“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 to blame you. It is always easier to see things in a hindsight. Whatever happenned, already happenned. Now the task is to sort things out accurately, to try to understand them correctly, and to return to normalcy, whatever it is. 

One thing that I do not understand is , why Mr. Comey did not report to Mr. Clapper about the Trump Investigation in July of 2016, when it, presumably, started. Even if it was in its initial stages, the importance and significance of this development was so overwhelming, that I do not see how Mr. Clapper could not be informed about it. There is a feeling, that there might be more there than meets the eye. It might be helpful to look into this circumstance in its entirety, and to try to dig the details out. 

____________________________________

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 

Clapper: Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt’ on Trump’s victory

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James Clapper intelligence NSAJames Clapper. AP

  • The former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said an assessment by the US intelligence community on Russia’s US election interference “cast doubt” on President Donald Trump’s legitimacy.
  • Clapper’s comments follow an avalanche of recent news about Russia’s efforts to sway American voters in 2016.
  • The Russia investigation has gained significant momentum in recent weeks, with several current and former Trump insiders under scrutiny for their ties to, and contacts with Russian operatives.

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said Friday that the US intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election “cast doubt on the legitimacy” of President Donald Trump’s victory.

“Our intelligence community assessment did serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election,” Clapper said of Trump in a CNN interview Friday evening.

“I think that, above all else, is what concerned him, and I think that transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in our political process which, by the way, is going to continue,” Clapper said.

Watch the segment below:

It was the most direct assertion about the effects Russian operatives had in the US election — the investigation of which has evolved exponentially in the last four months under special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia probe on behalf of the US Justice Department.

Mueller and his investigators have focused on several people close to Trump who have ties to, or have made contact with, the Kremlin — including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and others. Information gleaned from US government surveillance of Manafort prompted concerns that he had encouraged Russians to “help with the campaign,” according to a CNN report on Monday.

Paul ManafortPaul Manafort. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Kremlin operatives reportedly bragged about trying to use people close to Trump — like Flynn, Manafort, and former foreign-policy adviser Carter Page — to make inroads with the campaign.

And Donald Trump Jr. became the subject of heavy scrutiny in July when it was discovered that he, along with Manafort and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner attended a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who promised to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Russia’s efforts to sway the US election were further revealed this month when Facebook announced that Russian-associated Facebook accounts had purchased $100,000 in ads during the election. The ads were used to target voters in some battleground states.

Donald TrumpDonald Trump. Alex Wong/Getty Images

A soft spot for Trump

Clapper’s assertion that Russia’s activities cast doubt on Trump’s legitimacy will likely strike a nerve with the president. Aides and allies have said previously that Trump’s ire toward the Russia investigation stems from that exact notion that Russia’s meddling potentially diminishes his November 2016 victory.

Trump himself is a subject of Mueller’s investigation for possible obstruction of justice, for his part in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Trump has said that he had the Russia probe in mind when he made his decision, and later said that firing Comey took “great pressure” off of him in the investigation.

To date, neither Trump nor anyone subject to Mueller’s investigation has been accused of any wrongdoing, and Trump has denied the same.

Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton. Screenshot via CNN

For her part, Clinton has made crystal clear whom she blames for Russia’s interference.

In an interview with USA Today published Monday, Clinton said she thought some Trump associates had an “understanding” that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted her to lose and Trump to win.

“There certainly was communication, and there certainly was an understanding of some sort,” Clinton said.

“And there’s no doubt in my mind that there are a tangle of financial relationships between Trump and his operation with Russian money,” Clinton said, adding that she was confident the Trump campaign “worked really hard to hide their connections with Russians.”

The federal government told election officials in 21 states on Friday that hackers had tried to break into their systems before the 2016 election, The Associated Press reported.

Key battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were among those targeted, the report said. The AP said the government did not specify who the hackers were, but election officials in several affected states told the news wire service that the attempts were linked to Russia.

Read the whole story
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JAMES CLAPPER: US intelligence assessment of Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of … – Business Insider

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Business Insider
JAMES CLAPPER: US intelligence assessment of Russia’s election interference ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of …
Business Insider
… intelligence community on Russia’s US election interference “cast doubt” on President Donald Trump’s legitimacy. Clapper’s comments follow an avalanche of recent news about Russia’s efforts to sway American voters in 2016. The Russia investigation and more »

Trump Doubles Down On Criticism of Kim Jong Un During Alabama Rally

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The newest attack was just the latest in a back and forth feud between the president and the North Korean leader.

Senate has obtained Donald Trump’s Russian money laundering records 

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In addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s far reaching investigation into all of Donald Trump’s various past and present criminal activities, a number of congressional committees are also investigating various aspects of Trump’s connections to Russia. Just before Trump entered the election, his Taj Mahal casino paid a multimillion dollar fine for money laundering violations. Now we have confirmation that one Senate committee has in fact obtained those damning records.

On behalf of the Senate Finance Committee, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden requested the money laundering records from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which levied the penalty against Trump’s casino in the first place. According to CNN, FinCEN’s response to Wyden is that it has already provided the records to the Senate Intelligence Committee (link). This is crucial because it gives us a definitive answer after a prolonged battle between Senate Intel and Trump’s Treasury Department.

What this means is that the Senate, or at least the Senate Intel Committee, now has access to the confidential records which provide the details of Trump’s casino’s money laundering bust. Thus far the only publicly available information regarding that bust is largely limited to what was contained in FinCEN’s original press release (link), which is that the violations went back several years to when Donald Trump still had a significant ownership stake in the Taj Mahal. No mention was made of whowas laundering money in Trump’s casino. Was this how the Russians were funneling money into Trump’s hands ahead of the election?

This comes even as Special Counsel Robert Mueller is knee deep into his own investigation into Donald Trump’s various criminal activities past and present. Considering that Mueller has added multiple prosecutors to his team with expertise in money laundering, it seems nearly a given that he’s also aggressively pursuing Trump’s financial crimes.

The post Senate has obtained Donald Trump’s Russian money laundering records appeared first on Palmer Report.

US States Say Voting Systems Were Targeted By Russian Hackers – RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

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RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
US States Say Voting Systems Were Targeted By Russian Hackers
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
… battleground states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Colorado, and Minnesota, where Democraticcandidate Hillary Clinton lost in some cases by only a few thousand votes to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, were among those that blamed Russian hackers.
Trump calls Facebook ad controversy part of ‘Russia hoax’ as he says ‘screaming’ biased media tried to tilt election …Daily Mail
Russian hackers targeted Florida, 20 other states in 2016 electionThe Sun Heraldall 171 news articles »

Renowned psychiatrist warns Americans: You have a duty to call out Trump as danger to others

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Renowned psychiatrist warns Americans: You have a duty to call out Trump as danger to others

There will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial thanThe Dangerous Case of Donald Trumpthe work of 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts to assess President Trump’s mental health. They had come together last March at a conference at Yale University to wrestle with two questions. One was on countless minds across the country: “What’s wrong with him?” The second was directed to their own code of ethics: “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn” if they conclude the president to be dangerously unfit?

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As mental health professionals, these men and women respect the long-standing “Goldwater rule” which inhibits them from diagnosing public figures whom they have not personally examined. At the same time, as explained by Dr. Bandy X Lee, who teaches law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, the rule does not have a countervailing rule that directs what to do when the risk of harm from remaining silent outweighs the damage that could result from speaking about a public figure — “which in this case, could even be the greatest possible harm.” It is an old and difficult moral issue that requires a great exertion of conscience. Their decision: “We respect the rule, we deem it subordinate to the single most important principle that guides our professional conduct: that we hold our responsibility to human life and well-being as paramount.”

Hence, this profound, illuminating and discomforting book undertaken as “a duty to warn.”

The foreword is by one of America’s leading psychohistorians, Robert Jay Lifton. He is renowned for his studies of people under stress — for books such as Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1967), Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans — Neither Victims nor Executioners (1973), and The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide(1986). The Nazi Doctors was the first in-depth study of how medical professionals rationalized their participation in the Holocaust, from the early stages of the Hitler’s euthanasia project to extermination camps.

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump will be published Oct. 3 by St. Martin’s Press.

Here is my interview with Robert Jay Lifton — Bill Moyers


Bill Moyers: This book is a withering exploration of Donald Trump’s mental state. Aren’t you and the 26 other mental health experts who contribute to it in effect violating the Goldwater Rule? Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatrist Association’s code of ethics flatly says: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on a public figure] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization.” Are you putting your profession’s reputation at risk?

Robert Jay Lifton: I don’t think so. I think the Goldwater Rule is a little ambiguous. We adhere to that portion of the Goldwater Rule that says we don’t see ourselves as making a definitive diagnosis in a formal way and we don’t believe that should be done, except by hands-on interviewing and studying of a person. But we take issue with the idea that therefore we can say nothing about Trump or any other public figure. We have a perfect right to offer our opinion, and that’s where “duty to warn” comes in.

Moyers: Duty to warn?

Lifton: We have a duty to warn on an individual basis if we are treating someone who may be dangerous to herself or to others — a duty to warn people who are in danger from that person. We feel it’s our duty to warn the country about the danger of this president. If we think we have learned something about Donald Trump and his psychology that is dangerous to the country, yes, we have an obligation to say so. That’s why Judith Herman and I wrote our letter to The New York Times. We argue that Trump’s difficult relationship to reality and his inability to respond in an evenhanded way to a crisis renders him unfit to be president, and we asked our elected representative to take steps to remove him from the presidency.

Moyers: Yet some people argue that our political system sets no intellectual or cognitive standards for being president, and therefore, the ordinary norms of your practice as a psychiatrist should stop at the door to the Oval Office.

Lifton: Well, there are people who believe that there should be a standard psychiatric examination for every presidential candidate and for every president. But these are difficult issues because they can’t ever be entirely psychiatric. They’re inevitably political as well. I personally believe that ultimately ridding the country of a dangerous president or one who’s unfit is ultimately a political matter, but that psychological professionals can contribute in valuable ways to that decision.

Moyers: Do you recall that there was a comprehensive study of all 37 presidents up to 1974? Half of them reportedly had a diagnosable mental illness, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It’s not normal people who always make it to the White House.

Lifton: Yes, that’s amazing, and I’m sure it’s more or less true. So people with what we call mental illness can indeed serve well, and people who have no discernible mental illness — and that may be true of Trump — may not be able to serve, may be quite unfit. So it isn’t always the question of a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s really a question of what psychological and other traits render one unfit or dangerous.

Moyers: You write in the foreword of the book: “Because Trump is president and operates within the broad contours and interactions of the presidency, there is a tendency to view what he does as simply part of our democratic process, that is, as politically and even ethically normal.”

Lifton: Yes. And that’s what I call malignant normality. What we put forward as self-evident and normal may be deeply dangerous and destructive. I came to that idea in my work on the psychology of Nazi doctors — and I’m not equating anybody with Nazi doctors, but it’s the principle that prevails — and also with American psychologists who became architects of CIA torture during the Iraq War era. These are forms of malignant normality. For example, Donald Trump lies repeatedly. We may come to see a president as liar as normal. He also makes bombastic statements about nuclear weapons, for instance, which can then be seen as somehow normal. In other words, his behavior as president, with all those who defend his behavior in the administration, becomes a norm. We have to contest it, because it is malignantnormality. For the contributors to this book, this means striving to be witnessing professionals, confronting the malignancy and making it known.

Moyers: Witnessing professionals? Where did this notion come from?

Lifton: I first came to it in terms of psychiatrists assigned to Vietnam, way back then. If a soldier became anxious and enraged about the immorality of the Vietnam War, he might be sent to a psychiatrist who would be expected to help him be strong enough to return to committing atrocities. So there was something wrong in what professionals were doing, and some of us had to try to expose this as the wrong and manipulative use of our profession. We had to see ourselves as witnessing professionals. And then of course, with the Nazi doctors I studied for another book — doctors assigned, say, to Auschwitz — they were expected to do selections of Jews for the gas chamber. That was what was expected of them and what for the most part they did — sometimes with some apprehension, but they did it. So that’s another malignant normality. Professionals were reduced to being automatic servants of the existing regime as opposed to people with special knowledge balanced by a moral baseline as well as the scientific information to make judgments.

Moyers: And that should apply to journalists, lawyers, doctors —

Professor Robert Jay Lifton, photographed at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rick Friedman ©2003)

Lifton: Absolutely. One bears witness by taking in the situation — in this case, its malignant nature — and then telling one’s story about it, in this case with the help of professional knowledge, so that we add perspective on what’s wrong, rather than being servants of the powers responsible for the malignant normality. We must be people with a conscience in a very fundamental way.

Moyers: And this is what troubled you and many of your colleagues about the psychologists who helped implement the US policy of torture after 9/11.

Lifton: Absolutely. And I call that a scandal within a scandal, because yes, it was indeed professionals who became architects of torture, and their professional society, the American Psychological Association, which encouraged and protected them until finally protest from within that society by other members forced a change. So that was a dreadful moment in the history of psychology and in the history of professionals in this country.

