|News in Photos from mikenova (4 sites)|
|WSJ.com: World News: Tensions Rise Ahead of Kenya’s Election as Mysterious Death Fuels Mistrust|
The gruesome murder of an election official, an explosion of fake news and the activities of secretive political technology companies have shaken voters faith in a country seen as Africas flag-bearer of democracy and free markets.
WSJ.com: World News
|Saved Stories – None|
|My View: Evidence shows Trump, businesses connected to Russia | Editorials: When Putin succeeded Yeltsin as president, he endorsed Russian intelligence connections with the countrys mobsters and oligarchs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they served his personal interests. Multiple sources make clear that Putin and the FSB/KGB essentially control the Russian mob. by Tom Maertens Mankato|
My View: Evidence shows Trump, businesses connected to Russia | Editorials by Tom Maertens Mankato Friday August 4th, 2017 at 8:03 AM Www.Mankatofreepress.Com – RSS Results In Opinion/Editorials Of Type Article 1 Share The Trump administration continues to deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, including hacking 21 state voter databases; the campaign/White House issued at … Continue reading“My View: Evidence shows Trump, businesses connected to Russia | Editorials: “When Putin succeeded Yeltsin as president, he endorsed Russian intelligence connections with the countrys mobsters and oligarchs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they served his personal interests. Multiple sources make clear that Putin and the FSB/KGB essentially control the Russian mob.” – by Tom Maertens Mankato”
|What is a grand jury and how serious is it for Donald Trump?|
Use of a grand jury to investigate links between Trumps presidential team and Russia could be very serious. Heres what you need to know about grand juries
It has emerged that US special counsel Robert Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington as part of an investigation into potential coordination or collusion between Donald Trumps presidential campaign and Russia. But what is a grand jury, how does it work and what does Trump have to fear?
What is a grand jury?
|Trump attorney: Still no reason to believe he’s under investigation – The Hill|
|Trump is fighting with Congress over Russia sanctions. Putin is the real winner. – Vox|
|Trump is not the enemy – Times-Enterprise|
|Op-Ed: Why Trump will fire John Kelly too – Yahoo News|
|Rudy Giuliani – Google News: Op-Ed: Why Trump will fire John Kelly too – Yahoo News|
Rudy Giuliani – Google News
|Donald Trump is going on a 17-day vacation. Who cares? Except… – CNN|
|Trump Seems To Think Granting Refugees Asylum Will Make Him Look ‘Awfully Bad’|
During a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, President Donald Trump disparaged refugees and even said that going back on his word to keep them out of the United States would make him look “awfully bad.”
|Mr. Galeotti: Are you singing the Russian tune: softly, subtly, and for some time now? Stop Hyping Trumps Links to the Russian Mob (Op-ed) The Moscow Times|
Mr. Galeotti: Are you singing the Russian tune: softly, subtly, and for some time now? Stop Hyping Trump’s Links to the Russian Mob (Op-ed) Friday August 4th, 2017 at 9:00 AM 1 Share Gage Skidmore / Flickr It seems there is some new claim to link Donald Trump and his business empire with Russian organized crime almost every day. There … Continue reading“Mr. Galeotti: Are you singing the Russian tune: softly, subtly, and for some time now? – “Stop Hyping Trump’s Links to the Russian Mob (Op-ed)” – The Moscow Times”
|Democrats criticize the leaking of transcripts of Trump phone calls – CNN|
|Fox isn’t the only White House cable news ally. Meet the Christian Broadcasting Network. – Vox|
|Trump Whips up Supporters Against Russia Probe – U.S. News & World Report|
|If Donald Trump were an immigrant, he’d probably be deported – Chicago Tribune|
|Trump keeps social media on-message during Kelly’s first week – CNN|
|9:48 AM 8/4/2017 Mike Nova Tweeted|
Mike Nova Retweeted The Hill @thehill Newsweek cover: Trump is a “Lazy Boy” http://hill.cm/IP5iVXl 2h Mike Nova Retweeted POLITICO @politico Poll: 80 percent of voters disapprove of GOP handling of health care http://politi.co/2uphgSs 11h Mike Nova Retweeted The New Yorker @NewYorker Trump helped build a Baku hotel that appears to be a corrupt operation linked … Continue reading” 9:48 AM 8/4/2017 – Mike Nova Tweeted”
|How Obama’s Weakness Encouraged Russian Election Meddling – The American Interest|
|The Russia investigation is getting serious and President Trump is feeling the heat – Washington Post|
|TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: A grand jury has been impaneled in Washington by special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump-Russia collusion, a sign that Muellers probe is entering a new phase of increased intensity according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau at the Wall Street Journal.|
TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION – The Early Edition: August 4, 2017 A grand jury has been impaneled in Washington by special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump-Russia collusion, a sign that Muellers probe is entering a new phase of increased intensity according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau at the Wall … Continue reading“TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: A grand jury has been impaneled in Washington by special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Trump-Russia collusion, a sign that Muellers probe is entering a new phase of increased intensity according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to Del Quentin Wilber and Byron Tau at the Wall Street Journal.”
|Evangelical Leaders Backing Trump Are More Hypocritical, And More Dangerous, Than Ever|
They’ve been waiting for an assault on LGBTQ rights. Trump is delivering.
|Norms Watch: Democracy, the Trump Administration, and Reactions to It (July 28-August 4)|
Sign up here to receive Norms Watch in your inbox each Friday.
Special counsel Robert Muellers investigation heats up, with a grand jury impaneled in Washington. Subpoenas are issued in relation to last years Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer, and Trump reportedly dictated sons misleading statement on meeting.
Robert Mueller Convenes Grand Jury In Washington
Special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russias interference in the 2016 presidential election, including possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the Wall Street Journal reports. The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mr. Muellers inquiry is ramping up and that it will likely continue for months, write the WSJs Del Quentin Wilbur and Byron Tau. This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel, Stephen I. Vladeck, co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, told the Journal. If there was already a grand jury in [Virginia] looking at [former national security adviser Michael Flynn], there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so. On the same day as the reports emerged, Trump criticized Muellers investigation at a rally in West Virginia. Theyre trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story, he said. Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didnt win because of Russia. We won because of you.
Trump Dictated Don Jr.s Misleading Statement on Russian Lawyer Meeting
Trump was responsible for drafting the misleading statement about his son Donald Trump Jr.s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, the Washington Post reports. Trump dictated the statement aboard Air Force One, in which Trump Jr. said he and the lawyer had primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children. It was ultimately revealed that Trump Jr. attended the meeting after receiving an email promising useful information about Trumps presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
When news of the meeting broke, Trumps lawyer Jay Sekulow denied twice on television that the president was involved in the statements drafting. In Tuesdays press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that that Trump had weighed in, saying he did as any father would. While Mueller investigates Trump for obstruction of justice, Trumps aides worry that the news that Trump personally intervened in the drafting of his sons statement exposes him to legal risk, leaving him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup, the Post reports.
Grand Jury Subpoenas Reportedly Issued In Relation to Trump Tower Meeting With Russian Lawyer
Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, then-campaign chair Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer Trump Jr. was told would offer dirt on Hillary Clinton, Reuters reports. It is the first concrete sign that the meeting is of investigative interest as Mueller investigates possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Federal Investigators Looking Into Trump And Associates Financial Ties To Russia
Robert Muellers investigators are looking into whether financial laws were broken and whether any real estate dealings could put Trump or his associates in a compromising position, CNN reports. Investigating potential financial ties between Trump and his associates to Russia has emerged as one of the most fertile avenues for moving [the] probe forward, according to the report.
