The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama and the Trump Tower Baku reportedly had deep ties to international criminals and drug cartels.
President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and favorite child, Ivanka Trump, was exceptionally involved in two international projects tied to her father’s name before the business mogul ran for the highest office in the United States.
As the Think Progress reported, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama was supposed to be Ivanka’s “baby” while she personally oversaw and “approved everything” at the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan.
Neither of these international business ventures worked out for the Trump Organization, as the luxury resort in Panama City later dismissed Trump’s management company over reported budget misuse and the hotel in Baku never opened due to budget overruns and construction oversights.
However, that does not mean the Trump family did not profit from these endeavors.
As a couple of recent investigative reports have revealed, the Trump family earned millions in revenue from these seemingly failed projects – all thanks to drug cartels, the Russian mafia and international criminals.
“Since he became President of the United States, numerous investigations and articles have probed Trump’s business dealings and his alleged links to criminals and other shadowy characters,” anti-corruption group Global Witness wrote in its recent report. “It is understood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation under the Department of Justice will also examine his real estate business. This is important because it seems likely that, following his various bankruptcies, at least a part of Trump’s business empire has been built on untraceable funds, some apparently linked to Russian criminal networks.”
A joint investigation by the NBC News and Reuters also found some investors and customers of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City had deep ties to crime and drug trafficking. For instance, David Murcia Guzmán, a Colombian business executive with financial ties to terrorist organization FARC who is currently detained in the U.S. for laundering money on behalf of drug cartels, had bought several units in the project.
Other buyers included Arkady Vodovozov, who was convicted of kidnapping in Israel according to Reuters; Stanislav Kavalenka a Russian national charged for “compelling” and “procuring” women into prostitution in Canada; Igor Anapolskiy, convicted for forging travel documents in Ukraine in 2014; and Louis Pargiolas, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine in Miami back in 2009.
A former Brazilian car salesman, Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who reportedly collaborated with the Trumps to sell the condo units and met Ivanka several times, claimed the U.S. president and his family were unaware of the investors’ businesses or buyers’ criminal background – but they never asked any questions either.
“I had some customers with questionable backgrounds,” Nogueira, who is currently a fugitive from law for real estate fraud, told NBC under disguise from an undisclosed European city. “Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask.”
He also said he met the president and his sons at least once, and attended the 2008 celebratory event at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after his firm, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, fulfilled its promise of quickly selling units at high prices and sold about $100m worth of property, according to the Reuters and NBC.
Meanwhile, the project in Azerbaijan was a site for illegal activities as well. According to the reports, the Azeri dictatorship and those close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard allegedly used the Baku hotel to launder money.
If it was not clear already, Trump did not own these properties. Instead, he leased his name out to the project in order to boost sales while his company, or his daughter in this case, oversaw the project. While it does not appear the president or his children knew of the criminals investing and buying the property, they did profit from whatever alleged shady business was going on there.
“Licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains,” the Global Witness report continued. “Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries.”
To put things into perspective, Trump had made nearly $74.2 million through his association with the Panama hotel by 2010. He earned another $13.0 million between 2014 and 2017.
However, the Trump organization has since attempted to distance itself from the controversy.
“The Trump Organization was not the owner, developer or seller of the Trump Ocean Club Panama project,” the statement said. “Because of its limited role, the company was not responsible for the financing of the project and had no involvement in the sale of units or the retention of any real estate brokers.”
Well, playing down the organization’s role in the project doesn’t really justify the fortune Trumps earned through them, does it?
Thumbnail / Banner : Reuters, Yuri Gripas
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Trump Family Made A Fortune Through Drug Cartels And Money Laundering
National security officials are urging President Trump to approve the sale of nearly $50 million worth of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, which has confronted what it sees as military aggression from Russia and pro-Russian separatists for years.
It was unclear whether Trump, who has been reluctant to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin, will approve the plan.
Congressional and State Department officials said Monday the weapons proposal had gained traction in the National Security Council. The officials asked not to be named discussing internal deliberations.
At the urging of Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, the GOP platform was watered down at the Republican National Convention in 2016 to remove a call to sell lethal weapons to Ukraine — a position long favored by the Republican establishment and ultimately by the Obama administration.
It was later revealed that Manafort had worked for pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders opposed to U.S. support for the government in Kiev. Manafort was indicted last month on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty.
The weapons sale under discussion would likely include Javelin anti-tank missiles and other high-tech weapons that go beyond defensive arms, a State Department official said. Some details of the package were first reported by ABC News.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has repeatedly urged the Trump administration to supply Ukraine with weapons. Doing so would garner bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
“It is long past time for the United States to provide Ukraine the defensive lethal assistance it needs to deter and defend against further Russian aggression,” McCain said in a statement. “As long as the status quo remains, Russia has no reason to change its behavior, and we should only expect more violence and more death.”
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), another member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote Trump last week to urge stronger support for Ukraine.
“The military land-grab Russia has launched in Ukraine is unprecedented in modern European history,” he wrote. “Our response should include lethal military hardware as part of a broader effort to help Ukrainians defend themselves and deter future aggression.”
Congress has already approved up to $500 million in assistance for Ukraine and its defense, though not specifically for lethal weapons.
Ukraine’s pro-West government has been battling pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since forces loyal to Putin annexed Crimea in 2014.
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Macron, Trump and Putin would all like to see Merkel go
Rudy Giuliani – Google News: Rudy Giuliani turns up in Ukraine with pro-Russia official linked to Paul Manafort’s clients – Raw Story
Rudy Giuliani turns up in Ukraine with pro-Russia official linked to Paul Manafort’s clients
Rudy Giuliani – Google News
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Trump Ocean Club by Seth Hettena
My friend Ken Silverstein has a great new story out via Global Witness about Trump’s tower in Panama.
Put simply, it’s is the most revealing look we’ve had into how Russians were recruited for Trump’s towers.
Part of the business strategy at Trump Ocean Club was luring wealthy and “secretive” Russians — who didn’t want any questions asked about where their money came from.
The money quote in this story for me comes from a broker involved with the project named Alexandre Henrique Ventura Nogueira. Half of Nogueria’s customers were Russian.
“I had some customers with some, you know, questionable backgrounds.” He also said that he found out later that some customers were part of the Russian Mafia.
Another real estate broker who worked in Panama during the TOC pre-construction sales period told Global Witness that Eastern European and Russian investors at the TOC were “very secretive”, especially when setting up shell corporations, so you “don’t know their names” and “didn’t know where their money came from.”
Rich Russians – whom he called “the whales” – were prized clients because brokers could earn substantial commissions working with them. These were exactly the kind of purchasers needed by Trump and others to secure early sales, and therefore the financing through Bear Stearns to develop the project.
Ventura Nogueira was asked point blank about this: “Did the Trump Organization know there were some Russians there with strange backgrounds involved in buying? I don’t know.”
There are a lot of things to like about this story. (Story is the wrong word. It’s a 28-page report.) Not only does it reveal the corruption that built the Trump Ocean Club, but it goes a step further. Ken’s story offers solutions — a rarity in journalism — to eliminate the pervasive money laundering in real estate that built not only Trump’s tower in Panama, but his tower Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, Azerbaijan, and other places.
The story calls the Trump Ocean Club one of Trump’s most lucrative deals. How lucrative? We don’t know.
But what was in it for Trump? There is little transparency around Trump’s financial agreement with Newland, a company that filed for bankruptcy in 2013. In fact, according to Univision News’ reporting of a New York court’s hearing on the bankruptcy, Newland refused to turn over the agreement with Trump to license his name. This prompted the judge to say to Newland’s attorney: “Go to Panama. If you want to do your deals in secret, go and do it in Panama. Don’t do it in my court.”
You should also check out Ken’s popular blog, Washington Babylon.
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As the FBI Closes In, Trump’s Lawyers Are Scrambling to Keep Him Calm
Where the Trump campaign and Russian actors overlapped
“I’ve been a political appointee in both Democratic and Republican administrations,” he said, his voice a phlegmy rumble. “Support the commander in chief. That was the first order of business. But this one, you know…” He reached for his coffee, leaned back, took a sip. “It’s hard. This is a unique situation. We’ve never had a president like this before.”
The Clappers live in a well-to-do suburb outside Washington, in a brick house with heavy shutters. Clapper’s wife, Susan, a retired NSA administrator, answered the door. Her husband, she said, was at work in the basement. I followed her down a carpeted staircase past some paintings of bald eagles. We found James Clapper sitting at a small round table. He was dressed casually, in sandals, a polo shirt, and board shorts.
He seemed to be transitioning smoothly into the life of an ex-official, what D.C. types call a “former.” He now socializes with some of the capital’s more august senators, meeting them for lunch and bumping into them with the grandkids behind home plate at Nationals games. He had sworn off his trademark martinis, hit the gym, and lost 20 pounds. He would soon buy a Chevy Camaro. A friend told him that he was having a midlife crisis at age 76.
“Well, this is my man cave,” he said, gesturing at a meticulously arranged trophy room with a rolltop desk and two couches. Two glass cases contained a glittering array of polished medals from his time in the Air Force, which he joined in 1963. The far wall had built-in shelves showing off a dim series of objects. Clapper dismissed my interest with a wave of his hand, calling it “various other junk from across the course of my career.”
Clapper was one of the first hundred Air Force intelligence officers to go to Vietnam. “I hated the war,” Clapper said. “What we were doing to the country—our own country—was bad.” For a time, he worked alongside his father, who was the NSA’s deputy country chief. Susan gave birth to a daughter while he was overseas. She was 7 months old the first time he saw her.
He stuck with the Air Force after his tours, was promoted “below the zone”—before almost all of his contemporaries—and went on to a career in military intelligence, eventually leading the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. In the years after the September 11 attacks, he clashed with Donald Rumsfeld over how to re-organize the country’s spying apparatus, which today consumes roughly $70 billion a year. Rumsfeld won the argument and fired Clapper, but it wasn’t long before he himself was out of a job. Clapper’s willingness to stand his ground impressed Rumsfeld’s replacement, Bob Gates, who recommended him to Obama as director of national intelligence in 2010.
Clapper forged close ties with Obama, whom he often briefed personally. He could be brutally frank; he had no qualms about bringing the president bad news. When the time came to make policy recommendations, Clapper would stick to intelligence and remain silent. Obama staffers would sometimes wonder if he was secretly a Republican.
The worst day of Clapper’s career came on March 12, 2013, when he was called to testify before an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ron Wyden, the senior senator from Oregon, asked Clapper whether the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans.”
“It does not?” asked Wyden. He looked surprised.
“Not wittingly,” said Clapper. The corners of his mouth bent down into his Grumpy Cat face. “There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
Wyden believed, and still believes, that Clapper was being intentionally deceptive. Clapper told me that he made a mistake and misunderstood the question. Wyden holds a grudge to this day. “There’s no other way to describe this than he lied to Congress. He lied to the American people,” Wyden told me. “And that, in my judgment, is unacceptable.”
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James Clapper on Donald Trump, Russia, and the First Line of His Obituary
Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner face new scrutiny in Russia investigation
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Confirmed: Robert Mueller has far more Trump-Russia evidence than previously known
Robert Mueller is WAY out ahead of the rest of us
Confirmed: Robert Mueller knows about even more Trump-Russia meetings than the public does by Bill Palmer
All along, it’s appeared that Special Counsel Robert Mueller knows far more about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal than Congress, the media, or the public knows. Although Mueller keeps his cards close to the vest, his actions periodically suggest that he’s several steps ahead of the game. Now comes confirmation that Mueller knows about a whole new set of Trump-Russia meetings that are not yet public.
Buried all the way down in the fifteenth paragraph of a new Washington Post article, you’ll find this key revelation: “Witnesses questioned by Mueller’s team warn that investigators are asking about other foreign contacts and meetings that have not yet become public, and to expect a series of new revelations.” (link). In other words, this week the media managed to expose Donald Trump Jr’s contacts with WikiLeaks and Jared Kushner’s contacts with a suspected Russian mobster, and yet those are stillfar from the last of the Trump-Russia contacts that Mueller already knows about.
So just what are we looking at here? The WaPo article hints that many of the secret meetings involved Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is reportedly on the verge of being arrested on a variety of charges which may include conspiracy to commit kidnapping (Flynn denies the charges). So even as the media has been recently exposing Trump-Russia meetings involving members of Donald Trump’s family, Robert Mueller is focused on Trump-Russia meetings of an entirely different nature.
Another remarkable part of the WaPo article in question is the revelation that Donald Trump and his attorney Ty Cobb are both insisting Robert Mueller’s investigation will be completed soon, and that Trump will be exonerated. That’s nothing short of delusional. Mueller is just getting started, and has only arrested three of the dozens of Trump-Russia players he’s targeting. Moreover, Mueller’s entire gameplan is based around getting these targets to flip on Trump himself. Trump isn’t just a target of the investigation; he’s the target.
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Insider: Donald Trump’s staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man” by Bill Palmer
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally managed to breach Donald Trump’s inner circle. It was revealed last week that he interviewed White House senior adviser Stephen Miller about his role in the Trump-Russia scandal. Now it turns out Mueller is aggressively working his way through Trump’s top people as we speak, and it’s clearly making them nervous. In fact one insider says they’re panicking as Mueller kicks into high gear.
A Trump White House insider claims that Mueller is chewing through Trump’s senior staff “like Pac-Man” and that they’re all panicked about how deep the investigation is running, summing it up by saying that “it’s going to be a long winter,” according to a new Washington Post report (link). That same article points to Hope Hicks and Don McGahn as being Mueller’s next two targets, which offers some hints about what Mueller is specifically pursuing.
