8:32 AM 11/4/2017 – In Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort is a new link… Mogilevich…

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1. News in Photos from mikenova (4 sites)
WSJ.com: World News: The Politics of Venezuela’s Debt Crisis

A looming debt default for Venezuela, long seen as catastrophic for the countrys oil-dependent economy, may yet provide a vital political boost for embattled President Nicolás Maduro.

WSJ.com: World News

 

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The Sleazy Case Against Muellers Probe
“Very Frustrated Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement
Putins trolls targeted America, not Hillary
trump criminal investigation – Google News: ‘Very Frustrated’ Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement – New York Times
Palmer Report: Donald Trumps bodyguard called in to testify about the Pee Pee Tape
03.11.2017 19:28
03.11.2017 19:41
3:40 PM 11/3/2017 – Posts on G+
03.11.2017 20:40
03.11.2017 21:03
Video – Louis Armstrong Ochi Chernyie (Dark eyes) https://t.co/foG2eqcqY9 via @YouTube
03.11.2017 22:06
03.11.2017 22:19
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5:28 PM 11/3/2017 – RECENT POSTS
03.11.2017 22:30
03.11.2017 22:30
04.11.2017 01:05
04.11.2017 01:16
04.11.2017 01:19
China Disputes Trump’s Claims Of Fentanyl ‘Flood’ Into United States
Paul Manafort has just been given a trial date, and here comes Donald Trumps meltdown
Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman – Toronto Star
Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for … – Daily Mail
Grigory Leps expands his Brothers’ circle – https://en.crimerussia.com/

 

Saved Stories – None
The Sleazy Case Against Muellers Probe

“Well before any public knowledge of these events,” Sipher notes, Steele’s report “identified multiple elements of the Russian operation including a cyber campaign, leaked documents related to Hillary Clinton, and meetings with Paul Manafort and other Trump affiliates to discuss the receipt of stolen documents. Mr. Steele could not have known that the Russians stole information on Hillary Clinton, or that they were considering means to weaponize them in the U.S. election, all of which turned out to be stunningly accurate.”

(After this column went to print, The Times reported that Trump foreign-policy adviser Carter Page met with Russian government officials in a July 2016 trip to Moscow, something he has long denied. This further confirms another claim made in the Steele dossier.)

There’s more of this, but you get the point: The suggestion that the Steele dossier has been discredited is discreditable to the point of being dishonest.

This brings us to the second anti-Mueller contention, which is that his indictment of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for tax fraud connected to his political work in Ukraine, along with news of the guilty plea entered by Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the F.B.I., is merely evidence of the slimness of the special counsel’s case.

The nonchalance about Manafort’s illicit ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine is almost funny, coming from the same people who went berserk over China’s alleged meddling on behalf of Democrats in the 1996 presidential campaign.

But if nothing else, the Manafort indictment underscores the Trump campaign’s astonishing vulnerability to Russian blackmail.

Did that vulnerability explain the campaign’s bizarre intervention (denied by Manafort) to soften the Republican Party platform’s language on providing help to Ukraine?

Why did the campaign pursue a course of semi-secret outreach to Russia through George Papadopoulos, giving him just enough visibility to let the Russians know he was a player but not so much visibility as to attract much media attention?

What else about Trump’s obsequious overtures to the Kremlin might similarly be explained by the contents of the Steele dossier?

These questions require answers, which is what makes calls to remove Mueller from his job or have Trump pardon Manafort, Papadopoulos and even himself both strange and repugnant. Since when did conservatives suddenly become conveniently bored with getting to the bottom of Russian conspiracies?

As it turns out, they’re not bored. They just want the conspiracies to involve liberals.

Thus the third Trumpian claim: That the real scandal is that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee paid for the Steele dossier. Somehow that’s supposed to add up to “collusion” between Clinton and the Russians, on the remarkable theory that Steele was merely retailing Kremlin-invented fables about Trump.

Yet how else was Steele supposed to investigate allegations of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign except by talking to Russian sources with insight into the Kremlin? If Clinton was the beneficiary of the Kremlin’s designs, why did it leak her emails? And why would Putin favor the candidate most hostile to him in last year’s election but undermine the one who kept offering improved relations?

You already know the answers. The deeper mystery is why certain conservatives who were once Trump’s fiercest critics have become his most sophistical apologists. The answer to that one requires a mode of analysis more psychological than political.

Continue reading the main story

“Very Frustrated Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement

Mr. Trump has made clear that he sees the attorney general and the F.B.I. director as his personal agents rather than independent figures, lashing out at both for not protecting him from the Russia investigation.

In May, he fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who later testified that he had refused Mr. Trump’s demands that he pledge loyalty and publicly declare that the president was not personally under investigation. In July, Mr. Trump told The New York Times that he would never have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known that Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the investigation.

While his lawyers have for now persuaded Mr. Trump not to publicly attack Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, the president has not ruled out firing him, a scenario that other presidents facing special prosecutors considered virtually unthinkable. Asked on Friday whether he might fire Mr. Sessions if the attorney general does not investigate Democrats, Mr. Trump left open the prospect: “I don’t know,” he said.

The president’s Twitter posts and comments drew rebukes from Democrats and some Republicans. Former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who served for six years under President Barack Obama, said Mr. Trump’s comments make the job of law enforcement officials more difficult.

“Combined with his improper attempts to influence Department of Justice actions, this demonstrates that he is a president who is willing to flout those norms that protect the rule of law,” Mr. Holder said in an interview.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican who has broken with Mr. Trump, said the Justice Department should be free of political interference.

“President Trump’s pressuring of the Justice Department and F.B.I. to pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place are totally inappropriate and not only undermine our justice system but erode the American people’s confidence in our institutions,” he said.

Some conservatives defended Mr. Trump’s right to exercise oversight of the country’s law enforcement agencies, saying that it would be dangerous to have an attorney general and an F.B.I. director who were not answerable to elected leaders.

“The notion that law enforcement, in particular, is somehow to be insulated from political influences and therefore inevitably insulated from political accountability is a horribly dangerous idea from the standpoint of civil liberty,” said David B. Rivkin Jr., a White House and Justice Department lawyer under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

However, Mr. Rivkin added, “That doesn’t mean you exercise your authority to direct those things in a crude and obscene fashion. You have to exercise some politesse about it.”

Other presidents have been criticized for political intervention when they spoke out about continuing criminal cases. Peter J. Wallison, who was the White House counsel under Reagan, said his president at times spoke out on cases of interest, including the investigation of Reagan’s onetime adviser Michael K. Deaver.

“I would try to discourage him, for all the good reasons people in the White House are probably trying to discourage Trump, but it was to no avail,” Mr. Wallison said. “Trump is doing the same, except to a greater extent.”

Mr. Wallison noted that Mr. Obama at times commented on investigations, recalling statements denying wrongdoing by the Internal Revenue Service when conservative groups found their tax exemptions targeted for scrutiny. “Presidents say these things because they are human beings and have emotions,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is little evidence that public statements have any effect on outcomes.”

Before Watergate, presidents were less reluctant to intervene in law enforcement. The administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had the F.B.I. wiretap the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. President Richard M. Nixon had the bureau eavesdrop on the telephone calls of reporters.

But in the past four decades, no president has sought to publicly pressure law enforcement as much as Mr. Trump.

In a barrage of a dozen tweets on Thursday night and early Friday, Mr. Trump railed at law enforcement agencies for not investigating Democrats. He cited Tony Podesta — the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta — who stepped down from his firm this week amid scrutiny of his lobbying business by Mr. Mueller. And he cited a book excerpt by Donna Brazile, the former interim Democratic National Committee chairwoman, who wrote that last year’s primaries were tilted by a fund-raising agreement that the committee made with Mrs. Clinton.

“I’m really not involved with the Justice Department,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving on a 12-day trip to Asia. “I’d like to let it run itself. But honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump tweeted that Mrs. Clinton “stole the Democratic Primary” from Bernie Sanders and asserted that there was “major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering.”

“At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper,” Mr. Trump wrote.

“Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems,” he also tweeted.

Mr. Trump’s interest in directing law enforcement decisions extends beyond his political opposition but carries its own risk. The president’s support for capital punishment for the New York terrorism suspect, Sayfullo Saipov — “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY,” he tweeted — could pose problems for prosecutors and help defense lawyers who could argue that their client cannot get a fair trial.

Mr. Trump also weighed in again on Friday on the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to desertion and endangering other troops by walking away from his base in Afghanistan and getting captured by the Taliban. Mr. Trump, who last year called Sergeant Bergdahl a “dirty rotten traitor” who should be executed, expressed outrage when a military judge on Friday gave the sergeant a dishonorable discharge but no jail time.