Russian Operatives Discussed Working With Manafort To Coordinate Damaging Clinton Information, Intelligence Intercepts Reportedly Show
CNN also reports federal investigators possess intercepted communications featuring suspected Russian operatives discussing efforts to work with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to coordinate information damaging to Hillary Clinton.
The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians, CNN reports. Investigators are looking into whether Manafort was involved in money laundering or tax violations in business dealings with pro-Russian parties in Ukraine.
Bills Protecting Special Counsel To Be Introduced
Senate Republicans and Democrats are working on two bills aimed at making it more difficult for Trump to fire Mueller, involving judges in any decision to remove him. The bills come in response from perceived threats that Trump has issues toward Mueller and his investigation, argued he has conflicts of interest, and indicated that if Mueller investigated his finances he would be crossing a line.
THE PRESS AND PUBLIC DISCOURSE
The president invites law enforcement to act violently, and the White House is revealed to have been involved in spreading Seth Rich conspiracies.
Trump Invites Police Officers To Handle Prisoners Roughly
Speaking before a crowd of law enforcement officers on Long Island Friday, Trump told them they shouldnt be too nice when arresting thugs. When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagonyou just see them thrown in, roughI said, please dont be too nice, Trump said. The comments were widely condemned, including by police associations.
The Suffolk County Police Department said it disagrees with the advice it got today from the President of the United States pic.twitter.com/PmXk95TmEs
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) July 28, 2017
The acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chuck Rosenberg–who works for Trump–issued a memo saying his agents must always act honorably by maintaining the very highest standards in the treatment of criminal suspects. Rosenberg stated that he wrote the memo because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong. Thats what law enforcement officers do. Thats what you do. We fix stuff. At least, we try.
https://t.co/8KJUbDoS9N. DEA chief shows the way. We all have to help Trump learn “presidential”. Gen Kelly can’t do it alone.
— john mclaughlin (@jmclaughlinSAIS) August 2, 2017
White House Was Involved In Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory, Lawsuit Claims
A Fox News story aired in May – since retracted – suggesting that Democrats might have been connected to the death of DNC aide Seth Rich was concocted in tandem with the White House, a new lawsuit alleges. The suit is brought by Rod Wheeler, a paid Fox commentator who was hired to investigate Richs murder by Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter who alleges he was misquoted in the story. The lawsuit quotes a voicemail and text from Butowsky boasting that Trump had reviewed drafts of the Fox News Story ahead of broadcast. A month before the story ran, Butowsky and Wheeler met at the White House with then-press secretary Sean Spicer to brief him on what their investigation was uncovering. Spicer confirmed that he took the meeting, but said he was unaware of any contact involving the president.
Trump Lies About Boy Scouts Praise
In a leaked transcript of his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump is quoted as saying that the head of the Boy Scouts called him after his speech to the national jamboree, telling him it was the greatest speech that was ever made to him. The speech was controversial, veering into political material that some thought inappropriate. However, in a statement the Boy Scouts said that they were unaware of any such call, and that neither of the organizations two top leaders had placed such a call.
WHITE HOUSE AND ADMINISTRATION
Trump fires his short-lived Communications Director and boasts about his business after signing Russia sanctions bill. The administration continues to fill posts slowly, and a nominee withdraws in light of transgender military ban.
Trump Questions Constitutionality Of Sanctions Law In Signing Statement And Boasts About Business
A week after it was approved by overwhelming majorities in both congressional chambers, Trump signed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia into law, while querying the laws constitutionality and boasting about his business skills. Trumps signing statement said that parts of the measure were clearly unconstitutional, and suggested he might ignore provisions regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine and denial of visas to foreign nationals. He also described the law as seriously flawed, because it tied his hands in negotiating sanctions on Russia without congressional approval.
It was politically remarkable for Mr. Trump to issue a statement challenging aspects of this particular bill, which a distrustful Congress forced upon him, writes Charlie Savage at the New York Times. Notably, when President Obama signed a similar bill in 2015 permitting Congress to review his decision to lift sanctions against Iran for the nuclear deal, he issued no such statement.
Trump’s signing statement (as opposed to the statement he made when signing the bill) is actually quite aggressive here. pic.twitter.com/xAx1djU0P3
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) August 2, 2017
In a separate press release upon the bills signing, Trump criticized Congress in more informal language. Its concluding paragraph read: I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.
Trump just used a signing statement on Russia sanctions to talk about his business and how great he is at running it. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. pic.twitter.com/QrrN0Pfv9y
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) August 2, 2017
Trump Continues To Fill Posts Slowly
Trump has had only 50 nominees confirmed by the Senate, out of the 575 key policymaking positions he is responsibility for filling, the Washington Post reports. For another 600-plus Senate-confirmed positions hes supposed to fill including ambassadors, U.S. attorneys, U.S. marshals, officials on boards and commissions hes been even slower. By this point in his presidency, Barack Obama had filled 228 of those key policymaking positions. Political science professor at Vanderbilt David E. Lewis writes for the Post that key positions in tax policy, immigration, and infrastructure remain vacant. This leaves the president shorthanded. An understaffed and inexpert White House must do all of the policy and public relations work that could be done by the presidents appointees.
Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci Lasts Eleven Days
He shot to fame quickly as Trumps communications director, and played a starring role in last weeks Norms Watch after deriding his colleagues in a expletive-laden rant to a reporter and inviting the FBI and Justice Department to investigate White House leaks, in violation of the strict separation of politics and law enforcement. This week, Anthony Scaramucci was fired ten days after he was hired. The unusually short tenure illustrates the chaos in the White House, even as the firing happened on the same day Trump tweeted there was No WH chaos!
DHS Candidate Withdraws Over Trumps Transgender Military Ban
A candidate for a senior role at the Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn his name from consideration in light of Trumps ban on transgender people serving in the military. In an email sent the day after Trumps announcement of the policy on Twitter, John Fluharty said he was no longer seeking the position of assistant secretary of partnership and engagement because the decision runs counter to my deeply held beliefs. He went on, it would be impossible for me to commit to serving the Administration knowing that I would be working against those values.
White House Officials Fall For Email Prank
A British prankster fooled top officials, including Trumps homeland security adviser, into replying to emails, the White House admitted Tuesday. Tom Bossert, Trumps homeland security adviser, appeared to believe he was corresponding with Jared Kushner, and included his personal email address in his reply. Then-Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci also replied to a prank email, which he believed was from his rival Reince Priebus.
The Admin’s DHS point person on cyber security issues gave his personal email to a hacker pretending to be Kushner. https://t.co/NsD4QlBLaR
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) August 1, 2017
CORRUPTION AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Former Trump campaign manager mixes a new business with his access to the president, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn discloses ties to Cambridge Analytica.
Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski Has Advisory Firm While Advising White House
Trumps first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski maintains a role as an unofficial White House adviser, and has also started an advisory business whose clients have major interests before the Trump administration, the New York Times reports. His new firm once again puts Mr. Lewandowski at the center of the ethical quandaries surrounding the Trump White House, where the president has given significant access and power to friends and loyalists who are not on the government payroll but work as lobbyists or retain significant outside business interests, writes the Times.
Lewandowski had quit a new Washington lobbying firm he helped to start after the election three months ago; the new business, Lewandowski Strategic Advisors, was founded a week after leaving his old firm. The firm is said not to engage in lobbying or advocacy services, yet among his clients are an Ohio-based lender seeking to block new federal financial regulations. Other Trump aides who have joined advisory firms or made deals with lobbying firms include Jason Miller and Michael D. Cohen.
