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The Russia probe has entered Phase 2
mikenova shared this story .

We have now entered the second phase of the Russia probe. In the first, special counsel Robert Muellerand his team, starting from scratch, gathered sufficient evidence to file felony charges against Paul ManafortRick Gates and George Papadopoulos.

Phase 1 has given Mueller leverage against higher-level targets, who must be wondering how much the special counsel already knows, and how much he’s about to learn. Careful work may, eventually, enable him to secure evidence against the greatest target of them all: the president. In this second round, Mueller is holding all the cards and has the latitude to play them when and as he chooses.

The initial charges sent a message to the White House and former Trump campaign officials, who had tried to whistle their way past the graveyard, portraying the probe as lacking in substance and likely to be short-lived. The Oct. 30 flurry demonstrated that 1) people will be going to jail for a long time and 2) the probe is unlikely to stop short of the Oval Office. No more talk of fake news.

The sophisticated charges against Manafort and Gates, in particular, also revealed to veteran observers the meticulous professionalism and industry of Mueller’s squad, which is among the most formidable prosecutorial teams ever assembled. Further bad news for Team Trump.

From the public reports of potential criminal activity, it looks as though Mueller has set his immediate sights on no fewer than nine characters in Trump’s orbit: Michael Flynn (father), Michael Flynn (son), Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Stephen Miller, Keith Schiller and Sam Clovis. And of course there are possible wild cards that have not come into general public view. (No one anticipated the Papadopoulos indictment.)

Which of these men will next be charged? That depends not only on ease of proof, but also who can be used to induce cooperation among other campaign and administration insiders. My guess is that the Flynns are next on the chopping block.

It is a safe bet, moreover, that already discussions are taking place between Mueller’s team and multiple defense attorneys over terms of possible cooperation.

For these targets, Mueller can credibly warn that if they don’t talk first, others will, and their opportunity to receive a sharply reduced sentence will disappear. They are in effect playing an excruciating game of musical chairs in which the last defendants standing will be stuck with nothing but mammoth legal fees and lifelong disrepute.

Consider, for example, Manafort’s position should Mueller next bring charges against Flynn. He and Flynn have overlapping information. Now the two are locked in something like a classic prisoner’s dilemma: If one of them agrees to cooperate, it could sharply reduce the value, and thus the reward, for cooperation by the other. That means Manafort needs to make a decision promptly about whether to talk. And he has to do so knowing that his prospects for an acquittal are slim.

The charges against Flynn, should Mueller bring them, will likely be extensive, including false statements, conspiracy, money laundering and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, all growing out of his illicit and highly profitable dealings with the Turkish government.

Flynn the elder is effectively ruined at this point. He has no professional prospects and the only upside for him would be to stay out of jail. Not so for Flynn the younger, who reputation is not yet fully tarnished. A conviction would be devastating. If Mueller charges the son, that will put immense pressure on the father — a controversial and arguably mean-spirited maneuver, but one that’s absolutely in the playbook. The most recent prominent example was the decision to charge the wife of Andrew Fastow in the Enron investigation. The man behind that decision, by the way, was Andrew Weissman, Mueller’s No. 2.

A similar dynamic arises with Donald Trump Jr., whose stumblebum flirtations with WikiLeaks and with Russian figures he believed could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton could give rise to a series of criminal charges. True, Trump Sr. appears to be hermetically self-centered, but he is in his 70s and facing, at best, a failing presidency. What will he do if he knows that his son and namesake could go to prison, forever soiling the Trump brand?

There will be future rounds of the probe in which Mueller’s path will be less smooth. In particular, his team will one day face in the courts a battery of legal and evidentiary arguments crafted by some of the country’s most sophisticated (and expensive) defense lawyers. But for now, Mueller rules.

Harry Litman, a former United States attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, teaches at UCLA Law School and practices law at Constantine Cannon.

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The Russia probe has entered Phase 2 – Los Angeles Times
mikenova shared this story from Next customers: Flynn and Jr. – Google News.

Los Angeles Times
The Russia probe has entered Phase 2
Los Angeles Times
From the public reports of potential criminal activity, it looks as though Mueller has set his immediate sights on no fewer than nine characters in Trump’s orbit: Michael Flynn (father), Michael Flynn (son), Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page
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Ivanka Trump and the fugitive from Panama
mikenova shared this story .

PANAMA CITY/TORONTO – In the spring of 2007, a succession of foreigners, many from Russia, arrived at Panama City airport to be greeted by a chauffeur who whisked them off in a white Cadillac with a Donald Trump logo on the side.

The limousine belonged to a business run by a Brazilian former car salesman named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who was offering the visitors a chance to invest in Trump’s latest project – a 70-floor tower called the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower. It was the future U.S. president’s first international hotel venture, a complex including residential apartments and a casino in a waterfront building shaped like a sail.

“Mr Nogueira was an outgoing and lively young man,” remembered Justine Pasek, who was crowned Miss Universe by Donald Trump in 2002 and was acting in 2007 as a spokesperson for Nogueira’s company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services. “Everybody was so impressed with Homes as they seemed to be riding the top of the real estate boom at the time,” she said.

One of those Nogueira set out to impress was Ivanka, Trump’s daughter. In an interview with Reuters, Nogueira said he met and spoke with Ivanka “many times” when she was handling the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Panama development. “She would remember me,” he said.

Ivanka was so taken with his sales skills, Nogueira said, that she helped him become a leading broker for the development and he appeared in a video with her promoting the project.

A Reuters investigation into the financing of the Trump Ocean Club, in conjunction with the American broadcaster NBC News, found Nogueira was responsible for between one-third and one-half of advance sales for the project. It also found he did business with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering and is now in detention in the United States; a Russian investor in the Trump project who was jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnap and threats to kill; and a Ukrainian investor who was arrested for alleged people-smuggling while working with Nogueira and later convicted by a Kiev court.

Three years after getting involved in the Trump Ocean Club, Nogueira was arrested by Panamanian authorities on charges of fraud and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project. Released on $1.4 million bail, he later fled the country.

He left behind a trail of people who claim he cheated them, including over apartments in the Trump project, resulting in at least four criminal cases that eight years later have still to be judged.

Nogueira, 43, denies the charges and told Reuters in an email: “I am no Angel but not Devil either.”

Ivanka Trump declined to comment on her dealings with Nogueira. A White House spokesman referred questions to the Trump Organization. Alan Garten, the organization’s chief legal officer, said: “No one at the Trump Organization, including the Trump family, has any recollection of ever meeting or speaking with this individual.”

Trump put his name to the development and stood to make up to $75 million from it, according to a bond prospectus for the project. He did not exert management control over the construction and was under no direct legal obligation to conduct due diligence on other people involved.

“I am no Angel but not Devil either.”

Still, some legal experts say the episode raises questions about the steps Trump took to check the source of any income from there. Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, said that since Panama was “perceived to be highly corrupt,” anyone engaged in business there should conduct due diligence on others involved in their ventures. If they did not, he said, there was a potential risk in U.S. law of being liable for turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.

Jimmy Gurule, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and a former under-secretary for enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department, agreed. He also said any businessman should avoid working with “anyone with a potential link to criminality” simply as a matter of good ethics.

Reuters could not determine what due diligence Trump carried out in relation to the Ocean Club project.

The White House referred Reuters questions about the Ocean Club development to the Trump Organization. Garten said the Trump Organization’s role in the project “was at all times limited to licensing its brand and providing management services. As the company was not the owner or developer, it had no involvement in the sale of any units at the property.”

He said the Trump Organization “never had any contractual relationship or significant dealings” with Nogueira.

Nine former business partners or employees of Nogueira interviewed by Reuters accused him of cheating them and his clients. Two of the nine have taken legal action against Nogueira. The cases have yet to be judged.

When first approached by Reuters, Nogueira declined to answer questions. Writing on October 4, he said in an email: “Anything I would say could also damage a lot of important and powerful people. I am not sure I should do that.”

Later, Nogueira agreed to meet. In a lengthy interview, he described his contacts with the Trump family and his role in the Ocean Club project. He said he only learned after the Ocean Club project was almost complete that some of his partners and investors in the Trump project were criminals, including some with what he described as connections to the “Russian mafia.” He said he had not knowingly laundered any illicit money through the Trump project, although he did say he had laundered cash later in other schemes for corrupt Panamanian officials.

