1:51 PM 11/30/2017 – Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-National Security Adviser, focus of Russia investigation: What to know – Fox News

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Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-National Security Adviser, focus of Russia investigation: What to know – Fox News
Trump Wants to Install a Reliable Mouthpiece on Russia at the CIA – Mother Jones
Factbox: Trump turnover – Tillerson would be latest to leave administration – Reuters
Factbox: Trump Turnover – Tillerson Would Be Latest to Leave Administration – U.S. News & World Report
Today’s Headlines and Commentary
Trump considers replacing Tillerson with Pompeo
Groucho Marx, Michael Flynn and a Sanctions Trial’s Lighter Side – Bloomberg
Border Patrol Agent’s Death Is a Mystery, Despite Trump’s ‘Premature’ Tweet – Newsweek
Is Trump Really a Foreign-Policy Populist? – The National Interest Online
Forget the Pivot: Trump’s Abnormality Is Getting Worse – Vanity Fair
Legally speaking: The power of precise language – www.smileypete.com
White House considering plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo – NBCNews.com
Susan Collins: ‘No Reason To Be Concerned’ That Trump Is Unhinged
Trump’s Neo-Fascist Slime Pit – The American Prospect (blog)
Donald Trump Makes Fun Of Asian Leaders Who Hosted Him
Factbox: Five Facts About Tom Cotton, Trump’s Likely Pick for CIA – U.S. News & World Report
The Consequences of Trump Being Trump – National Review
If Donald Trump believes what’s he’s saying, he must be removed – Chicago Tribune
Report: Trump Is Ready to Fire Rex Tillerson – Slate Magazine (blog)
Trump’s inner circle is worried about his mental state: reports – Salon
White House readies plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo at State, install Cotton at CIA
This Is What Mueller Probably Wanted To Know From Jared Kushner About Mike Flynn – Newsweek
Mueller, Putin and Trump should be Time’s persons of the year – The Hill
Why won’t Trump stand up to Putin? – Boulder Weekly
Trump: China’s N.Korea Diplomacy Appears to Have ‘No Impact on Little Rocket Man’ – U.S. News & World Report

 

Saved Stories – None
Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-National Security Adviser, focus of Russia investigation: What to know – Fox News
 


Fox News
Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-National Security Adviser, focus of Russia investigation: What to know
Fox News
Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser in February over revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. How is he connected to the Russiainvestigation 
Jared Kushner: Donald Trump’s son-in-law reportedly meets with Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation teamThe Independent
History shows that special counsels almost inevitably overstep their mandates.National Review
Mueller’s Prosecutors Are Said to Have Interviewed Jared Kushner on Russia MeetingNew York Times
Wall Street Journal –ABC News –CNN –CNN
all 139 news articles »
Trump Wants to Install a Reliable Mouthpiece on Russia at the CIA – Mother Jones
 


Mother Jones
Trump Wants to Install a Reliable Mouthpiece on Russia at the CIA
Mother Jones
In Cotton, who reportedly wants the CIA job, President Donald Trump would install at the intelligence agency one of the most vocal supporters of his efforts to dismiss the Trump campaign’s suspected collaboration with the Kremlin in an effort to 
Donald Trump’s aides ‘terrified’ over President’s mental health, says Art of the Deal co-authorThe Independentall 226 news articles »

Factbox: Trump turnover – Tillerson would be latest to leave administration – Reuters
 


Reuters
Factbox: Trump turnover – Tillerson would be latest to leave administration
Reuters
Michael Flynn – resigned in February as Trump’s national security adviser after disclosures that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and had misled Vice President Mike 
Trump Considers Plan to Replace Tillerson With CIA Chief: US OfficialsU.S. News & World Reportall 237 news articles »

Factbox: Trump Turnover – Tillerson Would Be Latest to Leave Administration – U.S. News & World Report
 


U.S. News & World Report
Factbox: Trump Turnover – Tillerson Would Be Latest to Leave Administration
U.S. News & World Report
Philip Bilden – a private equity executive and former military intelligence officer picked by Trump for secretary of the Navy, withdrew from consideration in February because of government conflict-of-interest rules. * James Comey – the FederalBureau and more »

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

The Trump administration plans to instate Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, as secretary of state within the next few weeks, the New York Times reportsSen. Tom Cotton, a republican from Arkansas, would replace Pompeo as CIA director. The transition would conclude a contentious year for Tillerson, who has come under public scrutiny for the mass departure of State Department officials during his tenure. Cotton has been regarded as a strong supporter for President Donald Trump in the Senate on issues related to national security and immigration. His departure would open up another seat in the 2018 midterm elections.On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council convened for an emergency meeting to address North Koreas launch of an intercontinental ballistic missileaccording to the Washington Post. Despite condemnation of Pyongyangs missile launch, permanent members of the Security Council remain divided. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called for tougher actions against Pyongyang. China and Russia both suggested less aggressive action against North Korea, with Russia calling for the United States to halt its scheduled military drill next month in an effort to prevent the crisis from escalating.

Trump announced a plan to implement stricter sanctions against the North following a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Post reports. Xinhua, Chinas state media outlet, reported that Xi is committed to denuclearizing Pyongyang and establishing a peaceful settlement, though Chinas cooperation on sanctions remains unclear as the country continues to be a significant economic partner to the isolated North Korean regime.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III met with Jared Kushner earlier in November as part of Muellers investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, CNN reports. Sources said Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, was a focus of the conversation between Kushner and Muellers team. Reports suggest Flynn may be discussing a possible plea deal, as grand jury testimony connected to Muellers investigation has been postponed and Flynns lawyers have stopped sharing information with Trumps legal team.

Trumps retweets of anti-Muslim videos that a British nationalist group published have sparked public tension between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, the Post reports. Mays office stated that Trumps promotion of the videos was wrong and supported the hateful narrative of a far-right British fringe group. The Dutch government also responded to Trumps series of tweets, stating that one of the videos, which alleged to show a Muslim migrant injuring a Dutch boy on crutches, was a mischaracterization: Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law. Trump responded to Mays rebuke on Twitter, though he targeted the wrong Twitter account for the British prime minister.

On Thursday, an Israeli settler shot and killed a Palestinian man who the Israeli army says was throwing rocks at a group of hikers in the village of Qusrah in the West Bank, Reuters reports. The incident marks the first fatality in the West Bank in several months. The Israeli military said the shooting was in self-defense; locals said there had been no clash before the shooting.

U.S. special operations fighters will now carry freeze-dried blood plasma in their first-aid kits, according to the Associated Press. Freeze-dried plasma can be quickly used to clot blood following battlefield injuries, potentially reducing the number of casualties. The use of freeze-dried plasma was first seen in World War II, but U.S. forces stopped its use after outbreaks of hepatitis. Special operations forces are temporarily using plasma supplied by the French as Telefex, Inc., an American medical device company partnering with the Army to supply plasma, seeks Food and Drug Administration approval by 2020.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Orin Kerr and Benjamin Wittes hosted a Facebook live with initial reactions following oral argument in Carpenter v. United States.

Paul Rosenzweig defended the mosaic theory in light of Carpenter v. United States oral argument.

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh reviewed Judge David Barrons Waging War.

Cameron Kerry discussed how the Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017 could strengthen international cybersecurity efforts.

Yishai Schwartz provided an update on military commission proceedings in United States v. al-Nashiri. 

Shannon Togawa Mercer posted the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Trump considers replacing Tillerson with Pompeo

President has had combative relationship with secretary of state
Groucho Marx, Michael Flynn and a Sanctions Trial’s Lighter Side – Bloomberg
 


Bloomberg
Groucho Marx, Michael Flynn and a Sanctions Trial’s Lighter Side
Bloomberg
A money-laundering trial that started in Manhattan this week could deal a serious blow to Turkish-U.S. relations. Little wonder, then, that lawyers are grasping for moments of levity. Groucho Marx and even ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn  

Border Patrol Agent’s Death Is a Mystery, Despite Trump’s ‘Premature’ Tweet – Newsweek
 

Border Patrol Agent’s Death Is a Mystery, Despite Trump’s ‘Premature’ Tweet
Newsweek
We’re looking at it as a potential assault on a federal officer, Jeanette Harper, public affairs officer for the FBI’s El Paso division, told Newsweek Thursday. And through the course of the investigation, if the facts of the investigation take us and more »

Is Trump Really a Foreign-Policy Populist? – The National Interest Online
 


The National Interest Online
Is Trump Really a Foreign-Policy Populist?
The National Interest Online
… which is the danger of taking Trump at his word when it comes to his broader approach to foreign-policy issues. Has Trumpactually governed as a populist? Or has he in fact embraced many of the policies that establishment figures have espoused over  

Forget the Pivot: Trump’s Abnormality Is Getting Worse – Vanity Fair
 


Vanity Fair
Forget the Pivot: Trump’s Abnormality Is Getting Worse
Vanity Fair
In hindsight, the G.O.P. should not have trusted Manafort, who himself would eventually be indicted on counts including money laundering and conspiracy, imperiling the very presidency he sought to bolster. But party stalwarts, too, have failed to keep and more »

Legally speaking: The power of precise language – www.smileypete.com
 

Legally speaking: The power of precise language
www.smileypete.com
If Trump staffers knew it was illegal to seek Russian help in the election and agreed to do it anyway, that could be a conspiracy. Ultimately, for Trump and his political foes, the only legal phrase that really matters is treason, bribery, and other 

White House considering plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo – NBCNews.com
 


NBCNews.com
White House considering plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo
NBCNews.com
For that reason, it’s not surprising that Pompeo would be next to get the top diplomatic spot in Trump’s administration. Multiple current and former intelligence officials told NBC News that some people inside the intelligence community had started 
It’s All but a Done Deal: Insiders Expect CIA Director Mike Pompeo to Take Over the State DepartmentVanity Fair
White House plans to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA head Mike Pompeo: reportNew York Daily News
Get ready for the rearranging of the administration’s deck chairsSalonall 201 news articles »

Susan Collins: ‘No Reason To Be Concerned’ That Trump Is Unhinged

But the Maine GOP senator says it’s not “helpful” that he promotes racist conspiracy theories.
Trump’s Neo-Fascist Slime Pit – The American Prospect (blog)
 

Trump’s Neo-Fascist Slime Pit
The American Prospect (blog)
When Trump launched his n+1st vileness on Twitter yesterday, retweeting phony and incendiary videos (talk about fake news!) posted by a lunatic-fringe white Christian Muslim-hating British website, Britain First, the reaction from anti-racists was and more »

Donald Trump Makes Fun Of Asian Leaders Who Hosted Him

The president did his own imitation as he promoted GOP tax legislation.
Factbox: Five Facts About Tom Cotton, Trump’s Likely Pick for CIA – U.S. News & World Report
 


U.S. News & World Report
Factbox: Five Facts About Tom Cotton, Trump’s Likely Pick for CIA
U.S. News & World Report
Cotton, 40, is a staunch Trump ally who has vigorously opposed the Iran nuclear deal. He served one term in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 2014 as part of a Republican wave. Cotton sits on the Intelligence Committee  

The Consequences of Trump Being Trump – National Review
 


National Review
The Consequences of Trump Being Trump
National Review
Nearly two and half years since his political career began, and more than ten months since his inauguration, does anyone really think the latest outrageous thing done or said by President Donald Trump matters anymore? The answer from his coreand more »

If Donald Trump believes what’s he’s saying, he must be removed – Chicago Tribune
 


Chicago Tribune
If Donald Trump believes what’s he’s saying, he must be removed
Chicago Tribune
“‘We don’t think that was my voice,’ Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to 
Donald Trump’s assault on truth circles back to birtherismCNN
Michelle Obama has a crack at Donald Trump’s Twitter habitsNEWS.com.au
Trump is still reportedly pushing his racist birther conspiracy theory about ObamaVoxall 203 news articles »

Report: Trump Is Ready to Fire Rex Tillerson – Slate Magazine (blog)
 


Slate Magazine (blog)
Report: Trump Is Ready to Fire Rex Tillerson
Slate Magazine (blog)
All you probably need to know about that “strain” is that Tillerson reportedly referred to Trump as a “fucking moron” after the president left a high-level meeting during which Trump had made a sudden and arbitrary demand to build tens of thousands ofand more »

Trump’s inner circle is worried about his mental state: reports – Salon
 


Salon
Trump’s inner circle is worried about his mental state: reports
Salon
While that’s certainly the first public indication that White House staffers have expressed concern over Trump’s mental health, it’s by no means a new topic. Take Joe Scarborough for instance, who has raised questions about Trump’s mental stability forand more »

White House readies plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo at State, install Cotton at CIA
 

White House readies plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo at State, install Cotton at CIA

The White House has readied a plan to oust embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has become one of the most personally loyal and politically savvy members of President Trump’s national security team, two administration officials confirmed Thursday. The plan, hatched by White House Chief of Staff John [] chief of staff John []

This Is What Mueller Probably Wanted To Know From Jared Kushner About Mike Flynn – Newsweek
 


Washington Times
This Is What Mueller Probably Wanted To Know From Jared Kushner About Mike Flynn
Newsweek
But Akerman says it’s likely the special counsel is investigating Kushner’s involvement in helping the Russians use data analytics to target voters via social media during the 2016 election. Kushner’s handling of emails stolen from the Democratic 
Robert Mueller Went To Jared!Wonkette (blog)
The special counsel may have just flipped a key witness in the Russia probeShareblue Mediaall 128 news articles »

Mueller, Putin and Trump should be Time’s persons of the year – The Hill
 


The Hill
Mueller, Putin and Trump should be Time’s persons of the year
The Hill
Putin is the Russian dictator who wages aggressive war through weapons of modern technology against democracy in America and Europe. Trump is the president who was elected with the support of Putin, and now faces a high-intensity investigation that and more »

Why won’t Trump stand up to Putin? – Boulder Weekly
 


Boulder Weekly
Why won’t Trump stand up to Putin?
Boulder Weekly
Yes like him! Take that strange bromance he’s got going with his presidential counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The two recently had a private tête-á-tête, after which our president said that Russia’s president had vehemently denied U.S. intelligence 
We’re All Part of Trump’s ShowNew York Times
For some Russian oligarchs, sanctions risk makes Putin awkward to knowReuters
Moscow mulls next move in escalating media spat with USABC Newsall 34 news articles »

Trump: China’s N.Korea Diplomacy Appears to Have ‘No Impact on Little Rocket Man’ – U.S. News & World Report
 


U.S. News & World Report
Trump: China’s N.Korea Diplomacy Appears to Have ‘No Impact on Little Rocket Man’
U.S. News & World Report
WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed a Chinese diplomatic effort to rein in North Korea’s weapons program as a failure on Thursday, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing should do more to limit oil supplies 
Trump’s menacing talk on North Korea is leaving the US isolatedThe Guardian
Trump says Chinese diplomacy with North Korea is failingWashington Times
Trump pledges new wave of ‘major sanctions’ on North Korea after call with China’s XiWashington Postall 4,029 news articles »

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3:49 PM 11/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: How Vladimir Putin sees the world | Senate Russia investigation: Dianne Feinstein requests new documents | Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap

donald trump

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter – Business Insider
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe – Business Insider
Historian Of Stalin’s Crimes, On Trial On Child Pornography Charges, Seeks Release To House Arrest
Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz Says ‘Putin Owns Trump’ – Newsweek
Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? Mother Jones
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign – Baltimore Sun
Wednesday’s Morning Email: Latest Missile Launch From North Korea Appears To Put Entire Continental U.S. In Range
‘Be advised he is an active shooter’: Police radio traffic reveals Costco terror – Kansas City Star
Tampa police arrest suspect Howell Emanuel Donaldson III in Seminole Heights killings
Inside the White House, Michael Flynn pushed proposal from company he said he had advised
Gunman killed in Reno after firing shots from high-rise condo
Lenexa Costco shooting: dispatch recordings reveal terror
The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of D.C.s swankiest mansions – The Washington Post
The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of DC’s swankiest mansions – Washington Post
Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition
The latest Trump-Russia investigation news, explained – Vox
Trump-Russia investigation news: the latest developments, explained
From North Korea, With Dread
North Korea Fires a Ballistic Missile, in a Further Challenge to Trump
Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
How Vladimir Putin sees the world
 

mikenova shared this story from Politics.

Luke Harding, journalist and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,” explains how Vladimir Putin’s background as a KGB agent has influenced his worldview and allowed him to manipulate Donald Trump. Following is a transcript of the video.

Luke Harding: My name is Luke Harding. I’m a journalist and a writer, and my new book is called “Collusion,” and it’s about Donald Trump and Russia.

Putin saying that the collapse of the Soviet Union is the world’s greatest geopolitical catastrophe, it’s a famous quote and essentially I think it’s important because Putin is a KGB guy deep down. He sees the world in conspiratorial terms.

There’s a phrase for it that they teach you at KGB spy school which is “glavny protivnik,” “the main adversary,” and the main adversary is America, both in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and also now in Putin’s head that he sees international politics and diplomacy as a zero sum game in which what’s bad for America is good for Russia.

And actually he’s had a pretty good run recently. He invaded Ukraine, he has staged military intervention in Syria, and obviously he hacked the US election to help Donald Trump, who I think to Putin’s surprise became president.

For Putin, lying is something he does all the time and there’s nothing shameful about it. He views lying as a kind of operational tactic, and again it’s something he learned about at spy school. You lie for strategic reasons.

But what’s astonishing is that Donald Trump seemingly believes Vladimir Putin, the KGB officer, over all 13 US intelligence agencies who unanimously say that Russia hacked the election.

Now, I’m not a psychologist, I can’t explain what’s going on in Donald Trump’s head, but clearly Putin is lying and for Trump to believe him or at least to say he believes him is an astonishing sign of where we now are.

I think he intends to carry on forever. There’s a Russian election next year in 2018, but it’s like an “election,” it’s not an election. It’s essentially decorative. I think we all know who’s going to win it, which means that he’ll have another six year term taking him until 2024.

And the logic of this kind of corrupt system in Russia means that he has to carry on forever. And so I can see Putin outlasting Trump, and I think he is going to be a kind of formidable challenge for politicians, not just now but also in the future.

How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter – Business Insider
 

mikenova shared this story from Putin Trump – Google News.


Business Insider
How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter
Business Insider
Luke Harding, journalist and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,” explains how Vladimir Putin’s background as a KGB agent has influenced his worldview and allowed him to manipulate Donald …
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and PutinNewsweek
The Far-Right Group Retweeted By Donald Trump Deleted A Bunch …BuzzFeed News
Commentary: Don’t call Putin a geniusReuters
The Guardian –Raw Story –The Moderate Voice –Reuters
all 151 news articles »
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap – Daily Beast
 

mikenova shared this story from Rudy Giuliani – Google News.


Daily Beast
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap
Daily Beast
Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey tried to broker a prisoner exchange between the United States and Turkey to free their Turkish client, Reza Zarrab, he testified in Manhattan federal court Wednesday. Zarrab said on the stand he hired lawyers to 
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US TrialU.S. News & World Report
Gold Trader Links Turkish Banker to Plot to Dodge SanctionsBloombergall 49 news articles »
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe – Business Insider
 

mikenova shared this story from Elections 2016 Investigation videos – Google News.


Business Insider
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe
Business Insider
donald trump President Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the media before speaking with members of the armed forces via video conference at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. … She asked them in separate letters for and more »
Senate Russia investigation: Dianne Feinstein requests new documents
 

mikenova shared this story from Politics.

donald trumpPresident Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the media before speaking with members of the armed forces via video conference at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. Associated Press/Alex Brandon

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat sent letters to several members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team on Wednesday.
  • The letter contained new names that may be of interest to investigators probing Russia’s election interference. 
  • Those entities had not previously been known to be of interest to the Judiciary Committee, which is also investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested new documents on Tuesday related to Russia’s election interference from several of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisers.

She asked them in separate letters for documentation of any contact they had with Russia-linked entities during the 2016 election, several of whom had not previously been known to be of interest to the committee.

One of them is Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican activist who told associates that he was an adviser to Trump’s transition team. He reportedly started a business — a limited liability company called Bridges, LLC — with Russian gun-rights champion Maria Butina. Erickson traveled to Moscow in August 2014 to meet with Butina’s gun-rights organization.

Butina and her associate Aleksander Torshin, a Russian politician and banker close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also of interest to the committee. Torshin asked the campaign through an intermediary whether Trump would meet with him on the sidelines of the NRA convention last summer, according to emails forwarded to Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.

Feinstein, whose committee is investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton, asked both campaign national co-chair Sam Clovis and campaign national security adviser JD Gordon for their communications with or concerning “the NRA, Paul Erickson, Alexander Torshin, Maria Butina,” and others associated with Torshin’s outreach.

“I’m always glad to clear up popular misconceptions, myths and blatant falsehoods surrounding all things Trump-Russia, like I’ve already done with other Congressional committees,” Gordon told Business Insider. “I look forward to a valuable exchange of information with the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.”

A new request to Carter Page

Carter PageCarter Page. AP

In her letter to Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, Feinstein asked for “all communications to, from, or copied to you with or concerning” Russian political scientist and Putin foreign policy adviser Sergey Karaganov; Randi Levinas, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the US-Russia Business Council; and Bernie Sucher, a former managing director and head of global markets for Russia at the wealth management firm Merril Lynch.

Page’s trip to Moscow last July just before the Republican National Convention has come under heightened scrutiny amid revelations that he met with a top Russian government official and at least one employee of Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Levinas told Business Insider on Wednesday that the US-Russia business council reached out to both campaigns during the election to figure out who was the “Russia person” on both sides “dealing with economic and business issues.”

“Page’s name had been mentioned in the press,” Levinas said. “So I reached out to Bernie Sucher to try to get in touch with him.”

Sucher and Page evidently overlapped at Merril Lynch, where Page worked between 2000 and 2008. Before joining Merrill Lynch, Sucher was the chairman of Alfa Capital — a limited liability company that is a member of Alfa Banking Group.

Feinstein also asked Page for his communications with or concerning Alfa Group, which reportedly came under scrutiny by both federal and congressional investigators after a computer server for the Russia-based Alfa Bank “repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization — far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all look-ups on the Trump server,” according to CNN.

The US-Russia business council, for its part, “wanted to have a discussion about business with respect to Russia,” Levinas said. “So I tried to set up a meeting with Page, and got a small dinner together that didn’t materialize until later.”

Levinas said she did not attend that dinner and did not know what was discussed.

‘Happy to help’

Page told Business Insider that he would be “happy to help” the committee with its “latest tranche of irrelevant Witch Hunt information.” He said he was not in touch with Karaganov, the former Putin adviser, during the campaign, adding that he hadn’t spoken to him in “about 10 years or so.”

“I’m pretty sure that was the last time we talked,” Page said on Wednesday.

Karaganov, who now serves as the dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, supported Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and has advocated for Moscow to present itself as a moral defender of ethnic Russians in order to gain political influence in the regions they inhabit.

“We want the status of being a great power,” Karaganov told Germany’s Der Spiegel last year.

“We unfortunately cannot relinquish that,” he said. “In the last 300 years, this status has become a part of our genetic makeup. … We believe that Russia is morally in the right. There won’t be any fundamental concessions coming from our side.”

Historian Of Stalin’s Crimes, On Trial On Child Pornography Charges, Seeks Release To House Arrest
 

mikenova shared this story from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

A lawyer for a Russian historian who is being tried on child pornography charges his supporters say are politically motivated has asked a court to move his client from jail to house arrest.

Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz Says ‘Putin Owns Trump’ – Newsweek
 

mikenova shared this story from trump money laundering – Google News.


CNN
Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz Says ‘Putin Owns Trump’
Newsweek
The man who ghost-wrote President Donald Trump’s bestseller The Art of the Deal has claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin owns Trump, and said he hopes the U.S. president will be taken down by special counsel Robert Mueller. What keeps my hope 
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince?Mother Jones
The Trump-Russia Story Is Coming Together. Here’s How to Make Sense of ItTruth-Outall 26 news articles »
Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen
 

mikenova shared this story from TrumP Россия.

b7ck8hm4

PART I: THE PRINCESS IN THE GILDED CAGE

Oxana Fedorova was a tall, raven-haired beauty from Pskov, a old Russian city near Estonia.  She was studying to be a police officer in St. Petersburg, Russia when she decided to try her luck in a local modeling contest. Fedorova entered the 1999 Miss St. Petersburg pageant and won. Two years later, the 23-year-old police lieutenant became Miss Russia, which awarded her a new Mercedes and a Cartier watch.

Vladimir Putin, newly installed as Russia’s president, was said to be a keen admirer of the reigning Miss Russia, a karate black belt and an excellent shot. A photo of Fedorova was on display near his office in the Kremlin. The Telegraph of London reported that the organizers of the Miss Russia pageant had crowned Fedorova “in a feudal display of loyalty to the head of state.” She was even rumored to be Putin’s secret lover. Not true, Fedorova said. “It’s just a coincidence that we are both from St. Petersburg, the work of fate. There are no links with the president.”

6db384c8ab5ceb8bf51ca02591deca8bVladimir Golubev

Fedorova’s real boyfriend wasn’t the president. He was a Russian mobster from St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Semenovich Golubev, aka “Barmeley,” got out of  in prison and became a gangster in St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Golubev was a silent partner in Adamant Holding, a real estate company founded in 1992 that today controls 29 shopping malls in St. Petersburg.  (See Russian Forbes.)

The Russian press reported that Golubev had links to the Tambov gang, a criminal syndicate that dominated St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Back then, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, a man named Vladimir Putin, was collaborating with the Tambov gang to launder money and gain control of the gambling business. (See Karen Dawisha’s excellent book Putin’s Kleptocracy.)

According to Russian press reports, Golubev had supported Fedorova since she she had won Miss St. Petersburg as a teenager. Fedorova reportedly traveled either in his company or with guards he sent to accompany her. Officials with Miss Universe noted that money never seemed to be a problem for the beauty queen.  She was like a beautiful bird living in Golubev’s gilded cage.

PART II: MISS UNIVERSE

In 2002, Oxana Fedorova entered Miss Universe, the international beauty pageant then owned by Donald Trump.

The pageant was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fedorova and other beauties from around the world competed for prizes that included a year’s salary and an apartment in one of Trump’s Manhattan buildings. (The apartment was more like a dormitory for Miss Universe shared it with Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.)

At the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Fedorova dominated the swimsuit competition and was crowned with the diamond-studded tiara.

Trump, who was in the audience watching, allegedly rigged the contest for Fedorova, according to Seth Abramson, an author and attorney. Abramson said he spoke to a source present that night in Puerto Rico who claimed that Trump told the celebrity judges — actors, fashion designers, and NFL star Marshall Faulk —  whom to choose as winner.

Four months after she was crowned Miss Universe, Fedorova was fired. Federova had failed to show at numerous photo shoots and other high-profile functions, including a commitment to help crown Miss Teen USA. It was the first time that a winner had been forced to surrender her title.

Trump said the president of the Miss Universe organization, Paula Shugart, had asked Fedorova to resign. “When Oxana didn’t resign, Paula had no choice but to terminate her,” he said. Anonymous “insider” sources quoted by the New York Post went for Fedorova’s jugular. “An unbelievably spoiled bitch,” one called her. Another said she was overweight and pregnant, which Fedorova denied.

Over the years, Fedorova has given several reasons for her decision to give up the title of Miss Universe. She had to care for an ailing relative.  She did not want to give up her studies. (She now holds a doctoral degree.) She was upset no one had warned her before her lewd interview with radio host Howard Stern.

Asked by Russian reporters whether pressure from her gangster boyfriend Golubev led her to abandon the Miss Universe crown, Fedorova replied, “This is my personal life, and I do not want to talk about it.”

The view from Russia was that Trump had been paid off to crown Fedorova. Nikolay Kostin, the organizer of the Miss Russia contest, suggested to a reporter for the respected Russian daily Kommersantthat Trump had been bribed to hand the crown to Fedorova.

“Nikolay Kostin in response to such accusations only smiles and asks who then dared to offer a bribe to the owner of the Miss Universe contest Donald Trump, who presented the crown to Oxana Fedorova, and how much he was given.

Vitali Leiba, president of the model agency Red Stars, told the newspaper, “It is very difficult to determine the addressee of a possible bribe. We can say that Trump was given a bribe, or it is possible that the U.S., in the person of Trump, offered a bribe to Russia, encouraging her representative at the contest.”

Update: An astute reader points out that Vitali Leiba was a founding shareholder of Arigon Company Ltd., a Channel Islands company established in 1990 by the Brainy Don, Semion Mogilevich whose name keeps turning up in the Trump-Russia affair. An 1996 FBI report called Arigon “the center of the Mogilevich Organization’s financial operations.”

PART III: THE UGLINESS IN TRUMP’S BEAUTY CONTESTS

There is no proof that Trump was bribed or that he tipped the scale for Oxana Fedorova, but there were multiple claims that the pageants were rigged.

Michael Schwandt, a choreographer who worked on Miss Universe and Miss USA, told Guanabee.comthat Trump would have all the contestants line up and he would walk past like a commander reviewing his troops with an assistant taking notes. “It’s just kind of common knowledge that he picks six of the top 15 single-handedly,” Schwandt said.

The choreographer said Trump told him he exercised the “Trump rule” so because some of the most beautiful women were not chosen as finalists in the past “and he was kind of upset by that.” Schwandt disavowed his comments but here is audio  of Trump explaining the “Trump Rule” to Miss USA contestants.

Audio PlayerA contestant in 2012 Miss USA told a judge that her contest had been rigged. Sheena Monnin wrote on her Facebook page that a fellow contestant had seen a sheet of paper listing the five finalists before the contest. (She reaffirmed the claim in her delcaration.)

…. I witnessed another contestant who said she saw the Top 5 BEFORE THE SHOW EVER STARTED proceed to call out in order who the Top 5 were before they were announced on stage. Apparently the morning on June 3rd she saw a folder lying open to a page that said ‘FINAL SHOW telecast, June 3, 2012’. After the Top 16 were called and we were standing backstage she hesitantly said to me and another contestant that she knew who the Top 5 were. I said ‘who do you think they will be? She said that she didn’t ‘think’ she ‘knew’ because she saw the list that morning. She relayed whose names were on the list. Then we agreed to wait and see if that was indeed the Top 5 called that night. ….

Trump was furious. He said Monnin had “loser’s remorse,” and said that if you “looked at her and compared her to the other people who were in the top 15, you would understand why she was not in the top 15.” His  consigliere Michael Cohen called into TMZ Live and said that Monnin had 24 hours to retract her statement or that she could “bet [her] a** that [Miss Universe] will sue . . . seeking massive damages.” Consigliere Cohen was good to his word. Trump obtained a $5 million defamation award against Monnin in an uncontested arbitration proceeding, which was upheld by a federal judge.

A 2013 investigation by Jezebel found that a pageant recruiter in Trump’s Miss USA franchise allegedly demanded a blow job in exchange for magazine work that would allow a contestant to pay the $895 contest entrance fee.

