The Russians Were Involved. But It Wasn’t About Collusion – NYT

The Russians Were Involved. But It Wasn’t About Collusion.

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Russians are fond of a proverb, “besplatniy sir biyvaet tol’ko v mishelovke”: “Free cheese can be found only in a mousetrap.”

Having long considered the United States its main enemy, the Kremlin deploys a full quiver of intelligence weapons against America and its national security agencies, political parties and defense contractors. Its intelligence services, though best known for clandestine operations to recruit spies, also run covert “influence operations” that often use disinformation to try to affect decisions or events in rival countries. A central tool of those operations is “kompromat,” “compromising material”: things of seemingly great value that are dangled, at what appears to be no cost, before unwitting targets. This is the “free cheese” that ensnares victims in a trap.

I know all this from having spent much of my 30-year government career, including with the C.I.A., observing Soviet, and then Russian, intelligence operations. I came to realize that President Vladimir Putin, who spent his formative years in the K.G.B., the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, and served as director of its successor agency, the F.S.B., wants, as much as anything, to destabilize the American political process. For all his talk of desiring friendly relations, Mr. Putin favors a state of animosity between our two nations. By characterizing the United States and NATO as Russia’s enemies, he can attack within his own borders what threatens him the most — the ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy, of which the United States has been a defender.

This background is necessary for understanding the real meaning of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Kremlin-connected Russians and three representatives of Donald Trump’s campaign: his son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, then the campaign manager. The evidence that has emerged from this meeting strongly suggests that this was not an effort to establish a secure back channel for collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign but an influence operation with one simple objective: to undermine the presidential election.

No conclusive proof has yet emerged that the Kremlin arranged this meeting, and the Russians involved have asserted they were not working for the Putin government. Mr. Kushner himself told Senate investigators that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But to me, the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation was meant to be discovered.

The meeting was arranged by a British publicist named Rob Goldstone, who told Donald Trump Jr. via email that his client, the Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, wanted to share incriminating evidence on the Clinton campaign that had been obtained from the Russian government. Sophisticated Russian intelligence tradecraft that was meant to be kept secret would not have permitted such an insecure opening gambit for establishing continuing communication with the Trump campaign. They would not have used something as insecure as email, or relied on liaison cutouts who could so easily be traced to the Kremlin. Instead, the Russians who attended the meeting had obvious Kremlin ties, including Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Moscow lawyer who has done work on behalf of the F.S.B.; Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist who served in the Soviet military; and Mr. Agalarov, whose father is a real estate titan close to Mr. Putin.

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An Embattled White House Gets a General

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The Generals Can’t Save Us From Trump

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Consider North Korea: As Pyongyang defiantly ignored Mr. Trump’s martial strutting, he indicated that the United States was counting on the Chinese to bring financial pressure; praised the skills of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader; and offered to negotiate. A few months later, Mr. Trump has already ditched that approach, closing the door on the Chinese and going back to military threats.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Mr. Trump has sown confusion about American policy toward Syria; incited regional isolation of Qatar, home to an important American military base; and encouraged a destabilizing confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

During Mr. Trump’s maladroit visit to Europe, he declined to affirm the country’s commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty — the linchpin of Europe’s collective security — and hectored European NATO members to spend more on defense. Although he has walked back the gaffe, trans-Atlantic relations remain shaky.

Most recently, Mr. Trump last week announced that transgender Americans would be barred from military service — catching the Pentagon by surprise and upending a long-running internal review process. After each of these episodes, stories leak about how the generals were either outgunned by advisers like Stephen Bannon or, more often, just left out of the loop.

At the margins, the generals may dial back their boss’s impulses, and occasionally stand up to Mr. Trump in small ways, as Mr. Mattis did when he declined to praise Mr. Trump in a televised cabinet meeting in June. And there are small victories: Last week, General McMaster managed to remove the Flynn holdover Derek Harvey, the Middle East senior adviser and an Iran hawk, from the security council.

But it’s unlikely that the generals will consistently rein in Mr. Trump at the strategic level. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and therefore, on paper at least, the president’s primary military liaison and adviser, rarely has one-on-one meetings with Mr. Trump. Mr. Kelly, a former Marine general who had served as his secretary of homeland security and whom many had hoped would temper the president on immigration, apparently shares Mr. Trump’s policy views and seems disinclined to challenge him.

Relying on the generals was always a dubious, ad hoc plan prompted by Mr. Trump’s uniquely troubling peculiarities. Generals aren’t supposed to make policy, let alone get involved in politics.

In the mid-1950s, the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington observed that American military officers had evolved into a disciplined and largely apolitical group of professionals. He outlined a separation of roles: military obedience to civilian leaders in areas of strategic or political discretion, and civilian deference to the military on operational matters.

This was the norm until after Vietnam, when numerous scholars conducting post-mortems on the war — including, coincidentally, General McMaster in his book “Dereliction of Duty” — concluded that military commanders should have challenged civilian leaders more aggressively.

And over time, that’s what happened. As the Pentagon gained a broader post-Sept. 11 mandate, branching into what were once considered law enforcement and diplomatic arenas, the line between the civilian and military division blurred. Combatant commanders’ assertiveness peaked when a beleaguered President George W. Bush looked to Gen. David Petraeus to extricate the United States from the Iraq quagmire by way of the “surge” in 2007.

President Barack Obama reasserted civilian control when he fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal in 2010 and pulled the military out of Iraq in 2012.

Civilian control remains more or less intact, but the civilian leadership has changed. Unlike Mr. Obama, who took responsibility for his administration’s military actions, Mr. Trump has publicly scapegoated the military for politically damaging episodes, such as the errant February raid in Yemen in which one Navy SEAL and up to 30 civilians died. He has also been openly at odds with Mr. Mattis over torture, budget cuts at the State Department and climate change.

Still, there was an expectation that, given Mr. Trump’s apparent affection for all things martial, the generals would eventually take at least some control of foreign policy, especially after General McMaster replaced the wayward Mr. Flynn at the National Security Council.

This has not happened. Instead, Mr. Trump has simply sidelined the security council and its role in coordinating foreign policy, relegating it to on-the-fly improvisation. The generals in the Trump administration still sit outside the president’s inner circle. General McMaster admitted that Mr. Trump went into his private meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at last month’s G-20 meeting without an agenda — indeed, without General McMaster.

The generals have failed because for all their acumen, they’re not suited to the job of the nation’s strategic stewards. They’re military men, not statesmen. This isn’t a slight on Mr. Mattis or General McMaster — it’s a rare officer who can move from operations to policy and strategy, as Eliot Cohen noted in his book “Supreme Command.” They lack the sound civilian leader’s worldly acumen, and the good ones know it. (Obviously Mr. Cohen — one of Mr. Trump’s most vehement Republican critics — did not have the current president in mind in positing the ideal civilian leader.)

Furthermore, most generals — Douglas MacArthur being the rare exception — are acutely aware of the chain of command, and uncomfortable directly challenging the commander in chief. That’s what makes Mr. Mattis’s comment in Singapore so surprising — and it’s unlikely we’ll hear more in that vein.

So where will the check on Mr. Trump’s incompetent foreign policy come from? Not the State Department, under siege and led, for now, by the underqualified Rex Tillerson. Only Congress, on a bipartisan basis, can constrain Mr. Trump’s recklessness and ineptitude.

And, slowly but surely, that constraint is materializing. Congress is using its power of the purse to reject Mr. Trump’s drastic cuts in the foreign assistance budget and resist his substantially defunding the State Department. More significantly and unconventionally, it is countering Trump administration policy stances it considers unsound, having passed a resolution reaffirming the American commitment to NATO and voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions on Russia.

But even on its best days, Congress is an unreliable and unwieldy mechanism for managing foreign policy, and no substitute for a wise and engaged chief executive and a nimble security council.

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Recap of Recent Pieces on Just Security (July 23-28)

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I. Government Lawyering

Lisa Monaco, Help Wanted: Custodians for the Rule of Law (Friday, July 28)II. Trump Campaign – Russia Investigation

Ambassador (ret.) Keith Harper, The Presidenut’s Pardons Paradox: Granting Them Could Aid the Prosecution (Wednesday, July 26) Bob Bauer,  If “Love” Knows No Bounds: On Criminal “Intent” and the Scope of Campaign Finance Law (Tuesday, July 25) Renato Mariotti, A Former Federal Prosecutor Dissects Kushner’s Statement (Tuesday, July 25) Fred Wertheimer, President Trump’s Unsurprising Endorsement of Illegal Solicitation–His 2016 Campaign Repeatedly Violated Ban on Soliciting Foreign Donations (Tuesday, July 25) Kate Brannen and Andy Wright, Q&A on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Decision to Subpoena Manafort ((Tuesday, July 25) Ryan Goodman, Can Jared Kushner Be Impeached? (Monday, July 24) Renato Mariotti, How the Prospect of Indictment Could Impact the President’s Decision Making (Monday, July 24)III. The State Department

Jane Stromseth, Why the U.S. needs the Office of Global Criminal Justice Led by a Senate-Confirmed Ambassador-at-Large (Wednesday, July 26)IV.  Iraq and Female Foreign Fighters

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Fall of Mosul Raises Question: What Should Be Done with Female Foreign Fighters? (Thursday, July 27)V. Cybersecurity and Election Infrastructure

Karen Hobert Flynn, As Hackers Target U.S. Voting Machines, We Need Leaders Who’ll Put Country Over Party (Thursday, July 27)VI. Norms Watch

Hannah Ryan, Norms Watch: Democracy, the Trump Administration, and Reactions to It (July 21-July 28) (Friday, July 28)VII. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Steve Vladeck, The Three Sessions Succession Scenarios (Tuesday, July 25)VIII. The Transgender Military Service Ban

Bishop Garrison, We’ve Been Here Before: Discriminating Against Those Who Volunteer to Serve (Wednesday, July 26)IX. Islamophobia and Countering Violent Extremism

Faiza Patel, Margot Adams and Emily Hockett, Defeated Anti-Muslim Amendment a Sign of Trump’s Normalizing of Islamophobia (Wednesday, July 26) Michael German and Faiza Patel, Fighting Terrorism Without Dividing Us: Why Congress Must Look Beyond Countering Violent Extremism (Thursday, July 27)X. The Authorization for Use of Military Force 

 Heather Brandon and Scott Johnston, Takeaways from this Week’s House AUMF Hearing—on Authorizing War Against ISIS (Thursday, July 27)XI. Authoritarianism and Emergency Powers

Rachel Kleinfeld, We Are Already in a State of Emergency (Friday, July 28)XII. Yemen 

Will Picard, The Danger of a Grand Bargain: The Wrong Peace Deal Could Mean Endless War in Yemen (Tuesday, July 25) Stephen Seche and Eric Pelofsky, Yemen: The View from Riyadh, (Sunday, July 23)XIII. National Security Council

Kate Brannen and Jenna McLaughlin, Top Middle East Advisor is Removed from the National Security Council  (Thursday, July 28) Read on Just Security »

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Germany echoes Putin’s attack on US bill to sanction Russia

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A senior German government official on Friday agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of new U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Russian aggression around the world.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel suggested Friday that the United States is using the sanctions bill as an opportunity to boost American energy companies by barring Europeans from doing business with their Russian rivals. The remarks endorse a key plank of Russia’s position, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s posture as a leading European critic of Putin.

“Sanctions policies are neither a suitable nor an appropriate instrument for promoting national export interests and the domestic energy sector,” Gabriel said.

Putin made a similar accusation, as Congress took the final steps to send the bill to President Trump’s desk. “I would call them particularly cynical because they amount to an obvious attempt to use one’s geopolitical advantages in the competitive struggle in order to protect one’s economic interests at the expense of one’s allies, as in this case,” Putin said Thursday while traveling in Finland.

That charge was just one part of the Russian defense against the sanctions, as the Foreign Ministry paired it with a statement that U.S. concern about Russian aggression is a fiction.

“It is common knowledge that the Russian Federation has been doing everything in its power to improve bilateral relations, to encourage ties and cooperation with the U.S.,” the Foreign Ministry said. “Meanwhile, the United States is using Russia’s alleged interference in its domestic affairs as an absolutely contrived excuse for its persevering and crude campaigns against Russia.”

U.S. intelligence officials in President Trump’s administration and the Obama administration agree that Russians were behind a series of cyberattacks and document leaks targeting Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Leaked National Security Agency documents also revealed an effort to hack state election systems, although they didn’t succeed in altering the vote on election day. Russian officials also harassed U.S. diplomats, according to the State Department, including one incident when a policeman outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow assaulted an American official trying to enter the building.

“For too long, the message to Vladimir Putin has been that Russia can invade its neighbors, threaten U.S. allies, intensify its cyber-attacks, and interfere with foreign elections with very little repercussion,” Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said in June when the bill passed the upper chamber. “Unless and until Russia pays a price for its actions, these destabilizing activities will continue.”

The new sanctions aim to punish Russia by barring companies that do business in the United States from working on energy projects with significant Russian ownership — defined in the law as a one-third stake. The most significant example is Nord Stream 2, a major new gas pipeline that a company owned by the Russian government is trying to build in northern Europe.

The pipeline would strengthen Russia’s hand with respect to Ukraine and Europe, but several major energy companies from Germany and other Western European nations are involved in the deal.

U.S. lawmakers took a variety of steps to alleviate those worries in the final version of the bill, including measures that would allow for U.S-European coordination over the implementation of the sanctions.

“It’s critically important that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies in countering Russian aggression,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce said as lawmakers prepared to pass the legislation. “That’s why, in the bipartisan, House-Senate negotiations, we secured important changes to improve transatlantic cooperation.”

Gabriel acknowledged those concessions, but signaled Germany intends to take a firm line in defending German-Russian energy cooperation.

“It is good that Congress has now explicitly stipulated that consultations must be held with the United States’ European partners before further measures can be taken,” he said. “Our stance remains that we will not accept any extraterritorial use whatsoever of these US sanctions against European companies.”

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Trump swallows a bitter pill on Russia

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Confronted by almost-unanimous congressional support for the package and questions about his intentions toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump had little choice but to sign a bill that officials complain will tie his hands in his dealings with Putin. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Moscow is furious at new sanctions as the White House complains of Congressional interference in foreign policy.

By MICHAEL CROWLEY

President Donald Trump plans to sign a Congressional law restricting his ability to lift sanctions on Russia, the White House said Friday night, in a severe blow to his budding relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Confronted by a united Congress and suspicions about his intentions towards the Russian leader, Trump had little choice but to sign the measure, whose passage the White House had opposed.

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“It would have been foolhardy for the Trump administration to veto this bill,” said Edward Fishman, a former Obama State Department official who worked on Russia sanctions policy. “Congress would have overriden the veto, and all it will do is fuel the fire of the Russia scandal in Washington.”

The White House statement sought to save face from a resounding political setback, arguing that Trump had negotiated changes to early drafts of the bill and, “based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it.”

The timing of the announcement—late on a summer Friday, amid headlines about White House staff turmoil—ensured relatively little coverage for what analysts called a major development in U.S.-Russia relations.

The legislation, which also imposes new penalties on North Korea and Iran, passed the House and Senate with just a handful of dissenting votes. It requires Trump to justify in writing any effort to ease sanctions on Russia and mandates an automatic Congressional review of any such move.

That severely limits Trump’s ability to cut a deal with Putin, whose top priority is the rollback of U.S. and European sanctions against his economy and associates.

Members of both parties have grown concerned about Trump’s eagerness to befriend Putin despite strong evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election and multiple investigations into alleged links between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Trump and Putin developed a friendly rapport in multiple conversations at the G-20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, one of them an after-dinner chat attended by no other U.S. officials.

But even before Trump agreed to sign the new sanctions measure, Putin angrily ordered a staff cut at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and the seizure of properties used by American diplomats in Russia.

That move returned a favor from December, when President Barack Obama shut down two Russian diplomatic compounds — one in Maryland and one in New York — as punishment for Russian meddling in the November election. U.S. officials said the rural compounds were used for espionage. The Kremlin says they were recreation spots and whose closure, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month, was “robbery in broad daylight.”

Russia did not initially retaliate for Obama’s December closure of the compounds—reportedly after Trump’s now-resigned national security adviser, Michael Flynn, told Russia’s ambassador in Washington that Trump would reverse the action after taking office. But Trump has not done so, and the sanctions he now plans to sign into law will now make that nearly impossible given sharp anti-Kremlin sentiments in Congress.

On Friday, Russian officials suggested that relations with the U.S. could be on a downward slope.

“We are not ruling out any steps, so to say, to bring to their senses those presumptuous Russophobes who are setting the tone on Capitol Hill today,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told reporters, according to the Kremlin-funded Russian outlet RT.

Ryabkov also warned of “potentially destructive consequences” from the legislation.

Analysts say Moscow still hopes to do business with Trump, who has largely shrugged off warnings about Putin’s intentions and said Washington and Moscow should cooperate in the Middle East and on issues like terrorism and cyber security.

The new sanctions bill will make that exceedingly difficult, however.

The measure enshrines into law sanctions imposed by Obama through executive orders and gives Congress 30 days to review any effort by Trump to weaken sanctions.

Earlier this month, the White House’s top legislative liaison, Marc Short, said the law amounted to an “unusual precedent of delegating foreign policy to 535 members of Congress.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also urged Congress not to impede his “flexibility” to bargain with Moscow.

That echoes arguments from Obama, who resisted Congressional intrusions into his nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Obama unsuccessfully battled tougher sanctions on Tehran than he had wanted and was forced to submit his final deal for Congressional review.

But Obama officials who worked on the Iran deal call Russia a different case.

“I generally think Congress should be wary of impinging too far on executive branch prerogatives in foreign policy,” said Jon Finer, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry during the nuclear negotiations.

“But two key differences here make the Russia case exceptional: the unprecedented interference (which Trump is the only person in Washington incapable of acknowledging) in our election, and the Administration’s constant stream of lies about its ties to Russia, which raise legitimate questions about why they want a deal,” Finer added.

The White House did win some changes to the legislation since its first passage by the House and Senate, including ones sought by energy companies that could be penalized, it was clear that Trump plans to sign the final product only grudgingly.

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After Congress struck a deal to advance the measure last week, Trump angrily tweeted that “the phony Russian With Hunt continues,” calling it “very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.”

Trump isn’t the only critic of the legislation outside of Moscow. European officials have expressed alarm that the measure would grant Trump the power to ban investments in energy projects on the continent tied to Russia—a point of friction happily amplified by Russian media outlets.