It was not his job to check the source of money that investors used to buy units in the Trump Ocean Club, Nogueira said. “I didn’t know the money was coming from anything illegal. As long as they were doing wire transfers and not cash, I wasn’t worried about the source of it.”

Nogueira said that no one asked him about the source of funds. “Nobody ever asked me. The banks didn’t ask. The developers didn’t ask. The Trump Organization didn’t ask me. Nobody asked me: ‘Who are the customers? Where did the money come from?’”

It is unclear how much, if any, laundered money went into the Trump project.

Global Witness, an anti-corruption watchdog, says in an independently-produced report out today, that Panama in the 2000s presented particular challenges for property developers because of its then reputation for corruption.

The ultimate sources of cash for other Trump real estate projects where Trump has licensed his name have drawn scrutiny this year. In March, a Reuters review found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses had bought $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida.

The buyers included politically-connected businessmen and people from the second and third tiers of Russian power. Responding to that story, Garten, the Trump Organization’s counsel, said the scrutiny of Trump’s business ties with Russia was misplaced and that the story was “overblown.”


Donald Trump’s involvement in the Ocean Club began in 2005, when local developer Roger Khafif travelled to Trump Tower in New York to pitch the idea of a Trump project in Panama. Khafif said he told the American tycoon that Trump would need only to license his name and provide hotel management. This way of doing business freed Trump from the burden of taking a stake or making a personal guarantee.

In an interview with Reuters, Khafif recalled that Trump wanted to use the Panama project as a “baby” for his daughter Ivanka, who had just joined the Trump Organization, to gain experience in the property business.

The plan was for Newland International Properties Corp, where Khafif was president and which owned the development, to finance construction with a bond underwritten by Bear Stearns, the U.S. investment bank. The bank, which collapsed in 2008, was acquired by JPMorgan, which declined to comment.

To sell the bond, the developer needed to prove it could sell the apartments. This was where Nogueira came in. The Brazilian had arrived in Panama in the mid-2000s from Spain, where he had worked as a car salesman.

He had already had a brush with the law. In September 2005, in an official notice posted on the internet, the Spanish economy ministry said it had opened proceedings to fine Nogueira for an alleged “serious violation” of the country’s money-laundering laws. The proceedings were terminated about nine months later after officials could not determine Nogueira’s whereabouts. The ministry declined to comment. Nogueira said it was a trivial incident, caused by him taking too much of his own cash through an airport.

Once in Panama, Nogueira became renowned for his friendships with politicians, his love of Aston Martin sports cars and expensive watches and, as one former associate recalled, for “never wearing the same shoes – no matter how expensive – for more than three months.”

He said he first got involved with the Trump Ocean Club project at an early sales meeting in 2006 in Panama arranged by Khafif, whom he knew already. Ivanka Trump and other real estate brokers were there, he said. He remembered listening as a minimum price of $120,000 for condominiums was discussed.

Nogueira said he stood up and said the price was at the level charged in ordinary developments. “Here, it is Trump selling. You have to give a value to that name. Make it $220,000!”

He said Ivanka replied: “Can you sell it?”

Nogueira said he asked for a week to prove himself. And within a week he managed to collect deposits on over 100 apartments, and after that Khafif made him a leading broker, working on a 5 percent commission of gross sales, he said.

Asked about Nogueira’s account of this meeting, Khafif said that “most of what he said was true.” Khafif said he remembered Nogueira meeting Ivanka “a couple of times.”

Nogueira said that in the months that followed he discussed promotion and sales with Ivanka in Panama, Miami and New York. He said he also joined a group that travelled with Ivanka on a private chartered jet to look at a potential site for another Trump project in Cartagena, Colombia.

While Donald Trump was not the owner of the Panama project, the Trump Organization participated in many details down to “choosing the furniture and fittings,” said Nogueira. Day-to-day the project was assigned to Ivanka, he said, adding: “I spoke to her a lot of times, a lot of times.” He also met Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.

Ivanka Trump did not respond to requests for comment about Nogueira. Garten, the Trump Organization’s counsel, described contact between Nogueira and the Trumps as “meaningless.” He said such meetings and events “may have been memorable” for Nogueira, but for Ivanka and the rest of the Trump family it would have been “just one of literally hundreds of public appearances they were asked to make that year.”

Ivanka and Trump’s sons appeared in public at launch events for the tower, made promotional videos for the project and managed the Trump involvement.

Nogueira said that one video was commissioned by him. Ivanka helped arrange access to Trump Tower in New York for some sequences. “In this video we made, I was talking and she was talking.”

When the Spanish-language TV channel Univision, in an article published in 2011, first noted Nogueira’s role in the Trump project, Eric Trump responded that Nogueira had been an unaffiliated salesman. “I looked and I’ve never heard the name, nor does it appear in our database. What I found out was [Nogueira] owns a real estate agency in Panama that sells apartments in our building as a third party,” he told the channel.

Asked this month about Eric Trump’s statement in response to the Univision report, the Trump Organization said the company never had any ties to Nogueira or awareness of him.

Despite being a third party, Nogueira and his partners played a major part in the Trump project’s success, according to interviews with former key staff at Homes, developers, investors and lawyers, and an analysis of Panama corporate records and other public documents.

Homes accounted for up to half of the 666 apartment sales in advance of the bond prospectus, people involved in the project told Reuters.

Eleanora Michailov, a Russian who settled in Canada, was Nogueira’s international sales director. She recalled that Nogueira handled the sale of a third of the building, about 200 apartments. Another Homes sales agent, Jenny Levy, a relative by marriage to the developer, Khafif, said she alone sold 30 apartments.

“We sold half the building, baby! Homes sold half,” Levy said in a phone interview. Nogueira said that he and his agents across the world sold between 350 to 400 apartment and hotel units.

Khafif, president and co-owner of the developer, Newland, said he was unsure of the exact number, but Nogueira had probably sold up to 300 units. “Everybody was lining up to work with him … During those days he was the hottest real estate agency in town,” he said.

Homes found a ready market in Russia. “Russians like to show off,” said Khafif, who went on several sales trips to Moscow. “For them, Trump was the Bentley” of real estate brands.

Michailov said investors in the Ocean Club were asked to pay 10 percent up front for one of the apartments; she said the average price was about $350,000. Buyers had to pay a total of 30 percent within a year, according to the bond prospectus, and Homes organized the investment by setting up Panamanian companies for customers to enter pre-sales agreements with Khafif’s company, Newland.

In 2006 and 2007, Panama corporate records show, at least 131 holding companies with various combinations of the words “Trump” and “Ocean” in their name – for example, the Trump Ocean 1806 Investment Corp – were registered in Panama for pre-sales deals, and mostly by the Homes group.

In many cases the identity of the buyers was not clear. Nogueira and other Homes staff involved said Panamanian law at that time imposed no obligation to verify the identity of owners.

But listed as director of four Trump Ocean investment companies was Igor Anopolskiy, who in 2007 was Homes Real Estate’s representative in Kiev. Police records state he was arrested in March of that year for suspected people trafficking. Released a year later on bail, he was re-arrested in 2013, and in 2014 a Ukraine court handed Anopolskiy a five-year suspended jail sentence with three years probation for offenses including people smuggling and forgery, unrelated to the Trump project.

Interviewed in Kiev, Anopolskiy blamed the case on police corruption and denied committing any crime.

It was a Colombian businessman named David Murcia Guzman who triggered Nogueira’s downfall. Murcia was indicted in November 2008 for money laundering, first in Colombia and then in the United States. Murcia was sentenced to nine years in prison in the United States for conspiracy to launder drug money. After serving six years, he is expected to be deported to Colombia, his attorney, Robert Abreu, said. Colombia’s government said Murcia will serve a 22-year prison term upon his return for offenses including money laundering.

Murcia did not get permission from U.S. authorities to respond to Reuters’ questions.

Within days of Murcia’s indictment, the spotlight turned to Nogueira. Roniel Ortiz, a former lawyer for both Nogueira and Murcia, said Nogueira had offered to wash Murcia’s money by buying apartments on his behalf. Murcia “could not take his money to a bank,” Ortiz said, so Nogueira “offered to see how he could help.”

Ortiz said he did not know how much, if any, of Murcia’s money was used in the Trump project. Nogueira said Murcia gave him $1 million to invest in Panamanian property, which Nogueira used to pay the deposit on up to ten Trump apartments among other investments. Nogueira added: “He was not a bad guy. I don’t believe everything in those charges was true.”