Flynn Amends Disclosure, Detailing Ties To Cambridge Analytica and Transition Pay
Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn had a brief advisory role with a firm related to Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data analysis company that helped the Trump campaign, according to Flynns amended public financial filings. Democratic lawmakers and Trump critics have seized on Cambridge Analyticas role as theyve pushed congressional investigators to scrutinize the Trump campaigns data operation as part of probes into Russias interference in the 2016 election, writes AP. The disclosure shows that just prior to the election, Flynn entered a consulting agreement with SCL Group, a Virginia-based company related to Cambridge Analytica. The disclosure also lists payment from the Trump transition team, and money received for consulting on a plan to build nuclear power plants through the Middle East.
FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Transcripts of Trumps phone calls with world leaders leak, his daughter meets with the UN chief, and the White House stays mum on Russian expulsion of U.S. diplomatic staff.
Transcripts of Trump Phone Calls With Mexico And Australia Leak, Revealing Combative Diplomacy
Transcripts of Trumps first phone calls in January with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked and published by the Washington Post Thursday. In the transcripts, Trump appears combative and impatient, an unusual diplomatic strategy to adopt when dealing with allies. I have had it, Trump told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after a discussion about a deal between the countries to resettle refugees. I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day. He went on to say that Putin was a pleasant call. Details of this call had been previously reported, which Trump had described as FAKE.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) August 3, 2017
Trump also pressured the Mexican president to stop saying publicly that his government would not pay for a border wall. In the same conversation, he described New Hampshire as a drug-infested den, a comment which drew criticism from its politicians. The president is wrong, said New Hampshires Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire. Its disappointing his mischaracterization of this epidemic ignores the great things this state has to offer.
— Ned Price (@nedprice) August 3, 2017
Some were critical of the leak, which is symptomatic of an administration in which many secrets have become public, as a violation of norms that may make world leaders less candid in their conversations with Trump.
Transcripts of @POTUS calls w/leaders of Mexico; Australia were embarrassing. Yet the leaking of them feels like a terrible precedent.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 4, 2017
Trump Questions Quality Of His Military Advice On Afghanistan
In a two-hour July 19 meeting in the situation room on the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, Trump appeared to compare the advice he received from his generals to that of a paid consultant who cost a New York restaurateur profits because of bad advice. Trump had recently met with veterans who criticized the American strategy, and seemed to believe they were better positioned to advise him. To make the point, he drew a comparison with Manhattans 21 Club, which had hired an expensive consultant to advise on a renovation, whose only recommendation after a year of consideration was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen. Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result, NBC News reports. He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn’t a three-star general he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that in his own experience in business talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcomes.
Contradicting Trumps Claims, McMaster Concludes Rice Did Nothing Wrong Over Unmasking Claims
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has determined that his predecessor Susan Rice did nothing wrong amid accusations of unmasking the identities of Trump associates. In an April interview, Trump claimed Rice may have committed a crime by unmasking the names of Trump associates, redacted in intelligence reports.
Ivanka Trump Has Private Meeting With United Nations Secretary General
Donald Trumps daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump had a private lunch meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was not present at the meeting, although a White House official said Ivanka was coordinating her conversations with Haley.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss womens economic empowerment, one of Ivankas pet issues. Before taking on her White House role, Ivanka ran a fashion business and had no foreign policy experience.
White House Quiet On Russian Expulsion Of U.S. Diplomats
Russian President Vladimir Putins decision, announced on the weekend, to expel hundreds of American diplomats has met with silence from the White House. Asked about the issue on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, Right now were reviewing our options, and when we have something to say on it, well let you know.
Could someone send me the statements of outrage from the WH or State about the Russian expulsion of our diplomats? Haven’t seen yet.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 31, 2017
In a tweet on Thursday morning, Trump suggested souring relations with Russia were due to the U.S. Congress, not Russian interference in the election and its increasingly aggressive foreign policy. The tweet drew rebuke, including implicitly from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who tweeted the same day: Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies.
Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2017
Tillerson Turns Down Millions Allocated By Congress For Fighting Russian Disinformation and Terrorist Propaganda
Congress allocated $80 million to the State Department for fighting Russian disinformation and terrorist propaganda, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has not accepted the funds. One Tillerson aide suggested in discussions that the money was unwelcome because funding programs to counter Russian media influence would anger Moscow, according to POLITICO. It is highly unusual for a Cabinet secretary to turn down money for his department. But more than five months into his tenure, Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Departments Global Engagement Center, reports POLITICO. $60 million is currently at the Pentagon, and will expire on September 30 if not transferred to State by then. “This is an extraordinary example of the dysfunction that is ripping through the State Department,” Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat told POLITICO. “What we’re seeing is a small group of people with very thin knowledge making all the decisions in a very centralized and isolated process. It causes unnecessary delays and confusion.”
Image: Ann Heisenfelt / Getty
|Trump turns on GOP Congress – The Hill|
|Vice President Pence’s hawkish tone on Russia contrasts with Trump approach – Reuters|
|AP News in Brief at 6:04 am EDT – Daily Mail|
|The Coming of Trumpangulation – U.S. News & World Report|
|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|Tom Maertens Mankato – Google Search|
Mankato Free Press–1 hour ago
The Trump administration continues to deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, including hacking 21 state voter databases; the …
Mankato Free Press–Apr 21, 2017
Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents … He lives in Mankato.
|trump, putin, mob – Google Search|
Mankato Free Press–1 hour ago
What most Americans don’t understand is the connection between Putin, the KGB/FSB, and the Russian mob. Boris Yeltsin himself described …
Reuters–Aug 3, 2017
Trump’s desire for better ties with Moscow has been hamstrung by the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that President Vladimir Putin’s …
Tahlequah Daily Press–6 hours ago
A good title for the entire Trump–Putin saga might be “The Naive and … in which crooks haul off a temporary bank housed in a mobile home, …
New York Magazine–22 hours ago
Born in Moscow and raised in Brooklyn, Sater was Donald Trump’s … Sater’s assistance in investigations of the Mafia, the Russian mob, … If there really is a sinister explanation for the mutual affinity between Trump and Putin, …
|Stop Hyping Trump’s Links to the Russian Mob (Op-ed)|
Gage Skidmore / Flickr
It seems there is some new claim to link Donald Trump and his business empire with “Russian organized crime” almost every day.
There are plenty of reasons to think that Trump’s business model is flawed to the point of being a pyramid scheme, and that his taste in buyers and investors is in the extreme.
But talk of his becoming an ally or instrument of organized crime misses the point.
There is real organized crime in Russia, just as there is everywhere. Some proper gangsters have, from time to time, shown up in these Trump tales.
One notorious old-school Russian criminal or “thief-within-the-code,” as the old underworld elite was called, even lived in the New York Trump Tower for a while.
But there is no evidence Trump and Vyacheslav “Yaponchik” Ivankov, ever met. And given that at the time Ivankov had no criminal record in the United States, there is a distinct limit to how big a deal one can make of this.
The real connection, it would seem, is that many dubious Russian figures who are in the United States illegally have bought into Trump properties. As with so much up-market real estate dealing, it is likely these deals are in part money laundering.
Trump certainly stands accused of building a property empire which has disproportionate exposure to questionable Russian cash. But that’s not quite the “smoking gun” so many yearn for.
First of all, Trump’s aesthetics — all gilt, no guilt — probably appealed to the 1990s generation of Russian nouveau riche. For them, no excess was excessive. Furthermore, communities often cluster, and as the “Trump brand” became known, others gravitated towards it.
More to the point, 1990s Russian money was by definition dirty, generated in a bare-knuckled era of gangster capitalism where the laws were still being rewritten and the market was whatever your muscle or connections made it.
Things have moved on, and there are genuinely quite reputable Russian companies and banks these days, but even they are usually built on money made in the days when all money was dirty.
This is how capitalism emerges, how generations slowly turn yesterday’s dirty practices into today’s historical foibles — think Lloyd’s underwriting slavery or America’s “robber barons.” Unpicking clean money from dirty in the Russian economy is no more possible than it is in the global economy.