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Trump: ‘We’re going to destroy’ MS-13 – CNN

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CNN
Trump: ‘We’re going to destroy’ MS-13
CNN
“Together we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we’re going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs,” Trump said. Long Island has been particularly affected by the brutal street gang, with 
Trump to cite gang violence in New York town in pressing for deportationsReuters
In Long Island, Trump to talk about crackdown on MS-13, immigrationCBS News
Trump headed to Long Island to trumpet MS-13 crackdownABC News
Los Angeles Times –Fox News
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Trump says he’s going to ‘destroy’ MS-13 — here’s how the gang got its sinister name – Business Insider

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Business Insider
Trump says he’s going to ‘destroy’ MS-13 — here’s how the gang got its sinister name
Business Insider
“Mara inmates realized they had to join La Eme [The Mexican Mafia] to survive, and the mob was happy to add war-hardened machete wielders to its cell-block armies. The Mexican Mafia uses the number thirteen (M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet), …

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McFeatters: Trump’s a mess but he’s not mentally ill – Online Athens

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Online Athens
McFeatters: Trump’s a mess but he’s not mentally ill
Online Athens
WASHINGTON | As Donald Trump veers wackily from day to day, swearing before 30,000 Boy Scouts, publicly humiliating his attorney general and changing his mind on policy issues, he is raising alarm that the president of the United States might be 

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“Everyone thinks he was whacked” – BuzzFeed News

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BuzzFeed News
“Everyone thinks he was whacked”
BuzzFeed News
Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was murdered in Washington, DC on the eve of a planned meeting with the U.S. Justice Department, according to two FBI agents whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death 

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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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North Korea has launched a missile that landed within 200 nautical miles of Japan, according to TheWashington Post. The Pentagon confirmed that it detected a missile launch around 10:45 a.m. EST. Japanese and South Korean national security officials condemned the move. In recent days, U.S. intelligence officials had identified preparations for another test. The launch comes less than three weeks after Pyongyang fired its first missile deemed technically capable of reaching the United States. The AP reports that a Pentagon official says the launch was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Russian government seized two American diplomatic properties and ordered the State Department to reduce embassy staff by September, reports The New York Times. The Kremlin’s move comes one day after Congress sent a bill to the White House that would constrain the president’s unilateral authority to change sanctions on Russia. President Trump has not yet signalled whether he will sign the bill. Moscow’s decision also follows the Obama administration’s December 2016 expulsion of Russian diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds in response to Russian interference in the U.S. election. The move is the latest in rising tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Buzzfeed reports that RT founder Mikhail Lesin was murdered in November 2015 in a Washington, D.C. hotel the day before he planned to meet with officials at the Department of Justice. While the Justice Department previously closed the investigation into Lesin’s death, determining it to have been an accident, FBI sources informed Buzzfeed that Lesin was “beaten to death” in his Dupont Circle hotel, likely on behalf of the Kremlin. Lesin had traveled to Washington to meet with Justice Department officials about pro-Kremlin propaganda network RT.

The Pakistani Supreme Court ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down over allegations of corruptionreports the Times. The charges brought against Sharif stemmed from the Panama Papers disclosure, which showed that his family held valuable real estate holdings concealed by offshore companies. The former Prime Minister called the investigations into his family’s finances a conspiracy. His resignation may create a political opening for opposition leader Imran Khan in the next general elections.

Iran successfully launched a missile into space on Thursday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran, according to the Times. Such launches are permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement. The launch comes as the Times also reports that President Trump has instructed his national security team to find a justification for declaring Iran is in violation of the agreement. The AP reports that the administration imposed new sanctions on Iran on Friday over the missile launch.

President Trump considered Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff, reports the Times. The president has openly said that he has lost faith in Priebus and that he wants “a general” to replace him.

Responding to attacks from the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Trump’s remarks were “hurtful” but described him as a “strong leader” in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the Times writes. Sessions reiterated his belief that he was right to recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference, a major source of the president’s criticism.

The State Department ordered relatives of U.S. embassy staff in Caracas to leave Venezuela, The Wall Street Journal reports. A contentious vote on Sunday to elect members to the Constituent Assembly, a body tasked with drafting a new constitution, may deepen the already pervasive political and economic instability in Venezuela. The U.S. has threatened “strong and swift economic actions” against Venezuela if the country adopts the Constituent Assembly. Earlier this week, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 13 Venezuelan government officials for alleged corruption and undermining democratic political processes.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

In the Intelligence Studies Essay, Steve Slick asked what effects President Trump’s revised executive order on the structure of the National Security Council will have on policy deliberations.

Paul Rosenzweig argued that Europe is unserious in its approach to privacy.

Nicholas Weaver examined the indictment of Alexander Vinnick for running the BTC-e crypto-currency exchange.

Andrew Keane Woods noted a new case filed by Google in the U.S. District Court of California challenging a Canadian Supreme Court ruling requiring Google to delist links to particular pages.

Trey Herr and Bruce Schneier flagged new revisions to their paper on estimating vulnerability rediscovery.

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

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High-Profile Russian Death In Washington Was No Accident—it Was Murder, Officials Say

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Donald Trump and his advisers just can’t stop talking about each other’s penises 

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Perhaps we should have seen it coming after Donald Trump spent the primary race defending against the accusation that he had small hands, only to literally defend the size of his penis during a primary debate. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that Trump and the people he’s surrounded himself with are some of the most insecure men on the planet. But it still stands out as jarring just how obsessed Trump’s feuding advisers are with talking about each other’s dicks.

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” said Anthony Scaramucci in a rant last night to a reporter. The pure spectacle of the remark ensured that it’ll be the only thing that either Scaramucci or Bannon will ever be remembered for. But this wasn’t some isolated incident. Just last week it was revealed that Bannon had referred to Paul Ryan as a “limp-dick.” There are other examples, and these are just the ones that have made it out to the public.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune to know someone who’s similar in nature to Donald Trump or his gang of thugs, then you know that this is more or less how these types of men converse. Their entire worldview is more or less built around the size of their own dick, and their fear that it’s smaller than that of other men. They can’t so much as refer to a woman without saying something sexist, or to a minority without saying something racist. It’s just their horrible, horrifying nature.

And yet it invariably leads these insecure gutter dwelling fractions of small men to spend their miserable lives obsessively talking about each other’s penises. They make it far too easy for the rest of us. The jokes just end up writing themselves.

The post Donald Trump and his advisers just can’t stop talking about each other’s penises appeared first on Palmer Report.

Donald Trump | The Guardian: After Trump and Brexit, is this the end for the Anglo Saxon west? | Timothy Garton Ash

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Some welcome the prospect of decline in Britain and the US. They should be careful what they wish for
• Timothy Garton Ash is a Guardian columnist‘“You must be from England,” says the shop assistant at the CVS drugstore in Menlo Park, California. When I mention Donald Trump, he says: “Well, don’t get me started on how things are going on your side of the Atlantic. Your Mrs May there in Downing Street is being [expletive deleted] by the bureaucrats in Brussels …”

I can only agree. Having jumped from the Brexit frying pan into the Trump fire, I find myself comparing the two and wondering which is worse. The transatlantic difference is, in the first place, between Britain’s madness of the thing and America’s madness of the man. Theresa May may be wooden, rigid and out of her depth, but compared to Trump she looks like Mother Teresa.

Related: Dunkirk reveals the spirit that has driven Brexit: humiliation | Rafael Behr

Related: Hardliners won’t like this soft Brexit plan. Tough – we have little choice | Simon Jenkins

Continue reading…

 Donald Trump | The Guardian

Just Security: The Early Edition: July 28, 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.

RUSSIA, IRAN and NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS PACKAGE

Russia ordered the U.S. to cut diplomatic staff to 455 and barred the use of some properties this morning in retaliation for new U.S. sanctions against Russia, the BBC reports.

The Senate cleared the new sanctions package against Russia, North Korea and Iran yesterday on a 98-2 vote, Natalie Andrews reports at the Wall Street Journal.

It is unclear whether President Trump will sign the legislation,which binds his hands when it comes to changing sanctions policy toward Moscow, while if he vetoed the bill he would have to do so in the knowledge that lawmakers are prepared to override, White House incoming press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying yesterday that the president would “wait and see what that final legislation looks like and make a decision at that point,” but Trump’s communications chief Anthony Scaramucci suggesting that he may veto the sanctions in order to “negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians.” Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

“Illegal” American plans for new sanctions against Russia were denounced by Russian President Putinyesterday, also dismissing investigations into Trump-Russia collusion as political hysteria, and warning that Moscow could not “put up forever with this boorishness,” Andrew Higgins reports at the New York Times.

Finally, good news: Congress performed the civic duty that President Trump has so far avoided yesterday, imposing wide-ranging new sanctions on Russia for its hacking of the 2016 election, a “timely and appropriate” use of a controversial but nonviolent tool for making clear when another country’s behavior has crossed a line and for applying pressure on its leaders to change course, writes the New York Times editorial board.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Russian intelligence “100 percent” monitored the meeting last June involving Donald Trump Jr. and other members of Donald Trump’s inner circle and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had connections to Russian President Putin and went into the meeting with something to offer, Bill Browder, a businessman behind a Russian sanctions law, told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday during its hearing on Russian interference in the U.S. election, CNN’s Tom LoBianco and Manu Raju report.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions “made the right decision” in recusing himself from Trump-Russia-related investigations, he said yesterday, adding that President Trump’s repeated public criticisms of him were “kind of hurtful,” CNN’s Miranda Green and Saba Hamedy report.

Sessions intends to remain in post to fight for President Trump’s agenda “as long as he sees that as appropriate,” adding that Trump has “every right” to make a change if he wishes since Sessions serves at Trump’s “pleasure,” the attorney general told the AP’s Sadie Gurman.

A letter urging President Trump to fire senior adviser Jared Kushner over his contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign is being circulated by a small group of House Democrats, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

President Trump can be indicted, but likely not by special counsel Robert Mueller. Ronald Rotunda, a professor at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law who was asked by then-independent counsel Kenneth Starr to assess whether a federal grand jury could indict former president Bill Clinton, writes at the Washington Post that his conclusion then that it was possible remains intact, but that the differences between the Clinton situation and the Trump situation mean that where Starr had the authority to indict Clinton, Mueller does not have the same authority in respect to Trump.

How should Congress and Justice Department officials weight their choices as Trump threatens openly and repeatedly to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, presumably to clear the way for firing special counsel Robert Mueller? David Ignatius considers the “unthinkable” at the Washington Post.

IRAN

Iran successfully launched a missile into space yesterday, two days after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill approving additional sanctions against the country and statements from the Trump administration last week expressing the U.S.’ concerns over “Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East,” Thomas Erdbrink reports at the New York Times.

Trump has instructed his national security aides to find a way to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, some U.S. aides conceding that it would be difficult to convince the other parties to the nuclear deal to return to the negotiating table, and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee Bob Corker (R.-Tenn) suggesting that the administration take a more nuanced approach. David E. Sanger reports at the New York Times.

Iran poses a threat even if it complies with the nuclear deal, having exploited loopholes in the deal to develop its ballistic missile program, the launch of a missile yesterday demonstrating its “chutzpah,” Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

ISRAEL & PALESTINE

Worshipers in Iran have staged an anti-Israel protest in Tehran today, demonstrating against the Israeli authorities’ actions at al-Aqsa mosque, the AP reports in rolling coverage.

Israeli authorities removed the remaining security apparatus at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem yesterday, after the security apparatus – put in place following the killing of two Israeli policemen on July 14 by Arab Israelis who emerged from the mosque – sparked mass protests from Palestinians and violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. Rory Jones reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Israeli forces fired teargas, stun grenades and sound bombs at Palestinian worshipers returning to al-Aqsa mosque last night, injuring more than 100 in their efforts to disperse the crowds, Al Jazeerareports.

Worshipers were advised to enter the mosque rather than pray outside in protest by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and clerics of the Islamic Waqf authority, Ian Lee and Oren Liebermann report at CNN.

Male worshipers under the age of 50 have been barred by Israeli authorities from entering al-Aqsa mosque in anticipation of more mass protests ahead of Friday prayers, Reuters reports.

Tensions have been raised in Jerusalem as a Palestinian protestor died last night from a wound inflicted by Israeli authorities and extra police forces have been deployed to al-Aqsa this morning, Al Jazeera reports.

Jordan’s attorney general has filed murder charges against an Israeli embassy guard for the deaths of two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman on July 23, reports saying that the attorney general wishes the guard to be tried in Israel using diplomatic channels, the AP reports.

“The Al Jazeera network continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on social media Wednesday – using the Jewish name for the contested holy site which includes al-Aqsa mosque and is known to Muslims as “Noble Sanctuary” – Al Jazeera stating that they would take “all necessary legal measures” to act against action by Israeli authorities to close their Jerusalem office. Al Jazeera reports.

Why is the Jerusalem holy site so controversial? Lawahez Jabari, Paul Goldman and Saphora Smith explain at NBC News.

SYRIA

The U.S.-led coalition have killed several senior Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq recently, including “propagandists and facilitators,” according to a statement by U.S. Central Command.

The U.N. has been unable to deliver humanitarian aid to many hard-to-reach areas of Syria and, despite the reduction in violence following the creation of “de-escalation” zones, Al Jazeera reports.

Specialist civil defense teams in rebel-held Deraa have shifted their focus to clearing unexploded cluster bombs amid the relative calm in southwest Syria since a ceasefire was reached earlier this month, having been trained in Jordan to learn to de-mine areas, Sarah Dadouch reports at Reuters.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 18 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 24. Separately, partner forces conducted four strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

GULF-ARAB DISPUTE

The U.N. is the “right platform to start from,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said yesterday, reiterating that Qatar is ready and willing to engage in dialogue and that Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain “need to retreat from all their illegal actions,” Al Jazeera reports.

“Outsourcing” Qatar’s foreign policy “will never be acceptable,” Qatar’s Government spokesman Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani said today, stating that the Saudi-led embargo is an attempt to undermine Qatar’s sovereignty and independence, Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.

Qatar has been able to withstand the Saudi-led embargo due to lessons it learnt from a confrontation in 2014 where Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in protest against Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Doha-based Al Jazeera network, Yaroslav Trofimov explains at the Wall Street Journal.

The crisis in the Gulf is regional and reflects the lack of a sustainable and stable order in the Middle East, bringing the risk of a “new normal” of a Cold War in the region. Former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu writes at Al Jazeera.

NORTH KOREA

Japan has imposed sanctions against organizations and individuals linked to North Korea, the Japanese Foreign Minister said yesterday, joining the U.S. in its actions against the Pyongyang regime. Elaine Lies reports at Reuters.

“None of these choices are particularly palatable. None of them are good,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said yesterday, stating that a land war with North Korea would be “highly deadly” and a nuclear attack on Los Angeles would be “terrible,” Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

North Korea’s hacking activities are focusing on raising foreign currency rather than disrupting military and government data, Christine Kim reports at Reuters.

The Pyongyang regime relies on North Korean laborers in the Gulf to get cash and evade sanctions, according to officials and analysts, the sanctions bill passed yesterday by the U.S. Senate seeking to limit the use of overseas North Korean labor, Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.

CHINA

“[Certain] outside countries are determined to stir up trouble,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said today, responding to comments made by U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the U.K. may send two aircraft carriers to patrol the South China Sea. James Griffiths reports at CNN.

China closed off a section of the ocean on its east coast yesterday to carry out naval exercises, marking the latest in China’s recent stepping-up of naval drills, the AP reports.

India’s national security adviser met with officials in Beijing today to discuss the border dispute between China and India centering on the presence of Chinese forces at a road over the Doklam Plateau in June and the Indian troops sent to confront them at the frontier, Christopher Bodeen reports at the AP.

The current India-China border dispute evokes memories of the 1962 border war, the Economistexplaining the historical context and Bhutan’s role in the territorial standoff.

VENEZUELA

The families of U.S. diplomats have been ordered to leave Venezuela by the State Department amid rising tensions over an upcoming vote to rewrite the country’s constitution in a way that would essentially strip the legislature of its power, Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.

The individual sanctions on a further 13 Venezuelan officials including some involved in the constituent assembly announced by the Trump administration on July 26 are a promising step in the right direction,while generalized sanctions currently being considered would be a mistake. The Economist urges the administration to intensify its efforts to pressurize officials, which will not force regime change in itself but which can be combined with the offer of negotiations brokered by foreign governments and which is preferable to the alternative slide into generalized violence.

If the constituent assembly is called the U.S. should react in ways that punish Venezuela’s rulers, not its long-suffering population, or risk harming both countries, the New York Times editorial board agrees.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The top Middle East advisor on the N.S.C. was removed from his post by National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster yesterday, the reason behind the decision not immediately clear, reports Just Security’s Deputy Managing Editor Kate Brannen at Foreign Policy.

There will be “no modification to current policy” on transgender people serving in the U.S. military until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has received President Trump’s “direction” to change the policy and figured out how to do it, America’s top military officer Gen. Joseph Dunford said yesterday, the APreports.

Allegations that U.S. service members were present at a military base in Cameroon where U.S.-trained forces detained and tortured civilians in a report by Amnesty International is being investigated by the Pentagon, Paul McLeary reports at Foreign Policy.

Former top Obama aides are being accused of making hundreds of requests to unmask the names of Americans in intelligence during last year’s presidential election, including Trump transition officials, by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in a letter seen by the Hill’s John Solomon.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen shot down a ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels toward the city of Mecca last night, it said, Reuters reporting.

Al-Qaeda is active in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, the group announced for the first time yesterday, saying via a linked propaganda network that a militant from an indigenous rebel group would lead the fighters in opposing Indian rule in the region. Aijaz Hussain reports at the AP.

Over 40 people were killed in an attempt to free them from an ambush by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria Tuesday, the BBC reports.

A man suspected of being a member of Afghanistan’s Taliban who participated in an attack in which an American soldier was killed was indicted in Germany on charges of terrorism and murder, German federal prosecutors said today, the AP reporting.

The new Libya peace deal between the leader of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli Fayez al-Serraj and the commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army Gen. Khalifa Haftar lends legitimacy to the latter, whose forces have mostly added to the chaos, not helped to resolve it, while Serraj may lack the strength to implement the political solution demanded by the agreement reached in Paris this week, and few truly believe that Gen. Haftar is done with the battlefield, the Economist writes.

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Congress Defies Trump on Russia

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Trump Investigations – on The Web: Recent Tweets: Mike Nova – @mikenov: Is there a connection between the Firtash extradition activities and this Barcelona train crash?!

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Mike Nova @mikenov Is there a connection between the Firtash extradition activities and this Barcelona train crash?! – http://webworldtimes.com/blog/2017/07/28/is-there-a-connection-between-the-firtash-extradition-activities-and-this-barcelona-train-crash/ … … 26s Mike Nova @mikenov Is there a connection between the Firtash extradition activities and this Barcelona train crash?! – http://webworldtimes.com/blog/2017/07/28/is-there-a-connection-between-the-firtash-extradition-activities-and-this-barcelona-train-crash/ … 1m Mike Nova @mikenov Sprawling Firtash investigation alleges new US, Spanish ties https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/sprawling-firtash-investigation-alleges-new-us-spanish-ties.html … Sprawling Firtash investigation alleges new US, … Continue reading “Recent Tweets: Mike Nova – @mikenov: Is there a connection between the Firtash extradition activities and this Barcelona train crash?!”