Moyers: Some of the descriptions used to describe Trump — narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, malignant narcissist — even some have suggested early forms of dementia — are difficult for lay people to grasp. Some experts say that it’s not one thing that’s wrong with him — there are a lot of things wrong with him and together they add up to what one of your colleagues calls “a scary witches brew, a toxic stew.”

Lifton: I think that’s very accurate. I agree that there’s an all-enveloping destructiveness in his character and in his psychological tendencies. But I’ve focused on what professionally I call solipsistic reality. Solipsistic reality means that the only reality he’s capable of embracing has to do with his own self and the perception by and protection of his own self. And for a president to be so bound in this isolated solipsistic reality could not be more dangerous for the country and for the world. In that sense, he does what psychotics do. Psychotics engage in, or frequently engage in a view of reality based only on the self. He’s not psychotic, but I think ultimately this solipsistic reality will be the source of his removal from the presidency.

Moyers: What’s your take on how he makes increasingly bizarre statements that are contradicted by irrefutable evidence to the contrary, and yet he just keeps on making them? I know some people in your field call this a delusional disorder, a profound loss of contact with external reality.

Lifton: He doesn’t have clear contact with reality, though I’m not sure it qualifies as a bona fide delusion. He needs things to be a certain way even though they aren’t, and that’s one reason he lies. There can also be a conscious manipulative element to it. When he put forward, and politically thrived on, the falsehood of President Obama’s birth in Kenya, outside the United States, he was manipulating that lie as well as undoubtedly believing it in part, at least in a segment of his personality. In my investigations, I’ve found that people can believe and not believe something at the same time, and in his case, he could be very manipulative and be quite gifted at his manipulations. So I think it’s a combination of those.

Moyers: How can someone believe and not believe at the same time?

Lifton: Well, in one part of himself, Trump can know there’s no evidence that Obama was born in any place but Hawaii in the United States. But in another part of himself, he has the need to reject Obama as a president of the United States by asserting that he was born outside of the country. He needs to delegitimate Obama. That’s been a strong need of Trump’s. This is a personal, isolated solipsistic need which can coexist with a recognition that there’s no evidence at all to back it up. I learned about this from some of the false confessions I came upon in my work.

Moyers: Where?

Lifton: For instance, when I was studying Chinese communist thought reform, one priest was falsely accused of being a spy, and was under physical duress — really tortured with chains and in other intolerable ways. As he was tortured and the interrogator kept insisting that he was a spy, he began to imagine himself in the role of a spy, with spy radios in all the houses of his order. In his conversations with other missionaries he began to think he was revealing military data to the enemy in some way. These thoughts became real to him because he had to entered into them and convinced the interrogator that he believed them in order to remove the chains and the torture. He told me it seemed like someone creating a novel and the novelist building a story with characters which become real and believable. Something like that could happen to Trump, in which the false beliefs become part of a panorama, all of which is fantasy and very often bound up with conspiracy theory, so that he immerses himself in it and believing in it even as at the same time recognizing in another part of his mind that none of this exists. The human mind can do that.

Moyers: It’s as if he believes the truth is defined by his words.

Lifton: Yes, that’s right. Trump has a mind that in many ways is always under duress, because he’s always seeking to be accepted, loved. He sees himself as constantly victimized by others and by the society, from which he sees himself as fighting back. So there’s always an intensity to his destructive behavior that could contribute to his false beliefs.

Moyers: Do you remember when he tweeted that President Obama had him wiretapped, despite the fact that the intelligence community couldn’t find any evidence to support his claim? And when he spoke to a CIA gathering, with the television cameras running, he said he was “a thousand percent behind the CIA,” despite the fact that everyone watching had to know he had repeatedly denounced the “incompetence and dishonesty” of that same intelligence community.

Lifton: Yes, that’s an extraordinary situation. And one has to invoke here this notion of a self-determined truth, this inner need for the situation to take shape in the form that the falsehood claims. In a sense this takes precedence over any other criteria for what is true.

Moyers: What other hazardous patterns do you see in his behavior? For example, what do you make of the admiration that he has expressed for brutal dictators — Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq, even Kim Jong Un of North Korea — yes, him — and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who turned vigilantes loose to kill thousands of drug users, and of course his admiration for Vladimir Putin. In the book Michael Tansey says, “There’s considerable evidence to suggest that absolute tyranny is Donald Trump’s wet dream.”

Lifton: Yes. Well, while Trump doesn’t have any systematic ideology, he does have a narrative, and in that narrative, America was once a great country, it’s been weakened by poor leadership, and only he can make it great again by taking over. And that’s an image of himself as a strongman, a dictator. It isn’t the clear ideology of being a fascist or some other clear-cut ideological figure. Rather, it’s a narrative of himself as being unique and all-powerful. He believes it, though I’m sure he’s got doubts about it. But his narrative in a sense calls forth other strongmen, other dictators who run their country in an absolute way and don’t have to bother with legislative division or legal issues.

Moyers: I suspect some elected officials sometimes dream of doing what an unopposed autocrat or strongman is able to do, and that’s demand adulation on the one hand, and on the other hand, eradicate all of your perceived enemies just by turning your thumb down to the crowd. No need to worry about “fake media” — you’ve had them done away with. No protesters. No confounding lawsuits against you. Nothing stands in your way.

Lifton: That’s exactly right. Trump gives the impression that he would like to govern by decree. And of course, who governs by decree but dictators or strongmen? He has that impulse in him and he wants to be a savior, so he says, in his famous phrase, “Only I can fix it!” That’s a strange and weird statement for anybody to make, but it’s central to Trump’s sense of self and self-presentation. And I think that has a lot to do with his identification with dictators. No matter how many they kill and no matter what else they do, they have this capacity to rule by decree without any interference by legislators or courts.

In the case of Putin, I think Trump does have involvements in Russia that are in some way determinative. I think they’ll be important in his removal from office. I think he’s aware of collusion on his part and his campaign’s, some of which has been brought out, a lot more of which will be brought out in the future. He appears to have had some kind of involvement with the Russians in which they’ve rescued him financially and maybe continue to do so, so that he’s beholden to them in ways for which there’s already lots of evidence. So I think his fierce impulse to cover up any kind of Russian connections, which is prone to obstruction of justice, will do him in.

Moyers: I want to ask you about another side of him that is taken up in the book. It involves the much-discussed video that appeared during the campaign last year which had been made a decade or so ago when Trump was newly married. He sees this actress outside his bus and he says, “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” and then we hear sounds of Tic Tacs before Trump continues. “You know,” he says, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet, just kiss, I don’t even wait.” And then you can hear him boasting off camera, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, grab them by the…. You can do anything.”

Lifton: In addition to being a strongman and a dictator, there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs in his own mind, he can have. It’s a kind of American celebrity gone wild, but it’s also a vicious anti-female perspective and a caricature of male macho. That’s all present in Trump as well as the solipsism that I mentioned earlier, and that’s why when people speak of him as all-pervasive on many different levels of destructiveness, they’re absolutely right.

Moyers: And it seems to extend deeply into his relationship with his own family. There’s a chapter in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump with the heading, “Trump’s Daddy Issues.” There’s several of his quotes about his daughter, Ivanka. He said, “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody, and I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall. She’s got the best body.”

Again: “I said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Ivanka was 22 at the time. To a reporter he said: “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married — and, you know, her father…”

When Howard Stern, the radio host, started to say, “By the way, your daughter —” Trump interrupted him with “She’s beautiful.” Stern continued, “Can I say this? A piece of ass.” To which Trump replied, “Yeah.” What’s going on here?

Lifton: In addition to everything else and the extreme narcissism that it represents, it’s a kind of unbridled sense of saying anything on one’s mind as well as an impulse to break down all norms because he is the untouchable celebrity. So just as he is the one man who can fix things for the country, he can have every woman or anything else that he wants, or abuse them in any way he seeks to.

Moyers: You mentioned extreme narcissism. I’m sure you knew Erich Fromm —

Lifton: Yes, I did.

Moyers: — one of the founders of humanistic psychology. He was a Holocaust survivor who had a lifelong obsession with the psychology of evil. And he said that he thought “malignant narcissism” was the most severe pathology — “the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.” Do you think malignant narcissism goes a long way to explain Trump?

Lifton: I do think it goes a long way. In early psychoanalytic thought, narcissism was — and still, of course, is — self-love. The early psychoanalysts used to talk of libido directed at the self. That now feels a little quaint, that kind of language. But it does include the most fierce and self-displaying form of one’s individual self. And in this way, it can be dangerous. When you look at Trump, you can really see someone who’s destructive to any form of life enhancement in virtually every area. And if that’s what Fromm means by malignant narcissism, then it definitely applies.

Moyers: You said earlier that Trump and his administration have brought about a kind of malignant normalcy — that a dangerous president can become normalized. When the Democrats make a deal with him, as they did recently, are they edging him a little closer to being accepted despite this record of bizarre behavior?

Lifton: We are normalizing him when the Democrats make a deal with him. But there’s a profound ethical issue here and it’s not easily answered. If something is good for the country — perhaps the deal that the Democrats are making with Donald Trump is seen or could be understood by most as good for the country, dealing with the debt crisis — is that worth doing even though it normalizes him? If the Democrats do go ahead with this deal, they should take steps to make clear that they’re opposing other aspects of his presidency and of him.

Moyers: There’s a chapter in the book entitled, “He’s Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger.” Do you ever imagine him sitting alone in his office, deciding on a potentially catastrophic course of action for the nation? Say, with five minutes to decide whether or not to unleash thermonuclear weapons?

Lifton: I do. And like many, I’m deeply frightened by that possibility. It’s said very often that, OK, there are people around him who can contain him and restrain him. I’m not so sure they always can or would. In any case, it’s not unlikely that he could seek to create some kind of crisis, if he found himself in a very bad light in relation to public opinion and close to removal from office. So yes, I share that fear and I think it’s a real danger. I think we have to constantly keep it in mind, be ready to anticipate it and take whatever action we can against it. The American president has particular power. This makes Trump the most dangerous man in the world. He’s equally dangerous because of his finger on the nuclear trigger and because of his mind ensconced in solipsistic reality. The two are a dreadful combination.

Moyers: One of your colleagues writes in the book, “Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.” Does that sound like Trump?

Lifton: It’s already happening. We see that it’s harder and harder to work for him. It’s hard enough even for his spokesperson to affirm his falsehoods. These efforts are not too convincing and they become less convincing from the radius outward, in which people removed from his immediate circle find it still more difficult to believe him and the American public finds it more difficult. He still can appeal to his base because in his base there is a narrative of grievance that centers on embracing Trump without caring too much about whether what he says is true or false. He somehow fits into their narrative. But that can’t go on forever, and he’s losing some of his formerly loyal supporters as well. So he is becoming more isolated. That has its own dangers, but it’s inevitable that it would happen with a man like this as his falsehoods are contested.

Moyers: You bring up his base. Those true believers aren’t the only ones who voted for him. As we are talking, I keep thinking: Here we have a man who kept asking what’s the point of having thermonuclear weapons if we cannot use them; who advocates using torture or worse against our prisoners of war; who urged that five innocent young people here in New York, black young people, be given the death penalty for a sexual assault, even after it was proven someone else had committed the crime; who boasted about his ability to get away with sexually assaulting women because of his celebrity and power; who urged his followers at political rallies to punch protesters in the face and beat them so badly that they have to be taken out on stretchers; who suggested that maybe some of his followers might want to assassinate his political rival, Hillary Clinton, if she were elected president, or at the very least, throw her in prison; who believes he would not lose voters if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone. And over 63 million people voted to elect that man president!

Lifton: Yes, that’s a deeply troubling truth. And I doubt the people who voted for him were thinking about any of these things. What they were really responding to was a call for change, a sense that he was connecting with them in ways that others never had, that he would express and represent their interests, and that he would indeed make this country one dominated again by white people, in some cases white supremacists. But as you say, these people who embraced that narrative unquestioningly are a lesser minority than the ones who voted for him. And of course, he still didn’t win the popular vote. But it’s true — something has gone wrong with our democratic system in electing a man with all these characteristics that make up Donald Trump. Now we have to struggle to sustain the functional institutions of our democracy against his assault on them. I don’t think he’ll succeed in breaking them down, but he’s doing a lot of harm and it’ll take a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people to sustain them and to keep the democracy going, even in its faltering way.

Moyers: He still has the support of 80 percent of Republican voters — 4 out of 5. And it seems the Republican Party will tolerate him as long as they’re afraid of the intensity of his followers.

Lifton: Yes, and that’s another very disturbing thought. Things there could change quickly too. What I sense is that the whole situation is chaotic and volatile, so that any time now there could be further pronouncements, further information about Russia and about obstruction of justice, or another attempt of Trump to start firing people, including Mueller, and that this would create a constitutional crisis which would create more pressure on Republicans and everybody else. So even though that is an awful truth about the Republicans’ hypocrisy in continuing to support him, that could change, I think, almost overnight if the new information were sufficiently damning to Trump and his administration.

Moyers: Let’s talk about the “Trump Effect” on the country. One aspect of it was the increase in bullying in schools caused by the rhetoric used by Trump during the campaign. But it goes beyond that.