Trump had acquired the Miss Universe franchise in 1996. He reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars (the exact figure was not disclosed) to buy it from ITT Corp., beating out beat two television networks and several South American media moguls. (The deal also included Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.)  Trump ran Miss Universe as a 50-50 partnership with TV networks, first with CBS, and, after 2002, with NBC.

On the surface, it looked like a good business. It cost $20 million to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. Emin Agalarov whose family owns the arena that hosted the pageant broke down the costs for Russian Forbes. A third of that $20 million went to secure rights. Another third: organizational costs. And the final third goes to the production and broadcast costs.  (Another report said overseas rights to Miss Universe were selling for $6 million in 2003.)

Very little of that money, however, was distributed to the general partners of Miss Universe. We know this because Trump had assigned his half of his interest in Miss Universe (25 percent of the company) to his publicly-traded corporation, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.  In 2002, the year Fedorova won in Puerto Rico, Trump Entertainment collected a mere $700,000 for it quarter share of the pageant. In 2003 and 2004, Trump Entertainment earned nothing from Miss Universe.

Where was all the money going?

Even if the business was a stinker, there was one attraction for Trump. It allowed him to indulge his Porky’s-style adolescent fantasy of seeing beautiful women naked when they were in no position to refuse.

“I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump told Howard Stern in 2005.

Listen for yourself:

Audio PlayerAsked whether he had ever slept with a contestant, Trump declined to say. “It could be a conflict of interest. … But, you know, it’s the kind of thing you worry about later, you tend to think about the conflict a little bit later on.”

Trump sold Miss Universe in 2015 to the talent agency WME | IMG for $28 million. The value of the franchise had been damaged by Trump’s description of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, which led NBC and Univision to drop coverage of Miss USA.

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Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? Mother Jones
 

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Susan Walsh/AP

When Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater security firm, heads into a private meeting with staffers and members of the House intelligence committee on Thursday, the number-one topic will be a secret trip he made in January to the Seychelles islands to huddle with a Russian close to Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post, the rendezvous was arranged by the United Arab Emirates, where Prince moved in 2010 and formed a mercenary army for the regime, and this get-together was part of an attempt to set up a back-channel communication between Putin and Donald Trump, then the president-elect. The visit has drawn the attention of the FBI, which has been investigating contacts between Trump associates and Russia, but a Prince spokesman last April claimed the “the meeting had nothing to do with President Trump.”

There is much congressional investigators can ask Prince about. He has had a long, controversial career buckraking in the dark corners of the national security world. The brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, Prince has been an avid cheerleader for Trump (donating $250,000 to help elect him), an informal post-election adviser for Trump, and a pal of Stephen Bannon. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Bannon recruited Prince earlier this year to draft a plan that would replace US troops in Afghanistan with for-profit mercenaries—supplied, of course, by a military contractor like Prince. (The Pentagon said no thank you.) But perhaps the most important thing for intelligence committee members and staffers to keep in mind, as they try to pry information from Prince, is this: Prince is a fabricator.

During the election, the usually media-averse ex-Navy SEAL was a regular contributor to Breitbart News, the Bannon-backed far-right outlet, defending Trump and promoting conspiratorial swill.

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began posting emails stolen from John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s chairman. Earlier that day, the US intelligence community issued a statement declaring the Russian government was behind the hack-and-dumps targeting Democrats during the election. It noted that the posting of the stolen emails by WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 [an online persona named after a real-life Romanian hacker who went by the name of Guccifer] was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The statement also pointed a finger at Putin, asserting “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” Yet Prince joined Trump and his crew in denying there was any Russian connection to the hacking aimed at Democrats.

On the Breitbart radio show, he insisted the Podesta caper had nothing to do with Russian intelligence. He added, “The fact is, a Romanian hacker, Guccifer, is the guy who hacked the Clinton Foundation a few years ago. That guy is in prison. Before he went to prison, all of Sidney Blumenthal—Hillary’s adviser on Libya—all his emails were removed from Guccifer’s server, and those too have been leaking out. John Podesta’s emails, I can assure you, did not come from the Russians.” Prince was conflating a 2013 hack against a Clinton friend (Blumenthal) with the 2016 cyberattack on Podesta. Subsequent cyber-sleuthing has confirmed that Podesta was targeted and successfully spear-phished as part of a massive assault mounted by Russian military intelligence. Yet in the heat of the presidential campaign, Prince was pushing pro-Trump (and Putin-helping) disinformation.

In the same interview, Prince hyped one of the right-wing’s favorite anti-Clinton conspiracy theories. He claimed that Hillary Clinton had been complicit in “selling 20 percent of the United States’ uranium supply to a Russian state company.” And he went on: “I think the Clinton Foundation got a very nice spiff off of that, of $25 or $50 million,” meaning a pay-to-play payment. Prince was referring to what has now become the Uranium One scandal, which is not really a scandal. The transaction he referenced involved the acquisition of 20 percent of production capability, not the full supply, and there is no evidence that Clinton had any role in the US government approval process for this deal.

On an earlier Breitbart broadcast, Prince claimed that “due to a significant donation into the Clinton Foundation, the State Department ended up approving the sale of a company that owns 20 percent of the uranium in the United States, certainly a strategic fuel stock for us here, for nuclear energy production, and of course for nuclear weapons, if necessary. It’s now in the hands of a Russian state enterprise.” He was wrong here, too. The deal was approved not by the State Department, but by representatives of nine different federal agencies who sat on an interagency review board; there was no proven connection between a Clinton Foundation donation and the decision, and the uranium in question was not suitable for nuclear weapons.

During the campaign, the Clinton-gave-uranium-to-the-Russians-for-a-foundation-payoff tale was being enthusiastically peddled by Trump (who still has not let go of this faux scandal)—even though this accusation was fully debunked. And since the election, Republicans and conservatives have tried to use the Uranium One deal to deflect attention from the Trump-Russia scandal. Prince has been a loyal foot-soldier in this reality-bending, anti-Clinton propaganda effort.

Prince has gone even further in fueling the anti-Clinton fevers on the right. During a Breitbart radio appearance four days before the election, Prince, citing a “well-placed source” in the New York Police Department, said that emails discovered on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman then separated from Huma Abedon, a top Clinton aide, included evidence of Clinton perversion and criminality: “They found State Department emails. They found a lot of other really damning criminal information, including money laundering, including the fact that Hillary went to this sex island with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Bill Clinton went there more than 20 times. Hillary Clinton went there at least six times.” He maintained these emails held proof of “of criminal activity by Hillary, by her immediate circle, and even by other Democratic members of Congress.” He claimed that Abedin had “flipped.” If Clinton were to be elected, Prince warned, there would be a “constitutional crisis.”

Prince’s unsubstantiated comments were quickly embraced by far-right extremists pushing the particularly crazy Pizzagate conspiracy theory that claimed Clinton and Podesta were part of a covert pedophilia ring operating out of the basement of a Washington pizzeria. That day, conspiracy con-man Alex Jones, citing Prince’s interview, exclaimed, “When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton has personally murdered and chopped up and raped . . . yeah, you heard me right. Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children.” And WikiLeaks tweeted, “Astounding claims from Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater on Clinton & NYPD.” (A month later, a man armed with guns entered the pizzeria to investigate Pizzagate and fired several shots, harming no one, before he was arrested.)

Prince, once mostly known for owning a company that employed private military contractors who committed a 2007 massacre in downtown Baghdad, has become a fabulist who has used his national security credentials to dress up and legitimize the most outlandish and paranoid fantasies of the far right. (He also has recently considered challenging Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming as part of Bannon’s war on so-called establishment Republicans.) No matter what Prince says when he’s sitting before the interrogators of the House intelligence committee, they ought to remember this valuable guideline: consider the source.

Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones
 

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Mother Jones
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince?
Mother Jones
The brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, Prince has been an avid cheerleader for Trump (donating $250,000 to help elect him), an informal post-election adviser for Trump, and a pal of Stephen Bannon. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law 
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
 

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The simple advertisement betrayed little about its intent or origin. It pictured Freddie Gray and two other African Americans who died in encounters with police alongside the words “never forget.”

Analysts say the ad — and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 — might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Of the 3,000 Russian-linked ads Facebook turned over to Congress this fall, more than 250 were targeted at Maryland — a blue state with little sway in the national election that nevertheless remained in the spotlight because of the unrest.

The debate over police interactions with African Americans in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere offered an easy issue for Russians to exploit, analysts say, long before Donald Trump emerged as a serious presidential candidate.

“Russians needed practice,” said James Andrew Lewis, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They had done this a lot for domestic audiences, and they had to learn how to pull the levers of an American audience.

“This was an initial attempt.”

Facebook has said accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, spent more than $100,000 on ads from 2015 to 2017, and that about 126 million people might have been served content from pages associated with the group. U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that the likely financier of the group is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has denied meddling in the U.S. election.

Much of the discussion surrounding the Russian social media campaign in the United States has focused on its impact on the election. Congress and the Federal Election Commission are both considering new regulations that would require more transparency in online political ads.

Less attention has been given to ads placed in 2015 in states that were not battlegrounds in 2016. Facebook has said about 25 percent of the ads the company identified as being linked to Russia were aimed at specific cities and states. More of those targeted ads ran in 2015 than last year.

The Gray ad released this month by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence included a photo of the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died in April 2015 after suffering an injury in police custody. Also pictured: Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 and Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland in 2014.

“Join us because we care,” the ad read. “Black Matters!”

Data released by the committee indicate that the advertisement — purchased with rubles — was initially placed in Maryland, Missouri, Virginia and Georgia beginning in mid-2015. It popped up on computer screens more than 200,000 times and attracted 12,127 clicks.

The ad was placed nationally months later and again in 2016. It received 55,761 clicks, in all.

While there is broad consensus that one of the goals of the Russian effort was to undermine confidence in American institutions — including law enforcement — there is less agreement about why so many ads were aimed at Maryland.

Russia has a long history of using “active measures” to exploit divisions, including attempts to exacerbate racial tensions. In the 1960s, the KGB authorized a plan to discredit the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by attempting to plant that suggested he was working for the U.S. government.

More recently, the Internet Research Agency and other Russian troll farms have targeted Georgia, Estonia and Ukraine with disinformation campaigns.

The “Black Matters” ad appears to be an early attempt at using social media in the United States. Of the small sample of ads released by the House Intelligence Committee, it was the earliest to appear.

Mark R. Jacobson is a former special assistant to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

“While the social media vectors are new, the operation to influence and persuade in support of broader political activities was refined during all these previous operations,” said Jacobson, now an associate professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.

“So in that sense I think the 2015 stuff could have very well been an intermediate step between the long history of political warfare and what we saw in 2016.”

The Gray ad clicked through to a Facebook page called “Black Matters US.” That page has been removed, but an apparently related website, <a href=”http://blackmattersus.com” rel=”nofollow”>blackmattersus.com</a>, remains online.

The website, registered anonymously in late 2015, describes itself as a “nonprofit news outlet.” It features commentary about the African-American community. Items about Baltimore and Gray begin by quoting or paraphrasing coverage in The Baltimore Sun before launching into opinion.

When Baltimore prosecutors dropped criminal charges last year against officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death, the website posted an article that cited coverage in The Sun, including a quote from State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and then opined that the decision “doesn’t come as a surprise.”

“The American criminal justice system has always been reluctant to prosecute officers, making up special circumstances surrounding the cases, in which these officers were involved,” an author identified as William Sanders wrote. “People are tired of such pretense and police being above the laws they impose on others.”

The website was also frequently and overtly critical of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. An item posted in October 2016, the month before the election, asserted that “Hillary’s deceptive plots to win the love of Black people in America just to gain power are gradually being brought to light.” Another piece was headlined “Hillary Clinton: A Candidate For the Corporate Elite.”

The most recent item posted to the site is from September. A request for information by The Sun submitted through the site’s “contact” form drew no response. An email address associated with the page did not work. Most of the social media accounts connected to the site have been taken down.

Just how much Maryland and the other states confronting racial tension were targeted by the ad campaign is unclear. Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said this month that Maryland received a notable share, particularly given that the presidential vote in the state wasn’t close.

“The three most heavily targeted states in America — Maryland, Missouri and New York — were all determined by at least 18-point margin,” the North Carolina Republican said during a committee hearing.

But in a brief interview later, Burr appeared to walk back that assertion.

“I didn’t say that they were the most targeted,” Burr said. “I used those as examples of how they were targeted at a higher level than [the battleground states] Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Burr has long contended the ads were more about dividing Americans than they were about presidential politics.

“From the standpoint of what we’ve seen in the ads and how they were designed and run, it was to create societal chaos,” Burr said. “That’s it.”

Asked about their impact, Burr pointed out that two Russian Facebook pages managed to organize dueling rallies outside a Houston mosque last year.

“When you see a picture of a rally with both sides in Texas, yeah, they were successful.”

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that the ad placed in Maryland probably had more to do with highlighting racial tension than helping to elect Trump. Trump entered the Republican primary in June of 2015, about a month before the ad began showing up in feeds.

Many of the national ads released by the House and Senate intelligence committees from 2016 focused on the election. One touted Trump rallies in Florida. Another depicted Jesus and Satan arm wrestling and suggested Satan was on Clinton’s side.

“Press ‘like’ to help Jesus win!” the ad read.

“In 2015 they were doing their own fishing expedition, trying to see what would stick,” Cardin said. “So they came into Maryland and they tried a tactic. It wasn’t terribly effective.

“I think they may very well have gone on to a different tactic.”

That’s the conclusion of several analysts.

Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has studied the Russian campaigns, told lawmakers in testimony this year that Russian online activities “shifted aggressively” toward the United States in late 2014 and throughout 2015. By the end of 2015, the effort “began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome” of the election.

Watts did not respond to several requests for comment.

Facebook has repeatedly declined requests from The Baltimore Sun for information about the ads placed in Maryland. The Gray ad released by the House Intelligence Committee is the only Russian ad aimed at Marylanders to have been shown to the public.

Without seeing more content, several analysts said, it’s difficult to pin down the motivations. The House Intelligence Committee has promised to make more ads public, but has not said when that will happen.

Thomas Rid is professor of strategic studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins.

“The 2015 targeting could have been a trial run, but we don’t know,” he said. “Soviet active measures started exploiting racial and ethnic tensions in the mid-1950s, and ripping open racial divisions has been a standard M.O. ever since.”

Unusual social media activity in Baltimore in 2015 caught the attention of a local cybersecurity firm. Days after the 2015 riots, the Federal Hill-based firm ZeroFox documented a flurry of accounts by users posing as Baltimoreans that had in fact been created in Russia, China and India.

Postings from those accounts appeared designed to deepen the divides exposed during the riots.

“I just killed a pig,” one Twitter user wrote alongside a photograph of a bloodied police officer. (It turned out the officer was from South America, not Baltimore.)

Another tweet, from an account impersonating the Baltimore Police Department, used a racial slur.

ZeroFox identified nearly 100 accounts impersonating police and city and state officials.The firm has not responded to requests for comment.

Another Facebook account known as Blacktivist promoted a rally in Baltimore last year to mark the one-year anniversary of Gray’s death. A Twitter account associated with the page reached out to journalists at The Sun and other outlets and sent a press release to reporters promoting the event.

Todd M. Rosenblum, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, is a nonresident senior fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

The Russian effort “was sophisticated to the point that they identified the standing social cleavages that existed in the nation,” he said.

“They were able to accurately assess what’s dividing Americans and what messages were going to cause an emotional reaction. There were a lot of pretty sophisticated creations.”

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign – Baltimore Sun
 

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Baltimore Sun
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
Baltimore Sun
Analysts say the ad and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election …and more »
Wednesday’s Morning Email: Latest Missile Launch From North Korea Appears To Put Entire Continental U.S. In Range
 

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Experts warn this is no longer a hypothetical.

‘Be advised he is an active shooter’: Police radio traffic reveals Costco terror – Kansas City Star
 

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Kansas City Star
‘Be advised he is an active shooter’: Police radio traffic reveals Costco terror
Kansas City Star
The first dispatch alerting police to Costco in Lenexa Sunday asked patrol officers to investigate a suspicious suspect But then the dispatcher added: The caller advises he is armed with a gun. Radio traffic captured by Broadcastify over the next and more »
Tampa police arrest suspect Howell Emanuel Donaldson III in Seminole Heights killings
 

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Tampa police seize gun, question person of interest in murder spree case

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Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said officials are investigating a tip about a person with a gun at a McDonald’s. (Tampa Police Department)

Authorities in Florida said Tuesday night that they have arrested the man responsible for a string of mysterious killings that left four people dead and shook frightened Tampa residents to their core.

The suspect, identified by Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan as Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, was picked up for questioning Tuesday after someone reported that he had been at a McDonald’s with a gun. Donaldson, 24, is believed to have worked at the fast food restaurant.

Donaldson was charged Wednesday with four counts of first-degree murder for the four fatal shootings, which began in early October in the Seminole Heights neighborhood and had stymied investigators — and terrified residents — for more than a month and a half.

The first three people were killed in an 11-day period, all within a one-mile radius.

The deaths drew the attention of national media as residents adjusted their daily routines. Foot traffic dried up, while people stopped lounging on their porches. Fear saturated the neighborhood, with talk of a serial killer.

Around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Tampa officials gathered reporters at a news conference to announce the arrest.

Earlier in the day, Dugan said he felt optimistic about a tip that had come through and led them to someone they had brought in for questioning.

“It just felt right,” he said. “I kind of had a feeling that we were going to get a break.”

The police chief began his remarks by listing the names of the victims.

Benjamin Mitchell, an aspiring musician and community college student, was shot while standing at a bus stop on Oct. 9.

Monica Hoffa, a 32-year-old waitress, was shot and killed two days later.

On Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, a 20-year-old whose family said he had a mild form of autism, was walking home when he was killed nearby, police said.

Then, a reprieve from the mysterious killings. It lasted 26 days, before police responded to a shooting call and found 60-year-old Ronald Felton dead in the street, blocks from the other slayings.

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11:05 AM 11/29/2017 – Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones

Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones

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Susan Walsh/AP

When Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater security firm, heads into a private meeting with staffers and members of the House intelligence committee on Thursday, the number-one topic will be a secret trip he made in January to the Seychelles islands to huddle with a Russian close to Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post, the rendezvous was arranged by the United Arab Emirates, where Prince moved in 2010 and formed a mercenary army for the regime, and this get-together was part of an attempt to set up a back-channel communication between Putin and Donald Trump, then the president-elect. The visit has drawn the attention of the FBI, which has been investigating contacts between Trump associates and Russia, but a Prince spokesman last April claimed the “the meeting had nothing to do with President Trump.”

There is much congressional investigators can ask Prince about. He has had a long, controversial career buckraking in the dark corners of the national security world. The brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, Prince has been an avid cheerleader for Trump (donating $250,000 to help elect him), an informal post-election adviser for Trump, and a pal of Stephen Bannon. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Bannon recruited Prince earlier this year to draft a plan that would replace US troops in Afghanistan with for-profit mercenaries—supplied, of course, by a military contractor like Prince. (The Pentagon said no thank you.) But perhaps the most important thing for intelligence committee members and staffers to keep in mind, as they try to pry information from Prince, is this: Prince is a fabricator.

During the election, the usually media-averse ex-Navy SEAL was a regular contributor to Breitbart News, the Bannon-backed far-right outlet, defending Trump and promoting conspiratorial swill.

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began posting emails stolen from John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s chairman. Earlier that day, the US intelligence community issued a statement declaring the Russian government was behind the hack-and-dumps targeting Democrats during the election. It noted that the posting of the stolen emails by WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 [an online persona named after a real-life Romanian hacker who went by the name of Guccifer] was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The statement also pointed a finger at Putin, asserting “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” Yet Prince joined Trump and his crew in denying there was any Russian connection to the hacking aimed at Democrats.

On the Breitbart radio show, he insisted the Podesta caper had nothing to do with Russian intelligence. He added, “The fact is, a Romanian hacker, Guccifer, is the guy who hacked the Clinton Foundation a few years ago. That guy is in prison. Before he went to prison, all of Sidney Blumenthal—Hillary’s adviser on Libya—all his emails were removed from Guccifer’s server, and those too have been leaking out. John Podesta’s emails, I can assure you, did not come from the Russians.” Prince was conflating a 2013 hack against a Clinton friend (Blumenthal) with the 2016 cyberattack on Podesta. Subsequent cyber-sleuthing has confirmed that Podesta was targeted and successfully spear-phished as part of a massive assault mounted by Russian military intelligence. Yet in the heat of the presidential campaign, Prince was pushing pro-Trump (and Putin-helping) disinformation.

In the same interview, Prince hyped one of the right-wing’s favorite anti-Clinton conspiracy theories. He claimed that Hillary Clinton had been complicit in “selling 20 percent of the United States’ uranium supply to a Russian state company.” And he went on: “I think the Clinton Foundation got a very nice spiff off of that, of $25 or $50 million,” meaning a pay-to-play payment. Prince was referring to what has now become the Uranium One scandal, which is not really a scandal. The transaction he referenced involved the acquisition of 20 percent of production capability, not the full supply, and there is no evidence that Clinton had any role in the US government approval process for this deal.

On an earlier Breitbart broadcast, Prince claimed that “due to a significant donation into the Clinton Foundation, the State Department ended up approving the sale of a company that owns 20 percent of the uranium in the United States, certainly a strategic fuel stock for us here, for nuclear energy production, and of course for nuclear weapons, if necessary. It’s now in the hands of a Russian state enterprise.” He was wrong here, too. The deal was approved not by the State Department, but by representatives of nine different federal agencies who sat on an interagency review board; there was no proven connection between a Clinton Foundation donation and the decision, and the uranium in question was not suitable for nuclear weapons.

During the campaign, the Clinton-gave-uranium-to-the-Russians-for-a-foundation-payoff tale was being enthusiastically peddled by Trump (who still has not let go of this faux scandal)—even though this accusation was fully debunked. And since the election, Republicans and conservatives have tried to use the Uranium One deal to deflect attention from the Trump-Russia scandal. Prince has been a loyal foot-soldier in this reality-bending, anti-Clinton propaganda effort.

Prince has gone even further in fueling the anti-Clinton fevers on the right. During a Breitbart radio appearance four days before the election, Prince, citing a “well-placed source” in the New York Police Department, said that emails discovered on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman then separated from Huma Abedon, a top Clinton aide, included evidence of Clinton perversion and criminality: “They found State Department emails. They found a lot of other really damning criminal information, including money laundering, including the fact that Hillary went to this sex island with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Bill Clinton went there more than 20 times. Hillary Clinton went there at least six times.” He maintained these emails held proof of “of criminal activity by Hillary, by her immediate circle, and even by other Democratic members of Congress.” He claimed that Abedin had “flipped.” If Clinton were to be elected, Prince warned, there would be a “constitutional crisis.”

Prince’s unsubstantiated comments were quickly embraced by far-right extremists pushing the particularly crazy Pizzagate conspiracy theory that claimed Clinton and Podesta were part of a covert pedophilia ring operating out of the basement of a Washington pizzeria. That day, conspiracy con-man Alex Jones, citing Prince’s interview, exclaimed, “When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton has personally murdered and chopped up and raped . . . yeah, you heard me right. Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children.” And WikiLeaks tweeted, “Astounding claims from Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater on Clinton & NYPD.” (A month later, a man armed with guns entered the pizzeria to investigate Pizzagate and fired several shots, harming no one, before he was arrested.)

Prince, once mostly known for owning a company that employed private military contractors who committed a 2007 massacre in downtown Baghdad, has become a fabulist who has used his national security credentials to dress up and legitimize the most outlandish and paranoid fantasies of the far right. (He also has recently considered challenging Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming as part of Bannon’s war on so-called establishment Republicans.) No matter what Prince says when he’s sitting before the interrogators of the House intelligence committee, they ought to remember this valuable guideline: consider the source.

Read the whole story
· · · · ·

Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones

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Mother Jones
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince?
Mother Jones
The brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, Prince has been an avid cheerleader for Trump (donating $250,000 to help elect him), an informal post-election adviser for Trump, and a pal of Stephen Bannon. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law  

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Dont Fall for the Hype: How the FBIs Use of Section 702 Really Works
 

All the cool kids these days oppose the FBIs so-called backdoor search loophole, which allows it to query information obtained under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  Lawmakers have jumped on the bandwagon: As Section 702 approaches its end-of-the-year expiration date, some members of Congress have introduced renewal legislation that would require the FBI to obtain a search warrant supported by probable cause before the FBI can view the contents of these communications.

At first glance, this might seem perfectly reasonable. Unfortunately, though, this proposal like almost of all critiques of the FBIs use of 702 data rest on incorrect factual premises of how 702 data is actually obtained, maintained, and accessed by the FBI, and on a lack of understanding of how FBI investigations work in general. This gap in understanding can have devastating consequences for both existing and new FBI cases. Let me tell you why.

The What.

The first thing to understand is what kind of 702 information the FBI actually has. Section 702 of FISA allows the NSA to conduct a programmatic surveillance program called PRISM. The parameters of PRISM, including how the NSA may target individuals and what can be shared with the CIA and FBI, are presented to and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and renewable annually.  PRISM allows the NSA to target non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located abroad based on selectors like an email address or a phone number (but not keywords or names) which will reasonably return foreign intelligence information.  In collecting these communications, the NSA will, by necessity, collect incidental communications, which include communications with non-target parties. Some of these incidental communications may include parties who are U.S. persons (USPERs), which under FISA are defined as U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents.

Only a subset of the total communications collected under PRISM is passed on to the FBI. Specifically, the NSA passes on to the FBI information collected on selectors associated with Full Investigations opened by the FBI. Full Investigations are the most serious class of investigations within the Bureau, and require the most stringent predicate to open: There must be an articulable factual basis that a federal crime has occurred or is occurring or a threat to national security exists.  (Two other investigative classifications, Preliminary Investigations and Threat Assessments, have lower thresholds to open and shorter time limits to remain open.) In other words, the NSA provides the FBI with communications from selectors that are directly linked to the most serious crimes or threats to national security currently being investigated by the FBI. According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the FBI receives about 4.3 percent of the NSAs total collection and since not every incidental communication will necessarily involve an USPER, the number of communications involving Americans are likely less than that.

The Where.

The second critical aspect in understanding the FBIs use of 702 data is how it is maintained and accessed by agents. Most criticisms of the FBIs backdoor loophole include language referencing the FBIs ability to search its 702 database. In this paradigm, there is presumably a stand-alone computer in the middle of each FBI office with a big sign that reads 702 DATABASE  and which agents can casually query on their way to and from the water cooler. As I have written previously, this is not how it works.

Any proper attempt to reform the FBIs access of 702 data must begin by recognizing that the FBI uses one database for all of its investigative functions. Beginning in 2011, the FBI developed a system called the Data Integration and Visualization System, or DIVS. The purpose of DIVS is to aggregate information from a number of different government databases into a single system, allowing for one-stop shopping across all government-collected data. For instance, visa applications and issuances from the Department of State, or information collected by the Department of Homeland Security, can now be accessed through DIVS, rather than having the FBI send time-consuming requests to each department (which, as I learned in practice, could disappear or simply end up in a bureaucratic pile somewhere and never processed). This followed from the 9/11 Commissions recommendation that the members of the Intelligence Community unify their knowledge in a network-based information sharing system that transcends traditional government boundaries. The point is for the government to have the ability to quickly connect the dots between information collected by various agencies on a single individual or related cases something that, had it been possible to do prior to 9/11, might have prevented that tragedy from taking place

As the DOJ explained to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015, Section 702 data provided to the FBI is included in DIVS and comingled with all other data that the FBI has the ability to query. Importantly, however, Section 702 data, is federated within DIVS: This means that while a query may return a 702 hit i.e., an indication that FISA-related information related to the queried selector exists neither the metadata nor the content of that communication is immediately accessible to all agents. Only agents who work national security cases, have gone through FISA training, and have the appropriate clearance levels may continue to access the full 702 data at this stage. Agents working ordinary criminal cases, who do not have this training and clearance, would need to have an agent with the appropriate FISA clearance access the 702 data, and only after obtaining approval from both her own supervisor and the national security agents supervisor to rerun the query.

Two important points follow from this system. First, when an agent conducts a query, she uses the DIVS system, which includes a host of non-702related information there is no such thing as doing an independent, 702-only  search, even just for surface connections between non-content selectors, or metadata. Second, and even more importantly, at the point at which the agent conducts the query, she does not know whether or not the search will result in a 702 hit.  These points are critical because any requirement that imposes an a priori restriction or hurdle on determining whether a subject is even associated with 702 metadata will, by definition, affect every query conducted by the FBI. Failure to understand this point can result in misguided policy proposals: Jake Laperruque, for example, has argued that the FBI should show a court that a metadata query is relevant to an ongoing investigation before conducting a search that might return even 702 metadata. This fails to recognize that not only is there no such thing as a metadata query, but adopting his policy would require the FBI to go to court for every single search its 14,000 agents conduct each day.

The How.

Lets now turn to how investigations work in practice. Its worth emphasizing here that unlike the CIA or NSA, whose primary mission is to collect and analyze intelligence, the FBI is a law enforcement agency. Although it may collect intelligence, that function is ancillary and supportive to its primary job of investigating and preventing violations of federal law and threats to national security.

Querying DIVS is, quite literally, the first and most basic thing the FBI does in its investigative sequence. Depending on the kind of information the search returns, an agent will then take the next prescribed step as outlined in the FBIs Domestic and Investigative Operations Guide (DIOG)until a case is either opened for further investigation, or the matter is resolved in the negative and closed. Every query, furthermore, is documented and placed in a case file. (If we learned anything from James Comey, its that the FBI puts everything down on paper.) In fact, every query conducted by the FBI is recorded and must be traceable back to an authorized purpose and a case file.  Agent queries are routinely audited, and a failure of an agent to provide an authorized purpose for conducting a query can be grounds for sanctions, suspension, or even termination.

Much of the criticism of the FBIs use of 702 centers around the fact that agents can query subjects in their databases even if there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. However, as any law enforcement official will tell you, criminals and spies dont show up on the doorstep of law enforcement with all of their evidence and motives neatly tied up in a bow. Cases begin with leads, tips, or new information obtained in the course of other cases. Often, the discrete pieces of information the FBI receives may not in and of themselves constitute criminal acts and the identifying information provided to the FBI may be incomplete. However, anytime the FBI receives a credible piece of information that could indicate a potential violation of the law or a threat to national security, it has a legal duty determine whether a basis for further investigation exists. It is for this reason that a query of its existing databases is essential before proceeding further.

A very basic example can help illustrate this in practice.  Lets say the FBI receives a call (as it did before 9/11) from an instructor at a flight school. The instructor advises the FBI agent taking the call that one of the students taking a flight class is behaving strangely: In particular, this student has paid the $8,000 tuition in all-cash, has no pilots license or commercial flight experience, and is only interested in learning how to take off, but not in how to land. (In case its not evident, none of these things are illegal, but taken together could indicate a motive for using an aircraft for other than its intended purpose including as a weapon of mass destruction.)  The caller provides the agent with the name of the student, and an email address and cell phone number the student used to register.

