Trump Weathering Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad
Voice of America
“With 38 percent of the electorate, 80-plus percent of the Republican Party strongly behind him, it is unlikely that we are going to see a lot of Republicans break from him and really challenge him in meaningful ways,” George Washington University …
Condoleezza Rice’s latest book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, explains the thrill of seeing democracies take shape and the hard work that goes into creating and sustaining them. The former secretary of state elaborates in a conversation with Catalyst Editor William McKenzie on both points, while commenting on the health of democracy at home and abroad.
You write that “there is no more thrilling moment than when people finally seize their rights and their liberty. That moment is necessary, right, and inevitable. It is also terrifying and disruptive and chaotic. And what follows is hard — really, really hard.” What makes the birth of a democracy so thrilling as well as so necessary and inevitable?
The excitement and thrill comes from seeing those moments in the streets when people are trying to express that they, too, want to say what they think and worship as they please and be free from the arbitrary power of the state. Most importantly, the thrill comes from seeing they are determined that those who are going to govern them have to ask for their consent. That’s what is thrilling: the confirmation of these universal values.
What makes the birthing of a democracy so terrifying, and why is the aftermath so hard?
It’s terrifying because you unleash all of these passions that have been pent up for such a long time, and sometimes it can go bad. We saw after the French Revolution that it was so violent, chaotic and out of control that it produces a counter-reaction.
That moment is terrifying because the institutions aren’t there yet to channel those passions. If you read the American Declaration of Independence, you think, “Who were these people?”
It starts with high-minded rhetoric, but pretty quickly deteriorates into name calling of King George and what we will do if he doesn’t give our rights.
When human beings are freed, it isn’t the moment when they are at their most rational necessarily about what lies ahead. The freeing of those passions is terrifying.
You write about institutions like political parties, the courts, parliaments, and the press being so key to stabilizing a democracy. Could you elaborate upon that?
If those passions just remain unleashed without something to channel them, you’re going to get a backlash and the revolution is going to fade. The task is to quickly channel those passions so that people begin to believe they can exercise their rights through these abstractions that we call institutions, such as the Constitution and the rule of law.
People then begin to trust the Constitution or the courts to carry out their desires and rights. If their rights are violated, they no longer rely on their clan, their family, their religious group, or violence in the streets. That’s the moment when democratic institutions start to take hold. People test the process and it works.
I read about an Afghan woman who was raped by a cleric, and she took her case to court. Imagine that in Afghanistan. And she won. He got 20 years in prison. The human rights advocates were saying, oh, only 20 years in prison. But I’m thinking, she took him to court and she won. Afghan women will now say, OK, maybe the courts work; I don’t have to go to my male family members and ask them to engage in an honor killing.
What is your assessment of Russia’s failed, or at least aborted, attempts at glasnost and perestroika? Are those concepts now merely ones that scholars will study in the future?
Russia had four revolutions, and only the third failed. The first one, the [Mikhail] Gorbachev revolution, was kind of a reform of the communist system. At least, that’s how we thought about it. But toward the end, it was starting to create some institutions that might have been the backbone for a democratic transition. But it was too much and was overrun.
The second revolution was when [Boris] Yeltsin comes to power and the democratic institutions get set up. They don’t last because they get set up amidst so much chaos in the economy and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The third revolution is when Yeltsin starts to rule out of decree, creates an extremely strong presidency, and the other institutions are sort of shoved to the side. A strong presidency in the hands of Gorbachev was one thing, a strong presidency in the hands of Vladimir Putin is quite another. Step by step, Putin subsequently destroys all of the independent institutions.
So, the Russian story is a longer story than just what happened with Gorbachev or what happened with Yeltsin. It’s important to say that because some of the seeds are possibly still there. In the clearly fraudulent election of 2016, for example, Putin didn’t win Moscow. In local elections, his party lost 11 or 12 seats.
Also, people are different in Russia today than they were in the Soviet Union. They travel more widely and they study abroad. The situation looks pretty bleak right now, but it doesn’t make sense to give up on the Russians. You have to isolate Putinism without isolating Russia.
China is growing a modern economy without true democratic institutions such as a free press and competing parties. What are we to make of this case study?
When you have the low cost of labor, the heavy export policy, their kind of government investment in the economy, all of that accords with a top-down political system. But being top-down doesn’t work so well when you start wanting a more innovative economy and free-market forces.
China is now neither fish nor fowl. Reforms keep getting rolled back because they’re afraid of the political implications of those reforms. I’ll give you one example: A couple of years ago, China had 186,000 riots, as reported by the Chinese. Most of them were because a peasant’s land was expropriated by a party leader and a developer.
What you need is a court that person can go to rather than rioting with his friends. But when you start to get independent courts, you start to get an independent judiciary. Before long, you’ve got one of the institutions that liberalizes a political system.
The jury is still out on where China will end up on this spectrum.
You write about two upheavals occurring simultaneously in the Mideast. What are those and how could they affect democracy taking hold there?
The whole state is under challenge. The map at the beginning of 2000 basically looked like it did when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and states like Iraq, Syria, and even many of the Gulf States were sort of drawn on the back of an envelope.
Those borders are now beginning to shift. Nobody knows whether there’s ever again going to be a single Syria. And the Kurds are pressing for independence from Iraq. The borders and the state system are under a lot of pressure.
There are two ways this could go. One is you continue to have revolutions like they did in Syria, or in Iraq, where we helped to set off a revolution. Or you could have reform.
You’re going to have a clash of cultures, so perhaps reform is still possible for the Middle East. No one is suggesting these places have to look like Jeffersonian democracy. I am suggesting they have to come to terms with basic rights, such as people want to say what they think. The form it takes will look different from place to place.
Democracy is only as good as its ability to deliver, as the saying goes. What does our own democracy need to deliver both for us as citizens and for our own democracy’s strengthening?
First, the good news. The institutions the Founders set up have weathered many storms well. Checks on executive power are still weathering the storm well. For example, courts are responding, and I don’t just mean to President Trump. They responded when they felt like there was an overreach from President Bush on the war on terror. And they responded to President Obama.
Federalism is continuing to work in the United States. States are getting far more done than the federal government could ever get done because states are closer to the people. That was always the design of federalism.
We are starting to have some challenges with the underlying societal strength that comes with the pursuit of happiness. People want to make their lives better and to make the lives of their children better. The failing K-12 education system for the poorest of our kids is right at the heart of that. The mismatch between job skills and available jobs are another big piece of this.
Unless we can find a way that people again believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from, that it matters where you’re going, then we’ll have a lot of unrest. The United States is unique in that we are not bound together by ethnicity, blood, nationality or religion. We are bound together by this aspiration that you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things.
That’s mostly been true in America for a long time, and it’s been truer for group after group after group. If you were black, it wasn’t so true in segregated Birmingham in 1960. But, if you look at where we’ve come, it’s become truer. We’re going to lose that aspiration if large portions of the population are not able to access it.
This Q&A was conducted and condensed by William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst. The full interview appears in the fall edition of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Condoleezza Rice served as secretary of state and national security adviser under President George W. Bush. She now teaches at Stanford University and is a Hoover Institution senior fellow.
Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s view that the Trump White House is effectively an “adult day care” is no laughing matter to a UNC-Chapel Hill psychiatrist who’s put together a Saturday forum focusing on the president’s mental state.
Edwin Fisher will speak at the 1 p.m. event in Chapel Hill along with two colleagues from Asheville, psychiatrist Steven Buser and psychologist Richard Smoot. All three are part of a group of mental-health professionals who believe President Donald Trump is dangerously unstable.
Coming at the issue from different perspectives, they’ve converged on the view that the president’s “judgment and his motives are putting us all at risk of catastrophic events,” Fisher said, alluding to a possible nuclear war with North Korea.
The situation, he added, should inspire Congress to place new limits on Trump’s war-making powers or Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to consider invoking the 25th Amendment’s fitness-for-office provisions to begin the process to remove him.
Saturday’s forum will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library, an off-campus forum chosen because UNC-CH’s football team has a home game against the University of Virginia later in the afternoon.
The timing’s not the best for an event in Chapel Hill, but Fisher said it was out of his hands because the Baltimore-based group he’s part of asked him to schedule it to coincide with similar events across the country the same day.
Fisher contributed a chapter to a controversial new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” that argues the president is so “mentally compromised” that his presence in high office is a hazard.
The controversy comes because the American Psychiatric Association has twice this year urged practitioners to avoid offering public opinions about the mental health of someone they haven’t personally examined.
Its invocation of the so-called “Goldwater Rule” – named for Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona U.S. senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1964 – has drawn return fire from leaders of the “Duty to Warn” group Fisher’s involved with.
One, Yale University psychiatrist Bandy Lee, argued in the book that the association had issued a “radical expansion” of the doctrine “barely two months into the very presidency that has made it controversial.”
Lee and Harvard-affiliated psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman also argued that the group’s move shows even a prestigious professional organization “is not immune to … politically pressured acquiescence.”
Fisher, a professor in UNC-CH’s Gillings School of Global Public Health since 2005, said the book essentially argues there are signs Trump suffers both from narcissism and sociopathy. He said the the combination’s a volatile one in high-stakes situations, particularly if supporters and aides begin to abandon the president.
Legally, “if the president decides to launch a nuclear war, there’s nobody who can stop him,” Fisher said, adding that he believes what the group is doing is “educating the public about what those behavior patterns can mean.”
Fisher stressed that in speaking up on the issue, he’s speaking for himself, not for UNC-CH.
Fitness for office
Trump’s fundamental fitness for office, regardless of his views on the political issues of the day, has been questioned since he first sought the presidency, and not just by Democrats.
Locally, Duke political science professor Peter Feaver, in the mid-2000s a national security aide to former President George W. Bush, signed a statement last year that labeled Trump “a distinct threat to civil liberty the United States.”
Feaver at the time said that danger came from the possibility of putting “the power of the presidency in the hands of someone so focused on attacking his critics.”
Corker, a Republican, former mayor of Chattanooga and chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, told the New York Times on Oct. 8 that Trump’s threats to other countries may “put the nation on the path to World War III.”
He saw the major check on that as being aides “around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made.”
With the rising prominence of groups such as the alt-right throughout US President Donald Trump‘s campaign and election, differentiating between the various currents that comprise the American far right has become challenging.
Media outlets and political commentators have struggled to define the parameters, often inaccurately labelling high-profile far-right figures as part of the alt-right.
Al Jazeera has broken down some of the factions of the American far right, explaining their similarities and differences.
The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups that includes populists, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis. Many alt-rightists promote various forms of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The term “alt-right” was first coined by US white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2008 to provide an alternative to the neoconservative politics that dominated the Republican Party establishment in recent decades.
Shortly after Trump’s November 2016 victory in the presidential elections, the movement became a household name in the US when Spencer led an audience in chants as they performed Nazi-like salutes. Spencer roared: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”
The movement promotes what it calls “white identitarianism”, a worldview that advocates European racial and cultural hegemony. Alt-rightists often cite racial science as vindication for their views.
Researchers and experts note that sexism is as integral to the alt-right as racism, pointing out that there are few females among the cadres of the movement. One exception is Brittany Pettibone, a contributor at <a href=”http://AltRight.com” rel=”nofollow”>AltRight.com</a> and Red Ice, a Sweden-based white nationalist video and podcast platform.
Among the groups involved in the movement are: Spencer’s think tank, the National Policy Institute; the National Socialist Movement; the neo-Confederate League of the South; Identity Evropa, the white supremacist group and, among others, the neo-Nazi organisation Vanguard America.
Online organising made the alt-right’s success possible.
The key websites are: AltRight.com; the Occidental Dissent blog; the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website; Radix Journal; the Counter-Currents website and the Right Stuff blog, among others.
The alt-right has many connections to groups in Europe, many of which predate the movement.
Some prominent figures within the alt-right are: Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin; the Right Stuff’s Mike Peinovich; Identity Evropa’s Nathan Damigo; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Traditional Worker Party’s Matthew Heimbach and Swedish businessman Daniel Friberg.
The alt-light is a term used to describe a comparably moderate group of far-right figures, organisations and websites.
Unlike the alt-right’s call for a white ethnostate, the alt-light promotes a hardline version of American nationalism and often eschews the openly racist and white supremacist politics advocated by the alt-right. Much of the alt-light’s positions are predicated on support for President Trump.
The most prominent website on the alt-light is Breitbart News, a far-right blog headed by Steve Bannon, who briefly served as Trump’s top strategist. Another increasingly important alt-light publication is Rebel Media, a Canada-based website founded by right-wing media figure Ezra Levant.
Some of the most important personalities within the alt-light include: provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; media personality Gavin McInnes; journalist and activist Lauren Southern; social media figure Mike Cernovich; media personality Alex Jones and conspiracy theorist Jack Prosobiec.
Yiannopoulous used to be the technology editor at Breitbart News, but he was fired after public uproar over comments he made defending pedophilia. Recently, he has hosted anti-Muslim rallies and “free speech” events. He often verbally attacks immigrants, trans people and feminists.
McInnes co-founded Vice Media and later left the company in 2008. Most recently, he hosted a Rebel Media online programme. He also founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that describes itself as “Western chauvinist” and opposes feminism. The Proud Boys often brag about seeking out physical confrontations with anti-fascists, known as Antifa.
There are also several conspiracy theory websites that fall within the sphere of the alt-light. The most well-known is InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones. In 2015, Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, appeared on InfoWars and was interviewed by Jones.
Many alt-light groups argue against the alt-right, while others have participated in the same rallies and events as alt-rightists.
Most militia organisations describe themselves as “patriot” groups. The largest and most active of the militia groups are the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Member of these groups often attend rallies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests.
While it is difficult to know the exact number of people involved in these organisations, the Oath Keepers claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide.
Historically, the militias were considered anti-government. They claimed that they were defending the US Constitution from politicians who were seeking to impose unconstitutional and authoritarian rule on the country. However, most of them have been vocal supporters of the Trump administration.
Militia organisations often show up to protests held by groups they view as political opponents – Black Lives Matter and anti-fascists, among others – where they claim to be maintaining order by carrying weapons.
Common among groups such as the Oath Keepers are former and current law enforcement officers and military members.
Although these groups claim to reject racism and white supremacy, they have been present at many rallies and events alongside alt-rightists. On April 15, militia members came to Berkeley, California, where they rallied with alt-right groups and participated in street brawls against Antifa and other counter-protesters.
Conflicts between alt-right and alt-light
The alt-right and the alt-light have always shared several political positions and had common opponents. Both camps oppose the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, undocumented immigrants and their advocates, and others.
Some alt-light leaders used to be open supporters of the alt-right, and others have migrated from the alt-light to the more hardline alt-right.
