Toxic Alaska Mine Could “Destroy the World’s Last Great Sockeye Salmon Fishery”
Joaqlin Estus Published September 1, 2019
President Trump and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, pictured on Air Force One. The massive Pebble Mine project is back in play after Dunleavy met with Trump.
Courtesy of Gov. Dunleavy / Official White House Photo by Sheila Craighead
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy had nothing but encouragement for a potential investor in a controversial mine.
“Alaska’s open for business,” Dunleavy told Wheaton Precious Metals, Ltd. of Canada, in a July 30, 2019 letter. He said, “A fair, efficient, and thorough permitting process, free of interference and threats from project opponents, is essential to Alaska’s future economic growth.” The letter surfaced after a public records request by Alaska Public Media.
A coalition of tribes and environmental and fishing organizations had warned the company about trouble ahead. Dunleavy called their statements “threatening,” and said the state “will stand by those who invest in Alaska and will actively help defend them from frivolous and scurrilous attacks.”
Estimates put the Pebble ore deposit at the second largest in the world, with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of minerals. Getting copper, gold and molybdenum out of that pay dirt, however, would generate billions of tons of waste that would be stored in earthen dams. That waste would have to be stored forever near the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, both a cultural and multi-billion dollar resource.
The coalition’s 9-page letter said the proposed Pebble mine poses significant hurdles for any investor.
“First and foremost is the unrelenting and overwhelming consensus of opposition, which, rather than diminishing is intensifying,” said the coalition.
Kendra Kloster, Tlingit, of Native Peoples Action said the passion for protecting the region will never go away. “You have this entire region that has come together to say they were going to fight against this mine because this is deep in our hearts. This is protecting our homeland. It’s more than just looking at our profits. It’s just more than looking at fish. This is our way of life. This is what it’s like in Alaska and we’re trying to protect our region. And so, yeah, this issue is definitely in the hearts of the people up here in Alaska.”
The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, which is funded by fisheries revenues, opposes the Pebble Mine. Bristol Bay President Norm Van Vactor said, “We’re not prepared to trade basically our renewable resource for one-time resource extraction that in all likelihood, it’s not a question of if there will be a problem, it’s actually a question of when that problem will occur.”
Commercial fishing boats stand ready.
“Commercial fishing boats stand ready.”
Courtesy of the EPA
Van Vactor said the proposed mine has seemingly been killed a couple of times. Over the years, several investors have backed out. The EPA suspended the permitting process in 2014.
Van Vactor said it’s hard to see the project come back to life. And, “It’s so, so frustrating,” that hundreds of scientists, biologists, and geologists have worked for years to methodically research and come up with a fact-based statistical analysis. “But in the new politics that we’re in today, literally with the stroke of a pen, an administrative order, Twitter, or the threat of getting fired from your job … all of that can get undone in a night.”
July 30 the EPA withdrew “outdated” determination that put mine on hold.
Dunleavy’s letter of support for the proposed mine came after he apparently successfully lobbied President Donald Trump to tell the EPA to lift the 2014 suspension of the permitting process for the mine. During a fueling stop June 26 in Anchorage on his way to Asia, President Trump met with Gov. Dunleavy aboard Air Force One. A month later, EPA announced it was withdrawing a Proposed Determination issued under the Clean Water Act that had suspended the permitting process.
“Finally, this administration has reversed the outrageous federal government overreach inflicted on the state of Alaska by the Obama administration,” said Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier in a prepared statement. “The preemptive veto was an action by an administration that sought to vastly expand EPA’s authority to regulate land use on state, private and Native-owned lands throughout the United States, and in doing so kill one of America’s most important mineral projects before a development plan was proposed or a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement permitting review was undertaken.”
Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay Alannah Hurley, Yup’ik, said in a prepared statement, “The EPA’s arbitrary withdrawal of these protections for Bristol Bay that our tribes fought so long and hard for is just another example of the Trump administration working hand in hand with Pebble’s lobbyists and paving the way for this toxic project to destroy the world’s last great sockeye salmon fishery for the profit of a foreign mining company.”
“This façade of a process by corrupt, politicized agencies has gone on long enough and it’s time for elected leaders to stand up for our people and stop this project from moving forward,” said Hurley. “This comes as we are wrapping up the second-largest recorded salmon harvest in Bristol Bay of 42 million salmon and counting to feed not only our people but the world. Our people will continue to do whatever it takes to stop this mine.”
Van Vactor said the stakes are so high, it chafes to see the project come back to life. Still, he said, “I gotta believe that common sense and science ultimately will prevail. I think we’re going to get whip sawed a lot more in this process. I am hopeful that what we’re dealing with is an aberration. I thought it was limited to Washington, D.C. but now we have a governor who seems intent on burning the house down. But I am hopeful this is short-term. At the end of the day, there’s an awful lot of good people in Juneau that ultimately I think will do the right thing.”
https://truthout.org/articles/toxic-ala ... n-fishery/
Is the Air Force Helping to Keep Trump’s Scottish Resort Afloat?
