The New Cold War Pits a U.S. General Against His Longtime Russian Nemesis | Lux Libertas Friday June 16th, 2017 at 1:31 PM

The New Cold War Pits a U.S. General Against His Longtime Russian Nemesis | Lux Libertas

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 By Nathan Hodge in Moscow and

A quarter-century after the Cold War ended, U.S. and Russian tank formations are once again squaring off.

This spring, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization moved armored forces to the Russian border, where they are conducting daily drills from Poland to Estonia. Less than 100 miles away, Moscow’s forces are preparing for large-scale maneuvers in the autumn, a demonstration of the country’s revitalized might, including new equipment and improved tactics meant to keep the West guessing in the event of a clash.

Facing off behind these front lines and shaping each side’s grand strategy are two of this generation’s most influential officers in Washington and Moscow: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

The two men’s lives have evolved in parallel. Both began their careers as junior armor officers at the height of the Cold War. Both were tested in irregular warfare against separatists and militant groups. Both have coped with the rise of disruptive battlefield technologies including drones, precision bombs and sophisticated new forms of propaganda.

 H.R. McMaster and Valery Gerasimov have never met, but the careers of the two generals have moved in parallel since the Cold War. PHOTOS: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS; METZEL MIKHAIL/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

They haven’t ever met. But each—like Patton and Rommell or John Le Carré’s fictional Smiley and Karla—has made a career of studying his opponent’s moves.

Their dynamic sheds light on the evolving military competition between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers at a time of rising diplomatic tension. Moscow has narrowed a yawning gap in the quality of its conventional forces, but the U.S. remains far more powerful in that category. It is this imbalance that has shaped the strategic thinking of the two generals. It’s American force and resolve against Russian cunning and diversion.

Gen. McMaster, now President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has emphasized that America’s true strength lies not in shadowy commando raids or pinprick drone strikes, but in well-equipped land, air and naval forces working together to clearly demonstrate overwhelming superiority.

Military officers who know Gen. McMaster said they believe he will help shape the Trump administration strategy and influence the Pentagon’s spending. Already the administration, which has been critical of allied defense budgets, has proposed a 40% increase in U.S. military spending in Europe, money that will pay for additional forces—from Army helicopters to Navy sub-hunters—to deploy there.

Gen. McMaster was a hero of the first Gulf War’s most important tank battle. He later honed his reputation in Iraq, implementing one of the first counterinsurgency campaigns in the city of Tal Afar, which later became a model for the 2007 troop surge. More recently Gen. McMaster has overseen two critical Army initiatives to prepare America for wars of the future and counter Russia’s military advances.

Gen. Gerasimov, by contrast, has always looked for American weaknesses and how Russian prowess can overcome American power. The chief of Russia’s General Staff, he has been the most articulate proponent of Russia’s emerging vision of conflict, something Western observers dub “hybrid warfare.” In conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, he has pioneered new approaches to hybrid war by combining traditional military weaponry with powerful nonlethal tools such as cyberwarfare, fake news and elaborate deception.

Gen. McMaster, shown at a meeting in Belgium with President Donald Trump, and Gen. Gerasimov, here preparing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, are both known as deep military thinkers. PHOTOS: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS; BOBYLEV SERGEI/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

Both men obtained outsize reputations as military thinkers, lauded for their studies of the other side’s strategy and tactics. Each was assigned by his military to predict the contours of future conflict. Perhaps more than anyone else on either side, the two men have delineated the strategy now playing out in Europe.

Gen. McMaster, who declined to speak for this article, in essence rejected prevailing wisdom that viewed the Taliban’s toppling in Afghanistan by U.S. special-operation forces as the future of warfare. Instead he focused on the Cold War, when conflict was avoided by ensuring adversaries understood America’s conventional might. That means honing force-on-force war-fighting skills that had been neglected at the Army’s main training ranges.

“This is one officer who has done his homework over the years,” said retired Army Gen. B.B Bell, a former senior military commander in Europe and Korea. “H.R. spent the last couple years pointing the path forward for the Army to put it on a strong path to relearn the capacities it must have to defend the nation.”

Gen. McMaster is the author of a secret study compiling lessons of Russia’s strategies in Ukraine. The work, according to officials, drew on front-line reports by Ukrainian troops and U.S. officers, analyzing how Moscow used advanced jamming techniques, electronic surveillance and drones to make its artillery more lethal than ever. Army officials say the research is continuing and the report remains classified.

He has also influenced a generation of officers—including those serving on NATO front lines in the Baltics—with a talk on what he dubbed “Four Fallacies.” The lecture argues that technology alone cannot deliver quick, clean military victories; commando raids don’t amount to a military strategy; proxy forces aren’t enough to win a conflict; and deterring war by demonstrating the presence, strength and capability to defeat an enemy is vital.

His idea underpins NATO strategy in Europe: the move to eastern and central Europe of four battle groups led by the U.S. and its allies, plus America’s deployment of a 3,500-soldier heavy brigade.

NATO’s maneuvers are also a response to the Russian gambit devised by Gen. Gerasimov, who has overseen Russian military modernization and its innovative use of its armed forces in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.

Line of Tension

As NATO builds up its military force in Poland in the Baltic States, Russia is bolstering its strength nearby. Both sides, and NATO partner Sweden, are planning military drills this summer and fall.

The Russian general’s most influential article—an often-quoted but little-understood 2013 essay in a military journal—reflects close study of U.S. regime-change operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and argues Russia must master similar methods.

Those ideas have been implemented in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and are now seen as textbook examples of Russian hybrid warfare. While the Russian strategy was designed specifically to beat Ukraine’s army, American officers studying the fight see Russian techniques that would also undermine U.S. military advantages, such as control of the skies and superior surveillance through drones and satellites.

Equally worrying for the U.S. and its allies is Russia’s mastery of what the Russians call “information war.” The genius of Gen. Gerasimov, according to NATO and U.S. officials, is that he has paired the technological advances in military hardware with new strategies of disinformation. His insight was that Moscow could practice deception operations not just on a battlefield but on a global scale.

Writing last year in a leading Russian defense journal, Gen. Gerasimov extolled the virtues of nonmilitary means to defeat or contain an adversary. “Indirect and asymmetric actions…allow you to deprive the opposing side of de facto sovereignty without seizing any territory,” he wrote in a review of the lessons learned from the Russian military’s combat role in Syria.

U.S. and other Western strategists scrutinize Gen. Gerasimov’s writings. “The important point is that while the West considers these nonmilitary measures as ways of avoiding war, Russia considers these measures as war,” wrote Charles Bartles, an analyst at the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Gen. Gerasimov, a 62-year-old native of Kazan, Russia, had a conventional military background. He trained at the Kazan Higher Tank Command school during the Cold War and rose through the ranks as an armor commander. For a time he was stationed in Eastern Europe, preparing for the clash of armor and infantry that both the Soviet and U.S. militaries long saw as a real possibility.

Gen. McMaster’s first overseas post was also to Europe, in the final years of the Cold War. In 1989 he was assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the same unit that recently sent a battle group to a NATO force to Poland.

As commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005, then-Col. H.R. McMaster gave first aid to an Iraqi soldier injured when he entered a booby trapped house in Tal Afar, Iraq.PHOTO: JACOB SILBERBERG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The careers of Gens. Gerasimov and McMaster both took dramatic turns in 1991. Gen. McMaster’s first brush with fame was in the Gulf War, and he took part in the Battle of 73 Easting, the decisive tank clash that helped quickly win the war. In the battle, then-Capt. McMaster’s company destroyed 28 Iraqi tanks in 23 minutes with no American casualties. Gulf War victory was a fillip for the U.S. military, showing its prowess against the forces of Saddam Hussein and shaking off humiliation that had lingered after the disastrous end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

For Gen. Gerasimov, 1991 was also life-changing. The U.S.S.R. collapsed and Moscow lost its global superpower status almost overnight.

Russia’s first post-Soviet decade was tumultuous. Russian troops found themselves fighting separatist insurgents during a brutal conflict in Russia’s predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya. Then military leaders such as Gen. Gerasimov watched as revolutions swept through former Yugoslavia, Georgia and Ukraine from 2000 to 2004, further eroding Russian power in what it viewed as its rightful sphere of influence. Those upheavals, along with the social media-driven popular revolts of the Arab Spring, informed his concepts of hybrid warfare, according to military analysts.

An early test of those ideas came in 2008 during Russia’s brief conflict with Georgia, which provided an opportunity for experimentation in cyberwarfare. Before combat started, the Georgian government faced a concerted campaign to hack and disable websites, which it blamed on Moscow. Russia denies involvement in any hacking.

That experience presaged what analysts say is Russia’s relentless focus on information operations, which range from planting fake news stories to directly interfering in the elections in the U.S. and Europe through cyberattacks. Russia denies such meddling.

Mark Galeotti, senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations, a foreign-policy think tank in Prague, said Gen. Gerasimov saw the tools of hacking and disinformation as a way for Russia’s military to set the conditions on the conventional battlefield, sowing chaos behind the lines before the shooting started.

“The West doesn’t get that what Gerasimov has described—hybrid war—is how you prepare the ground before you send in the men with guns,” he said.

Moscow’s conventional military has closed the gap in quality in recent years. The Russian special operations and airborne units have proven themselves adept at a range of operations—from working with proxy forces to actual combat. Russian cruise missiles, used during the Syrian war primarily to demonstrate Moscow’s might, have earned the wary respect of American military planners. The latest Russian tanks, allied officials say, are likely more powerful and survivable than anything the West can field.

Gen. Gerasimov’s approach now emerges wherever the Russian military deploys, either overtly or covertly.

“Their drones work around the clock,” said Col. Vyacheslav Vlasenko, a Ukrainian battalion commander deployed recently in the country’s east, referring to forces opposing him. “They correct their artillery fire. They also started using precision weapons.”

Col. Vlasenko said the Russians have brought a formidable array of electronic-warfare systems to the battlefield that disrupt communication and command-and-control equipment. The new advances, U.S. military officers believe, could obviate American military superiority.

Gen. McMaster and other U.S. military officers have studied Ukraine closely, including sending officials on low-profile trips to the front lines to watch the Gerasimov strategy in action.