To investigate this lead, an agent will first document the lead (in this case, on a form called an FD-71). She will then query DIVS based on the information provided to see what, if any, data the FBI already has on this individual. The purpose of the query is to find out, among other things: Have other complaints ever been filed on this individual? Has this person ever been the subject of another case, or ever been interviewed by the FBI? Has this person been on the radar of another agency for any reason? Did this person enter the US on a visa, and if so, when was it issued and for how long?

As in this example, an agent may not even know, based on the limited information provided, whether or not the subject is a USPER at the time of making the initial query. (The agent may still not know after the results are returned.) Further, as noted above, because DIVS is an integrated system there is no way for an agent to know, at this stage, what kind of hits the query will return whether it is from Section 702, another agency, or its own case files. Lastly, any information returned from the query must be documented even if nothing turns up that warrants further action, the agent must write up the result and file it appropriately.

But lets take this example a step further. Lets say the initial query does return information. In particular, while the name turned up too many hits to correctly identify the individual (very common for names without a date of birth or social security number) and the cell phone returned no hits at all, the email address returns a 702 hit. What this tells the agent is that the email address used by the flight student is also linked to a Full Investigation the FBI has opened. The agent, however, cannot view the contents of the 702 data or the particular case or cases that individual may be linked to unless she is trained and has the clearance to look at FISA-related information, or two supervisors make a determination that the content of the 702 data will reasonably provide foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime related to their case.

The When.

Despite the checks, approvals, documentation, and firewalls that exist in the FBIs process, it is here where 702 critics (and pending legislation) argue that the FBI should go to a court and obtain a warrant before viewing the 702 communications. However, ask any lawyer whether an affidavit for a search warrant that says Target, who may or may not be a U.S. person, is behaving suspiciously in flight school and may be linked to another, unknown investigation in the FBI will constitute probable cause for a search warrant. The resounding answer youll get is: No. There is simply not enough evidence at this stage to demonstrate probable cause that the individual has committed or is committing a crime, and a warrant should rightly not issue.

In fact, phrases like just get a warrant fail to grasp that a warrant would never issue at such an early stage of any investigation. Search warrants are an investigative tool that is used after months, and sometimes years, of investigative activity this is why in the FBI they are only authorized for Full Investigations. FBI agents spend hundreds of hours interviewing witnesses and contacts, conducting surveillance, digging through trash, using undercover informants, and obtaining third-party records, among other techniques, to obtain evidence of a crime (or in the case of individual FISAs, acting as a foreign agent). Agents and prosecutors then spend weeks drafting affidavits that detail the evidence gathered to present to a court.  Ironically, a search warrant requirement for Section 702 suggests that agents should build a case and use even more aggressive and intrusive tactics against an individual simply to view a discrete set of communications it already has and that might ultimately be benign or even exculpatory. And if agents ever managed to get a warrant, the value of the 702 data which is that it provides real-time intelligence and case connections would be obviated by the time they looked at it anyway.

Essentially, a warrant requirement would effectively block the FBI from knowing the nature of the connection between a new lead and another serious crime or national security threat currently under investigation under its own roof. At the same time, the lead may not be pursued much further without knowing the contents of the 702 communications. By sealing off the contents of the 702 data, the FBI may not be legally able to do much more than some very limited additional checks on the complaint within a short period of time (this would be a Threat Assessment, also outlined in the DIOG). Unless these checks uncovered something significant enough to form a predicate to open an investigation, the matter would be closed. Reviewing the nature and content of the 702 communication, on the other hand, might open up several further investigative avenues: The new lead might provide a missing piece of information for the existing Full Investigation, for example, or identify connections across individuals not previously known, or suggest that the new subject could be a valuable intelligence source.

The truth is that few 702 hits are likely to come from over-the-transom tips like the one described above. They are more likely to come in the course of investigating new leads in already-open cases on criminal enterprises, terrorist networks, or foreign intelligence activity the kinds of cases where contacts with foreign targets are most likely to occur. Even as I write this, I have no doubt that the agents working on the investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election are relying at least in part on 702 data provided to the FBI to establish links between individuals in the United States and ongoing Russian counterintelligence investigations. Nevertheless, regardless of where in an ongoing investigation a new lead surfaces, an agent will always begin with a DIVS query it is the initial building block of FBI investigations.

A search warrant requirement for the FBI to view the contents of 702 data returned in the course of a standard investigative query would stymie cases like Muellers and other investigations currently open in the FBI.  Most importantly, it would leave the FBI in a position where one hand is unaware of what the other is doing, even within its own agency. This was precisely the kind of situation known then as the wall that led to the intelligence failures of 9/11 and that the Intelligence Community, under presidents of both parties, has sought to break down since. Adding unnecessary hurdles, based on a mischaracterization of the FBIs handling of this data and rudimentary understanding of its investigative process, would resurrect a new, and very dangerous, wall in the FBI.

Read on Just Security »

The Early Edition: November 29, 2017
 

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea launched an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) yesterday, according to North Korean state television the new missile was a Hwasong-15 and the test was personally ordered by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim was quoted as saying that the success of the launch signaled the realization of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

With this system, we can load the heaviest warhead and strike anywhere in the mainland United States, North Korean state television stated, a claim that falls in line with experts calculations about the latest launch, which achieved a longer flight time than any previous North Korean missile test and could theoretically reach Washington D.C.. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.

The I.C.B.M. reached a height higher than any North Korean missile had done before and was the first test since September 15, undermining hopes that the Pyongyang regime has been heeding the warnings of President Trump. James Griffiths reports at CNN.

It is a situation that we will handle, Trump said in response to the launch, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was more alarmist in his assessment, noting that the I.C.B.M. reached an unprecedented height and that it constituted a continued effort to build a threat a threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States. Mark Landler, Choe Sang-Hun and Helene Cooper report at the New York Times.

South Korea fired pinpoint missiles into the sea in response to Pyongyangs test, Mattis explained yesterday, the South Korean launch was confirmed by an official with South Koreas Joint Chiefs of Staff. Josh Delk reports at the Hill.

North Korea has not yet shown that it can mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a long-range missile, however Pyongyangs development of its technology strengthens the countrys hand in any future negotiations. Justin McCurry and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.

China is seriously concerned about and opposed to the latest missile launch, Chinas foreign ministry spokesperson said today, adding that it strongly urges Pyongyang to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and that all parties should act with caution. The AP reports.

The U.S. and Canada will convene a meeting of the U.N. Command to discuss a non-military solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced yesterday, saying in a statement that diplomatic options with North Korea remain viable and open, for now. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

The U.N. Security Council is due to hold an emergency session following the latest test which contravened international sanctions imposed on North Koreas nuclear weapons and missile programs. The BBC reports.

South Koreas President Moon Jae-in said in a phone call yesterday to President Trump that Pyongyangs missile technology seems to have improved, after the latest launch landed in waters off Japan. Reuters reports.

This is a further breach of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions, the Secretary General of N.A.T.O., Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement yesterday, condemning Pyongyangs actions. Reuters reports.

Were headed toward a war if things dont change, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned yesterday, saying that every test puts North Korea closer to conflict. Cristiano Lima reports at POLITICO.

Trump tried to connect the latest launch to domestic politics in a tweet yesterday however, in general, the presidents response was relatively muted in comparison to previous comments about the Pyongyang regime. Stephen Collinson provides an analysis at CNN.

The risk of war is greater than the public appreciates, Adam B. Ellick and Jonah M. Kessel warn at the New York Times, writing about the crisis following their recent trip to North Korea.

China should send troops to North Korea to reassure the country about resisting an attack and threats to overthrow the Pyongyang regime, a deployment that would mirror the position of U.S. troops in South Korea, and creating a constructive and symmetrical stance that would reduce the likelihood of war. Alton Frye writes at Foreign Policy.

SYRIA

The Syrian government yesterday agreed to a Russia proposed ceasefire in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the capital of Damascus, following two weeks of intense bombardment that has led to dozens of civilian deaths. The BBC reports.

The report of the Eastern Ghouta ceasefire deal came as opposition delegates gathered in Geneva for U.N.-backed talks on the Syrian peace process, representatives of the Syrian government are expected to arrive in Geneva today. Al Jazeera reports.

Turkey said that it would consider expanding its military operations in Syria to Western Aleppo and Afrin provinces, in a statement by Turkeys National Security Council yesterday, this would potentially bring its forces into confrontation with U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters. Reuters reports.

Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.) forces attacked a Turkish border post in Afrin province in Syria yesterday, according to private broadcaster C.N.N. Turk. The Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia are affiliated to the P.Y.D. and Turkey views the groups as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.), which is designated as a terrorist group in Turkey, the U.S. and the E.U., Reuters reports.

The previous rounds of U.N.-backed talks have been consistently disrupted, allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to score key military victories and, in each instance, Russia has provided cover for Assad, an example of how Russia has been dominating in its calculations while the U.S. has been absent if there are any breakthroughs in Geneva this week they would pave the way for Assads success as a result of immense Russian cynicism dressed up as realpolitik. Nic Robertson writes at CNN.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between November 24 and November 26. [Central Command]

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

There is no hollowing out, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday in response to criticisms about his reorganization of the State Department, saying that were keeping the organization fully staffed and adding that the reports of the restructuring made it sound like the sky was falling, which was offensive to employees at the department. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

Tillersons defense of the restructuring came after increasingly vocal complaints from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the secretary of state saying that many of the reports about the loss of diplomatic personnel are just false. Nahal Toosi reports at POLITICO.

Russia has been using malicious tactics against the U.S. and European allies, Tillerson said yesterday, saying that Russias actions are not the behaviors of a responsible nation and said any reset of relations would be out of reach while the situation in the Ukraine remains unaddressed. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

President Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday at an event commemorating the U.N. vote leading to the creation of the state of Israel, the move was promised by Trump throughout the 2016 campaign however a relocation would represent a break with longstanding U.S. policy. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

Trumps foreign policy is conducted with a view to a domestic audience based on celebrity populism, however this approach does not serve the nations interests, eschews the principles of postwar presidents of both parties, most Americans do not agree with the approach, and patriotic Republican and Democratic leaders must challenge Mr. Trumps foreign-policy destruction. The former World Bank president, U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state Robert B. Zoellick writes at the Wall Street Journal.

MICHAEL FLYNN

Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn promoted a controversial nuclear-power proposal in the Middle East within the White House, according to interviews with current and former government officials, individuals from the private-sector and documents describing the plan. Christopher S. Stewart and Rob Barry report at the Wall Street Journal.

Flynns advocacy for the proposal shortly after Trumps inauguration was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition, creating a potential conflict of interest. Greg Jaffe, Carol D. Leonnig, Michael Kranish and Tom Hamburger report at the Washington Post.

It appears that special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into Flynn includes his activities as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.) during the Obama administration, he was ousted from the D.I.A. in 2014. Thomas Frank and Jason Leopold report at BuzzFeed News.

The Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab yesterday pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, his testimony may have implications for Flynn due to Flynns dealings with the Turkish government and an alleged agreement with Turkey to kidnap the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of being the mastermind behind last years failed coup in Ankara. Katie Zavadski observes at The Daily Beast.

LIBYA

Ahmed Abu Khatalla, the Libyan man who was accused of being the mastermind behind the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in 2012, was found guilty of terrorism charges but was not found guilty of murder, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow report at the Washington Post.

The reports of apparent slave auctions in Libya have shone a spotlight on the country, highlighting the instability in the country since the collapse of Muammar Gaddafis regime in 2011Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.

IRAN

Saudi Arabia paints Iran as enemy because it wants to cover up their defeats in Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday, making the comments after the Saudi Crown Prince called Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the new Hitler of the Middle East. Reuters reports.

The Saudi minister for Gulf affairs Thamer al-Sabhan has been a key figure in the campaign to counter Iran, it is believed that he was behind the unexpected resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Nov. 4 which Hariri claimed was because of the destructive influence of Iran and its Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah ally and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans hawkish approach towards Iran is largely embodied and amplified in al-Sabhan. Bassem Mroue and Aya Batrawy explain at the AP.

The Trump administration is pushing a false pretext about Irans connections to al-Qaeda in a similar way to the Bush administrations lie about Iraqi President Saddam Husseins links to Osama bin Laden, and Trump is beating the drum for war in the Middle East. Mehdi Hasan writes at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Trump administrations new Afghanistan strategy increases the risks to U.S. troops as they are deployed to accompany Afghan army forces in an advisory role, the commander of the U.S. and N.A.T.O. forces in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. said yesterday. Missy Ryan reports at the Washington Post.

The man accused of carrying out last months attack in New York has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and terrorism, Sayfullo Saipov entered his plea deal yesterday, the BBC reports

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi called on his military to secure and stabilize Sinai within the next three months, in a speech today, adding that the forces can use all brute force necessary to combat the Islamist insurgency. Reuters reports.

Any attempts by the U.S. to impose further U.N. sanctions against South Sudan would likely be vetoed by Russia, the U.S. threatened to take further action yesterday however Russia said such a move would be counterproductive. Michelle Nichols reports at Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has been preparing to release Yemenis who were formerly detained in Guantánamo Bay, a move likely to be met by consternation by Trump, Molly OToole explains at Foreign Policy.

China has been quiet but relentless in its pursuit of becoming a global superpower, and its project has been aided by Trumps America First strategy, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

Read on Just Security »

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report – The Hill
 


The Hill
Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report
The Hill
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s 
Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn recordsFox News
Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA TenureBuzzFeed Newsall 29 news articles »

Robert Mueller gets ready to play the Art of No Deal

Donald Trump once famously released a book (ghostwritten entirely by someone else) called Art of the Deal. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is about to play a different game entirely, called the Art of No Deal. He gave a favorable deal to George Papadopoulos to get the ball rolling. He’s in the process of giving a deal to Michael Flynn because he’s so valuable. Now a whole lot of other people are suddenly going to want a deal, and some of them are going to be very disappointed.Robert Mueller only has two goals: to make Donald Trump answer for his crimes, and make sure justice is served when it comes to the overall Trump-Russia criminal scandal. Mueller will hand out as many plea deals as necessary in order to make sure Trump is nailed. He has to sell Trump’s guilt to the court of public opinion, so he’ll surely aim for redundancy. But that doesn’t mean he’s simply going to hand out a deal to anyone who wants one. In fact, each time Mueller hands out a deal, it means he needs the next cooperating witness all that much less. So who’s about to lose in all this?

In general, every player in the Trump-Russia scandal has less bargaining power now than they would have if they’d offered to cut a deal a week ago. Michael Flynn’s cooperation gets Mueller a long way toward proving that Donald Trump was conspiring with Russia to alter the outcome of the election. Some of the other people who fit the same description are probably screwed, because they can only offer Mueller what Flynn is already offering, and less of it.

The people most likely to get deals at this point are those who can prove Donald Trump guilty of additional crimes. Robert Mueller is trying hard to nail Trump for obstruction of justice, so there’s a good deal waiting for anyone who conspired with Trump to try to sabotage the investigation. Of course half a dozen or more advisers fit that description, and Mueller only needs one of them maybe two if he wants redundancy. Some of these people are simply screwed.

The post Robert Mueller gets ready to play the Art of No Deal appeared first on Palmer Report.

Trump telling friends Mueller probe will be done by end of year: report – The Hill
 


The Hill
Trump telling friends Mueller probe will be done by end of year: report
The Hill
Last month, Mueller indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a former Manafort associate, Richard Gates, on money laundering charges. George Papadapoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.and more »

New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
 


New York Magazine
New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional
New York Magazine
The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and 
Will Trump ever have to answer to the women who say he harassed and assaulted them?Los Angeles Times 
Donald Trump Reportedly Claims Access Hollywood Tape Wasn’t Authentic411mania.com

Does Trump Think The ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Is Fake? Here’s Every Single Thing He’s Said About ItBustle 
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Sarah Sanders Gleeful That CNN Won’t Be A Guest At White House Christmas Party

“Christmas comes early!” wrote the White House press secretary.
Suspect in New York truck attack pleads not guilty to murder and terrorism charges – PBS NewsHour
 


PBS NewsHour
Suspect in New York truck attack pleads not guilty to murder and terrorism charges
PBS NewsHour
It’s also the first time RICO which is usually employed in organized crime cases has been used in any of the 135 ISIS-related prosecutions in the U.S since 2014. The Saipov indictment describes the Islamic State’s terrorism enterprise whose 
MANHATTAN BIKE ATTACK WAS FUELED BY ISIS EmpireStateNews.net
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ISIS claims responsibility for New York City terror attack that killed 8CBS News
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 news articles »

Donald Trump is saying racist things about President Obama again, as Trump-Russia scandal panic sets in

In the five days since he learned that Michael Flynn is in the process of cutting a devastating plea deal against him, Donald Trump has unwittingly revealed that he’s in a total panic over the Trump-Russia scandal. We know this because he’s reached a new level of desperation when it comes to creating a distraction whether it be good or bad for himself in the hope of distracting the public, and maybe himself, from what’s about to happen to him. Now he’s circling back to his original line of nonsense.When Donald Trump dusted off the Access Hollywood “grab em by the…” tape earlier this week by suddenly questioning whether it was really his voice on that tape, it turns out that was merely a warm up act. Trump is now laying the groundwork for bringing back his earlier claim about President Obama having been secretly born in Kenya. No really, he’s going there.

Trump has begun privately questioning the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, according to a New York Times profile (link). More importantly, Trump’s own trusted confidantes are making a point of leaking this to the media. Trump’s team wants this to be a thing again, even though it worked against Trump in the general election, and he ultimately had to publicly admit that the controversy was never real. So why is Team Trump bringing this back?

The answer is fairly straightforward. Donald Trump, or at least his team, now believes that things are about to get very ugly – so ugly, in fact, that any sort of distraction is a welcome one. They’re dusting off Trump’s worst moments, from Access Hollywood to racist birtherism. That way, once the real scandals start hitting the headlines, whether it be from Flynn’s deal or something even uglier, those stories will have to fight for headline space with the nonsense he’s dredging up.

The post Donald Trump is saying racist things about President Obama again, as Trump-Russia scandal panic sets in appeared first on Palmer Report.

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10:08 AM 11/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of D.C.s swankiest mansions – The Washington Post

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of D.C.s swankiest mansions – The Washington Post

The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of DC’s swankiest mansions – Washington Post
Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition
The latest Trump-Russia investigation news, explained – Vox
Trump-Russia investigation news: the latest developments, explained
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Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA Tenure
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Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report – The Hill
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Trump Not a Liar, Is Truly Delusional
New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
Threat From North Korea No Longer Hypothetical, Arms Experts Warn
6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR
Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and Putin
Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of D.C.s swankiest mansions – The Washington Post
 

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How a Russian oligarch was behind an LLC that bought a Washington, D.C. mansion 

The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman explains how Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska was behind an LLC that bought a Washington, D.C. mansion. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

 

November 29 at 8:00 AM

When Washington’s grand Haft mansion near Embassy Row changed hands in 2006, it was one of the most expensive home sales in the history of the city — and one of its most mysterious.

The 23,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom home — featuring Italian marble floors and a chandelier that had once hung in the Paris Opera House — was sold by discount retail magnate Herbert Haft’s widow for $15 million in cash to a company incorporated in Delaware, according to filings. The buyer was never identified.

But interviews and documents reveal for the first time that the mansion is connected to a Russian billionaire who is a key ally of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort, the recently indicted former chairman of President Trump’s campaign.

The Washington Post found that for more than a decade, Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska has secretly held ties to one of Washington’s most prestigious addresses, a property in the heart of the city that is surrounded by powerful political figures and foreign embassies.

In May, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and her family purchased the home next door for $7.7 million. Vernon Jordan, a close adviser to President Bill Clinton, lives across the street.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska walk to attend the APEC Business Advisory Council dialogue in Danang, Vietnam, on Nov. 10. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AP)

Several people familiar with the mansion told The Washington Post that Deripaska was known to them as the property’s owner. He directed major renovations and has visited the house several times since 2010, they said. A New York-based company called Gracetown that oversees the property is run by a business associate of Deripaska’s, corporate filings show.

The stone edifice, ringed with security cameras, is located on less than an acre behind a high gate on a winding street near Embassy Row. It is less than half a mile from the Naval Observatory, the home of Vice President Pence, and about a mile from the Russian Embassy.

Some of the city’s most prominent figures live just on the other side of Rock Creek, including former president Barack Obama and Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, White House aides Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Charles Davidson, executive director of the Kleptocracy Initiative at the Hudson Institute, said the mansion is a striking example of how the world’s uber-wealthy can quietly invest in high-end real estate, obscuring their identities through front companies.

“This could be the most spectacular example of it yet — right in our midst,” he said.

Lawyers for Deripaska in New York and London and his spokeswoman in Moscow did not respond to requests for comment.

With a net worth recently estimated by Forbes at $5.2 billion, Deripaska, 49, is one of Russia’s richest men and considered part of Putin’s inner circle. A U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006, published by WikiLeaks, referred to Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”

News photographers captured images of Deripaska conferring with Putin earlier this month during trade meetings in Vietnam that were also attended by President Trump.

Deripaska is known to own a luxury yacht, a private plane and has held property in various cities such as Tokyo and London, according to news reports.

But he has fought to keep secret details of his assets in the United States. In a pending lawsuit in New York related to another Russian-born businessman’s claims that Deripaska owes him money, Deripaska has argued that his contact with the United States is too minimal for the state’s courts to assert jurisdiction over him. His lawyers successfully argued that hundreds of pages of documents that detail his business and his footprint in this country should be kept under seal, asserting they contain no “information that is of public interest or concern.”

However, public portions of the filings show that Deripaska said that he established a trust in the British Virgin Islands that purchased two homes in Manhattan — a $4.5 million townhouse in the West Village in 2006 and a different $42.5 million house on the Upper East Side in 2008. Each was purchased by separate companies controlled by the billionaire.

The Haft home was not mentioned in the public court documents. D.C. property records show it was purchased in 2006 by yet another entity: a limited-liability company incorporated that year in Delaware called Hestia International, named for the Greek goddess of home and hearth.

The seller was Myrna Ruben Haft, whose marriage to discount retail magnate Herbert Haft two weeks before his 2004 death had sparked headlines and legal action by his children. She had put the home on the market for $20 million.

In an interview, Haft said she did not know the identity of the buyer and had simply been thankful at the time that the sale was conducted quickly and discreetly. “The whole process was done very confidentially,” she said.

A man who answered the buzzer at the house’s gate last week referred questions about the property to a New York company called Gracetown Inc. A SUV parked in the home’s driveway is registered to Gracetown, public records show.

According to New York corporate records, Gracetown’s chief executive is a Graham Bonham-Carter, a second cousin to the actress Helena Bonham-Carter. He lives in London and, according to his LinkedIn profile, works for a company called Terra Services, which British regulatory filings show is owned by Deripaska. He did not respond to requests for comment sent through Facebook and LinkedIn.

People who have seen the mansion since the 2006 sale said the interior has been largely gutted and refurbished. D.C. construction permits show that the kitchen was remodeled and some of the house’s 11.5 bathrooms were overhauled in the last decade. In addition, the basement was redone, a rear terrace was reconstructed and a new pool and elevator were installed.

The mansion includes a cinema in the basement, a commercial-grade kitchen and a dining room that seats 16.

Deripaska got his start in the aluminum business, thriving in the Wild West days of 1990s post-Soviet capitalism. Since then, he has expanded his business empire into energy, agriculture and aviation.

He has also been a business associate of Manafort’s, paying the U.S. political operative to serve as an investment consultant after Manafort began work as a consultant in Ukraine in 2005.

In 2014, Deripaska filed suit in the Cayman Islands, alleging that Manafort had disappeared after taking nearly $19 million intended for investments and failing to account for the funds.

It is not clear how that dispute was settled, but last year, while serving as Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort wrote emails to a Russian former employee indicating he would be willing to conduct “private briefings” about the campaign for Deripaska. Manafort’s spokesman has said the emails were an innocuous effort to collect past debts, and Deripaska’s spokeswoman has said he never got the message and received no briefings. Deripaska has denied any involvement with the U.S. presidential election.

Deripaska’s lawyers said in court documents that he has been generally barred from visiting the United States because the U.S. government has refused to extend him visas — meaning he has not been able to visit his Washington home at will.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2007 that Deripaska’s visa struggles stem from suspicions that he had been involved in organized crime, an allegation he has long denied.

Putin has publicly bemoaned Deripaska’s visa problems and top Russian officials have routinely raised the matter in private meetings with their U.S. counterparts, according to former U.S. officials familiar with the appeals.

Deripaska did enter the United States a handful of times using a diplomatic passport, issued to him by the Russian government so he could help assist at summit meetings and other trade missions, according to documents filed in the New York court case.

People traveling on a diplomatic visa are generally barred from conducting personal business, said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Deripaska said in a 2016 court filing that he has had difficulty getting a visa to travel to the United States but used his diplomatic passport to visit New York 10 times since 2009.

People familiar with the D.C. home said that, on some of those trips, he also visited Washington, staying at the house and reviewing renovations.

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It is unclear when Deripaska most recently visited — and whether any of his neighbors know of his tie to the property.

Conway did not respond to requests for comment.

Jordan, a Washington lawyer who was a close friend of Bill Clinton and lives across the street from the mansion, said he did not know who owned the home.

“I get to look at it when I’m turning onto my street,” he said. “Nobody’s ever there. It seems like it’s abandoned. But they do a good job with the trees and the shrubbery.”

Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of DC’s swankiest mansions – Washington Post
 

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Washington Post
The Russian billionaire next door: Putin ally is tied to one of DC’s swankiest mansions
Washington Post
In a pending lawsuit in New York related to another Russian-born businessman’s claims that Deripaska owes him money, Deripaska has argued that his contact with the United States is too minimal for the state’s courts to assert jurisdiction over him. His  

Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition
 

mikenova shared this story .

WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are examining whether former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with senior Turkish officials just weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn would be paid to carry out directives from Ankara secretly while in the White House, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation.

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9:44 AM 11/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition |  The latest Trump-Russia investigation news, explained – Vox |  Trump-Russia investigation news: the latest developments, explained

Image: Erdogan and Gulen

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition | 

The latest Trump-Russia investigation news, explained – Vox | 

Trump-Russia investigation news: the latest developments, explained

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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition
 

mikenova shared this story .

WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are examining whether former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with senior Turkish officials just weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn would be paid to carry out directives from Ankara secretly while in the White House, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation.

Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference with the U.S. presidential election recently questioned witnesses about the alleged December 2016 meeting between Flynn and senior Turkish officials, two people knowledgeable with the interviews said. The questions were part of a line of inquiry regarding Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey.

Four people familiar with the investigation said Mueller is looking into whether Flynn discussed in the late December meeting orchestrating the return to Turkey of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who lives in the U.S. Additionally, three people familiar with the probe said investigators are examining whether Flynn and other participants discussed a way to free a Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the U.S. Zarrab is facing federal charges that he helped Iran skirt U.S. sanctions.

Mueller Probing Possible Deal Between Turks, Flynn During Presidential Transition 1:46

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Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

Related: Mueller Has Enough Evidence to Bring Charges in Flynn Investigation

The meeting allegedly took place at the upscale 21 Club restaurant in New York, just blocks away from Trump Tower, where Flynn was serving on the presidential transition team. Flynn was offered upwards of $15 million, to be paid directly or indirectly, if he could complete the deal, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

It is unclear how Flynn, as national security adviser, could have successfully carried out either alleged request. But any deal in which a government official would be bribed to secretly act on behalf of a foreign government could potentially constitute multiple federal crimes.

Investigators also are looking into what possible role Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, may have played in any such efforts. The younger Flynn worked closely with his father at his lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group.

Related: Flynn’s Son Is Subject of Federal Probe

In a statement, the elder Flynn’s lawyers, led by Robert Kelner, said that “out of respect for the process of the various investigations” regarding the 2016 campaign, they have avoided responding to every “rumor or allegation” in the media. “But today’s news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: they are false.”

The younger Flynn’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, declined comment.

Sources: Mueller Investigating Possible Flynn, Turkish Govt. Deal 2:23

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The elder Flynn was fired in February after just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser when it became public that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

NBC News reported Sunday that federal investigators looking into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in the investigation into Flynn.

The grand jury is continuing to interview witnesses with knowledge of Flynn’s business activities over the next week, two people familiar with the deliberations said.

Erdoğan has repeatedly pressed U.S. officials to extradite the cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Turkey blames Gülen for the attempted coup in that country in July 2016. Erdoğan also has repeatedly raised Zarrab’s case with U.S. officials.

Rudy Giuliani, who was a top Trump campaign surrogate alongside Flynn, is part of Zarrab’s defense team. The New York Times reported that Giuliani met with Erdoğan in late February and discussed an agreement under which Zarrab would be freed in exchange for Turkey’s help furthering U.S. interests in the region.

Image: Erdogan and GulenSpeaking to reporters after the meeting, Erdoğan said he had previously raised Zarrab’s case with then-Vice President Joe Biden and suggested Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, was acting on behalf of supporters of Gülen, according to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet. Trump fired Bharara this past March.

NBC News reported Sunday that federal investigators were looking into whether Flynn tried to push for the return of Gülen to Turkey once in the White House in exchange for millions of dollars, and that Trump administration officials asked the FBI to review the Gülen case anew. Officials said the FBI denied the request because Turkey had not provided any new evidence in the case, which was reviewed by the Obama administration.

Extradition requests are processed through the State Department and U.S. justice system and are not determined by the White House or other agencies.

The possibility of the multimillion-dollar deal involving Flynn and Turkey arose as investigators examined Flynn’s past dealings with foreign governments.

Flynn was paid $530,000 last year during the 2016 campaign for work he did during the campaign that the Justice Department says benefited the Turkish government. Flynn did not register as a foreign agent at the time, as is required in the U.S. for anyone working for a foreign government. His lawyer later said Flynn didn’t need to register because his client was a Turkish businessman not a government official, though he opted to do so retroactively.

According to Flynn’s Justice Department filing, his firm, Flynn Intel Group, was hired to gather information about Gülen, and to produce a short film about its findings.

The contract ended the day after Trump won the election.

As a top foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign at the time, and then as national security adviser, Flynn played a leading role in shaping Trump’s policy decisions on Turkey.

Among Flynn’s decisions as incoming national security adviser was telling the outgoing national security adviser, Susan Rice, not to move forward with a plan President Barack Obama approved to arm Syrian Kurds in the ISIS fight. Turkey opposed the plan.

Obama officials, who had notified Flynn of the plan in early January because it would continue on Trump’s watch, said they were surprised. Flynn said he didn’t trust Obama on the plan, which the Trump administration approved after he was fired as national security adviser.

The decision on arming the Kurds came several weeks after Flynn held that key meeting with Turkish officials where the alleged deal for a “grab fee” for Gülen was discussed.

