M.N.: Answer: Russia is in alliance and in tandem with Germany, just like in their previous anti-American shenanigans!
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In some respects, experts say, German elections are insulated from outside interference in ways those in the United States are not. The country’s politics are not as polarized as they are in the United States, where partisan enmity provided fertile ground for Russian efforts to sow confusion with distorted and falsified information amplified by Russian-controlled Twitter bots and Facebook accounts.
In a move that would seem unimaginable in the United States, the campaigns for the major political parties entered into a “gentleman’s agreement” this year not to exploit any information that might be leaked as a result of a cyber attack.
Germans also still largely trust their mainstream, traditional news media sources and, unlike Americans, tend to be wary of information disseminated on Facebook and Twitter.
Officials warn that there is still a chance that some 16 gigabytes of sensitive information stolen two years ago by Kremlin-backed hackers from Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag, could surface, much like emails taken from the campaign of Emanuel Macron were dumped days before the election in France.
In January, someone registered two websites, btleaks.info and <a href=”http://btleaks.org” rel=”nofollow”>btleaks.org</a>, which reminiscent of the DCLeaks website that served as a repository for documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee last year. Staffers from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency have been assigned to check those websites hourly.
But few think the information if leaked would make much difference at this point. The latest polls show Ms. Merkel in a comfortable lead ahead of her chief rivals, making it likely that she will secure a fourth term as chancellor.
So why has Russia held back?
After failing to defeat Mr. Macron or so far obtain any positive dividends from its support of the Trump campaign, it is possible, experts say, that the Kremlin has decided to rethink its approach.
Russian influence operations, or active measures as they are known, tend to work only if no one is expecting them. Unlike the Obama administration, which chose to remain silent about Russia’s meddling for months before the election last November, German officials cannot seem to stop talking about the threat.
Weeks after the election of President Trump, Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, warned of cyber attacks aimed at “delegitimizing the democratic process” in Germany. Ms. Merkel herself has issued similar warnings.
“It makes absolutely no sense to conduct cyber ops because everyone is waiting for it,” Dr. Gaycken said. “It would almost make more sense for the C.I.A. to leak fake news to make it seem like the Russians did it.”
Ripjar, a data analytics company founded by former members of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, says that scores of automated bots on Twitter and other social media sites have been pushing anti-Merkel and anti-immigrant messaging in German. The messages appear to align with Kremlin positions ahead of the election, but do not seem to have had much resonance.
“It is a very blunt tool that I would assess has very little impact on the world,” said David Balson, Ripjar’s director of intelligence.
Perhaps Germany’s greatest protection is not some 21st century innovation but old-fashioned paper ballots, counted by hand, that are essentially hack proof.
It would be a mistake to think the aggressive Russian interference in elections last year represented some kind of new norm, said Thomas Rid, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who is writing a book on Russian active measures. These types of operations, he said, are extremely difficult to pull off and, as the world has seen, can backfire. In many ways, he said, the Russians just got lucky.
“I think one of the risks of the 2016 operation is that we all overestimate how much you can achieve from it and how easy it is,” he said. “You just can’t replicate this in the country every time.”
Nevertheless, Germans prepared well in advance for any hint of Russian interference.
The Federal Office for Information Security ran penetration tests looking for vulnerabilities in computer systems and software of the federal election authority. The Bundestag and the individual campaigns consulted with experts about strengthening their computer security. And major news media outlets established teams of fact checkers to protect against fake news.
German officials are now looking beyond the elections at ways to bolster the country’s cyber defenses even further.
At the Federal Security Council meeting, which was held in March, officials hammered out what has become known as the “hack-back” strategy. The plan is to try to turn the tables on the hackers, launching offensive cyber attacks against them and destroying their online infrastructure before any real damage can be done.
While the German military can now legally launch a cyber offensive following hacker attacks on military resources, there is no provision in German law allowing for the country’s cyber forces to respond to attacks on civilian infrastructure like the power grid, hospitals or servers that process election results.
“Our cyber defenses are Swiss cheese,” said Jacob Schrot, a Bundestag staffer responsible for intelligence oversight and cyber security matters.
Russia is not the only threat on this front. Germans are still angry about revelations made by Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency under President Barack Obama had hacked into Ms. Merkel’s cellphone.
Though a precise plan of action has yet to be implemented, that federal authorities would even consider taking offensive action against an enemy is a measure of how seriously the country has come to view the cyber threat.
Enduring trauma of the Nazi era has made Germans squeamish about flexing their country’s military muscles. But Russia’s recent history of revanchism under President Vladimir V. Putin — not just interfering in elections but supporting hard-right nationalist parties in Europe and dabbling in military adventures, like the annexation of Crimea and instigation of war in eastern Ukraine — has forced Germans to confront a new reality.
Marian Wendt, a member of Parliament from Ms. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, who oversees cyber security issues, said in an interview that Germany would prefer cooperation with Mr. Putin and Russia. But he said Germany also had a responsibility to protect itself.
“At some point you have to attack your attackers,” he said.
The hack-back strategy has stirred controversy here, with some charging that it comes close to violating Germany’s constitutional prohibition of offensive warfare adopted after the country’s defeat in World War II. Cyber experts also question whether Germany possesses the technical expertise to pull off such a tactic, particularly against Russia’s own highly advanced teams of cyber warriors.
“Our main challenge right now is a shortage of skilled IT security workers,” said Sven Herpig, a cyber security expert with a German think tank, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung. “Why do we waste the few talents that we have on the offensive side when we could actually use them on the defensive side.”
Germany’s talk of offensive cyber actions could also escalate tensions with the Kremlin, said Mr. Rid, from Johns Hopkins University. And with Russia quiet at the moment, many question the wisdom of provoking it.
“Loose German talk of hack-back,” Mr. Rid said, “could translate into Russian as ‘bring it on.’”
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On Sunday, Peter Baker and Kenneth Vogel of the New York Times reported on strains within the White House Counsel’s Office about strategy in responding to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.
That White House lawyers would differ on strategy is commonplace. A public airing of legal team tensions is troubling but not unheard of. But as someone who has handled sensitive investigative matters for two presidents, I am absolutely floored that this story was fueled by an unguarded conversation between Ty Cobb, the attorney hired by the White House to handle the Russia investigation, and Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd at BLT Steak restaurant.
