M.N.: Putin’s Rightwing TwitterCracy as a New World Order: Twitter takes its turn in the Russian probe spotlight – Politico | Russia Targeted Swing States With Trump-Friendly Fake News – Mother Jones | Social media giants called to testify by US Congress | Social media Trojan Horse in U.S. elections 2016 – Google Search | Why Do Americans Distrust the Media? – The Atlantic | Congress is investigating how Twitter (TWTR) bots may have impacted the US election Quartz | Propaganda flowed heavily into battleground states around election, study says – The Washington Post | Russia Influence Diminished in Results of German Election

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Putin’s Rightwing Twittercracy as a New World Order

The unusual by the recent standards, “minimal Twitter political bots activity in Germany”, so much in contrast with the situation in the U.S., may be viewed and interpreted as the fact lending support to the “German Hypothesis”: Russian and German Intelligence Services concluded the “nonaggression pact” with each other, namely the agreement on noninterference in each others’ elections, while directing their joint efforts against the U.S.. The Occam razor principle applies here, in the interpretation of this comparison, too. 

This operation may also have the strategic goals of demonstrating the advantages of cyber-security and information-security agreements, which are the Russian long desired objectives, in the face of potential threats to the nature and the structure of the current regime (e.g. elections) in the age of the Internet and Social Media. 

The recent offerings of Danayan gifts in this area might serve as a confirmation of this thesis. “Beware of Russians (or anyone for that matter) bearing gifts”. Apparently, the (psychological, political, military, etc., etc.) concepts and precepts of the Trojan Wars, the wars of deception, as opposed to the predominance of the brutal force, (or their modern variety, the “hybrid”or “intelligence” wars, with the prominent cyber component), survived for millennia. This is a subject for a nice study in and by itself. 

Michael Novakhov

9.28.17

How Germany fought off the Fake News scourge

“In the days before the Sept. 24 parliamentary election, the Oxford researchers found that political bots were minimally active on Twitter in Germany.

The most tweets tracked were in support of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which won 13 percent of the vote and became the first far-right party to earn a presence in Parliament in 60-plus years. The research also found that Germans were much less likely to share fake news stories than their American counterparts, sharing links from professional news organizations four times as often as links from sites pushing fake news. Researchers theorize that voters in Germany and other parts of Europe may have been inoculated to the effects of bot-driven fake news, thanks to the ongoing fallout from 2016. “I would speculate the Russians overplayed their hand in the US elections,” Bradshaw says. “Voters in the US weren’t really prepared, but that was part of the discourse in other countries like Germany.”

Fake News on Twitter Flooded Swing States That Helped Trump Win
A new study reveals how junk content—including from Russia—hit Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and beyond.
DENISE CLIFTONSEP. 28, 2017 1:00 AM

Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost 200,000 Americans working for broadcast television and cable programming, 197,000 employed in digital publishing and broadcasting, 183,000 working for newspapers, 99,000 working for magazines, 86,000 in radio, and 64,000 employed in the editing and production of books. Asking survey respondents to briefly summarize their feelings about the daily work of one million strangers is asking for an impossible…

Twitter’s bot army is so widespread that as many as 15% of its monthly active users—49 million, based on Twitter’s latest figure for its total user base—may be bots, estimated a study (pdf, p. 9) of English-speaking accounts earlier this year. Groups like Securing Democracy are attempting to track Russian propaganda on the network, by tracking “hashtags, topics and URLs promoted by Russia-linked influence networks” there.

The use of bots and trolls in the 2016 presidential election has become a point of national concern, especially since Facebook revealed that 470 accounts and pages managed by a notorious Russian troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, bought more than 3,000 ads during the election season. Many independent researchers have mapped how information increasingly flows back and forth among such platforms as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, with each amplifying and sometimes manipulating information appearing on other platforms.

Lawmakers and Capitol Hill investigators have pushed major technology companies to disclose what they know about deployment of propaganda and disinformation on their platforms during the campaign.

Howard said junk news originates from three main sources that the Oxford group has been tracking: Russian operatives, Trump supporters and activists part of the alt-right, a group that includes white nationalists, anti-Semites and others who rail against “political correctness.” 

“Those three kinds of organizations shared a lot of content and push a lot of each other’s content,” Howard said. “They worked in concert. They worked to the same ends, the goal being getting polarizing stuff into the swing states… 

The report identified 16 ­battleground states. Of those, the researchers said, 12 received higher-than-normal flows of propaganda and other low-quality information near the election: Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Missouri and Arizona, along with Virginia, New Hampshire and Florida. Four battleground states — Iowa, Minnesota, Maine and Wisconsin — got less low-quality information on Twitter than the nation as a whole.”

The Russian authorities and their proxies use a wide variety of tools to achieve soft regime change, meaning getting Putin-friendly politicians into office. With politicians who are soft on Russia, Putin gets effective allies who are less willing to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity or stand up to Russia’s subversive efforts in the West.

Knowing this, Moscow’s view of German politics becomes more clear…

On the far left is Moscow’s reliable ally Die Linke. Their agenda is clear: Bash the West and the U.S. for everything and always relativize Russia’s atrocities. On the far right, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), whose funding remains unclear, openly advocates for Russia; one of its foreign policy priorities is appeasement. It’s no wonder these two parties are called the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses. Both vocalize Russia’s foreign policy objectives and have real political presence, though they have limited influence on German and EU policy as a whole. They drive conversation about policies the Kremlin cares about, but they cannot directly influence their implementation.

Putin’s goals in Germany are obvious: Break Berlin’s policy on sanctions and support for Ukraine, put Germany at odds with Washington, and push through Nord Stream 2 to side line Germany’s allies in Eastern Europe and increase Berlin’s dependency on Russian energy supply.

How Germany fought off the Fake News scourge

In the days before the Sept. 24 parliamentary election, the Oxford researchers found that political bots were minimally active on Twitter in Germany. The most tweets tracked were in support of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which won 13 percent of the vote and became the first far-right party to earn a presence in Parliament in 60-plus years. The research also found that Germans were much less likely to share fake news stories than their American counterparts, sharing links from professional news organizations four times as often as links from sites pushing fake news. Researchers theorize that voters in Germany and other parts of Europe may have been inoculated to the effects of bot-driven fake news, thanks to the ongoing fallout from 2016. “I would speculate the Russians overplayed their hand in the US elections,” Bradshaw says. “Voters in the US weren’t really prepared, but that was part of the discourse in other countries like Germany.”

Fake News on Twitter Flooded Swing States That Helped Trump Win
A new study reveals how junk content—including from Russia—hit Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and beyond.
DENISE CLIFTONSEP. 28, 2017 1:00 AM

Poll: Donald Trump Has Embarrassed America And Really Needs To Stop Tweeting Now
Donald Trump is ‘the most dangerous man in the world’, claim leading psychiatrists and academics – The Independent
The Latest: Senate able to interview 2 FBI officials – Washington Post
27.09.2017 22:22

Why Do Americans Distrust the Media? – The Atlantic – The World Web Times

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The media’s credibility crisis

Duke ChronicleSep 26, 2017
While distrust of the mainstream media often emerges from the right, the survey’s results suggest it would be inaccurate to define this skepticism …

Media unrelenting vs. Trump

The Tand <a href=”http://D.com” rel=”nofollow”>D.com</a>Sep 25, 2017
From Charlottesville to Hurricane Irma, the liberal media are … Is it any wonder Americans have record-high distrust for the mainstream media?

Story image for distrust of mainstream media from Orlando Sentinel

Liberal media unrelenting in their bias against President Trump

Orlando SentinelSep 26, 2017
Liberal media unrelenting in their bias against President Trump … any wonder Americans have record-high distrust for the mainstream media?
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Research published today by a group at Oxford university shows that the rightwing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) drives more Twitter traffic than any major German party, and more even than non-partisan discussion of the upcoming general election itself.

The study by the Oxford Computational Propaganda project found that, of almost 1m tweets collected between September 1 and 10, hashtags associated specifically with the AfD appeared in more than 30 per cent.

The AfD, which hopes to win its first seats in the German parliament on Sunday, is “highly salient in the German Twitter sphere”, the study concludes. Lead researcher Lisa-Maria Neudert told the FT that the AfD “absolutely dominates” German political Twitter traffic.

Ms Neudert said: “AfD is very vocal on social media. They have a big following and a good communications strategy, a social media-first strategy.” The study does not distinguish between Twitter traffic supporting the AfD and that opposing it.

The study also found that the overall proportion of traffic generated by highly automated accounts, known as bots, was “not substantial”, although the level of automation was highest for traffic using AfD-related hashtags.

The AfD is the most successful rightwing populist party in Germany since the second world war. Its stated aim is “the self-preservation not the self-destruction of our state and our people” and its policies include the “closure of all German borders”. The party is expected to win 50 or more seats in Sunday’s election.

The study’s publication comes after a week in which dominant social media companies faced renewed scrutiny over their — largely opaque — role in shaping political discourse. Facebook handed over information to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election after revealing that Russian-linked users had purchased at least $100,000 worth of advertising on the site.

Original FT analyses of Twitter and Facebook data show how the AfD’s social media position has the potential to provide the fulcrum for a shift in German political discourse towards the far right, and that such a shift may already be in progress.

Mapping the Twitter relationships between more than 700 Bundestag candidates identified as users of the social media platform by transparency campaign group Abgeordnetenwatch.de shows the extent to which the AfD is distinct from the political mainstream. Candidates for the major parties are more likely to follow each other, whereas few AfD candidates follow those of other parties and vice versa.

Ms Neudert, the Oxford researcher, put the number of Twitter users in Germany at 1m — a fraction of the more than 30m German Facebook users. However, she noted, Twitter is considered important by “opinion leaders and influencers” and serves as a channel for open communication between politicians and journalists.

With over 350,000 likes — more than two of the largest parties, CDU and SPD, put together — the AfD has a similarly formidable Facebook presence. While user engagement with the party on Facebook grew steadily throughout the refugee crisis of summer 2015, its biggest ever boost came after an outcry over a spate of sexual assaults in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve 2015, when the number of reactions to AfD posts tripled to more than 380,000 within a month. Many of the perpetrators of the assaults were asylum seekers or illegal immigrants, and the episode helped to push the AfD’s level of Facebook engagement to new heights.

It was not only the level of engagement with the party that rose following the New Year’s Eve attacks. The tone of the AfD Facebook page changed: words and phrases which, in Germany, are most closely associated with the Nazi era began to appear more frequently in the comments users were posting on the page.

Based on academic research and interviews with two leading German political language researchers, the FT compiled a list of 25 terms associated with the Nazi era and/or other German nationalistic ideologies. We then used original software to determine how often these terms appear in user comments on the AfD Facebook page.

In May 2015, an average of 2.6 of the terms were used across all comments per AfD post. A year later, this figure had risen to 29.6 — an increase of 1,100 per cent. Among the most frequently used terms were “Volksverräter” (traitor to the people) and “Altparteien” (establishment parties), both of which have strong Nazi connotations.

Terms such as “national” and “patriot” have also seen rises in frequency. While ostensibly uncontroversial, these are among the terms with a more problematic history in Germany.

The number of distinct Facebook users to use such terms in comments also increased, and though the use of this language has fallen since its peak in early 2016, it remains significantly higher than for much of the page’s existence.

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Congress is investigating how Twitter (TWTR) bots may have impacted the US election — Quartz

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Twitter executives will be grilled tomorrow morning (Sept. 28) on Capitol Hill by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is probing Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election.

The main focus of the questioning will be automated Twitter accounts, a.k.a. bots, and whether Twitter is doing enough to curb the ones that are spreading propaganda and misinformation, one person briefed on the committee’s preparations told Quartz.

Twitter’s bot army is so widespread that as many as 15% of its monthly active users—49 million, based on Twitter’s latest figure for its total user base—may be bots, estimated a study (pdf, p. 9) of English-speaking accounts earlier this year. Groups like Securing Democracy are attempting to track Russian propaganda on the network, by tracking “hashtags, topics and URLs promoted by Russia-linked influence networks” there.

“We’ve heard they [Twitter] don’t do a good job of removing ‘sock puppet IDs’ [Twitter users pretending to be someone else] or Russian bots,” the person briefed said. Senators are worried that bots spewing political spam or hijacking conversations result in real information getting buried, this person said. They’re also interested in what effect bots retweeting articles and information may have on Google search results. Facebook may be doing a better job of monitoring its users and customers, and removing harmful fake ones, the committee believes.

“There a universal appreciation that bots are becoming problematic on Twitter,” Robert Gorwa, a researcher with the Project on Computational Propaganda at the Oxford Internet Institute, told Quartz. “What isn’t appreciated is how much Twitter has enabled this by encouraging automation.” Twitter’s developer policies tell users how to use automation and the company provide guides on how to use bots to spread messages, he noted.

In the early days of Twitter, bots were easy to spot by their “egg” avatars, unusual ratios of following to followers, or obviously machine-written tweets. Now, as many have fleshed-out Twitter profiles or even entire online personalities (pdf, p. 16) and technology has improved, “they’ve gotten so sophisticated, we can’t recognize them,” Gorwa said.

A Twitter spokesman told Quartz the company was cooperating with the committee and confirmed it would brief it this week. “Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our terms of service,” the spokesman said.

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Russia Influence Diminished in Results of German Election

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia President Vladimir Putin. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

After massive Kremlin-led disinformation campaigns against German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the height of the 2015-2016 migration wave, many expected such tactics to be a major element of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to influence the German parliamentary elections. While disinformation remains one of Russia’s primary tools to subvert the West, the Kremlin has a larger strategy.

There are two games Russia plays.

First, Russia has a long-term strategy to disrupt Western democracies by exploiting their internal problems and supporting local extremists and pro-Kremlin forces. A principled response to Putin’s occupation of Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova—such as Merkel’s— is harder to pull through. As Russia sees it, if you cannot defeat the other team, tear down the playing field.

Secondly, Moscow employs short-term campaigns on a tactical level. This includes supporting Kremlin-preferred politicians and policies and attacking their opponents with hostile means. Such support was awarded to Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, the “leave” vote in the Brexit referendum, and the “no” vote in the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. If such tactics are successful, Putin celebrates because he perceives the opponent as more dangerous.

The Russian authorities and their proxies use a wide variety of tools to achieve soft regime change, meaning getting Putin-friendly politicians into office. With politicians who are soft on Russia, Putin gets effective allies who are less willing to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity or stand up to Russia’s subversive efforts in the West.

Knowing this, Moscow’s view of German politics becomes more clear.

Due to Merkel’s principled position, Germany is the key architect of Europe’s sanctions against Russia. That’s why she is the prime target of Putin’s hostile actions and is demonized by Russian puppet media.

Outside of the Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), every major party wants to soften Germany’s position on Russia. Conservative CSU, Merkel’s close partner, focuses its rhetoric on a “business-first” approach, no matter Russia’s violations of international law. The leader of center-right liberal FDPA, a probable coalition member, has publicly flirted with removing Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Germany’s foreign policy focus. The Greens, another probable coalition partner, have strong anti-Putin messaging, but its rhetoric verges on anti-American as well, helping Moscow massively.