Lifton: I think Trump has had a very strong and disturbing effect on the country already. He has given more legitimacy to white supremacy and even to neo-fascist groups, and he’s created a pervasive atmosphere that’s more vague but still significant. I don’t believe that he can in his own way destroy the country, just as he can’t eliminate climate awareness, but he can go a long way in bringing — well, in stimulating what has always been a potential.

You mentioned Erich Fromm. I met him through [the sociologist] David Riesman. David Riesman was a close friend, a great authority on American society. He emphasized how there’s always an underbelly in American society of extreme conservatism and reactionary response, and when there’s any kind of progressive movement, there’s likely to be a backlash of reaction to it. Trump is very much in that backlash to any kind of progressive achievement or even decent situation in society. He is stimulating feelings that are potential and latent in our society, but very real, and rendering them more active and more dangerous. And in that way, he’s having a very harmful effect that I think mounts every single day.

Moyers: Some people who have known Trump for years say he’s gotten dramatically worse since he was inaugurated. In the prologue to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Dr. Judith Lewis Herman writes this: “Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur.” Does that —

Lifton: That’s absolutely true. It’s absolutely true. And for anyone with these traits — of feeling himself victimized, of seeking to be the strongman who resolves everything, yet sees truth only through his own self and negates all other truth outside of it — is bound to become much more malignant when he has power. That’s what Judith Herman is saying, and she’s absolutely right. Power then breeds an intensification of all this because the power can never be absolute power — to some extent it’s stymied — but the isolation while in power becomes even more dangerous. Think of it as a vicious circle. The power intensifies these tendencies and the tendencies become more dangerous because of the power.

Moyers: But suppose that if Donald Trump is crazy, as some have said, he’s crazy like a fox, which is to say all this bizarre behavior is really clever strategy to mislead, distract and deceive others into responding in precisely the manner that he wants them to.

Lifton: I don’t think that’s quite true. I think that it’s partly true. As I said before, Trump both disbelieves and believes in falsehoods, so that when he did thrive on his longstanding and perhaps most egregious falsehood — the claim that Obama was not born in the United States — he’s crazy like a fox in manipulating it because it gave him his political entrée onto the national stage — and also, incidentally, was not rejected by many leading Republicans. So he was crazy like a fox in that case. But it’s more extreme even than that. In order to make your falsehoods powerful, you have to believe in them in some extent. And that’s why we simplify things if we say that Trump either believes nothing in his falsehoods and is just manipulating us like a fox or he completely believes them. Neither is true. The combination of both and his talent as a manipulator and falsifier are very much at issue.

Moyers: You may not remember it, but you and I talked l6 years ago this very week — a few days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. ll — and PBS had asked me to go on the air to talk to a variety of people about their response to those atrocities.

Lifton: I haven’t forgotten it, Bill.

Moyers: And in our discussion, we talked about your book, Destroying the World to Save It, about that extremist Japanese religious cult aum shinrikyo that released sarin nerve gas in Tokyo subways, you compared their ideology to Osama bin Laden: “He wanted to destroy a major part of the world to purify the world. There was in this idea, or his ideology, a sense of renewal.” We saw it in that Japanese cult. So the issue I am getting at is that such an aspiration can take hold of any true believer — the desire to purify the world no matter the cost.

Lifton: It is a very dangerous aspiration, and it’s not absent from the Trump presidency, although I don’t think it’s his central theme. I think it’s a central theme in Steve Bannon, for instance, who is an apocalyptic character and really wants to bring down most of advanced society as we know it, most of civilization as we know it, in order to recreate it in his image. I think Trump has some attraction to that, just as he had attraction to Bannon as a person and as a thinker, and that influence is by no means over. He’s still in touch with Bannon. So there is this apocalyptic influence in the Trumpean presidency: The world is destroyed in order to be purified and renewed in the ideal way that is projected by a Steve Bannon. And there is a sense of that when Trump says we’ll make America great again, because he says it’s been destroyed, he will remake it. So there is an apocalyptic suggestion, but I don’t think it’s at the very heart of his presidency.

Moyers: So our challenge is?

Lifton: I always feel we have to work both outside and inside of our existing institutions, so we have to really be careful about who we vote for and examine carefully our institutions and what they’re meant to do and how they’re being violated. I also think we need movements from below that oppose what this administration and administrations like it are doing to ordinary people. And for those of us who contributed to this book — well, as I said earlier, we have to be “witnessing professionals” and fulfill our duty to warn.

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Renowned psychiatrist warns Americans: You have a duty call out Trump as danger to others – Raw Story

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Raw Story
Renowned psychiatrist warns Americans: You have a duty call out Trump as danger to others
Raw Story
There will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial thanThe Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the work of 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts to assess President Trump’s mental health. They had come and more »

Donald Trump’s attorney fees in Russia scandal are being paid for by a Kremlin oligarch 

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Earlier this week a curious storyline emerged: the Republican National Committee was paying Donald Trump’s attorney fees in the Russia scandal for no apparent reason. Now the other shoe has dropped, and it’s become clear why the RNC has been willing to shovel six figures worth of money in Trump’s direction: the money is being funneled through the RNC to Trump by way of a Kremlin oligarch.

Len Blavatnik was born in Ukraine, raised in Russia, and now has dual U.S. citizenship – but he’s a Kremlin oligarch who makes his money by doing business with his fellow Kremlin oligarchs. According to the Wall Street Journal, he’s donating money to the RNC legal fund, which is in turn being funneled to Donald Trump’s Russia attorneys (link). Because of the dual citizenship, Blavatnik’s donations to American political entities are technically legal, but in practical terms this reads like the Kremlin finding a way to pay Trump’s legal bills in the Russia scandal. This is not the first time Blavatnik has surfaced in this role.

Back on May 24th of this year, Palmer Report brought you the story of how Len Blavatnik had donated millions of dollars to key Republican political leaders including Mitch McConnell and Scott Walker in 2016 (link). Months later, in August, the Dallas Morning News confirmed our reporting (link). Now the same Kremlin oligarch is funneling money through the Republican National Committee to fund Donald Trump’s legal defense.

Each of Blavatnik’s largest donations just happened to go to a Republican who played a convenient role in ushering Donald Trump into office. McConnell worked behind the scenes during the election to try to prevent the Russia meddling from becoming public. Walker is the Governor of Wisconsin, a state which Trump won in nearly statistically impossible fashion. Now, after Blavatnik paid off these two politicians, he’s paying for Trump’s attorneys.

The post Donald Trump’s attorney fees in Russia scandal are being paid for by a Kremlin oligarchappeared first on Palmer Report.

Donald Trump’s attorney fees in Russia scandal are being paid for by a Kremlin oligarch Friday September 22nd, 2017 at 6:52 PM 

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Ukraine-born billionaire with biz ties to Russian oligarchs is funding Trump’s legal defense via the RNC / Boing Boing Friday September 22nd, 2017 at 7:45 PM Boing Boing 1 Share Ukraine-born billionaire with biz ties to Russian oligarchs is funding Trump’s legal defense via the RNC Who’s paying for the attorneys representing President Donald Trump in the … Continue reading “Donald Trump’s attorney fees in Russia scandal are being paid for by a Kremlin oligarch Friday September 22nd, 2017 at 6:52 PM”

Robert Mueller’s Russia Investigation Is Moving Really Fast. Here’s Why – TIME

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Daily Kos
Robert Mueller’s Russia Investigation Is Moving Really Fast. Here’s Why
TIME
It’s hard to know what special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation is doing, but it’s clear that it’s going quickly. Experts on independent investigations, including some who have worked with them in the past, say that the former FBI director is 
House Intelligence Democrat warns Trump is ‘prepping’ his base for firing MuellerDaily Kosall 3 news articles »

blavatnik – Google Search

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V&A ‘honoured’ to get donation from Trump donor Len Blavatnik

The GuardianSep 6, 2017
“I am very honoured that [Blavatnik] supports this development … he is a supporter of arts and culture across the UK and across the world.

Story image for blavatnik from Boing Boing

Ukraine-born billionaire with biz ties to Russian oligarchs is funding …

Boing Boing40 minutes ago
In April, billionaire Len Blavatnik gave $12,700 to the RNC’s legal fund, on top of donations of about $200,000 to other RNC accounts. He also …

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

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

From the Boing Boing Shop

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Who’s paying for the attorneys representing President Donald Trump in the federal probe of Russian election interference? His legal defense is in part funded through a Republican Party account with a number of rich donors. Among them are a “billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs,” reports the WSJ. Oh, and there’s a Rosneft connection, you Putin conspiracy hounds.

The RNC account in question has been historically used to pay for the RNC’s own legal bills, but just last month paid over $300,000 to help cover Trump’s personal legal expenses, Federal Election Commission filings reveal.

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Oh, and that same fund also paid about $200,000 to attorneys representing the President’s dumbest son, Don Jr.

From Rebecca Ballhaus at the Wall Street Journal,

In April, billionaire Len Blavatnik gave $12,700 to the RNC’s legal fund, on top of donations of about $200,000 to other RNC accounts. He also gave the legal fund $100,000 in 2016, according to FEC filings.

The contribution from Mr. Blavatnik came during the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, a month before the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to oversee its probe of Russian interference—which subsequently prompted Mr. Trump to hire a private legal team.

Moscow has denied interfering in the election. Mr. Trump has denied his campaign colluded with Russia and called the investigations a “witch hunt.”

A spokesman for Mr. Blavatnik didn’t return a request for comment. The White House referred questions to the RNC.

Mr. Blavatnik, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, and moved to the U.S. in his early 20s, amassed his fortune in Russia in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He is a longtime business partner of Viktor Vekselberg, who is one of the richest men in Russia and has close ties to the Kremlin.

In 2013, Mr. Blavatnik earned billions when he, Mr. Vekselberg and two other partners sold their stake in the oil company TNK-BP to Rosneft, a Kremlin-controlled oil company.Rosneft’s chief executive is Igor Sechin, a top ally of Russian President Vladmir Putin.

During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Blavatnik through his company donated to several Republican presidential campaigns, including for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He didn’t donate to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

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Did Russians use Facebook to promote Florida Trump events?

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As Facebook says it was unwittingly used by Russian propagandists seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election, questions have been raised about an entity that used the social media platform to publicize a series of pro-Donald Trump “patriotic flash mob” events in Palm Beach County and across Florida one Saturday during the 2016 campaign.

The Daily Beast this week said that its own“software-assisted review of politically themed social-media profiles” raised suspicions that a now-defunct Facebook community called “Being Patriotic” was linked to Russia.

RELATED: The Post’s most recent coverage of President Trump

A Facebook spokesman would not comment on Being Patriotic or whether it was one of the approximately 470 “inauthentic accounts” Facebook shut down this month after determining they probably originated in Russia.

The Being Patriotic group listed “flash mob” events for Jupiter, West Palm Beach and 15 other Florida cities that were scheduled for Aug. 20, 2016.

Veterans of Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign told The Palm Beach Post this week they had never heard of Being Patriotic and didn’t need outside help to generate enthusiasm for the Republican nominee.

“The Trump campaign had more volunteers than any campaign I’ve ever seen or been involved with,” said Susie Wiles, who headed Trump’s Florida campaign during the final months of the general election.

Karen Giorno, who headed the Trump Florida effort until Wiles took over in September 2016, said Trump supporters often acted independently and set up Facebook pages that were not authorized by or coordinated with the Trump campaign.

“I had more people creating organic opportunities to support Trump than any other candidate I’ve ever worked for in five presidential elections,” Giorno said.

“They were not affiliated with us,” Giorno said of Being Patriotic. “There’s no collusion for sure with the campaign. We had no idea.”

The coordinator listed by Being Patriotic for the Jupiter event, Max Christiansen, said he recalls responding to an online request for people to host pro-Trump events. The name Being Patriotic “does ring a bell,” said Christiansen, an attorney who lives in Hobe Sound. He said he never spoke with anyone from the group and saw no indication of any Russian connections.

With only a few days of lead time, Christiansen planned an event at a sandbar in the Intracoastal Waterway where boaters often gather on weekends.

A few boaters displayed Trump flags, Christiansen said, but there were no other signs and no one spoke to the gathering.

“It didn’t get much turnout…It was really a nothing,” he said.

For the West Palm Beach event, which did not list an organizer’s name, a group of Trump supporters walked through CityPlace and engaged in “passive public expressions,” said Carey O’Donnell, president of the O’Donnell Agency, which handles public relations for CityPlace.

Bruce Nathan, a Trump supporter who was running as a no-party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016, said he read about the CityPlace event on Facebook and went there to hand out his literature in hopes of appealing to Trump backers.

Nathan estimated that about 50 or 60 people showed up for the pro-Trump event, including people in Bill and Hillary Clinton masks calling for the Democratic nominee to be jailed.

“There was nothing linked to Russia there,” said Nathan.

Nathan, who has opened a 2018 Republican campaign for governor, said Florida and the nation should move on from 2016.

“I’m trying to solve the big problems…but we’re talking about Trump and Russia? That’s very silly,” Nathan said.