 Trump Investigations – on The Web

“Dominance is his game”, said Krauthammer about Trump. I will add: submission to the will of Congress and American people should be his solution. 

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“Dominance is his game”, said Krauthammer about Trump. I will add: submission to the will of Congress and American people should be his solution. 

 

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Global Opinions: The ugly way Trump’s rise and Putin’s are connected 

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An important chunk of the money that has pumped up the New York luxury real estate market was money originally siphoned off from the Russian state.

 Global Opinions

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The president can be indicted — just not by Mueller

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Ronald Rotunda is a professor at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law.

Nearly two decades ago, then-independent counsel Kenneth Starr asked me to evaluate whether a federal grand jury could indict a sitting president — in that case, Bill Clinton. My answer — that such an action would be permissible — was recently unearthed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the New York Times, and it may have relevance for a new special counsel and the current president.

Whitewater to witch hunts: What Trump can expect from the special prosecutor

The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus explains why lashing out might not be the best legal move for President Trump. The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus explains why lashing out might not be the best legal move for President Trump. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

(Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

My fundamental conclusion remains intact: Nothing in the Constitution would bar a federal grand jury from returning charges against a sitting president for committing a serious felony. But — and this is a big but — differences between the Clinton situation then and the investigation of President Trump now mean that where Starr had the authority to indict Clinton if he chose, Mueller most likely does not possess the same power.

On the underlying question of whether the Constitution bars indictment of a sitting president, no previous case is directly on point. The Justice Department has taken a different view than the conclusion I reached — both beforehand, during the Watergate investigation, and afterward, at the end of the Clinton administration. But the history and language of the Constitution and Supreme Court precedents suggest that the president does not enjoy general immunity from prosecution.

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First, the framers knew how to write a clause granting such immunity when they wanted to. Members of Congress enjoy “privilege from arrest” in civil cases when going to and from Congress (now irrelevant because we no longer use that procedure) and may not be criminally prosecuted for “any speech or debate” in Congress. If the framers wanted to protect the president from prosecution while in office and to make impeachment the sole mechanism for proceeding against a president, they could and would have said so.

Second, some argue that criminal prosecution would distract the president and make him unable to perform his duties. During Watergate, Richard Nixon’s lawyers argued that “if the president were indictable while in office, any prosecutor and grand jury would have within their power the ability to cripple an entire branch of the national government and hence the whole system.” The Supreme Court never reached that question, and Nixon left office without being indicted.

In my view, questions about “crippling” the government are not compelling, and the precedents in favor of the power to indict a sitting president were strengthened with the Supreme Court’s ruling that a private sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton involving alleged conduct before he took office could go forward even during his presidency.

As I wrote in the memo to Starr, “If the president is indicted, the government will not shut down, any more than it shut down when the Court ruled that the president must answer a civil suit brought by Paula Jones.” In addition, the 25th Amendment offers another answer to the government-could-not-proceed objection, by providing a mechanism to keep the executive branch running if the president is temporarily unable to discharge his powers. In this country, no one is above the law.

Nonetheless, there is a significant — in fact, likely dispositive — difference between the Clinton situation and that facing Trump. Starr served as independent counsel under a now-defunct statute. By contrast, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III serves under Justice Department regulations put in place after the independent counsel law expired.

This is not a technical distinction but one that I discussed in my memo, distinguishing between the independent counsel statute and the regulations such as those establishing Mueller’s office.

And this difference has enormous implications for Mueller’s power. Supreme Court cases going back 150 years emphasize that the president retains complete authority to control federal criminal prosecutions. Without a statutorily appointed special counsel given special tenure, Trump could fire anyone who tried to indict him.

Moreover, the regulations governing Mueller mandate that he “comply with the rules, regulations, procedures, practices and policies of the Department of Justice.” They permit removal of the special counsel for “good cause, including violation of Departmental policies.”

As Clinton was about to leave office, his Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel ruled that the president could not be indicted. Is this legal opinion a departmental policy that binds Mueller? It would seem so, given that OLC’s stated function is “to provide controlling advice to Executive Branch officials on questions of law” (emphasis added). If that creates a Catch-22 situation in which a special counsel can never proceed against a president, my answer is: I don’t write the rules, I just read them.

As interesting as this debate is, it also strikes me as entirely premature. In my assessment, the “case” against Trump right now amounts to a mountain of innuendo built on a foundation of loose sand. The facts so far do not come close to making an obstruction case against the president, and for now there is no evidence that he engaged in any underlying crime.

If and when Mueller comes up with something that might create an indictable case, though, he is apt to run into serious questions about the limitations of his office, questions that Starr did not face.

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Sessions lessons – The Washington Post

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Transparency, thy name is Trump, Donald Trump. No filter, no governor, no editor lies between his impulses and his public actions. He tweets, therefore he is.

Ronald Reagan was so self-contained and impenetrable that his official biographer was practically driven mad trying to figure him out. Donald Trump is penetrable, hourly.

Never more so than during his ongoing war on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Trump has been privately blaming Sessions for the Russia cloud. But rather than calling him in to either work it out or demand his resignation, Trump has engaged in a series of deliberate public humiliations.

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Day by day, he taunts Sessions, calling him “beleaguered” and “very weak” and attacking him for everything from not firing the acting FBI director (which Trump could do himself in an instant) to not pursuing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.

What makes the spectacle so excruciating is that the wounded Sessions plods on, refusing the obvious invitation to resign his dream job, the capstone of his career. After all, he gave up his safe Senate seat to enter the service of Trump. Where does he go?

Trump relishes such a cat-and-mouse game and, by playing it so openly, reveals a deeply repellent vindictiveness in the service of a pathological need to display dominance.

Dominance is his game. Doesn’t matter if you backed him, as did Chris Christie, cast out months ago. Or if you opposed him, as did Mitt Romney, before whom Trump ostentatiously dangled the State Department, only to snatch it away, leaving Romney looking the foolish supplicant.

Yet the Sessions affair is more than just a study in character. It carries political implications. It has caused the first crack in Trump’s base. Not yet a split, mind you. The base is simply too solid for that. But amid his 35 to 40 percent core support, some are peeling off, both in Congress and in the pro-Trump commentariat.

The issue is less characterological than philosophical. As Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard put it, Sessions was the original Trumpist — before Trump. Sessions championed hard-line trade, law enforcement and immigration policy long before Trump (who criticized Romney in 2012 for being far too tough on illegal immigrants, for example) rode these ideas to the White House.

For many conservatives, Sessions’ early endorsement of Trump served as an ideological touchstone. And Sessions has remained stalwart in carrying out Trumpist policies at Justice. That Trump could, out of personal pique, treat him so rudely now suggests to those conservatives how cynically expedient was Trump’s adoption of Sessions’ ideas in the first place.

But beyond character and beyond ideology lies the most appalling aspect of the Sessions affair — reviving the idea of prosecuting Clinton.

In the 2016 campaign, there was nothing more disturbing than crowds chanting “lock her up,” often encouraged by Trump and his surrogates. After the election, however, Trump reconsidered, saying he would not pursue Clinton, who “went through a lot and suffered greatly.”

Now under siege, Trump has jettisoned magnanimity. Maybe she should be locked up after all.

This is pure misdirection. Even if every charge against Clinton were true and she got 20 years in the clink, it would change not one iota of the truth — or falsity — of the charges of collusion being made against the Trump campaign.

Moreover, in America we don’t lock up political adversaries. They do that in Turkey. They do that (and worse) in Russia. Part of American greatness is that we don’t criminalize our politics.

Last week, Trump spoke at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. Ford was no giant. Nor did he leave a great policy legacy. But he is justly revered for his decency and honor. His great gesture was pardoning Richard Nixon, an act for which he was excoriated at the time and which cost him the 1976 election.

It was an act of political self-sacrifice, done for precisely the right reason. Nixon might indeed have committed crimes. But the spectacle of an ex-president on trial and perhaps even in jail was something Ford would not allow the country to go through.

In doing so, he vindicated the very purpose of the presidential pardon. On its face, it’s perverse. It allows one person to overturn equal justice. But the Founders understood that there are times, rare but vital, when social peace and national reconciliation require contravening ordinary justice. Ulysses S. Grant amnestied (technically: paroled) Confederate soldiers and officers at Appomattox, even allowing them to keep a horse for the planting.

In Trump World, the better angels are not in evidence.

To be sure, Trump is indeed examining the pardon power. For himself and his cronies.

Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

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The worst is yet to come

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President Trump. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The Court of Mad King Donald is not a presidency. It is an affliction, one that saps the life out of our democratic institutions, and it must be fiercely resisted if the nation as we know it is to survive.

I wish that were hyperbole. The problem is not just that President Trump is selfish, insecure, egotistical, ignorant and unserious. It is that he neither fully grasps nor minimally respects the concept of honor, without which our governing system falls apart. He believes “honorable” means “obsequious in the service of Trump.” He believes everyone else’s motives are as base as his.

The Trump administration is, indeed, like the court of some accidental monarch who is tragically unsuited for the duties of his throne. However long it persists, we must never allow ourselves to think of the Trump White House as anything but aberrant. We must fight for the norms of American governance lest we forget them in their absence.

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It gets worse and worse. The past week has marked a succession of new lows.

Trump has started a sustained campaign to goad or humiliate Attorney General Jeff Sessions into resigning. Trump has blasted Sessions on Twitter, at a news conference, in newspaper interviews and at a campaign-style rally. He has called Sessions “beleaguered” and said repeatedly how “disappointed” he is in the attorney general.

How Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump’s relationship turned sour

The relationship between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has deteriorated in recent months. Here’s a look at how they got to this point. The relationship between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has deteriorated in recent months. Here’s a look at how they got to this point. (Video: Taylor Turner/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

(Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)

Forget, for the moment, that Sessions was the first sitting U.S. senator to support Trump’s campaign, giving him credibility among conservatives. Forget also that Sessions is arguably having more success than any other Cabinet member in getting Trump’s agenda implemented. Those things aside, what kind of leader treats a lieutenant with such passive-aggressive obnoxiousness? Trump is too namby-pamby to look Sessions in the eye and say, “You’re fired.”

That’s what the president clearly is trying to summon the courage to do, however. The Post reportedthat Trump has been “musing” with his courtiers about the possibility of firing Sessions and naming a replacement during the August congressional recess.

Trump has no respect for the rule of law. He is enraged that Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election, and thus is not in a position to protect the House of Trump from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. According to the New York Times, “Sharing the president’s frustration have been people in his family, some of whom have come under scrutiny in the Russia investigation.” I’m guessing that means the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Who elected them , by the way?

Trump seeks to govern by whim and fiat. On Wednesday morning, he used Twitter to announce a ban on transgender people serving in the military, surprising his own top military leaders. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters to ask the White House for details; White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters to ask the Pentagon. Was Trump trying to reignite the culture wars? Would the thousands of transgender individuals now serving in the military be purged? Was this actual policy or just a fit of indigestion?

Inside the mad king’s court, the internecine battles are becoming ever more brutal. Members of Trump’s inner circle seek his favor by leaking negative information about their rivals. This administration is more hostile to the media than any in recent memory but is also more eager to whisper juicy dirt about the ambitious courtier down the hall.

Trump’s new favorite, Anthony Scaramucci, struts around more like a chief of staff than a communications director, which is his nominal role. Late Wednesday night — after dining with Trump and his head cheerleader, Sean Hannity — Scaramucci took a metaphorical rapier to the actual chief of staff, Reince Priebus, by strongly hinting on Twitter that Priebus leaks to reporters. The next morning, Scaramucci told CNN that “if Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that.” And in a profanity-laden phone call to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, Scaramucci called Priebus “a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”

Why bring in Scaramucci? Because, I fear, the mad king is girding for war. Trump is reckless enough to fire Mueller if he digs too deeply into the business dealings of the Trump Organization and the Kushner Companies.

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Scenes from the Republican’s first six months in the White House.

July 27, 2017 At the White House, President Trump welcomes Jennifer Scalise, wife of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who was shot in June at a GOP congressional baseball team practice. The East Room ceremony honored first responders who aided people during the shooting in Alexandria, Va. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

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What then? Will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) draft and push through a new special-prosecutor statute so that Mueller can quickly be reappointed? Will House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately open debate on articles of impeachment? Will we, the people, defend our democracy?

Do not become numb to the mad king’s outrages. The worst is yet to come.

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

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The ugly way Trump’s rise and Putin’s are connected

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President Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

There were at least eight people in the room on June 9, 2016, when two Trump family members and Donald Trump’s campaign manager met with a Russian lawyer and her extended team in Trump Tower. Focus your attention just briefly on one of them: Ike Kaveladze. Of course it will be important to learn, in due course, what he was really doing there. But in the meantime, we should spend a few minutes thinking about the peculiar financial culture — American as well as Russian — that he represents.

Though not exactly a celebrity, Kaveladze’s notoriety in certain circles stretches back more than two decades. Starting in the 1990s, his company, Euro-American Corporate Services Inc., set up more than 2,000 Delaware corporations on behalf of unknown, mostly Russian clients and used those companies to open bank accounts. According to a Government Accountability Office report on “Suspicious Banking Activities,” published in 2000, those bank accounts were then used to receive and send large amounts of money. The GAO found that two banks “facilitated the transfer of approximately $1 billion from Eastern Europe, through U.S. banks, and back to Eastern Europe by corporations formed for Russian brokers”; more than $800 million in total was deposited in 136 accounts that Euro-American Corporate Services and another Kaveladze company created at Citibank alone. Kaveladze has protested that what he had done was legal — and he was right. Delaware law really was so lax that it allowed unnamed Russians to send money in and out of the United States without much question.

Why did this matter? Because that kind of activity was a part of the business model that brought Vladimir Putin to power. As numerous books have documented — the best is “Putin’s Kleptocracy” by Karen Dawisha — Putin was one of a group of public officials, many affiliated with the old KGB, who systematically pillaged the Russian state. They drew money out of the state, often using commodities arbitrage or other methods, moved the money out of the country through shell companies, then brought it back to Russia and used it to buy companies and property. They became rich — many of them fabulously so. They then used that wealth to gain power.

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Soviet-born businessmen such as Kaveladze, based in the United States and Europe, played significant roles in this system. But so did a range of U.S. and European bankers, accountants and lawyers. For two decades, Western real estate markets — New York, Miami, London — have also provided multiple safe places for Russian oligarchs (and many others) to spend money with complete anonymity. Last year, a Treasury Department investigation into shell companies that purchased luxury homes for cash in several U.S. metropolitan areas found that more than a quarter of such transactions in Manhattan and Miami actually involved someone engaged in “suspicious activity.”

The arrangement suited everybody: American real estate magnates, suddenly rich Russian oligarchs, the construction industry and many others. But underneath this boom there was a grim truth: An important chunk of the money that pumped up the New York luxury real estate market over the past two decades was money originally siphoned off from the Russian state. That was money that should have been used to build hospitals, schools and roads, but instead enriched officials such as Putin and the billionaires who surround him. In due course, Russian money also enriched Trump and his family: As Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

In that sense the rise of Trump and the rise of Putin are connected. No wonder Trump feels such an affinity for the Russian president; no wonder he seeks him out at international meetings. And no wonder special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation has reportedly decided to look closely at past Trump family real estate transactions.

I’m sure there will eventually be a lot more to say about the details of the Trump-Russia financial relationship. But this story should make us ponder some larger themes, too. After all, the double rise of Trump and Putin might have been halted if only Western governments and financial institutions had acted, over the past two decades, as if they truly believed that these kinds of dealings are wrong. Laws were not enforced — or did not exist. Blind eyes were turned.

Even now, we could be doing much, much more. We could stop the registration of all anonymous companies in states such as Wyoming, Delaware and Nevada. We could make all property owners put their real names on public registers. We could listen to Global Witness and other activist groups that constantly point out the links between financial deals in New York and human rights abuse and poverty in faraway countries. Some of these changes are happening in Britain and Europe. But in the United States, where the political consequences of this ugly international system are now so dramatic, we have scarcely begun.

Read more from Anne Applebaum’s archivefollow her on Twitter or subscribe to her updates on Facebook.

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Donald Trump in Brentwood today to address anti-gang fight

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President Donald Trump on Thursday, July 27, 2017, will visit Long Island to talk about gang violence. Photo Credit: EPA / Jim Lo Scalzo.
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Dozens injured in Barcelona train crash

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(CNN) More than 50 people have been injured in a train crash at a major railway station in Barcelona, emergency services said Friday.
UPDATED – OVER 50 INJURED IN BARCELONA EARLY …
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Sprawling Firtash investigation alleges new US, Spanish ties

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Dmytro Firtash — the exiled Ukrainian oligarch who allegedly rigged the Russia-Ukraine natural gas trade and played kingmaker for President Petro Poroshenko — sought financing in the United States for a corrupt scheme involving a mine in India, U.S. federal prosecutors say.

The 115-page document, filed in Chicago federal court on July 25, also alleges for the first time that Firtash intended to bribe persons in the U.S.

The fresh allegations come in a criminal case that has stranded Firtash in Vienna as he fights extradition to America on charges that he denies and dismisses as politically motivated.

Dan Webb, an attorney for Firtash in Chicago, said that the new allegations were baseless, and noted that they did not appear in the indictment against his client.

“As far as the government’s statement in its brief that Firtash had some connection to Russian organized crime, there is absolutely no evidence to support that allegation,” Webb wrote. “None whatsoever!”

The oligarch is accused of bribing Indian officials in a byzantine plot to control the supply of a form of titanium used to manufacture Boeing’s 787 jumbo jets.

U.S. prosecutors call Firtash an “upper-echelon” member of the Russian mafia.

He also faces extradition on a separate money laundering and organized crime case in Spain.

That Spanish case has tied the saga back to Kyiv, with the son of former Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky spending one month in a Barcelona jail last year. The son — Stepan — denied any ties to Firtash in an interview with the Kyiv Post.

“I am not even acquainted with Firtash,” he declared in his office at the top of the DTEK Tower in Kyiv. “I have not seen him once in my life.”

Origins in 2006

The alleged scheme dates to 2006, a time when Ukrainian oligarchs were spreading their wings and buying up assets around the globe.

Prosecutors say that Firtash began to look at India at the same time that Boeing, the U.S. plane producer, was starting to build a supply chain for its 787 jet, and needed titanium sponge.

Firtash swooped in, using an intermediary to sign a memorandum of understanding with an Indian provincial government to mine there.

From there, prosecutors allege that Firtash wired $18.5 million in bribes through U.S. banks to corrupt Indian officials for permits, while sending a top aide — former Hungary Culture Minister Andras Knopp — to negotiate with Boeing in the U.S.