On the far left is Moscow’s reliable ally Die Linke. Their agenda is clear: Bash the West and the U.S. for everything and always relativize Russia’s atrocities. On the far right, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), whose funding remains unclear, openly advocates for Russia; one of its foreign policy priorities is appeasement. It’s no wonder these two parties are called the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses. Both vocalize Russia’s foreign policy objectives and have real political presence, though they have limited influence on German and EU policy as a whole. They drive conversation about policies the Kremlin cares about, but they cannot directly influence their implementation.

Putin’s goals in Germany are obvious: Break Berlin’s policy on sanctions and support for Ukraine, put Germany at odds with Washington, and push through Nord Stream 2 to side line Germany’s allies in Eastern Europe and increase Berlin’s dependency on Russian energy supply.

Who in the German political establishment shares these goals? The Social Democrats (SPD). There are various possible roots for the SPD’s submissive policy towards Putin. It might be the phantom pain of Ostpolitik, a feeling that SPD has nothing to contribute on foreign policy other than differing with CDU on Russia. It might be the schroederization effect, where some leaders see the former chancellor’s lucrative Russian business deals as a potential path for themselves. It’s astounding that Schröder’s work for Putin doesn’t matter to SPD—he even got a hero’s welcome at its last party convention. It took Putin’s self-proclaimed friend accepting another position within Russia’s state-linked companies for German press to begin criticizing him. Schröder isn’t the only Putin-friendly former SPD boss. Matthias Platzeck also serves in the broader Kremlin-linked network, presiding over Deutsch-Russisches-Forum,” frequently talking to Russian propaganda mouthpiece Sputnik, and befriendingformer KGB officer and Putin inner circle oligarch Vladimir Jakunin, who now runs his pro-Putin influence network directly from Berlin.

It’s not only former leaders; current leaders are adopting similar policies. SPD senior figures are the established advocates for Nord Stream 2—basically teaming up with Putin against Germany’s allies in Eastern Europe. SPD leadership has called for the U.S. nuclear umbrella to be withdrawn from Germany, advocated for “phasing-out” sanctions against Russia (which CSU does all the time), opposes any additional sanctions on Russia, and called NATO reassurance exercises in Poland “warmongering.”

The ultimate reason that the Social Democrats support Putin’s foreign policy objectives may never be known, but the party is Putin’s most important advocate in the German political establishment. In contrast with Die Linke or AfD, SPD can shape policies.

Best-case scenario for Moscow is a CDU/CSU-SPD coalition, which would force Angela Merkel to be softer on Russia. Under this coalition, countries concerned with Russian aggression would have a principled backer in her, but Berlin wouldn’t be the leading force pushing back against Russia’s subversion of European democracies. Moreover, the Kremlin’s short-term project in Germany is Nord Stream 2, of which SPD is a key proponent. Because SPD has invested enormous political capital in it, Merkel wouldn’t block it—to do so would be too politically expensive. With this option off the table, Moscow will have its friends run the German opposition.

With SPD likely being out of the next coalition, Moscow lost big-time.

Jakub Janda is the head of the Kremlin Watch Program at the Prague-based European Values Think-Tank. He consults for governments on how to counter hostile foreign influence operations.

The Real Loser of Germany’s Election: Vladimir Putin

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Social media trojan horse in us elections 2016 – Google Search

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Story image for Social media trojan horse in us elections 2016 from CNN

Clinton opens door to questioning legitimacy of 2016 election

CNNSep 18, 2017
Clinton is in the midst of a media blitz to promote her new memoir, “What … they had been working toward, and the perfect Trojan Horse for Putin,” Clinton writes. … overturned their recent presidential election and ordered a new vote. … they were supposed to win,” Trump posted on social media in March.

Story image for Social media trojan horse in us elections 2016 from The Guardian

Trojan horse: the real story behind the fake ‘Islamic plot’ to take over …

The GuardianAug 31, 2017
In the media, the term “Trojan horse” quickly became shorthand for a …. but educationalists in the UShave studied similar approaches with …. Ofsted singled out its excellent provision for social, moral and religious care. … Birmingham city council had £650m cut from its budget between 2010 and 2016.

Story image for Social media trojan horse in us elections 2016 from Observer

The Real Loser of Germany’s Election: Vladimir Putin

ObserverSep 25, 2017
The Real Loser of Germany’s Election: Vladimir Putin … Angela Merkel during the height of the 2015-2016 migration wave, … of Putin’s hostile actions and is demonized by Russian puppet media. … It’s no wonder these two parties are called the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses. … The Social Democrats (SPD).
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Clinton opens door to questioning legitimacy of 2016 election

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The comment, a remarkable step for the former Democratic nominee, exemplifies Clinton’s belief that President Donald Trump and his campaign could have knowingly received help from Russian operatives in the 2016 election.

Clinton has said previously that she conceded to Trump quickly and attended his inauguration because the nation’s peaceful transfer of power is critical. But her comments to NPR signal that as the depths of Russia’s interference are revealed she could envision a time when she questions Trump’s legitimacy as president.

NPR’s Terry Gross asked Clinton directly during the interview whether she would “completely rule out questioning the legitimacy of this election if we learn that the Russian interference in the election is even deeper than we know now?”

“No. I would not,” Clinton said.

close dialog

Gross asked: “You’re not going to rule it out?”

“No,” Clinton said. “I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Clinton is in the midst of a media blitz to promote her new memoir, “What Happened,”

a reflection on her stunning loss in the 2016 election

 and diagnostic for the Democratic Party going forward. The subsequent book tour has thrust Clinton back into the public eye after months largely out of the news.

In the book, Clinton casts Trump as a toxic but hapless leader who won the White House by preying on the nation’s fears. Nowhere in the book, however, does she directly question his legitimacy, although she certainly comes close in the 500-page memoir.

Glen Caplin, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, reiterated in a statement after the interview aired that the former secretary of state “has said repeatedly the results of the election are over but we have to learn what happened.”

“I would hope anyone in America concerned about the integrity of our democracy would feel the same way if we got there. But we’re not,” Caplin said. “Right now Bob Mueller and several congressional committees are investigating to what extent the Russians impacted our election and who exactly helped them do so.”

Clinton devotes an entire chapter to Russia, saying that the nation’s intervention in the 2016 election — which is currently being investigating by a host of congressional panels and a special counsel — led to Trump’s win.

“In many ways, Trump is the embodiment of everything they had been working toward, and the perfect Trojan Horse for Putin,” Clinton writes.

She adds, “No foreign power in modern history has attacked us with so few consequences, and that puts us all at risk.”

Clinton, in her interview with Gross, adds that there are likely no avenues, however, for her to challenge the 2016 results if she feels she needs to.

“Basically I don’t believe there are. There are scholars, academics, who have arguments that it would be, but I don’t think they’re on strong ground,” she told Gross. “But people are making those arguments. I just don’t think we have a mechanism.”

“What happened in Kenya, which I’m only beginning to delve into, is that the Supreme Court there said there are so many really unanswered and problematic questions, we’re going to throw the election out and redo it,” Clinton said. “We have no such provision in our country. And usually we don’t need it.”

Clinton’s comments are sure to further Trump’s deeply held belief that investigations into Russia — and Democrats’ calls for further pressure on the White House — are nothing more than the left’s attempts to rewrite the 2016 election and make up for Clinton’s loss.

“This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win,” Trump posted on social media in March. “The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality.”

In her book, Clinton also wrote that once the election was over, she felt she needed to help the transition to Trump’s presidency go smoothly.

“Still, I felt a responsibility to be there,” she wrote about attending Trump’s inauguration, no matter how painful. “The peaceful transfer of power is one of our country’s most important traditions.”

And she made the same case hours after her crushing loss, as she stood before the nation and her supporters to publicly concede the election.

“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power,” she said. “We don’t just respect that. We cherish it.”

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Social media giants called to testify by US Congress

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Three of the biggest social media giants on the planet, Facebook, Google and Twitter, have been called to testify in front of the Congressional investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Tweeter-in-chief Donald Trump has made Twitter into a powerful alt-advertising media of his own, but says Facebook is lined up alongside the ‘lamestream’ media.

The trio is expected to give public testimony from November 1 but as yet none have confirmed they will attend.

The three companies have already been summoned to testify in front of the US Senate.

statistical studies of 2016 elections – Google Search

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Story image for statistical studies of 2016 elections from ThinkProgress

5 false statistics Trump’s voter fraud panel will use to restrict voting

ThinkProgressSep 11, 2017
President Trump’s “election integrity” commission is scheduled to hold its … voting swung New Hampshire’s Senate election in 2016, and voting groups … who will present a series of sham statisticsand questionable studies to …

Oxford Computational Propaganda Project – Google Search

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Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Mother Jones

Mother Jones

Propaganda flowed heavily into battleground states around election …

Washington Post6 hours ago
Propaganda and other forms of “junk news” on Twitter flowed more … said the researchers at Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda.

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Quartz

Congress is investigating how Twitter bots may have influenced the …

Quartz13 hours ago
… to curb the ones that are spreading propaganda and misinformation, one … the Project on Computational Propaganda at the Oxford Internet …

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from CNN

The fake Tea Party Twitter account linked to Russia and followed by …

CNNSep 21, 2017
Part of the Russian propaganda campaign during the election involved … the director of the Computational Propaganda project at the Oxford …

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Financial Times

Rightwing populist AfD dominates German Twitter, new study shows

Financial TimesSep 19, 2017
The study by the Oxford Computational Propaganda project found that, of almost 1m tweets collected between September 1 and 10, hashtags …

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Council on Foreign Relations (blog)

Bashing Facebook Is Not the Answer to Curbing Russian Influence …

Council on Foreign Relations (blog)Sep 20, 2017
Monica Kaminska is a DPhil candidate and previously worked on the Computational Propaganda Project at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from TechCrunch

Tech companies automate autocratic media in China around the world

TechCrunchSep 6, 2017
Samuel Woolley is the Director of Research of the Computational Propaganda Project at the OxfordInternet Institute, University of Oxford.

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Toronto Star

Toronto Star

Social media ‘bots’ tried to influence the US election. Germany may …

Science MagazineSep 13, 2017
Lisa-Maria Neudert of the Computational Propaganda Project at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom is comparing current bot activity …

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Computerworld

Disinformation as a service? DaaS not good!

ComputerworldSep 9, 2017
The phrase “computational propaganda” is closely associated with the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University, which coined …

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Evolve Politics

The Tories are wasting YOUR tax money on Army ‘PsyOps’ to create …

Evolve PoliticsSep 15, 2017
A recent report from leading academics at the University of Oxford … The report authored by The Computational Propaganda Project at the …

Story image for Oxford Computational Propaganda Project from Voice of America

When Fake News Is Official News

Voice of AmericaSep 19, 2017
… a study for the Oxford Internet Institute on “Computational Propaganda … but on closer inspection seems to be the personal project of a Polish …
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Social Media, News and Political Information during the US Election: Was Polarizing Content Concentrated in Swing States?

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US voters shared large volumes of polarizing political news and information in the form of links to content from Russian, WikiLeaks and junk news sources. Was this low quality political information distributed evenly around the country, or concentrated in swing states and particular parts of the country? In this data memo we apply a tested dictionary of sources about political news and information being shared over Twitter in over a ten day period around the 2016 Presidential Election. Using self-reported location information, we place a third of users by state and create a simple index for the distribution of polarizing content around the country. We find that (1) nationally, Twitter users got more misinformation, polarizing and conspiratorial content than professionally produced news. (2) Users in some states, however, shared more polarizing political news and information than users in other states. (3) Average levels of misinformation were higher in swing states than in uncontested states, even when weighted for the relative size of the user population in each state. We conclude with some observations about the impact of strategically disseminated polarizing information on public life.

Download here.

Philip N. Howard, Bence Kollanyi, Samantha Bradshaw, Lisa-Maria Neudert. “Social Media, News and Political Information during the US Election: Was Polarizing Content Concentrated in Swing States?” Data Memo 2017.8. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk.

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Fake News on Twitter Flooded Swing States That Helped Trump Win – Mother Jones

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leirbagarc/123RF; FrankRamspott/Getty

Millions of tweets were flying furiously in the final days leading up to the 2016 US presidential election. And in closely fought battleground states that would prove key to Donald Trump’s victory, they were more likely than elsewhere in America to be spreading links to fake news and hyper-politicized content from Russian sources and WikiLeaks, according to new research published Thursday by Oxford University.

Nationwide during this period, one polarizing story was typically shared on average for every one story produced by a professional news organization. However, fake news from Twitter reached higher concentrations than the national average in 27 states, 12 of which were swing states—including Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, where Trump won by slim margins.

While it’s unclear what effect such content ultimately had on voters, the new study only deepens concerns about how the 2016 election may have been tweaked by nefarious forces on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. “Many people use these platforms to find news and information that shapes their political identities and voting behavior,” says Samantha Bradshaw, a lead researcher for Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Project, which has been tracking disinformation strategies around the world since 2014. “If bad actors can lower the quality of information, they are diminishing the quality of democracy.”

Efforts by Vladimir Putin’s regime were among the polarizing content captured in the new Oxford study. “We know the Russians have literally invested in social media,” Bradshaw told Mother Jones, referring to reports of Russian-bought Facebook ads as well as sophisticated training of Russian disinformation workers detailed in another recent study by the team. “Swing states would be the ones you would want to target.”

The dubious Twitter content in the new study also contained polarizing YouTube videos–including some produced by the Kremlin-controlled RT network, which were uploaded without any information identifying them as Russian-produced. All the YouTube videos have since been taken down, according to Bradshaw; it’s unclear whether the accounts were deleted by the users, or if YouTube removed the content.

The Oxford researchers captured 22 million tweets from Nov. 1-11, 2016, and have been scrutinizing the dataset to better understand the impact of disinformation on the US election. The team also has analyzed propaganda operations in more than two dozen countries, using a combination of reports from trusted media sources and think tanks, and cross-checking that information with experts on the ground. Their recent research has additional revelations about how disinformation works in the social-media age, including from Moscow:

In studying Russia’s propaganda efforts targeting both domestic and international populations, the Oxford researchers found evidence of increasing military expenditures on social media operations since 2014. They also learned of a sophisticated training system for workers employed by Putin’s disinformation apparatus: “They have invested millions of dollars into training staff and setting targets for them,” Bradshaw says. She described a working environment where English training is provided to improve messaging for Western audiences: Supervisors hand out topical talking points to include in coordinated messaging, workers’ content is edited, and output is audited, with rewards given to more productive workers.

One telltale sign of bots stems from a group of accounts that tweet much more frequently than typical humans—or accounts that tweet on exact intervals, say, every five minutes. The bot-driven accounts may lack typical profile elements such as profile pictures (see also: the generic Twitter egg) and often don’t engage in replies with other social-media accounts. In addition to spreading fake news, “they can also amplify marginal voices and ideas by inflating the number of likes, shares and retweets they receive, creating an artificial sense of popularity, momentum or relevance,” the Oxford team reported recently.

While it’s difficult for researchers to untangle how many Twitter bots are Russian-controlled, they regularly see Russian accounts in the mix: For example, on Twitter, they found accounts following Donald Trump that tweeted most frequently during Russian business hours and switched regularly between English and Cyrillic.