“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

But Mr. Trump’s own outspokenness may have helped lead to the very result he was condemning. The judge did not explain his reasoning on Friday but last week said he would consider the president’s past comments as evidence for a lighter sentence.

Continue reading the main story

Putins trolls targeted America, not Hillary

The Facebook ads placed by a Russian troll farm and released Wednesday show the Russian propaganda campaign of 2016 didn’t favor either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Instead, it mocked and goaded America.

This directly contradicts US intelligence assessments. “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the assessment released in January stated. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference” for Trump.

If the ads placed by the St. Petersburg Internet Research Agency, a troll collective linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-connected restaurateur, reflect the strategy of the influence campaign, the intelligence community was wrong. The ads backed white nationalist as well as black causes. They often targeted Clinton before the election but switched to attacking Trump afterward. The ads against both were even visually similar.

A conceivable defense of the intelligence conclusion is that you can’t interfere in the election after the voters have chosen, so only the anti-Clinton bias of the Russian campaign really made a difference. That argument is lame, however.

Neither the trolls with their tiny budgets (at best, hundreds of thousands of dollars compared with the hundreds of millions spent by the candidates and their US backers) nor Russian state media with their laughable reach could’ve hoped to shape the election outcome. That would assume they knew more about US-based influence tools than the entire US political industry.

Even today, the best Russian experts on the political uses of the social networks believe it would’ve been impossible to tip the scales. Leonid Volkov, an Internet entrepreneur and campaign manager to Putin’s No. 1 domestic foe Alexei Navalny, wrote on Facebook on Thursday:

“When people discuss, in all seriousness, ‘election interference’ by means of $100,000 worth of Facebook ads (hundreds of times less than the Clinton and Trump campaigns spent on FB ads), when leading political publications show as ‘proof’ hellish pictures the most viral of which garnered all of 200,000 views (and most got only a few thousand; 500 rubles — not thousand dollars, not even dollars — was spent on promoting some of them) . . . it is, above all, simply shameful.

“Darn, we got a total of 2 million views for our social network ads before a rally in Astrakhan, and it cost us 20,000 rubles.”

The trolls, on entry-level salaries of about $1,000 a month, are far less savvy than Navalny’s. The silly mistakes they made in their English — the misuse of modal verbs, the missing articles, the clumsy turns of phrase — are evidence they were the lowest of info-war foot soldiers.

They weren’t playing to win the election, just to stir things up. They weren’t Republicans or Democrats: These parties don’t operate in St. Petersburg. They were trolls, happy to make a dent here, create a disturbance there.

The campaign was not tied to election timelines: It’s permanent, and it will go on while the United States and Russia are adversaries. Elections and government changes that do nothing to alter the relationship between countries are just a useful background for propaganda, disinformation and sheer trollery because they politicize the audience and draw its attention to the divisive issues that propagandists exploit. Instability and confusion are the primary goals, and they’re easy to achieve on the cheap.

The Kremlin’s goal was not to promote either candidate. Though Putin made no secret of his special dislike for Clinton, he was never short-sighted enough to trust Trump — and no one in a position of power in Russia ever indicated that he did. The influence campaign’s real goal was to amplify America’s organic discord and undermine trust in institutions.

The hearings about the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube ads, with angry senators and squirming corporate lawyers hoping to avoid heavy-handed, misguided regulation, serve this purpose even better than the original ads did. US legislators look powerless; the Americans who were supposedly taken in by the cheap, badly made ads look ignorant.

US intelligence agencies look politicized and incapable of serious analysis, let alone an effective resistance, when it comes to Russian “active measures.”

The fit of US self-flagellation likely goes beyond the trolls’ and propagandists’ wildest dreams. A great nation, with the world’s best-funded and most professional media and an institutional framework other nations could only dream of, ought to be able to ignore the Russian propagandists’ pitiful, incompetent efforts.

©2017, Bloomberg View

trump criminal investigation – Google News: ‘Very Frustrated’ Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement – New York Times


New York Times
‘Very Frustrated’ Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement
New York Times
That frustration has been fueled particularly by Mr. Trump’s inability to control the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during last year’s election, an investigation that unveiled its first criminal charges 
Trump’s latest impeachable actionsWashington Post

all 24 news articles »

 trump criminal investigation – Google News

Palmer Report: Donald Trumps bodyguard called in to testify about the Pee Pee Tape

Donald Trump’s greatest fear isn’t that he’ll be impeached, or that his conspiracy with Russia to rig the election will be unearthed, or even that his lifetime of financial crimes will be exposed. Trump’s biggest fear is that the mythical “Pee Pee Tape” will surface, depicting him doing lewd things with Russian prostitutes. Trump’s fears are now one step closer to becoming a reality.

The House Intelligence Committee is calling in Donald Trump’s longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller to testify about the Trump-Russia scandal. This has long been expected. What comes as a surprise is that according to the Washington Post (link), the committee is zeroing in specifically on Trump’s 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant, which is the trip in which the “Pee Pee Tape” incident is alleged to have taken place. This leaves Schiller with the prospect of revealing what he knows about the incident, or finding himself in contempt of Congress.

After taking office, Donald Trump gave Keith Schiller a key security job in the White House. However, adding to the intrigue, Schiller resigned that job six weeks ago without offering a coherent explanation. Now he finds himself testifying about the scandal that Trump fears the most. If Trump did rendezvous with Russian prostitutes during that trip, it’s likely Schiller would have known about it. Whether or not Trump’s actions during that rendezvous constituted a crime under U.S. law, Schiller will be committing a crime if he lies about what he saw. There is another odd angle to this.

Various Republicans in Congress have recently begun pushing the false claim that Hillary Clinton was behind the Pee Pee Tape assertion. They may be bringing in Keith Schiller to testify about the Pee Pee Tape trip, in an attempt at further scandalizing the underlying Trump-Russia dossier. However, the more focus the GOP puts on the dossier, the greater the odds that someone will leak the Pee Pee Tape to prove the dossier’s legitimacy.

The post Donald Trump’s bodyguard called in to testify about the Pee Pee Tape appeared first on Palmer Report.

 Palmer Report

03.11.2017 19:28

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3:40 PM 11/3/2017 – Posts on G+

3:40 PM 11/3/2017 – Posts on G+

3:40 PM 11/3/2017 Posts on G+ | Global Security News

Posts on G+ from mikenova Posts on G+ from mikenova (2 sites) Public RSS-Feed of Mike Nova. Created with the PIXELMECHANICS ‘GPlusRSS-Webtool’ at : 03.11.2017 19:10 Public RSS-Feed of Mike Nova. Created with the PIXELMECHANICS ‘GPlusRSS-Webtool’ at : 03.11.2017 18:34 Public RSS-Feed of Mike Nova. Cr…

03.11.2017 20:40

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Video – Louis Armstrong Ochi Chernyie (Dark eyes) https://t.co/foG2eqcqY9 via @YouTube

Louis Armstrong Ochi Chernyie (Dark eyes) https://t.co/foG2eqcqY9 via @YouTube

03.11.2017 22:06

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5:28 PM 11/3/2017 – RECENT POSTS

5:28 PM 11/3/2017 – RECENT POSTS

5:28 PM 11/3/2017 RECENT POSTS | The World News and Times

The World News and Times 5:16 PM 11/3/2017 The World News and Times: Crooks, Traitors, or Both? Trump Investigations Report: 2:40 PM 11/3/2017 Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime and Semyon Mogilevich 4:21 PM 11/2/2017 Shooting at a Colorado Walmart 1:50 PM 11/2/2017 How the Russian…

03.11.2017 22:30

03.11.2017 22:30

04.11.2017 01:05

04.11.2017 01:16

04.11.2017 01:19

China Disputes Trump’s Claims Of Fentanyl ‘Flood’ Into United States

Law enforcement agencies and drug control experts say most of the fentanyl distributed in the U.S., as well as precursor chemicals, originate from China.

Paul Manafort has just been given a trial date, and here comes Donald Trumps meltdown

Days after Paul Manafort’s arrest, additional court documents were unsealed which offered a much deeper look at his money laundering shenanigans and how tightly they were tied to Russia. Accordingly, Donald Trump had a meltdown last night on Twitter which saw him randomly accusing Hillary Clinton of money laundering. He had finally figured out that he’s going to be nailed for the same kind of Russian money laundering as Manafort. Things became even more real for Trump today when Manafort was assigned a trial date.

Today a federal judge assigned Paul Manafort a trial date of May 7th, 2018. Lest that date give anyone the wrong impression, this is how these kinds of schedules tend to work. One legal expert told Palmer Report that this date is slightly sooner than would normally have been expected for a trial of this type. In any case, this will only go to trial if Manafort refuses to cut a deal and in that scenario, Mueller will have long moved on by flipping other witnesses against Trump instead.