So if you sell to Russians without caring too much who they are, or if you look for investments outside the handful of blue-chip Russian sources, what will you get?
A mix of a clean, gangster but mainly just grubby money, courtesy of what is still a rapacious, corrupt, capital-flighty, embezzlement-heavy, corrupt economy.
That said, the odds are that you’re dealing with Russian businessmen, not tattooed criminal gangsters.
Get beyond the street-level thuggery and the supply chains moving trafficked people and drugs to the lucrative Western markets and your modern “Russian organised crime” figure is likely an entrepreneur with a portfolio of assets from the dirty to the essentially clean.
He’ll be educated and solvent, connected to local and even national political circles and savvy enough to move his money around so that it is next to impossible to prove its criminal origins.
In this respect, they are not that different from so many investors from China, Africa or so many other parts of the world where economic opportunities have outpaced morality and governance. And they are not just buying into Trump properties, they are investing in central London penthouses, Caribbean mansions, Miami beachfront condos, and luxury yachts.
In the current feverish mood, in which many believe that opposing and decrying Trump is a patriotic duty, there is a risk that all this sounds like excusing him. However, I would suggest it is actually raising the rather more real and general problem.
However satisfying it might be to find proof that a tattooed Russian mobster carried a suitcase of blood-stained cash into Trump Tower and bought off the president-to-be, that seems rather unlikely.
Trump was ahead of the downward curve, driven by his desperate need to bail out an often-mismanaged property empire by looking for emerging market money, including from Russia.
There is no evidence yet that this has turned him into a pawn of a mythologized “Russian mafia” or the Kremlin, but that shouldn’t be the only point.
Instead, his business dealings hold up a depressingly accurate mirror to the worst-case scenarios of today’s transnational financial markets.
They also show the “business-is-business” values these markets embody, in which compliance too often simply means deniability, and in which everyone is willing to be a money laundry, so long as there has been a little pre-washing beforehand.
Trump’s sin, and his service, is to show us the dangers in unrestrained, globalized capitalism. Bigly.
Mark Galeotti is a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague and coordinator of its Center for European Security.
The views and opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.
|My View: Evidence shows Trump, businesses connected to Russia | Editorials|
The Trump administration continues to deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, including hacking 21 state voter databases; the campaign/White House issued at least 20 blanket denials of meeting with Russians, now shown to be lies.
The evidence is overwhelming that Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort knowingly conspired with Russia to alter the 2016 election. Trump Jr. was told explicitly that the June 9 meeting he accepted with several Russians was very sensitive because Russia was supporting his father.
His emails make the transactions clear: the Kremlin offered assistance, and subsequently left behind “compromising material” on Hillary Clinton; Trump Jr. willingly accepted it knowing it came from Russia and was intended to affect the election. The (eventual) quid pro quo involved “adoptions” (the Magnitsky Act), which imposed sanctions on 44 of Putin’s cronies linked to murder, corruption or cover-ups.
Besides the Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner meetings, Page, Flynn, and Sessions also met with Russian officials and lied about it.
The idea that these meetings took place without the knowledge and direction of Trump is laughable. Trump has consistently defended Russia, and denigrated his own intelligence community and the press, while impeding or obstructing investigations.
For his part, Trump had multiple private meetings with Putin at the Hamburg G20 meeting, with no Americans present. There was no American notetaker in the Oval Office meeting Trump had with Russians where he disclosed highly classified information. What else did Trump give away?
Why did Jared Kushner attempt to set up a secret back-channel communication with the Kremlin inside the Russian embassy to avoid detection by U.S. intelligence?
We already know that Roger Stone, a Trump campaign official, admitted to having contacts with Wikileaks, which the CIA director labelled a hostile intelligence service, (and which Trump professed to “love” over 140 times during the last 30 days of the campaign) and with Guccifer 2.0, a front for Russian military intelligence. Stone also betrayed his involvement by his foreknowledge that John Podesta’s email account would be hacked.
Several investigations are underway which should confirm who the culprits were and how they manipulated the elections.
What most Americans don’t understand is the connection between Putin, the KGB/FSB, and the Russian mob. Boris Yeltsin himself described Russia as “the biggest mafia state in the world.”
The connection dates back to the Communist Party’s rainy day slush fund — said to exceed $20 billion — in case Gorbachev’s reforms got out of control and they had to flee the country. The KGB was charged with exporting the money, which it subcontracted to the mob to launder and invest abroad.
When the Soviet Union disintegrated, Yeltsin abolished the Communist Party, leaving the KGB/mafia with all that money, which they used to buy real estate abroad and distressed enterprises in Russia as their own insurance policies.
When Putin succeeded Yeltsin as president, he endorsed Russian intelligence connections with the country’s mobsters and oligarchs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they served his personal interests. Multiple sources make clear that Putin and the FSB/KGB essentially control the Russian mob.
According to James Henry, former chief economist at McKinsey & Company, some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has been sent out of Russia since the 1990s, parked mostly in real estate, like Trump’s. In fact, Trump Jr. said in 2008 that most of the Trump money was coming from Russia.
The Guardian has uncovered elaborate ties between the Trump family and Russian money laundering in New York real estate (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/24/jared-kushner-new-york-russia-money-laundering).
According to Craig Unger in The New Republic, 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 over the past three decades. USA Today reported that “the president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.”
Unger cites multiple sources about hundreds of Trump units that were sold to “Russian-speakers” and concludes that, without the Russian mafia, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.
Trump is clearly running scared, desperate to stop the investigation; he fired Comey, he’s threatening to fire Mueller and is talking about presidential pardons, all intended to obstruct justice. As former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said: “Trump looks ‘super guilty.’”
Trump continues to claim the Russia connection is a “hoax,” but it’s gotten the Trump crime family in deep trouble.
Tom Maertens worked on Soviet and then Russian affairs for a dozen years, inside the State Department, at the U.S. Consulate General in Leningrad, and as Minister-Counselor for Science, Environment and Technology at U.S. Embassy Moscow. Sources for this article can be found in the online version at mankatofreepress.com
|Trump lashes out over Russia probe, after news of grand jury (VIDEO) | World|
US President Donald Trump accompanied by Senator Shelly Moore Capito arrive at Huntington tri-state airport for a rally in Huntington, West Virginia, August 3, 2017. — Reuters picWASHINGTON, Aug 4 — Donald Trump described Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a “total fabrication” yesterday amid reports that a special prosecutor has impaneled a grand jury to investigate the issue, a step toward possible criminal indictments.
“We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you,” Trump said at a campaign-style rally in West Virginia.
Trying to build support among his core supporters, he said his enemies were “trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly, demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.”
“The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made-up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda, and no vision,” he said.
“The Russia story is total fabrication. It’s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.”
His comments came after the Wall Street Journal revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury to investigate Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election.
The newspaper, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported that the grand jury had begun its work in the US capital Washington “in recent weeks.”
The move is a sign that the sweeping federal investigation — which includes allegations that Trump campaign officials coordinated with Russia to tilt the election in the Republican’s favour — is gathering pace.
The establishment of a grand jury will allow Mueller — a former FBI director — to subpoena documents and get sworn testimony. It could well lead to criminal indictments.
“It’s a significant escalation of the process,” national security attorney Bradley Moss told AFP.
“You don’t impanel a grand jury unless your investigation has discovered enough evidence that you feel reflects a violation of at least one, if not more, criminal provisions,” he said.
“If you secure an indictment, your next step is to arrest the defendant.”
Presidential lawyer Ty Cobb said he was not aware that a grand jury had been convened.
“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Cobb said, adding that “the White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.”