The latest Trump-Russia investigation news, explained – Vox
 

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Vox
The latest Trump-Russia investigation news, explained
Vox
It’s been a relatively quiet period for the TrumpRussia investigation since news of its first indictments dropped in late October but a series of recent reports could give some clues about what special counsel Robert Mueller might do next. First 
Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Could Flynn Flip Topple Trump Over Russia Ruse?Slate Magazine (blog)
A key witness in Mueller’s Russia probe had ‘a lengthy conversation’ with Trump at Mar-a-LagoAOL
Why I Think Trump Is Finished (And My Work Is Done)GQ Magazine
National Review –The Ring of Fire Network
all 33 news articles »
Trump-Russia investigation news: the latest developments, explained
 

mikenova shared this story from Vox – All.

It’s been a relatively quiet period for the Trump-Russia investigation since news of its first indictments dropped in late October — but a series of recent reports could give some clues about what special counsel Robert Mueller might do next.

First, reports have indicated that President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn may at least be exploring the possibility of making a deal with Mueller’s team. The question of whether Flynn flips and gives Mueller incriminating information about other Trump officials or the president himself could turn out to be tremendously important.

Second, Mueller’s investigators have already interviewed several top current and former White House aides, and they plan to interview several more in the coming weeks, including White House counsel Don McGahn, communications director Hope Hicks, and a communications aide who’s worked closely with Jared Kushner.

Third, we learned this week that Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who had been charged with orchestrating a scheme to avoid Iran sanctions, has agreed to become a government witness as part of a plea deal. And while Zarrab’s prosecution is separate from Mueller’s probe, his name has intriguingly come up in recent reports about Flynn’s connections to the Turkish government.

Will Flynn flip?

With charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates filed — their trial is expected to begin in May 2018 — attention has turned to the other Trump associate who’s appeared to be in very serious legal jeopardy: Michael Flynn.

Flynn has reportedly been under investigative scrutiny for a plethora of matters — ranging from whether he made false statements about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition to whether he properly disclosed payments he received from Russian and Turkish interests to the broader matter of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

NBC News reported back on November 5 that, per “multiple sources familiar with the investigation,” Mueller had enough evidence to bring charges in the Flynn investigation — and that those charges could implicate Flynn’s son Michael Flynn Jr. of wrongdoing as well.

And over the ensuing days, reports suggested that the Flynns were in even more legal trouble than had previously been known. In particular, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller’s team was investigating whether the pair had agreed to try to remove Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen from the country in exchange for payments of millions of dollars. (Flynn’s lawyer issued a statement denying the story.)

Then last week, the New York Times reported that Flynn’s lawyers had informed President Trump’s legal team that they could no longer share information about Mueller’s case. This was interpreted as a sign that Flynn’s team was exploring making a plea deal, in which he’d provide information in return for leniency in charging or sentencing (either for himself or for his son).

The most recent development is that on Monday morning, Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner met with Mueller’s team, according to ABC News. It’s still not entirely confirmed that they’re discussing a cooperation deal, but it appears to be a strong possibility. Whether they’ll arrive at such a deal and what it might entail remains unclear.

More White House aides will reportedly be interviewed soon

Don Emmert/AFP/GettyBut Mueller’s team isn’t only investigating what happened during the campaign. They’re also looking into whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice once in office — and they’re asking White House staffers to give sworn statements about what they might know.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller — who is very close to both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team, CNN reported. Former White House aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer were both questioned in October.

At these sessions, aides were reportedly questioned about Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey earlier this year, and about the White House’s response to Russia-related news stories.

Now at least three other aides are reportedly next on the docket for questioning: communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, and communications aide Josh Raffel.

Hicks has been part of Trump’s inner circle since he launched his campaign and could have useful information about a host of matters, both from before the election and now. McGahn, meanwhile, will probably be asked about just what he did after he was told that Flynn had been giving false information about his contacts with Russians, as well as other matters.

But Mueller’s interest in interviewing Raffel, an aide with a much lower profile, is particularly interesting. That’s because Raffel is best known for working closely with Jared Kushner — which could suggest that Mueller is closely scrutinizing Kushner’s activities.

The curious case of Reza Zarrab

Ozan Kose/AFP/GettyFinally, there’s been a major new development in a news story that’s a bit far afield from Mueller’s investigation — but that could turn out to be related to it.

This is the separate case of Reza Zarrab, an extremely wealthy 34-year-old gold trader who has dual Turkish-Iranian citizenship and close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inner circle.

Federal prosecutors indicted Zarrab in 2016 for what they alleged was his participation in a massive scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran by shipping gold to the country in exchange for oil and natural gas. Prosecutors also allege that high-ranking Turkish government officials were involved and took millions of dollars worth of bribes. Nine people were eventually indicted, but only two — Zarrab and banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla — were ever in US custody.

It’s long been clear that Erdogan really, really did not want Zarrab’s prosecution to go forward — and he’s waged what the Washington Post’s David Ignatius called an “extraordinary” campaign to try to stop it. This included public denunciations of the charges as a plot against his regime, private lobbying of Presidents Obama and Trump (and other administration officials) to try to get Zarrab released, and an unusual meeting in Turkey with Rudy Giuliani (who’d joined Zarrab’s legal team earlier this year). The obvious explanation, of course, is that Erdogan fears Zarrab could implicate his own close associates or family members.

The Turkish president’s effort to get Zarrab off the hook, it’s now clear, has failed. Zarrab has become a cooperating witness for the US government as part of a plea deal, a prosecutor confirmed in court Tuesday. He is expected to take the stand on Wednesday as the case moves forward.

What could tie this matter to Mueller’s probe, though, is a potential connection to Michael Flynn.

Flynn has already admitted that he was paid by Turkish interests while advising Trump during the presidential campaign. But recent reports have suggested that Mueller’s team is examining whether Flynn continued to act on Turkey’s behalf during the transition, when he was the national security adviser-in-waiting, and during his brief stint in the White House before his firing in February — and whether he may have been promised millions of dollars in return.

A meeting Flynn had with Turkish officials in mid-December 2016 has come under particular investigative scrutiny. That was the meeting where participants may have discussed a potential deal to deliver Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric opposed to the regime who lives in the US, into Turkish custody, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But NBC News’s Carol Lee and Julia Ainsley added the detail that Zarrab’s case may have been discussed as well. They reported that “Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.”

We don’t yet know whether Flynn did anything untoward here, or whether Zarrab would even know about it if he did. Still, Zarrab’s testimony this week will surely be closely watched — by both Erdogan’s government and the Trump administration.

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North Korea Fires a Ballistic Missile, in a Further Challenge to Trump
 

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North Korea said Wednesday that it had successfully tested its Hwasong-15, a newly developed ICBM that it said could deliver heavy nuclear warheads anywhere in the continental United States.

The country called the new missile its “most powerful” ICBM, saying it “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system” North Korea has been developing for decades. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, watched the launch, a broadcaster said, reading a prepared statement on the North’s Central Television.

Experts said this latest launch — which landed west of the northern end of Honshu, Japan’s largest island — exhibited characteristics that underscored the increasing sophistication of North Korea’s program.

The missile flew higher and for a longer duration than two previous intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which flew for 37 minutes on July 4 and for 47 minutes on July 28.

David Wright, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile performed better than the two fired in July, and exhibited a potential range of more than 8,000 miles, able to reach Washington or any other part of the continental United States.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Dr. Wright said of the test flight. “This is building on what they’ve done before. It’s muscle-flexing to show the U.S. that they’re going to continue to make progress.”

However, Dr. Wright noted that in an effort to increase the vehicle’s range, the North Koreans might have fitted it with a mock payload that weighed little or next to nothing. So the distance traveled, while impressive, does not necessarily translate into a working intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a thermonuclear warhead.

For all the evidence of technical advancements, a senior White House official said the significance of the launch should not be overstated, given the number of missile tests North Korea has carried out this year. The White House had expected some form of retaliation after it put the North back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism last week.

Mr. Trump, officials said, will stick to his policy of rallying nations to apply economic pressure on North Korea, backed up by the threat of military action. In a statement, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson condemned the launch. But he added, “Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now.”

The launch came in the middle of the night on the peninsula, with less advance warning, according to experts. Aerial photographs of North Korean launch sites did not show missiles waiting on launchpads to be fueled, although Japanese officials had reported that radio telemetry pointed to a possible launch.

Some experts theorized that North Korea was now fueling missiles horizontally, before they are placed on the launchpad. In the past, it went through a lengthier process of rolling a missile onto a launchpad, filling it with liquid fuel and then launching it — steps that could take days.

Six systems that North Korea needs to master to achieve a long-sought goal: being able to reliably hit the United States.

OPEN Graphic

“This shortens the time from when they become visible to when they go in the air, and makes it less likely that the U.S. will be able to strike before it launches,” said Rodger Baker, a vice president of strategic analysis with Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

American officials offered no proof of the horizontal fueling theory, but they acknowledged that North Korea is searching for ways to get around the United States’ ability to mount a pre-emptive strike.

Mr. Mattis noted that South Korea had fired several “pinpoint missiles” into the water after the launch “to make certain North Korea understands that they could be taken under fire by our ally.”

Although it was the third time that the South had fired missiles in response to a North Korean missile test, this response was more muscular, officials said, with South Korea firing from a land-based missile battery, a Navy destroyer and an F-16 fighter jet. It was meant to show that the South had multiple ways of hitting a North Korean missile on the launchpad in a pre-emptive strike, according to South Korean military officials.

After the launch, the United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on the issue for Wednesday afternoon.

Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that the launch appeared to be “yet again, a reckless act by a regime which is more intent on building up its ballistic missile nuclear capability than it is on looking after its own people.”

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan each called meetings of their national security councils to discuss the North’s latest provocation. Mr. Trump called both leaders on Tuesday, at their request, according to the White House.

Unlike the launches over the summer, when the missiles flew over Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, the government did not issue cellphone alerts to warn its citizens.

In Washington, a spokesman for the Defense Department, Col. Robert Manning of the Army, said that the launch “did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies,” and added that the American commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad.”

Mr. Trump, who has in the past insulted Mr. Kim and threatened “fire and fury” that would “totally destroy” that country, avoided threats of military retaliation against the North on Tuesday. But he did not hesitate to use the specter of a military confrontation in Asia as leverage against the Democrats in the budget wars in Washington.

The missile launch, he predicted, would “have a huge effect on Schumer and Pelosi,” referring to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the chambers’ Democratic leaders, both of whom boycotted his budget meeting.

“If you look at the military, we want strong funding for the military,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t.”

North Korea has persisted in its nuclear weapons and missile development despite nine rounds of sanctions that the Security Council has imposed since its first nuclear test in 2006.

This year, the North has increased the frequency and daring of its missile tests, sending two missiles over Japan in August and September, while demonstrating technical progress that suggested it had developed the ability to strike the continental United States.

In the wake of a Sept. 3 underground nuclear test — the sixth by North Korea — the United Nations Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions against the country.

In the nearly three months since that test, as leaders of North Korea and the United States have exchanged insults, the world has braced for another show of force by the North.

Mr. Trump warned that if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies, Washington would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” and he mockingly referred to Mr. Kim as “rocket man.”

Mr. Kim responded by calling Mr. Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” and his foreign minister later warned that Mr. Kim could order the test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

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The Early Edition: November 29, 2017
 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea launched an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) yesterday, according to North Korean state television the new missile was a Hwasong-15 and the test was personally ordered by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim was quoted as saying that the success of the launch signaled the realization of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

With this system, we can load the heaviest warhead and strike anywhere in the mainland United States, North Korean state television stated, a claim that falls in line with experts calculations about the latest launch, which achieved a longer flight time than any previous North Korean missile test and could theoretically reach Washington D.C.. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.

The I.C.B.M. reached a height higher than any North Korean missile had done before and was the first test since September 15, undermining hopes that the Pyongyang regime has been heeding the warnings of President Trump. James Griffiths reports at CNN.

It is a situation that we will handle, Trump said in response to the launch, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was more alarmist in his assessment, noting that the I.C.B.M. reached an unprecedented height and that it constituted a continued effort to build a threat a threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States. Mark Landler, Choe Sang-Hun and Helene Cooper report at the New York Times.

South Korea fired pinpoint missiles into the sea in response to Pyongyangs test, Mattis explained yesterday, the South Korean launch was confirmed by an official with South Koreas Joint Chiefs of Staff. Josh Delk reports at the Hill.

North Korea has not yet shown that it can mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a long-range missile, however Pyongyangs development of its technology strengthens the countrys hand in any future negotiations. Justin McCurry and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.

China is seriously concerned about and opposed to the latest missile launch, Chinas foreign ministry spokesperson said today, adding that it strongly urges Pyongyang to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and that all parties should act with caution. The AP reports.

The U.S. and Canada will convene a meeting of the U.N. Command to discuss a non-military solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced yesterday, saying in a statement that diplomatic options with North Korea remain viable and open, for now. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

The U.N. Security Council is due to hold an emergency session following the latest test which contravened international sanctions imposed on North Koreas nuclear weapons and missile programs. The BBC reports.

South Koreas President Moon Jae-in said in a phone call yesterday to President Trump that Pyongyangs missile technology seems to have improved, after the latest launch landed in waters off Japan. Reuters reports.

This is a further breach of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions, the Secretary General of N.A.T.O., Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement yesterday, condemning Pyongyangs actions. Reuters reports.

Were headed toward a war if things dont change, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned yesterday, saying that every test puts North Korea closer to conflict. Cristiano Lima reports at POLITICO.

Trump tried to connect the latest launch to domestic politics in a tweet yesterday however, in general, the presidents response was relatively muted in comparison to previous comments about the Pyongyang regime. Stephen Collinson provides an analysis at CNN.

The risk of war is greater than the public appreciates, Adam B. Ellick and Jonah M. Kessel warn at the New York Times, writing about the crisis following their recent trip to North Korea.

China should send troops to North Korea to reassure the country about resisting an attack and threats to overthrow the Pyongyang regime, a deployment that would mirror the position of U.S. troops in South Korea, and creating a constructive and symmetrical stance that would reduce the likelihood of war. Alton Frye writes at Foreign Policy.

SYRIA

The Syrian government yesterday agreed to a Russia proposed ceasefire in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the capital of Damascus, following two weeks of intense bombardment that has led to dozens of civilian deaths. The BBC reports.

The report of the Eastern Ghouta ceasefire deal came as opposition delegates gathered in Geneva for U.N.-backed talks on the Syrian peace process, representatives of the Syrian government are expected to arrive in Geneva today. Al Jazeera reports.

Turkey said that it would consider expanding its military operations in Syria to Western Aleppo and Afrin provinces, in a statement by Turkeys National Security Council yesterday, this would potentially bring its forces into confrontation with U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters. Reuters reports.

Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.) forces attacked a Turkish border post in Afrin province in Syria yesterday, according to private broadcaster C.N.N. Turk. The Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia are affiliated to the P.Y.D. and Turkey views the groups as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.), which is designated as a terrorist group in Turkey, the U.S. and the E.U., Reuters reports.

The previous rounds of U.N.-backed talks have been consistently disrupted, allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to score key military victories and, in each instance, Russia has provided cover for Assad, an example of how Russia has been dominating in its calculations while the U.S. has been absent if there are any breakthroughs in Geneva this week they would pave the way for Assads success as a result of immense Russian cynicism dressed up as realpolitik. Nic Robertson writes at CNN.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between November 24 and November 26. [Central Command]

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

There is no hollowing out, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday in response to criticisms about his reorganization of the State Department, saying that were keeping the organization fully staffed and adding that the reports of the restructuring made it sound like the sky was falling, which was offensive to employees at the department. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

Tillersons defense of the restructuring came after increasingly vocal complaints from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the secretary of state saying that many of the reports about the loss of diplomatic personnel are just false. Nahal Toosi reports at POLITICO.

Russia has been using malicious tactics against the U.S. and European allies, Tillerson said yesterday, saying that Russias actions are not the behaviors of a responsible nation and said any reset of relations would be out of reach while the situation in the Ukraine remains unaddressed. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

President Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday at an event commemorating the U.N. vote leading to the creation of the state of Israel, the move was promised by Trump throughout the 2016 campaign however a relocation would represent a break with longstanding U.S. policy. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

Trumps foreign policy is conducted with a view to a domestic audience based on celebrity populism, however this approach does not serve the nations interests, eschews the principles of postwar presidents of both parties, most Americans do not agree with the approach, and patriotic Republican and Democratic leaders must challenge Mr. Trumps foreign-policy destruction. The former World Bank president, U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state Robert B. Zoellick writes at the Wall Street Journal.

MICHAEL FLYNN

Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn promoted a controversial nuclear-power proposal in the Middle East within the White House, according to interviews with current and former government officials, individuals from the private-sector and documents describing the plan. Christopher S. Stewart and Rob Barry report at the Wall Street Journal.

Flynns advocacy for the proposal shortly after Trumps inauguration was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition, creating a potential conflict of interest. Greg Jaffe, Carol D. Leonnig, Michael Kranish and Tom Hamburger report at the Washington Post.

It appears that special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into Flynn includes his activities as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.) during the Obama administration, he was ousted from the D.I.A. in 2014. Thomas Frank and Jason Leopold report at BuzzFeed News.

The Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab yesterday pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, his testimony may have implications for Flynn due to Flynns dealings with the Turkish government and an alleged agreement with Turkey to kidnap the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of being the mastermind behind last years failed coup in Ankara. Katie Zavadski observes at The Daily Beast.

LIBYA

Ahmed Abu Khatalla, the Libyan man who was accused of being the mastermind behind the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in 2012, was found guilty of terrorism charges but was not found guilty of murder, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow report at the Washington Post.

The reports of apparent slave auctions in Libya have shone a spotlight on the country, highlighting the instability in the country since the collapse of Muammar Gaddafis regime in 2011Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.

IRAN

Saudi Arabia paints Iran as enemy because it wants to cover up their defeats in Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday, making the comments after the Saudi Crown Prince called Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the new Hitler of the Middle East. Reuters reports.

The Saudi minister for Gulf affairs Thamer al-Sabhan has been a key figure in the campaign to counter Iran, it is believed that he was behind the unexpected resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Nov. 4 which Hariri claimed was because of the destructive influence of Iran and its Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah ally and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans hawkish approach towards Iran is largely embodied and amplified in al-Sabhan. Bassem Mroue and Aya Batrawy explain at the AP.

The Trump administration is pushing a false pretext about Irans connections to al-Qaeda in a similar way to the Bush administrations lie about Iraqi President Saddam Husseins links to Osama bin Laden, and Trump is beating the drum for war in the Middle East. Mehdi Hasan writes at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Trump administrations new Afghanistan strategy increases the risks to U.S. troops as they are deployed to accompany Afghan army forces in an advisory role, the commander of the U.S. and N.A.T.O. forces in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. said yesterday. Missy Ryan reports at the Washington Post.

The man accused of carrying out last months attack in New York has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and terrorism, Sayfullo Saipov entered his plea deal yesterday, the BBC reports

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi called on his military to secure and stabilize Sinai within the next three months, in a speech today, adding that the forces can use all brute force necessary to combat the Islamist insurgency. Reuters reports.

Any attempts by the U.S. to impose further U.N. sanctions against South Sudan would likely be vetoed by Russia, the U.S. threatened to take further action yesterday however Russia said such a move would be counterproductive. Michelle Nichols reports at Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has been preparing to release Yemenis who were formerly detained in Guantánamo Bay, a move likely to be met by consternation by Trump, Molly OToole explains at Foreign Policy.

China has been quiet but relentless in its pursuit of becoming a global superpower, and its project has been aided by Trumps America First strategy, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

Read on Just Security »

Mike Flynn – Google Search
 

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<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>Nov 27, 2017

Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA Tenure
 

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WASHINGTON — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to be under investigation for his activities while he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, according to a letter the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The disclosure suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking more broadly than previously thought at Flynn, whom President Donald Trump fired in February after 24 days as his top security adviser.

Mueller’s investigation previously has been reported to include a probe of Flynn’s activities after he was ousted from the DIA in 2014 and traveled to Russia, lobbied for the Turkish government, and joined Trump’s presidential campaign. Until now, however, there has been no indication that Mueller was looking into Flynn’s two-year tenure as head of the nation’s leading producer of foreign military intelligence.

The DIA suggested otherwise in a Nov. 15 letter to BuzzFeed News that denied a reporter’s three-year-old request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations, and other records related to his work as the agency’s director. The letter to reporter Jason Leopold says that releasing Flynn’s records could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.”

The letter does not describe the investigative activities, and a DIA spokesperson declined to elaborate. Federal law allows government agencies to withhold from the public “investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes.”

Legal experts said the letter is the first public indication that Mueller is investigating Flynn’s stormy leadership period at the DIA, which ended when he was forced to retire earlier than planned amidst criticism over his leadership.

“It certainly suggests that Flynn is being investigated not just for conduct that postdated his departure” from the DIA, said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.

“I think there has been this suspicion since during the [2016] campaign that for all his plaudits and achievement, General Flynn has been part of some pretty shady dealings,” Vladeck said. “I don’t think it’s shocking if some of those dealings in fact predated his departure from the government.”

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment.

It is unclear what Mueller might be investigating about Flynn when he ran the DIA. Although Flynn was reported to have been forced out after clashing with other Defense Department leaders, there has been no public indication of scandal or criminal activity during his 33-year military career. He retired as an Army lieutenant general.

Mueller might simply be casting a wide net, said Jens David Ohlin, a criminal law professor at Cornell Law School. “You could imagine a scenario where Mueller’s team is doing their due diligence and wants all his emails during this period because they’re investigating his relations with Russia and Turkey,” Ohlin said.

Or Mueller could be looking into any possible conspiracy involving Flynn that may have started years ago, Ohlin said.

“Conspiracies sometimes exist for months, if not years,” Ohlin said. “It’s certainly possible that he could have committed a crime and is being investigated for a crime after his government service, but there is a lot of evidence going back to when he was in government service. That doesn’t necessarily mean a crime occurred while he was a government employee.”

In 2015, more than a year after he left the DIA and shortly before he joined the Trump campaign, Flynn was paid $33,000 to speak at a gala in Moscow where he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2016, after joining the Trump campaign, Flynn was paid $530,000 by a Turkish businessperson for advocacy work in the US on behalf of the Turkish Republic. Flynn’s initial failure to disclose his work has exposed him to possible criminal charges similar to those Mueller has brought against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

During the transition period after Trump’s election, Flynn spoke several times with Russia’s US ambassador but lied about those exchanges to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence. Trump fired Flynn when Flynn’s misleading of Pence became public.

The DIA sent its denial letter to BuzzFeed News at roughly the same time that Flynn’s lawyers told Trump’s legal team that they would no longer share information about Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump associates. The notification by Flynn’s lawyers suggests that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller as he investigates whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton.

Leopold, the reporter, had requested records pertaining to Flynn on May 1, 2014, while Flynn was still in charge of the DIA but a day after the Washington Post reported that he was being forced to retire because of his management style and resistance within the agency to his plans for change.

In denying Leopold’s request, the DIA said its refusal is not necessarily “long-term” and that it will “reassess future requests” for records pertaining to Flynn “at the conclusion of the present investigative activity.” There was no immediate explanation for the delay in responding Leopold’s request.

DIA spokesperson Navy Cmdr. William Marks said he did not know how long the investigation would take. “Some investigations take years, some only take a few weeks,” he said.

Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn records
 

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WASHINGTON –  The Defense Intelligence Agency is refusing to publicly release a wide array of documents related to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, saying that turning them over could interfere with ongoing congressional and federal investigations.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former DIA director, is currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees. They are scrutinizing his private consulting work for a Turkish businessman as well as his activities related to Russia during President Donald Trump’s campaign and the early days of the Trump administration. The Defense Department’s inspector general also is investigating Flynn’s receipt of foreign payments as a retired military officer.

In a series of letters dated Nov. 15, the DIA denied several Freedom of Information Act requests filed over the past year by The Associated Press seeking information about Flynn’s tenure at the DIA from 2012 to 2014. The AP requests sought Flynn’s public and private calendars, his correspondence while at DIA and a specific listing of documents related to his security clearance that the agency provided to Congress earlier this year. Two of the AP’s requests were filed before Mueller’s appointment and one of those was filed the day before Trump took office.

In the letters, Alesia Y. Williams, DIA’s chief FOIA officer, said she would not release any requested records because they “could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities.” Williams also indicated this was part of a coordinated effort within the Defense Department to withhold public documents related to Flynn that could be related to ongoing federal and congressional probes.

BuzzFeed News also reported Tuesday that it had received a similar denial for records related to Flynn. The BuzzFeed request was nearly three years old.

Messages left with DIA spokesmen Tuesday afternoon weren’t immediately returned.

The agency’s decisions came about a week before Flynn’s lawyers informed Trump’s legal team that they would no longer share information about Mueller’s investigation — a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate or possibly negotiate a deal with prosecutors. Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, has declined to comment on the status of the investigation or the move to cut off contact with the president’s legal team.

It’s unclear how long the Defense Intelligence Agency will continue to bar public access to Flynn-related documents, according to the letters.

Williams said the agency would continue to withhold records related to Flynn until the “conclusion of the present investigative activity.” But the letters do not indicate how agency officials would determine when the investigation concluded. Instead, Williams put the burden on members of the public who seek records, saying they should submit a new request when they “believe it is likely that the investigation has concluded.”

Flynn faces a number of legal troubles on multiple fronts.

The special counsel and congressional committees have been scrutinizing Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the presidential transition and the campaign. He has also been under federal investigation for nearly a year over lobbying and investigative research work his firm, Flynn Intel Group, performed for a Turkish businessman. Flynn’s firm was paid $530,000 for a lobbying effort that sought to gather information that could support a criminal case against a Turkish cleric living in the U.S. Flynn also wrote an op-ed promoting Turkish government talking points attacking the cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

After his forced resignation from his White House post, Flynn and his firm registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, acknowledging his work could have benefited the government of Turkey and should have been disclosed to the government. But since that registration, prosecutors and FBI agents working for Mueller have been investigating whether the Turkish government was directing the lobbying work and not the private company that Flynn cited in his filing with the Justice Department. Investigators have also been looking into Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., who worked alongside his father, and Flynn’s business partner, Bijan Kian.

Flynn has also faced scrutiny over his truthfulness on government forms and in interviews with federal investigators.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this year that Flynn was the target of a federal investigation into his contacts with Russia and whether he lied to agents about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. In his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, Comey said it was that investigation into Flynn that Trump pressured him to “let go” in the Oval office. Through his lawyers, the president has denied pressuring Comey.

Separately, congressional Democrats have said they believe Flynn lied about his foreign contacts and travel on his security clearance paperwork related to a proposal to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East.

The former Republican chairman and the top Democrat on a House oversight committee have also said they believe Flynn broke federal law by not getting government permission to receive tens of thousands of dollars in payments from RT, the Russian state-sponsored television network. The receipt of those foreign payments is currently under scrutiny by the Defense Department’s inspector general, though he would likely only face civil penalties if investigators found Flynn had violated the law.

__

Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.

__

Follow Chad Day on Twitter: <a href=”https://twitter.com/ChadSDay” rel=”nofollow”>https://twitter.com/ChadSDay</a>

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report | TheHill
 

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Mueller may be looking at Flynn's time as DIA chief: report
© Greg Nash

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynnmay be under investigation for his activities during his tenure at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under former President Obama, according to a letter from the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The letter, which came in response to a 2014 Freedom of Information Act request, denied a BuzzFeed reporter’s request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations and other records from his time heading the DIA, saying that releasing the documents could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.”

“Upon review of your request, I have determined that the release of potentially responsive records concerning LTG Flynn could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities,” it reads.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s financial ties to Russia and Turkey.

But according to BuzzFeed, the DIA’s letter denying the records request suggests that Mueller is also looking into Flynn’s activities while he served as the agency’s director from 2012 to 2014.

The letter does not detail any potential investigative activities. But federal agencies are allowed to withhold requested documents from the public if they are compiled for law enforcement purposes.

“It certainly suggests that Flynn is being investigated not just for conduct that postdated his departure [from the DIA],” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told BuzzFeed.

Flynn has emerged as a central figure in Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. He resigned from his White House post in February – just 24 days into office – after it was revealed that he misled White House officials about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month before President Trump took office.

Since then, Flynn has faced scrutiny for his failure to previously disclose his financial ties to Russia and Turkey. He registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department in March.

Reports last week suggested that Flynn may be cooperating with Mueller in his investigation, after his lawyers cut ties with attorneys representing Trump in the Russia probe.

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report – The Hill
 

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Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report
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Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s 
Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn recordsFox News
Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA TenureBuzzFeed Newsall 29 news articles »

Trump Delusional – Google Search
 

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Trump Not a Liar, Is Truly Delusional
 

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The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and acts of fraud against customers and contractors. It remains quite plausible. But new reporting has opened up a second possibility: The president has lost all touch with reality.

The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public, or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.

He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times describe Trump repeatedly denying the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)

It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.

His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating – rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)

If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us expected.

New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
 

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New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional
New York Magazine
The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and 
Will Trump ever have to answer to the women who say he harassed and assaulted them?Los Angeles Times
Does Trump Think The ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Is Fake? Here’s Every Single Thing He’s Said About ItBustle
Donald Trump Reportedly Claims Access Hollywood Tape Wasn’t Authentic411mania.com
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Threat From North Korea No Longer Hypothetical, Arms Experts Warn
 

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Its the next logical step that we were expecting.”

6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR
 

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6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio
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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference has passed the six-month mark, and President Trump’s staff is painting a picture of a process nearing its end. “We still expect this to conclude soon,” White Houseand more »

Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
 

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Race and Class and What Happened in 2016
New York Times
But we will never escape from purgatory until these points are treated as complements to the role that other forces played inTrump’s success, not as substitutes that somehow make the economic anxiety or anti-establishment analyses of Trumpism into … 

The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
 

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Turkish customs agents set off a half decade of intrigue when they boarded a plane that landed unexpectedly at Istanbul’s international airport. They found in the hold, undeclared, a ton and a half of gold.

Authorities subsequently determined that the shipment was part of a giant money-laundering operation to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran for oil and gas, skirting international sanctions intended to curb the country’s nuclear work. The scheme, they said, was overseen by a young Iranian-Turk named Reza Zarrab who greased the palms of top Turkish officials with watches, a piano and cash-stuffed boxes.

Photographer: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s been quite a ride since then for Zarrab. Sprung from Turkish prison in early 2014, he was actually hailed by the country’s now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He and his pop-star wife resumed their perch on Turkey’s society pages. Until, that is, he was arrested last year in Florida on his way to a Disney vacation and charged by federal prosecutors in a sweeping laundering and sanctions violations case. After 18 months in U.S. lockup, the onetime playboy with mansions and James Bond-style accessories — a jet, a personal submarine, a gold-plated pistol — is now cooperating with American prosecutors.

His evolution from a central character in a 2013 Turkish political battle to a key U.S. witness is expected to take center stage later today in a federal court in Manhattan where an executive of a prominent Turkish bank is accused in the scheme. Prosecutors say Zarrab, 34, will provide the inside story of a conspiracy that spanned a decade — all part of his guilty plea agreement.