So it’s not as if this trial date means a lot to the Trump-Russia investigation itself. Manafort will have flipped long before then, or his trial will end up being irrelevant to the Trump-Russia probe anyway. But this date will matter to Donald Trump. He’s clearly been following the Manafort developments closely this week. No matter how addled Trump’s brain may be, some of these details are managing to get through to him. He’s panicked about the money laundering charges. Now he’s just found out that Manafort is indeed set for trial, and that the courts aren’t just going to magically set Manafort free because of unicorns and rainbows. So now we all know what’s coming next.

Depending on when the news of Paul Manafort’s trial date finally reaches an increasingly isolated and coddled Donald Trump, we’re looking at perhaps his most berserk meltdown to date. Perhaps he’ll tweet that he just learned Hillary Clinton is going on trial for money laundering on May 7th, 2018. Perhaps he’ll just go indiscriminately off the deep end. In any case, get your popcorn.

The post Paul Manafort has just been given a trial date, and here comes Donald Trump’s meltdownappeared first on Palmer Report.

Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman – Toronto Star


Toronto Star
Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman
Toronto Star
Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman. As he leaves on a … Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, seen here in an Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, has the potential to destroy Donald Trump’s teetering 
Gregg Jarrett: Still no evidence of Trump-Russia ‘collusion’ – but Hillary is a different matterFox News
FBI to Donald Trump: Happy HalloweenWaterloo Cedar Falls Courier
You bet there’s collusion: And other reasons Donald Trump should be nervous after Robert Mueller’s indictmentsNew York Daily News
The Independent –Department of Justice
all 8,223 news articles »
Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for … – Daily Mail


Daily Mail
Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for …
Daily Mail
Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for exchanging lewd text messages with teen. Exclusive: Undercover FBI agent on one of the biggest takedowns in history; Kim Kardashian in charge …

Grigory Leps expands his Brothers’ circle – https://en.crimerussia.com/

Grigory Leps expands his Brothers’ circle
https://en.crimerussia.com/
On another, they visit someone’s grave in Kazan together with the leader of an organized criminal group Sevastopol Radik Yusupov (Drakon – Dragon), at the time when he was supposed to be in a colony. На дне рождения «вора в … In 2013 U.S.authorities 

 

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Putins trolls targeted America, not Hillary
“Very Frustrated Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement
The Sleazy Case Against Muellers Probe
Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman
China Disputes Trump’s Claims Of Fentanyl ‘Flood’ Into United States
Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman – Toronto Star
What Donald Trump Thinks It Takes to Be a Man – New York Times
Presidents of France and Russia Tackle Issues on Syria and Iran – Prensa Latina
US Lobbyists Missed Red Flags in Manafort-linked Contracts
Parliament Asks Twitter About Russian Meddling in Brexit Vote
Voice of America: US Lobbyists Missed Red Flags in Manafort-linked Contracts
golosamerikius’s YouTube Videos: «Старик Мюллер не подкачал»
Anthony Weiner – Google News: Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for … – Daily Mail
In Donald Trump’s world, the buck stops over there | Opinion
How Will Putin Play Trumps Russia Investigation Narrative?
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Elections 2016 Investigation – Google News: US Republicans seek special counsel’s removal from Russia probe – Reuters
calls for Comey’s resignation – Google News: US Republicans seek special counsel’s removal from Russia probe – Reuters
putin won US 2016 election – Google News: How Will Putin Play Trump’s Russia Investigation Narrative? – Newsweek
Uzbekistan: Where the New York Terror Suspect Was Radicalized
Is Jared Kushner next to be indicted in Russia investigation? – Metro US
trump criminal investigation – Google News: Russia, Trump, and the 2016 US Election – Council on Foreign Relations
Cyprus Gave Manafort’s Bank Records to Mueller Team, Sources Say – Bloomberg
Russian trolls exploit social media to stir racial chaos – The Philadelphia Tribune
Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime

 

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Putins trolls targeted America, not Hillary

mikenova shared this story from Leonid Bershidsky New York Post.

The Facebook ads placed by a Russian troll farm and released Wednesday show the Russian propaganda campaign of 2016 didn’t favor either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Instead, it mocked and goaded America.

This directly contradicts US intelligence assessments. “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the assessment released in January stated. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference” for Trump.

If the ads placed by the St. Petersburg Internet Research Agency, a troll collective linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-connected restaurateur, reflect the strategy of the influence campaign, the intelligence community was wrong. The ads backed white nationalist as well as black causes. They often targeted Clinton before the election but switched to attacking Trump afterward. The ads against both were even visually similar.

A conceivable defense of the intelligence conclusion is that you can’t interfere in the election after the voters have chosen, so only the anti-Clinton bias of the Russian campaign really made a difference. That argument is lame, however.

Neither the trolls with their tiny budgets (at best, hundreds of thousands of dollars compared with the hundreds of millions spent by the candidates and their US backers) nor Russian state media with their laughable reach could’ve hoped to shape the election outcome. That would assume they knew more about US-based influence tools than the entire US political industry.

Even today, the best Russian experts on the political uses of the social networks believe it would’ve been impossible to tip the scales. Leonid Volkov, an Internet entrepreneur and campaign manager to Putin’s No. 1 domestic foe Alexei Navalny, wrote on Facebook on Thursday:

“When people discuss, in all seriousness, ‘election interference’ by means of $100,000 worth of Facebook ads (hundreds of times less than the Clinton and Trump campaigns spent on FB ads), when leading political publications show as ‘proof’ hellish pictures the most viral of which garnered all of 200,000 views (and most got only a few thousand; 500 rubles — not thousand dollars, not even dollars — was spent on promoting some of them) . . . it is, above all, simply shameful.

“Darn, we got a total of 2 million views for our social network ads before a rally in Astrakhan, and it cost us 20,000 rubles.”

The trolls, on entry-level salaries of about $1,000 a month, are far less savvy than Navalny’s. The silly mistakes they made in their English — the misuse of modal verbs, the missing articles, the clumsy turns of phrase — are evidence they were the lowest of info-war foot soldiers.

They weren’t playing to win the election, just to stir things up. They weren’t Republicans or Democrats: These parties don’t operate in St. Petersburg. They were trolls, happy to make a dent here, create a disturbance there.

The campaign was not tied to election timelines: It’s permanent, and it will go on while the United States and Russia are adversaries. Elections and government changes that do nothing to alter the relationship between countries are just a useful background for propaganda, disinformation and sheer trollery because they politicize the audience and draw its attention to the divisive issues that propagandists exploit. Instability and confusion are the primary goals, and they’re easy to achieve on the cheap.

The Kremlin’s goal was not to promote either candidate. Though Putin made no secret of his special dislike for Clinton, he was never short-sighted enough to trust Trump — and no one in a position of power in Russia ever indicated that he did. The influence campaign’s real goal was to amplify America’s organic discord and undermine trust in institutions.

The hearings about the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube ads, with angry senators and squirming corporate lawyers hoping to avoid heavy-handed, misguided regulation, serve this purpose even better than the original ads did. US legislators look powerless; the Americans who were supposedly taken in by the cheap, badly made ads look ignorant.

US intelligence agencies look politicized and incapable of serious analysis, let alone an effective resistance, when it comes to Russian “active measures.”

The fit of US self-flagellation likely goes beyond the trolls’ and propagandists’ wildest dreams. A great nation, with the world’s best-funded and most professional media and an institutional framework other nations could only dream of, ought to be able to ignore the Russian propagandists’ pitiful, incompetent efforts.

©2017, Bloomberg View

“Very Frustrated Trump Becomes Top Critic of Law Enforcement

mikenova shared this story .

Mr. Trump has made clear that he sees the attorney general and the F.B.I. director as his personal agents rather than independent figures, lashing out at both for not protecting him from the Russia investigation.

In May, he fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who later testified that he had refused Mr. Trump’s demands that he pledge loyalty and publicly declare that the president was not personally under investigation. In July, Mr. Trump told The New York Times that he would never have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known that Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the investigation.

While his lawyers have for now persuaded Mr. Trump not to publicly attack Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, the president has not ruled out firing him, a scenario that other presidents facing special prosecutors considered virtually unthinkable. Asked on Friday whether he might fire Mr. Sessions if the attorney general does not investigate Democrats, Mr. Trump left open the prospect: “I don’t know,” he said.

The president’s Twitter posts and comments drew rebukes from Democrats and some Republicans. Former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who served for six years under President Barack Obama, said Mr. Trump’s comments make the job of law enforcement officials more difficult.