Hope Hicks is essentially the gatekeeper for Donald Trump himself, filtering his emails and deciding what to loop him in on. This week it was revealed that Hicks was aware of Donald Trump Jr’s ongoing coordination with WikiLeaks, which means almost for certain that Donald Trump knew. Hicks will have to decide whether to admit to Mueller that Trump knew, or commit obstruction of justice by refusing to truthfully answer the question. White House counsel Don McGahn nixed a letter that Trump and Miller wrote justifying the firing of FBI Director James Comey. McGahn will have to decide whether to risk incriminating Trump, or risk incriminating himself. He does not share attorney-client privilege with Trump.
It’s important to keep in mind that Robert Mueller has consistently been several steps ahead of the media and the public when it comes to these matters. For instance it was widely reported by the media that Mueller’s first White House senior staff target would be Hope Hicks. Then it was later revealed that Mueller had already interviewed Stephen Miller instead. The “Pac-Man” reference strongly suggests that Mueller has already interviewed far more of Trump’s inner circle than is publicly known.
The post Insider: Donald Trump’s staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man”appeared first on Palmer Report.
Insider: Donald Trump’s staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man” by FBRSS.com
Insider: Donald Trump’s staff panicking as Robert Mueller chews through them “like Pac-Man”
Robert Mueller is far ahead of what was previously known
Since the start of Donald Trump’s illegitimate and toxically unpopular presidency, the public has asked the same question every day: why hasn’t he been ousted yet? The simple answer is that because his approval rating hasn’t yet dropped into the twenties, the Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t feel like it has to oust him. But the main reason they’ve been keeping him around may be about to expire.
The Republican Congress is still trying to find a way to pass its tax scam legislation for the wealthy. But up to this point, every major piece of legislation it’s attempted has failed, partly due to Trump’s instability and unpopularity. The real reason the GOP wants Trump to remain in place: it’s been allowing the party to ram through the appointment of several conservative federal judges. However, according to Axios (link), that streak may be about to end after Thanksgiving.
In fact Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been ramming through the confirmations of these judges as quickly as he can. Trump’s instability means that he could self destruct on his own at any minute – and once he does, the focus will be on his demise and ouster, making Senate confirmations more difficult. But even if Trump doesn’t self destruct, the Republicans in Congress are increasingly uneasy about the idea of leaving him in power as they head into the midterms. They just got wiped out across the nation in the November 2017 elections, as a direct result of Trump’s unpopularity.
Once the Republican Congress finishes ramming through its judges after Thanksgiving, it’ll be in position to strategically throw Donald Trump overboard. Once he’s out the door, Trump’s crimes in the Russia scandal will no longer directly be the party’s problem. The GOP’s haste with confirmations, a process which now appears to be reaching its conclusion, suggests that it may be ready to oust Trump soon. Tick tock.
The post Donald Trump’s ticking clock may expire after Thanksgiving appeared first on Palmer Report.
Report: Mueller’s Russia Probe Seeks Justice Department Emails on Comey Firing
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A few days ago, it was revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Donald Trump campaign a month ago. It served as a reminder that Mueller is always several steps ahead of the media and the public. It also demonstrates that Mueller is going directly after Trump himself, and not merely settling for taking down Trump’s underlings. Now another new development points to how Mueller plans to get to Trump.
Mueller has requested a treasure trove of documents from the Department of Justice which relate to Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, according to an ABC News report (link). This means Mueller is targeting Trump for obstruction of justice. It also suggests that Mueller may be targeting Sessions for some criminal charge related to the reason he had to recuse himself.
The article in question makes no reference to subpoenas, which means that as of yet, the DOJ hasn’t said no to anything Mueller is requesting. Ironically, because Sessions has recused himself, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will make any decisions on what evidence to turn over, meaning Sessions can’t prevent incriminating evidence against himself from being turned over. Rosenstein can be counted on to cooperate with Mueller, as it was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller to begin with.
Although Robert Mueller can be counted on to pursue every possible criminal charge against Donald Trump, ranging from conspiracy against the United States to money laundering on down, proving obstruction of justice will likely be his quickest and most efficient path for establishing Trump’s criminal nature. Now we know that Mueller is going after the Department of Justice to not only prove Trump guilty of obstruction of justice, but likely to take down Jeff Sessions as well.
The post Robert Mueller is going after the Department of Justice to take down Donald Trump appeared first on Palmer Report.
For the last few years, the media has been dominated by a number of sensational stories: that Trump colluded with Russia to influence the presidential election; that the Trump team was wiretapped by Obama intelligence officials; that Hillary used a private email server to transmit classified information; that Hillary and the DNC colluded with Russian sources to compile a dossier on Trump, and finally, that Russia acquired 20% of America’s uranium supply during the same time period $145 million miraculously appeared in the Clinton Foundation’s bank account. It all stinks to high heaven but it’s created a confusing array of facts that has bewildered most Americans. They all know something is seriously wrong with their country even if they can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem is.
But there is a common denominator in all these scandals or alleged scandals, and that would be the FBI and the actions they took or didn’t take. Indeed, it’s hard to not conclude that the agency’s actions in these events were improper if not illegal. If so, this validates the warnings by constitutionalists in the early 1900s that a federal police force would someday be used to prop up the ruling elites and attack those who dare challenge the establishment.
Under FBI Director James Comey, Hillary was allowed to escape prosecution, even though he presented compelling evidence that she committed numerous felonies by transmitting classified documents using her private email server. Comey also leaked classified information to a friend to be disseminated to the media, another felony, and his FBI was the recipient of a dossier full of sensational but false allegations traced to Putin-connected individuals. Instead of investigating the dossier’s sources, Comey used the phony intel as the basis for his allegation that the Russians intervened in our election, a charge later proven to be without factual basis. It also appears that Comey likely used the dossier’s claims to convince a FISA court to authorize a phone tap on various Trump aides and possibly even Trump himself.
Lastly, Comey refused to demand that the DNC hand over the computer servers they claimed were hacked by Russia, but nevertheless, he announced that the Russians had hacked into the DNC, thereby helping to create the phony Trump/Russia collusion narrative. But a group of cyber experts led by former high-ranking NSA cyber expert Bill Binney have concluded that the hack simply could not have occurred for technical reasons and that the leaked DNC emails had to come from an inside source. Regardless, for Comey to create a phony “Russia hacked the DNC” narrative without his agency ever analyzing the DNC server calls into question his honesty and his integrity.
On top of all that, former FBI director Robert Mueller — now Special Counsel — is investigating Trump for collusion with Russia when the evidence is now revealing that the only party that colluded with the Russians to influence the 2016 campaign was the Democratic Party. But Mueller doesn’t have the integrity to widen his investigation to cover the Clinton/GPS Fusion/Russian dossier scandal but instead is spending millions on investigating alleged crimes by former Trump campaign workers that occurred years ago and had nothing to do with Trump, Russian collusion, or the 2016 election.
Lastly, when Mueller was FBI Director, he served on the board of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the agency that approved the sale of uranium to Russia by the Uranium One company only a short time after his own agency had arrested a Russian official attempting to bribe American uranium officials. But there is no record of Mueller warning his fellow CFIUS members about the illegal Russian efforts. It likewise begs logic to believe that Mueller knew nothing about the $145 million the Clinton Foundation received from Putin-connected sources shortly after the CFIUS vote. It is also inconceivable that Mueller, as FBI Director from 2001-2013, was not aware that the Clintons were using their foundation and Hillary’s Secretary of State position to operate a massive pay-to-play scam that went far beyond the Uranium One scandal.
It has become abundantly clear that Mueller is a partisan, as is Comey. Both of them have jeopardized national security in order to protect the Democratic Party. This is an unprecedented situation and both men should be investigated. Moreover, Mueller should be removed as the Special Counsel. The foxes are guarding the hen house.
Mueller and Comey have turned the FBI into a partisan force that ignores crimes by the left and fabricates crimes on the right such as the Trump/Russian collusion theory. Again, such corruption of the FBI was predicted by constitutionalists at the time the agency was formed. That time has arrived.
Within most conservative circles today it would be considered sacrilegious to argue in favor of abolishing the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Indeed, older Americans still think of the FBI as an agency full of incorruptible, efficient, clean cut guys in suits tracking down mobsters and exposing communist subversion. Younger Americans are influenced by popular shows such as television’s Criminal Minds, which, again, portray the G-Men as squeaky clean heroes.
However, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that this agency has become so politicized, so corrupt, and so large and bureaucratic that it may no longer be an effective agency. The time has come to discuss its abolition.
The FBI was started in 1935, although its predecessor — the Bureau of Investigation — was founded in 1908. In the early 1900s, crime was becoming more nationalized with multi-state mob crime families and the creation of large prostitution smuggling rings that crossed state lines. As a result, advocates of a federalized police force argued that a federal law enforcement agency was necessary in order to keep up with the criminals. The main argument was that the local police forces didn’t have the resources or the flexibility to investigate complex criminal cases or to chase mobsters from state to state.
But note that the FBI did not come into existence until 132 years after the country declared its independence. This was because the founders never envisioned a federal role for law enforcement. It is not one of the “enumerated” duties of the federal government listed in the constitution.
There were reasons for that. Our founders were skeptical of a large federal government and, indeed, not even the “federalist” faction argued for a federal law enforcement role. The Constitution’s authors all assumed that most of the country’s governing would be carried out by state and local governments; the Federal government was created simply to take care of things that states were not well suited to do, such as maintaining a military, minting currency, and negotiating trade treaties. Indeed, for most of America’s first century, the highest law enforcement officer was the county sheriff.
Except for treason, the idea of federal crimes was not even mentioned in the Constitution. Our founders had a healthy fear of America turning into a tyrannical government such as those which existed all over the world at the time. They wanted to maximize freedom; hence the Bill of Rights. They assumed the creation of a federalized police force would make it far easier for the federal government to abuse the rights of its citizens. This is why neither the Constitution, the ratification debates, nor the Federalistpapers ever mention anything about a federal law enforcement role. Nada. Nothing. Indeed, in Federalist No. 45, James Madison specifically singles out “internal order” as an “unenumerated power” that must “remain in the state governments.”
In the last few decades, Congress has created over 3,000 federal crimes, thereby undermining the authority of local law enforcement and ultimately making the federal government more powerful and more prone to corruption and tyranny. As the late Washington Times columnist Sam Francis wrote, “Over the last 30 years or so, the creeping federal incursion into law enforcement has yielded some 140 agencies at the federal level that have such a role… but everyone knows the federal engulfment of law enforcement has failed miserably to control crime and make the country safe. That’s because, by its very nature, effective law enforcement is local.”
And there’s no doubt that national police forces in other countries have been used to transition a country to a dictatorship. Historian William L. Shirer wrote in his famous history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Rich, “On June 16, 1936, for the first time in German history, a unified police as established for the whole of the Reich — previously the police had been organized separately by each of the states …the Third Reich, as is inevitable in the development of all totalitarian dictatorships, had become a police state.”
But the FBI has never seemed concerned about its growing powers. Indeed, in the aftermath of WWII, the FBI was so impressed with Hitler’s police state, they secretly hired hundreds of Nazis as spies and informants. As Rutherford Institute president and conservative civil rights lawyer John Whitehead writes, the FBI “then carried out a massive cover-up campaign to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. Moreover, anyone who dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.”
But long before the rise of Hitler, America’s founders understood that the more locally controlled law enforcement is, the more accountable they are, whereas, a federal police force tends to be abused by a central government and is largely unaccountable to local and state governments. Indeed, it is unsettling to review the long list of incidents in which the FBI abused the rights of Americans and was clearly used by one political faction or another to carry out police state-like tactics. Let’s take a trip down memory lane:
Prosecuting Opponents of World War 1. President Woodrow Wilson used the FBI’s predecessor to illegally harass and prosecute thousands of peaceful opponents of World War 1, a war most conservatives would argue America had no business entering.
COINTELPRO. This was the FBI’s covert internal security program in the 1950s and ’60s, created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government deemed to be enemies. It was carried out under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover with the consent of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Congressional hearings found that “Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that … the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association…” Many conservatives of the day cheered on COINTELPRO since it targeted Marxists and antiwar groups, but that cheering ended when the FBI set its sights on the right.
FBI Preparations for Martial Law. MuckRock, a group that exposes governmental corruption, obtained a 1956 FBI document via a FOIA request that described the FBI’s plans to implement martial law and round up dissidents in the event of nuclear war. The document, titled “Plan C,” states that ‘”as of April 17, 1956, 12,949 individuals were scheduled for apprehension in an emergency.” The FBI’s secretive list of “anti-government” citizens they felt needed to be rounded up has never been revealed but it’s clear the FBI was keeping files on anti-government individuals.
The Ruby Ridge Murders. In 1992, a BATF informant convinced former Green Beret Randy Weaver to sell him two shotguns which had barrels shortened illegally, thus creating the pretext for the FBI to launch a military-style assault on Weaver’s remote Idaho cabin, eventually killing his wife and fatally shooting his son in the back. The FBI agents violated numerous rules of engagement and an Idaho jury found Weaver innocent of almost all charges. According to author James Bovard, “Judge Lodge issued a lengthy list detailing the Justice Departments misconduct, fabrication of evidence and refusal to obey court orders.” No one was held accountable; indeed the agent in charge, Larry Potts, was promoted to FBI Deputy Director.