Being Patriotic also listed three “flash mob” events for major intersections in Broward County. Those sites in Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood were places where Trump supporters regularly gathered on weekends throughout 2016 to wave signs, said Dolly Rump, who was the Trump campaign’s chairwoman for Broward County.

“I don’t know who these groups are, this Being Patriotic or whatever. It’s the biggest bunch of crap,” Rump said.


What generator is right for you? See what our local Home Improvement Expert has to say

 




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Donald Trump’s attorney fees in Russia scandal are being paid for by a Kremlin oligarch

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Earlier this week a curious storyline emerged: the Republican National Committee was paying Donald Trump’s attorney fees in the Russia scandal for no apparent reason. Now the other shoe has dropped, and it’s become clear why the RNC has been willing to shovel six figures worth of money in Trump’s direction: the money is being funneled through the RNC to Trump by way of a Kremlin oligarch.

Len Blavatnik was born in Ukraine, raised in Russia, and now has dual U.S. citizenship – but he’s a Kremlin oligarch who makes his money by doing business with his fellow Kremlin oligarchs. According to the Wall Street Journal, he’s donating money to the RNC legal fund, which is in turn being funneled to Donald Trump’s Russia attorneys (link). Because of the dual citizenship, Blavatnik’s donations to American political entities are technically legal, but in practical terms this reads like the Kremlin finding a way to pay Trump’s legal bills in the Russia scandal. This is not the first time Blavatnik has surfaced in this role.

Back on May 24th of this year, Palmer Report brought you the story of how Len Blavatnik had donated millions of dollars to key Republican political leaders including Mitch McConnell and Scott Walker in 2016 (link). Months later, in August, the Dallas Morning News confirmed our reporting (link). Now the same Kremlin oligarch is funneling money through the Republican National Committee to fund Donald Trump’s legal defense.

Each of Blavatnik’s largest donations just happened to go to a Republican who played a convenient role in ushering Donald Trump into office. McConnell worked behind the scenes during the election to try to prevent the Russia meddling from becoming public. Walker is the Governor of Wisconsin, a state which Trump won in nearly statistically impossible fashion. Now, after Blavatnik paid off these two politicians, he’s paying for Trump’s attorneys.

Trump Warns ‘Madman’ Kim Jong Un ‘Will Be Tested Like Never Before’

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The threat marks the latest attack in an escalating verbal war between the two leaders.

How Donald Trump Is Splitting the Republican Party in Two – NBCNews.com

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NBCNews.com
How Donald Trump Is Splitting the Republican Party in Two
NBCNews.com
This week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked this question to Republican voters: Do you consider yourself to be more a supporter of Trump or a supporter of the Republican Party? Fifty-eight percent of them answered Trump, and 38 percent said the …
Donald Trump Fast FactsKITV Honolulu
Sarah Palin squares off against Donald Trump in Alabama senate raceMyAJC (blog)
Sarah Palin squares off against Donald Trump over Alabama senate raceAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)
The Independent
all 33 news articles »

The German elections, explained – Vox

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Vox
The German elections, explained
Vox
When America went to the polls in 2016, voters chose chaos over consistency. The election of Donald Trump — an untested populist who promised more by way of dismantling than of building up (other than the wall) — came fast on the heels of Britain’s …and more »

9:27 AM 9/22/2017 – President Trump labels Russia investigations a ‘hoax’, and other stories 

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Trump News Review Saved Stories – 1. Trump President Trump labels Russia investigations a ‘hoax’ – WJLA Putin Trump – Google News: Adding Vladimir Putin to Trump’s List of America’s Dangerous Adversaries – Townhall Charlottesville: The mental status exam Trump failed – Bucks County Courier Times RNC Taps Big Donors to Pay Trump-Russia Legal Costs … Continue reading “9:27 AM 9/22/2017 – President Trump labels Russia investigations a ‘hoax’, and other stories”
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The five lessons that must guide U.S. interactions with Vladimir Putin

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The Five Lessons That Must Guide US Interactions with Vladimir Putin – In Homeland Security

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The Five Lessons That Must Guide US Interactions with Vladimir Putin
In Homeland Security
The possibility of some sort of rapprochement seemed to briefly emerge with the election of Donald Trump in November 2016 but vanished just as rapidly in the months after his inauguration. The next few years are thus likely to be a difficult period in …and more »

Have no doubt, President Trump will wind up firing Robert Mueller – The Hill

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The Hill
Have no doubt, President Trump will wind up firing Robert Mueller
The Hill
When Sessions recused himself, Trump knew he didn’t have a protector. He was banking on Sessions to put an end to all his troubles. This is the same individual who fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had just begun his investigation. In fact, in a …and more »

White House Will Reportedly Replace Travel Ban With New Restrictions

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The ban is about to expire.

12:20 PM 9/22/2017 – Trump News Review 

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Trump Investigations Report | Latest Posts The World Web Times: News | Photos | Audio and Video | Politics | Trump | Security | Reviews | Analysis | Current Topics | Opinions | Links | Posts| Local | Guides | Classifieds | News reading lists, review of media reports, digests, reviews, summaries, editors selected important articles Trump – from Huffington Post Trump – from Huffington Post from mikenova (1 sites) Donald Trump: White House Will Reportedly Replace Travel Ban … Continue reading “12:20 PM 9/22/2017 – Trump News Review “

Donald Trump’s dangerous denialism on Russia

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CNN Special Report “Twitter and Trump” with Bill Weir explores the President’s prolific and controversial use of the social media platform Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

“The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook,”

Trump tweeted

. “What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” (Why is “Media” capitalized? I ask myself these questions all the time.)

Then, shortly after that first tweet came

this one

: “The greatest influence over our election was the Fake News Media ‘screaming’ for Crooked Hillary Clinton. Next, she was a bad candidate!”

The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s a) wrong and b) leaves the US open to future intrusions by foreign powers on our elections.

close dialog

How is it wrong? Because every intelligence agency in a position to know has said there is definitiveproof Russia was seeking to meddle in the 2016 election with the purpose of helping Trump and hurting Clinton. The CIA. The FBI. The NSA.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

Unless you believe that all three of our major intelligence agencies are involved in some sort of elaborate scheme to trump — ahem — up the idea that Russia sought to influence the election on behalf of Trump, then the president’s charges of “hoax” ring totally false.

Trump’s national security H.R. McMaster insisted to CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday that Trump took seriously the allegations against Russia.

“The questions about what they did, who might have helped them and how to stop it, you believe those are all legitimate questions for us to look at?,” host Chris Cuomo asked.

“Of course, and so does the President,” replied McMaster.

But his tweets tell another story. Why would Trump knowingly defy the unanimous assessment of his intelligence agencies on Russian influence? Because, in his mind, validating that, yes, of course, Russia sought to meddle in the election somehow de-legitimizes his victory. As if the fact that Russia was actively involved in trying to help him means he didn’t win on his own or didn’t win fair and square.

That is, obviously, not true. While all the relevant intelligence agencies agree that Russia sought to meddle in the election on Trump’s behalf, none of them have come forward with any evidence that suggests any actual vote tampering occurred. As in: Russia tried to help Trump but it’s not clear — at least when it comes to directly messing with votes — they succeeded.

Trump is blind — willfully or otherwise — to that set of facts.

The insistence by Trump that the news media’s role in the campaign was somehow more threatening than a foreign power’s attempt to influence an American election is mind-boggling.

It’s also dangerous. Here’s why.

Every intelligence official — from former FBI Director James Comey to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — agrees that Russia views their role in the 2016 election as a success and that they will be back for more come 2018 and 2020.

By minimizing the threat posed by Russians trying to influence US elections, Trump is ensuring that whatever Mueller finds will be seen through a totally partisan lens by many of his followers. It won’t be taken at face value or anything close to it.

And, that’s not even the biggest problem! The biggest problem is that the president of the United States has repeatedly and publicly denied the idea that Russia was involved in trying to throw the election to him. That means that whatever recommendations Mueller — and the congressional committees also investigating Russia’s role in 2016 — make to Trump about how to keep this from happening again are likely to be ignored or minimized.

Which, in turn, makes it more likely to happen again. That’s dangerous for our democracy.

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Rouhani Lashes Back at Trump, as Iran Unveils New Missile

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At the annual United Nations gathering in New York this week, Mr. Trump called the nuclear deal “an embarrassment to the United States,” and Mr. Rouhani retorted, in his own address: “It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by ‘rogue’ newcomers to the world of politics.”

Upon his return from New York, Mr. Rouhani strongly defended Iran’s right to self-defense.

“We will increase our military power as a deterrent,” he said. “We will strengthen our missile capabilities. We will not seek anyone’s permission to defend our land. Not only will we fortify our missiles, but our ground, navy and air forces will always be supported by the people.”

The unveiling of the new missile, called the Khoramshahr, comes two months after Iran launched a missile into space, prompting a new round of sanctions and criticism from the United States.

“Rouhani is playing hardball,” said Sanam Vakil, an Iran scholar at Chatham House, a think tank in London, and at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “By promising to step up Iran’s ballistic-missile program, Rouhani seeks to gain support from Iranian hard-liners who have long been critical of the nuclear deal, and who have repeatedly accused him of being soft in international relations. Moreover, hard-liners, such as Iran’s supreme leader, believe compromise with the United States is a futile exercise.”

She added: “History and the experience of other rogue states such as North Korea has also shown the Iranian government that it is only from a position of strength that regimes such as Iran’s can be protected.”

In his remarks, Mr. Rouhani said that Iran was ready to “defend the innocent people of Yemen, Syria and Palestine,” and would “strengthen our defensive and military power as much as we deem necessary for deterrence.”

The state-run news agency IRNA quoted the chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, as saying that the new missile “can carry several warheads for various uses.” The agency did not provide further information on the missile.

Mr. Rouhani, a moderate, has staked his reputation on sealing the nuclear deal and relieving the Iranian economy of debilitating international sanctions. In a rejoinder to Mr. Trump’s call to renegotiate the nuclear deal, he said that “all countries” at the General Assembly meeting supported the nuclear deal, “except the United States and the Zionist regime,” a reference to Israel.

“Like North Korea, Iran is responding to Trump’s bellicosity by its own display of strength, to show it is not cowed,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Americas office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank.

He cautioned that Iran’s claim that the new missile could carry multiple warheads “needs to be taken with a grain of salt,” adding that the it “may mean nothing more than multiple cluster bombs,” not the kind of ballistic missile payload — multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle, or MIRV — associated with nuclear missiles.

Mr. Trump’s secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, has said that the Iran nuclear agreement must be changed or the United States would not stick with it. Iran has said the accord is not up for renegotiation.

The possibility that Washington might renege on the deal has worried some countries, especially as the world grapples with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

This week, Foreign minister Wang Yi of China said that tensions on the Korean Peninsula highlighted the importance of the Iranian deal, and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia said that the United States’ imposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran was “illegitimate and undermines the collective nature of international efforts.”

Continue reading the main story

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How Paul Manafort May Be Picking His Poisons

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Manafort at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 16, 2016.

By Tom Williams/GQ Roll Call.

Paul Manafort does not scare easily. He flew into the Angolan bush to sign brutal Maoist rebel leader Jonas Savimbi as a lobbying client. He has done business with a Lebanese-born arms dealer and a front group for Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He represented a Kashmiri outfit that allegedly fronted for Pakistan’s shadowy spy agency. And who originally introduced Manafort to Donald Trump? None other than Roy Cohn.

So Manafort was unlikely to have been seriously rattled when F.B.I. agents picked the lock on his front door and rousted him and his wife out of bed. The spate of disclosures of details about special counsel Robert Mueller’s pursuit of Manafort, including the search of his house, could actually be marginally helpful to his cause. But the leaks also look to be in sync with an emerging White House political strategy that could drive a wedge between Trump and Manafort.

The New York Times broke the news that when F.B.I. agents, brandishing a Mueller-acquired search warrant, raided Manafort’s Virginia home, they photographed the expensive suits in his closet—and, more ominously, that Mueller’s team had warned Manafort of its intention to indict him. CNN followed with a report that Manafort had been the subject of wiretaps before and during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Parsing unnamed sources is a speculative enterprise. But putting together the various threads of evidence regarding the latest leaks about Manafort’s case yields a surprising possibility. Mueller and his investigators are notoriously leak-averse. And the stories contained colorful details, but no new evidence of any Manafort wrongdoing. Even a subsequent Washington Post scoop—that Manafort apparently offered Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire and a former client, “private briefings” while he was Trump’s campaign chairman—showed dubious but not necessarily criminal behavior. Then there’s the fact that Manafort’s spokesman issued a statement demanding that the content of any wiretaps be released.

The leaks could be coming from Capitol Hill. But some signs point to the Trump and Manafort side, in service of two tactical goals: undermining the motives and credibility of Mueller’s work and shifting blame to President Barack Obama, whose Justice Department apparently renewed the wiretapping of Manafort’s phones. “The White House has tried to turn this into a couple of talking points,” says Brian Fallon, who was chief spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and is now a CNN commentator. “That a wiretap was happening prior to the election they try to use as confirmation that an unfair political targeting was afoot. And to the extent that they are going to accuse Mueller of waging a witch hunt, this warning shot to Manafort—that he should expect an indictment—shows that Mueller’s mind is made up and he is going into this hell-bent on finding scalps.”