“The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr Mueller.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was not likely the subject of the investigation.
“Former FBI director Jim Comey said three times the president is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that has changed,” she said.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment on the report.
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of collusion, saying he is the victim of a political “witch hunt” and “fake news”.
But he has been forced to acknowledge that his eldest son, Donald Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then campaign advisor Paul Manafort did meet a Kremlin-connected lawyer to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Mueller is also said to be investigating Trump’s financial records unrelated to Russia or the election, CNN reported.
Trump has publicly warned Mueller that his financial dealings should be out of bounds and investigating them would cross a red line.
If called to testify before a grand jury, Trump would not be the first president to do so. Then president Bill Clinton was forced to give details about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, evidence that was used in his impeachment.
yesterday’s revelations will only fuel speculation that Trump may try to curb the investigation by firing Mueller.
Two US senators introduced a bipartisan bill yesterday to pre-empt that move by insulating Mueller.
The legislation, sponsored by Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Thom Tillis, would bar a president from directly firing the special counsel without a judicial review.
Under the bill, Mueller would be allowed to challenge his removal in court in the event he is fired without good cause.
“A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances,” Tillis said in a statement.
Coons added: “Ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation.” — AFP
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|Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half – New York Times|
|What is a grand jury Robert Mueller Trump Russia|
Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has impaneled a grand jury, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The grand jury has been working for several weeks already, according to The Journal, and marks an escalation of the investigation into the election meddling and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign team was involved.
“It is a clear sign that this investigation is escalating, and it likely means we are going to see a parade of White House staffers and other Trump associates coming in and out of the courthouse in downtown Washington,” Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman under President Barack Obama, told Business Insider.
“While testimony is secret, you can’t hide who is coming in and out of that courthouse,” Miller said, “and it will put tremendous pressure on White House staffers who will be wondering what their friends and associates testified to behind closed doors.”
Reuters reported that the jury had already issued subpoenas related to the June 2016 meeting between Trump’s eldest son and a Russian lawyer with connections to the Kremlin. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended the meeting.
A grand jury “serves as the mechanism by which” criminal charges are initiated, according to Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor, and it has the authority to subpoena documents and witnesses.
“In any complex or long-term criminal investigation, therefore, federal prosecutors will go to the grand jury to compel the production of documents or records,” Whiting wrote in May. “Or if they want to force witnesses to testify under oath, which a grand jury subpoena requires unless the witness has a valid privilege not to testify.”
Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national-security law, told The Journal that the grand jury was “a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel.”
Emily Pierce, who was a Justice Department official in the Obama administration, told Business Insider that impaneling a grand jury “does not necessarily mean Mueller will bring charges,” adding that “it certainly ups the ante for anyone who may be a target of this probe.”
Miller said the choice of venue for the grand jury was “notable,” too.
“Washington is where any obstruction-of-justice crimes that occurred in the White House would be appropriately venued,” he said.
Mueller reportedly expanded the investigation in May to include obstruction of justice, days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the Russia probe.
In June, Mueller took over the grand-jury investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying work for a Turkish businessman, according to Reuters. And experts say Mueller appears to be widening his investigation into Trump’s associates by impaneling the second grand jury.
“While many people have focused on the potential actions of the president and whether he can face charges, I think that the lower-level folks who are reportedly targets have more to fear, given it is likely more difficult to indict a president than a campaign operative,” Pierce said.
“If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy,” he told The Journal. “This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”
Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, said that impaneling a grand jury was “an early step, not a late step, in an investigation.”
“It means there is enough evidence to warrant serious investigation,” Mariotti wrote on Twitter. “But it does not mean that charges will be sought.”
The White House said in a statement attributed to Ty Cobb, the special counsel to the president, that it “favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.”
He continued: “The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
Whiting previously wrote that grand jury investigations “can last for months or even years, as prosecutors chase down evidentiary leads and amass the documentary and testimonial evidence.”
According to reports, Mueller has additionally expanded the investigation to examine Trump’s financial history and business dealings, and he recently added a 16th lawyer to his team of investigators: Greg Andres, a former Justice Department official who managed the department’s program targeting illegal foreign bribery.
Citing people familiar with the investigation, CNN reported on Thursday that “federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward.”
The investigators are apparently examining Trump Organization financial records and looking at who purchased Trump-branded real estate in the past six years, according to CNN. They’re also probing the backgrounds of people like the Russian-Azerbaijani oligarch Aras Agalarov, who helped bring Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.
|Exclusive: Grand jury subpoenas issued in relation to Trump Jr., Russian lawyer meeting|
August 3, 2017 / 8:42 AM / 44 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with a June 2016 meeting that included President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and a Russian lawyer, two sources told Reuters on Thursday, in a sign that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is gathering pace.
The sources added that Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington to help investigate allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to tilt the presidential election in Trump’s favor. Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, is leading the probe, which also examines potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia.
Moscow denies any meddling and Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.
Mueller’s use of a grand jury could give him expansive tools to pursue evidence, including issuing subpoenas and compelling witnesses to testify. The impaneling of the grand jury was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
A spokesman for Mueller declined comment.
A grand jury is a group of ordinary citizens who, working behind closed doors, considers evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing that a prosecutor is investigating and decides whether charges should be brought.
“This is a serious development in the Mueller investigation,” said Paul Callan, a former prosecutor.
“Given that Mueller inherited an investigation that began months ago, it would suggest that he has uncovered information pointing in the direction of criminal charges. But against whom is the real question.”
U.S. stocks and the dollar weakened following the news, while U.S. Treasury securities gained.
News last month of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who he was told had damaging information about his father’s presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, fueled questions about the campaign’s dealings with Moscow.
The Republican president has defended his son’s behavior, saying many people would have taken that meeting.
Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.
Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said he was not aware that Mueller had started using a new grand jury.
“Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly. … The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”
John Dowd, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, said: “With respect to the news of the grand jury, I can tell you President Trump is not under investigation.”
A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.
Lawyers for Trump Jr. and Kushner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
One source briefed on the matter said Mueller was investigating whether, either at the meeting or afterward, anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign encouraged the Russians to start releasing material they had been collecting on the Clinton campaign since March 2016.
Another source familiar with the inquiry said that while the president himself was not now under investigation, Mueller’s investigation was seeking to determine whether he knew of the June 9 meeting in advance or was briefed on it afterward.
Additional reporting by Noeleen Walder, Jan Wolfe, Anthony Lin, Jonathan Stempel, Tom Hals, Julia Ainsley and Joel Schectman; Writing by Frances Kerry and Phil Stewart; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney
August 2, 2017 / 9:07 PM / 21 hours ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Attorney General Jeff Sessions last weekend that his job was safe after Sessions endured several weeks of sharp public criticism from President Donald Trump, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Kelly, who was named chief of staff by Trump on Friday, phoned Sessions on Saturday to reassure him the White House wanted him to remain as head of the Justice Department, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The conversation was first reported by the Associated Press.
Kelly said Trump was still annoyed with Sessions’ decision in March to recuse himself from the investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, but there had been “kind of a thaw” in Trump’s attitude toward him, according to the official.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
The Kremlin says it did not interfere in the election, and Trump has denied any collusion.
Last week, Trump assailed Sessions in a tweet as “very weak” and said he was “very disappointed” with his attorney general in a Wall Street Journal interview.
When asked at a news conference last week about Sessions’ future, Trump replied: “Time will tell. Time will tell.”
Republican lawmakers rallied to the defense of Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, and Trump has not mentioned him in tweets in recent days.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney
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|Oh, Wait. Maybe It Was Collusion.|
They then employed a cover story — adoptions — to make it believable to the outside world that there was nothing amiss with the proposed meetings. They bolstered this idea by using cutouts, nonofficial Russians, for the actual meeting, enabling the Trump team to claim — truthfully — that there were no Russian government employees at the meeting and that it was just former business contacts of the Trump empire who were present.