The Waco Massacre. In 1993, 76 citizens — including 26 children — were burned to death when the FBI laid siege to a Branch Davidian compound in Waco on the grounds they believed cult leader David Koresh possessed unauthorized weapons. However, there was no reason for the FBI to use police state tactics. Koresh visited town almost every week and could have easily been arrested during these excursions. Six years later the FBI admitted during the course of a civil lawsuit that the tear gas it fired into the compound was, in fact, pyrotechnic tear gas, which, probably caused the fire that killed most of the people. The shells were even stamped with a fire warning. Moreover, a law enforcement infrared video revealed muzzle flashes from the FBI’s positions, so contrary to the FBI’s testimony that they did not fire “a single shot,” it appears its snipers were shooting people as they tried to escape the compound. Indeed, a Policy Analysis report by the Heritage Foundation stated that “numerous crimes by government agents were never seriously investigated or prosecuted” and therefore, “the people serving in our federal police agencies may well come to the conclusion that it is permissible to recklessly endanger the lives of innocent people, lie to newspapers, obstruct congressional subpoenas, and give misleading testimony in our courtrooms.”
Helping Bill Clinton Collect Dirt on his Enemies. Often referred to as “Filegate,” in 1993-94, the FBI willingly turned over as many as 900 background check files on Republicans to the Clinton White House. Nothing came of the investigation into this as the Clintons claimed it was all a big mistake. Right.
Project Megiddo. This was another shady FBI project, launched in 1999, created for the purpose of monitoring groups on the right, such as constitutionalists, devout Christians, anti-tax activists, anti-UN and pro-gun groups and individuals, all considered by the FBI to be budding terrorists. Such descriptions cover just about everyone on the right. It is not known if Project Megiddo violated the rights of individuals as the FBI did with previous similar programs, such as COINTELPRO, but it’s likely. Not surprisingly, much of the info used by Project Megiddo was fed to them by hysterical leftist groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as even the FBI has publicly acknowledged. Shameful.
Use of Criminals as Undercover Agents. Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead writes, “FBI agents are also among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers. In fact, in addition to creating certain crimes in order to then ‘solve’ them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law… USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums.”
Operation Vigilant Eagle. This FBI program initiated in 2009 targeted anti-government activists such as Tea Party activists and, alarmingly, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are, as one FBI document states, “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering for the psychological effects of war.” The purpose of this program was allegedly to counter terrorism, but there’s not a shred of evidence veterans are more prone to terrorism than any other citizen. Nonetheless, the FBI actually claimed that veterans who challenge the government are suffering from “Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).” One of the program’s first targets was 26-year-old decorated Marine veteran Brandon Raub. Due to posting anti-government statements on his Facebook page, the FBI arrested Raub with no warning, labeled him mentally ill and placed him in a psych ward against his will. Thankfully, Rutherford Institute attorney John Whitehead intervened and secured his release. Whitehead writes that he “may have helped prevent Raub from being successfully ‘disappeared’ by the government.” And this has happened to other veterans. If the FBI paid as much attention to jihadists as it does to military veterans, it would have stopped every domestic terror plot!
Targeting Pro-Lifers. In 2010, The FBI held a joint training session on terrorism with Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. The main message of the seminar was that all pro-lifers are potential terrorists, an outrageous allegation. Indeed, material passed out by the pro-aborts at the seminar listed three pages of “anti-abortion web sites,” including those of National Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, the American Center for Law and Justice, and Human Life International. None of those groups advocate violence. This is another example of how the FBI allows itself to be used by the left to go after its enemies. Similarly, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, the FBI created a project called VAAPCON to create files on pro-life religious leaders such as Rev. Jerry Falwell. Indeed, Judicial Watch, representing Falwell, sued the Clinton White House, seeking info on the project, but all the files mysteriously disappeared, Clinton style.
The IRS Scandal. The government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, obtained documents revealing that the FBI was involved with the illegal IRS effort to investigate — and thus silence— around 500 conservative and Tea Party groups during Obama’s 2012 reelection. Perhaps the worst use of the IRS in American history, this was about manipulating the 2012 presidential election and the FBI was complicit in this abuse of governmental power. As JWs Tom Fitton writes, “Both the FBI and Justice Department collaborated with Lois Lerner and the IRS to try to persecute and jail Barack Obama’s political opponents.”
FBI Worked With the SPLC. For much of the Obama era, the FBI listed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on its website as part of its effort to combat “hate crimes.” However, many of the groups identified by the SPLC as “hate groups” are not. One example is the Family Research Council, a mainstream pro-family organization. As a result of the FBI’s promotion of SPLC’s phony hate group list, a shooter entered FRC’s headquarters in 2012, wounding the front desk security guard and attempted to slaughter all the FRC employees. He was subdued by the wounded guard. Indeed, the SPLC believes all Christian groups that oppose the gay agenda or abortion are “hate groups,” a bizarre notion that has never been condemned by the FBI even though it did, in 2014, quietly drop the SPLC from its website.
Data Mining Innocent Americans. In 2013, Bloomberg exposed the FBI’s data mining project carried out on hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of whom were not guilty of any crimes.
Raids on Homes of Anti-Government Activists. Repeatedly, the FBI has raided homes on the flimsiest of evidence. In 2014, it raided the home of prepper Martin Winters, claiming he was some kind of domestic terrorist. But nothing was found aside from food stocks and other survivalist gear. Then there’s Terry Porter, also a prepper, whose house the FBI raided in 2012 using twice as many agents as in the Branch Davidian raid. Again, nothing alarming found there. Since when did anti-government preppers become terrorists? The FBI raids group meetings as well, such as when it raided a Republic of Texas secessionist movement meeting in 2015. No one was arrested because no one did anything illegal. But once again, the FBI treated a handful of elderly men discussing constitutional issues as a terrorist plot.
Fraudulent Forensics. Special Agent and whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst revealed in 2015 that FBI crime lab technicians routinely testified falsely about crime lab samples throughout the 1980s and 1990s. As former Judge Andrew Napolitano writes, “its agents and lab technicians who examine hair samples testified falsely in 257 of 268 cases that resulted in convictions. Of the convictions, 18 persons were sentenced to death, and of those, 12 have been executed.” Yes, innocent people died, thanks to the FBI.
FBI High School Informer Network. In 2016, the FBI launched an effort to enlist the help of high school students to ostensibly identify terrorists, but the FBI documents in question reveal they were also urging students to report on anti-government groups such as libertarian and constitutional groups. This effort is shockingly similar to the informant networks set up by the KGB in the USSR and the Stasi in East Germany.
The FBI Record on Fighting Terrorism.
Many Americans assume, however, that at least in the area of Islamic terrorism, the FBI has kept Americans largely safe. Not so fast. The record doesn’t quite show that. In fact, the agency has blundered many terrorism investigations and thus jeopardized the security of Americans. Examples:
- In 2009, Islamist Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people at the Fort Hood Military Base, but his radical associations and open support for jihad were previously known by the FBI. It even had emails in which Hasan stated he wanted to kill his fellow soldiers. Indeed, records show that not only was there reluctance by officials to drum Hasan out of the military — for political reasons — but he was promoted at every opportunity.
- In 2013, local officials caught seven foreign Muslims trespassing after midnight onto Quabbin Reservoir, a critical Northwest drinking reservoir. The FBI took over the case but let the trespassers go because they believe them to be just “tourists.” Yes, just midnight tourists. Only a few months earlier, another terrorist had been arrested for planning to poison a different reservoir.
- In 2013, the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. Russian intelligence warned the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the agency even interviewed him, but it appears the FBI determined that Russia’s intelligence was not accurate. Until the bombs went off.
- In 2015, when the government watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained documents confirming that ISIS terrorists were crossing the Mexican/Texas border, concerned FBI agents held meetings at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez with Mexican officials. But not to figure out a plan to deal with such crossings, but rather to deny these allegations and to determine who leaked the info to JW. Forget the message and attack the messenger. What a great counter-terrorism strategy.
- In 2015, the FBI failed to prevent the San Bernardino terror attack by an Islamic couple from Pakistan connected to an Islamic terrorist group whose files were among those purged earlier by the FBI, thereby making it nearly impossible for the agency to detect this pair.
- In 2015, two Islamic terrorists attacked a Muhammad art expo in Garland, Texas, but the FBI actually had an informant at the scene with the terrorists, but it never bothered to warn the expo’s organizers of the impending attack. Apparently, the agency didn’t want to blow the informant’s cover! Fortunately, security guard Bruce Joiner shot and killed both shooters before they could get inside the exhibition hall. Joiner wonders why the FBI would allow this attack to transpire, stating “That’s not the kind of thing we do in the United States with our citizens.”
- In 2016, Islamist Omar Mateen slaughtered 49 people at an Orlando nightclub. While the FBI did investigate him for 10 months it closed his file because it believed he was “being marginalized because of his Muslim faith.” Seriously.
- The FBI has flat out denied that Las Vegas shooter Steven Paddock has any Islamic terror connections, but the reality is it really doesn’t know enough about him to make such a claim. Indeed, ISIS never takes credit for attacks that are not its own and on three occasions, it has announced Paddock was connected to ISIS. It even revealed Paddock’s Islamic name: Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki. Also, Paddock made trips to the Middle East. Given the FBI’s record, ISIS’s statements may be more credible than the FBI’s denials.
- The latest terrorist incident in New York City was also bungled. Months before Sayfullo Saipov mowed down over 20 people, the FBI interviewed him because it knew he was connected to two men with terrorist connections. As such, his visa should have been revoked and he should have been deported, but the agency didn’t even open up a file on him.
- Finally, the 9/11 terrorist attack itself could have been prevented by the FBI. It had enough intel to connect the dots but didn’t. Many of its pre-9/11 reports on al Qaeda were lost or not shared with the proper people. One was a memo by Phoenix FBI Agent Ken Williams, describing suspected al Qaeda members training at U.S. flight schools. How could that not result in a full scale investigation? And Special Agent Mark Rossini sent a message to FBI headquarters warning that 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar had a multi-entry visa to enter the U.S. before 9/11. But that cable went “missing” when Congress held hearings on how our intelligence agencies manage to completely miss so many obvious clues.
And there are many other examples that can’t be cited here due to lack of space, but it’s difficult to find a domestic terrorist investigation that the FBI hasn’t screwed up. The above incidents alone cost the lives of almost 3,200 Americans. One would think that in the aftermath of 9/11, the FBI would make an effort to become more efficient when it comes to counter-terrorism, but with the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the FBI not only remained overly bureaucratic but became hyper politically correct.
Incredible as it may seem, in 2011, Obama’s FBI Director, Robert Mueller, met with a coalition of radical Islamic groups and agreed to purge thousands of files “offensive” to Muslims. Judicial Watch said the “purge is part of a broader Islamic ‘influence operation’ aimed at our government and constitution.”
In other words, the FBI caved in to groups that do not have our best interests at heart. Indeed, two of the groups Mueller met with, ISNA and CAIR, were unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terror funding case. Many terror experts believe this purge crippled the FBI’s abilities to detect some of the terror plots that occurred during the Obama years. Due to its desire not to offend Muslims, the FBI jeopardized the lives of many Americans.
Conservatives Should Quit Defending the FBI
The FBI has a long history of being used by various administrations to harass certain groups and individuals, or, conversely, to allow certain groups and individuals to commit crimes without fear of prosecution. The FBI is supposed to uphold the Constitution but instead has repeatedly violated the constitutional rights of Americans. This politicization has cost many Americans their lives and their freedoms. The abuse listed here is not comprehensive but it’s enough, one would think, to make conservatives think twice about defending this agency’s police state tactics.
Indeed, the Wall Street Journal has reported that “nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database,” even though most of them have not been convicted of a crime. Does anyone really believe our founding fathers would be fine with such sweeping federal law enforcement powers?
The aforementioned conservative civil rights attorney, John Whitehead, summarizes today’s FBI: “In additions to procedural misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, the FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, and harassment.” President Harry Truman once said, “We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is trending in that direction.” And that was 72 years ago.
It’s Time to Turn Over FBI Investigations to the States
If the FBI was abolished and its workload turned over to the states, it would not be as difficult as some would portray it. Indeed, what most Americans don’t realize is that almost every state already has a state version of the FBI. New Mexico has the New Mexico State Police, the Golden State has the California Bureau of Investigation, Texas has both the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Georgia has the Georgia Bureau of investigation. (One can view the list here.)
Moreover, all these agencies are equipped with crime labs and the latest forensic tools. At one time, such tools were prohibitively expensive for state police agencies to acquire, but technological advances have brought the cost of such equipment down, resulting in most states having the latest forensics equipment that at one time was monopolized by the FBI. For example, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is famous for its forensic work: “The Division of Forensic Sciences envisions a future in which we continue to build and develop an internationally recognized forensic laboratory system that partners with governmental and private entities….”
Today, much of the FBI’s work entails the investigation of federal crimes committed within one state. There is no reason why the states can’t handle these investigations and if the case does happen to cross over into other states, then the states simply coordinate. Those days in which a criminal would escape the law by crossing a state line are long gone. Indeed, that practice was one of the reasons why the FBI was created, but with today’s advances in communication technology, that simply doesn’t happen anymore. All states today have the technology to easily track criminals as they cross state lines and it’s not difficult for two states or more to work together in the apprehension of a criminal. Already, states today cooperate on a wide array of governmental actions; there is no reason why they can’t coordinate on a police investigation or criminal apprehension.