After starting as junior armor officers during the Cold War, the two adversaries have risen far: Gen. McMaster is U.S. national security adviser and Gen. Gerasimov is chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces and first deputy defense minister. PHOTOS: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS; BOBYLEV SERGEI/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

“What we learned from Ukraine is the importance of Russian [drones], Russian electronic warfare, precision fires, all those things together,” said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the top U.S. Army commander in Europe. “Unlike the last 15 years, we have to worry about what is above us.”

Like Gen. Gerasimov, Gen. McMaster burnished his reputation through his writing. His 1997 book, “Dereliction of Duty,” focused on the failure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and national security establishment to prevent strategic errors of the Vietnam War. The book, originally his Ph.D. dissertation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, remains required reading at America’s war colleges.

In his role at the national security council, has also asserted his influence, driving forth proposals to strike government targets in Syria after the Assad regime used chemical weapons and pushing for a troop buildup in Afghanistan.

U.S. allies now also implement Gen. McMaster’s approach. In Lituania, Germany leads a 1,022-soldier battle group. Last month they were reinforced by a company of American tanks, all blanketed in freshly cut evergreen boughs for camouflage. The real mission of their drills to hide from enemy forces was in fact the opposite: to be seen.

In Vilseck, Germany, Col. Patrick Ellis, the commander of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, recently gathered soldiers from his unit who were going to form the heart of NATO’s Battle Group Poland around a huge map of Eastern Europe, showing the alliance’s border with Russia—the land his troops were to defend.

Col. Ellis had heard Gen. McMaster’s Four Fallacies talk twice. The lesson Col. Ellis drew is that successful deterrence requires that the U.S. military demonstrate it is powerful enough to win a war.

“Your enemy has to believe you have the means to do what you absolutely say you are going to do,” Col. Ellis said after his talk to the troops. “You train to that and you demonstrate that by conducting these exercises.”

<a href=”https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-new-cold-war-pits-a-u-s-general-against-his-longtime-russian-nemesis-1497623852″ rel=”nofollow”>https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-new-cold-war-pits-a-u-s-general-against-his-longtime-russian-nemesis-1497623852</a>

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Special counsel is investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings

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Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign-policy adviser for the campaign.

The Washington Post previously reported that investigators were scrutinizing meetings that Kushner held with Russians in December — first with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank. At the time of that report, it was not clear that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings.

The officials who described the financial focus of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

At the December meeting with Kislyak, Kushner suggested establishing a secure communications line between Trump officials and the Kremlin at a Russian diplomatic facility, according to U.S. officials who reviewed intelligence reports describing Kislyak’s account.

What Jared Kushner still owns

The White House has said that the subsequent meeting with the banker was a pre-inauguration diplomatic encounter, unrelated to business matters. The Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has said the session was held for business reasons because of Kushner’s role as head of his family’s real estate company. The meeting occurred as Kushner’s company was seeking financing for its troubled $1.8 billion purchase of an office building on Fifth Avenue in New York, and it could raise questions about whether Kushner’s personal financial interests were colliding with his impending role as a public official.

Mueller’s investigation is in a relatively early phase, and it is unclear whether criminal charges will be brought when it is complete.

“We do not know what this report refers to,” Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Kushner, said in an email. “It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to ­Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about ­Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Kushner rarely speaks publicly about his role in the White House, but he has become a major figure in the administration with a sprawling list of policy responsibilities that includes Canada and Mexico, China, and peace in the Middle East.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment for this article but said that “the Special Counsel’s Office has undertaken stringent controls to prohibit unauthorized disclosures and will deal severely with any member who engages in this conduct.”

[Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice]

Untangling the web of Jared Kushner

What you need to know about Jared Kushner’s ties to Russia. What you need to know about Jared Kushner’s ties to Russia. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

(Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on May 17, is investigating possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters. The inquiry has expanded to include an examination of whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice, The Post reported Wednesday.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that the investigation was “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

Trump compared his position with the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in another tweet.

“Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared — & they talk about obstruction?” he wrote.

After Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, Trump said that Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation. Comey confirmed that in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. The first time he told Trump was in his first meeting with the then-president-elect before the inauguration, on Jan. 6.

Before he met with Trump, Comey gathered his leadership team at the FBI to discuss whether he should be prepared to assure the president-elect that the FBI was not investigating him personally.

Comey testified that not everyone on his team agreed he should. Comey did not name the dissenter, but The Post has learned it was FBI general counsel James A. Baker. Comey testified that the member of his leadership team said that although it was true at the moment that Trump was not under investigation, it was possible that could change.

“His concern was, because we’re looking at the potential — again, that’s the subject of the investigation — coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump — President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was, inevitably, his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work,” Comey said.

“And so he was reluctant to make the statement that I made,” Comey said.

Baker’s views did not change, even as Comey told Trump a second and third time that he was not being investigated.

“His view was still that it . . . could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch — obviously, it would touch the campaign, and the person at the head of the campaign would be the candidate. And so that was his view throughout,” Comey said.

Baker declined to comment.

In the days following Trump’s firing of Comey on May 9 and before Mueller’s appointment, the obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began, according to people familiar with the matter.

Discussing the firing of Comey, Trump said in an interview with NBC, “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”

Comey took notes after each of his nine meetings or phone calls with Trump, including one alone with the president in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the day after Flynn was forced to resign. Comey testified that Trump said to him, “I hope you can let this go.” The president has denied that he told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.

Comey told lawmakers he gave his notes to Mueller.

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Two senior intelligence officials, Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller as early as this week.

Trump spoke to Coats and Rogers about the Russia investigation, according to officials. Coats told associates that Trump asked him whether he could intervene with Comey to get the FBI to back off its focus on Flynn, the officials said. Coats later told lawmakers he did not feel pressured to intervene.

Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence]

Trump later telephoned Coats and Rogers to separately ask them to issue public statements denying that there was evidence of coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president’s requests, officials said.

Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

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Pence’s balancing act as Trump’s No. 2 shows signs of strain amid WH turmoil

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Vice President Pence turned 58 on the same day that two senior intelligence officials fielded questions before a Senate committee about the FBI’s ongoing Russia probe — and one day before fired FBI Director James B. Comey appeared before the same committee to discuss why he believed President Trump had acted inappropriately.

The back-to-back rounds of testimony were merely the latest signs of a presidency in the grip of tumult. But flying down to Houston that morning for an astronaut event, Pence didn’t seem to have a care in the world.

His staff had decorated the middle cabin of Air Force Two with a festive tableau of balloons and streamers, and greeted him with a warbling rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

“What are you all doing?” the vice president asked with a smile, opening his arms wide and taking in the scene with a combination of faux-surprise and subdued delight. “This is out of control.”

Donald Trump’s administration did seem to be spiraling out of control, but Pence was — literally and figuratively — 1,400 miles away from the maelstrom in Washington, projecting his de facto stance of serene confidence or willful oblivion, depending on one’s perspective.

3 times Pence’s statements have been discredited

From the Michael Flynn scandal to James Comey’s firing, Vice President Pence has repeatedly had his official statements defending the Trump administration contradicted – sometimes by the president himself. From the 2016 presidential campaign to Comey’s firing, here are three instances when Trump contradicted Pence. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

(Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Such is life for Pence, who has earned his boss’s support and confidence one laudatory and skim-milk utterance at a time. On Monday, when the president held his first full Cabinet meeting, Pence set the tone by describing working for Trump as “the greatest privilege of my life” — setting off an avalanche of obsequiousness as the remaining officials took turns lavishing praise on their leader.

But Pence’s political balance-beam routine is showing signs of strain, according to a portrait of the vice president culled from interviews with 17 aides, advisers, friends, allies and Republican operatives. The vice president himself declined requests for an interview.

[Pence hires outside counsel to deal with Russia probe inquiries]

As the Russia investigation continues to expand, for example, Pence took steps this week to protect himself, hiring former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen as his own outside legal counsel, just as Trump has retained attorney Marc Kasowitz.

The vice president’s advisers are also discussing bringing on an additional aide to help with strategy — likely either Nick Ayers, a senior strategist to Pence who is chairman of the vice president’s newly launched super PAC; Marc Short, who currently heads up legislative affairs in the White House; or Marty Obst, the former manager of Pence’s Indiana gubernatorial campaign who is executive director of the super PAC.

The moves seemed aimed, in part, at returning the vice president to his most comfortable role — supporting and defending the president — while also helping to insulate him from the turmoil that has enveloped the White House. Some believe that the vice president is being ill-served by the chronic chaos inside the West Wing and could benefit from a more forceful advocate on his staff.

“It’s tough to be Donald Trump’s vice president, because Trump says flamboyant things and then if you’re the vice president, you have to go on TV and defend things that are hard to defend,” said Stephen Moore, an economist for the Heritage Foundation who served as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. “He does it incredibly skillfully.”

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, look over their pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, as they speak during a May 9 event celebrating National Military Appreciation Month in Washington. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

But one senior White House official cautioned against the “toxic brew of a vice president who’s happy to be the No. 2.”

“One of his greatest strengths is that he never says no — but it’s important that he not be a ‘yes’ man,” this official added, speaking anonymously to offer a more candid assessment.

[Karen Pence is the vice president’s ‘prayer warrior,’ gut check and shield]

Pence suffered two high-profile embarrassments that have served to define his role in the administration’s early months: First, when he was misled about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russians, and again last month when Trump publicly contradicted him about the reasons for firing Comey.

One Pence loyalist described himself as at his “wits’ end,” adding, “There are some organizational gaps.”

One senior White House adviser said Pence was exasperated with the West Wing communications shop, which sent him out with a half-baked talking point to explain Comey’s ouster. But Pence’s office argues that Trump never undermined Pence with his public comments suggesting he fired Comey over the Russia probe; the president, the Pence team said, was simply adding more context to his decision and that it is not the vice president’s place to explain Trump’s decision-making process.

“The vice president stands by his comments and enjoys a great working relationship with all departments within the White House,” said Jarrod Agen, a Pence spokesman.

Although Trump and Pence enjoy a warm personal relationship, Pence allies say he faces two stark challenges. First, in a West Wing filled with competing factions vying for supremacy, the best interests of the vice president sometimes get lost. Perhaps more importantly, they say, Pence is simply too loyal and willing to parrot the White House message, even at his own potential peril.

