5:17 PM 11/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: Rudy Giuliani – Google News: Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial – U.S. News & World Report

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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial | Business News
Feinstein asks for Russia records from Trump campaign aides – The Hill

Rudy Giuliani – Google News: Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial – U.S. News & World Report

Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial – U.S. News & World Report
Lawsuit seeks details of Trump administration’s policies on surveilling journalists – Washington Post
Special counsel delays grand jury testimony amid signs of Flynn deal talks
Today’s Headlines and Commentary
How Vladimir Putin sees the world
How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter – Business Insider
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap – Daily Beast
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe – Business Insider
Senate Russia investigation: Dianne Feinstein requests new documents
Historian Of Stalin’s Crimes, On Trial On Child Pornography Charges, Seeks Release To House Arrest
Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz Says ‘Putin Owns Trump’ – Newsweek
Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? Mother Jones
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign – Baltimore Sun
Wednesday’s Morning Email: Latest Missile Launch From North Korea Appears To Put Entire Continental U.S. In Range
‘Be advised he is an active shooter’: Police radio traffic reveals Costco terror – Kansas City Star
Tampa police arrest suspect Howell Emanuel Donaldson III in Seminole Heights killings
Inside the White House, Michael Flynn pushed proposal from company he said he had advised
Gunman killed in Reno after firing shots from high-rise condo
Lenexa Costco shooting: dispatch recordings reveal terror

 

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial | Business News
 

mikenova shared this story .

In this courtroom sketch, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Denton points at defendant Mehmet Hakan Atilla, right, during opening arguments of a trial, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in New York federal court. Denton said Atilla, deputy CEO of Halkbank, was the architect of a “massively successful” scheme to dupe U.S. banks into letting Iran move money around the world. Judge Richard Berman is seated at the bench, background left. (Elizabeth Williams via AP) The Associated Press

By TOM HAYS and LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A Turkish-Iranian gold trader testified at a New York trial Wednesday that he paid over $50 million in bribes to Turkey’s finance minister in 2012 to overcome a banker’s fears he was too popular in Turkey to launder Iranian money and evade U.S. sanctions.

Reza Zarrab, 34, calmly described his 2012 encounters with one of Turkey’s most important public officials as he began what will be several days on the witness stand at the trial of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who is charged in a conspiracy that involved bribes and kickbacks to high-level officials.

Zarrab’s decision to cooperate with U.S. investigators — revealed Tuesday — was a surprise twist in a prosecution that seemed in jeopardy just months earlier after Zarrab tried to free himself by hiring prominent and politically connected American attorneys to try to arrange a prisoner transfer between Turkey and the United States.

Zarrab said he began cooperating after efforts by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey failed. In the spring, prosecutors seemed alarmed after learning that Giuliani and Mukasey would meet with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top U.S. officials to try to broker a deal.

With Zarrab as a powerful addition to their arsenal of evidence, prosecutors wasted no time in getting him to name names and muddy reputations in the banking industry and in government.

Testifying with an American flag behind him, Zarrab answered questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sidhardha Kamaraju as the prosecutor elicited details of what the United States has said was a well-orchestrated conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran and enable $1 billion in Iranian oil proceeds to move through international banking markets.

Zarrab said he ran into resistance from a Halkbank executive when he approached the Turkey government-owned bank in late 2011 or early 2012 to try to gain access to Iranian money through trades in gold.

The executive, he said, feared that Zarrab’s marriage to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes made him too popular and transparent to make gold trades.

Feeling unjustly rejected, he said he met with Zafer Caglayan, Turkey’s finance minister. He said Caglayan told him he would broker gold trades in return for half the profits.

Zarrab said he paid Caglayan over $50 million to broker the trades and that Caglayan’s involvement overcame the bank’s resistance.

Caglayan is indicted in the case. The indictment describes his alleged role in the gold-transfer scheme and in another scheme in which he and other Turkish government officials supposedly approved of and directed the movement of Iranian oil proceeds by claiming they were in connection with the sale of food and medicine to Iran from Dubai.

Erdogan has called on American authorities to “review” the decision to indict Caglayan, saying the former minister had not engaged in any wrongdoing because Turkey had not imposed sanctions on Iran, an important trade partner.

Zarrab took the stand wearing tan scrubs a month after pleading guilty to seven crimes, including conspiracy, violating U.S. sanctions, bank fraud, money laundering and paying a bribe to a prison guard to get alcohol and the use of a cellphone.

Atilla, a 47-year-old former deputy CEO of Halkbank, has pleaded not guilty. A lawyer for Atilla attacked Zarrab’s credibility Tuesday during opening statements, saying the trial is about Zarrab’s crimes.

As he testified, Zarrab described his 2016 arrest as he arrived in the U.S. for a trip to Disney World with his wife and daughter.

He said he initially lied to U.S. authorities when he was confronted with crimes.

“I did not know what I was facing and after a long trip I was shocked and I couldn’t give the right answers,” Zarrab said. “I was afraid.”

The prosecution in Manhattan has been major news in Turkey, where Erdogan has repeatedly asked the U.S. to release Zarrab.

Turkey’s deputy prime minister recently said Zarrab was a “hostage” being forced to testify against Turkey’s government.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feinstein asks for Russia records from Trump campaign aides – The Hill
 

mikenova shared this story from trump russian ties – Google News.


The Hill
Feinstein asks for Russia records from Trump campaign aides
The Hill
Clovis came under fire in late October after documents from March revealed that he encouraged a young Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, to meet with Russian officials in an effort to help improve the relations between Moscow and the campaign …
Mueller’s TrumpRussia Probe May Be Only One That Leads to AnswersOr HandcuffsNewsweek
Dianne Feinstein wants more documents from former Trump campaign officials as part of Russia probeWashington Examiner
The TrumpRussia Story Is Coming Together. Here’s How to Make Sense of ItTruth-Out
Tribune-Review
all 52 news articles »
Rudy Giuliani – Google News: Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial – U.S. News & World Report
 

mikenova shared this story from 1. Trump Circles: Elections from mikenova (16 sites).


U.S. News & World Report
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial
U.S. News & World Report
Those lawyers included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Kamaraju asked him if the talks, which included a meeting with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were successful. “No,” Zarrab answered 
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in USBloombergall 42 news articles »

 Rudy Giuliani – Google News

Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial – U.S. News & World Report
 

mikenova shared this story from Rudy Giuliani – Google News.


U.S. News & World Report
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US Trial
U.S. News & World Report
Those lawyers included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Kamaraju asked him if the talks, which included a meeting with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were successful. “No,” Zarrab answered 
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in USBloombergall 42 news articles »

Lawsuit seeks details of Trump administration’s policies on surveilling journalists – Washington Post
 

mikenova shared this story from Trump FBI file – Google News.


Washington Post
Lawsuit seeks details of Trump administration’s policies on surveilling journalists
Washington Post
Two media organizations planned to sue the Trump administration on Wednesday for details of government policies on surveillance of journalists, which remain hidden despite the groups’ public records requests. The Knight First Amendment Institute at and more »

Special counsel delays grand jury testimony amid signs of Flynn deal talks
 

mikenova shared this story .

Additional witnesses were expected to be questioned soon including a public relations consultant hired by Flynn’s lobbying firm who was given an early December date deadline to appear before the grand jury, according to a person at the company.

Ahead of the delay, the impression was that the testimony needed to happen soon, the source said.

“Time seems to be of the essence,” said the source at Sphere Consulting, the PR firm where the consultant worked.

The grand jury testimony was postponed, the person said, with no reason given. There could be many reasons for a delay, including scheduling issues.

close dialog

The consultant’s expected testimony comes as the investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser’s business dealings has taken a new turn.

Flynn’s attorney told Trump’s legal team last week that he would no longer share information about the investigation, a move that signals Flynn is beginning conversations with the government that could involve a plea deal or a cooperation agreement.

 ABC News reported

 that Flynn’s attorney met with special counsel’s attorneys on Monday.

Sphere’s government relations arm, SGR LLC Government Relations and Lobbying, is one of several companies Flynn Intel Group hired to work for Inovo BV, a Netherlands-based company owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, according to filing made by Flynn Intel Group under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Inovo hired Flynn to research Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of being behind the 2016 attempted military coup to overthrow him, the filing said.

Inovo paid Flynn’s group $530,000 for the research, which was supposed result in a video documentary but it was never finished. Sphere’s SGR was paid $40,000.

Sphere has been cooperating for months with the investigation. The inquiry was originally opened before the appointment of the special counsel, according to the source. Sphere, which was subpoenaed around June, was described as “a cooperating witness at best.” Sphere has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Interviews conducted by special counsel investigators have included questions about the

business dealings of Flynn and his son

 such as their firm’s reporting of income from work overseas, two witnesses interviewed by the team told CNN. The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people acting as agents of foreign entities to publicly disclose their relationship with foreign countries or businesses and financial compensation for such work.

Another area of interest to Mueller’s team is Flynn’s alleged participation in discussions about the idea of removing Gulen, who has been living in exile in Pennsylvania, sources said. In the past, a spokesman for Flynn has denied that such discussions occurred. Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, has called reports of an alleged kidnapping scheme “outrageous” and “false.” Kelner could not be reached for comment.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, declined to comment.

Flynn disclosed its work for Inovo in a lobbying disclosure form in September 2016. Months later, in March 2017, it filed a FARA disclosure form stating “because of the subject matter of the engagement, Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo could be construed to have principally benefitted from the Republic of Turkey.”

Sphere entered the assignment in August 2016 when it was approached by Bijan Kian, Flynn’s business partner, to publicize the proposed documentary to promote investing in Turkey, according to the Sphere source. At Flynn’s direction Sphere created a Gulen-themed Monopoly graphic, according to Flynn’s FARA disclosure. A lawyer for Kian declined to comment. No explanation was given for why the graphic was created.

Two other consultants hired by Flynn, journalists David Enders and Rudi Bakhtiar, a former CNN anchor, were brought in to work on the documentary, according to the FARA form. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the investigation, reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation has contacted Enders and Bakhtair to set up interviews. Enders and Bakhtiar have not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.

The documentary was never completed. But Sphere did place Flynn’s election day op-ed on Gulen in The Hill newspaper, according to the source at the company and the FARA filing. Flynn’s FARA filing distances that op-ed from the work he did for Inovo acknowledging it was shared with Inovo but: “To the best of our knowledge, Inovo did not communicate with the Republic of Turkey regarding the op-ed or provide the draft op-ed to the government.”

Through Flynn and Kian, Sphere met Alptekin, the Turkish businessman, who wanted Sphere to do PR work to get Gulen extradited, according to the source at Sphere.

According to a memo sent to Flynn’s firm, Sphere told Alptekin in November, when the firm first met with him, that none of this should be done through a publicity campaign, but rather should pursued through lawsuits.

Today’s Headlines and Commentary
 

mikenova shared this story from Lawfare – Hard National Security Choices.

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in a test that demonstrated the Kim regimes longest potential range capability yet. The Hwasong-15 missile could reach all of the continental United States, the New York Times reported. The missiles 53-minute flight took the projectile 2,800 miles into space before landing in the Sea of Japan 600 miles east of its launch site. Experts said the test flight showed a potential range of 8,000 miles. President Donald Trump, the leaders of Japan and South Korea, and the U.N. secretary-general condemned the launch, the Washington Post reported. The United Nations Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss Pyongyangs latest provocation.

The Syrian government agreed to a Russian plan for a ceasefire in a rebel-held region near Damascus,the BBC reported. Syrian forces had besieged rebels in the Eastern Ghouta area, and in recent weeks Russian airstrikes and Syrian artillery fire have killed dozens of civilians. The ceasefire came as Syrian government and opposition negotiators met for U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva.

The FBI is investigating the murders of a Syrian-American journalist and her mother in Turkey, ABC News reported. Halla Barakat and her mother Orouba both reported on abuses by the Syrian regime. Their killer strangled and stabbed them to death in their apartment in Istanbul in September. Turkish prosecutors have arrested a man who says he killed them because of a dispute about money, but the prosecutors suspect the man acted on orders from the Assad regime to assassinate the women.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, promoted a private scheme to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East while he was in office, the Wall Street Journal reported. Flynn consulted for the companies proposing the plan during the presidential transition. After coming into office, he directed a National Security Council staffer to prepare a memo about the plan for Trump to approve. The staffer continued to promote the plan after Flynn resigned in February until his own ouster in July.

Special Counsel Robert Muellers investigation of Michael Flynn may now cover Flynns tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), BuzzFeed News reported. The DIA cited ongoing law enforcement investigative activities to justify refusing a reporters three-year old request for information about Flynns two-year tenure as director from 2012 to 2014. The Obama administration forced Flynn to retire early.

A jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the alleged mastermind of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, on terrorism charges, the Post reported. The jury in federal district court acquitted Khatallah on murder charges for the deaths of four U.S. diplomats at Benghazi. U.S. commandos captured Khatallah in 2014 in Libya and brought him to the U.S. to face criminal prosecution. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Shooting broke out in Sanaa, Yemens capital, between rival factions of the Houthi movement, Reuters reported. Forces loyal to Yemens former president Ali Abdullah Saleh fought allies of another key Houthi leader, threatening to fracture the Houthi rebel movement. A Saudi-led coalition backing Yemens internationally-recognized government is fighting the Houthis for control of the country.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his redesign of the State Department, the Post reported. There is not hollowing out, Tillerson said in remarks at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. Dozens of senior diplomats have resigned or been fired since the beginning of the administration. Tillersons redesign plan has sparked widespread opposition in the department. Tillerson said reports of a depleted department are not accurate and that his redesign would improve the working environment for the nations diplomatic corps. The official overseeing the redesign quit on Tuesday after three months on the job, Bloomberg reported.

A Belgian court blocked the deportation of an imam at the countrys largest mosque, according to the Post. Belgian immigration and asylum officials said Abdelhadi Sewif threatened national security. The court found that officials had provided no evidence that Sewif posed a specific security risk. Belgiums investigation into the 2016 terror attacks on the Brussels airport has put pressure on Sewifs mosque for its connections to foreign backers.

A Bosnian-Croat military commander died after taking poison at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Slobodan Praljak drank from a glass that he said contained poison as a U.N. judge upholding his 20-year prison sentence for war crimes related to plan to carry out ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Clare Duncan detailed Yemens recent history in a primer on its civil war.

Nicholas Weaver emphasized the seriousness of the danger from autonomous weapons systems such as slaughterbots.

J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the Sinai attack, U.S.-Turkey tensions and the fallout from the Saudi power play.

Yishai Schwartz summarized the Nov. 13 military commission hearing in U.S. v. al-Nashiri.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, featuring discussion of Carpenter v. U.S. and the hearing in ACLU v. Mattis.

 

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

How Vladimir Putin sees the world
 

mikenova shared this story from Politics.

Luke Harding, journalist and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,” explains how Vladimir Putin’s background as a KGB agent has influenced his worldview and allowed him to manipulate Donald Trump. Following is a transcript of the video.

Luke Harding: My name is Luke Harding. I’m a journalist and a writer, and my new book is called “Collusion,” and it’s about Donald Trump and Russia.

Putin saying that the collapse of the Soviet Union is the world’s greatest geopolitical catastrophe, it’s a famous quote and essentially I think it’s important because Putin is a KGB guy deep down. He sees the world in conspiratorial terms.

There’s a phrase for it that they teach you at KGB spy school which is “glavny protivnik,” “the main adversary,” and the main adversary is America, both in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and also now in Putin’s head that he sees international politics and diplomacy as a zero sum game in which what’s bad for America is good for Russia.

And actually he’s had a pretty good run recently. He invaded Ukraine, he has staged military intervention in Syria, and obviously he hacked the US election to help Donald Trump, who I think to Putin’s surprise became president.

For Putin, lying is something he does all the time and there’s nothing shameful about it. He views lying as a kind of operational tactic, and again it’s something he learned about at spy school. You lie for strategic reasons.

But what’s astonishing is that Donald Trump seemingly believes Vladimir Putin, the KGB officer, over all 13 US intelligence agencies who unanimously say that Russia hacked the election.

Now, I’m not a psychologist, I can’t explain what’s going on in Donald Trump’s head, but clearly Putin is lying and for Trump to believe him or at least to say he believes him is an astonishing sign of where we now are.

I think he intends to carry on forever. There’s a Russian election next year in 2018, but it’s like an “election,” it’s not an election. It’s essentially decorative. I think we all know who’s going to win it, which means that he’ll have another six year term taking him until 2024.

And the logic of this kind of corrupt system in Russia means that he has to carry on forever. And so I can see Putin outlasting Trump, and I think he is going to be a kind of formidable challenge for politicians, not just now but also in the future.

How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter – Business Insider
 

mikenova shared this story from Putin Trump – Google News.


Business Insider
How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter
Business Insider
Luke Harding, journalist and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,” explains how Vladimir Putin’s background as a KGB agent has influenced his worldview and allowed him to manipulate Donald …
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and PutinNewsweek
The Far-Right Group Retweeted By Donald Trump Deleted A Bunch …BuzzFeed News
Commentary: Don’t call Putin a geniusReuters
The Guardian –Raw Story –The Moderate Voice –Reuters
all 151 news articles »
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap – Daily Beast
 

mikenova shared this story from Rudy Giuliani – Google News.


Daily Beast
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap
Daily Beast
Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey tried to broker a prisoner exchange between the United States and Turkey to free their Turkish client, Reza Zarrab, he testified in Manhattan federal court Wednesday. Zarrab said on the stand he hired lawyers to 
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US TrialU.S. News & World Report
Gold Trader Links Turkish Banker to Plot to Dodge SanctionsBloombergall 49 news articles »

A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe – Business Insider
 

mikenova shared this story from Elections 2016 Investigation videos – Google News.


Business Insider
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe
Business Insider
donald trump President Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the media before speaking with members of the armed forces via video conference at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. … She asked them in separate letters for and more »

Senate Russia investigation: Dianne Feinstein requests new documents
 

mikenova shared this story from Politics.

donald trumpPresident Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the media before speaking with members of the armed forces via video conference at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. Associated Press/Alex Brandon

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat sent letters to several members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team on Wednesday.
  • The letter contained new names that may be of interest to investigators probing Russia’s election interference. 
  • Those entities had not previously been known to be of interest to the Judiciary Committee, which is also investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested new documents on Tuesday related to Russia’s election interference from several of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy advisers.

She asked them in separate letters for documentation of any contact they had with Russia-linked entities during the 2016 election, several of whom had not previously been known to be of interest to the committee.

One of them is Paul Erickson, a longtime Republican activist who told associates that he was an adviser to Trump’s transition team. He reportedly started a business — a limited liability company called Bridges, LLC — with Russian gun-rights champion Maria Butina. Erickson traveled to Moscow in August 2014 to meet with Butina’s gun-rights organization.

Butina and her associate Aleksander Torshin, a Russian politician and banker close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are also of interest to the committee. Torshin asked the campaign through an intermediary whether Trump would meet with him on the sidelines of the NRA convention last summer, according to emails forwarded to Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.

Feinstein, whose committee is investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton, asked both campaign national co-chair Sam Clovis and campaign national security adviser JD Gordon for their communications with or concerning “the NRA, Paul Erickson, Alexander Torshin, Maria Butina,” and others associated with Torshin’s outreach.

“I’m always glad to clear up popular misconceptions, myths and blatant falsehoods surrounding all things Trump-Russia, like I’ve already done with other Congressional committees,” Gordon told Business Insider. “I look forward to a valuable exchange of information with the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.”

A new request to Carter Page

Carter PageCarter Page. AP

In her letter to Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, Feinstein asked for “all communications to, from, or copied to you with or concerning” Russian political scientist and Putin foreign policy adviser Sergey Karaganov; Randi Levinas, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the US-Russia Business Council; and Bernie Sucher, a former managing director and head of global markets for Russia at the wealth management firm Merril Lynch.

Page’s trip to Moscow last July just before the Republican National Convention has come under heightened scrutiny amid revelations that he met with a top Russian government official and at least one employee of Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Levinas told Business Insider on Wednesday that the US-Russia business council reached out to both campaigns during the election to figure out who was the “Russia person” on both sides “dealing with economic and business issues.”

“Page’s name had been mentioned in the press,” Levinas said. “So I reached out to Bernie Sucher to try to get in touch with him.”

Sucher and Page evidently overlapped at Merril Lynch, where Page worked between 2000 and 2008. Before joining Merrill Lynch, Sucher was the chairman of Alfa Capital — a limited liability company that is a member of Alfa Banking Group.

Feinstein also asked Page for his communications with or concerning Alfa Group, which reportedly came under scrutiny by both federal and congressional investigators after a computer server for the Russia-based Alfa Bank “repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization — far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all look-ups on the Trump server,” according to CNN.

The US-Russia business council, for its part, “wanted to have a discussion about business with respect to Russia,” Levinas said. “So I tried to set up a meeting with Page, and got a small dinner together that didn’t materialize until later.”

Levinas said she did not attend that dinner and did not know what was discussed.

‘Happy to help’

Page told Business Insider that he would be “happy to help” the committee with its “latest tranche of irrelevant Witch Hunt information.” He said he was not in touch with Karaganov, the former Putin adviser, during the campaign, adding that he hadn’t spoken to him in “about 10 years or so.”

“I’m pretty sure that was the last time we talked,” Page said on Wednesday.

Karaganov, who now serves as the dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, supported Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and has advocated for Moscow to present itself as a moral defender of ethnic Russians in order to gain political influence in the regions they inhabit.

“We want the status of being a great power,” Karaganov told Germany’s Der Spiegel last year.

“We unfortunately cannot relinquish that,” he said. “In the last 300 years, this status has become a part of our genetic makeup. … We believe that Russia is morally in the right. There won’t be any fundamental concessions coming from our side.”

Historian Of Stalin’s Crimes, On Trial On Child Pornography Charges, Seeks Release To House Arrest
 

mikenova shared this story from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

A lawyer for a Russian historian who is being tried on child pornography charges his supporters say are politically motivated has asked a court to move his client from jail to house arrest.

Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz Says ‘Putin Owns Trump’ – Newsweek
 

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CNN
Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz Says ‘Putin Owns Trump’
Newsweek
The man who ghost-wrote President Donald Trump’s bestseller The Art of the Deal has claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin owns Trump, and said he hopes the U.S. president will be taken down by special counsel Robert Mueller. What keeps my hope 
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince?Mother Jones
The Trump-Russia Story Is Coming Together. Here’s How to Make Sense of ItTruth-Outall 26 news articles »

Trump and the Russian Beauty Queen
 

mikenova shared this story from TrumP Россия.

b7ck8hm4

PART I: THE PRINCESS IN THE GILDED CAGE

Oxana Fedorova was a tall, raven-haired beauty from Pskov, a old Russian city near Estonia.  She was studying to be a police officer in St. Petersburg, Russia when she decided to try her luck in a local modeling contest. Fedorova entered the 1999 Miss St. Petersburg pageant and won. Two years later, the 23-year-old police lieutenant became Miss Russia, which awarded her a new Mercedes and a Cartier watch.

Vladimir Putin, newly installed as Russia’s president, was said to be a keen admirer of the reigning Miss Russia, a karate black belt and an excellent shot. A photo of Fedorova was on display near his office in the Kremlin. The Telegraph of London reported that the organizers of the Miss Russia pageant had crowned Fedorova “in a feudal display of loyalty to the head of state.” She was even rumored to be Putin’s secret lover. Not true, Fedorova said. “It’s just a coincidence that we are both from St. Petersburg, the work of fate. There are no links with the president.”

6db384c8ab5ceb8bf51ca02591deca8bVladimir Golubev

Fedorova’s real boyfriend wasn’t the president. He was a Russian mobster from St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Semenovich Golubev, aka “Barmeley,” got out of  in prison and became a gangster in St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Golubev was a silent partner in Adamant Holding, a real estate company founded in 1992 that today controls 29 shopping malls in St. Petersburg.  (See Russian Forbes.)

The Russian press reported that Golubev had links to the Tambov gang, a criminal syndicate that dominated St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Back then, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, a man named Vladimir Putin, was collaborating with the Tambov gang to launder money and gain control of the gambling business. (See Karen Dawisha’s excellent book Putin’s Kleptocracy.)

According to Russian press reports, Golubev had supported Fedorova since she she had won Miss St. Petersburg as a teenager. Fedorova reportedly traveled either in his company or with guards he sent to accompany her. Officials with Miss Universe noted that money never seemed to be a problem for the beauty queen.  She was like a beautiful bird living in Golubev’s gilded cage.

PART II: MISS UNIVERSE

In 2002, Oxana Fedorova entered Miss Universe, the international beauty pageant then owned by Donald Trump.

The pageant was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Fedorova and other beauties from around the world competed for prizes that included a year’s salary and an apartment in one of Trump’s Manhattan buildings. (The apartment was more like a dormitory for Miss Universe shared it with Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.)

At the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Fedorova dominated the swimsuit competition and was crowned with the diamond-studded tiara.

Trump, who was in the audience watching, allegedly rigged the contest for Fedorova, according to Seth Abramson, an author and attorney. Abramson said he spoke to a source present that night in Puerto Rico who claimed that Trump told the celebrity judges — actors, fashion designers, and NFL star Marshall Faulk —  whom to choose as winner.