In what should be a surprise to almost no one who has ever been to BLT Steak (1625 I Street, NW), there were New York Times (Washington bureau, 1627 I Street, NW) reporters within earshot. Cobb reportedly described a White House lawyer as “a [Don] McGahn spy” and mentioned a colleague whom Cobb blamed for “some of these earlier leaks” and who had “tried to push Jared [Kushner] out.” Of most interest to criminal prosecutors and congressional investigators, Cobb referenced “a couple of documents locked in a safe” in McGahn’s office to which Cobb wanted access.
This raises significant questions about professional judgement, professional ethics, evidence privileges, and those mysterious documents kept by McGahn that will likely prove irresistible for investigators to ignore.
I won’t belabor the first question, but I think this episode demonstrated terrible judgment for two men who have professional obligations to maintain confidences for the president in his personal capacity (Dowd), and the president in his official capacity and presidency (Cobb). The political electricity around the Russia investigation is high voltage, and both of these lawyers know full well that scores of people in Washington’s power lunch crowd will be highly attuned to its buzz.
As to the second question of professional ethics, I make no claim to a rules violation based on my limited access to the relevant facts. However, this episode certainly presents ethics considerations. Rule 1.6 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct govern lawyers’ obligations to maintain client confidences. I have concerns about lawyers’ failure to safeguard information from disclosure to other restaurant patrons. But I am also concerned about Cobb’s reported disclosures to Dowd.
One thing to note right off the bat: Cobb is a White House lawyer, whose salary is drawn from the public treasury and whose client is the Executive Office of the President. See Rule 1.6 (k) (“The client of the government lawyer is the agency that employs the lawyer unless expressly provided to the contrary by appropriate law, regulation, or order.”). John Dowd, in contrast, is part of Donald J. Trump’s personal legal team, paid for by nonpublic funds. While there will be overlap in interests between Trump the man and Trump the president, they are distinct and could diverge dramatically. Communication by lawyers across that public-private axis must still conform to confidentiality rules.
Under D.C. Bar rules, unless there is an express exception, “a lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) reveal a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client; (2) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client to the disadvantage of the client; or (3) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client for the advantage of the lawyer or of a third person.” Rule 1.6 (a). A “confidence” is either attorney-client protected information or “other information gained in the professional relationship that the client has requested be held inviolate, or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing, or would be likely to be detrimental, to the client.” Rule I.6(b). According to Comment 8 to the rule, this ethical obligation to maintain confidences and secrets, unlike the attorney-client privilege, “exists without regard to the nature or source of the information or the fact that others share the knowledge. It reflects not only the principles underlying the attorney-client privilege, but the lawyer’s duty of loyalty to the client.”
It strikes me that the New York Times disclosure of internal White House lawyer discord is “embarrassing” to the office, and the public disclosure of these matters could be “detrimental” to the office.
But these disclosures might also be problematic if no reporters had been present. There are certainly legitimate areas of coordination and information sharing between lawyers for the White House and personal lawyers for its occupant. However, each White House disclosure must be justifiable under the rules. What benefits the Office of the President for the president’s private attorney to hear about divergences McGahn and Cobb over legal strategy? There may be a good answer, but that is a question that must be answered as a predicate to disclosure.
There are exceptions to the confidentiality rules. For example, a “lawyer may use or reveal client confidences or secrets with the informed consent of the client.” Rule 1.6 (e) (1) (emphasis added). A lawyer may also make disclosures when the lawyer has reasonable grounds for believing that a client has impliedly authorized disclosure of a confidence or secret in order to carry out the representation. Id. at ¶ (e) (4).
Given the reportedly furious reactions by McGahn and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, it does not appear that Cobb had been granted informed consent or implied authorization to make these disclosures. Perhaps Cobb does have implied authorization to make some disclosures to Dowd, but I’m not sure the information contained in the Times story fits that bill. There is also an exception where a government lawyer to disclose confidences when “permitted or authorized by law,” although I fail to see the applicability here. See id. at ¶ (e) (2).
Third, there is a question of legal waiver of applicable privileges. The attorney-client privilege can be waived as to whole subjects by partial disclosures, and as to third parties not subject to the disclosure. See generally Edna Selan Epstein, The Attorney-Client Privilege and the Work-Product Doctrine, Part 1, Section IV (“Waiver of the Attorney-Client Privilege”). Loss of the privilege can be devastating for clients.
There are additional complications when government attorneys are involved. After the D.C. Circuit holding in In re Bruce R. Lindsey compelled President Bill Clinton’s Deputy White House Counsel to testify before a grand jury, attorney-client privilege is presumed to be significantly weaker for government attorneys than for private counsel. The court held: “Examination of the practice of government attorneys further supports the conclusion that a government attorney, even one holding the title Deputy White House Counsel, may not assert an attorney-client privilege before a federal grand jury if communications with the client contain information pertinent to possible criminal violations.” Therefore, Dowd would have to take that risk into account as to any disclosures he makes to public attorneys like Cobb.
Executive privilege stands on a somewhat different footing. Waivers allowing for the disclosure of broad subject matter are disfavored, limiting the waiver to specific documents or information that have already been released, since “executive privilege exists to aid the governmental decisionmaking process, a waiver should not be lightly inferred.” In re Sealed Case (Espy) (quoting SCM Corp. v. United States, 473 F. Supp. 791, 796 (1979)). As such, in Espy, the court held:
The White House’s release of the White House Counsel’s final report also does not constitute waiver of any privileges attaching to the documents generated in the course of producing the report. It is true that voluntary disclosure of privileged material subject to the attorney-client privilege to unnecessary third parties in the attorney-client privilege context “waives the privilege, not only as to the specific communication disclosed but often as to all other communications relating to the same subject matter.” But this all-or-nothing approach has not been adopted with regard to executive privileges generally, or to the deliberative process privilege in particular. Instead, courts have said that release of a document only waives these privileges for the document or information specifically released, and not for related materials. This limited approach to waiver in the executive privilege context is designed to ensure that agencies do not forego voluntarily disclosing some privileged material out of the fear that by doing so they are exposing other, more sensitive documents.
However, the White House has waived its claims of privilege in regard to the specific documents that it voluntarily revealed to third parties outside the White House, namely the final report itself and the typewritten text of document 63, which was sent to Espy’s Counsel.
Note that the court treats disclosures to Espy’s counsel as waivable disclosures for materials the White House sought to pull within an assertion of executive privilege. Dowd, as a private capacity lawyer, would be treated the same way for purposes of executive privilege. To date, the President has not asserted executive privilege in the face of legally compelled process, but White House lawyers should be making every effort to maintain legitimate confidentiality interests of the institutional executive branch.