One former Pence adviser described the vice president’s role within the White House as more of a “super senior staffer” than an empowered executive. Pence, who has an office in both the West Wing and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, is often seen floating in the hallways that connect to the Oval Office, not unlike other staffers. Another former aide mentioned Pence’s almost “military-style orientation toward authority.”

Faced with the revelation that Flynn had misled him over contacts with Russians, for instance, Pence had to be urged by staff to forcefully voice his frustrations with Flynn to the president, according to two people with knowledge of the incident.

And while aides said Pence does give Trump his honest and unvarnished counsel in one-on-one meetings, some Pence allies privately wish he would be bolder in asserting his opinions in the group debates the president enjoys.

The flip-side, of course, is that by publicly keeping his opinions close, the vice president — who, for instance, urged the president to withdraw from the Paris climate accord but did not crow about his victory — has not only engendered good will with Trump, but also managed to often steer clear of the sniping and power struggles that plague the administration.

“Pence has found a way to execute the balance between having enormous influence and being an honest broker, which is a hard thing to pull off,” said Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

[Shadow president or mere shadow? Pence seeks to reassure allies unnerved by Trump]

The vice president — who routinely tamps down talk of a future “President Pence” — raised suspicions among Trump loyalists when he launched his super PAC, “Great America Committee” in mid-May, just a week after Trump fired Comey and during a moment of particular political danger for the president. Though the group had been long-planned and approved at the highest levels of the White House — the outside group can, for instance, help pay for travel expenses related to campaigning — the timing was inauspicious.

Some in the West Wing wondered if the vice president was trying to position him at the expense of Trump, and Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of the president, took to Twitter. “No Vice President in modern history had their own PAC less than 6 months into the President’s first term,” Stone wrote. “Hmmmm.”  

Pence’s super PAC team had originally planned a bigger rollout, which they quickly scrapped, and both Ayers and Obst stressed to Trump aides that the group had been in the works for several months and was intended solely to help the vice president push the administration’s agenda across the country.

“People can’t have it both ways,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, in defending Pence. “They can’t say he’s loyal to a fault and then also say he’s somehow competing with the president.” 

This summer, Pence will ramp up his fundraising efforts for various Republican Party committees and will begin helping individual GOP candidates campaign and fundraise during the August recess and into the fall. He is expected to campaign with Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia.

He will also focus on outreach to various conservative groups, and in August is planning a four-country trip to South America to focus on trade and security issues.

Trump initially chose Pence, in part, because he looked like a vice president out of central casting — a sort of generically handsome politician, with a close-cropped helmet of white hair and a compact physique that seemed to recall an iconic, Republican male from a bygone era.

But under Trump, Pence, who heaps plaudits on Trump and frequently refers to his “broad-shouldered leadership,” has in some ways become a parody of a deferential vice president — a servant in waiting, eager to serve his master’s whims.

One Republican operative remembers a meeting with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room, to which Pence arrived late. Though there was an open seat at the table reserved for Pence near Trump, the operative recalled, the vice president stood alongside the outskirts of the room like a staffer before waiting for a break in the conversation to take his seat.

Others say differences in background and temperament have also prevented Pence from ever becoming a true Trump confidant. The president, after all, habitually evaluates others based on their personal wealth and Pence — who joked on the campaign trail that he and Trump were separated by “a whole bunch of zeros” — can never compete with Trump’s mogul friends.

People familiar with the interactions between the two men say the president often finds ways to remind Pence who is the ultimate boss. He jokingly yet repeatedly ribs Pence for, as Indiana governor, endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) over him in the state’s primary and often teases Pence about his far smaller crowd sizes — a quip Pence himself has deployed.

[Pence remains above the fray, but is he outside the inner circle?]

One person recalled that sometimes, when Pence speaks in a meeting, the president offers him a verbal pat on the head. “Wasn’t he a great pick?” Trump will say, with the tone of a dad whose kid finally said something useful.

Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential expert and law professor at St. Louis University, noted that Pence seems to enjoy significant face time with Trump and serves as a liaison to Capitol Hill, but added that he can come off as “sort of a sycophant-in-chief.”

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“He runs a real risk in that so often his celebration of Trump is focused on how great Trump is, and not on the substance of the specific policies he’s trying to sell, and so I think that can end up making him look like he’s just sort of weak and not presidential and not dignified,” Goldstein said.

But Pence so far has accepted the rigors and challenges of his job with a serenity that some friends and aides attribute to his Christian faith.

Pence’s official portfolio includes a commission to investigate voter fraud, the National Space Council, and serving as president of the Senate. Allies say he was instrumental in helping Trump settle on Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and in a number of key Cabinet picks, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He also helped revive the stalled House health-care legislation after it imploded on the first try.

During a frenzied day when it looked like Trump might withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, Pence served as a conduit to the business community, many whom called to voice their alarm. “I hear you,” he told the worried executives. “I’ll be right back to you.”

And once Trump had decided to remain in the trade agreement, Pence again reported back, telling them matter-of-factly, “It’s been taken care of.” Pence, one Republican operative noted, never tried to claim any credit for the president’s reversal.

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· · · · · · · · · · ·

Donald Trump | The Guardian: Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch: inside the billionaire bromance

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Trump has been good business for the media mogul, but their association goes back decades and stems from one thing: ‘These men value only power’

The alliance between Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch has never been stronger. In April, the Australian-born media mogul topped the New York Times’ list of Trump’s key advisers outside the White House, identified as someone the president speaks to “on the phone every week”. Last month the paper revised that upward to “almost every day”, although the White House denies this.

At a recent speech in New York to mark a second world war battle in which the US fought alongside Australia, Trump was welcomed on stage by the News Corp chief.

Related: Roger Ailes’ greatest legacy at Fox News? Donald Trump

Trump’s a pathological liar. I’ve said that repeatedly and I’ve been saying it since the 80s

Everyone’s focused on Russia. Fox News played a large role in Trump’s election too, and they’re both under investigation

Among the gifts to Murdoch from Reagan was the elimination of the ‘fairness doctrine’, requiring balance in broadcasting

Continue reading…

Donald Trump | The Guardian

trump russian money – Google News: Special Counsel Mueller is now following the money. Trump should be terrified. – The Week Magazine

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The Week Magazine
Special Counsel Mueller is now following the money. Trump should be terrified.
The Week Magazine
After former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, President Trump and his allies strained hard to claim victory. As they saw it, Comey’s testimony that Trump himself wasn’t a focus of the Russia probe was a

and more »

trump russian money – Google News

1. VIDEO NEWS from mikenova (66 sites): CNN’s YouTube Videos: Putin offers Comey political asylum

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From: CNN
Duration: 00:46

Russian President Vladimir Putin offers former FBI director James Comey political asylum in Russia if he faces any charges in the US.

CNN’s YouTube Videos

1. VIDEO NEWS from mikenova (66 sites)

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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: ‘Too Long On Your Throne’: Was Putin’s Big Phone-In Show Massively Trolled?

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Some surprisingly blunt remarks trickled in on-screen as Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual, carefully scripted marathon call-in program.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

fbi – Google News: Ex-FBI Head Comey Gave No Proof Russia Meddled in US Election: Putin – U.S. News & World Report

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U.S. News & World Report
Ex-FBI Head Comey Gave No Proof Russia Meddled in US Election: Putin
U.S. News & World Report
Former FBI Director James Comey pauses as he testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst …
Vladimir Putin offers fired FBI director James Comey asylum in RussiaThe Independent

all 313 news articles »

fbi – Google News

Putin and Putinism – News Review: Comey, Snowden, Grandkids and Gaffes: Putin TV Gets Personal – Bloomberg

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Bloomberg
Comey, Snowden, Grandkids and Gaffes: Putin TV Gets Personal
Bloomberg
The Kremlin says Russians aren’t interested in Donald Trump any more, but Vladimir Putincouldn’t resist using his annual call-in TV show to poke the U.S. over a scandal that’s transfixed Washington, offering fired FBI director James Comey the same

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Putin and Putinism – News Review

putin’s face – Google News: Putin Invites Comey To Follow Snowden to Russia If Politically Persecuted – Newsweek

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Newsweek
Putin Invites Comey To Follow Snowden to Russia If Politically Persecuted
Newsweek
Regardless, Putin’s arms, at least rhetorically, are wide open as he said if Comey were to facepolitical persecution, Russia “is ready to accept him too.” Russian Senator Alexey Pushkov was quick to congratulate Putin on his “brilliant trolling.” “I
Putin Apologist Oliver Stone’s Son Works for Russian Propaganda NetworkWashington Free Beacon
Stephen Colbert and Oliver Stone spar over Vladimir PutinLos Angeles Times
Oliver Stone’s Response to Being Laughed at for Defending Putin: Blame the JewsGatestone Institute
WQOW TV News 18 –Reuters –Showtime
all 313 news articles »

putin’s face – Google News

US – Russia relations – Google News: Berlin hits back at US move to tighten sanctions on Russia – Financial Times

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Financial Times
Berlin hits back at US move to tighten sanctions on Russia
Financial Times
Proposed new US sanctions targeting Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe have sparked a war of words over EU energy security, after Germany and Austria described the threat as “illegal” and condemned Washington’s opposition to …

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US – Russia relations – Google News

Defense One – All Content: Iranian lasers and other dangerous games; Trump is under investigation; NSA links WannaCry to North Korea; Why feds are still installing Russian apps on PCs; and just a bit more…

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Defense One – All Content

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Page 3

In Homeland Security: Violence Against Members Of Congress Isn’t New

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Throughout the first half of the 19th century, legislative violence was far more common. State legislatures and Congress sporadically erupted into violence.

In Homeland Security

NYT > Opinion: Op-Ed Columnist: ‘The Indigenous American Berserk’ Strikes Again

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Blaming one side in the political debate for the acts of individuals won’t get us anywhere.