Four months after she was crowned Miss Universe, Fedorova was fired. Federova had failed to show at numerous photo shoots and other high-profile functions, including a commitment to help crown Miss Teen USA. It was the first time that a winner had been forced to surrender her title.

Trump said the president of the Miss Universe organization, Paula Shugart, had asked Fedorova to resign. “When Oxana didn’t resign, Paula had no choice but to terminate her,” he said. Anonymous “insider” sources quoted by the New York Post went for Fedorova’s jugular. “An unbelievably spoiled bitch,” one called her. Another said she was overweight and pregnant, which Fedorova denied.

Over the years, Fedorova has given several reasons for her decision to give up the title of Miss Universe. She had to care for an ailing relative.  She did not want to give up her studies. (She now holds a doctoral degree.) She was upset no one had warned her before her lewd interview with radio host Howard Stern.

Asked by Russian reporters whether pressure from her gangster boyfriend Golubev led her to abandon the Miss Universe crown, Fedorova replied, “This is my personal life, and I do not want to talk about it.”

The view from Russia was that Trump had been paid off to crown Fedorova. Nikolay Kostin, the organizer of the Miss Russia contest, suggested to a reporter for the respected Russian daily Kommersantthat Trump had been bribed to hand the crown to Fedorova.

“Nikolay Kostin in response to such accusations only smiles and asks who then dared to offer a bribe to the owner of the Miss Universe contest Donald Trump, who presented the crown to Oxana Fedorova, and how much he was given.

Vitali Leiba, president of the model agency Red Stars, told the newspaper, “It is very difficult to determine the addressee of a possible bribe. We can say that Trump was given a bribe, or it is possible that the U.S., in the person of Trump, offered a bribe to Russia, encouraging her representative at the contest.”

Update: An astute reader points out that Vitali Leiba was a founding shareholder of Arigon Company Ltd., a Channel Islands company established in 1990 by the Brainy Don, Semion Mogilevich whose name keeps turning up in the Trump-Russia affair. An 1996 FBI report called Arigon “the center of the Mogilevich Organization’s financial operations.”

PART III: THE UGLINESS IN TRUMP’S BEAUTY CONTESTS

There is no proof that Trump was bribed or that he tipped the scale for Oxana Fedorova, but there were multiple claims that the pageants were rigged.

Michael Schwandt, a choreographer who worked on Miss Universe and Miss USA, told Guanabee.comthat Trump would have all the contestants line up and he would walk past like a commander reviewing his troops with an assistant taking notes. “It’s just kind of common knowledge that he picks six of the top 15 single-handedly,” Schwandt said.

The choreographer said Trump told him he exercised the “Trump rule” so because some of the most beautiful women were not chosen as finalists in the past “and he was kind of upset by that.” Schwandt disavowed his comments but here is audio  of Trump explaining the “Trump Rule” to Miss USA contestants.

Audio PlayerA contestant in 2012 Miss USA told a judge that her contest had been rigged. Sheena Monnin wrote on her Facebook page that a fellow contestant had seen a sheet of paper listing the five finalists before the contest. (She reaffirmed the claim in her delcaration.)

…. I witnessed another contestant who said she saw the Top 5 BEFORE THE SHOW EVER STARTED proceed to call out in order who the Top 5 were before they were announced on stage. Apparently the morning on June 3rd she saw a folder lying open to a page that said ‘FINAL SHOW telecast, June 3, 2012’. After the Top 16 were called and we were standing backstage she hesitantly said to me and another contestant that she knew who the Top 5 were. I said ‘who do you think they will be? She said that she didn’t ‘think’ she ‘knew’ because she saw the list that morning. She relayed whose names were on the list. Then we agreed to wait and see if that was indeed the Top 5 called that night. ….

Trump was furious. He said Monnin had “loser’s remorse,” and said that if you “looked at her and compared her to the other people who were in the top 15, you would understand why she was not in the top 15.” His  consigliere Michael Cohen called into TMZ Live and said that Monnin had 24 hours to retract her statement or that she could “bet [her] a** that [Miss Universe] will sue . . . seeking massive damages.” Consigliere Cohen was good to his word. Trump obtained a $5 million defamation award against Monnin in an uncontested arbitration proceeding, which was upheld by a federal judge.

A 2013 investigation by Jezebel found that a pageant recruiter in Trump’s Miss USA franchise allegedly demanded a blow job in exchange for magazine work that would allow a contestant to pay the $895 contest entrance fee.

Trump had acquired the Miss Universe franchise in 1996. He reportedly paid tens of millions of dollars (the exact figure was not disclosed) to buy it from ITT Corp., beating out beat two television networks and several South American media moguls. (The deal also included Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.)  Trump ran Miss Universe as a 50-50 partnership with TV networks, first with CBS, and, after 2002, with NBC.

On the surface, it looked like a good business. It cost $20 million to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. Emin Agalarov whose family owns the arena that hosted the pageant broke down the costs for Russian Forbes. A third of that $20 million went to secure rights. Another third: organizational costs. And the final third goes to the production and broadcast costs.  (Another report said overseas rights to Miss Universe were selling for $6 million in 2003.)

Very little of that money, however, was distributed to the general partners of Miss Universe. We know this because Trump had assigned his half of his interest in Miss Universe (25 percent of the company) to his publicly-traded corporation, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.  In 2002, the year Fedorova won in Puerto Rico, Trump Entertainment collected a mere $700,000 for it quarter share of the pageant. In 2003 and 2004, Trump Entertainment earned nothing from Miss Universe.

Where was all the money going?

Even if the business was a stinker, there was one attraction for Trump. It allowed him to indulge his Porky’s-style adolescent fantasy of seeing beautiful women naked when they were in no position to refuse.

“I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump told Howard Stern in 2005.

Listen for yourself:

Audio PlayerAsked whether he had ever slept with a contestant, Trump declined to say. “It could be a conflict of interest. … But, you know, it’s the kind of thing you worry about later, you tend to think about the conflict a little bit later on.”

Trump sold Miss Universe in 2015 to the talent agency WME | IMG for $28 million. The value of the franchise had been damaged by Trump’s description of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, which led NBC and Univision to drop coverage of Miss USA.

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Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? Mother Jones
 

mikenova shared this story from Mother Jones.

Susan Walsh/AP

When Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious Blackwater security firm, heads into a private meeting with staffers and members of the House intelligence committee on Thursday, the number-one topic will be a secret trip he made in January to the Seychelles islands to huddle with a Russian close to Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post, the rendezvous was arranged by the United Arab Emirates, where Prince moved in 2010 and formed a mercenary army for the regime, and this get-together was part of an attempt to set up a back-channel communication between Putin and Donald Trump, then the president-elect. The visit has drawn the attention of the FBI, which has been investigating contacts between Trump associates and Russia, but a Prince spokesman last April claimed the “the meeting had nothing to do with President Trump.”

There is much congressional investigators can ask Prince about. He has had a long, controversial career buckraking in the dark corners of the national security world. The brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, Prince has been an avid cheerleader for Trump (donating $250,000 to help elect him), an informal post-election adviser for Trump, and a pal of Stephen Bannon. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Bannon recruited Prince earlier this year to draft a plan that would replace US troops in Afghanistan with for-profit mercenaries—supplied, of course, by a military contractor like Prince. (The Pentagon said no thank you.) But perhaps the most important thing for intelligence committee members and staffers to keep in mind, as they try to pry information from Prince, is this: Prince is a fabricator.

During the election, the usually media-averse ex-Navy SEAL was a regular contributor to Breitbart News, the Bannon-backed far-right outlet, defending Trump and promoting conspiratorial swill.

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began posting emails stolen from John Podesta, the Clinton campaign’s chairman. Earlier that day, the US intelligence community issued a statement declaring the Russian government was behind the hack-and-dumps targeting Democrats during the election. It noted that the posting of the stolen emails by WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 [an online persona named after a real-life Romanian hacker who went by the name of Guccifer] was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The statement also pointed a finger at Putin, asserting “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” Yet Prince joined Trump and his crew in denying there was any Russian connection to the hacking aimed at Democrats.

On the Breitbart radio show, he insisted the Podesta caper had nothing to do with Russian intelligence. He added, “The fact is, a Romanian hacker, Guccifer, is the guy who hacked the Clinton Foundation a few years ago. That guy is in prison. Before he went to prison, all of Sidney Blumenthal—Hillary’s adviser on Libya—all his emails were removed from Guccifer’s server, and those too have been leaking out. John Podesta’s emails, I can assure you, did not come from the Russians.” Prince was conflating a 2013 hack against a Clinton friend (Blumenthal) with the 2016 cyberattack on Podesta. Subsequent cyber-sleuthing has confirmed that Podesta was targeted and successfully spear-phished as part of a massive assault mounted by Russian military intelligence. Yet in the heat of the presidential campaign, Prince was pushing pro-Trump (and Putin-helping) disinformation.

In the same interview, Prince hyped one of the right-wing’s favorite anti-Clinton conspiracy theories. He claimed that Hillary Clinton had been complicit in “selling 20 percent of the United States’ uranium supply to a Russian state company.” And he went on: “I think the Clinton Foundation got a very nice spiff off of that, of $25 or $50 million,” meaning a pay-to-play payment. Prince was referring to what has now become the Uranium One scandal, which is not really a scandal. The transaction he referenced involved the acquisition of 20 percent of production capability, not the full supply, and there is no evidence that Clinton had any role in the US government approval process for this deal.

On an earlier Breitbart broadcast, Prince claimed that “due to a significant donation into the Clinton Foundation, the State Department ended up approving the sale of a company that owns 20 percent of the uranium in the United States, certainly a strategic fuel stock for us here, for nuclear energy production, and of course for nuclear weapons, if necessary. It’s now in the hands of a Russian state enterprise.” He was wrong here, too. The deal was approved not by the State Department, but by representatives of nine different federal agencies who sat on an interagency review board; there was no proven connection between a Clinton Foundation donation and the decision, and the uranium in question was not suitable for nuclear weapons.

During the campaign, the Clinton-gave-uranium-to-the-Russians-for-a-foundation-payoff tale was being enthusiastically peddled by Trump (who still has not let go of this faux scandal)—even though this accusation was fully debunked. And since the election, Republicans and conservatives have tried to use the Uranium One deal to deflect attention from the Trump-Russia scandal. Prince has been a loyal foot-soldier in this reality-bending, anti-Clinton propaganda effort.

Prince has gone even further in fueling the anti-Clinton fevers on the right. During a Breitbart radio appearance four days before the election, Prince, citing a “well-placed source” in the New York Police Department, said that emails discovered on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman then separated from Huma Abedon, a top Clinton aide, included evidence of Clinton perversion and criminality: “They found State Department emails. They found a lot of other really damning criminal information, including money laundering, including the fact that Hillary went to this sex island with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Bill Clinton went there more than 20 times. Hillary Clinton went there at least six times.” He maintained these emails held proof of “of criminal activity by Hillary, by her immediate circle, and even by other Democratic members of Congress.” He claimed that Abedin had “flipped.” If Clinton were to be elected, Prince warned, there would be a “constitutional crisis.”

Prince’s unsubstantiated comments were quickly embraced by far-right extremists pushing the particularly crazy Pizzagate conspiracy theory that claimed Clinton and Podesta were part of a covert pedophilia ring operating out of the basement of a Washington pizzeria. That day, conspiracy con-man Alex Jones, citing Prince’s interview, exclaimed, “When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton has personally murdered and chopped up and raped . . . yeah, you heard me right. Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children.” And WikiLeaks tweeted, “Astounding claims from Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater on Clinton & NYPD.” (A month later, a man armed with guns entered the pizzeria to investigate Pizzagate and fired several shots, harming no one, before he was arrested.)

Prince, once mostly known for owning a company that employed private military contractors who committed a 2007 massacre in downtown Baghdad, has become a fabulist who has used his national security credentials to dress up and legitimize the most outlandish and paranoid fantasies of the far right. (He also has recently considered challenging Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming as part of Bannon’s war on so-called establishment Republicans.) No matter what Prince says when he’s sitting before the interrogators of the House intelligence committee, they ought to remember this valuable guideline: consider the source.

Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince? – Mother Jones
 

mikenova shared this story from trump and intelligence community – Google News.


Mother Jones
Will the House Intelligence Committee Get the Truth From Erik Prince?
Mother Jones
The brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, Prince has been an avid cheerleader for Trump (donating $250,000 to help elect him), an informal post-election adviser for Trump, and a pal of Stephen Bannon. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law  

Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
 

mikenova shared this story .

The simple advertisement betrayed little about its intent or origin. It pictured Freddie Gray and two other African Americans who died in encounters with police alongside the words “never forget.”

Analysts say the ad — and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 — might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Of the 3,000 Russian-linked ads Facebook turned over to Congress this fall, more than 250 were targeted at Maryland — a blue state with little sway in the national election that nevertheless remained in the spotlight because of the unrest.

The debate over police interactions with African Americans in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere offered an easy issue for Russians to exploit, analysts say, long before Donald Trump emerged as a serious presidential candidate.

“Russians needed practice,” said James Andrew Lewis, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They had done this a lot for domestic audiences, and they had to learn how to pull the levers of an American audience.

“This was an initial attempt.”

Facebook has said accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, spent more than $100,000 on ads from 2015 to 2017, and that about 126 million people might have been served content from pages associated with the group. U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that the likely financier of the group is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has denied meddling in the U.S. election.

Much of the discussion surrounding the Russian social media campaign in the United States has focused on its impact on the election. Congress and the Federal Election Commission are both considering new regulations that would require more transparency in online political ads.

Less attention has been given to ads placed in 2015 in states that were not battlegrounds in 2016. Facebook has said about 25 percent of the ads the company identified as being linked to Russia were aimed at specific cities and states. More of those targeted ads ran in 2015 than last year.

The Gray ad released this month by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence included a photo of the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died in April 2015 after suffering an injury in police custody. Also pictured: Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 and Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland in 2014.

“Join us because we care,” the ad read. “Black Matters!”

Data released by the committee indicate that the advertisement — purchased with rubles — was initially placed in Maryland, Missouri, Virginia and Georgia beginning in mid-2015. It popped up on computer screens more than 200,000 times and attracted 12,127 clicks.

The ad was placed nationally months later and again in 2016. It received 55,761 clicks, in all.

While there is broad consensus that one of the goals of the Russian effort was to undermine confidence in American institutions — including law enforcement — there is less agreement about why so many ads were aimed at Maryland.

Russia has a long history of using “active measures” to exploit divisions, including attempts to exacerbate racial tensions. In the 1960s, the KGB authorized a plan to discredit the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by attempting to plant that suggested he was working for the U.S. government.

More recently, the Internet Research Agency and other Russian troll farms have targeted Georgia, Estonia and Ukraine with disinformation campaigns.

The “Black Matters” ad appears to be an early attempt at using social media in the United States. Of the small sample of ads released by the House Intelligence Committee, it was the earliest to appear.

Mark R. Jacobson is a former special assistant to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

“While the social media vectors are new, the operation to influence and persuade in support of broader political activities was refined during all these previous operations,” said Jacobson, now an associate professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.

“So in that sense I think the 2015 stuff could have very well been an intermediate step between the long history of political warfare and what we saw in 2016.”

The Gray ad clicked through to a Facebook page called “Black Matters US.” That page has been removed, but an apparently related website, <a href=”http://blackmattersus.com” rel=”nofollow”>blackmattersus.com</a>, remains online.

The website, registered anonymously in late 2015, describes itself as a “nonprofit news outlet.” It features commentary about the African-American community. Items about Baltimore and Gray begin by quoting or paraphrasing coverage in The Baltimore Sun before launching into opinion.

When Baltimore prosecutors dropped criminal charges last year against officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death, the website posted an article that cited coverage in The Sun, including a quote from State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and then opined that the decision “doesn’t come as a surprise.”

“The American criminal justice system has always been reluctant to prosecute officers, making up special circumstances surrounding the cases, in which these officers were involved,” an author identified as William Sanders wrote. “People are tired of such pretense and police being above the laws they impose on others.”

The website was also frequently and overtly critical of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. An item posted in October 2016, the month before the election, asserted that “Hillary’s deceptive plots to win the love of Black people in America just to gain power are gradually being brought to light.” Another piece was headlined “Hillary Clinton: A Candidate For the Corporate Elite.”

The most recent item posted to the site is from September. A request for information by The Sun submitted through the site’s “contact” form drew no response. An email address associated with the page did not work. Most of the social media accounts connected to the site have been taken down.

Just how much Maryland and the other states confronting racial tension were targeted by the ad campaign is unclear. Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said this month that Maryland received a notable share, particularly given that the presidential vote in the state wasn’t close.

“The three most heavily targeted states in America — Maryland, Missouri and New York — were all determined by at least 18-point margin,” the North Carolina Republican said during a committee hearing.

But in a brief interview later, Burr appeared to walk back that assertion.

“I didn’t say that they were the most targeted,” Burr said. “I used those as examples of how they were targeted at a higher level than [the battleground states] Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Burr has long contended the ads were more about dividing Americans than they were about presidential politics.

“From the standpoint of what we’ve seen in the ads and how they were designed and run, it was to create societal chaos,” Burr said. “That’s it.”

Asked about their impact, Burr pointed out that two Russian Facebook pages managed to organize dueling rallies outside a Houston mosque last year.

“When you see a picture of a rally with both sides in Texas, yeah, they were successful.”

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that the ad placed in Maryland probably had more to do with highlighting racial tension than helping to elect Trump. Trump entered the Republican primary in June of 2015, about a month before the ad began showing up in feeds.

Many of the national ads released by the House and Senate intelligence committees from 2016 focused on the election. One touted Trump rallies in Florida. Another depicted Jesus and Satan arm wrestling and suggested Satan was on Clinton’s side.

“Press ‘like’ to help Jesus win!” the ad read.

“In 2015 they were doing their own fishing expedition, trying to see what would stick,” Cardin said. “So they came into Maryland and they tried a tactic. It wasn’t terribly effective.

“I think they may very well have gone on to a different tactic.”

That’s the conclusion of several analysts.

Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has studied the Russian campaigns, told lawmakers in testimony this year that Russian online activities “shifted aggressively” toward the United States in late 2014 and throughout 2015. By the end of 2015, the effort “began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome” of the election.

Watts did not respond to several requests for comment.

Facebook has repeatedly declined requests from The Baltimore Sun for information about the ads placed in Maryland. The Gray ad released by the House Intelligence Committee is the only Russian ad aimed at Marylanders to have been shown to the public.

Without seeing more content, several analysts said, it’s difficult to pin down the motivations. The House Intelligence Committee has promised to make more ads public, but has not said when that will happen.

Thomas Rid is professor of strategic studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins.

“The 2015 targeting could have been a trial run, but we don’t know,” he said. “Soviet active measures started exploiting racial and ethnic tensions in the mid-1950s, and ripping open racial divisions has been a standard M.O. ever since.”

Unusual social media activity in Baltimore in 2015 caught the attention of a local cybersecurity firm. Days after the 2015 riots, the Federal Hill-based firm ZeroFox documented a flurry of accounts by users posing as Baltimoreans that had in fact been created in Russia, China and India.

Postings from those accounts appeared designed to deepen the divides exposed during the riots.

“I just killed a pig,” one Twitter user wrote alongside a photograph of a bloodied police officer. (It turned out the officer was from South America, not Baltimore.)

Another tweet, from an account impersonating the Baltimore Police Department, used a racial slur.

ZeroFox identified nearly 100 accounts impersonating police and city and state officials.The firm has not responded to requests for comment.

Another Facebook account known as Blacktivist promoted a rally in Baltimore last year to mark the one-year anniversary of Gray’s death. A Twitter account associated with the page reached out to journalists at The Sun and other outlets and sent a press release to reporters promoting the event.

Todd M. Rosenblum, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, is a nonresident senior fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

The Russian effort “was sophisticated to the point that they identified the standing social cleavages that existed in the nation,” he said.

“They were able to accurately assess what’s dividing Americans and what messages were going to cause an emotional reaction. There were a lot of pretty sophisticated creations.”

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign – Baltimore Sun
 

mikenova shared this story from putin won US 2016 election – Google News.


Baltimore Sun
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
Baltimore Sun
Analysts say the ad and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election …and more »

Wednesday’s Morning Email: Latest Missile Launch From North Korea Appears To Put Entire Continental U.S. In Range

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4:06 PM 11/29/2017 – Today’s Headlines and Commentary: Special Counsel Robert Muellers investigation of Michael Flynn may now cover Flynns tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), BuzzFeed News reported.

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Today’s Headlines and Commentary
How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter – Business Insider
Britain First, neofascism și putinism: de la Teodor Baconschi la Donald Trump – Realitatea
Donald Trump Has Been Torture for Foreign Correspondents in Russia – Foreign Policy (blog)
Trump supporters, ask yourselves some serious questions – Island Packet
Washington more concerned about Orbán’s pro-Russian politics than his authoritarianism – Hungarian Free Press
What happens when the media gets it really wrong – Gant Daily
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap – Daily Beast
The President Is Losing Whatever Was Left – Esquire.com
Trump heads to Missouri in bid to sell tax plan to public – WPXI Pittsburgh
Trump is betting everything in the Middle East on the Saudi Crown Prince – CNN
White House: It doesn’t matter if anti-Muslim videos are real because ‘the threat is real’ – CNBC
Yet more proof: Donald Trump is a fascist sympathiser | Richard Wolffe
Commentary: Don’t call Putin a genius – Reuters
Trump’s health secretary pick pitches himself as opponent to high drug prices
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe – Business Insider
Sioux Leader To Trump: ‘Leave The Office You Bought And Take Your Swamp Things With You’
Haqqani Network Remains Primary Source of Pakistan-US Tensions
Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox Frenzy – Observer
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Turkeys Love Affair with Saudi Arabia On the Rocks
Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox End-Times Talk – Observer
Putin’s Payouts For Firstborn Babies Seen As Popular Pre-Election Move But No Cure For Looming Demographic Slump
Putin Offers $8.6 Billion to Families as Russia Nears Election – Bloomberg
Мнение Guardian о Сирии: Путин испытывает Запад – inoСМИ.Ru

 

Saved Stories – None
Today’s Headlines and Commentary

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in a test that demonstrated the Kim regimes longest potential range capability yet. The Hwasong-15 missile could reach all of the continental United States, the New York Times reported. The missiles 53-minute flight took the projectile 2,800 miles into space before landing in the Sea of Japan 600 miles east of its launch site. Experts said the test flight showed a potential range of 8,000 miles. President Donald Trump, the leaders of Japan and South Korea, and the U.N. secretary-general condemned the launch, the Washington Post reported. The United Nations Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss Pyongyangs latest provocation.The Syrian government agreed to a Russian plan for a ceasefire in a rebel-held region near Damascus,the BBC reported. Syrian forces had besieged rebels in the Eastern Ghouta area, and in recent weeks Russian airstrikes and Syrian artillery fire have killed dozens of civilians. The ceasefire came as Syrian government and opposition negotiators met for U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva.

The FBI is investigating the murders of a Syrian-American journalist and her mother in Turkey, ABC News reported. Halla Barakat and her mother Orouba both reported on abuses by the Syrian regime. Their killer strangled and stabbed them to death in their apartment in Istanbul in September. Turkish prosecutors have arrested a man who says he killed them because of a dispute about money, but the prosecutors suspect the man acted on orders from the Assad regime to assassinate the women.

Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, promoted a private scheme to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East while he was in office, the Wall Street Journal reported. Flynn consulted for the companies proposing the plan during the presidential transition. After coming into office, he directed a National Security Council staffer to prepare a memo about the plan for Trump to approve. The staffer continued to promote the plan after Flynn resigned in February until his own ouster in July.

Special Counsel Robert Muellers investigation of Michael Flynn may now cover Flynns tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), BuzzFeed News reported.

The DIA cited ongoing law enforcement investigative activities to justify refusing a reporters three-year old request for information about Flynns two-year tenure as director from 2012 to 2014. The Obama administration forced Flynn to retire early.

A jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the alleged mastermind of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, on terrorism charges, the Post reported. The jury in federal district court acquitted Khatallah on murder charges for the deaths of four U.S. diplomats at Benghazi. U.S. commandos captured Khatallah in 2014 in Libya and brought him to the U.S. to face criminal prosecution. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

Shooting broke out in Sanaa, Yemens capital, between rival factions of the Houthi movement, Reuters reported. Forces loyal to Yemens former president Ali Abdullah Saleh fought allies of another key Houthi leader, threatening to fracture the Houthi rebel movement. A Saudi-led coalition backing Yemens internationally-recognized government is fighting the Houthis for control of the country.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his redesign of the State Department, the Post reported. There is not hollowing out, Tillerson said in remarks at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. Dozens of senior diplomats have resigned or been fired since the beginning of the administration. Tillersons redesign plan has sparked widespread opposition in the department. Tillerson said reports of a depleted department are not accurate and that his redesign would improve the working environment for the nations diplomatic corps. The official overseeing the redesign quit on Tuesday after three months on the job, Bloomberg reported.

A Belgian court blocked the deportation of an imam at the countrys largest mosque, according to the Post. Belgian immigration and asylum officials said Abdelhadi Sewif threatened national security. The court found that officials had provided no evidence that Sewif posed a specific security risk. Belgiums investigation into the 2016 terror attacks on the Brussels airport has put pressure on Sewifs mosque for its connections to foreign backers.