Fourth, there is a question of new investigative leads. What is the nature of the “couple of documents locked in a safe” in McGahn’s office? That will be catnip for congressional investigators and the Special Counsel. In addition, Cobb’s reported portrayal of McGahn as resistant to transparency will come back to haunt the White House. It is not helpful to McGahn’s credibility with prosecutors investigating obstruction of justice. I imagine at some point we will see that characterized as noncooperation and stonewalling in congressional letters.
Washington superlawyer Bob Bennett, one of my mentors and Cobb’s former partner, once told me a story about his time as a young federal prosecutor. He had to prep a police officer for testimony at a trial the next day. They decided to do it at a local Irish pub instead of the office. The next day, on cross examination, the defense counsel started asking the police officer about things Bob had said during prep. Apparently, the defense lawyer had also been at the bar. Bob jumped up to object. When the judge asked for the basis of the objection, Bob explained the situation and responded, “the drinking privilege, your Honor.” Thereafter, according to Bob, certain D.C. courtrooms recognized the “drinking privilege” as shorthand for “there’s no legal basis but that just ain’t right to use.” It is one of my favorite stories. But as Bob told it, it was also a cautionary tale about safeguarding your case.
The drinking privilege is no bar to reporters, and other more formal potentially available privileges are less secure than before the BLT Steak summit. As Fred Barbash quipped, “who needs leaks when lunch reservations will suffice?”
Image: Nelson Barnard/Getty
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
TRUMP’S SPEECH TO THE U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The U.S. would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if “forced to defend itself or its allies,” the president said yesterday morning at his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, stating that “no nation in the world” has an interest in seeing the Pyongyang regime armed with nuclear weapons and missiles. Eli Stokols and Farnaz Fassihi report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Iran nuclear deal is “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” the president also said, labeling Iran a “rogue nation” that the international community must work together to stop its “pursuit of death and destruction.” Rick Gladstone and Megan Specia report at the New York Times.
“As president of the United States, I will always put America first,” Trump said, articulating his vision based on nationalism and appealing to other nations to serve their own interests through international cooperation, adding that “when decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.” Peter Baker and Rick Gladstone report at the New York Times.
“Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweetedyesterday, objecting to the president’s characterization of Tehran as a “rogue” regime – other key officials from around the world also criticized the speech for its tone and content. The BBC reports.
Trump’s remarks “ignored Iran’s fight against terrorism” and “displays his lack of knowledge and awareness,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported Zarif as saying yesterday, Reuters reports.
“In over 30 years in my experience with the U.N., I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted yesterday after Trump’s address to the assembly, pleased with the president’s targeting of Iran and praising him for identifying the challenges facing the world. Nahal Toosi and Nolan D. McCaskill report at POLITICO.
“We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose its authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people,” the president also said in his speech yesterday, taking aim at the government headed by Nicolás Maduro but refraining from repeating threats of military intervention. Anatoly Kurmanaev reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Venezuela would be prepared to defend itself against the U.S.’s “racist government,” the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday, Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.
Cuba condemned Trump’s speech yesterday which labeled the country “corrupt and destabilizing,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry issuing a statement calling his comments “disrespectful, unacceptable and meddling,” Sarah Marsh reports at Reuters.
U.S. allies in Asia reacted with concern to Trump’s comments on North Korea: the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been unusually silent and South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s spokesperson avoided reacting to Trump’s threat of the “total destruction” of the Pyongyang regime, instead reiterating a commitment to peace. Anna Fifield and Simon Denyer report at the Washington Post.
A full transcript of the address is provided at POLITICO.
The five key takeaways of the speech are provided by Niall Stanage at the Hill.
The reactions from world leaders to the speech have been varied, a breakdown of the reactions is provided at the AP.
The speech elicited differing reactions from the right and left, Anna Dubenko provides a breakdown of the various perspectives at the New York Times.
Trump’s conception of sovereignty belied U.S.’ power in the world and revealed the inconsistency of his approach – aggressively singling out certain countries for their policies but omitting to mention other countries who have transgressed international norms. Mark Landler provides an analysis of the speech at the New York Times.
Trump’s harsh rhetoric pointed out the truths about the threats posed by North Korea and Iran and was right to challenge the U.N. to do more to ensure collective security, however the president’s articulation of “sovereignty” as a basis for the U.N.’s purpose was too narrowly drawn and gives space to other powers to expand their influence based on their own national interest. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The president used his platform to threaten rather than urge the peaceful resolution of disputes, going further than other presidents in his aggressive rhetoric and suggesting that he would de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal when faced with the decision to notify Congress next month, the New York Times editorial board writes.
Trump’s comments marked a return to realpolitik, strongly asserting an approach to global affairs based on practical considerations and respect for sovereignty, standing in stark contrast to speeches made by other U.S. presidents through its blunt delivery. Gerald F. Seib writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s bombastic speech revealed a “pronounced incoherence” in his foreign policy approach that is guided by ideology rather than principle or pragmatism. Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.
The speech demonstrated that the president’s “America First” values are intact and the departure of former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has not led to a change in direction, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland write at Reuters.
U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
“This is the time for statesmanship,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in his opening remarks to the General Assembly yesterday, referring to the threat posed by North Korea and the prospect of war on the Korean peninsula. Michelle Nichols reports at Reuters.
“Today, more than ever before, we need multilateralism,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at his speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, pushing back against Trump’s appeal to nationalistic values and openly disagreeing with the president on North Korea, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Paris agreement on climate change. Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.
N.A.T.O. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised Trump’s Afghanistan strategy in an interview with the AP at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, also welcoming Trump’s decision to increase military presence in Europe and his challenge to all N.A.T.O. members to pull their weight. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani reiterated his call for “unconditional dialogue” to resolve the Gulf crisis, which began on June 5 when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, U.A.E. and Bahrain isolated Qatar on the basis of its alleged support for terrorism and its close ties with Iran, also stating in his speech yesterday that the actions of the four Arab nations were “inflicting damage on the war on terror.” Yara Bayoumy and Jeff Mason report at Reuters.
The U.N. will use the annual General Assembly to rally support for measures to resolve political tensions in Libya, Aidan Lewis reports at Reuters.
China has offered support to Venezuela until it can resolve its problems, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Venezuelan counterpart at the U.N., dismissing the widespread condemnation of Nicolás Maduro’s government. Reuters reports.