In 2013 Nogueira, in conversations secretly recorded by a former business partner, said he had performed money laundering as a service, moving tens of millions of dollars mainly through contacts in Miami and the Bahamas. “More important than the money from real estate was being able to launder the drug money – there were much larger amounts involved,” he said in the recording. “When I was in Panama I was regularly laundering money for more than a dozen companies.”

The recordings were heard by Reuters and authenticated by five people who know Nogueira.

Speaking to Reuters, Nogueira said he could not recall making such claims and denied laundering cash through the Trump project or handling drugs money. He said that later, after his real estate business had collapsed in 2009, he had been involved in handling cash from corrupt officials and politicians, and was involved in corrupt schemes to sell Panamanian visas.


In the story of Panama’s Trump Ocean Club, a high point for many of those involved was a warm, cloudless night in early 2007.

The setting was Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida. Spilling out of Lamborghinis and Porsches onto the welcoming carpet were the sales people, clients and potential clients whose acumen and cash would make it possible – within a month – to break ground on the project’s building site in Panama City.

Entertained with drinks, music and jokes from American TV celebrity Regis Philbin, the guests got to meet and greet Trump and his children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka. The event was organized to celebrate a successful sales campaign – and to solicit more sales.

The Trump Organization did not comment about the party. Philbin told Reuters he couldn’t recall the event because it was 10 years ago. “I used to be with him [Trump] a lot,” Philbin said. “I was good friends with him.”

Nogueira said he was at the party and there met Donald Trump for “the first and only time.” He recalled: “They introduced me and said, ‘That’s the guy selling Panama,’ and he thanked me. We just talked for two or three minutes.”

Besides Nogueira, the guests included people involved with the project as investors or salesmen, some of Russian or former Soviet Union origin. Among them, in the delegation from Homes and wearing a dark suit, was Alexander Altshoul, born in Belarus. “Russians like their brand names,” Altshoul told Reuters, explaining why investors were attracted to Trump. “The moment was right, they were speculating. Many people hoped to get profits.”

Altshoul, who holds Canadian citizenship, was listed on the Homes company website in 2007 as a “partner” and an “owner” of the firm. He became involved in Homes after moving to Panama from Toronto and investing with family and friends in the Trump project, paying deposits on 10 apartments and one hotel unit.

Among his partners in that investment, according to Altshoul and Panamanian corporate records, was a Muscovite named Arkady Vodovosov, a relative of Altshoul. In 1998, Vodovosov was sentenced to five years in prison in Israel for kidnap and threats to kill and torture, court records state.

Contacted by telephone, Vodovosov said inquiries about his involvement with the Trump project were nonsense. “We were in Panama for a very short time, and got out of there a long time ago,” he said, declining to answer further questions.

Altshoul attended the Mar-a-Lago party with another Homes partner, Stanislau Kavalenka, recalled people who were there. Kavalenka was also a Canadian émigré from the former Soviet Union.

At different times, Altshoul and Kavalenka each faced accusations of having connections to organized crime, but the charges were dropped. In Altshoul’s case, police in Toronto filed charges in April 2007, at the time he was promoting the Trump project. He was accused of involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme, unrelated to the Panama project, that involved sending funds through Latvia. The criminal case was dropped a year later.

In a statement, the Canadian government said it was “duty bound to withdraw charges where there is no reasonable prospect of conviction or if it is not in the public interest to proceed.” It did not elaborate further on the case. Altshoul said the decision showed he was innocent.

In 2004, Canadian prosecutors had accused Kavalenka of pimping and kidnapping Russian prostitutes. That case was dropped in 2005 after the alleged prostitutes, who were the main witnesses, did not show up in court. Kavalenka’s whereabouts are unknown. He did not respond to questions about his role in the Trump project sent to him through his family in Canada.

Nogueira said Altshoul and Kavalenka had joined Homes together, first as customers and later as partners. Altshoul told him he had had some difficulties “but they were solved, and it wasn’t my problem,” Nogueira said. Nogueira also said that after he read of Kavalenka’s Toronto case on Google, Kavalenka told him: “I was running some girls. That’s how I made money. But I was cleared.”


In the months after the Mar-a-Lago party, the prospects for everyone involved in the Trump Ocean Club looked rosy. In the midst of a global property boom and a successful pitch, sales had exceeded all expectations.

A bond prospectus was issued in November 2007, enabling the raising of construction funds. By the end of June that year, the prospectus declared, the project had “pre-sold approximately 64 percent of the building’s condominium and commercial units,” guaranteeing receipts on completion of the project of at least $278.7 million.

Trump said later, in a promotional video ahead of the 2011 opening, that the project sold “like hot cakes.”

But not all the money collected in the pre-sales campaign would go on to fund the project. Nine former business partners or employees of Nogueira interviewed by Reuters alleged that, at the Ocean Club and at other developments, Nogueira either failed to pass on all the deposits he collected to the project’s developers, or sometimes sold the same apartment to more than one client, with the result that, on completion of the project, some clients had no clear claim on a property.

Exactly how many apartments were double-sold is unknown. Michailov said up to 10 out of 80 apartments in the Trump tower that she had sold were also sold by Nogueira to others. Lawsuits in Panama and separate written complaints seen by Reuters record at least six instances of alleged fraud by Nogueira, in the Trump project and in other Panama construction projects. Two of the complaints seen by Reuters were in the “Panama Papers,” documents from a local law firm that were leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Ortiz, the former lawyer for Murcia and Nogueira, said of the Trump-branded project: “When the building was completed and people arrived to seek out their apartments, they ran into each other – two, three people who were fighting for the same apartment.”

Complaints against Nogueira, including allegations of fraud in Trump Ocean Club sales, resulted in four criminal cases against him in Panama and culminated in his arrest on fraud charges in May 2009.

Nogueira said double-sales occurred because of changes in the building specifications or clerical error. He said he never deliberately sold an apartment twice. He said that not everyone lost money from their investments, and most who did lost out because of poor or unlucky investment decisions. “If you are looking to make easy money from speculation then you have to accept there is a risk,” he said.

Released on bail for $1.4 million, he continued to live in Panama until 2012 when, despite a ban on leaving the country, he fled to his native country, Brazil, before moving on again. Karen Kahn, a federal prosecutor based in Sao Paulo, said Nogueira is under a federal investigation for international money laundering, an inquiry triggered by several large bank transfers that arrived in his accounts from Panama.

Declining to disclose where he is living now, Nogueira agreed to meet Reuters and NBC News on November 13 at a neutral location, on condition it would not be revealed. Nogueira said an arrest warrant was outstanding against him in Panama. “Of course right now, I can be considered by the justice system to be fugitive. But there are two sides to everything.”

It wasn’t only alleged fraud that cost investors. After the global property crash of 2008, any chance of quick profit on the Trump Panama venture vanished.

By the time the Trump Ocean Club project was complete in 2011, many investors had withdrawn and lost their deposits rather than stump up the 70 percent balance. Bond holders lost, too, after Khafif’s company, Newland, defaulted on payments and the bond was restructured.

There was one person who still profited: Donald Trump.

Whatever the losses investors might suffer, under Trump’s licensing deal, detailed originally in the bond prospectus, the future U.S. president was guaranteed to receive payment. Court records from Newland’s bankruptcy in 2013 indicate Trump agreed to reduce his fee, but that he still earned between $30 million and $50 million from lending his name to the project.

The Trump Ocean Club

Reported by Ned Parker and Nathan Layne in New York and Toronto; Stefanie Eschenbacher, Christine Murray and Elida Moreno in Panama City; Stephen Grey and Tom Bergin in London; Brad Brooks in Americana, Brazil; Angus Berwick in Madrid; and Denis Dyomkin and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto. This story was reported in partnership with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (OCCRP), a non-profit journalism group: Roman Anin in Moscow and Tel Aviv, and Anna Babinets and Elena Loginova in Kiev.

Photo editing: Simon Newman

Data: Christine Murray

Design: Catherine Tai

Edited by Richard Woods and Janet McBride

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Jared Kushner Still Doesn’t Have White House Security Clearance After Ten Months
mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

Experts are baffled as to why Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with forging peace in the Middle East and is one of President Donald Trump’s top advisors, still does not have White House security clearance nearly a year after he was appointed.