On Facebook, it’s much more challenging to sort out which content is bot-driven, says Bradshaw. That’s in part because on Facebook, bots typically operate pages or groups, which can be even more opaque than individual accounts.

The Oxford researchers also found that bots infiltrated the core conversations among their Twitter data during the election period—and several of their analyses revealed that bots supported Trump much more than Hillary Clinton. A separate research effort by Emilio Ferrara at University of Southern California, cited in Oxford’s report, determined that about one fifth of campaign-related tweets during the month before the election likely was generated by bots. Ferrara’s team recorded 4 million tweets in that time period posted by about 400,000 bots.

In the days before the Sept. 24 parliamentary election, the Oxford researchers found that political bots were minimally active on Twitter in Germany. The most tweets tracked were in support of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which won 13 percent of the vote and became the first far-right party to earn a presence in Parliament in 60-plus years. The research also found that Germans were much less likely to share fake news stories than their American counterparts, sharing links from professional news organizations four times as often as links from sites pushing fake news. Researchers theorize that voters in Germany and other parts of Europe may have been inoculated to the effects of bot-driven fake news, thanks to the ongoing fallout from 2016. “I would speculate the Russians overplayed their hand in the US elections,” Bradshaw says. “Voters in the US weren’t really prepared, but that was part of the discourse in other countries like Germany.”

But the battle is only beginning. In the hands of bad operators “the bots get a bit smarter,” Bradshaw says. When those controlling them realize that the bots are being tracked, for example, they may adjust the frequency that they tweet in order to fly below researchers’ radar. Bradshaw also notes that voice-simulation technology combined with video-simulation technology is making it increasingly possible to create fake news—say, a video showing politicians making statements that they never actually said. “In innovations in technology,” she cautions, “the attackers always have the advantage.”

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Russia Targeted Swing States With Trump-Friendly Fake News – Mother Jones

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If you were Russia and you wanted to influence the American election, where would you target your efforts? Swing states, of course. Even Vladimir Putin knows that.

And apparently that’s exactly what they did. Denise Clifton reports:

Millions of tweets were flying furiously in the final days leading up to the 2016 US presidential election. And in closely fought battleground states that would prove key to Donald Trump’s victory, they were more likely than elsewhere in America to be spreading links to fake news and hyper-politicized content from Russian sources and WikiLeaks, according to new research published Thursday by Oxford University.

Nationwide during this period, one polarizing story was typically shared on average for every one story produced by a professional news organization. However, fake news from Twitter reached higher concentrations than the national average in 27 states, 12 of which were swing states—including Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, where Trump won by slim margins.

About a fifth of this traffic was generated by bots. As we used to say back in the day, read the whole thing.

Russia Targeted Swing States With Trump-Friendly Fake News – Mother Jones

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Russia Targeted Swing States With Trump-Friendly Fake News
Mother Jones
And in closely fought battleground states that would prove key to Donald Trump’s victory, they were more likely than elsewhere in America to be spreading links to fake news and hyper-politicized content from Russian sources and WikiLeaks, according to and more »

Poll: Donald Trump Has Embarrassed America And Really Needs To Stop Tweeting Now

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A majority say he’s not fit to serve as president.

The Trump Voter Paradox – New York Times

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New York Times
The Trump Voter Paradox
New York Times
And the clout of the authoritarian, white identity wing of the Republican Party is such that Trumpis governing to please this wing first and foremost. From his apocalyptic threats to Kim Jong-un to his call for the firing of protesting N.F.L. players 

Facebook Russian Ads That Influenced Election Released To Congress – news9.com KWTV

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news9.com KWTV
Facebook Russian Ads That Influenced Election Released To Congress
news9.com KWTV
Facebook has agreed to disclose ads to Congress that were purchased by Russians on the social media platform in that country’s effort to influence the 2016 election, the company announced Thursday. CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the brief announcement in …
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Twitter takes its turn in the Russian probe spotlight – Politico

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Politico
Twitter takes its turn in the Russian probe spotlight
Politico
Twitter’s power to influence the news cycle makes it a convenient tool, people who have studied the social network’s role in the election say. “The fastest way to move a story from outlying media to mainstream media is to promote it on Twitter,” said 
Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial and religious divisionsWashington Post
Exclusive: Russian-bought Black Lives Matter ad on Facebook targeted Baltimore and FergusonCNNMoney
Russian-funded Facebook ads backed Stein, Sanders and TrumpPoliticoall 315 news articles »

Twitter to talk to House, Senate in Russia probe – New York Daily News

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New York Daily News
Twitter to talk to House, Senate in Russia probe
New York Daily News
FILE- This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Social media giant Twitter will visit Capitol Hill Sept. 28, as part of the House and Senateinvestigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Donald Trump is ‘the most dangerous man in the world’, claim leading psychiatrists and academics – The Independent

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The Independent
Donald Trump is ‘the most dangerous man in the world’, claim leading psychiatrists and academics
The Independent
Ms Sheehy wrote in her chapter: “Beneath the grandiose behaviour of every narcissist lies the pit of fragile self-esteem. What if, deep down, … Dr Lee has long complained that psychiatrists seeking to warn of what she has called Mr Trump’s 

The Latest: Senate able to interview 2 FBI officials – The Washington Post

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The department sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley on Sept. 22 after Grassley said he was preparing subpoenas for the two to appear. But the department said Jim Rybicki and Carl Ghattas could only speak to the committee if they avoided questions “directly relating to, or interfering with” the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Both Mueller and the Judiciary Committee are probing President Donald Trump’s firing of Comey in May and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In a letter Wednesday, Grassley asked the department for clarification, saying he would still subpoena the witnesses if they wouldn’t talk about certain topics.

The Latest: Senate able to interview 2 FBI officials – Washington Post

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The Latest: Senate able to interview 2 FBI officials
Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The Latest on congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the2016 election (all times local):. 7:30 p.m.. The Justice Department has agreed to allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to interview two FBI officials close to and more »

27.09.2017 22:22

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“Russian hackers almost certainly found a way to alter the actual vote totals. Now the U.S. government is inching closer to finally admitting it… Any one of the above issues would be curious on its own. Combined, they’re suspicious as hell…” – by Bill Palmer

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U.S. government inches closer to admitting Russian hackers altered Trump vs Hillary vote totals 

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If you were paying attention on election night, you’re aware that the vote totals in key swing states lined up for Donald Trump in statistically suspicious fashion. Trump winning would have been a shock; Trump winning along those particular numbers was all but mathematically impossible. If you’ve been paying attention since, you’ve figured out that Russian hackers almost certainly found a way to alter the actual vote totals. Now the U.S. government is inching closer to finally admitting it.

Russia’s fake news stories and fake Facebook ads were enough to con some Americans into voting under mistaken pretenses. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. As Palmer Report has been documenting since November, the actual vote totals were absurd (link). The national polls ended up being accurate within the margin of error, as Hillary Clinton won by three million votes nationwide. But those same polls said Hillary would win the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and they should logically have also been accurate in those states. Instead Trump won all four of them, by the same one percent margin (link) – just large enough to avoid automatic recounts without being large enough raise eyebrows.

Other things stood out as having been just plain wrong about the vote totals in those four states. Exit polls for early voting in Florida, which accounted for the bulk of the vote, gave Hillary Clinton such a huge lead that Donald Trump shouldn’t have been able to overcome it on election day (link). Across the board in these four states, the numbers simply did not add up in the way that numbers are supposed to add up. There were other eyebrow raising issues. Voting equipment broke in suspiciously large numbers in Michigan on election – but it all happened in Detroit, which would have been the most favorable to Hillary (link). Any one of the above issues would be curious on its own. Combined, they’re suspicious as hell.

So this news blip from the Associated Press matters greatly: “US government tells election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems in 2016, but most not breached” (link). Keep two things in mind here. The first is that the Trump administration has been doing everything it could to prevent the federal government from acknowledging that Russia meddled in the election. The only reason for it to put out a statement like this is because it knows it’s all going to come out anyway. The second thing to keep in mind there is the phrase “most not breached.” That’s an acknowledgment that some state voting systems were breached. This story is just getting started.

The post U.S. government inches closer to admitting Russian hackers altered Trump vs Hillary vote totals appeared first on Palmer Report.

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7 signs Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is getting serious – Washington Examiner

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Washington Examiner
7 signs Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is getting serious
Washington Examiner
… the decision-making process that led to former FBI director James Comey’s firing in May, and aware of Trump’s response when he learned that ex-national security adviser Mike Flynn wasunder federal investigation for his lobbying for foreign 
Trump allies see vindication in reports on Manafort wiretappingThe Hill
What Robert Mueller has on Paul Manafort could be the key line of …Slate Magazine
Mueller Scorches the EarthNational Review
Business Insider –RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty –The Guardian –CNN
all 53 news articles »

Trump and North Korea war of words escalates – BBC News

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BBC News
Trump and North Korea war of words escalates
BBC News
US President Donald Trump has made new threats against North Korea in response to the country’s foreign minister’s fiery speech at the UN on Saturday. Ri Yong-ho described Mr Trumpas a “mentally deranged person full of megalomania” on a “suicide …
Trump cranks up North Korea threats as Pyongyang holds anti-US rallyReuters
Trump threatens ‘Little Rocket Man,’ says Kim may ‘not be around much longer’USA TODAY
North Korea foreign minister says Trump’s insults make rocket attack on US ‘inevitable all the more’Los Angeles Times
Aljazeera.com –ABC News
all 11,402 news articles »

Trump allies see vindication in reports on Manafort wiretapping – The Hill

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The Hill
Trump allies see vindication in reports on Manafort wiretapping
The Hill
Manafort has reportedly drawn federal interest for years related to his work for a Russian-backed political candidate in Ukraine — although it is unclear what information sparked the warrant investigators obtained as part of the Russia probe. CNN 
Paul Manafort: why Trump’s old ally could hold the key in Mueller’s Russia huntThe Guardian
How Trump followed a Russian map straight to Paul ManafortSalon
Week 18: The Further Perils of Paul ManafortPoliticoall 53 news articles »

Trump vs. Kim: Political theater or prelude to apocalypse? – Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Free Press
Trump vs. Kim: Political theater or prelude to apocalypse?
Detroit Free Press
The Trump administration’s grown-ups want to believe they have counterparts in the North Korean intelligence community who are just as quick to discount the U.S. president’s public provocations as they are to dismiss Kim’s. But journalists who’ve 
North Korean president raises the ante in new anti-Trump tiradeGears Of Bizall 10,606 news articles »

A Group of Experts Wrote a Book About Donald Trump’s Mental Health—and the Controversy Has Just Begun – Mother Jones

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Mother Jones
A Group of Experts Wrote a Book About Donald Trump’s Mental Health—and the Controversy Has Just Begun
Mother Jones
Moyers: Some of the descriptions used to describe Trumpnarcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, malignant narcissist—even some have suggested early forms of dementia—are …
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“Mueller is moving forward on a number of different fronts and is getting close to entering a litigation phase…” 

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Here’s why many legal experts say that some in President Trump’s orbit should be worried. Source: 7 signs Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is getting serious 7 signs Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is getting serious Sunday September 24th, 2017 at 6:19 AM 1 Share While President Trump made headlines this week for his provocative rhetoric on North Korea and … Continue reading““Mueller is moving forward on a number of different fronts and is getting close to entering a litigation phase…””

Anthony Weiner, Once a Congressman, Faces Jail As a Sex Offender – NBCNews.com

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NBCNews.com
Anthony Weiner, Once a Congressman, Faces Jail As a Sex Offender
NBCNews.com
“After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband,” Abedin said in a statement. “Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life.” Will 
Prosecutors want two-year prison sentence for Anthony Weiner …The Hill (blog)
Anthony Weiner could be behind bars on Monday – NY Daily NewsNew York Daily News
NYC Court CalendarLos Angeles Timesall 6 news articles »

Baltimore psychologist heads effort to ‘warn’ about Trump’s mental health

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Put psychologist John Gartner on a couch and ask him about his childhood and one of the first stories he will recall is about his mom, Diana, and a touchstone moment in the fight for women’s rights.

In 1969, Diana Gartner and other leaders of the relatively new National Organization for Women made a reservation at the Oak Room Bar in New York under the name “Dr. Gartner.” The showdown that followed when the women arrived during the establishment’s male-only hours would lead to an early victory for feminism: The storied bar ultimately changed its gender policy.

John Gartner was 10 years old when the incident made headlines.

“It does run in our family to be mavericks,” he said. “Or rebels with a cause.”

These days Gartner is gaining national attention for a cause of his own — and creating a stir in his field — by trying to convince voters that President Donald Trump has a mental illness, and should be removed from his job because of it.

From a small office at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, Gartner has emerged as a leader of a group of mental health professionals called Duty To Warn. The campaign began as an internet petition seeking to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment, which broadly lays out the procedure for booting a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The <a href=”http://Change.org” rel=”nofollow”>Change.org</a> petition, launched in January and aimed at Trump’s cabinet, has garnered more than 62,000 signatures. But it has also drawn substantial criticism, and not just from Trump supporters. Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association advise members against assessing the mental health of individuals they haven’t personally examined .

And yet the campaign by Gartner and others appears to be expanding. Duty to Warn is planning to hold conferences in cities across the country on Oct. 14, many drawing established psychologists and psychiatrists. Gartner and others, meanwhile, have contributed to a book to be published next month: “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.”

Gartner — a Princeton graduate and former assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins medical school, specializes in borderline personality disorder and depression. He describes Trump as a “malignant narcissist,” a condition that includes paranoia, anti-social behavior, sadism and other traits along with narcissism.

Gartner points to the president’s insistence that President Barack Obama bugged his office, or that the crowds at his inauguration were historically large, as validating signs.

“Unless he doesn’t believe a word he’s saying, there’s evidence here of someone, really, who’s actually disconnected from reality,” said Gartner, 59. “We have someone in charge of the nuclear codes who is not in touch with reality. I can’t imagine anything more dangerous.”

Among Gartner’s most notable critics is psychiatrist Allen Frances, who wrote the guidelines for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder — and who rejects any claim that Trump has it.

To meet the criteria for a narcissistic personality disorder, Frances said, Trump would have to display distress or impairment himself. One could argue he’s caused distress, Frances said, but he doesn’t appear to experience it.

“I think that this guy and other people like him mean well and are sincere and believe that somehow they have a professional responsibility to warn America about the horrors of Trump,” said Frances, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Duke University. “But I don’t see them as knowing much about diagnoses.”

Frances, who published a book this month titled “Twilight of American Sanity,” is hardly a fan of the 45th president. He describes Trump as “the biggest threat to democracy since the Civil War.” But he says that doesn’t mean he has a mental illness.

The effort to apply a diagnosis to Trump, Frances said, “confuses bad behavior for mental illness.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump supporters frequently say the president’s brazen rhetoric is a big part of the reason why he was elected. His voters did not want another carefully scripted, play-it-safe politician.

And as with any politician, it’s impossible to sort out what Trump believes from political theater.

Gary Collins led the Trump campaign in Baltimore.

“Time and again on the campaign and in the White House, while something might sound a little different, the reality is that it usually comes out in weeks, months or even days that what he’s saying has a lot of validity to it,” he said.

Collins said Gartner “is clearly pushing a political agenda, and clearly doesn’t like the president.”