When the Trump associates failed to do the right thing by informing the F.B.I., the Russians probably understood that they could take the next step toward a more conspiratorial relationship. They knew what bait to use and had a plan to reel in the fish once it bit.
While we don’t know for sure whether the email solicitation was part of an intelligence ploy, there are some clues. A month after the June meeting at Trump Tower, WikiLeaks, a veritable Russian front, released a dump of stolen D.N.C. emails. The candidate and campaign surrogates increasingly mouthed talking points that seemed taken directly from Russian propaganda outlets, such as that there had been a terrorist attack on a Turkish military base, when no such attack had occurred. Also, at this time United States intelligence reportedly received indications from European intelligence counterparts about odd meetings between Russians and Trump campaign representatives overseas.
Of course, to determine whether collusion occurred, we would have to know whether the Trump campaign continued to meet with Russian representatives subsequent to the June meeting. The early “courting” stage is almost always somewhat open and discoverable. Only after the Russian intelligence officer develops a level of control can the relationship be moved out of the public eye. John Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., recently testified, “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”
Even intelligence professionals who respect one another and who understand the Russians can and often do disagree. On the Trump collusion question, the difference of opinion comes down to this: Would the Russians use someone like Mr. Goldstone to approach the Trump campaign? Our friend and former colleague Daniel Hoffman argued in this paper that this is unlikely — that the Russians would have relied on trained agents. We respectfully disagree. We believe that the Russians might well have used Mr. Goldstone. We also believe the Russians would have seen very little downside to trying to recruit someone on the Trump team — a big fish. If the fish bit and they were able to reel it in, the email from Mr. Goldstone could remain hidden and, since it was from an acquaintance, would be deniable if found. (Exactly what the Trump team is doing now.)
If the fish didn’t take the bait, the Russians would always have had the option to weaponize the information later to embarrass the Trump team. In addition, if the Russians’ first objective was chaos and disruption, the best way to accomplish that would have been to have someone on the inside helping. It is unlikely that the Russians would not use all the traditional espionage tools available to them.
However, perhaps the most telling piece of information may be the most obvious. Donald Trump himself made numerous statements in support of Russia, Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks during the campaign. At the same time, Mr. Trump and his team have gone out of their way to hide contacts with Russians and lied to the public about it. Likewise, Mr. Trump has attacked those people and institutions that could get to the bottom of the affair. He fired his F.B.I. director James Comey, criticized and bullied his attorney general and deputy attorney general, denigrated the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and assails the news media, labeling anything he dislikes “fake news.” Innocent people don’t tend to behave this way.
The overall Russian intent is clear: disruption of the United States political system and society, a goal that in the Russian view was best served by a Trump presidency. What remains to be determined is whether the Russians also attempted to suborn members of the Trump team in an effort to gain their cooperation. This is why the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is so important. It is why the F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation, also quietly progressing in the background, is critical. Because while a Russian disruption operation is certainly plausible, it is not inconsistent with a much darker Russian goal: gaining an insider ally at the highest levels of the United States government.
In short, and regrettably, collusion is not off the table.
|Trump Signs Russian Sanctions Into Law, With Caveats|
In the statement to Congress, Mr. Trump said the bill “included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.” Although he added that “I nevertheless expect to honor” the waiting periods, he did not commit to it. Moreover, he took issue with other provisions, saying only that he “will give careful and respectful consideration to the preferences expressed by the Congress.”
“This bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” Mr. Trump said in the separate statement to reporters. “Congress could not even negotiate a health care bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people and will drive China, Russia and North Korea much closer together.”
“Yet despite its problems,” he added, “I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”
Like Mr. Trump, who has offered no public comment or even a Twitter message about the Russian order to slash the number of United States Embassy workers, it appears that Mr. Putin has not completely given up on the idea of establishing closer relations. The Russian government took its retaliatory action before the president signed the bill so that it would be a response to Congress, not to Mr. Trump.
After Mr. Trump signed the measure on Wednesday, the Russian government reaction was mild. “De facto, this changes nothing,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin press secretary, who was traveling with Mr. Putin in the Russian Far East, according to the Interfax news agency. “There is nothing new.”
He added that no new retaliation should be expected. “Countermeasures have already been taken,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry attributed the sanctions to “Russophobic hysteria” and reserved the right to take action if it decided to. Vasily A. Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said the law would do nothing to change Moscow’s policies. “Those who invented this bill, if they were thinking that they might change our policy, they were wrong,” he told reporters. “As history many times proved, they should have known better that we do not bend, we do not break.”
Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, declared the “end to hope for the improvement of our relations” and mocked Mr. Trump for being forced to sign. “The Trump administration has demonstrated total impotence, handing over executive functions to Congress in the most humiliating way possible,” he wrote on Facebook. He added that “the American establishment has totally outplayed Trump” with the goal “to remove him from power.”
American lawmakers said the new law sent an important signal that Russia would be held to account for its election interference and aggression toward its neighbors. But the lawmakers expressed concern about whether Mr. Trump would try to sidestep the measure.
The president’s signing statement “demonstrates that Congress is going to need to keep a sharp eye on this administration’s implementation of this critical law and any actions it takes with respect to Ukraine,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and a prime driver behind the legislation, said, “I remain very concerned that this administration will seek to strike a deal with Moscow that is not in the national security interests of the United States.”
The Trump administration continues to send mixed messages about Russia.
Vice President Mike Pence, who has been visiting Eastern Europe in recent days to shore up allies nervous about an assertive Kremlin, told a group of Balkan prime ministers on Wednesday that Russia sought “to redraw international borders by force” and “undermine your democracies.”
“The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we call on our European allies and friends to do the same,” he said in Montenegro, the latest Eastern European nation to join NATO. He noted that the president would sign the sanctions legislation.
“Let me be clear: The United States prefers a constructive relationship with Russia based on mutual cooperation and common interests,” Mr. Pence said. “But the president and our Congress are unified in our message to Russia: A better relationship and the lifting of sanctions will require Russia to reverse the actions and conduct that caused sanctions to be imposed in the first place.”
But just a day earlier, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson offered a somewhat different take, focusing on the potential for cooperation with Russia in fighting the Islamic State and finding a resolution to the civil war in Syria. Rather than sounding unified with Congress, Mr. Tillerson complained that lawmakers should not have passed the sanctions legislation.
“The action by the Congress to put these sanctions in place and the way they did, neither the president nor I are very happy about that,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “We were clear that we didn’t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts, but that’s the decision they made. They made it in a very overwhelming way. I think the president accepts that.”
|After Trump, “big data” firm Cambridge Analytica is now working in Kenya – BBC News|
|After Trump, “big data” firm Cambridge Analytica is now working in Kenya|
A social media data firm that worked for Donald Trump and which once claimed ties to a pro-Brexit campaign group is now reportedly working for Kenya’s incumbent president.
Cambridge Analytica’s mission statement is simple. On its website, the firm says it “uses data to change audience behaviour.” Most notably, the company was hired by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and has been given some credit for Trump’s electoral success.
The company purchases and compiles data on voters – including their browsing history, location data and Facebook likes. On its website, Cambridge Analytica claims to possess up to 5,000 data points on more than 230 million American voters. When combined with on-the-ground surveys, Cambridge Analytica can use this vast information bank to target key messages at relevant voters.
Now, Cambridge Analytica is working in Kenya, helping in the effort to re-elect President Uhuru Kenyatta.
On 10 May, The Star newspaper in Kenya reported that Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party had hired the firm, and a month later, the same newspaper reported that Cambridge Analytica was working from the seventh floor of the party’s headquarters in Nairobi.