A Bosnian-Croat military commander died after taking poison at the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reuters reported. Slobodan Praljak drank from a glass that he said contained poison as a U.N. judge upholding his 20-year prison sentence for war crimes related to plan to carry out ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Clare Duncan detailed Yemens recent history in a primer on its civil war.

Nicholas Weaver emphasized the seriousness of the danger from autonomous weapons systems such as slaughterbots.

J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the Sinai attack, U.S.-Turkey tensions and the fallout from the Saudi power play.

Yishai Schwartz summarized the Nov. 13 military commission hearing in U.S. v. al-Nashiri.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, featuring discussion of Carpenter v. U.S. and the hearing in ACLU v. Mattis.

 

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

How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter – Business Insider
 


Business Insider
How Putin’s KGB background has helped him manipulate Trump according to an investigative reporter
Business Insider
Luke Harding, journalist and author of “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,” explains how Vladimir Putin’s background as a KGB agent has influenced his worldview and allowed him to manipulate Donald …
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and PutinNewsweek
The US sanctions bill is a timebomb for Donald Trump and Vladimir PutinThe Guardian
The
 Far-Right Group Retweeted By Donald Trump Deleted A Bunch BuzzFeed News
Commentary: Don’t call Putin a geniusReuters
The Guardian– Of Pro-Putin Posts From Its WebsiteBuzzFeed News 
Raw StoryThe Moderate Voice Reuters
all 151 South China Morning PostReuters
all 146
 
news articles »
Britain First, neofascism și putinism: de la Teodor Baconschi la Donald Trump – Realitatea
 

Britain First, neofascism și putinism: de la Teodor Baconschi la Donald Trump
Realitatea
Britain First, neofascism și putinism: de la Teodor Baconschi la Donald Trump. vezi toate articolele de Andrei Panțu. azi la 19:30 comenteaza acum 2 vizualizari. Trump a distribuit pe Twitter o postare anti-musulmani a neofasciștilor de la partidul and more »

Donald Trump Has Been Torture for Foreign Correspondents in Russia – Foreign Policy (blog)
 


Foreign Policy (blog)
Donald Trump Has Been Torture for Foreign Correspondents in Russia
Foreign Policy (blog)
Amid the investigation into alleged collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign and the Kremlin, public demand for reporting on Russia has never been higher but it’s nearly impossible for any journalists in Russia to add 
Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another TrumpRussia Connection?Newsweek
The US sanctions bill is a timebomb for Donald Trump and Vladimir PutinThe Guardian
The Russia Scandal Prequel: How Donald Trump Became Ensnared In Putin’s WebThe Moderate Voice
Business InsiderWashington ExaminerKyiv PostReuters
all 149 137 news articles »
Trump supporters, ask yourselves some serious questions – Island Packet
 

Trump supporters, ask yourselves some serious questions
Island Packet
There are other words for it: Treason. High Crimes. Misdemeanors. But let’s be fair. There are three alternatives: Trump is a traitor. Trump is gullible (moronic?) enough to believe Putin. Or Trump is attempting diplomacy by acknowledging Russian  

Washington more concerned about Orbán’s pro-Russian politics than his authoritarianism – Hungarian Free Press
 


Hungarian Free Press
Washington more concerned about Orbán’s pro-Russian politics than his authoritarianism
Hungarian Free Press
… of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, accused Russia of predatory revisionism, noting that Moscow was attempting to destabilize and increase its clout in the so-called Near Abroad (the former Soviet states), as well as in Eastern Europe

What happens when the media gets it really wrong – Gant Daily
 

What happens when the media gets it really wrong
Gant Daily
Unearthing proof of Nixon’s misconduct required the combined efforts of federal prosecutors, FBI agents, committees of both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court. The notion that the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein toppled Nixon is one of the  

Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap – Daily Beast
 


Daily Beast
Crook Claims Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey Tried to Broker US-Turkey Prisoner Swap
Daily Beast
Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey tried to broker a prisoner exchange between the United States and Turkey to free their Turkish client, Reza Zarrab, he testified in Manhattan federal court Wednesday. Zarrab said on the stand he hired lawyers to 
Turkish-Iranian Gold Trader Testifies at US TrialU.S. News & World Report
Gold Trader Links Turkish Banker to Plot to Dodge SanctionsBloombergall 49 news articles »

The President Is Losing Whatever Was Left – Esquire.com
 


Esquire.com
The President Is Losing Whatever Was Left
Esquire.com
Apparently, the president* was up early on Wednesday, tweeting out dangerous nonsense. First, he retweeted some noxious sewage from the deputy leader of Britain First, a virulently Islamophobic organization. Then, in the wake of the firing of Matt  

Trump heads to Missouri in bid to sell tax plan to public – WPXI Pittsburgh
 


WPXI Pittsburgh
Trump heads to Missouri in bid to sell tax plan to public
WPXI Pittsburgh
Senior administration officials briefing reporters ahead of the trip said Trump is expected to once again target McCaskill, who is among 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in states won by Trump and is considered one of the most vulnerable …and more »

Trump is betting everything in the Middle East on the Saudi Crown Prince – CNN
 


CNN
Trump is betting everything in the Middle East on the Saudi Crown Prince
CNN
David A. Andelman, visiting scholar at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and director of its Red Lines Project, is a contributor to CNN and a columnist for USA Today. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We and more »

White House: It doesn’t matter if anti-Muslim videos are real because ‘the threat is real’ – CNBC
 


Elite Daily
White House: It doesn’t matter if anti-Muslim videos are real because ‘the threat is real’
CNBC
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said that it doesn’t matter whether the anti-Muslim videos retweeted by President Donald Trump are real or not, because “the threat is real.” “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real 
What Is Britain First? Trump Retweeted The Far-Right Group’s Deputy LeaderElite Dailyall 466 news articles »

Yet more proof: Donald Trump is a fascist sympathiser | Richard Wolffe

Trumps decision to promote anti-Muslim videos by Britain First, an extreme far-right group, confirms what was abundantly clear after ChartlottesvilleIt was true after the racist mob in Charlottesville three months ago. And its still true today: Donald J Trump quite literally sympathizes with fascists.

He shares their worldview as easily as he shares their language and videos. He gives their voice and values the biggest platform in politics. He is a neo-fascist sympathizer in the mainstream of American politics, sitting at the heart of the West Wing and world power.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA! OCS @JaydaBF @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/BiQfQkTra9

Britain First is an Islamophobic group run by convicted racists. It was founded in 2011 by former members of the far-right British National Party (BNP) and loyalist extremists in Northern Ireland.

Continue reading…

Commentary: Don’t call Putin a genius – Reuters
 


Reuters
Commentary: Don’t call Putin a genius
Reuters
Vladimir Putin’s global stature appears to be at an all-time high. Some observers call the Russian president the Middle East’s New Sheriff Sheriff, and for good reason. Last week, during a series of meetings with the leaders of Syria, Turkey and Iran in the 
Putin’s Daughter Is Linked to Wilbur RossAnother Trump-Russia Connection?Newsweek
The US sanctions bill is a timebomb for Donald Trump and Vladimir PutinThe Guardian
Russia Is Not the ‘No. 1 Threat’or Even Among the Top 5The Nation.
Deutsche WelleNew RepublicNational Post
all 151 146 news articles »
Trump’s health secretary pick pitches himself as opponent to high drug prices

Former executive Alex Azar appeared before the Senate Wednesday, denouncing drug price hikes while touting his pharmaceutical industry experienceDonald Trumps pick for health secretary, former drug company executive Alex Azar, said drug prices are too high and pitched himself as a proponent of reining in abuse by pharmaceutical companies, at his confirmation hearing.

Related: Trump nominates ex-drug company executive as new health secretary

Continue reading…

A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe – Business Insider
 


Business Insider
A top senator just introduced a slew of new names into the Senate’s Russia probe
Business Insider
donald trump President Donald Trump pauses while speaking to the media before speaking with members of the armed forces via video conference at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. … She asked them in separate letters for and more »

Sioux Leader To Trump: ‘Leave The Office You Bought And Take Your Swamp Things With You’

Harold Frazier said Trump should also apologize to the nation for his Pocahontas remarks.
Haqqani Network Remains Primary Source of Pakistan-US Tensions

Just days before U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is scheduled to visit Pakistan for crucial talks, the top American general in Afghanistan has alleged the Pakistani spy agency continues to maintain ties with the Haqqani terrorist network and allows Taliban leaders to operate out of havens in the country. Pakistani officials have promptly rejected as “nothing new” the charges made by General John Nicholson, who commands U.S. troops and NATO’s Resolute Support Afghan mission. Speaking via video phone Tuesday from his Kabul base, the general told Pentagon reporters while “tactical-level” leadership of the Taliban is in the field in Afghanistan, “senior leadership” of the insurgency still resides in Pakistan. It is believed the leadership is in Quetta and Peshawar. “They [Pakistanis] identified certain steps that they were going to take. We have not yet seen those steps play out … we have not seen those changes implemented yet,” Nicholson said. He was referring to talks U.S. officials have held with Pakistani counterparts since President Donald Trump announced his strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. Trump denounced Pakistan for what he said was its support of terrorist groups and urged the country to enhance cooperation with U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. A senior Pakistani military official, when contacted by VOA for his reaction, said Pakistan “has been rejecting such allegations and some have been leveled again.” The official requested anonymity, saying an official government response is being formulated. A spokesman for the provincial government in Quetta, capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, while responding to the U.S. general’s allegations asserted they are based on “conjectures” and are not helpful in achieving regional peace. “Any actionable intelligence if shared with authorities on Pakistan side, our security forces will promptly act, as it is primarily in our interest to fight menace of terrorism,” Anwar-ul Haq Kakar told VOA. Nicholson replied Tuesday, when asked whether Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has ended its support for the Haqqani network. “The chairman of the joint chiefs and the secretary of defense were asked these questions on the Hill recently. I think they affirmed that those relationships still exist. So, I would leave at that and I concur with their assessment,” the general said. The assertions, analysts say, show Washington is not “satisfied” with Islamabad’s claims of dismantling terrorist infrastructure linked to Afghan war on Pakistani soil, and Haqqani network’s activities are expected to dominate discussions Mattis will hold with Pakistani leaders. U.S. officials have not yet announced dates for his visit, but Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said last week Mattis will be in Islamabad on December 3. The United States designated the Pakistan-based Haqqani network as a terrorist organization in 2012 after the then-top U.S. military officer, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, told Congress the network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI directorate. Pakistan military and civilian officials maintain the country has no links to insurgent groups in Afghanistan, saying “neither Haqqanis nor Taliban need sanctuaries” on Pakistani soil when more than 40 percent of Afghan territory has been “rendered ungoverned” after militant advances in recent years. Nicholson noted on Tuesday the Afghan government controls about 64 percent of the population, the Taliban controls about 12 percent of the population and the other 24 percent live in contested areas.
Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox Frenzy – Observer
 


Observer
Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox Frenzy
Observer
The yawning gap between Russian and Western values can be partly explained by the fact that Communism shielded the former from the West’s vast cultural shifts since the 1960s. Living under the Old Left provided protection against the New Left. As a and more »

Former Bosnian Croat Commander Dies After Drinking Poison in Courtroom

Slobodan Praljak drank poison shortly after the court confirmed his sentence for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims during the 1990s
Turkeys Love Affair with Saudi Arabia On the Rocks

A deal signed by Turkish and Iranian ministers Sunday to enhance efforts to break Saudi Arabian trade sanctions against Qatar, is only the latest move by Ankara against Riyadh. The two once close allies are increasingly finding themselves on opposing sides in the region. There is this fear [by Turkey] an axis is developing between Saudi Arabia, [the United States], and Israel in the region definitely, said Haldun Solmazturk, head of 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Ankara based research organization. Saudi Arabia’s increasingly tough stance against Iran has been matched by Turkey’s increasing cooperation with Iran. Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the frequency of meetings with his Russian and Iranian counterparts to cooperate over Syria would increase. Tougher Saudi policy  Turkeys gravitation towards Iran is in part a reaction to Saudi Arabias more assertive foreign policy under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Prince Salman has more aspiration in the region, even to cooperate with Israel and Egypt, notes international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankaras Middle Eastern Technical University, “This alliance supported by America is automatically against Turkish policy in the Middle East, Turkey is excluded, Turkey is isolated in the Middle East. The Saudis assertive new policy is a personal blow to the Turkish president. Erdogans roots are in political Islam and he has devoted much of his 15 years in power to deepening relations with Riyadh, President Erdogan was the most closest one [Turkish leader] to Saudi Arabias ideology, this is why he is considered an Islamist prime minister and president and now with Saudi Arabias growing influence in the region we see how disappointed Erdogan is, he bet on the wrong horse, Bagci claims. Bagci an international relations professor who has informally advised Erdogan on foreign affairs, says the Turkish presidents disappointment is exacerbated by the unprecedented lengths he went to court the Saudis. When the King of Saudi Arabia visited Turkey, Erdogan and the then Turkish President Abdullah Gul, visited the king [at his hotel] and this was one the mistakes of foreign policy and this one [of the] biggest concessions ever to Saudi Arabia, Bagci says. Erdogan was strongly condemned by opposition parties for ignoring traditional diplomatic protocol where by a visiting head of state goes to the countrys leader’s residence. Morsi’s ouster The start of the unraveling in Saudi Turkish relations, analysts claim, can be traced back to the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. It goes back to the coup in Egypt, says political columnist Semih Idiz of Al Monitor website, Islamists in Turkey discovering the land of Wahhabism fundamentalism is behind a secular coup in Egypt and they can’t make sense of it and had to attack it. Erdogan, a close ally of Morsi, was in the forefront of condemning the coup. He continues to uses the four finger sign of Rabbia, used by Morsi supporters as a gesture of solitary. Ankara not only blamed Riyadh for the coup, but also what was perceived as the tacit support of Washington. According to Idiz, the suspicion the two countries are increasingly seeking to shape the region, was exacerbated by the Crown Prince Salman declaration of seeking to adopt a moderate Islamic approach to his country and the region. In Turkey the notion of moderate islam is a trip wire [alarm sign] ever since former Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to Turkey as a moderate Islamic republic. This idea of moderate Islam as an American inspired project to control the region has very much taken hold in Ankara, notes Idiz. Islam cannot be either moderate or not moderate. Islam can only be one thing, Erdogan said earlier this month. Recently the concept of moderate Islam has received attention. But the patent of this concept originated in the West, he added. Economic cost But the price for Ankaras falling out with Riyadh is likely not to be cheap. Turkey was richly rewarded for a decade of unprecedented close ties with the kingdom, with it becoming a major investor in the Turkish economy. The latest official figures placed Saudis as first among foreign buyers of Turkish residences. Saudi Arabia was seen by Erdogan as a key player in his efforts dilute the economic dependence on European investment. Analysts warn such plans will need to be reassessed, Substantial foreign direct investment from Saudi Arabia is not going to happen, it’s an illusion, warns political consultant Atilla Yesilada, of the New York based Global Source Partners.
Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox End-Times Talk – Observer
 


Observer
Russia Conducts Nuclear Exercises Amid Orthodox End-Times Talk
Observer
President Barack Obama, after Moscow seized Crimea in early 2014, pronounced that there was nothing big afoot: After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology. Obama’s statement was wrong then, and it’s evenand more »

Putin’s Payouts For Firstborn Babies Seen As Popular Pre-Election Move But No Cure For Looming Demographic Slump

Demographers are skeptical that Vladimir Putin’s new cash incentive for mothers can reverse a looming fall in the population, but analysts saw the initiative as a potentially popular move as the president steps up his reelection campaign before even having formally announced he is running.
Putin Offers $8.6 Billion to Families as Russia Nears Election – Bloomberg
 


Bloomberg
Putin Offers $8.6 Billion to Families as Russia Nears Election
Bloomberg
Putin’s sweetener to young Russians comes after the government has failed to raise pensions and other state benefits in line with inflation in recent years as spending has been cut amid the fall in oil prices and the longest recession this century and more »

Мнение Guardian о Сирии: Путин испытывает Запад – inoСМИ.Ru
 


inoСМИ.Ru
Мнение Guardian о Сирии: Путин испытывает Запад
inoСМИ.Ru
На прошлой неделе Путин провел в Сочи переговоры с лидерами Ирана и Турции. Кроме того, он появился перед камерами вместе с Асадом. А в начале этого года Россия организовала переговоры с сирийской оппозицией в столице Казахстана Астане. Это признак изменений в …and more »


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10:58 AM 11/29/2017 – Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: The Tech Giants Must Be Reined In – The American Interest

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Cambridge Analytica from mikenova (3 sites)

Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: The Tech Giants Must Be Reined In – The American Interest

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: Donald Trump’s son-in-law ‘withheld Wikileaks and Russia emails’ – Mirror.co.uk
Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: Cambridge Analytica endangers global democracy, and it must be stopped – The Diamondback
Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica – WNYC
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: Brexit How the British People Were Hacked – Center for Research on Globalization
cambridge analytica – Google News: Japan’s new Blade Library lets amputees rent pricey prosthetic limbs for $9 a day – Quartz
Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit campaign – Quartz
cambridge analytica – Google News: The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica – WNYC
cambridge analytica – Google News: Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit campaign – Quartz
cambridge analytica – Google News: The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica – WBEZ
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: Trumping Democracy New Documentary Traces Trump’s Election Win – HuffPost
cambridge analytica – Google News: ‘Serious questions’ for referendum watchdog over Vote Leave inquiry decisions – shropshirestar.com
cambridge analytica – Google News: Cambridge Analytica endangers global democracy, and it must be stopped – The Diamondback
Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: A Condition for Cambridge Analytica’s Partner in Brazil: No Extremists – Bloomberg
cambridge analytica – Google News: A Condition for Cambridge Analytica’s Partner in Brazil: No Extremists – Bloomberg
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: Pussy Riot and others are showing protest art in London because they can’t in Russia – Quartz
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: How Silicon Valley hooks us – The Week Magazine
cambridge analytica – Google News: Donald Trump’s son-in-law ‘withheld Wikileaks and Russia emails’ – Mirror.co.uk
cambridge analytica – Google News: Experts Question Role of Data Mining Firms in Kenya’s Annulled Election – Voice of America
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: I’m beginning to believe there’s a Russian conspiracy to churn out online conspiracy theories – New Statesman
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: In 2016, Russian Bots Were Busy Supporting Brexit, Too – Slate Magazine (blog)

 

Cambridge Analytica from mikenova (3 sites)
Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: The Tech Giants Must Be Reined In – The American Interest
 


The American Interest
The Tech Giants Must Be Reined In
The American Interest
But this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kind of meddling the social media giants tolerated. And getting a grip on how to address these issues will be no small feat. The social media business model itself is flawed and unethical; the and more »

Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: Donald Trump’s son-in-law ‘withheld Wikileaks and Russia emails’ – Mirror.co.uk
 


Mirror.co.uk
Donald Trump’s son-in-law ‘withheld Wikileaks and Russia emails’
Mirror.co.uk
However, even those published by the Atlantic show that: 1/. “WikiLeaks loves its pending publications and ignores those who ask for details. Trump Jr. was rebuffed just like Cambridge Analytica. In both cases WikiLeaks had publicly teased the 
Was the Trump Campaign Working With WikiLeaks and the Russians to Undermine the Clinton Campaign?The Nation.all 139 news articles »

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: Cambridge Analytica endangers global democracy, and it must be stopped – The Diamondback
 

Cambridge Analytica endangers global democracy, and it must be stopped
The Diamondback
The victors in all these campaigns reportedly hired the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to help them win tight races. CA collects voter data without asking for their permission, and its influence remains largely unchecked. It’s dangerous to let  

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica – WNYC
 


WNYC
The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica
WNYC
David Carroll is hunting for information. About himself. He knows himself pretty well. And so does a controversial marketing firm. Cambridge Analytica claims it holds up to 5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters. The company implied it  

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: Brexit How the British People Were Hacked – Center for Research on Globalization
 


Center for Research on Globalization
Brexit How the British People Were Hacked
Center for Research on Globalization
It is perhaps the most globally advanced case of computational propaganda where numerous online social mediadisinformation campaigns have been waged against Ukrainian citizens. The industry that drives these … In the case of Brexitand Donald trump  

Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News

cambridge analytica – Google News: Japan’s new Blade Library lets amputees rent pricey prosthetic limbs for $9 a day – Quartz
 


Quartz
Japan’s new Blade Library lets amputees rent pricey prosthetic limbs for $9 a day
Quartz
EU illegally used the services of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm largely owned by American billionaire Robert Mercer, who backed US president Trump, and until recently owned a stake in far-right news organization Breitbart. British  

cambridge analytica – Google News

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit campaign – Quartz
 


Quartz
Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit campaign
Quartz
21, Britain’s Electoral Commission opened its fourth current investigation into the activities of those who successfully campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum. They include questions over Russian dark money, data 
Vote Leave investigated by Electoral Commission over Brexit campaign spendingThe Independent
Electoral Commission launches inquiry into leave campaign fundingThe Guardian
Q+A: why is Vote Leave under investigation for its Brexit spending?The Conversation UK
Sky News –Ekklesia –DIGITALLOOK –Electoral Commission
all 68 news articles »

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica

cambridge analytica – Google News: The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica – WNYC
 


WNYC
The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica
WNYC
David Carroll is hunting for information. About himself. He knows himself pretty well. And so does a controversial marketing firm. Cambridge Analytica claims it holds up to 5,000 data points on over 230 million American voters. The company implied it  

cambridge analytica – Google News

cambridge analytica – Google News: Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit campaign – Quartz
 


Quartz
Everything you need to know about the investigations into the Brexit campaign
Quartz
EU illegally used the services of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm largely owned by American billionaire Robert Mercer, who backed US president Trump, and until recently owned a stake in far-right news organization Breitbart. British  

cambridge analytica – Google News

cambridge analytica – Google News: The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica – WBEZ
 


WBEZ
The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica
WBEZ
The Lawsuit that Could Shine a Light on Cambridge Analytica. November 21, 2017. 26 min. How a single American’s quest for his own digital marketing profile may show us all how our data travels the world. And may even end up in the hands of foreign … 

cambridge analytica – Google News

Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News: Trumping Democracy New Documentary Traces Trump’s Election Win – HuffPost
 


HuffPost
Trumping Democracy New Documentary Traces Trump’s Election Win
HuffPost
Cambridge Analytica employed data-modeling by taking readily available personal data off the web (age, income, address, religion, gun ownership), as well as buying it from banks, credit card companies, and the social media giants Google, Facebook and more »

Cambridge Analytica Social Media Posts in Trump and Brexit campaigns – Google News

cambridge analytica – Google News: ‘Serious questions’ for referendum watchdog over Vote Leave inquiry decisions – shropshirestar.com
 


shropshirestar.com
‘Serious questions’ for referendum watchdog over Vote Leave inquiry decisions
shropshirestar.com
EU by data firm Cambridge Analytica. The watchdog is also separately looking into whether Mr Banks was the true source of three loans worth £6 million on non-commercial terms to Leave.EU, and whether Better For The Country Limited (BFTCL) a …
Electoral Commission launches probe into spending by Brexit campaignThe Nationalall 31 news articles »

cambridge analytica – Google News

cambridge analytica – Google News: Cambridge Analytica endangers global democracy, and it must be stopped – The Diamondback
 

Cambridge Analytica endangers global democracy, and it must be stopped
The Diamondback
The victors in all these campaigns reportedly hired the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to help them win tight races. CA collects voter data without asking for their permission, and its influence remains largely unchecked. It’s dangerous to let  

cambridge analytica – Google News

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica: A Condition for Cambridge Analytica’s Partner in Brazil: No Extremists – Bloomberg
 


Bloomberg
A Condition for Cambridge Analytica’s Partner in Brazil: No Extremists
Bloomberg
Cambridge Analytica, the big-data firm that helped elect Donald Trump, is prospecting for clients in Brazil’s presidential race next year. … Until 20 days ago, my digital campaign on Facebook would reach 4 percent of the electorate, Torretta said and more »

Saved Stories – Cambridge Analytica

cambridge analytica – Google News: A Condition for Cambridge Analytica’s Partner in Brazil: No Extremists – Bloomberg
 


Bloomberg
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Cambridge Analytica boosted its reputation during Trump’s successful campaign by crunching data to deliver tailor-made messages to voters with different personalities or values. It makes partnerships with local political strategists to maximize theand more »

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The Week Magazine
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10:47 AM 11/29/2017 – Russian propaganda on social media: Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign

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Baltimore Sun
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
Baltimore Sun
Analysts say the ad — and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 — might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election …

Russian propaganda on social media

Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign

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The simple advertisement betrayed little about its intent or origin. It pictured Freddie Gray and two other African Americans who died in encounters with police alongside the words “never forget.”

Analysts say the ad — and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 — might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Of the 3,000 Russian-linked ads Facebook turned over to Congress this fall, more than 250 were targeted at Maryland — a blue state with little sway in the national election that nevertheless remained in the spotlight because of the unrest.

The debate over police interactions with African Americans in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere offered an easy issue for Russians to exploit, analysts say, long before Donald Trump emerged as a serious presidential candidate.

“Russians needed practice,” said James Andrew Lewis, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They had done this a lot for domestic audiences, and they had to learn how to pull the levers of an American audience.

“This was an initial attempt.”

Facebook has said accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, spent more than $100,000 on ads from 2015 to 2017, and that about 126 million people might have been served content from pages associated with the group. U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that the likely financier of the group is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin has denied meddling in the U.S. election.

