While President Trump made headlines this week for his provocative rhetoric on North Korea and the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, several major developments related to the ongoing probe of possible collusion between his associates and Russia flew quietly under the radar.
Each new disclosure about the direction and breadth of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation lent credence to what many legal experts have been saying since the former FBI director began hiring lawyers with expertise in corruption, foreign bribery, and white collar crime: This is serious, and some in Trump’s orbit should be worried.
“Combined with a flurry of stories about subpoenas, grand-jury appearances and other activity, it’s reasonable to expect that Mueller is moving forward on a number of different fronts and is getting close to entering a litigation phase,” Brookings Institution fellows Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes wrote earlier this week.
Here are seven key signs that indicate Mueller and his high-powered team are digging deep and may be nearing the “litigation phase,” as Hennessy and Wittes put it.
1. Indictment warning
During the FBI’s raid of an apartment belonging to Paul Manafort earlier this summer, Mueller explicitly told the former Trump campaign chairman he “planned to indict him,” the New York Times reported Monday. According to the report, Manafort and several FBI agents picked the lock of Manafort’s home in the predawn hours of July 26 and left with “binders stuffed with documents” and photographs of “expensive suits in his closet.”
The report shed light on the aggressive tactics Mueller has employed as he reportedly seeks to “flip” Manafort against several other persons of interest in the special counsel’s investigation, including the president.
2. Record requests
It was widely reported this week that Mueller has begun requesting exhaustive records from White House aides who were clued in to the decision-making process that led to former FBI director James Comey’s firing in May, and aware of Trump’s response when he learned that ex-national security adviser Mike Flynn was under federal investigation for his lobbying for foreign governments.
Beyond Comey and Flynn, the Washington Post claimed Mueller demanded that any correspondence related to the following individuals or incidents be turned over to his team: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian attorney last June; Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; Manafort; the FBI’s interview of Flynn shortly after the inauguration; and a statement issued by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer the night Comey was fired.
3. Spicer’s notes and texts
Spicer made news Thursday for being snappish with Axios co-founder Mike Allen during an exchange about the notes he kept during his time in Trump’s circle, which could become a valuable resource for Mueller.
“From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities,” Spicer said in an email, later adding that he would “contact the appropriate legal authorities to address [Allen’s] harassment” if he continued to receive requests for comment.
A source close to Spicer said the exchange, which the former press secretary later apologized for, showed how current and former White House officials are trying to be “careful … and want to avoid attracting attention to themselves” as long as the Russia investigation is ongoing.
Spicer is one of several former and current Trump aides whom Mueller has expressed an interest in interviewing, ABC News reported earlier this month. The others include: former chief of staff Reince Priebus, White House communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, senior associate counsel James Burnham, and White House spokesman Josh Raffel.
4. Surveillance of Manafort
A bombshell report by CNN late Monday night alleged that U.S. government officials wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who remains at the center of Mueller’s investigation, before the November election and during the subsequent transition phase. The surveillance was conducted after federal investigators obtained a so-called FISA warrant, which almost always requires the demonstration of probable cause.
Sources told CNN that “some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign.”
5. Grand jury testimony
Mueller is beginning to bring in lobbyists and public relations consultants who have worked with Manafort to testify before a federal grand jury in Washington. One such individual – Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni – did so last week at a courthouse in downtown D.C.
Maloni, who began working for Manafort after the 2016 election, testified for more than two-and-a-half hours, telling reporters on his way in that “hell yeah” he was ready to appear before the grand jury. It was not immediately clear what investigators sought from Maloni’s testimony, though the longtime public relations executive may have been aware of potential errors on Manafort’s foreign-agent filing amendments, which he retroactively disclosed in June.
Mueller also issued a grand jury subpoena in August to Melissa Laurenza, a lawyer and former National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer who represented Manafort until recently.
6. Facebook ads
The social media giant turned over detailed records to congressional committees and Mueller’s team this week regarding ads purchased by a Russian company during the 2016 election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed earlier this month that the company bought approximately $3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017, totalling $100,000.
There is a good chance Mueller will probe whether the advertisements “showed any of the kind of sophisticated targeting that might indicate that Americans had provided assistance,” the Atlantic’s David Graham wrote earlier this week.
7. James Quarles
Former assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation James Quarles is the latest to emerge as a central figure assisting with Mueller’s probe. The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that Quarles was added to the team as its “point person” for interactions with the White House, noting that he has been constantly in touch with Trump’s legal aides to check in on document requests and confirm the status of upcoming interviews.
Quarles left his position as a partner at the global law firm WilmerHale to join Mueller’s team in June.
State election officials didn’t know whether their systems had been targeted until Friday.
Mueller Scorches the Earth
It was not enough to get a search warrant to ransack the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, even as the former Trump campaign chairman was cooperating with congressional investigators.Mueller’s bad-asses persuaded a judge to give them permission to pick …
Robert Mueller Has Requested Air Force One Phone Records in the Russia InvestigationGQ Magazine
What Scares Paul Manafort More than Mueller?Vanity Fair
What the FISA Warrants Against Paul Manafort Tell us About Mueller’s InvestigationJust Security
The Hill –The Guardian –Conservative Review –CNN
all 39 news articles »
FBI agent sentenced for disclosing sensitive material to mistress
When FBI agent Ken Hillman was assigned to Northwest Georgia, his aim was clear: catch sex predators who target children online. But on Friday, Hillman stood in front of a federal judge and pleaded guilty to a crime of his own; disclosing sensitive law …and more »
‘James Comey, you’re not our homie’: Protesters disrupt former FBI director’s speech at Howard University
A group of protesters chanting “no justice, no peace,” interrupted former FBI director James B. Comey as he tried to address the convocation ceremony at Howard University on Friday morning. “Get out James Comey, you’re not our homie,” the group of …
James Comey: Protests disrupt speech to Howard studentsBBC News
Protesters disrupt James Comey’s Howard University convocation speechPolitico
Comey convocation address derailed by angry protesters at Howard UniversityFox News
NBCNews.com –Newsweek –ABC News –CNN International
all 41 news articles »
Russia wants Trump and Kim Jong Un to calm down
Vladimir Putin Sergey Lavrov Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stand while waiting for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to their talks at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, Saturday, July …
The Week in Pictures: Sept. 15 – 22NBCNews.com
What Is the Difference Between a Hydrogen Bomb and an Atomic Bomb?TIME
Trump: North Korea’s ‘Little Rocket Man’ should have been handled long agoThe Hill
Politico –PBS NewsHour –Washington Examiner –Albany Times Union
all 1,610 news articles »
US student trapped in Indiana cave for three days
A US student spent almost three days trapped inside a cave after he was left behind on a university field trip. Lukas Cavar, 19, was visiting the Sullivan Cave in southern Indiana with the Indiana University Caving Club on Sunday. He was separated from …
Forgotten IU freshman locked in cave for 60 hoursIndianapolis Star
College student spent 60 hours in cave before rescue, licked walls for waterFox News
Forgotten student trapped in cave for three days without food and waterTelegraph.co.uk
Sky News –WISH-TV –Newser –Daily Mail
all 25 news articles »
Forgotten student trapped in cave for three days without food and water
A US student was trapped in a cave for three days without food or water after he was left behind on a group excursion. Lukas Cavar, a first year student at Indiana University, was on a spelunking trip when he became separated from the rest of the group.and more »
Iran conducts new ballistic missile test despite Trump pressure