That has the potential to send shock waves through Turkish politics and international relations. Prosecutors accused Zarrab of making bribes to then-senior ministers under Erdogan as part of his laundering scheme. As they have added more charges against more defendants in a case full of twists and turns, Turkish stock and currency markets have heaved.

Read more: A Q&A on how the trial is wreaking havoc on Turkish markets

Erdogan has demanded Zarrab’s return. The U.S.’s refusal has contributed to deteriorating Turkish-U.S. relations, now the most strained in decades. The case could spill over to U.S. politics, too, given the Trump administration’s efforts in its early days to strengthen its alliance with Turkey.

It could even brush up against a separate probe of Russian influence in the presidential election. The U.S. special counsel has delved into work done on behalf of Turkey by Michael Flynn, who was fired after a brief run as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was hired by Zarrab and met earlier this year with Erdogan in hopes of resolving the matter diplomatically, outside the courts.

Zarrab Family Vacation

It was a curious decision, in late March 2016, for Zarrab to gather his family for an American vacation. He no longer faced any charges in Turkey, but prosecutors there had made public a raft of documents marking him as a possible money launderer and a violator of U.S. sanctions.

Zarrab may have had an even bigger worry than U.S. arrest, though. Prosecutors in Iran had accused one of its wealthiest men, Babak Zanjani, of diverting $2.7 billion in oil proceeds from official coffers. An influential Iranian lawmaker said that if anyone knew where Zanjani put the money, it was Zarrab. (U.S. lawyers for Zarrab have denied the men were partners and Zanjani’s lawyers have called the case politically motivated.)

In early March 2016, Iran sentenced Zanjani to death. Two weeks later, Zarrab arrived in Florida, saying he was going to Disney. He was promptly arrested.

Though Zarrab may not have known it at the time, he was also the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation that the U.S. had started three years earlier, prosecutors said in court on Tuesday.

The money-laundering scheme by Zarrab — reconstructed from hundreds of Turkish and U.S. court filings including documents and phone transcripts — was built around complicated cross-border transactions and his personal connections in Turkey and Iran.

His father, a wealthy steel baron from Iran named Hossein Zarrab, moved the family to Turkey when Reza was still a toddler. At least one company used later by the son was founded in his name when he was 12 or 13. When Reza moved to Dubai with his family at the age of 16, he opened a tea-trading business with three employees. Three years later, back in Istanbul on his own, he started a gold brokerage and currency exchange and, later, shipbuilding and construction firms.

Meanwhile, his father kept a hand in Iranian trade. Hossein was among a team of people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assembled, after he was elected Iran’s president in 2005, to help work around U.S. sanctions, according to the Turkish paper Hurriyet.

Still in his early 20s, Reza began his Turkish ascent. He became a Turkish citizen in 2005, adopting the local variation of his name, Riza Sarraf.

At his older brother’s wedding, he met a Turkish singer, Ebru Gundes. Reza, smitten, wrote two songs for her that were delivered by mutual friends. She agreed to meet him.

The two were married in 2010 and became a fixture on Turkey’s society pages — the glamorous Ebru and the boyish and stocky Reza, with a black beard and a mop of black hair coiffed up from his forehead. Turkish papers featured their mansions on the Bosphorus and Aegean, and showed them on the town, here with a Rolls Royce, there a Range Rover or an Aston Martin.

Chance Discovery

The possible source of Zarrab’s wealth began to emerge after Turkish customs officials made their chance discovery on New Year’s Eve 2012. An Airbus A330, flying from Ghana to United Arab Emirates, had been scheduled to refuel at a nearby regional airport when fog forced it to Ataturk. Customs agents impounded its gold cargo.

Earlier: 2014 article traces Zarrab’s journey from society pages to an Istanbul jail cell

Zarrab pressed into action. He called the country’s economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, among others. Caglayan was paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to keep the scheme running and conceal transactions from the U.S., according to federal prosecutors. Less than three weeks after the plane was detained, it took back off, resuming its journey to Dubai.

Turkish prosecutors, armed with wiretaps of Zarrab’s conversations, arrested Caglayan’s son in late 2013 on charges of facilitating bribery. As a minister and member of parliament, Caglayan the father had immunity, and he denied taking bribes. Like Zarrab, he was ultimately cleared in Turkey. He’s now charged in the U.S. case but remains outside the country.

The gold shipments to Dubai, the Turkish prosecutors said, were but one link in a chain that turned Iranian oil and gas into hard currency for Tehran. Turkey’s national oil company bought Iranian gas. It then deposited funds into special accounts at Turkey’s Halkbank. Using shell companies, Zarrab took the proceeds to buy gold that was shipped to Dubai, prosecutors say.

The gold was then sold for dollars and euros, running through international banks, which were unwitting participants, according to U.S. prosecutors, and were told the transactions were for food or humanitarian aid, according to Turkish and U.S. court documents. In a 10-month span, Zarrab helped move $900 million in Iranian funds through U.S. banks, U.S. prosecutors say.

Dubai Wheat

Millions of dollars in bribes were used to keep the scheme going. Once, according to U.S. filings, Zarrab discussed moving 150,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Iran on a 5,000-ton vessel, a logistical impossibility. He said another payment was for wheat exports from Dubai, which neither grows nor exports wheat. Surveillance in Turkey showed that Zarrab also tried to head off bad press, allegedly paying about $4 million to two politicians to help squelch negative coverage of him.

His contacts included the country’s ministers of the interior and EU affairs (who are not accused of wrongdoing by the U.S.). At an April 2013 wedding in Ankara, Zarrab cut a deal with Caglayan, then economy minister, to support his scheme, Turkish prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors more recently hinted of a bigger grab for influence: Zarrab later boasted in a conversation caught on tape that he had also talked to Erdogan at the wedding, seeking support to buy a bank that could be a conduit for Iran transactions.

When Turkish prosecutors laid out their allegations, the three ministers resigned. Zarrab was detained.

But then the tables turned. Erdogan, prime minister at the time, portrayed Zarrab as a philanthropist whose businesses were a service to the country. The Turkish prosecutors’ case against Zarrab, Erdogan said, was part of a plot put into motion by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who runs an influential worldwide movement from his compound in Pennsylvania, to smear his government. Turkey’s parliament cleared all the ministers of wrongdoing. Prosecutors and police involved in the case were reassigned, dismissed or jailed by the thousands.

Zarrab was freed. A pro-government news channel placed him before a Turkish flag and interviewed him. In July 2015, Hurriyet published photographs of a notably slimmer Zarrab yachting on the Aegean. A few yards off the fantail of a large black yacht, he could be seen above the blue sea, held aloft by jets of water on a personal hovercraft.

Erdogan Enraged

Zarrab’s arrest the following year in the U.S. enraged Erdogan, who asked the Obama White House to send him home. Instead, Zarrab transited through a series of U.S. detention centers — in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Oklahoma City — before arriving in New York. Many of the details supporting the charges, brought by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, were similar to those originally revealed in Turkey.

Even after Zarrab’s testimony, which U.S. prosecutors say will reach the highest levels of Turkey’s government, the mystery may continue about whether he is helping the U.S. government in other ways and how much he knows about Iran, for example. The man who recently bribed a U.S. prison guard for a cell phone may finally be ready to spill his secrets.

— With assistance by Yalman Onaran

Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
 

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The Jamestown Foundation
Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria?
Newsweek
Yet he also senses that the Trump administration, like its predecessor, is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle: that when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there is no future for the mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it has the 
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The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
 

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This article first appeared on the Wilson Center site.

I am an American expert on Russia. It is my job to pay close attention to the ups and downs of the U.S.-Russia relationship, with the goal of helping U.S. policymakers, the press, and the wider public understand what is going on.

Under normal circumstances, such understanding would be useful for crafting better policy, and for more effectively managing both the challenges and the opportunities we face with Russia.

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But these are anything but normal circumstances, and there is little point in saying anything about policy unless we first acknowledge why our circumstances are what they are.

The U.S. has never had a more dysfunctional or less effective relationship with post-Soviet Russia than it does today. While it is more than fair to blame that dysfunction on Putin—and on Trump, Medvedev, Obama, and other heads of state past and present—I am afraid it now has far deeper causes than just state policies.

On the Russian side, the dysfunction builds on insecurities and grievances fanned by widely embraced conspiracy theories and historical narratives, all of which amount to branding the United States as public enemy number one.

It also draws on ordinary Russians’ tolerance of consolidated authoritarianism, from the Kremlin at the very top of the “power vertical” to corrupt and unchecked bullies at the bottom.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty

On the American side, the dysfunction is different but arguably just as deep. It begins from a national mood that combines Cold War style paranoia about the Russian bogeyman with a zero-sum, “us versus them” view of everything from taxes to public safety.

These disturbing trends find welcome resonance in a media, political and civic culture in which any sense that there are rules of decency has been long since trampled.

We should have no illusions. Vladimir Putin is a huge problem for the United States, just as he is for his neighbors and for his own people.

He has crushed every bud of liberal democracy in Russia, has invaded Ukraine to seize its sovereign territory by force, at the cost of well over 10,000 lives, and he has backed the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands.

The evidence is quickly mounting of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and of its ongoing operations, apparently aimed at eroding democratic politics, social cohesion and security alliances from Europe to Latin America. These are grave threats and they should be met with clarity, strength and resolve.

Yet not a single one of these threats posed by Russia has a military solution. We can hit the Russians as hard as we want, to “punish” them for bad behavior, but as long as they have the ability to hit back, they will do so, and the cycle will continue.

Such escalation carries unacceptable risks.

As Ronald Reagan said, a U.S.-Russian nuclear war cannot be won, and so must never be fought. That means that Americans will have to make difficult choices about which tools of our national power to use to manage relations with Russia.

The good news is we have an impressive arsenal, if we can bring it to bear intelligently.

Aside from our military, which is by any measure the world’s strongest, the U.S. economy is still the largest, and it far exceeds even a fast-growing China as a hub for investment and innovation for the entire world. America’s greatest asset has been its incomparable soft power—the attractive force of our culture, our values, our readiness to lead and, when necessary, to sacrifice.

These strengths can see us through to victory over the Russian threat—and any other—in the long term.

But in the meantime, our vital national interests, including our security, prosperity and our very identity, are at risk from the dysfunction gripping our national life.

This problem is far bigger than U.S.-Russia relations, but it comes to a head in the contest between Washington and Moscow.

Consider the treatment of Russia today in much of our national debate. It is somehow both a great menace—apparently capable of stealing all our secrets, manipulating our leaders, brainwashing our electorate—and yet is also the butt of jokes, not deserving of even the grudging respect a wise warrior accords his adversary.

In the rush to unearth and expunge nefarious Russian influence in our country, Americans have embraced a logic of conspiracy theories and strictly zero-sum thinking that is, if anything, familiar to Russians from decades of Soviet and post-Soviet life.

In this climate, efforts to understand and explain Russian conduct as something more than earthly expressions of evil are condemned as victories for Russian propaganda and calls for diplomatic engagement are dismissed as hopelessly naïve.

When it comes to Russia, there simply is no longer room for the pragmatism that has been at the very core of our American worldview, and that ensured our survival and success despite half a century of Cold War.

This is not who we are as Americans. This is not how the good guys behave. And, most importantly, this cannot end well.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
 

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Earlier this month, the Russian oligarchs fired a thinly veiled warning shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin when they planted simultaneous stories in multiple major European newspapers claiming that Putin was considering quitting. Putin has no such plans, but it was the Russian billionaires’ way of reminding him that they control his fate and they’re unhappy about the costly sanctions corner he’s backed them into. Now the real reason for their impatience is coming to light, and it’s even uglier than previously known.

The new sanctions law passed by the United States in August will financially harm the Russian oligarchs far more severely than previously believed, according to a new profile from The Economist (link). These increased sanctions will serve to blacklist the oligarchs as if they were terrorists, preventing them from carrying various kinds of business deals, and devastating them in the wallet.

It’s not widely understood, but Putin’s primary motivation for rigging the U.S. election in Trump’s favor was to get existing U.S. sanctions against Russia lifted. Those sanctions have personally cost Putin billions of dollars over the past few years, and they’ve cost his oligarchs even more. Instead, because Putin rigged the election in such a brazen way and got caught, and because Trump has been such a disaster, it’s prompted the U.S. to crack down with even harsher sanctions.

At this point the Russian oligarchs may only have one path for getting sanctions lifted and getting back on the good side of the United States: by ousting Vladimir Putin from within, and by taking down Donald Trump in the process. It’s why the oligarchs planted those stories about Putin’s supposed retirement in the media. This has been all about money, and lots of it, from the start. Putin helped make the oligarchs wealthy to begin with, but now he’s costing them money and they won’t tolerate it for much longer.

The post The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both appeared first on Palmer Report.

Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
 

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Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection?
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In 2014, Ross led a takeover of the Bank of Cyprus, whose biggest shareholder at the time was the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Some years earlier, Rybolovlev had purchased a Florida mansion from Trump for $95 million. The buying price was …and more »

The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and Putin
 

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This year, after nearly three decade abroad, I returned to the United States, and it has taken a while to adjust to the political climate. I keep going to press conferences, receptions and dinner parties and hearing politicians and political operatives fulminating about “the Russians.”

The refrain is pretty similar: They used to be known as the Soviets, but they never really changed. The damned KGB always ran the country, and it still does. And, you know, they stole the election last year. They colluded with our opponent! There’s a red in damned near every bed these days.

What’s a little discombobulating about this line is it’s mostly coming from Democrats and journalists in the mainstream press. A friend in New York—a Canadian, and thus not a participant in the ongoing drama in American politics—was recently at a dinner party hosted by a major Democratic donor and his wife. In passing, he said he was about to travel to see the refurbished Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and then enjoy a performance at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

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The others in attendance looked at him, my friend told me, as if he were nuts. “You know,” the host informed him, “that’s pretty much like going to Berlin in 1938.” My friend changed the subject.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had political opponents killed and destabilized two of Russia’s neighboring countries, but he isn’t Hitler. Even for the foot-stomping, tantrum-throwing Democrats in 2017, that comparison is ludicrous. But other lefties fall back on World War II for a different comparison: The Russian meddling in our democracy was “the equivalent of Pearl Harbor,” as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman put it. That makes the Russian president the equivalent of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the imperial Japanese.

Related: Robert Mueller is a hothead who can’t own up to his mistakes, former aides say 

U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

As someone who grew up during the Cold War, spent much of the ’90s covering Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then Russia (including Putin’s ascent) later in the decade, this line of thinking seems bizarre. Democrats, it seems, have willfully tossed their past positions on Russia down the Orwellian memory hole.

In 1972, George McGovern won the Democratic nomination for president, and with that came the end of serious Soviet skepticism in the party. He had vanquished Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a senator from Washington and the party’s leading anti-Soviet hawk. Jackson tried again in 1976, only to lose to Jimmy Carter, who chided his political opponents for their “inordinate fear” of Communism. (To Carter’s credit, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he admitted that the “scales” had fallen from his eyes.)

But unlike Carter, a lot of others on the left failed to sober up. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the mainstream Democratic Party became consumed by nuclear hysteria—we were all gonna die!—and that fear infected the producers of pop culture. In 1983, ABC broadcast a propaganda film entitled The Day After, which was what life would be like after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Then, there was On the Eighth Day, a 1984 documentary about what would happen after a nuclear war. And around the same time period, Carl Sagan, a popular astronomer with a television series on public broadcasting, penned a widely read article on the same subject: “We have placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy,” he wrote. “Fortunately, it is not yet too late. We can safeguard the planetary civilization and the human family if we so choose. There is no more important or more urgent issue.”

The tenor of this and other doomsday nuclear narratives was that if the worst happened, it was going to Reagan’s fault. This fear sparked the nuclear freeze movement, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Europe to protest the planned installation of intermediate-range nuclear weapons on the western part of the continent.

In those days, “colluding” with Moscow wasn’t a big deal. The Soviets tried to help the nuclear freeze movement, which they saw as in their interests. KGB agents occasionally funneled cash to so-called “peace groups” in the West, and some left-leaning arms-control groups acknowledged that Soviet agents would turn up at conferences to help with propaganda. Yet many Democrats thought the nuclear freeze movement had been a great success. Why? Because the anti-nuclear uprising “had a substantial impact upon mainstream politics, especially the Democratic Party,” wrote Lawrence Wittner, a professor of history at the State University of New York at Albany. “After the movement’s successes in 1982, the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination met with peace movement leaders, pledging their support for a nuclear freeze and other nuclear arms control measures. The Democrats pushed a freeze resolution through the House of Representatives in the spring of 1983 and made the freeze a part of the party’s campaign platform in 1984.” Never mind that Reagan, the man the left derided as a warmonger nuclear cowboy, won the 1984 election in a historic landslide.

Sixteen years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin replaced a drunken and ailing Boris Yeltsin, who, however briefly, had brought democracy to Russia. At a New Year’s reception in 2000, President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Russia, Jim Collins, acknowledged the main reaction to Putin’s ascension in the U.S. government was one of “relief,” because Russia was so chaotic in those days. Secretary of State Madeline Albright would later call the former KGB man a “reformer.”

Putin for years was able to dupe U.S. presidents into thinking he was their friend—from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. In a 2012 presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney cited Putin’s Russia as the U.S.’s foremost foreign policy challenge, and Obama sarcastically said the “1980s are calling, and they want their foreign policy back.” The Democrats cheered. And Obama appeared to believe he could work with the Russian strongman. He famously asked Putin stooge Dmitry Medvedev to “tell Vladimir” that after the election he (Obama) would have more “flexibility’’ to work on arms control deals.

But the moment that really captured the credulity of the Democratic Party when it came to Russia and Putin had come earlier. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, with a “reset” button, which meant the administration would replace the bad, anti-Russian policies of the past with new ones. The problem, however, is the word “reset” was misspelled on the button. Those who controlled Obama’s foreign policy evidently couldn’t find a Russian speaker competent enough to tell them that the button presented to Lavrov said “overcharged” in Russia. Clinton laughed at the mistake. Lavrov laughed at her.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an interview with Mariella Frostrup at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in Cheltenham, England, on October 15. Reuters

Now, Democratic representatives all over Washington can’t stop ranting about Moscow. I asked David Satter, a Washington-based journalist—and the only Western reporter to be banned by Putin from entering Russia since the end of the Cold War—what I should make of all this. Are these people serious about their anti-Russian venom?

“Oh God, no,” he said, as we sat in a Russian restaurant called Mari Vanna in Manhattan. “This is all just politics, and hypocrisy is the mother’s milk of politics.”

I think he’s right. I’m agnostic on the question of whether President Donald Trump or his associates actually “colluded’’ with Putin to win the election. If they did, they should be strung up.

As for Putin, he’s undoubtedly an authoritarian thug. At home, he has eliminated many of the briefly won freedoms of the Yeltsin era, and abroad, he seems determined to again dominate Russia’s neighbors. But it would be hard to find many liberals in Washington who actually cared about any of this before Trump beat Clinton.

If the outcome had been reversed, Congress might still be working to figure out how exactly Russia meddled in the election—just as the Soviets had done in 1968 and 1976. But we most certainly wouldn’t have this anti-Russian circus going on in the nation’s capital—a show that will likely continue for quite some time.

Dem. rep seeks answers on FBI’s failure to notify Russian hacking victims | TheHill
 

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US-Turkish political stew: KurdsFlynn — and even Bharara

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8:00 AM 11/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA Tenure | Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn records | Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA Tenure

Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn records

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report | TheHill

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report – The Hill
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New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
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6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR
Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
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Dem. rep seeks answers on FBI’s failure to notify Russian hacking victims | TheHill
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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA Tenure
 

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WASHINGTON — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to be under investigation for his activities while he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, according to a letter the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The disclosure suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking more broadly than previously thought at Flynn, whom President Donald Trump fired in February after 24 days as his top security adviser.

Mueller’s investigation previously has been reported to include a probe of Flynn’s activities after he was ousted from the DIA in 2014 and traveled to Russia, lobbied for the Turkish government, and joined Trump’s presidential campaign. Until now, however, there has been no indication that Mueller was looking into Flynn’s two-year tenure as head of the nation’s leading producer of foreign military intelligence.

The DIA suggested otherwise in a Nov. 15 letter to BuzzFeed News that denied a reporter’s three-year-old request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations, and other records related to his work as the agency’s director. The letter to reporter Jason Leopold says that releasing Flynn’s records could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.”

The letter does not describe the investigative activities, and a DIA spokesperson declined to elaborate. Federal law allows government agencies to withhold from the public “investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes.”

Legal experts said the letter is the first public indication that Mueller is investigating Flynn’s stormy leadership period at the DIA, which ended when he was forced to retire earlier than planned amidst criticism over his leadership.

“It certainly suggests that Flynn is being investigated not just for conduct that postdated his departure” from the DIA, said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.

“I think there has been this suspicion since during the [2016] campaign that for all his plaudits and achievement, General Flynn has been part of some pretty shady dealings,” Vladeck said. “I don’t think it’s shocking if some of those dealings in fact predated his departure from the government.”

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment.

It is unclear what Mueller might be investigating about Flynn when he ran the DIA. Although Flynn was reported to have been forced out after clashing with other Defense Department leaders, there has been no public indication of scandal or criminal activity during his 33-year military career. He retired as an Army lieutenant general.

Mueller might simply be casting a wide net, said Jens David Ohlin, a criminal law professor at Cornell Law School. “You could imagine a scenario where Mueller’s team is doing their due diligence and wants all his emails during this period because they’re investigating his relations with Russia and Turkey,” Ohlin said.

Or Mueller could be looking into any possible conspiracy involving Flynn that may have started years ago, Ohlin said.

“Conspiracies sometimes exist for months, if not years,” Ohlin said. “It’s certainly possible that he could have committed a crime and is being investigated for a crime after his government service, but there is a lot of evidence going back to when he was in government service. That doesn’t necessarily mean a crime occurred while he was a government employee.”

In 2015, more than a year after he left the DIA and shortly before he joined the Trump campaign, Flynn was paid $33,000 to speak at a gala in Moscow where he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2016, after joining the Trump campaign, Flynn was paid $530,000 by a Turkish businessperson for advocacy work in the US on behalf of the Turkish Republic. Flynn’s initial failure to disclose his work has exposed him to possible criminal charges similar to those Mueller has brought against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

During the transition period after Trump’s election, Flynn spoke several times with Russia’s US ambassador but lied about those exchanges to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence. Trump fired Flynn when Flynn’s misleading of Pence became public.

The DIA sent its denial letter to BuzzFeed News at roughly the same time that Flynn’s lawyers told Trump’s legal team that they would no longer share information about Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump associates. The notification by Flynn’s lawyers suggests that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller as he investigates whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton.

Leopold, the reporter, had requested records pertaining to Flynn on May 1, 2014, while Flynn was still in charge of the DIA but a day after the Washington Post reported that he was being forced to retire because of his management style and resistance within the agency to his plans for change.

In denying Leopold’s request, the DIA said its refusal is not necessarily “long-term” and that it will “reassess future requests” for records pertaining to Flynn “at the conclusion of the present investigative activity.” There was no immediate explanation for the delay in responding Leopold’s request.

DIA spokesperson Navy Cmdr. William Marks said he did not know how long the investigation would take. “Some investigations take years, some only take a few weeks,” he said.

Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn records
 

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WASHINGTON –  The Defense Intelligence Agency is refusing to publicly release a wide array of documents related to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, saying that turning them over could interfere with ongoing congressional and federal investigations.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former DIA director, is currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees. They are scrutinizing his private consulting work for a Turkish businessman as well as his activities related to Russia during President Donald Trump’s campaign and the early days of the Trump administration. The Defense Department’s inspector general also is investigating Flynn’s receipt of foreign payments as a retired military officer.

In a series of letters dated Nov. 15, the DIA denied several Freedom of Information Act requests filed over the past year by The Associated Press seeking information about Flynn’s tenure at the DIA from 2012 to 2014. The AP requests sought Flynn’s public and private calendars, his correspondence while at DIA and a specific listing of documents related to his security clearance that the agency provided to Congress earlier this year. Two of the AP’s requests were filed before Mueller’s appointment and one of those was filed the day before Trump took office.

In the letters, Alesia Y. Williams, DIA’s chief FOIA officer, said she would not release any requested records because they “could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities.” Williams also indicated this was part of a coordinated effort within the Defense Department to withhold public documents related to Flynn that could be related to ongoing federal and congressional probes.

BuzzFeed News also reported Tuesday that it had received a similar denial for records related to Flynn. The BuzzFeed request was nearly three years old.

Messages left with DIA spokesmen Tuesday afternoon weren’t immediately returned.

The agency’s decisions came about a week before Flynn’s lawyers informed Trump’s legal team that they would no longer share information about Mueller’s investigation — a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate or possibly negotiate a deal with prosecutors. Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, has declined to comment on the status of the investigation or the move to cut off contact with the president’s legal team.

It’s unclear how long the Defense Intelligence Agency will continue to bar public access to Flynn-related documents, according to the letters.

Williams said the agency would continue to withhold records related to Flynn until the “conclusion of the present investigative activity.” But the letters do not indicate how agency officials would determine when the investigation concluded. Instead, Williams put the burden on members of the public who seek records, saying they should submit a new request when they “believe it is likely that the investigation has concluded.”

Flynn faces a number of legal troubles on multiple fronts.

The special counsel and congressional committees have been scrutinizing Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the presidential transition and the campaign. He has also been under federal investigation for nearly a year over lobbying and investigative research work his firm, Flynn Intel Group, performed for a Turkish businessman. Flynn’s firm was paid $530,000 for a lobbying effort that sought to gather information that could support a criminal case against a Turkish cleric living in the U.S. Flynn also wrote an op-ed promoting Turkish government talking points attacking the cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

After his forced resignation from his White House post, Flynn and his firm registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, acknowledging his work could have benefited the government of Turkey and should have been disclosed to the government. But since that registration, prosecutors and FBI agents working for Mueller have been investigating whether the Turkish government was directing the lobbying work and not the private company that Flynn cited in his filing with the Justice Department. Investigators have also been looking into Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., who worked alongside his father, and Flynn’s business partner, Bijan Kian.

Flynn has also faced scrutiny over his truthfulness on government forms and in interviews with federal investigators.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this year that Flynn was the target of a federal investigation into his contacts with Russia and whether he lied to agents about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. In his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, Comey said it was that investigation into Flynn that Trump pressured him to “let go” in the Oval office. Through his lawyers, the president has denied pressuring Comey.

Separately, congressional Democrats have said they believe Flynn lied about his foreign contacts and travel on his security clearance paperwork related to a proposal to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East.

The former Republican chairman and the top Democrat on a House oversight committee have also said they believe Flynn broke federal law by not getting government permission to receive tens of thousands of dollars in payments from RT, the Russian state-sponsored television network. The receipt of those foreign payments is currently under scrutiny by the Defense Department’s inspector general, though he would likely only face civil penalties if investigators found Flynn had violated the law.

__

Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.

__

Follow Chad Day on Twitter: <a href=”https://twitter.com/ChadSDay” rel=”nofollow”>https://twitter.com/ChadSDay</a>

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report | TheHill
 

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Mueller may be looking at Flynn's time as DIA chief: report
© Greg Nash

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynnmay be under investigation for his activities during his tenure at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under former President Obama, according to a letter from the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The letter, which came in response to a 2014 Freedom of Information Act request, denied a BuzzFeed reporter’s request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations and other records from his time heading the DIA, saying that releasing the documents could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.”

“Upon review of your request, I have determined that the release of potentially responsive records concerning LTG Flynn could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities,” it reads.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s financial ties to Russia and Turkey.

But according to BuzzFeed, the DIA’s letter denying the records request suggests that Mueller is also looking into Flynn’s activities while he served as the agency’s director from 2012 to 2014.

The letter does not detail any potential investigative activities. But federal agencies are allowed to withhold requested documents from the public if they are compiled for law enforcement purposes.

“It certainly suggests that Flynn is being investigated not just for conduct that postdated his departure [from the DIA],” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told BuzzFeed.

Flynn has emerged as a central figure in Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. He resigned from his White House post in February – just 24 days into office – after it was revealed that he misled White House officials about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month before President Trump took office.

Since then, Flynn has faced scrutiny for his failure to previously disclose his financial ties to Russia and Turkey. He registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department in March.

Reports last week suggested that Flynn may be cooperating with Mueller in his investigation, after his lawyers cut ties with attorneys representing Trump in the Russia probe.

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report – The Hill
 

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Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report
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Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s 
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Trump Not a Liar, Is Truly Delusional
 

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The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and acts of fraud against customers and contractors. It remains quite plausible. But new reporting has opened up a second possibility: The president has lost all touch with reality.

The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public, or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.

He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times describe Trump repeatedly denying the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)

It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.

His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating – rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)

If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us expected.

New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
 

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Its the next logical step that we were expecting.”

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Race and Class and What Happened in 2016
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But we will never escape from purgatory until these points are treated as complements to the role that other forces played inTrump’s success, not as substitutes that somehow make the economic anxiety or anti-establishment analyses of Trumpism into …
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
 

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Turkish customs agents set off a half decade of intrigue when they boarded a plane that landed unexpectedly at Istanbul’s international airport. They found in the hold, undeclared, a ton and a half of gold.

Authorities subsequently determined that the shipment was part of a giant money-laundering operation to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran for oil and gas, skirting international sanctions intended to curb the country’s nuclear work. The scheme, they said, was overseen by a young Iranian-Turk named Reza Zarrab who greased the palms of top Turkish officials with watches, a piano and cash-stuffed boxes.

Photographer: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s been quite a ride since then for Zarrab. Sprung from Turkish prison in early 2014, he was actually hailed by the country’s now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He and his pop-star wife resumed their perch on Turkey’s society pages. Until, that is, he was arrested last year in Florida on his way to a Disney vacation and charged by federal prosecutors in a sweeping laundering and sanctions violations case. After 18 months in U.S. lockup, the onetime playboy with mansions and James Bond-style accessories — a jet, a personal submarine, a gold-plated pistol — is now cooperating with American prosecutors.

His evolution from a central character in a 2013 Turkish political battle to a key U.S. witness is expected to take center stage later today in a federal court in Manhattan where an executive of a prominent Turkish bank is accused in the scheme. Prosecutors say Zarrab, 34, will provide the inside story of a conspiracy that spanned a decade — all part of his guilty plea agreement.

That has the potential to send shock waves through Turkish politics and international relations. Prosecutors accused Zarrab of making bribes to then-senior ministers under Erdogan as part of his laundering scheme. As they have added more charges against more defendants in a case full of twists and turns, Turkish stock and currency markets have heaved.

Read more: A Q&A on how the trial is wreaking havoc on Turkish markets

Erdogan has demanded Zarrab’s return. The U.S.’s refusal has contributed to deteriorating Turkish-U.S. relations, now the most strained in decades. The case could spill over to U.S. politics, too, given the Trump administration’s efforts in its early days to strengthen its alliance with Turkey.