NYT > Opinion

Opinions: New Foreign Emoluments Clause lawsuits against Trump are up against history and standing

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Opinions

(47) Trump Offers Prayers For Shooting Victims – YouTube

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Published on Jun 14, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump called for unity after a shooting that injured a top House Republican leader.
Originally published at – https://www.rferl.org/a/washington-tr…

(47) Putin Compares Comey To Snowden, Offers Asylum – YouTube

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Published on Jun 15, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin said former FBI Director James Comey’s claim that he gave his account of a conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump to a friend to leak to the media is “odd.”
Originally published at – https://www.rferl.org/a/putin-comey/2…

Senate Judiciary to probe political interference in FBI

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The contents of this site are ©2017 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp., a subsidiary of News Communications, Inc.

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Page 4

National Security: Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say

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Mueller is interviewing senior intelligence officials as Russia probe widens.

National Security

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Voice of America: Multiple Victims at UPS Center Shooting in San Francisco

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A shooting Wednesday at a sprawling UPS warehouse and customer service center in San Francisco sent multiple victims to a hospital, officials said.   Brent Andrew, spokesman for Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, said the hospital had received the victims, but he did not know exactly how many people or their conditions.   San Francisco police confirmed a shooting at the facility in the Potrero Hill neighborhood but didn’t release information on injuries or the shooter.   Auto shop owner Robert Kim said he heard about five to eight rapid gunshots. The next thing he knew, he said, “there’s a mob of UPS drivers” running down the street screaming “shooter, shooter.”   Uniformed UPS employees were led out in a line by officers next to a highway. They walked away calmly with emergency vehicles nearby and gathered nearby outside a restaurant.   The shooting led to a massive police response and a shelter-in-place warning for the surrounding area.   The building is on the eastern edge of San Francisco, about 2.5 miles from downtown San Francisco. Police are advising people to avoid the area.

Voice of America

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NYT > Home Page: The Virginia Shooting: The Scene and Reaction

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Witnesses describe the scene of the shooting that injured Representative Steve Scalise and others Wednesday morning. President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders made statements.

NYT > Home Page

Europe: At the London inferno: ‘Someone is jumping!’

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Children pounded on windows high above the street. Then they were gone behind a curtain of smoke.

Europe

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NYT > Home Page: The London Fire: What We Know

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A blaze consumed the 24-story Grenfell Tower, killing at least six people. The cause is under investigation, but here is what’s known.

NYT > Home Page

Stars and Stripes: What the Comey hearing confirmed about Washington

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It was the kind of empty spectacle Americans are used to from Washington, entertaining perhaps in a gossipy sort of way, but signifying and changing nothing.

Stars and Stripes

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Page 5

DEBKAFile: Perpetrator of suburban DC assault on congressmen shot dead

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June 14, 2017, 7:01 PM (IDT)
The gunman who carried out Wednesday’s mass shooting outside Washington has been identified by multiple law enforcement souces as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, a resident of Illinois. He allegedly used an M4 rifle in the attack on Republican congressmen practicing for a charity baseball game. Hodgkinson, who was shot and subdued by the congressmen’s security detail, later died at a hospital. There has not been confirmation of any motive for the assault. Hodgkinson’s Facebook page, which shows a banner image of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, contains strong criticism of Republican congressmen and President Donald Trump. A message posted by Hodgkinson on March 22 says “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

DEBKAFile

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FOX News: Scalise shot: What the Virginia attack should teach us – the Second Amendment is not the problem, in fact it can save lives

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Within the whirlwind of the news cycle the anti-Second Amendment refrain has already begun.

FOX News

(47) The Best of Shostakovich – YouTube

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Published on Mar 2, 2014

The Best of Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich (25 September 1906 — 9 August 1975)
Part II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc7Rp…

Shostakovich achieved fame in the Soviet Union under the patronage of Soviet chief of staff Mikhail Tukhachevsky, but later had a complex and difficult relationship with the government. Nevertheless, he received accolades and state awards and served in the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR (1947–1962) and the USSR (from 1962 until his death).
After a period influenced by Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky, Shostakovich developed a hybrid style, as exemplified by Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934). This single work juxtaposed a wide variety of trends, including the neo-classical style (showing the influence of Stravinsky) and post-Romanticism (after Gustav Mahler). Sharp contrasts and elements of the grotesque characterize much of his music.

Shostakovich’s orchestral works include 15 symphonies and six concerti. His chamber output includes 15 string quartets, a piano quintet, two piano trios, and two pieces for string octet. His piano works include two solo sonatas, an early set of preludes, and a later set of 24 preludes and fugues. Other works include three operas, several song cycles, ballets, and a substantial quantity of film music; especially well known is The Second Waltz, Op. 99, music to the film The First Echelon (1955–1956)

(0:00) Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43: Moderato con moto
(8:45) Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47: Moderato
(24:16) Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47: Allegro non troppo
(35:47) Symphony No. 7 in C major (Leningrad), Op. 60: Memories, Moderato (poco allegretto)
(46:16) Symphony No. 8 in C minor, Op. 65 (Stalingrad): Allegro non troppo
(53:00) Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Op. 93: Andante
(1:05:17) Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Op. 103 (The Year 1905): Palace Square: adagio
(1:20:44) Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141: Adagio – allegretto – adagio – allegretto
(1:34:41) Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67: Andante – Moderato
(1:41:55) Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67: Allegretto
(1:52:19) Piano Concerto No. 1, for piano, trumpet & strings, in C minor, Op. 35: Lento
(1:59:35) Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102: Allegro
(2:06:56) Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 Passacaglia, andante, cadenza
(2:25:16) Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 107: Allegretto
(2:31:32) Chamber Symphony in F major, Op. 73a
(2:39:51) Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2: Dance No. 1
(2:42:52) Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2: March
(2:46:02) Quintet for piano & strings in G minor, Op. 57: Scherzo: Allegretto
(2:49:28) Sonata for piano No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61: Allegretto
(2:57:00) String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110: Largo
(3:01:34) String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122: Introduction (andantino)
(3:03:49) String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122: Recitativo (adagio)
(3:05:09) String Quartet No. 15 in E flat minor, Op. 144: Elegy (adagio)
(3:17:31) Hamlet, suite from the film score, Op.116a (assembled by Atovmyan): Prelude
(3:19:53) Overture on Russian and Khirghiz Folksongs, for orchestra, Op. 115

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(46) Bill Evans – California Here I Come (1967 Album) – YouTube

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Published on Mar 12, 2016

California Here I Come is a live album by jazz pianist Bill Evans. It was recorded in 1967, but not released on Verve until 1982 as a double LP. It peaked at #12 on the Billboard Jazz Album charts in 1983 and was reissued on CD in 2004. The pieces were recorded at the legendary Village Vanguard, where Evans had previously recorded the sets appeared on the highly influential Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard.

Personnel: Bill Evans (p) Eddie Gómez (bs) Philly Joe Jones (dr)
Released: 1982
Recorded: August 17–18, 1967 Village Vanguard, New York City
Label: Verve VE2-2545
Producer: Helen Keane

0:00 “California, Here I Come” (DeSylva, Jolson, Meyer)
5:34 “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” (Van Heusen, Burke)
8:59 “Turn Out the Stars” (Bill Evans)
14:50 “Stella by Starlight” (Washington, Young)
18:55 “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” (Previn, Previn)
23:52 “In a Sentimental Mood” (Ellington, Mills, Kurtz)
27:44 “G Waltz” (Evans)
32:21 “On Green Dolphin Street” (Kaper, Washington)
37:15 “Gone With the Wind” (Herb Magidson, Wrubel)
43:05 “If You Could See Me Now” (Dameron, Sigman)
46:47 “Alfie” (Bacharach, David)
51:54 “Very Early” (Evans)
56:43 “‘Round Midnight” (Monk, Williams)
1:02:50 “Emily” (Mandel, Mercer)
1:08:06 “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away)” (Barris, Koehler, Billy Moll)

Philly Joe Jones was a member of the Bill Evans Trio for a short time in 1967 but none of his recordings with the pianist were released at the time. This two-LP set from 1982 features the pair (along with bassist Eddie Gomez who had recently started his own longtime association with Evans) in superb form. Jones consistently lit a fire under the pianist and, even though Bill Evans was never just an introspective ballad pianist (which became his stereotype), he does play with some unaccustomed ferocity on several of these selections. The 71 minutes of music feature strong versions of three of Evans’ originals (including “Turn Out the Stars”) plus a dozen standards, highlighted by “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” “Gone With the Wind” and the unlikely “California Here I Come.” Well worth searching for. In September 2004, Verve reissued the album in a limited edition, 24-bit remastered CD. Where the original disc sounded thin in places — as it is a live recording — the remastered version sounds consistently full and warm throughout.

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(46) Bill Evans – You’re Gonna Hear From Me (1969 Album) – YouTube

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Published on Mar 14, 2016

You’re Gonna Hear From Me is a live album by jazz pianist Bill Evans with Eddie Gómez and Marty Morell recorded at the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen in 1969 but not released until the 1980s on the Milestone label. The same concert also produced the album Jazzhouse.

Personnel: Bill Evans (p) Eddie Gómez (bs) Marty Morrell (dr)
Released: 1988
Recorded: November 24, 1969 at the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, Denmark
Label: Milestone M 9164
Producer: Helen Keane

0:00 “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” (Dory Previn, André Previn)
3:07 “‘Round Midnight” (Thelonious Monk)
9:33 “Waltz for Debby”
15:04 “Nardis” (Miles Davis)
24:06 “Time Remembered”
29:11 “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” (Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley)
35:37 “Emily” (Johnny Mandel, Johnny Mercer)
40:39 “Love Is Here to Stay” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin)
44:36 “Someday My Prince Will Come” (Frank Churchill, Larry Morey)

This CD reissue is the companion to Jazzhouse, for both were recorded on the same night at the Montmartre in Copenhagen. Evans’ regular trio of the time (which included bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell) is in exuberant form performing before an enthusiastic crowd. In addition to versions of his famous “Waltz for Debby” and “Time Remembered,” Evans plays seven of his favorite standards, including “You’re Gonna Hear from Me,” “Nardis,” and “Emily.” An excellent all-around set that was not originally released until 1988.

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(46) Report: Suspect in Scalise shooting identified – YouTube

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Published on Jun 14, 2017

Government official tells the Associated Press that the suspect is 66-year-old Illinois man named James T. Hodgkinson

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Page 6

Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team

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President Donald Trump had almost certainly never heard the name Aaron Zebley before the announcement that the former FBI agent was joining the special counsel investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But to those who have followed the arc of the bureau during the past twenty years, Zebley’s is a name that underscores just how far-reaching and dogged—and potentially long—the probe will likely be.