The leaders of Britain, France and Italy will raise the issue of social media and “terrorist content” at an event on the sidelines of the General Assembly today, Michelle Nichols reports at Reuters.
The signing ceremony for the first treaty banning nuclear weapons will be opened by Guterres today, marking the agreement which was approved by more than 120 countries in July, with 51 countries expected to sign today. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
“There are risks that we’ll be forgotten,” the president of the Central African Republic Faustin-Archange Touadera said yesterday at a news conference ahead of a meeting at the General Assembly, urging the international community to support the country which has been ravaged by conflict. Reuters reports.
“If we’re going to stick with the Iran deal, there has to be changes made to it,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in an interview with Fox News last night, making the comments about the 2015 agreement and the “sunset” clauses contained within it ahead of a planned meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly today, Arshad Mohammed and John Irish report at Reuters.
“Those who threaten us with annihilation put themselves in mortal peril,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a direct message to Iran during his speech to the General Assembly yesterday, calling on the nations who agreed the 2015 nuclear deal to “fix or nix” it. Rory Jones reports at the Wall Street Journal.
It would be a “big mistake” for the U.S. to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview yesterday, stating that the agreement allows for monitoring and “international urgency.” Christiane Amanpour and Hilary Clarke report at CNN.
The parties to the 2015 nuclear deal have tried to rally support for the agreement following comments from the Trump administration calling for a change to its provisions or a possible withdrawal. Katrina Manson reports at the Financial Times.
Israel shot down a drone probably built by Iran over the Golan Heights yesterday, according to an Israeli military spokesperson, the incident coming a few hours before Netanyahu’s address to the General Assembly. Reuters reports.
“If we don’t resolve the Syrian problem with Iran around the table, then we will not have an efficient response,” French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday, offering to be a mediator between Iran and the U.S. to support a political solution in Syria. Reuters reports.
Analysts have speculated about cooperation between North Korea and Iran over nuclear weapons, however the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) Yukiya Amano, which oversees Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, dismissed the talk of a connection between the two countries as no more than “rumors.” Laurence Norman reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S.-led coalition and its partner forces have evacuated a garrison near the border with Iraq and relocated to the main al Tanf base, according to rebel sources. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports at Reuters.
Israel has focused on Iran’s intentions in Syria as it looks increasingly likely that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s position has been secured, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu highlighting the threat posed by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah group at the U.N. General Assembly this week. Josef Federman reports at the AP.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out six airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 18. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Iraqi forces launched an offensive on the Islamic State group in the Anbar province yesterday, starting the operation to drive out the militants and where the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to be hiding. Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim report at the Washington Post.
Turkey would consider imposing sanctions against Kurds in northern Iraq if it the independence referendum continues as planned, the Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by the state Anadolu news agency yesterday. Reuters reports.
The independence referendum “could spark new conflicts and must therefore be avoided at all costs,” Erdogan said at the U.N. General Assembly yesterday. Reuters reports.
The oil-rich and ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk is set to be the site of potential violence ahead of the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, Raya Jalabi and Ulf Laessing explain at Reuters.
The Turkish military targeted Kurdish Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) militants in northern Iraq in an airstrike yesterday, according to a statement by the Turkish military. Reuters reports.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is investigating the activities of former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort going back over a decade, in relation to possible tax and financial crimes. Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz reveal at CNN.
“There is no question, underline no question, that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election last year,” the U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said yesterday at his Senate confirmation hearing. Patricia Zengerle reports at Reuters.
Trump’s close business associate Michael Cohen has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 25, after the committee canceled the private hearing which was scheduled to be held yesterday. Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman report at the Washington Post.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week about “special counsels and the separation of powers,” Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office said yesterday, the hearing coming as lawmakers push for two bills to make it harder to fire Mueller who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
The report that Manafort was wiretapped by the F.B.I. should raise questions about other instances of wiretapping, including the possibility of eavesdropping on Trump campaign officials and questions should also be asked of the F.B.I.’s potential links to the salacious dossier compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
The wiretapping of Manafort is a “big deal” because it suggests that the F.B.I. believed he may be acting as an “unlawful foreign agent” and this was demonstrated to the court that issues warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (F.I.S.A.). Randall D. Eliason writes at the Washington Post.
Hamas called on Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas to end sanctions against the Gaza strip yesterday, emphasizing that it supports dialogue and that it has disbanded its shadow government to allow Abbas to retake control. Reuters reports.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on Palestinians to “be ready to accept co-existence” with Israel, during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, Reuters reporting.
The relationship between Egypt and Israel has never been better and this has implications for Palestinian statehood and the region. Zena Tahhan writes at Al Jazeera.
A Russian helicopter accidentally fired a rocket at spectators during joint “Zapad” military exercises with Belarus yesterday, video footage revealing the incident, David Filipov reports at the Washington Post.
Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan said that Trump apologized to him for the brawl outside the Turkish embassy in Washington in May in an interview yesterday, a White House spokesperson contradicting the claim and stating that there was no apology. Jacqueline Thomsen reports at the Hill.
The U.S. must be vigilant in the face of threats to its democracy, Russia poses a considerable threat, but other foreign powers who would want to undermine U.S. elections and spread propaganda should also be considered. The former U.S. permanent representative to the U.N. Samantha Power writes at the New York Times.
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
“I have decided,” President Trump repeated three times when asked yesterday about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but not revealing what he intends to do when faced with the Oct. 15 deadline whether to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement to Congress, prompting criticism from Iranian leaders and European officials. Felicia Schwartz, Farnaz Fassihi and Emre Peker report at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump intends to impose stricter limits on the nuclear deal rather than withdraw right away, administration officials said yesterday, looking at measures that include extending “sunset” clauses and restricting Iran’s ballistic missiles program, however it remains unclear whether European allies and other parties to the agreement would be willing to renegotiate. Peter Baker and Rick Gladstone report at the New York Times.
Trump is leaning toward decertifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, according to four sources familiar with the White House discussions, although several of the sources warned that the president could change his mind in the face of international pressure. Hallie Jackson, Carol E. Lee, Vivian Salama and Kristen Welker report at NBC News.
“It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in his address to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, referring to Trump’s comments on the nuclear deal, also denouncing Trump’s “ignorant, absurd and hateful rhetoric, filled with ridiculously baseless allegations.” Nicole Gaouette reports at CNN.