Iran announced Saturday that the country has conducted a successful test of a new ballistic missile design despite pressure from the Trump administration to stop, and vowed to continue its weapons development. The new missile design has a range of 1 …
Iran tests missile despite Trump pressureBBC News
Iran releases video of new ballistic missile being test-firedFox News
Iran Tests New Ballistic Missile, State Media ReportsNBCNews.com
USA TODAY –Bloomberg –Washington Examiner –Daily Beast
all 321 news articles »
Pragmatism is the real frontrunner in Germany’s election
Despite this reality, the suggestion resonates strongly with German voters — in a 2016 poll 83 percent of Germans wanted U.S. nuclear weapons out of the country. In theory this could have …Putin’s continued antagonization of the West, including his …
With Germany’s Election Around The Corner, What’s Putin’s Play?NPRall 990 news articles »
CBS San Francisco Bay Area
Facebook Faces ‘Era Of Accountability’ Over Russia-Backed Election Ads
CBS San Francisco Bay Area
It has provided the ads and other information to Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation, Facebook said in a statement, although it declined to elaborate. The company that nudges its users to reveal intimate details …
Facebook may be facing an ‘era of accountability’Lowell Sunall 29 news articles »
CBS San Francisco Bay Area
Manipulating Facebook To Manipulate Voters
Swift County Monitor
For instance, one study found that college basketball fans, viewing the same video of a game, were likely to believe the rival team committed at least twice as many fouls as their own,” Gregory Ferenstein, a fellow at the University of California …
Facebook Faces ‘Era Of Accountability’ Over Russia-Backed Election AdsCBS San Francisco Bay Areaall 44 news articles »
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says anti-Semitic targeting was ‘a fail on our part’
In a post today, Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg made her first public statement on a recent ProPublica investigation of ad-targeting to hate groups, calling the issue “a fail on our part.” Last week, ProPublica’s investigation found …and more »
Facebook to Turn Over Russian-Linked Ads to Congress
New York Times
6 that Russian agents covertly bought ads on the site during last year’s campaign has brought intense scrutiny on the social network and on Twitter, entangling both companies in theinvestigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel …
‘Russia hoax continues’: Trump attacks investigation into Facebook adsThe Guardian
The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social MediaNPR
The Latest: Democratic lawmakers praise Facebook disclosureMiami Herald
NJ.com –Yahoo Finance –NBC Chicago –Facebook Newsroom
all 769 news articles »
Facebook to crack down on election ads, turn 3000 over to congressional investigators
Zuckerberg’s announcement, made via a Facebook Live video, comes alongside the company’s decision Thursday to release 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional committees investigating that country’s meddling during the 2016 presidential election. The …and more »
The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social Media
… investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. Now they’re in the spotlight. Congressional investigators are digging in on Russia’s use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to try to influence the …
‘Russia hoax continues’: Trump attacks investigation into Facebook adsThe Guardian
Facebook to Turn Over Russian-Linked Ads to CongressNew York Times
Facebook Russian ads that influenced election released to CongressCBS News
NJ.com –Miami Herald –Newsy
all 507 news articles »
State Investigations Could Play Powerful Adversary Role Against Trump Administration
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has continued to investigate PresidentTrump’s business interests. His work could lead him to being a key figure in the president’s future. Facebook; Twitter. Google+. Email …
The New Yorker
A Dizzying Week of Trump-Russia Revelations
The New Yorker
The possible outcomes of the Russia investigation have always been wildly divergent. On one end of the spectrum, it is possible that the Russian government penetrated deep inside theTrump campaign—perhaps with the candidate’s knowledge—and the …
The Paradox of an Explosive Week in the Mueller InvestigationThe Atlantic
Judge Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s frightening and tightening legal nooseFox News
Senator asks FBI if it warned Trump campaign about Russian meddlingReuters
CNN –Politico –TPM
all 349 news articles »
Grassley asks FBI if Trump was warned of Russian efforts to infiltrate his campaign
Grassley wrote the letter Wednesday after reports by CNN that the FBI began investigatingformer Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business dealings with the Russians in 2014. Those reports, cited by Grassley on Thursday, also allege that …
Senator asks FBI if it warned Trump campaign about Russian meddlingReuters
A Dizzying Week of Trump-Russia RevelationsThe New Yorker
The Paradox of an Explosive Week in the Mueller InvestigationThe Atlantic
Fox News –Politico –Washington Examiner
all 349 news articles »
Wall Street Journal (subscription)
GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People
Wall Street Journal (subscription)
The Trump-Russia Investigations: Who Are the Russians Involved? U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or …and more »
The Hill (blog)
Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory
The Hill (blog)
The former director of National Intelligence said that the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russians sought to influence the 2016 election “cast doubt on the legitimacy” of PresidentTrump’s victory. “Our intelligence community assessment did …
JAMES CLAPPER: US intelligence assessment of Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of …Business Insider
Ex-intel chief: Findings on Russian interference “cast doubt on legitimacy of the election”Shareblue Media
James Clapper: Russia’s US Campaign Included Social Media ‘Trolls’Newsmaxall 5 news articles »
Russia: Relations with US poor over ‘Russo-phobic hysteria’
Sergey Lavrov told a news conference there has been a lengthy campaign claiming Russiainterfered in the U.S. election to ensure victory for President Donald Trump — “but we do not see any facts.” When he asked U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson …
Lavrov Blames `Small-Minded’ Obama for US–Russia DivisionsBloomberg
Russia’s Lavrov continues to scoff at ‘so-called interference’ in US electionWENY-TV
Russia, China push back on a US-led world order – CNNPoliticsCNN
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Media says Trump is just like crazy dictator Kim Jong-un, and other absolutely moronic press comments
Over at MSNBC, we got proven liar and “The 11th Hour” host Brian Williams making the comparison: “[C]an you remind the good folks watching just how unusual this kind of wording from an American president is? Almost borrowing the vocabulary and …and more »
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect.”
RealClearPolitics–Sep 21, 2017
Newsweek–Sep 20, 2017
In-Depth–The Daily Caller–Sep 20, 2017
Opinion–Newsday–Sep 21, 2017
In-Depth–The Atlantic–Sep 21, 2017
New York City’s most high-profile residential buildings are often home to some of the wealthiest—and shadiest—figures in the world. Take, for instance, the Time Warner Center, where members of the Saudi royal family and known corrupt Russian officials knowingly shack up. Or Walker Tower, where the purchase of a $50.9 million penthouse has been named by the U.S. government in connection to an international money laundering scheme.
It should come as no surprise that Trump Tower is no exception. Bloomberg has compiled an extensive, and rather epic, list of the building’s past and present occupants, shedding light on the international cast of characters who traverse the building’s gilded halls.
At that, following is a list of a handful of Trump Tower’s current residents, who include an embattled former sports administrator who plead guilty in a crime connected to the FIFA scandal, and Trump’s former campaign manager.
Donald Trump, Floors 66 through 68
Of course the Republican presidential nominee shacks up in the top floors of his namesake tower, hidden behind a grand entryway gilded in gold and diamonds. The palatial penthouse, Bloomberg reports, takes a tip from Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi: “One reason Trump’s triplex is so vast, he has written, is a trip he took to…Khashoggi’s condo nearby, where he stepped into a living room bigger than his own.” Trump, who has the best temperament, wanted to level up with a Saudi arms dealer. That’s reassuring.
Guido Lombardi, Floors 62 through 63
Real estate investor Guido Lombardi is a self-proclaimed Italian count, Trump supporter, and sympathizer with Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party.
Helly Nahmad, Floor 51
Art dealer Hillel Nahmad, of the Nahmad collecting dynasty, has been snatching up apartments on the 51st floor of Trump Tower since at least 1999, when he paid $2.5 million for Unit 51J. Years, and millions, later, Nahmad amassed the entire floor for a total $18.4 million. Nahmad was sent to prison for five months in 2014 for running a high-stakes gambling ring.
Related: the massive Panama Papers leak from earlier this year identified Nahmad’s father, David, as the owner of a Modigliani that the grandson of a Jewish art dealer claims was snatched from his grandparent’s shop in Paris during the Nazi occupation.
Ernie Garcia, Floors 48 through 49
The chairman of used car dealer DriveTime plead guilty to bank fraud in 1990 in connection to the collapse of Charles Keating’s Savings and Loan. Garcia was sentenced to probation, and currently takes up residence in the tower.