Daniel PolitiSept 07, 201911:07 AM
President Donald Trump waves while playing a round of golf at Trump Turnberry Luxury Collection Resort on July 15, 2018 in Turnberry, Scotland.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating why a five-person crew with the Air National Guard stopped at President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort as part of a routine trip from the United States to Kuwait to deliver supplies. The committee is investigating why the crew of the C-17 military transport had to stop at Trump’s resort on both legs of the trip, Politico revealed in a story that says it is part of a broader inquiry into Trump’s Scottish property.
It seems particularly odd that the C-17 military transport plane would stop in Glasgow, a place where there were no nearby U.S. bases and dozens of miles away from Turnberry where the crew would be staying. The choice of lodging surprised crew members with one even complaining that their per diem allowance was not enough to cover food and drinks at the fancy resort.
Beyond that isolated stay, the congressional inquiry is looking into why the military has spent $11 million on fuel at Prestwick Airport, which is the closest airport to the Turnberry resort. That fuel would be much cheaper at a U.S. military base. What seems particularly curious is that the airport is losing money and the Scottish government has expressed interest in selling it, a move that could be devastating to Trump’s property. This is not the first time questions have been raised about the use of the airport. Last year, the Guardian reported the airport was being used by the U.S. military and had struck a deal with Turnberry to provide cheaper rooms and free rounds of golf for crew members.
When all these things are considered, there seems to be a real possibility “that the military has helped keep Trump’s Turnberry resort afloat,” reports Politico. After all, Turnberry seems to be doing much better since Trump came into office: “The property lost $4.5 million in 2017, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018.” So far, the Pentagon has yet to reply to any of the inquiries. “The Defense Department has not produced a single document in this investigation,” said a senior Democratic aide.
Rep. Ted Lieu from California wrote in a tweet that the whole thing “smells like corruption.”
Dear Secretary of Defense @EsperDoD: This smells like corruption.
Can you explain to the American people why US military personnel apparently went out of their way to fly to a @realDonaldTrump resort? https://twitter.com/NatashaBertrand/sta ... 7673626627 …
BREAKING: House Oversight is investigating whether US military expenditures have been propping up Trump Turnberry. A peculiar refueling stop in Glasgow by a US Air Force crew, who stayed overnight at the resort—there & back—tipped them off. Our exclusive: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/ ... at-1484337 …
7:18 PM - Sep 6, 2019
Twitter Ads info and privacy
13K people are talking about this
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also shared the story on Twitter along with a simple message: “The President is corrupt and must be impeached.”
The President is corrupt and must be impeached. https://twitter.com/natashabertrand/sta ... 7673626627 …
BREAKING: House Oversight is investigating whether US military expenditures have been propping up Trump Turnberry. A peculiar refueling stop in Glasgow by a US Air Force crew, who stayed overnight at the resort—there & back—tipped them off. Our exclusive: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/ ... at-1484337 …
8:04 PM - Sep 6, 2019
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https://slate.com/news-and-politics/201 ... tland.html
A little som’som’ about the Director of Communications of #NOAA who sent out the statement backing up President Bonkers’ hurricane forecast.
here’s why it was so easy.
And Julie wants to be sure that you know she didn’t work for Obama NOAA. Oh, no, she works for “Trump NOAA.”
Trump calls off secret meeting with Taliban, Afghan leaders
ICYMI, Sep 4: The Taliban scoff at Trump’s Afghan peace talks bluff. They know how badly Trump wants out of Afghanistan and are taking full advantage.
https://twitter.com/MalcolmNance?ref_sr ... r%5Eauthor
The Daily Edge
He wanted to honor the Taliban with a stay at Camp David while making our G7 allies stay at his bedbug-infested Trump Doral.
That’s it. We’re leaving — all Bahamian evacuees without a visa taken off. The Bahamians who remain are in shock. No one understands why the rule was changed at the last minute. The parents and kids now stuck on the island.
Big problems on the ferry from Freeport to Florida — announcement just made that any Bahamian without a visa must now get off. This is not normal. Nornally Bahamians can travel to USA with passport and a printout of their police record.
Here is the full story we put together after getting off the ferry this morning. Hurricane evacuees kicked off the boat. Crew on the boat blamed US Customs and Border Protection, CBP now blames the ferry company @Balearia .
Also - all of the evacuees I chatted with on the boat before they got kicked off had no plans of staying in the US. They were coming to go grocery shopping, stay in a hotel with AC, chill for a little -- and then head back.
I grew up in South Florida -- that is what the Bahamians do here. They come over on the ferry or fly here to do their shopping because it is so expensive/little variety on the island. They don't want to move here.
https://twitter.com/BrianEntin/status/1 ... 6154260480
Belligerent Savant » Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:24 pm wrote:.
Go Pam, indeed. Sums it up in a single clipped tweet.
She was also on that horrid show The View (which essentially pushes Empire cheerleading to their respective demo), talking about Assange. I happened to catch a clip on the interwebs. It's a vile display by the hosts, and a stark reminder of what passes for 'talking points' in the mainstream. Credit to Pam though for raising her points dispassionately and in easy-to-digest form.
I'll post it in the Assange thread.
Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence - dozens of current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear & self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world, by @BrandonAmbro
When Jerry Falwell Jr. took over as president in 2007, the school, which is a nonprofit, had listed assets of just over $259 million on its then most recent IRS Form 990; in its filing for fiscal year ending June 2017, its assets surpassed $2.5 billion.
Asset growth at Liberty under Falwell Jr is driven largely by increase in online students (approx 95000), there are concerns about tuition $ funding construction & real estate projects that enrich the Falwells & friends and blur nonprofit & business lines
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story ... ans-227914 …‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence
More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.
By BRANDON AMBROSINOSeptember 09, 2019
Brandon Ambrosino is a writer living in Delaware. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic and the BBC, among others.
At Liberty University, all anyone can talk about is Jerry Falwell Jr. Just not in public.
“When he does stupid stuff, people will mention it to others they consider confidants and not keep it totally secret,” a trusted adviser to Falwell, the school’s president and chancellor, told me. “But they won’t rat him out.”
That’s beginning to change.
Over the past year, Falwell, a prominent evangelical leader and supporter of President Donald Trump, has come under increasing scrutiny. News outlets have reported on business deals by Liberty University benefiting Falwell’s friends. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen claimed that he had helped Falwell clean up racy “personal” photographs.
Based on scores of new interviews and documents obtained for this article, concerns about Falwell’s behavior go well beyond that—and it’s causing longtime, loyal Liberty University officials to rapidly lose faith in him.
More than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of Falwell spoke to me or provided documents for this article, opening up—for the first time at an institution so intimately associated with the Falwell family—about what they’ve experienced and why they don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement.
In interviews over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.
“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
Liberty employees detailed other instances of Falwell’s behavior that they see as falling short of the standard of conduct they expect from conservative Christian leaders, from partying at nightclubs, to graphically discussing his sex life with employees, to electioneering that makes uneasy even those who fondly remember the heyday of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., the school’s founder and Falwell Jr.’s father, and his Moral Majority.
In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that in the run-up to Trump’s presidential campaign, Cohen hired John Gauger, a Liberty University employee who runs a private consulting firm, to manipulate online polls in Trump’s favor. Not previously reported is the fact that, according to a half-dozen high-level Liberty University sources, when Gauger traveled to New York to collect payment from Cohen, he was joined by Trey Falwell, a vice president at Liberty. During that trip, Trey posted a now-deleted photo to Instagram of around $12,000 in cash spread on a hotel bed, raising questions about his knowledge of Gauger’s poll-rigging work. Trey did not respond to requests for comment.
Jerry Falwell Jr. responded to more than two dozen written questions, defending his actions and criticizing the reporting of this article. “I fear that the true information I am sharing in good faith will simply not make any difference. And will only result in more questions,” Falwell said. He declined to answer subsequent questions.
The string of news articles over the past several months has had a minimal effect on Falwell’s leadership of Liberty University. As the namesake of the school’s founder, Falwell has never had his position seriously challenged. Liberty is thriving financially. Its enrollment has surged past 110,000 students—the vast majority of whom are enrolled online—and across its campus in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the hum of backhoes and bulldozers is omnipresent as construction crews work to keep pace with the university’s swelling ambitions.
But these new revelations speak to rising discontent with Falwell’s stewardship. The people interviewed for this article include members of Liberty’s board of trustees, senior university officials, and rank-and-file staff members who work closely with Falwell. They are reluctant to speak out—there’s no organized, open dissent to Falwell on campus—but they said they see it as necessary to save Liberty University and the values it once stood for. They said they believe in the Christian tradition and in the conservative politics at the heart of Liberty’s mission. Many knew Jerry Falwell Sr. and remember him with clear affection. “The day that man died was the day I lost a father,” one current university official said. All count themselves as conservatives. Many are strong supporters of Trump.
Jerry Falwell Jr. gestures while speaking as his wife, Becki, listens during a town hall at Liberty University on Nov. 28, 2018. | AP Photo/Steve Helber
I am a graduate of Liberty University, and my time there overlapped the tenures of both Falwell Sr. and his son. Over the course of my years of reporting on the university, the Falwells have granted me considerable access, including sit-down interviews in the offices of both Falwell Jr. and his brother, the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, who leads Thomas Road Baptist Church. I’ve written candidly about my time there as a student, reported about political divisions on campus and revealed that Trey co-owns a gay-friendly hostel in Miami.
Members of the Liberty University community are generally reluctant to go on the record. The school uses nondisclosure agreements to prohibit many university employees or board members from openly discussing what they’ve seen Falwell do. (“All trustees sign a confidentiality agreement that does not expire at the close of Board service,” Liberty’s attorney told board members in an email that was sent earlier this month after the school received inquiries from reporters on some of the issues outlined in this article.) Tenure and its protections are not available to Liberty faculty members outside the law school. If you teach or work at Liberty, you must get approval from Falwell’s office before you speak to the media. Talk to reporters without his approval—or publicly criticize him, even obliquely—and you could lose your job. If you’re a board member and do the same, you could get forced out, even if you have unimpeachable credentials in the Christian conservative movement.
“It’s a dictatorship,” one current high-level employee of the school said. “Nobody craps at the university without Jerry’s approval.”