Politico cited sources Thursday who said Kushner’s clearance to handle America’s most sensitive information is still under review.

Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution, who specializes in congressional oversight of the intelligence community, said on Twitter: “The White House claim that it is ‘completely normal’ for it to take over 10 months to clear an extremely senior WH official is insane.”

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White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner attends bilateral meetings held by U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. Thomas Peter/Reuters

Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, was one of the president’s first appointees after he won the election a year ago. The White House told Politico that the delay is “completely normal” and that it can take more than 300 days, in some cases, to grant full security clearance. At present, Kushner has interim clearance.

Usually the most senior White House staff who will work closely with the president are prioritized with the goal of getting them clearance within 90 days, Leslie McAdoo Gordon, a security clearance lawyer, added. “Some of them get resolved in 90 days, but many of them don’t. It can take months. It can occasionally take years. You just have to work the system,” she said.

Kushner’s application has been complicated by the fact that he initially left more than 100 names off his list of foreign contacts on the security clearance application—a chargeable offense.

Some of the contacts left off Kushner’s application included meetings last December with then Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, president of the state-run Russian bank VEB.

Read more: Jared Kushner doesn’t read and gets tired of talking about the Middle East, Joe Scarborough says

Other experts said the length of time it has taken to get clearance for Kushner, a first time applicant with a complex business and financial background, is normal. Kushner was CEO of his family’s real estate firm Kushner Companies.

“As a general rule, with respect to clearances, when you have people who have never had one before and they have massive financial and foreign connection and a staggering amount of business interests, like some of the people accompanying Trump, it wouldn’t be unheard of,” said Mark Zaid, another security clearance lawyer.

Trump has given Kushner the responsibility of brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and restructuring the federal government. If his security clearance is revoked, he wouldn’t be able to carry out his job.

On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee confronted Kushner in a letter for not turning over documents—including some about his security clearance—that it has requested from him as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and whether it offered any assistance in the Kremlin’s election meddling efforts.

Kushner, the committee wrote, hasn’t turned over emails from September 2016 about WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.” They said Kushner forwarded these to another campaign official. Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell said they are open to disclosing the documents.

Key American intelligence officials produced a report early this year that found Wikileaks released thousands of emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence from the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party. Early this week The Atlantic revealed that Wikileaks was in contact with Donald Trump Jr. and pushed him to spread the email disclosures.

The committee said it believes Kushner hasn’t turned over all communication about a select list of people they have picked out as part of the investigation.

“I’m thinking that asking why Jared Kushner still has a security clearance may not capture all his misconduct,” wrote Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California on Twitter. “We really should be asking: Why is #Kushner still in the White House?”

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The Early Edition: November 17, 2017
mikenova shared this story from Just Security.

Pouneh Ahari

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.


Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner failed to hand over a document about a Russian backdoor overture to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a letter sent by committee chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) yesterday, Michael S. Schmidt reports at the New York Times.

Kushner also failed to provide documents relating to an email he was sent in September 2016 about WikiLeaks and communications he had had with Belarusian-American businessman Sergei Millian who claimed close connections to the Trumps and was the source of salacious details in a dossier based on Trumps 2013 trip to Moscow. Karoun Demirjian reports at the Washington Post.

Documents relating to Kushners security clearance were also requested, Kushners security clearance form has come under increasing scrutiny within the context of the Russia investigations. Daniella Diaz reports at CNN.

The Senate Judiciary Committee became aware of the documents through other witnesses, and a lawyer for Kushner has said that the presidents son-in-law was open to responding to any additional requests. The BBC reports.

Grassley and Feinsteins letter called on Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27 and asked Kushners lawyer to resolve issues that might implicate the presidents Executive privilege. Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.

Kushner remains a person of interest in the investigations into Trump-Russia connections, according to an anonymous source familiar with the probes; investigators are keen to discover how much Kushner was involved with, or knew of, the efforts of Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn or others to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia. Jonathan Landay and Patricia Zengerle report at Reuters.

The Trump campaign former foreign policy adviser Carter Page delivered a bundle of documents under subpoena to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees yesterday, Page was recently interviewed by both committees as part of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

The former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak declined to name all of the Trump officials he had contact with, saying in an interview earlier this week that the list is so ling that Im not going to be able to get through it in 20 minutes. Tucker Higgins reports at CNBC.

A worker paid by the Russian troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, has described how the organization churned out misinformation to meet specific quotas. Ben Popken and Kelly Cobiella report at NBC News.

The White House communications director Hope Hicks may be a key witness in special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, having been part of Trumps inner circle for years and been at the presidents side as the Russia scandal has unfolded. Mueller has requested an interview with Hicks but a date for questioning has not yet been revealed, Darren Samuelsohn explains at POLITICO.

The investigations into Trump-Russia connections reveal a spectacular accumulation of lies, from lies at confirmation hearings to lying to the F.B.I., demonstrating a lack of respect for ethics and morality which has spread to all aspects of the Trump administration. Michael Gerson writes at the Washington Post.


Trump hailed Chinas decision to send a special envoy to North Korea as a big move, in a tweetyesterday, however the trip will be officially concerned with Chinas 19th Communist Party Congress and, according to analysts, is unlikely to lead to a major breakthrough on the North Korean nuclear weapons and missile program. Ben Westcott reports at CNN.

South Koreas unification minister dismissed the possibility of unifying the Korean Peninsula on North Koreas terms in an interview yesterday, saying that the two-month pause in missile launches should not be viewed as evidence of a thaw in the impasse as Pyongyang had not called for a return to dialogue.  Jonathan Cheng and Andrew Jeong report at the Wall Street Journal.

So long as they stop testing, stop developing, they dont export their weapons, there would be opportunity for talks, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday, noting the recent pause in North Korean nuclear and missile testing and suggesting that it may offer an opportunity for talks. Idrees Ali reports at Reuters.

The Trump administration has increased efforts to develop defense systems in the face of the North Korean threat, including cyberweapons, drones and fighter jets that would be able to interfere with a missile launch. David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report at the New York Times.

The South Korean and U.S. nuclear envoys met yesterday to discuss the North Korean threat and measures to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis, they agreed to hold more talks on the issue according to the South Korean foreign ministry. Reuters reports.

North Korea has been pursuing an aggressive schedule to build an operational ballistic missile submarine, according to a report released yesterday by the Washington-based 38 North monitoring group, saying that their findings were based on satellite images taken on Nov. 5. Reuters reporting.

We will strengthen Japanese defense power, including missile defense capabilities, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today in response to North Koreas escalating provocations, also calling on the international community to put more pressure on Pyongyang. Mari Yamaguchi reports at the AP.


Russia used its veto power at the U.N. Security Council yesterday to block the renewal of the mandate of the international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (J.I.M.) is set to expire today, the UN News Centre reports.

Russia had expressed anger over J.I.M.s report last month which blamed Syrian government forces for the attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, saying that the report was riddled with inconsistencies. Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.

To my Russia friends: The next chemical weapons attack will be on your head, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said in response to the vote, while the Russian ambassador compared the endless distortions about the Syrian governments role to the flawed U.S. intelligence preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The veto demonstrates that the U.S.-Russia partnership in Syria is limited and reinforces the fact that the two countries have differing objectives in the Syrian civil war, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes at CNN.

The impending defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria brings the risk of Irans strengthening its role in the country and region, a prospect that has caused significant concern in Israel who are anxious about Irans military capability, Yaroslav Trofimov explains at the Wall Street Journal.


Iraqi federal forces have recaptured the town of Rawa from the Islamic State group, retaking the last known Iraqi town held by the militants today, according to a statement by the Iraqi military. Hamdi Alkhshali reports at CNN.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State militants in Iraq have led to many more civilian deaths than previously reported and no one knows how many Iraqis have simply gone uncounted. Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal provide a feature at the New York Times.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on November 12. Separately, partner forces conducted one strike against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]


The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariris unexpected decision to resign on Nov. 4 in a televised announcement from the Saudi capital of Riyadh which Hariri blamed on Iran and its Lebanese Shiite proxy Hezbollah has caused consternation in Lebanon and alienated Sunni Muslims who had once looked to Saudi Arabia as a close ally. Nazih Osseiran and Margherita Stancati report at the Wall Street Journal.