U.S. ties

In a bid to prevent Firtash and Knopp from having the criminal case against them dismissed, prosecutors hinted at unrevealed evidence.

The feds argue that evidence presented at trial will show “that multiple transfers of money into the United States from abroad were designed to finance or reimburse the expenses of a conspirator operating within the United States.”

The prosecutors suggest that some of the alleged bribes may have been marked for persons in the U.S.

“The government expects the evidence will show that other transfers were destined for the benefit of third parties located within the [U.S.] who were designated as third-party beneficiaries of the bribes paid in order to obtain approvals for the project,” Chicago prosecutors write.

As the scheme progressed, Firtash brought on another client for a separate U.S. project: Paul Manafort, then political consultant for the Party of Regions, led by deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

In 2008, Manafort’s company scouted New York City’s Drake Hotel on behalf of Firtash for a potential $850 million redevelopment project.

A letter filed as an exhibit in a civil lawsuit by ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko details a $25 million escrow payment from Firtash’s firm to spur the project.

“DF is still totally on board and a wire will be forthcoming either the end of this week or next week as a partial payment on the 1.5,” Manafort wrote in one email, referring either to Firtash or to his company, Group DF, paying an increment of $1.5 million.

This week’s filing says that Knopp, Firtash’s Hungarian deputy, recently got a government residency permit to stay in Moscow, where he has lived since Firtash’s indictment.

Stepan Chernovetsky in his Kyiv office on May 18. Chernovetsky, the son of former Kyiv mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, denies any and all ties to Firtash. Stepan Chernovetsky in his Kyiv office on May 18. Chernovetsky, the son of former Kyiv mayor Leonid Chernovetsky, denies any and all ties to Firtash. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)

Spanish, Russian mob?

Spanish authorities want to try Firtash on money laundering charges as part of a three-year investigation into the Russian mafia’s presence in Spain called “Operation Variola.”

Three months before Firtash’s re-arrest in February, Spanish police in Barcelona named him as a suspect. The decision on where Firtash gets sent is up to Austrian Justice Minister Wolfgang Brandsetter.

The case has also ensnared Stepan Chernovetsky, son of former Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky. “They followed me for three years, they wiretapped me, they knew everything about me,” the younger Chernovetsky said, calling his July 2016 arrest at gunpoint a “big shock.”

Prosecutors seized a sushi restaurant that he co-owned with an Armenian expatriate and detained 11 others, including Misbah Aldroubi, a Syrian businessman who served as CEO of Firtash associate Hares Youssef’s Hares Group in the mid‑2000s. Chernovetsky denies any ties to Youssef.

A police report accuses Chernovetsky of heading “a criminal organization in Spain, whose activity is laundering money that comes from illegal activities from outside Spain.” It ties Chernovetsky to Aldroubi through a company called Cherd Investment, allegedly used to launder money into the restaurant.

Chernovetsky, whose stake in the 2008 sale of Pravex Bank earned him millions of dollars, denies any wrongdoing. He was released on appeal by a three-judge tribunal in September 2016.

“The tribunal has access to everything,” he said. Once the judges saw the evidence, he said, “they released me without bond and returned my passport.”

“If there was a connection [to Firtash], so many months have passed,” Chernovetsky said. “Let them show it.”

A Chernovetsky attorney later emailed the Kyiv Post European Commission reports critical of secrecy in the Spanish criminal justice system.

Firtash had big influence in Ukrainian politics. He summoned Poroshenko and ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko to Vienna in spring 2014. He claims to have paved the way for Poroshenko’s May 2014 election by convincing Klitsckho to run for mayor instead. “We got what we wanted,” Firtash told a court on April 30, 2015.

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russian organized crime in us – Google News: Sprawling Firtash investigation alleges new US, Spanish ties – Kyiv Post

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Kyiv Post
Sprawling Firtash investigation alleges new US, Spanish ties
Kyiv Post
U.S. prosecutors call Firtash an “upper-echelon†member of the Russian mafia. He also faces extradition on a separate money laundering and organized crime case in Spain. That Spanish case has tied the saga back to Kyiv, with the son of former Kyiv …

 russian organized crime in us – Google News

Trump associate’s long checkered past

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PORT WASHINGTON, New York Fresh from snatching up a former insane asylum in foreclosure for a cheap $1.2 million, a mystery man went running down a Syracuse, N.Y., street, iPad covering his face, as reporters gave chase and TV cameras rolled.

It was April 11, 2013, and the man — whose identity was hidden until now — was Felix Sater, two-time ex-con turned government informant, and at least one-time adviser to Donald Trump.

Sater was describing himself by then as “a very interesting guy with a colorful background,” according to Kenneth Silverman, the bankruptcy trustee for that New York property Sater bought at auction. It was no idle boast.

His story is the stuff of Hollywood scripts. Sater has been tied to a jailed Russian-American diamond thief, the Italian mafia and wealthy Kazakh fugitives; he also appears on the fringes of an unsolved double murder in New Jersey that detectives considered a mob hit. He served time for stabbing a fellow securities dealer with a broken margarita glass.

Of course, he was also named Man of the Year at his synagogue and, according to federal prosecutors, helped put a lot of bad guys behind bars.

Now Sater has reemerged as investigators probe deeply into Donald Trump’s connections – business and political – in the former Soviet Union. Court documents show Sater’s onetime company, Bayrock Group — successor to an earlier firm that was caught up in a major Wall Street scandal – was contracted by Trump in 2005 to find a suitable tower in Moscow that could bear the mogul’s name. In 2010, he even carried a Trump Organization business card that stated he was a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.”

This is the story of the ex-con who claims ties to the president.

Slash and Crash

Born in Russia in March 1966, Sater immigrated to Brooklyn as a grade schooler, escaping rampant anti-Semitism. As a hot-headed 25-year-old Wall Street trader, Sater had his first brush with notoriety when he drove the jagged stem of a glass into a fellow trader in a barroom altercation. He was convicted in 1993 and spent 15 months behind bars, walking free in September 1995.

The conviction cost him his brokerage license, which in turn led him to team up with childhood friends involved in an illicit stock-manipulation scheme. One of those friends: Gennady “Gene” Klotsman, a Russian-American who, as it happens, according to a story last year in the Moscow Times, was drinking with Sater on the ill-fated night of the stabbing in 1991.

Sater and Klotsman teamed up to form White Rock Partners in the late 1990s. Unluckily for them, their activities there put them in the headlights of what became a broad federal probe into stock manipulation known as Operation Uptick.

So much of life turns on the smallest of details. It was a missed monthly payment on a storage locker that led to the arrests of Sater, Klotsman and another White Rock partner, Salvatore Lauria. Citing a criminal complaint, BusinessWeek reported in 1998 that when police opened the locker they found weapons and a gym bag with documents. And those documents outlined stock manipulation and money laundering through a network of shell companies. They pointed at White Rock.

The FBI established that the operation was rife with underworld figures from both the Italian and Russian mafias. It was a nasty business: In 1999, two traders were found murdered in a mansion in Colts Neck, N.J. One of them, Alain Chalem, was shot in the chest, forehead, nose and in both ears — hallmarks of a mob hit, as news reports said at the time.

Lauria later confirmed in a book he authored (which was summarized in SEC filings) earlier rumors that Sater had threatened to kill Chalem, who detectives said had represented Russian investors. But he also wrote that he didn’t think Sater was the actual killer.

The murders were a chapter in the FBI’s larger struggle to rid Wall Street of mob influence.

Lauria and Klotsman pleaded guilty and cooperated with the feds to at least some degree. In 2002, Klotsman was sentenced to six years in prison and restitution of the $40 million lost by investors. In 2004, Lauria was sentenced to five years of probation and a $20,000 fine.

Klotsman was released early and moved to Moscow in 2006, where old habits resurfaced: He was charged with helping pull off a spectacular 2010 heist in which thieves posed as intelligence agents and made off with diamonds and other jewelry worth more than $2.8 million. He was sentenced to 10 years in a gulag and was offered up last year to the United States as potential bait in a yet-to-happen U.S.-Russia prisoner swap.

The Informant

Sater, on the other hand, did far more than his former partners: He became a government informant, working with law enforcement for at least 11 years and initially helping the feds bring 19 indictments against traders and alleged mobsters, court records show.

FBI agents testified at Sater’s sentencing hearing, which finally happened in 2009, that he’d helped prosecutors bring down crooked trading companies and figures from the Russian and Italian mobs.

They and Sater told the judge that after the stock probe ended, Sater — who court documents show also went by Satter, Slater, Sader, Haim F. Sater, Hai Ying Sater and his birth surname of Sheferofsky — continued working with the U.S. government, helping to get missiles off the global black market.

Sater lamented to the federal judge that the bar fight decades earlier had left him in a personal ditch, transcripts show.

“I hated myself, despised myself for doing the things I was doing while I was doing them, because my parents did not sacrifice what they have sacrificed to have me come to this country and become a criminal,” said Sater. (Just a few years earlier, his father Mikhail Sheferofsky had been convicted for extorting fellow Russians in the New York enclave of Brighton Beach.)

Sater also described how his past painfully caught up with him in December 2007 when The New York Times published a story about his criminal history, noting he was a key Trump associate.

“The worse (sic) thing that could happen, your honor, despite whatever sentence you impose on me, I went into real estate development and I built a company right up the block, a Trump project, built the whole thing,” Sater testified. When he was forced to leave that company, Bayrock, after the Times story was published, “I thought my life was over.”

Sater appears to have done business with Trump for the first time while at Bayrock. When the tycoon was looking to put his name on towers on nearly every continent, Sater helped him scope out possibilities in Moscow (nothing panned out). He has also said that he took Trump offspring Ivanka and Donald Jr. around Moscow at Trump’s request in 2006.

Sater’s pleas to the judge suggested he’d turned a corner. When it was all done, Sater had avoided prison or probation, getting hit with a mere $25,000 fine.

A New Leaf Turned?

There are hints that Sater hadn’t actually gotten himself on the straight and narrow.

When a worker died in January 2008 during the construction of the Bayrock-developed Trump SoHo project in New York just weeks after news of Sater’s dark past embarrassed the Trump Organization, multiple news accounts said the building’s concrete was coming from a mafia-connected company, drawing further unwelcome attention.

And a July 2012 report by the Miami Herald about Sater and a failed South Florida Trump project noted that a civil racketeering suit accused Sater of helping to conceal millions of dollars invested in the project, while Bayrock paid his former associate, Lauria, a $1.5 million consulting fee. Much of Sater’s criminal past had been hidden from investors by the government while he continued as an informant.

This resurfaced in a congressional hearing on victims’ rights in 2015.

“The net result is that victims of Sater’s crimes, including a number of Holocaust survivors, have yet to recover any of their lost funds. And Sater continues to live well, apparently off of money that he stole from his victims,” Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge and University of Utah law professor, testifiedat the time.

Then there were the Kazakhs.

Around the time that Sater left his leadership role at Bayrock, but before his 2009 sentencing, the company had already established a venture with a prominent family from Kazakhstan, the Khrapunovs. Kazbay — a partnership of Bayrock and a Dutch firm, which was owned by Leila Khrapunova — was to invest in energy projects in Kazakhstan.

Khrapunova was a prominent Kazakh TV anchor-turned-businesswoman. Her husband Viktor was an ex-energy minister and former mayor of Alamaty, Kazakhstan’s most populous city. They fled to Geneva about the same time that Sater’s past became public in the New York Times. The Panama Papers, a massive collection of leaked data and documents revealing the existence and activities of secret offshore entities, show that Leila set up shell companies in this period to hold Swiss bank accounts.

Leila, Viktor and son Ilyas are all now targets of Interpol detention requests by Kazakhstan, citing theft of government funds. They also face civil lawsuits in New York and Los Angeles. The Khrapunovs claim persecution at the hands of long-ruling Kazakh autocrat Nursultan Nazerbayev.

A recent McClatchy investigation details how Sater and a business partner worked with the Khrapunovs to invest more than $40 million in the United States, much of it while multiple members of the Kazakh family were already on the Interpol list.

The Trump Ties

Multiple people who worked for or with Bayrock tell of Sater repeatedly going to see Trump over the most minor details as the Trump Soho project progressed. Yet when asked about Sater in an unrelated court deposition in Florida in 2013, Trump disavowed a well-documented relationship.

“If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,” Trump said.

Still, Sater remains loyal to his old associate, giving more than $10,000 in 2016 to Trump’s presidential campaign and a joint Trump-Republican National Committee fund. He has already given more than $6,000 this year to that joint committee, according to Federal Election Commission records. Earlier this year Sater was in the news again, getting a Ukraine-Russia peace proposal in front of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, fired in mid-February for misleading statements about his Russia ties.

Sater himself would appear to be in a somewhat precarious place. In 2011, in a lawsuit that sought to unseal court documents to learn about Sater’s cooperation with federal investigators, government lawyer Todd Kaminsky said revealing details could bring Sater harm.

“It involves violent organizations such as Al Qaeda, it involves foreign governments, it involves Russian organized crime,” he said. “And, most particularly, it involves various families of La Cosa Nostra” — part of the Italian mafia.

That’s a lot of intrigue for a man who today lives in the open.

McClatchy knocked on Sater’s door at his luxury property in Port Washington one recent morning. A sporty white Porsche in the driveway touted his wife Viktoria’s business on its license plate, which reads “GR8NOLA.”

Answering the door in shorts and a T-shirt, Sater calmly took a pass on questions.

“I am running late. I am going to go play golf,” Sater said. He asked that questions be sent by email so he could share them with his lawyer.

Three days later, the lawyer, Robert S. Wolf, emailed back: “On behalf of Mr. Sater we decline to comment.”

An angrier response came from Sater’s rabbi, Shalom Paltiel. He’d bestowed Man of the Year honors on Sater in 2014 at his synagogue in Port Washington, a rich Manhattan suburb. Announcing the award, Paltiel recounted how he accompanied Sater to a meeting of law enforcement and intelligence officials who gushed about him.

“They’re taking turns standing up one after the other, offering praise for Felix. Praising him as an American hero for work and assistance in the highest levels of this country’s national security interests,” Paltiel said in a speech , adding warmly “they were speaking about Felix Sater: My Felix!”

Paltiel made no mention of Sater’s two felony convictions. And when McClatchy reporters tried to interview him at his synagogue, the polite rabbi’s mood quickly shifted.

“Next time don’t walk into my office, make an appointment. And you won’t get one, because I don’t talk to reporters,” he said, defending Sater. “You’re looking to dig up dirt on somebody — that happened 20 years ago, 15 years ago, maybe you’ll get a story. And maybe he won’t be able to move on with his life. Shame on you!”

Back to Syracuse

Remember Sater’s winning bid in Syracuse? Turns out Paltiel played a role in that deal as well — another thing he wouldn’t discuss in McClatchy’s attempted interview. A Los Angeles rabbi, Mayer Schmukler, granted Sater’s rabbi authority to sign the memorandum of sale on his behalf, auction records show. Schmukler hoped to develop the abandoned facility into a school like the Jewish Educational Trade School he ran in L.A.

“We were working on a plan for it. We had a partnership with another organization and everything, but it went wrong,” Schmukler said in a phone interview, stressing he never had actual ownership of the property now mired in litigation and saddled with unpaid bills.

But partners Schmukler wouldn’t identify backed out after the bid had been won and a deposit placed in escrow, he said. Records show Sater made the deposit, wiring the $250,000 the day after the sale.

“I can’t tell you who the partners were, but I can tell you it was an organization with no rabbis,” he said.

When the deal closed months later, the deed’s recorded owner was Syracuse Center, LLC, an entity incorporated in New York two days earlier

One Cesare Cerrito signed its documents. He was CEO of Triadou, a subsidiary of the Swiss Development Group in Geneva — which, it turns out, had been owned by the Khrapunovs, the fugitive Kazakhs.

SDG was sold to a Swiss businessman that same year but Cerrito had stayed aboard. Lawyers pursuing Ilyas and Viktor Khrapunov allege the sale was just a paper confection, designed to make it look as if they were no longer involved in the company. The Khrapunovs deny this.

Martin Dowd, a senior broker with the commercial real estate firm CBRE in Syracuse, said he received an email in August 2015 from a man who declined to share his surname but identified himself as “Ilyas.” The man, writing from an encrypted address, sought help listing the property for sale. Dowd said he did so in January 2016.

In March of this year, real estate investor Marc Webster made a $3.5 million offer on the parcel. The faraway owner or owners accepted, he said, at $2.3 million above what Sater had bid at auction. But the purchase agreement was never returned with a signature, Webster said, even though he offered a $50,000 non-refundable deposit.

“The deal took an unusual course,” Dowd said of the rejection of Webster’s offer. “We brought them a full-price offer, and they said they changed their mind and didn’t want to sell.”

Four years later, the still-vacant building in the central New York city of Syracuse — where all three Sater daughters have gone to college — is mired in litigation over thousands of dollars racked up in liens; plaintiffs claim the ownership is shrouded in such secrecy they can’t collect.

Even the groundskeeper said he hasn’t been paid.

“Well I’m (expletive) on a shingle,” said Mike Ciaramella maintaining he’s owed for several years of property upkeep. “Nobody ever came to the property, and I never really knew who the real owners were.”

Gabrielle Paluch is a special correspondent

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felix sater – Google News: Meet the Ex-con Who Ties Himself to Trump – Miami Herald

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Meet the Ex-con Who Ties Himself to Trump
Miami Herald
It was April 11, 2013, and the man — whose identity was hidden until now — was Felix Sater, two-time ex-con turned government informant, and at least one-time adviser to Donald Trump. Sater was describing himself by then as “a very interesting guy 

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Allegedly Trump has been Laundering Russian Mob Money for Decades

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This is not about what happened in the elections but what has been happening for decades now between Donald Trump and Russian mobsters.

Craig Unger wrote an article about how long Trump has been connected with the Russians in illicit activities and it has been creating tons of ripples throughout the media.

There are circumstantial evidences that tell you quite a bit about these illicit activities.

“Even without an investigation by congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia”

“A Review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia”

Craig also stated

“Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties.”

There is a possibility that the people linked to Russian mob existing in Trump’s properties is much higher because just 13 were discovered and were charged.

“Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money.”

Craig added

“others provided Trump with Lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part.”

Prosecutor from Reagan days, Kenneth McCalley and Former Assistant US Attorney for Reagan said about Russians and Trump

“They saved his bacon.”

Craig stated

“It’s entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russians oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy ‘mark’ for anyone looking to launder money.”

Keep in mind that Trump has gone bankrupt six times. During one of his bankruptcy suddenly the Russians came and rushed in to buy apartments in the new building and suddenly Trump is out of trouble. Not just that hundreds of people from Russian mob are purchasing his property all of a sudden.

When asked about it, Trump replied “I am an easy mark!”