Some of the FBI’s workload involves complex white collar cases such as tax evasion, money laundering, bank fraud, and commodities fraud, but if a state police agency feels it doesn’t have the expertise to investigate such crimes, it can enlist the assistance of existing agencies that already investigate such crimes. The IRS, Securities Exchange Commission, Treasury Department and the Secret Service all have investigative branches that handle different aspects of financial crimes.
Then, of course, there are the federal crime data bases largely maintained by the FBI, including the National Crime Information Center database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the Integrated Fingerprint Identification System, and the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). These databases should be turned over to the Department of Justice, which, in part, already play a role in maintaining them. More importantly, the state police agencies will need to be given ready access to these databases if they are to take on cases formerly handled by the FBI.
State law enforcement agencies are not perfect but it is far more difficult for the federal government to politicize the actions of a state agency. Moreover, it is much easier to hold state agencies accountable for any abuses they commit, just by virtue of being closer to the people.
Indeed, with access to federal crime data bases, most state police agencies have the capability to handle cases the FBI now handles, including domestic terrorist investigations. It’s a good bet that, given the FBI’s record on terrorism, the states will do a better job at stopping and preventing terrorism.
America’s founders were wise men and they knew not to make law enforcement a federal responsibility. They foresaw how the federal government could use a national police agency to play favorites, wreck havoc on our democratic institutions, and ultimately move us closer to a police state. The only question that remains is whether any politician will have the guts to initiate discussion on abolishing the FBI.
Read the whole story
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Should The FBI Be Abolished?
by Masha Gessen
Riverhead, 515 pp., $28.00
Early in Vladimir Putin’s first presidency I spoke to a Moscow banker, with reason to care on this point, who said he detected no trace of anti-Semitism in Putin personally, but that Putin would encourage popular anti-Semitism in a second if he thought that doing so would serve his interests. So far, Putin has not felt the need to demonize Russia’s Jews. He has instead identified the enemy within as Russia’s homosexuals, whose persecution is one of the main themes of The Future Is History, Masha Gessen’s remarkable group portrait of seven Soviet-born Russians whose changing lives embody the changing fortunes and character of their country as it passed from the end of Communist dictatorship under Mikhail Gorbachev to improvised liberalism under Boris Yeltsin and then back to what Gessen sees as renewed totalitarianism under Putin.
Two of Gessen’s central characters, Masha* and Lyosha, were born into the educated middle class of the 1980s. Two more characters of the same generation have lives touched by great privilege: Seryozha is the grandson of Alexander Yakovlev, who was Gorbachev’s close adviser and a longtime member of the Central Committee; Zhanna is the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, a minister under Yeltsin and a dissident murdered under Putin. All four are encountered first in childhood and referred to throughout by their childhood names. Three characters appear first as adults, with private and public lives. Alexander Dugin is a philosopher who develops an ideology of Russian exceptionalism that wins him fame and favor under Putin. Lev Gudkov is a sociologist who seeks to model the emerging new Russia. Marina Arutyunyan is a psychologist who reestablishes the practice of psychoanalysis in Russia after its disappearance under communism.
Gessen’s deft blending of these stories gives us a fresh view of recent Russian history from within, as it was experienced at the time by its people. It is a welcome perspective. In turbulent periods, anything seems possible. Only with hindsight does causality creep in, and with it the illusion of inevitability. The infinite possibilities of the moment are lost. Through the eyes of her characters, Gessen manages to restore those possibilities, to convey how it felt to imagine that life in the new Russia could go in any direction.
The tension between experience and hindsight is there within Gessen’s writing. She alternately zooms in on the lives of her characters and zooms out to give more general accounts of the major events of the time—the putsch against Gorbachev in 1991, Yeltsin’s shelling of the Russian White House in 1993, the reelection of Yeltsin as president in 1996, the handover of power to Putin in 2000, and so on. How familiar these events appear when Gessen arranges them in their historical order, and how unfamiliar they appear when we see them as fragments of experience. On one side is the historian explaining the rise of Putin as a logical reaction to the failings of Yeltsin. On the other is Masha’s mother, wondering how on earth that dull man she met while selling insurance in St. Petersburg a few years back is now the prime minister.
Gessen was born in Moscow, emigrated to America with her family as a teenager in 1981, and returned to Russia ten years later to pursue a distinguished career as a journalist and LGBT activist. She came back to America in 2013, fearing that if she stayed in Russia, official hostility toward homosexuals could result in her children being seized by the state. Russia’s persecution of homosexuals is the strand of Gessen’s book that shows Putin at his cruelest. She arranges this narrative around Lyosha, who was born near Perm in 1985, and who was fifteen, on holiday in Crimea, when he recognized himself as gay:
When he saw other boys, teenagers like himself or young men, dressed, like he was, in only a pair of small black bathing trunks, he felt heat shoot excruciatingly through his body and a thrilling invisible shiver set in. It happened every day after that first time…. I am a pervert, he thought. I am sick. I am the only person in the world who feels this way.
The early post-Soviet period was not the very worst of times to be gay in Russia. Between 1989 and 1994, according to surveys conducted by the Russian sociologist Yuri Levada, support for “liquidating deviants” fell from 31 percent to 23 percent. It fell again to 15 percent in 1999, shortly before Lyosha had his realization. Homosexuality was no longer illegal. Teachers and doctors could talk about it if they wanted to. Lyosha did not much want to talk, but after a horrible beating from a local thug who was tipped off by a suspicious classmate, he opened up to a school counselor and discovered the liberating power of a sympathetic ear. He returned energized to his studies, graduated with distinction, and came out.
Lyosha built an academic career as a pioneer of gender and LGBT studies at Perm University, but when government-sanctioned hate campaigns made his work impossible and put his life in danger, he left the country. The sadistic murder in 2013 of a young gay man in Volgograd made a deep impression on him, and Gessen’s account of it will make a deep impression on you too. Whatever Putin’s legacy, it includes—among other results of his state-approved homophobia—three bloody beer bottles and one dead boy.
Demonizing homosexuality is, most obviously, a way for Putin to assert Russia’s superiority over the West. The West’s acceptance of homosexuality is given as proof of its moral and social collapse. Putin also sees, correctly, that the equality of all sexual orientations is widely proclaimed in the West but not uniformly accepted, allowing Russia to pose as a beacon of hope for Western reactionaries. To make homosexuality seem truly evil even to Russians who had ceased to think of it as such, Putin conflated it with pedophilia. If, in the age-old anti-Semitic narrative, “they” were conspiring to steal the nation’s money, in Putin’s anti-gay narrative “they” are conspiring to steal the nation’s children.
As Gessen recounts, Putin encountered few obstacles in selling this notion to the public. Politicians competed to imagine new crimes with which LGBT people could be charged and new punishments for them. Even to contest the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia marked the objector as a friend of the pedophile conspiracy. The crudeness and viciousness of views expressed in parliament and the media verged on the medieval. According to Dmitry Kiselev, a host on state-owned television: “If [gays] should die in a car accident, we need to bury their hearts underground or burn them; they are unsuitable for the aiding of anyone’s life.”
I suppose it is worth pointing out that just as my banker friend did not think Putin to be personally anti-Semitic, so I doubt that Putin hungers to murder homosexuals with his own bare hands. He might even enjoy the company of a gay grandson. When Oliver Stone asked him a question about gay rights in a recent series of interviews, Putin responded much as a middle-aged Western male might have responded forty years ago, jocularly and gingerly:
Putin: Sometimes I visit events where people publicly declare that they’re homosexuals, these events are attended by such people and we communicate and have good relations.
Stone: Is that true in the military as well?
Putin: There’s no restriction.
Stone: No restriction in the military? I mean, if you’re taking a shower in a submarine and you know he’s gay, do they have a problem with that?
Putin: [laughs] Well, I prefer not to go to the shower with him. Why provoke him?
At such moments, thinking of a young man on a park bench in Volgograd with three beer bottles up his rectum, you have to wonder about the mixture in Putin’s character of the stupid, the brilliant, the evil, and the naive.
While Lyosha very wisely gets out of Russia, Seryozha gets by there, Zhanna gets on, and Masha gets involved with the 2011 protest movement organized by Boris Nemtsov—Zhanna’s father—and by Alexei Navalny, a younger dissident. It is an uneasy alliance. Navalny is a nationalist, whereas Nemtsov is the last and best survivor of Yeltsin-era liberalism, perhaps the last true liberal to have held any meaningful political power in Russia. When Nemtsov is murdered within sight of the Kremlin in 2015, apparently for his opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Zhanna blames the killing squarely on Putin. Others report that Putin is both surprised and angered by Nemtsov’s murder, less because he has any affection for Nemtsov than because a high-profile assassination in the center of Moscow is a direct challenge to his own monopoly on violence.
The outlier among Gessen’s seven is Alexander Dugin, the only one to favor repression, to reject freedom, to want more and better Putinism. He is too big and too strange to fit easily into the story, and instead haunts its margins. Dugin has always seemed to me a bogus thinker, a fantasist, an opportunist. But others take him seriously, and he emerges from Gessen’s account as a prodigious consumer and manipulator of philosophy and political science.
Dugin was expelled from college and has been deeply influenced by Heidegger and Hitler. He’s allegedly capable of learning a new European language in two weeks merely from reading books in that language. He appropriates the arguments of the Russian Eurasianists, including the émigré linguist Nikolai Trubetskoy and the Soviet ethnographer Lev Gumilev, to the effect that Russia’s geographical sprawl between Europe and Asia gives the nation a unique, non-Western character. Russia is not a country, but a civilization. The Russian identity belongs not to the Russian Federation but to the “Russian World,” and the West is the natural enemy of the Russian World.
Dugin had his wilderness years in the 1990s, but with the arrival of Putin his influence rocketed. His Eurasian Youth Union marched through Moscow. He was given a teaching job at Moscow State University. When, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Putin referred on television to “a Russian person, or, to speak more broadly, a person of the Russian World,” Dugin’s happiness was complete. He was putting words into Putin’s mouth that articulated in a suitably lofty manner their common vision of ethnic, cultural, and religious Russian supremacy. Dugin wants his Russian World to be totalitarian, which is to say, a world in which the state polices everybody’s thoughts as well as everybody’s actions. He opposes universal human rights and the rule of law as alien ideas from the hostile West.
Gessen claims in her title that Russia is already totalitarian. I imagine that Dugin would disagree. And from a different perspective, so would I. Take, for example, Gessen’s account of a moment after Masha has been arrested as a political protester in 2012. Under prolonged police investigation, she goes to stay in her mother-in-law’s dacha outside Moscow. The neighboring dacha belongs to a senior police officer called Natalia. The two fall into conversation:
“Hey, you are part of the Bolotnoye case, aren’t you,” she asked when they were having a cigarette Masha’s first night at the dacha. It was cool and quiet and you could see the stars.
“Yeah,” said Masha.
“Who is your investigator?”
“Ah, Timokha!” Natalia’s voice sang with the joy of recognition. “He is one of mine. I had to send three people. It’s a big case. He doing his job?”
“Oh, he is doing his job, all right.”
“Good. Say hi to him there.”
That is not my idea of how life proceeds in a totalitarian society. I sense in this brief exchange humanity and sincerity on both sides. I do not want to generalize too much from this. Many horrible things happen in Russian police stations. But totalitarianism ought surely to be total, if only among the police.
The idea of categorizing dictatorships as either authoritarian or totalitarian is a twentieth-century one. Totalitarianism took as its examples Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. The distinction was of practical significance during the cold war, when there was a political need in the West to distinguish between cruel regimes that the US supported (Pinochet’s Chile, the Shah’s Iran) and cruel regimes that the US opposed (China, the USSR). The former were deemed authoritarian, the latter totalitarian. Totalitarian regimes were beyond hope of improvement; authoritarian regimes were not.
If we accept the distinction between an authoritarian desire to control behavior and a totalitarian desire to control thought, then, as Gessen shows, Russia crossed that line some time ago under Putin. But what if you set Russia alongside North Korea? Putin wants all Russians to think like him, whereas Kim Jong-un would rather his subjects not think at all. That is not a very encouraging distinction, but at the darker end of government, it is surely one worth maintaining.
One problem with trying to understand totalitarianism is that, to the extent it succeeds, it is impenetrable to outsiders. Everything that is said and thought is the product of propaganda. Lev Gudkov, the sociologist in Gessen’s book, has a lucid account of this problem that merits quoting at some length, in Gessen’s paraphrase:
Looking from the outside in, one cannot see, for example, whether people attend a parade because they are forced to do so or because they so desire. Researchers generally assumed one or the other: either that people were passive victims or that they were fervent believers. But on the inside, both assumptions were wrong, for all the people at the parade…and for each one of them individually. They did not feel like helpless victims, but they did not feel like fanatics either. They felt normal. They were members of a society. The parades and various other forms of collective life gave them a sense of belonging that humans generally need…. They would not be lying if they said that they wanted to be part of the parade, or the collective in general—and that if they exerted pressure on others to be a part of a collective too, they did so willingly.
Another problem with trying to arrive at an account of totalitarianism—at least from a Western point of view—is that totalitarian societies are by definition the enemy, so we are not terribly interested in what their better points might be. “After the fall of the Soviet Union made it easier to study the country that had been,” Gessen writes, referring to the work of Sheila Fitzpatrick and others, “academics began noting how much richer private life had been in the USSR than they had once thought, how inconsistent and how widely disregarded the ideology, and how comparatively mild police enforcement became after Stalin’s death.”