Much of the discussion surrounding the Russian social media campaign in the United States has focused on its impact on the election. Congress and the Federal Election Commission are both considering new regulations that would require more transparency in online political ads.

Less attention has been given to ads placed in 2015 in states that were not battlegrounds in 2016. Facebook has said about 25 percent of the ads the company identified as being linked to Russia were aimed at specific cities and states. More of those targeted ads ran in 2015 than last year.

The Gray ad released this month by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence included a photo of the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died in April 2015 after suffering an injury in police custody. Also pictured: Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 and Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by police in Cleveland in 2014.

“Join us because we care,” the ad read. “Black Matters!”

Data released by the committee indicate that the advertisement — purchased with rubles — was initially placed in Maryland, Missouri, Virginia and Georgia beginning in mid-2015. It popped up on computer screens more than 200,000 times and attracted 12,127 clicks.

The ad was placed nationally months later and again in 2016. It received 55,761 clicks, in all.

While there is broad consensus that one of the goals of the Russian effort was to undermine confidence in American institutions — including law enforcement — there is less agreement about why so many ads were aimed at Maryland.

Russia has a long history of using “active measures” to exploit divisions, including attempts to exacerbate racial tensions. In the 1960s, the KGB authorized a plan to discredit the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by attempting to plant that suggested he was working for the U.S. government.

More recently, the Internet Research Agency and other Russian troll farms have targeted Georgia, Estonia and Ukraine with disinformation campaigns.

The “Black Matters” ad appears to be an early attempt at using social media in the United States. Of the small sample of ads released by the House Intelligence Committee, it was the earliest to appear.

Mark R. Jacobson is a former special assistant to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

“While the social media vectors are new, the operation to influence and persuade in support of broader political activities was refined during all these previous operations,” said Jacobson, now an associate professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.

“So in that sense I think the 2015 stuff could have very well been an intermediate step between the long history of political warfare and what we saw in 2016.”

The Gray ad clicked through to a Facebook page called “Black Matters US.” That page has been removed, but an apparently related website, <a href=”http://blackmattersus.com” rel=”nofollow”>blackmattersus.com</a>, remains online.

The website, registered anonymously in late 2015, describes itself as a “nonprofit news outlet.” It features commentary about the African-American community. Items about Baltimore and Gray begin by quoting or paraphrasing coverage in The Baltimore Sun before launching into opinion.

When Baltimore prosecutors dropped criminal charges last year against officers involved in Gray’s arrest and death, the website posted an article that cited coverage in The Sun, including a quote from State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and then opined that the decision “doesn’t come as a surprise.”

“The American criminal justice system has always been reluctant to prosecute officers, making up special circumstances surrounding the cases, in which these officers were involved,” an author identified as William Sanders wrote. “People are tired of such pretense and police being above the laws they impose on others.”

The website was also frequently and overtly critical of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. An item posted in October 2016, the month before the election, asserted that “Hillary’s deceptive plots to win the love of Black people in America just to gain power are gradually being brought to light.” Another piece was headlined “Hillary Clinton: A Candidate For the Corporate Elite.”

The most recent item posted to the site is from September. A request for information by The Sun submitted through the site’s “contact” form drew no response. An email address associated with the page did not work. Most of the social media accounts connected to the site have been taken down.

Just how much Maryland and the other states confronting racial tension were targeted by the ad campaign is unclear. Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said this month that Maryland received a notable share, particularly given that the presidential vote in the state wasn’t close.

“The three most heavily targeted states in America — Maryland, Missouri and New York — were all determined by at least 18-point margin,” the North Carolina Republican said during a committee hearing.

But in a brief interview later, Burr appeared to walk back that assertion.

“I didn’t say that they were the most targeted,” Burr said. “I used those as examples of how they were targeted at a higher level than [the battleground states] Michigan and Wisconsin.”

Burr has long contended the ads were more about dividing Americans than they were about presidential politics.

“From the standpoint of what we’ve seen in the ads and how they were designed and run, it was to create societal chaos,” Burr said. “That’s it.”

Asked about their impact, Burr pointed out that two Russian Facebook pages managed to organize dueling rallies outside a Houston mosque last year.

“When you see a picture of a rally with both sides in Texas, yeah, they were successful.”

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that the ad placed in Maryland probably had more to do with highlighting racial tension than helping to elect Trump. Trump entered the Republican primary in June of 2015, about a month before the ad began showing up in feeds.

Many of the national ads released by the House and Senate intelligence committees from 2016 focused on the election. One touted Trump rallies in Florida. Another depicted Jesus and Satan arm wrestling and suggested Satan was on Clinton’s side.

“Press ‘like’ to help Jesus win!” the ad read.

“In 2015 they were doing their own fishing expedition, trying to see what would stick,” Cardin said. “So they came into Maryland and they tried a tactic. It wasn’t terribly effective.

“I think they may very well have gone on to a different tactic.”

That’s the conclusion of several analysts.

Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has studied the Russian campaigns, told lawmakers in testimony this year that Russian online activities “shifted aggressively” toward the United States in late 2014 and throughout 2015. By the end of 2015, the effort “began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome” of the election.

Watts did not respond to several requests for comment.

Facebook has repeatedly declined requests from The Baltimore Sun for information about the ads placed in Maryland. The Gray ad released by the House Intelligence Committee is the only Russian ad aimed at Marylanders to have been shown to the public.

Without seeing more content, several analysts said, it’s difficult to pin down the motivations. The House Intelligence Committee has promised to make more ads public, but has not said when that will happen.

Thomas Rid is professor of strategic studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins.

“The 2015 targeting could have been a trial run, but we don’t know,” he said. “Soviet active measures started exploiting racial and ethnic tensions in the mid-1950s, and ripping open racial divisions has been a standard M.O. ever since.”

Unusual social media activity in Baltimore in 2015 caught the attention of a local cybersecurity firm. Days after the 2015 riots, the Federal Hill-based firm ZeroFox documented a flurry of accounts by users posing as Baltimoreans that had in fact been created in Russia, China and India.

Postings from those accounts appeared designed to deepen the divides exposed during the riots.

“I just killed a pig,” one Twitter user wrote alongside a photograph of a bloodied police officer. (It turned out the officer was from South America, not Baltimore.)

Another tweet, from an account impersonating the Baltimore Police Department, used a racial slur.

ZeroFox identified nearly 100 accounts impersonating police and city and state officials.The firm has not responded to requests for comment.

Another Facebook account known as Blacktivist promoted a rally in Baltimore last year to mark the one-year anniversary of Gray’s death. A Twitter account associated with the page reached out to journalists at The Sun and other outlets and sent a press release to reporters promoting the event.

Todd M. Rosenblum, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, is a nonresident senior fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council.

The Russian effort “was sophisticated to the point that they identified the standing social cleavages that existed in the nation,” he said.

“They were able to accurately assess what’s dividing Americans and what messages were going to cause an emotional reaction. There were a lot of pretty sophisticated creations.”

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

Read the whole story
· · · · · · · ·

Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign – Baltimore Sun

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Baltimore Sun
Russian ads placed in Maryland might have been precursor to broader campaign
Baltimore Sun
Analysts say the ad — and hundreds more aimed by Russia at Facebook users in Maryland following the Baltimore riots of 2015 — might have been a dry run for the broader, national social media campaign that followed in the 2016 presidential election …and more »

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But we need to understand why Whitehall might want to set up its own news network in Russian called @bbcrussian and a news agency in Moscow called @reuters how does it sound this way, @bbcnickrobinson? pic.twitter.com/WwwO7zbJmW.

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Russian propaganda on social media – Google News


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9:36 AM 11/29/2017 – “Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.”

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But NBC News’s Carol Lee and Julia Ainsley added the detail that Zarrab’s case may have been discussed as well. They reported that “Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.”

We don’t yet know whether Flynn did anything untoward here, or whether Zarrab would even know about it if he did. Still, Zarrab’s testimony this week will surely be closely watched — by both Erdogan’s government and the Trump administration.

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Trump-Russia investigation news: the latest developments, explained
 

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It’s been a relatively quiet period for the Trump-Russia investigation since news of its first indictments dropped in late October — but a series of recent reports could give some clues about what special counsel Robert Mueller might do next.

First, reports have indicated that President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn may at least be exploring the possibility of making a deal with Mueller’s team. The question of whether Flynn flips and gives Mueller incriminating information about other Trump officials or the president himself could turn out to be tremendously important.

Second, Mueller’s investigators have already interviewed several top current and former White House aides, and they plan to interview several more in the coming weeks, including White House counsel Don McGahn, communications director Hope Hicks, and a communications aide who’s worked closely with Jared Kushner.

Third, we learned this week that Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who had been charged with orchestrating a scheme to avoid Iran sanctions, has agreed to become a government witness as part of a plea deal. And while Zarrab’s prosecution is separate from Mueller’s probe, his name has intriguingly come up in recent reports about Flynn’s connections to the Turkish government.

Will Flynn flip?

With charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates filed — their trial is expected to begin in May 2018 — attention has turned to the other Trump associate who’s appeared to be in very serious legal jeopardy: Michael Flynn.

Flynn has reportedly been under investigative scrutiny for a plethora of matters — ranging from whether he made false statements about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition to whether he properly disclosed payments he received from Russian and Turkish interests to the broader matter of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

NBC News reported back on November 5 that, per “multiple sources familiar with the investigation,” Mueller had enough evidence to bring charges in the Flynn investigation — and that those charges could implicate Flynn’s son Michael Flynn Jr. of wrongdoing as well.

And over the ensuing days, reports suggested that the Flynns were in even more legal trouble than had previously been known. In particular, the Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller’s team was investigating whether the pair had agreed to try to remove Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen from the country in exchange for payments of millions of dollars. (Flynn’s lawyer issued a statement denying the story.)

Then last week, the New York Times reported that Flynn’s lawyers had informed President Trump’s legal team that they could no longer share information about Mueller’s case. This was interpreted as a sign that Flynn’s team was exploring making a plea deal, in which he’d provide information in return for leniency in charging or sentencing (either for himself or for his son).

The most recent development is that on Monday morning, Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner met with Mueller’s team, according to ABC News. It’s still not entirely confirmed that they’re discussing a cooperation deal, but it appears to be a strong possibility. Whether they’ll arrive at such a deal and what it might entail remains unclear.

More White House aides will reportedly be interviewed soon

Don Emmert/AFP/GettyBut Mueller’s team isn’t only investigating what happened during the campaign. They’re also looking into whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice once in office — and they’re asking White House staffers to give sworn statements about what they might know.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller — who is very close to both Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team, CNN reported. Former White House aides Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer were both questioned in October.

At these sessions, aides were reportedly questioned about Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey earlier this year, and about the White House’s response to Russia-related news stories.

Now at least three other aides are reportedly next on the docket for questioning: communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, and communications aide Josh Raffel.

Hicks has been part of Trump’s inner circle since he launched his campaign and could have useful information about a host of matters, both from before the election and now. McGahn, meanwhile, will probably be asked about just what he did after he was told that Flynn had been giving false information about his contacts with Russians, as well as other matters.

But Mueller’s interest in interviewing Raffel, an aide with a much lower profile, is particularly interesting. That’s because Raffel is best known for working closely with Jared Kushner — which could suggest that Mueller is closely scrutinizing Kushner’s activities.

The curious case of Reza Zarrab

Ozan Kose/AFP/GettyFinally, there’s been a major new development in a news story that’s a bit far afield from Mueller’s investigation — but that could turn out to be related to it.

This is the separate case of Reza Zarrab, an extremely wealthy 34-year-old gold trader who has dual Turkish-Iranian citizenship and close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inner circle.

Federal prosecutors indicted Zarrab in 2016 for what they alleged was his participation in a massive scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran by shipping gold to the country in exchange for oil and natural gas. Prosecutors also allege that high-ranking Turkish government officials were involved and took millions of dollars worth of bribes. Nine people were eventually indicted, but only two — Zarrab and banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla — were ever in US custody.

It’s long been clear that Erdogan really, really did not want Zarrab’s prosecution to go forward — and he’s waged what the Washington Post’s David Ignatius called an “extraordinary” campaign to try to stop it. This included public denunciations of the charges as a plot against his regime, private lobbying of Presidents Obama and Trump (and other administration officials) to try to get Zarrab released, and an unusual meeting in Turkey with Rudy Giuliani (who’d joined Zarrab’s legal team earlier this year). The obvious explanation, of course, is that Erdogan fears Zarrab could implicate his own close associates or family members.

The Turkish president’s effort to get Zarrab off the hook, it’s now clear, has failed. Zarrab has become a cooperating witness for the US government as part of a plea deal, a prosecutor confirmed in court Tuesday. He is expected to take the stand on Wednesday as the case moves forward.

What could tie this matter to Mueller’s probe, though, is a potential connection to Michael Flynn.

Flynn has already admitted that he was paid by Turkish interests while advising Trump during the presidential campaign. But recent reports have suggested that Mueller’s team is examining whether Flynn continued to act on Turkey’s behalf during the transition, when he was the national security adviser-in-waiting, and during his brief stint in the White House before his firing in February — and whether he may have been promised millions of dollars in return.

A meeting Flynn had with Turkish officials in mid-December 2016 has come under particular investigative scrutiny. That was the meeting where participants may have discussed a potential deal to deliver Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric opposed to the regime who lives in the US, into Turkish custody, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But NBC News’s Carol Lee and Julia Ainsley added the detail that Zarrab’s case may have been discussed as well. They reported that “Mueller is specifically examining whether the deal, if successful, would have led to millions of dollars in secret payments to Flynn, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.”

We don’t yet know whether Flynn did anything untoward here, or whether Zarrab would even know about it if he did. Still, Zarrab’s testimony this week will surely be closely watched — by both Erdogan’s government and the Trump administration.

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North Korea Fires a Ballistic Missile, in a Further Challenge to Trump
 

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North Korea said Wednesday that it had successfully tested its Hwasong-15, a newly developed ICBM that it said could deliver heavy nuclear warheads anywhere in the continental United States.

The country called the new missile its “most powerful” ICBM, saying it “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system” North Korea has been developing for decades. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, watched the launch, a broadcaster said, reading a prepared statement on the North’s Central Television.

Experts said this latest launch — which landed west of the northern end of Honshu, Japan’s largest island — exhibited characteristics that underscored the increasing sophistication of North Korea’s program.

The missile flew higher and for a longer duration than two previous intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which flew for 37 minutes on July 4 and for 47 minutes on July 28.

David Wright, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile performed better than the two fired in July, and exhibited a potential range of more than 8,000 miles, able to reach Washington or any other part of the continental United States.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Dr. Wright said of the test flight. “This is building on what they’ve done before. It’s muscle-flexing to show the U.S. that they’re going to continue to make progress.”

However, Dr. Wright noted that in an effort to increase the vehicle’s range, the North Koreans might have fitted it with a mock payload that weighed little or next to nothing. So the distance traveled, while impressive, does not necessarily translate into a working intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a thermonuclear warhead.

For all the evidence of technical advancements, a senior White House official said the significance of the launch should not be overstated, given the number of missile tests North Korea has carried out this year. The White House had expected some form of retaliation after it put the North back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism last week.

Mr. Trump, officials said, will stick to his policy of rallying nations to apply economic pressure on North Korea, backed up by the threat of military action. In a statement, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson condemned the launch. But he added, “Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now.”

The launch came in the middle of the night on the peninsula, with less advance warning, according to experts. Aerial photographs of North Korean launch sites did not show missiles waiting on launchpads to be fueled, although Japanese officials had reported that radio telemetry pointed to a possible launch.

Some experts theorized that North Korea was now fueling missiles horizontally, before they are placed on the launchpad. In the past, it went through a lengthier process of rolling a missile onto a launchpad, filling it with liquid fuel and then launching it — steps that could take days.

Six systems that North Korea needs to master to achieve a long-sought goal: being able to reliably hit the United States.

OPEN Graphic

“This shortens the time from when they become visible to when they go in the air, and makes it less likely that the U.S. will be able to strike before it launches,” said Rodger Baker, a vice president of strategic analysis with Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.

American officials offered no proof of the horizontal fueling theory, but they acknowledged that North Korea is searching for ways to get around the United States’ ability to mount a pre-emptive strike.

Mr. Mattis noted that South Korea had fired several “pinpoint missiles” into the water after the launch “to make certain North Korea understands that they could be taken under fire by our ally.”

Although it was the third time that the South had fired missiles in response to a North Korean missile test, this response was more muscular, officials said, with South Korea firing from a land-based missile battery, a Navy destroyer and an F-16 fighter jet. It was meant to show that the South had multiple ways of hitting a North Korean missile on the launchpad in a pre-emptive strike, according to South Korean military officials.

After the launch, the United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on the issue for Wednesday afternoon.

Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that the launch appeared to be “yet again, a reckless act by a regime which is more intent on building up its ballistic missile nuclear capability than it is on looking after its own people.”

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan each called meetings of their national security councils to discuss the North’s latest provocation. Mr. Trump called both leaders on Tuesday, at their request, according to the White House.

Unlike the launches over the summer, when the missiles flew over Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, the government did not issue cellphone alerts to warn its citizens.

In Washington, a spokesman for the Defense Department, Col. Robert Manning of the Army, said that the launch “did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies,” and added that the American commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad.”

Mr. Trump, who has in the past insulted Mr. Kim and threatened “fire and fury” that would “totally destroy” that country, avoided threats of military retaliation against the North on Tuesday. But he did not hesitate to use the specter of a military confrontation in Asia as leverage against the Democrats in the budget wars in Washington.

The missile launch, he predicted, would “have a huge effect on Schumer and Pelosi,” referring to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the chambers’ Democratic leaders, both of whom boycotted his budget meeting.

“If you look at the military, we want strong funding for the military,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t.”

North Korea has persisted in its nuclear weapons and missile development despite nine rounds of sanctions that the Security Council has imposed since its first nuclear test in 2006.

This year, the North has increased the frequency and daring of its missile tests, sending two missiles over Japan in August and September, while demonstrating technical progress that suggested it had developed the ability to strike the continental United States.

In the wake of a Sept. 3 underground nuclear test — the sixth by North Korea — the United Nations Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions against the country.

In the nearly three months since that test, as leaders of North Korea and the United States have exchanged insults, the world has braced for another show of force by the North.

Mr. Trump warned that if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies, Washington would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” and he mockingly referred to Mr. Kim as “rocket man.”

Mr. Kim responded by calling Mr. Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” and his foreign minister later warned that Mr. Kim could order the test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

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The Early Edition: November 29, 2017
 

mikenova shared this story from Just Security.

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

NORTH KOREA

North Korea launched an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) yesterday, according to North Korean state television the new missile was a Hwasong-15 and the test was personally ordered by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim was quoted as saying that the success of the launch signaled the realization of the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

With this system, we can load the heaviest warhead and strike anywhere in the mainland United States, North Korean state television stated, a claim that falls in line with experts calculations about the latest launch, which achieved a longer flight time than any previous North Korean missile test and could theoretically reach Washington D.C.. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.

The I.C.B.M. reached a height higher than any North Korean missile had done before and was the first test since September 15, undermining hopes that the Pyongyang regime has been heeding the warnings of President Trump. James Griffiths reports at CNN.

It is a situation that we will handle, Trump said in response to the launch, the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was more alarmist in his assessment, noting that the I.C.B.M. reached an unprecedented height and that it constituted a continued effort to build a threat a threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States. Mark Landler, Choe Sang-Hun and Helene Cooper report at the New York Times.

South Korea fired pinpoint missiles into the sea in response to Pyongyangs test, Mattis explained yesterday, the South Korean launch was confirmed by an official with South Koreas Joint Chiefs of Staff. Josh Delk reports at the Hill.

North Korea has not yet shown that it can mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a long-range missile, however Pyongyangs development of its technology strengthens the countrys hand in any future negotiations. Justin McCurry and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.

China is seriously concerned about and opposed to the latest missile launch, Chinas foreign ministry spokesperson said today, adding that it strongly urges Pyongyang to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and that all parties should act with caution. The AP reports.

The U.S. and Canada will convene a meeting of the U.N. Command to discuss a non-military solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced yesterday, saying in a statement that diplomatic options with North Korea remain viable and open, for now. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

The U.N. Security Council is due to hold an emergency session following the latest test which contravened international sanctions imposed on North Koreas nuclear weapons and missile programs. The BBC reports.

South Koreas President Moon Jae-in said in a phone call yesterday to President Trump that Pyongyangs missile technology seems to have improved, after the latest launch landed in waters off Japan. Reuters reports.

This is a further breach of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions, the Secretary General of N.A.T.O., Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement yesterday, condemning Pyongyangs actions. Reuters reports.

Were headed toward a war if things dont change, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned yesterday, saying that every test puts North Korea closer to conflict. Cristiano Lima reports at POLITICO.

Trump tried to connect the latest launch to domestic politics in a tweet yesterday however, in general, the presidents response was relatively muted in comparison to previous comments about the Pyongyang regime. Stephen Collinson provides an analysis at CNN.

The risk of war is greater than the public appreciates, Adam B. Ellick and Jonah M. Kessel warn at the New York Times, writing about the crisis following their recent trip to North Korea.

China should send troops to North Korea to reassure the country about resisting an attack and threats to overthrow the Pyongyang regime, a deployment that would mirror the position of U.S. troops in South Korea, and creating a constructive and symmetrical stance that would reduce the likelihood of war. Alton Frye writes at Foreign Policy.

SYRIA

The Syrian government yesterday agreed to a Russia proposed ceasefire in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the capital of Damascus, following two weeks of intense bombardment that has led to dozens of civilian deaths. The BBC reports.

The report of the Eastern Ghouta ceasefire deal came as opposition delegates gathered in Geneva for U.N.-backed talks on the Syrian peace process, representatives of the Syrian government are expected to arrive in Geneva today. Al Jazeera reports.

Turkey said that it would consider expanding its military operations in Syria to Western Aleppo and Afrin provinces, in a statement by Turkeys National Security Council yesterday, this would potentially bring its forces into confrontation with U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters. Reuters reports.

Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.) forces attacked a Turkish border post in Afrin province in Syria yesterday, according to private broadcaster C.N.N. Turk. The Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia are affiliated to the P.Y.D. and Turkey views the groups as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.), which is designated as a terrorist group in Turkey, the U.S. and the E.U., Reuters reports.

The previous rounds of U.N.-backed talks have been consistently disrupted, allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to score key military victories and, in each instance, Russia has provided cover for Assad, an example of how Russia has been dominating in its calculations while the U.S. has been absent if there are any breakthroughs in Geneva this week they would pave the way for Assads success as a result of immense Russian cynicism dressed up as realpolitik. Nic Robertson writes at CNN.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between November 24 and November 26. [Central Command]

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

There is no hollowing out, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday in response to criticisms about his reorganization of the State Department, saying that were keeping the organization fully staffed and adding that the reports of the restructuring made it sound like the sky was falling, which was offensive to employees at the department. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

Tillersons defense of the restructuring came after increasingly vocal complaints from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the secretary of state saying that many of the reports about the loss of diplomatic personnel are just false. Nahal Toosi reports at POLITICO.

Russia has been using malicious tactics against the U.S. and European allies, Tillerson said yesterday, saying that Russias actions are not the behaviors of a responsible nation and said any reset of relations would be out of reach while the situation in the Ukraine remains unaddressed. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.

President Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday at an event commemorating the U.N. vote leading to the creation of the state of Israel, the move was promised by Trump throughout the 2016 campaign however a relocation would represent a break with longstanding U.S. policy. Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.

Trumps foreign policy is conducted with a view to a domestic audience based on celebrity populism, however this approach does not serve the nations interests, eschews the principles of postwar presidents of both parties, most Americans do not agree with the approach, and patriotic Republican and Democratic leaders must challenge Mr. Trumps foreign-policy destruction. The former World Bank president, U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state Robert B. Zoellick writes at the Wall Street Journal.

MICHAEL FLYNN

Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn promoted a controversial nuclear-power proposal in the Middle East within the White House, according to interviews with current and former government officials, individuals from the private-sector and documents describing the plan. Christopher S. Stewart and Rob Barry report at the Wall Street Journal.

Flynns advocacy for the proposal shortly after Trumps inauguration was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition, creating a potential conflict of interest. Greg Jaffe, Carol D. Leonnig, Michael Kranish and Tom Hamburger report at the Washington Post.

It appears that special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into Flynn includes his activities as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.) during the Obama administration, he was ousted from the D.I.A. in 2014. Thomas Frank and Jason Leopold report at BuzzFeed News.

The Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab yesterday pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, his testimony may have implications for Flynn due to Flynns dealings with the Turkish government and an alleged agreement with Turkey to kidnap the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of being the mastermind behind last years failed coup in Ankara. Katie Zavadski observes at The Daily Beast.

LIBYA

Ahmed Abu Khatalla, the Libyan man who was accused of being the mastermind behind the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in 2012, was found guilty of terrorism charges but was not found guilty of murder, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow report at the Washington Post.

The reports of apparent slave auctions in Libya have shone a spotlight on the country, highlighting the instability in the country since the collapse of Muammar Gaddafis regime in 2011Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.

IRAN

Saudi Arabia paints Iran as enemy because it wants to cover up their defeats in Qatar, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday, making the comments after the Saudi Crown Prince called Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the new Hitler of the Middle East. Reuters reports.