Paul Manafort, Floor 43
Trump’s former campaign manager, who resigned in August, has lived in Trump Tower since 2006. Manafort transferred the apartment from an LLC to his name in 2015.
Jose Maria Marin, Floor 41
If one must serve house arrest, Trump Tower is not too shabby of a place to do it. That’s the case with Jose Maria Marin, a former administrator of the Brazilian Football Confederation who’s serving a sentence in connection with bribery charges stemming from the FIFA crisis, to which he plead guilty.
Susetta Mion, Floor 32
Ivana Trump’s pal Susetta Mion, of the Italian fashion family, has been shacked up in a Trump Tower pad after allegedly looting her mother’s bank accounts and possessions and carting it all across the Atlantic in 2007. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mion called the issue a “family quarrel that’s being resolved.”
Juan Beckmann Vidal, Floor 31
Vidal’s name is not as well known as the liquor brand he controls: Jose Cuervo. The tequila bigwig owns three apartments in the building.
For a list of the colorful characters who formerly purchased in the building, including Andrew Lloyd Weber and Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, head on over to Bloomberg.
Watch: Architecture that comes to life in Game of Thrones
Trump’s ex-campaign chair is a major target for special counsel Mueller, and an indictment may not be far off – which could change everything for the president
When Paul Manafort, the former Washington super-lobbyist, bought an apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan for $3.7m in 2006, there was no reason at the time to read the hand of destiny in it.
Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money
How Trump followed a Russian map straight to Paul Manafort
Speculation flew after the latest Manafort revelations this week that Russian money had found its way into the Trump campaign and that Manafort may have had something to do with it, which was not a surprise given his contacts with shady political …
‘Of course we discussed Trump‘: Russian-Ukrainian operative explains his emails with ManafortBusiness Insider
Paul Manafort: why Trump’s old ally could hold the key in Mueller’s Russia huntThe Guardian
How the Latest Paul Manafort Revelations Fit with Trump’s Business ModelThe New Yorkerall 37 news articles »
Clinton’s ‘What Happened’ does not tell what really happened
In the months since Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the White House to Donald Trump, the Democrat has poured her thoughts and considerable ire into a book running to almost 500 pages that tries to explain “What Happened”. … She makes the point …and more »
The Trump-Russia saga has more characters than War and Peace and plot twists harder to follow than Game of Thrones. So making sense of the latest news – that the FBI had taken out not one, but two surveillance orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort – can be difficult to put into context. But in fact, this new piece of information actually can help connect the counterintelligence and criminal investigations that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is overseeing, and show how a FISA warrant may have played a role in each.
I have already provided a detailed description of the (onerous) process of obtaining a FISA order, and the legal standards it requires. The only thing to add in Manafort’s case is that since he is a U.S. person (or USPER, in intel slang), the standards to obtain a FISA warrant on him are slightly higher than the generic process I described in my earlier piece. First, the probable cause standard required the FBI to provide evidence that Manafort was “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence activities” (rather than merely being “an agent of a foreign power”)– in other words, that he wasn’t just acting on behalf of a foreign power, but that he was doing so with full knowledge that what he was doing involved spying. Second, in order to continue monitoring Manafort, the FBI would have been required to check in with the FISA court every 90 days and show that their surveillance had, in fact, produced foreign intelligence information. Only with this continuing, additional evidence would the FISA order be renewed for an additional 90 days at a time.
Keeping these factors in mind, let’s look at what we know. We know that the FBI had one FISA surveillance order on Manafort on or about 2014. This was in relation to his consulting work on behalf of the pro-Russia ruling party in Ukraine at the time. We also know that the surveillance ceased at some point before Manafort joined President Trump’s campaign in 2016. It then recommenced at some point after that, based on his connections with Russian intelligence and evidence suggesting that he was encouraging them to interfere in the presidential election. That surveillance continued into at least early 2017. The “gap” covered the period of time when Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner met with Russians at Trump Tower to discuss – depending on whose version you believe – “adoptions” or incriminating information the Russians claimed to have on Hillary Clinton. Following along so far? Good.
Let’s look at the “gap.” According to reporting, the initial FISA surveillance ceased after a court found that the FBI was no longer collecting foreign intelligence based on that order. This likely would have occurred at one of the 90-day renewal points after the surveillance began. Now, one conclusion might be that there was no foreign intelligence activity actually happening – or perhaps that the basis for this order itself was somewhat flimsy. However, if the order had been renewed at least once since it commenced, which would be likely even if it began in late 2014 or early 2015, that was probably not the case: After all, in order to renew the order at any point prior to it ceasing, the FBI would have had to produce ongoing foreign intelligence collection.
I invite you to consider another possibility. If Manafort was already being developed by Russian intelligence since 2014, and was approached in a more concrete, operational way around summer 2016, then they would likely want him to begin communicating with them through other means than he was already using. If this happened, collection on the lines, accounts, or facilities targeted by the initial FISA order would go dry, and would explain why the surveillance ceased. In other words, there was no longer any foreign intelligence activity happening on the first FISA – but that’s because it was happening somewhere else.
(It’s worth noting here that a FISA order would not necessarily need to cover only phone lines, or even a single mode of communication; as long as the FBI could prove that the mode of communication was being used by the target and likely to produce foreign intelligence, multiple communication channels could be authorized in the same order – you don’t need to obtain a separate FISA warrant for a phone number and an email address, for example, as long as you can demonstrate that both belong to and are used by the target.)
That the first FISA order ceased because Manafort became “operational” is admittedly purely speculative. But based on my experience working against foreign intelligence targets, this would be consistent with the timeline in several respects. First, the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting has been characterized by many intelligence experts as a “test run” – an experiment to see how open members of the Trump campaign might be to engaging in some potentially illegal behavior in order to benefit the campaign. Having Manafort already on board would make sense in this scenario: Even if this might have been only an initial approach to Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner, the Russians would know they had at least one person in the campaign – Manafort – at that point who was “all in,” and could make the meeting less threatening for the newbies.
Second, it helps explain why a second FISA order was brought before the FISA court. It would make sense that after the initial FISA surveillance ceased and Manafort “went dark,” the FBI would be trying to determine what he was up to. We know that in this period the FBI obtained new intelligence that Manafort was in contact with the Russians and had enough evidence to substantiate a second FISA application. The new intelligence may have formed the basis to go back on the same lines or accounts as in the initial FISA. But if the FBI uncovered new channels or modes of communication that Manafort was using with the Russians, this could also be the reason for the second FISA warrant: Just because the FBI went up for a second time on the same target does not mean that they recommenced surveillance on the same channels as before. (This latter possibility implies some uncharacteristic operational sloppiness on the part of the Russians, but considering that Manafort was taking notes from the Trump Tower meeting on his iPhone and emailing directly with a Russian oligarch in code about offering secret briefings on the Trump campaign, this is not necessarily a stretch.)
Third, this theory would explain Mueller’s keen interest in Manafort in particular. Mueller’s investigation is first and foremost a counterintelligence investigation. Regardless of whether Don Jr. or Jared Kushner had any subsequent meetings or contacts with the Russians or colluded with them in their active measures, the FISAs suggest that Manafort holds the real keys to the kingdom. Namely, how was election interference plan conceived? What operational measures were involved? Was there any quid pro quo? Who else was in on it? This is to emphasize that Mueller may be just as – if not, more – interested in Manafort spilling the identities and methods of the Russians in this whole scenario as in those of any Americans members of the Trump campaign who were involved. After all, we know that with the Facebook search warrant that Mueller is potentially interested in pursuing Russians living in Russia who tried to disseminate disinformation in the U.S. He would surely be as interested in identifying and nailing the Russian operatives who participated in active measures to influence the election here in the States.
