or Kristy Noem, the governor of South Dakota. Forget about Chris Christie, whose White House aspirations are a figment of his own imagination.
THE PERFECT STORM
Picture this: In an unholy pact prepared in purgatory, Russia invades the Ukraine while, in a simultaneous, concerted action, China invades Taiwan.
Does U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken blink (as opposed to his usual deer-caught-in-headlights expression)?
Does President Biden go hidin’ (his normal posture anyway)?
Sounds like a game show (especially with these jokers in charge), but this is serious stuff, according to Phillip Petersen, who has spent his whole career in D.C. working on defense and security issues for the Pentagon (at the Defense Intelligence Agency) and various think tanks.
In fact, Dr. Petersen is known among his many fans as “The Indiana Jones of Central Asia” because, in the early 1990s when the Bush and thereafter the Clinton administrations refused to take the former republics of the Soviet Union seriously enough to deal with them beyond Moscow, Dr. Petersen traveled to all 15 of them (in extremely rough conditions) on behalf of the Potomac Foundation to offer assurances and support.
Now, at the ripe age of 75, when most people seek quiet retirement, Dr. Petersen remains active, having flown out again last Monday to the frontlines.
“Putin is at war with us,” Dr. Petersen told The Investigator/News-Press last Sunday in The Daily Grill. “What’s not to understand? World War III has already begun, and Eastern Europe is the frontline.”
Dr. Petersen revealed to us what Russian President Vladmir Putin wants in exchange for not invading Ukraine, having already amassed almost 115,000 troops at the border (with many more on the way): “Putin wants the water in Crimea turned back on.”
“After Russia invaded the Crimea in 2014,” Dr. Petersen explained, “Ukraine’s government turned off the water supply, and Putin couldn’t pipe water in from Russia. So what does he do? Typical of Russians who don’t like reality, they double-down all the harder. They dug their own wells into the aquiver. Crimea is a peninsula, surrounded by sea water. Russia was clumsy — as usual, or they just didn’t care — and they screwed up. Net result: the aquiver got corrupted by salt water. So this is really about the desertification of Crimea.
“What Putin really wants is the water turned back on. And if Ukraine doesn’t do that, they get invaded.”
Dr. Petersen says the Russians always try to choose a time when their opponents won’t be ready — and Christmastime would be a good example of that “to blunt a Western response.”
And if Ukraine provides water?
“It’ll soon be something else,” said Dr. Petersen. “Putin is never going to stop. He wants the old U.S.S.R. reunified. And he’s like Hitler.”
If Mr. Putin invades Ukraine as Hitler once invaded Poland (leading to World War II), how much of it is he looking to control this time?
“Putin doesn’t want to occupy all of Ukraine, but Russia won’t have a choice (if it invades) because the Ukrainians will never stop fighting,” said Dr. Petersen. “We estimate a minimum of 30,000 Russian soldiers(will be) dead.”
The Investigator posed to Dr. Petersen our theory about a simultaneous Chinese invasion of Taiwan, and he surprised us with his response: “Don’t assume China would win. Taiwan has invested in some very sophisticated military capabilities. And most of the Chinese weapons systems are operated by microchips made in Taiwan because Taiwan produces the very finest chips.
“These computer chips are so good, in fact, that they may have sabotage mechanisms built into them. It won’t be the rollover everyone seems to think.”
Dr. Petersen then pointed out China’s biggest weakness: the vulnerability of its ports. “China’s economy depends on producing and shipping everything to everywhere else. If an invasion is attempted, the Taiwanese could strike China’s ports. And they would. And doing so, because China depends on its ports for global commerce, would bring China’s economy — and, by extension, the whole global economy — to a halt.”
In other words, invading Taiwan is akin to the Chinese biting their nose to spite their face. And not only that. Everyone, everywhere will suffer.
Added Dr. Petersen: “Putin is a traitor to his own country. He signed a deal — to enrich himself and his oligarch buddies — to provide energy to China, and in exchange China promised to fund the pipelines to bring oil and gas their way. As part of this, he sold to the Chinese the right to build high-speed access into the Russian heartland. And what happens as a result? The Chinese military is now practicing war games about taking over Russia all the way to Kazan (the capital of Kazakhstan).”
Former senior MI6 official Ian McCredie has written: “A recurrent fear in Moscow is that the Chinese will eventually reassert control over the Russian Far East. The Chinese were forced to cede this area to Russia in 1858 and 1860 … and the Chinese have been taught to regard these lands as lost territories. The entire population of the whole of the Russian Far East is less than 7 million (compared to China’s 1.3 billion), and demographic pressure is pushing more and more Chinese across the border — legally and illegally — in search of work, trade, farmland and space.”
The wildcard in this scenario is Iran. What does Iran do, in alliance with Russia and China, to further complicate the situation as the world goes to war?
“It’s the other way around,”Dr. Petersen responded. “Iran is in no position to do anything until their nuclear weapons program is fully developed. It is Israel who might take advantage of World War III chaos by striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
Tighten your seatbelt.
“This could be,” said Dr. Petersen, “a very interesting season ahead.”
Or maybe not.
The Investigator also spoke with a senior intelligence official who perceives the situation somewhat differently.
With regard to Ukraine, he tells us that the U.S. government is quietly pressuring Kyiv (Kiev) to understand that the former Soviet republic can never become part of NATO and that Ukraine must declare to Russia that they will NOT pursue any attempts to join NATO or the European Union. “And, truth is,” he told The Investigator, “the West does not want Ukraine as part of NATO or the EU because Ukraine is extremely corrupt. With Putin, it’s just a continuing series of deal-making. He is serious about his ‘red line’ and you have to understand that Ukraine is at the very heart of Russia and the Russian soul.”
With regard to China: “The Chinese are not going to invade Taiwan. They are very patient and they know, in time, China’s renegade territories will reunify with Beijing — as happened with Hong Kong — because it will eventually become economically beneficial for them to do so. The situation may seem tense or even alarming at this juncture, but it is normal give-and-take diplomacy albeit with a militaristic edge.”
On one point, both the senior intelligence official and Dr. Petersen agree: “China’s natural enemy is Russia, and Russia’s natural enemy is China. This is due to their proximity to one another and shared border. Whatever talk of a pact between them, they fear each other more than they fear the United States.”
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com.