Cambridge Analytica refused to comment on those reports to BBC Trending, but the global privacy-protection charity Privacy International confirmed that they had seen similar information to The Star, citing local sources, and said that Cambridge Analytica was being paid $6 million for its work in the country.
Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in Kenyan politics began in 2013, when the company worked for Kenyatta and The National Alliance – the forerunner of the Jubilee Party. During that year’s campaign, the company correlated online data with 47,000 on-the-ground surveys. According to the Cambridge Analytica website, this allowed the company to create a profile of the Kenyan electorate and come up with a campaign strategy “based on the electorate’s needs (jobs) and fears (tribal violence).” Kenyatta won the 2013 election.
Kenyans are among the most active social media users in Africa. The number of mobile phone users in the country shot up from 8 million in 2007 to 30 million in 2013, and 88% of the population can now access the internet through their phones.
Having served as Minister of Information and Communication from 2005 to 2013, Bitange Ndemo was one of the driving forces behind Kenya’s technological expansion. He told BBC Trending that social media plays a “key role” in the country’s political campaigns.
“It provides a fast way of responding to your opponent’s propaganda,” he said. “Plus, it is perhaps the only medium that can reach most young people.”
At the same time, Kenya’s recent political history has been marred by violence. This reached a peak after the 2007 general election, when a contested result caused tribal divisions to erupt – 1,100 people were killed in the ensuing conflict, while 650,000 were displaced.
“Kenya is very tricky political terrain,” says Paul Goldsmith, an American researcher and writer who’s lived in Kenya for 40 years. “Cambridge Analytica might have access to surveys and other data, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into useful insights. There’s always something unpredictable during elections here. There’s always a curveball.”
“Western companies, charities and development experts tend to run into obstacles when they come to Africa,” Goldsmith says. “I would be surprised if Cambridge Analytica was any different.”
Tribal divisions continue to frame Kenyan politics. Each political party remains closely affiliated with a particular ethnic group. Though Kenyatta did not stand for president in 2007, he was accused of encouraging members of his native Kikuyu tribe to attack Luo tribesmen, who were represented in the election by Raila Odinga. The charge was taken to the International Criminal Court, but ultimately dismissed in December 2014 due to a lack of evidence. Odinga, who maintains that he was cheated out of victory in 2007, is standing against Kenyatta this time around.
During primary elections earlier this year, held to decide the candidates for each party, seven people were killed as rival groups accused each other of vote rigging. Earlier this week, a senior election official was reported dead, and a close colleague told the press that he had been tortured and murdered.
A spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica told Trending that the company is not involved in any negative advertising in Kenya, and that the company “has never advocated the exploitation of ethnic divisions in any country.”
Cambridge Analytica’s presence in Kenya has prompted concerns about data protection. “Kenya does not currently have specific data protection legislation,” says Claire Lauterbach, a researcher at Privacy International. “This basically means that it’s unclear which agencies or companies can have access to individuals’ data, including sensitive information.”
Cambridge Analytica’s strategy involves the mass harvesting and analysis of voter data. Data protection campaigners are therefore concerned about what might happen to this data after the election.
The issue even worries former government ministers, including Bitange Ndemo, who says the government has failed to pass the data protection laws that he drafted when in office. “Somehow Parliament did not quite understand its importance,” he told Trending. “We need to protect personal data. The fears that data may be abused should be a concern to all.”
In response, Cambridge Analytica said that the company is not compiling individualised data profiles on Kenyan voters, and a spokesperson also stated that a data harvesting programme on the same scale as recent American campaigns is not possible in Kenya.
Cambridge Analytica is heavily funded by Robert Mercer, a US businessman who helped to fund Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and was a member of Trump’s transition team. Mercer is also a major donor to Breitbart News, the website that current White House chief strategist Steve Bannon ran before joining the Trump campaign, and Bannon was once on Cambridge Analytica’s board of directors.
Cambridge Analytica is currently being investigated by the UK’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), regarding its alleged use of analytics in the recent EU referendum campaign.
Following the Brexit vote, it was widely reported that Cambridge Analytica had assisted the unofficial Leave.EU campaign – affiliated with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage and insurance tycoon Aaron Banks. Leave.EU’s former communications director, Andy Wigmore, told the Observer in February that Cambridge Analytica was “more than happy to help… we shared a lot of information.”
Banks, one of the founders of Leave.EU, has made contradictory statements about Cambridge Analytica’s role in the campaign on Twitter. At one point, in response to a story about the firm, Banks seemed to credit the company’s technology with advancing the Brexit cause:
However, he later said that Leave.EU did not enlist the company, because the Electoral Commission (EC) designated a different group as the official Leave campaign:
Cambridge Analytica now denies that it was ever involved in the EU referendum campaign, and has lodged a legal complaint against the Observer.
Kenya is not the only developing country election where Cambridge Analytica is now getting involved. Bloomberg News reported that the company is also conducting initial research in Mexico, in advance of that country’s presidential election in 2018.
Blog by Sam Bright
|William Evanina – Google Search|
Reuters–Jul 31, 2017
William Evanina, the National Counterintelligence Executive, described a wide array of challenges his agency faces: hacking of government …
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… on a health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2017. … both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue,” said William Evanina, National …
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Hollywood Reporter–6 hours ago
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… working with both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue,” said William Evanina, National Counterintelligence Executive, referring to the White House …
<a href=”http://malaysiandigest.com” rel=”nofollow”>malaysiandigest.com</a>–10 hours ago
William Evanina, the National Counterintelligence Executive, told Reuters that his US intelligence agencies “have not seen a deterrence, or a …
|No let-up in spying amid tit-for-tat Russian sanctions: U.S official|
July 31, 2017 / 5:44 PM / 2 days ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia still runs a versatile spying campaign against the United States despite sanctions and daily publicity about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the top U.S. counter-intelligence official said in an interview.
William Evanina, the National Counterintelligence Executive, described a wide array of challenges his agency faces: hacking of government and industry secrets; industrial espionage; government employees and contractors who share secrets with the news media and groups such as WikiLeaks and foreign acquisition of strategic U.S. industries.
Evanina spoke to Reuters on Friday, the same day that Russia retaliated in Cold War-era style to a new round of U.S. sanctions by ordering Washington to cut diplomatic staff and said it was seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties. Russian President Vladimir Putin said 755 people would have to leave their jobs, although many will be Russian nationals.
Congress voted overwhelmingly last week to further punish Russia over U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow had used cyber warfare and other methods to meddle in the election, something Putin has repeatedly denied. Last December, then-President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, sanctioned Russian intelligence agencies and personnel, and evicted Russian officials from two diplomatic compounds in the United States.
Evanina said that losing the compounds was a “significant blow to the Russians. Significant. And I’m not even sure we … can measure it.”
He said, however, that U.S. agencies “have not seen a deterrence, or a drop – or an increase,” in Russian spying activity in the last year. “I can tell you, the FBI does not have less work.”
Still, Evanina acknowledged that in the tit-for-tat expulsions, the United States has more to lose than Moscow.
“We have a significantly … smaller footprint over there than they do here. It’s always going to be disproportionate.”
The United States has long pursued its own aggressive espionage and electronic surveillance operations against Russia and, before that, the Soviet Union. Russia’s cuts to U.S. personnel and property will shrink the diplomatic infrastructure that countries typically rely on to both conduct foreign affairs – and spy.
Evanina said Russian espionage strategy has shifted over the last five to seven years, no longer relying solely on intelligence officers formally employed by its spy agencies. Now, he said, it also involves dispatching businessmen, engineers and other travelers to the United States working as contractors for intelligence services.