Which brings us to Mueller’s criminal investigation on Manafort. To get Manafort to talk, Mueller needs some, shall we say, “incentives.” The prospect of serious jail time for not cooperating is usually effective. The problem is, that for all of Manafort’s redflaggy behavior with the Ukranians and the Russians, there aren’t really a lot of laws against spying. There’s the Espionage Act, which relates to defense and classified information and doesn’t apply in the current scenario. And there’s the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which as Steve Vladeck explains is a procedural statute: People or entities designated as foreign agents must register if the Department of Justice asks them to, but as long as they comply they are out of the crosshairs of criminal prosecution. Manafort retroactively registered as a foreign agent in June.
Financial crimes, by contrast, carry significant penalties, particularly when multiple charges are added together. Here is where the FISA orders could have come into play again. It’s important to emphasize that the goal of using a FISA warrant is not to collect evidence of a crime; it’s to collect foreign intelligence information. However, since 9/11 and the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, evidence of criminal activity that is obtained through the course of a FISA investigation can be used to open a criminal case, as long as a “significant purpose” of the FISA inquiry was to obtain foreign intelligence. Here, the FISA warrants on Manafort were based on his intelligence connections. But if he was engaging in financial shenanigans, related or unrelated to his alleged intelligence activities, signs of it may have become apparent during the FISA monitoring, allowing the FBI to open a separate criminal case on Manafort – which is where we are now.
We don’t know the content of the communications monitored under the FISA orders, which might really add the missing links to what connections, if any, existed between the Trump campaign and Russia. But the existence of the FISA warrantss themselves on Manafort, and their timing, gives us a way to understand the facts so far. So even if, like me, you’ve never made it all the way through War and Peace (I don’t even watch Game of Thrones), you can still follow along with Mueller: There’s a method to his madness against Manafort.
Image: Getty/Chip Somodevilla
“Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota among states targeted by Russian hackers in 2016 race
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Wisconsin, Ohio and several other states said on Friday they were among 21 states that Russian government hackers targeted in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump though no votes were changed …
States finally find out: Did Russian hackers target them?Politico
DHS tells 21 states they were Russia hacking targets before 2016 electionThe Hill
Feds tell 21 states they were targeted during electionCBS News
all 148 news articles »
Federal government notifies 21 states of election hacking
6, 2017. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the Americanpresidential election in favor of electing Donald Trump, according to the report issued by U.S.intelligence agencies. The unclassified version was the most detailed …and more »
State: Russians tried to hack Washington elections
The security protocols we already have in place made us aware of these attempted intrusions by Russian IP addresses throughout the course of the 2016 election,” Wyman said. “There was no successful intrusion and we immediately alerted the Federal …and more »
Experts are concerned the pair are edging dangerously close to war.
We are leaving the postwar era that saw the U.S foster the founding of the U.N. and entering what may be a prewar period of global disorder.
The Kremlin has given the West little cause for reassurance.
In recent weeks, Russia and its tycoons have displayed their sense of nationalist interest with unmistakable clarity in a manner that suggests an inherently adversarial, if not downright hostile, attitude to Western governments, interests and companies.
Robert Dudley, the chief executive of TNK-BP, the joint venture between BP and wealthy Russian-connected shareholders, left Russia because of complications with his work visa. Those problems coincided mysteriously – and, for the Russian side, conveniently – with broader disputes about the company’s investment policies and senior personnel appointments.
Since leaving, Dudley has been trying to run the company from somewhere outside Russia, even though his partners in the joint venture no longer recognize him as chief executive. BP accused them of enlisting state agencies to pursue their battle – a familiar combination of commercial and government forces in Russia’s quest to restrict foreign influence in its oil industry.
At around the same time, Russia put forward a proposal to NATO for a new treaty that would subsume NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe into a new security architecture designed by the Kremlin to reflect Russia’s re-emergence as a power on the global stage. There were reports, too, that Russia planned to renationalize part of its huge grain exports, raising concerns that Moscow would add food to its armory of economic and diplomatic weapons alongside state-dominated gas, oil and arms exports.
As indicators of Russia’s sense of national interest, those events sent out clear signals: after the chaos and decline of the Yeltsin era in the 1990s, the Kremlin was flexing economic and diplomatic muscle in pursuit of influence and wealth.
But there was an equally clear flip side, a mirror-image of the West’s readiness to cast Moscow in the role of villain and spoiler.
From Russia’s viewpoint, NATO has been a meddlesome force, extending influence within what used to be the Soviet fief, a sense of encroachment magnified by the U.S. plan to station anti-missile defenses in the Czech Republic and Poland.
That rankles with Moscow. Imperial memory is a powerful force, instilling a yearning for lost glories and an urge for new modes of influence, acknowledgment and respect.
It should surprise no one that, once the Kremlin made a strategic decision under Putin to reassert control over its own energy resources, outsiders would have a hard time navigating the oil and gas business that gives the Moscow elite control over such massive wealth and power.
There is a sense, too, that by projecting itself as a pole of opposition to Western plans, Moscow is offering itself as an alternate, a counterweight and an equal player, defining itself quite deliberately as the West’s muscular opposite, as much the “other” as in 1939.
Sometimes that divide takes on the trappings of a redefined cold war. Moscow maintains as many secret agents in Britain as it did in the hey-day of Soviet intelligence-gathering, according to the British security services. After the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB officer, in London in 2006, Britain and Russia expelled four of each other’s embassy personnel. Each side has accused the other of conducting unacceptable espionage.
On a more ominous scale, Putin himself compared the American plan for a missile shield in Eastern Europe to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and threatened to turn Russian missiles against new European targets.
But the power these days lies in pipelines, not warheads. Russia provides an increasingly significant proportion of Europe’s natural gas supplies and controls the pipeline network that distributes it.
Europe is the prime market for Russia’s gas, a font not only of burgeoning revenue but also of vital technology and investment to broaden and develop Russia’s economy. That should give the West some leverage: by instilling trepidation among potential western partners, Moscow jeopardizes its access to the West’s technology.
Yet, European divisions over dealings with Moscow leave the West vulnerable to the Kremlin’s manipulation.
Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, was asked the other day what suggestions he would offer to companies planning to do business in Russia.
“My advice,” he said, “would be: tread with caution.”
James Clapper. AP
- The former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said an assessment by the US intelligence community on Russia’s US election interference “cast doubt” on President Donald Trump’s legitimacy.
- Clapper’s comments follow an avalanche of recent news about Russia’s efforts to sway American voters in 2016.
- The Russia investigation has gained significant momentum in recent weeks, with several current and former Trump insiders under scrutiny for their ties to, and contacts with Russian operatives.
James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said Friday that the US intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election “cast doubt on the legitimacy” of President Donald Trump’s victory.
“Our intelligence community assessment did serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election,” Clapper said of Trump in a CNN interview Friday evening.
“I think that, above all else, is what concerned him, and I think that transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in our political process which, by the way, is going to continue,” Clapper said.
Watch the segment below:
It was the most direct assertion about the effects Russian operatives had in the US election — the investigation of which has evolved exponentially in the last four months under special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia probe on behalf of the US Justice Department.
Mueller and his investigators have focused on several people close to Trump who have ties to, or have made contact with, the Kremlin — including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and others. Information gleaned from US government surveillance of Manafort prompted concerns that he had encouraged Russians to “help with the campaign,” according to a CNN report on Monday.
Paul Manafort. AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Kremlin operatives reportedly bragged about trying to use people close to Trump — like Flynn, Manafort, and former foreign-policy adviser Carter Page — to make inroads with the campaign.
And Donald Trump Jr. became the subject of heavy scrutiny in July when it was discovered that he, along with Manafort and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner attended a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who promised to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Russia’s efforts to sway the US election were further revealed this month when Facebook announced that Russian-associated Facebook accounts had purchased $100,000 in ads during the election. The ads were used to target voters in some battleground states.