It could even brush up against a separate probe of Russian influence in the presidential election. The U.S. special counsel has delved into work done on behalf of Turkey by Michael Flynn, who was fired after a brief run as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was hired by Zarrab and met earlier this year with Erdogan in hopes of resolving the matter diplomatically, outside the courts.

Zarrab Family Vacation

It was a curious decision, in late March 2016, for Zarrab to gather his family for an American vacation. He no longer faced any charges in Turkey, but prosecutors there had made public a raft of documents marking him as a possible money launderer and a violator of U.S. sanctions.

Zarrab may have had an even bigger worry than U.S. arrest, though. Prosecutors in Iran had accused one of its wealthiest men, Babak Zanjani, of diverting $2.7 billion in oil proceeds from official coffers. An influential Iranian lawmaker said that if anyone knew where Zanjani put the money, it was Zarrab. (U.S. lawyers for Zarrab have denied the men were partners and Zanjani’s lawyers have called the case politically motivated.)

In early March 2016, Iran sentenced Zanjani to death. Two weeks later, Zarrab arrived in Florida, saying he was going to Disney. He was promptly arrested.

Though Zarrab may not have known it at the time, he was also the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation that the U.S. had started three years earlier, prosecutors said in court on Tuesday.

The money-laundering scheme by Zarrab — reconstructed from hundreds of Turkish and U.S. court filings including documents and phone transcripts — was built around complicated cross-border transactions and his personal connections in Turkey and Iran.

His father, a wealthy steel baron from Iran named Hossein Zarrab, moved the family to Turkey when Reza was still a toddler. At least one company used later by the son was founded in his name when he was 12 or 13. When Reza moved to Dubai with his family at the age of 16, he opened a tea-trading business with three employees. Three years later, back in Istanbul on his own, he started a gold brokerage and currency exchange and, later, shipbuilding and construction firms.

Meanwhile, his father kept a hand in Iranian trade. Hossein was among a team of people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assembled, after he was elected Iran’s president in 2005, to help work around U.S. sanctions, according to the Turkish paper Hurriyet.

Still in his early 20s, Reza began his Turkish ascent. He became a Turkish citizen in 2005, adopting the local variation of his name, Riza Sarraf.

At his older brother’s wedding, he met a Turkish singer, Ebru Gundes. Reza, smitten, wrote two songs for her that were delivered by mutual friends. She agreed to meet him.

The two were married in 2010 and became a fixture on Turkey’s society pages — the glamorous Ebru and the boyish and stocky Reza, with a black beard and a mop of black hair coiffed up from his forehead. Turkish papers featured their mansions on the Bosphorus and Aegean, and showed them on the town, here with a Rolls Royce, there a Range Rover or an Aston Martin.

Chance Discovery

The possible source of Zarrab’s wealth began to emerge after Turkish customs officials made their chance discovery on New Year’s Eve 2012. An Airbus A330, flying from Ghana to United Arab Emirates, had been scheduled to refuel at a nearby regional airport when fog forced it to Ataturk. Customs agents impounded its gold cargo.

Earlier: 2014 article traces Zarrab’s journey from society pages to an Istanbul jail cell

Zarrab pressed into action. He called the country’s economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, among others. Caglayan was paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to keep the scheme running and conceal transactions from the U.S., according to federal prosecutors. Less than three weeks after the plane was detained, it took back off, resuming its journey to Dubai.

Turkish prosecutors, armed with wiretaps of Zarrab’s conversations, arrested Caglayan’s son in late 2013 on charges of facilitating bribery. As a minister and member of parliament, Caglayan the father had immunity, and he denied taking bribes. Like Zarrab, he was ultimately cleared in Turkey. He’s now charged in the U.S. case but remains outside the country.

The gold shipments to Dubai, the Turkish prosecutors said, were but one link in a chain that turned Iranian oil and gas into hard currency for Tehran. Turkey’s national oil company bought Iranian gas. It then deposited funds into special accounts at Turkey’s Halkbank. Using shell companies, Zarrab took the proceeds to buy gold that was shipped to Dubai, prosecutors say.

The gold was then sold for dollars and euros, running through international banks, which were unwitting participants, according to U.S. prosecutors, and were told the transactions were for food or humanitarian aid, according to Turkish and U.S. court documents. In a 10-month span, Zarrab helped move $900 million in Iranian funds through U.S. banks, U.S. prosecutors say.

Dubai Wheat

Millions of dollars in bribes were used to keep the scheme going. Once, according to U.S. filings, Zarrab discussed moving 150,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Iran on a 5,000-ton vessel, a logistical impossibility. He said another payment was for wheat exports from Dubai, which neither grows nor exports wheat. Surveillance in Turkey showed that Zarrab also tried to head off bad press, allegedly paying about $4 million to two politicians to help squelch negative coverage of him.

His contacts included the country’s ministers of the interior and EU affairs (who are not accused of wrongdoing by the U.S.). At an April 2013 wedding in Ankara, Zarrab cut a deal with Caglayan, then economy minister, to support his scheme, Turkish prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors more recently hinted of a bigger grab for influence: Zarrab later boasted in a conversation caught on tape that he had also talked to Erdogan at the wedding, seeking support to buy a bank that could be a conduit for Iran transactions.

When Turkish prosecutors laid out their allegations, the three ministers resigned. Zarrab was detained.

But then the tables turned. Erdogan, prime minister at the time, portrayed Zarrab as a philanthropist whose businesses were a service to the country. The Turkish prosecutors’ case against Zarrab, Erdogan said, was part of a plot put into motion by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who runs an influential worldwide movement from his compound in Pennsylvania, to smear his government. Turkey’s parliament cleared all the ministers of wrongdoing. Prosecutors and police involved in the case were reassigned, dismissed or jailed by the thousands.

Zarrab was freed. A pro-government news channel placed him before a Turkish flag and interviewed him. In July 2015, Hurriyet published photographs of a notably slimmer Zarrab yachting on the Aegean. A few yards off the fantail of a large black yacht, he could be seen above the blue sea, held aloft by jets of water on a personal hovercraft.

Erdogan Enraged

Zarrab’s arrest the following year in the U.S. enraged Erdogan, who asked the Obama White House to send him home. Instead, Zarrab transited through a series of U.S. detention centers — in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Oklahoma City — before arriving in New York. Many of the details supporting the charges, brought by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, were similar to those originally revealed in Turkey.

Even after Zarrab’s testimony, which U.S. prosecutors say will reach the highest levels of Turkey’s government, the mystery may continue about whether he is helping the U.S. government in other ways and how much he knows about Iran, for example. The man who recently bribed a U.S. prison guard for a cell phone may finally be ready to spill his secrets.

— With assistance by Yalman Onaran

Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
 

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The Jamestown Foundation
Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria?
Newsweek
Yet he also senses that the Trump administration, like its predecessor, is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle: that when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there is no future for the mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it has the 
Declaring Victory in Syria, Putin Stands to Lose the Elusive PeaceThe Jamestown Foundation
The Guardian view on Syria: Putin tests the westThe Guardian
The United States cannot allow Russia to take the lead in SyriaThe Hill
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The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
 

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This article first appeared on the Wilson Center site.

I am an American expert on Russia. It is my job to pay close attention to the ups and downs of the U.S.-Russia relationship, with the goal of helping U.S. policymakers, the press, and the wider public understand what is going on.

Under normal circumstances, such understanding would be useful for crafting better policy, and for more effectively managing both the challenges and the opportunities we face with Russia.

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But these are anything but normal circumstances, and there is little point in saying anything about policy unless we first acknowledge why our circumstances are what they are.

The U.S. has never had a more dysfunctional or less effective relationship with post-Soviet Russia than it does today. While it is more than fair to blame that dysfunction on Putin—and on Trump, Medvedev, Obama, and other heads of state past and present—I am afraid it now has far deeper causes than just state policies.

On the Russian side, the dysfunction builds on insecurities and grievances fanned by widely embraced conspiracy theories and historical narratives, all of which amount to branding the United States as public enemy number one.

It also draws on ordinary Russians’ tolerance of consolidated authoritarianism, from the Kremlin at the very top of the “power vertical” to corrupt and unchecked bullies at the bottom.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty

On the American side, the dysfunction is different but arguably just as deep. It begins from a national mood that combines Cold War style paranoia about the Russian bogeyman with a zero-sum, “us versus them” view of everything from taxes to public safety.

These disturbing trends find welcome resonance in a media, political and civic culture in which any sense that there are rules of decency has been long since trampled.

We should have no illusions. Vladimir Putin is a huge problem for the United States, just as he is for his neighbors and for his own people.

He has crushed every bud of liberal democracy in Russia, has invaded Ukraine to seize its sovereign territory by force, at the cost of well over 10,000 lives, and he has backed the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands.

The evidence is quickly mounting of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and of its ongoing operations, apparently aimed at eroding democratic politics, social cohesion and security alliances from Europe to Latin America. These are grave threats and they should be met with clarity, strength and resolve.

Yet not a single one of these threats posed by Russia has a military solution. We can hit the Russians as hard as we want, to “punish” them for bad behavior, but as long as they have the ability to hit back, they will do so, and the cycle will continue.

Such escalation carries unacceptable risks.

As Ronald Reagan said, a U.S.-Russian nuclear war cannot be won, and so must never be fought. That means that Americans will have to make difficult choices about which tools of our national power to use to manage relations with Russia.

The good news is we have an impressive arsenal, if we can bring it to bear intelligently.

Aside from our military, which is by any measure the world’s strongest, the U.S. economy is still the largest, and it far exceeds even a fast-growing China as a hub for investment and innovation for the entire world. America’s greatest asset has been its incomparable soft power—the attractive force of our culture, our values, our readiness to lead and, when necessary, to sacrifice.

These strengths can see us through to victory over the Russian threat—and any other—in the long term.

But in the meantime, our vital national interests, including our security, prosperity and our very identity, are at risk from the dysfunction gripping our national life.

This problem is far bigger than U.S.-Russia relations, but it comes to a head in the contest between Washington and Moscow.

Consider the treatment of Russia today in much of our national debate. It is somehow both a great menace—apparently capable of stealing all our secrets, manipulating our leaders, brainwashing our electorate—and yet is also the butt of jokes, not deserving of even the grudging respect a wise warrior accords his adversary.

In the rush to unearth and expunge nefarious Russian influence in our country, Americans have embraced a logic of conspiracy theories and strictly zero-sum thinking that is, if anything, familiar to Russians from decades of Soviet and post-Soviet life.

In this climate, efforts to understand and explain Russian conduct as something more than earthly expressions of evil are condemned as victories for Russian propaganda and calls for diplomatic engagement are dismissed as hopelessly naïve.

When it comes to Russia, there simply is no longer room for the pragmatism that has been at the very core of our American worldview, and that ensured our survival and success despite half a century of Cold War.

This is not who we are as Americans. This is not how the good guys behave. And, most importantly, this cannot end well.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
 

mikenova shared this story from Palmer Report.

Earlier this month, the Russian oligarchs fired a thinly veiled warning shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin when they planted simultaneous stories in multiple major European newspapers claiming that Putin was considering quitting. Putin has no such plans, but it was the Russian billionaires’ way of reminding him that they control his fate and they’re unhappy about the costly sanctions corner he’s backed them into. Now the real reason for their impatience is coming to light, and it’s even uglier than previously known.

The new sanctions law passed by the United States in August will financially harm the Russian oligarchs far more severely than previously believed, according to a new profile from The Economist (link). These increased sanctions will serve to blacklist the oligarchs as if they were terrorists, preventing them from carrying various kinds of business deals, and devastating them in the wallet.

It’s not widely understood, but Putin’s primary motivation for rigging the U.S. election in Trump’s favor was to get existing U.S. sanctions against Russia lifted. Those sanctions have personally cost Putin billions of dollars over the past few years, and they’ve cost his oligarchs even more. Instead, because Putin rigged the election in such a brazen way and got caught, and because Trump has been such a disaster, it’s prompted the U.S. to crack down with even harsher sanctions.

At this point the Russian oligarchs may only have one path for getting sanctions lifted and getting back on the good side of the United States: by ousting Vladimir Putin from within, and by taking down Donald Trump in the process. It’s why the oligarchs planted those stories about Putin’s supposed retirement in the media. This has been all about money, and lots of it, from the start. Putin helped make the oligarchs wealthy to begin with, but now he’s costing them money and they won’t tolerate it for much longer.

The post The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both appeared first on Palmer Report.

Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
 

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Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection?
Newsweek
In 2014, Ross led a takeover of the Bank of Cyprus, whose biggest shareholder at the time was the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Some years earlier, Rybolovlev had purchased a Florida mansion from Trump for $95 million. The buying price was …and more »
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and Putin
 

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This year, after nearly three decade abroad, I returned to the United States, and it has taken a while to adjust to the political climate. I keep going to press conferences, receptions and dinner parties and hearing politicians and political operatives fulminating about “the Russians.”

The refrain is pretty similar: They used to be known as the Soviets, but they never really changed. The damned KGB always ran the country, and it still does. And, you know, they stole the election last year. They colluded with our opponent! There’s a red in damned near every bed these days.

What’s a little discombobulating about this line is it’s mostly coming from Democrats and journalists in the mainstream press. A friend in New York—a Canadian, and thus not a participant in the ongoing drama in American politics—was recently at a dinner party hosted by a major Democratic donor and his wife. In passing, he said he was about to travel to see the refurbished Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and then enjoy a performance at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

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The others in attendance looked at him, my friend told me, as if he were nuts. “You know,” the host informed him, “that’s pretty much like going to Berlin in 1938.” My friend changed the subject.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had political opponents killed and destabilized two of Russia’s neighboring countries, but he isn’t Hitler. Even for the foot-stomping, tantrum-throwing Democrats in 2017, that comparison is ludicrous. But other lefties fall back on World War II for a different comparison: The Russian meddling in our democracy was “the equivalent of Pearl Harbor,” as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman put it. That makes the Russian president the equivalent of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the imperial Japanese.

Related: Robert Mueller is a hothead who can’t own up to his mistakes, former aides say 

U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

As someone who grew up during the Cold War, spent much of the ’90s covering Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then Russia (including Putin’s ascent) later in the decade, this line of thinking seems bizarre. Democrats, it seems, have willfully tossed their past positions on Russia down the Orwellian memory hole.

In 1972, George McGovern won the Democratic nomination for president, and with that came the end of serious Soviet skepticism in the party. He had vanquished Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a senator from Washington and the party’s leading anti-Soviet hawk. Jackson tried again in 1976, only to lose to Jimmy Carter, who chided his political opponents for their “inordinate fear” of Communism. (To Carter’s credit, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he admitted that the “scales” had fallen from his eyes.)

But unlike Carter, a lot of others on the left failed to sober up. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the mainstream Democratic Party became consumed by nuclear hysteria—we were all gonna die!—and that fear infected the producers of pop culture. In 1983, ABC broadcast a propaganda film entitled The Day After, which was what life would be like after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Then, there was On the Eighth Day, a 1984 documentary about what would happen after a nuclear war. And around the same time period, Carl Sagan, a popular astronomer with a television series on public broadcasting, penned a widely read article on the same subject: “We have placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy,” he wrote. “Fortunately, it is not yet too late. We can safeguard the planetary civilization and the human family if we so choose. There is no more important or more urgent issue.”

The tenor of this and other doomsday nuclear narratives was that if the worst happened, it was going to Reagan’s fault. This fear sparked the nuclear freeze movement, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Europe to protest the planned installation of intermediate-range nuclear weapons on the western part of the continent.

In those days, “colluding” with Moscow wasn’t a big deal. The Soviets tried to help the nuclear freeze movement, which they saw as in their interests. KGB agents occasionally funneled cash to so-called “peace groups” in the West, and some left-leaning arms-control groups acknowledged that Soviet agents would turn up at conferences to help with propaganda. Yet many Democrats thought the nuclear freeze movement had been a great success. Why? Because the anti-nuclear uprising “had a substantial impact upon mainstream politics, especially the Democratic Party,” wrote Lawrence Wittner, a professor of history at the State University of New York at Albany. “After the movement’s successes in 1982, the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination met with peace movement leaders, pledging their support for a nuclear freeze and other nuclear arms control measures. The Democrats pushed a freeze resolution through the House of Representatives in the spring of 1983 and made the freeze a part of the party’s campaign platform in 1984.” Never mind that Reagan, the man the left derided as a warmonger nuclear cowboy, won the 1984 election in a historic landslide.

Sixteen years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin replaced a drunken and ailing Boris Yeltsin, who, however briefly, had brought democracy to Russia. At a New Year’s reception in 2000, President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Russia, Jim Collins, acknowledged the main reaction to Putin’s ascension in the U.S. government was one of “relief,” because Russia was so chaotic in those days. Secretary of State Madeline Albright would later call the former KGB man a “reformer.”

Putin for years was able to dupe U.S. presidents into thinking he was their friend—from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. In a 2012 presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney cited Putin’s Russia as the U.S.’s foremost foreign policy challenge, and Obama sarcastically said the “1980s are calling, and they want their foreign policy back.” The Democrats cheered. And Obama appeared to believe he could work with the Russian strongman. He famously asked Putin stooge Dmitry Medvedev to “tell Vladimir” that after the election he (Obama) would have more “flexibility’’ to work on arms control deals.

But the moment that really captured the credulity of the Democratic Party when it came to Russia and Putin had come earlier. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, with a “reset” button, which meant the administration would replace the bad, anti-Russian policies of the past with new ones. The problem, however, is the word “reset” was misspelled on the button. Those who controlled Obama’s foreign policy evidently couldn’t find a Russian speaker competent enough to tell them that the button presented to Lavrov said “overcharged” in Russia. Clinton laughed at the mistake. Lavrov laughed at her.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an interview with Mariella Frostrup at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in Cheltenham, England, on October 15. Reuters

Now, Democratic representatives all over Washington can’t stop ranting about Moscow. I asked David Satter, a Washington-based journalist—and the only Western reporter to be banned by Putin from entering Russia since the end of the Cold War—what I should make of all this. Are these people serious about their anti-Russian venom?

“Oh God, no,” he said, as we sat in a Russian restaurant called Mari Vanna in Manhattan. “This is all just politics, and hypocrisy is the mother’s milk of politics.”

I think he’s right. I’m agnostic on the question of whether President Donald Trump or his associates actually “colluded’’ with Putin to win the election. If they did, they should be strung up.

As for Putin, he’s undoubtedly an authoritarian thug. At home, he has eliminated many of the briefly won freedoms of the Yeltsin era, and abroad, he seems determined to again dominate Russia’s neighbors. But it would be hard to find many liberals in Washington who actually cared about any of this before Trump beat Clinton.

If the outcome had been reversed, Congress might still be working to figure out how exactly Russia meddled in the election—just as the Soviets had done in 1968 and 1976. But we most certainly wouldn’t have this anti-Russian circus going on in the nation’s capital—a show that will likely continue for quite some time.

Dem. rep seeks answers on FBI’s failure to notify Russian hacking victims | TheHill
 

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trump turkey flynn kurds – Google Search
 

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US-Turkish political stew: KurdsFlynn — and even Bharara

NewsdayNov 26, 2017
President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to …

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Turkey ‘very happy’ as US stops arming Kurds in Syria

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>Nov 25, 2017
ANKARA, Turkey — The United States seems set to cut off its supply of arms … Trump that is sure to please Turkey but further alienate Syrian Kurds who …. of Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn …

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Reza Zarrab – Google Search
 

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Zarrab to Testify for Prosecution in Iran-Sanctions Case

Bloomberg38 minutes ago
Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader at the center of an international corruption case, is set to tell a New York jury the “inside story” of a …
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
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The Talk of Turkey? A Politically Charged Trial in New York
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U.S.-Turkish political stew: Kurds, Flynn and even Bharara
 

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Eyes are on Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

Eyes are on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in Ankara on Nov. 21, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Burhan Ozbilici

President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to foreign-policy news.

On Friday, the two leaders were due to speak by phone, with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the long holiday weekend. Subjects were to include Syria and conflicts in the region.

Turkey’s foreign minister, who said he was with Erdogan during the call, said afterward that Trump gave assurances his administration would stop supplying arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have been U.S. allies.

After all, Kurdish separatists are a thorn in Erdogan’s side.

Such policy choices aside, the discussion of Turkish ties to Washington turns quickly and naturally to Trump’s short-tenured national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has his eyes on the retired lieutenant general, who failed to disclose a payment of $530,000 from Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm owned by a Turkish businessman closely tied to Erdogan.

Flynn’s lawyer said back in March that the work for the firm “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” which is why he belatedly filed it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Flynn has been a campaign and White House adviser with close links to a president who rode to election proclaiming “America First.”

Late Thursday, it was reported that Flynn’s lawyer informed Trump’s legal team that he can no longer discuss the Mueller probe with him. That stirred speculation about Flynn’s cooperation with investigators and where it could lead.

This comes after reports that Erdogan’s men may have discussed with Flynn last year a paid mission that involved grabbing a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania — whom Erdogan blames for a coup attempt — and returning him to Turkey.

The intrigue seems to leach further into the American justice system than just the probe of Flynn.

There is also the long-lived case of Reza Zarrab — the Turkish-Iranian gold trader charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Erdogan calls the case a plot against his republic. Over the weekend he purportedly launched an investigation of his own into former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought the case against Zarrab, an ally of Erdogan.

Bharara was fired by Trump after the president asked him to stay in the job. Responding to Erdogan, Bharara’s interim successor Joon Kim and Judge Richard Berman issued a rare reply to the Turkish government.

On Tuesday, Kim said: “Needless to say, it’s our view that those claims are ridiculous on their face. It displays a fundamental misunderstanding or lack of understanding of how our system of justice works and, frankly, the rule of law works.”

Diplomatically, Berman said that if Turkish officials wish to help Zarrab, they could do so by “producing in court any Turkish evidence or witnesses that they may be aware of who could assist the defense in presenting their case.”

Trump doesn’t seem inclined to complain about the Erdogan regime’s conduct in this or any other controversy.

In fact, on the defense side of the case, the president finds two political allies — Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor, and Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general.

By most accounts their job has been to try to get the case resolved through meetings away from courtroom arguments. Recent buzz has been about the prospect of a cooperation deal, but the matter is still apparently pending.

These are the shadowy complications of the moment in Turkish-American politics.

Melville.

By Dan JanisonDan Janison has been a columnist at Newsday since 2007.

What Flynns Flip Flop on Turkey Tells Us
 

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

This article first appeared on Just Security.

Many commentators anticipate that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will likely indict retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn in part for the former National Security Advisor’s previously undisclosed work as a foreign agent of Turkey.

Mueller’s team has reportedly obtained enough evidence to indict Flynn and his son, according to an NBC News report earlier this month.

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There is no way to tell, based on current reporting, whether that body of indictable evidence includes the two alleged meetings in Sept. and Dec. 2016 where Flynn may have discussed a plot to forcibly remove U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, or initiate legal proceedings against him, in exchange for $15 million.

But in considering Flynn’s case, it is important to keep track of how he changed from a relatively hardline position against the government of Turkey to public positions in favor of Ankara.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Fllynn in the East Room of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

Important questions for legal liability and moral responsibility include whether Flynn’s conflict of interest and efforts in favor of Turkey continued past the election and into his time in office.

Engaging in pro-Turkish government dealings was a major change in Flynn’s position on Turkey. In July 2016, Flynn gave a speech supporting the military coup against the Turkish government, specifically citing the country’s “move toward Islamism” under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the military’s secular orientation.

And previously, while serving as DIA Director under the Obama administration, Flynn says he alerted White House officials to Turkey’s indifference toward ISIS’ growth in Syria.

What explains why Flynn changed his position on Turkey and why did he persist in pro-Turkish positions after his firm’s contract to work on behalf of the Turkish government purportedly ended?

I. Flynn’s initial anti-Erdoğan, anti-Islamist public positions, and his later The Hill Op-Ed Reversal

  1. War Against “Cunning Radical Islamists” Tweet (Nov. 16, 2015)

Flynn has publicly spoken against what he views as a global threat of radical Islamism, which, according to his view, also implicated Erdoğan’s pro-Islamist government at one point. He tweeted in November 2015:

We are facing violent, but very serious and cunning radical Islamists. We can be war weary when we win. If we lose, we have nothing.

2. Flynn Expresses Concerns on Turkey’s Indifference to ISIS to Sy Hersh (January 2016)

Flynn seemed to view Turkey’s pro-Islamist attitudes as leading to the country’s indifference to ISIS growing next door. In January 2016, he told Seymour Hersh in a New Yorker interview:

If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic…We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.

He added that the Obama administration gave “enormous pushback” with respect to the DIA’s reporting on ISIS’s growth in Syria, including Turkey’s alleged indifference: “I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.”

3. Flynn Tweets that Fear of Muslims is Rational (Feb. 27. 2016)

In line with his prior statements, Flynn tweeted in Feb. 2016 that fear of Muslims was “rational:”

Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions… http://youtu.be/tJnW8HRHLLw

4. Flynn Lauds the Anti-Erdogan Coup at ACT! For America Speech (July 15, 2016)

On July 15, 2016, Flynn gave a speech at the Cleveland meeting of ACT! For America. The organization is an advocacy group that opposes what it calls “Islamofascism,” which Brigitte Gabriel, the group’s founder, believes comes from “one source: The Koran.” Flynn began his remarks by expressing support for the military-led coup d’état in Turkey:

[The Turkish military] has been just excised for many years by what, what really became a secular country, meaning a sort of, regular sort of nation-state, and then began to move toward Islamism. This is Turkey under Erdoğan, who is actually very close to President Obama.

So, I’m going to be very fascinated to see what happens, because if they, the military succeeds, then one of the things that came out of the military tonight, they’re about plus eight hours from here, so it’s probably about I don’t know, three-four o’clock in the morning there.

One of the things the military immediately said is: “We recognize our responsibilities with NATO, we recognize our responsibilities with the United Nations, we want to make sure that the world knows, we are, we want to be seen as a secular nation. This is the military.

[Applause]

So, yeah, I think that is worth clapping for.

5. New York Times Notes Flynn and Trump Share Islamophobic Outlook and Flynn’s Influence on the Campaign (November 2016)

The New York Times’s post-election profile of Flynn noted his anti-Islamist credentials throughout the campaign:

[Trump and Flynn] have both at times crossed the line into outright Islamophobia.

[Trump and Flynn] both exhibit a loose relationship with facts: General Flynn, for instance, has said that Shariah, or Islamic law, is spreading in the United States (it is not).

As an adviser, General Flynn has already proved to be a powerful influence on Mr. Trump, convincing the president-elect that the United States is in a “world war” with Islamist militants and must work with any willing allies in the fight, including President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

6. Flynn Supports Erdoğan Government’s Goals in the Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 08, 2016)

On Election Day 2016, The Hill published an op-ed by Flynn titled, “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support.”

The op-ed criticized the Obama administration for not being friendly enough toward Erdoğan’s government and portrayed Gülen as a cleric who “portrays himself as a moderate, but he is in fact a radical Islamist.”

It compares Gülen to the founders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and labels him Turkey’s equivalent of Bin Laden:

To professionals in the intelligence community, the stamp of terror is all over Mullah Gülen’s statements in the tradition of Qutb and al Bana. Gülen’s vast global network has all the right markings to fit the description of a dangerous sleeper terror network. From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden.

It also ties Gülen to the Clinton Foundation:

[F]unding seems to be no problem for Gülen’s network. Hired attorneys work to keep the lucrative government source of income for Gülen and his network going. Influential charities such as Cosmos Foundation continue their support for Gülen’s charter schools.

Incidentally, Cosmos Foundation is a major donor to Clinton Foundation. No wonder Bill Clinton calls Mullah Gülen “his friend.”

And concludes:

We need to adjust our foreign policy to recognize Turkey as a priority. We need to see the world from Turkey’s perspective. What would we have done if right after 9/11 we heard the news that Osama bin Laden lives in a nice villa at a Turkish resort while running 160 charter schools funded by the Turkish taxpayers?

The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam. We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.

When Flynn’s op-ed came out, Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who hired Flynn’s firm, told the New York Times : “This is not a guy who would be influenced by a contract. He wrote what he believes.”

Al Monitor ’s Turkey columnist Mustafa Akyol also told the paper of the warm reception Flynn’s op-ed had inside the government of Turkey: “You would expect to see [an Islamophobia] concern here, but quite the contrary: Flynn is quite a respected figure now in government circles, just because he wrote that Gülen should be extradited to Turkey.”

He added: “[Flynn’s op-ed] was greeted with great happiness here,” adding that Erdoğan supporters thought: “Finally, somebody in America who understands us.”

In late Nov., Alptekin denied that either Erdoğan or the Turkish government paid for Flynn’s op-ed, telling The Independent that the idea was “preposterous,” noting that the op-ed also criticized the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Erdogan had sometimes supported.

He contended that Inovo’s contract with Flynn Intel Group was “not about representing the position of the Turkish government,” and Alptekin said that he was not affiliated with the Turkish government.

Flynn has a strong anti-Islamist streak, and yet he went from criticizing Turkey’s relatively pro-Islamist government and supporting the coup against Erdoğan, to publicly advocating for Gülen’s removal to face justice for the coup in Turkey. What changed between these two events—the coup and the op-ed—to cause Flynn to switch positions on Turkey?

II. A likely motive: lucrative lobbying contracts, and how Flynn’s private business activities may have affected his public positions

  1. Flynn Intel Group Signs Contract with Inovo BV (Aug. 2016)

In early August 2016, Flynn Intel Group was approached by Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council, a Turkish economic relations board run by an appointee of Prs Erdoğan.

Alptekin proposed that Flynn work on a project repairing Turkey’s image in the United States with Alptekin’s Netherlands-based firm Inovo BV—work to be performed by Flynn’s firm over 90 days in exchange for $600,000. Flynn agreed.

Though Flynn later conceded in his belated filing that the Inovo work “could be construed to have principally helped the Republic of Turkey,” Flynn opted not to file this work with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) database until strongly encouraged to do so by the Justice Department.

FARA requires lobbyists whose work directly or indirectly benefits a foreign government to file as agents of a foreign power. The Flynn firm would likely assert that because the Inovo work benefitted a business and not a foreign nation, the firm could instead file with Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, and it did so in Sept. 2016.

2. Flynn Meets with Turkish Ministers Alongside Woolsey in New York (Sept. 21, 2016)

On September 21, Flynn met in New York with the Turkish foreign minister and energy ministers (the latter is also Erdoğan’s son-in-law), alongside former CIA Director James Woolsey and a former FBI agent, according to Woolsey’s account of the deliberations.

Woolsey later told the Wall Street Journal that the meeting discussed a plot to remove Turkish cleric Gülen from the United States and take him to Turkey.

According to a report by the Daily Caller, one month after the Sept. 2016 meeting between Flynn and Turkish ministers in New York, Flynn attended an event with Halil Mutlu, former director of the Turken Foundation, a U.S. charity focused on Turkish issues, and President Erdoğan’s cousin. (Readers should note: The Daily Caller generally has a far-right ideological lens, and has been criticized for having a white nationalist problem in recent months.)