Duty to Warn has reopened a heated discussion in the psychiatric community over the Goldwater Rule, the 1973 prohibition on analyzing people from afar. It’s named for Sen. Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for president. When Fact magazine published an article in which psychiatrists opined that Goldwater was mentally unfit for the presidency, the Arizona senator successfully sued.

The policy was reaffirmed this spring by the American Psychiatric Association.

“The complexity of today’s media environment demands that we take special care when speaking publicly about mental health issues,” the association says on its website.

The Goldwater rule doesn’t apply to Gartner, who is a psychologist. But the American Psychological Association takes a similar — if less ironclad — position.

“APA’s Code of Ethics counsels psychologists against diagnosing living individuals whom they have not personally assessed,” spokeswoman Kim I. Mills said. “Singling out mental illness is misguided and tends to further stigmatize mental health problems.”

Gartner dismisses the rule and similar guidelines as a product of professional associations concerned primarily with protecting members from lawsuits. It is preferable to meet with patients before assessing them, he agrees, but in cases where that’s not possible it shouldn’t be a requirement.

Much can be gleaned, he says, by observing years of public interactions.

“The only people who aren’t allowed to comment on Donald Trump’s mental health are the people who are most expert and qualified to do it,” Gartner said.

The phrase “duty to warn” has its antecedent in a similar ethical dilemma. It’s based on the name used for laws on the books in at least 28 states, including Maryland, that require mental health professionals to break patient confidentiality rules and report information about a patient if they believe that person may become violent.

Garter isn’t alone in his assessment of the Goldwater Rule.

Justin A. Frank, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center, has written books analyzing Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, and expects to publish a third in the series, on Trump, next year.

“My feeling is that the rule was based on a very specific kind of thing: Financial fear,” he said.

Frank said he relies on principles of applied psychoanalysis to build profiles of presidents.

“It’s true that I don’t get them in my office — and that’s a serious issue,” he said. “But there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Asked whether he has come to any conclusions yet about Trump, Frank declined to offer a diagnosis.

“He’s Donald Trump,” Frank said. “I really think that he’s a fairly unique person.”

The Duty to Warn effort has drawn some attention on Capitol Hill, but almost entirely from Democrats — making it an easy target for Trump supporters and others to dismiss as a partisan endeavor.

Supporters of the group point to a private conversation caught on an open microphone this summer between Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. During a conversation about the federal budget, Reed was heard describing the president as “crazy,” and Collins responded with “I’m worried.”

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters last month that Trump had failed to display the “stability nor some of the competence” to be a successful president.

But those comments have been exceptions to the rule in both parties.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, introduced legislation this year to create a commission that would determine whether a president is unable to meet the responsibilities of the office under the 25th Amendment.

Raskin, a constitutional law professor from the liberal wing of the party, says he is addressing a long-term process issue, not targeting the current president.

Raskin, whose bill has 31 Democratic co-sponsors, declined to say whether he agrees with Gartner on Trump’s mental health.

“I do not take a position on that and I don’t think it’s my role to take a position on that,” he said. “There are enough signs of chaos in some of the dealings of the president that it reminds us of the importance of the 25th Amendment, but I personally will reserve judgment on presidential fitness — that’s why we have the process.”

Raskin is set to receive an award from Duty to Warn at its meeting in Washington next month.

“They appreciate the work that I’m doing in trying to flesh out the constitutional process,” he said.

Gartner is a registered Democrat, and has contributed to Democratic campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s. But Gartner insists Duty to Warn isn’t a political exercise.

“I didn’t like George Bush, but I never circulated a petition about him,” he said. “I’d be grateful for a President Pence, even though I disagree with everything he believes in. … He’s conservative, [but] he’s not mentally unstable.”

Gartner says the petition will be sent to each member of Trump’s cabinet next month.

He acknowledges he’s unlikely to get the kind of quick response his mother received decades ago at the Oak Room Bar.

“All along I’ve felt, even if it was a hopeless cause, that we still needed to speak out,” Gartner said. “Bearing witness to these things is important. And I think bringing out the truth is important.”

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

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‘No joy in Trumpworld’: White House staffers looking to jump ship … – Raw Story

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Raw Story

Today in Trumpworld — September 22

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TRUMP’S SCHEDULE TODAY

5 p.m.: President Donald Trump will depart the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey en route to Alabama.

Story Continued Below

7:30 p.m.: Trump will arrive at Huntsville International Airport.

8 p.m.: Trump will arrive at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville.

8:15 p.m.: Trump will participate in a rally for Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.).

9:10 p.m.: Trump will depart the Von Braun Civic Center en route to Bedminster, New Jersey.

11:50 p.m.: Trump will arrive at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.

TRUMP’S TWITTER THIS MORNING: “Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as ‘the Republican who saved ObamaCare.’ … Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before! … The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary? … The greatest influence over our election was the Fake News Media “screaming” for Crooked Hillary Clinton. Next, she was a bad candidate! … Will be in Alabama tonight. Luther Strange has gained mightily since my endorsement, but will be very close. He loves Alabama, and so do I!”

INSIDE THE HEALTH CARE PUSH: From POLITICO’s Josh Dawsey and Burgess Everett: “In public, President Donald Trump is all-in on the Senate’s final chance to repeal Obamacare. But privately, there’s ambivalence in the White House about the bill’s contents and its chances of clearing the tightly divided chamber next week. Trump spent time between meetings at the United Nations calling senators and other senior White House officials about the Graham-Cassidy bill, asking for updated vote tallies and how to woo senators for the bill. White House officials have considered tweaking the state funding to win a vote from GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — and others. Trump has also publicly excoriated Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for voting against the legislation, telling aides he would go after other senators.”

SCRAMBLE TO LEAVE THE WEST WING: From POLITICO’s Nancy Cook: “A fast-growing number of White House staffers are starting to look for the exits, even though the one-year mark of President Donald Trump’s first term is still months away. Many who joined the administration in January did so with the explicit idea that they’d stay for at least a year, enough to credibly say they’d served. But in the aftermath of a wave of abrupt, high-profile departures over the summer that culminated with former strategist Steve Bannon’s ouster in August, aides up and down the chain are reaching out to headhunters, lobbyists, and GOP operatives for help finding their next job.”

FACEBOOK TO COOPERATE: From POLITICO’s Nancy Scola, Josh Dawsey and Ali Watkins:“Facebook has agreed to provide details to congressional investigators about ads purchased by Russians to influence the 2016 presidential campaign, and on Thursday vowed greater transparency in political advertising. But some Democratic senators want to make those pledges mandatory. The moves come amid mounting pressure from Congress to release the Russian-related ads, particularly criticism from Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Two people familiar with the matter disclosed the deal to POLITICO on Thursday shortly before Facebook announced it publicly.”

MUELLER’S WORK: From POLITICO’s Josh Dawsey: “Special counsel Robert Mueller has sought phone records concerning the statement written aboard Air Force One defending a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians at Trump Tower last year that was set up by Donald Trump Jr., according to two people familiar with the investigation. Mueller has also asked the White House for documents and emails connected to a May 3 press briefing where Sean Spicer said the president had confidence in James Comey as FBI director, these people said. The request seeks to determine what White House officials – particularly Spicer – knew about the president’s plans to fire Comey in the days before it happened, according to one of the people familiar with it.”

PRICE UPDATE: From POLITICO’s Rachana Pradhan and Dan Diamond: “Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, according to people with knowledge of his travel plans and a review of HHS documents. … The cost of the trips identified by POLITICO exceeds $300,000, according to a review of federal contracts and similar trip itineraries.”

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Paul Manafort Has A Bad Week; Twitter, Facebook In The Hot Seat : NPR

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Paul Manafort speaks on the phone while touring the floor of the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Paul Manafort speaks on the phone while touring the floor of the Republican National Convention on July 17, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last week in the Russia imbroglio: Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, got some bad news; members of Congress put social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, under the interrogation lights; and with all these many lawyers now running around — the meter is running too.

Much more below.

The Russia story is so vast, has been running for so long — and may continue for so much longer — that NPR journalists have been getting an update inside the newsroom every day to try to keep them in step. On the theory that other readers also might find the reports useful, here’s a version of our newsletter called “The Daily Imbroglio,” which also includes a look back at events from the past week you might have missed.

Reports: U.S. Government Surveilled Manafort … Sometime … Somewhen

Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was under U.S. government surveillance at some point, according to reports this week — although they do not agree as to the particulars. CNN was first out of the gate with its story about surveillance on Monday, which called what the FBI or other spy agencies were doing “a wiretap.” The eavesdropping took place before, during and after the campaign, according to CNN.

CBS News also cited a source confirming CNN, but not many other news organizations reported this development. That stood until Friday, when the Wall Street Journal’s Shane Harris reported that the U.S. put Manafort under surveillance after he resigned from the Trump campaign in August of 2016.

But the monitoring the Journal describes is very different. Not a “wiretap” like you might have seen on The Sopranos, where FBI agents listen in real-time, but surveillance after the fact, “possibly by obtaining copies of his emails and other electronically stored communications, or by having agents follow him or conduct physical searches of his property.”

NPR has not confirmed any of these reports, and U.S. government officials have declined to comment about these kinds of law enforcement operations. A spokesman for Manafort, Jason Maloni, told NPR’sGeoff Bennett that if the stories are true, it’s evidence of abuse of power by then-President Obama and also evidence of criminal leaking by whatever sources revealed the surveillance was taking place.

Why would the Feds want to spy on Manafort? Former U.S. intelligence officials, including ex-CIA Director John Brennan, have said they’ve documented evidence of a lot of clandestine communications between people in Trumpworld and Russians. The latest data point came on Wednesday, when the Washington Post reported that Manafort had offered a private briefing on the U.S. election to to Oleg Deripaska, a Ukrainian billionaire friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The FBI wants to know whether Manafort was colluding with the Russians whose interference in the U.S. was aimed at helping Trump be elected.

Timeline Of Trump And Russia In Mid-2016: A Series Of Coincidences Or Something More?

That’s one example of what are believed to be tens of thousands of emails and other documents the Trump campaign has given congressional investigators looking into the Russia imbroglio — but it also confirms what Brennan and others have suggested. The frustration in trying to understand this story from the outside is how more evidence is deemed classified, possibly from Congress or the Justice Department, which U.S. spy agencies might not want to reveal because it compromises the sources or methods they used to collect it.

Learn More About The Trump-Russia Imbroglio

In Manafort’s particular case, investigators’ focus appears to be on alleged money laundering, foreign advocacy or other such crimes — sources told The New York Times that prosecutors working for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller have warned Manafort they intend to indict him.


Next In The Hot Seat: Facebook And Twitter

Russian influence-mongers used more overt tools to attack the election last year than anyone first appreciated, including Facebook ads, public accounts (of fake Americans) and others. And as NPR’s Ryan Lucas reports, members of Congress want answers about what social media platforms knew at the time about what was happening — and what they’ve learned in retrospect.

The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social Media

“The moves on Capitol Hill follow concerns that the social media giants have been less than forthcoming about how Russia may have used their platforms to try to undermine the American election,” Lucas writes.

“Facebook has acknowledged that it sold ads to some 500 fake Russia-linked accounts between 2015 and 2017. The ads addressed socially divisive issues like gun control, immigration and race relations. It also conceded in a statement that it may discover more.”

Russia's Election Meddling Part Of A Long History Of 'Active Measures'

The Intelligence Committee’s leaders, North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, had been turning up the heat on Facebook especially: The social behemoth had shown the content of some ads to committee staffers in a briefing, but not permitted the Hill investigators to keep them. Burr and Warner said they wouldn’t abide any deflection or soft-pedaling, so Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday the company would turn over the contents and cooperate with the congressional investigations. More from Facebook.

In a file photo taken on May 15, 2012, a login page of Facebook reflects in a glass panel in Kuala Lumpur. Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

In a file photo taken on May 15, 2012, a login page of Facebook reflects in a glass panel in Kuala Lumpur.

Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

How Russian Twitter Bots Pumped Out Fake News During The 2016 Election

The Intelligence Committee has scheduled a hearing about the social media aspect of the Russian influence campaign for next month. And ahead of that, representatives for Twitter — much smaller in terms of users and business throw-weight, but still highly visible in key areas — are set to meet with the Intelligence Committee next week.

Here’s what Facebook does not want: Regulations it considers onerous. So company leaders are expected to go along to get along in the hope that if they’re cooperative and forthright, Congress will not mandate restrictions on the way it does business. That might not be good enough for Warner, however, who has broached the idea of new requirements for disclosures about ad-buyers or other such new policies.


All These Lawyers Are Getting Expensive

President Trump and several administration officials have retained their own lawyers in the Russia matter, and all that advice is not cheap. So donors are covering the costs: The Republican National Committee has directed more than $427,000 to attorneys representing Trump and Donald Trump Jr., Matea Gold reported in the Washington Post.

Separately, family members of former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn announced on Monday that they have set up a legal defense fund to help Flynn continue to pay the lawyers helping him in the Russia matter. Joe Flynn and Barbara Redgate, Flynn’s brother and sister, made a case based on Flynn’s record of service.

“Mike devoted 33 years of his life to our country serving in the United States Army, spending years away from his family while he fought this nation’s battles overseas, including the war on terror,” they wrote.

Attorneys say Flynn’s fund will not accept contributions from foreign nationals, anonymous givers or Trump’s business or campaign. But the fund is not expected to disclose how much it raises or the identities of its donors, as NPR’s Tom Bowman reported.


Briefly:

Mueller Wants White House Phone Records

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House for records specifically about President Trump’s role in drafting Donald Trump Jr’s initial statement about the June 2016 meeting between campaign aides and a Russian delegation, reports Josh Dawsey for Politico.

Businessman Paints Terrifying And Complex Picture Of Putin's Russia

Meaning what? Trump had a hand in drafting the original statement that said Trump Jr., Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Russians to talk about “adoptions.” But “adoptions” is the code word that Russians use when they talk about the 2012 sanctions imposed by the U.S. under the Magnitsky Act. So Mueller wants to know who in the White House was involved, what discussions took place and what the intentions of the principals were.

Rosenstein: Trump Knew Comey Ouster Wouldn’t End Russia Probe

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has told Mueller’s team that he believes Trump knew he’d encounter a political backlash by firing FBI Director James Comey, but that he didn’t expect it would end the Russia investigation, report Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilber for the Wall Street Journal.

The James Comey Saga, In Timeline Form

Meaning what? Mueller is reported to be weighing whether Trump has obstructed justice: Comey said the president asked him to ease off of Flynn, there are reports he also asked other intelligence agency bosses how to get the FBI off the case and then Trump went ahead and fired Comey. Although Trump has said in subsequent interviews that he fired Comey (among other reasons) because of the whole “Russia thing,” Rosenstein may be trying to put in a word for his boss. He could be making the case, in so many words, that Trump isn’t guilty of obstruction because he didn’t actually expect that getting rid of Comey would get rid of the Russia matter.

Howard Students to Comey: You, Sir, Are Not Our Homey

'You're Not Our Homey,' Howard University Protesters Tell Ex-FBI Director James Comey

The former FBI director addressed the students of Howard University in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Sept. 22, in the first of what’s set to be a series of speeches as he takes a lecturer post there. Comey has built a relationship with the president of the historically black university because, in part, he wanted to bring more non-white recruits into the FBI.