“Mr. Manafort has said from the very beginning that he did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election, and he knows of no one who did,” Jason Maloni, his spokesman, says. “Earlier this week we invited the D.O.J. to release any tapes involving Mr. Manafort and non-Americans. That’s how confident we are there is nothing there. What is clear is the previous administration petitioned a judge to surveil a political opponent, someone who they knew was talking to [Trump]. That is chilling.”

Maybe that interpretation helps in the court of public opinion. It does little to alleviate Manafort’s legal problems, however. At least two judges have now agreed that enough probable cause of crimes existed to approve a surveillance warrant of Manafort’s phones and then a search of his property. In the wake of the Post story about Manafort offering Deripaska insider information, White House lawyer Ty Cobb told Bloomberg News, “it would be truly shocking” if it turns out to be true that Manafort “tried to monetize his relationship with the president. It certainly would never have been tolerated by the president and his team.” Besides being laughable—Trump and Manafort are soul mates when it comes to making a buck—the comments risk alienating Manafort and pushing him toward Mueller.

But Manafort’s many checkered associations, the dangerous men and institutions with whom he has worked, suggest another possible disincentive to Manafort becoming a cooperating witness, something besides a steadfast belief in his own innocence or any remaining loyalty to Trump. In the 10 months since the U.S. presidential election, nine high-profile Russians, including six diplomats, have died unexpectedly—some from seemingly natural causes, some in violent attacks. No evidence has surfaced to connect them to one another, or to the Russian government. But for a long time Paul Manafort has operated in circles where there are worse things to fear than the Twitter-ized wrath of President Trump or any criminal charges that might be filed by Robert Mueller. “It’s important to understand, as Manafort does, the intersection between Russian organized crime, the Russian government, and the Russian intelligence services,” says Republican political strategist and vocal anti-Trumper Rick Wilson. “Bad things happen, even to prominent people. Paul Manafort getting poisoned or thrown off a building—there’s not a zero percent chance. That’s what happens to people who cross the top 20 oligarchs in Putin’s Russia.”

However colorful Manafort’s career has been, a John le Carré ending seems unlikely, and his spokesman shrugs off the speculation. “It’s hardly unusual for a political consultant to work overseas,” Maloni says. “In [Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election], there were multiple political parties, and close to a dozen U.S. consultants were involved, including David Axelrod and Mark Penn.” True. Though only one of them has awakened to find federal agents seizing his computer files.

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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attend a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.

Photo: By Zach Gibson/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, Kushner, President Donald Trump, and Ivanka Trump at the White House.

Photo: By Shealah Craighead/White House/Polaris.

Kushner, Trump, and their children disembark from Air Force One in West Palm Beach.

Photo: From A.P. Images/REX/Shutterstock.

Lebanese delegates and journalists pose for selfies with Trump and Kushner in the Rose Garden.

Photo: By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Trump and Kushner dance at Donald Trump’s “Liberty” Inaugural Ball.

Photo: By Brian Snyder/Reuters.

Kushner whispers to Trump during a welcoming ceremony for her father at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Photo: By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

The couple seen arriving with their three children at JFK International Airport, where they boarded Marine One.

Photo: From Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo.

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US – Trump orders new sanctions to squeeze North Korea nuclear program 

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Donald Trump ordered new sanctions on Thursday that open the door wider to blacklisting people and entities doing business with N. Korea, including its shipping and trade networks, further tightening the screws on its nuclear and missile program.

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Trump launches tweetstorm against Kim Jong Un, Rand Paul, ‘Russia hoax’ – Fox News

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Trump launches tweetstorm against Kim Jong Un, Rand Paul, ‘Russia hoax’
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“The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” Trump tweeted, just hours after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social media network would hand over …and more »

President Trump labels Russia investigations a “hoax” – SFGate

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President Trump labels Russia investigations a “hoax”
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is continuing to dismiss investigations into Russian interference in last year’s U.S. election as a “hoax,” as Russian-purchased Facebook advertising comes under scrutiny. Trump says on Twitter Friday: “The …
‘Russia hoax continues’: Trump attacks investigation into Facebook adsThe Guardian
Trump dings media in criticism of Facebook ads in ‘Russia hoax’Politico
Facebook to hand over Trump-Russia campaign ads to investigatorsStuff.co.nzall 371 news articles »

President Trump labels Russia investigations a ‘hoax’ – WJLA

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President Trump labels Russia investigations a ‘hoax’
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President Donald Trump listens during a luncheon with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan …and more »
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Merkelism vs. Trumpism – New York Times

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New York Times
Merkelism vs. Trumpism
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If Trumpism had been applied to Germany in 1945, my country would have become a province of the Soviet Union, and Western Germans would never have bought a pair of Levi’s or a bottle of Coke, let alone the idea of America as a beacon of freedom.and more »

4:31 AM 9/22/2017 – German Election Mystery: Where’s Russia? | M.N.: Answer: In alliance and in tandem with Germany, just like in their previous anti-American shenanigans! 

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German Election Mystery: Where’s Russia? Friday September 22nd, 2017 at 3:26 AM M.N.: Answer: Russia is in alliance and in tandem with Germany, just like in their previous anti-American shenanigans! All of this is so much in a plain sight, that is why it is so hard to see!  What do our intelligence officials think about it?  … Continue reading “4:31 AM 9/22/2017 – German Election Mystery: Where’s Russia? | M.N.: Answer: In alliance and in tandem with Germany, just like in their previous anti-American shenanigans!”

A True Tale of Drug Cartels, Money Laundering and Horse Racing – New York Times

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A True Tale of Drug Cartels, Money Laundering and Horse Racing
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His finely-painted cast of characters includes a rookie F.B.I. agent hungry to make his name, a Texas cowboy fighting to keep his family business afloat and a talented Mexican horseman picking winners for a very dangerous boss. Tone weaves the threads …

The Early Edition: September 22, 2017 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said yesterday, after Trump’s speech singled out the country as a global threat that could be “totally” destroyed by the U.S. if forced to defend itself or its allies. Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“We cannot deny the possibility it may fly over our country,” Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said today after North Korea threatened to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. Justin McCurry and Julian Borger report at the Guardian.

A “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said of Trump today in a statement carried by the state K.C.N.A. news agency, directly responding to Trump’s U.N. speech and promising to institute the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the U.S. – the specific action that would be taken was not explained by Kim or foreign minister Ri. Choe Sang-Hun reports at New York Times.

“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech,” Kim also said in the statement, adding that Trump would “face results beyond his expectation” and that he would “tame” the president “with fire.” David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report at the Washington Post.

Kim’s statement was the first time a North Korean leader has made a direct address to an international audience, according to experts, and the statement was made hours after the North Korean delegation arrived in New York for the General Assembly, the BBC reports.

The full text of Kim’s statement is provided by the New York Times.

Trump signed an executive order giving the Treasury Department the power to expand sanctions against North Korea yesterday, including the possibility of leveling sanctions against individuals and companies associated with the regime, to freeze the U.S. assets of foreign banks working with the country and to ban those banks for accessing U.S. financial markets, Trump stating that “foreign banks will face a clear choice: doing business with the United States or facilitate trade with the lawless regime in North Korea.” Ian Talley and Louise Radnofsky report at the Wall Street Journal.

The executive order came amid reports that China had instructed its banks not to do new business with North Korea and to wind down old loans, in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Peter Baker and Somini Sengupta report at the New York Times.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed yesterday that he notified China’s central bank about the forthcoming sanctions, adding that the Treasury would consider designating entities on a “rolling basis.” Ali Vitali reports at NBC News.

The five key points about the U.S. sanctions against North Korea are provided by Jonathan Easley and Rebecca Kheel at the Hill.

“We urge the D.P.R.K. not to go further along a dangerous direction,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, using the acronym for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also calling on “all parties to play a constructive role in easing tensions.” Reuters reports.

The ambassadors of E.U. member states reached an initial agreement on imposing more sanctions on North Korea, E.U. officials and diplomats said yesterday; if accepted by E.U. foreign ministers, the measures would go further than the latest U.N. Security Council sanctions. Robin Emmott reports at Reuters.

The response to the North Korea threat requires creativity, strategists should begin by assuming that economic sanctions would not work and be prepared to think outside the box. David Ignatius suggests looking at military options, intelligence strategies, defensive measures and other actions at the Washington Post.

A profile of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is provided Anna Fifield at the Washington Post.

IRAN                                             

The Trump administration has been grappling with its approach to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officials having mapped out several scenarios, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials have continued to urge Trump to certify Iran’s compliance to Congress by the Oct. 15 deadline – although Trump said Wednesday that he had already made a decision on the deal, which he did not reveal. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.

“Are you prepared to return to us 10 tons of enriched uranium?” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif asked yesterday, stating that Iran would only discuss changing the nuclear deal if every concession Iran has made were reconsidered, adding that the Trump administration sought to extract further concessions from Iran without making any itself. David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone report at the New York Times.

Top diplomats from Germany, Russia, China and Italy defended the Iran nuclear deal yesterday at the U.N. General Assembly, warning that reneging on the agreement would undermine future disarmament efforts and regional and global security. John Daniszweski and Matthew Lee report at the AP.

The use of unilateral sanctions against Iran “is illegitimate and undermines the collective nature of international efforts,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in his speech to the U.N. yesterday. Reuters reports.

Iran unveiled its latest ballistic missile during a military parade in Tehran today, defying Trump who has tried to restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program, the AP reports.

The frequent breakdown of uranium enrichment devices have inadvertently helped to keep Iran within the limits of the nuclear deal, a report by the Institute for Science and International Security said today, adding that stricter monitoring of the deal by the Trump administration was also helping to ensure compliance. Jonathan Landay reports at Reuters.

Trump should withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear deal, forty-five former intelligence, national security and defense officials urged in a letter to the president yesterday, calling on the president to de-certify Iran’s compliance by the Oct. 15 congressional deadline. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Facebook agreed yesterday to hand over information to congressional investigators about Russian activity on its platform during the 2016 presidential election, with the Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg stating that he cares “deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity.” Scott Shane and Mike Isaac report at the New York Times.

Facebook’s decision came after pressure from lawmakers and the public and amid the growing evidence that Russian accounts posed as U.S. activists to spread pro-Trump propaganda. Craig Timberg, Carol D. Leonnig and Elizabeth Dwoskin report at the Washington Post.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to F.B.I. Director Chris Wray asking if the F.B.I. had given “defensive briefings” or similar warnings to Trump officials about “potential connections between campaign officials and the Russian government” on Wednesday. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.

Democratic senators praised Facebook’s decision to release the information, but argued that further steps should be taken to understand the extent of Russian interference in the election. Nancy Scola, Josh Dawsey and Ali Watkins report at POLITICO.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have called on their colleagues to sponsor legislation enhancing transparency of online political advertisements, including requiring digital platforms to keep the records of groups or individuals who make ads of more than $10,000. Dylan Byers reports at CNN.

A breakdown of contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian-linked individuals is provided by Philip Bump at the Washington Post.

SYRIA

Any attempts by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) to open fire would be “immediately suppressed with all military means,” a spokesperson for the Russian military, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said yesterday, raising the possibility of direct interaction between the U.S.-backed forces and Russia and Iran-backed Syrian government forces. David Filipov and Liz Sly report at the Washington Post.

U.S. and Russian military generals met face-to-face this week to discuss a Russian airstrike on the S.D.F. on Saturday, the U.S. spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition Col. Ryan Dillon said yesterday, adding that the discussions emphasized the need for communication to prevent “accidental targeting or other possible frictions” that would distract from the fight against the Islamic State group. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

Turkey will deploy troops to Syria’s northern Idlib region as part of the “de-escalation” zones agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, the Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday. Parisa Hafezi reporting at Reuters.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 15 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 20. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAQ

The Iraqi military’s offensive to recapture the town of Hawija launched yesterday comes amid increased tensions as the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government prepares to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, Ben Kesling and Ghassan Adnan report at the Wall Street Journal.

Nations in the Middle East and across the world have been united in their opposition to the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, fearing the consequences of an independence vote for Iraq and the region. David Zucchino reports at the New York Times.

The U.N. Security Council yesterday voted unanimously to establish an investigative team to help Iraq collect evidence against Islamic State extremists and build potential war crimes cases, the UN News Centre reports.

Trump should overturn an Obama-era policy that restricts aid to Iraq’s religious minorities, Nina Shea writes at the Wall Street Journal.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

The Trump administration is preparing to relax the limits on drone strikes and commando raids imposed by the Obama administration, according to officials familiar with the matter, the measures focusing on two rules: the targets of kill missions and the level of vetting required for proposed drone attacks and raids. Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt report at the New York Times.

The Trump administration’s potential drone strike policy demonstrates which elements of Obama’s approach have been institutionalized and affirmed, but also raises concerns about the threshold required to authorize strikes, among other issues. Luke Hartig provides an analysis at Just Security.

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken on the burden of convincing Trump to change his mind on an array of different topics, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change agreement. Roger Cohen explains at the New York Times.