Recent months have seen increasing tensions between the alt-right and the alt-light, and their divisions have grown more defined.
In Houston, Texas, these divisions spilled over into a physical confrontation.
On June 10, Oath Keepers demanded that William Fears, a 30-year-old construction worker and alt-right activist, leave the rally. Angered by the Fears’ racist posters and refusal to leave, one Oath Keeper member put Fears in a chokehold. The incident was filmed and widely publicised online.
Later that month, on June 25, the divide played out again when the two groups held competing “free speech” rallies on the same day in Washington, DC.
During this event, the alt-right’s Richard Spencer openly criticised his more moderate counterparts. “They’re liars, they’re con artists, they’re freaks,” he told reporters of the alt-light. “The alt-right will be better when we just cut away these people who are going to weigh us down.”
Charlottesville as pivotal moment
During the event, 20-year-old James Alex Fields rammed his car into a counter-protest, killing 32-year-old anti-racist Heather Heyer.
The alt-light joined the chorus of public condemnation as Fields was charged with second-degree murder.
However, critics have noted that Jason Kessler, a former journalist who had recently joined the alt-light Proud Boys group, organised the rally.
The Proud Boys condemned the rally.
Several other alt-light figures denounced the events in Charlottesville, while alt-rightists celebrated them.
Speaking to Vice News, alt-right member Chris Cantwell said that Heyer’s killing was justified. The day after the rally, the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer described Heyer as a “fat, childless 32-year-old slut”.
On the other hand, Gavin McInnes, then at Rebel Media, denounced James Alex Fields, who was charged with Heyer’s murder, as a “domestic terrorist”.
In response to the Charlottesville violence, alt-light Twitter personality Mike Cernovich decried the alt-right.
“That’s all the alt-right stands for, is white nationalism,” he told The Atlantic at the time. “They are now indistinguishable. Worse than that, they are now associated with domestic terrorism.”
Twitter has deleted tweets and other user data of potentially irreplaceable value to investigators probing Russia’s suspected manipulation of the social media platform during the 2016 election, according to current and former government cybersecurity officials.
Federal investigators now believe Twitter was one of Russia’s most potent weapons in its efforts to promote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the officials say, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
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By creating and deploying armies of automated bots, fake users, catchy hashtags and bogus ad campaigns, unidentified operatives launched recurring waves of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton story lines via Twitter that were either false or greatly exaggerated, the officials said. Many U.S. investigators believe that their best hope for identifying who was behind these operations, how they collaborated with each other and their suspected links to the Kremlin lies buried within the mountains of data accumulated in recent years by Twitter.
By analyzing Twitter data over time, investigators could establish what one U.S. government cybersecurity consultant described as “pattern of life behavior,” determining when Russian influence operations began, and how they “were trying to nudge the narrative in a certain direction.”
“So if you have access to all this, you can basically see when botnets appeared and disappeared, and how they shaped narrative around certain events,” said the analyst, who could not speak for attribution given company policy.
But a substantial amount of valuable information held by Twitter is lost for good, according to the cybersecurity analysts and other current and former U.S. officials.
One reason is Twitter’s aggressively pro-consumer privacy policies, which generally dictate that once any user revises or deletes their tweets, paid promotions or entire accounts, the company itself must do so as well. Twitter policy requires similar actions by private companies that pay for access to its real-time global data stream and repository of saved data for use in marketing and other commercial analysis.
The other reason is that Russian cyber tradecraft dictates that operatives immediately erase all of their digital breadcrumbs, according to former FBI Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson and others familiar with Russian influence operations.
Thomas Rid, a Strategic Studies professor at Johns Hopkins University, blamed Twitter for making it easy for Russia and other bad actors to hijack its platform by failing to crack down on suspicious activity, and by then allowing them to cover their tracks simply by hitting the delete key.
“Should bot operators and people who spread hate and abuse have the right to remove content from the public domain? Twitter says yes, and I think it’s a scandal,” said Rid, an expert witness on Russian disinformation campaigns for the Senate intelligence committee’s Russia investigation. “It removes forensic evidence from the public domain, and makes the work of investigators more difficult and maybe impossible.”
“Were Twitter a contractor for the FSB,” the Russian intelligence agency involved in the 2016 campaign to meddle in the U.S. election, Rid said, “they could not have built a more effective disinformation platform.”
Twitter declined to comment on how much relevant data was deleted, whether any of it is potentially retrievable and other questions sent by POLITICO. Instead, spokespeople referred to the fine print of the company’s data retention and privacy policies, which say that, “Once an account has been deactivated, there is a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including Tweets.”
“Content deleted by account holders (e.g., Tweets) is generally not available,” the Twitter policy also says.
Several people familiar with Twitter’s ongoing review of Russian activity on its platform said its engineers are trying to ascertain what is available and what is recoverable, in part by trying to find ways of recreating some pockets of particular data that have been permanently deleted.
They also noted that the company has had to walk a tightrope in balancing the interests of privacy activists who are “very concerned about any suggestions that a tech company would hold their data for any period after its deleted,” and law enforcement agencies that want access to potential evidence of wrongdoing. As such, “it’s a little more complicated than giving an X is gone forever by Y date” answer, one Twitter official cautioned.
Cybersecurity analysts, however, said Twitter has aggressively enforced a “permanent deletion” policy across the board, including publicly shaming at least two companies not adhering to it via cease and desist orders.
As a result, “The limitations created by the hostile actors deleting their actions is potentially high impact” for those U.S. investigators on the various Russia investigations, according to a former senior Senate staff official familiar with how Twitter operates. “They may get lucky and Twitter may have some record of it, but in terms of their stated policy, if accounts or tweets were deleted, they’re gone.”
A second person familiar with Twitter policy agreed with that assessment.
Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who closely monitors Russian manipulation of social media, said Twitter was especially vulnerable because, “The truth is they don’t know who is on their platform, or how bad people are doing bad things.”
Compounding that, Watts said, “When the Russians hit on a big story or get a big falsehood going, they collapse their accounts. They are very good at plausible deniability and covering their tracks.”
Twitter has said it is taking a broad look at Russia’s suspected use of its platform, including how many people might have been affected by disinformation, and whether there are any potential connections between Russian accounts and the Trump campaign and the many high-profile “influencers” associated with it.
But company executives have been far less forthcoming than their counterparts at Facebook in disclosing details of what they have found in internal investigations into suspected Russian activity on their platforms.
Twitter’s briefing to the Senate intelligence committee Sept. 28 infuriated its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, who said the company failed to grasp the seriousness of the congressional investigation. Warner also accused Twitter of providing “inadequate” details about what misinformation was spread on its platform by Russian sources during the election.
Warner said Twitter only did the bare minimum of investigation, searching its records for information about accounts with Russian ties that had already been disclosed by Facebook after its own probe.
Based on that information, Twitter said, it shut down 201 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-linked “troll farm” in which multitudes of workers help spin false narratives for social media. It also said the Russian news site RT, which Twitter linked to the Kremlin, spent nearly $275,000 on its platform last year.
The Senate committee, one of at least three investigating Russian meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates, has summoned Twitter to appear at a Nov. 1 public hearing, along with Facebook and Google.
Former House intelligence committee staffer Mieke Eoyang said she was skeptical that Twitter can completely delete its data, and that at least some of it exists somewhere in the network while other pockets of it could be recoverable.
Recently, Google said it found evidence of Russian manipulation on its platforms by using data it downloaded from Twitter. It used that information to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that used Google’s own services to buy ads, according to a Washington Post report. The Post said that activity occurred without the explicit cooperation of Twitter.
Twitter also would not answer questions about the reported Google findings, including whether they suggest some of the relevant Twitter data still exists, even if only recent information.
Anderson, who spent 15 years chasing and arresting Russian spies for the FBI, cautioned that if any Russian accounts exist because they were not deleted by the Russians themselves, it is likely because President Vladimir Putin, a former spymaster, left them on purpose to misdirect U.S. investigators.
“The KGB was by far one of the most ruthless counter-intelligence organizations the United States has encountered, and Putin was an officer in it for a long time,” Anderson said. “And now put him in charge of all of these high-speed intelligence, cyber capabilities and operations, as Russia’s President, and you have a very formidable adversary.”
Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council. He came to AFPC from the US Army War College where he spent 24 years as a Professor of National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Dr Blank’s expertise covers the entire Russian and post-Soviet region. He has also written extensively on defense strategy, arms control, information warfare, energy issues, US foreign and defense policy, and European and Asian security.
To discuss what’s driving Russia’s Korea policy, we need a framework within which we can begin to understand Moscow’s motives regarding North Korea’s nuclearisation and the ensuing international crisis.
First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in Northeast Asia are vital Russian interests. Russia fought four wars over Korea in the 20th century, including its pilots’ participation in the Korean War, so the issue of peace on the Peninsula is hardly a minor one for Russia. Moreover, any new war might quickly go nuclear and could even involve a clash between Washington and Beijing. Those contingencies – and the proximity of North Korea to Russia – could destroy any hope for Russia to regenerate its Asian provinces or, worse, force it to enter into a war on behalf of China over an issue where it has no control or leverage over the protagonists. That would not be in its best interests – indeed, for any state it would be a nightmare.
Second, Moscow’s other vital interest, and one that flows from the imperative of preserving peace, is that Russia must not be excluded from any political process that takes place regarding Korea. Putin and his team remember all too well that Russia would have been excluded from the Six-Party process if he had not previously forged a working relationship with Kim II-sung and the DPRK. Thus Russia’s activities surrounding North Korea revolve around ensuring that Russia is a full participant in any resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issues. Acquiescing in Russia’s marginalisation over Korea would destroy any hope of realising another vital interest, namely that of becoming acknowledged as a major, independent great power in Northeast and Southeast Asia. To avoid any prospect of marginalisation, solid relations with North Korea are vital; if Moscow did not have such relations it would certainly fall prey to the danger of being dragged into a major crisis or conflagration over which it has no control and no influence, let alone leverage, on key actors.
Third (though this is a minority opinion among experts), this author fully believes that a Sino-Russian alliance where China plays the leading role (especially in East Asia and most particularly regarding North Korea) has taken shape over the last two decades, mainly driven by hostility to US power and values and the identification of these two authoritarian states as antipodes to this power and values. As the present crisis shows, while Russia is angling for increased economic and political influence in Pyongyang, it has clearly associated itself with China’s initiatives for resolving the crisis that centre on freezing the DPRK’s nuclear program in return for stopping US-ROK manoeuvres. It has also joined China’s efforts to provide a lifeline to North Korea through various activities including ferry services, hosting North Korean guest workers who remit money home, and opening up internet services.
These factors explain Moscow’s motives, actions and statements in the present crisis. The desire to preserve peace, to ensure Russia’s full participation in any future political process dealing with North Korea, and to strike at US power and values in Northeast Asia in tandem with China are all driving Moscow’s policies. Readers will note that nonproliferation is not a vital Russian interest and never really has been. Russia judges proliferation threats by the criterion of whether the state in question is hostile to its interests and it does not find North Korea to be such a state though it fully understands the nature of Kim Jong-un’s regime. In Russia’s view, while Kim Jong-un’s behavior merits criticism, the real responsibility for the crisis lies with the US. This was the case under President Obama and, if anything, Donald Trump has willfully aggravated an already tense situation.
Both Moscow and Beijing deplore and oppose North Korea’s nuclearisation, but they see it as a response to unceasing US threats. They want North Korea to denuclearise in order to reduce the threat of war on the Peninsula, to stop giving Japan and South Korea a pretext either for their own defence buildup or potential nuclearisation, and to stop those two states and the US from deploying missile-defence systems in and around South Korea and Japan, which represent a threat to their nuclear weapons and countries. But while North Korea may act in a brazen provocative manner, ultimately it is Washington’s fault because it keeps threatening the DPRK.
Together these four factors – ensuring peace on its frontiers with Korea to obtain time and capital for developing Russian Asia; ensuring that Russia participates completely in any Northeast Asian and Korean peace process as a full partner; anti-Americanism and the alliance with China; and defence against US military threats – constitute the framework that encompasses and shapes Russia’s policy initiatives towards North Korea. The perspective that emerges from this framework has driven the various gambits that Russia, usually in tandem with China, has taken during the current iteration of the Korean crisis and even under Barrack Obama’s earlier administration. Once one has grasped the nature of this framework and its perceptual underpinnings, it becomes much easier to understand Moscow’s actions.
As stated earlier, nonproliferation is not the issue for Russia here. War, peace, and its identity as a great, sovereign, independent and anti-American power in Asia count for more than non-proliferation. Indeed, Russia sees US invocations of non-proliferation as pretexts for threats and intervention against its interests. Given this Russian perception of the crisis, it is clear that the basis for a US-Russia accommodation or coordination on North Korea is quite slender. President Trump’s rhetoric and actions narrow it still further.
Although it may not seem like it to worried outside observers, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump’s Russia scandal is aggressively moving forward at a historically swift pace. The investigation just happens to be historically complicated as well, and the scandal at the center of it is buried beneath a surreal series of trap doors. Yet for reasons known only to him, Trump just decided to hand Mueller the master key.
Trump has apparently managed to trick himself into believing he’s innocent in a traitorous scandal he masterminded. That’s yet another sign of his declining mental faculties. But it also may prove to be a lucky break, because it’s led Trump to recently conclude that the best way to get the Russia scandal behind him is to give Mueller everything he wants. Not only is Trump turning over the kind of evidence that Mueller has long been trying to get his hands on from the outside, Trump is also now talking about voluntarily testifying for Mueller.
There’s almost no way to quantify how bad of a move this would be for Trump. Yet sure enough, Politico is reporting that it’s precisely what Trump and his attorneys are preparing to do (link). It would be virtually malpractice for Trump’s attorneys to allow him to do this. Yet if they put their foot down, he’ll just find some new attorneys who won’t try to stand in his way.
So unless Donald Trump turns into yet another kind of pumpkin as his mind continues to collapse, and randomly changes his strategy yet again, he’s preparing to pretty much throw his life away by testifying for Robert Mueller. Trump will end up bragging about every crime he and his henchmen have ever committed, because he can’t help himself. He’ll lie under oath, because he has no relationship with the truth. Trump will do Mueller’s job for him during that testimony. Bring it on.
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But when he declares that it has not been in US interests, he will consign the proudest legacy achievement of President Barack Obama’s second term to a deeply uncertain future — and could even set off a train of consequences that could eventually lead to its collapse.
Should that be the case, Trump, or one of his successors in the Oval Office, may one day face the fateful choice that the deal was supposed to circumvent — whether to use military force to stop the Islamic Republic racing toward the bomb.