Just ask Steve Gaudin’s ex-girlfriend.

She wasn’t at all happy when Zebley, her boyfriend’s FBI partner, called at 3 am one morning in August 1999. Despite all of Gaudin’s international travel, chasing al Qaeda long before the terrorist group was a household name, he and his girlfriend had managed to settle down in New York City and carve out a life together in between his overseas terrorist hunts. The couple was even looking forward to an imminent, albeit brief, summer vacation.

But then came the call from Zebley.

“I’ve found Ali Mandela,” Zebley said, excitedly. Mandela, the fugitive terrorist suspected of helping execute the previous year’s bombings of US embassies in East Africa, appeared to still be on the continent, he told Gaudin. Somewhere in South Africa. They had to leave immediately.

Angry at yet another sleepless night—and vacation—ruined by the bureau’s demands, Gaudin’s girlfriend gave him some advice: Don’t bother coming back.

But that was just the way it was for the elite agents on one of the FBI’s most storied squads. Nothing could come between them and their search for justice.

The details of that trip—and the subsequent capture of one of America’s most wanted terrorists by Zebley and Gaudin—help illuminate the makeup of the special counsel team that former FBI director Robert Mueller is assembling. It’s a team that contains some of the nation’s top investigators and leading experts on seemingly every aspect of the potential investigation—from specific crimes like money laundering and campaign finance violations to understanding how to navigate both sprawling globe-spanning cases and the complex local dynamics of Washington power politics.

Meet Mueller’s Roster

As Mueller begins investigating Russia’s interference in last year’s election and its possible links to Donald Trump’s campaign, he is quietly recruiting lawyers and staff to the team. And in recent days, Trump associates have stepped up criticism of Mueller and his team—including a report, quickly rejected by the White House, that Trump is considering firing Mueller before he even gets started.

Tuesday morning on Good Morning America, Newt Gingrich blasted Mueller and his still-forming team. “These are bad people,” Newt Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos. “I’m very dubious of the team.”

But that criticism flies in the face of widespread, bipartisan acclaim for the team. In fact, just a day earlier, on the same program, former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr praised Mueller at length. “I don’t think there’s a legitimate concern about Bob Mueller,” Starr said, explaining that the former FBI director was “honest as the day is long.”

From the list of hires, it’s clear, in fact, that Mueller is recruiting perhaps the most high-powered and experienced team of investigators ever assembled by the Justice Department. His team began with three lawyers who also quickly left WilmerHale, the law firm where Mueller has also worked since he left the FBI in 2013—Zebley, James Quarles III, and Jeannie Rhee.

The rapid recruitment of Quarles attracted immediate attention: A famed litigator who was an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation, Quarles specialized in campaign finance research for the Watergate task force, which surely will be an area of focus for Mueller’s investigation. (The FBI has been serving subpoenas regarding the finances of campaign adviser Michael Flynn and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, both of whom have retroactively registered as foreign agents, admitting that they were paid by foreign governments during the period when they were also advising Trump.) In more recent years, Quarles has risen through the law firm’s ranks to run its DC office, and is an experienced manager. In granting him the firm’s top recognition in 2007, one of his colleagues said that Quarles “represents precisely the values that should define us culturally and reputationally: He is an excellent lawyer, he is an extraordinary hard worker, he is the ultimate team player, and he treats everyone with respect and collegiality.”

It’s a team that’s not just a paper office tiger but one with deep experience investigating crime around the world.

More recently, Mueller has recruited Andrew Weissmann, his one-time general counsel at the FBI and a long-time adviser who once led the Justice Department’s fraud unit. In the early 2000s, Weissmann also oversaw the Enron Task Force, the storied Justice Department unit that investigated the complex machinations of the failed energy giant. (The task force’s team of prosecutors was so well-respected that they went on to dominate the Justice Department’s top ranks for the better part of a decade, including former officials like White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell, and acting assistant attorney general Matthew Friedrich.)

Then Mueller added Michael Dreeben, who has worked for years in the Justice Department’s solicitor general’s office, which argues the government’s cases before the Supreme Court. “Dreeben is 1 of the top legal & appellate minds at DOJ in modern times,” tweeted Preet Bharara, the former top Manhattan federal prosecutor. Walter Dellinger, an accomplished law professor at Duke and former acting solicitor general, went one step further, telling The Washington Post, “Michael is the most brilliant and most knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer in America—period.” Writing on the Lawfare blog, Paul Rosenzweig recalled watching Deeban argue a Supreme Court case—one of more than a hundred he’s done—without a single note, and also concluded, “He is quite possibly the best criminal appellate lawyer in America (at least on the government’s side). That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building.”

Also, while the Special Counsel’s office has yet to make any formal announcements about Mueller’s team, it appears he has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page, a little-known figure outside the halls of Main Justice but one whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller’s Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she’s partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime. That Budapest task force helped put together the still-unfolding money laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a one-time business partner of Manafort.

But despite the other more high-profile names, it’s the career of Zebley, a dogged FBI agent turned prosecutor turned confidant, that perhaps best points to how Mueller intends to run his new investigation: With absolute tenacity and strong central leadership from Mueller himself. It’s a team that’s not just a paper office tiger but one with deep experience investigating crime around the world.

Tenacious Z

Zebley, who has worked alongside Mueller since their departure from the Hoover Building in 2013, attended the College of William & Mary—James Comey’s alma mater—and went on to the University of Virginia’s law school, a prime feeder school for federal prosecutors, including Mueller himself. Zebley then started with the FBI on I-49, one of its most storied squads and part of the small group of agents in New York who were chasing Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda before September 11th.

I-49 was tasked with investigating the twin bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, known within the Bureau as KENBOM and TANBOM; each agent on the squad was assigned a specific suspect. Zebley, one of the squad’s youngest agents, pursued Ali Mandela, a man whose nickname referred to his resemblance to a younger Nelson Mandela.

When Gaudin and Zebley got to South Africa in the summer of 1999, they almost immediately realized the news wasn’t good. The suspect they assumed to be Ali Mandela in fact wasn’t him. Nevertheless, Gaudin and Zebley found themselves in a small conference room in Cape Town with the FBI’s South African liaison and officers from the country’s immigration and refugee asylum service, who insisted that the visiting FBI guests at least review some immigration records while they were there.

The South Africans pulled out boxes stuffed with immigration cards and dumped them on the table. Gaudin and Zebley groaned and agreed to peruse the cards before their evening flight back to the States. Miraculously, the second card Gaudin picked up to examine bore fruit.

“Zeb, where do I know this name from? Who is Zahran Nasser Maulid?” Gaudin asked, holding up the picture with the name written across the top.

“That’s KKM!” Zebley almost shouted.

“Who the fuck is KKM?” a South African official asked. “That’s not your guy.”

“What’s going on here?” the FBI’s liaison asked, also confused.

Gaudin and Zebley pulled the South African aside—they realized they were onto something big, and couldn’t risk a leak. “Who do you trust? This is important.”

Just months earlier, the agents had discovered that Khalfan Khamis Mohamed—the man the FBI suspected of assembling the bomb used in Tanzania—had used the name Maulid as an alias to get a Tanzanian passport. The South African police officer shooed a few people from the room and assembled five officers, four men and one woman. “These people, these are the best. What’s going on? Who’s KKM? I thought we were looking for Ali Mandela.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Gaudin said, holding up the picture. “This guy is Khalfan Khamis Mohamed. There’s already an indictment for him—he’s one of the bombers. If we can get him, there’s a $5 million reward on his head.”

Gaudin called back to the New York Field Office and told his bosses that the two agents had stumbled upon one of the country’s most wanted terrorists. And they even had a plan to arrest him.

The South African immigration services explained that every 42 days, like clockwork, Mohamed had to come back to the refugee office to get his visa renewed. As long as he wasn’t scared off, there was no reason to think he wouldn’t walk right into the FBI’s arms if they were patient. A small team of backup FBI agents was dispatched to South Africa, and they settled in to wait.

Working undercover, Zebley and Gaudin waited at the immigration facility, with Gaudin posing as a South African colonel. Refugees seeking asylum queued each morning, and in typical bureaucratic fashion, not everyone got his or her visa stamped. Latecomers were turned away, forced to return some other day or risk arrest if the authorities found that they’d overstayed their visas. Tensions ran high in the queue, with the crowd becoming more frantic as the day wore on and hopes of getting visas successfully renewed dwindled. One afternoon, Zebley and Gaudin watched in horror as the authorities wheeled out a fire hose and blasted the crowd to keep it under control.

The two agents realized that, given the line’s chaos, the only practical thing to do was somehow to get to the applicants early: They had to streamline the refugee office’s visa renewal process if they hoped to capture KKM. The team hatched a plan. Gaudin, dressed in his full colonel’s uniform, complete with epaulets and medals, and looking vaguely like a character from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, went out each morning with a basket to collect the refugees’ immigration cards. Then all the cards were brought inside and stamped. The refugees waited peacefully outside for their documents, which were returned in the afternoon. This meant not only that the FBI had a first, calm look at the documents but also that the South Africans suddenly had a much more efficient mechanism for processing immigration claims.

Their system worked smoothly— a little too smoothly, actually. The crowds got larger as word spread in the refugee community that a new policy meant everyone was getting a stamp. No more wasted days! The head of refugee services, who had no idea that an American FBI team was operating undercover in his agency, asked to meet this innovative new colonel who had so streamlined and revolutionized his agency’s process. Gaudin, nervous that he’d blow the whole operation, was summoned and thanked for his contribution. “We haven’t had to use the fire hose all week,” the head of refugee services announced, without any idea of Gaudin’s real identity.

The weeks ticked by as KKM’s 42 -day deadline approached. Finally, the last day arrived: October 5, 1999. The small team of FBI agents and South African immigration officers stationed themselves strategically around the building. Zebley and other agents positioned themselves in cars around the corner.

Gaudin went out with his basket. After weeks of the dulling routine, he searched each refugee’s face with renewed enthusiasm, his energy mounting as he worked his way down the line. KKM was here somewhere. Yet Gaudin made it to the end of the morning line without any luck.