This seems to be borne out by the lives of Gessen’s older characters. Even in the 1960s and 1970s, long before Gorbachev cracked open the old certainties, Arutyunyan the psychologist and Gudkov the sociologist were finding that Soviet academia allowed them a fair amount of room to maneuver, as long as this was exercised discreetly and deniably. For example, although you could not study the problems of Soviet society (Soviet society had only solutions), you could still study sociology so long as you pretended to be denouncing Western sociological theories, or if you called it something else. Gudkov’s mentor, Yuri Levada, was allowed to set up a department within the Academy of Sciences called the Institute for Concrete Social Studies. I also admire Gessen’s line that “the Soviet system offered not a vision of the future but the ability to know one’s future, much as tradesmen did in feudal times, and to make very small-scale, manageable decisions about the future.” If this was totalitarianism, you start to see why so many Russians wanted Putin to turn the clock back.
Gudkov argues that, in fact, the clock never moved. It was always striking thirteen. Institutions and systems designed for a totalitarian Soviet Union survived with little or no change into the new Russian state, encouraging totalitarian behavior to return through them. Elections became public displays of support for the regime, just like parades. Public protest was more frequent in Putin’s Russia than it had been in the Soviet Union, but only because the regime had reached a new understanding that street demonstrations changed nothing—on the contrary, they helped to maintain the existing order. Dissidents revealed themselves and were arrested. The rest of society was reassured by the regime’s show of power in shutting the demonstrations down.
Gudkov fears that the Soviet system has reshaped the Russian national character to such an extent that Russians can willingly recreate a totalitarian society among themselves even without compulsion from the state to do so. A corollary of that argument is that Russia can have a totalitarian society even without a totalitarian state—a useful formulation if one takes the view that the ultimate aim of the Putin regime is the accumulation of wealth even more than the accumulation of power. Thus Gessen, when she discusses the ideas of the Hungarian political scientist Bálint Magyar, can speak of Russia as a “mafia state ruling over a totalitarian society.”
With all due respect to Gessen and to Gudkov, the term “totalitarian” is being used loosely here. It may be useful to invoke the prospect of totalitarianism as a rhetorical way of alerting Russians to the fact that their government is a danger to themselves and to others. But to claim that Russia is already totalitarian is to absolve Russians in general from what is done in their name by proposing that they have been indoctrinated into acquiescence. One risks imagining a Russian nation which, freed from thought control, reveals itself to be liberal and freedom-loving. This is exactly the mistake that Westerners made when Soviet communism was on its last legs thirty years ago—and when, as Gessen so poignantly shows, what was revealed was the appetite for a newer and better dictator.
My own view of Putin is that he came to power fully intending to be an authoritarian leader but also to allow some small degree of pluralism in politics and some larger degree of liberalism in private life and business, on the purely pragmatic grounds that he knew from Soviet times the weakness of totalitarianism. He would rather be Lee Kuan Yew than Robert Mugabe. But he found it personally intolerable to be criticized, let alone thwarted, so freedom to oppose him politically soon disappeared. Economics was a closed book to Putin when he took power, but he came to understand that a thriving market economy required a well-functioning rule of law capable of constraining even government—and that was the death knell for the market economy. Freedom in private life lasted rather longer, but was eventually curtailed, most obviously in the sexual domain, when the stagnating regime needed new ways to mobilize popular support.
The theater and film director Andrei Konchalovsky, quoted by Christian Neef in Der Spiegel, sees roughly the same trajectory in Putin’s career, but attributes it to pressure from below:
Putin initially thought like a Westerner, but ultimately realized why every Russian ruler struggles to lead this nation: Because its inhabitants, in accordance with an unshakable tradition, freely delegate all their power to a single person, and then wait for that power to take care of them, without doing anything themselves.
We are close here to the dilemma of Bertolt Brecht’s poem “The Solution,” about the anti-Communist uprising in East Germany in 1953, and a thought that must have struck every observer of Russia at some time or other:
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
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John Raines, 84; was accomplice in 1971 burglary that revealed FBI abuses
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. Media rumors of his desire to retire from politics went public over the weekend with an article by The Independent. (Photo by JORGE SILVA/AFP/Getty Images)
For the last three months, rumors within Russia media circles have been circulating that Vladimir Putin might not run for president next year. He has yet to make an announcement of his candidacy. And now the Independent newspaper out of London has taken those rumors live. The cat is now out of the bag.
The takeaway: no matter if Putin wins, this is his last turn as President. In six years, at the latest, Russia will be without their longest running president since the days of the Soviet Union.
Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin advisor and head of the Effective Politics Foundation, told The Independent’s Oliver Carroll that the Putin era has entered a “terminal” phase. “Whichever way you play it, this campaign is about transitioning to a post-Putin Russia,” he told the paper.
Like all things politics, Carroll had to rely on Wall Street’s version of the “whisper numbers” regarding Putin’s desire to run again. The article may ultimately get an answer from Team Putin as to his 2018 election plans. If he runs, everybody knows he is a shoo-in. There is no effective opposition. Even Western darling Alexei Navalny barely polls at 10% and has almost no support in the Rusian parliament. His Progress Party has precisely zero seats.
One of the only real challengers to the United Russia party of Putin are the communists and the ultra-nationalist, ironically named Liberal Democrats, run by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. He would make Putin look like George W. Bush to those who have no love for Donald Trump.
The Communist Party is run by Gennady Andreyevich Zyugano. He garnered 17% of the vote in 2012, the only contender to Putin. Some argue that he is the only contender allowed to run. Others believe that even if Navalny was allowed to run for the presidency despite having no political presence in either house of Congress, that the anti-Russia rhetoric coming from the U.S. would persist. In other words, a Putin exit is by no means a white flag waving high above the Kremlin for Washington to see.
Gennady Zuganov, Russia’sn communist party leader. He came in second against Putin in 2012. Some say United Russia always puts Putin up against weak candidates. Still, Putin’s approval rating is at least 60%. (Photo by MAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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8:57 PM 11/18/2017 – John Raines, accomplice in 1971 burglary that revealed FBI abuses, died at 84 on Nov. 12 by mikenova
John Raines – Google Search Saturday November 18th, 2017 at 9:02 PM 1 Share John Raines – Google Search Saturday November 18th, 2017 at 9:01 PM John Raines – Google News 1 Share John Raines, accomplice in 1971 burglary that revealed FBI abuses … The Boston Globe–2 hours ago WASHINGTON — For 43 years, John Raines, a Temple University religion … Continue reading “8:57 PM 11/18/2017 – John Raines, accomplice in 1971 burglary that revealed FBI abuses, died at 84 on Nov. 12”
fbi – Google News: EXCLUSIVE: Was DB Cooper’s escape COVERED UP by the FBI? A letter that spent 46 years buried in the feds … – Daily Mail
EXCLUSIVE: Was DB Cooper’s escape COVERED UP by the FBI? A letter that spent 46 years buried in the feds …
fbi – Google News
Investigators: DB Cooper letter confirms suspect, FBI cover-up
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It was 1984 and General Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov had a problem. The general occupied one of the KGB’s most exalted posts. He was head of the First Chief Directorate, the prestigious KGB arm responsible for gathering foreign intelligence.
Kryuchkov had begun his career with five years at the Soviet mission in Budapest under Ambassador Yuri Andropov. In 1967 Andropov became KGB chairman. Kryuchkov went to Moscow, took up a number of sensitive posts, and established a reputation as a devoted and hardworking officer. By 1984, Kryuchkov’s directorate in Moscow was bigger than ever before—12,000 officers, up from about 3,000 in the 1960s. His headquarters at Yasenevo, on the wooded southern outskirts of the city, was expanding: Workmen were busy constructing a 22-story annex and a new 11-story building.
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In politics, change was in the air. Soon a new man would arrive in the Kremlin, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev’s policy of detente with the West—a refreshing contrast to the global confrontation of previous general secretaries—meant the directorate’s work abroad was more important than ever.
Kryuchkov faced several challenges. First, a hawkish president, Ronald Reagan, was in power in Washington. The KGB regarded his two predecessors, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, as weak. By contrast Reagan was seen as a potent adversary. The directorate was increasingly preoccupied with what it believed—wrongly—was an American plot to conduct a preemptive nuclear strike against the USSR.
It was around this time that Donald Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence. How that happened, and where that relationship began, is an answer hidden somewhere in the KGB’s secret archives. Assuming, that is, that the documents still exist.
Trump’s first visit to Soviet Moscow in 1987 looks, with hindsight, to be part of a pattern. The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele asserts that the Kremlin had been cultivating Trump for “at least five years” before his stunning victory in the 2016 US presidential election. This would take us back to around 2011 or 2012.
In fact, the Soviet Union was interested in him too, three decades earlier. The top level of the Soviet diplomatic service arranged his 1987 Moscow visit. With assistance from the KGB. It took place while Kryuchkov was seeking to improve the KGB’s operational techniques in one particular and sensitive area. The spy chief wanted KGB staff abroad to recruit more Americans.
In addition to shifting politics in Moscow, Kryuchkov’s difficulty had to do with intelligence gathering. The results from KGB officers abroad had been disappointing. Too often they would pretend to have obtained information from secret sources. In reality, they had recycled material from newspapers or picked up gossip over lunch with a journalist. Too many residencies had “paper agents” on their books: targets for recruitment who had nothing to do with real intelligence.
Kryuchkov sent out a series of classified memos to KGB heads of station. Oleg Gordievsky—formerly based in Denmark and then in Great Britain—copied them and passed them to British intelligence. He later co-published them with the historian Christopher Andrew under the title Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions: Top Secret Files on KGB Foreign Operations 1975–1985.
In January 1984 Kryuchkov addressed the problem during a biannual review held in Moscow, and at a special conference six months later. The urgent subject: how to improve agent recruitment. The general urged his officers to be more “creative.” Previously they had relied on identifying candidates who showed ideological sympathy toward the USSR: leftists, trade unionists and so on. By the mid-1980s these were not so many. So KGB officers should “make bolder use of material incentives”: money. And use flattery, an important tool.
The Center, as KGB headquarters was known, was especially concerned about its lack of success in recruiting US citizens, according to Andrew and Gordievsky. The PR Line—that is, the Political Intelligence Department stationed in KGB residencies abroad—was given explicit instructions to find “U.S. targets to cultivate or, at the very least, official contacts.” “The main effort must be concentrated on acquiring valuable agents,” Kryuchkov said.
The memo—dated February 1, 1984—was to be destroyed as soon as its contents had been read. It said that despite improvements in “information gathering,” the KGB “has not had great success in operation against the main adversary [America].”
One solution was to make wider use of “the facilities of friendly intelligence services”—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German spy networks.
And: “Further improvement in operational work with agents calls for fuller and wider utilisation of confidential and special unofficial contacts. These should be acquired chiefly among prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science.” These should not only “supply valuable information” but also “actively influence” a country’s foreign policy “in a direction of advantage to the USSR.”
There were, of course, different stages of recruitment. Typically, a case officer would invite a target to lunch. The target would be classified as an “official contact.” If the target appeared responsive, he (it was rarely she) would be promoted to a “subject of deep study,” an obyekt razrabotki. The officer would build up a file, supplemented by official and covert material. That might include readouts from conversations obtained through bugging by the KGB’s technical team.
The KGB also distributed a secret personality questionnaire, advising case officers what to look for in a successful recruitment operation. In April 1985 this was updated for “prominent figures in the West.” The directorate’s aim was to draw the target “into some form of collaboration with us.” This could be “as an agent, or confidential or special or unofficial contact.”
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The form demanded basic details—name, profession, family situation, and material circumstances. There were other questions, too: what was the likelihood that the “subject could come to power (occupy the post of president or prime minister)”? And an assessment of personality. For example: “Are pride, arrogance, egoism, ambition or vanity among subject’s natural characteristics?”
The most revealing section concerned kompromat. The document asked for: “Compromising information about subject, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself.” Plus “any other information” that would compromise the subject before “the country’s authorities and the general public.” Naturally the KGB could exploit this by threatening “disclosure.”
Finally, “his attitude towards women is also of interest.” The document wanted to know: “Is he in the habit of having affairs with women on the side?”
When did the KGB open a file on Donald Trump? We don’t know, but Eastern Bloc security service records suggest this may have been as early as 1977. That was the year when Trump married Ivana Zelnickova, a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelnickova was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA.
During the Cold War, Czech spies were known for their professionalism. Czech and Hungarian officers were typically used in espionage actions abroad, especially in the United States and Latin America. They were less obvious than Soviet operatives sent by Moscow.
Zelnickova was born in Zlin, an aircraft manufacturing town in Moravia. Her first marriage was to an Austrian real estate agent. In the early 1970s she moved to Canada, first to Toronto and then to Montreal, to be with a ski instructor boyfriend. Exiting Czechoslovakia during this period was, the files said, “incredibly difficult.” Zelnickova moved to New York. In April 1977 she married Trump.
According to files in Prague, declassified in 2016, Czech spies kept a close eye on the couple in Manhattan. (The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos.) They opened letters sent home by Ivana to her father, Milos, an engineer. Milos was never an agent or asset. But he had a functional relationship with the Czech secret police, who would ask him how his daughter was doing abroad and in return permit her visits home. There was periodic surveillance of the Trump family in the United States. And when Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., visited Milos in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, further spying, or “cover.”
Like with other Eastern Bloc agencies, the Czechs would have shared their intelligence product with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. Trump may have been of interest for several reasons. One, his wife came from Eastern Europe. Two—at a time after 1984 when the Kremlin was experimenting with perestroika, or Communist Party reform—Trump had a prominent profile as a real estate developer and tycoon. According to the Czech files, Ivana mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. Might Trump at some stage consider a political career?