“Iran has never sought nuclear weapons, will never seek nuclear weapons, is not now seeking nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said yesterday at a news conference after delivering his speech to the General Assembly, adding that Iran would not be willing to talk to the Trump administration about issues other than the nuclear deal. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Trump’s remarks about Iran were “cheap, ugly, foolish and unreal,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today, the AP reports.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conceded that Iran was complying with the deal during his meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif yesterday, but reiterated concerns about the “sunset” clause contained within the agreement which lifts restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program after 2025. The BBC reports.
Tillerson emphasized that Iran was not fulfilling the “expectations” of the agreement, making the statement after a meeting about the deal’s implementation at the U.N. yesterday, despite acknowledging Iran’s technical compliance with the requirements. Julian Borger and Philip Oltermann report at the Guardian.
The president has not shared his decision about certifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal “with anyone externally,” including British Prime Minister Theresa May who asked Trump directly, Tillerson told reporters yesterday. Nicole Gaouette and Lauran Koran report at CNN.
The 2015 agreement is not “enough,” French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday, stating that the deal does not effectively restrict Iran’s actions in the Middle East and limit its development of ballistic missiles, adding that he wanted to open negotiations immediately on the timeframe of the deal and discuss Iran’s role in the region, offering also to mediate between the U.S. and Iran. John Irish reports at Reuters.
“We already have one potential nuclear crisis. We definitely [do] not need to go into a second one,” the E.U. Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini told reporters yesterday, defending the Iran nuclear deal and referring to the threat posed by North Korea. Michelle Nichols and Jeff Mason report at Reuters.
“Iran is operating under the agreements that we signed under the J.C.P.O.A.,” the top general of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten said yesterday, using the acronym for the 2015 deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but stating that Iran’s development of its ballistic missiles program provides “significant concerns” to the U.S. and its allies. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
Tillerson was caught out by Trump’s remarks that he had made a decision on the nuclear deal, telling reporters last night that Trump was “still considering” whether to de-certify Iran’s compliance, but was then informed by a reporter about the president’s comments a few hours earlier, reinforcing the impression of an incoherent administration that has sidelined the Secretary of State. David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report at the Washington Post.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) urged the Trump administration to stay in the agreement in an interview yesterday, stating that the administration should instead pursuit a separate deal that targets Iran’s ballistic missile program. Seung Min Kim reports at POLITICO.
North Korea would not be scared by “the noise of a dog barking,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters in New York yesterday in response to a question about Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly and his threats to “totally destroy” the country if it continued to threaten the U.S. and its allies with nuclear weapons and missiles, Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.
China urged restraint following Trump’s comments about North Korea, while Japan and South Korea offered cautious praise for the president’s speech, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterating support for the U.S. position that “all options are on the table” during his speech to the General Assembly yesterday, and a spokesperson for South Korea’s presidential Blue House stating yesterday that Trump’s speech demonstrated the urgency of the situation. Te-Ping and Megumi Fujikawa report at the Wall Street Journal.
The North Korean threat requires “pressure” not “dialogue,” Abe said in his speech yesterday, devoting his entire address to the danger posed by Pyongyang and aligning Japan with the U.S.’ stance; taking a different approach to other world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel who urged diplomacy in a broadcast to German television yesterday. Matthew Pennington reports at the AP.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the importance of a peaceful resolution to the North Korea crisis and “acknowledged the important consensus both sides have on the denuclearization of the peninsula,” the Chinese state Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. Reuters reporting.
Wang called on South Korea to remove the U.S.-installed T.H.A.A.D. antimissile system, the Xinhua news agency said today. Reuters reporting.
Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are scheduled to meet today to discuss the North Korean threat, then he will meet with Moon and Abe, and finish with a separate meeting with Abe. Steve Holland and John Walcott report at Reuters.
South Korea approved a plan today to send $8m in aid to North Korea to support humanitarian programs, a measure at odds with the hardline approach advocated by the U.S. and Japan, the South Korean Unification Ministry stating that there was “realistically no possibility” that the aid could be used by the North’s military. Justin McCurry reports at the Guardian.
At least eight North Korean cargo vessels left Russia this year and changed their destination mid-voyage, prompting speculation that the ships circumvented international sanctions. Polina Nikolskaya reveals at Reuters.
The international community should expel North Korea from the U.N., the country having never fulfilled the requirements of membership, but reaping the benefits of membership through legitimacy and the opportunity for spying, money laundering and illicit procurement. Claudia Rosett writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s belligerent rhetoric helps to shore up North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s position and aids the narrative that the U.S. is singularly hostile to the country, giving the Pyongyang regime an excuse or incentive to launch more missiles and further develop its nuclear program. Anna Fifield explains the views of North Korea analysts at the Washington Post.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has requested documents related to Trump’s actions as president, according to White House officials, the requests focusing on 13 areas of interest including Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak a day after firing F.B.I. Director James Comey, and the circumstances surrounding the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn. Michael S. Schmidt reports at the New York Times.
The details of the requests were provided by two anonymous sources who explained that the extensive requests demonstrate Mueller’s focus on key actions that could reveal whether the president tried to block the F.B.I. investigations of Flynn and Russian interference. Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman report at the Washington Post.
The White House attorney Ty Cobb declined to comment on the special counsel’s request for documents and the process of his investigation, but added that the White House was fully cooperating with Mueller and his team. Sophie Tatum, Gloria Borger and Pamela Brown report at CNN.
The former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort offered to provide private briefings to Russian billionaire Oleg Derispaska about the 2016 presidential election, emails between Manafort and the Kremlin-linked Derispaska reveal, anonymous sources familiar with the probe stating that the emails have prompted concern among investigators that Manafort’s actions opened the possibility of Russian interests being expressed at the highest level of the presidential campaign. Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous report at the Washington Post.
The exchange between Manafort and Derispaska was “innocuous,” the spokesperson for Manafort, Jason Maloni, said yesterday, stating that Manafort was “owed money by past clients after his work ended in 2014.” Ken Dilanian and Tom Winter report at NBC News.
Manafort used his presidential campaign email account to send emails to a Ukrainian operative suspected to have ties to Russian intelligence, according to sources familiar with the correspondence, apparently making it clear in the emails that he had significant influence in the Trump campaign. Josh Dawsey reports at POLITICO.
Suspected Russia propagandists organized more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during the 2016 election, the Daily Beast has found, a spokesperson for Facebook stating that it was not able to confirm any of the details of Facebook pages suspected to be of Russian origin. Ben Collins, Gideon Resnick, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman reveal at The Daily Beast.