The President has fumed against what he has called a “very bad deal” and an “embarrassment” to the country despite all available evidence that Iran is complying with terms which imposed limits on its nuclear program in return for a lifting of sanctions that had crippled its economy.
“I think it was one of the most incompetently drawn deals I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday.
Trump’s move, which had been previewed to CNN by government sources and foreign diplomats, will give Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted under the terms of the agreement.
While the administration is not expected to push Congress to go that far, since it would likely cause Iran to immediately walk away, proponents of the nuclear deal fear that Trump’s decision will strike a severe blow at the deal’s legitimacy.
A significant stiffened US policy toward Iran designed to tackle what the White House says are Tehran’s destabilizing activities and support for terrorism could return the enemies to the cycle of confrontation and proxy wars of most of the last four decades, that could in itself cause the deal to slowly begin to unravel.
“If the President chooses to not certify, that already will be a negative step — for one thing it will start a process of isolating us from our allies,” Ernest Moniz, Obama’s former energy secretary who helped negotiate the agreement, said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“If we went all the way and reimposed sanctions while Iran is in compliance … this would be a slippery slope towards a bad outcome, something very much not in our national security interest,” Moniz said.
Explaining the Iran nuclear deal
What are Trump’s motivations?
The potentially grave consequences of Trump’s decision, and the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, US allies and even the US government have said that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, have focused attention on Trump’s motivations.
Critics say Trump is recklessly risking the deal, and thereby endangering US national security, simply to satisfy his fierce antipathy toward the agreement and to showcase a rare political win to his supporters.
Trump has twice previously been forced certify Iran’s compliance, against his inclination and made clear he doesn’t intend to do so again, even though Tehran is still honoring the pact.
The President is not alone in opposing certification of the deal. Some Republicans in Congress, including Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and members of the conservative foreign policy establishment believe that his move on Friday will force America’s European allies, China and Russia and eventually Iran back to the table to improve the deal.
The President has also complained that the 2015 deal does not allow UN inspectors access to military sites, an argument one foreign diplomat dismissed while wondering whether Trump understands what is in the pact.
“I’m not sure he’s privy to all the details,” the diplomat said.
Trump’s supporters however argue that the deal puts the Iranians on a North Korea-style glide path to a nuclear weapon when it expires in 2025 — a claim that proponents of the deal dispute. Those who back Obama’s approach also slam the idea that there is a “better deal” to be had, as Trump has often said, as a myth or that other partners will agree to renegotiate.
“I don’t know there is any guarantee that ever happens, there are just so many stakeholders here,” said Brian Fleming, an official in the Obama Justice Department who worked extensively on the Iran deal and is now at the Miller & Chevalier law firm.
Murphy: Renegotiating Iran deal a ‘fantasy’
Punting to Congress
The decertification by the President is only one aspect of the new Iran policy he will roll out on Friday.
Trump is also expected to unveil a toughened approach to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile development, political maneuverings throughout the region and what the administration says is its support for terrorism, including for groups like Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen, officials have said.
By punting a decision on the ultimate destiny of the Iran deal to Congress, Trump can also try to personally avoid blame for the consequences that would follow if he formally killed the deal.
Once Trump has engineered the new policy direction, the deal’s fate will be in limbo. Should Congress go ahead and decide to reimpose sanctions, it is all but certain that Iran would walk away. It could then likely reinstall centrifuges disengaged under deal and could race toward development of a nuclear device, a process that experts believe could take only a year or so.
Diplomats and sources who have spoken to CNN say they don’t believe that even Republican hawks opposed to the deal want to destabilize it, and end up paying the political price for a potential march to war by the US.
Alternatively, lawmakers could decide to do nothing, effectively leaving the deal untouched.
In that case, Iran could decide that it is in its interest to remain in the agreement since it will still be reaping the economic benefits it gained via the lifting of sanctions.
Even so, it is uncertain whether this option would preserve the deal in the long term. Should European firms for instance reconsider investments in Iran under the shadow of potential future US sanctions, they could decide not to invest in Iran, and thereby lower the dividend that Tehran won by supporting the deal.
That could bolster hardline opponents of the deal inside Iran, as could the administration’s desire to sanction individuals and entities in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls vast business interests in the country a state sponsor of terrorism.
“Longer term, this will be very humiliating and embarrassing for the Rouhani government,” said Trita Parsi, author of the book “Losing an Enemy,” Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” “They may be committed to the deal and they may not want to start messing with us, but their political strength will weaken and lead to a scenario in which they may lose power.”
US President Donald Trump’s expected move to “de-certify” the international nuclear deal with Iran is driving a wedge between Europe and the United States and bringing Europeans closer to Russia and China, Germany said on Thursday (12 October).
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken out repeatedly against Trump’s likely step, but his latest comments aimed to spell out the impact it would have in starker terms.
“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behaviour on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”
Trump is seen unveiling a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday, including a move to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated”.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said yesterday (5 October), in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel.
Senior US officials, European allies and prominent US lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the US isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unravelling of the agreement.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday (20 September) that there was no need to renegotiate the Iranian nuclear deal, insisting it was “delivering” despite US demands to re-open the agreement.
The UN nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran is adhering to restrictions on its nuclear energy programme mandated by the deal to help ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs.
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work.
Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although relations have soured since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Berlin is also working to expand ties with China.
Gabriel is expected to leave his post in coming months since his Social Democrats have vowed to go into opposition after slumping badly in the 24 September election, opting not to reprise an awkward “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) reached a deal on migrant policy with her conservative Bavarian allies on Sunday (8 November), removing a major obstacle to pursuing talks on a coalition with other parties.
In an apparent concession, Merkel agreed to put a number on how many people Germany would accept per year on humanitarian …
Gabriel on Monday urged the White House not to jeopardise the nuclear agreement, saying such a move would worsen instability in the Middle East and could make it more difficult to halt nuclear arms programmes in other countries.
In the interview released on Thursday, he said the nuclear agreement was being treated “like a football” in US domestic politics, but the issue could have serious consequences.
He said Russia was watching developments closely, including the divisions between Europe and the United States. “That doesn’t exactly strengthen our position in Europe.”
Ultimately, Gabriel told the newspaper group, there were only three countries – the United States, Russia and China – that could avert a new nuclear arms race.
“But those countries mistrust each other so much at the moment that they are not working together sufficiently. It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”
Burmese soldiers round up Rohingya in Rakhine State. Footage acquired by The New York Times
Burmese soldiers round up Rohingya in Rakhine State. Footage acquired by The New York Times
Burmese soldiers round up Rohingya in Rakhine State. Footage acquired by The New York Times
LATE last month, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a brief post on Facebook at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, asking his friends for forgiveness not just for his personal failures but also for his professional ones, especially “the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together.” He was heeding the call of the Jewish Day of Atonement to take stock of the year just passed as he pledged that he would “work to do better.”
Such a somber, self-critical statement hasn’t been typical for the usually sunny Mr. Zuckerberg, who once exhorted his employees at Facebook to “move fast and break things.” In the past, why would Mr. Zuckerberg, or any of his peers, have felt the need to atone for what they did at the office? For making incredibly cool sites that seamlessly connect billions of people to their friends as well as to a global storehouse of knowledge?
Lately, however, the sins of Silicon Valley-led disruption have become impossible to ignore.
Facebook has endured a drip, drip of revelations concerning Russian operatives who used its platform to influence the 2016 presidential election by stirring up racist anger. Google had a similar role in carrying targeted, inflammatory messages during the election, and this summer, it appeared to play the heavy when an important liberal think tank, New America, cut ties with a prominent scholar who is critical of the power of digital monopolies. Some within the organization questioned whether he was dismissed to appease Google and its executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, both longstanding donors, though New America’s executive president and a Google representative denied a connection.
Meanwhile, Amazon, with its purchase of the Whole Foods supermarket chain and the construction of brick-and-mortar stores, pursues the breathtakingly lucrative strategy of parlaying a monopoly position online into an offline one, too.
Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the questions of the hour are, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is?
These menacing turns of events have been quite bewildering to the public, running counter to everything Silicon Valley had preached about itself. Google, for example, says its purpose is “to organize the world’s information, making it universally accessible and useful,” a quest that could describe your local library as much as a Fortune 500 company. Similarly, Facebook aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Even Amazon looked outside itself for fulfillment by seeking to become, in the words of its founder, Jeff Bezos, “the most customer-obsessed company to ever occupy planet Earth.”
Almost from its inception, the World Wide Web produced public anxiety — your computer was joined to a network that was beyond your ken and could send worms, viruses and trackers your way — but we nonetheless were inclined to give these earnest innovators the benefit of the doubt. They were on our side in making the web safe and useful, and thus it became easy to interpret each misstep as an unfortunate accident on the path to digital utopia rather than as subterfuge meant to ensure world domination.
Now that Google, Facebook, Amazon have become world dominators, the questions of the hour are, can the public be convinced to see Silicon Valley as the wrecking ball that it is? And do we still have the regulatory tools and social cohesion to restrain the monopolists before they smash the foundations of our society?
By all accounts, these programmers turned entrepreneurs believed their lofty words and were at first indifferent to getting rich from their ideas. A 1998 paper by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, then computer-science graduate students at Stanford, stressed the social benefits of their new search engine, Google, which would be open to the scrutiny of other researchers and wouldn’t be advertising-driven. The public needed to be assured that searches were uncorrupted, that no one had put his finger on the scale for business reasons.
To illustrate their point, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page boasted of the purity of their search engine’s results for the query “cellular phone”; near the top was a study explaining the danger of driving while on the phone. The Google prototype was still ad-free, but what about the others, which took ads? Mr. Brin and Mr. Page had their doubts: “We expect that advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”
There was a crucial need for “a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm,” and Google was set to be that ivory tower internet tool. Until, that is, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page were swept up by the entrepreneurism pervasive to Stanford — a meeting with a professor led to a meeting with an investor, who wrote a $100,000 check before Google was even a company. In 1999, Google announced a $25 million investment of venture capital while insisting nothing had changed. When Mr. Brin was asked by reporters how Google planned to make money, he replied, “Our goal is to maximize the search experience, not maximize the revenues from search.”
Mark Zuckerberg took a similar tack back in the early days of Facebook. A social network was too important to sully with commerce, he told The Harvard Crimson in 2004. “I mean, yeah, we can make a bunch of money — that’s not the goal,” he said of his social network, then still called <a href=”http://thefacebook.com” rel=”nofollow”>thefacebook.com</a>. “Anyone from Harvard can get a job and make a bunch of money. Not everyone at Harvard can have a social network. I value that more as a resource more than, like, any money.” Mr. Zuckerberg insisted he wouldn’t give in to the profit seekers; Facebook would stay true to its mission of connecting the world.
Seven years later, Mr. Zuckerberg, too, had succumbed to Silicon Valley venture capital, but he seemed to regret it. “If I were starting now,” he told an interviewer in 2011, “I just would have stayed in Boston, I think,” before adding: “There are aspects of the culture out here where I think it still is a little bit short-term focused in a way that bothers me. You know, whether it’s like people who want to start companies to start a company, not knowing what they like, I don’t know, to, like, flip it.”
Ultimately, however, the founders of Google and Facebook faced a day of reckoning. Investors hadn’t signed on for a charity, and they demanded accountability. In the end, Mr. Brin and Mr. Page agreed under pressure to display advertising alongside search results and eventually to allow an outside chief executive, Mr. Schmidt. Mr. Zuckerberg agreed to include ads within the news feed and transferred a favorite programmer to the mobile-advertising business, telling him, “Wouldn’t it be fun to build a billion-dollar business in six months?”
Turns out that there were billion-dollar fortunes to be made by exploiting the foggy relationship between the public and tech companies. We all knew there was no such thing as a free lunch, an insight memorably encapsulated in 2010 by a commenter to the website MetaFilter, as, “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” But, really, how can you tell? So much of what is happening between the public and Silicon Valley is out of view — algorithms written and controlled by wizards who are able to extract value from your identity in ways you could never do for yourself.
Once Mr. Brin, Mr. Page and Mr. Zuckerberg reversed course on pursuing profits, they reported an odd thing — the public didn’t seem to care. “Do you know the most common feedback, honestly?” Mr. Brin said in 2002 when asked about the reaction to Google’s embrace of advertising. “It’s ‘What ads?’ People either haven’t done searches that bring them up or haven’t noticed them. Or the third possibility is that they brought up the ads and they did notice them and they forgot about them, which I think is the most likely scenario.”
Growth becomes the overriding motivation — something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world.
Interactions between people and their computers were always going to be confusing, and that confusion would be easy for programmers to exploit. John McCarthy, the computer-science pioneer who nurtured the first hackers at M.I.T. and later ran Stanford’s artificial intelligence lab, worried that programmers didn’t understand their responsibilities. “Computers will end up with the psychology that is convenient to their designers (and they’ll be fascist bastards if those designers don’t think twice),” he wrote in 1983. “Program designers have a tendency to think of the users as idiots who need to be controlled. They should rather think of their program as a servant, whose master, the user, should be able to control it.”
Call it the Eliza problem. In 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum, a professor at M.I.T., unveiled a computer program, Eliza, which imitated a psychotherapist. It would, by rote, inquire about your feelings toward your parents or try to get you talking by rephrasing what you said in the form of a question. The program immediately touched a nerve, becoming a national phenomenon, to the surprise of Mr. Weizenbaum. For example, The New York Times swooned: “Computer Is Being Taught to Understand English.”
Eliza understood nothing, in truth, and could never reach any shared insight with a “patient.” Eliza mechanically responded to whatever appeared on the screen. A typical therapy session quickly devolved into a Monty Python sketch. (Patient: You are not very aggressive, but I think you don’t want me to notice that. Eliza: What makes you think I am not very aggressive? Patient: You don’t argue with me. Eliza: Why do you think I don’t argue with you? Patient: You are afraid of me. Eliza: Does it please you to believe I am afraid of you?)
Imagine Mr. Weizenbaum’s surprise when his secretary looked up from her computer and interrupted her exchanges with Eliza to say to him, “Would you mind leaving the room, please?” She wanted privacy for a conversation with a machine! Mr. Weizenbaum, appalled, suddenly saw the potential for mischief by programmers who could manipulate computers and potentially the rest of us. He soon switched gears and devoted his remaining years to protesting what he considered the amorality of his computer science peers, frequently referring to his experiences as a young refugee from Nazi Germany.
In his epic anti-A.I. work from the mid-1970s, “Computer Power and Human Reason,” Mr. Weizenbaum described the scene at computer labs. “Bright young men of disheveled appearance, often with sunken glowing eyes, can be seen sitting at computer consoles, their arms tensed and waiting to fire their fingers, already poised to strike, at the buttons and keys on which their attention seems to be as riveted as a gambler’s on the rolling dice,” he wrote. “They exist, at least when so engaged, only through and for the computers. These are computer bums, compulsive programmers.”