The Saudi minister for Gulf affairs Thamer al-Sabhan has been a key figure in the campaign to counter Iran, it is believed that he was behind the unexpected resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Nov. 4 which Hariri claimed was because of the destructive influence of Iran and its Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah ally and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans hawkish approach towards Iran is largely embodied and amplified in al-Sabhan. Bassem Mroue and Aya Batrawy explain at the AP.

The Trump administration is pushing a false pretext about Irans connections to al-Qaeda in a similar way to the Bush administrations lie about Iraqi President Saddam Husseins links to Osama bin Laden, and Trump is beating the drum for war in the Middle East. Mehdi Hasan writes at the New York Times.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Trump administrations new Afghanistan strategy increases the risks to U.S. troops as they are deployed to accompany Afghan army forces in an advisory role, the commander of the U.S. and N.A.T.O. forces in Afghanistan Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. said yesterday. Missy Ryan reports at the Washington Post.

The man accused of carrying out last months attack in New York has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and terrorism, Sayfullo Saipov entered his plea deal yesterday, the BBC reports

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi called on his military to secure and stabilize Sinai within the next three months, in a speech today, adding that the forces can use all brute force necessary to combat the Islamist insurgency. Reuters reports.

Any attempts by the U.S. to impose further U.N. sanctions against South Sudan would likely be vetoed by Russia, the U.S. threatened to take further action yesterday however Russia said such a move would be counterproductive. Michelle Nichols reports at Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has been preparing to release Yemenis who were formerly detained in Guantánamo Bay, a move likely to be met by consternation by Trump, Molly OToole explains at Foreign Policy.

China has been quiet but relentless in its pursuit of becoming a global superpower, and its project has been aided by Trumps America First strategy, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

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Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA Tenure
 

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WASHINGTON — Former national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to be under investigation for his activities while he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration, according to a letter the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The disclosure suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller is looking more broadly than previously thought at Flynn, whom President Donald Trump fired in February after 24 days as his top security adviser.

Mueller’s investigation previously has been reported to include a probe of Flynn’s activities after he was ousted from the DIA in 2014 and traveled to Russia, lobbied for the Turkish government, and joined Trump’s presidential campaign. Until now, however, there has been no indication that Mueller was looking into Flynn’s two-year tenure as head of the nation’s leading producer of foreign military intelligence.

The DIA suggested otherwise in a Nov. 15 letter to BuzzFeed News that denied a reporter’s three-year-old request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations, and other records related to his work as the agency’s director. The letter to reporter Jason Leopold says that releasing Flynn’s records could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.”

The letter does not describe the investigative activities, and a DIA spokesperson declined to elaborate. Federal law allows government agencies to withhold from the public “investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes.”

Legal experts said the letter is the first public indication that Mueller is investigating Flynn’s stormy leadership period at the DIA, which ended when he was forced to retire earlier than planned amidst criticism over his leadership.

“It certainly suggests that Flynn is being investigated not just for conduct that postdated his departure” from the DIA, said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.

“I think there has been this suspicion since during the [2016] campaign that for all his plaudits and achievement, General Flynn has been part of some pretty shady dealings,” Vladeck said. “I don’t think it’s shocking if some of those dealings in fact predated his departure from the government.”

Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Mueller declined to comment.

It is unclear what Mueller might be investigating about Flynn when he ran the DIA. Although Flynn was reported to have been forced out after clashing with other Defense Department leaders, there has been no public indication of scandal or criminal activity during his 33-year military career. He retired as an Army lieutenant general.

Mueller might simply be casting a wide net, said Jens David Ohlin, a criminal law professor at Cornell Law School. “You could imagine a scenario where Mueller’s team is doing their due diligence and wants all his emails during this period because they’re investigating his relations with Russia and Turkey,” Ohlin said.

Or Mueller could be looking into any possible conspiracy involving Flynn that may have started years ago, Ohlin said.

“Conspiracies sometimes exist for months, if not years,” Ohlin said. “It’s certainly possible that he could have committed a crime and is being investigated for a crime after his government service, but there is a lot of evidence going back to when he was in government service. That doesn’t necessarily mean a crime occurred while he was a government employee.”

In 2015, more than a year after he left the DIA and shortly before he joined the Trump campaign, Flynn was paid $33,000 to speak at a gala in Moscow where he sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2016, after joining the Trump campaign, Flynn was paid $530,000 by a Turkish businessperson for advocacy work in the US on behalf of the Turkish Republic. Flynn’s initial failure to disclose his work has exposed him to possible criminal charges similar to those Mueller has brought against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

During the transition period after Trump’s election, Flynn spoke several times with Russia’s US ambassador but lied about those exchanges to the FBI and to Vice President Mike Pence. Trump fired Flynn when Flynn’s misleading of Pence became public.

The DIA sent its denial letter to BuzzFeed News at roughly the same time that Flynn’s lawyers told Trump’s legal team that they would no longer share information about Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump associates. The notification by Flynn’s lawyers suggests that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller as he investigates whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton.

Leopold, the reporter, had requested records pertaining to Flynn on May 1, 2014, while Flynn was still in charge of the DIA but a day after the Washington Post reported that he was being forced to retire because of his management style and resistance within the agency to his plans for change.

In denying Leopold’s request, the DIA said its refusal is not necessarily “long-term” and that it will “reassess future requests” for records pertaining to Flynn “at the conclusion of the present investigative activity.” There was no immediate explanation for the delay in responding Leopold’s request.

DIA spokesperson Navy Cmdr. William Marks said he did not know how long the investigation would take. “Some investigations take years, some only take a few weeks,” he said.

Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn records
 

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WASHINGTON –  The Defense Intelligence Agency is refusing to publicly release a wide array of documents related to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, saying that turning them over could interfere with ongoing congressional and federal investigations.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former DIA director, is currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees. They are scrutinizing his private consulting work for a Turkish businessman as well as his activities related to Russia during President Donald Trump’s campaign and the early days of the Trump administration. The Defense Department’s inspector general also is investigating Flynn’s receipt of foreign payments as a retired military officer.

In a series of letters dated Nov. 15, the DIA denied several Freedom of Information Act requests filed over the past year by The Associated Press seeking information about Flynn’s tenure at the DIA from 2012 to 2014. The AP requests sought Flynn’s public and private calendars, his correspondence while at DIA and a specific listing of documents related to his security clearance that the agency provided to Congress earlier this year. Two of the AP’s requests were filed before Mueller’s appointment and one of those was filed the day before Trump took office.

In the letters, Alesia Y. Williams, DIA’s chief FOIA officer, said she would not release any requested records because they “could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities.” Williams also indicated this was part of a coordinated effort within the Defense Department to withhold public documents related to Flynn that could be related to ongoing federal and congressional probes.

BuzzFeed News also reported Tuesday that it had received a similar denial for records related to Flynn. The BuzzFeed request was nearly three years old.

Messages left with DIA spokesmen Tuesday afternoon weren’t immediately returned.

The agency’s decisions came about a week before Flynn’s lawyers informed Trump’s legal team that they would no longer share information about Mueller’s investigation — a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate or possibly negotiate a deal with prosecutors. Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, has declined to comment on the status of the investigation or the move to cut off contact with the president’s legal team.

It’s unclear how long the Defense Intelligence Agency will continue to bar public access to Flynn-related documents, according to the letters.

Williams said the agency would continue to withhold records related to Flynn until the “conclusion of the present investigative activity.” But the letters do not indicate how agency officials would determine when the investigation concluded. Instead, Williams put the burden on members of the public who seek records, saying they should submit a new request when they “believe it is likely that the investigation has concluded.”

Flynn faces a number of legal troubles on multiple fronts.

The special counsel and congressional committees have been scrutinizing Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the presidential transition and the campaign. He has also been under federal investigation for nearly a year over lobbying and investigative research work his firm, Flynn Intel Group, performed for a Turkish businessman. Flynn’s firm was paid $530,000 for a lobbying effort that sought to gather information that could support a criminal case against a Turkish cleric living in the U.S. Flynn also wrote an op-ed promoting Turkish government talking points attacking the cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

After his forced resignation from his White House post, Flynn and his firm registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, acknowledging his work could have benefited the government of Turkey and should have been disclosed to the government. But since that registration, prosecutors and FBI agents working for Mueller have been investigating whether the Turkish government was directing the lobbying work and not the private company that Flynn cited in his filing with the Justice Department. Investigators have also been looking into Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., who worked alongside his father, and Flynn’s business partner, Bijan Kian.

Flynn has also faced scrutiny over his truthfulness on government forms and in interviews with federal investigators.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this year that Flynn was the target of a federal investigation into his contacts with Russia and whether he lied to agents about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. In his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, Comey said it was that investigation into Flynn that Trump pressured him to “let go” in the Oval office. Through his lawyers, the president has denied pressuring Comey.

Separately, congressional Democrats have said they believe Flynn lied about his foreign contacts and travel on his security clearance paperwork related to a proposal to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East.

The former Republican chairman and the top Democrat on a House oversight committee have also said they believe Flynn broke federal law by not getting government permission to receive tens of thousands of dollars in payments from RT, the Russian state-sponsored television network. The receipt of those foreign payments is currently under scrutiny by the Defense Department’s inspector general, though he would likely only face civil penalties if investigators found Flynn had violated the law.

__

Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report.

__

Follow Chad Day on Twitter: <a href=”https://twitter.com/ChadSDay” rel=”nofollow”>https://twitter.com/ChadSDay</a>

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report | TheHill
 

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Mueller may be looking at Flynn's time as DIA chief: report
© Greg Nash

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynnmay be under investigation for his activities during his tenure at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under former President Obama, according to a letter from the agency sent to BuzzFeed News.

The letter, which came in response to a 2014 Freedom of Information Act request, denied a BuzzFeed reporter’s request for Flynn’s emails, job evaluations and other records from his time heading the DIA, saying that releasing the documents could “interfere with ongoing law enforcement investigative activities.”

“Upon review of your request, I have determined that the release of potentially responsive records concerning LTG Flynn could reasonably be expected to interfere with on-going law enforcement investigative activities,” it reads.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s financial ties to Russia and Turkey.

But according to BuzzFeed, the DIA’s letter denying the records request suggests that Mueller is also looking into Flynn’s activities while he served as the agency’s director from 2012 to 2014.

The letter does not detail any potential investigative activities. But federal agencies are allowed to withhold requested documents from the public if they are compiled for law enforcement purposes.

“It certainly suggests that Flynn is being investigated not just for conduct that postdated his departure [from the DIA],” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told BuzzFeed.

Flynn has emerged as a central figure in Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling. He resigned from his White House post in February – just 24 days into office – after it was revealed that he misled White House officials about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the month before President Trump took office.

Since then, Flynn has faced scrutiny for his failure to previously disclose his financial ties to Russia and Turkey. He registered as a foreign agent with the Justice Department in March.

Reports last week suggested that Flynn may be cooperating with Mueller in his investigation, after his lawyers cut ties with attorneys representing Trump in the Russia probe.

Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report – The Hill
 

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Mueller may be looking at Flynn’s time as DIA chief: report
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Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the criminal investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has previously been reported to be looking into Flynn’s activities since leaving the DIA in 2014. In particular, he is probing Flynn’s 
Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn recordsFox News
Mueller’s Russia Probe May Now Include Flynn’s DIA TenureBuzzFeed Newsall 29 news articles »

Trump Delusional – Google Search
 

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Trump Not a Liar, Is Truly Delusional
 

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The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and acts of fraud against customers and contractors. It remains quite plausible. But new reporting has opened up a second possibility: The president has lost all touch with reality.

The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public, or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.

He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times describe Trump repeatedly denying the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)

It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.

His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating – rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)

If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us expected.

New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
 

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New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional
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The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and 
Will Trump ever have to answer to the women who say he harassed and assaulted them?Los Angeles Times
Does Trump Think The ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Is Fake? Here’s Every Single Thing He’s Said About ItBustle
Donald Trump Reportedly Claims Access Hollywood Tape Wasn’t Authentic411mania.com
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Threat From North Korea No Longer Hypothetical, Arms Experts Warn
 

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Its the next logical step that we were expecting.”

6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR
 

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6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio
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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference has passed the six-month mark, and President Trump’s staff is painting a picture of a process nearing its end. “We still expect this to conclude soon,” White Houseand more »

Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
 

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Race and Class and What Happened in 2016
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But we will never escape from purgatory until these points are treated as complements to the role that other forces played inTrump’s success, not as substitutes that somehow make the economic anxiety or anti-establishment analyses of Trumpism into … 

The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
 

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Turkish customs agents set off a half decade of intrigue when they boarded a plane that landed unexpectedly at Istanbul’s international airport. They found in the hold, undeclared, a ton and a half of gold.

Authorities subsequently determined that the shipment was part of a giant money-laundering operation to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran for oil and gas, skirting international sanctions intended to curb the country’s nuclear work. The scheme, they said, was overseen by a young Iranian-Turk named Reza Zarrab who greased the palms of top Turkish officials with watches, a piano and cash-stuffed boxes.

Photographer: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s been quite a ride since then for Zarrab. Sprung from Turkish prison in early 2014, he was actually hailed by the country’s now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He and his pop-star wife resumed their perch on Turkey’s society pages. Until, that is, he was arrested last year in Florida on his way to a Disney vacation and charged by federal prosecutors in a sweeping laundering and sanctions violations case. After 18 months in U.S. lockup, the onetime playboy with mansions and James Bond-style accessories — a jet, a personal submarine, a gold-plated pistol — is now cooperating with American prosecutors.

His evolution from a central character in a 2013 Turkish political battle to a key U.S. witness is expected to take center stage later today in a federal court in Manhattan where an executive of a prominent Turkish bank is accused in the scheme. Prosecutors say Zarrab, 34, will provide the inside story of a conspiracy that spanned a decade — all part of his guilty plea agreement.

That has the potential to send shock waves through Turkish politics and international relations. Prosecutors accused Zarrab of making bribes to then-senior ministers under Erdogan as part of his laundering scheme. As they have added more charges against more defendants in a case full of twists and turns, Turkish stock and currency markets have heaved.

Read more: A Q&A on how the trial is wreaking havoc on Turkish markets

Erdogan has demanded Zarrab’s return. The U.S.’s refusal has contributed to deteriorating Turkish-U.S. relations, now the most strained in decades. The case could spill over to U.S. politics, too, given the Trump administration’s efforts in its early days to strengthen its alliance with Turkey.

It could even brush up against a separate probe of Russian influence in the presidential election. The U.S. special counsel has delved into work done on behalf of Turkey by Michael Flynn, who was fired after a brief run as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was hired by Zarrab and met earlier this year with Erdogan in hopes of resolving the matter diplomatically, outside the courts.

Zarrab Family Vacation

It was a curious decision, in late March 2016, for Zarrab to gather his family for an American vacation. He no longer faced any charges in Turkey, but prosecutors there had made public a raft of documents marking him as a possible money launderer and a violator of U.S. sanctions.

Zarrab may have had an even bigger worry than U.S. arrest, though. Prosecutors in Iran had accused one of its wealthiest men, Babak Zanjani, of diverting $2.7 billion in oil proceeds from official coffers. An influential Iranian lawmaker said that if anyone knew where Zanjani put the money, it was Zarrab. (U.S. lawyers for Zarrab have denied the men were partners and Zanjani’s lawyers have called the case politically motivated.)

In early March 2016, Iran sentenced Zanjani to death. Two weeks later, Zarrab arrived in Florida, saying he was going to Disney. He was promptly arrested.

Though Zarrab may not have known it at the time, he was also the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation that the U.S. had started three years earlier, prosecutors said in court on Tuesday.

The money-laundering scheme by Zarrab — reconstructed from hundreds of Turkish and U.S. court filings including documents and phone transcripts — was built around complicated cross-border transactions and his personal connections in Turkey and Iran.

His father, a wealthy steel baron from Iran named Hossein Zarrab, moved the family to Turkey when Reza was still a toddler. At least one company used later by the son was founded in his name when he was 12 or 13. When Reza moved to Dubai with his family at the age of 16, he opened a tea-trading business with three employees. Three years later, back in Istanbul on his own, he started a gold brokerage and currency exchange and, later, shipbuilding and construction firms.

Meanwhile, his father kept a hand in Iranian trade. Hossein was among a team of people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assembled, after he was elected Iran’s president in 2005, to help work around U.S. sanctions, according to the Turkish paper Hurriyet.

Still in his early 20s, Reza began his Turkish ascent. He became a Turkish citizen in 2005, adopting the local variation of his name, Riza Sarraf.

At his older brother’s wedding, he met a Turkish singer, Ebru Gundes. Reza, smitten, wrote two songs for her that were delivered by mutual friends. She agreed to meet him.

The two were married in 2010 and became a fixture on Turkey’s society pages — the glamorous Ebru and the boyish and stocky Reza, with a black beard and a mop of black hair coiffed up from his forehead. Turkish papers featured their mansions on the Bosphorus and Aegean, and showed them on the town, here with a Rolls Royce, there a Range Rover or an Aston Martin.

Chance Discovery

The possible source of Zarrab’s wealth began to emerge after Turkish customs officials made their chance discovery on New Year’s Eve 2012. An Airbus A330, flying from Ghana to United Arab Emirates, had been scheduled to refuel at a nearby regional airport when fog forced it to Ataturk. Customs agents impounded its gold cargo.

Earlier: 2014 article traces Zarrab’s journey from society pages to an Istanbul jail cell

Zarrab pressed into action. He called the country’s economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, among others. Caglayan was paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to keep the scheme running and conceal transactions from the U.S., according to federal prosecutors. Less than three weeks after the plane was detained, it took back off, resuming its journey to Dubai.

Turkish prosecutors, armed with wiretaps of Zarrab’s conversations, arrested Caglayan’s son in late 2013 on charges of facilitating bribery. As a minister and member of parliament, Caglayan the father had immunity, and he denied taking bribes. Like Zarrab, he was ultimately cleared in Turkey. He’s now charged in the U.S. case but remains outside the country.

The gold shipments to Dubai, the Turkish prosecutors said, were but one link in a chain that turned Iranian oil and gas into hard currency for Tehran. Turkey’s national oil company bought Iranian gas. It then deposited funds into special accounts at Turkey’s Halkbank. Using shell companies, Zarrab took the proceeds to buy gold that was shipped to Dubai, prosecutors say.

The gold was then sold for dollars and euros, running through international banks, which were unwitting participants, according to U.S. prosecutors, and were told the transactions were for food or humanitarian aid, according to Turkish and U.S. court documents. In a 10-month span, Zarrab helped move $900 million in Iranian funds through U.S. banks, U.S. prosecutors say.

Dubai Wheat

Millions of dollars in bribes were used to keep the scheme going. Once, according to U.S. filings, Zarrab discussed moving 150,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Iran on a 5,000-ton vessel, a logistical impossibility. He said another payment was for wheat exports from Dubai, which neither grows nor exports wheat. Surveillance in Turkey showed that Zarrab also tried to head off bad press, allegedly paying about $4 million to two politicians to help squelch negative coverage of him.

His contacts included the country’s ministers of the interior and EU affairs (who are not accused of wrongdoing by the U.S.). At an April 2013 wedding in Ankara, Zarrab cut a deal with Caglayan, then economy minister, to support his scheme, Turkish prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors more recently hinted of a bigger grab for influence: Zarrab later boasted in a conversation caught on tape that he had also talked to Erdogan at the wedding, seeking support to buy a bank that could be a conduit for Iran transactions.

When Turkish prosecutors laid out their allegations, the three ministers resigned. Zarrab was detained.

But then the tables turned. Erdogan, prime minister at the time, portrayed Zarrab as a philanthropist whose businesses were a service to the country. The Turkish prosecutors’ case against Zarrab, Erdogan said, was part of a plot put into motion by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who runs an influential worldwide movement from his compound in Pennsylvania, to smear his government. Turkey’s parliament cleared all the ministers of wrongdoing. Prosecutors and police involved in the case were reassigned, dismissed or jailed by the thousands.

Zarrab was freed. A pro-government news channel placed him before a Turkish flag and interviewed him. In July 2015, Hurriyet published photographs of a notably slimmer Zarrab yachting on the Aegean. A few yards off the fantail of a large black yacht, he could be seen above the blue sea, held aloft by jets of water on a personal hovercraft.

Erdogan Enraged

Zarrab’s arrest the following year in the U.S. enraged Erdogan, who asked the Obama White House to send him home. Instead, Zarrab transited through a series of U.S. detention centers — in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Oklahoma City — before arriving in New York. Many of the details supporting the charges, brought by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, were similar to those originally revealed in Turkey.

Even after Zarrab’s testimony, which U.S. prosecutors say will reach the highest levels of Turkey’s government, the mystery may continue about whether he is helping the U.S. government in other ways and how much he knows about Iran, for example. The man who recently bribed a U.S. prison guard for a cell phone may finally be ready to spill his secrets.

— With assistance by Yalman Onaran

Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
 

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Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria?
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Yet he also senses that the Trump administration, like its predecessor, is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle: that when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there is no future for the mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it has the 
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The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
 

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This article first appeared on the Wilson Center site.

I am an American expert on Russia. It is my job to pay close attention to the ups and downs of the U.S.-Russia relationship, with the goal of helping U.S. policymakers, the press, and the wider public understand what is going on.

Under normal circumstances, such understanding would be useful for crafting better policy, and for more effectively managing both the challenges and the opportunities we face with Russia.

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But these are anything but normal circumstances, and there is little point in saying anything about policy unless we first acknowledge why our circumstances are what they are.

The U.S. has never had a more dysfunctional or less effective relationship with post-Soviet Russia than it does today. While it is more than fair to blame that dysfunction on Putin—and on Trump, Medvedev, Obama, and other heads of state past and present—I am afraid it now has far deeper causes than just state policies.

On the Russian side, the dysfunction builds on insecurities and grievances fanned by widely embraced conspiracy theories and historical narratives, all of which amount to branding the United States as public enemy number one.

It also draws on ordinary Russians’ tolerance of consolidated authoritarianism, from the Kremlin at the very top of the “power vertical” to corrupt and unchecked bullies at the bottom.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty

On the American side, the dysfunction is different but arguably just as deep. It begins from a national mood that combines Cold War style paranoia about the Russian bogeyman with a zero-sum, “us versus them” view of everything from taxes to public safety.

These disturbing trends find welcome resonance in a media, political and civic culture in which any sense that there are rules of decency has been long since trampled.

We should have no illusions. Vladimir Putin is a huge problem for the United States, just as he is for his neighbors and for his own people.

He has crushed every bud of liberal democracy in Russia, has invaded Ukraine to seize its sovereign territory by force, at the cost of well over 10,000 lives, and he has backed the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands.

The evidence is quickly mounting of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and of its ongoing operations, apparently aimed at eroding democratic politics, social cohesion and security alliances from Europe to Latin America. These are grave threats and they should be met with clarity, strength and resolve.

Yet not a single one of these threats posed by Russia has a military solution. We can hit the Russians as hard as we want, to “punish” them for bad behavior, but as long as they have the ability to hit back, they will do so, and the cycle will continue.

Such escalation carries unacceptable risks.

As Ronald Reagan said, a U.S.-Russian nuclear war cannot be won, and so must never be fought. That means that Americans will have to make difficult choices about which tools of our national power to use to manage relations with Russia.

The good news is we have an impressive arsenal, if we can bring it to bear intelligently.

Aside from our military, which is by any measure the world’s strongest, the U.S. economy is still the largest, and it far exceeds even a fast-growing China as a hub for investment and innovation for the entire world. America’s greatest asset has been its incomparable soft power—the attractive force of our culture, our values, our readiness to lead and, when necessary, to sacrifice.

These strengths can see us through to victory over the Russian threat—and any other—in the long term.

But in the meantime, our vital national interests, including our security, prosperity and our very identity, are at risk from the dysfunction gripping our national life.

This problem is far bigger than U.S.-Russia relations, but it comes to a head in the contest between Washington and Moscow.

Consider the treatment of Russia today in much of our national debate. It is somehow both a great menace—apparently capable of stealing all our secrets, manipulating our leaders, brainwashing our electorate—and yet is also the butt of jokes, not deserving of even the grudging respect a wise warrior accords his adversary.

In the rush to unearth and expunge nefarious Russian influence in our country, Americans have embraced a logic of conspiracy theories and strictly zero-sum thinking that is, if anything, familiar to Russians from decades of Soviet and post-Soviet life.

In this climate, efforts to understand and explain Russian conduct as something more than earthly expressions of evil are condemned as victories for Russian propaganda and calls for diplomatic engagement are dismissed as hopelessly naïve.

When it comes to Russia, there simply is no longer room for the pragmatism that has been at the very core of our American worldview, and that ensured our survival and success despite half a century of Cold War.

This is not who we are as Americans. This is not how the good guys behave. And, most importantly, this cannot end well.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
 

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Earlier this month, the Russian oligarchs fired a thinly veiled warning shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin when they planted simultaneous stories in multiple major European newspapers claiming that Putin was considering quitting. Putin has no such plans, but it was the Russian billionaires’ way of reminding him that they control his fate and they’re unhappy about the costly sanctions corner he’s backed them into. Now the real reason for their impatience is coming to light, and it’s even uglier than previously known.