Russian special forces have been deployed to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour to assist Syrian government forces in their fight against the Islamic State group, Russia’s defense ministry said today, a spokesperson for the ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov also warning the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) that Russia would retaliate if they were to come under fire. Nataliya Vasilyeva reports at the AP.
The S.D.F. have captured 80% of the northern city of Raqqa, a statement by the forces said yesterday, also announcing its new offensive against the Islamic State militants on the northern edge of the city, Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S.-led coalition’s air campaign on Raqqa has resulted in significant civilian deaths, the monitoring group Airwars stating that at least 433 civilians died last month from coalition actions. Priyanka Gupta reports at Al Jazeera.
The watchdog group Democracy Forward filed a suit against the Trump administration to try and reveal the circumstances behind the warning of a potential Syrian chemical weapons strike in June which never took place, seeking to establish whether there was consultation with Pentagon officials over the matter. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 30 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 19. Separately, partner forces conducted 14 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Iraqi forces launched an operation to recapture the town of Hawija, according to a statement by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office, starting the offensive against one of the last Islamic State group strongholds in the country two days after Iraqi forces began an offensive against Islamic State positions in the western Anbar province. Balint Szlanko reports at the AP.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey and Iraq issued a joint statement today expressing concern over the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum, stating that they would “consider taking counter-measures in coordination” if the vote takes place, without detailing what the action would look like. Reuters reports.
The former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been working to promote the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, taking on an advisory role that is at odds with the U.S. opposition to the referendum. Kenneth P. Vogel and Jo Becker report at the New York Times.
The Iraqi Kurdistan referendum poses a significant challenge for Turkey, the Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan having championed the Kurdish Regional Government leader Masoud Barzani as an economic and military ally and a counterbalance to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) – the militant group outlawed by Ankara – but also concerned that the referendum would bolster broader movements for Kurdish secessionism, including in Turkey. Mehul Srivastava, Erika Solomon and David Sheppard explain at the Financial Times.
Will there still be an Iraq following the recapture of Islamic State territory? Michael Dempsey asks at the Wall Street Journal, highlighting five key unresolved issues that will determine whether the country can hold together.
“This agreement has been reached, and we are satisfied with this agreement,” Palestinian authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday in relation to the Egypt-brokered deal with Hamas in recent days which will see the militant group cede control of the Gaza Strip and allow Abbas’ Fatah party to govern. Paul Sonne and Rory Jones report at the Wall Street Journal.
The agreement between Fatah and Hamas does not significantly change the dynamics of the political division and it is unlikely that the reconciliation will lead to unified government, analysts have said. Linah Alsaafin and Zena Tahhan explain at Al Jazeera.
Palestinian human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to “open a full investigation” into the complicity of Israeli officials in alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Zena Tahhan reports at Al Jazeera.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres kick started a strategy for peace and stability in Libya at the General Assembly yesterday, the UN News Centre reports.
The Libyan Anas al-Dabbashi brigade have sought legitimacy from Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (G.N.A.) in exchange for stopping trafficking from the country to Italy, Steve Scherer and Aidan Lewis report at Reuters.
U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The U.N. Security Council backed reforms to its peacekeeping missions yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence stating that the U.N. must be more efficient and effective. Alexandra Olson reports at the AP.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres opened the signing ceremony for the treaty banning nuclear weapons yesterday, which was adopted on July 7. The UN News Centre reports.
“There are no sanctuaries anymore,” the newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said yesterday in response to a question about the presence of Islamist militants on the border with Afghanistan, possibly causing further tensions with the U.S. who maintains that Pakistan plays a role as a safe haven for terrorists who operate in Afghanistan. Mark Landler reports at the New York Times.
The State Department were aware of the extent of the attacks on U.S. diplomats at the embassy in Cuba long before it was publicly acknowledged, according to documents obtained by CBS News. Steve Dorsey reports at CBS News.
The U.S. and China should make “good preparations” ahead of Trump’s visit to China later this year to ensure “concrete achievements can be obtained,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Vice President Mike Pence, according to China’s state Xinhua news agency. Reuters reports.
The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) agreed to drop new data encryption techniques following pressure from U.S. allies, Joseph Menn reports at Reuters.
“Sometimes we do have to clarify,” U.S. ambassador the U.N. Nikki Haley said in response to a question about having to interpret and explain Trump’s remarks, making the comments in a wide-ranging interview with Ashley Parker at Glamour Magazine that includes discussion of Syria and Russia.
The independence referendums planned in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia scheduled for the end of this month and early next month have raised significant tensions, facing resistance from most of the international community and it is “far from certain that the outcome” of the referendums “will be a happy one.” Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.
FACEBOOK chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is dating again after her husband’s death. The New York Post has learned she’s spending time with Activision video games multi-billionaire Bobby Kotick.
The couple appeared in public together at a few Oscar events in Los Angeles over the weekend — at another dinner, and also at the Vanity Fair Oscar party.
Like … Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, has a new love interest. Picture: GettySource:Supplied
Friends for years … Bobby Kotick is reportedly dating Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Picture: TwitterSource:Supplied
Friends said that while Lean In author Sandberg and Kotick have known each other for years, their romance is new.
One source told The New York Post, “Sheryl and Bobby have known each other for many years, through attending events like the Allen & Co. conference, but have only been dating for a few weeks. Things are very new.”
The source added of Sandberg, “Everyone is happy for her, because she deserves to be happy, and Bobby is great.”
A second source said Sandberg, 46, and Kotick, 53, were “close friends” and, “They’ve recently been spending more time together.”
Tragic … Sheryl Sandberg has spoken about the pain she felt at losing her husband David Goldberg so young. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied
Sandberg’s husband of 11 years, Dave Goldberg, died at age 47 in May last year in a hotel gym in Mexico. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur was found lying near a treadmill, and was at first believed to have suffered head trauma, but later found to have passed away from heart-related causes.
Sandberg spoke movingly about losing her husband in Facebook posts and remembered him as “the love of my life” at his memorial.
Huge loss … David Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg were married for 11 years. Picture: SuppliedSource:Facebook
Divorced Kotick, the president and CEO of Activision Blizzard, has been dubbed “king of the gamers” and, according to the Financial Times, “has a knack for minting blockbuster franchises that makes his friends in Hollywood jealous,” including Call of Duty, Skylanders, World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero.
High powered … Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks attend the Allen & Co Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho back in 2012. Picture: SplashSource:Supplied
He is worth $US4 billion ($5.6 billion) and is friends with Warren Buffett, Steve Wynn, Bob Iger and David Geffen.