He was concerned about them as young students lacking perspective about life and was worried that these troubled souls could be our new leaders. Neither Mr. Weizenbaum nor Mr. McCarthy mentioned, though it was hard to miss, that this ascendant generation were nearly all white men with a strong preference for people just like themselves. In a word, they were incorrigible, accustomed to total control of what appeared on their screens. “No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful,” Mr. Weizenbaum wrote, “has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or a field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.”
Welcome to Silicon Valley, 2017.
As Mr. Weizenbaum feared, the current tech leaders have discovered that people trust computers and have licked their lips at the possibilities. The examples of Silicon Valley manipulation are too legion to list: push notifications, surge pricing, recommended friends, suggested films, people who bought this also bought that. Early on, Facebook realized there was a hurdle to getting people to stay logged on. “We came upon this magic number that you needed to find 10 friends,” Mr. Zuckerberg recalled in 2011. “And once you had 10 friends, you had enough content in your newsfeed that there would just be stuff on a good enough interval where it would be worth coming back to the site.” Facebook would design its site for new arrivals so that it was all about finding people to “friend.”
The 10 friends rule is an example of a favored manipulation of tech companies, the network effect. People will use your service — as lame as it may be — if others use your service. This was tautological reasoning that nonetheless proved true: If everyone is on Facebook, then everyone is on Facebook. You need to do whatever it takes to keep people logging in, and if rivals emerge, they must be crushed or, if stubbornly resilient, acquired.
We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?
Growth becomes the overriding motivation — something treasured for its own sake, not for anything it brings to the world. Facebook and Google can point to a greater utility that comes from being the central repository of all people, all information, but such market dominance has obvious drawbacks, and not just the lack of competition. As we’ve seen, the extreme concentration of wealth and power is a threat to our democracy by making some people and companies unaccountable.
In addition to their power, tech companies have a tool that other powerful industries don’t: the generally benign feelings of the public. To oppose Silicon Valley can appear to be opposing progress, even if progress has been defined as online monopolies; propaganda that distorts elections; driverless cars and trucks that threaten to erase the jobs of millions of people; the Uberization of work life, where each of us must fend for ourselves in a pitiless market.
As is becoming obvious, these companies do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. We need greater regulation, even if it impedes the introduction of new services. If we can’t stop their proposals — if we can’t say that driverless cars may not be a worthy goal, to give just one example — then are we in control of our society? We need to break up these online monopolies because if a few people make the decisions about how we communicate, shop, learn the news, again, do we control our own society?
Out of curiosity, the other day I searched “cellphones” on Google. Before finding even a mildly questioning article about cellphones, I paged down through ads for phones and lists of phones for sale, guides to buying phones and maps with directions to stores that sell phones, some 20 results in total. Somewhere, a pair of idealistic former graduate students must be saying: “See! I told you so!”
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Wearing button-down Oxford shirts and carrying tiki torches, about 50 white supremacists led by alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer marched into Charlottesville, Virginia, again last weekend, chanting “Russia is our friend” and “You will not replace us”. It was the latest display of an unlikely kinship that has unsettled politics in many democracies over the past year, from the streets of the Old South to European capitals where neo-fascist parties have found a new friend in the Kremlin.
For most western observers, the problem posed by Russia’s relationship with the far right only became truly pressing when it showed up on their doorstep. But the Kremlin’s turn towards nationalism was nothing new for Russians: it had come storming back into political discourse in 2012, when Vladimir Putin returned to the executive branch of power for a third term.
The journalist Masha Gessen sees the rise of official nationalism as an intensely worrying sign for Russia’s future, raising the question of whether Putin’s regime now ticks the boxes of a “totalitarian” regime. Political violence? Check. Militarisation of the economy and political sphere? Check. Fusion of state and party? Check.
In The Future is History, Gessen argues that nationalism and reactionary ideology arrived through the backdoor of a Soviet system that had never really collapsed. “Maybe this was how it worked when a totalitarian society was reconstituting itself rather than being shaped by a totalitarian regime: the ideology congealed last,” she writes.
Gessen chronicles the political crackdown that began after Putin’s return for a third term as president through the lives of four people who were among the first victims, their lives drastically changed for the worse. One is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, the liberal opposition leader assassinated just steps away from the Kremlin in 2015; another a gay academic who was forced to emigrate. Also profiled are the depression-afflicted grandson of the liberal politician Alexander Yakovlev, and an opposition activist and journalist caught in a legal vice following a protest crackdown.
All children of the 1980s, these are people who grew up not knowing the Soviet system and spent their entire adult lives with Putin as president. Gessen says choosing her subjects in this way allowed her “to tell what it was to grow up in a country that was opening up and to come of age in a society shutting down”, and the book flits vertiginously, almost manically, between their stories. This nevertheless works, the way a Russian novel weaves history through the lives of its characters.
Her cast are not an altogether representative sample of Russians, skewed towards privileged, intelligentsia backgrounds and carriers of liberal views. Even before 2012, they were either members of anti-Putin political movements or profoundly disaffected with Putin, and it is perhaps not too surprising they were the first ones to suffer the consequences of his return to the presidency. But their stories are nonetheless compelling: they are canaries in the coal mine of what Gessen presents as an inexorable march back to totalitarianism.
The use of this word in reference to Putin’s Kremlin — which is Gessen’s central argument — is bound to be controversial. As the author of many a journalistic sentence using the word “authoritarian” to describe today’s regime, I am a little resistant to the idea that Putin can be classed with Mao, Stalin and Hitler. In terms of the scale of the project and the pervasiveness of political control, not to mention the body count, the Russian president seems to belong in the milder “authoritarian” category alongside Marcos, Mubarak, Pinochet and other tin-pot dictators of the postwar world. But Gessen makes a powerful case, arguing that Putin reconstituted the political and terror apparatus of the Soviet state and that ideology was the last block to fall into place.
The new conservative climate was propagated in part by one of Gessen’s supporting actors, Alexander Dugin — a writer and activist who throughout the 1980s and 1990s had mixed conspiracy theories, postmodernism and Russian nationalism into a cocktail eagerly drunk in official circles. His views were seen as lunacy in the 1990s but invaded mainstream politics under Putin.
Given Russia’s 20th century history, it might seem odd that ultranationalism would find adherents in the country — particularly as Putin has often accused opponents of fascism, all the while draping himself in the flag and speaking in vaguely imperial terms of Russia’s destiny. But Gessen argues that the contradiction in official ideology doesn’t matter; and, indeed, that the content of the ideology is unimportant. Whether Dugin, Putin or any Russians actually believe it is secondary: “The ideology served simply as the key to unity, as the collective’s shared language . . . Soviet citizens lived inside the ideology — it was their home, and it felt ordinary.”
Facing a concerted protest movement of urban liberals in 2011 and 2012, Putin sought to paint himself as the scourge of liberal values that were sapping Russia’s native vitality. Laws against “gay propaganda” were among the first blows to land in a crackdown that eventually forced Gessen herself to leave Russia. The persecution of sexual minorities has been largely forgotten as other tragedies have unfolded in Ukraine. But it is worth remembering, and Gessen reminds us, that a witch hunt against “paedophilia”, directed against gay Russians, was part of the resurgence of virulent nationalism that accompanied Putin’s return to the Kremlin. What began as repression of LGBT activists spread and later spilled into Crimea and Donbass.
In Gessen’s view, history is the future — an oxymoron that means both that Russia is doomed to return to its Soviet past and that “history” is subject to manipulation by those in power. Much of the book focuses on the decline of social sciences and the corruption of higher learning amid political projects such as the effort to normalise Stalin or Dugin’s own writings, which see Russia as the seed of a “Eurasian” empire. History is something, in other words, that radiates out of the present.
Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian studies at Harvard University, sees history through the more conventional end of the telescope. His latest book, Lost Kingdom, tells the story of how the history of Russia was being written when that history was being made. What emerges is a singularly fascinating account of Russian nationalism through the ages. Beginning in 1472, Plokhy’s account of “the invention of Russia” encompasses debates among 17th-century Kievan monks about the idea of a common “Slavo-Rossian” nationhood, the fraught salons of Slavophile writers in the 19th century, Soviet debates over ethnography and contemporary scholarly arguments over civic versus ethnic nationalism.
Plokhy focuses on Russia’s western frontier as both a psychological and geographical boundary that has always been a critical determinant of Russian national identity. “The question of where Russia begins and ends, and who constitutes the Russian people”, as Plokhy puts it, is the central theme of the book.
The Kremlin’s present-day covert war in Ukraine is just the latest stage in centuries of conflict along this all-important western boundary line. But Plokhy also shows that the intellectual outcomes of the way nationalism was discussed mattered as much or more than the physical events on the ground. For the Kremlin, the simple fact of Ukrainian independence represents an existential challenge that it is yet to come to terms with. “Ukraine today is at the very centre of the new ‘Russian question’,” writes Plokhy.
Currently, the Kremlin appears to be trying to resolve this vexing question of identity by shifting the physical boundaries of Russia westwards. “It remains to be seen whether the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbass are the final episodes in the disintegration of the USSR or a new and terrible stage in the reshaping of European borders and populations,” he concludes.
Meanwhile, as demonstrated by Putin’s numerous photo-opportunities with the likes of France’s Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini of the Italian Northern League, Russia has not been content to stir up nationalism at home. Its support for the European and American far right is a very deep rabbit hole indeed.
Anton Shekhovtsov, a Ukrainian political scientist currently based at the Austrian Institute for Human Sciences, tackles this subject in his impressive Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. He argues that overtures by Russia to far-right parties, and the eagerness of the latter to be co-opted, has been driven by — of all things — a mutual search for recognition and legitimacy.
The far right in Europe, fervently anticommunist during the cold war, came to regard US domination as the greater of two evils and now seek recognition by Russia as a counterweight to political isolation. Putin’s anti-gay policies, anti-multiculturalist rhetoric and conspiracy theories endear him to continental conservatives.
Meanwhile, Shekhovtsov argues, Russia’s seeking out of support from foreign far-right groups stems not from ideological sympathy or some inherently fascistic or imperial tendencies in Moscow, but rather the desire to buttress the legitimacy of a regime that he describes as an “authoritarian kleptocracy” trapped in a downward spiral of repression and international isolation, which has forced it to cast an ever wider net in search of allies. “Since Putin’s second term, Moscow increasingly positioned itself as a power whose legitimacy derived from alternative, illiberal political ideas, some of which clearly originate from the far right,” he writes.
For Shekhovtsov, this has deep roots. Ignoring ideological contradictions, Soviet intelligence services did have contacts with European fascists before the fall of the USSR. But it was the collapse of communism that created new opportunities for the European right, which eagerly sought contacts in Russia. The opening up of the 1990s begat what the German scholar Andreas Umland playfully calls the era of “uncivil society”, in which intellectual entrepreneurs such as Dugin, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergei Glazyev began to import European fascism to Russia and set about creating like-minded movements.
But it was only after the 2003-05 “colour revolutions”, and the 2008 war in Georgia, that the Russian government began to wake up to the power of anti-establishment movements in Europe. The war in Georgia “became a trigger for the launch of the first far-right pro-Russian activities in Austria and France”, Shekhovtsov argues — with several pages devoted to France’s Front National and Austria’s Freedom party.
Shekhovtsov’s command of the detail is stunning, and he paints a troubling picture of a number of political structures in each country acting as fronts and conduits for Russian influence. He cautions against the temptation to see Russia through the lens of the Soviet Union, manipulating politics via a new far-right version of the Comintern; in his telling, the Kremlin is a partner rather than a puppeteer. Nonetheless, one thing is clear: Putin’s flirtation with a new ideology is not confined to Russia any more.
The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen, Granta, RRP£20/Riverhead, RRP$28, 528 pages
Lost Kingdom: A History of Russian Nationalism from Ivan the Great to Vladimir Putin, by Serhii Plokhy, Allen Lane, RRP£20/Basic Books, RRP$32, 432 pages
Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, by Anton Shekhovtsov, Routledge, RRP£21.99/$35.99, 294 pages
Charles Clover is a former FT Moscow bureau chief, now based in China. He is author of ‘Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia’s New Nationalism’ (Yale)
Photographs: EPA; Getty Images
The latest excitement in the Trump-Russia investigation is a set of Facebook ads linked to Russia, about 3,000 in all, that some of the president’s adversaries hope will prove the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.
“A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory last November,” CNN reported recently. Some of the ads, the network continued, appeared “highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal” to Trump’s victory.
In addition, the report noted, the ads seemed tailor-made for the Trump campaign. “The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said,” CNN reported, suggesting that anti-Muslim content could have been designed to complement candidate Trump’s message.
Put aside whether Michigan and Wisconsin were in fact “crucial” to Trump’s victory. (He would still have won the presidency even if he had lost both.) The theory is that Russians could not have pulled off such “highly sophisticated” targeting by themselves and therefore may have had help from the Trump campaign or its associates.
But is that the whole story? Not according to a government official familiar with the Facebook ads, who offers a strikingly different assessment. What follows is from the official and from public statements by Facebook itself:
1) Of the group of 3,000 ads turned over to Congress by Facebook, a majority of the impressions came after the election, not before. In a news release, Facebook said 56 percent of the ads’ impressions came after the 2016 vote.
2) Twenty-five percent of the ads were never seen by anybody. (Facebook also revealed that in the news release.)
3) Most of the ads, which Facebook estimates were seen by 10 million people in the U.S., never mentioned the election or any candidate.
4) A relatively small number of the ads — again, about 25 percent — were geographically targeted. (Facebook also revealed that on Sept. 6.)
5) The ads that were geographically targeted were all over the map.
6) Very few ads specifically targeted Wisconsin or Michigan.
7) By and large, the ads targeting Michigan and Wisconsin did not run in the general election. “Nearly all of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads ran in 2015 and also ran in other states,” the official said.
8) The Michigan and Wisconsin ads were not widely seen. “The majority of these Wisconsin and Michigan ads had less than 1,000 impressions,” the official said.
9) The ads were low-budget. “The buy for the majority of these Michigan and Wisconsin ads (paid in rubles) was equivalent to approximately $10,” the official said.
10) The ads weren’t very good. The language used in some of the ads “clearly shows the ad writer was not a native English speaker,” the official said. In addition, the set of ads turned over by Facebook also contained “clickbait-type ads that had nothing to do with politics.”
None of this proves anything about the Facebook part of the Trump-Russia affair. It doesn’t prove there was no collusion, and it certainly doesn’t prove there was. But it does suggest this particular set of ads might not be a very big deal.