Donald Trump. Alex Wong/Getty Images
A soft spot for Trump
Clapper’s assertion that Russia’s activities cast doubt on Trump’s legitimacy will likely strike a nerve with the president. Aides and allies have said previously that Trump’s ire toward the Russia investigation stems from that exact notion that Russia’s meddling potentially diminishes his November 2016 victory.
Trump himself is a subject of Mueller’s investigation for possible obstruction of justice, for his part in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Trump has said that he had the Russia probe in mind when he made his decision, and later said that firing Comey took “great pressure” off of him in the investigation.
To date, neither Trump nor anyone subject to Mueller’s investigation has been accused of any wrongdoing, and Trump has denied the same.
Hillary Clinton. Screenshot via CNN
For her part, Clinton has made crystal clear whom she blames for Russia’s interference.
In an interview with USA Today published Monday, Clinton said she thought some Trump associates had an “understanding” that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted her to lose and Trump to win.
“There certainly was communication, and there certainly was an understanding of some sort,” Clinton said.
“And there’s no doubt in my mind that there are a tangle of financial relationships between Trump and his operation with Russian money,” Clinton said, adding that she was confident the Trump campaign “worked really hard to hide their connections with Russians.”
The federal government told election officials in 21 states on Friday that hackers had tried to break into their systems before the 2016 election, The Associated Press reported.
Key battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were among those targeted, the report said. The AP said the government did not specify who the hackers were, but election officials in several affected states told the news wire service that the attempts were linked to Russia.
JAMES CLAPPER: US intelligence assessment of Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of …
… intelligence community on Russia’s US election interference “cast doubt” on President Donald Trump’s legitimacy. Clapper’s comments follow an avalanche of recent news about Russia’s efforts to sway American voters in 2016. The Russia investigation …and more »
The newest attack was just the latest in a back and forth feud between the president and the North Korean leader.
In addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s far reaching investigation into all of Donald Trump’s various past and present criminal activities, a number of congressional committees are also investigating various aspects of Trump’s connections to Russia. Just before Trump entered the election, his Taj Mahal casino paid a multimillion dollar fine for money laundering violations. Now we have confirmation that one Senate committee has in fact obtained those damning records.
On behalf of the Senate Finance Committee, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden requested the money laundering records from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which levied the penalty against Trump’s casino in the first place. According to CNN, FinCEN’s response to Wyden is that it has already provided the records to the Senate Intelligence Committee (link). This is crucial because it gives us a definitive answer after a prolonged battle between Senate Intel and Trump’s Treasury Department.
What this means is that the Senate, or at least the Senate Intel Committee, now has access to the confidential records which provide the details of Trump’s casino’s money laundering bust. Thus far the only publicly available information regarding that bust is largely limited to what was contained in FinCEN’s original press release (link), which is that the violations went back several years to when Donald Trump still had a significant ownership stake in the Taj Mahal. No mention was made of whowas laundering money in Trump’s casino. Was this how the Russians were funneling money into Trump’s hands ahead of the election?
This comes even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller is knee deep into his own investigation into Donald Trump’s various criminal activities past and present. Considering that Mueller has added multiple prosecutors to his team with expertise in money laundering, it seems nearly a given that he’s also aggressively pursuing Trump’s financial crimes.
The post Senate has obtained Donald Trump’s Russian money laundering records appeared first on Palmer Report.
US States Say Voting Systems Were Targeted By Russian Hackers
… battleground states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, and Minnesota, where Democraticcandidate Hillary Clinton lost in some cases by only a few thousand votes to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, were among those that blamed Russian hackers.
Trump calls Facebook ad controversy part of ‘Russia hoax’ as he says ‘screaming’ biased media tried to tilt election …Daily Mail
Russian hackers targeted Florida, 20 other states in 2016 electionThe Sun Heraldall 171 news articles »
Renowned psychiatrist warns Americans: You have a duty to call out Trump as danger to others
There will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial thanThe Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the work of 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts to assess President Trump’s mental health. They had come together last March at a conference at Yale University to wrestle with two questions. One was on countless minds across the country: “What’s wrong with him?” The second was directed to their own code of ethics: “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn” if they conclude the president to be dangerously unfit?
As mental health professionals, these men and women respect the long-standing “Goldwater rule” which inhibits them from diagnosing public figures whom they have not personally examined. At the same time, as explained by Dr. Bandy X Lee, who teaches law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, the rule does not have a countervailing rule that directs what to do when the risk of harm from remaining silent outweighs the damage that could result from speaking about a public figure — “which in this case, could even be the greatest possible harm.” It is an old and difficult moral issue that requires a great exertion of conscience. Their decision: “We respect the rule, we deem it subordinate to the single most important principle that guides our professional conduct: that we hold our responsibility to human life and well-being as paramount.”
Hence, this profound, illuminating and discomforting book undertaken as “a duty to warn.”
The foreword is by one of America’s leading psychohistorians, Robert Jay Lifton. He is renowned for his studies of people under stress — for books such as Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1967), Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans — Neither Victims nor Executioners (1973), and The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide(1986). The Nazi Doctors was the first in-depth study of how medical professionals rationalized their participation in the Holocaust, from the early stages of the Hitler’s euthanasia project to extermination camps.
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump will be published Oct. 3 by St. Martin’s Press.
Here is my interview with Robert Jay Lifton — Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers: This book is a withering exploration of Donald Trump’s mental state. Aren’t you and the 26 other mental health experts who contribute to it in effect violating the Goldwater Rule? Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatrist Association’s code of ethics flatly says: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on a public figure] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization.” Are you putting your profession’s reputation at risk?
Robert Jay Lifton: I don’t think so. I think the Goldwater Rule is a little ambiguous. We adhere to that portion of the Goldwater Rule that says we don’t see ourselves as making a definitive diagnosis in a formal way and we don’t believe that should be done, except by hands-on interviewing and studying of a person. But we take issue with the idea that therefore we can say nothing about Trump or any other public figure. We have a perfect right to offer our opinion, and that’s where “duty to warn” comes in.
Moyers: Duty to warn?
Lifton: We have a duty to warn on an individual basis if we are treating someone who may be dangerous to herself or to others — a duty to warn people who are in danger from that person. We feel it’s our duty to warn the country about the danger of this president. If we think we have learned something about Donald Trump and his psychology that is dangerous to the country, yes, we have an obligation to say so. That’s why Judith Herman and I wrote our letter to The New York Times. We argue that Trump’s difficult relationship to reality and his inability to respond in an evenhanded way to a crisis renders him unfit to be president, and we asked our elected representative to take steps to remove him from the presidency.
Moyers: Yet some people argue that our political system sets no intellectual or cognitive standards for being president, and therefore, the ordinary norms of your practice as a psychiatrist should stop at the door to the Oval Office.
Lifton: Well, there are people who believe that there should be a standard psychiatric examination for every presidential candidate and for every president. But these are difficult issues because they can’t ever be entirely psychiatric. They’re inevitably political as well. I personally believe that ultimately ridding the country of a dangerous president or one who’s unfit is ultimately a political matter, but that psychological professionals can contribute in valuable ways to that decision.
Moyers: Do you recall that there was a comprehensive study of all 37 presidents up to 1974? Half of them reportedly had a diagnosable mental illness, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It’s not normal people who always make it to the White House.
Lifton: Yes, that’s amazing, and I’m sure it’s more or less true. So people with what we call mental illness can indeed serve well, and people who have no discernible mental illness — and that may be true of Trump — may not be able to serve, may be quite unfit. So it isn’t always the question of a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s really a question of what psychological and other traits render one unfit or dangerous.
Moyers: You write in the foreword of the book: “Because Trump is president and operates within the broad contours and interactions of the presidency, there is a tendency to view what he does as simply part of our democratic process, that is, as politically and even ethically normal.”