That is an unlikely answer. One has to be completely clueless in order to ignore this type of detail. Cenk Uygur, Host of the Young Turk Stated.

Donald Trump Jr. back in 2008 Said “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

This was publicly said by Donald Trump Jr. Donald Trump’s other son also said that the golf courses owned by them were also financed by Russians.

“In 2015, the Taj Mahal was fined $10 million (the highest penalty ever levied by the feds against a casino—and admitted to having ‘willfully violated’ anti-money-laundering regulations for years.”

The Russians have been laundering money through Trump’s Taj Mahal.

During the 1990s, millions from the former Soviet Union were invested into Trump’s luxury developments and Atlantic City casino. Even after these investments he still owed 44 billion to 70 banks. $800 million was personally guaranteed.

References

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Trump and the Mob – Google News: Allegedly Trump has been Laundering Russian Mob Money for Decades – Fox Weekly

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Allegedly Trump has been Laundering Russian Mob Money for Decades
Fox Weekly
This is not about what happened in the elections but what has been happening for decades now between Donald Trump and Russian mobsters. Craig Unger wrote an article about how longTrump has been connected with the Russians in illicit activities and it …

 Trump and the Mob – Google News

‘People don’t give a s–t’ about Russia investigation

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On Thursday, Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., sat down with the Washington Examiner’s editorial board. He had some tough words for those focused on President Trump’s Russia-related controversies.

“The whole Russia thing, unless you’re a hardened leftist, people don’t give a shit,” Duffy said. “They don’t believe it, they don’t buy into it. They’re like: enough on Russia.”

As Duffy sees it, jobs are the key and Russia is irrelevant. “[Jobs] are what people care about.”

I think Duffy is probably right.

Ultimately, the slow speed and deep complexity of the Russia investigation is such that many people have simply tuned out. And with Trump now in office for six months, they want to move on and see Trump work with Congress to pass legislation.

I understand these attitudes even if I do not share them.

Most families are far more concerned about being able to pay their bills and access affordable healthcare than they are about Russia stories. Because at this point, that’s what the Russia investigations amount to: Stories.

No one has been caught red-handed, or prosecuted, or impeached. And until that changes, Duffy’s thesis will continue to hold true.

That said, I believe it will change.

And that raises an interesting question: If Trump or his senior associates are directly tied to Russian organized-crime activities, or collusion with Russian intelligence services, how will Duffy’s constituents and other ordinary people respond?

It all depends on the credibility of the evidence.

If the evidence is weak or peripheral to Trump himself, people will keep ignoring the story. Their ignorance won’t be born of dishonor or stupidity, it will be born of higher priorities. Trump won because he was able to tap into a deep-seated and septic wound in the political psyche. Enough voters were so sick of “politics as usual” that they were willing to roll the dice on Trump. Even after all his rants, his flirtations with Putin, his Billy Bush audiotape, and a campaign that raised serious concerns as to Trump’s mental state, voters gave him a thumbs up.

Their impulse will be to stick with this philosophy and judge Trump on his ability to pass legislation.

Yet if it turns out that Trump is directly tied to a Russia-related scandal, popular opinion will quickly shift against him. In the end, people want a leader who has their interests at heart.

If Trump loses on Russia and is shown to have lied, he’ll no longer be seen as the people’s servant.

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(68) Report ties Manafort to top-tier associate of Russian mob

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Ever since Obama first announced he was running for president and ended up becoming president, alot of racist, rhetoric hatemonging a**holes had been constanly taunting him and his family from the last 8 years of them being the first family in the White House. From Nugent constantly attacking Obama, being in jail or wanting to leave the country, Trump’s jealousy and hatred of Obama, wanting to see his birth certificate, complaining about him going golfing, going on vacations with his family, and him wearing blue jeans, and wanting to repeal ObamaCare, because it doesn’t have his name on it, and that a black man created it, republicans wanting to drag him down and created lies about him and his family, to wanting ObamaCare which is successful to fail and that’s how they create lies about that as well, to haters constantly making racist remarks about him and his family. The constant racism that went on throughout Obama’s presidency for the last 8 years, is what made the country divided because the bullies who hated him caused it to happen, all because of their jealousy of a black family being successful. And these are the same racist, rhetoric, hatemonging a**holes voted for Obama, with them saying that they gave him a chance, which is a boldface lie and is just a excuse of them not wanting to give a black person a chance to run the country, ended up voting for Trump who is the biggest racist, rhetoric, hatemonging bully himself with him constantly attacking and threatening to build a wall to ban immigrants and muslims, because he sees the bad side of America, and he makes offensive remarks about certain types of people such as black people, hispanics, women, muslims, immigrants, disabled people and the LGBT community, on Twitter, and Trump’s actions is the main reason why this country is divided and people are divided, also republicans want ObamaCare to fail, so they can have it all to themselves, and so those who have health issues suffer and die, and plus Trump is constantly acting like a spoiled, immature, childish bully, all the time, I’m surprised he hasn’t been impeached yet, cause they’re scared of him. He’s always had lawsuits about bankruptcy, racism and sexism, long before he became president and the only reason why he decided to run for president, because of his money and fame, to please other rich people, and of course everybody wanted a rich white male republican, who don’t know anything about politics to be our president, and he has constanly in denial that even the KKK, and white supremacy supports him, and hasn’t showed his tax returns yet. Another thing, Michelle had to deal with racism, when the haters constantly making racist remarks about her appearance, and even her and Obama’s own daughters had dealt with racism as well, while Melania is practically a immigrant, and I don’t hear nobody making racist remarks about her appearance, and she gets a free pass, and Trump’s kids get a free pass as well, just ridiculous. Yet, these Trump supporters themselves are too delousional to believe all of this, cause they’re the racist, rhetoric, hatemonging bullies who voted for Obama, ended up voting for Trump, they also constantly attack Hillary, who was about to become our first woman president, and claim that she’s a murderer, and a crook, but how is she a crook?, and who did she kill?, those facts are bogus, much like the stupid email scandal, not knowing that Trump’s the real crook, and wanted to run for president, because to protect his fortune, and to please other rich people only, that’s just excuses of them not wanting to give a woman a chance to run the country. If only Trump supporters were not very dim-witted and in denial about any of this, maybe it’s time that they become smarter, anyway, have a great day!!!

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US: Ukrainian Oligarch and his Associate are Tied to Russian Organized Crime – OCCRP

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OCCRP
US: Ukrainian Oligarch and his Associate are Tied to Russian Organized Crime
OCCRP
Prosecutors asked a US court to deny requests made by a Ukrainian oligarch and a Hungarian businessman to have racketeering and other charges against them dropped, calling the men “upper-echelon associates of Russian organized crime.”.

and more »

Firtash extradition – Google Search

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Story image for Firtash extradition from USA TODAY

Feds call ex-Manafort associate Dmytro Firtash a top-tier player in …

USA TODAY18 hours ago
The court filing is also linked to federal efforts to win Firtash’s extradition from Vienna. He was arrested in 2014 at the request of the U.S. and …
Story image for Firtash extradition from Chicago Tribune

Chicago feds maintain pursuit of Ukrainian oligarch tied to Trump …

Chicago TribuneJul 25, 2017
Billionaire Dmitry Firtash — linked to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — is fighting his extradition to Chicago on racketeering …

Firtash – Google Search

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Story image for Firtash from Chicago Tribune

Chicago feds maintain pursuit of Ukrainian oligarch tied to Trump …

Chicago TribuneJul 25, 2017
Ukrainian billionaire Dimitri Firtash successfully fought efforts to bring him to face justice in a Chicago courtroom for most of President Barack …
Story image for Firtash from NBCNews.com

DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian …

<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>21 hours ago
Firtash is being prosecuted for what federal prosecutors in Chicago say was his role in bribing Indian officials in order to get a lucrative mining …
Story image for Firtash from Chicago Tribune

Ukrainian oligarch’s legal team fires back at Chicago prosecutors …

Chicago Tribune20 hours ago
Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash arrives for the start of his trial at the courts of justice in Vienna, Austria on Feb. 21, 2017. Firtash was arrested …
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Mueller – Google Search

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Story image for Mueller from Washington Post

How Rick Perry could fire Robert Mueller

Washington Post1 hour ago
It’s obvious, too, that part of that obsession centers on disrupting the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. And that …

Nonprofits Disagree on Keeping One’s Mouth Shut about the President’s Mental Health – Non Profit News For Nonprofit Organizations

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July 25, 2017; STAT

An email sent from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association yesterday to its 3,500 members explicitly informed them that publicly commenting on President Trump’s mental health was okay with them.

Diagnosing of public figures from afar has been frowned upon by many professional associations for decades, under what is known as the “Goldwater Rule.” But some mental health professionals actually believe that they have an affirmative “duty to warn” the public.

Laypeople, says Dr. Leonard Glass, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, “have been stumbling around trying to explain Trump’s unusual behavior,” and the rule, Glass says, robs the public “of our professional judgment and prevents us from communicating our understanding” of the potential of any underlying mental disease.

Glass recently resigned from the American Psychiatric Association, where he has been a member for 41 years and where the rule has been in place for three years longer than that. It was reaffirmed in March of this year. The American Psychological Association has no such rule, though it does have a culture of discouraging public statements of diagnosis from afar.

“In the case of Donald Trump, there is an extraordinary abundance of speech and behavior on which one could form a judgment,” Glass said. “It’s not definitive, it’s an informed hypothesis, and one we should be able to offer rather than the stunning silence demanded by the Goldwater rule.”

Past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, agrees with Glass. “We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly,” she says, and “since Trump’s behavior is so different from anything we’ve seen before,” those insights might be especially helpful to a public confused by the behavior of their Commander-in-Chief.

The “Goldwater rule” prohibits psychiatrists and psychologists from offering opinions about the mental state of a public figure without that person’s consent and without doing a direct examination. Some of those whom the rule constrains see it as itself unethical, since the mental state of a public official may well be at issue as a matter of public safety and wellbeing from time to time. Opposition to the rule has recently intensified.

On the other hand, some don’t see much upside in such commentary, since such punitive diagnoses might tend to stigmatize other people with mental health disorders. Dr. Allen Frances is a professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical College. He chaired the task force that wrote the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), and he wrote a letter to the New York Times on the subject that was published on Valentine’s Day of this year.

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

—Ruth McCambridge

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Donald Trump and Why It’s Time to End the Goldwater Rule

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Barry Goldwater wasn’t crazy. He was exceedingly conservative by the standards of his time—and that sometimes got him into trouble. In 1964, when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, he suggested that maybe it wouldn’t be a terrible strategy to use just a few of the atomic bombs in the U.S. arsenal to defoliate forests in North Vietnam and give Americans a fighting edge. Was that extreme? Sure. Crazy? No. And, in the face of furious blowback, Goldwater was smart and sane enough to walk back his very bad idea.

That, however, didn’t stop the ironically named Fact magazine from running a sensational story with the provocative headline, “1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to Be President!” The story was junk: A questionnaire had been sent to 12,356 psychiatrists, nearly 10,000 of whom had simply ignored it. Of the 2,417 who did respond, a majority of 1,228 pronounced then-Senator Goldwater perfectly sane. The minority said he wasn’t — and the minority got the headline. Goldwater, who went on to win the GOP nomination only to get trounced by Lyndon Johnson, later sued the editor of Fact for libel, and he won. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) responded by adopting what it straightforwardly called the Goldwater Rule, forbidding members from offering a diagnosis of a public figure they have not themselves examined — and even then, not without that person’s consent.

But that was then. And then was before the age of Donald Trump. It was before the early-morning tweetstorms, before the febrile conspiracy theories, before the grandiosity and impulsiveness and the serial counter-factualism. It was before, in short, Americans made a man who at least appears unstable to a great many observers the most powerful person in the world. That has led a lot of people to argue that we may have over-learned the lesson of the Goldwater Rule and that it’s time to scrap or at least suspend it.

That is precisely the position another professional group, the American Psychoanalytic Association(APsaA), has now taken. In an internal email, the association urged its 3,500 members to speak their minds on the matter of presidential mental health, and if they consider Trump unwell, to say so. According to the health and medicine website STAT, some members of the group have gone so far as to conclude that not only is it alright to weigh in on the matter of Presidential sanity, but that doctors have an affirmative “duty to warn.”

In an email to TIME, the APsaA stressed that it is not suggesting that its members “defy” the Goldwater Rule—especially since it is not their rule to begin with. In its official guidelines on public figures, the organization instead urges members to “avoid the appearance of ‘wild analysis,'” to avoid overstepping “the bounds of psychoanalytic knowledge” and generally to comment with extreme care. The American Psychiatric Association quickly made clear it stands by the Goldwater Rule.

By way of disclosure, more than three years ago, I opened my book, The Narcissist Next Door, with five pages devoted to Trump. It was not a diagnosis — I’m not a clinician — but it was a description, and I continue to believe it’s a good one. I also believe the psychoanalytic group is right to take the muzzle off its members.

Consider first that we live in a far more psychologically savvy era than we did even 30 years ago, to say nothing of half-a-century back in the Goldwater years. During the 1988 Presidential campaign, Michael Dukakis took a lot of heat from the GOP over the fact that he had sought psychological counseling after the 1973 death of his brother. Would voters care if a grieving sibling — presidential nominee or not — sought such help today? Not likely. America hasn’t necessarily gotten more compassionate, but we have gotten smarter, and we have a better understanding of the difference between routine mental health problems and a truly debilitating psychopathy. If the President — any President — exhibits signs of clinical illness, we’re better able to weigh the evidence and understand the implications.

What’s more, it doesn’t take professional training or particular insight to recognize that certain human behaviors are psychic red flags. If you can’t eat a meal without first washing your hands until they bleed, it would be fair for your family to suspect that you just might have OCD. If you can’t have a single drink without then having 15 more, it doesn’t take a clinician to suggest that you may — may — be an alcoholic. Presidents have exhibited worrisome behavior before: Johnson’s exhibitionism, Richard Nixon’s seeming paranoia. But they projected a fundamental groundedness too, a basic understanding that certain actions would lead to certain results, and an ability to pursue desired ends in a linear and disciplined way.

Finally, the Goldwater Rule, while masquerading as enlightened, actually betrays an outdated divide between physical and mental health. If President Dwight Eisenhower, who at one time had been a four-pack-a-day smoker, had shown any outward symptoms of cardiovascular disease before his 1955 heart attack, it’s unlikely anyone would have been reluctant to ask whether the 60-year-old veteran of a World War was up to campaigning for reelection. Certainly no one was reluctant after he did get sick. So why stay decorously silent when behavioral symptoms are just as obvious?

It’s indeed impossible for anyone but a professional who is treating Trump to say with certainty what his clinical diagnosis is — if any. But when the mental health of one man can have such a profound impact on the lives of 323 million Americans — to say nothing of the 7.5 billion people living on the planet as a whole — it’s irresponsible to not at least have the conversation. And it’s a dereliction for the people who know the most — the doctors — not to lead it.

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· · ·

The Trump-Russia Scandal’s Many Swirling Unknowns

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The near-daily barrage of news and revelations, big and small, about the Trump campaign and its metastasizing ties to Russia can be hard to keep track of, even for people following the scandal closely. Story lines and players appear and disappear, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time.

While there remain big, overarching questions about whether there was active conspiracy between Trump, his associates, and Russia—or merely opportunistic collusion—the answers to those questions could be amorphous and long in coming.

More simply and immediately, there’s plenty of information that we know we don’t yet know about what went on in the campaign, from cyber meddling to clandestine meetings surveilled by US and other intelligence agencies—missing puzzle pieces that we can discern from the revelations that have come out so far. As Donald Rumsfeld famously said in the early days of the Iraq War, “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.”

As the Trump campaign’s onetime chairman Paul Manafort—a key figure in the scandal—makes his way toward the Senate Judiciary Committee, we thought the time was right to, in Rumsfeldian terms, present a nonexhaustive list of 15 of the most pressing known unknowns in the Trump/Russia investigation: holes and unanswered questions that you can bet Special Counsel Robert Mueller is digging into.

1. What was said on the Kislyak intercepts?

We know that something in last December’s telephone calls between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and soon-to-be Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn triggered concern among US intelligence. Presumably the calls focused on the sanctions against Russia that the outgoing Obama administration had imposed at that time. What was said, and by whom, that led US intelligence to begin the lengthy and complicated process of flagging the conversations as concerning?

2. Are there intercepts discussing the Kislyak “backchannel” discussion?

We know that there are US intelligence intercepts—either of telephone calls or electronic communication—that contradict Jeff Sessions’ recounting of his interactions with Sergey Kislyak. This week, presidential adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner said that the so-called secret backchannel offer was simply a means of attempting to gain reliable information on the Russian military’s view of the Syrian conflict. Is Jared Kushner’s reporting of that meeting consistent with any Russian reports of the meeting—and did the US or its allies intercept those reports as they were dispatched to Moscow?

3. Intelligence agencies in Europe and among our so-called Five Eyes partners— Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—had evidence of suspicious Trump interactions in 2015 and 2016. What triggered them?

News reports have indicated that the first alerts to the US government of suspicious “interactions” between Trump associates and people associated with Russian intelligence came from European intelligence partners in late 2015. According to the Guardian, intelligence and tips came from a wide variety of European and Five Eyes partners, which form the world’s closest and deepest intelligence alliance. Tips gathered during routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets evidently filtered into the US from countries as widely sourced as Germany, Estonia, Poland, and the Netherlands, and from the French foreign intelligence service, DGSE. What were they seeing and what were they warning about?

4. Relatedly, where was the Russian money going?

According to news reports, last April CIA director John Brennan was given a tape recording, allegedly from a friendly Baltic intelligence service, which purported to indicate that Russian—perhaps even Kremlin—money was being funneled to the Trump campaign. Where was that money coming from and where was it purportedly going?

5. Where did the Russians get their American political intelligence?

Former FBI director James Comey appeared to hint in his congressional testimony that Americans may have been involved in helping Russian intelligence navigate and understand the US political landscape. Earlier this year, former CIA director Brennan told Congress, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting US persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

Additionally, many people who cover or study Russia say they are suspicious of the advanced tactics deployed against semi-obscure political institutions and locations. “The Russia I know didn’t know what the DNC was, and it certainly didn’t know what the DCCC was,” Julia Ioffe, a reporter for The Atlantic, said at last week’s Aspen Security Forum. “They didn’t really have a good understanding of how our political system worked. They were so far behind in terms of lobbying on the Hill. Then, all of a sudden, they wander into the DCCC servers, they know which precincts in Florida to target, where to disseminate information, false information about Hillary Clinton to drive down voter turnout. Where did they get so smart all of a sudden?”

6. How involved was Vladimir Putin?

This may never be known, but US intelligence has hinted that it has information saying Putin was personally aware and directed at least some level of the influence operation against the November election. Which only raises the question: What’s the evidence and what do they know? According to the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, the two different Russian intelligence services that penetrated the DNC’s servers—the military GRU and the security service FSB—didn’t know about the other’s presence inside the Democratic IT network. That could indicate, perhaps, that an order had come from on high to influence the election.