Then came a shout from his South African partner at the front door of the office: “Steve, the boss wants to see you.”

“Not now. I’m busy.”

“No, Steve, the boss really needs you. You need to come right now.”

Walking inside, dejected, Gaudin boarded the elevator and found himself standing just inches away from Khalfan Khamis Mohamed. Sully, the South African officer, had seen the terrorist suspect walk up to the end of the line and, unaware of the new policy that ensured everyone a stamp, turn away after mentally calculating that he was unlikely to reach the front of the line that day. The officer had approached him and, thinking quickly, quietly told Mohamed that for some money he would take him to the head of the line and get him a stamp. The Tanzanian bomb maker happily forked over a few hundred rand—after all, getting the stamp that day meant he wouldn’t have to miss another day at the Burger World franchise where he had worked since the attack. The South African officer then led him up to the front and sent his partner to grab the FBI agent.

As the elevator ascended, Gaudin cracked a joke about how he was probably in trouble and was being summoned to the boss’s office. The group disembarked on the top floor, still laughing. The two South African police officers went first, KKM second, and Gaudin brought up the rear, the police acting as casually as they could. Ten feet passed. Twenty feet passed. Gaudin, last in the line, was getting nervous. The building was cavernous; if KKM got spooked and escaped down a hallway or made it to a stairwell, it was possible that they would never see him again. Finally Gaudin’s anxiety overcame him. He broke into a full sprint and slammed into the bomber from behind, his arms encircling KKM and pinning his arms. The two men dropped hard, like a linebacker sacking a quarterback in a high school football game.

Gaudin handcuffed the dazed and confused suspect and rolled him over, growling, “FBI. Don’t even bother telling me you’re not KKM.” Zebley and the other agents pounded up the stairs and into the hallway, with South African officers close behind. The agents hustled the terrorist down to the basement, into a waiting car, and off to the airport for the long flight to the United States. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in 2001.

By that point, Zebley had thought he was done with counterterrorism. He transferred off the counterterrorism squad on September 10, 2001, heading to work criminal cases.

The transfer lasted exactly one day.

Mueller’s Right-Hand Man

Within days of the devastating attack, the brand-new FBI director—Robert Mueller, who had started only on September 4th—decided to centralize the investigation into the September 11th attacks at the Bureau’s headquarters in Washington, an all but unprecedented move to lead an operational case from the Hoover Building itself.

While Mueller didn’t personally lead the PENTTBOM case, the decision to centralize it at headquarters—where he could see it, touch it, and have investigators be instantly available for questions—marked a significant departure from the FBI’s tradition of allowing field offices wide independence on investigations. It also underscored Mueller’s understanding that high-profile, politically sensitive investigations required a tactile, hands-on approach. It is a model that Mueller will likely carry forward into his role as special counsel in the Russia investigation, ensuring that he’s always personally involved even as he delegates threads of the case to experienced investigators like Quarles and Zebley, who was one of the first agents the FBI assigned to the PENTTBOM case in Washington.

On that PENTTBOM case, Zebley was so steeped in the intricacies of the 9/11 attacks that the Justice Department turned to him as the courtroom witness in 2006 to testify that, if Zacarias Moussaoui—the so-called 20th hijacker who was arrested in August 2001—cooperated and allowed his belongings to be searched sooner, the FBI could have likely unraveled the 9/11 plot before it was executed.

Zebley told the courtroom and jurors that the FBI could have used information in Moussaoui’s possession, including phone records and money transfers, to identify and draw links between 11 of the 19 hijackers who participated in the 9/11 attacks. One of the defense attorneys asked Zebley if the FBI could have used that information to stop the attacks.

“We’ll never know, right?” the defense attorney asked.

“Correct,” Zebley replied.

In the years that followed, Zebley rose to become a special counselor to Mueller himself, and after Mueller’s ten-year term as FBI director had been extended for an additional two years by a special act of Congress, Zebley took over as his chief of staff. He also later worked in the Justice Department’s National Security Division, which oversees counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases, like the one into Russia’s election meddling.

In every instance, their investigations have been textbook examples of sober, patient, thorough exploration.

Zebley followed Mueller to WilmerHale in 2014, where Mueller has built a steady practice as the respected voice beyond reproach that organizations turn to when they need sensitive internal investigations. He served as Mueller’s right hand during major investigations, including one that Mueller led into the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident in 2014, and ones into more recent crises like Takata’s deadly airbags and VW’s emissions scandal.

In every instance, their investigations have been textbook examples of sober, patient, thorough exploration. Zebley helped lead the way through the political minefield of the NFL investigation, even as it ultimately and unexpectedly concluded—after a fruitless search of emails, telephone calls, and in-person interviews—that the NFL headquarters had never received a video of Rice’s assault. In the straightforward language that is Mueller’s trademark, the investigation was scathing in its conclusion that the NFL erred in its handling: “The NFL should have done more with the information it had,” the so-called “Mueller report” concluded, “and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident.”

Now, though, Zebley and Mueller—as well as Quarles and the rest of the investigators—will face perhaps their biggest challenge yet, one that will return Zebley to his element as a tireless investigator, pursuing the Russia investigation with all the patience and doggedness of his years-long hunt for al Qaeda suspects across the globe.

Journalist Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) can be reached at <a href=”mailto:garrett.graff@gmail.com”>garrett.graff@gmail.com</a>. He is the author of The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI.

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WSJ.com: World News: White House Hands Say Over Afghan Troop Levels to Military

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The decision averts a looming presidential troop decision, officials say, and clear the way for the military to intensify its fight against the Taliban and Islamic State extremists in the region.

WSJ.com: World News

mikenov on Twitter: Donald is morphing into Brezhnev! Maybe, he was programmed years ago?! Ah?!

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Donald is morphing into Brezhnev! Maybe, he was programmed years ago?! Ah?!


Posted by mikenov on Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 1:30pm

mikenov on Twitter

mikenov on Twitter: Donald is not just first American Mobster President. He is the first Secretary General of America, Inc.! wwtimes.com/blog/2017/06/1….

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Donald is not just first American Mobster President. He is the first Secretary General of America, Inc.!
wwtimes.com/blog/2017/06/1….


Posted by mikenov on Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 1:41pm

mikenov on Twitter

FB-RSS feed for Mike Nova: 11:44 AM 6/13/2017 – Links

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11:44 AM 6/13/2017 – Links

11:44 AM 6/13/2017 – Links

Mike Nova on Twitter: “Donald is not just first American Mobster President. He is the first Secretary General of America, Inc.! https://t.co/QRMlglen3Y.”

FB-RSS feed for Mike Nova

mikenov on Twitter: 11:44 AM 6/13/2017 – Links – The New York Web News – newyorkwebnews.com newyorkwebnews.com/blog/2017/06/1…

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11:44 AM 6/13/2017 – Links – The New York Web News – newyorkwebnews.comnewyorkwebnews.com/blog/2017/06/1…


Posted by mikenov on Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 4:03pm

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FB-RSS feed for Mike Nova: Video – Bill Evans Trio I will Say Good Bye https://t.co/qux87Xfz0s via @YouTube

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Bill Evans Trio I will Say Good Bye https://t.co/qux87Xfz0s via @YouTube

FB-RSS feed for Mike Nova

mikenov on Twitter: Happy Birthday, Donald The Brezhnev!

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Happy Birthday, Donald The Brezhnev!


Posted by mikenov on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 11:11am

mikenov on Twitter

FB-RSS feed for Mike Nova: Syrian Artist Paints Trump, Putin And Other World Leaders as Refugees

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Syrian Artist Paints Trump, Putin And Other World Leaders as Refugees

Syrian Artist Paints Trump, Putin And Other World Leaders as Refugees

HomeIndiaPoliticsMoviesTechCars18iVideosCricketnextSportsCompareIndiaLatest NewsFootballFoodPhotosWorldLifestyleBlogsLive TVTV ShowsTV VideosTravelBusinessHealth And FitnessPodcastImmersiveGossipBuzzLatest NewsPhotosLifestyleWorldBusinessBuzzFootballTravelFrench OpenChampions Trophy

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mueller – Google News: Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team – WIRED

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WIRED
Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream Team
WIRED
As Mueller begins investigating Russia’s interference in last year’s election and its possible links to Donald Trump’s campaign, he is quietly recruiting lawyers and staff to the team. And in recent days, Trump associates have stepped up criticism of

mueller – Google News

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: UN Investigators Decry ‘Staggering’ Loss Of Civilian Lives In Raqqa Air Strikes

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UN war crimes investigators have expressed alarm over what one called the “staggering” number of civilian deaths caused by U.S.-led coalition air strikes on Islamic State (IS) targets in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Washington Free Beacon: Brooks Recounts Alexandria Shooting: ‘It Is Hard to Contain the Emotions’

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.) was on-deck when a shooting broke out at a baseball practice for Republican congressman Wednesday morning that wounded several people.

Among the injured was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.), and Brooks had difficulty containing himself as he described the shooting to CNN’s “New Day.” He told them semiautomatic fire began to ring out during practice, and he realized it was an active shooting situation.

“I see a rifle, and I see a little bit of a body and then I hear another bam and I realize there’s still an active shooter. At the same time I hear Steve Scalise over at second base scream — he was shot,” he said.

The shooting occurred in Alexandria, Virginia’s Del Ray neighborhood. Brooks estimated the assailant and Capitol Police exchanged 50 to 100 shots. Police said the gunman had been taken into custody.

Five people were medically transferred from the scene, although it is unclear how many of them were shot. Brooks said he believed five people were shot, however. No fatalities have been reported.

Alexandria Police say “5 people were transported medically from the scene” following shooting at a baseball practice

Brooks said Scalise crawled into the outfield leaving a “trail of blood” 10 to 15 yards long, and he helped put pressure on Scalise’s wound. He also described helping put pressure on a congressional staffer’s leg wound to minimize blood loss.

Brooks praised the law enforcement response to the shooting, describing one wounded officer who came over to tend to Scalise’s wound.

“It is hard to contain the emotions. My adrenaline is raging, and of course it’s never easy to take when you see people around you getting shot, and you don’t have a weapon yourself so you are not in a position where you can help defend,” he said. “So you’re pretty helpless.”