Lifton: Yes. And that’s what I call malignant normality. What we put forward as self-evident and normal may be deeply dangerous and destructive. I came to that idea in my work on the psychology of Nazi doctors — and I’m not equating anybody with Nazi doctors, but it’s the principle that prevails — and also with American psychologists who became architects of CIA torture during the Iraq War era. These are forms of malignant normality. For example, Donald Trump lies repeatedly. We may come to see a president as liar as normal. He also makes bombastic statements about nuclear weapons, for instance, which can then be seen as somehow normal. In other words, his behavior as president, with all those who defend his behavior in the administration, becomes a norm. We have to contest it, because it is malignantnormality. For the contributors to this book, this means striving to be witnessing professionals, confronting the malignancy and making it known.
Moyers: Witnessing professionals? Where did this notion come from?
Lifton: I first came to it in terms of psychiatrists assigned to Vietnam, way back then. If a soldier became anxious and enraged about the immorality of the Vietnam War, he might be sent to a psychiatrist who would be expected to help him be strong enough to return to committing atrocities. So there was something wrong in what professionals were doing, and some of us had to try to expose this as the wrong and manipulative use of our profession. We had to see ourselves as witnessing professionals. And then of course, with the Nazi doctors I studied for another book — doctors assigned, say, to Auschwitz — they were expected to do selections of Jews for the gas chamber. That was what was expected of them and what for the most part they did — sometimes with some apprehension, but they did it. So that’s another malignant normality. Professionals were reduced to being automatic servants of the existing regime as opposed to people with special knowledge balanced by a moral baseline as well as the scientific information to make judgments.
Moyers: And that should apply to journalists, lawyers, doctors —
Lifton: Absolutely. One bears witness by taking in the situation — in this case, its malignant nature — and then telling one’s story about it, in this case with the help of professional knowledge, so that we add perspective on what’s wrong, rather than being servants of the powers responsible for the malignant normality. We must be people with a conscience in a very fundamental way.
Moyers: And this is what troubled you and many of your colleagues about the psychologists who helped implement the US policy of torture after 9/11.
Lifton: Absolutely. And I call that a scandal within a scandal, because yes, it was indeed professionals who became architects of torture, and their professional society, the American Psychological Association, which encouraged and protected them until finally protest from within that society by other members forced a change. So that was a dreadful moment in the history of psychology and in the history of professionals in this country.
Moyers: Some of the descriptions used to describe Trump — narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, malignant narcissist — even some have suggested early forms of dementia — are difficult for lay people to grasp. Some experts say that it’s not one thing that’s wrong with him — there are a lot of things wrong with him and together they add up to what one of your colleagues calls “a scary witches brew, a toxic stew.”
Lifton: I think that’s very accurate. I agree that there’s an all-enveloping destructiveness in his character and in his psychological tendencies. But I’ve focused on what professionally I call solipsistic reality. Solipsistic reality means that the only reality he’s capable of embracing has to do with his own self and the perception by and protection of his own self. And for a president to be so bound in this isolated solipsistic reality could not be more dangerous for the country and for the world. In that sense, he does what psychotics do. Psychotics engage in, or frequently engage in a view of reality based only on the self. He’s not psychotic, but I think ultimately this solipsistic reality will be the source of his removal from the presidency.
Moyers: What’s your take on how he makes increasingly bizarre statements that are contradicted by irrefutable evidence to the contrary, and yet he just keeps on making them? I know some people in your field call this a delusional disorder, a profound loss of contact with external reality.
Lifton: He doesn’t have clear contact with reality, though I’m not sure it qualifies as a bona fide delusion. He needs things to be a certain way even though they aren’t, and that’s one reason he lies. There can also be a conscious manipulative element to it. When he put forward, and politically thrived on, the falsehood of President Obama’s birth in Kenya, outside the United States, he was manipulating that lie as well as undoubtedly believing it in part, at least in a segment of his personality. In my investigations, I’ve found that people can believe and not believe something at the same time, and in his case, he could be very manipulative and be quite gifted at his manipulations. So I think it’s a combination of those.
Moyers: How can someone believe and not believe at the same time?
Lifton: Well, in one part of himself, Trump can know there’s no evidence that Obama was born in any place but Hawaii in the United States. But in another part of himself, he has the need to reject Obama as a president of the United States by asserting that he was born outside of the country. He needs to delegitimate Obama. That’s been a strong need of Trump’s. This is a personal, isolated solipsistic need which can coexist with a recognition that there’s no evidence at all to back it up. I learned about this from some of the false confessions I came upon in my work.
Lifton: For instance, when I was studying Chinese communist thought reform, one priest was falsely accused of being a spy, and was under physical duress — really tortured with chains and in other intolerable ways. As he was tortured and the interrogator kept insisting that he was a spy, he began to imagine himself in the role of a spy, with spy radios in all the houses of his order. In his conversations with other missionaries he began to think he was revealing military data to the enemy in some way. These thoughts became real to him because he had to entered into them and convinced the interrogator that he believed them in order to remove the chains and the torture. He told me it seemed like someone creating a novel and the novelist building a story with characters which become real and believable. Something like that could happen to Trump, in which the false beliefs become part of a panorama, all of which is fantasy and very often bound up with conspiracy theory, so that he immerses himself in it and believing in it even as at the same time recognizing in another part of his mind that none of this exists. The human mind can do that.
Moyers: It’s as if he believes the truth is defined by his words.
Lifton: Yes, that’s right. Trump has a mind that in many ways is always under duress, because he’s always seeking to be accepted, loved. He sees himself as constantly victimized by others and by the society, from which he sees himself as fighting back. So there’s always an intensity to his destructive behavior that could contribute to his false beliefs.
Moyers: Do you remember when he tweeted that President Obama had him wiretapped, despite the fact that the intelligence community couldn’t find any evidence to support his claim? And when he spoke to a CIA gathering, with the television cameras running, he said he was “a thousand percent behind the CIA,” despite the fact that everyone watching had to know he had repeatedly denounced the “incompetence and dishonesty” of that same intelligence community.
Lifton: Yes, that’s an extraordinary situation. And one has to invoke here this notion of a self-determined truth, this inner need for the situation to take shape in the form that the falsehood claims. In a sense this takes precedence over any other criteria for what is true.
Moyers: What other hazardous patterns do you see in his behavior? For example, what do you make of the admiration that he has expressed for brutal dictators — Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq, even Kim Jong Un of North Korea — yes, him — and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who turned vigilantes loose to kill thousands of drug users, and of course his admiration for Vladimir Putin. In the book Michael Tansey says, “There’s considerable evidence to suggest that absolute tyranny is Donald Trump’s wet dream.”
Lifton: Yes. Well, while Trump doesn’t have any systematic ideology, he does have a narrative, and in that narrative, America was once a great country, it’s been weakened by poor leadership, and only he can make it great again by taking over. And that’s an image of himself as a strongman, a dictator. It isn’t the clear ideology of being a fascist or some other clear-cut ideological figure. Rather, it’s a narrative of himself as being unique and all-powerful. He believes it, though I’m sure he’s got doubts about it. But his narrative in a sense calls forth other strongmen, other dictators who run their country in an absolute way and don’t have to bother with legislative division or legal issues.
Moyers: I suspect some elected officials sometimes dream of doing what an unopposed autocrat or strongman is able to do, and that’s demand adulation on the one hand, and on the other hand, eradicate all of your perceived enemies just by turning your thumb down to the crowd. No need to worry about “fake media” — you’ve had them done away with. No protesters. No confounding lawsuits against you. Nothing stands in your way.
Lifton: That’s exactly right. Trump gives the impression that he would like to govern by decree. And of course, who governs by decree but dictators or strongmen? He has that impulse in him and he wants to be a savior, so he says, in his famous phrase, “Only I can fix it!” That’s a strange and weird statement for anybody to make, but it’s central to Trump’s sense of self and self-presentation. And I think that has a lot to do with his identification with dictators. No matter how many they kill and no matter what else they do, they have this capacity to rule by decree without any interference by legislators or courts.