“Everybody is scared for their life. Everybody walks around in fear,” said a current university employee who agreed to speak for this article only after purchasing a burner phone, fearing that Falwell was monitoring their communications. The fear is not limited to Liberty’s campus. Several people who lack any tie to Liberty but live in the school’s hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, refused to go on the record for this story, fearing Falwell would take revenge upon them and their families. “Fear is probably his most powerful weapon,” a former senior university official said.
But even those who fear have their breaking points.
In speaking out, said one longtime current university employee with close ties to the school’s first family, “I feel like I’m betraying them in some way. But someone’s gotta tell the freakin’ truth.”
“We’re talking about the difference between right and wrong,” a current high-ranking university official said. “Not even ‘being a Christian,’ but being a good person, versus people who manipulate the system”
Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. looks around the inside of an auxiliary sanctuary at the new Thomas Road Baptist Church in June 2006. | AP Photo/Steve Helber
PART I: The Kingdom
Long before his May 2007 death, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.—the Baptist preacher who founded Liberty University and whose creation of the Moral Majority marked the emergence of white evangelical conservatives as a national political force—made clear how he wanted the empire he’d built to be divided when the time came.
His two sons, Jerry Jr. and Jonathan, had each inherited different aspects of their father’s persona. For Jerry Jr., the elder of the two by four years, it was the stomach for partisan politics, ability to throw an elbow and the savvy to court influential friends. For Jonathan, it was the calling to ministry, his easy way with people and charisma as a public speaker. Jerry Jr. would preside over Liberty University, and Jonathan would lead Thomas Road Baptist Church. Each son had worked under their father at the respective institutions; each knew well what those positions would require.
A bigger question remained: Who would step into Falwell Sr.’s unique role as a national figurehead at the crossroads of evangelical Christianity and conservative politics—a man who counted presidents and senators as friends, a public figure whose outspoken statements riled critics and endeared him to conservatives, and whose endorsement carried real weight with a certain segment of voters?
Jerry Falwell Jr. and Jonathan Fallwell with Mike Huckabee
Left: Jerry Falwell Jr. speaks at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Right: At Thomas Road Baptist Church, Rev. Jonathan Falwell introduces then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in Feb. 2008. | AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, AP PHOTO/The News & Advance, Jill Nance
After the death of Falwell Sr., many within his tight-knit community expected Jonathan to pick up the mantle. A preacher by training, Jonathan had pastoral sensitivities and a personable nature that his brother Jerry lacked.
“Jonathan’s a great speaker and orator, a people person,” one current top Liberty employee close to the Falwell family told me. “Jerry can’t complete a sentence in person. … He’s nervous. It’s just not him, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
But Jerry had a passion for politics, a talent for riling up a certain type of cultural conservative and a spouse, Becki, who, while publicly playing the role of the quiet, supportive, Baptist housewife, knew how to get her way.
“You know, there’s a head of every family,” said a former university employee who worked closely with Becki Falwell for many years. “But what turns the head? The neck. She’s the neck that turns the head wherever she wants it.”
“Until Big Jerry died, you wouldn’t have known [Becki] if she walked up and slapped you,” said a former longtime Liberty official. “Big Jerry dies, and all of a sudden, [if] you’re walking down the hall and you didn’t greet her right, you’re fired.” As if to underline this point, one longtime university employee shared a 2012 email in which Becki contacted four school executives at 7:06 p.m. to complain that a low-level university employee had posted a Facebook status on her personal account criticizing a lack of adequate parking on campus. “Someone needs to talk to this girl. I don’t think that we allow employees to post negative remarks about Liberty,” Becki wrote to the school officials in a message that included a screenshot of the employee’s post. Shortly before 9:00 p.m., one senior official replied, “We are attempting to call her at home right now.” The woman in question did not respond to requests for comment, but according to her Facebook profile, she is no longer an employee of Liberty University.
In an email obtained for this article, Becki Falwell tells several high-level Liberty officials that "someone needs to talk to" a low-level university employee who complained about parking availability on campus in a post on her personal Facebook feed. (Email addresses and surname of employee have been redacted.)
In an email obtained for this article, Becki Falwell tells several high-level Liberty officials that "someone needs to talk to" a low-level university employee who complained about parking availability on campus in a post on her personal Facebook feed. (Email addresses and surname of employee have been redacted.) | Obtained by Brandon Ambrosino
A half-dozen people with inside knowledge of the Falwell family said that, after Falwell’s death, Becki pushed to shrink Jonathan’s role at the university—a move current and former Liberty officials described as the start of Jerry and Becki consolidating power.
Right after his father died, Jonathan held a position with Liberty University that was limited but which allowed him “to make sure [Liberty] kept its compass,” as one former longtime Liberty official put it. According to a 2008 statement announcing Jonathan’s appointment as the school’s vice chancellor for spiritual affairs, his responsibilities would include upholding the “doctrinal integrity of the university” and advising his brother on “matters of faith.”
“We need to make sure … that we never go in any direction that we as a university shouldn’t go,” Jonathan said in the statement at the time. “That’s the area that I’m going to focus on and do everything I can to ensure that my dad’s life’s work stays continuing to fulfill the mission that he had in 1971,” the year the university was formed.