It did not go over well, as NPR’s Ryan Lucas reports: Protesters interrupted with chants of “no justice, no peace” and “James Comey, you’re not our homey.” They also sang the civil rights song “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Read the whole story
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7 signs Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is getting serious

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While President Trump made headlines this week for his provocative rhetoric on North Korea and the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, several major developments related to the ongoing probe of possible collusion between his associates and Russia flew quietly under the radar.

Each new disclosure about the direction and breadth of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation lent credence to what many legal experts have been saying since the former FBI director began hiring lawyers with expertise in corruption, foreign bribery, and white collar crime: This is serious, and some in Trump’s orbit should be worried.

“Combined with a flurry of stories about subpoenas, grand-jury appearances and other activity, it’s reasonable to expect that Mueller is moving forward on a number of different fronts and is getting close to entering a litigation phase,” Brookings Institution fellows Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes wrote earlier this week.

Here are seven key signs that indicate Mueller and his high-powered team are digging deep and may be nearing the “litigation phase,” as Hennessy and Wittes put it.

1. Indictment warning

During the FBI’s raid of an apartment belonging to Paul Manafort earlier this summer, Mueller explicitly told the former Trump campaign chairman he “planned to indict him,” the New York Times reported Monday. According to the report, Manafort and several FBI agents picked the lock of Manafort’s home in the predawn hours of July 26 and left with “binders stuffed with documents” and photographs of “expensive suits in his closet.”

The report shed light on the aggressive tactics Mueller has employed as he reportedly seeks to “flip” Manafort against several other persons of interest in the special counsel’s investigation, including the president.

2. Record requests

It was widely reported this week that Mueller has begun requesting exhaustive records from White House aides who were clued in to the decision-making process that led to former FBI director James Comey’s firing in May, and aware of Trump’s response when he learned that ex-national security adviser Mike Flynn was under federal investigation for his lobbying for foreign governments.

Beyond Comey and Flynn, the Washington Post claimed Mueller demanded that any correspondence related to the following individuals or incidents be turned over to his team: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian attorney last June; Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; Manafort; the FBI’s interview of Flynn shortly after the inauguration; and a statement issued by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer the night Comey was fired.

3. Spicer’s notes and texts

Spicer made news Thursday for being snappish with Axios co-founder Mike Allen during an exchange about the notes he kept during his time in Trump’s circle, which could become a valuable resource for Mueller.

“From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities,” Spicer said in an email, later adding that he would “contact the appropriate legal authorities to address [Allen’s] harassment” if he continued to receive requests for comment.

A source close to Spicer said the exchange, which the former press secretary later apologized for, showed how current and former White House officials are trying to be “careful … and want to avoid attracting attention to themselves” as long as the Russia investigation is ongoing.

Spicer is one of several former and current Trump aides whom Mueller has expressed an interest in interviewing, ABC News reported earlier this month. The others include: former chief of staff Reince Priebus, White House communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, senior associate counsel James Burnham, and White House spokesman Josh Raffel.

4. Surveillance of Manafort

A bombshell report by CNN late Monday night alleged that U.S. government officials wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who remains at the center of Mueller’s investigation, before the November election and during the subsequent transition phase. The surveillance was conducted after federal investigators obtained a so-called FISA warrant, which almost always requires the demonstration of probable cause.

Sources told CNN that “some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign.”

5. Grand jury testimony

Mueller is beginning to bring in lobbyists and public relations consultants who have worked with Manafort to testify before a federal grand jury in Washington. One such individual – Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni – did so last week at a courthouse in downtown D.C.

Maloni, who began working for Manafort after the 2016 election, testified for more than two-and-a-half hours, telling reporters on his way in that “hell yeah” he was ready to appear before the grand jury. It was not immediately clear what investigators sought from Maloni’s testimony, though the longtime public relations executive may have been aware of potential errors on Manafort’s foreign-agent filing amendments, which he retroactively disclosed in June.

Mueller also issued a grand jury subpoena in August to Melissa Laurenza, a lawyer and former National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer who represented Manafort until recently.

6. Facebook ads

The social media giant turned over detailed records to congressional committees and Mueller’s team this week regarding ads purchased by a Russian company during the 2016 election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed earlier this month that the company bought approximately $3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017, totalling $100,000.

There is a good chance Mueller will probe whether the advertisements “showed any of the kind of sophisticated targeting that might indicate that Americans had provided assistance,” the Atlantic’s David Graham wrote earlier this week.

7. James Quarles

Former assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation James Quarles is the latest to emerge as a central figure assisting with Mueller’s probe. The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that Quarles was added to the team as its “point person” for interactions with the White House, noting that he has been constantly in touch with Trump’s legal aides to check in on document requests and confirm the status of upcoming interviews.

Quarles left his position as a partner at the global law firm WilmerHale to join Mueller’s team in June.

Read the whole story
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Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory – The Hill (blog) Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 12:33 PM 

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Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory – The Hill (blog) Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 12:33 PM Trump And Intelligence Community – Google News 1 Share The Hill (blog) Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory The Hill (blog) The former director of National Intelligence said that the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russians sought … Continue reading “Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory – The Hill (blog) Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 12:33 PM”

These Are The 21 States Russian Hackers Targeted In The 2016 Election

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State election officials didn’t know whether their systems had been targeted until Friday.

Ukraine-born billionaire with biz ties to Russian oligarchs is funding Trump’s legal defense via the RNC / Boing Boing

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Source: Ukraine-born billionaire with biz ties to Russian oligarchs is funding Trump’s legal defense via the RNC / Boing Boing

Mueller Scorches the Earth – National Review

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National Review
Mueller Scorches the Earth
National Review
It was not enough to get a search warrant to ransack the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, even as the former Trump campaign chairman was cooperating with congressional investigators.Mueller’s bad-asses persuaded a judge to give them permission to pick …
Robert Mueller Has Requested Air Force One Phone Records in the Russia InvestigationGQ Magazine
What Scares Paul Manafort More than Mueller?Vanity Fair
What the FISA Warrants Against Paul Manafort Tell us About Mueller’s InvestigationJust Security
The Hill –The Guardian –Conservative Review –CNN
all 39 news articles »

FBI agent sentenced for disclosing sensitive material to mistress – MyAJC

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MyAJC
FBI agent sentenced for disclosing sensitive material to mistress
MyAJC
When FBI agent Ken Hillman was assigned to Northwest Georgia, his aim was clear: catch sex predators who target children online. But on Friday, Hillman stood in front of a federal judge and pleaded guilty to a crime of his own; disclosing sensitive law …and more »
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Clapper: Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt’ on Trump’s victory – Business Insider 

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Donald Trump’s election victory was called into question by the US intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s election interference, Clapper said. Source: Clapper: Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt’ on Trump’s victory – Business Insider

Facebook to give Congress copies of 3,000 political ads bought through Russian accounts, reversing previous decision

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The company had previously shown some of the ads to Capitol Hill investigators but took back copies before they could be studied carefully, citing concerns over user privacy at the time. Facebook has reversed that position amid rising complaints from Capitol Hill that the company was not cooperating fully with its investigation. Chief Executive Mark […]

‘James Comey, you’re not our homie’: Protesters disrupt former FBI director’s speech at Howard University – Washington Post

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Washington Post
‘James Comey, you’re not our homie’: Protesters disrupt former FBI director’s speech at Howard University
Washington Post
A group of protesters chanting “no justice, no peace,” interrupted former FBI director James B. Comey as he tried to address the convocation ceremony at Howard University on Friday morning. “Get out James Comey, you’re not our homie,” the group of 
James Comey: Protests disrupt speech to Howard studentsBBC News
Protesters disrupt James Comey’s Howard University convocation speechPolitico
Comey convocation address derailed by angry protesters at Howard UniversityFox News
NBCNews.com –Newsweek –ABC News –CNN International
all 41 news articles »

Russia wants Trump and Kim Jong Un to calm down – Business Insider

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Business Insider
Russia wants Trump and Kim Jong Un to calm down
Business Insider
Vladimir Putin Sergey Lavrov Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stand while waiting for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to their talks at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, Saturday, July 
The Week in Pictures: Sept. 15 – 22NBCNews.com
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Trump: North Korea’s ‘Little Rocket Man’ should have been handled long agoThe Hill
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US student trapped in Indiana cave for three days – BBC News

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BBC News
US student trapped in Indiana cave for three days
BBC News
A US student spent almost three days trapped inside a cave after he was left behind on a university field trip. Lukas Cavar, 19, was visiting the Sullivan Cave in southern Indiana with the Indiana University Caving Club on Sunday. He was separated from 
Forgotten IU freshman locked in cave for 60 hoursIndianapolis Star
College student spent 60 hours in cave before rescue, licked walls for waterFox News
Forgotten student trapped in cave for three days without food and waterTelegraph.co.uk
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Forgotten student trapped in cave for three days without food and water – Telegraph.co.uk

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Telegraph.co.uk
Forgotten student trapped in cave for three days without food and water
Telegraph.co.uk
A US student was trapped in a cave for three days without food or water after he was left behind on a group excursion. Lukas Cavar, a first year student at Indiana University, was on a spelunking trip when he became separated from the rest of the group.and more »
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Iran conducts new ballistic missile test despite Trump pressure – The Hill

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The Hill
Iran conducts new ballistic missile test despite Trump pressure
The Hill
Iran announced Saturday that the country has conducted a successful test of a new ballistic missile design despite pressure from the Trump administration to stop, and vowed to continue its weapons development. The new missile design has a range of 1 
Iran tests missile despite Trump pressureBBC News
Iran releases video of new ballistic missile being test-firedFox News
Iran Tests New Ballistic Missile, State Media ReportsNBCNews.com
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Pragmatism is the real frontrunner in Germany’s election – The Hill

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The Hill
Pragmatism is the real frontrunner in Germany’s election
The Hill
Despite this reality, the suggestion resonates strongly with German voters — in a 2016 poll 83 percent of Germans wanted U.S. nuclear weapons out of the country. In theory this could have …Putin’s continued antagonization of the West, including his 
With Germany’s Election Around The Corner, What’s Putin’s Play?NPRall 990 news articles »

WSJ: GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe… – By  Rebecca Ballhaus 

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GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People Payment arrangement is legal, but ethics experts warn that reliance on party and campaign accounts could raise thorny political issues By Rebecca Ballhaus Sept. 22, 2017 3:46 p.m. ET By Rebecca Ballhaus President Donald Trump’s attorneys in the probe … Continue reading “WSJ: GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe… – By  Rebecca Ballhaus”

Facebook Faces ‘Era Of Accountability’ Over Russia-Backed Election Ads – CBS San Francisco Bay Area

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CBS San Francisco Bay Area
Facebook Faces ‘Era Of Accountability’ Over Russia-Backed Election Ads
CBS San Francisco Bay Area
It has provided the ads and other information to Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation, Facebook said in a statement, although it declined to elaborate. The company that nudges its users to reveal intimate details 
Facebook may be facing an ‘era of accountability’Lowell Sunall 29 news articles »

Manipulating Facebook To Manipulate Voters – Swift County Monitor

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CBS San Francisco Bay Area
Manipulating Facebook To Manipulate Voters
Swift County Monitor
For instance, one study found that college basketball fans, viewing the same video of a game, were likely to believe the rival team committed at least twice as many fouls as their own,” Gregory Ferenstein, a fellow at the University of California 
Facebook Faces ‘Era Of Accountability’ Over Russia-Backed Election AdsCBS San Francisco Bay Areaall 44 news articles »

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says anti-Semitic targeting was ‘a fail on our part’ – The Verge

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The Verge
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg says anti-Semitic targeting was ‘a fail on our part’
The Verge
In a post today, Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg made her first public statement on a recent ProPublica investigation of ad-targeting to hate groups, calling the issue “a fail on our part.” Last week, ProPublica’s investigation found and more »
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Facebook to Turn Over Russian-Linked Ads to Congress – New York Times

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The Guardian
Facebook to Turn Over Russian-Linked Ads to Congress
New York Times
6 that Russian agents covertly bought ads on the site during last year’s campaign has brought intense scrutiny on the social network and on Twitter, entangling both companies in theinvestigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel 
‘Russia hoax continues’: Trump attacks investigation into Facebook adsThe Guardian
The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social MediaNPR
The Latest: Democratic lawmakers praise Facebook disclosureMiami Herald
NJ.com –Yahoo Finance –NBC Chicago –Facebook Newsroom
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Facebook to crack down on election ads, turn 3000 over to congressional investigators – MarketWatch

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MarketWatch
Facebook to crack down on election ads, turn 3000 over to congressional investigators
MarketWatch
Zuckerberg’s announcement, made via a Facebook Live video, comes alongside the company’s decision Thursday to release 3,000 Russia-linked ads to congressional committees investigating that country’s meddling during the 2016 presidential election. The and more »

The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social Media – NPR

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NPR
The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social Media
NPR
… investigation into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election. Now they’re in the spotlight. Congressional investigators are digging in on Russia’s use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to try to influence the 
‘Russia hoax continues’: Trump attacks investigation into Facebook adsThe Guardian
Facebook to Turn Over Russian-Linked Ads to CongressNew York Times
Facebook Russian ads that influenced election released to CongressCBS News
NJ.com –Miami Herald –Newsy
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State Investigations Could Play Powerful Adversary Role Against Trump Administration – NPR

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State Investigations Could Play Powerful Adversary Role Against Trump Administration
NPR
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has continued to investigate PresidentTrump’s business interests. His work could lead him to being a key figure in the president’s future. Facebook; Twitter. Google+. Email …

A Dizzying Week of Trump-Russia Revelations – The New Yorker

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The New Yorker
A Dizzying Week of Trump-Russia Revelations
The New Yorker
The possible outcomes of the Russia investigation have always been wildly divergent. On one end of the spectrum, it is possible that the Russian government penetrated deep inside theTrump campaign—perhaps with the candidate’s knowledge—and the …
The Paradox of an Explosive Week in the Mueller InvestigationThe Atlantic
Judge Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s frightening and tightening legal nooseFox News
Senator asks FBI if it warned Trump campaign about Russian meddlingReuters
CNN –Politico –TPM
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Grassley asks FBI if Trump was warned of Russian efforts to infiltrate his campaign – USA TODAY

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USA TODAY
Grassley asks FBI if Trump was warned of Russian efforts to infiltrate his campaign
USA TODAY
Grassley wrote the letter Wednesday after reports by CNN that the FBI began investigatingformer Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business dealings with the Russians in 2014. Those reports, cited by Grassley on Thursday, also allege that …
Senator asks FBI if it warned Trump campaign about Russian meddlingReuters
A Dizzying Week of Trump-Russia RevelationsThe New Yorker
The Paradox of an Explosive Week in the Mueller InvestigationThe Atlantic
Fox News –Politico –Washington Examiner
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GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People – Wall Street Journal (subscription)

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Wall Street Journal (subscription)
GOP Funds Donald Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe With Help From a Handful of Wealthy People
Wall Street Journal (subscription)
The Trump-Russia Investigations: Who Are the Russians Involved? U.S. investigators are looking into contacts between several current and former associates of Donald Trump and Russian individuals—some with direct ties to the Russian government or …and more »

Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory – The Hill (blog)

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The Hill (blog)
Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory
The Hill (blog)
The former director of National Intelligence said that the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russians sought to influence the 2016 election “cast doubt on the legitimacy” of PresidentTrump’s victory. “Our intelligence community assessment did 
JAMES CLAPPER: US intelligence assessment of Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of …Business Insider
Ex-intel chief: Findings on Russian interference “cast doubt on legitimacy of the election”Shareblue Media
James Clapper: Russia’s US Campaign Included Social Media ‘Trolls’Newsmaxall 5 news articles »

12:09 PM 9/23/2017 – Paul Manafort: why Trump’s old ally could hold the key in Mueller’s Russia hunt – The Guardian

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NFL Distances Itself From Trump After He Says Protesting Players Should Be Fired Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 12:05 PM Donald Trump 1 Share “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect.” “Who shot John”?! | Clapper: Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt’ on Trump’s victory Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 7:33 AM by mikenova Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 12:04 PM … Continue reading “12:09 PM 9/23/2017 – Paul Manafort: why Trump’s old ally could hold the key in Mueller’s Russia hunt – The Guardian”

Russia: Relations with US poor over ‘Russo-phobic hysteria’ – The Ledger

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The Ledger
Russia: Relations with US poor over ‘Russo-phobic hysteria’
The Ledger
Sergey Lavrov told a news conference there has been a lengthy campaign claiming Russiainterfered in the U.S. election to ensure victory for President Donald Trump — “but we do not see any facts.” When he asked U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 
Lavrov Blames `Small-Minded’ Obama for USRussia DivisionsBloomberg
Russia’s Lavrov continues to scoff at ‘so-called interference’ in US electionWENY-TV
Russia, China push back on a US-led world order – CNNPoliticsCNN
TASS
all 443 news articles »

The Importance Of Civil Discourse

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Polarizing hostile discourse will only breed more division while, at the same time, making real debate over issues less likely.