The post Brooks Recounts Alexandria Shooting: ‘It Is Hard to Contain the Emotions’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Washington Free Beacon

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mikenov on Twitter: Donald, when will you fire Putin? Ain’t it enough?! Show them who is the Boss. That’s your real task, not fighting with the Democrats. Hurry

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Donald, when will you fire Putin? Ain’t it enough?! Show them who is the Boss. That’s your real task, not fighting with the Democrats. Hurry


Posted by mikenov on Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 1:36pm

mikenov on Twitter

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: Gunman Attacks Republican Politicians Playing Baseball In Washington Suburb

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A gunman opened fire at U.S. Republican politicians playing baseball in a Washington suburb, wounding a senior U.S. congressman and three other other people, officials and news reports said.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

AP Top News at 9:53 a.m. EDT: The Latest: Congressman says member of his staff wounded

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (all times local):…

AP Top News at 9:53 a.m. EDT

Voice of America: Congressman Scalise Shot Outside Washington

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U.S. Congressman Stephen Scalise was shot in Alexandria, Virginia, just south of Washington, while he and other Republican congressional lawmakers were practicing for an annual baseball game.

Voice of America

Business & Financial News, U.S & International Breaking News | Reuters

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The Early Edition: June 14, 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. Here’s today’s news.

JEFF SESSIONS TESTIFIES

“An appalling and detestable lie.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee he never met with any Russian officials last year to discuss the Trump campaign and that he couldn’t remember whether he had a passing encounter with the Russian ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington or any other undisclosed Russian officials. Aruna Viswanatha, Paul Sonne and Del Quentin Wilber examine yesterday’s hearing at the Wall Street Journal.

“I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for himself.” Sessions would not say whether he believed President Trump would have fired former F.B.I. director James Comey without recommendations from top Justice Department officials, as Trump himself said, Nolan D. McCaskill identifying this and other key moments from Session’s testimony yesterday at POLITICO.

Sessions was in a meeting at the Oval Office in February with Comey and Trump when the president said he wanted to talk to the then-F.B.I. director privately, and Comey did come to talk to him the next day about that meeting, Sessions acknowledged, confirming elements of Comey’s own testimony last week, report Sari Horwitz, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky at the Washington Post.

Comey’s claim that Sessions did not respond when he asked for protection from Trump was inaccurate, Sessions told the committee, countering this and other key assertions made by Comey last week. Betsy Woodruff, Andrew Desiderio and Spencer Ackerman write at The Daily Beast.

Sessions defended his misstatements in January to the Judiciary Committee as being taken out of context and refused to answer questions about his conversations with the president about Comey’s firing on the basis of an unspecified longstanding policy at the Justice Department predicated on “protecting the right of the president to assert [executive privilege] if he chooses,” the New York Times editorial board proposing a few more questions the attorney general should answer, but probably won’t, following his testimony yesterday.

An important evolution in Sessions’ account of a critical conversation he had with Comey and a “strange lack of curiosity” about President Trump’s “inappropriate, and possibly illegal” interactions with the former F.B.I. director are revealed by examining Sessions’ comments on the subject during his hearing yesterday, writes Just Security‘s Editor Alex Whiting.

Sessions’ recusal from Trump-Russia investigations was merely a procedural matter precipitated by his position as a prominent Trump campaign surrogate in 2016, not a product of any wrongdoing, Sessions insisted in a testimony that did little to move the White House out of the shadow of the Russia investigations, write Matt Flegenheimer and Rebecca R. Ruiz at the New York Times.

Sessions willingly misled senators during his January confirmation hearing and was trying to brush aside suggestions that he may have lied to lawmakers under oath, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said in a statement following Sessions’ testimony yesterday, Max Greenwood reporting at the Hill.

The attorney general was particularly weak in explaining how his recusal from the Trump-Russia investigations allowed him to take part in Comey’s firing, his reason for doing so seemingly that he felt he still had to perform all his duties so – reasoning backwards – his recusal could not prevent him from involvement in Comey’s firing. Jennifer Rubin examines Sessions’ testimony at the Washington Post.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein refused to answer question about the scope of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from Trump-Russia investigations during a Senate hearing yesterday on the basis that Sessions is recused from Department of Justice investigations and ongoing investigations are not discussed, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

Legal analysts are divided on whether Sessions was correct to refuse to answer questions on the basis of executive privilege, a long legal and political tradition which allows private deliberations involving the president and his top advisers to be kept private, for which he was lambasted by lawmakers during his hearing yesterday, Matt Zapotosky writes at the Washington Post.

“A master class in bamboozling, blustering and butt-covering.” Sessions reacted with outrage at any suggestions of wrongdoing on his part and relied on supposedly long-standing Department of Justice rules against talking about private communications in public whenever he met with uncomfortable questions, writes Andrew Rosenthal at the New York Times.

A transcript of Sessions’ testimony is provided at POLITICO.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

President Trump has “no intention” of firing special counsel Robert Mueller who is leading the Trump-Russia investigation, White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckerbee Sanders confirmed yesterday, Jordan Fabian reporting at the Hill.

Trump’s top aides talked him down from firing Robert Mueller after he was angered by reports that Mueller was close to former F.B.I. director James Comey, Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman and Julie Hirschfeld Davis report at the New York Times.

Friend of James Comey Daniel Richman has handed over copies of his memos describing encounters with President Trump to the F.B.I., the same friend who acted as the go-between in disseminating the content of the memos to the press last month, Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.

President Trump “keeps trying to delay and disrupt our honest efforts to get to the bottom of what happened.” The president needs to allow Congress and the F.B.I. to get on with their investigations into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said yesterday, John Bowden reporting at the Hill.

Firing Robert Mueller would firm up a case that the President is obstructing justice more than anything else Trump has done in office so far, writes the Washington Post editorial board.

Former president Bill Clinton was impeached for charges less serious than the ones attaching to President Trump now, with the fired former F.B.I. director looking into the possibility of American collusion in the Russian plot to influence the presidential election, a treasonous offense, and while it is not time to start drafting articles of impeachment it is certainly time to pursue the Trump-Russia investigation with energy, writes former Rep. Bob Inglis, who was on the House Judiciary Committee that started the consideration of impeaching Clinton and drafted articles of impeachment, at the Washington Post.

James Comey may have revealed that he gave his memos detailing his conversations with the president to his friend Daniel Richman to the Senate Intelligence Committee last Thursday in order to put his own character and judgement in issue and so preemptively inoculate himself from future attack if he gets called as a witness in a future criminal trial, suggests Asha Rangappa at POLITICO.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

American student Otto F. Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma yesterday after he was detained there last year, charged with a “hostile act” and sentenced to 15 years hard labor, his released following secret negotiations between U.S. officials and the Pyongyang government, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Russell Goldman and Adam Goldman report at the New York Times.

Former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman’s fifth visit to North Korea got off to a low-key start yesterday, with no clear sign yet that he will meet with leader Kim Jong-un, reports Eric Talmadge at the AP.

Technical details about the methods behind North Korea’s cyberattacks were released by the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security yesterday, the Hill’s Harber Neidig reports.

The release of Otto F. Warmbier raises the prospect of broader U.S.-North Korea talks, though this may depend on the student’s condition, while White House officials have declined to comment on the geopolitical implications of his case, write David Nakamura and Karen DeYoung at the Washington Post.

Otto F. Warmbier’s treatment at the hands of North Korea is outrageous even by the standards of one of the world’s “most vicious and isolated regimes” and should not go unpunished, writes the Washington Post editorial board.

Three Americans remain imprisoned in North Korea after Warmbier’s release, the striking similarities in their circumstances as “pawns in a complex geopolitical game” examined by Russell Goldman at the New York Times.

The “enduring strangeness” of North Korea as a world stage actor is demonstrated by the confluence of Warmbier’s release and the arrival in North Korea of former N.B.A. start Dennis Rodman in North Korea, observes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post.

GULF-ARAB DISPUTE

The Gulf crisis is “trending in a positive direction,” the State Department said following a discussion between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on the need to work together in relation to the decision by four Arab nations to diplomatically isolate Qatar, Al Jazeera reports.

Russia is “trying to break any kind of multilateral alliance,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday, speculating that if the stories about Russia hacking a Qatari news agency are true, the motivation could be Russia’s desire to subvert the international order. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

There is no military component to the steps taken by Arab nations against Qatar, the U.A.E. ambassador to the U.S. said today, Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.

Several high-ranking Iranian officials repeated accusations that Saudi Arabia was behind the twin terror attacks in Tehran last week yesterday, despite the fact that the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, Thomas Erdbrink reports at the New York Times.

Qatar has pulled all its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border, it said yesterday, offering no explanation for the move, which comes at a time of Qatar’s diplomatic isolation by other Arab nations. Malak Harb and Elias Meseret report at the AP.

Calls to reopen airspace to flights from Qatar were rejected by Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority yesterday, arguing that the measure is necessary to protect Saudi citizens, U.A.E. and Bahrain also issued similar statements, Al Jazeera reports.

Russia cannot officially take sides in the Gulf crisis but it has an interest in maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia and keeping Qatar on side due to regional politics and access to natural gas reserves, Leonid Issaev writes at Al Jazeera.

AFGHANISTAN

President Trump has delegated control over the number of troops to be deployed to Afghanistan to the Pentagon, the Afghanistan strategy now expected to be completed by next month, according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis conceded yesterday in response to questioning by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) over the lack of a strategy, adding that “we will correct this as soon as possible.” Connor O’Brien reports at POLITICO.

Nine insurgents were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint in Helmand province today, no group yet claiming responsibility, the AP reports.

SYRIA

The ongoing confrontation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia may deepen divisions within the opposition to the Assad Regime in Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia two of the rebels’ biggest state backers along with Turkey and the U.S., Tom Perry and Suleiman Al-Khalidi reporting at Reuters.

The Gulf crisis “does not help consolidate joint efforts in resolving the conflict in Syria and fighting the terrorist threat,” President Putin said in a conversation with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud yesterday, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin, Al Jazeera reporting.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) made significant progress in the battle for Raqqa yesterday, human rights organizations urging U.S.-backed forces to prioritize protecting the thousands of civilians still trapped in the city, Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria report at the Washington Post.