“Combined with his improper attempts to influence Department of Justice actions, this demonstrates that he is a president who is willing to flout those norms that protect the rule of law,” Mr. Holder said in an interview.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a Republican who has broken with Mr. Trump, said the Justice Department should be free of political interference.

“President Trump’s pressuring of the Justice Department and F.B.I. to pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place are totally inappropriate and not only undermine our justice system but erode the American people’s confidence in our institutions,” he said.

Some conservatives defended Mr. Trump’s right to exercise oversight of the country’s law enforcement agencies, saying that it would be dangerous to have an attorney general and an F.B.I. director who were not answerable to elected leaders.

“The notion that law enforcement, in particular, is somehow to be insulated from political influences and therefore inevitably insulated from political accountability is a horribly dangerous idea from the standpoint of civil liberty,” said David B. Rivkin Jr., a White House and Justice Department lawyer under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

However, Mr. Rivkin added, “That doesn’t mean you exercise your authority to direct those things in a crude and obscene fashion. You have to exercise some politesse about it.”

Other presidents have been criticized for political intervention when they spoke out about continuing criminal cases. Peter J. Wallison, who was the White House counsel under Reagan, said his president at times spoke out on cases of interest, including the investigation of Reagan’s onetime adviser Michael K. Deaver.

“I would try to discourage him, for all the good reasons people in the White House are probably trying to discourage Trump, but it was to no avail,” Mr. Wallison said. “Trump is doing the same, except to a greater extent.”

Mr. Wallison noted that Mr. Obama at times commented on investigations, recalling statements denying wrongdoing by the Internal Revenue Service when conservative groups found their tax exemptions targeted for scrutiny. “Presidents say these things because they are human beings and have emotions,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is little evidence that public statements have any effect on outcomes.”

Before Watergate, presidents were less reluctant to intervene in law enforcement. The administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had the F.B.I. wiretap the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. President Richard M. Nixon had the bureau eavesdrop on the telephone calls of reporters.

But in the past four decades, no president has sought to publicly pressure law enforcement as much as Mr. Trump.

In a barrage of a dozen tweets on Thursday night and early Friday, Mr. Trump railed at law enforcement agencies for not investigating Democrats. He cited Tony Podesta — the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta — who stepped down from his firm this week amid scrutiny of his lobbying business by Mr. Mueller. And he cited a book excerpt by Donna Brazile, the former interim Democratic National Committee chairwoman, who wrote that last year’s primaries were tilted by a fund-raising agreement that the committee made with Mrs. Clinton.

“I’m really not involved with the Justice Department,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving on a 12-day trip to Asia. “I’d like to let it run itself. But honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump tweeted that Mrs. Clinton “stole the Democratic Primary” from Bernie Sanders and asserted that there was “major violation of Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering.”

“At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper,” Mr. Trump wrote.

“Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn’t looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems,” he also tweeted.

Mr. Trump’s interest in directing law enforcement decisions extends beyond his political opposition but carries its own risk. The president’s support for capital punishment for the New York terrorism suspect, Sayfullo Saipov — “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY,” he tweeted — could pose problems for prosecutors and help defense lawyers who could argue that their client cannot get a fair trial.

Mr. Trump also weighed in again on Friday on the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to desertion and endangering other troops by walking away from his base in Afghanistan and getting captured by the Taliban. Mr. Trump, who last year called Sergeant Bergdahl a “dirty rotten traitor” who should be executed, expressed outrage when a military judge on Friday gave the sergeant a dishonorable discharge but no jail time.

“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

But Mr. Trump’s own outspokenness may have helped lead to the very result he was condemning. The judge did not explain his reasoning on Friday but last week said he would consider the president’s past comments as evidence for a lighter sentence.

Continue reading the main story

The Sleazy Case Against Muellers Probe

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“Well before any public knowledge of these events,” Sipher notes, Steele’s report “identified multiple elements of the Russian operation including a cyber campaign, leaked documents related to Hillary Clinton, and meetings with Paul Manafort and other Trump affiliates to discuss the receipt of stolen documents. Mr. Steele could not have known that the Russians stole information on Hillary Clinton, or that they were considering means to weaponize them in the U.S. election, all of which turned out to be stunningly accurate.”

(After this column went to print, The Times reported that Trump foreign-policy adviser Carter Page met with Russian government officials in a July 2016 trip to Moscow, something he has long denied. This further confirms another claim made in the Steele dossier.)

There’s more of this, but you get the point: The suggestion that the Steele dossier has been discredited is discreditable to the point of being dishonest.

This brings us to the second anti-Mueller contention, which is that his indictment of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for tax fraud connected to his political work in Ukraine, along with news of the guilty plea entered by Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to the F.B.I., is merely evidence of the slimness of the special counsel’s case.

The nonchalance about Manafort’s illicit ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine is almost funny, coming from the same people who went berserk over China’s alleged meddling on behalf of Democrats in the 1996 presidential campaign.

But if nothing else, the Manafort indictment underscores the Trump campaign’s astonishing vulnerability to Russian blackmail.

Did that vulnerability explain the campaign’s bizarre intervention (denied by Manafort) to soften the Republican Party platform’s language on providing help to Ukraine?

Why did the campaign pursue a course of semi-secret outreach to Russia through George Papadopoulos, giving him just enough visibility to let the Russians know he was a player but not so much visibility as to attract much media attention?

What else about Trump’s obsequious overtures to the Kremlin might similarly be explained by the contents of the Steele dossier?

These questions require answers, which is what makes calls to remove Mueller from his job or have Trump pardon Manafort, Papadopoulos and even himself both strange and repugnant. Since when did conservatives suddenly become conveniently bored with getting to the bottom of Russian conspiracies?

As it turns out, they’re not bored. They just want the conspiracies to involve liberals.

Thus the third Trumpian claim: That the real scandal is that the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee paid for the Steele dossier. Somehow that’s supposed to add up to “collusion” between Clinton and the Russians, on the remarkable theory that Steele was merely retailing Kremlin-invented fables about Trump.

Yet how else was Steele supposed to investigate allegations of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign except by talking to Russian sources with insight into the Kremlin? If Clinton was the beneficiary of the Kremlin’s designs, why did it leak her emails? And why would Putin favor the candidate most hostile to him in last year’s election but undermine the one who kept offering improved relations?

You already know the answers. The deeper mystery is why certain conservatives who were once Trump’s fiercest critics have become his most sophistical apologists. The answer to that one requires a mode of analysis more psychological than political.

Continue reading the main story

Donald Trump has two Hail Mary plays left fire Mueller, or start war with North Korea: Burman

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Feeling cornered and under siege, an angry Donald Trump has embarked on a crucial trip to Asia, the longest foreign tour of his imploding presidency.

Increasingly, Trump is acting like a man who sees only two ways to survive. Given that, the only remaining question for him in his desperation may be this: “What should I do first?”

Will he fire Robert Mueller as the special counsel investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, which now seems only a matter of time, even though it is certain to trigger a constitutional crisis?

Or will he first try to regain popular support by risking a catastrophic nuclear war with North Korea, now closer than ever in the absence of any genuine diplomacy happening, even though it would inevitably result in hundreds of thousands of casualties?

This is a dangerous period in the turbulent Trump presidency, and for the world.

When the history books are written about this era, it is hard not to conclude that this week’s developments will loom large. This was the week we learned the first strong indications that — to put it in Trump’s vernacular — the jig is up.

The announcement from the Mueller team last Monday was a bombshell. Two senior Trump campaign officials have been indicted and a third Trump adviser has pleaded guilty. The 12-count indictmentlaid out the first charges in Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with last year’s U.S. election — including the headline charge of “conspiracy against the United States.”

Read more: Trump talks like a strongman. Good thing he’s governing like a weak man: Analysis

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Even as a tiny fraction of what the Mueller team now undoubtedly knows, the court filings drew a staggering portrait of how Trump’s world operated last year. It revealed how Russian intelligence successfully penetrated Trump’s campaign operation at different levels.

For several months, including during the Republican convention of last summer, Trump’s campaign was run by Paul Manafort, who operated in secret as a foreign agent of a regime friendly to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Before Manafort joined Trump in an official capacity, the charges indicate he laundered tens of millions of dollars for the Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych.

Perhaps even more ominous for Trump is the unexpected guilty plea of former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — once described by Trump in an interview with The Washington Post as an “excellent guy.” Papadopoulos admitted to lying to the FBI about his attempts to set up meetings with Kremlin contacts in search of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

This week’s developments, as an opening volley from the Mueller team, provide an indication of what their strategy is. They are pressuring Manafort to co-operate and reveal what he knows about Trump’s role. They have already done a deal with Papadopoulos to tell them what he knows about who else was involved.