A Facebook spokesperson and Kotick’s rep declined to comment.
This story originally appeared in The New York Post
The sudden death of a loved one can be devastating for anyone. But in 2015, when Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband — entrepreneur and the widely loved “soul” of Silicon Valley, Dave Goldberg — she also had to grapple with the public nature of her grief.
Two years later, Sandberg has co-written a book about that process, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,” with her friend, psychologist Adam Grant. On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, she talked about the mistakes we often make when people we know are in mourning — mistakes that Sandberg herself was guilty of in the past.
“Before I lost Dave, if someone was going through something hard, I would say, ‘How much time off do you want? Do you want those projects taken off you?’” Sandberg recalled. “But that’s it. I wouldn’t say anything else because I thought I was putting pressure on them.”
When co-workers said things like that to Sandberg, she said it “trashed my self-confidence” because it reinforced a feeling of impotence. She credited CEO Mark Zuckerberg with finding the right things to say instead.
“What Mark did was, he said, ‘Do you want time off?’” Sandberg said. “But then he said, ‘I thought you made a good point in that meeting,’ or when I fell asleep in a meeting, ‘Oh, everyone does that.’ Everyone doesn’t do that. I made a mistake, he’s like, ‘Oh, you would have made that mistake before.’ That was really reassuring. He kept telling me I was adding value.”
In the immediate aftermath of Goldberg’s death, Sandberg said she also got help from Facebook users, whom she didn’t know. As an act of therapeutic writing, she typed up a journal entry as a “Fakebook” post, which she never intended to share.
“I woke up the next morning,” she said. “There are so many bad moments in this. That was one of the bad ones, really terrible. I felt so awful. I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to post this because things aren’t going to get worse. They might get better.’”
“It actually helped so much,” she added. “It did not take away the grief, but it took away a bunch of the isolation. A friend from work said she had been driving by my house almost every day and had never come in. She was scared to. She started coming in, and I needed her. Strangers posted, ‘I’ve lost this person. I’ve lost a twin. I lost a baby. I lost a husband.’ Rather than feel so isolated, I felt connected to all of these people who were experiencing loss, and breaking the isolation really helped.”
The journal entries that poured out of Sandberg as she continued to grieve formed the foundation of her half of “Option B.” She acknowledged that, even though social media is not perfect, it has created a forum for emotional honesty around a large number of topics, which may feel taboo in face-to-face relationships.
“We share in some ways, but we don’t share in others,” Sandberg said. “It’s not just death that ushers in this huge elephant that’s following behind us, trampling over our relationships. You want to silence a room? Tell someone you have cancer. Your father just went to prison. Your mother just lost her job. You just lost your job. You were raped.”
“These things happen to people every day,” she added. “It’s not that everyone wants to share everything at all times, but we really leave people alone when we need them the most.”
If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:
- Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify (mobile only), TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
- Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify (mobile only), TuneIn, Stitcher and SoundCloud.
- And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Mediaand the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify(mobile only), TuneIn and Stitcher.
Another connection has emerged between Donald Trump and Felix Sater, the Russian emigre and ex-con who’s become a key figure in widening investigations into ties between Trump associates and Russian figures.
Trump plays down his relationship with Sater, despite growing evidence of links between the two, including recently published emails detailing how Sater worked with a top Trump Organization lawyer on a planned Moscow property deal as late as 2016, during the presidential campaign.
McClatchy’s investigation now shows that a trusted Trump security aide hired in 2015 had intimate knowledge that Sater, twice convicted, had a criminal past and underworld connections.
Before he became Trump’s bodyguard, Gary Uher was an FBI agent involved in a complex deal to bring Sater back from Russia in the late 1990s. The resulting plea deal allowed Sater to avoid prison time in a Wall Street probe by serving as a government informant until his sentencing in 2009. During much of the time that he was a secret informant, Sater was a Trump Organization business associate, working on projects in New York, Florida and Arizona.
It’s not clear if Sater and Uher maintained an active relationship. Sater declined comment, and Uher did not respond to multiple requests for a response.
But the new information raises more questions about Trump’s ties to the Russian-born felon, Sater, and those in Sater’s orbit. “This latest revelation adds yet another connection between Trump and Russian criminals,” said Kathleen Clark, a Washington University law professor in St. Louis, who specializes in government ethics and national security law.
The Trump Organization did not respond to detailed questions about the two, and whether its executives or Trump himself were aware of Uher’s role in Sater’s federal plea deal.
But court documents from almost two decades ago, obtained by McClatchy, show that Uher played an important part in Sater’s decision to return from Russia.
This snipped section of a 2000 court deposition of then-informant Lawrence Ray shows how FBI agent Gary Uher worked to bring Felix Sater back from Russia. Almost 20 years later they both were in Donald Trump’s orbit.
Uher was a young FBI agent when he helped convince Sater to stay out of U.S. prison by cooperating in an operation that uncovered a $40 million scam by criminally connected Wall Street firms. Numerous members of the New York-area Mafia were eventually sent to prison.
FBI veterans loosely divide agents into two categories: the brainy, whose talents tend toward pursuing paper trails, and the brawny, who prefer to be out on the street and can be more inclined to be part of a security detail.
Tall, thick and imposing, Uher fell into the latter category.
“He was a good agent,” recalled Lewis Schiliro, an expert on organized crime who at the time was the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office. He referred to the late 1990s as “a really wild time” for Russia-linked crime.
Recent court documents obtained by McClatchy show that Uher, after leaving the bureau, was referred to the Trump Organization in 2015 by Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner and onetime nominee to head the federal Department of Homeland Security. Kerik withdrew his nomination and was imprisoned in 2010 after pleading guilty to tax fraud and making false statements in a federal bribery probe.
Kerik is also a former business partner of high-profile Trump surrogate Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor.
Uher said in a court deposition that he and Kerik had known each other since the early 1980s in New Jersey, when Kerik trained Uher in the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department.
The December 2016 deposition came after Uher briefly made headlines in the early days of Trump’s campaign. He and other members of Trump’s security detail were accused in a lawsuit of roughing up protestors in front of Trump Tower during a book signing in September 2015.
Uher indicated in the deposition that he had worked for both the campaign and the Trump Organization, reporting directly to Keith Schiller, who headed security for the organization and went on to a similar position at the White House this year. (Schiller left that post this month.)
Uher appears to no longer work for either the Trump campaign or Trump Organization, though his current employer’s website touts those past positions.