U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the international community to stop the spread of nuclear weapons at a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council yesterday. Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz report at the AP.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised Trump’s unequivocal statement on the “primacy of sovereignty” at the General Assembly yesterday. The UN News Centre reports.

The U.N. General Assembly has been a parade of hypocrisy with leaders praising their own actions but “doing so little to tackle humanitarian crises they themselves have helped create,” Nicholas Kristof writes at the New York Times.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

“No, I do not,” the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said yesterday in response to a question about her interest in being Secretary of State, making the comment amid speculation about the future of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Nahal Toosi explains at POLITICO.

Nikki Haley has been a prominent figure at the U.N. General Assembly this week, highlighting her growing influence and ambition, particularly in comparison to the increasingly marginalized Tillerson. Anne Gearan and David Nakamura write at the Washington Post.

AFGHANISTAN

The more than $70bn that the U.S. has invested in the Afghan security forces has been undermined by persistent problems and poor planning, according to a report released yesterday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Nancy A. Youssef reports at the Wall Street Journal.

President Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed that U.S. companies could develop the country’s rare earth mineral reserves during a meeting yesterday. Reuters reports.

The former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani castigated Trump’s Afghanistan strategy in an interview with Ruchi Kumar at Foreign Policy.

Afghans are encouraged by Trump’s strategy and are cautiously optimistic about his conditions-based approach that also provides for more training and support for Afghan security forces. Parwiz Kawa and Shafi Sharifi write at the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Polish and N.A.T.O. troops began military exercises in Poland yesterday, following the large-scale military exercises recently held by Russia and Belarus which caused concern among N.A.T.O. allies. The AP reports.

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa believes the Arab boycott of Israel should end, two prominent U.S. Rabbis revealed yesterday, reflecting the slowly warming relationship between Arab nations and Israel due to shared concerns in the Middle East. Jon Gambrell reports at the AP.

Read on Just Security »

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Pentagon Discloses Meeting With Russian Military To Prevent Accidental Clashes In Syria – RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

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RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
Pentagon Discloses Meeting With Russian Military To Prevent Accidental Clashes In Syria
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
“According to our information, U.S. intelligence services initiated the offensive to halt the successful advance of government troops to the east of Deir al-Zor,” RussianColonel-General Sergei Rudskoi was quoted as saying by Reuters. Prior to that 
Russia says will target US-backed fighters in Syria if provokedReuters
Is Russia preparing to ATTACK US troops in Syria? Moscow warns it will target areas held by US Special Forces if the …Daily Mailall 229 news articles »

Deutsche Bank CEO won’t reveal whether the bank has talked with Mueller about Trump

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Donald Trump owes Deutsche Bank big bucks | Business | DW

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For many years, Deutsche Bank has been among the largest lenders to the real estate empire of Donald Trump. Now that Trump is US president, this relationship has been generating scrutiny – in part because Deutsche has a number of outstanding regulatory issues to resolve with the US federal government.

One of those issues is a Department of Justice investigation into the bank’s role in a Russian “mirror-trading” scheme that allowed some Russian oligarchs to trade rubles for dollars and thereby funnel money out of Russia. This was a money-laundering scheme designed, in part, to allow oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin to dodge sanctions imposed on them by the US in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine crisis.

This investigation has nothing to do with Trump – he is not alleged to have had any role in the activities being investigated – but the fact that he is president means that any decisions taken by US federal regulators about Deutsche will provoke questions about conflicts of interest, according to Norman Eisen, who was ethics counsellor in the Obama White House, in a recent interview with the Financial Times (FT).

Old Post Office Building in Washington DC (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Brandon)The Old Post Office Building in Washington DC was redeveloped by the Trump organization into a Trump International Hotel for about $200 million

“Whether it’s the investigation, the regulatory climate [or] a hundred other ways that Deutsche Bank is affected by the federal government, if they have this leverage over Donald Trump now, having seen how he operates, I think it’s entirely legitimate to question whether he’ll be even-handed,” Eisen told FT.

Potential conflict of interests

One might note that it’s also legitimate to question whether a former official in the Obama White House like Eisen will be even-handed in commenting on Donald Trump’s business affairs. Moreover, the Justice Department is headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, not by Donald Trump, so any top-level guidance on how the department should approach its Deutsche Bank file would therefore come from Sessions.

However, Sessions has already come under fire from Trump for what the president sees as Sessions’ insufficient loyalty. This has generated Beltway speculation that if Trump were to quietly ask Sessions to go easy on Deutsche, Sessions would have an incentive to go along, in order to avoid further stoking the ire of his mercurial boss.

Trump’s financial disclosure data

According to documents called Financial Disclosure Reports submitted by Trump to the US Office of Government Ethics, which published the documents in June, Trump owns assets worth billions of dollars within a portfolio of 565 companies. He also had substantial debts – totaling at least $315 million (266 million euros) – in connection with several real estate projects. Most of that money was owed to Deutsche Bank.

According to FT’s article, “Deutsche declined to comment on legal matters, the structuring of its loans, the nature of the guarantees or its relationship with Mr Trump. Spokespeople for the Trump Organization did not respond to emails.”

New York - Wall Street - Deutsche Bank entrance (picture-alliance/Markus Ulmer)The entrance to Deutsche Bank’s New York offices on Wall Street. The bank has been the go-to banker for Donald Trump’s real estate business since the mid-1990s

However, FT was able to interview other people who had familiarity with the long-standing relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank.

A match made in developer heaven

According to FT, when Trump was looking for money to finance his real estate ventures in the mid-1990s, he “found a good match in Deutsche,” because the bank wanted to grow in the US and saw a niche in lending to rich developers who had “hit a few bumps along the way,” such as Harry Macklowe, Ian Bruce Eichner and Donald Trump.

Dachsund and baby (picture alliance/dpa/Blickwinkel)A dachshund puppy and a baby play with toys. What does this have to do with Donald Trump’s real estate business? It’s unclear. Could it be a Russian baby? No one knows. Could an investigation show some links?

Deutsche Bank is one of the world’s biggest banks, with nearly 100,000 employees world-wide. Since 1990, it has had a substantial presence in the UK and US, in part because of its 1989 takeover of London-based investment bank Morgan, Grenfell & Co. and its 1999 takeover of New York-based Bankers Trust.

FT identified some of the New York-based Deutsche bankers who had important relationships with Trump over the years as Jon Vaccaro, who joined Deutsche from Citibank in 1997; Mike Offit and Steve Stuart, who joined from Goldman Sachs; and Eric Schwartz, who joined from Moody’s, and became Trump’s primary contact person at Deutsche for several years.

Some of the financing deals the Trump organization made with Deutsche are still active. There is a loan connected to the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C., and another on a Chicago hotel tower (pictured at top), both due for repayment in 2024. And there’s a $50 million mortgage on the Doral golf resort in Miami, due in 2023.

The dark art of insinuation

Maxine Waters, a Democratic Party congresswoman from Los Angeles, is determined to make Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank a political issue. As the ranking Democratic member of the House Financial Services Committee, in a letter to Deutsche Bank in May, she called for Deutsche to turn over financial records relating to Trump, his close family members and business associates, so that the committee can examine them for possible links between Moscow and Trump’s businesses.

This has nothing to do with the separate investigation of Russian oligarchs’ mirror trades via Deutsche, cited above. Instead, it’s connected to the steady drumbeat of allegations by US politicians opposed to Trump that the Kremlin “interfered with the US presidential election” in unspecified ways, in order to increase the likelihood of the real estate mogul being elected.

Deutsche has refused to supply its clients’ financial records, saying it must respect “laws and internal policies designed to protect confidential customer information.”

Maxine Waters (picture-alliance/AP Images/C. Sykes/Invision)US Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters of Los Angeles wants Deutsche Bank to turn over documents relating to its loans with Donald Trump, his family and associates, in hopes of finding something that might somehow be connected to Russia

This week’s FT article, entitled “Donald Trump’s debt to Deutsche Bank,” makes no allegations of wrong-doing in connection with any of Deutsche’s loans to Trump or his companies. Nor does Congresswoman Waters’ letter to Deutsche Bank – at least, not directly.

Guilt by association? 

However, in politics, perception often trumps substance. By issuing calls for any Russia-related documents to be released by Trump’s bankers, Waters and other opponents of Trump may be seeking to awaken an impression that Trump’s dealings with Deutsche Bank may have involved some impropriety.

Generating this impression may be made easier by the fact that Deutsche Bank – like many other major banks in the US and Europe – has had a long series of scandals connected to illegal financial dealings over the past two decades, for which it has had to make payments of billions of dollars to regulators, and suffered well-deserved reputational damage.

Waters’ letter to Deutsche Bank, which was co-signed by four other members of the House Financial Services Committee, puts it this way: “Deutsche Bank’s pattern of involvement in money laundering schemes with primarily Russian participation, its unconventional relationship with the president, and its repeated violations of US banking laws, all raise serious questions about whether the bank’s reported reviews of the trading scheme and Trump’s financial ties to Russia were completely thorough.”

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Donald Trump’s debt to Deutsche Bank

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When Donald Trump sued Deutsche Bank in late 2008, it was “classic Trump”, according to the German bank, which sued him back.

The New York property developer was trying to wriggle out of $40m of personal guarantees he had supplied on a $640m loan to build Trump International Hotel & Tower in downtown Chicago. The Lehman Brothers crisis was an unimaginable event that should get him off the hook, he argued. The future US president sought damages of $3bn — because the Deutsche-led consortium of lenders had just played a part in wrecking the world economy.

The two sides sparred for a while before settling out of court. And within a couple of years Deutsche was back as Mr Trump’s go-to lender, continuing a relationship that has endured for decades, even as other big banks have deserted the litigation-prone developer.

In June, Mr Trump disclosed outstanding loans from Deutsche of at least $130m, secured against properties in Miami and Washington in addition to the condominium-hotel in Chicago. The total is likely to be about $300m, according to people familiar with his borrowings.

“Deutsche seem to come through for him on a pretty regular basis,” says a person involved in the refinancing of the General Motors Building in Manhattan, one of the bank’s breakthrough US deals with Mr Trump, in the late 1990s.

“They stepped into a void,” says another restructuring expert.

Deutsche Bank financings for Donald Trump

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago

Loan value: $25m-$50m
Rate: Libor plus 2 per cent or prime minus 0.5 per cent
Signed: 2012
Due: 2024
Mr Trump built one of the tallest towers in the US on the site of the former Sun-Times Building, overlooking the Chicago River. It was opened in January 2008.

Old Post Office, Washington

Loan value: over $50m
Rate: Libor or prime plus 2 per cent
Signed: 2015
Due: 2024
Four years ago Mr Trump took a 60-year lease on the ornate Old Post Office, close to the White House. After a $100m refit, the 263-room Trump International Hotel was opened last September

Trump National Doral, Miami

Loan values: over $50m; $5m-$25m
Rate: Libor plus 1.75 per cent or prime minus 0.75 per cent
Signed: 2012
Due: 2023
In February 2012 Mr Trump bought the golf resort at a knockdown price from hedge fund tycoon John Paulson, who had taken control of the property from a Morgan Stanley fund.

(Source for all loans: Filings by Mr Trump to the Office of Government Ethics)


But the elevation of the Queens-born developer to the presidency has cast a new complexion on the relationship. Deutsche faces various legal proceedings in the US, including an investigation by the Department of Justice into a Russian money-laundering scheme for which the bank paid about $600m of fines to other regulators in January. It is also facing a probe by the DoJ into whether Deutsche’s traders, and those of other banks, manipulated the prices of US Treasuries.

Separately some Democrat lawmakers are seeking records from Deutsche to see whether there are any financial links between Russia and Mr Trump.

The guarantees that Mr Trump provided over a portion of the outstanding loans, which do not mature for another six or seven years, could add a further complication to relations with Deutsche. If the loans default, the Frankfurt-based bank could in theory go after Mr Trump’s other assets. In December Alan Garten, general counsel of the Trump Organization, told Bloomberg that the guarantees were not a long-term problem, because the loans were structured to ultimately become standard debt backed by property.

Deutsche declined to comment on legal matters, the structuring of its loans, the nature of the guarantees or its relationship with Mr Trump. Spokespeople for the Trump Organization did not respond to emails.

The entanglements raise serious questions over conflicts of interest, says Norman Eisen, ethics chief in the Obama White House, and chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In January the bipartisan pressure group sued Mr Trump over alleged violations of the constitution’s foreign emoluments clause; oral arguments are set for October.

“Whether it’s the investigation, the regulatory climate and a hundred other ways that Deutsche Bank is affected by the federal government, if they have this leverage over Donald Trump now, having seen how he operates, I think it’s entirely legitimate to question whether he’ll be even-handed,” says Mr Eisen. “It is a source for concern.”

When Mr Trump was looking for capital in the mid-1990s, he found a good match in Deutsche. The German bank, dominant in its domestic market, was desperate to grow in the US. In particular, the bank saw a niche in serving rich developers who had hit a few bumps along the way, such as Harry Macklowe and Ian Bruce Eichner, both celebrated owners and losers of New York real estate.