“Prewar period of global disorder”: Trump’s U.N. Speech Marks The End Of Global U.S. Leadership Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 10:20 AM 

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Weekend Roundup: Trump’s U.N. Speech Marks The End Of Global U.S. Leadership Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 10:20 AM Donald Trump 1 Share We are leaving the postwar era that saw the U.S foster the founding of the U.N. and entering what may be a prewar period of global disorder. who shot john – Google Search Saturday … Continue reading ““Prewar period of global disorder”: Trump’s U.N. Speech Marks The End Of Global U.S. Leadership Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 10:20 AM”
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10:32 AM 9/23/2017 – FISA Warrants Against Paul Manafort and Mueller’s Investigation 

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Quotes Mueller’s investigation is first and foremost a counterintelligence investigation  we know that with the Facebook search warrant that Mueller is potentially interested in pursuing Russians living in Russia who tried to disseminate disinformation in the U.S. He would surely be as interested in identifying and nailing the Russian operatives who participated in active measures to influence … Continue reading “10:32 AM 9/23/2017 – FISA Warrants Against Paul Manafort and Mueller’s Investigation”

Media says Trump is just like crazy dictator Kim Jong-un, and other absolutely moronic press comments – Fox News

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Fox News
Media says Trump is just like crazy dictator Kim Jong-un, and other absolutely moronic press comments
Fox News
Over at MSNBC, we got proven liar and “The 11th Hour” host Brian Williams making the comparison: “[C]an you remind the good folks watching just how unusual this kind of wording from an American president is? Almost borrowing the vocabulary and …and more »

NFL Distances Itself From Trump After He Says Protesting Players Should Be Fired

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“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect.”

“Who shot John”?! | Clapper: Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt’ on Trump’s victory Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 7:33 AM 

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“Who shot John”?! “Who shot John”?! – GS Michael Novakhov comments:  Mr. Clapper, dear sir:  Where were you in 2015 and 2016?  Wasn’t it a part of your duties to prevent these type of  disasters, and to recognize them in advance, well in advance?  But I do not blame you. No one has a right … Continue reading ““Who shot John”?! | Clapper: Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt’ on Trump’s victory Saturday September 23rd, 2017 at 7:33 AM”

manafort trump tower – Google Search

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Story image for manafort trump tower from Washington Post

Is President Trump vindicated on his claim of ‘wires tapped’ by …

Washington PostSep 22, 2017
Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before … wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Former CIA Officer: On Wiretapping, Trump Was Right All Along
In-DepthThe Daily CallerSep 20, 2017

Media image for manafort trump tower from RealClearPolitics

RealClearPolitics

Media image for manafort trump tower from Newsweek

Newsweek

Media image for manafort trump tower from The Hill

The Hill

Media image for manafort trump tower from TIME

TIME

Media image for manafort trump tower from Salon

Salon

Media image for manafort trump tower from Yahoo News

Yahoo News
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Meet the notorious characters who call Trump Tower home

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New York City’s most high-profile residential buildings are often home to some of the wealthiest—and shadiest—figures in the world. Take, for instance, the Time Warner Center, where members of the Saudi royal family and known corrupt Russian officials knowingly shack up. Or Walker Tower, where the purchase of a $50.9 million penthouse has been named by the U.S. government in connection to an international money laundering scheme.

It should come as no surprise that Trump Tower is no exception. Bloomberg has compiled an extensive, and rather epic, list of the building’s past and present occupants, shedding light on the international cast of characters who traverse the building’s gilded halls.

At that, following is a list of a handful of Trump Tower’s current residents, who include an embattled former sports administrator who plead guilty in a crime connected to the FIFA scandal, and Trump’s former campaign manager.

Donald Trump, Floors 66 through 68

Of course the Republican presidential nominee shacks up in the top floors of his namesake tower, hidden behind a grand entryway gilded in gold and diamonds. The palatial penthouse, Bloomberg reports, takes a tip from Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi: “One reason Trump’s triplex is so vast, he has written, is a trip he took to…Khashoggi’s condo nearby, where he stepped into a living room bigger than his own.” Trump, who has the best temperament, wanted to level up with a Saudi arms dealer. That’s reassuring.

Guido Lombardi, Floors 62 through 63

Real estate investor Guido Lombardi is a self-proclaimed Italian count, Trump supporter, and sympathizer with Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party.

Helly Nahmad, Floor 51

Art dealer Hillel Nahmad, of the Nahmad collecting dynasty, has been snatching up apartments on the 51st floor of Trump Tower since at least 1999, when he paid $2.5 million for Unit 51J. Years, and millions, later, Nahmad amassed the entire floor for a total $18.4 million. Nahmad was sent to prison for five months in 2014 for running a high-stakes gambling ring.

Related: the massive Panama Papers leak from earlier this year identified Nahmad’s father, David, as the owner of a Modigliani that the grandson of a Jewish art dealer claims was snatched from his grandparent’s shop in Paris during the Nazi occupation.

Ernie Garcia, Floors 48 through 49

The chairman of used car dealer DriveTime plead guilty to bank fraud in 1990 in connection to the collapse of Charles Keating’s Savings and Loan. Garcia was sentenced to probation, and currently takes up residence in the tower.

Paul Manafort, Floor 43

Trump’s former campaign manager, who resigned in August, has lived in Trump Tower since 2006. Manafort transferred the apartment from an LLC to his name in 2015.

Jose Maria Marin, Floor 41

If one must serve house arrest, Trump Tower is not too shabby of a place to do it. That’s the case with Jose Maria Marin, a former administrator of the Brazilian Football Confederation who’s serving a sentence in connection with bribery charges stemming from the FIFA crisis, to which he plead guilty.

Susetta Mion, Floor 32

Ivana Trump’s pal Susetta Mion, of the Italian fashion family, has been shacked up in a Trump Tower pad after allegedly looting her mother’s bank accounts and possessions and carting it all across the Atlantic in 2007. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mion called the issue a “family quarrel that’s being resolved.”

Juan Beckmann Vidal, Floor 31

Vidal’s name is not as well known as the liquor brand he controls: Jose Cuervo. The tequila bigwig owns three apartments in the building.

For a list of the colorful characters who formerly purchased in the building, including Andrew Lloyd Weber and Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, head on over to Bloomberg.

Watch: Architecture that comes to life in Game of Thrones

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Paul Manafort: why Trump’s old ally could hold the key in Mueller’s Russia hunt 

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Trump’s ex-campaign chair is a major target for special counsel Mueller, and an indictment may not be far off – which could change everything for the president

When Paul Manafort, the former Washington super-lobbyist, bought an apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan for $3.7m in 2006, there was no reason at the time to read the hand of destiny in it.

Related: Kim Jong-un, the NFL and ‘screaming at senators’: Trump’s Strange night in Alabama

Don’t fool yourself. That money we have is blood money

Related: Paul Manafort: FBI used search warrant to raid ex-Trump chair’s home

Related: Trump’s debut at the UN: threats, taunts – and gasps of alarm from the diplomats

Continue reading…

How Trump followed a Russian map straight to Paul Manafort – Salon

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Salon
How Trump followed a Russian map straight to Paul Manafort
Salon
Speculation flew after the latest Manafort revelations this week that Russian money had found its way into the Trump campaign and that Manafort may have had something to do with it, which was not a surprise given his contacts with shady political 
‘Of course we discussed Trump‘: Russian-Ukrainian operative explains his emails with ManafortBusiness Insider
Paul Manafort: why Trump’s old ally could hold the key in Mueller’s Russia huntThe Guardian
How the Latest Paul Manafort Revelations Fit with Trump’s Business ModelThe New Yorkerall 37 news articles »

Clinton’s ‘What Happened’ does not tell what really happened – Irish Times

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Irish Times
Clinton’s ‘What Happened’ does not tell what really happened
Irish Times
In the months since Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the White House to Donald Trump, the Democrat has poured her thoughts and considerable ire into a book running to almost 500 pages that tries to explain “What Happened”. … She makes the point and more »

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6:57 AM 9/4/2017 – M.N.: FREE CYBERFORCE and Blogger-Force have to be developed and established – In America, there is a stubborn, almost inexplicable blindness about the myriad problems with our own 2016 election

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cyberwars – GS

M.N.: Do we really know the true extent of this (cyber-attacks with “fake news”) issue and problem?! We have to study it, in depth and in details, in order to prevent it. The example with the recent Kenyan elections shows that the same malevolent actors (and we still do not know exactly who they are) are buoyed by and greatly encouraged by their “success”, and they intend to practice and to implement these strategies wherever they can, worldwide. For them, a new world order is coming, and they enjoy with anticipation the sweet smell of success. Smells like BS to me. This is the brute force frontal attack on the western style democratic institutions and the type of governing.

Something in kind, but conceptually directly the opposite: well educated, well trained, capable and FREE (in a sense of western values) CYBER-FORCE and Blogger-Force (and not only military but the civilian as well, something along the lines with the now almost defunct and reduced to utterly toothless inefficiency, ‘invalid and incapacitated “Voice of America”, for example) have to be developed and established as the counterforce and the lines of defence and offence. 

Russian Election Hacking Efforts, Wider Than Previously Known, Draw Little Scrutiny- NYTimes

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But months later, for Ms. Greenhalgh, other election security experts and some state officials, questions still linger about what happened that day in Durham as well as other counties in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Arizona.

After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists.

The assaults on the vast back-end election apparatus — voter-registration operations, state and local election databases, e-poll books and other equipment — have received far less attention than other aspects of the Russian interference, such as the hacking of Democratic emails and spreading of false or damaging information about Mrs. Clinton. Yet the hacking of electoral systems was more extensive than previously disclosed, The New York Times found.

Beyond VR Systems, hackers breached at least two other providers of critical election services well ahead of the 2016 voting, said current and former intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. The officials would not disclose the names of the companies.

Intelligence officials in January reassured Americans that there was no indication that Russian hackers had altered the vote count on Election Day, the bottom-line outcome. But the assurances stopped there.

Government officials said that they intentionally did not address the security of the back-end election systems, whose disruption could prevent voters from even casting ballots.

That’s partly because states control elections; they have fewer resources than the federal government but have long been loath to allow even cursory federal intrusions into the voting process.

That, along with legal constraints on intelligence agencies’ involvement in domestic issues, has hobbled any broad examination of Russian efforts to compromise American election systems. Those attempts include combing through voter databases, scanning for vulnerabilities or seeking to alter data, which have been identified in multiple states. Current congressional inquiries and the special counsel’s Russia investigation have not focused on the matter.

“We don’t know if any of the problems were an accident, or the random problems you get with computer systems, or whether it was a local hacker, or actual malfeasance by a sovereign nation-state,” said Michael Daniel, who served as the cybersecurity coordinator in the Obama White House.

“If you really want to know what happened, you’d have to do a lot of forensics, a lot of research and investigation, and you may not find out even then.”

In interviews, academic and private election security experts acknowledged the challenges of such diagnostics but argued that the effort is necessary. They warned about what could come, perhaps as soon as next year’s midterm elections, if the existing mix of outdated voting equipment, haphazard election-verification procedures and array of outside vendors is not improved to build an effective defense against Russian or other hackers.

In Durham, a local firm with limited digital forensics or software engineering expertise produced a confidential report, much of it involving interviews with poll workers, on the county’s election problems. The report was obtained by The Times, and election technology specialists who reviewed it at the Times’ request said the firm had not conducted any malware analysis or checked to see if any of the e-poll book software was altered, adding that the report produced more questions than answers.

Neither VR Systems — which operates in seven states beyond North Carolina — nor local officials were warned before Election Day that Russian hackers could have compromised their software. After problems arose, Durham County rebuffed help from the Department of Homeland Security and Free & Fair, a team of digital election-forensics experts who volunteered to conduct a free autopsy. The same was true elsewhere across the country.

“I always got stonewalled,” said Joe Kiniry, the chief executive and chief scientist at Free & Fair.

Still, some of the incidents reported in North Carolina occur in every election, said Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on election administration.

“Election officials and advocates and reporters who were watching most closely came away saying this was an amazingly quiet election,” he said, playing down the notion of tampering. He added, though, that the problems in Durham and elsewhere raise questions about the auditing of e-poll books and security of small election vendors.

Ms. Greenhalgh shares those concerns. “We still don’t know if Russian hackers did this,” she said about what happened in North Carolina. “But we still don’t know that they didn’t.”

Disorder at the Polls

North Carolina went for Donald J. Trump in a close election. But in Durham County, Hillary Clinton won 78 percent of the 156,000 votes, winning by a larger margin than President Barack Obama had against Mitt Romney four years earlier.

While only a fraction of voters were turned away because of the e-poll book difficulties — more than half of the county cast their ballots days earlier — plenty of others were affected when the state mandated that the entire county revert to paper rolls on Election Day. People steamed as everything slowed. Voters gave up and left polling places in droves — there’s no way of knowing the numbers, but they include more than a hundred North Carolina Central University students facing four-hour delays.

At a call center operated by the monitoring group Election Protection, Ms. Greenhalgh was fielding technical complaints from voters in Mississippi, Texas and North Carolina. Only a handful came from the first two states.

Her account of the troubles matches complaints logged in the Election Incident Reporting System, a tracking tool created by nonprofit groups. As the problems mounted, The Charlotte Observer reported that Durham’s e-poll book vendor was Florida-based VR Systems, which Ms. Greenhalgh knew from a CNN report had been hacked earlier by Russians. “Chills went through my spine,” she recalled.