3. Flynn Intel Group Lobbies Congress on Inovo’s Behalf (Sept.–Oct. 2016)

After signing the contract with Inovo BV, Flynn’s Intel Group began lobbying Congress on Inovo’s behalf, though Flynn himself did not participate in the lobbying. Flynn’s Sept. 2016 Lobbying Disclosure Act forms reveal that Robert Kelley, Flynn’s lawyer and a former Chief Counsel to a House subcommittee, managed the lobbying portion of the Inovo contract.

According to the FARA registration, in Oct. 2016, VP Bijan R. Kian met twice with Miles Taylor, National Security Advisor to the House Homeland Security Committee, to discuss Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo and research related to Turkey and Gülen.

According to a Daily Caller source, at the second meeting, Kian and Inovo representatives discussed Gülen with Taylor, and what they called his “shady” Gülen Movement Schools.

The source added that House committee staff were not receptive to Kian’s approach, and that Flynn was not present for the meeting. Beyond this Congressional outreach, the FARA registration also notes that Flynn’s firm  oversaw a PR firm SGR LLC’s outreach to an Arkansas state government official with respect to the Inovo work.

The AP reported that as part of the Taylor meeting, Flynn Intel Group staff suggested that Congress hold hearings about Gülen.

At the time of the filing, Alptekin told the AP : “I disagree with the filing…It would be different if I was working for the government of Turkey, but I am not taking directions from anyone in the government.” He said the filings were a response to “political pressure.”

4. Flynn Group’s VP Meets Alptekin Prior to The Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 2, 2016)

According to an in-depth profile of Flynn by The New Yorker ’s Nicholas Schmidle, on November 2, 2016, Alptekin privately met Flynn Intel Group VP Bijan R. Kian and other corporate officers at the firm’s offices in Alexandria, Va. Alptekin, believing that Trump was likely to lose the election, emphasized that, “We have to generate something to show Turkey how successful we can be…What success can we show them now?”

As Schmidle points out, Flynn’s op-ed in The Hill was published a week later.

5. Flynn and Alptekin Statement to the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 17, 2016)

Flynn told the Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 17 statement that he would end his relationship with his firm if offered to serve in the Trump administration. He said: “If I return to government service, my relationship with my company will be severed in accordance with the policy announced by President-elect Trump.”

Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin tells the Journal that he hired Flynn to advise him on the U.S.-Turkish security relationship, and more generally, to improve U.S.-Turkish relations.

6. WH Cabinet Secretary’s Post-Election Investigation into Flynn’s The Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 19, 2016)

On Nov. 19, the day after Trump appointed Flynn as his National Security Adviser, lawyer Bill McGinley, who later became White House Cabinet Secretary, called Kian and others to investigate the Flynn op-ed. A source told The New Yorker:

Some people seemed skeptical as to whether Flynn had really woken up the day before the election and felt compelled to write an op-ed defending Erdoğan…McGinley wanted to know if Turkish government dollars touched that op-ed.

Kian reportedly told McGinley that Flynn wrote the op-ed entirely on his own, and that it was unrelated to his work for Alptekin.

However, the Flynn group’s FARA filing noted that in October and early November, Flynn developed the op-ed based partly based on research done for the Inovo work, and that a draft was shared with Inovo before publication. Further, SGR LLC, a public relations firm Flynn Intel Group hired as part of the Inovo contract, helped Flynn place The Hill op-ed.

7. Second Meeting with Turkish officials on Alleged Gülen Plot in New York (Dec. 2016)

Mueller’s investigation is reportedly looking into whether, during a second alleged meeting between Flynn and Turkish government representatives in mid-Dec. 2016, participants discussed a plan for Flynn and Flynn Jr. to remove Gülen in exchange for up to $15 million dollars.

It is also reportedly looking into whether they discussed a separate plan to free Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab. The Wall Street Journal reported that the alleged meeting took place in mid-December at the 21 Club in New York, and the discussion considered forcibly removing Mr. Gülen from the U.S. on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali.

If the December meeting were to be confirmed, even if the more sensational allegations about the content of the meeting were not established, it could contradict Flynn Intel Group’s filing statements, which state that the Flynn firm’s contract with Inovo terminated in November 2016, and that is when Flynn’s paid work that benefited the Turkish government ended. Intentional false statements on a FARA form are a felony.

8. Flynn Tells Susan Rice “We’ll Take it From Here” on Raqqa Campaign (Jan. 10, 2017)

On Jan. 10, outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice presented Flynn a plan to imminently take over the Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, according to the Washington Post. The plan involved arming Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Syria, and Obama administration officials believed they had little time left to move forward with the operation.

The Post noted that Turkey’s Erdoğan had resisted their overtures to fight the Islamic State more robustly, leading in part to the U.S. plan to rely on the Kurds:

In contrast to Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not see the Islamic State as his country’s No. 1 threat. In private meetings with senior U.S. officials in 2014, Erdoğan said the Kurds were his top concern and that removing Assad ranked second, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

Erdoğan has long been upset by the U.S. support for Syrian Kurds, which he considers part of a terrorist group that threatens Turkey’s national security.

According to the Post , Flynn responded to Rice:

Don’t approve it…We’ll make the decision.

McClatchy reported that it is not known if Flynn consulted other administration officials before telling Rice to hold off on the decision, or whether Flynn’s decision was approved by a higher-ranking official such as Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis.

Raqqa Plan is “Dead on Arrival” When Presented to Trump Officials (Jan. 17, 2017)

When the plan was turned over to the Trump administration on Jan. 17, per Flynn’s request, the Postreported that it “was dead on arrival.” According to McClatchy, “Some members of Congress, in private conversations, have even used the word ‘treason’ to describe Flynn’s intervention” with Rice.

And while there is no reporting whether Flynn advised Trump to hold off on the Raqqa assault, media outlets have noted that Trump only approved the plan weeks after he had fired Flynn.

10. Flynn, Turkish FM Meet over Breakfast at Trump Hotel (Jan. 18, 2017)

McClatchy reported that Flynn met Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over breakfast on Jan. 18 to discuss U.S.-Turkish interests. It was later reported by Business Insider that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was also present at the closed-door meeting at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Pro-government Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported at the time of the breakfast that the meeting was “a first direct reachout between the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan administration and the incoming Donald Trump administration.”

An aide to Cavusoglu told the paper that that “Çavuşoğlu was the only foreign leader at the breakfast and the topics on the U.S.-Turkish agenda were discussed by the attendees.” Cavusoglu would later attend Trump’s inauguration.

Met w/General Flynn,who will assume the position of National Security Advisor, and other officials at a working breakfast in Washington D.C.

11. President Trump’s Call with Erdogan (Feb. 7, 2017)

On Trump’s first call with Erdoğan, the pair agreed to engage in joint action against ISIS positions in Syria, according to two sources in Erdoğan’s office, Reuters reported.

They added that Erdoğan urged Trump not to support the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Al-Monitorreported based that a senior Turkish official said that Erdoğan “drew attention to the close ties between the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers Party,” the Turkish-based Kurdish group. Likewise, Reuters added that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be in Turkey on Feb. 9 to discuss security issues with Turkish officials.

Considering the nature of Flynn’s pre- and alleged post-election work on behalf of the Turkish government, it appears that the money paid to him as part of the Inovo contract may have played a decisive role in changing his position on Turkey.

The extent of his reversal would have negatively implicated U.S. national security interests if it figured into his response to Susan Rice on the operation to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s so-called capital.

But why would Flynn remain motivated by pecuniary interests once he was named to be national security advisor and then served in the administration?

Perhaps it was not a financial interest at that point. Perhaps it was a case of a person’s judgment being clouded, convincing themselves that they believe in a new policy outlook to reduce the cognitive dissonance that would otherwise persist.

Another explanation is a more illicit one. If Flynn and his son were still interested in mid-December in being personally paid $15 million by Turkey, there’s reason to think Flynn would not have dropped such interests going forward on other policies favorable to Turkey.

The allegations reported in the Wall Street Journal and NBC News involving the mid-December meeting certainly raise this specter. The available information in the public domain does not provide a sufficient basis to reach any firm conclusion.

It will be up to Mueller’s investigation and others to tell.

Artin Afkhami Associate Editor at Just Security.

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Story image for trump turkey flynn from Daily Beast

Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?

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Flynn allegedly discussed getting paid $15 million to help free Reza … a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week.
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
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Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?
 

mikenova shared this story .

Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty and will testify against his co-defendant, a federal court heard Tuesday. Zarrab’s cooperation with federal prosecutors could have implications for Michael Flynn, who allegedly plotted on behalf of Turkish interests to help free Zarrab.

Zarrab, a 34-year-old Turkish-Iranian gold trader, is at the center of an Iran sanctions-busting case in which he used his companies and Turkish state-run banks to trade cash for gold in order to secretly buy oil from Iran. A former deputy general manager of one of those banks, Mehmet Atilla, is charged as part of that same conspiracy.

Atilla’s lawyers complained that co-defendant Zarrab had vanished in the weeks before trial was to start, an indication that he was no longer cooperating with them but instead federal prosecutors. He is expected to testify Tuesday or Wednesday.

Zarrab’s apparent cooperation with federal prosecutors raised speculation that he was also cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Flynn, because it seemed unlikely prosecutors would offer a plea deal to Zarrab in exchange for his cooperation for the comparatively lower-profile trial of Atilla.

Shortly after Zarrab seemed to flip, Flynn’s lawyers terminated a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week. Flynn’s lawyer reportedly met with members of the Mueller probe on Monday, ABC News reported, a further indication that the embattled ex-national security advisor is also pursuing a plea deal.

Zarrab’s plight was reportedly raised by Turkish interests in a December 2016 meeting with Flynn, who was designated to be President Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn was supposedly offered $15 million to arrange Zarrab’s release and to kidnap an exiled Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen, and bring him to Turkey. (Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen, a former ally, of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup.)

The Zarrab case has roiled the upper echelons of the Turkish government and stems from a 2013 corruption scandal, which allegedly revealed that top-level ministers to bribes to sign off on the sanctions evasions — and even allegedly captured Erdogan and his son talking about how to hide money.

Erdogan has repeatedly raised Zarrab’s release with U.S. officials from the Obama and Trump administrations. Zarrab even retained friends of President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey, to negotiate a diplomatic release with the top levels of the Trump and Erdogan administrations.

After the jury was selected on Monday, Atilla’s lawyers asked the judge to delay the trial so they could prepare for a mystery witness.

“The government should also make clear that the mystery witness is Mr. Reza Zarrab,” Judge Richard Berman wrote in a ruling denying the motion to postpone trial on Monday. “This is something that experienced counsel knew or should have known about for months.”

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Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today – Raw Story
 

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Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today
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A Turkish-Iranian gold trader linked to both Mike Flynn and Rudy Giuliani has agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors. Reza Zarrab was scheduled to stand trial earlier this month in New York, where the U.S. attorney had filed charges in an 
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9:46 AM 11/23/2017 – Manafort took 18 trips to Moscow while working for Putin allies

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Manafort took 18 trips to Moscow while working for Putin allies.

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Political guru Paul Manafort took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties.

Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, “100 percent.”

It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.

Manafort’s flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities, including current and former government officials, suggest the links between Trump’s former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously thought.

What’s now known leads some Russia experts to suspect that the Kremlin’s emissaries at times turned Manafort into an asset acting on Russia’s behalf. “You can make a case that all along he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits,” said Daniel Fried, a former assistant secretary of state who communicated with Manafort during Yanukovych’s reign in President George W. Bush’s second term.

“He’s at best got a conflict of interest and at worst is really doing Putin’s bidding,” said Fried, now a fellow with the Atlantic Council.

A central question for Justice Department Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and several congressional committees is whether Manafort, in trying to boost Trump’s underdog campaign, in any way collaborated with Russia’s cyber meddling aimed at improving Trump’s electoral prospects.

His lucrative consulting relationships have already led a grand jury convened by Mueller to charge him and an associate with conspiracy, money laundering and other felonies – charges that legal experts say are likely meant to pressure them to cooperate with the wider probe into possible collusion.

Government investigators are examining information they’ve received regarding “talks between Russians about using Manafort as part of their broad influence operations during the elections,” a source familiar with the inquiry told McClatchy.

Suspicions about Manafort have been fueled by a former British spy’s opposition research on Trump. In a now-famous dossier, former MI6 officer Christopher Steele quoted an ethnic Russian close to Trump as saying that Manafort had managed “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the campaign and the Kremlin.

You can make a case that he …was either working principally for Moscow, or he was trying to play both sides against each other just to maximize his profits.

Daniel Fried, an assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, called that allegation “false,” saying that Manafort “never – ever – worked for the Russian government.” He also denied that Manafort ever recommended Ukrainian opposition to NATO, saying he “was a strong advocate” of closer relations with the western military alliance while advising political parties there.

“Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election,” Maloni said. “No amount of wishing and hoping by his political opponents will make this spurious allegation true.”

Maloni declined to say whether, while in Moscow, Manafort met with any Russian government officials.

Land of the oligarchs

The trail of Manafort’s decade of dealings 5,000 miles from America’s capital is murky. But the previously unreported flight records, spanning from late 2004 through 2015, reflect a man seemingly always on the move. Over those years, Manafort visited Ukraine at least 138 times. His trips between Ukraine and Moscow all occurred between 2005 and 2011 and were mostly in 2005 and 2006.

Prosecutors have charged that Manafort and associate Rick Gates funneled through a maze of foreign accounts at least $75 million in consulting fees from an array of Kremlin-leaning clients: Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who secretly paid them $10 million annually for several years; a second Ukrainian oligarch; and the ruling Party of Regions, which supported Yanukovych until corruption allegations and bloody protests led to his overthrow in February 2014.

Maloni said Manafort’s trips to Russia were “related to his work on behalf of Oleg Deripaska’s commercial interests.”

The further unmasking of Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska in recent months, however, has heightened suspicions about Manafort.

In July 2016, weeks after he was named Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort crafted an unusual, eyebrow-raising proposal for Deripaska, a member of Putin’s inner circle. In emails first reported by the Washington Post, Manafort offered in seemingly coded language to provide “private briefings” on the U.S. presidential race for the Russian aluminum magnate. Manafort directed a trusted associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, to relay his message to Deripaska, remarking that it could be a way to make himself “whole” — possibly an allusion to a multimillion-dollar legal action Deripaska had filed against Manafort. Kilimnik, a Ukrainian citizen, once attended a Russian military academy known for training spies.

Deripaska, who did not respond to a request for comment, has denied seeing Manafort’s proposal and says it went nowhere. Kilimnik did not respond to emailed questions, but he has denied in published reports having any connection to Russian intelligence services.

Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election. No amount of wishing and hoping by his political opponents will make this spurious allegation true.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry, told McClatchy: “It certainly looks like Mr. Manafort viewed his position on the campaign as a way of further profiting personally from the work that he was doing on behalf of Russian interests.”

Manafort’s proposal to Deripaska “shows a certain willingness to trade information in the hope of obtaining financial rewards from pro-Russian interests,” Schiff said in a phone interview. “If accurate, that’s a dangerous quality to have in a campaign chairman for a presidential campaign.”

Two former U.S. government officials with knowledge of the way Putin operates said three of the oligarchs with whom Manafort had contacts – Deripaska, Dmitry Firtash, who helped finance the party behind Yanukovych, and Medvedchuk – were potential conduits with the Kremlin.

“All three of those guys are able to pass messages directly to Putin, as well as to his subordinates and aides within the Russian presidential administration,” said one of the ex-officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “So they all have access and Manafort knew all three or their close associates fairly well.”

No evidence has surfaced that Manafort used any of them to pass messages between the campaign and the Kremlin.

During Manafort’s five-month tenure with the campaign, Russian emissaries made at least two behind-the-scenes offers to deliver “dirt” about Clinton to Trump’s campaign, including at a June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower three weeks after Manafort was promoted to campaign chairman; he attended the meeting along with Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer. Trump’s aides say nothing came of that discussion, or a similar offer conveyed in April 2016 to foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos; Manafort was copied on an email relaying that offer, which said the Russians had “thousands” of emails from Democrats.

In July, days before the Democratic National Convention, the British transparency group WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of embarrassing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind the hacking, and also was responsible for the social media dissemination of a blizzard of fake and harshly critical news about Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Schiff, emphasizing he could only discuss what’s on the public record, said “these are some of the communications and interactions that are of deep interest to us, because obviously the timing is highly suggestive. It’s one of the reasons why Manafort is such a key figure in all of this.”

He certainly brought a pro-Russian proclivity to a campaign that already seemed to have one. Whether he was attracted to the trump campaign or the campaign was attracted to him on the basis of his Russian contacts … he did bring those Russian contacts and pro-Russian prejudices with him to the campaign and apparently found a welcome environment there.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee

Globe-trotting consultant

Manafort first began to establish connections in Ukraine – ground zero in the geopolitical struggle between Putin’s Russia and the West – in late 2004. His reputation as a masterful political strategist and fixer was earned over decades hopping planes to the Congo, Philippines and elsewhere to advise authoritarian rulers friendly with the United States.

By the end of that year, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine was paralyzed by widespread protests amid allegations that Yanukovych, the prime minister in a government rife with corruption, had won the presidency in a rigged election. What became the Orange Revolution persisted until another, internationally monitored vote was held and rival Victor Yushchenko was declared the winner.

Manafort and a partner formed Davis Manafort Partners Inc. in early 2005 and opened offices in Kiev.

EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM

Manafort’s first client in Ukraine was Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man and a key funder of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Deripaska introduced Manafort to Akhmetov, who hailed from Russia-leaning Eastern Ukraine. In the summer of 2005, Akhmetov tapped Manafort to help Yanukovych and his party in the 2006 elections, according to an American consultant based in Kiev, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid damaging relationships.

The multimillion-dollar political consulting deal was sealed at a meeting in an elite Moscow hotel attended by Manafort, Akhmetov and a half dozen other wealthy Ukrainians.

Manafort spent the next several years advising Deripaska, Akhmetov and other Ukrainian oligarchs and giving the gruff-talking Yanukovych a makeover down to his hair style and attire. Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010.

EDITORS: END OPTIONAL TRIM

In 2014, however, Manafort’s business took a hit when Yanukovych fled to Russia, days before Kremlin-backed forces invaded Eastern Ukraine. He was quickly hired by the Opposition Bloc, which leaned even more toward Moscow.

His work drew rave reviews from one Oppo Bloc leader, Nestor Shufrych, whom multiple people in positions to know described as a close ally of Medvedchuk. Shufrych told a Ukrainian publication that Manafort urged the new party to take an anti-NATO stance and be the “voice of Russians in (Ukraine’s) East.”

Calling Manafort “a genius,” Shufrych said the party had paid him about $1 million, and the investment “paid off.”

Philip Griffin, a former associate of Manafort’s who consults in Kiev, said he could not imagine Manafort opposing NATO. “Paul Manafort is a Reagan Republican,” Griffin said. “He would never betray that legacy by doing Russia’s bidding.”

Maloni said Manafort argued strongly that “Ukraine was better served by having closer relations with the West and NATO.”

He also said Manafort succeeded in pushing “a number of major initiatives that were strongly supported by the U.S. government and opposed by Russia,” including the denuclearization of Ukraine and the expansion of NATO exercises in the region.

138 The number of trips Paul Manafort took to Ukraine between 2004 and 2015 while consulting for Russian and pro-Russian oligarchs.

Some former U.S. government officials, though, are skeptical.

Despite Ukraine’s popular uprising against Yanukovych that led to at least 75 deaths, “Paul Manafort maintained ties to the Opposition Bloc party and Viktor Yanukovych’s former cronies, thus choosing to associate himself with crooks and kleptocrats rather than Ukraine’s pro-Western reformers,” said Mike Carpenter, who focused on Russia matters as a top Pentagon and National Security Council official during the Obama administration. “This speaks volumes about his character and lack of respect for democratic values.”

One of Shufrych’s and Oppo Bloc’s behind-the-scenes allies was Medvedchuk, who is so close to Putin that the Russian president is the godfather of his daughter.

Partial transcripts from tape recordings of then-Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, published in 2002, show Kumcha saying: “Well, we know about it, that he was a KGB agent, 100 percent.”

Details of Manafort’s contacts with Medvedchuk could not be learned. But Medvedchuk, who is under U.S. sanctions, has acknowledged meeting Manafort once in 2014.

Flights of interest

Several of the trips in Manafort’s flight records could draw investigators’ interest.

In April 2014, for instance, Manafort traveled to Vienna. Ukrainian oligarch Firtash had been arrested there the prior month on U.S. charges that he helped orchestrate an $18.5 million bribery scheme involving the government of India, a U.S. firm and a Firtash company in the Virgin Islands. A former U.S. government official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Manafort met with Firtash in Vienna, where he is awaiting extradition to the United States.

Another Manafort trip that could interest investigators took place in July 2013 when Manafort and Kilimnik flew to Frankfurt on a private plane owned by Andrey Artemenko, a pro-Moscow Ukrainian legislator.

American experts on Russia said privately they suspect the trip was a prelude to a broader Russian influence effort to dissuade Yanukovych’s government from signing an agreement to associate with the European Union. That decision, experts say, opened the door to Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine. This year, Artemenko was expelled from the Ukrainian legislature and his citizenship was revoked after disclosures he and a Trump attorney had pitched a “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia widely seen as favoring Moscow.

Pro-Russia stances

Some of Trump’s most remarked-upon statements about foreign policy that directly or indirectly implicated Russia occurred on Manafort’s watch in the 2016 campaign. For example, Trump launched broadsides against NATO allies for not contributing enough money and suggested the United States might rethink its commitment to the European mutual defense alliance credited with deterring Russian military ambitions.

Trump also raised doubts about whether he would stand behind U.S. sanctions that President Barack Obama imposed in December 2014 in retaliation for the Crimean invasion.

As the GOP platform committee drew up party positions a week before the Republican National Convention, a plank calling for the United States to provide “lethal weapons” for Ukraine’s defense wasaltered in a controversial and mysterious move. The American consultant in Ukraine said that Manafort aide Kilimnik had boasted he played a role in easing the language to recommend only “appropriate assistance” to Ukraine’s military.

EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM

Charlie Black, a onetime partner of Manafort’s, says he remains baffled by the change.

“It was inexplicable to me that a majority of platform members would have taken a pro-Russian position on Ukraine,” he said. “They must not have known this was a pro-Russia provision.”

EDITORS: END OPTIONAL TRIM

In late July after FBI Director James Comey said he would not back prosecution of Clinton over her use of a private email server to conduct State Department business, Trump took a bizarre step. He publicly beseeched Russia to help unearth 30,000 emails that Clinton said she had deleted because they dealt with personal matters.

Paul Manafort maintained ties to the Opposition Bloc party and Viktor Yanukovych’s former cronies, thus choosing to associate himself with crooks and kleptocrats rather than Ukraine’s pro-Western reformers.

Mike Carpenter, senior Pentagon and White House official who specialized in Russia during the Obama administration.

During the summer, a U.S. group supporting Ukraine asked both presidential candidates for a letter recognizing the country’s 25th year of independence since the fall of the Soviet Union. Clinton obliged. But the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America was unable to wrest a letter from the Trump campaign, said a person familiar with the matter. The group’s president did not respond to phone messages.

Manafort resigned from the campaign on Aug. 19, 2016 after The New York Times disclosed a secret Ukrainian ledger indicating he was to receive more than $12 million in off-the-books payments from Yanukovych’s party from 2007 to 2012.

Schiff said he found an intriguing symmetry between Trump’s Russia stances and Manafort’s work in Kiev that might explain their mutual attraction.

“Whether he was attracted to the Trump campaign or the campaign was attracted to him on the basis of his Russian contacts,” Schiff said, “the fact of the matter is, he did bring those Russian contacts and pro-Russian prejudices with him to the campaign and apparently found a welcome home there.”

Kevin G. Hall, James Whitlow and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project contributed to this story. Peter Stone is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Russias Lies Are Aimed at Undermining European Democracies

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Exclusive: Manafort flight records show deeper Kremlin ties than previously known – News & Observer

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Exclusive: Manafort flight records show deeper Kremlin ties than previously known
News & Observer
A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a formerRussian intelligence agent, 100 percent. It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign 

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Journalist Investigating Trump And Russia Says ‘Full Picture Is One …

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Alt-America and English Uprising review Trump, Brexit and the far right

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Both David Neiwerts book on the US radical right and Paul Stockers on Brexit argue that economic factors take second place in explaining populismDonald Trump is US president because just under 80,000 people in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin flipped those states his way. Many of his extra voters were working-class white men who had voted for Obama in 2012 and switched because of Trumps pledge to bring jobs back to the rust belt. They may not have liked Obamas liberal policies on gay people and guns, but for them the big issue remained the economy.

But Trump would not have won without the support of three other groups: his gains in suburban and rural counties outweighed Hillary Clintons success in the big cities; despite the reservations of the Republican establishment about his candidacy, Trump retained the partys base, particularly among religious voters (the three times married pussy-grabber won more than 80% of white evangelicals); and he energised a movement of supporters that gained him the Republican nomination, without which he wouldnt have got any votes at all.

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Ynetnews News – Classified Israeli intel Trump disclosed to Russia revealed

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New information on the classified Israeli intelligence US President Donald Trump revealed to Russia has been uncovered, detailing a special operations mission by the IDF special commando unit Sayeret Matkal and the Mossad deep inside Syrian territory, it was reported in the US magazine Vanity Fair.

It was revealed in June that Israeli cyber operators were able to penetrate a small cell of extremist bomb makers in Syria who were working to make explosives resembling laptop batteries capable of bypassing X-ray machines unnoticed.

According to Vanity Fair’s report, the operation—which took place in February—aimed to acquire information on new explosive technology being developed by Ibrahim al-Asiri, an al-Qaeda’s chief bombmaker.

The meeting. R to L: Kislyak, Trump, Lavrov (Photo: EPA)The meeting. R to L: Kislyak, Trump, Lavrov (Photo: EPA)

Intelligence for the classified mission, according to an ABC report from American sources, was provided by an Israeli spy who was planted deep within ISIS territory. His life was reportedly put in danger due to Trump’s disclosure.

According to Israeli and American intelligence sources, a Sayeret Matkal commando unit and Mossad tech agents flew two Yasur helicopters over Jordanian territory into Syrian territory.

The helicopters landed a few kilometers from the target, unloaded two jeeps bearing Syrian army insignia, which the Mossad and Sayeret Matkal personnel drove into enemy territory. The details of their operation are scarce, and specifics on how they managed to gather the information is contradictory at times. According to one source, the forces installed a microphone in the room where the ISIS terror cell was to meet, but a second source claimed that the forces had retooled a telephone booth in the meeting area to pick up and transmit surrounding sounds to the IDF Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, which is responsible for collecting signal intelligence and deciphering codes.After a few days of Unit 8200 crews listening at their base in the Golan Heights to the terror cell, there was concern that Israel had been misled by their sources in the field.

Eventually, the unit picked up the voice of an ISIS soldier who described how to turn a laptop into a bomb that can be transferred to airport airfields and board a passenger plane.

When the information reached the Mossad headquarters, officials in the organization decided to share the information with their American counterparts. According to an Israeli military source, the decision to share was also due to professional arrogance stemming from a desire to impress their partners in Washington by the tasks they were able to perform.

IDF soldier repelling from a Yasur helicopter (Photo: Herzel Yosef)IDF soldier repelling from a Yasur helicopter (Photo: Herzel Yosef)

According to the magazine, the American espionage community considered the Israeli mission to be a “casebook example” of intelligence gathering of valued information being put to good use.As a result of this information, US officials, followed by the United Kingdom, have banned people from bringing laptops and electronic devices larger than a mobile phone on flights from several Muslim-majority countries.

Only four months later, after the airports adopted the new and tougher US safety regulations, the ban was gradually lifted.

The achievement was then overshadowed when, on May 10, Trump boasted to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak in a White House meeting about the his access to classified information.”I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” Trump reportedly bragged in the White House meeting, going on to brief the two on “code-word information” the US received from Israel which compromised Israel’s sources in enemy territory.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters that Trump’s disclosure was “wholly appropriate.” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted that the allies will continue to have a “deep, meaningful and unprecedented” security relationship.

President Trump himself defended his decision by saying he had an “absolute right” to share information with Moscow.

During a press conference at the White House with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said that his meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was “very successful and will contribute to the war on terrorism.”

Revealed: The highly sensitive Israeli intelligence on Isis that Donald Trump gave away to Russia – The Independent

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Revealed: The highly sensitive Israeli intelligence on Isis that Donald Trump gave away to Russia
The Independent
Details have emerged of the highly-classified Israeli intelligence revealed by Donald Trump to Russian officials earlier this year. The US President’s decision to spill the information during a meeting with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was described 
Report: Trump Revealed Israeli Commando and Mossad Operation in Syria to RussiansHaaretz
Trump divulged to Russia details of a daring Israeli raid in Syria reportThe Times of Israel
Report: Trump told Russian officials of Israeli operation in Syria in MayThe Jerusalem Post
Ynetnews
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Who is Bijan Kian? Feds Probe Ex-Flynn Associate for Payments From Companies With Russian and Turkish Ties

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

Federal investigators probing the lobbying work of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn are focused in part on the role of Bijan Kian, Flynn’s former business partner, according to a person interviewed by the FBI.

Investigators are also looking at whether payments from foreign clients to Flynn and his company, the now-inactive Flynn Intel Group, were lawful, according to two separate sources with knowledge of the broad inquiry into Flynn’s business activities. That includes payments by three Russian companies and Inovo, a Netherlands-based company controlled by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, they said.

The FBI’s interest in Kian had not been previously reported. Kian played a central role in securing and overseeing the Inovo contract, two people with knowledge of that project said.

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It is not clear whether Kian is a target of the criminal investigation or whether investigators are trying to build a fuller understanding of how Flynn’s company operated.

A person recently interviewed by the FBI in connection with the Flynn investigation said agents from the bureau’s criminal division had asked as much about Kian and his work on the project with Alptekin as they had about Flynn.

Kian did not respond to repeated requests for comment, nor did the lawyer he recently hired, Robert Trout. The FBI declined to comment.

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to requests for comment. Alptekin declined to comment for this story but last month told Reuters that he was satisfied with the work done by Flynn Intel Group and denied any wrongdoing.

The FBI has been investigating whether Flynn’s consulting firm lobbied on behalf of Turkey—after being paid $530,000 by Inovo—without making the proper disclosure, Reuters reported earlier this month.

The federal investigation is being run by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller has a mandate to investigate contacts between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign team and any related matters. Flynn was fired by the Trump administration in February after officials said he mischaracterized a series of phone calls with Russia’s ambassador last December.

The top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has separately been looking into whether Flynn made false statements in applying for security clearance, said he was also scrutinizing Kian.

“I have an interest in Bijan Kian and his interactions with General Flynn based on specific documents already obtained by the committee,” Elijah Cummings told Reuters in an email.