Moreover, according to multiple current and former intelligence officials, the Russian hierarchy and internally risk-averse modus operandi would not allow such a high-profile operation to continue for very long without approval from the top. So, to paraphrase the Watergate question, what did Vladimir Putin know and when did he know it?

7. When Ron Goldstone said the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” what did he mean by that?

The phrase in Goldstone’s email to Donald Trump Jr., in setting up the instantly infamous meeting last summer, is a curious one, appearing to imply that the Russian government’s support was clearly known and understood. What was the meaning behind his phrase—did he assume the Trumps knew they had the Kremlin’s backing, and, if so, why?

8. What was the content (and purpose) of the meeting between Jared Kushner and the head of Russia’s intelligence-linked development bank?

Kushner’s statement this week downplayed the December meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank (VEB), Russia’s state-run development bank, effectively saying it was a courtesy meeting with a high-ranking official that he took only because he’d been badgered by the Russian embassy. Gorkov, though, is no ordinary banker; he is a graduate of Russia’s intelligence academy.

Then there’s the fact that the number two official in the bank’s New York office, Evgeny Buryakov, was arrested in 2015 by the FBI for being an intelligence officer—and, at the time of the Kushner-Gorkov meeting, was sitting in an Ohio prison (the first Russian intelligence officer imprisoned in the US in decades). The same two Russian intelligence officers who worked with Buryakov also tried unsuccessfully to recruit Carter Page, a businessman and Republican foreign policy adviser who went on to work with the Trump campaign. VEB itself, meanwhile, was sanctioned as part of the Western reaction to Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Ukraine.

Did Kushner—who, between his own work and the Trump Organization’s work, has wide-ranging business contacts across Russia—know any of this before the meeting? Can US or allied intelligence corroborate or contradict Kushner’s telling of the story? Was the meeting as innocuous as he has said?

9. Who funded Paul Manafort?

The man who led the Trump campaign last spring has wide-ranging connections throughout eastern Europe and Russia, including with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. And he worked with another oligarch, Dmitry Firtash. (Firtash, a long-standing target of the FBI, is today under arrest in Austria, awaiting possible extradition to the US, and has been associated with Russia’s most notorious organized crime figure, Semion Mogilevich, who for many years was the only international figure on the FBI’s most wanted list other than Osama bin Laden.)

In recent years Manafort used cash to buy more than $12 million in New York real estate, including a condo inside Trump Tower, and he has subsequently taken out mortgages on some of those properties. Where did Manafort’s money come from—and where did it go?

10. What more does the US government know about Jeff Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador?

Last Friday there were reports that US intelligence agencies overheard Sergey Kislayk telling his superior that his meetings with Jeff Sessions involved talk of the campaign. (Sessions has maintained that they only discussed Senate matters.) But this was hardly surprising—it always seemed unlikely that, in the midst of a campaign, the Russian ambassador would meet with a Trump campaign associate without discussing the campaign—but they illustrated the depth and sophistication of the surveillance blanket under which Russian officials operate in the United States.

So, is there more that the US intelligence community, perhaps the CIA or the NSA, knows about what transpired during Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak—or, for that matter, about what transpired during some of the other controversial meetings between Trump associates and Russian officials?

11. Who influenced the change of the GOP platform, and why?

The GOP’s party platform position on Ukraine was watered down at the last minute before the 2016 Republican National Convention, striking a section that called for helping to arm Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. One campaign official, J. D. Gordon, admitted this spring that he advocated the change to bring the platform in line with the Trump campaign’s desires. The move was surprising at the time; as The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin noted last summer, “The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.”

Given how uninterested and flexible the Trump campaign was on almost all detail and specific policy points in other areas, why was the arming of Ukraine such a focus? And who else advocated for the change?

12. Why was Oleg Erovinkin murdered?

The former top KGB official died suspiciously in December, just weeks after he had been publicly linked to the mysterious “dossier” compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele. The dossier traced a variety of links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence and business leaders. While Russia announced that Erovinkin died alone in his car of a heart attack, other reports point to foul play—including the simple fact that it’s inherently suspicious that a high-profile figure like him would be alone without a driver or bodyguards. Erovinkin served in both the KGB and its successor, the FSB, and also more recently worked for the oligarch Igor Sechin, the head of the Russian oil giant Rosneft and a close associate of Putin himself.

13. What was the relationship between Peter W. Smith and Gen. Michael Flynn?

The Wall Street Journal reported that Smith, a longtime Republican operative who committed suicidethis spring, had assembled a team to attempt to uncover what he believed were Hillary Clinton’s emails stolen by Russian hackers. The Journal story, based on interviews with Smith just days before he killed himself in a Minnesota hotel, created more questions than it answered—especially because Smith appears to have told people he contacted that he was working with Michael Flynn, then a Trump national security adviser. Was that true? Were the people that Smith was contacting actual Russian hackers—and, if so, were they related to the “Guccifer 2.0” teams that leaked John Podesta’s emails? And is there a relationship between Smith’s team and the attempt to track down the “missing” Clinton emails and Trump’s public call, around the same time, for Russia to hack the emails?

14 Perhaps the simplest question: How many more meetings were there between the Trump campaign and Russians?

We continue to learn about new ones—meetings held at Trump Tower, or the second private chat between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany earlier this month. There’s also a long-rumored third meeting between Jeff Sessions and Russian officials. How many more contacts, if any, were there between the Trump world and Russian officials?

15. And a new one: What was said during the private dinner conversation at the G20 meeting between Putin and Trump—and are there tapes?

One senior intelligence source told me it would be “espionage malpractice” if German intelligence hadn’t carefully and extensively bugged the G20 meeting rooms. While the White House says the meeting between the two leaders lasted only 15 minutes, other sources say it lasted more like an hour. Regardless, though, there was no US official present other than Trump himself—so what transpired and who said what?

Garrett M. Graff is a contributing editor at WIRED who covers national security. He can be reached at <a href=”mailto:garrett.graff@gmail.com”>garrett.graff@gmail.com</a>.

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· · · · · · · · ·

NYPD officer Wenjian Liu was ambushed and killed in 2014. His widow just gave birth to their daughter.

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Pei Xia Chen and her daughter, Angelina. (NYPD)

Many people saw Pei Xia Chen for the first time at one of her most difficult moments.

In December 2014, her husband, New York City police officer Wenjian Liu, and his partner, Rafael Ramos, were ambushed and killed in their patrol car.

At Liu’s funeral the following January, the tearful widow spoke about her husband, her “best friend” and “hero” whose parents were “his everything.”

“Even though he left us early, I believe he is still with us.” Liu was 32.


Pei Xia Chen, widow of New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu, cries holding a picture of her husband during his funeral in Brooklyn on Jan. 4, 2015. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, more than 2½ years after her husband’s death, Chen gave birth to their daughter, Angelina, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

On the night her husband was shot, Chen asked that his semen be preserved with the hope of one day having their child, according to a New York City Police Department announcement that included a photo of the new mother and baby Angelina wearing an NYPD knit cap.

Liu’s mother, Xiu Yan Li, said, “The past three years have been the most difficult. This is the best news we’ve gotten.”

Chen, who goes by Sanny, said she dreamt that she would have a daughter.

“I told my friend, ‘It’s going to be a baby girl,’ she said. “My friend said, ‘No, you haven’t even checked the sonograms,’ but I was right!”

Chen had recently married Liu when he was fatally shot in Bedford-Stuyvesant by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who would soon take his own life.

Thousands came to the funeral for Liu, believed to be the first Asian American police officer killed in the line of duty.

Speaking at the ceremony, Liu’s father, Wei Tang Liu, talked about his son’s dedication to his family.

“He called me every day before he finished work, to assure me that he is safe, and to tell me, ‘Dad, I’m coming home today, you can stop worrying now.’ ”

Speaking in Chinese, he added, “Today is the saddest day of my life. My only son has left me.”


Police officers wipe their tears during the funeral of New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu at Aievoli Funeral Home on Jan. 4, 2015, in Brooklyn. (John Minchillo/AP)

Liu, whom many of his colleagues knew as Joe, had come to the United States with his parents from China in 1994, when he was 12.

On Tuesday, Liu’s parents came to see Chen and the grandchild that once must have seemed inconceivable with the loss of their son.

Chen didn’t tell her in-laws about her attempts at artificial insemination until she was pregnant.

“She didn’t want to break her family’s hearts if it wasn’t successful,” Susan Zhuang, a family friend, told Newsday.

“The parents were very emotional, crying and holding the baby,” Chen’s friend Maria Dziergowski told the New York Post.


The parents of officer Wenjian Liu. (NYPD)

Liu’s mother told the New York Daily News that the baby “looks like my daughter-in-law. But this part, the eyes and the forehead, looks like my son. The top of the face looks like my son. The bottom looks like her mother. The head looks exactly like my son.

“I see my son in her.”

She told Newsday that the family plans to take the baby to visit Liu’s grave when she’s a month old.

“This way I can tell him he has a daughter,” she said.

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Liu’s father, speaking in Cantonese with PIX11, said, “My heart is filled with love.”

According to the police’s statement, Chen looks forward to telling Angelina that her father was a hero and introducing her daughter to the NYPD, her “big blue family.”

Read more:

Senators on hot mic: Trump is ‘crazy,’ ‘I’m worried’

Father of teen driver who live-streamed fatal crash speaks out: ‘She killed her own sister’

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Ohio State Fair accident leaves one dead, multiple hurt after ride malfunctions

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One dead in Ohio after ride malfunctions at state fair

Authorities said one person died and seven others were injured after a ride malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair on July 26. Authorities said one person died and seven others were injured after a ride malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair on July 26. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

Authorities said one person died and seven others were injured after a ride malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair on July 26. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

When Travis and Mitch Taylor climbed from their seats on the Ohio State Fair’s Fire Ball ride Wednesday evening, the 18-year-old cousins pondered another spin.

The Fire Ball, an “aggressive thrill” carnival ride that swoops like a pendulum and swings in a circle, had been their favorite for eight years. But Travis had just come from work and was hungry, so he suggested they first get some food.

“And thank God he did,” Mitch Taylor told The Washington Post, “because that’s what saved us.”

Just moments later, the cousins watched with horror as their beloved Fire Ball turned lethal, killing one man and injuring seven others in what Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) would later describe as “the worst tragedy in the history of the fair.”

As they backpedaled toward food, the Taylor boys saw the gondola wheel, made of six rows arranged in an inward-facing circle, swing high to the right and back to the left, just as it had when they rode. Then there was a screech and screams and suddenly people were free-falling. Seat belts failed at least two riders, who were flung into the air, and an entire row of the gondola wheel broke away and plummeted toward the concrete.

The cousins shook with fear and said they thought: “What the hell just happened?”

Shocked onlookers screamed and cried, Mitch Taylor said, and almost immediately police and EMS began blocking off the crowd from those who had been ejected during the ride malfunction.


Authorities stand near damaged chairs of the Fire Ball amusement ride after the ride malfunctioned on July 26, 2017, killing one and injured seven others, authorities said. (Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Three of the injured were taken to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center. By late Wednesday, two had been released and one patient remained hospitalized in critical condition, a hospital spokesman said. Another three were brought to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, where Dr. David Evans told reporters that “multiple passengers were ejected at high speed, at high energy more than 20 feet or more.”

Just after 4 a.m., the hospital said that one of the patients was in serious condition and two were in critical condition. The victims vary in age, from teenagers to at least one in their 60s.

At a news conference Wednesday night, Kasich called for a full investigation and ordered all rides at the fair shut down until safety inspections could be made. “We will get to the bottom of this,” the governor said. “There will be complete transparency.”

The Ohio Highway Patrol will lead the inquiry.

Last year, more than 900,000 people attended the fair, which is one of the nation’s largest, according to Cleveland.com.

“It’s kind of hard to imagine you have family that goes to a state fair and those calls come, that there was a terrible accident, a terrible tragedy, and someone you love is involved,” Kasich said.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also issued a statement, saying he and his wife send their “deepest sympathies to all those who were impacted by the accident.”

Amusements of America, the carnival operator that deployed a fleet of rides to the Ohio State Fair, did not return a request for comment, nor did organizers of the Ohio State Fair.

The fair’s Twitter account later shared a statement: “Our hearts are heavy for the families of those involved in last night’s tragic accident.”

The fatal Fire Ball malfunction prompted California State Fair organizers on the other side of the country to shut down the attraction to its guests, reported NBC affiliate KCRA 3, even though it had not been flagged for safety issues.

“As far as I’m concerned, unless the factory calls us and says it can run, it’s down,” Barry Schaible, a contract inspector hired by the state of California, told the TV station.

The Fire Ball debuted in 2002 and pivots and swirls as high as 40 feet at 13 revolutions a minute, according to a description from Amusements of America.

Michael Vartorella, a ride inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said at the news conference his team oversees 4,300 pieces of equipment in the state, which are carefully inspected to ensure working condition of electrical systems, hydraulics and structural integrity. The Fire Ball was inspected three or four times before the fair began, he said.

Vartorella insisted that inspectors did not rush their safety checks, though the Columbus Dispatch reported earlier in the week that rain and flooding delayed inspections until just before the fair opened.

He became emotional during the news conference as he described the stakes of the safety of those rides.

“My grandchildren ride this equipment,” he said. “We take this job very serious, and when we have an accident like this … it hits us really hard.”

The fatal incident took place at about 7:20 p.m., Battalion Chief Steve Martin, a spokesman for the Columbus Fire Division, told the Columbus Dispatch.


Fairgoers watch as emergency personnel respond to a fatal ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair. (Bruce Lamm/@OntheLamm via REUTERS)

The Fire Ball malfunction and ensuing chaos was caught on video and widely circulated on social media and local news stations Wednesday night. One shows the six rows that form the gondola wheel — each with four seats — rocketing side to side from the top of a parabolic arc. As it swoops down and over the ride’s platform, at least two of the rows appear to strike a metal structural support beam. A loud screech can be heard as one row snaps off, but it’s unclear if the break or the impact with the beam generated the noise.

Two people were launched into the air, and one man landed on the ground about 50 feet from the ride, Martin told the Dispatch. He was killed on impact.

Travis Taylor echoed the sentiment many fairgoers who were fretting over Wednesday night: “It very well could have been us,” he said.

“You see those videos of a roller coaster malfunctioning,” Travis Taylor said, “but you never think it can actually happen.”

Fair organizers said in their statement that the gates will reopen at 9 a.m. Thursday and “other activities will resume as scheduled.” Kasich shut down all 71 rides after the Fire Ball incident but most will open back up once they are reinspected, officials said.

The governor sought to downplay concerns of fair guests, some of whom have bought season passes, who may think twice before returning to the fair, which runs until Aug. 6.

“We’ll move on but it doesn’t mean we don’t grieve for what happened,” Kasich said.

“I’ll be at the fair,” he added.

But the Taylor cousins didn’t share the governor’s confidence.

“We could not think of going on any rides after we saw that,” Mitch Taylor said. “I might go back for the food, but I won’t be riding any rides, I’ll tell you that.”

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The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care

Trump talks privately about the idea of a recess appointment to replace Sessions

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One Dead, Several Hurt in Ohio State Fair Ride Accident

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One person was killed and several others were seriously hurt after a ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus Wednesday, officials said.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Paul Pride said a trooper reported the incident at around 7:24 p.m. at the Ohio State Fair, which began Wednesday. One person died and seven people were injured, three of whom were in critical condition, he said.

Witnesses reported that the ride that malfunctioned was the Fire Ball, which spins and swings passengers in a pendulum-like motion.

Ohio State Fair Accident Kills One, Injures Seven 1:05

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he has ordered a full investigation and ordered all rides closed until additional safety inspections can be conducted. “We will get to the bottom of this,” Kasich said at a press conference.

A video of the incident posted on YouTube showed seats of the ride breaking off and bodies flying through the air. A witness told NBC News that “the whole car went flying off and over the side while in motion.”

“I am terribly saddened by this accident, by the loss of life and that people were injured enjoying Ohio’s fair,” Kasich said.

William Brown told NBC News in an email that his wife was on the ride before the accident occurred. “I was in total disbelief,” Brown said. “My wife just got off that ride before the accident happened. It could have been her,” he said.

The person who was killed and those who were injured were not identified by authorities. Columbus fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin told NBC affiliate WCMH that two people who were injured were in stable condition. The station reported that one of those injured is a 13-year-old girl.

Image: Ohio State Fair AccidentOhio State University Wexner Medical Center Dr. David Evans told reporters that they reviewed video of the accident “that demonstrated that multiple passengers were ejected at high speed with high energy, many feet — at least 20 or 30, if not more — into the air and then crashed at a significant distance from the ride.”

OSU Wexner Medical Center has received three patients, a hospital spokesperson said. All three will likely be hospitalized for at least a week, Evans said.

OhioHealth Grant Medical Center said it received three patients, one of whom was in critical condition, a spokesman said. The other two are in fair condition.

The fair, which is scheduled to run through Aug. 6, attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year. More than 921,000 people attended in 2016, according to fair organizers.

Kasich said the ride was inspected multiple times.

Ohio State Fair accident leaves at least 1 dead, 7 injured 2:35

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Michael Vartorella, chief inspector for amusement ride safety for the state Department of Agriculture, said his team inspected the ride as well as a third party. “It’s been looked at about three or four times over the course of two days,” he said.

“We take this job very serious, and when we have a tragedy like this it hits everybody, it hits us really hard,” Vartorella said. “My children, my grandchildren ride this equipment. Our guys do not rush through this stuff. We look at it, we take care of it, and we pretend it’s our own.”

“This ride was inspected at a couple of different stages, and it was signed off today,” he said.

The Ohio State fair will stay open but rides will be closed pending safety checks, Kasich said.

“It’s such a fun fair. This is just a real tragedy,” fair-goer Susie Buchanan, who did not witness the accident, told WCMH. “You know, you come over here you think you’re going to have a lot of fun and then you end up with something like this. This is just really a shame for those families,” she said.

CORRECTION (6:45 a.m. July, 27): An earlier version of this article misstated the first name of a witness. His name is William Brown, not Michael.