The vendor does not make the touch-screen equipment used to cast or tally votes and does not manage county data. But without the information needed to verify voters’ identities and eligibility, which county officials load onto VR’s poll books, voters cannot cast ballots at all.

Details of the breach did not emerge until June, in a classified National Security Agency report leaked to The Intercept, a national security news site. That report found that hackers from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., had penetrated the company’s computer systems as early as August 2016, then sent “spear-phishing” emails from a fake VR Systems account to 122 state and local election jurisdictions. The emails sought to trick election officials into downloading malicious software to take over their computers.

The N.S.A. analysis did not say whether the hackers had sabotaged voter data. “It is unknown,” the agency concluded, whether Russian phishing “successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accessed.”

VR Systems’ chief operating officer, Ben Martin, said he did not believe Russian hackers were successful. He acknowledged that the vendor was a “juicy target,” given that its systems are used in battleground states including North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. But he said that the company blocked access from its systems to local databases, and employs security protocols to bar intruders and digital triggers that sound alerts if its software is manipulated.

On Election Day, as the e-poll book problems continued, Ms. Greenhalgh urged an Election Protection colleague in North Carolina to warn the state Board of Elections of a cyberattack and suggest that it call in the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security. In an email, she also warned a Homeland Security election specialist of the problems. Later, the specialist told her Durham County had rejected the agency’s help.

When Ms. Greenhalgh, who works at Verified Voting, a nonprofit dedicated to election integrity, followed up with the North Carolina colleague, he reported that state officials said they would not require federal help.

“He said: ‘The state does not view this as a problem. There’s nothing we can do, so we’ve moved on to other things,’” Ms. Greenhalgh recalled. “Meanwhile, I’m thinking, ‘What could be more important to move on to?’”

An Interference Campaign

The idea of subverting the American vote by hacking election systems is not new. In an assessment of Russian cyberattacks released in January, intelligence agencies said Kremlin spy services had been collecting information on election processes, technology and equipment in the United States since early 2014.

The Russians shied away from measures that might alter the “tallying” of votes, the report added, a conclusion drawn from American spying and intercepts of Russian officials’ communications and an analysis by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the current and former government officials.

The most obvious way to rig an election — controlling hundreds or thousands of decentralized voting machines — is also the most difficult. During a conference of computer hackers last month in Las Vegas, participants had direct access and quickly took over more than 30 voting machines. But remotely infiltrating machines of different makes and models and then covertly changing the vote count is far more challenging.

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Beginning in 2015, the American officials said, Russian hackers focused instead on other internet-accessible targets: computers at the Democratic National Committee, state and local voter databases, election websites, e-poll book vendors and other back-end election services.

Apart from the Russian influence campaign intended to undermine Mrs. Clinton and other Democratic officials, the impact of the quieter Russian hacking efforts at the state and county level has not been widely studied.

Federal officials have been so tight-lipped that not even many election officials in the 21 states the hackers assaulted know whether their systems were compromised, in part because they have not been granted security clearances to examine the classified evidence.

The January intelligence assessment implied that the Russian hackers had achieved broader access than has been assumed. Without elaborating, the report said the Russians had “obtained and maintained access to multiple U.S. state and local election boards.”

Two previously acknowledged strikes in June 2016 hint at Russian ambitions. In Arizona, Russian hackers successfully stole a username and password for an election official in Gila County. And in Illinois, Russian hackers inserted a malicious program into the Illinois State Board of Elections’ database. According to Ken Menzel, the board’s general counsel, the program tried unsuccessfully “to alter things other than voter data” — he declined to be more specific — and managed to illegally download registration files for 90,000 voters before being detected.

On Election Day last year, a number of counties reported problems similar to those in Durham. In North Carolina, e-poll book incidents occurred in the counties that are home to the state’s largest cities, including Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Charlotte. Three of Virginia’s most populous counties — Prince William, Loudoun, and Henrico — as well as Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta, and Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, also reported difficulties. All were attributed to software glitches.

Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, argued for more scrutiny of suspicious incidents. “We must harden our cyber defenses, and thoroughly educate the American public about the danger posed” by attacks,” he said in an email. “In other words: we are not making our elections any safer by withholding information about the scope and scale of the threat.

In Durham County, officials have rejected any notion that an intruder sought to alter the election outcome. “We do not believe, and evidence does not suggest, that hacking occurred on Election Day,” Derek Bowens, the election director, said in a recent email.

But last month, after inquiries from reporters and the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Durham county officials voted to turn over laptops and other devices to the board for further analysis. It was not clear which government agency or private forensics firm, would conduct the investigation.

Ms. Greenhalgh will be watching closely. “What people focus on is, ‘Did someone mess with the vote totals?’” she said. “What they don’t realize is that messing with the e-poll books to keep people from voting is just as effective.’”

Continue reading the main story

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Something smelled wrong about the election from the very start. In the weeks before the presidential balloting took place, millions of voters were bombarded with “fake news” about the candidates on Facebook and other social media sites. And when the vote tallies were announced, the nation was shocked by the results. There was scattered unrest, even violence — and loud whispers that the election had somehow been stolen. Some wondered about the role of Cambridge Analytica, the firm founded by a billionaire backer of Donald Trump.

Then, something remarkable — unprecedented, really — took place. The nation’s highest court decided to launch a thorough investigation of what really happened on Election Day. What the justices eventually uncovered was shocking — a scheme to change results from the actual polling places when they were tallied electronically. What happened next was perhaps more surprising: The Supreme Court justices ordered a new national election.

Yes, this scenario actually just played out.

In Kenya.

In America, there is a stubborn, almost inexplicable blindness about the myriad problems with our own 2016 election

— including the alarming possibility that at least some of those problems were the result of a now-pretty-well-documented effort by a foreign power, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to meddle in the selection of this nation’s 45th president. It’s getting harder and harder not to think

our nation’s top officials — not just President Trump and his aides who were the alleged beneficiaries of Russian meddling, but our intelligence agencies and even state and local officials — don’t really want to know whether Moscow’s interference was so great that it actually decided the race.

It’s as if they are terrified by what they might discover.

First, let’s review what we do know about Russia’s 2016 tampering, because that’s disturbing enough. We know that Trump officials eagerly met in June 2016 in Trump Tower with a cast of characters tied to Putin insiders and Russian intelligence who promised inside dirt on Hillary Clinton. A short time later, hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and a top Clinton aide went public on Wikileaks, at the same time Trump aides were keeping an anti-Putin plank out of the GOP convention platform and as Trump bizarrely made a public plea for Russia to find Clinton’s deleted emails (a cause also adopted by a GOP insider who claimed he was working for Trump, right before he committed suicide).

Then came an avalanche of fake news — much of it grown in Russian content farms — to convince blacks or young people in  key states such as Wisconsin to stay home or vote third party.

That’s bad, but it’s not as bad as what we don’t know: Whether Russia was able to hack into any state and local election systems in a way that might have changed the result — and thus throw the entire Nov. 8, 2016, result, with Trump’s narrow Electoral College win, into doubt. Although officials have slowly confirmed over the last 10 months that there’s evidence of Russian hackers trying to breach government election websites in nearly 40 states and actually gaining some access, at least in Illinois and Arizona, they’ve also assured us that a beefed-up effort by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence found zero evidence of Election Day hacking.

Now comes the New York Times to say: Don’t be so certain about that. In a blockbuster report that was inexplicably dropped on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the newspaper revealed a) in one of the key states that gave Trump the election — North Carolina — voters in heavily Democratic urban precincts faced unexplained computer glitches that in some cases prevented people from casting ballots, using an electronic system known to have been targeted by Russian hackers) no federal, state or local agency has really aggressively probed this possibility of Election Day hacking — despite mounting evidence that the attempted tampering was more widespread than first acknowledged.

The key takeaway:

After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists.

The Times article also raises the important possibility that Russian bad guys — or some other corrupt element — could have tampered with the U.S. presidential election in ways that no one has really focused on. A key point of the article involves problems on Election Day in 2016 with electronic poll books, the online system that officials at polling places use to determine who is eligible to vote and in what precinct.

Last Nov. 8, polling officials in Durham, N.C. — a town with a large college and non-white population that skews Democratic — found widespread problems with these records as voters showed up to cast their ballots. The problems were repeated in other localities in North Carolina and across the Sun Belt that had used electronic poll books run by software from VR Systems — a company that had been breached by Russian hackers months earlier.

The Times scoop makes the point that, while election watchers have looked for evidence that hackers stole the election by changing the actual votes that have been cast — and no hard evidence of that has been found — it was also possible to mess with the outcome by making sure that some votes in heavily Democratic wards were never cast at all. A recount is meaningless for votes that were prevented from happening in the first place. The even bigger problem, as noted by the Times, is that no one is looking too hard to see how often this happened, or why.

Something else here is important to note: American elections are easy to mess with because America’s election system is terrible — Russian hacking or no Russian hacking. Voters went to the polls in 2016 after years of efforts by mostly GOP-led state governments to make it hard for citizens — but especially non-white citizens, college students or the elderly — to cast ballots. Consider Wisconsin, the state where Trump pulled arguably his biggest upset, winning by only 22,748 votes. Critics have said Wisconsin’s turnout fell sharply because of its voter ID law (although maybe not by 200,000, as one study claimed.) Voters in the Badger State were also badgered with “fake news” — some of it undoubtedly from Russia. It’s hard to tell an array of innocent computer glitches and malfunctions from criminal hacking.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or political scientist to figure out what needs to be done.

In the long run, we need massive election reform — including a new and improved Voting Rights Act that would pinpoint the most pernicious voter ID laws, an Election Day federal holiday, and same-day voter registration. We need a voting system that leaves a real paper trail that can be routinely audited and easily investigated when there are allegations of vote tampering. And, as the Times article makes clear, we need a more thorough investigation of computer hacking and other problems that occurred in 2016 — regardless of the possibility that we might learn the unthinkable.

This isn’t the first time America was afraid of asking hard questions. Does anyone remember the Warren Commission? There’s no precedent for undoing an election result if an investigation uncovered proof of direct interference with the balloting, and so perhaps it’s not shocking that the political establishment isn’t eager to contemplate this. Personally, I think that Americans can handle the truth — and that a serious investigation is called for. But for right now, if you want a government that takes election tampering seriously, you may have to move to Kenya.

Published: | Updated:

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Donald Trump is officially under investigation for Russian financial scheme during election 

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If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve known all along that this would end up being inevitable. It was always a matter of time before the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian election collusion and the investigation into Donald Trump’s corrupt finances would become one and the same. Now that day has arrived: Trump is officially under investigation for financial dealings with Russia during the election.

That’s the word according to House Intelligence Committee Ranking member Adam Schiff, who appeared on CNN on Sunday. He officially confirmed that the committee is now investigating Donald Trump’s attempt at building a Trump Tower in Moscow during the election. He also confirmed that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen and Trump’s longtime business associate Felix Sater, who conspired to try to get the Kremlin itself to assist in the real estate deal, are targets in the investigation. But there’s more to this.

By now it’s become clear that the ongoing House and Senate committee investigations are working in lock step with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s own investigation. One of the committees brought in Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort for questioning, and after his testimony must have given something away, Mueller had the FBI bust down his door before the sun came up the next morning. There is no doubt that Mueller is now investigating the Trump Tower Moscow plot as well, and that he’ll proceed with the same level of aggression he’s displayed up to this point.

Furthermore, the upshot of the Trump Tower Moscow scandal is that Donald Trump has absolutely no deniability. Cohen has already confirmed that he discussed the deal with Trump three times during the election. It’s also been confirmed that Trump signed a letter of intent during the election to build it. Trump can’t pretend he somehow didn’t know what his aides were doing when they conspired with the Kremlin during the election.

The post Donald Trump is officially under investigation for Russian financial scheme during electionappeared first on Palmer Report.

In Defense of the Truth – New York Times

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New York Times
In Defense of the Truth
New York Times
Of the statements by Trump that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has checked, just 5 percent were deemed absolutely true. Another 26 percent were just “mostly true” or “half true.” But a whopping 69 percent were found to be “mostly false,” “false” or 

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Colombia’s FARC rebel group recast itself as a political party on Friday, pledging to fight for power with votes a leave behind a half-century war against the state.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has regularly lambasted the Israeli press, but a new disclosure related to an ongoing corruption probe shows the leader also worked hard to shape how the domestic media covers him.

In Moscow Tower Plan, Trump Paired With Developer for the Working Class

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Tropical Storm Lidia Reaches Baja Peninsula

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Tropical storm Lidia on Thursday reached Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, bringing heavy rain and strong winds to the tourism resort of Los Cabos.

U.S. to Hold Up Military Aid to Pakistan, Citing Terror Havens

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U.S. Orders Russia to Close Three Diplomatic Properties

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China Sets Date for Party Congress as Xi Looms Even Larger

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China’s Communist Party plans to hold its twice-a-decade congress in mid-October, setting the stage for President Xi Jinping to embark on a second term as the strongest Chinese leader in decades.

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U.S. Dispatches Stealth Jets, Bombers in Warning to North Korea

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The U.S. sent four of its most advanced fighter jets and a pair of B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula, alongside Japanese and South Korean jets, as a show of force in direct response to North Korea firing a missile over Japan.

Putin’s Hand Can Clearly Be Seen In the Chaos of a Destabilized West – Newsweek

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Newsweek
Putin’s Hand Can Clearly Be Seen In the Chaos of a Destabilized West
Newsweek
… policy of supporting the murderous Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. Among the later results of these trends, under Putin, were a dismembered Georgia, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and prolonged Russian aggression in the Donbas region of and more »

Putin’s Hand Can Clearly Be Seen In the Chaos of a Destabilized West

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What role is Russia playing in the difficulties the United States, Europe, and other countries are experiencing?

Does the Kremlin reject the existing world order and aspire to a new division of the world?

Did Moscow’s political kitchen deliberately help to concoct the loathsome dish of domestic and international terrorism, the tsunami of refugees, and political destabilization in many countries?

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There can be no simple and straightforward answers, but serious consideration of recent Russian history leads to distressing conclusions.

When the totalitarian USSR collapsed there was cause for hope. The germs of a multi-party, parliamentary system and free enterprise appeared, political and religious freedoms were guaranteed, censorship vanished, and the mass media were liberated. Soviet citizens were free to travel, and punitive psychiatry ended.

And then–recoil. In 1993 President Yeltsin dealt a crushing blow to the parliamentary system, killing several hundred people in the process. Russia practiced genocide against its own people in Chechnya. Political assassinations and the murder of journalists commenced.

Vladimir Putin at the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department (GRU) in Moscow, 08 November 2006. DMITRI ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty

The economic situation was no better. Even prior to the attempted coup by communist hardliners against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the KGB began transferring huge amounts of “party funds” to “trusted persons.,” thereby founding the fortunes of the first of Russia’s nouveaux riches. The most infamous cases followed in the mid-1990s.

The coup is said to have failed miserably. Not so. By then the USSR was falling apart. Key positions in the executive and legislative branches had already been seized by officials and agents of the special services, often working “under cover.” The same thing happened in the world of business.