The new sanctions law passed by the United States in August will financially harm the Russian oligarchs far more severely than previously believed, according to a new profile from The Economist (link). These increased sanctions will serve to blacklist the oligarchs as if they were terrorists, preventing them from carrying various kinds of business deals, and devastating them in the wallet.

It’s not widely understood, but Putin’s primary motivation for rigging the U.S. election in Trump’s favor was to get existing U.S. sanctions against Russia lifted. Those sanctions have personally cost Putin billions of dollars over the past few years, and they’ve cost his oligarchs even more. Instead, because Putin rigged the election in such a brazen way and got caught, and because Trump has been such a disaster, it’s prompted the U.S. to crack down with even harsher sanctions.

At this point the Russian oligarchs may only have one path for getting sanctions lifted and getting back on the good side of the United States: by ousting Vladimir Putin from within, and by taking down Donald Trump in the process. It’s why the oligarchs planted those stories about Putin’s supposed retirement in the media. This has been all about money, and lots of it, from the start. Putin helped make the oligarchs wealthy to begin with, but now he’s costing them money and they won’t tolerate it for much longer.

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Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
 

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Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection?
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In 2014, Ross led a takeover of the Bank of Cyprus, whose biggest shareholder at the time was the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Some years earlier, Rybolovlev had purchased a Florida mansion from Trump for $95 million. The buying price was …and more »

The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and Putin
 

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This year, after nearly three decade abroad, I returned to the United States, and it has taken a while to adjust to the political climate. I keep going to press conferences, receptions and dinner parties and hearing politicians and political operatives fulminating about “the Russians.”

The refrain is pretty similar: They used to be known as the Soviets, but they never really changed. The damned KGB always ran the country, and it still does. And, you know, they stole the election last year. They colluded with our opponent! There’s a red in damned near every bed these days.

What’s a little discombobulating about this line is it’s mostly coming from Democrats and journalists in the mainstream press. A friend in New York—a Canadian, and thus not a participant in the ongoing drama in American politics—was recently at a dinner party hosted by a major Democratic donor and his wife. In passing, he said he was about to travel to see the refurbished Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and then enjoy a performance at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

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The others in attendance looked at him, my friend told me, as if he were nuts. “You know,” the host informed him, “that’s pretty much like going to Berlin in 1938.” My friend changed the subject.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had political opponents killed and destabilized two of Russia’s neighboring countries, but he isn’t Hitler. Even for the foot-stomping, tantrum-throwing Democrats in 2017, that comparison is ludicrous. But other lefties fall back on World War II for a different comparison: The Russian meddling in our democracy was “the equivalent of Pearl Harbor,” as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman put it. That makes the Russian president the equivalent of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the imperial Japanese.

Related: Robert Mueller is a hothead who can’t own up to his mistakes, former aides say 

U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

As someone who grew up during the Cold War, spent much of the ’90s covering Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then Russia (including Putin’s ascent) later in the decade, this line of thinking seems bizarre. Democrats, it seems, have willfully tossed their past positions on Russia down the Orwellian memory hole.

In 1972, George McGovern won the Democratic nomination for president, and with that came the end of serious Soviet skepticism in the party. He had vanquished Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a senator from Washington and the party’s leading anti-Soviet hawk. Jackson tried again in 1976, only to lose to Jimmy Carter, who chided his political opponents for their “inordinate fear” of Communism. (To Carter’s credit, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he admitted that the “scales” had fallen from his eyes.)

But unlike Carter, a lot of others on the left failed to sober up. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the mainstream Democratic Party became consumed by nuclear hysteria—we were all gonna die!—and that fear infected the producers of pop culture. In 1983, ABC broadcast a propaganda film entitled The Day After, which was what life would be like after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Then, there was On the Eighth Day, a 1984 documentary about what would happen after a nuclear war. And around the same time period, Carl Sagan, a popular astronomer with a television series on public broadcasting, penned a widely read article on the same subject: “We have placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy,” he wrote. “Fortunately, it is not yet too late. We can safeguard the planetary civilization and the human family if we so choose. There is no more important or more urgent issue.”

The tenor of this and other doomsday nuclear narratives was that if the worst happened, it was going to Reagan’s fault. This fear sparked the nuclear freeze movement, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Europe to protest the planned installation of intermediate-range nuclear weapons on the western part of the continent.

In those days, “colluding” with Moscow wasn’t a big deal. The Soviets tried to help the nuclear freeze movement, which they saw as in their interests. KGB agents occasionally funneled cash to so-called “peace groups” in the West, and some left-leaning arms-control groups acknowledged that Soviet agents would turn up at conferences to help with propaganda. Yet many Democrats thought the nuclear freeze movement had been a great success. Why? Because the anti-nuclear uprising “had a substantial impact upon mainstream politics, especially the Democratic Party,” wrote Lawrence Wittner, a professor of history at the State University of New York at Albany. “After the movement’s successes in 1982, the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination met with peace movement leaders, pledging their support for a nuclear freeze and other nuclear arms control measures. The Democrats pushed a freeze resolution through the House of Representatives in the spring of 1983 and made the freeze a part of the party’s campaign platform in 1984.” Never mind that Reagan, the man the left derided as a warmonger nuclear cowboy, won the 1984 election in a historic landslide.

Sixteen years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin replaced a drunken and ailing Boris Yeltsin, who, however briefly, had brought democracy to Russia. At a New Year’s reception in 2000, President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Russia, Jim Collins, acknowledged the main reaction to Putin’s ascension in the U.S. government was one of “relief,” because Russia was so chaotic in those days. Secretary of State Madeline Albright would later call the former KGB man a “reformer.”

Putin for years was able to dupe U.S. presidents into thinking he was their friend—from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. In a 2012 presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney cited Putin’s Russia as the U.S.’s foremost foreign policy challenge, and Obama sarcastically said the “1980s are calling, and they want their foreign policy back.” The Democrats cheered. And Obama appeared to believe he could work with the Russian strongman. He famously asked Putin stooge Dmitry Medvedev to “tell Vladimir” that after the election he (Obama) would have more “flexibility’’ to work on arms control deals.

But the moment that really captured the credulity of the Democratic Party when it came to Russia and Putin had come earlier. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, with a “reset” button, which meant the administration would replace the bad, anti-Russian policies of the past with new ones. The problem, however, is the word “reset” was misspelled on the button. Those who controlled Obama’s foreign policy evidently couldn’t find a Russian speaker competent enough to tell them that the button presented to Lavrov said “overcharged” in Russia. Clinton laughed at the mistake. Lavrov laughed at her.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an interview with Mariella Frostrup at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in Cheltenham, England, on October 15. Reuters

Now, Democratic representatives all over Washington can’t stop ranting about Moscow. I asked David Satter, a Washington-based journalist—and the only Western reporter to be banned by Putin from entering Russia since the end of the Cold War—what I should make of all this. Are these people serious about their anti-Russian venom?

“Oh God, no,” he said, as we sat in a Russian restaurant called Mari Vanna in Manhattan. “This is all just politics, and hypocrisy is the mother’s milk of politics.”

I think he’s right. I’m agnostic on the question of whether President Donald Trump or his associates actually “colluded’’ with Putin to win the election. If they did, they should be strung up.

As for Putin, he’s undoubtedly an authoritarian thug. At home, he has eliminated many of the briefly won freedoms of the Yeltsin era, and abroad, he seems determined to again dominate Russia’s neighbors. But it would be hard to find many liberals in Washington who actually cared about any of this before Trump beat Clinton.

If the outcome had been reversed, Congress might still be working to figure out how exactly Russia meddled in the election—just as the Soviets had done in 1968 and 1976. But we most certainly wouldn’t have this anti-Russian circus going on in the nation’s capital—a show that will likely continue for quite some time.

Dem. rep seeks answers on FBI’s failure to notify Russian hacking victims | TheHill
 

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US-Turkish political stew: KurdsFlynn — and even Bharara

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President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to …

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Turkey ‘very happy’ as US stops arming Kurds in Syria

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ANKARA, Turkey — The United States seems set to cut off its supply of arms … Trump that is sure to please Turkey but further alienate Syrian Kurds who …. of Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn …

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Zarrab to Testify for Prosecution in Iran-Sanctions Case

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Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader at the center of an international corruption case, is set to tell a New York jury the “inside story” of a …
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
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The Talk of Turkey? A Politically Charged Trial in New York
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U.S.-Turkish political stew: Kurds, Flynn and even Bharara
 

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Eyes are on Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

Eyes are on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in Ankara on Nov. 21, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Burhan Ozbilici

President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to foreign-policy news.

On Friday, the two leaders were due to speak by phone, with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the long holiday weekend. Subjects were to include Syria and conflicts in the region.

Turkey’s foreign minister, who said he was with Erdogan during the call, said afterward that Trump gave assurances his administration would stop supplying arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have been U.S. allies.

After all, Kurdish separatists are a thorn in Erdogan’s side.

Such policy choices aside, the discussion of Turkish ties to Washington turns quickly and naturally to Trump’s short-tenured national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has his eyes on the retired lieutenant general, who failed to disclose a payment of $530,000 from Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm owned by a Turkish businessman closely tied to Erdogan.

Flynn’s lawyer said back in March that the work for the firm “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” which is why he belatedly filed it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Flynn has been a campaign and White House adviser with close links to a president who rode to election proclaiming “America First.”

Late Thursday, it was reported that Flynn’s lawyer informed Trump’s legal team that he can no longer discuss the Mueller probe with him. That stirred speculation about Flynn’s cooperation with investigators and where it could lead.

This comes after reports that Erdogan’s men may have discussed with Flynn last year a paid mission that involved grabbing a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania — whom Erdogan blames for a coup attempt — and returning him to Turkey.

The intrigue seems to leach further into the American justice system than just the probe of Flynn.

There is also the long-lived case of Reza Zarrab — the Turkish-Iranian gold trader charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Erdogan calls the case a plot against his republic. Over the weekend he purportedly launched an investigation of his own into former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought the case against Zarrab, an ally of Erdogan.

Bharara was fired by Trump after the president asked him to stay in the job. Responding to Erdogan, Bharara’s interim successor Joon Kim and Judge Richard Berman issued a rare reply to the Turkish government.

On Tuesday, Kim said: “Needless to say, it’s our view that those claims are ridiculous on their face. It displays a fundamental misunderstanding or lack of understanding of how our system of justice works and, frankly, the rule of law works.”

Diplomatically, Berman said that if Turkish officials wish to help Zarrab, they could do so by “producing in court any Turkish evidence or witnesses that they may be aware of who could assist the defense in presenting their case.”

Trump doesn’t seem inclined to complain about the Erdogan regime’s conduct in this or any other controversy.

In fact, on the defense side of the case, the president finds two political allies — Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor, and Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general.

By most accounts their job has been to try to get the case resolved through meetings away from courtroom arguments. Recent buzz has been about the prospect of a cooperation deal, but the matter is still apparently pending.

These are the shadowy complications of the moment in Turkish-American politics.

Melville.

By Dan JanisonDan Janison has been a columnist at Newsday since 2007.


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8:16 AM 11/29/2017 – Trump Investigation – Mike Flynn: Citing probes, military agency bars access to Flynn records – ABC News

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1. Trump Investigation – Mike Flynn from mikenova (9 sites)
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1. Trump Investigation – Mike Flynn from mikenova (9 sites)
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Mike Flynn – Google News


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6:58 AM 11/29/2017 – Is Trump Truly Delusional?! M.N.: My answer: No, not at all. Or: we do not know yet. Or: do not rush with your primitive pseudo-psychiatric labels, save them for yourselves.

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6:58 AM 11/29/2017 – Is Trump Truly Delusional?! M.N.: My answer: No, not at all. Or: we do not know yet. Or: do not rush with your primitive pseudo-psychiatric labels, save them for yourselves. The political demagoguery that he successfully employs is not the delusion, this is his style, his tool, and his weapon. 

Trump Delusional – GS

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Saw this at a student art show. Titled “The New Nightmare”

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The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
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Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?
Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today – Raw Story
Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn? – Daily Beast
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9:17 AM 11/28/2017 M.N. This observation is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative loudness Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump NYT
Muellers Trump-Russia Probe May Be Only One That Leads to Answers-Or Handcuffs

 

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Trump Not a Liar, Is Truly Delusional
 

mikenova shared this story from di.

The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and acts of fraud against customers and contractors. It remains quite plausible. But new reporting has opened up a second possibility: The president has lost all touch with reality.

The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public, or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.

He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times describe Trump repeatedly denying the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)

It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.

His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating – rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)

If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us expected.

New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional – New York Magazine
 

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New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional
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The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man. It is a theory that explains both his career in business and politics, and has carried through his many reversals of position and 
Will Trump ever have to answer to the women who say he harassed and assaulted them?Los Angeles Times
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Threat From North Korea No Longer Hypothetical, Arms Experts Warn
 

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Its the next logical step that we were expecting.”

6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR
 

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6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio
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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference has passed the six-month mark, and President Trump’s staff is painting a picture of a process nearing its end. “We still expect this to conclude soon,” White Houseand more »
Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
 

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Race and Class and What Happened in 2016
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But we will never escape from purgatory until these points are treated as complements to the role that other forces played inTrump’s success, not as substitutes that somehow make the economic anxiety or anti-establishment analyses of Trumpism into …
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
 

mikenova shared this story .

Turkish customs agents set off a half decade of intrigue when they boarded a plane that landed unexpectedly at Istanbul’s international airport. They found in the hold, undeclared, a ton and a half of gold.

Authorities subsequently determined that the shipment was part of a giant money-laundering operation to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran for oil and gas, skirting international sanctions intended to curb the country’s nuclear work. The scheme, they said, was overseen by a young Iranian-Turk named Reza Zarrab who greased the palms of top Turkish officials with watches, a piano and cash-stuffed boxes.

Photographer: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s been quite a ride since then for Zarrab. Sprung from Turkish prison in early 2014, he was actually hailed by the country’s now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He and his pop-star wife resumed their perch on Turkey’s society pages. Until, that is, he was arrested last year in Florida on his way to a Disney vacation and charged by federal prosecutors in a sweeping laundering and sanctions violations case. After 18 months in U.S. lockup, the onetime playboy with mansions and James Bond-style accessories — a jet, a personal submarine, a gold-plated pistol — is now cooperating with American prosecutors.

His evolution from a central character in a 2013 Turkish political battle to a key U.S. witness is expected to take center stage later today in a federal court in Manhattan where an executive of a prominent Turkish bank is accused in the scheme. Prosecutors say Zarrab, 34, will provide the inside story of a conspiracy that spanned a decade — all part of his guilty plea agreement.

That has the potential to send shock waves through Turkish politics and international relations. Prosecutors accused Zarrab of making bribes to then-senior ministers under Erdogan as part of his laundering scheme. As they have added more charges against more defendants in a case full of twists and turns, Turkish stock and currency markets have heaved.

Read more: A Q&A on how the trial is wreaking havoc on Turkish markets

Erdogan has demanded Zarrab’s return. The U.S.’s refusal has contributed to deteriorating Turkish-U.S. relations, now the most strained in decades. The case could spill over to U.S. politics, too, given the Trump administration’s efforts in its early days to strengthen its alliance with Turkey.

It could even brush up against a separate probe of Russian influence in the presidential election. The U.S. special counsel has delved into work done on behalf of Turkey by Michael Flynn, who was fired after a brief run as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was hired by Zarrab and met earlier this year with Erdogan in hopes of resolving the matter diplomatically, outside the courts.

Zarrab Family Vacation

It was a curious decision, in late March 2016, for Zarrab to gather his family for an American vacation. He no longer faced any charges in Turkey, but prosecutors there had made public a raft of documents marking him as a possible money launderer and a violator of U.S. sanctions.

Zarrab may have had an even bigger worry than U.S. arrest, though. Prosecutors in Iran had accused one of its wealthiest men, Babak Zanjani, of diverting $2.7 billion in oil proceeds from official coffers. An influential Iranian lawmaker said that if anyone knew where Zanjani put the money, it was Zarrab. (U.S. lawyers for Zarrab have denied the men were partners and Zanjani’s lawyers have called the case politically motivated.)

In early March 2016, Iran sentenced Zanjani to death. Two weeks later, Zarrab arrived in Florida, saying he was going to Disney. He was promptly arrested.

Though Zarrab may not have known it at the time, he was also the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation that the U.S. had started three years earlier, prosecutors said in court on Tuesday.

The money-laundering scheme by Zarrab — reconstructed from hundreds of Turkish and U.S. court filings including documents and phone transcripts — was built around complicated cross-border transactions and his personal connections in Turkey and Iran.

His father, a wealthy steel baron from Iran named Hossein Zarrab, moved the family to Turkey when Reza was still a toddler. At least one company used later by the son was founded in his name when he was 12 or 13. When Reza moved to Dubai with his family at the age of 16, he opened a tea-trading business with three employees. Three years later, back in Istanbul on his own, he started a gold brokerage and currency exchange and, later, shipbuilding and construction firms.

Meanwhile, his father kept a hand in Iranian trade. Hossein was among a team of people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assembled, after he was elected Iran’s president in 2005, to help work around U.S. sanctions, according to the Turkish paper Hurriyet.

Still in his early 20s, Reza began his Turkish ascent. He became a Turkish citizen in 2005, adopting the local variation of his name, Riza Sarraf.

At his older brother’s wedding, he met a Turkish singer, Ebru Gundes. Reza, smitten, wrote two songs for her that were delivered by mutual friends. She agreed to meet him.

The two were married in 2010 and became a fixture on Turkey’s society pages — the glamorous Ebru and the boyish and stocky Reza, with a black beard and a mop of black hair coiffed up from his forehead. Turkish papers featured their mansions on the Bosphorus and Aegean, and showed them on the town, here with a Rolls Royce, there a Range Rover or an Aston Martin.

Chance Discovery

The possible source of Zarrab’s wealth began to emerge after Turkish customs officials made their chance discovery on New Year’s Eve 2012. An Airbus A330, flying from Ghana to United Arab Emirates, had been scheduled to refuel at a nearby regional airport when fog forced it to Ataturk. Customs agents impounded its gold cargo.

Earlier: 2014 article traces Zarrab’s journey from society pages to an Istanbul jail cell

Zarrab pressed into action. He called the country’s economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, among others. Caglayan was paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to keep the scheme running and conceal transactions from the U.S., according to federal prosecutors. Less than three weeks after the plane was detained, it took back off, resuming its journey to Dubai.

Turkish prosecutors, armed with wiretaps of Zarrab’s conversations, arrested Caglayan’s son in late 2013 on charges of facilitating bribery. As a minister and member of parliament, Caglayan the father had immunity, and he denied taking bribes. Like Zarrab, he was ultimately cleared in Turkey. He’s now charged in the U.S. case but remains outside the country.

The gold shipments to Dubai, the Turkish prosecutors said, were but one link in a chain that turned Iranian oil and gas into hard currency for Tehran. Turkey’s national oil company bought Iranian gas. It then deposited funds into special accounts at Turkey’s Halkbank. Using shell companies, Zarrab took the proceeds to buy gold that was shipped to Dubai, prosecutors say.

The gold was then sold for dollars and euros, running through international banks, which were unwitting participants, according to U.S. prosecutors, and were told the transactions were for food or humanitarian aid, according to Turkish and U.S. court documents. In a 10-month span, Zarrab helped move $900 million in Iranian funds through U.S. banks, U.S. prosecutors say.

Dubai Wheat

Millions of dollars in bribes were used to keep the scheme going. Once, according to U.S. filings, Zarrab discussed moving 150,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Iran on a 5,000-ton vessel, a logistical impossibility. He said another payment was for wheat exports from Dubai, which neither grows nor exports wheat. Surveillance in Turkey showed that Zarrab also tried to head off bad press, allegedly paying about $4 million to two politicians to help squelch negative coverage of him.

His contacts included the country’s ministers of the interior and EU affairs (who are not accused of wrongdoing by the U.S.). At an April 2013 wedding in Ankara, Zarrab cut a deal with Caglayan, then economy minister, to support his scheme, Turkish prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors more recently hinted of a bigger grab for influence: Zarrab later boasted in a conversation caught on tape that he had also talked to Erdogan at the wedding, seeking support to buy a bank that could be a conduit for Iran transactions.

When Turkish prosecutors laid out their allegations, the three ministers resigned. Zarrab was detained.

But then the tables turned. Erdogan, prime minister at the time, portrayed Zarrab as a philanthropist whose businesses were a service to the country. The Turkish prosecutors’ case against Zarrab, Erdogan said, was part of a plot put into motion by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who runs an influential worldwide movement from his compound in Pennsylvania, to smear his government. Turkey’s parliament cleared all the ministers of wrongdoing. Prosecutors and police involved in the case were reassigned, dismissed or jailed by the thousands.

Zarrab was freed. A pro-government news channel placed him before a Turkish flag and interviewed him. In July 2015, Hurriyet published photographs of a notably slimmer Zarrab yachting on the Aegean. A few yards off the fantail of a large black yacht, he could be seen above the blue sea, held aloft by jets of water on a personal hovercraft.

Erdogan Enraged

Zarrab’s arrest the following year in the U.S. enraged Erdogan, who asked the Obama White House to send him home. Instead, Zarrab transited through a series of U.S. detention centers — in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Oklahoma City — before arriving in New York. Many of the details supporting the charges, brought by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, were similar to those originally revealed in Turkey.

Even after Zarrab’s testimony, which U.S. prosecutors say will reach the highest levels of Turkey’s government, the mystery may continue about whether he is helping the U.S. government in other ways and how much he knows about Iran, for example. The man who recently bribed a U.S. prison guard for a cell phone may finally be ready to spill his secrets.

— With assistance by Yalman Onaran

Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
 

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Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria?
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Yet he also senses that the Trump administration, like its predecessor, is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle: that when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there is no future for the mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it has the 
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The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
 

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This article first appeared on the Wilson Center site.

I am an American expert on Russia. It is my job to pay close attention to the ups and downs of the U.S.-Russia relationship, with the goal of helping U.S. policymakers, the press, and the wider public understand what is going on.

Under normal circumstances, such understanding would be useful for crafting better policy, and for more effectively managing both the challenges and the opportunities we face with Russia.

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But these are anything but normal circumstances, and there is little point in saying anything about policy unless we first acknowledge why our circumstances are what they are.

The U.S. has never had a more dysfunctional or less effective relationship with post-Soviet Russia than it does today. While it is more than fair to blame that dysfunction on Putin—and on Trump, Medvedev, Obama, and other heads of state past and present—I am afraid it now has far deeper causes than just state policies.

On the Russian side, the dysfunction builds on insecurities and grievances fanned by widely embraced conspiracy theories and historical narratives, all of which amount to branding the United States as public enemy number one.

It also draws on ordinary Russians’ tolerance of consolidated authoritarianism, from the Kremlin at the very top of the “power vertical” to corrupt and unchecked bullies at the bottom.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty

On the American side, the dysfunction is different but arguably just as deep. It begins from a national mood that combines Cold War style paranoia about the Russian bogeyman with a zero-sum, “us versus them” view of everything from taxes to public safety.

These disturbing trends find welcome resonance in a media, political and civic culture in which any sense that there are rules of decency has been long since trampled.

We should have no illusions. Vladimir Putin is a huge problem for the United States, just as he is for his neighbors and for his own people.

He has crushed every bud of liberal democracy in Russia, has invaded Ukraine to seize its sovereign territory by force, at the cost of well over 10,000 lives, and he has backed the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands.

The evidence is quickly mounting of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and of its ongoing operations, apparently aimed at eroding democratic politics, social cohesion and security alliances from Europe to Latin America. These are grave threats and they should be met with clarity, strength and resolve.

Yet not a single one of these threats posed by Russia has a military solution. We can hit the Russians as hard as we want, to “punish” them for bad behavior, but as long as they have the ability to hit back, they will do so, and the cycle will continue.

Such escalation carries unacceptable risks.

As Ronald Reagan said, a U.S.-Russian nuclear war cannot be won, and so must never be fought. That means that Americans will have to make difficult choices about which tools of our national power to use to manage relations with Russia.

The good news is we have an impressive arsenal, if we can bring it to bear intelligently.

Aside from our military, which is by any measure the world’s strongest, the U.S. economy is still the largest, and it far exceeds even a fast-growing China as a hub for investment and innovation for the entire world. America’s greatest asset has been its incomparable soft power—the attractive force of our culture, our values, our readiness to lead and, when necessary, to sacrifice.

These strengths can see us through to victory over the Russian threat—and any other—in the long term.

But in the meantime, our vital national interests, including our security, prosperity and our very identity, are at risk from the dysfunction gripping our national life.

This problem is far bigger than U.S.-Russia relations, but it comes to a head in the contest between Washington and Moscow.

Consider the treatment of Russia today in much of our national debate. It is somehow both a great menace—apparently capable of stealing all our secrets, manipulating our leaders, brainwashing our electorate—and yet is also the butt of jokes, not deserving of even the grudging respect a wise warrior accords his adversary.

In the rush to unearth and expunge nefarious Russian influence in our country, Americans have embraced a logic of conspiracy theories and strictly zero-sum thinking that is, if anything, familiar to Russians from decades of Soviet and post-Soviet life.

In this climate, efforts to understand and explain Russian conduct as something more than earthly expressions of evil are condemned as victories for Russian propaganda and calls for diplomatic engagement are dismissed as hopelessly naïve.