The KGB wouldn’t invite someone to Moscow out of altruism. Dignitaries flown to the USSR on expenses-paid trips were typically left-leaning writers or cultural figures. The state would expend hard currency; the visitor would say some nice things about Soviet life; the press would report these remarks, seeing in them a stamp of approval.
Despite Gorbachev’s policy of engagement, he was still a Soviet leader. The KGB continued to view the West with deep suspicion. It carried on with efforts to subvert Western institutions and acquire secret sources, with NATO its No. 1 strategic intelligence target.
At this point it is unclear how the KGB regarded Trump. To become a full KGB agent, a foreigner had to agree to two things. (An “agent” in a Russian or British context was a secret intelligence source.) One was “conspiratorial collaboration.” The other was willingness to take KGB instruction.
According to Andrew and Gordievsky’s book Comrade Kryuchkov’s Instructions, targets who failed to meet these criteria were classified as “confidential contacts.” The Russian word was doveritelnaya svyaz. The aspiration was to turn trusted contacts into full-blown agents, an upper rung of the ladder.
As Kryuchkov explained, KGB residents were urged to abandon “stereotyped methods” of recruitment and use more flexible strategies—if necessary getting their wives or other family members to help.
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As Trump tells it, the idea for his first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin. This was in autumn 1986; the event was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the businessman son of Estée Lauder. Dubinin’s daughter Natalia “had read about Trump Tower and knew all about it,” Trump said in his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal.
Trump continued: “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.”
Trump’s chatty version of events is incomplete. According to Natalia Dubinina, the actual story involved a more determined effort by the Soviet government to seek out Trump. In February 1985 Kryuchkov complained again about “the lack of appreciable results of recruitment against the Americans in most Residencies.” The ambassador arrived in New York in March 1986. His original job was Soviet ambassador to the U.N.; his daughter Dubinina was already living in the city with her family, and she was part of the Soviet U.N. delegation.
Dubinin wouldn’t have answered to the KGB. And his role wasn’t formally an intelligence one. But he would have had close contacts with the power apparatus in Moscow. He enjoyed greater trust than other, lesser ambassadors.
Dubinina said she picked up her father at the airport. It was his first time in New York City. She took him on a tour. The first building they saw was Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, she told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. Dubinin was so excited he decided to go inside to meet the building’s owner. They got into the elevator. At the top, Dubinina said, they met Trump.
The ambassador—“fluent in English and a brilliant master of negotiations”—charmed the busy Trump, telling him: “The first thing I saw in the city is your tower!”
Dubinina said: “Trump melted at once. He is an emotional person, somewhat impulsive. He needs recognition. And, of course, when he gets it he likes it. My father’s visit worked on him [Trump] like honey to a bee.”
This encounter happened six months before the Estée Lauder lunch. In Dubinina’s account she admits her father was trying to hook Trump. The man from Moscow wasn’t a wide-eyed rube but a veteran diplomat who served in France and Spain, and translated for Nikita Khrushchev when he met with Charles de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace in Paris. He had seen plenty of impressive buildings. Weeks after his first Trump meeting, Dubinin was named Soviet ambassador to Washington.
Dubinina’s own role is interesting. According to a foreign intelligence archive smuggled to the West, the Soviet mission to the U.N. was a haven for the KGB and GRU (Soviet military intelligence). Many of the 300 Soviet nationals employed at the U.N. secretariat were Soviet intelligence officers working undercover, including as personal assistants to secretary-generals. The Soviet U.N. delegation had greater success in finding agents and gaining political intelligence than the KGB’s New York residency.
Dubinin’s other daughter, Irina, said that her late father—he died in 2013—was on a mission as ambassador. This was, she said, to make contact with America’s business elite. For sure, Gorbachev’s Politburo was interested in understanding capitalism. But Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow looks like a classic cultivation exercise, which would have had the KGB’s full support and approval.
In The Art of the Deal, Trump writes: “In January 1987, I got a letter from Yuri Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, that began: ‘It is a pleasure for me to relay some good news from Moscow.’ It went on to say that the leading Soviet state agency for international tourism, Goscomintourist, had expressed interest in pursuing a joint venture to construct and manage a hotel in Moscow.”
There were many ambitious real estate developers in the United States—why had Moscow picked Trump?
According to Viktor Suvorov—a former GRU military spy—and others, the KGB ran Intourist, the agency to which Trump referred. It functioned as a subsidiary KGB branch. Initiated in 1929 by Stalin, Intourist was the Soviet Union’s official state travel agency. Its job was to vet and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union. “In my time it was KGB,” Suvorov said. “They gave permission for people to visit.” The KGB’s first and second directorates routinely received lists of prospective visitors to the country based on their visa applications.
As a GRU operative, Suvorov was personally involved in recruitment, albeit for a rival service to the KGB. Soviet spy agencies were always interested in cultivating “young ambitious people,” he said—an upwardly mobile businessman, a scientist, a “guy with a future.”
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Once in Moscow, they would receive lavish hospitality. “Everything is free. There are good parties with nice girls. It could be a sauna and girls and who knows what else.” The hotel rooms or villa were under “24-hour control,” with “security cameras and so on,” Suvorov said. “The interest is only one. To collect some information and keep that information about him for the future.”
These dirty-tricks operations were all about the long term, Suvorov said. The KGB would expend effort on visiting students from the developing world, not least Africa. After 10 or 20 years, some of them would be “nobody.” But others would have risen to positions of influence in their own countries.
Suvorov explained: “It’s at this point you say: ‘Knock, knock! Do you remember the marvelous time in Moscow? It was a wonderful evening. You were so drunk. You don’t remember? We just show you something for your good memory.’”
Over in the communist German Democratic Republic, one of Kryuchkov’s 34-year-old officers—one Vladimir Putin—was busy trying to recruit students from Latin America. Putin arrived in Dresden in August 1985, together with his pregnant wife, Lyudmila, and one-year-old daughter, Maria. They lived in a KGB apartment block.
According to the writer Masha Gessen, one of Putin’s tasks was to try to befriend foreigners studying at the Dresden University of Technology. The hope was that, if recruited, the Latin Americans might work in the United States as undercover agents, reporting back to the Center. Putin set about this together with two KGB colleagues and a retired Dresden policeman.
Precisely what Putin did while working for the KGB’s First Directorate in Dresden is unknown. It may have included trying to recruit Westerners visiting Dresden on business and East Germans with relatives in the West. Putin’s efforts, Gessen suggests, were mostly a failure. He did manage to recruit a Colombian student. Overall his operational results were modest.
By January 1987, Trump was closer to the “prominent person” status of Kryuchkov’s note. Dubinin deemed Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. Another thirtysomething U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—helped put it together. On July 4, 1987, Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant.
Moscow was, Trump wrote, “an extraordinary experience.” The Trumps stayed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square. Seventy years earlier, in October 1917, Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, had spent a week in room 107. The hotel was linked to the glass-and-concrete Intourist complex next door and was— in effect—under KGB control. The Lenin suite would have been bugged.
Meanwhile, the mausoleum containing the Bolshevik leader’s embalmed corpse was a short walk away. Other Soviet leaders were interred beneath the Kremlin’s wall in a communist pantheon: Stalin, Brezhnev, Andropov—Kryuchkov’s old mentor—and Dzerzhinsky.
According to The Art of the Deal, Trump toured “a half dozen potential sites for a hotel, including several near Red Square.” “I was impressed with the ambition of Soviet officials to make a deal,” he writes. He also visited Leningrad, later St. Petersburg. A photo shows Donald and Ivana standing in Palace Square—he in a suit, she in a red polka dot blouse with a string of pearls. Behind them are the Winter Palace and the state Hermitage museum.
That July the Soviet press wrote enthusiastically about the visit of a foreign celebrity. This was Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize–winning novelist and journalist. Pravda featured a long conversation between the Colombian guest and Gorbachev. García Márquez spoke of how South Americans, himself included, sympathized with socialism and the USSR. Moscow brought García Márquez over for a film festival.
Trump’s visit appears to have attracted less attention. There is no mention of him in Moscow’s Russian State Library newspaper archive. (Either his visit went unreported or any articles featuring it have been quietly removed.) Press clippings do record a visit by a West German official and an Indian cultural festival.
The KGB’s private dossier on Trump, by contrast, would have gotten larger. The agency’s multipage profile would have been enriched with fresh material, including anything gleaned via eavesdropping.
Nothing came of the trip—at least nothing in terms of business opportunities inside Russia. This pattern of failure would be repeated in Trump’s subsequent trips to Moscow. But Trump flew back to New York with a new sense of strategic direction. For the first time he gave serious indications that he was considering a career in politics. Not as mayor or governor or senator.
Trump was thinking about running for president.
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The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow
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By Craig Osth, opinion contributor — 11/19/17 10:00 AM EST
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35 Years with the CIA: Enemies, adversaries and threats to freedom
US Ambassador to Russia Attacks Moscow’s Pending Restrictions on US-funded News Agenciesby email@example.com (Ken Bredemeier)
The U.S. ambassador to Russia on Sunday attacked Moscow’s move toward forcing nine United States government-funded news operations to register as “foreign agents” as “a reach beyond” what the U.S. government did in requiring the Kremlin-funded RT television network to register as such in the United States. Ambassador Jon Huntsman said the Russian reaction is not “reciprocal at all” and Moscow’s move toward regulation of the news agencies, if it is implemented, would make “it virtually impossible for them to operate” in Russia. WATCH: Ambassador Jon Huntsman He said the eight-decade-old Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) under which RT has registered as a foreign agent is aimed at promoting transparency, but does not restrict the television network’s operation in the United States. Russia’s lower house of parliament approved amendments Wednesday to expand a 2012 law that targets non-governmental organizations, including foreign media. A declaration as a foreign agent would require foreign media to regularly disclose their objectives, full details of finances, funding sources and staffing. Media outlets also may be required to disclose on their social platforms and internet sites visible in Russia that they are “foreign agents.” The amendments also would allow the extrajudicial blocking of websites the Kremlin considers undesirable. The Russian Justice Ministry said Thursday it had notified the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and seven separate regional outlets active in Russia they could be affected. “It isn’t at all similar to what we’re doing under FARA — it’s a reach beyond,” Huntsman said. “And, we just think the principles of free media, in any free society and democracy, are absolutely critical to our strength, health, and well-being. Freedom of speech is part of that. So, that’s why I care about the issue. That’s why we in the embassy care about the issue. And, it’s why we’re going to follow the work that is going on in the Duma and the legislation that is being drafted, very very carefully, because we’re concerned about it.” The Justice Ministry said the new requirements in Russia were likely to become law “in the near future.” VOA Director Amanda Bennett said last week that if Russia imposes the new restrictions, “We can’t say at this time what effect this will have on our news-gathering operations within Russia. All we can say is that Voice of America is, by law, an independent, unbiased, fact-based news organization, and we remain committed to those principles.” RFE/RL President Tom Kent said until the legislation becomes law, “we do not know how the Ministry of Justice will use this law in the context of our work.” Kent said unlike Sputnik and other Russian media operating in the United States, U.S. media outlets operating in Russia do not have access to cable television and radio frequencies. “Russian media in the U.S. are distributing their programs on American cable television. Sputnik has its own radio frequency in Washington. This means that even at the moment there is no equality,” he said. Serious blow to freedom The speaker of Russia’s lower house, the Duma, said last week that foreign-funded media outlets that refused to register as foreign agents under the proposed legislation would be prohibited from operating in the country. However, since the law’s language is so broad, it potentially could be used to target any foreign media group, especially if it is in conflict with the Kremlin. “We are watching carefully… to see whether it is passed and how it is implemented,” said Maria Olson, a spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. The Russian amendments, which Amnesty International said would inflict a “serious blow” to media freedom in Russia if they become law, were approved in response to a U.S. accusation that RT executed a Russian-mandated influence campaign on U.S. citizens during the 2016 presidential election, a charge the media channel denies. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in early 2017 that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed a campaign to undermine American democracy and help real estate mogul Donald Trump win the presidency. A criminal investigation of the interference is underway in the United States, as are numerous congressional probes. The foreign registration amendments must next be approved by the Russian Senate and then signed into law by Putin. RT, which is funded by the Kremlin to provide Russia’s perspective on global issues, confirmed last week it met the U.S. Justice Department’s deadline by registering as a foreign agent in the United States.
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New US Sanctions to Be Directed at Putin Personally, Piontkovsky Says by paul goble (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Staunton, November 19 – The United States is now prepared to impose “sanctions in the harshest possible form,” Andrey Piontkovsky says, thus directly affecting not only the business and political entourage of Vladimir Putin but also — and in ways that change the nature of the game — the Kremlin leader himself.
On Youtube yesterday, the émigré Russian analyst says it is his impression that the August 2 sanctions law will be carried out “in the harshest possible form” and that “what is the most revolutionary aspect of the law” is that “this will be the first case when the head of the Russian state will turn up on this list” (youtube.com/watch?v=xvbRqX5fYG0&feature=youtu.be).
The inclusion of Putin on this list is significant, Piontkovsky says, because normally such sanctions are imposed only on “absolutely hardened rogues and criminals like Milosevich, the Sudanese president, someone from Equatorial Guinea and so on.” For Putin to be on this list and for the Americans to put him there is thus a breakthrough.
He adds that US President Donald Trump, although he has opposed this measure despite signing it, “will not be able to interfere with the imposition of sanctions. “This is a government law,” and any effort “to sabotage it” will have the most serious consequences for the incumbent of the White House.