In an Oct. 4 news conference, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, did not play up the Facebook angle. Burr said: “If we used solely the social media that we have seen, there’s no way that you can look at that and say that that was to help the right side of the ideological chart and not the left. Or vice versa. They were indiscriminate.”
Burr noted he has no objection to Facebook releasing the ads publicly. Certainly doing so would go a long way toward clearing up the public’s understanding of the issue. Like everything else in the Trump-Russia affair, people need to know what happened.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner. His syndicated column appears each Friday.
BERLIN (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s expected move to “de-certify” the international nuclear deal with Iran is driving a wedge between Europe and the United States and bringing Europeans closer to Russia and China, Germany said on Thursday.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken out repeatedly against Trump’s likely step, but his latest comments aimed to spell out the impact it would have in starker terms.
“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”
Trump is seen unveiling a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday, including a move to de-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated.”
Senior U.S. officials, European allies and prominent U.S. lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the U.S. isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unraveling of the agreement.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran is adhering to restrictions on its nuclear energy program mandated by the deal to help ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs.
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work.
Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although relations have soured since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Berlin is also working to expand ties with China.
Gabriel is expected to leave his post in coming months since his Social Democrats have vowed to go into opposition after slumping badly in the Sept. 24 election, opting not to reprise an awkward “grand coalition” with Merkel’s conservatives.
Gabriel on Monday urged the White House not to jeopardize the nuclear agreement, saying such a move would worsen instability in the Middle East and could make it more difficult to halt nuclear arms programs in other countries.
In the interview released on Thursday, he said the nuclear agreement was being treated “like a football” in U.S. domestic politics, but the issue could have serious consequences.
He said Russia was watching developments closely, including the divisions between Europe and the United States. “That doesn’t exactly strengthen our position in Europe.”
Ultimately, Gabriel told the newspaper group, there were only three countries – the United States, Russia and China – that could avert a new nuclear arms race.
“But those countries mistrust each other so much at the moment that they are not working together sufficiently. It must be in our interest to press for more trust.”
Reporting by Andrea Shalal
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Getty
- Facebook scrubbed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 campaign by accounts linked to Russia.
- The removals came as a Columbia University researcher was examining their reach.
- Facebook says the posts were removed to fix a glitch.
Facebook removed thousands of posts shared during the 2016 election by accounts linked to Russia after a Columbia University social-media researcher, Jonathan Albright, used the company’s data-analytics tool to examine the reach of the Russian accounts.
Albright, who discovered the content had reached a far broader audience than Facebook had initially acknowledged, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the data had allowed him “to at least reconstruct some of the pieces of the puzzle” of Russia’s election interference.
“Not everything, but it allowed us to make sense of some of this thing,” he said.
Facebook confirmed that the posts had been removed, but said it was because the company had fixed a glitch in the analytics tool — called CrowdTangle — that Albright had used.
“We identified and fixed a bug in CrowdTangle that allowed users to see cached information from inactive Facebook Pages,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman.
Facebook’s decision to remove the posts from public view raised questions about whether the company could be held liable for suppressing potential evidence, given its role in the wide-ranging investigation of Russia’s election interference.
Albright told Business Insider that “because this is clearly a legal and imminent justice-related matter, I can’t provide much critical insight at this stage.
“I feel like my 10 rounds with the $500 billion dollar tech juggernaut are over,” he said.
President Donald Trump. Facebook
Legal experts and scholars on the subject say scrubbing the data Albright used for his research is Facebook’s prerogative as long as it isn’t knowingly removing content sought under a court order or by government request.
“If Facebook has no reason to think that it should retain the data (subpoena, court order), then it can make choices about what appears on its platform,” said Danielle Citron, a professor of law at the University of Maryland, where she teaches and writes about information privacy.
Citron said Facebook and other private tech companies have in the past argued, successfully, that they have free-speech interests and enjoy immunity from liability for the content posted by their users — immunity that extends to their ability to remove it if it violates their terms of service.
Albert Gidari, the director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said it’s likely that Facebook has kept copies of “anything at issue as part of its preservation obligation” in light of special counsel Robert Mueller’s search warrant and the House and Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas.
Gidari said that because there hasn’t been any allegation against Facebook itself, the company has no obligation, absent a court order, to maintain information “that later may be evidence.”
But the question becomes more complicated when considering the ethical obligations of a company whose tools were exploited by a foreign adversary to try to influence a US election.
Gidari, for his part, said he doesn’t think “any platform has an independent or ethical obligation to run a research playground for third-party data analysts.”
But Tom Rubin, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, said that Facebook’s “credibility as a global social platform and its responsibility as an internet giant require it to fully embrace an independent, urgent and public review of the facts.”
“Facebook’s Russia predicament is of its own doing — it controls the platform, runs the ads, and profits mightily,” said Rubin, who previously served as the assistant US Attorney in New York heading investigations and prosecutions of computer crimes.
“The investigation here is as serious as it gets: illegal and hostile foreign influence on the US presidential election,” Rubin said. “The issue confronting Facebook is the extent to which it should commit to complete transparency, and the answer to that is straightforward.”
“For transparency’s sake and for our broader interest in our democracy, people should know the extent to which they have been played by the Russians and how a hostile state actor has interfered with, manipulated, and generally hacked our political process,” she said.
That is what Albright said was his mission when he downloaded the last 500 posts shared by six accounts that Facebook has confirmed were operating out of Russia. Those accounts — Blacktivists, Being Patriotic, Secured Borders, Heart of Texas, LGBT United, and Muslims of America — were among the 470 pages Facebook shut down in September as part of its purge of “inauthentic accounts” linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency.
The data Albright obtained using CrowdTangle showed that the Russians’ reach far exceeded the number of Facebook users they were able to access with advertisements alone — content including memes, links, and other miscellaneous postings was shared over 340 million times between the six accounts.
The other 464 accounts closed by Facebook have not yet been made public. If they are, an analysis of their combined posts would likely reveal that their content was shared an estimated billions of times during the election.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday said that any move by US President Donald Trump’s administration to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal would drive a wedge between Europe and the US.
“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” Gabriel told Germany’s RND newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”
Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?
Despite countless warnings from global leaders and even from within his own administration, Trump is expected on Friday to unveil a new strategy on confronting Iran, which would include “de-certifying” Iran’s compliance to the nuclear accord. The deal, which was reached in 2015 between Iran and international powers, saw international sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program lifted in exchange for Tehran dismantling its nuclear program.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog has repeatedly certified that Iran has been adhering to the restrictions imposed by the accord. Trump, however, has decried Iran for violating “the spirit” of the deal, first by backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and then by test firing its newly-developed non-nuclear ballistic missiles.
“The big drama is that the Iran agreement could turn out to be a pawn in American domestic politics,” Gabriel said. Washington wants the agreement to ensure that Iran ceases to fuel conflicts such as in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. But Gabriel said this could not be a condition for Iran to remain free of nuclear weapons.
Trump has until Sunday to inform Congress whether he believes Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement. Should Trump de-certify Tehran’s compliance, Congress will have to decide within 60 days what new sanctions to impose on Iran.
A ‘hot crisis’ region
Several EU and US officials have warned that Trump’s refusal to certify the deal could leave the US diplomatically isolated. Germany has historically close economic and business ties with Russia, although those have soured in recent years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Berlin, and Gabriel in particular, have also been working to boost relations with China.
“A denunciation of the Iran agreement would turn the Middle East into a hot crisis region,” Gabriel warned, adding that if Iran were to resume developing nuclear weapons, then “the immediate danger of a new war” would return, with Israel potentially involved.
“It would be a devastating signal for nuclear disarmament,” Gabriel said. “Some states might see the failure of the Iran agreement as a signal to arm themselves with nuclear weapons as soon as possible.”
Gabriel’s potential successor weighs in
Gabriel is expected to stand down from his post in the coming months, after his Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced that it would go into opposition after finishing second behind Chancellor Angela Merkel Christian Democrats in last month’s federal election.
One of the candidates widely tipped to succeed him as top diplomat, Green party leader Cem Özdemir, also warned on Twitter against a nuclear arms race and said that Saudi Arabia could even become a new nuclear power in the region.
dm/bk (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Russian cyber experts created a Pokemon Go game as part of their attempts to meddle with the US election, according to an investigation by CNN.
Under the banner of Don’t Shoot Us, a collective that seemed to share the aims of Black Lives Matter but which is now believed to be run by Russians, the game was created to inspire online participants.
Users could visit sites where police brutality had been recorded, and were encouraged to give their Pokemon characters names of real-life victims, such as Eric Garner, who died on Staten Island.
The winner of the Pokemon contest would receive an Amazon gift card, the Don’t Shoot Us site said.
CNN said it had no evidence of anyone actually claiming the prize.
“It’s clear from the images shared with us by CNN that our game assets were appropriated and misused in promotions by third parties without our permission,” Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, said in a statement provided to CNN.
“It is important to note that Pokémon Go, as a platform, was not and cannot be used to share information between users in the app so our platform was in no way being used. This ‘contest’ required people to take screen shots from their phone and share over other social networks, not within our game. Niantic will consider our response as we learn more.”
Russian hackers ‘used Pokemon Go as part of attempts to meddle in US election’
Russian cyber experts created a Pokemon Go game as part of their attempts to meddle with the US election, according to an investigation by CNN. Under the banner of Don’t Shoot Us, a collective that seemed to share the aims of Black Lives Matter but …
The tragic victims, families, friends and indeed the American citizenry deserve the truth rather than its apparent blockage.
It was on Rouse’s watch that the worst mass murder in America’s history went down. It is on Ruse’s watch that authorities have found no motive some 10 days later.
Blame Rouse , too for the shooter’s Nevada house having been left open for burglary over the weekend. Blame Rouse because he is the highest ranking FBI agent in charge of Las Vegas.
“The Las Vegas shooter’s Reno home was broken into over the weekend, causing another round of police activity in the normally quiet Del Webb neighborhood, police confirmed Tuesday. (Reno Gazette-Journal, Oct.10, 2017)
“Reno’s Somersett neighborhood has been in the spotlight since Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort onto the crowd of concertgoers below, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds before killing himself. Paddock, 64, purchased the small tan and brown home on Del Webb Parkway in 2013 and lived there with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley.
“Officer Tim Broadway with the Reno Police Department said the suspect or suspects broke into the home through the front door over the weekend, noting he was not sure how exactly the suspects gained entry.”
The Del Webb Parkway home was in the spotlight, yet had no police presence against invaders?
When is the last time a house at the center of a horrific crime, now key evidence, has been left open for intrusion?
They jimmied the lock or kicked in the door, but the prime question should be did the suspect or suspects carry anything away?
Aaron Rouse was named special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division by FBI Director James B. Comey on July 28, 2016:
“FBI Director James B. Comey has named Aaron Rouse as the special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division. Mr. Rouse most recently served as section chief in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ).
“Mr. Rouse entered on duty with the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the Washington Field Office, where he worked violent crime and was on the Joint Fugitive Task Force.
“Throughout his career, Mr. Rouse has held leadership positions in the Tampa Division, the San Antonio Division, and the Counterintelligence Division at FBIHQ.
Mr. Rouse will assume this new role in September.”
“In July 2002, Mr. Rouse was chosen to join the expanding National Security Branch at WFO and worked the asymmetric threat posed by a top tier threat country. (SALT Conference)
“In January 2005, Mr. Rouse became a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) in the Counterintelligence Division at FBIHQ and worked as a Program Manager for Counterespionage matters.
“In April 2007, Mr. Rouse was selected as the senior liaison to the newly established Community HUMINT Coordination Center at CIA Headquarters. In this position he de-conflicted HUMINT enabled operations worldwide for not only the FBI, but for all federal agencies regarding Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism and Criminal matters.
“In April 2009, Mr. Rouse was promoted and served as an SSA and Program Coordinator for Counterintelligence in the Tampa Division.
“In January 2013, Mr. Rouse received a promotion and served as the National Security Branch Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the San Antonio Division.
“In October 2014, Mr. Rouse was appointed as the Section Chief for the Clandestine Operations Section in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI Headquarters.
“Prior to entering the FBI, Mr. Rouse was a state trooper in the New York State Police.”
Comey was fired by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017.
“In firing FBI Director James B. Comey, the Trump administration cited Comey’s public statements about the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. (Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2017)
“In a letter recommending Comey’s removal, Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein focused on remarks Comey made at a July 5 news conference.
“Rosenstein wrote that the comments were inappropriate, “derogatory” and unfair to the Democratic presidential candidate— “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” He said Comey should have left it to the Justice Department to decide what to make public about the investigation.
“Here are highlights of what Comey said:
- “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
- Clinton’s emails included seven message chains with information classified as top secret.
- “None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system.”
- “The security culture of the State Department …was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”
- Comey acknowledged that the FBI did not normally make public its recommendations to prosecutors as to whether to bring criminal charges. He added: “In this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”
- “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
- “I know there will be intense public debate in the wake of this recommendation, as there was throughout this investigation.”
In fact the title of Clinton’s book, would be a better one for Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre: ‘WHAT HAPPENED’
Like Hillary Clinton, set free rather than being investigated by him, Comey is said to now be devoting his time to book writing.
The fateful words Comey used when he let Clinton skate on the email scandal: “they (Clinton and colleagues) were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” can be reapplied to the brick wall the truth is hitting in Las Vegas where Comey’s handpicked FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse is in charge.
The tragic victims, families, friends and indeed the American citizenry deserve the truth rather than its apparent blockage.
In fact the title of Clinton’s book, would be a better one for Las Vegas in the aftermath of the massacre: ‘WHAT HAPPENED’.
13 CommentsCopyright © Canada Free Press
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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, <a href=”http://Newsmax.com” rel=”nofollow”>Newsmax.com</a>, Drudge Report, <a href=”http://Foxnews.com” rel=”nofollow”>Foxnews.com</a>.
Jerry Brown’s California: Devastation, Plunder, Economic Failure
I came to California in 1970, I was 23 years old, single and from red neck Seattle area. Los Angeles and Orange County was full of citrus farms and wonderful freeways, yes the 405 still was backed up in the evenings, but not anywhere like it is today. Wiltshire Blvd. off the 405 was a very beautiful street, full of high class fashion boutiques, financial institutions, just a beautiful downtown neighborhood. South was manhattan beach, the beach communities were a great place for the young and old, living on the beach in the 70s was just really a paradise. We have been run over for years by illegals, they use to hide behind telephone poles in the 70s, and 80s, nobody said anything nor have they ever done anything about this situation. So, when mob man Jerry brownbecame governor in the 70s it was flower power in ca., everybody was high and celebrating free love, it was pretty disgusting, long haired boys and young women with flower headbands. Jerry brown was dating Linda ronstad, he was one of them too, old liberal Jerry brown, then years later, about 30years later after liberal schwartniger, here came old commie Jerry brown out of the woodwork? He has completely taken this whole state over with his mob in Sacramento and San Francisco, it is just terrible and such a damn change we have to live our lives like a prisoner and watch others do nothing but spew against the hard working American slaves and suck from the government trough. I feel better now.