But now, top Liberty officials say Jonathan doesn’t hold any sway—spiritual or otherwise—over the university that grew out of the church he leads. “As a general rule,” said a former high-ranking university official with longstanding ties to Liberty and the Falwell family, Falwell Sr. “spoke every Wednesday in [convocation] all year long. His desire was that whoever was the pastor of Thomas Road would [continue the tradition and] speak at Liberty. I think Jonathan speaks … maybe a few times per year.”
“Jerry never removed Jonathan,” a former top Liberty official said. “He just kind of pushed him aside.” For one, Jerry used Liberty’s abundant resources to bring his father’s diffuse properties under his control. “He bought all the [Thomas Road Baptist Church] properties, [Liberty Christian Academy], Jonathan’s building at the airport, and a couple of others. Jonathan complained but never stood up to [Jerry] because he knew [Jerry] controlled the purse strings,” the former top official said. Jonathan did not respond to requests for comment.
While longtime confidants of the Falwell family make clear that Becki loves Jonathan—“they’re family after all,” said one former longtime Liberty employee—many feel that she worked hard to make sure that everyone knew it was her husband, and not her brother-in-law, who would assume the elder Falwell’s mantle as a leading figurehead in the conservative evangelical movement. Becki’s message to Jerry, one high-ranking university official said, was simple: You are Jerry Falwell Junior.
As in: the new Jerry Falwell—the new leader of the Religious Right.
A Liberty student prays during convocation at the university in February 2013. | AP/Norm Shafer
Liberty University has transformed under Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership. When he took over as president in 2007, the school, which is a nonprofit, had listed assets of just over $259 million on its then most recent IRS Form 990; in its filing for the fiscal year ending in June 2017, its assets surpassed $2.5 billion. That number is now more than $3 billion, according to public statements Falwell made in 2018.
That growth is driven largely by a vast increase in the number of online students at the school, who now number some 95,000. Many Falwell confidants are concerned with where they see that university tuition money going: into university-funded construction and real estate projects that enrich the Falwell family and their friends.
Among these projects is a Lynchburg shopping center that is owned by Liberty University but which members of the Falwell family have a personal financial stake in operating, according to emails obtained by me.
In an email dated July 18, 2012, Falwell informed several university executives that his son, Trey Falwell, was “starting a new company to do the management” of properties owned by the school, including the shopping center. Trey Falwell, whose given name is Jerry Falwell III, is now a vice president of Liberty University. On August 7, 2012, Trey registered that privately owned company, JF Management LLC, with Campbell County, Virginia. As the address of its principal office, he gave the location of a house where he and his wife, Sarah, resided.
In a July 2012 email obtained for this article, Jerry Falwell Jr. tells several high-ranking Liberty University officials that his son, Trey, is starting a new company to manage a property owned by the school. (Email addresses, phone number and names of cc-ed employees have been redacted by Politico.)
In a July 2012 email obtained for this article, Jerry Falwell Jr. tells several high-ranking Liberty University officials that his son, Trey, is starting a new company to manage a property owned by the school. (Email addresses, phone number and names of cc-ed employees have been redacted by Politico.) | Obtained by Brandon Ambrosino
Experts on tax law and nonprofit organizations said that having the president of a nonprofit university directing university business to a company led by his son would be troubling.
“It raises red flags to have your kids being able to profit off the activities of the organization,” said Philip Hackney, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School who specializes in taxation and nonprofit management. As a general matter of law, “a nonprofit director or officer owes a ‘duty of loyalty’ to the nonprofit. What this means is he cannot take unfair advantage of the nonprofit he controls to his advantage.”
It’s the responsibility of nonprofit leaders to look out for the best interests of their organization, Hackney said, and as a standard practice, those leaders should be able to show how their financial transactions further the nonprofit’s mission in some way.
Asked how the property-management arrangement furthers Liberty’s mission, Falwell said the shopping center was donated to the school in poor condition. “Frankly, there are fewer professional property managers who would be interested in running it for us.”
A stone’s throw from the shopping center is a LaQuinta Inn whose ownership also raises questions about whether Falwell is directing business to family and friends.
The LaQuinta is owned by Comeback Inn LLC, which is registered to Chris Doyle, who manages real estate for the university. In a December 2018 affidavit, Falwell Jr. described Doyle as his “partner in … real estate ventures in Virginia.” Multiple current and former university officials with knowledge of the LaQuinta arrangement said Trey Falwell is a silent shareholder in Comeback Inn.
In an email responding to questions, Doyle declined to discuss the issue. “If my personal and business relationships are of value and interest to the public, I should write a book and [see] no reason to comment at this time,” Doyle said.
Emails obtained for this article show that on at least one occasion, university employees were asked to promote the LaQuinta on the school’s website—what several current and former high-ranking Liberty officials and employees described as part of a process where the school “funnels business” to the hotel.
Falwell denied having a financial interest in Comeback Inn. “I have not financially benefitted from Comeback Inn’s business and I have never owned any interest in Comeback Inn, LLC,” Falwell said in a statement. He did not answer for his son. “I will let Trey Falwell respond separately on his own behalf if he has any comment regarding your question.” Trey Falwell did not respond to requests for comment.