U.S.-backed airstrikes on Raqqa are causing a “staggering loss of civilian life,” U.N. war crimes investigators said today, Stephanie Nebehay reporting at Reuters.

Reports that white phosphorous was used in the Syrian city of Raqqa have been condemned by human rights organizations who claim that, whether used legally or not, its use can cause horrific and long-lasting harm to civilians, the AP reports.

IRAQ

Islamic State fighters in the dozens wearing suicide vests attacked police lines in Mosul today, successfully retaking ground in a large-scale attack starting around 3 a.m. this morning. Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report at the Washington Post.

The U.S.-led coalition admitted to using white phosphorous during operations in the city of Mosul to try and get civilians out safely, but human rights organizations have warned of the effects of white phosphorous and warned that its use could amount to a war crime, Alison Meuse reports at NPR.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 29 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 12. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

THE PHILIPPINES

U.S. troops are on the ground near the Philippine city of Marawi but are not involved in fighting the Islamic State-linked militants holding parts of the city after four weeks of fighting, a Philippines military spokesperson said today. Neil Jerome Morales and Simon Lewis report at Reuters.

A strategy of destroying Marawi to save it seems to have been adopted by the Philippine military, bombing it at least twice a day in an attempt to remove the militants holed up there, observe Richard C. Paddock and Felipe Villamor at the New York Times.

The U.S. presence near Marawi providing “technical assistance” is an embarrassment for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered American forces to leave Mindanao last year and announced that the Philippines would establish closer ties with China and who now says he did not request U.S. help with Marawi, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

RUSSIA

Democrats and Republicans are backing an Russia-Iran sanctions bill that includes an agreement for further penalties against the Russian government, setting hurdles for President Trump should he seek to lift them, Elana Schor reports at POLITICO.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushed back against the bipartisan sanctions bill, arguing that the measures included could close channels with Russia which would be detrimental to anti-terrorism efforts and for seeking a resolution to the Syrian civil war, Elana Schor reports at POLITICO.

The decision to veto sanctions against Russia poses a dilemma for President Trump, who has to walk the line between his desire to engage more with Russia and pressure not to appear too friendly to Moscow, David E. Sanger and Matt Flegenheimer write at the New York Times.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

Donald Trump’s proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia was narrowly backed by the Senate yesterday, Helene Cooper report at the New York Times.

“Our budget will never determine our ability to be effective.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended the Trump administration’s plans to cut the State Department’s budget by around 30 percent before senators yesterday, Gardiner Harris reports at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A federal lawsuit alleging that President Trump violated the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments is expected to be filed by almost 200 Democratic members of Congress today, the third suit on the issue against President Trump since he took office, and involving what is believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president, reports Sharon LaFraniere at the New York Times.

The Trump administration was given more time to explain why the high court should consider its revised travel ban by the Supreme Court yesterday, a move that risks delaying the Supreme Court’s consideration of the case until October, Ted Hesson reports at POLITICO.

A Jordanian soldier entered a not guilty plea today to murder charges in the killing of three U.S. military trainers whose convoy came under fire near an air base in U.S.-allied nation last year, the AP reports.

F.A.R.C. rebels in Colombia handed over another 30 percent of their weapons to U.N. inspectors today, the BBC reports.

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Putin taunts Trump as he claims the US thinks it ‘can do anything without consequences’ | World | News

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Speaking to US filmmaker Oliver Stone as part of a tell-all documentary on the Russian president, Mr Putin revealed his true feelings about the US, claiming it “got a false sense that it is able to do everything without any consequences,” in particular after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

He said: “In such a situation, a man or a country begins to make mistakes… The state begins to function ineffectively. One mistake follows another.

“That is the trap in which, as I believe, the United States got caught into.”

He continued: “I believe that if you think you are the only world power, trying to impose on the whole nation the idea of their exclusiveness, this creates an imperialistic mentality in society, which in turn requires an adequate foreign policy expected by society. And the country’s leaders are forced to follow this logic. And in practice this might go contrary to the interest of the Americans… It demonstrates it’s impossible to control everything.”

He even claimed the US “has nurtured both al-Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden” in a shocking suggestion that will no doubt anger his US counterpart.

Mr Putin explained: “Al-Qaeda is not the result of our activities. This is the result of activities of our US friends. This all started in the times of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, when the US security services supported different movements of Islamic fundamentalism in their struggle against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.”

The 64-year-old went on to describe the collapse of the Soviet Union as “one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century”, claiming “25 million Russians found themselves abroad in one night”.

Mr Putin also addressed recent allegations that Moscow meddled in the 2016 US election, suggesting that accusers do not consider the consequences these claims have on international relations.

He said: “Unfortunately, the United States developed a fashion to speculate and, I’d say, abuse the Russian issue during election campaigns.

“Then they tell us, ‘Don’t you pay attention to this! You need to understand that this is just election rhetoric, we will come to agreement with you later.’ But sacrificing international relations in the course of current political processes is, I believe, a big mistake.”

Mr Putin added Moscow can no longer accept statements coming out of the Pentagon saying Russia was the main threat to the United States.

He said: “On the contrary, we were always ready for the dialogue pretty much on any track of cooperation.”

The Russian leader also said instead of the US spending large amounts on defence it should focus on building a stronger relationship with Russia.

Putin stated: “In 2016, under various estimations, [the US spent] more than $600billion [on defence]. This, of course, is beyond limits. This is more than all the countries of the world spend for this purpose put together.

“The main thing that Russia has, is its people with its self-consciousness.

“This people cannot exist outside its sovereignty, its statehood, and this understanding, and not the threat of a retaliatory nuclear strike, should set all our Western partners on building long-term equitable relations with Russia.

“And then one will not need to spend such money on defence.”

The first episode of the four-part documentary series aired on Showtime on Monday night.

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Washington Free Beacon: Gunman Shoots Congressman, Police at Virginia Baseball Practice

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by: Daniel Wallis

A gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington early on Wednesday, wounding several people including House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise before being taken into custody, police and media reports said.

The shooter appeared to be a white male, “a little bit on the chubby side,” Representative Mo Brooks told CNN, adding that he only saw the man for second.

Brooks said he heard 10 to 20 rounds from the gunman’s rifle before the security detail returned fire. He said there were 20 to 25 members of team at the practice in Alexandria, Virginia, when the gunfire erupted.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information comes in.

The post Gunman Shoots Congressman, Police at Virginia Baseball Practice appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Washington Free Beacon

DEBKAFile: A gunman shot US House Majority Whip Steve Scalise

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June 14, 2017, 3:32 PM (IDT)Louisiana Rep Steve Scalise, House Majority Whip was shot with two police guards during a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va, early Wednesday in which a dozen Republican congressman took part. All three men were injured. Witnesses say more than 15 rounds were fired in ten minutes by a man with a rifle at 7:15 am ET. Scalise was reported hit in the hip and an aide used his belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The gunman was hit in an exchange of fire. According to some sources, he was apprehended and taken to hospital.
Scalise was elected to congress eight years ago and is one of the leaders of the conservative group.

One congressman reported that as he left the practice field, he was approached by a man in running clothes who asked whether the players on the field were Republicans or Democrats. He did not appear to be holding a weapon. Police are looking for him.

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Steve Scalise shot in Virginia, aides also hit

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot and multiple congressional aides were also hit by a gunman with a rifle who opened fire at a GOP baseball practice in Virginia Wednesday morning, Fox News confirmed.

Scalise was in stable condition. Five people were “transported medically” from the scene, Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown said; however, it was unclear how many people had been shot.

The gunman was shot by U.S. Capitol Police, apprehended and taken to the hospital, officials said. Sen. Mike Lee told Fox News, however, the gunman was killed. The incident occurred at Simpson Field in Alexandria, about 10 miles from Washington D.C.

“The Vice President and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely,” President Trump said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.”

Trump later tweeted: “Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”

The Department of Homeland Security was monitoring the episode and the FBI was also involved.

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Tex., was seen being taken from the field in a stretcher but it was unclear if he was struck by a bullet.

“Finally the shooter was shot behind home plate as he was circling around to the first base dugout where there were a number of us congressmen and other folks,” Rep. Mo Brooks told FMTALK1065. “Our security detail was able to incapacitate him at that point. I don’t know if he [shooter] was dead. He was wounded. I don’t know how many times he was wounded.”

Brooks reportedly used a belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding of an aide who was shot in the leg. Two law enforcement officers were also injured, included one who was hit in the leg, Brooks said.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., told Fox News he left just before the shooting. As he walked to his car, a man asked DeSantis if it was Republicans or Democrats practicing. About three minutes later, at around 7:15 a.m. the shooting began, DeSantis said. It reportedly last about 10 minutes.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup told Fox News he “felt like I was in Iraq but without my weapon.” Sen. Jeff Flake said the congressional group were “sitting ducks.”

“Without the Capitol Hill police it would have been a massacre,” Sen. Rand Paul told Fox News, describing the scene as “sort of a killing field.”

Scalise was shot in the hip, sources told Fox News.

“Behind third base, I see a rifle…I hear Steve Scalise over near 2nd base scream,” Brooks said. “…While all of this is going on, Steve Scalise our whip was lying on the ground near the second base position crawling into right field, leaving a trail of blood.”

Brooks said the gunman was using the dugout as cover and estimated the assailant got off 50-100 shots during the attack on the 15-25 people gathered at the field.

“We were there within three minutes,” Brown said. “Two of our officers engaged in gunfire and returned fire.”

Alexandria schools were placed on lockdown as the incident unfolded.

Scalise, 51, is the House majority whip. He has represented Louisiana’s First Congressional District since 2008 and chairs the House Republican Study Committee. He is married with two children. Scalise’s district includes New Orleans.

Since he’s in leadership, Scalise has a security detail.

Scalise, who studied computer science at Louisiana State University, worked as a systems engineer before launching his political career. Scalise endorsed President Trump during last year’s presidential campaign, and has been a vocal backer of Trump’s travel ban. As leader of the powerful study group, he has also spearheaded the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

The Congressional Baseball Game is scheduled for June 15 at Nationals Park. The game, which has been a tradition since 1909, pits Senate and House members of each party who sport the uniform of their home state.

This is a developing story; check back for updates. Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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