Kelner has sought immunity for Flynn in exchange for his testimony, saying his client “certainly has a story to tell.”

Failed Coup Opens Door

In private conversations with potential clients, Kian portrayed himself as a rainmaker for Flynn, tapping into connections cultivated during a five-year tenure as a director at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, according to one person who worked with the firm.

Alptekin told Reuters in May that his firm hired Flynn Intel Group to research Fethullah Gulen’s activities in the United States, which he suspected were “poisoning” relations between the United States and Turkey. Like Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan, Alptekin blamed the coup on followers of Gulen.

Gulen has denied any role in the coup and dismisses Turkey’s allegations that he heads a terrorist organization.

Kian oversaw key elements of the project that emerged, including a still-unfinished documentary on Gulen, according to two people involved in the project.

Inovo paid Flynn Intel Group a total of $530,000, starting in September, according to a Justice Department filing by the company in March. Flynn Intel Group paid $80,000 to Inovo in “consultancy fees,” according to the filing, which does not provide more detail on why payments were made in both directions.

On September 19, 2016, Kian and Flynn met in New York with Turkey’s foreign minister and energy minister, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.

In late October Kian invited staff of the House Homeland Security Committee to Flynn Intel Group’s headquarters in Virginia. The meeting was called to show off new mobile-phone security technology, but Kian also used the opportunity to try to get a congressional hearing on Gulen, according to a person at the meeting.

At that point, the Flynn Intel Group had only disclosed its work for Alptekin’s Inovo in a filing with Congress. It had not mentioned Inovo’s ties to Turkey.

When Justice Department officials became aware months later that Kian and other Flynn Intel Group officials had met with Turkish officials, they insisted on a fuller disclosure, people involved in those discussions said.

The Flynn Intel Group made the more detailed disclosure in its March filing with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act that said the work that Flynn and Kian did for Inovo “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

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Mike Flynn business partner Bijan Kian now subject of Mueller probe

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Federal investigators are zeroing in on Bijan Kian, an Iranian-American who was a partner at the now-dissolved Flynn Intel Group, and have …
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Will Mueller Indict Kushner? Trump’s Son-in-Law Natural Target For Russia Probe, Legal Experts Say

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Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s failure to properly list foreign contacts on his national security clearance forms and his vast financial holdings make him a “natural” target for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, legal experts told Newsweek.

Indeed, while there are no official indications that Kushner is a target of Mueller’s probe, he figures prominently in several exchanges that are known to be of interest to the special counsel’s team.

Kushner had contact with foreign officials during last year’s transition to the White House, at the behest of then President-elect Donald Trump. He also directly worked with data company Cambridge Analytica, whose CEO reportedly reached out to WikiLeaks to help organize the damaging Democratic emails the site published. Kushner’s also a member of Trump’s family, had glaring omissions on his security clearance forms, and his potential influence in former FBI Director James Comey’s dismissal makes him an integral player in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga that’s cast a shadow over the administration’s first year in office.

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“In the broader context here, one of the main lines of inquiry about Jared Kushner is about the omissions from his national security forms,” Savannah Law School associate professor and former White House associate counsel Andrew Wright told Newsweek Wednesday. “To the extent that he had to revise his S-86 forms…to add foreign contacts that he hadn’t done, that’s going to be a natural source of investigative interest.

“That’s going to then lead the special counsel folks to start looking into that, to all the different contacts he’s had,” added Wright, who worked in the Obama administration.

Kushner and his foreign contacts during the transition have reportedly been the focus of questions by Mueller’s team, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Trump and his administration, including Kushner, have resoundingly denied any collusion with Russia to win the election last year. Trump himself has called Mueller’s probe the greatest “political witch hunt” in the country’s history.

The special counsel’s wide-ranging probe is specifically curious about Kushner’s contacts while a United Nations resolution pertaining to Israel’s occupied settlements was before the General Assembly in December 2016, during the heart of the transition. The resolution passed 14-0, as the Obama administration opted not to use its veto power despite lobbying by the incoming Trump administration and Israel.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner waits for President Donald Trump and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to speak at a joint statement at the White House on October 23. Kushner is now reportedly the focus of questions by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in the Trump-Russia probe.REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

To Wright’s point, Kushner’s “multiple attempts” to wrap up his security clearance forms was labeled as unprecedented by the head of the government agency charged with reviewing the forms, Newsweekreported last month.

“I have never seen that level of mistakes,” the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, Charles Phalen, told a House subcommittee during a hearing.

Kushner has since submitted the security clearance forms three times and added an addendum with more than 100 interactions or meetings with foreign contacts, including Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, The New York Times reported in July. She was the Kremlin-linked attorney whom Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met with at Manhattan’s Trump Tower in June 2016 to possibly obtain political opposition research on Hillary Clinton.

Kushner dismissed the meeting, but the possibility of creating a diplomatic back channel between Trump and Moscow in order to evade detection by U.S. intelligence services—as reported by The Washington Postonly brings extra scrutiny to the omissions on his clearance forms.

“I’m not sure the questions themselves signal an imminent indictment or anything, but I think they are a natural progression when you start looking at someone’s foreign contacts in total,” Wright said.

Mueller’s 12-count indictment of Manafort, which included charges of laundering $75 million through offshore accounts, was written in a way that could be applied to others within Trump’s world.

“I think a number of the counts or theories that you see in the Manafort indictment are translatable to other people within the Trump orbit, and Kushner’s one of them,” Pace Law School associate professor David Dorfman told Newsweek. “The use of real estate transactions to hide money, and possible money laundering, I think is definitely a possibility.”

While drawing similarities in how Kushner and Trump each rose in the real estate world and took over their family’s business, Dorfman noted that the potential for Kushner to lose a prized 666 Fifth Avenue property in New York and his $285 million loan with German financial titan Deutsche Bank makes him potentially vulnerable to Mueller and the Russia probe.

“Supposedly the jurisdiction of the Mueller investigation is collusion with Russians,” Dorfman said. “He’s going get there by first finding and proving substantial financial crimes and failures to report…and put the clamps on these people. And then hopefully, in his mind, someone will crack and say, ‘OK, if you give me leniency on this I’ll tell you the real story about what’s going on between people in the Trump Organization, and Trump himself maybe, and the Russians.’”

Mueller Probing Pre-Election Flynn Meeting With Pro-Russia Congressman

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WASHINGTON — Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller are questioning witnesses about an alleged September 2016 meeting between Mike Flynn, who later briefly served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a staunch advocate of policies that would help Russia, two sources with knowledge of the investigation told NBC News.

The meeting allegedly took place in Washington the evening of Sept. 20, while Flynn was working as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. It was arranged by his lobbying firm, the Flynn Intel Group. Also in attendance were Flynn’s business partners, Bijan Kian and Brian McCauley, and Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked closely with his father, the sources said.

Mueller is reviewing emails sent from Flynn Intel Group to Rohrabacher’s congressional staff thanking them for the meeting, according to one of the sources, as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Image: Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia on June 2, 2013.Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has pushed for better relations with Russia, traveled to Moscow to meet with officials and advocated to overturn the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 bill that froze assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors. The sources could not confirm whether Rohrabacher and Flynn discussed U.S. policy towards Russia in the alleged meeting.

The Washington Post reported in May that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also a California Republican, was secretly recorded telling other party members, in what seemed to be a joke, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Rohrabacher offered Trump a deal that to protect Julian Assange, creator of WikiLeaks, which released emails damaging to Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election, from legal peril. In return for not prosecuting him for his group’s 2010 leak of State Department emails, Assange would allegedly provide proof that Russia was not the source of the hacked Democratic emails. The intelligence community has pointed to Russia as the secret provider of the email trove to WikiLeaks.

Rohrabacher’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mueller’s interest in the nature of Flynn and Rohrabacher’s discussion marks the first known time a member of Congress could be wrapped into the investigation.

Most of what has been reported about Mueller’s questioning of Flynn’s lobbying work has concerned his efforts on behalf of Turkey. Less is known about his lobbying ties to Russia, though he was paid $45,000 plus expenses for attending a gala in Moscow in December 2015 and being interviewed by RT, the Kremlin-financed cable TV news channel.

Image: Mike FlynnFlynn was fired after just 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser over misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

Multiple sources have told NBC News that Mueller has gathered enough evidence to lead to an indictment in the investigation into Flynn and his son.

Federal investigators have been probing Flynn’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkey, including an alleged meeting with senior Turkish officials in December 2016 where he was offered millions of dollars to secure the return of the Turkish president’s chief rival to Turkey and see that a U.S. case against a Turkish national was dismissed.

In a statement, Flynn’s lawyers, led by Robert Kelner, said that “out of respect for the process of the various investigations” regarding the 2016 campaign, they have avoided responding to every “rumor or allegation” in the media. “But today’s news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule: they are false.”

A grand jury impaneled by Mueller is continuing to interview witnesses with knowledge of Flynn’s business activities over the next week, the two sources said.

Mike Flynn business partner Bijan Kian now subject of Mueller probe

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WASHINGTON — A former business associate of Michael Flynn has become a subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation for his role in the failure of Flynn’s former lobbying firm to disclose its work on behalf of foreign governments, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

Federal investigators are zeroing in on Bijan Kian, an Iranian-American who was a partner at the now-dissolved Flynn Intel Group, and have questioned multiple witnesses in recent weeks about his lobbying work on behalf of Turkey. The grand jury convened for the investigation will soon have a chance to question some of those witnesses, the sources say.

Mueller’s strategy becoming more clear 1:31

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Mueller recently indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates simultaneously. Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty. Both Flynn’s and Manafort’s lobbying firms have come under investigation for failing to disclose lobbying work on behalf of foreign governments.

Mueller is leading the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign, which led him to probe the work of Flynn and Manafort, who both served on the Trump campaign and lobbied on behalf of foreign governments without initially disclosing it.

The Flynn Intel Group, managed by Flynn, who was briefly President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, was paid $530,000 for lobbying on behalf of a Netherlands-based firm called Inovo BV, owned by Turkish-American businessman Ekim Alptekin. Months later, the firm filed the required paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), acknowledging that the work “could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey,” according to the filing.

Image: Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the NSA, Bijan Kian, center, and Mike Flynn at the fifth annual Nowruz CommissionMueller’s team is interested in Kian’s role in the Inovo contract as well as foreign lobbying efforts that the Flynn Intel Group may have yet to disclose, according to the sources familiar with the investigation. Emails subpoenaed by the Special Counsel’s Office revealed a September 20, 2016, meeting between Kian, Flynn and pro-Russia Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

That meeting has been the subject of prosecutors’ recent questions to witnesses in the case, the three sources said. Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has pushed for better relations with Russia, traveled to Moscow to meet with officials and advocated to overturn the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 bill that froze assets of Russian investigators and prosecutors.

The Flynn Intel Group did not disclose this meeting even after the company retroactively filed as a foreign agent under FARA, which has led to scrutiny by Mueller’s team, two people familiar with the investigation told NBC.

Reuters previously reported that Mueller was interested in Kian, but not that he was a subject of the investigation or that witnesses would be testifying about his actions in front of the grand jury.

Kazakhstan Investment ForumKian previously served as a board member of the Export-Import Bank. He is also a co-founder of the Nowruz Commission, a D.C.-based nonprofit that hosts an opulent annual Nowruz, or Iranian New Year, gala, which Flynn and Alptekin both attended in the past.

NBC News has reported that Mueller has gathered enough evidence to bring charges in the investigation into Flynn and his son Michael G. Flynn. The elder Flynn was fired after just 24 days on the job for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

Kian’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment. Flynn and Rohrabacher did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Special Counsel’s office also did not respond.

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Stunning Report Shows The CIA Warned Israel That Trump Was A Putin Puppet Who Can’t Be Trusted

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Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak After Comey Was Canned

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On a dark night at the tail end of last winter, just a month after the inauguration of the new American president, an evening when only a sickle moon hung in the Levantine sky, two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters flew low across Jordan and then, staying under the radar, veered north toward the twisting ribbon of shadows that was the Euphrates River. On board, waiting with a professional stillness as they headed into the hostile heart of Syria, were Sayeret Matkal commandos, the Jewish state’s elite counterterrorism force, along with members of the technological unit of the Mossad, its foreign-espionage agency. Their target: an ISIS cell that was racing to get a deadly new weapon thought to have been devised by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the Saudi national who was al-Qaeda’s master bombmaker in Yemen.

It was a covert mission whose details were reconstructed for Vanity Fair by two experts on Israeli intelligence operations. It would lead to the unnerving discovery that ISIS terrorists were working on transforming laptop computers into bombs that could pass undetected through airport security. U.S. Homeland Security officials—quickly followed by British authorities—banned passengers traveling from an accusatory list of Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptops and other portable electronic devices larger than a cell phone on arriving planes. It would not be until four tense months later, as foreign airports began to comply with new, stringent American security directives, that the ban would be lifted on an airport-by-airport basis.

In the secretive corridors of the American espionage community, the Israeli mission was praised by knowledgeable officials as a casebook example of a valued ally’s hard-won field intelligence being put to good, arguably even lifesaving, use.

Yet this triumph would be overshadowed by an astonishing conversation in the Oval Office in May, when an intemperate President Trump revealed details about the classified mission to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and Sergey I. Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Along with the tempest of far-reaching geopolitical consequences that raged as a result of the president’s disclosure, fresh blood was spilled in his long-running combative relationship with the nation’s clandestine services. Israel—as well as America’s other allies—would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment as it wondered, not for the first time, what was going on with Trump and Russia. (In fact, Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election.) In the hand-wringing aftermath, the entire event became, as is so often the case with spy stories, a tale about trust and betrayal.

And yet, the Israelis cannot say they weren’t warned.

In the American-Israeli intelligence relationship, it is customary for the Mossad station chief and his operatives working under diplomatic cover out of the embassy in Washington to go to the C.I.A.’s Langley, Virginia, headquarters when a meeting is scheduled. This deferential protocol is based on a realistic appraisal of the situation: America is a superpower, and Israel, as one of the country’s senior intelligence officials recently conceded with self-effacing candor, is “a speck of dust in the wind.”

Nevertheless, over the years the Israeli dust has been sprinkled with flecks of pure intel gold. It was back in 1956, when the Cold War was running hot, that Israeli diplomats in Warsaw managed to get their hands on the text of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s top-secret speech to the Twentieth Party Congress in Moscow. Khrushchev’s startling words were a scathing indictment of Stalin’s three dec­ades of oppressive rule, and signalled a huge shift in Soviet dogma—just the sort of invaluable intelligence the C.I.A. was eager to get its hands on. Recognizing the value of what they had, the Israelis quickly delivered the text to U.S. officials. And with this unexpected gift, a mutually beneficial relationship between the resourceful Jewish spies and the American intelligence Leviathan began to take root.

Over the ensuing decades it has expanded into a true working partnership. The two countries have gone as far as to institutionalize their joint spying. The purloined documents released to the press by Edward Snowden, for example, revealed that the N.S.A., the American electronic-intelligence agency that eavesdrops on the world, and Unit 8200, its Israeli counterpart, have an agreement to share the holiest of intelligence holies: raw electronic intercepts. And the two countries inventively worked in tandem, during the administration of George W. Bush and continuing with President Obama, on Operation Olympic Games, creating and disseminating the pernicious computer viruses that succeeded in damaging Iran’s uranium-enrichment centrifuges. American and Israeli spooks have even killed together. In 2008, after President George W. Bush signed off on the operation, the C.I.A. cooperated with agents from the Mossad’s Kidon—the Hebrew word for “bayonet,” an appropriate name for a sharp-edged unit that specializes in what Israeli officials euphemistically call “targeted prevention.” The shared target was Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah international operations chief, and any further terrorist acts he’d been planning were quite effectively prevented: Mughniyah was blown to pieces, body parts flying across a Damascus parking lot, as he passed an S.U.V. containing a specially-designed C.I.A. bomb. But like any marriage, the cozy—yet inherently unequal—partnership between the American and Israeli intelligence agencies has had its share of stormy weather. In fact, an irreparable divorce seemed likely in 1985 after it was discovered that Israel was running a very productive agent, Jonathan Pollard, inside U.S. Naval Intelligence. For a difficult period—measured out in years, not months—the American spymasters fumed, and the relationship was more tentative than collaborative.

But spies are by instinct and profession a pragmatic breed, and so by the 1990s the existence of shared enemies, as well as shared threats, worked to foster a reconciliation. Besides, each had something the other needed: Israel had agents buried deep in neighboring Arab countries, producing “HUMINT,” as the jargon of the trade refers to information obtained by human assets. While the U.S. possessed the best technological toys its vast wealth could buy; its “SIGINT,” or signals intelligence, could pick up the chatter in most any souk in the Arab world.

And so by the time of Trump’s election, despite the snarky, rather personal feud between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama, the two countries’ spies were back playing their old tricks. Together they were taking on a rogues’ gallery of common villains: al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State. “We are the front line,” a high-ranking Israeli military official bragged to me, “in America’s war on terror.” Over recent months, the U.S. intelligence windfall has been particularly bountiful. Israel, according to sources with access to the activities of the Mossad and Unit 8200, has delivered information about Russia’s interaction with the Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces taking the field in the Syrian civil war. And there is little that gets American military strategists more excited than learning what sort of tactics Russia is employing.

It was against this reassuring backdrop of recent successes and shared history, an Israeli source told Vanity Fair, that a small group of Mossad officers and other Israeli intelligence officials took their seats in a Langley conference room on a January morning just weeks before the inauguration of Donald Trump. The meeting proceeded uneventfully; updates on a variety of ongoing classified operations were dutifully shared. It was only as the meeting was about to break up that an American spymaster solemnly announced there was one more thing: American intelligence agencies had come to believe that Russian president Vladimir Putin had “leverages of pressure” over Trump, he declared without offering further specifics, according to a report in the Israeli press. Israel, the American officials continued, should “be careful” after January 20—the date of Trump’s inauguration. It was possible that sensitive information shared with the White House and the National Security Council could be leaked to the Russians. A moment later the officials added what many of the Israelis had already deduced: it was reasonable to presume that the Kremlin would share some of what they learned with their ally Iran, Israel’s most dangerous adversary.

Currents of alarm and anger raced through those pres­ent at the meeting, says the Israeli source, but their superiors in Israel remained unconvinced—no supporting evidence, after all, had been provided—and chose to ignore the prognostication.

The covert mission into the forbidden plains of northern Syria was a “blue and white” undertaking, as Israel, referring to the colors of its flag, calls ops that are carried out solely by agents of the Jewish state.

Yet—and this is an ironclad operational rule—getting agents in and then swiftly out of enemy territory under the protection of the nighttime darkness can be accomplished only if there is sufficient reconnaissance: the units need to know exactly where to strike, what to expect, what might be out there waiting for them in the shadows. For the mission last winter that targeted a cell of terrorist bombers, according to ABC News, citing American officials, the dangerous groundwork was done by an Israeli spy planted deep inside ISIS territory. Whether he was a double agent Israel had either turned or infiltrated into the ISIS cell, or whether he was simply a local who’d happened to stumble upon some provocative information he realized he could sell—those details remain locked in the secret history of the mission.

What is apparent after interviews with intelligence sources both in Israel and the U.S. is that on the night of the infiltration the helicopters carrying the blue-and-white units came down several miles from their target. Two jeeps bearing Syrian Army markings were unloaded, the men hopped in, and, hearts racing, they drove as if it had been the most natural of patrols into the pre-dawn stillness of an enemy city.

“A shadow unit of ghosts” is what the generals of Aman, Israel’s military-intelligence organization, envisioned when they set up Sayeret Matkal. And on this night the soldiers fanned out like ghosts in the shadows, armed and on protective alert, as the Mossad tech agents did their work.

Again, the operational details are sparse, and even contradictory. One source said the actual room where the ISIS cell would meet was spiked, a tiny marvel of a microphone placed where it would never be noticed. Another maintained that an adjacent telephone junction box had been ingeniously manipulated so that every word spoken in a specific location would be overheard.

The sources agree, however, that the teams got in and out that night, and, even before the returning choppers landed back in Israel, it was confirmed to the jubilant operatives that the audio intercept was already up and running.

Now the waiting began. From an antenna-strewn base near the summit of the Golan Heights, on Israel’s border with Syria, listeners from Unit 8200 monitored the transmissions traveling across the ether from the target in northern Syria. Surveillance is a game played long, but after several wasted days 8200’s analysts were starting to suspect that their colleagues had been misinformed, possibly deliberately, by the source in the field. They were beginning to fear that all the risk had been taken without any genuine prospect of reward.

Then what they’d been waiting for was suddenly coming in loud and clear, according to Israeli sources familiar with the operation: it was, as a sullen spy official described it, “a primer in constructing a terror weapon.” With an unemotional precision, an ISIS soldier detailed how to turn a laptop computer into a terror weapon that could pass through airport security and be carried on board a passenger plane. ISIS had obtained a new way to cause airliners to explode suddenly, free-falling from the sky in flames. When the news of this frightening ISIS lecture arrived at Mossad’s headquarters outside Tel Aviv, officials quickly decided to share the field intelligence with their American counterparts. The urgency of the highly classified information trumped any security misgivings. Still, as one senior Israeli military official suggested, the Israeli decision was also egged on by a professional vanity: they wanted their partners in Washington to marvel at the sort of impossible missions they could pull off.

They did. It was a much-admired, as well as appreciated, gift—and it scared the living hell out of the American spymasters who received it.

On the cloudy spring morning of May 10, just an uneasy day after the president’s sudden firing of F.B.I. director James B. Comey, who had been leading the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, a beaming President Trump huddled in the Oval Office with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak.

And, no less improbably, Trump seemed not to notice, or feel restrained by, the unfortunate timing of his conversation with Russian officials who were quite possibly co-conspirators in a plot to undermine the U.S. electoral process. Instead, full of a chummy candor, the president turned to his Russian guests and blithely acknowledged the elephant lurking in the room. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” he said, according to a record of the meeting shared with The New York Times. “He was crazy, a real nut job.” With the sort of gruff pragmatism a Mafia don would use to justify the necessity of a hit, he further explained, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Yet that was only the morning’s perplexing prelude. What had been an unseemly conversation between the president and two high-ranking Russian officials soon turned into something more dangerous.

“I get great intel,” the president suddenly boasted, as prideful as if he were bragging about the amenities at one of his company’s hotels. “I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

He quickly went on to share with representatives of a foreign adversary not only the broad outlines of the plot to turn laptop computers into airborne bombs but also at least one highly classified operational detail—the sort of sensitive, locked-in-the-vault intel that was not shared with even Congress or friendly governments. The president did not name the U.S. partner who had spearheaded the operation. (Journalists, immediately all over the astonishing story, would soon out Israel). But, more problematic, President Trump cavalierly identified the specific city in ISIS-held territory where the threat had been detected.

As for the two Russians, there’s no record of their response. Their silence would be understandable: why interrupt the flow of information? But in their minds, no doubt they were already drafting the cable they’d send to the Kremlin detailing their great espionage coup.

So why? Why did a president who has time after volatile time railed against leakers, who has attacked Hillary Clinton for playing fast and loose with classified information, cozy up to a couple of Russian bigwigs in the Oval Office and breezily offer government secrets?

Any answer is at best conjecture. Yet in the search for an important truth, consider these hypotheses, each of which has its own supporters among past and current members of the U.S. intelligence community.

The first is a bit of armchair psychology. In Trump’s irrepressible way of living in the world, wealth is real only if other people believe you’re rich. If you don’t flaunt it, then you might as well not have it.

So there is the new president, shaky as any bounder might be in the complicated world of international politics, sitting down to a head-to-head with a pair of experienced Russians. How can he impress them? Get them to appreciate that he’s not some lightweight, but rather a genuine player on the world stage?

There’s also the school of thought that the episode is another unfortunate example of Trump’s impressionable worldview being routinely shaped by the last thing he’s heard, be it that morning’s broadcast of Fox & Friends or an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. As advocates of this theory point out, the president was likely told that one of the issues still on his guests’ minds would be the terrorist explosion back in October 2015 that brought down a Russian passenger plane flying above Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. With that seed planted in the president’s undisciplined mind, it’s a short leap for him to be off and running to the Russians about what he knew about an ISIS scheme to target passenger aircraft.

Yet there is also a more sinister way to connect all the dots. There are some petulant voices in official Washington who insist that the president’s treachery was deliberate, part of his longtime collaboration with the Russians. It is a true believer’s orthodoxy, one which predicts that the meeting will wind up being one more damning count in an indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will ultimately nail to the White House door.

But, for now, to bolster their still very circumstantial case, they point to a curiosity surrounding the meeting in the Oval Office—U.S. journalists were kept out. And, no less an oddity, the Russian press was allowed in. It was the photographer from TASS, the state-run Russian news agency, who snapped the only shots that documented the occasion for posterity. Or, for that matter, for the grand jury.

But ultimately it is the actions of men, not their motives, that propel history forward. And the president’s reckless disclosure continues to wreak havoc. On one level, the greatest casualty was trust. The president was already waging a perilous verbal war with the U.S. intelligence agencies. His sharing secrets with the Russians has very likely ground whatever remnants of a working relationship had survived into irreparable pieces. “How can the agency continue to provide the White House with intel,” challenged one former operative, “without wondering where it will wind up?” And he added ominously, “Those leaks to The New York Times and The Washington Post about the investigations into Trump and his cohorts is no accident. Trust me: you don’t want to get into a pissing match with a bunch of spooks. This is war.”

And what about America’s vital intelligence relationships with its allies? Former C.I.A. deputy director Michael Morell publicly worried, “Third countries who provide the United States with intelligence information will now have pause.”

In Israel, though, the mood is more than merely wary. “Mr. Netanyahu’s intelligence chiefs . . . are up in arms,” a prominent Israeli journalist insisted in The New York Times. In recent interviews with Israeli intelligence sources the frequently used operative verb was “whiten”—as in “certain units from now on will whiten their reports before passing them on to agencies in America.”

What further exacerbates Israel’s concerns—“keeps me up at night” was how a government spymaster put it—is that if Trump is handing over Israel’s secrets to the Russians, then he just might as well be delivering them to Iran, Russia’s current regional ally. And it is an expansionist Iran, one Israeli after another was determined to point out in the course of discussions, that is arming Hez­bol­lah with sophisticated rockets and weaponry while at the same time becoming an increasingly visible economic and military presence in Syria.

“Trump betrayed us,” said a senior Israeli military official bluntly, his voice stern with reproach. “And if we can’t trust him, then we’re going to have to do what is necessary on our own if our back is up against the wall with Iran.” Yet while appalled governments are now forced to rethink their tactics in future dealings with a wayward president, there is also the dismaying possibility that a more tangible, and more lethal, consequence has already occurred. “The Russians will undoubtedly try to figure out the source or the method of this information to make sure that it is not also collecting on their activities in Syria—and in trying to do that they could well disrupt the source,” said Michael Morell.

What, then, was the fate of Israel’s agent in Syria? Was the operative exfiltrated to safety? Has he gone to ground in enemy territory? Or was he hunted down and killed? One former Mossad officer with knowledge of the operation and its aftermath will not say. Except to add pointedly, “Whatever happened to him, it’s a hell of price to pay for a president’s mistake.”

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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attend a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.

Photo: By Zach Gibson/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, Kushner, President Donald Trump, and Ivanka Trump at the White House.

Photo: By Shealah Craighead/White House/Polaris.

Kushner, Trump, and their children disembark from Air Force One in West Palm Beach.

Photo: From A.P. Images/REX/Shutterstock.

Lebanese delegates and journalists pose for selfies with Trump and Kushner in the Rose Garden.

Photo: By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Trump and Kushner dance at Donald Trump’s “Liberty” Inaugural Ball.

Photo: By Brian Snyder/Reuters.

Kushner whispers to Trump during a welcoming ceremony for her father at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Photo: By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

The couple seen arriving with their three children at JFK International Airport, where they boarded Marine One.

Photo: From Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo.

3:54 PM 11/22/2017 Felix Sater Google News: Trump Organization Will Walk Away From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel in New York New York Times

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Felix Sater – Google News: Trump Organization Will Walk Away From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel in New York – New York Times

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New York Times
Trump Organization Will Walk Away From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel in New York
New York Times
Felix Sater, a Russian deal maker, felon and F.B.I. informant, had helped facilitate the deal, the lawsuit said. As time went on, the connection with Mr. Sater caused headaches for Mr. Trump through the campaign and the first year of his presidency 

 Felix Sater – Google News

Арест Керимова удар по Путину

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From: SvobodaRadio
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Ницца, проклятое место место российского сенатора Сулеймана Керимова. Одни несчастья. Сначала авария с Тиной Канделаки. Теперь арест. Наблюдатели полагают, что это прямой удар по Владимиру Путину. Разбираемся с Дмитрием Гудковым, Иваном Стариковым, Сергеем Ежовым и Сергеем Пугачевым.
Ведущая Елена Рыковцева.

Author Luke Harding Says Russia-Trump Ties Are ‘Credible’ | Thomas Jefferson Street | US News

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Tags: Donald TrumpRussiaVladimir PutinKGB2016 presidential election


James Warren is a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report and an award winning reporter, columnist and editor. He is chief media writer for the … full bio »
The Past and Present of Trump’s Russia Ties – U.S. News & World Report

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U.S. News & World Report
The Past and Present of Trump’s Russia Ties
U.S. News & World Report
As good would have been Luke Harding, an investigative reporter for London’s The Guardian and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” It’s already high on Amazon’s best-seller list, including at the …

and more »

The multiplicity of Russian contacts cant be a coincidence – The Washington Post

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Right Turn

November 21 at 12:00 PM

There has never been a presidential campaign with as many connections to a hostile foreign power as the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Each day brings new revelations of foreign connections — with Russia, Russian cut-outs and/or Russian surrogates.

CNN’s John King recalled:

[Jared Kushner] failed to disclose meetings on his security clearance forms, we know that. He attended that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russian lawyers who said they had dirt on Hillary Clinton came to meet Donald Trump Jr. … He met with a Russian banker — close to Putin, under sanctions — during the transition. He sent an email to Hope Hicks about Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, did not disclose he was using a personal email account for some of this business.

In addition, Kushner’s New York Observer had a friendly relationship with Julian Assange, as Foreign Policy documented:

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3:54 PM 11/22/2017 – Felix Sater – Google News: Trump Organization Will Walk Away From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel in New York – New York Times

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GOP rep: We need a ‘counter’ to Russian disinformation – The Hill
Why did Russian social media swarm the digital conversation about Catalan independence? – Washington Post
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Felix Sater – Google News: Trump Organization Will Walk Away From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel in New York – New York Times
 


New York Times
Trump Organization Will Walk Away From Its Struggling SoHo Hotel in New York
New York Times
Felix Sater, a Russian deal maker, felon and F.B.I. informant, had helped facilitate the deal, the lawsuit said. As time went on, the connection with Mr. Sater caused headaches for Mr. Trump through the campaign and the first year of his presidency 

 Felix Sater – Google News

GOP rep: We need a ‘counter’ to Russian disinformation – The Hill
 


The Hill