As Trump himself must know, it is widely accepted that Mueller has Trump’s tax returns in his possession. This means that Mueller’s team is able to pull together a complete picture of Trump’s financial relationship with Russians — including the years well before he announced for the presidency.

There have been numerous reports that Trump and his associates have been heavily financed by Russian oligarchs and mobsters, including those involved in money laundering, extortion, drugs and racketeering. If so, this would help explain why Trump has been so obsessively reluctant to be critical of Putin or of Russia since being elected president.

More than anyone, Trump would know the extent of his involvement with Russia — although Mueller, by now, may be a close second. Therein lies the danger for Trump. He knows that Mueller has the potential to destroying his presidency.

So — if you’re Trump — Mueller, somehow, has to be gotten rid of. The only question is when. Neither Trump nor his associates have ever acknowledged this, although Trump once described it as a “red line” if Mueller ever started examining his financial holdings. Mueller has certainly crossed that line.

It is widely accepted in Washington political circles that Trump is seeking an opportunity to fire Mueller. To this end, many of his media boosters at Fox News are working overtime in trying to come up with ways to discredit Mueller and his team.

Yes, the risks for Trump in this are enormous. Any firing of Mueller — not unlike the fabled “Saturday Night Massacre” by Richard Nixon in 1973 — would trigger a constitutional crisis. But in Trump’s mind, that would be a risk worth taking if the stark alternative — as a response to Mueller’s eventual findings — is impeachment.

This drama is only beginning.

Tony Burman is former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News. Reach him @TonyBurman or at tony.burman@gmail.com.

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US Lobbyists Missed Red Flags in Manafort-linked Contracts

mikenova shared this story from Voice of America.

Two U.S. firms caught up in the special counsel’s indictment against Paul Manafort claim to have been misled about the details of the former Trump campaign chairman’s lobbying efforts for Ukraine, but clear warning signals were readily available. Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service has turned up several U.S. and European news articles from 2007 to 2014, and spoken with Ukrainian politicians, that lay out connections between the Brussels-based non-profit that hired the firms and the then-ruling party in Ukraine a key fact that the lobbying firms claim not to have known at the time. “Lobbyists should have examined available information carefully at the time of the engagement as a matter of know-your-client procedure,” said Gene Burd, a Washington-based international business partner with Arnall Golden Gregory LLP. He said the two firms listed in the indictment as Company A and Company B, but recently identified as Mercury Public Affairs and The Podesta Group  should also “have kept up with the changing management situation and sources of financing of the organization.” Manafort, who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman for three months in 2016, was indicted in a U.S. federal court Monday on multiple charges including having failed to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government at a time when his firm was acting on behalf of then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Kremlin Party of Regions. The indictment describes that work as part of a “scheme” by Manafort and co-defendant Rick Gates to generate U.S. support for the party, which favored aligning Kyiv with Moscow instead of seeking European Union membership, as many Ukrainians advocated. The indictment says both lobbying groups were recruited by Manafort’s firm to act on behalf of a Brussels-based non-profit known as the European Center for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU) from 2012 to 2014. It says the ECFMU was, in fact, a vehicle for advancing the interests of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Both firms deny that they knowingly engaged in an image-rehabilitation campaign for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, as the indictment indicates. Their latest public statement reiterates their claim that they were led to believe they were working only for ECFMU, which they understood to be a pro-EU think tank that sought to inform U.S. government officials about Ukraine. Podesta Group CEO Kimberley Fritts told VOA’s Ukrainian Service in August 2016, when their undisclosed foreign lobbying efforts were first reported, that, relying on the opinion of in-house and external legal counsel, her organization lawfully represented ECFMU interests in the United States without registering under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). “Because [our] firm was partnering with Mercury, [Podesta] in-house counsel coordinated with Mercury’s [in-house] counsel and Mercury’s outside legal counsel,” she was quoted as saying in an official statement emailed to VOA from the Podesta group. “Together, they concluded that LDA [Lobbying Disclosure Act] was the appropriate reporting route.” LDA registration is required of U.S. lobbyists representing business and non-governmental foreign interests such as cultural or educational organizations, whereas FARA’s more rigorous and legally binding registration disclosures are required to lobby on behalf of foreign governments or political parties. Fritts also told VOA that the two lobbying groups agreed to work for the ECFMU only after its director filed a written statement verifying that “none of the activities of the Center are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in part by a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party.” Former ECFMU director Ina Kirsch verified Fritts’ account of events, telling VOA that she personally assured Podesta and Mercury legal counsel that ECFMU “has never received any money from the Party of Regions, Ukrainian government or president,” and that it received funds from only private companies. Kirsch also said that ECFMU did not pay any money to the U.S. firms for their lobbying work. That claim is supported by Monday’s indictment, which states that “companies A and B,” which collectively received more than $2 million for their work, were paid not by the ECFMU, but from offshore bank accounts run by Manafort’s firm in Kyiv. “We believed [Manafort’s associate, Rick Gates, who introduced ECFMU to the Podesta Group] was working for [the ECFMU], as we were hired to do,” the Fritts statement said. However, an online search of news articles from 2007 to 2014 reveal Manafort’s role as Yanukovych’s principal strategist and identify the ECFMU as a vehicle of the Party of Regions. A 2007 New York Times report on then-prime minister Yanukovych, for example, portrayed Manafort as a “behind-the-scenes” impresario who had taken the “once divisive [Yanukovych], reviled by some [Ukrainians] as a shady reactionary and Kremlin pawn,” and turned him into “arguably the nation’s most popular politician.” Similar reports by Ukrainian news outlets described the range of Manafort’s political lobbying strategies and cited ECFMU documents that positioned the non-profit as a Party of Regions instrument of international influence. In March 2012, Ukrainska Pravda, one of Ukraine’s most influential mainstream news websites, published an ECFMU exposé that listed long-time Party of Regions MP Leonid Kozhara who went on to become Yanukovych’s foreign minister in December of that year as head of the ECFMU. The article also identifies two other prominent Party of Regions MPs, Evgen Geller and Vitaly Kalyzhny, as ECFMU founders. In a June 2012 interview with Kyiv-based Glavcom, Kozhara mentions the center’s financial dependence on government sources and describes its alignment with his government’s international objectives. Glavcom reporter: It is known that you have co-founded the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, which looks like it is busy with improving the image of Ukrainian authorities as related to the case of [then-imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia] Tymoshenko. Is this so? ECFMU’s Kozhara: … When I received an invitation from Brussels to chair the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, I was honored. I saw it as an acknowledgment of my work. When asked about the sources of ECFMU financing, Kozhara said: “As all NGOs, we have membership fees, but business structures and government structures all give money. If they want to receive the assistance, they should pay membership fees.” In an August 2016 interview with VOA, Kozhara denied having ever held a position with the ECFMU, describing himself as an unpaid board member of various NGOs, of which ECFMU was but one. Manafort and Gates are accused of serving as unregistered foreign agents of Ukrainian interests in violation of Department of Justice registration requirements. Between them, Manafort and Gates controlled 12 domestic entities, 12 Cyprus-based entities and three other foreign entities, according to the indictment. In all, $75 million passed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is alleged to have laundered more than $18 million. Gates is accused of laundering more than $3 million from offshore accounts. Podesta Group founder Tony Podesta, a long-time Democratic Party fund-raiser and brother to former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, abruptly resigned from the group hours after the indictment was made public. John, who co-founded the group with his brother in 1988, has not been associated with the group since the 1990s and is not associated with the indictment. The Podesta Group lobbies on behalf of various foreign interests, including the governments of Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. It has also represented Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. According to the New York Times, Mercury partner Michael McKeon issued a statement that the firm “takes its obligations to follow all laws, rules and regulations very seriously” and “has and will continue to fully cooperate with the Office of the Special Counsel in its investigation.” No charges have been brought against Tony Podesta, his former lobbying group or Mercury, but all have been subpoenaed for records and testimony regarding their work with Manafort, Gates and the ECFMU. This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian Service.

Parliament Asks Twitter About Russian Meddling in Brexit Vote

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Voice of America: US Lobbyists Missed Red Flags in Manafort-linked Contracts

mikenova shared this story from 1. Russia from mikenova (105 sites).