Such clients were a “perfect fit”, says one former Deutsche banker. The field was relatively clear, as many US and Japanese banks burnt by losses from the early 1990s downturn gave them a wide berth. In addition, the bank could sell them extra services through its private-client business, which was bolstered by the 1999 acquisition of Bankers Trust.

“Sometimes a business will look at a client who can’t do business elsewhere,” says another former Deutsche managing director. “It makes the overall picture economic.”

A client like Mr Trump would be offered a choice of terms, according to a person familiar with the deals: an interest rate of, say, Libor plus 500 basis points with a guarantee, or Libor plus 800 without.

Deutsche’s key recruit was Jon Vaccaro from Citibank, who arrived as global head of commercial real estate in 1997. Other important figures for Mr Trump, over the years, were Mike Offit and Steve Stuart, a duo who joined from Goldman Sachs, and Eric Schwartz, a recruit from Moody’s who became the developer’s primary point of contact.

Some of the appointments gave Deutsche more clout in boardrooms and on the party circuit. Tobin “Toby” Cobb, formerly of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, is the son of two US ambassadors. Justin Kennedy, a trader who arrived from Goldman to become one of Mr Trump’s most trusted associates over a 12-year spell at Deutsche, is the son of a Supreme Court justice. Mr Cobb, Mr Kennedy, Mr Stuart and Mr Offit could not be reached for comment. Through a spokesperson, Mr Schwartz and Mr Vaccaro declined to comment.

Deutsche’s big real estate push came against the backdrop of rapid growth in the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) market, which allowed the bank to lay off much of the default risk to outside investors.

The market had got going in the early 1990s, as banks blanched at lending without personal guarantees. But developers did not generally want to give them. The solution was often a non-recourse loan that the banks could package into CMBS for a fee. Deutsche became a keen underwriter.

CMBS issuance exploded between 1997, when the total US market was worth about $37bn, and 2007, when it peaked at $229bn.

Former executives in Deutsche’s commercial real estate business say they were given the freedom to develop their business. Neither Josef Ackermann, a Swiss banker who became the bank’s first non-German chief executive in September 2002, or Anshu Jain, who succeeded him as co-chief executivein 2012, tightened the reins, says one former employee. “The organisation was very fractured.” Mr Ackermann and Mr Jain declined to comment.

“Deutsche’s culture in New York and London is more of a conglomeration of outsiders versus homegrown talent, and sometimes they’re at odds with each other,” says David Hendler, an ex-Wall Street bank analyst who now runs Viola Risk Advisors.

A couple of decades earlier, before Deutsche began its expansion and while Mr Trump was still making a name for himself in New York real estate, plenty more banks were willing to deal with Mr Trump. Citibank, for example, led deals including the Trump Plaza, the largest casino in Atlantic City at the time, and Trump Shuttle, an east coast airline the developer launched in 1989. Manufacturers Hanover, bought by Chemical Bank in 1991, and Chemical, which bought Chase Manhattan in 1996 and took the name, also took part in several deals, along with Bankers Trust.

“He put out good product,” remembers one ex-Deutsche banker. “His buildings were high-quality, he got good rents from retail and he sold condos for high prices.”

Steve Witkoff, chairman and chief executive of the Witkoff Group, a luxury condo developer who considers himself a friend of Mr Trump, adds: “I think he is one of the best out there.”

But things changed in 1990, when Mr Trump overextended himself in Atlantic City through bank loans and junk bonds, while suffering with the rest of the industry in a New York property downturn. One warning sign was a $100m working-capital loan from Bankers Trust: Mr Trump was using it to service mortgages and pay debt, rather than fund day-to-day operations, according to a person familiar with discussions. Before long, the four lead banks — Citi, Chemical, ManiHani and Bankers Trust — sat down on behalf of 68 other lenders to thrash out a restructuring of $4bn of debt, including $800m of guarantees.

Mr Trump lost control of wide swaths of his empire and the banks took “significant” hits on their investments, according to the person familiar with the talks.

The experience convinced a lot of banks that lending to Mr Trump was more trouble than it was worth. Neither Citi nor Chase, for example, has lent to Mr Trump since the big debt restructuring of the early 1990s, according to syndicated loan data tracked by Dealogic. Both banks declined to comment on their relationships with Mr Trump.

After Mr Vaccaro left in 2010 for Cantor Fitzgerald, via a brief stint at Ranieri Partners, Deutsche’s commercial real estate business was taken over by Jonathan Pollack, now at Blackstone, then Matt Borstein in 2015. But by then, the primary point of contact for Mr Trump was Rosemary Vrablic, his long-time wealth manager who had joined Deutsche’s private banking unit in 2006 from Merrill Lynch.

In 2013, when Mr Trump was bidding for a 60-year lease to redevelop the Old Post Office building in Washington, he turned to his friend Tom Barrack, a real estate mogul who spoke at the Republican National Convention last year on behalf of candidate Trump, to provide the initial financing.

A year later, when the financing was coming due, the Trump Organization swapped out Mr Barrack’s part of the deal and turned again to Deutsche. The bank supplied a $170m loan via its private banking unit, which houses Ms Vrablic’s business, according to filings made with Washington DC’s Office of Tax and Revenue.

Loans for the Old Post Office building and Chicago hotel tower are not due until 2024, when Mr Trump would be in the final year of a second term in the White House, if re-elected. The $50m-plus mortgage on the Doral golf course resort in Miami, comes due in 2023.

John Cryan, Deutsche’s chief executive since 2015, has been trying to put an end to the bank’s slew of legal and regulatory troubles in the US. Last December the bank struck a $7.2bn settlement with the DoJ for mis-selling residential mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the crisis; in April it became the first big bank to be penalised for violations of the Volcker ban on proprietary trading.

The chief executive assured investors last month that Deutsche had made “significant progress” on its remaining slate of investigations.

Maxine Waters, however, a Democratic congresswoman representing Los Angeles, is determined to keep the bank in regulators’ crosshairs. As the ranking member of the House financial services committee, she is demanding a broad range of financial records from Deutsche, to look for links between Moscow and Mr Trump, his close family members, business associates and others he has dealt with in the past. Deutsche has refused to supply the materials requested, saying it must respect “laws and internal policies designed to protect confidential customer information”.

In July, after two failed attempts to obtain records from Deutsche, Ms Waters and three Democratic colleagues brought a resolution to the floor of the Capitol building to compel the Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network to turn over documents.

The Democrats are seeking documents, records and any suspicious activity reports referencing loans the bank extended involving Bayrock, a developer in several real estate deals including the Trump SoHo hotel, and several Russian banks, including Sberbank, Vnesheconombank Group and VTB Group.

The resolution was voted down on party lines. But Ms Waters’ face is one of a dozen images that flash across the screen showing the “enemies” of the president in an ad released this month by a campaign for his re-election.

The congresswoman is right to keep up the pressure, says Mr Eisen. “The pending investigation, the regulatory issues . . . the potential leverage as these loans come due, all of these issues demonstrate why a president should not maintain his active business interests when he steps into the White House.”

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Irony alert: Donald Trump and Paul Manafort may be taken down by new email scandal 

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Throughout the election, the media obsessed over a “Hillary Clinton email scandal” that ultimately never existed, as the FBI ended up fully exonerating her from any legal wrongdoing. Donald Trump spent the general election dishonestly exaggerating Hillary’s emails. Now, in what might finally bring the true definition of irony into the 2016 election saga, Trump and Paul Manafort may both end up being taken down in their Russia scandal due to email.

The latest revelation is that Paul Manafort offered to give a Russian oligarch regular briefings about the status of the Donald Trump campaign, which he was running at the time (link). More specifically, Manafort used his official Trump campaign email account to make this offer to Russia. This means there’s an incriminating record of the entire thing. It also hints at Trump’s own role in, and knowledge of, Manafort’s interactions with the Russians.

Trump may end up having to rely on an ignorance defense, in which he claims that he had no idea his own campaign chair Manafort was colluding with the Russians under his nose. But if Manafort had been trying to do this without Trump’s knowledge, he’d have been likely to avoid using his official campaign email account. The technical people running the Trump campaign email system could have spotted Manafort’s emails and made Trump aware of it. Manafort would have known about this possibility. Thus his decision to use his campaign email strongly suggests that he didn’t care about Trump finding out – because he had already told Trump about it anyway.

At the least, this gives Special Counsel Robert Mueller reason to steer his investigative activities under the presumption that Manafort told Trump about the arrangement at some point. Mueller simply has to find a record that proves it, perhaps in Manafort’s wiretapped phone calls with Trump. In the end, Manafort’s activity on a Trump email account may be what leads to their downfall.

The post Irony alert: Donald Trump and Paul Manafort may be taken down by new email scandalappeared first on Palmer Report.

For Trump aides caught in Russia probe, legal bills and paranoia – SFGate

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For Trump aides caught in Russia probe, legal bills and paranoia
SFGate
Since congressional investigators decided they wanted to interview Caputo as part of an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he’s drained his children’s college fund to pay more than $30,000 in legal fees. He bought guns for and more »

German Election Mystery: Where’s Russia?

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In some respects, experts say, German elections are insulated from outside interference in ways those in the United States are not. The country’s politics are not as polarized as they are in the United States, where partisan enmity provided fertile ground for Russian efforts to sow confusion with distorted and falsified information amplified by Russian-controlled Twitter bots and Facebook accounts.

In a move that would seem unimaginable in the United States, the campaigns for the major political parties entered into a “gentleman’s agreement” this year not to exploit any information that might be leaked as a result of a cyber attack.

Germans also still largely trust their mainstream, traditional news media sources and, unlike Americans, tend to be wary of information disseminated on Facebook and Twitter.

Officials warn that there is still a chance that some 16 gigabytes of sensitive information stolen two years ago by Kremlin-backed hackers from Germany’s Parliament, the Bundestag, could surface, much like emails taken from the campaign of Emanuel Macron were dumped days before the election in France.

In January, someone registered two websites, btleaks.info and <a href=”http://btleaks.org” rel=”nofollow”>btleaks.org</a>, which reminiscent of the DCLeaks website that served as a repository for documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee last year. Staffers from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency have been assigned to check those websites hourly.

But few think the information if leaked would make much difference at this point. The latest polls show Ms. Merkel in a comfortable lead ahead of her chief rivals, making it likely that she will secure a fourth term as chancellor.

So why has Russia held back?

After failing to defeat Mr. Macron or so far obtain any positive dividends from its support of the Trump campaign, it is possible, experts say, that the Kremlin has decided to rethink its approach.

Russian influence operations, or active measures as they are known, tend to work only if no one is expecting them. Unlike the Obama administration, which chose to remain silent about Russia’s meddling for months before the election last November, German officials cannot seem to stop talking about the threat.

Weeks after the election of President Trump, Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, warned of cyber attacks aimed at “delegitimizing the democratic process” in Germany. Ms. Merkel herself has issued similar warnings.

“It makes absolutely no sense to conduct cyber ops because everyone is waiting for it,” Dr. Gaycken said. “It would almost make more sense for the C.I.A. to leak fake news to make it seem like the Russians did it.”

Ripjar, a data analytics company founded by former members of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, says that scores of automated bots on Twitter and other social media sites have been pushing anti-Merkel and anti-immigrant messaging in German. The messages appear to align with Kremlin positions ahead of the election, but do not seem to have had much resonance.

“It is a very blunt tool that I would assess has very little impact on the world,” said David Balson, Ripjar’s director of intelligence.

Perhaps Germany’s greatest protection is not some 21st century innovation but old-fashioned paper ballots, counted by hand, that are essentially hack proof.

It would be a mistake to think the aggressive Russian interference in elections last year represented some kind of new norm, said Thomas Rid, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who is writing a book on Russian active measures. These types of operations, he said, are extremely difficult to pull off and, as the world has seen, can backfire. In many ways, he said, the Russians just got lucky.

“I think one of the risks of the 2016 operation is that we all overestimate how much you can achieve from it and how easy it is,” he said. “You just can’t replicate this in the country every time.”

Nevertheless, Germans prepared well in advance for any hint of Russian interference.

The Federal Office for Information Security ran penetration tests looking for vulnerabilities in computer systems and software of the federal election authority. The Bundestag and the individual campaigns consulted with experts about strengthening their computer security. And major news media outlets established teams of fact checkers to protect against fake news.

German officials are now looking beyond the elections at ways to bolster the country’s cyber defenses even further.

At the Federal Security Council meeting, which was held in March, officials hammered out what has become known as the “hack-back” strategy. The plan is to try to turn the tables on the hackers, launching offensive cyber attacks against them and destroying their online infrastructure before any real damage can be done.

While the German military can now legally launch a cyber offensive following hacker attacks on military resources, there is no provision in German law allowing for the country’s cyber forces to respond to attacks on civilian infrastructure like the power grid, hospitals or servers that process election results.

“Our cyber defenses are Swiss cheese,” said Jacob Schrot, a Bundestag staffer responsible for intelligence oversight and cyber security matters.

Russia is not the only threat on this front. Germans are still angry about revelations made by Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency under President Barack Obama had hacked into Ms. Merkel’s cellphone.