When it comes to Russia, there simply is no longer room for the pragmatism that has been at the very core of our American worldview, and that ensured our survival and success despite half a century of Cold War.

This is not who we are as Americans. This is not how the good guys behave. And, most importantly, this cannot end well.

Matthew Rojansky is Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
 

mikenova shared this story from Palmer Report.

Earlier this month, the Russian oligarchs fired a thinly veiled warning shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin when they planted simultaneous stories in multiple major European newspapers claiming that Putin was considering quitting. Putin has no such plans, but it was the Russian billionaires’ way of reminding him that they control his fate and they’re unhappy about the costly sanctions corner he’s backed them into. Now the real reason for their impatience is coming to light, and it’s even uglier than previously known.

The new sanctions law passed by the United States in August will financially harm the Russian oligarchs far more severely than previously believed, according to a new profile from The Economist (link). These increased sanctions will serve to blacklist the oligarchs as if they were terrorists, preventing them from carrying various kinds of business deals, and devastating them in the wallet.

It’s not widely understood, but Putin’s primary motivation for rigging the U.S. election in Trump’s favor was to get existing U.S. sanctions against Russia lifted. Those sanctions have personally cost Putin billions of dollars over the past few years, and they’ve cost his oligarchs even more. Instead, because Putin rigged the election in such a brazen way and got caught, and because Trump has been such a disaster, it’s prompted the U.S. to crack down with even harsher sanctions.

At this point the Russian oligarchs may only have one path for getting sanctions lifted and getting back on the good side of the United States: by ousting Vladimir Putin from within, and by taking down Donald Trump in the process. It’s why the oligarchs planted those stories about Putin’s supposed retirement in the media. This has been all about money, and lots of it, from the start. Putin helped make the oligarchs wealthy to begin with, but now he’s costing them money and they won’t tolerate it for much longer.

The post The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both appeared first on Palmer Report.

Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
 

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Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection?
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In 2014, Ross led a takeover of the Bank of Cyprus, whose biggest shareholder at the time was the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Some years earlier, Rybolovlev had purchased a Florida mansion from Trump for $95 million. The buying price was …and more »
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and Putin
 

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This year, after nearly three decade abroad, I returned to the United States, and it has taken a while to adjust to the political climate. I keep going to press conferences, receptions and dinner parties and hearing politicians and political operatives fulminating about “the Russians.”

The refrain is pretty similar: They used to be known as the Soviets, but they never really changed. The damned KGB always ran the country, and it still does. And, you know, they stole the election last year. They colluded with our opponent! There’s a red in damned near every bed these days.

What’s a little discombobulating about this line is it’s mostly coming from Democrats and journalists in the mainstream press. A friend in New York—a Canadian, and thus not a participant in the ongoing drama in American politics—was recently at a dinner party hosted by a major Democratic donor and his wife. In passing, he said he was about to travel to see the refurbished Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and then enjoy a performance at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

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The others in attendance looked at him, my friend told me, as if he were nuts. “You know,” the host informed him, “that’s pretty much like going to Berlin in 1938.” My friend changed the subject.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had political opponents killed and destabilized two of Russia’s neighboring countries, but he isn’t Hitler. Even for the foot-stomping, tantrum-throwing Democrats in 2017, that comparison is ludicrous. But other lefties fall back on World War II for a different comparison: The Russian meddling in our democracy was “the equivalent of Pearl Harbor,” as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman put it. That makes the Russian president the equivalent of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and the imperial Japanese.

Related: Robert Mueller is a hothead who can’t own up to his mistakes, former aides say 

U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

As someone who grew up during the Cold War, spent much of the ’90s covering Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and then Russia (including Putin’s ascent) later in the decade, this line of thinking seems bizarre. Democrats, it seems, have willfully tossed their past positions on Russia down the Orwellian memory hole.

In 1972, George McGovern won the Democratic nomination for president, and with that came the end of serious Soviet skepticism in the party. He had vanquished Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a senator from Washington and the party’s leading anti-Soviet hawk. Jackson tried again in 1976, only to lose to Jimmy Carter, who chided his political opponents for their “inordinate fear” of Communism. (To Carter’s credit, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he admitted that the “scales” had fallen from his eyes.)

But unlike Carter, a lot of others on the left failed to sober up. When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the mainstream Democratic Party became consumed by nuclear hysteria—we were all gonna die!—and that fear infected the producers of pop culture. In 1983, ABC broadcast a propaganda film entitled The Day After, which was what life would be like after a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Then, there was On the Eighth Day, a 1984 documentary about what would happen after a nuclear war. And around the same time period, Carl Sagan, a popular astronomer with a television series on public broadcasting, penned a widely read article on the same subject: “We have placed our civilization and our species in jeopardy,” he wrote. “Fortunately, it is not yet too late. We can safeguard the planetary civilization and the human family if we so choose. There is no more important or more urgent issue.”

The tenor of this and other doomsday nuclear narratives was that if the worst happened, it was going to Reagan’s fault. This fear sparked the nuclear freeze movement, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Europe to protest the planned installation of intermediate-range nuclear weapons on the western part of the continent.

In those days, “colluding” with Moscow wasn’t a big deal. The Soviets tried to help the nuclear freeze movement, which they saw as in their interests. KGB agents occasionally funneled cash to so-called “peace groups” in the West, and some left-leaning arms-control groups acknowledged that Soviet agents would turn up at conferences to help with propaganda. Yet many Democrats thought the nuclear freeze movement had been a great success. Why? Because the anti-nuclear uprising “had a substantial impact upon mainstream politics, especially the Democratic Party,” wrote Lawrence Wittner, a professor of history at the State University of New York at Albany. “After the movement’s successes in 1982, the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination met with peace movement leaders, pledging their support for a nuclear freeze and other nuclear arms control measures. The Democrats pushed a freeze resolution through the House of Representatives in the spring of 1983 and made the freeze a part of the party’s campaign platform in 1984.” Never mind that Reagan, the man the left derided as a warmonger nuclear cowboy, won the 1984 election in a historic landslide.

Sixteen years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin replaced a drunken and ailing Boris Yeltsin, who, however briefly, had brought democracy to Russia. At a New Year’s reception in 2000, President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Russia, Jim Collins, acknowledged the main reaction to Putin’s ascension in the U.S. government was one of “relief,” because Russia was so chaotic in those days. Secretary of State Madeline Albright would later call the former KGB man a “reformer.”

Putin for years was able to dupe U.S. presidents into thinking he was their friend—from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. In a 2012 presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney cited Putin’s Russia as the U.S.’s foremost foreign policy challenge, and Obama sarcastically said the “1980s are calling, and they want their foreign policy back.” The Democrats cheered. And Obama appeared to believe he could work with the Russian strongman. He famously asked Putin stooge Dmitry Medvedev to “tell Vladimir” that after the election he (Obama) would have more “flexibility’’ to work on arms control deals.

But the moment that really captured the credulity of the Democratic Party when it came to Russia and Putin had come earlier. In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, with a “reset” button, which meant the administration would replace the bad, anti-Russian policies of the past with new ones. The problem, however, is the word “reset” was misspelled on the button. Those who controlled Obama’s foreign policy evidently couldn’t find a Russian speaker competent enough to tell them that the button presented to Lavrov said “overcharged” in Russia. Clinton laughed at the mistake. Lavrov laughed at her.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an interview with Mariella Frostrup at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in Cheltenham, England, on October 15. Reuters

Now, Democratic representatives all over Washington can’t stop ranting about Moscow. I asked David Satter, a Washington-based journalist—and the only Western reporter to be banned by Putin from entering Russia since the end of the Cold War—what I should make of all this. Are these people serious about their anti-Russian venom?

“Oh God, no,” he said, as we sat in a Russian restaurant called Mari Vanna in Manhattan. “This is all just politics, and hypocrisy is the mother’s milk of politics.”

I think he’s right. I’m agnostic on the question of whether President Donald Trump or his associates actually “colluded’’ with Putin to win the election. If they did, they should be strung up.

As for Putin, he’s undoubtedly an authoritarian thug. At home, he has eliminated many of the briefly won freedoms of the Yeltsin era, and abroad, he seems determined to again dominate Russia’s neighbors. But it would be hard to find many liberals in Washington who actually cared about any of this before Trump beat Clinton.

If the outcome had been reversed, Congress might still be working to figure out how exactly Russia meddled in the election—just as the Soviets had done in 1968 and 1976. But we most certainly wouldn’t have this anti-Russian circus going on in the nation’s capital—a show that will likely continue for quite some time.

Dem. rep seeks answers on FBI’s failure to notify Russian hacking victims | TheHill
 

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trump turkey flynn kurds – Google Search
 

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US-Turkish political stew: KurdsFlynn — and even Bharara

NewsdayNov 26, 2017
President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to …

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Turkey ‘very happy’ as US stops arming Kurds in Syria

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ANKARA, Turkey — The United States seems set to cut off its supply of arms … Trump that is sure to please Turkey but further alienate Syrian Kurds who …. of Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn …

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Zarrab to Testify for Prosecution in Iran-Sanctions Case

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Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader at the center of an international corruption case, is set to tell a New York jury the “inside story” of a …
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
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Turkey urges US to drop case against gold trader Reza Zarrab
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The Talk of Turkey? A Politically Charged Trial in New York
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U.S.-Turkish political stew: Kurds, Flynn and even Bharara
 

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Eyes are on Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

Eyes are on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in Ankara on Nov. 21, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Burhan Ozbilici

President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to foreign-policy news.

On Friday, the two leaders were due to speak by phone, with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the long holiday weekend. Subjects were to include Syria and conflicts in the region.

Turkey’s foreign minister, who said he was with Erdogan during the call, said afterward that Trump gave assurances his administration would stop supplying arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have been U.S. allies.

After all, Kurdish separatists are a thorn in Erdogan’s side.

Such policy choices aside, the discussion of Turkish ties to Washington turns quickly and naturally to Trump’s short-tenured national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has his eyes on the retired lieutenant general, who failed to disclose a payment of $530,000 from Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm owned by a Turkish businessman closely tied to Erdogan.

Flynn’s lawyer said back in March that the work for the firm “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” which is why he belatedly filed it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Flynn has been a campaign and White House adviser with close links to a president who rode to election proclaiming “America First.”

Late Thursday, it was reported that Flynn’s lawyer informed Trump’s legal team that he can no longer discuss the Mueller probe with him. That stirred speculation about Flynn’s cooperation with investigators and where it could lead.

This comes after reports that Erdogan’s men may have discussed with Flynn last year a paid mission that involved grabbing a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania — whom Erdogan blames for a coup attempt — and returning him to Turkey.

The intrigue seems to leach further into the American justice system than just the probe of Flynn.

There is also the long-lived case of Reza Zarrab — the Turkish-Iranian gold trader charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Erdogan calls the case a plot against his republic. Over the weekend he purportedly launched an investigation of his own into former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought the case against Zarrab, an ally of Erdogan.

Bharara was fired by Trump after the president asked him to stay in the job. Responding to Erdogan, Bharara’s interim successor Joon Kim and Judge Richard Berman issued a rare reply to the Turkish government.

On Tuesday, Kim said: “Needless to say, it’s our view that those claims are ridiculous on their face. It displays a fundamental misunderstanding or lack of understanding of how our system of justice works and, frankly, the rule of law works.”

Diplomatically, Berman said that if Turkish officials wish to help Zarrab, they could do so by “producing in court any Turkish evidence or witnesses that they may be aware of who could assist the defense in presenting their case.”

Trump doesn’t seem inclined to complain about the Erdogan regime’s conduct in this or any other controversy.

In fact, on the defense side of the case, the president finds two political allies — Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor, and Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general.

By most accounts their job has been to try to get the case resolved through meetings away from courtroom arguments. Recent buzz has been about the prospect of a cooperation deal, but the matter is still apparently pending.

These are the shadowy complications of the moment in Turkish-American politics.

Melville.

By Dan JanisonDan Janison has been a columnist at Newsday since 2007.

What Flynns Flip Flop on Turkey Tells Us
 

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This article first appeared on Just Security.

Many commentators anticipate that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will likely indict retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn in part for the former National Security Advisor’s previously undisclosed work as a foreign agent of Turkey.

Mueller’s team has reportedly obtained enough evidence to indict Flynn and his son, according to an NBC News report earlier this month.

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There is no way to tell, based on current reporting, whether that body of indictable evidence includes the two alleged meetings in Sept. and Dec. 2016 where Flynn may have discussed a plot to forcibly remove U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, or initiate legal proceedings against him, in exchange for $15 million.

But in considering Flynn’s case, it is important to keep track of how he changed from a relatively hardline position against the government of Turkey to public positions in favor of Ankara.

Former National Security Advisor Michael Fllynn in the East Room of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

Important questions for legal liability and moral responsibility include whether Flynn’s conflict of interest and efforts in favor of Turkey continued past the election and into his time in office.

Engaging in pro-Turkish government dealings was a major change in Flynn’s position on Turkey. In July 2016, Flynn gave a speech supporting the military coup against the Turkish government, specifically citing the country’s “move toward Islamism” under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the military’s secular orientation.

And previously, while serving as DIA Director under the Obama administration, Flynn says he alerted White House officials to Turkey’s indifference toward ISIS’ growth in Syria.

What explains why Flynn changed his position on Turkey and why did he persist in pro-Turkish positions after his firm’s contract to work on behalf of the Turkish government purportedly ended?

I. Flynn’s initial anti-Erdoğan, anti-Islamist public positions, and his later The Hill Op-Ed Reversal

  1. War Against “Cunning Radical Islamists” Tweet (Nov. 16, 2015)

Flynn has publicly spoken against what he views as a global threat of radical Islamism, which, according to his view, also implicated Erdoğan’s pro-Islamist government at one point. He tweeted in November 2015:

We are facing violent, but very serious and cunning radical Islamists. We can be war weary when we win. If we lose, we have nothing.

2. Flynn Expresses Concerns on Turkey’s Indifference to ISIS to Sy Hersh (January 2016)

Flynn seemed to view Turkey’s pro-Islamist attitudes as leading to the country’s indifference to ISIS growing next door. In January 2016, he told Seymour Hersh in a New Yorker interview:

If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic…We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.

He added that the Obama administration gave “enormous pushback” with respect to the DIA’s reporting on ISIS’s growth in Syria, including Turkey’s alleged indifference: “I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.”

3. Flynn Tweets that Fear of Muslims is Rational (Feb. 27. 2016)

In line with his prior statements, Flynn tweeted in Feb. 2016 that fear of Muslims was “rational:”

Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions… http://youtu.be/tJnW8HRHLLw

4. Flynn Lauds the Anti-Erdogan Coup at ACT! For America Speech (July 15, 2016)

On July 15, 2016, Flynn gave a speech at the Cleveland meeting of ACT! For America. The organization is an advocacy group that opposes what it calls “Islamofascism,” which Brigitte Gabriel, the group’s founder, believes comes from “one source: The Koran.” Flynn began his remarks by expressing support for the military-led coup d’état in Turkey:

[The Turkish military] has been just excised for many years by what, what really became a secular country, meaning a sort of, regular sort of nation-state, and then began to move toward Islamism. This is Turkey under Erdoğan, who is actually very close to President Obama.

So, I’m going to be very fascinated to see what happens, because if they, the military succeeds, then one of the things that came out of the military tonight, they’re about plus eight hours from here, so it’s probably about I don’t know, three-four o’clock in the morning there.

One of the things the military immediately said is: “We recognize our responsibilities with NATO, we recognize our responsibilities with the United Nations, we want to make sure that the world knows, we are, we want to be seen as a secular nation. This is the military.

[Applause]

So, yeah, I think that is worth clapping for.

5. New York Times Notes Flynn and Trump Share Islamophobic Outlook and Flynn’s Influence on the Campaign (November 2016)

The New York Times’s post-election profile of Flynn noted his anti-Islamist credentials throughout the campaign:

[Trump and Flynn] have both at times crossed the line into outright Islamophobia.

[Trump and Flynn] both exhibit a loose relationship with facts: General Flynn, for instance, has said that Shariah, or Islamic law, is spreading in the United States (it is not).

As an adviser, General Flynn has already proved to be a powerful influence on Mr. Trump, convincing the president-elect that the United States is in a “world war” with Islamist militants and must work with any willing allies in the fight, including President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

6. Flynn Supports Erdoğan Government’s Goals in the Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 08, 2016)

On Election Day 2016, The Hill published an op-ed by Flynn titled, “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support.”

The op-ed criticized the Obama administration for not being friendly enough toward Erdoğan’s government and portrayed Gülen as a cleric who “portrays himself as a moderate, but he is in fact a radical Islamist.”

It compares Gülen to the founders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and labels him Turkey’s equivalent of Bin Laden:

To professionals in the intelligence community, the stamp of terror is all over Mullah Gülen’s statements in the tradition of Qutb and al Bana. Gülen’s vast global network has all the right markings to fit the description of a dangerous sleeper terror network. From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden.

It also ties Gülen to the Clinton Foundation:

[F]unding seems to be no problem for Gülen’s network. Hired attorneys work to keep the lucrative government source of income for Gülen and his network going. Influential charities such as Cosmos Foundation continue their support for Gülen’s charter schools.

Incidentally, Cosmos Foundation is a major donor to Clinton Foundation. No wonder Bill Clinton calls Mullah Gülen “his friend.”

And concludes:

We need to adjust our foreign policy to recognize Turkey as a priority. We need to see the world from Turkey’s perspective. What would we have done if right after 9/11 we heard the news that Osama bin Laden lives in a nice villa at a Turkish resort while running 160 charter schools funded by the Turkish taxpayers?

The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam. We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.

When Flynn’s op-ed came out, Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who hired Flynn’s firm, told the New York Times : “This is not a guy who would be influenced by a contract. He wrote what he believes.”

Al Monitor ’s Turkey columnist Mustafa Akyol also told the paper of the warm reception Flynn’s op-ed had inside the government of Turkey: “You would expect to see [an Islamophobia] concern here, but quite the contrary: Flynn is quite a respected figure now in government circles, just because he wrote that Gülen should be extradited to Turkey.”

He added: “[Flynn’s op-ed] was greeted with great happiness here,” adding that Erdoğan supporters thought: “Finally, somebody in America who understands us.”

In late Nov., Alptekin denied that either Erdoğan or the Turkish government paid for Flynn’s op-ed, telling The Independent that the idea was “preposterous,” noting that the op-ed also criticized the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Erdogan had sometimes supported.

He contended that Inovo’s contract with Flynn Intel Group was “not about representing the position of the Turkish government,” and Alptekin said that he was not affiliated with the Turkish government.

Flynn has a strong anti-Islamist streak, and yet he went from criticizing Turkey’s relatively pro-Islamist government and supporting the coup against Erdoğan, to publicly advocating for Gülen’s removal to face justice for the coup in Turkey. What changed between these two events—the coup and the op-ed—to cause Flynn to switch positions on Turkey?

II. A likely motive: lucrative lobbying contracts, and how Flynn’s private business activities may have affected his public positions

  1. Flynn Intel Group Signs Contract with Inovo BV (Aug. 2016)

In early August 2016, Flynn Intel Group was approached by Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council, a Turkish economic relations board run by an appointee of Prs Erdoğan.

Alptekin proposed that Flynn work on a project repairing Turkey’s image in the United States with Alptekin’s Netherlands-based firm Inovo BV—work to be performed by Flynn’s firm over 90 days in exchange for $600,000. Flynn agreed.

Though Flynn later conceded in his belated filing that the Inovo work “could be construed to have principally helped the Republic of Turkey,” Flynn opted not to file this work with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) database until strongly encouraged to do so by the Justice Department.

FARA requires lobbyists whose work directly or indirectly benefits a foreign government to file as agents of a foreign power. The Flynn firm would likely assert that because the Inovo work benefitted a business and not a foreign nation, the firm could instead file with Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, and it did so in Sept. 2016.

2. Flynn Meets with Turkish Ministers Alongside Woolsey in New York (Sept. 21, 2016)

On September 21, Flynn met in New York with the Turkish foreign minister and energy ministers (the latter is also Erdoğan’s son-in-law), alongside former CIA Director James Woolsey and a former FBI agent, according to Woolsey’s account of the deliberations.

Woolsey later told the Wall Street Journal that the meeting discussed a plot to remove Turkish cleric Gülen from the United States and take him to Turkey.

According to a report by the Daily Caller, one month after the Sept. 2016 meeting between Flynn and Turkish ministers in New York, Flynn attended an event with Halil Mutlu, former director of the Turken Foundation, a U.S. charity focused on Turkish issues, and President Erdoğan’s cousin. (Readers should note: The Daily Caller generally has a far-right ideological lens, and has been criticized for having a white nationalist problem in recent months.)

3. Flynn Intel Group Lobbies Congress on Inovo’s Behalf (Sept.–Oct. 2016)

After signing the contract with Inovo BV, Flynn’s Intel Group began lobbying Congress on Inovo’s behalf, though Flynn himself did not participate in the lobbying. Flynn’s Sept. 2016 Lobbying Disclosure Act forms reveal that Robert Kelley, Flynn’s lawyer and a former Chief Counsel to a House subcommittee, managed the lobbying portion of the Inovo contract.

According to the FARA registration, in Oct. 2016, VP Bijan R. Kian met twice with Miles Taylor, National Security Advisor to the House Homeland Security Committee, to discuss Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo and research related to Turkey and Gülen.

According to a Daily Caller source, at the second meeting, Kian and Inovo representatives discussed Gülen with Taylor, and what they called his “shady” Gülen Movement Schools.

The source added that House committee staff were not receptive to Kian’s approach, and that Flynn was not present for the meeting. Beyond this Congressional outreach, the FARA registration also notes that Flynn’s firm  oversaw a PR firm SGR LLC’s outreach to an Arkansas state government official with respect to the Inovo work.

The AP reported that as part of the Taylor meeting, Flynn Intel Group staff suggested that Congress hold hearings about Gülen.

At the time of the filing, Alptekin told the AP : “I disagree with the filing…It would be different if I was working for the government of Turkey, but I am not taking directions from anyone in the government.” He said the filings were a response to “political pressure.”

4. Flynn Group’s VP Meets Alptekin Prior to The Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 2, 2016)

According to an in-depth profile of Flynn by The New Yorker ’s Nicholas Schmidle, on November 2, 2016, Alptekin privately met Flynn Intel Group VP Bijan R. Kian and other corporate officers at the firm’s offices in Alexandria, Va. Alptekin, believing that Trump was likely to lose the election, emphasized that, “We have to generate something to show Turkey how successful we can be…What success can we show them now?”

As Schmidle points out, Flynn’s op-ed in The Hill was published a week later.

5. Flynn and Alptekin Statement to the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 17, 2016)

Flynn told the Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 17 statement that he would end his relationship with his firm if offered to serve in the Trump administration. He said: “If I return to government service, my relationship with my company will be severed in accordance with the policy announced by President-elect Trump.”

Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin tells the Journal that he hired Flynn to advise him on the U.S.-Turkish security relationship, and more generally, to improve U.S.-Turkish relations.

6. WH Cabinet Secretary’s Post-Election Investigation into Flynn’s The Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 19, 2016)

On Nov. 19, the day after Trump appointed Flynn as his National Security Adviser, lawyer Bill McGinley, who later became White House Cabinet Secretary, called Kian and others to investigate the Flynn op-ed. A source told The New Yorker:

Some people seemed skeptical as to whether Flynn had really woken up the day before the election and felt compelled to write an op-ed defending Erdoğan…McGinley wanted to know if Turkish government dollars touched that op-ed.

Kian reportedly told McGinley that Flynn wrote the op-ed entirely on his own, and that it was unrelated to his work for Alptekin.

However, the Flynn group’s FARA filing noted that in October and early November, Flynn developed the op-ed based partly based on research done for the Inovo work, and that a draft was shared with Inovo before publication. Further, SGR LLC, a public relations firm Flynn Intel Group hired as part of the Inovo contract, helped Flynn place The Hill op-ed.

7. Second Meeting with Turkish officials on Alleged Gülen Plot in New York (Dec. 2016)

Mueller’s investigation is reportedly looking into whether, during a second alleged meeting between Flynn and Turkish government representatives in mid-Dec. 2016, participants discussed a plan for Flynn and Flynn Jr. to remove Gülen in exchange for up to $15 million dollars.

It is also reportedly looking into whether they discussed a separate plan to free Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab. The Wall Street Journal reported that the alleged meeting took place in mid-December at the 21 Club in New York, and the discussion considered forcibly removing Mr. Gülen from the U.S. on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali.

If the December meeting were to be confirmed, even if the more sensational allegations about the content of the meeting were not established, it could contradict Flynn Intel Group’s filing statements, which state that the Flynn firm’s contract with Inovo terminated in November 2016, and that is when Flynn’s paid work that benefited the Turkish government ended. Intentional false statements on a FARA form are a felony.

8. Flynn Tells Susan Rice “We’ll Take it From Here” on Raqqa Campaign (Jan. 10, 2017)

On Jan. 10, outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice presented Flynn a plan to imminently take over the Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, according to the Washington Post. The plan involved arming Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Syria, and Obama administration officials believed they had little time left to move forward with the operation.

The Post noted that Turkey’s Erdoğan had resisted their overtures to fight the Islamic State more robustly, leading in part to the U.S. plan to rely on the Kurds:

In contrast to Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not see the Islamic State as his country’s No. 1 threat. In private meetings with senior U.S. officials in 2014, Erdoğan said the Kurds were his top concern and that removing Assad ranked second, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

Erdoğan has long been upset by the U.S. support for Syrian Kurds, which he considers part of a terrorist group that threatens Turkey’s national security.