“What I have found over the years is if something doesn’t make sense and Jerry really wants it to happen, he in some form or fashion has a personal interest,” said a current high-ranking Liberty employee with knowledge of Falwell’s financial dealings.
A large, boxy building on Liberty University's campus
The line between where the Falwell family’s wealth begins and Liberty’s finances end is blurry.
University officials describe Liberty loaning money to the Falwells’ friends, even when these loans arguably are not in the school’s financial interests. According to emails and loan documents obtained for this article, in 2014, the university gave loans of at least $200,000 to Prototype Tourism LLC, a “destination marketing” company founded by Liberty graduate Josh Oppenheimer, whom Jerry Falwell Jr. described to me as “a friendly supporter.” According to emails I’ve reviewed, several high-ranking Liberty officials knew about the loan, including Vice President Trey Falwell. The graduate had difficulty repaying the loan—“not surprised,” Trey wrote in an email.
When asked about the loan, Jerry Falwell Jr. clarified the school’s role with Prototype Tourism. “Liberty University was not simply a lender, but was a minority investor in Prototype Tourism, LLC,” he wrote. Falwell described the company’s goal as promoting tourism to Lynchburg. “Due diligence was performed by multiple individuals who discussed the pros and cons and the consensus was that it was worthwhile to proceed,” Falwell wrote. “In the end, I reluctantly agreed with the recommendation and allowed the transaction to proceed. In hindsight, it was not a good decision. … LU lost its investment and the loan portion of the deal was only partially paid back.”
Other loans were precursors to massive contracts. In 2013, Robert Moon, a friend of Falwell’s with deep family ties to the Falwells, founded Construction Management Associates Inc., a construction company devoted to work on and around campus. Previously unreported is the fact that Liberty gave Moon a loan of $750,000 to form the company before awarding it more than $130 million in contracts and selling it land owned by the university.
When I described this arrangement to Hackney, the associate professor at Pitt Law, he said: “This is not standard or good practice. … A nonprofit that is not in the business of loaning money has little reason to be conducting such activity. It raises issues of whether these are in fact charitable activities that further the nonprofit’s mission.”
Asked whether such loans were a common practice for the university, Falwell wrote in an email that “Liberty has considered investments in other local start-up businesses that would help the University’s business model and the local economy.”
“On the other hand,” Falwell continued, “Liberty University has one of the largest unrestricted endowments in the nation and frequently invests in hundreds, if not thousands, of companies across the world purely for the return on investment whether the company has any nexus to Liberty’s mission or not. The same is true of every major university.”
Moreover, Falwell continued, “I have not personally benefited financially from CMA’s or any other contractor’s work for Liberty University nor has any member of my family.”
At the outset, some in Falwell’s inner circle were not so confident in the arrangement with Moon. Before his CMA Inc. became Liberty’s go-to contractor, the school bid out its construction work through an office on campus. (“Free enterprise tends to do pretty well,” one high-ranking university official said.) The prospect of changing that—giving CMA control over campus construction and its associated costs—rankled some senior university officials.
Early on in the CMA partnership, before CMA became the university’s single-largest contractor, Charles Spence, the school’s then-vice president of planning and construction, expressed unease about the high costs Moon was quoting for certain school projects. “Jerry I am very concerned about cost control on all the projects,” he wrote to Falwell in a November 2014 email. “Over the last couple of weeks we have had a lot of meetings and conversations on cost and cost overruns. We are just seeing the information begin to trickle in and there really don’t seem to be good answers just a response that the cost we are seeing are fair, and being handled appropriately.”
“I hope that I am over reacting,” Spence continued, “but I assure you I am concerned.”
“I am fine with going back to bidding every project out if CMA can’t run with the big dogs!” Falwell replied. “Let’s hold their feet to the fire!”
In each of the two years that followed, Liberty paid CMA more than $62 million, part of at least $138 million in contracts from Liberty since the company was formed, according to publicly available tax documents.
Senior Liberty officials might whisper about the propriety of these business deals, but they told me that Falwell’s decisions on campus are rarely ever challenged by the school’s board of trustees. “There’s no accountability,” a former high-ranking university officer said. “Jerry’s got pretty free reign to wheel and deal professionally and personally. The board will approve an annual budget, but beyond that … he doesn’t go to the board to get approval. … It simply doesn’t happen.”
In his statement, Falwell said he and Moon “are on friendly terms and [have] interacted socially in past years but neither of us would list the other on their list of close friends and associates. It is completely a typical arms-length business relationship.”
But there is evidence to the contrary—much of it documented on the Falwells’ own social media accounts.
In June 2013, for instance, the year CMA was formed, Falwell shared a photo on Instagram showing him, Becki and Trey joining Moon for a cruise down the James River on Moon’s private boat. When asked about the photographs, Falwell admitted to joining Moon on his boat “about five or six times.” “These afternoon outings did not cause me to lose my negotiation skills or abandon my fiduciary duties to enter into deals in the interest of the University,” Falwell wrote.