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One Dead, Several Hurt in Ohio State Fair Ride Accident

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One person was killed and several others were seriously hurt after a ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus Wednesday, officials …
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Deadly accident at Ohio State Fair

Los Angeles Times2 hours ago
One person is killed and seven others injured when an “aggressive thrill” ride breaks apart. Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times …

Ohio State Fair ride accident: 1 dead, 7 injured; all rides shut down

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One person died and seven were injured – five critically – on Wednesday night at the Ohio State Fairwhen a ride called The Fire Ball …
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DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian …

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DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian … Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash waits for the start of his trial at the …
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Austria cancels extradition warrant of Firtash ally

Kyiv PostJul 7, 2017
His friend oligarch Dmytro Firtash was arrested in relation to the same case on Feb. 21. Both men deny the charges. Youssef has said he wants …
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ALACO DISPATCHES: Ukraine’s Naftogaz still stymied by gas …

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Naftogaz’s concerns appear to be focused on one of the most controversial players in retail gas distribution, Dmytro Firtash. He remains a …
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Austria cancels extradition warrant of Firtash ally

Kyiv PostJul 7, 2017
A court in Austria will not now extradite to Spain Hares Youssef, a Syrian businessman and partner of Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.
Story image for dmytro firtash extradition from The Guardian

Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash arrested after extradition ruling

The GuardianFeb 21, 2017
Dmytro Firtash arrives at court in Vienna on Tuesday. His arrest on a European warrant is separate from the extradition ruling. Photograph: …
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Chicago feds maintain pursuit of Ukrainian oligarch tied to Trump …

Chicago TribuneJul 25, 2017
Billionaire Dmitry Firtash — linked to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — is fighting his extradition to Chicago on racketeering …
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DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian Mobsters

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The Department of Justice has identified a former business associate of ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as an “upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime.”

The declaration came in a 115-page filing as part of the government’s case against Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who was once involved in a failed multimillion-dollar deal to buy New York’s Drake Hotel with Manafort, and an important player in the Ukrainian political party for which Manafort worked.

Firtash is being prosecuted for what federal prosecutors in Chicago say was his role in bribing Indian officials in order to get a lucrative mining deal to sell titanium to Boeing.

Dmytro FirtashRelated: Donald Trump Aide Paul Manafort Scrutinized for Russian Business Ties

The government says that prosecuting Firtash and his co-defendant in the alleged scheme, Andras Knopp, “will disrupt this organized crime group and prevent it from further criminal acts within the United States.”

In 2008, according to court records, Manafort’s firm was involved with Firtash in a plan to redevelop the Drake Hotel for $850 million. Firtash’s company planned to invest more than $100 million, the records say.

One of the other partners working with Manafort on the deal was the former exclusive broker for Fred Trump’s properties, Brad Zackson. Fred Trump is the now-deceased father of Donald Trump.

Eventually, documents show, Firtash’s investment company transferred $25 million into escrow to further the project.

Also in 2008, according to a State Department cable posted by WikiLeaks, Firtash told U.S. Ambassador William Taylor that he got his start in business with the permission of one of Russia’s most well-known organized crime bosses, Semion Mogilevich. But Firtash claimed to Taylor that he was forced to deal with such people.

Related: What Did Ex-Trump Aide Paul Manafort Really Do in Ukraine?

Firtash was a major backer of Ukraine’s Party of Regions, the pro-Russian party for which Manafort worked for many years, according to the federal criminal complaint and another leaked State cable. Manafort’s firm made more than $17 million in gross revenue from the party in just two years, according to his recent Foreign Agent Registration Act filing. Another leaked cable said that Manafort’s job in 2006 was to give the Party of Regions an “extreme makeover” and “change its image from … a haven for mobsters into that of a legitimate political party.”

Paul Manafort Subpoenaed To Speak Before Judiciary Committee 3:58

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In interviews and statements to NBC News, Manafort has said he “never had a business relationship” with Firtash. “There was one occasion where an opportunity was explored. … Nothing transpired and no business relationship was ever implemented.”

The government’s 115-page filing came in response to a motion to dismiss by Firtash’s lawyers, who say the government has failed to establish that any crime occurred in the U.S.

In a statement to NBC News, Firtash attorney Dan Webb said the government filing makes two accusations that are not part of the federal indictment — that Firtash is connected to Russian organized crime, and that he made bribe payments intended for individuals in the U.S. Webb said there is “no evidence” that Firtash is linked to organized crime, and the accusation that he made bribe payments “is also false, and that is why the government did not include it as well in its own indictment.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois did not respond to a request for comment.

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DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian Mobsters – NBCNews.com

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DOJ: Ex-Manafort Associate Firtash Is Top-Tier Comrade of Russian Mobsters
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Also in 2008, according to a State Department cable posted by WikiLeaks, Firtash told U.S.Ambassador William Taylor that he got his start in business with the permission of one ofRussia’s most well-known organized crime bosses, Semion Mogilevich.

The Early Edition: July 26, 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.

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

The House Intelligence Committee dropped its subpoena of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to appear before it to testify about a meeting he attended last year with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a source familiar with the situation told Josh Dawsey, Madeline Conway and Kyle Cheney at POLITICO.

Manafort was briefly subpoenaed yesterday to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

Manafort discussed a June 2016 meeting between Trump’s inner circle and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators yesterday, according to his spokesperson, in a meeting in which he “answered their questions fully” and passed investigators notes he had taken during the 2016 meeting, Eileen Sullivan and Adam Goldman report at the New York Times.

“We’ll see what happens.” President Trump continued to attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigations yesterday, giving an ominous response when asked if he would fire Sessions and repeating an earlier assertion that he would have “picked somebody else” for the job if he’d known that “he was going to recuse himself.” Devlin Barrett, Philip Rucker and Sari Horwitz report at the Washington Post.

“I am very disappointed in Jeff Sessions,” Trump reiterated in an interview with the Wall Street Journalyesterday, without confirming whether he would fire the attorney general. Michael C. Bender reports.

“We’ll come to a resolution soon” on whether to fire Sessions, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said yesterday, adding that “if there’s this level of tension” between President Trump and Sessions “that’s public,” it’s “probably right” to assume that Trump wants Sessions gone, the BBC reports.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee for around three hours yesterday, Morgan Chalfant reports a the Hill.

Kushner’s answers were “forthcoming and complete” and he “satisfied all my questions,” the leader of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion Rep. Mike Conway (R-Texas) said yesterday after Kushner’s interview, Kyle Cheney reporting at POLITICO.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to make his first public statements about the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General’s little-noticed investigation looking into several key issues in the Russia saga stretching back to before President Trump’s inauguration when he appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

President Trump is harming himself, alienating allies and crossing “dangerous” legal and political lines by continuing to demean Attorney General Jeff Sessions, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

President Trump has placed the White House in a “virtual state of war” with the Justice Department amid a high-stakes investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion over his denigration of Sessions, write Peter Baker, Jeremy W. Peters and Rebecca R. Ruiz at the New York Times.

The argument for retaining Sessions rests on the perception that firing him would give President Trump a free hand to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but this is wrong and short-sighted: Trump probably has other avenues to get rid of Mueller, he could pardon those under investigation and undercut Mueller’s investigation in that way, and viewing Sessions himself solely through the lens of the Russia investigation “is an insult to the countless Americans who will suffer under Sessions’ extremist reign as attorney general.” Trevor Timm writes at the Guardian.

RUSSIA

A wide-ranging package of sanctions against Russia was approved by the House yesterday in a 419-3 vote that brings President Trump a step closer to a choice he has tried to avoid: whether to sign legislation that undermines his efforts to cool tensions with Moscow, or veto it amid the ongoing investigations into his alleged collusion with Russia during his presidential campaign, writes Matt Felegenheimer at the New York Times.

Trump is waiting for the final legislative package to arrive on his desk which he will “study” to “make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible,” White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on his behalf yesterday, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

Taking away President Trump’s ability to remove sanctions against Russia could backfire, some European leaders are warning, Michael Birnbaum reporting at the Washington Post.

The new sanctions package harmed the chances of improved U.S.-Russia ties, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said today, the AP reports.

A “painful” response to the U.S. sanctions package was called for by the head of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament Konstantin Kosachyov today, Reuters reports.

It is unclear when the Senate will now vote on the measure, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker suggesting Monday that he may want to make some small changes to the bill, report Deidre Walsh and Jeremy Herb at CNN.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

A nuclear strike on “the heart of the U.S.” if it tries to remove leader Kim Jong-un was threatened by North Korea yesterday via its state-run Korean Central News Agency, CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Barbara Starr report.

North Korea will be able to produce a missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. in one year,American intelligence agencies have said, shortening their previous estimate of roughly four years, David E. Sanger reports at the New York Times.

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is “increasingly alarmed” by North Korea’s weapons programs, he said yesterday following a classified briefing on the pace of Kim Jong-un’s regime’s missile development, Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

New sanctions against Chinese entities for violating U.N. sanctions against North Korea will soon be issued by the U.S., the acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Asian Bureau Susan Thornton said yesterday, Ian Talley reporting at the Wall Street Journal.

Progress on a new U.N. resolution imposing additional sanctions on North Korea in response to its recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile is being made, the U.S. and China said yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reporting at the AP.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui Choi met with his Philippine counterpart in Manila today ahead of an A.S.E.A.N. security meeting there on Aug. 7, where he is expected to face pressure to halt Pyongyang’s missile tests, Reuters reports.

ISRAEL & PALESTINE

Palestinian worshipers protested outside al-Aqsa mosque yesterday even after Israel removed metal detectors and tensions remain in East Jerusalem as the Islamic Waqf – the administrators of the site – stated that the boycott would continue until Israel restored the status quo before July 14 when the crisis began, which was triggered by the killing of two Israeli policeman by Arab Israelis who had emerged from the mosque. Isabel Kershner reports at the New York Times.

“We will not enter the mosque until these things are implemented,” the head of the Supreme Islamic Committee Ikrema Sabri said yesterday, stating that mass prayer protests would continue outside al-Aqsa mosque until all security measures introduced by Israeli authorities were removed, making the comments following Israel’s decision to remove metal detectors around the site and install surveillance measures instead. Aron Heller and Mohammed Daraghmeh report at the AP.

The violence and rising tensions in Jerusalem “risk turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one and dragging both sides into the vortex of violence with the rest of the region,” the U.N. envoy on Middle East peace Nickolay Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council yesterday, urging all sides to return to “an environment that is conducive to negotiations.” The UN News Centre reports.

Israel has engaged in “aggressive behavior and provocative violation” of the historic agreements at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the Palestinian envoy to the U.N. Riyad Mansour said yesterday, calling on U.N. Security Council members to help protect Palestinian access to the contested holy site. Al Jazeera reports.

A Palestinian man entered a Jewish settlement and stabbed three Israelis to death Friday, posting on social media hours before that he would die a martyr and that his knife would answer “the call of al-Aqsa,” the ensuing attack taking place amid heightened tensions and violence in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and in Jordan’s capital of Amman. William Booth explains the situation at Washington Post.

Hamas should not have been removed from the E.U. terror list, the European Court of Justice ruled yesterday, stating that a lower court’s decision to de-list the militant Islamic group was wrong, Mike Corder reports at the AP.

What problems are posed by installing surveillance cameras at al-Aqsa? Zena Tahhan provides an analysis at Al Jazeera.

SYRIA

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 18 civilians in the Syrian city of Raqqa and wounded 50 yesterday, according to activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, Al Jazeera reporting.

“I am not somebody that will stand by and let him [Assad] get away with what he tried to do,” President Trump said yesterday at a White House press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, also commenting on Lebanese Shi’ite militia group Hezbollah and labelling them “a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people and the entire region,” Al Jazeera reports.

The U.S. has an important role to play in stabilizing Raqqa after the Islamic State has been militarily defeated, a senior Kurdish official, Ilham Ahmed, said yesterday, calling on the U.S. to provide financial and political support to build democratic structures in Syria. Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.

Lebanon has been trying to attract Chinese investment to help its efforts to act as a hub for post-war Syria, but barriers remain to Chinese investment, including the continuing war, the lack of a political settlement in Syria, and the complex internal politics of Lebanon. Erika Solomon and Nazih Osseiran report at the Financial Times.

Trump and Russia are “colluding” on Syria, the U.S. military relying on Moscow to avoid being dragged into Syria’s civil war and Trump’s muddled strategy meaning that Russia’s vision for Syria’s future would likely to come to fruition, emboldening the Syrian president, Hezbollah and Iran. Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 25 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 24. Separately, partner forces conducted two strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

GULF-ARAB DISPUTE 

Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain added nine individuals and nine organizations allegedly linked to Qatar to their terror lists, making the move amid the Gulf crisis where four Arab nations diplomatically isolated Qatar for its alleged support and financing of terrorism, Margherita Stancati reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“It comes as a disappointing surprise that the blockading countries are still pursuing this story as part of their smear campaign against Qatar,” Qatar’s communications director Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani said today in response to the four Arab nations’ decision, Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.

“We cannot compromise with any form of terrorism, we cannot compromise or enter into any form of negotiations,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told a news conference yesterday, following discussions with the E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini. Al Jazeera reports.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban fighters killed 30 Afghan soldiers in an attack on an army base in Kandahar province today, the attack coming after days of intensified fighting across the country and a series of attacks on civilians in the capital of Kabul, Reuters reports.

The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani discusses the difficulties of governing in Afghanistan in an interview with Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil at the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

Afghanistan’s vast mineral deposits could provide a pretext for continued U.S. presence in the country, with the Trump administration considering sending an envoy to meet with mining officials and President Ghani realizing that President Trump would be intrigued by the possibilities for profitable extraction by Western companies, Mark Landler and James Risen write at the New York Times.

What would happen if the U.S. completely disengaged from Afghanistan? Max Bearak asks a variety of experts and interested parties this question at the Washington Post bearing in mind that the U.S.’ longest war shows no sign of ending any time soon.

IRAN

The U.S. Navy fired warning shots at an Iranian vessel in the Persian Gulf yesterday, a U.S. defense official calling the actions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) patrol boat “unsafe and unprofessional,” Dion Nissenbaum reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The I.R.G.C. accused the U.S. vessel of being “extremely unprofessional” in its actions, stating that the I.R.G.C. boat was “on routine patrol in the Persian Gulf,”  Courtney Kube, Eoghan MacGuire and Ali Arouzi report at NBC News.

New sanctions against Iran being discussed by the U.S. Congress “will be met with a definitive response,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said today, commenting following the House of Representatives’ overwhelming vote in favor of new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea yesterday. Reuters reports.

LIBYA

Two rival Libyan leaders agreed to a ceasefire yesterday in a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, also agreeing to a 10-point plan that included commitments to working toward parliamentary and presidential elections and using the armed forces “strictly” for counterterrorism purposes, the joint declaration forming the basis for further work by the U.N. Libya Envoy. Elaine Ganley and Nadine Achoui-Lesage report at the AP.

“We commit to a ceasefire and to refrain from any use of armed force for any purpose that does not strictly constitute counterterrorism,” the Prime Minister of  the U.N.-backed unity government Fayez Serraj and Gen. Khalifa Hifter of Libya’s self-styled national army said in a joint declaration yesterday, Al Jazeera reporting.

The meeting was “very positive” with both sides sharing a vision to “prioritize a political agreement,” Prime Minister Serraj told FRANCE 24 in an interview following the meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised the rival Libyan leaders for their “courage,” hailing the agreement as “historic,” the AP reports.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

The Venezuelan government’s accusation that the U.S. is working with Mexico and Colombia to oust its president Nicolás Maduro was repeated by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada yesterday, reports Spanish news agency EFE.

The C.I.A. is entering a “danger zone” where the White House wants it to take aggressive action overseas without developing a clear strategy or the political support required to sustain it, David Ignatius at the Washington Post providing a road map of the dangers that lie ahead.

President Trump’s China-first approach to the North Korean issue has not borne fruit, writes Jamie Fly at Foreign Policy, arguing that the president must pursue a long-term strategic China policy that looks beyond North Korea.

GUANTANAMO BAY

Ex-Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab tried to travel to Russia in one of four attempts to leave Uruguay where he was resettled following his release, a Uruguayan official confirmed yesterday, Leonardo Haberkorn reports at the AP.

The trial of Ali Charaf Damache on charges of being a recruiter of al-Qaeda in a federal court in Philadelphia will hopefully demonstrate to President Trump that the federal court system is far better equipped to handle such prosecutions than military commissions at Guantánamo Bay will ever be, writes the New York Times editorial board.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The N.S.A. an the F.B.I. improperly searched and disseminated raw intelligence on Americans and failed to properly delete unauthorized intercepts in violation of civil liberty protections during the Obama era, according to newly declassified memos seen by the Hill’s John Solomon.

Rumors that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to leave the agency were denied by spokesperson Heather Nauert yesterday, though she added that Tillerson serves “at the pleasure of the president,” Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.

A criminal investigation into the $28 million purchase of forest camouflage for the Afghan army has been launched, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (S.I.G.A.R.) John Sopko said yesterday, explaining that he opened the investigation after it was discovered that the Pentagon have spent over $93 million in taxpayer dollars on Afghan National Army uniforms in a forest camouflage pattern despite there being very few forests in Afghanistan. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

“Elements” of the Congolese army were accused of digging most of the mass graves identified by the U.N. in the Kasai region of central Democratic Republic of Congo in a report by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in Congo, the first time the U.N. has directly suggested that government forces dug the graves discovered after the Kamuina Nsapu group launched an insurrection last August, Al Jazeerareports.

There is support for a plan for the U.K. to take up formal observer status at the E.U.’s bi-weekly foreign policy meetings after Britain exits the bloc, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

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Abedin-Weiner emails affair – Google Search

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Oligarchs As The Weapons – Google Search

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DOJ inspector general testimony may shed light on 2016 election inquiry

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Inspector General Michael Horowitz has offered few public indications of the status of his probe, which some lawmakers said he initially told them was expected to be complete by early next year | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Amid criminal and congressional Russia inquiries, Justice’s internal watchdog is quietly running its own review of issues linked to last year’s election.

By Josh Gerstein

Updated

2017-07-25T07:45-0400

With special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election now well underway and at least four congressional probes ongoing, it may seem like every aspect of the controversy is already being closely scrutinized.

But there’s also a less-noticed investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which has been exploring several issues key to the Russia saga since before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Story Continued Below

Inspector General Michael Horowitz has offered few public indications of the status of his probe, which some lawmakers said he initially told them was expected to be complete by early next year. On Wednesday, he’s likely to make his first public statements at a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the status of his inquiry – and whether he’ll acquiesce to any of the many requests from Republicans and Democrats to expand his review to include the firing of former FBI director James Comey or other developments.

“I think he’ll find a way to engage with the committee on that, while still being a little bit cagey,” said Michael Bromwich, who served as Justice’s inspector general from 1994 to 1999.

About a week before Trump’s inauguration in January, Horowitz announced a multi-faceted probe, focused primarily on whether Comey acted properly in his handling of the FBI’s investigation into classified information found in Hillary Clinton’s private email account.

The inquiry has examined Comey’s decision to make a public statement about the closure of the investigation in July 2016 and to send politically explosive notices to Congress about developments in the case just before Election Day.

Horowitz also announced a determination to try to get to the bottom of election-season leaks from the FBI and the Justice Department, as well as claims that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s judgement in the email probe and other matters may have been tainted by financial support his wife received in a state Senate race from Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.), a longtime Clinton backer.