Hariri will make an official visit to France soon following an invitation by the French President Emmanuel Macron, the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday. The invitation has raised further questions about Hariris status, including whether he was forced to resign by Saudi Arabia and whether his movement has been restricted within the Kingdom. Erin Cunningham and Suzan Haidamous report at the Washington Post.

There has been concern in Lebanon that Saudi Arabia would impose a Qatar-style blockade on the country, a move that would throw the Lebanese economy into chaos, and analysts have said that Iran and Hezbollah would be unwilling to make significant concessions to ease the situation, Al Jazeerareports.

Despite its aggressive actions, Saudi Arabia has little leverage to deal with Hezbollah, the Kingdom has neglected its support for the Sunni bloc in Lebanon due to distractions in other parts of the region, Erika Solomon explains at the Financial Times.


Iran is the biggest threat to the region and Israel would be prepared to share intelligence with moderate Arab states like Saudi Arabia to deal with the threat, Israels military chief Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in an interview with a Saudi newspaper yesterday, marking a closer relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel who do not have diplomatic relations, with Eisenkot adding that theres an opportunity to form a new international coalition in the region with President Trump. Peter Beaumont reports at the Guardian.

Israel would have no interest in launching an attack on the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah group in Lebanon, Eisenkot also said, Al Jazeera reports.

China supports Saudi Arabias efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and realize greater development, the Chinese foreign ministry quoted the President Xi Jinping as saying, not referring to particular recent events, but making the comments amid increased tension in the Middle East. Reutersreports.

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should not expect Israel to fight a war against Lebanon on its behalf, Israel and Saudi Arabia are aligned in their view of Iran, but the Israeli government is unclear about Riyadhs game plan and are wondering whether Bin Salman has the ability to execute his ambitious domestic and foreign policy agenda. Instead, the greatest threat to Israels stability is Irans growing influence and presence in neighboring Syria, and this may be the place where a new serious military conflict may begin. Amos Harel writes at Foreign Policy.

Saudi Arabias approach to Iran has been haphazard, unsettling and counterproductive and Iran remains one step ahead, Emile Hokayem writes at the New York Times, explaining that Saudi Arabias intervention against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen has seemingly ended in failure, that the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar has been more successful but has led to reputational damage, and the forced resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is also likely to backfire.


An explosion near a political gathering in Afghanistans capital of Kabul killed at least 12 people yesterday, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing but did not offer any evidence for their claim. Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable report at the Washington Post.

Trumps Afghanistan policy amounts to only a minor recalibration of policy that will never bring stability, the U.S. should begin by gaining a better understanding of Afghanistan and then follow a strategy of go local, go small, go long. Hy Rothstein and John Arquilla write at the Wall Street Journal.


President Trump laid an important marker on the South China Sea during his 12-day tour of Asia, directly challenging Chinas actions in the disputed territorial waters and constituted a welcome message that the U.S. has a vital national interest in keeping shipping lanes open and deterring Chinese territorial expansion, the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

The Trump administration has been focused on North Korea and trade to the detriment of the dispute in the South China Sea, allowing China to seize the initiative and increase its influence. Dan De Luce writes at Foreign Policy.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has expressed reservations about Secretary of State Rex Tillersons management of the State Department and his planned reorganization, demonstrating Corkers increasing frustration with Tillerson, with whom he had enjoyed a warm relationship. Nahal Toosi reports at POLITICO.

Western diplomats have expressed frustration with the White House over its intransigent position in relation to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and have said that the State Department has been largely absent from discussions, meaning that their focus has been on Congress where bipartisanship has made their lobbying task more difficult. Nicole Gaouette and Michelle Kosinski report at CNN.

The U.S. would consider removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said yesterday, making the comments a month after the Trump administration formally removed decades-old sanctions against the country and reflecting an improvement in relations between Washington and Khartoum. Jina Moore reports at the New York Times.


The U.S. military has conducted preliminary research and development into building prohibited ground-based, intermediate-range missiles, with officials saying that they are carrying out the work in response to Russias violation of a Cold War-era pact and they hope that it would demonstrate to Moscow the kind of U.S. weapons Russia could face if it continues to pursuit its own weapons. Julian E. Barnes, Paul Sonne and Brett Forrest report at the Wall Street Journal.

A federal judge rejected an attempt to quash a war court subpoena earlier this week, marking the first civilian court victory for the military judge presiding over the U.S.S. Cole case being heard at Guantánamo Bay. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

China and Russias military are scheduled to hold joint antimissile exercises in Beijing next month, Chinas defense ministry said today, amid concern from both countries about the U.S. T.H.A.A.D. antimissile defense system that is based in South Korea. Reuters reports.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation is close to ending its assistance to WikiLeaks due to misgivings about the organizations change in tone from holding governments and corporations to account to becoming increasingly partisan during the 2016 U.S. election and spreading other divisive messages. Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman reveal at The Daily Beast.

The Hungarian foreign ministry has accused the U.S. State Department of interfering in its election campaign, Lili Bayer reports at POLITICO.

The latest developments in Zimbabwe, following a military takeover, are provided by David McKenzie, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan at CNN.

Read on Just Security »

When Will Power Come Back To Puerto Rico? Depends Who You Ask : NPR
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Eric Elder, an Army reservist who came to Puerto Rico in early October to do power line work, says the work is challenging. “Every pole is different, every pole has to be looked at and dressed differently.”Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen/NPR

Eric Elder, an Army reservist who came to Puerto Rico in early October to do power line work, says the work is challenging. “Every pole is different, every pole has to be looked at and dressed differently.”

Greg Allen/NPR

These days, Puerto Rico’s monumental power restoration effort involves helicopters dropping 100-foot towers into the mountains and a “big dance” of crews, equipment and expertise from several agencies and companies. But progress has been slow and that dance has been a complicated and tedious one on the island, which is experiencing the largest outage in U.S. history.

And sometimes it’s one light forward, two lights back.

Earlier this week, the island hit a goal of restoring 50 percent of its generating capacity, according to Gov. Ricardo Roselló. But hours later, a major transmission line failed, knocking out electricity to much of San Juan and reducing power generation on the island to just 22 percent. By Thursday, Puerto Rico was back up to 40 percent of its generating capacity.

Getting the lights back on in Puerto Rico is a far more a intensive task compared with the mainland, which was able to restore power quickly after hurricanes hit Florida and Texas. Two months ago, Hurricane Maria’s 150 mile-per-hour winds snapped concrete power poles and left power lines dangling on the island. And the hilly terrain means it takes longer to get material and crews to areas that need work.

Eric Elder, who has been working in Puerto Rico as an Army reservist since early October, says it just takes longer to get material in compared with the mainland. Elder is part of the Delta 249 engineering battalion based in Cranston, R.I. and on this recent day, he was working in the hilly neighborhood of Rio Grande, a city east of San Juan. “There are lots of different challenges that we don’t face on the mainland,” he says.

José Sánchez comes by to check on the crews working in Rio Grande. Sanchez heads local efforts to restore the power grid in Puerto Rico for the Army Corps of Engineers and has several hundred contractors working for him. He says this neighborhood’s distribution lines — the network that takes power to individual homes and businesses — are nearly ready. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their work is done.

José Sánchez, who heads the Army Corps of Engineers efforts to restore the power grid in Puerto Rico, says the repair work is slowest is in the southeastern part of the island where Hurricane Maria made landfall. That’s because of topography and limited materials, he says. “Demand is high and everything comes from the mainland.” Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen/NPR

José Sánchez, who heads the Army Corps of Engineers efforts to restore the power grid in Puerto Rico, says the repair work is slowest is in the southeastern part of the island where Hurricane Maria made landfall. That’s because of topography and limited materials, he says. “Demand is high and everything comes from the mainland.”

Greg Allen/NPR

“The ones dropping to the homes — they all look good,” he says, “the transformer looks good but obviously we won’t really know until it’s energized.”

Sánchez is in charge of just half of the power restoration effort here.

The other half of the work being done elsewhere on the island is being managed by Puerto Rico’s cash-strapped electric power company, PREPA. PREPA has some 2,000 people working to restore power on the island, including crews from Whitefish, the small Montana-company whose contract was cancelled recently amid controversy.

In contrast, the Department of Energy estimates 60,000 workersfrom hundreds of public and private electric were deployed to restore power in Florida after Hurricane Irma hit, as NPR’s Tim Webber reported.