In other comments, Piontkovsky argues that the approximately one trillion US dollars in illegal earnings of Russians now stashed abroad must be returned to “the first post-mafia government of Russia,” something requiring more changes in Russia than just a move to a “post-Putin” one.
It is a mistake to over-personalize things in the Russian case, he suggests. Putin may leave office but “the essence of this mafia system will not change” as a result by that alone. But seizing the assets of Putin and other Russians held abroad via the new sanctions law will help promote the necessary changes in Russia and bring closer the day these assets can be returned.
Israel PM: Security Must Come First in Any Peace Planby email@example.com (Associated Press)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has made clear to the U.S. that Israel’s security concerns must come first as the White House tries to restart a peace process with the Palestinians. His comments Sunday came after Israeli news reports claiming to detail the peace plan under development. At a weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said “we heard plenty of speculation this weekend” about President Donald Trump’s peace efforts. He then declined to comment, saying only that “my position on this plan will be determined according to Israel’s security and national interests.” Trump took office with hopes of forging what he calls the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. The last round of peace talks collapsed in 2014.
Mark Osler, Board of Contributors: Mueller investigation team lean, organized, smart | Board Of Contributors
There is a lot we don’t know about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. Most importantly, we don’t know who will be implicated and charged beyond the three men already indicted (Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopolous). We don’t know how broad the investigation has become. And we certainly don’t know if President Trump will be implicated at all.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to observe, and what I see is the outline of a remarkable organization at work. The Mueller team is like a clock: it offers simple information to the public, but a lot of whirring gears and intricate machinery is hidden from view. While we don’t know much about these inner workings, there is much to consider from what we can see on the outside.
First, there is broad consensus that Mueller hired a remarkable team. He cherry-picked from the ranks of the Department of Justice and private firms to get people with singular experience and remarkable talent. For example, I have long told people that Michael Dreeben — a veteran DOJ hand who has argued more than 100 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court — is the best appellate lawyer I have ever seen. He was opposing counsel (working for the George W. Bush administration) in a series of sentencing cases I was involved in, and his talents were prodigious. When Mueller pulled him in, I knew he was hiring for talent rather than partisanship.
Moreover, Mueller has kept the team relatively lean. According to Politico, he now has 17 lawyers on board. Contrast that with Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton, which peaked at a staff of 225 including employees from the DOJ, people detailed from other agencies and outside consultant and advisers. The lean staffing has probably helped prevent leaks, too. The discipline shown by the Mueller team stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s squad, which has sometimes been fractious and even was caught loudly discussing strategy at an outside table at a DC restaurant adjacent to the New York Times office.
Second, the Mueller team seems to be playing chess three moves ahead. One aspect of that strategic thinking became clear in the last few months: They are working around the president’s pardon power by constructing their investigation in such a way that it cannot be foiled by clemency. For example, consider the way that they handled Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. He was arrested this past July for lying to the FBI and immediately began cooperating with Mueller. Rather than trumpeting this catch, they kept it very quiet; they bled him dry of information before giving him his deal and only recently unsealed the documents that revealed his plea. Pardoning him wasn’t even on the radar till it was too late. The investigators already had nearly everything of value that he might have to offer.
Similarly, the indictment of Paul Manafort reveals Mueller’s strategy. While the indictment lays out facts that would seem to support charges of tax fraud and tax evasion, those were not among the actual charges. That allows a way to foil a Trump presidential pardon: Mueller could, post-pardon, either go after those new charges or work with state authorities to bring them in state court, where they are unreachable by presidential clemency (which only applies to federal charges). When I was a federal prosecutor in Detroit, we used a similar technique against serial bank robbers. We (the feds) would take half the robberies to the grand jury and pursue the case to conviction (the sentence would usually be about the same as if we included all of the robberies). If something went wrong, we still had another shot with the remaining half, which could be pursued in federal court or sent to the state for prosecution.
Finally, the Mueller team seems to have one of the most essential prosecutorial virtues of all: patience. Often, there is public or political pressure to charge a lot of people quickly, but that can lead to weak cases and mistrials or acquittals. Patience allows the prosecution team to gradually build up cases and sequentially “flip” witnesses, assuring that there is plenty of evidence on each element of a crime before the public fight begins. Certainly, Mueller could have charged a broad group of defendants at once, perhaps even with cookie-cutter charges. That he declined to do so is a sign of experience and wisdom.
Most outcomes of the special counsel’s work are yet to be revealed. What is evident already, however, is the work of a skilled lawyer expertly using the tools of his trade. It is important to remember that such work often results in not charging people who are under public suspicion — and that can be justice, too.
A former federal prosecutor, Mark Osler is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He has advocated for sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity. He formerly served on the Baylor Law School faculty.
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The Boston Globe–2 hours ago
WASHINGTON — For 43 years, John Raines, a Temple University religion professor and ordained Methodist minister, lived with an explosive …
New York Times–Nov 17, 2017
One day in May 1971, John C. Raines, a religion professor at Temple University, had just returned to his home in Germantown, Pa., from …
<a href=”http://Philly.com” rel=”nofollow”>Philly.com</a>–Nov 13, 2017
John Raines, a teacher and cleric who believed the FBI had illegally spied on civil rights leaders and antiwar protesters, drove the getaway car.
<a href=”http://Philly.com” rel=”nofollow”>Philly.com</a>–Nov 16, 2017
As the sun set on March 8, 1971, two central figures in the burglary plot — John Raines, a tall and distinguished looking religion professor at …
Bend Bulletin–17 hours ago
John Raines with his wife, Bonnie, and their grandchildren at home in Media, Pa., Jan. 2, 2014. Raines, a Temple University religion professor …
Temple News–Nov 14, 2017
John Raines, a professor emeritus of religion, died in his Philadelphia home on Sunday from congestive heart failure, the Inquirer reported.
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WASHINGTON — For 43 years, John Raines, a Temple University religion professor and ordained Methodist minister, lived with an explosive secret. On March 8, 1971, he and his wife, Bonnie Raines, then the parents of three young children, had joined six other conspirators in burglarizing an FBI office in suburban Philadelphia.
The cache of documents they stole revealed a sweeping campaign of intimidation by the FBI, then led by J. Edgar Hoover, against civil rights and antiwar activists, communists, and other dissenters. One now-infamous document told agents to ramp up interviews with perceived subversives ‘‘to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.’’
Calling themselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, the burglars anonymously distributed the stolen documents to newspapers including the Washington Post. On March 24, 1971, over the objections of Attorney General John Mitchell, the Post became the first publication to report on the FBI surveillance. Other news accounts followed, along with public outrage, and eventually the formation of a committee led by US Senator Frank Church, an Idaho Democrat, that uncovered widespread abuses in the US intelligence agencies.
Hundreds of FBI agents investigated the break-in but failed to identify the burglars, who, if apprehended, would have faced years in prison. Only years after the fact — long after the statute of limitations had expired — did Dr. Raines revealed his identity to Betty Medsger, the Post journalist who had broken the news of the stolen documents.
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In 2014, Medsger published a book-length account of the story, ‘‘The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.’’ In an interview, she described the actions of Dr. Raines and his wife as ‘‘one of the most powerful acts of resistance in the history of the country.’’
Her account helped make Dr. Raines, by then in the final years of his life, a hero to civil libertarians. He died Nov. 12 at his home in Philadelphia at 84. The cause was congestive heart failure, according to his wife.
Dr. Raines credited his wife with drawing him into their activism. ‘‘I was dragged along by her enthusiasm,’’ he once told the Los Angeles Times — an account she seemed to confirm, quipping that ‘‘he had more sleepless nights’’ than she did. But Dr. Raines also had a long history of civil rights work.
He had participated in the Freedom Rides to challenge segregation in interstate transit and marched in Selma, Ala., in 1965, when state troopers assaulted protesters with clubs and tear gas. He was angered by Hoover’s antagonism to the movement, and to the untouchable status the FBI director maintained.
‘‘Nobody in Washington was going to hold him accountable,’’ Dr. Raines told NPR in 2014. ‘‘It was his FBI, nobody else’s.’’
With his wife, Dr. Raines had broken into draft board offices to disrupt the Vietnam War draft. But no act of civil disobedience was as daring as the break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pa.
The Raineses were recruited by a Haverford College physics professor, William Davidon, who knew of their protest activities. ‘‘After the chin came off the floor and we started talking about it, it seemed more and more plausible,’’ Dr. Raines recalled.
The conspirators plotted the break-in from the Raineses’ attic. Bonnie Raines, who ran a day care, managed to gain entry and survey the FBI office in advance by posing as a college student seeking information about employment opportunities. In the event of their arrest and imprisonment, the couple arranged for Dr. Raines’s brother to care for their children.
The group scheduled the break-in to coincide with a boxing match in which Joe Frazier would defeat Muhammad Ali — astutely predicting that the momentous sporting event would distract neighbors of the FBI office as well as police. Without much trouble, they used a crowbar to break in, then carried out more than 1,000 files in suitcases. Dr. Raines drove the getaway car to a Quaker farm, where they donned gloves and began combing through the documents.
‘‘Within an hour, we knew we hit the jackpot,’’ Raines recalled.
The documents contained early evidence of COINTELPRO, short for Counterintelligence Program, which, the FBI later acknowledged, was ‘‘rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging First Amendment rights.’’
Among other revelations, the materials showed that the FBI had systematically surveilled and harassed African-Americans, particularly civil rights activists.
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A major crackdown led to the arrest of more than 200 alleged members and associates of the international street gang, MS-13, officials announced Wednesday.
“Today I am pleased to announce the arrest of 267 MS-13 gang members and associates in conjunction of ICE’s most recent targeted anti-gang effort known as ‘Operation Raging Bull,’” Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said, NBC News reports.
The Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13, began in the 1980s in Los Angeles. Since then, the FBI said its spread to 46 states, according to the BBC. Its members—which Trump has referred to as “animals”—have also spread to Canada, Mexico, and Central America.
Suspected members of the gang MS-13 remain handcuffed under custody at Isidro Menendez Justice Court in San Salvador, on September 12, 2017. Security forces in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala on Monday and Tuesday arrested more than 1,000 suspected gang members and seized 35 properties, after discovering the gangs were using small businesses they extorted to also launder money. Marvin Reckons/AFP/Getty Images
Trump–who hopes to “destroy” the violent gang–came one step closer, as authorities announced the conclusion of the second phase of “Operation Raging Bull.” The first part of the operation involved an 18-month investigation, which led to the arrest of 53 individuals in El Salvador.
The second phase was conducted across the United States from Oct. 8 to Nov. 11. It resulted in 214 arrests—including 16 U.S. citizens and 198 foreign nationals— with alleged MS-13 ties, Reutersreports. Among the foreign nationals, 5 were legal residents. Criminal charges against them include murder, aggravated robbery, racketeering, narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses and assault, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted about the federal crackdown: “Together, we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities, and we’re going to destroy the vile criminal cartel, #MS13, and many other gangs…” he wrote, accompanied by a link to an article, as well as, a news conference video clip.
A few weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed the MS-13 a priority for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).
“Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus. I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13—not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws,” Sessions said to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Philadelphia on Oct. 23.
Despite the hundreds of arrests, there’s still more work to be done.
“This is a great operation, but we are not done,” Homan said, NBC News reports. “And we will not be done until we totally dismantle this organization. The President of the United States has made this a priority and ICE joins him in this.”
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Fake news tweets and social media posts that flooded the internet leading up to the 2016 presidential election came from a Russian troll factory that works around the clock like any IT facility—except lies were pumping out to control the American mind and put Donald Trump in the White House.
The Internet Research Agency, which works on behalf of Russia inside a guarded, concrete building in St. Petersburg, has day and night shifts and hundreds of former journalists and bloggers creating thousands of posts with false and controversial information to reach certain quotas.
It was “a merry-go-round of lies,” Vitaly Bespalov, 26, who worked at the agency, told NBC News. “When you get on the carousel, you do not know who is behind you and neither you are aware of who is in front of you—but all of you are running around within the same circle.”
Early this month, Twitter testified before Congress and provided the Senate Intelligence Committee with more than 2,700 accounts tied to the agency, while Facebook identified more than 80,000 pieces of content linked to the agency. Meanwhile, Google found about $4,700 worth of search-and-display ads with dubious Russian ties.
The U.S. intelligence community has said that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin with ties to the country’s intelligence is likely financing the agency.
Bespalov, who was tasked primarily with discrediting Ukraine, said he believes the agency is linked to the Kremlin.
In his role, Bespalov said he was told to create fake social media accounts and that those of girls got more views.
“We would put name, surname, city … any photo of an attractive girl that I would have managed to find on the internet and then links … all sorts of links,” he said. “Then the girls would get blocked eventually and you would start afresh.”
Some of the agency’s fake accounts pushing pro-Russia sentiment became pro-Trump as early as December 2015, according to the U.S. intelligence community. Trump went on to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Trolls were grouped by tasks—such as blogging, commenting on posts and publishing content on social media—and separated accordingly across the floors, and had no contact with each other. Employees in the department targeting the U.S. earned between $1,300 and $2,000 per month, more than entry-level trolls who received about $1,000 per month plus bonuses.
“These troll farms can produce such a volume of content with hashtags and topics that it distorts what is normal organic conversation,” Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told NBC News.
Twitter users in swing states in the U.S. received more fake news than real stories in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election, and the misinformation helped Trump win become president, according to an Oxford University study.