Oshirak Group International, headquartered in suburban Virginia, shows a picture of Uher on its website and lists him as director of law enforcement. The first item on his website bio cites his work as “Body guard for Donald Trump and family.”
This screenshot from the website of the security firm OGI Security shows Gary Uher’s biography, including his time as a bodyguard for Donald Trump and his long career at the FBI.
Disclosure records show Uher’s work for the Trump campaign, which paid him and a company he worked for called XMark LLC.
Uher was paid a total of $44,920 by the Trump campaign for security work and travel expenses between June 2015 and January 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records.
XMark LLC, which is run by another former FBI agent, was paid more than $500,000 for security-related services by the Trump campaign as recently as March 2017.
Uher’s work for the campaign occurred just as Sater was scouting potential real-estate deals for Trump in Russia.
Sater derailed his early career as a trader on Wall Street when he went to prison in 1993 for slashing a man in a bar-fight.
After he emerged, having lost his brokerage license, Sater joined childhood friends Gennady Klotsman and Salvatore Lauria in a criminal stock-manipulation scheme through two brokerage companies: White Rock Partners & Co. and State Street Capital Markets Corp.
Sater and Klotsman left the business in 1996, moving to Russia and working in telecommunications, including with AT&T.
While Sater was in Russia, New York City police stumbled on a Manhattan storage locker belonging to him that held weapons and documents revealing details of the stock manipulation scheme.
And that’s where Uher and Sater’s lives seem to have first intersected.
As an FBI agent, Uher worked closely with a government informant named Lawrence Ray. In a 2000 affidavit, Ray said he was dispatched to Russia by the FBI to lure Sater home. McClatchy has corroborated much of what Ray testified to in the affidavit.
A convict who has served prison time, Ray had business interests in Russia. He was eventually charged in the same investigation that swept up Sater and associates.
Ray was also close friends with Kerik, frequently dropping his name to associates. The relationship soured, according to media reports, after Kerik refused to testify on Ray’s behalf in the same stock-fraud probe involving Sater.
Ray later turned over documents to investigators in the prosecution of the politically connected Kerik, which stemmed partly from gifts Kerik accepted from a Mafia-linked construction company called Interstate Industrial, where Ray worked at the time.
During the same period as Kerik’s legal woes, Sater was a government informant. He also became a top executive at the real estate company Bayrock Group. Located two floors down from the Trump Organization in Trump Tower, it worked on a number of Trump-themed projects, including Trump SoHo in Manhattan.
After leaving Bayrock because of news reports about his criminal past, Sater nonetheless would maintain Trump Organization ties, as a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump,” according to a business card he carried in 2010.
In 2013, Trump would say of Sater in a Florida court deposition: “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”
Sater for his part has frequently touted his connection to Trump. In fact, e-mails that recently surfaced in the course of the investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia show that Sater had plenty of back and forth about possible deals with Trump Organization lawyer Michael D. Cohen – whom he has known for decades — on a potential Trump real-estate project in Russia in late 2015 and early 2016.
In one email, Sater exclaims to Cohen, “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”
Los Angeles Times
Manafort offered ‘private briefings’ with Russian billionaire during Trump’s presidential campaign
Los Angeles Times
In the middle of Donald Trump‘s presidential run, then-campaign Chairman Paul Manafort said he was willing to provide “private briefings” about the campaign to a Russian billionaire the U.S. government considers close to Russian President Vladimir …
Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaignWashington Post
Paul Manafort reportedly offered to brief Russian billionaire on 2016 campaignCNBC
Manafort Offered Private Briefings on 2016 Race to Russian BillionaireNBCNews.com
New York Post –CBS News
all 137 news articles »
Donald Trump has so many weaknesses, flaws, sins, and vulnerabilities that it would be difficult to list them all from memory. His life has been essentially a field guide for everything that’s wrong with humanity, and his legacy will be a cautionary tale. But there’s one weakness in particular that’s cost him everything – and it’s an ironic one, considering how much value he places on arrogant bluster.
Trump has gotten ahead in the business world over the years by accurately identifying the kind of wide-eyed greedy suckers who were ripe for his financial scams. He conned investors with too-good-to-be true deals, then simply kept their money and sued them if they tried to get it back. He relied on contractors that he knew he could get away with not paying. He found the kind of suckers who were eager to fall for scams like Trump University. He was adept that reading people. But then he went into politics, and something changed.
Maybe it’s because he’s in severe cognitive decline and he just can’t read people anymore, or maybe it’s because political figures are a different breed, but Donald Trump has shown himself to be remarkably bad at reading people during his time in politics. He thought Jeff Sessions was the kind of harmless doofus who would be personally loyal to him, when everyone else knew Sessions had survived as a corrupt politician all these years by being a self interested snake. When Sessions quickly recused himself in the Russia scandal in order to protect himself, Trump was the only one who was shocked.
When FBI Director James Comey put his finger on the scale in Donald Trump’s favor during the election, Trump took that as a sign that Comey liked him. In hindsight, Comey simply believed the FBI and its procedures to be more important than the real-world sanctity of the election process. So when Trump took office, he assumed Comey would protect him in the Russia investigation. Trump could have fired Comey on day one, and he’d probably have gotten away with it. But instead he waited until it was far too late, and by the time he did fire Comey, it blew up in his face.
Trump’s biggest misread of a fellow political figure might have come with his decision to latch onto Paul Manafort. Trump seemed to believe that because Manafort was a fellow scumbag who was also beholden to the Kremlin, the two would naturally watch out for each other’s interests. But now we’re learning that Manafort was only using Trump’s campaign as a way of getting out from under his Russian financial debts. We’re about to find out how Manafort managed to convince Trump to go along with this stupidity, once all those intercepted wiretapped phone calls between them inevitably surface. It’s going to come out that Manafort played Trump like a fiddle, and Trump was dumb enough to go along with it even though he was aware of Manafort’s every move.
During his time in politics, Donald Trump has consistently misjudged nearly every major political figure he’s encountered. It’s cost him time and again. It’s how he got himself incriminated in the Russia scandal to begin with. It’s how he ended up with a Special Counsel breathing down his neck, and flipping over every rock of his corrupt existence. Trump has lost everything; it’s just a matter of time. He’s lost it all because of his specific inability to read people correctly since he entered the political world. Contribute to Palmer Report
The post The specific weakness that’s cost Donald Trump everything appeared first on Palmer Report.