Evanina declined to comment on U.S. investigations into Moscow’s election year activities and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials. Trump denies any collusion.
He said that in the past year, he has worked intensively with the U.S. private sector to protect critical infrastructure and supply chains from foreign threats. Evanina suggested that the United States could soon adopt more stringent reviews of foreign acquisitions that have national security implications.
Reuters reported on July 20 that the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has objected to at least nine acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign buyers so far this year, a historically high number that bodes poorly for China’s overseas buying spree.
Reporting by Warren Strobel and John Walcott; editing by Grant McCool
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|The Gluten in Wheat’s Rise|
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|russian wheat quality problems – Google Search|
Western Producer–Jul 24, 2017
MOSCOW, July 24 (Reuters) – Russian wheat export prices were mixed last week after rallying for nine straight weeks due to concerns over a …
Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide–Jul 31, 2017
Russian wheat export prices were stable last week after increasing for 10 straight weeks due to easing concerns over the quality of this year’s …
Bloomberg–17 hours ago
Hard red spring wheat, a variety grown in the northern plains of the U.S. … causes all manner of digestive problems among people with dietary … higher- and lower-protein crops at Russian Black Sea ports close to a … Just as unusual conditions in the coffee market have led lower-quality robusta beans to …
|Russia wheat suffers quality problems|
MOSCOW, July 24 (Reuters) – Russian wheat export prices were mixed last week after rallying for nine straight weeks due to concerns over a lack of high quality wheat and strengthening competition with France for wheat supplies to Egypt.
Black Sea prices for Russian wheat with 12.5 percent protein content and for August delivery were at US$196 a tonne on a free-on-board (FOB) basis at the end of last week, up $1 a tonne from a week earlier, IKAR agriculture consultancy said in a note.
“The quality of the crop is not better than a year ago, according to the preliminary data. It was not too good last year,” Dmitry Rylko, the head of IKAR, said.
Prices for wheat with 11.5 percent protein content were at $185 per tonne, down $3, due to rising supply, it added.
According to SovEcon, another Moscow-based consultancy, Russian wheat prices were also under pressure last week due to rising competition in the Egyptian wheat market.
Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer and the largest buyer of Russian wheat. At the latest state tender, Egypt’s GASC bought 300,000 tonnes of wheat, including 120,000 tonnes of Russian wheat and 120,000 tonnes of Romanian wheat. It also purchased 60,000 tonnes of French wheat.
Russia has agreed to supply a large amount of wheat to the GASC in recent months, and once these contracts are fulfilled, Russian wheat prices may go down as the wheat crop in its southern regions – the main producing area for Russia’s Black Sea exports – is so far as high as a year ago, a trader said.
According to SovEcon, barley prices rose $3.5 to $167 per tonne. IKAR pegged them at $164 per tonne, up $2.
As of July 19, Russia had exported 1.1 million tonnes of grains since the start of the 2017-18 marketing season on July 1, 6.2 percent less than a year ago. That included 520,000 tonnes of wheat, down 37.8 percent from the same period a year ago.
Domestic prices for third-class wheat rose 150 roubles to 9,425 roubles ($158) a tonne in the European part of Russia on an ex-works basis, according to SovEcon. Ex-works supply does not include delivery costs.
Russia’s grain harvesting has been delayed by rainy weather in several regions this year.
Russian sunflower seed prices were stable at 19,525 roubles per tonne, SovEcon said, while domestic sunflower oil prices increased by 500 roubles to 44,000 roubles and export oil prices were up $10 to $735 per tonne.
Sunflower seeds have been sown on a record area of 7.9 million hectares, up 300,000 hectares from a year ago, SovEcon said.
IKAR’s white sugar price index for southern Russia rose to $702.4 a tonne last week from $697.9 a week earlier.
|russian wheat – Google Search|
Business Recorder (press release) (registration) (blog)
Western Producer–Jul 24, 2017
MOSCOW, July 24 (Reuters) – Russian wheat export prices were mixed last week after rallying for nine straight weeks due to concerns over a …
Russia’s August grain exports seen at up to 4.3mn T
Business Recorder (press release) (registration) (blog)–Jul 24, 2017
|Advocate.com: Trump Follows Russias Lead on LGBT Hostility|
Advocate.com: 14 Ways Donald Trump Is a ‘Burden’ to Us Advocate.com Advocate.com: Trump Follows Russia’s Lead on LGBT Hostility Our failing president admires Putin’s way of doing things, including targeting LGBT people for discrimination. Advocate.com
|Putin is in a corner, trying not to look weak|
While hyped as a sign that the Kremlin had both lost patience with President Trump and was still willing to show its teeth, it probably better demonstrates
than anything else.
The US sanctions
in response to its alleged interference in the 2016 US elections. By contrast, the Kremlin is demanding that the Americans cut their diplomatic missions staff in Russia by 755, bringing them down to the same numbers as Moscow’s people in Washington.
There is a strange asymmetry, given that in the past sanctions and responses have tended to mirror each other, not least for symbolic impact.
Back then, Moscow decided not to respond, making a grand public play of its forbearance. After all, Trump was heading for the White House, and there were still hopes in Putin’s team that his fulsome praise of Russia might be translated into some practical gains.
Since then, though, the Russians have learned the painful lesson that Trump promises more than he can deliver and have watched as a suspicious Congress, a hostile media and a rolling judicial investigation increasingly tie his hands when it comes to working with Moscow.
With this new round of sanctions, Putin clearly felt he could not afford not to respond. For a leader who has built so much of his personal legitimacy on his image as the defender of Russian interests, the risk was that he would look weak.
But the fact that the best they could do was, in effect, to pull some old counter-sanctions out of the deep freeze, underlines the sharp disparity between Moscow and Washington’s positions.
This latest move will certainly inconvenience both the US State Department and also any Russian wanting a US visa or otherwise hoping to use the services of America’s embassy and consulates there. It will be especially problematic for all those Russians employed by the US government who will find themselves unemployed.
But while Putin called these “biting” measures, that is something of an exaggeration. In the grand scheme of things, they will be pretty limited in their impact. Diplomatic contacts will continue, visas will be processed — albeit more slowly. Exchanges will still take place.
The truth of the matter is that while Putin had rather more “biting” options at his disposal, they would hurt him more that they would hurt the Americans. NASA, for example, still depends on Russian rockets to loft its astronauts to the International Space Station, and Moscow could have refused to do this any more — but that would have cost Russia’s cash-strapped space program almost a billion dollars in 2017 and 2018 alone.
Likewise, Russia exports nothing essential to America, and with a GDP smaller than that of New York state’s, there is minimal scope for other economic moves.
So discount the instant “Putin gets tough” headlines.
Not only are the Russians still desperate not to burn their bridges with Trump — tellingly, the counter-sanctions were announced after the US measures were passed on the Hill, but before the presidential signature, so they can be sold as a response to “Congress’s sanctions” — these are eye-catching but essentially empty measures.
As ever, Putin is trying to look tough, while being in an extremely weak position.
|google censorship – Google Search|
Gatestone Institute–Jul 26, 2017
Google is not the only technology company enamored with censorship. In June, Facebook announced its own plans to use artificial intelligence …
World Socialist Web Site–Jul 30, 2017
The focus of Google’s new censorship algorithm is political news and opinion sites that challenge official government and corporate narratives.
World Socialist Web Site–Jul 31, 2017
Over the past week, the World Socialist Web Site has revealed that changes to Google’s search algorithm aimed at censoring “fake news” have …
The Daily Caller–19 hours ago
Google And YouTube Ban Prof Who Refused To Use … or that there’s something that’s political going on that is associated with censorship.”.
|Russia to auction giant 51-carat polished diamond online | Style Magazine|
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