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Head of Puerto Rico’s electric utility resigns amid questions about slow repairs in hurricane’s wake – Washington Post
Head of Puerto Rico’s electric utility resigns amid questions about slow repairs in hurricane’s wake
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4:01 AM 11/18/2017 – Top Russian Official Tried to Broker ‘Backdoor’ Meeting Between Trump and Putin – New York Times by mikenova
Saved Stories Saved Stories – None Trump, Putin, and the Mob – Google News: Top Russian Official Tried to Broker ‘Backdoor’ Meeting Between Trump and Putin – New York Times Trump – Google News: Trump Names Supreme Court Candidates for a Nonexistent Vacancy – New York Times Kushner told Congress he did not recall campaign … Continue reading “4:01 AM 11/18/2017 – Top Russian Official Tried to Broker ‘Backdoor’ Meeting Between Trump and Putin – New York Times”
4:33 AM 11/18/2017 – Have I got a bridge in Brooklyn just for you! Or: The Kazakh soap opera with Trump ties by mikenova
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Manafort didn’t just consult for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine — he also helped them form a new party – Business Insider
Manafort didn’t just consult for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine — he also helped them form a new party
russian organized crime in us – Google News: Kushner failed to disclose outreach from Putin ally to Trump campaign – NBCNews.com
Kushner failed to disclose outreach from Putin ally to Trump campaign
russian organized crime in us – Google News
trump investigated by the fbi – Google News: Kushner received emails from Sergei Millian — an alleged dossier source who was in touch with George Papadopoulos – Business Insider
Kushner received emails from Sergei Millian — an alleged dossier source who was in touch with George Papadopoulos
trump investigated by the fbi – Google News
Russia influence in Eastern Europe – Google News: Putin’s game plan to seize European territory by DISTRACTING world, ex KGB spy claims – Express.co.uk
Putin’s game plan to seize European territory by DISTRACTING world, ex KGB spy claims
Russia influence in Eastern Europe – Google News
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Donald Trump | The Guardian: Trump’s Panama tower used for money-laundering by condo owners, reports say by Rory Carroll
Trump Ocean Club drew people accused of corruption and future president benefited from laundered funds, reports say
The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower soars over Panama City bay, a 70-storey skyscraper shaped like a sail. Donald Trump’s first international hotel venture, it opened in 2011, a mix of condominiums, hotel rooms and a casino.
As one of the tallest structures in Latin America, it was a bold and lucrative expression of the Trump brand, earning him as much as $13.9m in management fees and royalties in the last three years.
Donald Trump | The Guardian
Putin and American political process – Google News: Roberts: Have I got a bridge in Brooklyn just for you! – Danville Commercial News
Roberts: Have I got a bridge in Brooklyn just for you!
Putin and American political process – Google News
“Dear Donald: If you really believe me, if you think us Russians didn’t try to tilt the election in your favor, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. It’s in Brooklyn. Yours faithfully, Vlad.”
That note could well have been waiting for President Trump as he returned from his lengthy trip to Asia, where he continued to pursue his deranged and dangerous attempts to deny Russian involvement in last year’s election. His statements reveal a man deeply committed to a post-truth world — a place where facts and fact-finders don’t matter, and he alone, the Twitter King, gets to define reality.
Even worse, his attempts at denial are profoundly un-American, rejecting the consensus view of his own intelligence agencies while swallowing the disinformation spread by the Russian ruler, a tyrant who has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for democratic values and exceeds even Trump in assaulting his media and political critics.
Putin lies. Trump believes. And the world laughs. On what planet does this Make America Great Again?
As Sen. John McCain said: “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. … Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.”
Last January, America’s intelligence agencies issued a joint report concluding that Moscow had tried to influence the U.S. election. Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to probe those influences more deeply.
“The president was given clear and indisputable evidence” of Russia’s role, says James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, and yet Trump continues to reject that evidence, fearing it could undermine the legitimacy of his election. He fired FBI director James Comey in a failed attempt to sidetrack ongoing investigations, and during his Asia trip, returned yet again to a topic that clearly burns him to the core.
That “clear and indisputable evidence” is really an “artificial Democratic hit job,” he told reporters, adding that the intelligence chiefs who produced the report are “political hacks.” His critics are all “haters and fools” who don’t understand the importance of refurbishing relations with Russia. Putin vehemently denies any knowledge of election meddling, and Trump believes his denials.
The reaction was so negative that Trump backtracked slightly, saying he accepted the findings of the intelligence agencies, but he clearly doesn’t. His ego is so huge and so fragile that he denies any fact that contradicts his worldview.
Putin knows and exploits this character flaw. The former KGB officer is a “trained liar and manipulator,” said former deputy CIA director Michael Morell to the Washington Post, and Trump is swallowing his propaganda “hook, line and sinker.”
Trump knows Putin helped him and is grateful for the boost in defeating “crooked Hillary.” But because Putin denies the help, and Trump gratefully accepts the denial — bolstering the argument he won on his own — the president is even further in Putin’s debt. A brilliant KGB double play. And that’s what has intelligence experts so worried.
“I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump’s interest in being flattered,” former CIA director John Brennan told CNN. “And I also think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations.”
The president’s refusal to confront Putin, while eagerly embracing the Russian leader’s lies, “demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint,” says Brennan.
In Trump’s view, the “artificial Democratic hit job” is hindering his ability to forge a new relationship with Russia and solve a range of problems, including North Korea’s nuclear threat. “It’s a shame because people will die because of it,” he complained.
And normally, improving relationships with Moscow would certainly advance America’s interests. But these are not normal times. Putin has proven, over and over again, from Ukraine to Syria, that he is no friend to America or to democratic values.
“I don’t know why the ambiguity about this,” said Brennan. “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is, I think is astounding, and in fact, poses a peril to this country.”
So Donald, about that bridge …
Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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russian organized crime in us – Google News: Civil suit becomes Kazakh soap opera with Trump ties – Miami Herald
Civil suit becomes Kazakh soap opera with Trump ties
russian organized crime in us – Google News
Lawmakers asked Jared Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27. | Thomas Peter/Getty Images
By KYLE CHENEY
Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about WikiLeaks and about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” and forwarded them to another campaign official, according to a letter to his attorney from the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Kushner failed to turn over the relevant documents when they asked for them last month.
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“We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the Committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete,” the pair wrote in a letter dated Thursday to Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell.
Lowell said in a statement that he and Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, had been responsive to the requests.
“We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner’s calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request,” Lowell said, adding that he and Kushner had also told the committee they would be open to additional requests for information.
In a section of the letter titled “Missing documents,” Grassley and Feinstein said Kushner had handed over some materials but omitted communications that mentioned some of the people connected to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“If, as you suggest, Mr. Kushner was unaware of, for example, any attempts at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, then presumably there would be few communications concerning many of the persons identified,” the lawmakers wrote.
Grassley and Feinstein also alluded to documents they received from other witnesses on which Kushner was copied.
“Other parties have produced September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr. Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official,” they wrote. “Such documents should have been produced…but were not.
“Likewise,” the letter continued, “other parties have produced documents concerning a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ which Mr. Kushner also forwarded. And still others have produced communications with Sergei Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner. Again, these do not appear in Mr. Kushner’s production despite being responsive to the second request. You also have not produced any phone records that we presume exist and would relate to Mr. Kushner’s communications regarding several requests.”
They asked Kushner to turn over all responsive documents by Nov. 27.
According to the lawmakers, Kushner’s attorney suggested providing some documents might “implicate the president’s Executive Privilege.” In their letter, they asked Lowell to resolve those issues and produce the documents or create a “privilege log” to detail over which documents the president is asserting executive privilege.
Grassley and Feinstein also said Kushner declined to produce documents connected to his security clearance application, citing their confidentiality. The lawmakers said they intend to take Lowell up on a separate request to visit his office to review the documents in person, but they said the committee would not waive its request to obtain its own copies.
The committee is also seeking another broad group of documents about Kushner’s contacts with former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Grassley and Feinstein said they’d like all communications between Kushner and Flynn since Election Day 2016, as well as any communications that reference email hacking, Russia, the Magnitsky Act and other people or entities that have been implicated in the Russian interference scheme.
The lawmakers said they have yet to receive access to Kushner’s lengthy interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee and are seeking a copy of it from Lowell to determine “whether the transcript satisfies the needs of our investigation.”
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Russia blocked the extension of the U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Washington Post reported. Russia’s representative to the Security Council vetoed a resolution that the U.S. introduced to prolong the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), the U.N. probe created to find the responsible parties for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Russia had criticized the JIM’s latest report for blaming the Syrian government for the April sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. The investigation’s term expired on Thursday.
China reiterated its position that the U.S. and South Korea should stop conducting joint military exercises in exchange for a freeze in North Korean nuclear testing, the Post reported. The White House said President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to disagree about the proposed approach. Earlier this week, Trump said Xi had told him the freeze-for-freeze proposal would not work. In response, China insisted it still supported the proposal. Separately, North Korea’s envoy to the U.N. said it would not begin negotiations about its nuclear program unless the U.S. and South Korea end their military exercises, according to Reuters. He also said he expected the U.S. to impose more sanctions in the coming months.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump campaign to obtain Russia-related documents from several top officials, the Wall Street Journal reported. Despite the Trump campaign’s insistence that it is cooperating with the special counsel inquiry, in mid-October Mueller’s team issued an order requesting documents from at least a dozen senior campaign aides for documents and emails containing Russia-related keywords. Separately, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Jared Kushner received emails in September 2016 about Wikileaks and about a Russian “overture,” Politico reported. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein requested the emails in a letter they sent to Kushner’s attorney on Thursday.
George Papadopoulos bragged to Greek journalists last year about a phone call with Donald Trump relating to his role in the Trump campaign, Politico reported. The claims would contradict assertions from senior Trump campaign leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Papadopoulos was not an important part of the campaign. Papadopoulos also told journalists in Greece that he was authorized to represent the campaign to foreign leaders.
Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s former ambassador to the United States, said he could not name all the Trump campaign officials he has met or spoken with, CNBC reported. In an interview with a Russian news channel, Kislyak said naming all Trump officials he had interactions with would take over twenty minutes. Kisylak’s undisclosed meeting with Jeff Sessions prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation last March.
A suicide bombing in Kabul killed twelve people in a blast near a meeting for one of the country’s leading political parties, the Post reported. The Islamic State issued an unsubstantiated claim of responsibility for the bombing while the Taliban denied involvement.
Saad Hariri, the recently-resigned former Lebanese prime minister, accepted an invitation to make an official visit to France, the Post reported. After meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Riyadh, Hariri said he would visit Paris “soon.” Lebanon’s president has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. On Wednesday, Hariri said he would return to Lebanon within two days, a deadline that has now expired. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, emphasized that the French invitation was not an offer of political exile.
The Pentagon is developing plans for a ballistic missile that would violate the terms of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Journal reported. U.S. officials said the proposed design is not intended for production but rather to showcase to Russia how the U.S. would respond if Russia continues to violate the INF Treaty. Top Defense Department officials have said that the Russian-deployed cruise missile is in breach of the treaty’s terms. For its part, Russia says U.S. missile defense systems in Europe are in violation of the agreement.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the leading opposition party, consolidating power for Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the Journal. The Prime Minister’s government had sued the Cambodian National Rescue Party after accusing its leader of treason in connection with an alleged plot for a U.S.-backed coup. The Supreme Court’s action makes Cambodia a one-party state; the high court’s judges are widely viewed as allies of the prime minister, says the Journal. A European Union spokesperson said the move made Cambodia’s upcoming election process illegitimate.
A Human Rights Watch report said Myanmar’s military systematically raped Rohingya Muslim women and girls, the New York Times reported. The report, based on interviews with 52 Rohingya women and girls, said uniformed military personnel raped hundreds of people before and during attacks on Rohingya villages. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently called on Myanmar to investigate reports of atrocities committed by its security forces. A Times report from last month details, with graphic images and witness accounts, the atrocities that the military has perpetrated against the Rohingya. The U.N. has called the atrocities ethnic cleansing.
The Senate passed the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, according to Reuters. The $700 billion defense spending bill will now go to the White House for the president’s signature or veto. Trump is expected to sign the bill.
Russia’s justice ministry warned U.S. media outlets they might have to register as foreign agents under the terms of a bill that will soon go to the upper house of Russia’s parliament, the BBC reported. The ministry warned outlets associated with Voice of America and Radio Free Europe that they could face restrictions on their operations if they fail to register under and abide by new regulations. The proposed law is in retaliation for the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Russia-backed RT and Sputnik.
The State Department said the U.S. would consider removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, according to the Times. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Sudan’s removal from the list was conditional on it making further progress in cooperation with the U.S. against terrorism and on human rights issues.
The New York Times Magazine’s Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal wrote about the uncounted civilian toll of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Karen Young argued that the Saudi anti-corruption purge has overshadowed the slow progress in Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda.
Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, covering among other issues, an en banc FISC decision and the NDAA.
Daniel Byman, Sarah Tate Chambers, Zann Isacson and Chris Mirasole set the stage for their upcoming series on regulating terrorist content on the Internet.
Benjamin Wittes shared the “DMs on the DL” edition of Rational Security.
Jimmy Chalk updated Water Wars, covering Trump’s Asia trip.
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We have now entered the second phase of the Russia probe. In the first, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, starting from scratch, gathered sufficient evidence to file felony charges against Paul Manafort, Rick 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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Los Angeles Times
The Russia probe has entered Phase 2
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.
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
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.”
SOLD “LIKE HOT CAKES”
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 Keeps Failing To Disclose Connections With Russians
New York Post
Jared Kushner still waiting on permanent security clearance | New …
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.”
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.
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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