Two U.S. firms caught up in the special counsel’s indictment against Paul Manafort claim to have been misled about the details of the former Trump campaign chairman’s lobbying efforts for Ukraine, but clear warning signals were readily available. Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service has turned up several U.S. and European news articles from 2007 to 2014, and spoken with Ukrainian politicians, that lay out connections between the Brussels-based non-profit that hired the firms and the then-ruling party in Ukraine a key fact that the lobbying firms claim not to have known at the time. “Lobbyists should have examined available information carefully at the time of the engagement as a matter of know-your-client procedure,” said Gene Burd, a Washington-based international business partner with Arnall Golden Gregory LLP. He said the two firms listed in the indictment as Company A and Company B, but recently identified as Mercury Public Affairs and The Podesta Group  should also “have kept up with the changing management situation and sources of financing of the organization.” Manafort, who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman for three months in 2016, was indicted in a U.S. federal court Monday on multiple charges including having failed to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government at a time when his firm was acting on behalf of then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Kremlin Party of Regions. The indictment describes that work as part of a “scheme” by Manafort and co-defendant Rick Gates to generate U.S. support for the party, which favored aligning Kyiv with Moscow instead of seeking European Union membership, as many Ukrainians advocated. The indictment says both lobbying groups were recruited by Manafort’s firm to act on behalf of a Brussels-based non-profit known as the European Center for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU) from 2012 to 2014. It says the ECFMU was, in fact, a vehicle for advancing the interests of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. Both firms deny that they knowingly engaged in an image-rehabilitation campaign for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, as the indictment indicates. Their latest public statement reiterates their claim that they were led to believe they were working only for ECFMU, which they understood to be a pro-EU think tank that sought to inform U.S. government officials about Ukraine. Podesta Group CEO Kimberley Fritts told VOA’s Ukrainian Service in August 2016, when their undisclosed foreign lobbying efforts were first reported, that, relying on the opinion of in-house and external legal counsel, her organization lawfully represented ECFMU interests in the United States without registering under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). “Because [our] firm was partnering with Mercury, [Podesta] in-house counsel coordinated with Mercury’s [in-house] counsel and Mercury’s outside legal counsel,” she was quoted as saying in an official statement emailed to VOA from the Podesta group. “Together, they concluded that LDA [Lobbying Disclosure Act] was the appropriate reporting route.” LDA registration is required of U.S. lobbyists representing business and non-governmental foreign interests such as cultural or educational organizations, whereas FARA’s more rigorous and legally binding registration disclosures are required to lobby on behalf of foreign governments or political parties. Fritts also told VOA that the two lobbying groups agreed to work for the ECFMU only after its director filed a written statement verifying that “none of the activities of the Center are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in part by a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party.” Former ECFMU director Ina Kirsch verified Fritts’ account of events, telling VOA that she personally assured Podesta and Mercury legal counsel that ECFMU “has never received any money from the Party of Regions, Ukrainian government or president,” and that it received funds from only private companies. Kirsch also said that ECFMU did not pay any money to the U.S. firms for their lobbying work. That claim is supported by Monday’s indictment, which states that “companies A and B,” which collectively received more than $2 million for their work, were paid not by the ECFMU, but from offshore bank accounts run by Manafort’s firm in Kyiv. “We believed [Manafort’s associate, Rick Gates, who introduced ECFMU to the Podesta Group] was working for [the ECFMU], as we were hired to do,” the Fritts statement said. However, an online search of news articles from 2007 to 2014 reveal Manafort’s role as Yanukovych’s principal strategist and identify the ECFMU as a vehicle of the Party of Regions. A 2007 New York Times report on then-prime minister Yanukovych, for example, portrayed Manafort as a “behind-the-scenes” impresario who had taken the “once divisive [Yanukovych], reviled by some [Ukrainians] as a shady reactionary and Kremlin pawn,” and turned him into “arguably the nation’s most popular politician.” Similar reports by Ukrainian news outlets described the range of Manafort’s political lobbying strategies and cited ECFMU documents that positioned the non-profit as a Party of Regions instrument of international influence. In March 2012, Ukrainska Pravda, one of Ukraine’s most influential mainstream news websites, published an ECFMU exposé that listed long-time Party of Regions MP Leonid Kozhara who went on to become Yanukovych’s foreign minister in December of that year as head of the ECFMU. The article also identifies two other prominent Party of Regions MPs, Evgen Geller and Vitaly Kalyzhny, as ECFMU founders. In a June 2012 interview with Kyiv-based Glavcom, Kozhara mentions the center’s financial dependence on government sources and describes its alignment with his government’s international objectives. Glavcom reporter: It is known that you have co-founded the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, which looks like it is busy with improving the image of Ukrainian authorities as related to the case of [then-imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia] Tymoshenko. Is this so? ECFMU’s Kozhara: … When I received an invitation from Brussels to chair the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, I was honored. I saw it as an acknowledgment of my work. When asked about the sources of ECFMU financing, Kozhara said: “As all NGOs, we have membership fees, but business structures and government structures all give money. If they want to receive the assistance, they should pay membership fees.” In an August 2016 interview with VOA, Kozhara denied having ever held a position with the ECFMU, describing himself as an unpaid board member of various NGOs, of which ECFMU was but one. Manafort and Gates are accused of serving as unregistered foreign agents of Ukrainian interests in violation of Department of Justice registration requirements. Between them, Manafort and Gates controlled 12 domestic entities, 12 Cyprus-based entities and three other foreign entities, according to the indictment. In all, $75 million passed through the offshore accounts. Manafort is alleged to have laundered more than $18 million. Gates is accused of laundering more than $3 million from offshore accounts. Podesta Group founder Tony Podesta, a long-time Democratic Party fund-raiser and brother to former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, abruptly resigned from the group hours after the indictment was made public. John, who co-founded the group with his brother in 1988, has not been associated with the group since the 1990s and is not associated with the indictment. The Podesta Group lobbies on behalf of various foreign interests, including the governments of Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. It has also represented Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. According to the New York Times, Mercury partner Michael McKeon issued a statement that the firm “takes its obligations to follow all laws, rules and regulations very seriously” and “has and will continue to fully cooperate with the Office of the Special Counsel in its investigation.” No charges have been brought against Tony Podesta, his former lobbying group or Mercury, but all have been subpoenaed for records and testimony regarding their work with Manafort, Gates and the ECFMU. This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian Service.

 Voice of America

golosamerikius’s YouTube Videos: «Старик Мюллер не подкачал»

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From: golosamerikius
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Политолог Ариэль Коэн об обвинениях против Пола Манафорта и угрозах республиканцев в адрес спецпрокурора Мюллера
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Anthony Weiner – Google News: Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for … – Daily Mail

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Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for …
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Anthony Weiner expected to surrender himself over to authorities this weekend to serve 21-month sentence for exchanging lewd text messages with teen. Exclusive: Undercover FBI agent on one of the biggest takedowns in history; Kim Kardashian in charge …

 Anthony Weiner – Google News

In Donald Trump’s world, the buck stops over there | Opinion

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When he was campaigning for the president Donald Trump said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” But as smart as he is, and as much as he knows about everything, when things go wrong, Trump refuses to accept any blame.  After U.S. Navy Seal Willian “Ryan” Owens was killed on a covert mission in Yemen, Trump said the plan for that mission “was started before I got here.”  It was something his generals “wanted to do. And they came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected. And they lost Ryan.”

Not “we” lost Ryan, but “they” lost Ryan.

After four American soldiers were killed on a military mission in Niger, Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis wouldn’t say if the president had specifically approved the mission, but when Trump was asked he seemed eager to exonerate himself.  “No, I didn’t, not specifically. I have generals that are great generals. These are great fighters; these are warriors. I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win. And we’re going to win.”

The President – whoever he is – has to decide,” President Harry Truman said in his 1953 farewell address. “He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”  Truman’s legendary “The Buck Stops Here” sign is on display at his presidential library in Independence, Mo.

Maybe Trump should go gaze upon it.

If the military’s commander-in-chief believes he can talk about the military using the third person, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he thinks he can separate himself from the people on his campaign who are now in legal hot water.

Paul Manafort – who was arrested Monday on charges that include money laundering and conspiracy against the United States – was, at one point, the campaign manager for Trump’s campaign.  But so what? Trump tweeted Monday (Oct. 30) that the charges spelled out in the indictment against Manafort mostly allege crimes that happen before Manafort managed Trump’s campaign. That’s true.  But let us imagine Trump’s response if the campaign manager of one of his political enemies had been accused of conspiring against our country.

Would Trump have avoided drawing a line between that campaign manager and that political enemy?  Of course not. But the message coming out of the White House is that we shouldn’t make Manafort’s troubles Trump’s troubles.  Because that’s not fair.

At the same time, the White House is citing a 2010 deal that allowed Russia to buy into a U.S. uranium company and the fact that President Bill Clinton received $500,000 to speak in Moscow, to argue that it was really Hillary Clinton who was colluding with Putin..

As <a href=”http://FactCheck.org” rel=”nofollow”>FactCheck.org</a> puts it, “Donald Trump falsely accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of giving away U.S. uranium rights to the Russians and claimed — without evidence — that it was done in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Even if we don’t anything about the uranium deal -the details of which are at FactCheck.Org – we still know that there was only one candidate in last year’s election who was praising Putin.