Sánchez says he meets daily with PREPA officials, “to determine the best location for the assets according to materials, expertise and equipment.” He calls the operation in Puerto Rico “one big dance.” His toughest job is repairing high voltage transmission lines that connect power plants in the south with population centers on Puerto Rico’s northern coast. His crews are working to replace steel towers over 100 feet tall in mountainous areas.

“One tower would be brought in by helicopter” he says, and “personnel would be dropped by helicopter and their equipment in order to work at the site.”

Before the transmission line failure this week, Puerto Rico’s government said utility crews had restored close to half of the island’s generating capacity. But that didn’t mean that half of the island had power. Power is being restored first to hospitals and critical industries and slowly restoration work is moving into neighborhoods like this one in Rio Grande.

Work goes slowly. The topography of Puerto Rico is challenging and replacing a single tower, Sánchezsays, can take up to a week.

Sánchez is asked several times each day when the power will come back on, and he’s hesitant to give a direct answer.

“I don’t know,” he says, “I want to say a date but I don’t want to be giving false hopes to people.”

But, he says 95 percent of the island should have power back by the end of February. Though restoring power for that last 5 percent — many of them scattered customers in remote areas — he says, may take much longer.

PREPA has been more aggressive with its forecasts, estimating that 95 percent of the island’s power will be back by mid-December.

One of the many places people are still waiting for power is La Perla, an underprivileged community with one of the most beautiful views on the entire island. In this neighborhood chickens and pheasants roam freely. It’s right on the ocean and on the skirts of El Morro, the 16th century citadel built to fight sea attacks in San Juan.

La Perla is an impoverished neighborhood with some of the most magnificent views on the island. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen/NPR

La Perla is an impoverished neighborhood with some of the most magnificent views on the island.

Greg Allen/NPR

La Perla is where Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee shot the music video for the summer hit song “Despacito,” overlooking San Juan’s rocky coastline. As NPR’s Mandalit del Barco reported last month, many residents there felt forgotten by recovery efforts, and resorted to erecting signs reading “S.O.S., we need help. Water, provisions. Don’t abandon us. Despacito.”

Although there’s no power, La Perla has working washing machines in a community laundry area. They were installed recently for free by Sonnen, a German company that has been selling solar powered battery systems on the island since last year.

Roberto “Coco” Viruet washes clothes in the community laundry room in La Perla. Viruet says it’s been “too long” without power in his neighborhood. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Greg Allen/NPR

Roberto “Coco” Viruet washes clothes in the community laundry room in La Perla. Viruet says it’s been “too long” without power in his neighborhood.

Greg Allen/NPR

Five washing machines run off a solar powered micro-grid.

“The battery provides a stable grid for whatever we’re powering to operate on,” says Adam Gentner with Sonnen. “And the solar then charges the batteries and operates the machinery during the day.”

These kind of micro-grid systems are becoming more popular here in Puerto Rico. They’re not cheap, but on an island where even before the storm power was expensive and unreliable, Gentner believes micro-grids are part of the future.

“There is now an opportunity going forward in Puerto Rico to build some resiliency into the grid,” he says. He says that micro-grids with solar energy and battery storage are a must on the island because the “next time a big hurricane comes we won’t lose the power lines again” and be down for 60 days.

“It’s really hard, very stressful to be without power for more than two months,” says Wilfredo López, 56, of La Perla. He says he feels somewhat neglected by the government, but he’s not angry.

Throwing up his arms in the air, López says, “What else can we do? We can’t pick up and gun and say ‘Give me that or else.’ We have to be patient.”

Neighbor Lucy Pacheco Rivera says she’s happy they finally have a place to do laundry. “No more hand washing,” she says.

She didn’t know of the micro-grid project until a few days ago, she says, but she’s already used it to wash her clothes.

Utility trucks showed up this week in La Perla, navigating the narrow, hilly streets and giving some people hope power will be back on soon. But, Pacheco Rivera is skeptical. “We’re not sure now what we’ll get first here in Puerto Rico,” she says “power or statehood.”

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When Will Power Come Back To Puerto Rico? Depends Who You Ask

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Trump Investigations Report: 4:46 AM 11/17/2017 It Is Time to Impeach the President. The Nation
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It Is Time to Impeach the President. – The Nation Saved Stories Saved Stories – None organized crime and intelligence – Google News: At least one MS13 gang member arrested in Yuma – KYMA White House: Trump ‘hasn’t directed any investigation’ into Clinton – The Hill Russian propaganda on social media – Google News: Russia’s … Continue reading”4:46 AM 11/17/2017 – It Is Time to Impeach the President. – The Nation”

Trump Investigations Report

It Is Time to Impeach the President – The Nation.
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The Nation.
It Is Time to Impeach the President
The Nation.
Donald J. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey while the FBI was investigating Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, including possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Donald J. Trump admitted in a television interview that he and more »
Britain Accuses Russia of Brexit Vote Meddling as New Evidence Emerges
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After widespread allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the first evidence is emerging of possible attempts by Moscow to influence Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union.
Researchers have identified thousands of social media accounts that promoted anti-EU messages or sought to whip up political and racial tensions.
The investigation by the University of California, Berkeley and Britain’s Swansea University shows in the two days leading up to the “Leave” victory in June 2016, Twitter accounts based in Russia posted almost 45,000 messages about Brexit, most of them anti-EU.

FILE – Brexit supporters form a counter demonstration as Pro-Europe demonstrators protest during a “March for Europe” against the Brexit vote result earlier in the year, in London, Britain, Sept. 3, 2016.

The next day, the majority went silent. By far the majority of the accounts had not previously engaged in the Brexit debate but had instead focused on other issues like the conflict in Ukraine.
Britain’s Electoral Commission and a committee of lawmakers have launched separate investigations into fake news and the role of social media, as the new evidence emerges.
“Russia is interfering, and it is doing so to try to undermine public confidence in political institutions and in the mainstream media in Western countries. We have to regard the spread of fake news propagated by fake accounts across Twitter and Facebook in this way as a real threat to our democracy,” said Conservative MP Damian Collins, Chairman of the Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee and head of the investigation.

U.S. spy agencies say Russia directed a campaign of propaganda to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied interfering.After meeting Putin last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he believed his Russian counterpart.
Speaking Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May had a very different message for Moscow.
“It is seeking to weaponize information,” she said, “deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions. So, I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”
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In one such fake story, a Twitter user posting under the handle “South Lone Star” and purportedly from Texas, posted a photo of a Muslim woman apparently ignoring a victim of the March Westminster terror attack. But other unseen images, corroborated by the photographer, showed the woman clearly traumatized. Twitter has since revealed the account was operated out of Russia.
“Why would someone do that? They are doing that to try and create racial tensions,” said Collins. “My fear is this practice is probably far more widespread than we currently know.”
Twitter has handed the US Congress details of nearly 3,000 accounts linked to Russia’s shady Internet Research Agency, based in St Petersburg, where it’s alleged hundreds of people work 24 hours a day to create and spread propaganda. And it’s not just humans at work.
Researchers at City University of London have uncovered a network of 13,500 automated Twitter accounts or “bots” operating at the time of the Brexit vote.
Lead researcher Dr. Marco Bastos said they were “directed at re-tweeting, replicating content of real world users – users who were very polarized, users who were tweeting messages that included a strong hyper-partisan,’ as we call it, component. This is not your usual Joe that is talking about Brexit.”
With their thousands of followers, Bastos said those Twitter bots have a marketable value and can be renamed and re-purposed for a new campaign.

The researchers praise Twitter for making its data available to the public, but say Facebook is far more secretive.
The City University research did not look at where the bots originate. But lawmakers in both Europe and the United States say the Kremlin appears to be using social media to sow division.

Twitter and Facebook say they are complying with investigations, but pressure is growing for them to do more.