In the case of Putin, I think Trump does have involvements in Russia that are in some way determinative. I think they’ll be important in his removal from office. I think he’s aware of collusion on his part and his campaign’s, some of which has been brought out, a lot more of which will be brought out in the future. He appears to have had some kind of involvement with the Russians in which they’ve rescued him financially and maybe continue to do so, so that he’s beholden to them in ways for which there’s already lots of evidence. So I think his fierce impulse to cover up any kind of Russian connections, which is prone to obstruction of justice, will do him in.
Moyers: I want to ask you about another side of him that is taken up in the book. It involves the much-discussed video that appeared during the campaign last year which had been made a decade or so ago when Trump was newly married. He sees this actress outside his bus and he says, “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” and then we hear sounds of Tic Tacs before Trump continues. “You know,” he says, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet, just kiss, I don’t even wait.” And then you can hear him boasting off camera, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, grab them by the…. You can do anything.”
Lifton: In addition to being a strongman and a dictator, there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs in his own mind, he can have. It’s a kind of American celebrity gone wild, but it’s also a vicious anti-female perspective and a caricature of male macho. That’s all present in Trump as well as the solipsism that I mentioned earlier, and that’s why when people speak of him as all-pervasive on many different levels of destructiveness, they’re absolutely right.
Moyers: And it seems to extend deeply into his relationship with his own family. There’s a chapter in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump with the heading, “Trump’s Daddy Issues.” There’s several of his quotes about his daughter, Ivanka. He said, “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody, and I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall. She’s got the best body.”
Again: “I said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Ivanka was 22 at the time. To a reporter he said: “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married — and, you know, her father…”
When Howard Stern, the radio host, started to say, “By the way, your daughter —” Trump interrupted him with “She’s beautiful.” Stern continued, “Can I say this? A piece of ass.” To which Trump replied, “Yeah.” What’s going on here?
Lifton: In addition to everything else and the extreme narcissism that it represents, it’s a kind of unbridled sense of saying anything on one’s mind as well as an impulse to break down all norms because he is the untouchable celebrity. So just as he is the one man who can fix things for the country, he can have every woman or anything else that he wants, or abuse them in any way he seeks to.
Moyers: You mentioned extreme narcissism. I’m sure you knew Erich Fromm —
Lifton: Yes, I did.
Moyers: — one of the founders of humanistic psychology. He was a Holocaust survivor who had a lifelong obsession with the psychology of evil. And he said that he thought “malignant narcissism” was the most severe pathology — “the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.” Do you think malignant narcissism goes a long way to explain Trump?
Lifton: I do think it goes a long way. In early psychoanalytic thought, narcissism was — and still, of course, is — self-love. The early psychoanalysts used to talk of libido directed at the self. That now feels a little quaint, that kind of language. But it does include the most fierce and self-displaying form of one’s individual self. And in this way, it can be dangerous. When you look at Trump, you can really see someone who’s destructive to any form of life enhancement in virtually every area. And if that’s what Fromm means by malignant narcissism, then it definitely applies.
Moyers: You said earlier that Trump and his administration have brought about a kind of malignant normalcy — that a dangerous president can become normalized. When the Democrats make a deal with him, as they did recently, are they edging him a little closer to being accepted despite this record of bizarre behavior?
Lifton: We are normalizing him when the Democrats make a deal with him. But there’s a profound ethical issue here and it’s not easily answered. If something is good for the country — perhaps the deal that the Democrats are making with Donald Trump is seen or could be understood by most as good for the country, dealing with the debt crisis — is that worth doing even though it normalizes him? If the Democrats do go ahead with this deal, they should take steps to make clear that they’re opposing other aspects of his presidency and of him.
Moyers: There’s a chapter in the book entitled, “He’s Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger.” Do you ever imagine him sitting alone in his office, deciding on a potentially catastrophic course of action for the nation? Say, with five minutes to decide whether or not to unleash thermonuclear weapons?
Lifton: I do. And like many, I’m deeply frightened by that possibility. It’s said very often that, OK, there are people around him who can contain him and restrain him. I’m not so sure they always can or would. In any case, it’s not unlikely that he could seek to create some kind of crisis, if he found himself in a very bad light in relation to public opinion and close to removal from office. So yes, I share that fear and I think it’s a real danger. I think we have to constantly keep it in mind, be ready to anticipate it and take whatever action we can against it. The American president has particular power. This makes Trump the most dangerous man in the world. He’s equally dangerous because of his finger on the nuclear trigger and because of his mind ensconced in solipsistic reality. The two are a dreadful combination.
Moyers: One of your colleagues writes in the book, “Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.” Does that sound like Trump?
Lifton: It’s already happening. We see that it’s harder and harder to work for him. It’s hard enough even for his spokesperson to affirm his falsehoods. These efforts are not too convincing and they become less convincing from the radius outward, in which people removed from his immediate circle find it still more difficult to believe him and the American public finds it more difficult. He still can appeal to his base because in his base there is a narrative of grievance that centers on embracing Trump without caring too much about whether what he says is true or false. He somehow fits into their narrative. But that can’t go on forever, and he’s losing some of his formerly loyal supporters as well. So he is becoming more isolated. That has its own dangers, but it’s inevitable that it would happen with a man like this as his falsehoods are contested.
Moyers: You bring up his base. Those true believers aren’t the only ones who voted for him. As we are talking, I keep thinking: Here we have a man who kept asking what’s the point of having thermonuclear weapons if we cannot use them; who advocates using torture or worse against our prisoners of war; who urged that five innocent young people here in New York, black young people, be given the death penalty for a sexual assault, even after it was proven someone else had committed the crime; who boasted about his ability to get away with sexually assaulting women because of his celebrity and power; who urged his followers at political rallies to punch protesters in the face and beat them so badly that they have to be taken out on stretchers; who suggested that maybe some of his followers might want to assassinate his political rival, Hillary Clinton, if she were elected president, or at the very least, throw her in prison; who believes he would not lose voters if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone. And over 63 million people voted to elect that man president!
Lifton: Yes, that’s a deeply troubling truth. And I doubt the people who voted for him were thinking about any of these things. What they were really responding to was a call for change, a sense that he was connecting with them in ways that others never had, that he would express and represent their interests, and that he would indeed make this country one dominated again by white people, in some cases white supremacists. But as you say, these people who embraced that narrative unquestioningly are a lesser minority than the ones who voted for him. And of course, he still didn’t win the popular vote. But it’s true — something has gone wrong with our democratic system in electing a man with all these characteristics that make up Donald Trump. Now we have to struggle to sustain the functional institutions of our democracy against his assault on them. I don’t think he’ll succeed in breaking them down, but he’s doing a lot of harm and it’ll take a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people to sustain them and to keep the democracy going, even in its faltering way.
Moyers: He still has the support of 80 percent of Republican voters — 4 out of 5. And it seems the Republican Party will tolerate him as long as they’re afraid of the intensity of his followers.
Lifton: Yes, and that’s another very disturbing thought. Things there could change quickly too. What I sense is that the whole situation is chaotic and volatile, so that any time now there could be further pronouncements, further information about Russia and about obstruction of justice, or another attempt of Trump to start firing people, including Mueller, and that this would create a constitutional crisis which would create more pressure on Republicans and everybody else. So even though that is an awful truth about the Republicans’ hypocrisy in continuing to support him, that could change, I think, almost overnight if the new information were sufficiently damning to Trump and his administration.
Moyers: Let’s talk about the “Trump Effect” on the country. One aspect of it was the increase in bullying in schools caused by the rhetoric used by Trump during the campaign. But it goes beyond that.
Lifton: I think Trump has had a very strong and disturbing effect on the country already. He has given more legitimacy to white supremacy and even to neo-fascist groups, and he’s created a pervasive atmosphere that’s more vague but still significant. I don’t believe that he can in his own way destroy the country, just as he can’t eliminate climate awareness, but he can go a long way in bringing — well, in stimulating what has always been a potential.