This White House talks to us as if we were literally born yesterday and, thus, can’t remember the great Trump-Putin bromance of 2015 and ’16.

“Putin hates us,” candidate Trump said in June 2015. “He hates Obama. He doesn’t hate us. I think he’d like me. I’d get along great with him, I think. If you want to know the truth.”

To accept Trump’s new theory of Clinton-Putin collusion we’d have to accept that a dictator who hated President Barack Obama loved Obama’s secretary of state and that he dictator who Trump said would like him would choose to favor Trump’s opponent.

We can twist our minds into knots trying to make that theory make sense or we can just accept the findings of the U.S. intelligence community: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”

From that same report: “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

Trump’s tweet Monday focused on Manafort, but his former campaign director’s arrest wasn’t Monday’s only news. We also learned that a campaign aide, George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. According to the statement of offense, Papadopoulos sent multiple email messages to a “high-ranking campaign official” informing him that the Russians were trying to connect with Trump’s campaign.  Trump is now characterizing Papadopoulos as a “low level volunteer.”

If Trump can’t be held accountable for military decisions when he’s the commander-in-chief and he can’t be held accountable for criminality in his campaign when he was the candidate, then it’s pretty clear he doesn’t expect us to hold him accountable for anything.

Jarvis DeBerry is deputy opinions editor for NOLA.COM | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at jdeberry@nola.com or at twitter.com/jarvisdeberry.

How Will Putin Play Trumps Russia Investigation Narrative?

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

This article first appeared on Just Security.

The 2016 election will be remembered for, among other things, Russian attacks including cyber theft, propaganda, trolls, bots, disinformation, efforts to use social media to stoke negative passions and possible espionage (in common parlance, collusion).

Several commentators have correctly reminded us that such activity is wholly consistent with Russian intelligence activity over the decades.

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As such, we should also be on the lookout for another classic Russian trick: strategic deception.

Lack of public awareness about this part of the Kremlin playbook threatens to unravel whatever traction we gain in finding the truth about 2016 and in defending ourselves against current threats and ones over the horizon.

Strategic deception is a secret, offensive effort to create an alternative narrative that serves Moscow’s interests.

Unlike Russia’s fake news and disinformation efforts designed to confuse or meet tactical ends, strategic deception is designed to build a believable and consistent narrative forcing the recipient to take a specific action.

It was used in the past to safeguard the identity of Russian spies in the U.S. and uncover perceived threats to the regime.

Efforts to deceive are most effective when they play to preconceived notions, and tell an adversary something it is desperate to know.

In this sense, Facebook and Russian deception have something in common – they succeed by selling us exactly what we want to hear. Facebook tracks your likes and interests, providing you with what you are inclined to believe. Clever deception, especially when dipped in some of the same insights of behavioral psychology, does much the same thing.

While I can’t pretend to know when and how the Russians will undertake a deception operation, my sense is that it will be around the issue of collusion.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

If there was collusion with the Trump team, the Russians will surely be looking to steer U.S. authorities toward alternate explanations for the activities of 2015 and 2016.

If there was no collusion whatsoever, the Russians may follow an alternative strategy of actively promoting the story as a means of weakening the Trump Administration and our trust in the democratic system.

In either case, their goal is the same: turn the U.S. against itself and protect Russian interests.

Moscow’s effort to safeguard the identity of its spies in 1980s Washington is a classic example of this deception strategy in action.

In the mid-1980s the KGB was facing a dilemma. They found themselves in the enviable position of having two highly placed spies inside the U.S. national security apparatus – Aldrich Ames at CIA and Robert Hanssen at FBI.

The two had informed the KGB of a group of Soviet officials who had been spying for Washington.

Despite KGB efforts to quietly remove the traitors from positions of access, the Soviet leadership insisted that the Russian spies be immediately arrested, imprisoned and executed. The KGB was left with the burden of safeguarding Ames and Hanssen from U.S. officials who would now be looking hard for explanations of why their long-time spies were suddenly uncovered.

The Soviets needed to provide alternative explanations rather than allowing the Americans to accept the real answer – that they had their own spies in their midst.

The Russians turned to one of their most developed and time-honored skills-sets – deception. They looked to send false signals to the Americans to force them to look anywhere else for an explanation for their losses, and not focus on a possible mole inside the grounds.

The deception effort was aimed directly within the walls of CIA. The KGB knew that CIA was hesitant to again turn itself inside-out looking for spies. CIA had suffered through a period of self-destruction at the hands of the recently-retired powerful counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, who had convinced CIA leadership that the Soviets were ten feet tall.

The subsequent hunt for moles inside CIA had destroyed careers, severely damaged the effort to recruit new spies and created a sense of paralyzing paranoia within the ranks. Into this atmosphere the Russians sought to create a narrative that the CIA’s 1986 spy losses were a combination of poor CIA tradecraft, KGB luck, a technical penetration of Moscow Station and possibly a breach of CIA communications between their Headquarters and the field.

They did this primarily by dangling a double agent to the CIA Station in Moscow.

Senior KGB counterintelligence officer Alexander Zhomov (GTPROLOGUE) made clandestine contact with the CIA Station Chief in Moscow, and over several months provided detailed information on the KGB monitoring CIA officers in the capital. Zhomov provided a wealth of real, sensitive information that was twisted slightly to shape a narrative that the CIA was ready to accept – that the losses were due to a mixture of CIA mistakes and KGB lucky breaks.

Zhomov was taken more seriously than he might otherwise have been due to his high position in the KGB. The CIA was on guard for possible double agents who would sell false or low value information.

Past experience, however, had taught them that the KGB was extremely unlikely to provide CIA direct contact with a senior staff officer with access to the crown jewels for fear that he might be turned. That’s the very risk that the KGB took and changed their MO in furtherance of the highly crafted deception effort to protect their penetrations in Washington.

A separate but complementary project was also launched suggesting the KGB had success breaking into CIA’s encrypted communications, which further taxed the agency’s limited resources devoted to uncovering the reasons for the spy losses.

All of these efforts were designed to shape the narrative, send signals to the Americans and buy time that could be used to protect their investments in Ames and Hanssen. Once CIA and FBI had finally untangled it all, the passage of time had bought the KGB several more years to exploit Ames and Hanssen (and others?).

By the mid-80s, the CIA was ready to believe almost any other explanation other than the obvious – that they had a mole in their midst. Angleton’s paralyzing paranoia and distrust had torn CIA apart to the point that the pendulum might have swung too far in the other direction.

Deep knowledge of your adversary is critical in crafting an effective deception effort. The tendency to accept what you want to hear and dismiss what you don’t is a hazard to policymakers and intelligence analysts (and laypersons) alike. We wanted to believe that Saddam had nuclear weapons.

Also, for many years the Soviets dismissed the reporting of their best secret source – Kim Philby – because he told them (accurately) that the British Intelligence Service did not have any spies inside the Kremlin prior to WWII. Soviet leadership simply couldn’t believe that they were not the top target of the vaunted British Intelligence Service.

Russia has long-experience with strategic deception, and has invested heavily in understanding American psychological fibers. Indeed, the first operation of the nascent Soviet intelligence service following the Russian revolution was the creation of an elaborate but fake monarchist organization to attract opponents of the regime. “Operation Trust” ran for several years and led to the (literal) liquidation of the anti-Bolshevik resistance.

In the 21st century Putin has invested heavily in his intelligence services, benefitting from sensitive stolen information from cyber thieves and human spies, to include recently reported NSA breaches and access to Edward Snowden, among others.

In 2016, it was clear that the United States was not ready to defend against Russian interference. Unlike the Europeans who were far more savvy about Russian intentions, there is a tendency in U.S. culture to “trust but verify.”

U.S. journalists tend to report about Russia as if it is a western country where rule-of-law reigns. We try to verify and question every allegation before we accept the worst. We assume things are on the up-and-up unless we can prove otherwise – innocent until proven guilty.

Russia benefits from our naivete. What we need to do first is open eyes to the consistent, decades-long pattern of Russian attacks. Corruption, espionage, lies, disinformation and deception are the routine tools of Putin and the Kremlin, and will continue to be so into the indefinite future.

We would be better served to assume ill-intent, and not feel obligated to uncover conclusive evidence of wrongdoing in every case. Totally uncorrupted business is an aberration in Russia, and we have decades of experience with their use of disinformation and deception to push any agenda that damages U.S. and western cohesion.

While we may not find incontrovertible proof every time, the cumulative and historical effect is that Americans should preserve a very healthy skepticism when evaluating the motivations of the Russian government – guilty until proven innocent.

What’s more, because so much of what Russia does is secret and managed by the intelligence services, we are rarely going to be able to develop the kind of “evidence” that we would like to divine guilt or innocence.