Britain Accuses Russia of Brexit Vote Meddling as New Evidence Emerges – Voice of America
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Britain Accuses Russia of Brexit Vote Meddling as New Evidence Emerges
Voice of America
The investigation by the University of California, Berkeley and Britain’s Swansea University shows in the two days leading up to the “Leave” victory in June 2016, Twitter accounts based in Russia posted almost 45,000 messages about Brexit, most of them …and more »
Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices: Today’s Headlines and Commentary
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The White House released an unclassified charter on its vulnerabilities equities process (VEP) on Wednesday, disclosing for the first time the rules under which the government chooses which software flaws it will disclose or retain for national security purposes, according to the Washington Post. The is a move toward greater transparency following years of criticism against the opaque process and the National Security Agencys purported hoarding of zero-day vulnerabilities. Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, stated in a blog post that the charter was intended to demonstrate to the American people that the federal government is carefully weighing the risks and benefits of the VEP.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steve Cohen introduced fives articles of impeachment President Donald Trump, including obstruction of justice, emoluments clause violations, and undermining federal judiciary independence and press freedom, CNN reports.  Cohen, a member of the House Judiciary and its subcommittee on the Constitution, admitted that he doesnt expect the House [J]udiciary [C]ommittee, which is operated like a branch of the administration, to take up hearings. Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, rebuffed the calls for impeachment and urged for a greater focus on tax reform instead.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called on Zimbabwes President Robert Mugabe to resign after ruling the country for 37 years, according to CNN. Longstanding allies and members of Mugabes own party are now joining the opposition leaders calls for Mugabes resignation. The military placed the president under house arrest and took control of state institutions Wednesday in an effort to stop criminals close to the 93-year-old president. The military stated its efforts are not a coup.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked for documents related to any possible participation of  Jared Kushner in the dismissals of former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the Hill reports. On Wednesday, Feinstein sent the request to Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, following the Senate Judiciary Committees request to meet with Jared Kushner, which is not yet scheduled. Feinstein has also requested that informal Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone and real-estate developer Felix Sater meet with the committee as well.

New York U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Wood rejected a Hofstra law professors bid to stop a  subpoena in the USS Cole case, the Miami Herald reports. Chief war court prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins ordered legal ethics expert Ellen Yaroshefsky to report to the military commissions headquarters on Friday. She is expected to give testimony related to an opinion she gave to a defense attorney in the Cole case, who has since resigned.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces growing bipartisan concern over his management of the State Department, according to Foreign Policy. Sens. Bob Corker, John McCain, Jeanne Shaheen and Ben Cardin are among a number of lawmakers who have expressed reservations about the secretary of state. Tillerson initiated an ambitious redesign process earlier this year that has resulted in substantial staff departure and diminishing morale.


ICYMI, Yesterday on Lawfare

Scott R. Anderson reviewed some of the key provisions in the proposed 2018 NDAA.

Kate Charlet, Sasha Romanosky and Bert Thompson underscored the importance of international dialogue on vulnerability equities.

Adel Abdel Ghafar discussed Mohammed bin Salmans effort to establish a new Saudi political order.

Sarah Grant provided an update on the United States v. al-Nashiri proceedings.

Vanessa Sauter posted the White House VEP statement and charter.


Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit ourEvents Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on ourJob Board.

Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices

Puerto Ricos representative to Congress on rebuilding after Hurricane Maria
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Russian legislators pass law targeting international media as foreign agents
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Balance of Power: Russian Election Meddling Fears Invade Europe
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The Russia scandal has ricocheted back across the pond. And it’s dragging Silicon Valley’s giants along with it.

Spurred on by Prime Minister Theresa May’s threat to retaliate against Russian interference, a parliamentary committee wants to grill executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter. The committee, following similar inquiries by U.S. lawmakers, is investigating whether Russians are using American internet companies to sway British elections, including last year’s Brexit vote.

On Monday, May told the Kremlin, “We know what you were doing, and you will not succeed.” The warning exposed Europe’s growing alarm as Russian fighter jets probe its airspace and Russian bots steer its political debates. Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal made a similar allegation this week, saying Russian servers had been used to fuel online propaganda during the Catalan crisis.

May’s remarks – dismissed by Russia as “irresponsible” – drew an uncomfortable contrast with U.S. President Donald Trump. Only a day earlier, Trump had repeated his desire for a “friendly posture” toward Russia, even after one of his top intelligence officials reaffirmed findings the country interfered in last year’s presidential election.

Allegations of Russian meddling promise to keep reverberating back and forth across the Atlantic.

May speaking about Russia during the annual Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall, in the City of London.

Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

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Global Headlines

Dead tax bill walking | House Republican leaders insist they have the votes to pass legislation today to revise the U.S. tax code. Yet the bill would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate, where unfolding drama could trigger a sequence of events that would parallel Congress’s failed Obamacare repeal effort. Trump plans to meet with House Republicans to rally support ahead of today’s vote.

Mugabe’s defiance | Plans by Zimbabwe’s new military rulers to quickly name a transitional administration have hit a roadblock — President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to resign. The soldiers who took power early yesterday insist they haven’t staged a coup and want the nonagenarian leader, who’s under house arrest, to gracefully end his 37-year rule so they can restore constitutional order.

India reforms take back seat | With a nationwide tax rolled out across India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to shift his focus from economic reforms to winning elections. Modi faces about a dozen state-level contests over the next year and then reelection in 2019. That means less structural reforms, and more focus on populist policies that resonate with voters.

Trudeau’s vulnerability | Canada may be on a roll, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t getting much credit. A Nanos Research poll conducted for Bloomberg found just 25 percent of Canadians see him as good economic manager. Instead they seem focused on the national deficit. If the Liberals can’t make headway after creating high expectations, they risk “political turbulence,” the pollster said.

Europe’s latest separatist threat | Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik wants to pull his faction out of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s power-sharing arrangement, a deal that has kept the country together since the 1995 peace accord ended Europe’s deadliest conflict following World War II. Misha Savic and Gordana Filipovic look at the “silent break-up” of one of the region’s poorest countries.

And finally… Grace Mugabe — known in Zimbabwe as “Gucci Grace” — isn’t the only political spouse whose extravagant lifestyle is drawing attention of late. Louise Linton, the wife of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has once again caused a stir for appearing to flaunt her wealth. Dressed head-to-toe in black couture, Linton was photographed yesterday alongside her husband holding a sheet of dollar bills.

Mnuchin and wife Louise Linton at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing seeing production of the new $1 bills with his signature.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter, and Iain Marlow

Russian Intelligence services and organized crime – Google News: An excerpt from ‘Collusion’ – MSNBC
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An excerpt from ‘Collusion’
The officer’s actual employer was an invisible entity back in LondonSIS, the Secret Intelligence Service. The officer was …. Instead, from out of country, he examined the dark intersection between organized crime and the Russian state. Very often 

Russian Intelligence services and organized crime – Google News

US elections and russia – Google News: Balance of Power: Russian Election Meddling Fears Invade Europe – Bloomberg
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Balance of Power: Russian Election Meddling Fears Invade Europe
Spurred on by Prime Minister Theresa May’s threat to retaliate against Russian interference, a parliamentary committee wants to grill executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter. The committee, following similar inquiries by U.S. lawmakers, is and more »

US elections and russia – Google News

Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices: Rational Security: The “DMs on the DL” Edition
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The FBI is investigating an alleged kidnapping scheme involving ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Donald Trump Jr. was in direct contact with Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign. And author and scholar Yascha Mounk, our special guest this week while both Tamara and Susan are away, breaks down the breakdown in democracy. Plus, I’ve got your holiday gift wrapping needs covered. And Yascha joins the #BabyCannonSociety.

Have you helped us promote Rational Security yet? If not, please leave us a rating and a review on whatever podcast distribution system you use. A lot of people are visiting Lawfare and reaching our podcasts for the first time these days, so if you’re new to Lawfare and Rational Security, you can subscribe to the podcast using our RSS feed, or listen on iTunes, on Stitcher and now on Google Play.

Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices

Just Security: The Early Edition: November 16, 2017
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Pouneh Ahari

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.


America is back, Trump said yesterday following his 12-day tour of Asia, claiming that the days of the U.S. being taken advantage of are over and saying that his efforts to drum up support for putting pressure on North Korea were successful. Sabrina Siddiqui and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.

Americas renewed confidence and standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now, Trump claimed yesterday, providing a positive assessment of his Asia trip and referred to his previous trip to Saudi Arabia, his tough talk with N.A.T.O. allies, and lauded his close personal relationships with leaders across the world. Michael D. Shear reports at the New York Times.

Trump blamed the naïve thinking and misguided judgment of previous administrations for neglecting a wide-range of issues in Asia, from the North Korean threat to trade relationships. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

China and Japan have seemingly warmed their relations at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) summit at the weekend, apparently moving closer over concerns about the U.S.s role in Southeast Asia. Motoko Rich and Jane Perlez explain at the New York Times, providing an overview of the relationship and referring to Trumps recent trip to Asia.