You mentioned Erich Fromm. I met him through [the sociologist] David Riesman. David Riesman was a close friend, a great authority on American society. He emphasized how there’s always an underbelly in American society of extreme conservatism and reactionary response, and when there’s any kind of progressive movement, there’s likely to be a backlash of reaction to it. Trump is very much in that backlash to any kind of progressive achievement or even decent situation in society. He is stimulating feelings that are potential and latent in our society, but very real, and rendering them more active and more dangerous. And in that way, he’s having a very harmful effect that I think mounts every single day.
Moyers: Some people who have known Trump for years say he’s gotten dramatically worse since he was inaugurated. In the prologue to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Dr. Judith Lewis Herman writes this: “Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur.” Does that —
Lifton: That’s absolutely true. It’s absolutely true. And for anyone with these traits — of feeling himself victimized, of seeking to be the strongman who resolves everything, yet sees truth only through his own self and negates all other truth outside of it — is bound to become much more malignant when he has power. That’s what Judith Herman is saying, and she’s absolutely right. Power then breeds an intensification of all this because the power can never be absolute power — to some extent it’s stymied — but the isolation while in power becomes even more dangerous. Think of it as a vicious circle. The power intensifies these tendencies and the tendencies become more dangerous because of the power.
Moyers: But suppose that if Donald Trump is crazy, as some have said, he’s crazy like a fox, which is to say all this bizarre behavior is really clever strategy to mislead, distract and deceive others into responding in precisely the manner that he wants them to.
Lifton: I don’t think that’s quite true. I think that it’s partly true. As I said before, Trump both disbelieves and believes in falsehoods, so that when he did thrive on his longstanding and perhaps most egregious falsehood — the claim that Obama was not born in the United States — he’s crazy like a fox in manipulating it because it gave him his political entrée onto the national stage — and also, incidentally, was not rejected by many leading Republicans. So he was crazy like a fox in that case. But it’s more extreme even than that. In order to make your falsehoods powerful, you have to believe in them in some extent. And that’s why we simplify things if we say that Trump either believes nothing in his falsehoods and is just manipulating us like a fox or he completely believes them. Neither is true. The combination of both and his talent as a manipulator and falsifier are very much at issue.
Moyers: You may not remember it, but you and I talked l6 years ago this very week — a few days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. ll — and PBS had asked me to go on the air to talk to a variety of people about their response to those atrocities.
Lifton: I haven’t forgotten it, Bill.
Moyers: And in our discussion, we talked about your book, Destroying the World to Save It, about that extremist Japanese religious cult aum shinrikyo that released sarin nerve gas in Tokyo subways, you compared their ideology to Osama bin Laden: “He wanted to destroy a major part of the world to purify the world. There was in this idea, or his ideology, a sense of renewal.” We saw it in that Japanese cult. So the issue I am getting at is that such an aspiration can take hold of any true believer — the desire to purify the world no matter the cost.
Lifton: It is a very dangerous aspiration, and it’s not absent from the Trump presidency, although I don’t think it’s his central theme. I think it’s a central theme in Steve Bannon, for instance, who is an apocalyptic character and really wants to bring down most of advanced society as we know it, most of civilization as we know it, in order to recreate it in his image. I think Trump has some attraction to that, just as he had attraction to Bannon as a person and as a thinker, and that influence is by no means over. He’s still in touch with Bannon. So there is this apocalyptic influence in the Trumpean presidency: The world is destroyed in order to be purified and renewed in the ideal way that is projected by a Steve Bannon. And there is a sense of that when Trump says we’ll make America great again, because he says it’s been destroyed, he will remake it. So there is an apocalyptic suggestion, but I don’t think it’s at the very heart of his presidency.
Moyers: So our challenge is?
Lifton: I always feel we have to work both outside and inside of our existing institutions, so we have to really be careful about who we vote for and examine carefully our institutions and what they’re meant to do and how they’re being violated. I also think we need movements from below that oppose what this administration and administrations like it are doing to ordinary people. And for those of us who contributed to this book — well, as I said earlier, we have to be “witnessing professionals” and fulfill our duty to warn.
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Earlier this week a curious storyline emerged: the Republican National Committee was paying Donald Trump’s attorney fees in the Russia scandal for no apparent reason. Now the other shoe has dropped, and it’s become clear why the RNC has been willing to shovel six figures worth of money in Trump’s direction: the money is being funneled through the RNC to Trump by way of a Kremlin oligarch.
Len Blavatnik was born in Ukraine, raised in Russia, and now has dual U.S. citizenship – but he’s a Kremlin oligarch who makes his money by doing business with his fellow Kremlin oligarchs. According to the Wall Street Journal, he’s donating money to the RNC legal fund, which is in turn being funneled to Donald Trump’s Russia attorneys (link). Because of the dual citizenship, Blavatnik’s donations to American political entities are technically legal, but in practical terms this reads like the Kremlin finding a way to pay Trump’s legal bills in the Russia scandal. This is not the first time Blavatnik has surfaced in this role.
Back on May 24th of this year, Palmer Report brought you the story of how Len Blavatnik had donated millions of dollars to key Republican political leaders including Mitch McConnell and Scott Walker in 2016 (link). Months later, in August, the Dallas Morning News confirmed our reporting (link). Now the same Kremlin oligarch is funneling money through the Republican National Committee to fund Donald Trump’s legal defense.
Each of Blavatnik’s largest donations just happened to go to a Republican who played a convenient role in ushering Donald Trump into office. McConnell worked behind the scenes during the election to try to prevent the Russia meddling from becoming public. Walker is the Governor of Wisconsin, a state which Trump won in nearly statistically impossible fashion. Now, after Blavatnik paid off these two politicians, he’s paying for Trump’s attorneys.
The post Donald Trump’s attorney fees in Russia scandal are being paid for by a Kremlin oligarchappeared first on Palmer Report.
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Washington Examiner–23 minutes ago
Ukraine-born billionaire with biz ties to Russian oligarchs is funding Trump’s legal defense via the RNC
Who’s paying for the attorneys representing President Donald Trump in the federal probe of Russian election interference? His legal defense is in part funded through a Republican Party account with a number of rich donors. Among them are a “billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs,” reports the WSJ. Oh, and there’s a Rosneft connection, you Putin conspiracy hounds.
The RNC account in question has been historically used to pay for the RNC’s own legal bills, but just last month paid over $300,000 to help cover Trump’s personal legal expenses, Federal Election Commission filings reveal.
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Oh, and that same fund also paid about $200,000 to attorneys representing the President’s dumbest son, Don Jr.
From Rebecca Ballhaus at the Wall Street Journal,
In April, billionaire Len Blavatnik gave $12,700 to the RNC’s legal fund, on top of donations of about $200,000 to other RNC accounts. He also gave the legal fund $100,000 in 2016, according to FEC filings.
The contribution from Mr. Blavatnik came during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, a month before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee its probe of Russian interference—which subsequently prompted Mr. Trump to hire a private legal team.
Moscow has denied interfering in the election. Mr. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and called the investigations a “witch hunt.”
A spokesman for Mr. Blavatnik didn’t return a request for comment. The White House referred questions to the RNC.
Mr. Blavatnik, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, and moved to the U.S. in his early 20s, amassed his fortune in Russia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He is a longtime business partner of Viktor Vekselberg, who is one of the richest men in Russia and has close ties to the Kremlin.
In 2013, Mr. Blavatnik earned billions when he, Mr. Vekselberg and two other partners sold their stake in the oil company TNK-BP to Rosneft, a Kremlin-controlled oil company.Rosneft’s chief executive is Igor Sechin, a top ally of Russian President Vladmir Putin.
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Blavatnik through his company donated to several Republican presidential campaigns, including for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He didn’t donate to Mr. Trump’s campaign.