As I’ve written recently, I believe that collusion is possible and that the much-maligned Steele dossier is more right than wrong. However, I also suspect that it will be very hard to prove.

Into this atmosphere Russian intelligence will certainly look to frame the narrative to fit their interests. They may, for example, provide a false lead suggesting collusion with the Trump campaign, only to pull the rug later to try to discredit the whole investigatory enterprise.

Or they may allow the release of a false and weak form of kompromat on the President to suggest they don’t have anything stronger.

Who knows what exactly their craft will deliver to a segment of the population ready to believe a certain narrative. The recent flood of information on Russian troll factories and use of social media may be part and parcel of a Russian effort to divert our attention away from possible collusion. I don’t know. They certainly left many fingerprints in their use of social media platforms.

At the very least, however, what we do know is that Moscow will most likely seek to muddy the waters and make it hard to know what information is real, and what’s not.

A basic awareness of strategic deception can help us avoid these traps, and pry ourselves loose when we’re found in one.

John Sipher is a Director of Customer Success at CrossLead, a software and consulting firm. He retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. having served as a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service.

Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation – Politico

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Politico
Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation
Politico
Mueller is investigating whether any Americans aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election as well as whether figures in the Trump administration may have obstructed justice in part by moving to oust Comey in May, when the FBI’s 
Conservative Republicans demand Mueller recuse himself over uranium dealWashington Post
GOP Reps. Gaetz, Gohmert, Biggs push for Mueller resignation in new resolutionFox News
Congressman Andy Biggs’ Statement on the State of the Mueller InvestigationSonoran News
The Independent
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Elections 2016 Investigation – Google News: US Republicans seek special counsel’s removal from Russia probe – Reuters

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Reuters
US Republicans seek special counsel’s removal from Russia probe
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three Republican U.S. lawmakers called on Friday for Robert Mueller to resign as special counselinvestigating Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, the latest in a series of conservatives’ criticisms of the FBI and Justice 

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 Elections 2016 Investigation – Google News

calls for Comey’s resignation – Google News: US Republicans seek special counsel’s removal from Russia probe – Reuters

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Reuters
US Republicans seek special counsel’s removal from Russia probe
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three Republican U.S. lawmakers called on Friday for Robert Mueller to resign as special counsel investigating Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, the latest in a series of conservatives’ criticisms of the FBI and Justice 

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 calls for Comey’s resignation – Google News

putin won US 2016 election – Google News: How Will Putin Play Trump’s Russia Investigation Narrative? – Newsweek

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How Will Putin Play Trump’s Russia Investigation Narrative?
Newsweek
The 2016 election will be remembered for, among other things, Russian attacks including cyber theft, propaganda, trolls, bots, disinformation, efforts to use social media to stoke negative passions and possible espionage (in common parlance, collusion

 putin won US 2016 election – Google News

Uzbekistan: Where the New York Terror Suspect Was Radicalized

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Is Jared Kushner next to be indicted in Russia investigation? – Metro US

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Metro US
Is Jared Kushner next to be indicted in Russia investigation?
Metro US
The FBI has reportedly been looking into Kushner since before Mueller even took over the investigation for his multiple roles on the Trump campaign and transition team and the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russia’s ambassador and a Russian banker …
Jared Kushner turns over documents to special counsel Robert Mueller in Russia probeNew York Daily News

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trump criminal investigation – Google News: Russia, Trump, and the 2016 US Election – Council on Foreign Relations

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Council on Foreign Relations
Russia, Trump, and the 2016 US Election
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading a criminal inquiry for the Department of Justice (DOJ), the most high-profileinvestigation. He has a mandate to examine any links or coordination between Trump’s …

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Cyprus Gave Manafort’s Bank Records to Mueller Team, Sources Say – Bloomberg

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Cyprus Gave Manafort’s Bank Records to Mueller Team, Sources Say
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Authorities in Cyprus handed over bank and company records to U.S. investigators late last week related to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, just before they were indicted in the U.S., according to people …

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Russian trolls exploit social media to stir racial chaos – The Philadelphia Tribune

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Russian trolls exploit social media to stir racial chaos
The Philadelphia Tribune
As if we Americans were not doing a good enough job of hating each other on our own, recent news reports tell us Russiantrolls are using social media to divide us even more along racial and political lines. Thanks, folks, but we don’t need the help

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Mueller Reveals New Manafort Link to Organized Crime

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Buried deep in Robert Mueller’s indictment of Paul Manafort is a new link between Donald Trump’s former campaign and Russian organized crime.

The indictment (PDF), unsealed on Monday, includes an extensive look into Paul Manafort’s byzantine financial dealings. In particular, it details how he used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States.

The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.

Mogilevich is frequently described as “the most dangerous mobster in the world.” Currently believed to be safe in Moscow, he is, according to the FBI, responsible for weapons trafficking, contract killings, and international prostitution. In 2009, he made the bureau’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

“Ivan Fursin was a senior figure in the Mogilevich criminal organization,” Taras Kuzio, a non-resident fellow at Johns Hopkins-SAIS’ Center for Transatlantic Relations and a specialist on the region told The Daily Beast.

Martin Sheil, a retired criminal investigator for the IRS, said the indictment, with its connections to Fursin, helps illuminate the murky world Manafort operated in before taking the reins of Trump’s presidential bid.

“This indictment strongly indicates the existence of a previously unknown relationship between an alleged Russian organized crime leader and Mr. Manafort,” Sheil told The Daily Beast.

According to the indictment, Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, used Lucicle to avoid paying taxes on money which they then spent on a variety of pricey items: clothes, antiques, and at least one Mercedes-Benz.

Paul Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing, told reporters on Monday that the idea that anyone would engage in such a scheme is laughable.

“The second thing about this indictment that I, myself, find most ridiculous is a claim that maintaining offshore accounts to bring all your funds into the United States, as a scheme to conceal from the United States government, is ridiculous,” he told a scrum of reporters on the steps of a D.C. courthouse.

But the indictment alleges otherwise. According to Mueller’s team, from April 2012 to March 2013, Lucicle transferred more than $1.3 million to a home improvement company in the Hamptons, where Manafort owns property.

Lucicle also sent more than $200,000 to a New York men’s clothing store from March 2012 to February 2013. In that same window of time, it also sent more than $100,000 to a New York antique dealer, more than $340,000 to a Florida contractor, $88,000 to a landscaper in the Hamptons, and a comparatively paltry payment of $7,500 to a clothing store in Beverly Hills.

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On Oct. 5, 2012, Lucicle wired in $62,750 to pay for a Mercedes-Benz. And on Valentine’s Day of 2013, it sent $14,000 to a Florida art gallery. In total, according to Mueller’s indictment, Lucicle wired more than $5 million into the U.S. for Gates and Manafort.

At least some of the money Manafort and Gates used to pay for all those goodies appears to have come from Fursin. The New York Times reported in July that Lucicle and Fursin are tied to an “offshore entity, Mistaro Ventures, which is registered in St. Kitts and Nevis and listed on a government financial disclosure form that Mr. Fursin filed in Ukraine.”

According to the Times, “Mistaro transferred millions to Lucicle in February 2012 shortly before Lucicle made the $9.9 million loan to Jesand L.L.C., a Delaware company that Mr. Manafort previously used to buy real estate in New York.” It was one month after that transfer that Lucicle started shelling out millions to pay for cars, clothes, and real estate, according to the indictment.

That isn’t Fursin’s only connection to Manafort. He is also a lawmaker for the Party of Regions, which paid at least $17 million to Manafort’s firm.

In addition, Fursin’s longtime business associate, Ukrainian billionaire Dmitry Firtash, has an off-again, on-again partnership with Manafort. Together, they tried to buy the Drake Hotel in Manhattan for a cool $850 million. Firtash also bankrolled Ukraine’s Party of Regions.

Firtash has his own legal complications. He is currently under indictment in U.S. federal court for allegedly orchestrating an international titanium mining racket. The acting U.S. attorney in Chicago recently dubbed him an “organized-crime member” and an “upper-echelon associat[e] of Russian organized crime.” His attorneys say those charges are mere “innuendo,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

A December 2005 report from the Austrian Federal Criminal Investigation Agency said the FBI described Fursin and Firtash as senior members of the Semion Mogilevich Organization.

Ken McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who represented Yulia Tymoshenko in a civil case against Manafort and Firtash, told The Daily Beast that Fursin and Firtash are close.

“It was very similar to the relationship between Manafort and Gates,” he said. “Gates was a significant player in the criminal activities that Manafort engaged in… He played a major role, he was a major lieutenant in Manafort’s organization. By the same token, Fursin was one of the chief lieutenants of Firtash.”


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