Trump has raised that issue repeatedly in recent months, including in tweet on Tuesday morning.

“Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!” the president wrote.

In recent months, Horowitz—an Obama appointee who previously worked in top roles at the Justice Department under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—has been on the receiving end of a slew of letters from lawmakers and interest groups, asking him to expand the scope of the inspector general inquiry.

In February, the then-chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), asked Horowitz to look into leaks of classified intelligence intercepts about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

In March, several Senate Democrats led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked the inspector general to explore Attorney General Jeff Sessions decision to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia inquiry.

Later that month, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged Horowitz to look at whether White House officials pressured the Justice Department to drop the FBI’s investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In May, Chaffetz asked the inspector general to investigate Trump’s firing of Comey.

And last month, more than 30 House Democrats asked Horowitz to consider whether Sessions violated the terms of his recusal by taking part in Comey’s dismissal.

“One of the first things an IG has to do when lawmakers want you to jump is to figure out how high to jump,” said Bromwich, who runs the Bromwich Group consulting firm and is senior counsel at law firm Robbins Russell. “You’ve got to make careful discriminating judgements about what you do. I think Horowitz and his staff will make individual judgements about what is fairly included or can be fairly included without taking him down a rabbit trail.”

A spokesman for Horowitz declined to comment this week and has repeatedly rebuffed questions about the status of his inquiry. In a recent letter obtained by POLITICO, the inspector general alludes to the possibility that Mueller’s May 17 appointment as special counsel could impact and perhaps even limit what the Justice Department’s permanent internal watchdog office can do.

Horowitz’s letter, sent to Democratic senators more than four months after their request on Sessions’ recusal, notes that Justice has “appointed a Special Counsel to investigate allegations regarding the Russian government interference in the 2016 Presidential election and related matters.”

“We are continuing to assess what, if any, additional review would be appropriate for the OIG to undertake and will update you as appropriate,” Horowitz wrote on July 14, days before he was first scheduled to testify to Senate Judiciary.

The inspector general’s response raises the question of whether Mueller and Horowitz are coordinating and whether the inspector general may be asked to step back in certain areas while given the green light in others.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment for this story. Horowitz’s comments at the hearing may also give hints into what Mueller is up to.

For instance, it seems certain that Comey’s firing is now under examination by Mueller, but it’s less clear whether the special prosecutor will seek to explore in detail Comey’s explanations for his actions in the Clinton email probe.

“Some of the details of the probe now seem to overlap at least somewhat with what Mueller is doing,” Bromwich said. “I’m sure they’ve talked and Mueller’s criminal investigation would take preeminence and I’m sure Michael will defer to some extent to him.”

At a hearing just days before he was fired, Comey said he welcomed the inspector general investigation into his decisions.

“Yes, I’ve been interviewed. The Inspector General’s inspecting me look and looking at my conduct in the course of the e-mail investigation, which—I know this sounds like a crazy thing to say—I encourage,” Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3.

Comey also pointed to one key feature of an inspector general inquiry: unlike a criminal investigation, it traditionally culminates in a public report.

“I want that inspection because…I want my story told because some of its classified but, also, if I did something wrong, I want to hear that. I don’t think I did, but, yes, I’ve been interviewed and I’m sure I’ll be interviewed again,” the then-FBI chief said.

At a committee meeting in May, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Horowitz had assured his staff that the investigation would move forward, despite the fact that Comey’s dismissal obviated the possibility of any punishment for violating department policies or regulations.

“Through my staff, I had conversations because we had heard that because of Comey going that he might not continue that investigation,” the Iowa senator told colleagues. “He’s informed me that he was going to continue the investigation and, if there was any attempt to stop him from continuing that investigation, he’s going to let the whole world know.”

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The American Psychiatric Association was run and governed by the FBI informant at its very top (its former “President”, Carol Bernstein). It degenerated and degraded into the total and complete irrelevance and impotence in scientific and the organizational matters. Very logical and even unavoidable outcome in these circumstances… 

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The American Psychiatry is nothing without its Psychoanalytic tradition and its depth. Psychopharmacology does not explain the human soul, and it does not even attempt to. Psychoanalysis does not explain it either, but at least it does attempt to, and searches for its “royal roads”, although very often it is simply lost on the old side streets. At least the Psychoanalysis retained its intellectual independence, as exemplified in its stand on the so called “Goldwater rule“.

American Psychiatry is in a deep crisis, and the American Psychiatric Association, a bureaucratic Stalinist institution, which lost its touch with reality a long time ago, is the part, the parcel, and one of the many reasons for this crisis. Apparently, as I have good reasons to believe, at least until very recently, the American Psychiatric Association was led, run, and governed by the FBI informant at its very top (its former “President”, Carol Bernstein, who is nothing more than the mediocre, treacherous, double-dealing nincompoop, hungry for power). It degenerated and degraded into the total and complete irrelevance and impotence in scientific and the organizational matters. Very logical and even unavoidable outcome in these circumstances. 

Investigate this in depth. Clean up and reform the American Psychiatry and the APA (Association). 

Image result for Goldwater rule 

September 12, 2016
Analyze zis, to your hearts’ content! No “Goldwater rules”! We use zi “Hot Water Rules”!

___________________________

Links: 

Commenting on Trump’s mental health is fine, psychiatry group says … – The Verge

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The Verge
Commenting on Trump’s mental health is fine, psychiatry group says …
The Verge
The American Psychoanalytic Association, a leading psychiatry group in the US, told its 3500 members that they can comment on the mental state of politicians, …
Leading medical group tells members it’s OK to discuss Trump’s …The Independent
Donald Trump Mental Health: Psychiatry Group Says Ok to Talk …TIME
Crazy Talk: Cable News Cleared To Talk Trump’s Mental HealthForbes
The Atlantic –TPM –Breitbart News –STAT
all 32 news articles »

Psychiatric Group Tells Members It’s OK to Break Silence on Trump’s Bizarre Behavior – Common Dreams

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Psychiatric Group Tells Members It’s OK to Break Silence on Trump’s Bizarre Behavior
Common Dreams
As President Donald Trump continues to behave bizarrely and erratically—attacking his own attorney general, launching into a political tirade during a speech to Boy Scouts, bringing his 11-year-old son into the burgeoning Russia controversy—a 

Donald Trump’s Mental Health Is Ok To Comment On, Psychoanalysts’ Group Tells Members

American Psychiatric Association – Google Search

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Story image for American Psychiatric Association from The Atlantic

The Mind of Donald Trump

The AtlanticMay 16, 2016
In domestic politics, Nixon was widely recognized to be cunning, callous, cynical, and Machiavellian, even by the standards of American politicians. Empathy …
Story image for American Psychiatric Association from New York Daily News

Psychology group drops rule banning members from commenting …

New York Daily News14 minutes ago
Members of the American Psychoanalytic Association have been … The American Psychiatric Association, a separate group with 37,000 …
Evaluating Trump’s Psyche In Public
In-DepthThe Atlantic6 minutes ago

Story image for American Psychiatric Association from American Thinker

How the Left Hijacked the American Psychiatric Association and …

American ThinkerJul 16, 2017
“The Pentagon is working to delay the July 1 deadline to fully implement the Obama-initiated policy that one year ago lifted the ban on …
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Goldwater rule – Google Search

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Psychology group drops rule banning members from commenting …

New York Daily News13 minutes ago
The “Goldwater rule” stems from the 1964 Presidential election. “Fact” magazine at the time polled more than 12,000 psychiatrists on whether …

American Psychiatry – Google Search

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Commenting on Trump’s mental health is fine, psychiatry group says

The Verge25 minutes ago
The American Psychoanalytic Association, a leading psychiatry group in the US, told its 3,500 members that they can comment on the mental …

Experts Move to Halt Crisis in US Psychiatry

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An expert panel has released a new report containing recommendations to rectify the severe shortage of psychiatrists and the dearth of mental health services in the United States.

Released by the National Council Medical Director Institute, which advises the National Council for Behavioral Health on issues strongly related to clinical practice, the report, The Psychiatric Crisis: Causes and Solutions, contains a wide-ranging set of recommendations that touch on every area of the specialty, including training, funding, and models of care delivery.

Lead authors Joe Parks, MD, medical director, National Council for Behavioral Health, and Patrick Runnels, MD, co-chair, Medical Director Institute, discussed the report’s recommendations at a press briefing on March 28, where they were joined by Saul M. Levin, MD, CEO and medical director of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The number of psychiatrists is plummeting – down by 10% from 2003 to 2013. The average age of practicing psychiatrists is the mid-50s, compared to the mid-40s for other specialties, said Dr Parks.

Furthermore, approximately 55% of counties across the United States currently have no psychiatrist, and 77% report a severe shortage – a situation that is partially due to an increase in demand.

“People want psychiatric services. They know treatment works, and it’s less stigmatizing than it used to be, so people are more willing to accept and seek treatment,” said Dr Parks.

But their search is often in vain. Two thirds of primary care physicians report having trouble getting psychiatric services for patients, so patients often end up in the emergency department.

“There has been a 42% increase in patients going to ERs for psychiatric services in the past 3 years, but most of them aren’t staffed with psychiatrists,” Dr Parks noted.

“So people end up stuck in the ERs for hours and at times days – two to three times as long as for general medical conditions.”

To make matters worse, some hospitals are closing inpatient psychiatric units because they cannot find psychiatrists to staff and run them.

The lack of services and long wait times for these scarce services are taking a toll on patients.

“These are people burdened and suffering from anxiety, from depression. Some of them feel suicidal, and some of them have hallucinations,” said Dr Parks.

Psychiatrist Burnout

Psychiatry has not received the increase in support that some other specialties, such as obstetrics and gynecology, have. Psychiatrists also do not get the same ancillary staff to assist them in tasks such as arranging patient follow-up, he added.

In many cases, psychiatrists are forced to receive reimbursement that is lower than usual. “About 40% of psychiatrists are in cash-only services. Psychiatrists are rushed, and they burn out and leave the profession earlier,” said Dr Parks.

He described the current mental health care delivery system as “old fashioned,” noting that it “has not kept up with modern, data-driven, evidence-based technologies and has certainly not taken advantage of some of the new, innovative social media ways we can reach out and touch patients.”

Another “looming potential problem” is immigration. Some 50% of new psychiatry trainees are foreign medical graduates, and changes in visa requirements by the Trump administration could add to the workforce problems, he said.

If nothing is done about the psychiatrist shortage, the demand for psychiatry is expected to outstrip supply by 25% by 2025.

Becoming a psychiatrist requires 12,000 hours of training, said Dr Levin, who heads the APA, the largest psychiatric association in the world.

According to Dr Runnels, medical students are more likely to opt for a psychiatry residency if the medical school’s psychiatric department offers a highly-rated and relatively long rotation.

“That’s hugely important, and medical schools need to start working on that,” he said. He added that currently, many training “milestones” are “fuzzily or not well-defined.”

Training does not adequately address team-based collaborative care or supervision of clinicians from other disciplines, for example, physician assistants, said Dr Runnels.

“Medication-assisted treatment for addictions is definitely something that most residents get very little exposure to,” he added.

New Models of Care

The expert panel that developed the report included representatives from all areas of healthcare. In addition to psychiatrists, it included CEOs of healthcare organizations, primary and managed care representatives, academic experts, and those representing related professions, such as nursing.

The panel was tasked to develop recommendations that were “specific and actionable – not broad, vague, pie in the sky but things that a payer could do, things that government could do, things that individual psychiatrists could do, and things that the professional organizations could do to relieve this emergency,” said Dr Parks.

The expert panel recommended that the care delivery system be updated so that psychiatrists would operate more as expert consultants and work in teams, said Dr Parks.

“So they would do the essential things only psychiatrists can do and delegate other parts of care and follow-up for patients who are stable, or services that can be provided by other professionals, such as psychiatric nurses or perhaps physician assistants.”

The panel also recommended new and advanced forms of treatment, such as collaborative care and telepsychiatry.

“We should all be advocating for new, innovative models of care, such as telepsychiatry, which can increase access to specialty psychiatric services across the country,” said Dr Levin.

“We would love to see more telepsychiatry, and we would love to see the payment system actually pay for it,” he added. However, he said, it is important to ensure that patients who receive treatment remotely are “always safe” and that if they begin to show signs and symptoms of distress on the psychiatry call, “we are able to get them help very quickly.”

The APA has a toolkit to help educate psychiatrists and other healthcare providers on how to practice telepsychiatry, said Dr Levin. “I think we all see this as one of the ways we are going to be practicing well into the future.”

The panel also wants to see burdensome governmental rules removed. For example, said Dr Parks, a psychiatrist who provides telepsychiatry services in eight states now has to be licensed in all eight states.

As for medical education, the task force recommended that all residents receive integrated care experience and be placed in a range of different settings to broaden their experience with medication-assisted treatment programs and collaboration with other professions.

Cost-Saving Investment

All of this requires additional funding, which the panel also addressed.

“We are aware that overall, the healthcare system is looking to cut costs, so we want to point out that our call for increased funding for psychiatry was not something we took lightly,” said Dr Runnels.

“However, we want people to understand that our call for increased funding is about helping to save money overall.”

He pointed out that the use of psychiatry services leads to overall reductions in spending on healthcare.

“We believe insurance companies are leaving money on the table by not adequately funding those services.”

Some of the report’s specific recommendations include the following:

  • Removing barriers to integrated care: Fund technical assistance programs that help develop alternatives to fee-for-service reimbursement models, because chronic physical conditions are known to improve when mental health conditions are managed, particularly among high-risk populations.
  • Cutting red tape: Streamline administrative paperwork so that physicians can spend more time with patients and that information exchanges between physicians are more attuned to the patients’ needs.
  • Changing how psychiatrists are paid: Create awareness about behavioral health’s role in the total cost of care, then shift from fee-for-service arrangements to bundled payments to increase the quality of care and reduce the overall cost of care.
  • Improving confidentiality regulations: Although the recently revised 42 CFR Part 2 confidentiality regulations are advances, they burden psychiatrists by restricting information regarding treatment of substance use disorder, sometimes keeping patients and their families in the dark to protect psychiatrists.

The authors of the report made other recommendations specific to government and payers, healthcare treatment, and advocacy organizations, as well as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other stakeholders. The full report is available for download.

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American Psychoanalytic Association vs apa – Google Search

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Dealing With American Psychiatry’s Gag Rule

Psychiatric Times (blog)Jul 20, 2017
Dr Glass is a psychoanalyst and Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Part-time) … Since 1973, the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Code of Ethics … for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has …

Diagnosing Trump: How Psychoanalysis Lost Its Voice

Huffington PostMay 4, 2017
… mental health professionals even outside the purview of the APA that much of … Unlike in the U.S., the cross-pollination of psychoanalysis, social reform, … theorist and one-time head of the AmericanPolitical Science Association, … the Goldwater Rule or our own historical reluctance to share our clinical …

Story image for American Psychoanalytic Association vs apa from Scientific American

Psychiatrists Debate Weighing in on Trump’s Mental Health

Scientific AmericanFeb 15, 2017
On Tuesday 35 U.S. psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers … and director of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, says she was … how a person’s mental health may affect other people and his or her ability to perform. … the association pointed to a letter published by APApresident Maria …
Mental Health Professionals Warn About Trump
Highly CitedNew York TimesFeb 15, 2017

Story image for American Psychoanalytic Association vs apa from Psychiatric Times

Take Two Pills and …

Psychiatric TimesJan 19, 2017
… ways to improve self-awareness in addition to psychoanalysis. … later, and President of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1981.

American Psychoanalytic Association – Google Search

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Story image for American Psychoanalytic Association from The Independent

The Independent

Psychiatry Group Tells Members They Can Discuss President …

TIME12 minutes ago
In an email, the American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members they don’t have to abide by the Goldwater Rule, which states that …

Story image for American Psychoanalytic Association from STAT

Psychiatry group tells members they can defy ‘Goldwater rule’ and …

STAT5 hours ago
The statement, an email this month from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association to its 3,500 members, represents …

Donald Trump Mental Health: Psychiatry Group Says Ok to Talk

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A psychiatry group told its members they can comment on the mental health of President Trump—going against the longstanding so-called Goldwater Rule, a self-imposed code that prevents the psychiatry community from commenting on the mental health of public figures.

In an email, the American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members they don’t have to abide by the Goldwater Rule, which states that mental health professionals should not discuss the mental state of someone they have not personally evaluated, Stat News reported on Tuesday.

“We don’t want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly,” Prudence Gourguechon, past president of the association, told Stat News.

The debate over whether health professionals can comment on Trump’s mental faculties has raged since the president was elected, with several mental health experts arguing that the Goldwater Rule needs more flexibility regards to Trump. An online petition that calls Trump “mentally ill,” started by psychiatrist John Gartner, has received more than 55,000 signatures since April.

Despite the note from the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychiatric Association—which has more than 37,000 members — said on Tuesday that it continues to stand by the Goldwater Rule.

The Goldwater Rule stems from a controversy in 1964, when Fact magazine reported that more than 1,000 mental health professionals said they believed that then-Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was not mentally fit for office. Goldwater successfully sued Fact for libel after he lost the election, leading to the rule’s addition to the American Psychiatric Association’s ethics guidelines.

The American Psychoanalytic Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Psychiatry Group Tells Members They Can Discuss President Trump’s Mental Health – TIME

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Psychiatry Group Tells Members They Can Discuss President Trump’s Mental Health
TIME
In an email, the American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members they don’t have to abide by the Goldwater Rule, which states that mental health professionals should not discuss the mental state of someone they have not personally evaluated, …

American Psychiatric Association – Google Search

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Story image for American Psychiatric Association from The Atlantic

The Mind of Donald Trump

The AtlanticMay 16, 2016
In domestic politics, Nixon was widely recognized to be cunning, callous, cynical, and Machiavellian, even by the standards of American politicians. Empathy …

Story image for American Psychiatric Association from New York Daily News

Psychology group drops rule banning members from commenting …

New York Daily News14 minutes ago
Members of the American Psychoanalytic Association have been … The American Psychiatric Association, a separate group with 37,000 …
Evaluating Trump’s Psyche In Public
In-DepthThe Atlantic6 minutes ago

Story image for American Psychiatric Association from American Thinker

How the Left Hijacked the American Psychiatric Association and …

American ThinkerJul 16, 2017
“The Pentagon is working to delay the July 1 deadline to fully implement the Obama-initiated policy that one year ago lifted the ban on …
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Goldwater rule – Google Search

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Story image for Goldwater rule from New York Daily News

Psychology group drops rule banning members from commenting …

New York Daily News13 minutes ago
The “Goldwater rule” stems from the 1964 Presidential election. “Fact” magazine at the time polled more than 12,000 psychiatrists on whether …
Read the whole story
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