According to the Post , Flynn responded to Rice:

Don’t approve it…We’ll make the decision.

McClatchy reported that it is not known if Flynn consulted other administration officials before telling Rice to hold off on the decision, or whether Flynn’s decision was approved by a higher-ranking official such as Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis.

Raqqa Plan is “Dead on Arrival” When Presented to Trump Officials (Jan. 17, 2017)

When the plan was turned over to the Trump administration on Jan. 17, per Flynn’s request, the Postreported that it “was dead on arrival.” According to McClatchy, “Some members of Congress, in private conversations, have even used the word ‘treason’ to describe Flynn’s intervention” with Rice.

And while there is no reporting whether Flynn advised Trump to hold off on the Raqqa assault, media outlets have noted that Trump only approved the plan weeks after he had fired Flynn.

10. Flynn, Turkish FM Meet over Breakfast at Trump Hotel (Jan. 18, 2017)

McClatchy reported that Flynn met Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over breakfast on Jan. 18 to discuss U.S.-Turkish interests. It was later reported by Business Insider that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was also present at the closed-door meeting at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Pro-government Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported at the time of the breakfast that the meeting was “a first direct reachout between the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan administration and the incoming Donald Trump administration.”

An aide to Cavusoglu told the paper that that “Çavuşoğlu was the only foreign leader at the breakfast and the topics on the U.S.-Turkish agenda were discussed by the attendees.” Cavusoglu would later attend Trump’s inauguration.

Met w/General Flynn,who will assume the position of National Security Advisor, and other officials at a working breakfast in Washington D.C.

11. President Trump’s Call with Erdogan (Feb. 7, 2017)

On Trump’s first call with Erdoğan, the pair agreed to engage in joint action against ISIS positions in Syria, according to two sources in Erdoğan’s office, Reuters reported.

They added that Erdoğan urged Trump not to support the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Al-Monitorreported based that a senior Turkish official said that Erdoğan “drew attention to the close ties between the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers Party,” the Turkish-based Kurdish group. Likewise, Reuters added that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be in Turkey on Feb. 9 to discuss security issues with Turkish officials.

Considering the nature of Flynn’s pre- and alleged post-election work on behalf of the Turkish government, it appears that the money paid to him as part of the Inovo contract may have played a decisive role in changing his position on Turkey.

The extent of his reversal would have negatively implicated U.S. national security interests if it figured into his response to Susan Rice on the operation to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s so-called capital.

But why would Flynn remain motivated by pecuniary interests once he was named to be national security advisor and then served in the administration?

Perhaps it was not a financial interest at that point. Perhaps it was a case of a person’s judgment being clouded, convincing themselves that they believe in a new policy outlook to reduce the cognitive dissonance that would otherwise persist.

Another explanation is a more illicit one. If Flynn and his son were still interested in mid-December in being personally paid $15 million by Turkey, there’s reason to think Flynn would not have dropped such interests going forward on other policies favorable to Turkey.

The allegations reported in the Wall Street Journal and NBC News involving the mid-December meeting certainly raise this specter. The available information in the public domain does not provide a sufficient basis to reach any firm conclusion.

It will be up to Mueller’s investigation and others to tell.

Artin Afkhami Associate Editor at Just Security.

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Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?

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Flynn allegedly discussed getting paid $15 million to help free Reza … a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week.
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
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Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?
 

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Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty and will testify against his co-defendant, a federal court heard Tuesday. Zarrab’s cooperation with federal prosecutors could have implications for Michael Flynn, who allegedly plotted on behalf of Turkish interests to help free Zarrab.

Zarrab, a 34-year-old Turkish-Iranian gold trader, is at the center of an Iran sanctions-busting case in which he used his companies and Turkish state-run banks to trade cash for gold in order to secretly buy oil from Iran. A former deputy general manager of one of those banks, Mehmet Atilla, is charged as part of that same conspiracy.

Atilla’s lawyers complained that co-defendant Zarrab had vanished in the weeks before trial was to start, an indication that he was no longer cooperating with them but instead federal prosecutors. He is expected to testify Tuesday or Wednesday.

Zarrab’s apparent cooperation with federal prosecutors raised speculation that he was also cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Flynn, because it seemed unlikely prosecutors would offer a plea deal to Zarrab in exchange for his cooperation for the comparatively lower-profile trial of Atilla.

Shortly after Zarrab seemed to flip, Flynn’s lawyers terminated a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week. Flynn’s lawyer reportedly met with members of the Mueller probe on Monday, ABC News reported, a further indication that the embattled ex-national security advisor is also pursuing a plea deal.

Zarrab’s plight was reportedly raised by Turkish interests in a December 2016 meeting with Flynn, who was designated to be President Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn was supposedly offered $15 million to arrange Zarrab’s release and to kidnap an exiled Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen, and bring him to Turkey. (Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen, a former ally, of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup.)

The Zarrab case has roiled the upper echelons of the Turkish government and stems from a 2013 corruption scandal, which allegedly revealed that top-level ministers to bribes to sign off on the sanctions evasions — and even allegedly captured Erdogan and his son talking about how to hide money.

Erdogan has repeatedly raised Zarrab’s release with U.S. officials from the Obama and Trump administrations. Zarrab even retained friends of President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey, to negotiate a diplomatic release with the top levels of the Trump and Erdogan administrations.

After the jury was selected on Monday, Atilla’s lawyers asked the judge to delay the trial so they could prepare for a mystery witness.

“The government should also make clear that the mystery witness is Mr. Reza Zarrab,” Judge Richard Berman wrote in a ruling denying the motion to postpone trial on Monday. “This is something that experienced counsel knew or should have known about for months.”

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Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today – Raw Story
 

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Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today
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A Turkish-Iranian gold trader linked to both Mike Flynn and Rudy Giuliani has agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors. Reza Zarrab was scheduled to stand trial earlier this month in New York, where the U.S. attorney had filed charges in an 
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Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?
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Zarrab’s cooperation with federal prosecutors could have implications for Michael Flynn, who allegedly conspired to help free Zarrab while lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests. Zarrab, a 34-year-old Turkish-Iranian gold trader, is at the center of and more »
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(CNN) A Russian Su-30 fighter jet made an “unsafe” intercept of a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft Saturday while it was flying over the Black Sea, the Pentagon told CNN Monday. “The US aircraft was operating in international airspace and did nothing to 
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Russian Jet Makes ‘Unsafe’ Interception Of US Navy P8-Poseidon Over Black Sea
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A Russian Su-30 fighter jet had an unsafe interception with a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane Saturday as the Russian aircraft used its afterburners while flying in front of American plane over the Black Sea. According to a CNN report, the …and more »
6:33 AM 11/28/2017 FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets Washington Post
 

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Investigate the investigators! Save America! Reform the FBI now! __________________________________ “Scores of U.S. diplomatic, military and government figures were not told about attempts to hack into their emails even though the FBI knew they were in the Kremlins crosshairs, The Associated Press has learned.”  FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets – … Continue reading“6:33 AM 11/28/2017 – FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers’ US targets – Washington Post”

9:17 AM 11/28/2017 M.N. This observation is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative loudness Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump NYT
 

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__________________________________ M.N. This observation, once again, is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative “loudness” (in Comey’s words: “They were unusually loud in their intervention. It is as almost they didn’t care that we knew, or they wanted us to see what they do. They were very noisy in their interventions…” – 2:48:55 … Continue reading“9:17 AM 11/28/2017 – M.N. This observation is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative “loudness” – Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump – NYT”

Muellers Trump-Russia Probe May Be Only One That Leads to Answers-Or Handcuffs
 

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.

“Please,” the senator said, “answer yes or no, sir. Can you do that?”

It was late October, and Minnesota’s Al Franken was two hours into a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russia’s manipulation of social media, including its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Sitting across from him and the other senators at a long table was a lawyer from Facebook. Franken tried to get the man to say whether the social media network would reject political ads purchased with foreign currency. But the attorney remained obtuse, and the senator dropped his head into his hands in frustration.

That hearing came a day after special counsel Robert Mueller’s team announced the first charges in its probe of Russian interference in the election and possible coordination with President Donald Trump’s campaign. A grand jury charged Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, another former campaign member, with money laundering, among other things. The special counsel also announced that George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, had pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his ties to suspected Russian agents.

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It’s been less than seven months since Mueller’s work began, and already his investigation seems to be the only one that matters in Washington. The federal lawmakers digging into the same subject typically lack the mandate to conduct raids and make arrests, and their lists of potential witnesses are likely to shrink with each Mueller indictment, since no one wants to interfere with the criminal probe. But a primary reason the congressional investigations have moved slowly is that they’re mired in partisan politics, according to interviews with more than a dozen members of Congress.

Similar divides have hindered congressional investigations before, such as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2004 report on Iraq. But with lawmakers on at least one committee talking about possibly releasing separate Russia reports, the current dramas seem to go further.

“As much as this committee…has traditionally sort of been insulated from partisanship over the years,” says Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, “this issue has thrown all that out the window.”

Congressional investigators jumped on the Russia matter not long after the U.S. intelligence community declared in January that the Kremlin had tried to sway the election against Hillary Clinton. In May, President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, implying in an NBC News interview that the decision was partly due to the bureau’s Russia investigation. About a week later, the Justice Department appointed special counsel Mueller, and by June, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House and Senate intelligence committees had opened probes into Russian interference and other related topics.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was making progress over the summer. It issued bipartisan requests for documents from the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization, Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. But by late October, cooperation between Democrats and Republicans on the committee broke down. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member, told Mother Jones that she and her Democratic colleagues would be moving forward with the Russia probe without the Republicans. Days later, she sent letters requesting information from people or companies, without the signature of Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman. That suggested he was too slow to approve the Democrats’ requests for information, or unwilling to do so. (Neither senator was available for an interview.)

Today, critics say Republicans on the committee seem mostly focused on Comey’s conduct as FBI director and an allegedly questionable uranium deal with Russia that Clinton’s State Department helped approve. The Republican side of the committee, says Senator Chris Coons, a committee Democrat from Delaware, “treats the Russia investigation as a Democratic priority.” The GOP, he adds, acts as if every time the probe moves forward, they should pursue “something that goes after Hillary Clinton.” It wasn’t until November 16, for example, that the chairman and the ranking member sent their first bipartisan letter in almost two months, seeking information from the lawyer for Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser.

US president Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin talk after a meeting on the closing day of the 25th APEC Summit. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Alamy Live News

Part of the problem is that the GOP controls the committee (and the others probing Russian collusion), so the Democrats generally need Republican approval to compel people to turn over documents or to testify. “There’s nothing the minority can do but say ‘Mother, may I?’ to the majority to get an agreement to have these witnesses come before us,” says Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California on the House Intelligence Committee. “It is a tap dance that we have to do to get them to cooperate.”

The probe by the House Intelligence Committee has been even more contentious. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman, recused himself as reports swirled that he had provided Trump with unauthorized intelligence about government surveillance of the president’s transition team. (Nunes has called the complaints about him “entirely false and politically motivated.”) Despite interviews in November with high-profile witnesses, including Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, and Keith Schiller, the former director of Oval Office operations, the committee is dealing with political divides that threaten to derail its progress.

The Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be making the most progress. In June, it held a dramatic hearing in which Comey said he had kept memos of his encounters with Trump because he expected the president to lie about them. In early October, Republican Senator Richard Burr, the committee chairman, and Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman, held a joint press conference to announce that their panel had reviewed almost 100,000 pages of documents and conducted more than 250 hours of interviews with at least 100 people. That work suggests the Senate Intelligence Committee is the public’s best hope for a timely and thorough bipartisan report on the Russian meddling and possible collusion by some of Trump’s people.

But even if the committee puts out a detailed report, the question of whether anyone committed crimes will ultimately fall to Mueller. And as he moves forward, the congressional committees could find it harder to complete their inquiries. Lawmakers may be reluctant to ask those whom the special counsel indicts to testify before Congress, for fear of disrupting Mueller’s work. (If a suspect gives different testimony to Congress from what he or she gives to Mueller, it could create legal problems for prosecutors.) It’s also likely that anyone indicted would invoke his or her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and decline to testify before Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee had called on Manafort to testify before his indictment, and both intelligence committees have been in touch with Papadopoulos or his legal team, but those appearances now seem less likely to happen. The special counsel and committees are trying to work out any conflicts, yet committee staffers and members remain cautious.

As the congressional investigations crawl forward, the parties are split over when the probes should end and whether they will find evidence of collusion. On the House Intelligence Committee, the Republicans claim Democrats are prolonging the investigation to hurt them in the 2018 midterm elections. “We could drag this out,” says Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, “but it’s not serving the American people if we do.”

New York activists demonstrated inside the Trump Tower atrium to voice their objection in response to reports that Donald Trump is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and to pardon administration members who have broken the law. Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/Alamy Live News

Some Republican investigators still don’t believe there was any coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. “We have not had one witness or one shred of evidence” suggesting collusion, says Rooney, the Republican congressman from Florida.

The Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee disagree. And they believe the Republicans are working to shut down the probe quickly to leave the question of collusion unsolved. “This investigation is still closer to the beginning than the end,” says Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois. “People ask me, ‘Are you connecting dots?’ My answer is: ‘We’re still finding our dots.’”

Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, says they are still receiving new information and have “a long list” of witnesses to interview. As for collusion, Schiff adds, “You have to, I think, willfully blind yourself to what we’ve seen to suggest there’s no evidence.” He has said it’s possible each party will issue its own report.

Across the committees, there’s one thing lawmakers from both parties agree on: Americans shouldn’t expect their probes to unfold the way Mueller’s is developing. As part of that investigation, federal agents raided Manafort’s home and arrested Papadopoulos in the middle of an airport, leading to his stunning confession.

Now that Mueller’s team has reportedly requested documents from the Justice Department and plans to interview senior White House officials, and as speculation grows that former national security adviser Michael Flynn has flipped and is working with the special counsel, Americans may soon find out the truth about the Trump team’s alleged obstruction and collusion. As Representative Denny Heck of Washington, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, puts it, “I’ll be very surprised if there aren’t people that are going to jail.”


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6:20 AM 11/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: 6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR

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Eyes are on Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR

Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
The real reason the Russian oligarchs are looking at ousting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both
Putin’s Daughter Is Linked To Wilbur Ross Another Trump-Russia Connection? – Newsweek
The Left Is Losing Its Mind Over Trump, Russia and Putin
Dem. rep seeks answers on FBI’s failure to notify Russian hacking victims | TheHill
trump turkey flynn kurds – Google Search
Reza Zarrab – Google Search
U.S.-Turkish political stew: Kurds, Flynn and even Bharara
What Flynns Flip Flop on Turkey Tells Us
trump turkey flynn – Google Search
Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?
Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today – Raw Story
Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn? – Daily Beast
Russian jet makes ‘unsafe’ intercept of US Navy aircraft – CNN
Russian Jet Makes ‘Unsafe’ Interception Of US Navy P8-Poseidon Over Black Sea – International Business Times
6:33 AM 11/28/2017 FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets Washington Post
9:17 AM 11/28/2017 M.N. This observation is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative loudness Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump NYT
Muellers Trump-Russia Probe May Be Only One That Leads to Answers-Or Handcuffs
Trump’s and Putin’s connections with organized crime – Google News: Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump – New York Times
Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump
Trump tells Turkish president U.S. will stop arming Kurds in Syria – The Washington Post

 

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks
6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio – NPR
 

mikenova shared this story from trump under federal investigation – Google News.


NPR
6 Months In, No End In Sight: Who’s Who In The Vast Russia Imbroglio
NPR
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference has passed the six-month mark, and President Trump’s staff is painting a picture of a process nearing its end. “We still expect this to conclude soon,” White Houseand more »
Race and Class and What Happened in 2016 – New York Times
 

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New York Times
Race and Class and What Happened in 2016
New York Times
But we will never escape from purgatory until these points are treated as complements to the role that other forces played inTrump’s success, not as substitutes that somehow make the economic anxiety or anti-establishment analyses of Trumpism into …
The Odyssey of a Turkish Trader Now Spilling His Secrets in U.S.
 

mikenova shared this story .

Turkish customs agents set off a half decade of intrigue when they boarded a plane that landed unexpectedly at Istanbul’s international airport. They found in the hold, undeclared, a ton and a half of gold.

Authorities subsequently determined that the shipment was part of a giant money-laundering operation to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran for oil and gas, skirting international sanctions intended to curb the country’s nuclear work. The scheme, they said, was overseen by a young Iranian-Turk named Reza Zarrab who greased the palms of top Turkish officials with watches, a piano and cash-stuffed boxes.

Photographer: Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s been quite a ride since then for Zarrab. Sprung from Turkish prison in early 2014, he was actually hailed by the country’s now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He and his pop-star wife resumed their perch on Turkey’s society pages. Until, that is, he was arrested last year in Florida on his way to a Disney vacation and charged by federal prosecutors in a sweeping laundering and sanctions violations case. After 18 months in U.S. lockup, the onetime playboy with mansions and James Bond-style accessories — a jet, a personal submarine, a gold-plated pistol — is now cooperating with American prosecutors.

His evolution from a central character in a 2013 Turkish political battle to a key U.S. witness is expected to take center stage later today in a federal court in Manhattan where an executive of a prominent Turkish bank is accused in the scheme. Prosecutors say Zarrab, 34, will provide the inside story of a conspiracy that spanned a decade — all part of his guilty plea agreement.

That has the potential to send shock waves through Turkish politics and international relations. Prosecutors accused Zarrab of making bribes to then-senior ministers under Erdogan as part of his laundering scheme. As they have added more charges against more defendants in a case full of twists and turns, Turkish stock and currency markets have heaved.

Read more: A Q&A on how the trial is wreaking havoc on Turkish markets

Erdogan has demanded Zarrab’s return. The U.S.’s refusal has contributed to deteriorating Turkish-U.S. relations, now the most strained in decades. The case could spill over to U.S. politics, too, given the Trump administration’s efforts in its early days to strengthen its alliance with Turkey.

It could even brush up against a separate probe of Russian influence in the presidential election. The U.S. special counsel has delved into work done on behalf of Turkey by Michael Flynn, who was fired after a brief run as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was hired by Zarrab and met earlier this year with Erdogan in hopes of resolving the matter diplomatically, outside the courts.

Zarrab Family Vacation

It was a curious decision, in late March 2016, for Zarrab to gather his family for an American vacation. He no longer faced any charges in Turkey, but prosecutors there had made public a raft of documents marking him as a possible money launderer and a violator of U.S. sanctions.

Zarrab may have had an even bigger worry than U.S. arrest, though. Prosecutors in Iran had accused one of its wealthiest men, Babak Zanjani, of diverting $2.7 billion in oil proceeds from official coffers. An influential Iranian lawmaker said that if anyone knew where Zanjani put the money, it was Zarrab. (U.S. lawyers for Zarrab have denied the men were partners and Zanjani’s lawyers have called the case politically motivated.)

In early March 2016, Iran sentenced Zanjani to death. Two weeks later, Zarrab arrived in Florida, saying he was going to Disney. He was promptly arrested.

Though Zarrab may not have known it at the time, he was also the subject of a counter-intelligence investigation that the U.S. had started three years earlier, prosecutors said in court on Tuesday.

The money-laundering scheme by Zarrab — reconstructed from hundreds of Turkish and U.S. court filings including documents and phone transcripts — was built around complicated cross-border transactions and his personal connections in Turkey and Iran.

His father, a wealthy steel baron from Iran named Hossein Zarrab, moved the family to Turkey when Reza was still a toddler. At least one company used later by the son was founded in his name when he was 12 or 13. When Reza moved to Dubai with his family at the age of 16, he opened a tea-trading business with three employees. Three years later, back in Istanbul on his own, he started a gold brokerage and currency exchange and, later, shipbuilding and construction firms.

Meanwhile, his father kept a hand in Iranian trade. Hossein was among a team of people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assembled, after he was elected Iran’s president in 2005, to help work around U.S. sanctions, according to the Turkish paper Hurriyet.

Still in his early 20s, Reza began his Turkish ascent. He became a Turkish citizen in 2005, adopting the local variation of his name, Riza Sarraf.

At his older brother’s wedding, he met a Turkish singer, Ebru Gundes. Reza, smitten, wrote two songs for her that were delivered by mutual friends. She agreed to meet him.

The two were married in 2010 and became a fixture on Turkey’s society pages — the glamorous Ebru and the boyish and stocky Reza, with a black beard and a mop of black hair coiffed up from his forehead. Turkish papers featured their mansions on the Bosphorus and Aegean, and showed them on the town, here with a Rolls Royce, there a Range Rover or an Aston Martin.

Chance Discovery

The possible source of Zarrab’s wealth began to emerge after Turkish customs officials made their chance discovery on New Year’s Eve 2012. An Airbus A330, flying from Ghana to United Arab Emirates, had been scheduled to refuel at a nearby regional airport when fog forced it to Ataturk. Customs agents impounded its gold cargo.

Earlier: 2014 article traces Zarrab’s journey from society pages to an Istanbul jail cell

Zarrab pressed into action. He called the country’s economy minister, Zafer Caglayan, among others. Caglayan was paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to keep the scheme running and conceal transactions from the U.S., according to federal prosecutors. Less than three weeks after the plane was detained, it took back off, resuming its journey to Dubai.

Turkish prosecutors, armed with wiretaps of Zarrab’s conversations, arrested Caglayan’s son in late 2013 on charges of facilitating bribery. As a minister and member of parliament, Caglayan the father had immunity, and he denied taking bribes. Like Zarrab, he was ultimately cleared in Turkey. He’s now charged in the U.S. case but remains outside the country.

The gold shipments to Dubai, the Turkish prosecutors said, were but one link in a chain that turned Iranian oil and gas into hard currency for Tehran. Turkey’s national oil company bought Iranian gas. It then deposited funds into special accounts at Turkey’s Halkbank. Using shell companies, Zarrab took the proceeds to buy gold that was shipped to Dubai, prosecutors say.

The gold was then sold for dollars and euros, running through international banks, which were unwitting participants, according to U.S. prosecutors, and were told the transactions were for food or humanitarian aid, according to Turkish and U.S. court documents. In a 10-month span, Zarrab helped move $900 million in Iranian funds through U.S. banks, U.S. prosecutors say.

Dubai Wheat

Millions of dollars in bribes were used to keep the scheme going. Once, according to U.S. filings, Zarrab discussed moving 150,000 tons of humanitarian supplies to Iran on a 5,000-ton vessel, a logistical impossibility. He said another payment was for wheat exports from Dubai, which neither grows nor exports wheat. Surveillance in Turkey showed that Zarrab also tried to head off bad press, allegedly paying about $4 million to two politicians to help squelch negative coverage of him.

His contacts included the country’s ministers of the interior and EU affairs (who are not accused of wrongdoing by the U.S.). At an April 2013 wedding in Ankara, Zarrab cut a deal with Caglayan, then economy minister, to support his scheme, Turkish prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors more recently hinted of a bigger grab for influence: Zarrab later boasted in a conversation caught on tape that he had also talked to Erdogan at the wedding, seeking support to buy a bank that could be a conduit for Iran transactions.

When Turkish prosecutors laid out their allegations, the three ministers resigned. Zarrab was detained.

But then the tables turned. Erdogan, prime minister at the time, portrayed Zarrab as a philanthropist whose businesses were a service to the country. The Turkish prosecutors’ case against Zarrab, Erdogan said, was part of a plot put into motion by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who runs an influential worldwide movement from his compound in Pennsylvania, to smear his government. Turkey’s parliament cleared all the ministers of wrongdoing. Prosecutors and police involved in the case were reassigned, dismissed or jailed by the thousands.

Zarrab was freed. A pro-government news channel placed him before a Turkish flag and interviewed him. In July 2015, Hurriyet published photographs of a notably slimmer Zarrab yachting on the Aegean. A few yards off the fantail of a large black yacht, he could be seen above the blue sea, held aloft by jets of water on a personal hovercraft.

Erdogan Enraged

Zarrab’s arrest the following year in the U.S. enraged Erdogan, who asked the Obama White House to send him home. Instead, Zarrab transited through a series of U.S. detention centers — in Tallahassee, Atlanta and Oklahoma City — before arriving in New York. Many of the details supporting the charges, brought by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, were similar to those originally revealed in Turkey.

Even after Zarrab’s testimony, which U.S. prosecutors say will reach the highest levels of Turkey’s government, the mystery may continue about whether he is helping the U.S. government in other ways and how much he knows about Iran, for example. The man who recently bribed a U.S. prison guard for a cell phone may finally be ready to spill his secrets.

— With assistance by Yalman Onaran

Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria? – Newsweek
 

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The Jamestown Foundation
Should Trump Cooperate With Putin Over the Future of Syria?
Newsweek
Yet he also senses that the Trump administration, like its predecessor, is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle: that when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there is no future for the mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad in Syria, it has the 
Declaring Victory in Syria, Putin Stands to Lose the Elusive PeaceThe Jamestown Foundation
The Guardian view on Syria: Putin tests the westThe Guardian
The United States cannot allow Russia to take the lead in SyriaThe Hill
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The US Has Hit Rock Bottom With Russia. This Isnt Going to End Well
 

mikenova shared this story from Newsweek.