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Report: FBI to investigate Harvey Weinstein
Report: FBI to investigate Harvey Weinstein. by Sinclair Broadcast Group. FILE Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is taking a leave of absence from The Weinstein Company following the publication of a New York Times article depicting the film producer …
FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane Relief
The Daily Caller
“People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns,” FBISpecial Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.
FBI in Puerto Rico investigating if corrupt local officials are ‘withholding’ or ‘mishandling’ crucial supplies
FBI agents in Puerto Rico have been receiving calls from “across the island” with residents complaining local officials are “withholding” or “mishandling” critical FEMA supplies — with one island official even accused of stuffing his own car full of …
FBI Reviews Allegations Of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane ReliefThe Daily Caller
Canada Free Press
Public should be asking FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse WHAT HAPPENED?
Canada Free Press
Aaron Rouse was named special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division by FBI DirectorJames B. Comey on July 28, 2016: “FBI Director James B. Comey has named Aaron Rouse as the special agent in charge of the Las Vegas Division. Mr. Rouse most …
Trump’s Iran plans driving EU toward Russia and China: Germany
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear work. Germany has close economic and business ties with Russia, although …
Press review: Iran to toughen up on Trump and Russia eyes big energy deals on Arab marketsTASS
Europe battles to save commercial ties with IranFinancial Times
Here comes the FBI raid on Donald Trump adviser Carter Page’s house
Robert Mueller is always three steps ahead of the rest of us
Donald Trump’s advisers give away that they think the 25th Amendment is coming
Even they know it’s coming
9:05 AM 10/12/2017 – Deutschland über alles!!! – that what it means, logically. The results of the joint Russian – Chinese – German – Israeli “Operation Trump”: “an increased responsibility falls to the European Union and its member state Germany to safeguard and strengthen the international order.”
Daily Mail–Apr 24, 2017
Since Germany’s as well as Europe’s security and affluence rest upon the current international order even as President Trump charts a different course for the United States, an increased responsibility falls to the European Union and its member state Germany to safeguard and strengthen the international order.
2. A president sui generis
It is impossible to ignore that President Trump was able to attract the support of 60 million voters. It is also true that unilateral foreign policy, protectionist moods, and periodic calls for “America First” policies have a long tradition in the United States. Still, Donald Trump is a president sui generis whose ideas about international order do not fit within the modern American politician tradition. These ideas are supported by few in the United States. His disdain for international alliances and institutions is not even shared by many in the government he leads, much less by those outside of government. Donald Trump’s positions on global order are outside the mainstream of the foreign policy expert community in the United States. It is unclear, maybe even unlikely, that his strategy of undermining the international order will ever succeed in the United States and become his country’s policy.
3. Dangerous consequences
Some analysts and political actors in Germany would like to draw far-reaching conclusions from this period of uncertainty about the direction of the United States. They endorse a strategic reorientation for Germany. Some strive to decouple Europe’s foreign and security policy from the United States. Others place their faith in a German-French mini version of Europe. Sometimes, European aspirations only disguise German nationalism as a response to American nationalism. Some recommend that Germany should focus on ad hoc coalitions or maintain equidistance between Russia and the United States. Some even recommend that Germany should go further, and align itself with Russia or China in the future.
All of these propositions are costly or dangerous — or both.
4. The United States remains indispensable
Turning away from the United States would bring insecurity to Germany and ultimately to Europe.
The bond with the United States was born from dependence, but it has long been in Germany’s core national interest. Today, no other actor in the world can offer the same advantages to Germany that it gains from its alliance with the United States. No other power takes on such far-reaching security guarantees and offers such comprehensive political resources.
As a liberal hegemon, the United States made European integration possible. The majority of the political establishment in the United States continues to see the country as a supporter of European integration – also because it suits its own interest. The country needs allies that share its values and interests.
If Germany wants to be an effective actor in Europe, it needs the United States. If the ties to the United States are cut, with them go the reassurance that other European countries need in order to accept a strong Germany in the center of the continent. The more leadership that Germany can and should take on, the closer the coordination must be with the United States.
Decoupling from the United States would fundamentally question one of the most important political and cultural achievements of the past 70 years: Germany’s integration in the West.
In aligning itself with the West Germany also committed itself to the values of freedom and democracy, and to cooperation with all those who stand for these values. Freedom is the precondition for human beings to lead a self-determined and dignified live. Germany has committed itself to this set of ideas in its constitution, the Basic Law. Its anchoring in the West gave Germany the steadfastness to resist the Communist regimes and make possible Germany and European reunification. A departure from this trans-Atlantic orientation will renew the threat of a special path (Sonderweg) of Germany, it will strengthen nationalists on the left and the right, and it will endanger the peaceful European order.
The West, even today, does not exist without the United States, neither as a concept, nor as a political subject America is the anchor of liberal universalism and the open world order. Even if Donald Trump’s presidency carries significant risks for the liberal order, these perils will not diminish if Germany puts its strategic partnership with the United States at stake. A strategic decoupling from the United States would ultimately endanger the liberal international order more than prudent cooperation with a United States whose leadership currently rattles this order. Autocracies such as China and Russia can be important ad hoc partners for single projects; the United States, however, must remain the strategic partner for a democratic and European Germany.
The relationship with the United States is a values-based partnership built on our democratic political systems. Even if the current U.S. president challenges significant elements of the political system, the United States remains a democracy. President Trump is not America, nor is the illiberal movement for which he stands a solely American phenomenon. In Europe too it has made its mark. What we see today is not a divergence between Europe and the United States; it is a conflict within the West unfolding on both sides of the Atlantic.
Finally, the economic, scientific, and cultural linkages with the United States are far stronger than with any other region in the world. The interplay with the United States remains a central element of Europe’s capacity for innovation.
5. Yet, no business as usual
So, how do we engage with the United States in times of Donald Trump?
Even if turning away from the United States is not a responsible option for Germany, business as usual is not an option with the current presidency either. It would be equally unhelpful to stay silent and look the other way, waiting until this presidency is finally over and a successor occupies the White House. Four or even eight years is too long to sit it out, especially since there will not be a return to the supposed good old times.
6. Ideas for a new U.S. Strategy
German policy now requires something that it did not need before: a U.S. strategy.
A responsible policy toward the United States must be long-term and build a bridge into the post-Trump age. This policy must look beyond an exceptional period of U.S. skepticism toward any multilateral commitment. However, Germany must not fall prey to the illusion that there will be a return to the status quo ante following the Trump Presidency. Several political trends in the United States will outlive Trump’s time in office — for example, the demand for more balanced burden-sharing between Europe and the United States within NATO. However, the end of the Trump presidency should be the end of the inner Western conflict about the fundamentals of the world order. Once this fundamental consensus is reestablished policy disagreements can be resolved or bridged more easily and more constructively.
This long-term goal must be the point of reference for Germany’s short-term engagement with the Trump administration.
In the short term, Germany must learn to distinguish between the problems that are solvable, those that are unsolvable, and those in between that require pragmatic management.
It goes without saying that the German government should double down on those policy areas where it finds common ground with the current U.S. administration. But successful relationship management in times of Donald Trump may also require to adjust an increasingly untenable position or — vice versa — to enter into a limited conflict. Finally, we will need to look for partners not only at the highest federal levels, but elsewhere in the administration, in the U.S. Congress, in the states, in civil society, and in business.
It will be more important than ever to manage differences responsibly. In its own long-term interest, Germany should attempt to handle these differences with the Trump administration in such a way that does not escalate them or allow them to spiral out of control.
Germany should not succumb to illusions: large scale joint projects with the Trump government will have little chance for success in policy areas that are central to President Trump’s populist agenda. Trying to do too much in these key policy areas will only cause new disagreements.
In short, Germany’s U.S. strategy must allow for multitasking: to actively pursue key national interests in collaboration with the United States, to moderate conflicts, to avoid unrealistic ambitions, and to thus build a bridge to a better future for trans-Atlantic relations.
This nuanced approach will have different consequences for the different policy areas.
7. Trade policy — aim only for conflict management
Soberingly, the signs are not favorable for larger projects in several policy areas that would actually be vital, such as trade policy. Despite all controversies, the strategic and economic reasons for a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement (TTIP) have not disappeared since November 2016. Some in Berlin and Brussels hope that one can resurrect TTIP in an adapted version. This idea is illusory, maybe even dangerous. A president who castigates all free trade agreements as unfair toward the United States will not easily compromise in international negotiations. A negotiating failure will be more devastating to the project than a long hibernation.
There are signs already that the United States and the European Union might be headed toward trade disputes. The European Union must react to punitive tariffs. But it should do so exclusively in a legal, proportional, and symmetrical manner. Everything else could trigger an unwanted escalation.
8. International refugee policy — no chance for a joint vision
Joint initiatives regarding international refugee policy do not look very promising either. The global system of protection, however, urgently needs to be reformed to cope with modern conditions. The rights of refugees need to be protected while illegal migration needs to be curtailed, organized trafficking should be combated so that the universal refugee regime is not undermined. Equally important will be a push toward new and improved United Nations’ resettlement programs. However, it appears difficult to imagine that the Trump administration will agree to such initiatives. Consequently, Europe must become active itself here — as best as it can.
Therefore, trade and refugee policies fall in the category of currently difficult, hardly resolvable issues. The best we can expect is limited progress, but no large scale initiatives.
9. Security policy — strive for progress, also with President Trump
Security policy is a different matter. Without the United States there will be no security for and in Germany for the foreseeable future. This applies to territorial as well as alliance defense within NATO, but also to nuclear deterrence, to combating cyber crimes and money laundering, and finally to counterterrorism and the cooperation of intelligence agencies. No single European country, not Germany, not any other country, and not the European Union, can provide the necessary resources to guarantee the continent’s security. Therefore, the existing cooperation must be strengthened. Remaining committed to NATO also provides a way to integrate the United States into the structures of multilateral security policy and may dissuade Washington from going it alone.
Alliance defense is the most cost-effective form of defense. Germany should thus take seriously the call for fairer burden-sharing within the alliance. Acting against its own core interest, Germany has not done enough in this respect. Germany still has a long way to go until it’s NATO goals and commitments are met. To be clear: Germany agreed to increase its defense expenditures toward 2 percent of its GDP. Germany should keep its word. To present this commitment as a threat to the military balance in European is to get it backwards. It is precisely our European neighbors and partners that are asking for more German commitment within the NATO framework and within European defense policy.
It would be even better if Germany were to invest an extra percentage point of GDP into development assistance, international police operations, UN missions, conflict prevention, and diplomacy. With this linkage, nonmilitary aspects of security would also be upgraded. This would substantially strengthen European defense capabilities within the trans-Atlantic alliance. Germany would do something that is in its own interest and would stabilize the trans-Atlantic alliance at the same time. It would address concerns of the Trump administration and build good will for the time after Donald Trump. The chances of success for this strategy are high: Despite all of the skeptical rhetoric about NATO, the Trump administration has fulfilled America’s NATO commitments so far.
Security policy cooperation with the Trump government should be central to Germany and should also include security guarantees for the central and eastern European NATO members, support for an independent Ukraine, as well as the stabilization of the North African coast.
In the conflict over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the uncertainties around future Iran policy, a trans-Atlantic schism should be avoided. We should do whatever possible to convince the Trump administration of joint approaches.
10. Energy security policy — giving up Nord Stream 2 is in Germany’s interest
There is one more policy area in which the German government should reconsider its position to open the door for productive cooperation: energy security policy. The United States has identified Nord Stream 2, the planned pipeline running through the Baltic Sea to Russia, as a geostrategic project. They are correct. More important: This pipeline project is not in the joint European interest. Nord Stream 2 contradicts a policy of greater energy independence and undermines the envisaged European Energy Union. We should try to identify a joint approach with our European partners and the United States.
11. Climate, energy, and digital policy — manage conflicts responsibly
After having addressed the solvable issues and set aside the unsolvable issues for now, one will need to turn to those policy areas that require responsible conflict management. It would be useless to try to convince the U.S. administration of the importance of the Paris Climate Agreement, but it is equally wrongheaded to isolate President Trump on international climate and energy policy. Necessary criticism should not turn into dogmatism.
Instead, Germany should seek concrete steps forward in climate protection together with the United States. Germany does not need President Trump in order to engage with partners who are interested in climate policy cooperation. A number of states (not just California) and large cities are already rapidly reducing their CO2 emissions. Political, scientific, and technical cooperation with local partners is possible. There is no shortage of potent allies on climate policy in the United States, in the private sector as well as in civil society. Here, the key is to be proactive, to invest money, and to build networks that will endure and outlast the Trump administration.
Digital policy is another policy area where confrontation is possible — about regulatory questions as well as about market shares. It is important to identify points of contention as soon as possible and to avoid unnecessary escalation. Sealing off Europe’s and the United States’ digital markets from each other will seriously damage the outlook for jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. European consumer and data protection standards might be able to be maintained globally if they have U.S. support, but certainly not without it.
12. Final point — more Europe within the Alliance
Making progress with the Trump administration wherever possible, moderating conflicts and avoiding escalation, expanding the spectrum of trans-Atlantic partners beyond the current U.S. administration — these are all core aims of a U.S. strategy that can preserve the trans-Atlantic partnership with and if necessary against this American President, and function beyond his time in office. The United States has proved its capacity for self-correction repeatedly. America remains the indispensable power for those countries that stand for freedom and democracy and strive for an open world order. But Europe — and thus Germany — must do more to support and preserve these values. More European self-reliance is imperative. It would be an error of historical proportions to play out “more Europe” against the trans-Atlantic alliance. The new German government’s foreign policy will be measured by how clearly it pursues this course.
• Deidre Berger, Ramer Institute, American Jewish Committee, Berlin
• James D. Bindenagel, Center for International Security and Governance, University of Bonn
• Ralf Fücks, Centre for Liberal Modernity, Berlin
• Patrick Keller, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Berlin
• Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Berlin
• Anna Kuchenbecker, Aspen Institute Deutschland, Berlin
• Sergey Lagodinsky, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Berlin
• Rüdiger Lentz, Aspen Institute Deutschland, Berlin
• Daniela Schwarzer, German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin
• Jan Techau, Richard C. Holbrooke Forum, American Academy, Berlin
• Sylke Tempel, German Council on Foreign Relations, “Internationale Politik” Magazine, Berlin
The text solely reflects the personal opinions of the authors.