Though a precise plan of action has yet to be implemented, that federal authorities would even consider taking offensive action against an enemy is a measure of how seriously the country has come to view the cyber threat.

Enduring trauma of the Nazi era has made Germans squeamish about flexing their country’s military muscles. But Russia’s recent history of revanchism under President Vladimir V. Putin — not just interfering in elections but supporting hard-right nationalist parties in Europe and dabbling in military adventures, like the annexation of Crimea and instigation of war in eastern Ukraine — has forced Germans to confront a new reality.

Marian Wendt, a member of Parliament from Ms. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, who oversees cyber security issues, said in an interview that Germany would prefer cooperation with Mr. Putin and Russia. But he said Germany also had a responsibility to protect itself.

“At some point you have to attack your attackers,” he said.

The hack-back strategy has stirred controversy here, with some charging that it comes close to violating Germany’s constitutional prohibition of offensive warfare adopted after the country’s defeat in World War II. Cyber experts also question whether Germany possesses the technical expertise to pull off such a tactic, particularly against Russia’s own highly advanced teams of cyber warriors.

“Our main challenge right now is a shortage of skilled IT security workers,” said Sven Herpig, a cyber security expert with a German think tank, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung. “Why do we waste the few talents that we have on the offensive side when we could actually use them on the defensive side.”

Germany’s talk of offensive cyber actions could also escalate tensions with the Kremlin, said Mr. Rid, from Johns Hopkins University. And with Russia quiet at the moment, many question the wisdom of provoking it.

“Loose German talk of hack-back,” Mr. Rid said, “could translate into Russian as ‘bring it on.’”

Continue reading the main story

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German Election Mystery: Where’s Russia? – New York Times

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German Election Mystery: Where’s Russia?
New York Times
Russian influence operations, or active measures as they are known, tend to work only if no one is expecting them. Unlike the Obama administration, which chose to remain silent about Russia’smeddling for months before the election last November and more »
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Facebook agrees to disclose US election ads bought by Russian agency – Deutsche Welle

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Deutsche Welle
Facebook agrees to disclose US election ads bought by Russian agency
Deutsche Welle
… worth of political advertising aimed at swaying the election to a Russian agency. Since then, US lawmakers have been pressuring Facebook to release the ads as part of their special investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential 
Mark Zuckerberg’s Fake News Problem Isn’t Going AwayBloombergall 283 news articles »

Did White House cross the line with attacks on Comey? – Sacramento Bee

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Los Angeles Times
Did White House cross the line with attacks on Comey?
Sacramento Bee
But Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the Senate Intelligence Committee that just the opposite was true. Trump also said during an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak and Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov: “I just fired …
Dumb Watergate and Stupid Inception: Mueller’s Prosecutor Lineup Tells Us What’s in Store For TrumpPaste Magazine
Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as PresidentNew York Times
Special Counsel’s Office Interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinWall Street Journal
Washington Post –New York Times
all 251 news articles »

Next New Orleans FBI Head Coming From Intelligence Section – U.S. News & World Report

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Next New Orleans FBI Head Coming From Intelligence Section
U.S. News & World Report
The FBI says that throughout his career Rommal has held leadership positions in the counterterrorism division and the directorate of intelligence at headquarters, and the Washington field office. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.and more »

Drone footage shows flooding in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria – video 

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Video shows the extent of flooding caused by Hurricane Maria in Cataño, Puerto Rico. The third hurricane to pummel the Caribbean in as many weeks, Maria made landfall early on Wednesday morning as a category 4 storm with winds of 155mph

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McMaster: Trump Decision on Iran Nuclear Deal Will be Part of Broad Strategy 

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U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster refused Thursday to disclose whether President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the 2015 international pact curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons development, but said the decision will be part of a broad U.S. strategy toward Iran. “When the announcement is made, it will fit into a fundamentally sound and broad strategy aimed at addressing Iran’s destabilizing behavior and prioritizing protecting American vital…

U.S., Russian generals talk face-to-face on Syria

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and Russian generals held a face-to-face meeting this week in an effort to avoid accidental clashes as both sides fight to retake what is left of Islamic State’s territory in Syria, U.S. military officials said on Thursday.

  

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Special counsel Robert Mueller seeks Trump presidency records – BBC News

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BBC News
Special counsel Robert Mueller seeks Trump presidency records
BBC News
The probe into alleged Russian meddling in the US election is reportedly seeking White House files on President Donald Trump’s time in office. Documents on Mr Trump’s sacking of the FBI director and his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer are the and more »

The Cobb-Dowd BLT Summit Heard ’Round the World

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On Sunday, Peter Baker and Kenneth Vogel of the New York Times reported on strains within the White House Counsel’s Office about strategy in responding to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling.

That White House lawyers would differ on strategy is commonplace. A public airing of legal team tensions is troubling but not unheard of. But as someone who has handled sensitive investigative matters for two presidents, I am absolutely floored that this story was fueled by an unguarded conversation between Ty Cobb, the attorney hired by the White House to handle the Russia investigation, and Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd at BLT Steak restaurant.

In what should be a surprise to almost no one who has ever been to BLT Steak (1625 I Street, NW), there were New York Times (Washington bureau, 1627 I Street, NW) reporters within earshot.  Cobb reportedly described a White House lawyer as “a [Don] McGahn spy” and mentioned a colleague whom Cobb blamed for “some of these earlier leaks” and who had “tried to push Jared [Kushner] out.” Of most interest to criminal prosecutors and congressional investigators, Cobb referenced “a couple of documents locked in a safe” in McGahn’s office to which Cobb wanted access.

This raises significant questions about professional judgement, professional ethics, evidence privileges, and those mysterious documents kept by McGahn that will likely prove irresistible for investigators to ignore.

I won’t belabor the first question, but I think this episode demonstrated terrible judgment for two men who have professional obligations to maintain confidences for the president in his personal capacity (Dowd), and the president in his official capacity and presidency (Cobb). The political electricity around the Russia investigation is high voltage, and both of these lawyers know full well that scores of people in Washington’s power lunch crowd will be highly attuned to its buzz.

As to the second question of professional ethics, I make no claim to a rules violation based on my limited access to the relevant facts. However, this episode certainly presents ethics considerations.  Rule 1.6 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct govern lawyers’ obligations to maintain client confidences. I have concerns about lawyers’ failure to safeguard information from disclosure to other restaurant patrons. But I am also concerned about Cobb’s reported disclosures to Dowd.

One thing to note right off the bat: Cobb is a White House lawyer, whose salary is drawn from the public treasury and whose client is the Executive Office of the President.  See Rule 1.6 (k) (“The client of the government lawyer is the agency that employs the lawyer unless expressly provided to the contrary by appropriate law, regulation, or order.”). John Dowd, in contrast, is part of Donald J. Trump’s personal legal team, paid for by nonpublic funds. While there will be overlap in interests between Trump the man and Trump the president, they are distinct and could diverge dramatically. Communication by lawyers across that public-private axis must still conform to confidentiality rules.

Under D.C. Bar rules, unless there is an express exception, “a lawyer shall not knowingly: (1) reveal a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client; (2) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client to the disadvantage of the client; or (3) use a confidence or secret of the lawyer’s client for the advantage of the lawyer or of a third person.” Rule 1.6 (a). A “confidence” is either attorney-client protected information or “other information gained in the professional relationship that the client has requested be held inviolate, or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing, or would be likely to be detrimental, to the client.” Rule I.6(b). According to Comment 8 to the rule, this ethical obligation to maintain confidences and secrets, unlike the attorney-client privilege, “exists without regard to the nature or source of the information or the fact that others share the knowledge. It reflects not only the principles underlying the attorney-client privilege, but the lawyer’s duty of loyalty to the client.”

It strikes me that the New York Times disclosure of internal White House lawyer discord is “embarrassing” to the office, and the public disclosure of these matters could be “detrimental” to the office.

But these disclosures might also be problematic if no reporters had been present. There are certainly legitimate areas of coordination and information sharing between lawyers for the White House and personal lawyers for its occupant.  However, each White House disclosure must be justifiable under the rules. What benefits the Office of the President for the president’s private attorney to hear about divergences McGahn and Cobb over legal strategy? There may be a good answer, but that is a question that must be answered as a predicate to disclosure.

There are exceptions to the confidentiality rules. For example, a “lawyer may use or reveal client confidences or secrets with the informed consent of the client.” Rule 1.6 (e) (1) (emphasis added). A lawyer may also make disclosures when the lawyer has reasonable grounds for believing that a client has impliedly authorized disclosure of a confidence or secret in order to carry out the representation. Id. at ¶ (e) (4).

Given the reportedly furious reactions by McGahn and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, it does not appear that Cobb had been granted informed consent  or implied authorization to make these disclosures. Perhaps Cobb does have implied authorization to make some disclosures to Dowd, but I’m not sure the information contained in the Times story fits that bill. There is also an exception where a government lawyer to disclose confidences when “permitted or authorized by law,” although I fail to see the applicability here. See id. at ¶ (e) (2).

Third, there is a question of legal waiver of applicable privileges. The attorney-client privilege can be waived as to whole subjects by partial disclosures, and as to third parties not subject to the disclosure. See generally Edna Selan Epstein, The Attorney-Client Privilege and the Work-Product Doctrine, Part 1, Section IV (“Waiver of the Attorney-Client Privilege”). Loss of the privilege can be devastating for clients.

There are additional complications when government attorneys are involved. After the D.C. Circuit holding in In re Bruce R. Lindsey compelled President Bill Clinton’s Deputy White House Counsel to testify before a grand jury, attorney-client privilege is presumed to be significantly weaker for government attorneys than for private counsel. The court held: “Examination of the practice of government attorneys further supports the conclusion that a government attorney, even one holding the title Deputy White House Counsel, may not assert an attorney-client privilege before a federal grand jury if communications with the client contain information pertinent to possible criminal violations.” Therefore, Dowd would have to take that risk into account as to any disclosures he makes to public attorneys like Cobb.

Executive privilege stands on a somewhat different footing. Waivers allowing for the disclosure of broad subject matter are disfavored, limiting the waiver to specific documents or information that have already been released, since “executive privilege exists to aid the governmental decisionmaking process, a waiver should not be lightly inferred.” In re Sealed Case (Espy) (quoting SCM Corp. v. United States, 473 F. Supp. 791, 796 (1979)). As such, in Espy, the court held:

The White House’s release of the White House Counsel’s final report also does not constitute waiver of any privileges attaching to the documents generated in the course of producing the report. It is true that voluntary disclosure of privileged material subject to the attorney-client privilege to unnecessary third parties in the attorney-client privilege context “waives the privilege, not only as to the specific communication disclosed but often as to all other communications relating to the same subject matter.” But this all-or-nothing approach has not been adopted with regard to executive privileges generally, or to the deliberative process privilege in particular. Instead, courts have said that release of a document only waives these privileges for the document or information specifically released, and not for related materials. This limited approach to waiver in the executive privilege context is designed to ensure that agencies do not forego voluntarily disclosing some privileged material out of the fear that by doing so they are exposing other, more sensitive documents.

However, the White House has waived its claims of privilege in regard to the specific documents that it voluntarily revealed to third parties outside the White House, namely the final report itself and the typewritten text of document 63, which was sent to Espy’s Counsel.

(citations omitted).

Note that the court treats disclosures to Espy’s counsel as waivable disclosures for materials the White House sought to pull within an assertion of executive privilege. Dowd, as a private capacity lawyer, would be treated the same way for purposes of executive privilege. To date, the President has not asserted executive privilege in the face of legally compelled process, but White House lawyers should be making every effort to maintain legitimate confidentiality interests of the institutional executive branch.

Fourth, there is a question of new investigative leads. What is the nature of the “couple of documents locked in a safe” in McGahn’s office? That will be catnip for congressional investigators and the Special Counsel. In addition, Cobb’s reported portrayal of McGahn as resistant to transparency will come back to haunt the White House. It is not helpful to McGahn’s credibility with prosecutors investigating obstruction of justice. I imagine at some point we will see that characterized as noncooperation and stonewalling in congressional letters.

Washington superlawyer Bob Bennett, one of my mentors and Cobb’s former partner, once told me a story about his time as a young federal prosecutor. He had to prep a police officer for testimony at a trial the next day. They decided to do it at a local Irish pub instead of the office. The next day, on cross examination, the defense counsel started asking the police officer about things Bob had said during prep. Apparently, the defense lawyer had also been at the bar. Bob jumped up to object. When the judge asked for the basis of the objection, Bob explained the situation and responded, “the drinking privilege, your Honor.” Thereafter, according to Bob, certain D.C. courtrooms recognized the “drinking privilege” as shorthand for “there’s no legal basis but that just ain’t right to use.” It is one of my favorite stories. But as Bob told it, it was also a cautionary tale about safeguarding your case.

The drinking privilege is no bar to reporters, and other more formal potentially available privileges are less secure than before the BLT Steak summit. As Fred Barbash quipped, “who needs leaks when lunch reservations will suffice?”

Image: Nelson Barnard/Getty

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The Early Edition: September 20, 2017 

 

 


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