Gorbachev in power ended the Cold War. Yet after the dissolution of the USSR, Russia began a gradual return to Cold War policies. Under the pretext of defending Russian compatriots abroad, the Kremlin interfered in the domestic politics of neighboring Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Moldova. It was suspected of involvement in the attempted assassination of Georgia’s president Eduard Shevardnadze.

Meanwhile, Russia pursued an anti-Western policy of supporting the murderous Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. Among the later results of these trends, under Putin, were a dismembered Georgia, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and prolonged Russian aggression in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Why were a number of terrorist acts in the West, such as the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, performed by visitors or emigrants from the former Soviet Union?

Did the emigrants, the brothers Tsarnaev, of Chechen nationality, responsible for the Boston attack, act on their own initiative? It seems most unlikely.

Russia must accept a share of responsibility for the Syrian civil war, the flood of refugees into Europe, the rightward drift of several European countries, the rising influence of ultra-right politicians, attempts to weaken the EU, and the U.K.’s Brexit decision.

What is going on between Russia and Donald Trump?

Is the president of the United States linked more closely to the Kremlin than any Western political figure should be?

That these questions command serious and prolonged attention in the United States puts Russia in a very poor light.

Why didn’t democracy take root in Russia? Why under Putin has the overwhelming majority of the population joyously welcomed the rebirth of authoritarianism, in a different flavor, of extreme corruption and misappropriation of state funds and natural resources?

The ultimate answer is that it is extremely dangerous when the secret police, with their nationalistic mentality, seize power in an enormous nuclear state, and when a former hunter of dissidents becomes president. Dangerous not only for Russia, but for the whole world.

When it became clear that Russia interfered in the internal affairs of the United States, in the presidential election, increasing numbers of Americans were persuaded of this truth.

Unfortunately, Russia has entered a path that leads nowhere. Power is unlimited; legislation is repressive; there has long been no real opposition. There is no coherent opposition program. The slogans “Russia without Putin,” and “Russia will be free,” are just words.

Putin cynically and regularly proclaims a struggle against the corruption that he himself sponsors.

What would Russia be without Putin? Putin himself is nothing. He is merely a facade concealing the special services and the oligarchs. They can easily replace him with another representative of the secret services.

Was Russia free under Dmitri Medvedev, president in 2008-2012? Of course not. He was a puppet of these very same forces.

Sometimes I am reproached for attributing to the Kremlin too much influence in the world. My response is that the Putin regime is so convinced of its own impunity that it indulges in actions that even communist leaders during the Cold War refrained from attempting.

Russia is at a dead end. It is vital that it not drag the rest of the world down the path it has taken.

It is our responsibility to make sure that does not happen.

Andrei A.Kovalev served as a diplomat and official in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) and then in similar capacities under presidents Yeltsin and Putin (1991-2007). He is author ofRussia’s Dead End: An Insider’s Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin (Potomac Books, University of Nebraska Press, 2017).

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Stephen Miller may be in the crosshairs of Mueller’s Russia probe

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Robert MuellerRobert Mueller. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

  • President Trump’s drafted letter laying out his reasons for firing FBI director James Comey could give the special counsel a direct window into the president’s intent when he later dismissed Comey.
  • The letter could also implicate top Trump aide, Stephen Miller, in Robert Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation. 
  • The advice that White House counsel Don McGahn gave Trump to dissuade him from sending the letter could also prove to be a critical piece of the puzzle.

News on Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained a letter drafted by President Donald Trump that details his reasons for firing then-FBI director James Comey has likely bolstered the progress of the Russia investigation, and may have landed another close Trump confidant in its crosshairs.

Mueller was put in charge of the investigation — which is examining whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during last year’s presidential election — after Trump dismissed Comey in May. As part of his investigation, Mueller is also examining whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired the FBI director four months ago.

The letter Mueller is reviewing was drafted by Trump along with policy adviser Stephen Miller, and legal experts say it is possibly the most critical piece of evidence in Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice case since Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, because it can give prosecutors a direct window into Trump’s thinking shortly before he fired Comey.

The biggest challenge a prosecutor faces in an obstruction-of-justice case is proving corrupt intent, which is almost always difficult to establish. But Trump’s letter could change the ballgame.

“The best way to prove someone’s intent is through their own words and actions,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told Business Insider in an interview Saturday. “Here, you have a letter that was written by Miller, at the direction of the president, that contains what the president’s thoughts were at that time.”

Though the letter’s full contents remain unclear, The Washington Post reported that it focused on what was perhaps Trump’s greatest frustration with Comey: that the FBI director did not publicly announce, when he was leading the bureau’s investigation, that Trump was not personally under investigation.

James ComeyFormer FBI Director James Comey Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“It’s problematic for Trump if he fired Comey because he did not take actions in the investigation that would benefit Trump personally,” Mariotti said. “That makes Mueller’s case stronger.”

Cornell Law School associate dean and criminal law expert Jens David Ohlin echoed that assessment.

“The draft letter is extremely relevant to Mueller’s investigation because it may yield evidence about the true reason that Trump fired Comey,” Ohlin said. “If Trump fired Comey to impede an investigation that might implicate his own campaign or administration, that is obstruction of justice.”

Trump put the letter together shortly after Comey’s May 3 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he defended his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. The president was reportedly incensed after Comey acknowledged that his October announcement that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton, days before the election, could have impacted its results.

Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, told Business Insider in an email Saturday that the letter has long been in Mueller’s possession and its existence was known both to the special counsel’s team, as well as to the Department of Justice, “which has had a copy since the day it was first discussed within the White House.” He added there was “little, IF ANY, objection within the White House” to the letter, and that it focused primarily on Comey’s “usurpation of powers and other erratic and inexplicable conduct.”

The long weekend during which Trump drafted the letter at his Bedminster golf club began on Thursday, May 4, The New York Times reported on Friday. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was given a copy of Trump’s draft letter on Monday, May 8, and then proceeded to write a separate memo as to why Comey should be fired.

stephen millerStephen Miller tapes Sunday show interviews from the White House. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The letter also implicates Miller, who The Post said acted as a “stenographer” for Trump in writing the letter.

Miller, an ally of the recently ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon, has emerged in recent months as a Trump loyalist within the administration.

Given his role in the matter, Miller will likely be, at the very least, a witness in Mueller’s investigation. Other possible witnesses include Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who were both with Trump at his Bedminster golf club when he drafted the letter during a weekend in early May.

If Miller acted primarily as a transcriber, he could have a smaller part in the investigation. However, “if he was actively working with the president to plan how they could derail or kill the Russia investigation,” Mariotti said, “that could present legal problems for Miller.”

Ohlin added that Miller and anyone else involved in Comey’s firing — or drafting the letter — may be accessories or co-conspirators to that crime as well.

The question then becomes, Mariotti added, “whether there was an agreement between Miller and the president to obstruct justice.” If that were the case, it could amount to conspiracy, he said.

Another way the adviser could be implicated in the investigation is if, for example, the president was acting in a way to obstruct justice, and Miller knew about that and tried to do what he could to help Trump succeed. If that were the case, Miller could have been aiding and abetting a crime. 

Mariotti said those two possibilities are likely the biggest potential sources of criminal liability for Miller.

The letter, as a whole, is a crucial part of the Russia controversy because it “goes directly to the biggest issue at question — what Trump’s intent was as to the Russia investigation,” Mariotti said.

Trump’s best defense would likely be that the draft letter did not reflect his true thinking on the subject, and that’s why never sent it, Ohlin said.

He added, however, that he didn’t believe the argument would hold much water because “it seems more likely that the draft letter reflected his true thinking, but then was edited down for other reasons.”

Though the White House initially said that Trump fired Comey based entirely on Rosenstein’s and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recommendations, Trump later said he had already decided to fire Comey, and that Rosenstein’s recommendation sealed the deal.

His explanation changed again later on, when he admitted to NBC News’ Lester Holt that he had fired Comey because of “this Russia thing,” and that he was going to dismiss the FBI director regardless of Rosenstein’s input.

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump looks at Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

And as far as that goes, White House counsel Don McGahn’s conversation with Trump when he advised him against sending the letter could be another key piece of the puzzle.

“We don’t know exactly what McGahn said, but the mere fact that he put a stop to that letter is another piece of evidence that Mueller could use to say, ‘Donald Trump was warned by the White House counsel that this was a problematic step and decided to do it anyway,'” Mariotti told Business Insider on Saturday morning, and later spoke about on Twitter.

The substance of what McGahn told Trump is important — and there’s no guarantee that it could be withheld as privileged information.

The reason is that a federal court of appeals ruled in 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey had to submit to the special prosecutor’s questions about President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky. In that case, the court held that there is no attorney-client privilege between a government lawyer and a government employee in response to a grand jury inquiry.

If that ruling holds as it relates to the obstruction-of-justice investigation, it’s possible the public will eventually hear what McGahn told the president. “If he said anything along the lines of, ‘There’s potential criminal liability if you shut down this investigation,’ that would be extraordinarily powerful evidence against Trump,” Mariotti said.

In that case, McGahn’s advice to Trump could possibly become as important as Trump’s state of mind when he crafted the letter.

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Standoff brews between Senate, FBI over Trump dossier

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Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, want to interview two high-ranking FBI officials about some key aspects of the bureau’s role in the Trump-Russia investigation — the Trump dossier, the firing of James Comey, and more. But the FBI doesn’t want those officials to talk — even though the Judiciary Committee has oversight responsibility for the FBI, and even though the request is bipartisan, and even though there appears to be no conflict with the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation conducted by special prosecutor James Mueller.

A standoff could be developing.

It began on July 11, when Grassley and Feinstein wrote letters to James Rybicki, who was Director Comey’s chief of staff, and Carl Ghattas, head of the bureau’s national security branch. “The committee is investigating the removal of FBI Director James Comey, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and allegations of improper interference in law enforcement investigations,” the chairman and ranking member wrote. “Please make yourself available for a transcribed interview during the week of July 24, 2017.”

It didn’t happen. On July 27, Samuel Ramer, the acting assistant attorney general, wrote to say that Rybicki and Ghattas would not be talking. Noting the Mueller investigation, Ramer said, “Under these circumstances and consistent with the department’s long-standing policy regarding the confidentiality and sensitivity of information relating to pending matters, the department cannot make Mr. Ghattas or Mr. Rybicki available for transcribed interviews at this time.”

Grassley and Feinstein did not agree. They knew that committee staff, Republican and Democrat, had had so-called “de-confliction” discussions with Mueller’s office on how the Senate investigation might proceed without interfering with Mueller’s criminal probe. And they didn’t see a conflict. So on August 25, Grassley and Feinstein wrote another letter, this time to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“The department declined to make Mr. Ghattas and Mr. Rybicki available for interviews because of pending matters and their current work on those matters with Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote. “However, in our de-confliction discussions with the Special Counsel’s office, we have clarified that the committee intends to limit the scope of the interviews to avoid that concern. There is no intent to seek information about these witnesses’ current work with the Special Counsel’s office. Rather, we seek their independent recollections, as fact witnesses, of events that occurred before and including Director Comey’s removal.”

The two lawmakers asked the Justice Department to get in touch by September 1 to schedule the interviews. “We appreciate and expect the department’s voluntary cooperation with this important request,” they wrote.

Including the words “expect” and “voluntary” was notable, because it essentially meant, “Don’t make us force you.” If they are united, the chair and the ranking minority of a Senate committee can make a lot of trouble for an agency under their oversight. Grassley and Feinstein, veterans of many years in the Senate, know that very well.

The Justice Department does, too. But September 1 came and went with no department effort to set up the interviews.

Now, it is not clear what is next. Grassley and Feinstein appear to be determined to talk to Rybicki and Ghattas. It is obvious that both men know a lot about what went on in the FBI in the last couple of years. As far as the Trump dossier specifically is concerned, they could be able to shed light on the FBI’s reported decision in October 2016 to support work on the dossier, which at the time was an anti-Trump opposition research project funded by Clinton donors. Grassley has said that decision “raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics.” There’s no doubt he wants to learn more about it.

Finally, sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the name of James Rybicki in the news in the last few days. He was one of the FBI officials cited in a letter from Grassley and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham suggesting that Comey may have decided to exonerate Hillary Clinton in the email investigation before Clinton and more than a dozen other witnesses were even interviewed. The senators based the charge on Rybicki’s interview with the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel. (They took care to note that, despite the name, the Office of Special Counsel is completely separate from and not related to the Robert Mueller investigation.) Rybicki, as Comey’s chief of staff, obviously knew a lot about the email investigation.

Now Grassley and Feinstein want to know what Rybicki, as well as Ghattas, knows about the dossier, the Comey firing, and other events that make up the broadest definition of the Trump-Russia affair. But first, they’ll have to get past the Justice Department’s determination to keep things secret.

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Time for a Full Investigation… of the FBI

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What happens to a country whose most important police force — and its key investigators — is no longer telling the truth to the citizens of that nation? Nothing good, I’m sure most would agree.  There’s almost no point in going through all the analogies to despotic regimes. Writers from George Orwell to Arthur Koestler have already done it for us.

But those analogies come immediately to mind following two revelations regarding our Federal Bureau of Investigation that surfaced this week. In one instance, the FBI refused to turn over documents regarding the Hillary Clinton emails because of — wait for it — “lack of public interest.”

The head of the FBI Records Management Division wrote Ty Clevenger, a New York Attorney who filed the FOIA request in March 2016, to inform him that his request was being denied in late August.“You have not sufficiently demonstrated that the public’s interest in disclosure outweighs personal privacy interests of the subject,” the letter, obtained by Fox News, reads. “Therefore, records regarding your subject are withheld pursuant to FOIA exemptions.”

It’s hard to imagine what was going on in the mind of Records Management Division head David M. Hardy when he wrote — or was forced to write by some unknown superior — such a risible lie, but things have only gotten worse from there.  Now we learn that then FBI director James Comey may never have planned to find Clinton guilty in the first place.

While the transcripts of those interviews are heavily redacted, they indicate that Comey started working on an announcement clearing Clinton in April or May of last year, before the FBI interviewed 17 witnesses in the case, including Clinton and some of her top aides.Clinton was interviewed for several hours on July 2, just three days before Comey’s announcement.

Defenders of Comey insist this early draft exonerating Clinton is standard FBI practice, but, not surprisingly, none of them mention that a similar draft deeming Clinton culpable has not surfaced.  One doubts it exists.

To millions of Americans, Hillary Clinton was as guilty as O.J. Simpson.  You would have to be an imbecile not to think she didn’t know she was doing something illegal secreting her professional emails as secretary of State on a private server hidden in a bathroom. And yet James Comey’s ultimate decision on Clinton depended on her putative ignorance after literally decades of government service.

No wonder he vacillated so many times in his statements and actions.  Only someone completely without conscience wouldn’t have.  And  Comey should have a guilty conscience because it is now becoming increasingly clear he was looking for way to exonerate Clinton virtually no matter what. The famous Bill-Loretta tarmac meeting was an unnecessary embarrassment, as was Lynch instructing Comey to call the investigation a “matter.”  This was ultimately, as the Italian film goes, “The Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion.”  That is why she was never interviewed under oath and so many of her subalterns were let off free or allowed to destroy records and negotiate the most outlandish requests that neutered the inquiry. That is why we have never seen the tens of thousands of erased and supposedly missing emails.

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