It’s been a bleak decade since President Donald J. Trump put his hand on the Bible eight months ago. After the Charlottesville debacle, former Vice President Al Gore offered Trump a one-word piece of advice: “Resign.” Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, claimed resignation would come before the end of the year. And Steve Bannon reportedly thinks Trump has just a 30 percent chance of finishing out his term.
While we wait for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into money laundering, bank fraud, foreign influence, election rigging, and hotel-mattress wetting, I asked eight TV and screenwriters and astute observers of human behavior to come up with two scenarios of how Trump will leave the Oval Office. I offered these examples:
Trump isn’t happy unless he’s humiliating someone so he’ll claim that his sons are doing a terrible job running the Trump Organization, fire them both, and say he’s stepping down to save the family empire.
The Trump presidency should end like the soap opera it is. The final scene starts with Donald and Jared arguing in Trump Tower. Jared takes off, but Donald pursues. (They both just stand on the escalator then pick up the chase at the bottom.) Jared runs out of the building but before he can get far, Donald pulls out a gun. Just like he bragged, Donald’s gonna shoot someone on Fifth Avenue . . . and it’s gonna be his son-in-law. Donald squeezes the trigger. Suddenly out of the crowd, Ivanka throws herself in front of the bullet intended for her husband. Her father watches in horror as his daughter takes the hit. She crumples to the ground—dead (but still incredibly put together.) Donald falls to his knees and cries in despair. What twist of cruel fate allowed him to kill the one thing he kind of, sort of loved?!
(a la Nixon’s “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” in 1962) America—you blew it, losers.
Here are their answers:
Executive producer, Modern Family, five-time Emmy Award winner. The president of the United States once tweeted at him: “Danny—you’re a total loser.”
I don’t think he’ll leave over collusion, conflicts of interest, or even the release of the pee-pee tape. (Although one can dream.) I think he will ultimately resign because the job is harder than he thought. He’s discovering that he can’t simply put a TRUMP sign on the White House and pretend to be president the way he puts one on a building and pretends to be a builder. He’ll say something like, “Over the last nine months, I took a country where the streets were literally full of sewage and crime and people with accents and turned it into a paradise kingdom that rivals heaven itself. Better than heaven, because we all have guns. So tremendous is my creation that it basically runs itself. No president can rule for more than eight years, and I’ve already squozen a decade’s worth of achievements into my first year—and it’s not even Thanksgiving. So, I’m leaving office to spend more time with my son . . . (Melania whispers in his ear) Barron.”
Fade in: intelligence briefing. We are close on Trump’s bloated, porcine face, the kind of face that would immediately disqualify a person from judging others’ appearances. He yawns, wipes some KFC extra-crispy batter from his most northern chin. Then he gets an idea. A light-bulb moment. Not a bright light bulb—more like the bulb in that emergency flashlight you find buried in your junk drawer. He stands up and exclaims . . .
TRUMP: I quit.
INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Wah wah wah wah wah?
TRUMP: I SAID, I QUIT!
He races out of the briefing room and makes his way outside, where we see a HELMETED FIGURE on a motorcycle.
TRUMP: I did it! I QUIT.
The helmeted figure takes off the helmet and we see SARAH PALIN
SARAH PALIN: Good boy. Hop on.
Trump hops on the back of the hog and the two quitters drive off into the sunset. FADE OUT:
I’m moving outta here like a bitch.
Writer for The Good Place and Silicon Valley
Donald Trump will be impeached after evidence surfaces that he met with Russians clandestinely on multiple occasions specifically to sabotage Hillary’s run for president. This will occur approximately one week before the election in 2020. By then, cities won’t exist, and the average temperature in America will be 130 degrees Trump (the new nomenclature for Fahrenheit).
Donald Trump will resign after a secret Russian sex tape surfaces, one that involves Trump sexually harassing his daughter Ivanka. He will then brag that he was the “fastest president ever,” and that he can resign since he’s brought back “all of the jobs. Literally all of them. Look at them—they’re all back now.” He will spend the rest of his days doing exactly what he did in the presidency, playing golf and pretending to drive fire trucks.
“Ffffffffpllllplplplplplplplppppluuuuuuuuuuugggffffffff.” (This is the sound of Donald Trump publicly shitting himself at a rally, then trying to cover his butt with Mike Pence’s sweater, but the sweater isn’t big enough to cover his big butt, so he slips and falls and can’t get up ’cause he’s covered in his own shit, so he’s pulled off by the Secret Service, never to be seen again.)
Executive producer, The Last Man on Earth
I remember learning that when L. Ron Hubbard died, they announced to the rank-and-file Scientologists that he had merely “discarded his body” so he could continue his work on other planes of existence. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say I believe this is how Trump’s impeachment and resignation will go. I think he’ll call it something else, and Congress will happily play along. An impeachment will be called a “Constitutional Hearing,” or a “Congressional Adjustment,” or an “Unholy Witch Hunt.” A resignation will be called an “Executive Realignment,” or a “Presidential Ascension,” or simply a “Nothingburger.” So my most plausible scenario is that something happens that’s not an impeachment, and he does something that’s not a resignation. And he lives many more years acting like he is still president, and the whole country silently agrees to never talk about that one time we had a constitutional crisis and pretended we didn’t.
A second White House will be built a few blocks from the official White House, and Trump will stay there three days a week. This new White House will be a full replica, but five-times bigger and gold.
This one’s easy. The quote will be “I’m still president.”
I mean, that’s what the NYT headline will be. The full quote will not be so pithy.
“Am I resigning? No. Where did you hear that, by the way? That’s, if you believe that, I’ll sell you a bridge on top of the World Trade Center. Which, terrible deal by the way. Whoever built that, I like buildings that don’t collapse, O.K.? Terrible deal. They got a lot of things (garbled). It’s nuts. And I hear everyone asking “is he resigning, is he impeaching?” I’m not impeaching, O.K.? I’m president. They still call me president, don’t they? Everybody calls me President Trump. You hear it everywhere you go, President Trump this, President Trump that, President Trump, I love you, President Trump, don’t go. So I’m president. It’s silly. It’s dumb (garbled). Mike Pence is a helluva guy. Mike Pence, President Pence if you wanna call him that. Great guy, terrific guy. I also heard there’s gonna be a new vice president, which you can do. A lot of people don’t know that. You can bring the vice president up to president, I just learned this, a lot of people don’t know. And then he can bring up a guy. I don’t know who they’ll choose, but it should be my daughter. Not the ugly one. (Large applause). No, come on. Come on. You’re nasty. So I’m gonna travel and do great things. Dubai. Russia. China. And wherever I go, I’m the president there, too, they love me there and we’re only gonna make it bigger. Maybe I’ll do another TV show, would you like that? I’ll do a TV show, “where’s Hillary?” Has anyone seen her? She’s gone, maybe she’s in jail, I don’t know. They tell me (garbled) and all of this and that. But she’s not in jail and I’m gonna put her in jail. Maybe she’s with ISIS (huge applause). I beat ISIS. ISIS is no longer a threat because of me. But they’re still a threat and I’ll continue to beat them. But as to the question, who’s president? I’m president. They call Obama president and he was never even president. So believe me, I’m still president.”
Creator/executive producer/host of BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede; former head writer and correspondent of Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show
At the height of his paranoia, Trump will start accusing everyone in his administration of plotting against him. He will openly start leaking damning audio tapes of his conversations with Bannon, Sessions, Kushner, et al. and fire them one by one until no one is left. He will then declare the government “illegitimate” and return to private business, where he can “truly make a difference.” Oh, and he’ll find a way to blame Obama for it all.
Trump will spearhead the “New Civil Rights Movement” where he positions himself as this era’s Martin Luther King Jr. for rich white men. He will lead protests of “poor” areas and host “sit-ins” on golf carts on the country’s finest courses as his way of demanding more “white rights.” Convinced his mission is accomplished after only two weeks of this campaign, he will rename Martin Luther King Jr. Day “Donald J. Trump Day.”
I NEVER got credit for anything! I had women peeing on me WAY before R. Kelly!
Writer of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Men in Black, Now You See Me, and Steven Soderbergh’sMosaic (on HBO)
Trump will have to find a way to package his departure as a “win,” which means deciding the game is over and he’s walking away with the trophy. He’ll declare that the whole “four-year thing” is an arbitrary number—after all, there’s no set time frame for a C.E.O. to turn a company around, is there? And look—he did it quickly: he made America great in 16 months. Now that he’s “won” at politics, it’s time for him to give up his pro-bono work and go back to running his company (a company which, by the way, has tripled in value in the short 16 months he was the best president ever).
Donald’s day is slammed with meetings. Today it’s Jesus, and Rambo, and early-1980’s running-on-the-beach Bo Derek. Oh, and also Jamie Lee Curtis in that moment from Trading Places. Again. Followed by Hillary—coming to beg for a job—which he promises . . . and then rescinds. Again. And later? A rally! This one in the Grand Canyon—which he’s packed beyond capacity (there’s an overflow canyon—with a two-mile-long video screen—300 miles away at Bryce). As he flies there (he has his own wings now), he soars over Obama, who’s giving a sparsely attended speech outside a Fotomat in Tonopah. Barack looks up in envy as Donald waves with giant hands. As he approaches the canyon, he can hear the crowds singing the “Make America Great” song and we:
PULL BACK TO REVEAL:
Donald has never left his desk. His V.R. headset is permanently affixed to his face. He is fed liquid Kentucky Fried Chicken through a Heparin Lock. “What’s next?” he says. We don’t see what he’s seeing, but we DO see a big smile on his face. “I love you, too, dad.” He smiles, a single tear rolling down his cheek. “I love you so, so, so much, too. What’s next?” And now we:
PULL BACK FURTHER:
And realize that the desk is in fact in a giant plexiglass cube floating on a barge somewhere.
PULLING BACK EVEN FURTHER:
The barge is on a river flowing through a grayish, overcast city. Hard to know where we are, exactly, because the only signs are in Cyrillic.
It will be something like: “Fine—if the Fake News won’t let me tell the truth, we’ll have our own REAL News.” And thus begins TNN.
Author of Worst. Person. Ever.
The manner in which Trump leaves is not a big deal in his mind. I suspect he’ll probably just get bored and stop showing up for work, moving into second-term Reagan, phone-it-in mode before the 2018 races.
All White House staff members show up one morning wearing the exact same Claire Underwood pencil skirt but nobody’s sure why. An expression of solidarity? Ambition? Overly effective Nair lobbyists? Following an awkwardly quiet morning briefing comes a bathroom break, at which point staffers are deadlocked in a Tarantino multi-gun standoff: who—who!—will enter which bathroom? In an unexpected turn of events, everyone chooses the wrong bathroom and everyone gets fired. Donald huffs in disgust, saying that Melania is hotter than any of them, and who needs this? If you want me I’ll be in Scotland.
Hey, Mike Pence—you won’t see Melania wearing some spooky sister-wife dress.
Head writer of Late Night with David Letterman, winner of four Emmy Awards
When figuring out what he will say, you have to put yourself in the mind-set of a humiliated and rage-filled narcissist who has to retreat with his dignity intact but leave a wound. The real scenario, should it happen, will be, “I’m a billionaire. I didn’t need this job. The only reason I took it was a mandate from my fans to Make America Great Again. The fake-news media, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats who are all determined to ruin this country refused to let me. #Sad.”
Donald Trump is forced by a mysterious angel to look at what life in the United States would have been like if he’d never been born or been elected. Hillary would be in the White House; there is Medicare for everyone, and the economy is booming as the U.S. leads the fight against climate change. None of his horrible sons would have been born, so wild animals in Africa would be safe. Ivanka would be sitting in a tower in another dimension, sewing shoes by hand as she stares longingly at the moon and waits to be born to someone who had a profitable tech start-up. Kellyanne Conway would be hanging around the greenrooms of morning-talk shows, waiting for someone to drop out at the last minute so she could give horoscope predictions. Melania would be preparing for her wedding to Sumner Redstone. Donald is so moved that he begins to sob and calls a press conference. “My fellow Americans,” he says, “I want to resign. I have been such a fool.” Then he and his family go to work to preserve the environment and save endangered species. In the last frame, they’d all be standing in line to volunteer for the Peace Corps.
Look, all I can say at this point is, and I’m leaving in a few minutes—but check my Twitter, and there will still be rallies. I can still hold my rallies, because as far as I know, we still have the First Amendment—they will be incredible rallies. My uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at M.I.T.; good genes, very good genes, very smart. Wharton School of Finance. And if I was a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican oh, do they do a number—but when you look at what’s going on with the Persians who are great negotiators, the Iranians who are great negotiators, and the North Koreans who have tremendous rallies, they hold those placards up, we will have rallies and we will do placards. Our rallies will be better attended than Kim Jong Un, even when it’s a birthday or an anniversary or whatever they do there. Wait and see.
Composer and lyricist for The Band’s Visit
Some version of “I have decided to resign because you’re all losers, and I quit.”
Trump announces that he can no longer serve as president of the United States of America because the pee tape that the Failing New York Times has finally uncovered and released is “obviously doctored” to give him a “much, much smaller penis than the really, actually big, some say very big, strong penis that I actually have.”
I’m suing all of you. You, your families, your fucking pets . . .
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“O.K., you, in the third row… Yes, you… I’m calling on you… Yes, that’s why I’m pointing… I’m pointing with my finger… My FINGER. This one… Why would you think I’m holding up a cocktail frank?”
Photo: By Justin Lane/EPA/Corbis.
In Iowa last January, Trump regales voters with a humanizing personal anecdote about how he once bit his right index finger after mistaking it for a half-eaten French fry.
Photo: By Jerry Mennenga/ZUMA Press/Corbis.
A wax figure of “Duke” Wayne looks on in disgust as Trump strains to reach his fingers all the way around daughter Aissa Wayne’s frankly rather petite shoulder. (Fun fact: you could load the barrel of Wayne’s pistol with 14 of Trump’s pinkies.)
Photo: By Tannen Maury/EPA/Corbis.
As Trump talks straight through a lunch-hour town hall in February, hungry New Hampshire voters appear mesmerized by the five chicken-tender-like appendages radiating from his sausage-patty-size palm.
Photo: From The Washington Post/Getty Images.
At this 2005 gala, Trump, thinking quickly, uses both hands to keep wife Melania from getting a good look at the size of a single Puff Daddy hand.
Photo: By Johnny Nunez/WireImage/Getty Images.