An Instagram post from Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Instagram account of him on a boat with Becki Falwell and Robert Moon
In this June 2013 Instagram post by Jerry Falwell Jr,. Falwell and his wife Becki pose for a photograph with Robert Moon during a boat ride on the James River. | Instagram: jerryfalwelljr
In July 2014, Falwell, Trey and Moon traveled to Miami together. Falwell said in his statement that he recalls “discussing University business” on the trip.
During the trip, photos were taken of Jerry and Trey Falwell partying at a Miami nightclub—photos that multiple Liberty University officials said Jerry Falwell tried to make disappear.
A photo inside of the club, WALL, in Miami Beach, Florida.
In this July 19, 2014, photo from Miami Beach's WALL nightclub, Jerry Falwell Jr. (circled here in red) can be seen among the clubgoers. | Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye.com
PART II: The Fixer
On July 19, 2014, popular Swedish DJ John Dahlbäck performed at Wall, a nightclub in Miami Beach, Fla. That night, the club happened to have a photographer on-site to grab candid shots of the revelry. The photos were shared online by World Red Eye, an outlet that documents Miami’s nightlife scene, and Jerry and Trey Falwell were visible in some of the pictures—the outlet identified Trey by name.
In a statement on August 21, Jerry Falwell denied the existence of any photo of him at the club. “There was no picture snapped of me at WALL nightclub or any other nightclub,” Falwell wrote. “I’m sure you already knew that though.”
When told that I had obtained a photo of him for this article, Falwell said I was “terribly mistaken.” “If you show me the picture, I can probably help you out,” he wrote. “I think you are making some incorrect assumptions, or have been told false things or are seeing something that was photo--shopped.”
After I sent him the photo, as well as a photo of Trey at Wall, Falwell responded: “I never asked anyone to get rid of any pictures on the internet of me and I never have seen the picture you claim is of me below. If the person in the picture is me, it was likely photo-shopped.” In a second email sent 23 minutes later, Falwell wrote: “But the bigger question, Brandon, is why would I want a picture like that taken down if I had seen it?”
Left: A zoomed-in close-up of Jerry Falwell Jr. in the crowd at WALL nightclub in Miami Beach, taken from the photo at the start of this section. Right: Also at the club that night were Trey Falwell and his wife, Sarah.
Left: A zoomed-in close-up of Jerry Falwell Jr. in the crowd at WALL nightclub in Miami Beach, taken from the photo at the start of this section. Right: Also at the club that night were Trey Falwell and his wife, Sarah. | Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye.com
According to several people with direct knowledge of the situation, Falwell—the president of a conservative Christian college that frowns upon co-ed dancing (Liberty students can receive demerits if seen doing it) and prohibits alcohol use (for which students can be expelled)—was angry that photos of him clubbing made it up online. To remedy the situation, multiple Liberty staffers said Falwell went to John Gauger, whom they characterized as his “IT guy,” and asked him to downgrade the photos’ prominence on Google searches. Gauger did not respond to requests for comment.
Gauger has worked at Liberty since earning his MBA from the school in 2009. In 2016, he was promoted to become the school’s chief information officer about a year and a half after he was named deputy CIO. To several university sources, his rapid rise to the C-suite was shocking.
“I’m not being disrespectful, but John was a nobody,” one longtime Liberty official said. “And the next thing you know, he’s high up in IT.”
Longtime Liberty officials describe Gauger as a sort of fixer for Falwell, a man promoted because he would do what Falwell asked of him without complaint. But Gauger is more than just a university employee: Since 2009, Gauger has also run RedFinch LLC, an online business he founded that specializes in search-engine marketing and does lucrative contract work for Liberty. Tax records show Liberty paid RedFinch $123,950 during 2016, for what sources described as search-engine recruitment of online students for the university. Gauger did not respond to requests for comment.
RedFinch’s online work for the school goes beyond typical SEO marketing. In an email from August 2013 obtained for this article, Falwell asked Gauger to defend him in the comments section of a local news article that Falwell felt reflected too negatively on him. Falwell even emailed Gauger the exact wording to post.
“I’m having my RedFinch guys blow this up right away,” Gauger responded. “I’ll tell you how it goes.”
When Falwell told Gauger a different employee already chimed into the conversation, Gauger insisted that he’d “have a few accounts turn the conversation elsewhere just for good measure.”
According to several longtime Liberty employees, it’s extremely unusual for university employees to be allowed to own side businesses that do contract work for the school. “I’ve always had a problem with RedFinch because there never was any clear and distinct lines,” one former Liberty employee told me. “You can’t work at Liberty 8-5 on the clock and get paid from somebody else for the same hours.”
Multiple university officials said Gauger is very close, both personally and professionally, with the Falwells, especially Trey. At Liberty, Gauger reports to Trey, and Trey answers only to his dad.
In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2014 and 2015, Michael Cohen hired Gauger’s side business, RedFinch LLC, to rig online polls in Donald Trump’s favor while he considered a run for the presidency. Gauger’s work consisted of writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for Trump in two online polls; his company would get paid $50,000 in return. Instead, Gauger told the Journal that after a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Cohen paid Gauger roughly one-fourth of that amount—between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash—and gave him a boxing glove worn by a mixed martial arts fighter.