The two U.C.L.A. basketball players who were detained in China thanked Trump for intervening in their case and helping to bring them back to the U.S., Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.

Despite Trumps comments, the White House seemingly did not achieve any major diplomatic wins during the Asia trip, Cristiano Lima explains at POLITICO.


China reiterated its support for a freeze-for-freeze deal to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula today, contradicting Trump, who said yesterday that the Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed with him that we would not accept a so-called freeze-for-freeze agreement which calls for a suspension of North Koreas nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles tests in return for the U.S. and South Korea suspending their annual joint military exercises. Simon Denyer reports at the Washington Post.

It is unlikely that the visit by a Chinese special envoy to North Korea tomorrow would lead to a breakthrough in the crisis on the Peninsula, observers have warned, saying that the focus of the meetings would likely be on improving relations between the two countries rather than on the nuclear weapons program. Ben Westcott reports at CNN.

Singapore has suspended trade relations with North Korea according to a customs notice obtained today, demonstrating the increasing international efforts to isolate the Pyongyang regime. Reutersreports.

Japan has been considering plans to deal with a sudden influx of North Korean evacuees should a crisis break out on the Peninsula, a Japanese newspaper reported today, Reuters reports.


Top lawmakers have expressed concern about Secretary of State Rex Tillersons management of the State Department, with Senators from both parties saying that Tillersons reorganization may impact the ability to fulfil the U.S.s foreign policy aims. Robbie Gramer reports at Foreign Policy.

The C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo has emerged as the favorite to replace Tillerson as Secretary of State, Pompeo and Trump have a warm relationship and are more in tune with each others foreign policy concerns. Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni report at POLITICO.


The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) has requested documents relating to Trumps son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and his potential involvement in the firing of former F.B.I. Director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Feinstein made the request in a letter yesterday ahead of the committees questioning of Kushner. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

The former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele said that he believes 70% to 90% of the contents of the dossier connecting the Trump campaign and Russia is accurate, according to a quote from Steele in an upcoming book. Steele was commissioned by the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S. to compile the controversial dossier, Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.

Special counsel Robert Mueller may have flipped the Turkey-based businessman Reza Zarrab in his investigation into Flynn, Zarrab is set to face trial for his alleged role in gold-for-gas deals between Turkey and Iran but speculation that he has cooperated with federal prosecutors has arisen following Zarrabs secret removal from a federal prison earlier month and it is unclear where he is currently being held. Earlier this year, Flynn disclosed that he had been a paid agent of Turkey once he had resigned as Trumps national security adviser due to his interactions with Russia. Katie Zavadski reports at The Daily Beast.

The State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were aware of the Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign, which started with the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014, however the State Department was unable to deal with the scale of the Russian efforts. Rick Stengel, the former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, explains at POLITICO Magazine.


Russia is seeking to undermine the international system. That much is clear, the head of the U.K. governments National Cyber Security Center Ciaran Martin said yesterday, saying that the agency has responded to over 600 significant incidents in the last year, and making the comments after the British Prime Minister Theresa May singled out Russia as a threat to western democracies. Jenny Gross and Wiktor Szary report at the Wall Street Journal.

The rules on disclosing cybersecurity flaws were publicly released by the White House yesterday, the publication comes following years of criticism of a lack of transparency over the federal agencies assessment of the balance between disclosure and retention. Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post.


The French President Emmanuel Macron extended an invitation to the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family yesterday amid concerns that Hariri has been held in Saudi Arabia against his will following his unexpected resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Nov. 4 via a televised announcement, Alissa J. Rubin and Anne Barnard report at the New York Times, explaining that the invitation has raised further questions over Hariris status and the possibility that he could be being eased out to exile in France.

Macron invited Hariri a day after meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia have denied holding Hariri against his will or coercing him into resigning as Prime Minister. In his resignation speech, Hariri cited threats to his life and the role of Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon and the region as the reason for his decision, the BBC reports.

Hariri has accepted Macrons invitation, the AP reports.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet with the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil tomorrow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said today, Reuters reporting.

Frances attempts to solve the crisis caused by Hariris resignation carries risks as France has not yet received assurances from Riyadh about Hariris freedom of movement and speech, analysts have said. Jillian Kestler-DAmours explains at Al Jazeera.


Turkey, Russia and Iran are scheduled to hold a summit on Nov. 22 to discuss developments in Syria in the Russian coastal city of Sochi, Reuters reports.

The Syrian army and Russian jets have stepped up their air strikes and shelling of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region near the capital of Damascus, residents and a war monitor said yesterday, the increased military power coming after Free Syrian Army rebels launched an attack on an army complex in northeastern Damascus on Tuesday. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports at Reuters.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu today accused the Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia of being more concerned with capturing territory than combating the Islamic State group, Reuters reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on November 12. Separately, partner forces conducted one strike against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]


The likely targets of a Russian bill targeting international media organizations include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and CNN, the Russian parliaments lower house yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation allowing authorities to designate foreign media as a foreign agent and the move was in retaliation to the U.S. Justice Departments requirement that the Russian state-funded R.T. television channel register as a foreign agent. Andrew Roth reports at the Washington Post.

Russia restructured more than £3bn it is owed by Venezuela yesterday, throwing the Venezuelan government a lifeline amid a crisis that President Nicolás Maduro has blamed on U.S. sanctions. James Marson and Kejal Vyas report at the Wall Street Journal.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for an independent investigation into the reports of widespread atrocities committed by Myanmars security forces in a press conference with the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, adding that the U.S. government was still assessing whether the violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state amounted to ethnic cleansing. Niharika Mandhana reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch accused Myanmar security forces of widespread sexual violence and rape of women and girls in the Rakhine state in a report published today. Reuters reports.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (A.S.E.A.N.) avoided referring to Chinas creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea in a statement delivered by the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on behalf of his fellow heads of state yesterday, the omission reflecting Chinas influence on A.S.E.A.N. and the region. Jim Gomez reports at the AP.

China and the Philippines have agreed to avoid violence in the dispute over the South China Sea in a joint statement carried by Chinas Xinhua news agency today which reaffirmed the importance of peace and engaging in dialogue. Reuters reports.


Saudi Arabias blockade of Yemens ports is an attempt to try and starve Yemen into submission, the kingdom must realize that the world is finally taking notice of its actions in the Yemen civil war and Congress and the U.N. must keep pressing all parties for a political solution. The New York Times editorial board writes, referring to the blockade that began on Nov. 5 in response to a ballistic missile that was fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels at the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans efforts to reform the kingdom are necessary but also impossible, Kamel Daoud writes at the New York Times, charting the rise of the Wahhabi ideology, Saudi Arabias relationship with the ideology, and offers an analysis of the Crown Princes actions and the impact of his proposed reforms on Islamists outside the kingdom.


Republican congressional investigators began their efforts to secure information about an Obama-era nuclear deal with Russia yesterday, writing letters to the F.B.I., Justice Department, Treasury Department and intelligence agencies. John Solomon reports at the Hill.

It would send a signal that were going to be like some dictatorship if the President directs the Justice Department to investigate the uranium deal, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday, adding that she would not be concerned if a special counsel were appointed or if she faced indictments because I know theres no basis to it. Brent D. Griffiths reports at POLITICO.


House Democrats introduced five articles of impeachment against President Trump yesterday, however the representatives have acknowledged that the efforts would not be successful while Republicans control both houses of Congress. Maegan Vazquez reports at CNN.

The Justice Department aims to release a report into the alleged misconduct by then-F.B.I. Director James Comey in late winter or early spring, the Justice Department Inspector General said yesterday, the review includes an investigation of Comeys actions during the presidential campaign, leaks by the F.B.I. and the investigation into Hillary Clintons private email use. Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

The F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe gave the investigation into Hillary Clintons email use a special status, documents released yesterday reveal, however F.B.I. officials refused to answer what was meant by this status. John Solomon reports at the Hill.

Live updates of the Zimbabwean military takeover and the ousting of President Robert Mugabe are provided at the BBC.

The self-styled Libyan National Army launched air strikes against Islamic State militants in their stronghold of Sirte yesterday, a commander with the force said yesterday, Reuters reporting.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would reduce U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops making payments that, lawmakers described, reward violent crimes. Reuters reports.

Read on Just Security »

Just Security

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