Trump’s delicate right hand is nearly crushed by his nine-year-old daughter Ivanka’s huge, burly mitt at a 1991 event.
Photo: From The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.
Presented without comment.
Photo: By Scott Olson/Getty Images.
US warship USS Cole was bombed in the Yemeni port of Aden on this day 17 years ago. Seventeen American sailors lost their lives in the suicide attack that almost sank the massive ship
Money to a mystery man
By the end of October 2000, the Yemeni authorities had arrested a man named Fahd al-Quso, writes Lawrence Wright in The Looming Tower. Quso had admitted that he and one of the suicide bombers had delivered money to “Khallad”
Bin Laden’s errand boy
Ali Soufan, a Lebanese-American FBI agent was in charge of the USS Cole bombing probe. His source from Afghanistan had described a fighter named Khallad with a metal leg who was in charge of a guesthouse in Kandahar. He called Khallad, Osama bin Laden’s “errand boy”. “That was the first real link between the Cole bombing and al-Qaeda,” Wright adds in his Pulitzer-winning book. Khallad was the mastermind behind the Cole bombing and was also part of the failed attempt to blow up USS The Sullivans in the Aden harbour
Connection to 9/11
Quso had also told Soufan he was supposed to meet Khallad in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. So the FBI agent sent an official request to the CIA asking if they had any information about Khallad or any al-Qaeda meeting in the region. But the agency did not respond
There was in fact a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January that year and the CIA knew about it. The four men who had originally been selected for the 9/11 operation went to the city and among them were two Yemenis who adopted the name Khallad. “The meeting was not wiretapped, so the opportunity to discover the plots that culminated in the bombing of the USS Cole and the 9/11 attack was lost”
The Kremlin and President Donald Trump have each denied allegations that Russia and the Trump campaign colluded in the 2016 presidential election – but the probe into Russia’s meddling is forging ahead.
Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s oldest son, came under fire earlier this year when it was found that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign after it was promised that she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
But that lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Fox News that she would have met with Clinton, too, if she had believed that the former secretary of state could have helped her with her anti-sanctions push.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with investigating Russia’s influence in the election, impaneled a grand jury in August – widely seen as an indicator that his investigation is entering a new phase.
Mueller is also seeking to speak with White House staffers – but has not requested to speak to the president as of yet – sources told Fox News.
From the firing of the nation’s F.B.I. director to Trump’s oldest son’s meeting with a controversial Russian lawyer, here’s what you need to know about the Russian investigation so far.
Before Trump ever took office, tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other officials connected to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were leaked.
Those emails – released in July 2016 ahead of the Democratic National Convention – purportedly showed the party favoring Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and led to the resignation of party chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But more than just ousting Wasserman Schultz, intelligence officials concluded that those responsible for leaking the emails were connected to the Russian government. In its assessment of the hack, the CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump secure the presidency.
Before he handed over the White House to Trump, former President Barack Obama sanctioned Russiafor its alleged involvement in the election – a move that would eventually come back to dismantle one of Trump’s senior aides.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also got the administration into hot water for his own actions during the campaign.
Trump Jr. confirmed in July 2017 that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign as she was supposed to have damaging information about Clinton.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” an email about the meeting said in part.
Trump Jr. maintained that the Veselnitskaya, did not have any information to share and instead wanted to discuss other matters.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, were at the meeting as well. The two are also being investigated.
Michael Flynn’s tenure as Trump’s national security adviser was short but rife with controversy that still bedevils the administration. But Flynn didn’t come without a warning.
Only a few days after the November election, Obama met with Trump to share his concerns about Flynn, a retired lieutenant general. Flynn had served under Obama as head of military intelligence until he was fired in 2014 following reports of insubordination and questionable management style.
Then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during a White House press briefing. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Still, Trump ignored Obama’s apparent apprehensions and selected Flynn as his national security advisor. Not a month later, Trump accepted Flynn’s resignation.
As Obama issued the sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the election, Flynn reportedly called the Russian ambassador to discuss the move. Flynn initially denied speaking to the ambassador, but when intelligence officials revealed proof, he said he just didn’t remember speaking on that topic.
Flynn resigned under harsh scrutiny for misleading the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his ties to and conversations with Russian officials.
He remains under multiple investigations by congressional committees and the Pentagon’s inspector general. Mueller has included Flynn in his probe, and his investigators are reportedly trying to determine if he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the campaign, the New York Times reported in August.
Flynn registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department in March 2017.
Firing the FBI director
Trump sacked F.B.I. Director James Comey on May 9 – less than two months after Comey publicly proclaimed that the agency was investigating ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
The White House maintained that Comey was relieved from his duties due to his handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure of secretary of state. But days later, Trump alluded that he had considered the Russian investigation when he fired Comey.
Comey told a Senate intelligence committee in June that he was concerned about the “shifting explanations” that came from the White House regarding his firing.
He also claimed that Trump had asked for the F.B.I. to drop its investigation into Flynn during a February meeting. The White House has denied that Trump was attempting to influence the F.B.I. director.
Before the committee, Comey confirmed that he had reassured Trump repeatedly that he was not under investigation by the F.B.I.
Russians in the Oval
In the wake of Comey’s dismissal, the Trump administration was rocked with reports of the president’s own controversial dealings with Russian officials in the Oval Office.
A White House television plays a news report on President Donald Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian officials. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
The Washington Post reported on May 15 that Trump shared classified information regarding ISIS threats with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador at the time. The information was reportedly given to the U.S. from Israel and not meant to be shared.
Later that week, the New York Times reported that Trump told those officials the day after firing Comey – who he allegedly called a “nut job” – that the personnel change took “great pressure” off of him.
Special counsel called
The Department of Justice announced the appointment of former F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s alleged influence on the election on May 17.
The appointment followed a growing Democratic outcry for someone outside the Justice Department to handle the probe.
Mueller was given wide berth to carry out his investigation, and he expanded the probe to look into whether Trump obstructed justice with Comey’s firing.
Trump has criticized Mueller’s friendship with Comey as “very bothersome.” The two were former colleagues at the Justice Department.
Mueller has reportedly impaneled a grand jury to continue the investigation. A grand jury gives prosecutors the ability to subpoena documents and gather on-the-record witness testimonies. It doesn’t necessarily mean criminal charges will be sought.
Trump faces Putin
Trump finally met with Putin for the first time face-to-face at the G-20 summit in June.
He immediately pressed his Russian counterpart on the allegations of election meddling – which Putin denied, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Germany in July 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Lavrov told reporters after the meeting that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Moscow was innocent of interfering in the election.
Trump Tower Moscow
While Trump was actively running for president, his business attempted to secure a new real estate development in Moscow, according to records reviewed by the Washington Post.
The Trump Organization pursued building a Trump Tower in Moscow from late 2015 to early 2016, according to the paper. And Russian-born real estate developer Felix Sater was hoping to bring Trump himself to the country.
Sater reportedly urged Trump to come to Moscow to promote the business venture and promised that he could get Putin to say “great things” about the Manhattan business mogul, sources told the Washington Post.
A top executive with Trump’s real estate company also emailed Putin’s press secretary in 2016 for help to expedite the project, according to an email obtained by Fox News.
“Over the past few months, I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower-Moscow project in Moscow City,” Michael Cohen, the company’s executive vice president and Trump’s special counsel at the time, said in a Jan. 14, 2016 email. “Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled. As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance.”
Cohen later told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the project was “similar” to other business ideas “contemplated years before any campaign.”
“The Trump Tower Moscow proposal was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign,” Cohen said.
“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance.”
Trump never went to Russia, and the project was abandoned in January 2016.
Anyone else under investigation?
Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign manager in August 2016 amid questions regarding his business dealings in Ukraine.
The special counsel has taken over a criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings, which began even before the 2016 election, according to The Associated Press. F.B.I. agents raided Manafort’s Virginia home in July, taking with them documents related to the Russia investigation.
Manafort has been the subject of multiple investigations into his financial dealings and lobbying work. He has denied any colluding with Russia.
In June 2017, Manafort officially registered as a foreign agent for work he did with a Ukrainian political party from 2012 to 2014.
Kushner, too, has been under F.B.I. scrutiny.
Kushner, married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, may possess substantial information relevant to the Russian investigation, officials told NBC in May.
He also held private meetings with lawmakers regarding the controversial meeting Trump Jr. set up with the Russian lawyer. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is leading the House intelligence committee’s probe into Russia’s involvement in the election, said Kushner was “straightforward, forthcoming [and] wanted to answer every question we had.”
Kushner has denied colluding with Russia or knowing anyone who did so.
Social media, too, is the subject of congressional investigations as Facebook, Twitter and Google executives have said advertisements linked to Russian operatives were bought during the election.
Facebook said about $100,000 in ad purchases connected to “inauthentic accounts” that violated its policies were uncovered as well as another $50,000 on “potentially politically related ad spending” that were in Russian. Twitter said a group with “strong links to the Russian government” spent $274,000 in ads, and the social media site suspended almost two dozen accounts that were possibly linked to Russian officials.
As for Google, Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Google Search products and Gmail regarding the election, Fox Business reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.
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The FBI and Justice Department have turned down or ignored every request since March from the House Intelligence Committee seeking information about the controversial anti-Trump dossier, according to a review of congressional records by Fox News.
Records show the committee has made eight such requests, including subpoenas, in that time period.
Congressional investigators have met “a lot of resistance,” committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Fox News.
But the GOP lawmaker seemed to indicate public scrutiny and congressional pressure may spur movement on the issue. “These are crucial questions related to Congress’ oversight responsibilities. … We hope we’ll soon be on the path to getting the information we need,” he said.
Asked for comment, the Justice Department’s principal deputy director of public affairs, Ian D. Prior, said: “The materials requested involve extremely sensitive law enforcement information. We have been working with the committee and have had a productive dialogue with an aim towards ensuring it gets what it needs while addressing our concerns.”
The FBI and Justice Department are led by Trump appointees Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, respectively. But officials at the departments have refused to provide information about the dossier’s sources, who paid for it and whether the FBI used the unverified dossier to obtain surveillance warrants. The document, along with its salacious allegations, emerged earlier this year in the press and was roundly rejected by President Trump and his allies. Investigators on Capitol Hill have been trying to unlock the document’s origins ever since.
Sources close to the matter say that Gregory Brower, a former U.S. attorney, is now the gatekeeper to such information as head of the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs. Brower is said to be close to former director James Comey, who named him to the job in March, two months before Comey was fired and during a tense period in Comey’s relationship with Trump. Sources told Fox News that Brower has turned down requests, citing the special counsel investigation led by former FBI director Robert Mueller.
While Nunes has stepped aside from the broader investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign, he remains chairman of the intelligence committee and has pressed for information on the dossier as well as the “unmasking” of Trump associates by the Obama administration.
The powerful Senate Intelligence Committee leadership told reporters last week that their investigators also had run into roadblocks on the dossier, which was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele at the direction of Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm based in Washington, D.C.
“As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately the committee has hit a wall,” Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., explained. “We have on several occasions made attempts to contact Mr. Steele, to meet with Mr. Steele, to include personally the vice chairman and myself as two individuals making that connection. Those offers have gone unaccepted. The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it? Who are your sources and sub-sources?”
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, wrote to the FBI last week stating there are “material inconsistencies” in the bureau’s responses about the dossier and how it was used. Grassley highlighted that the dossier was shared by Steele with the U.K. government, according to court records in a defamation suit.
“Mr. Steele’s dossier allegations might appear to be ‘confirmed’ by foreign intelligence, rather than just an echo of the same ‘research’ that Fusion bought from Steele and that the FBI reportedly also attempted to buy from Steele,” Grassley wrote.
To date, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson has not revealed sources and payments for the dossier to congressional investigators, even refusing to answer questions from Senate Judiciary Committee staff during a closed-door session.
Fusion GPS Lawyer Joshua Levy did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.
President Donald Trump Thomson Reuters
The opposition research firm that produced the explosive dossier alleging ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia has claimed in new court filings that it did not provide the dossier to BuzzFeed, which published the document in full in January.
The filings were part of Fusion GPS’s efforts to quash a subpoena issued in late August by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian tech executive whom the dossier accused of targeting Democratic Party leadership with malware and “botnets.” Gubarev is now suing both BuzzFeed and the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele.
Steele, a former British spy who spent decades on MI6’s Moscow desk, was hired by Fusion to research Trump’s purported ties to Russia.
In their initial attempt to quash Gubarev’s subpoena, Fusion said it would be willing to provide any “pre-publication communications” it had with BuzzFeed about the dossier prior to its publication.
Court documents filed on Tuesday, however, included a September 12 email from a lawyer with the firm representing Fusion informing Gubarev’s attorney that “we have found no pre-publication communications” between the firm and BuzzFeed.
From the filings:
Fusion’s attorneys wrote in the court filings that Gubarev’s attempts to “open the door to wide-ranging discovery” of the firm were “unpersuasive” because Fusion “did not create or author the December memo, and did not give it to BuzzFeed.”
Evan Fray-Witzer, an attorney for Gubarev, said during a discovery hearing on September 28 that “the one thing that [Fusion] have told us is BuzzFeed didn’t get the dossier from them. BuzzFeed went to them and tried to get the dossier from them and they refused to give it to BuzzFeed.”
A spokesperson for Fusion GPS repeated that claim on Wednesday.
“While there may have been a request by BuzzFeed, no documents were shared,” the spokesperson told Business Insider.
BuzzFeed issued the following statement: “As we’ve stated time and again, the dossier was circulating at the highest levels of government, among numerous media outlets, and is the subject of multiple federal investigations. The only group that had yet to see the dossier when we published it was the public.”
Indeed, the dossier had been making its way around Washington, DC, for months leading up to its publication. Numerous reporters revealed after it was published that they had been approached to write about the dossier and its allegations.
Mother Jones’ David Corn reported on some of the dossier’s allegations in October after speaking with Steele and “his associates at the American firm” that hired him. Neither Steele nor Fusion GPS were named in Corn’s story. Their identities were only revealed later, well after BuzzFeed published the dossier in full.
Corn reported, however, that Steele had approached the FBI “without the permission of the US company that hired him” in July after spending a month collecting information about Trump’s alleged Russia ties. Steele forwarded the FBI additional memos in August, at which point they began communicating regularly, Corn reported.
Fusion GPS was therefore not the only entity with access to the dossier. The document was reportedly obtained by former State Department official David Kramer, who then passed it along to Republican Sen. John McCain. McCain then provided it to former FBI Director James Comey.
The FBI had reportedly already used the dossier’s allegations to bolster its case for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against early Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Fusion over the summer but dropped the request when the firm’s cofounder, Glenn Simpson, agreed to a closed-door interview.
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