Through his lawyer, Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for tax fraud, making false statements to Congress and violating campaign finance laws, declined a request to comment for this article.
Previously unreported about this incident is that Trey joined Gauger on the January 2015 trip to New York, and posted a photo to Instagram showing a large amount of cash spread atop a bed in a hotel room. Liberty officials who saw the since-deleted post and described its contents said it raised questions about Trey’s involvement in the pro-Trump poll-rigging effort.
“The idiot posted [a picture of] money on a bed?!” one current senior Liberty official said. “Why do that if you’re not involved with it?”
Liberty officials also pointed to a tweet sent out by the university’s Twitter account on January 23, 2014, linking to one of the polls that the Wall Street Journal reported Gauger had rigged. The poll was conducted by CNBC and asked readers to vote for the top American business leaders.
On Jan. 23, 2014, Liberty University's official Twitter account asked its followers to vote for Donald Trump in an online poll hosted by CNBC. The online poll was among those Michael Cohen, Trump's attorney, paid John Gauger, a Liberty employee and owner of RedFinch Solutions LLC, to manipulate. | Twitter
As a nonprofit, Liberty University is legally prohibited from engaging in “political campaign activity,” to use the IRS’ phrase, at the risk of losing its nonprofit status.
When asked about the tweet, Falwell told me he authorized the university’s marketing department to send it as way of thanking Trump for speaking at Liberty. “A representative of the Trump business organization asked for Liberty University to use Twitter to encourage followers to vote for Donald Trump in the annual CNBC poll. We often get requests from Convocation speakers to promote their books, movies, music and other projects. And we do it all the time,” Falwell said. “After speaking for free at [a 2012 Liberty] Convocation and being so complimentary to our University in his remarks, I considered Donald Trump to be a friend of Liberty University and was happy to publicize the poll in hopes that Liberty followers would be willing to vote for him on the heels of his very positive recent campus appearance.”
Falwell noted that at the time the tweet was sent, “Donald Trump was not a candidate for president and no one at Liberty even knew he would run for President.” However, as the Wall Street Journal reported—and as several sources independently confirmed in the course of my reporting for this article—Cohen had hired Gauger, a Liberty employee, to rig the poll in Trump’s favor for the purposes of garnering support ahead of his presidential bid.
“A 501(c)(3) organization trying to influence a poll so that a candidate’s fortunes are promoted or demoted is not permitted,” said Eve Borenstein, an attorney and tax expert known as the “Queen of the 990,” a moniker used to introduce her ahead of congressional testimony she gave about the IRS Form 990 in 2012.
While 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to “do objective analysis of [an] electoral horse race,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, “tweeting out a rigged poll if Liberty knew it was rigged probably does not fall into that safe harbor.”
Liberty officials said that the arrangement is characteristic of how Falwell wields power. “This paints a picture of how Jerry operates,” one former high-ranking university official said. “Gauger gets promoted, [Liberty] contracts for RedFinch for online recruitment … and [Gauger] gets hooked up with people like Cohen to make more money via RedFinch.” And in the end, Falwell gets what he really wants: “A guy that will do whatever he is told.”
rule for section breaks
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, leaves federal court in Dec. 2018. | AP
Michael Cohen’s connection to Jerry Falwell Jr., veers into deeply personal territory.
In May 2019, Reuters reported that Cohen helped Falwell contain the fallout from some racy “personal” photos. Later that month, Falwell took to Todd Starnes’ radio talk show to rebut the claims.
“This report is not accurate,” Falwell said. “There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me.”
Members of Falwell’s inner circle took note of the phrasing.
“If you read how Jerry is framing his response, you can see he is being very selective,” one of Falwell’s confidants said. Racy photos do exist, but at least some of the photos are of his wife, Becki, as the Miami Herald confirmed in June.
Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.
At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support. In a car ride about a decade ago with a senior university official who has since left Liberty, “all he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn’t handle [his penis size], and stuff of that sort,” this former official recalled. Falwell did not respond to questions about this incident.
More than simply talking with employees about his wife in a sexual manner, on at least one occasion, Falwell shared a photo of his wife wearing what appeared to be a French maid costume, according to a longtime Liberty employee with firsthand knowledge of the image and the fallout that followed.
Falwell intended to send the image to his and Becki’s personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite, as a “thank you” for helping his wife achieve her fitness goals, the employee said. In the course of texting, Falwell accidentally sent the message to several other people, necessitating a cleanup.
In a statement, Falwell denied this. “I never had any picture of Becki Falwell dressed in a French maid uniform, and never sent such a non-existent photo to Ben Crosswhite.”
Crosswhite did not respond to requests for comment.
The Falwells’ close relationship with Crosswhite is the source of consternation for some of Liberty’s top brass because of what they characterize as a sweetheart business deal Falwell had the university offer Crosswhite.
On July 23, 2013, Liberty University began renting space to Crosswhite for use as a fitness center. “The facility was specifically built into the old Racket Club for Jerry and Becki to train privately” with Crosswhite, a longtime university official familiar with the arrangement said. Over the course of the Falwells' private training, Liberty began to pay for expensive upgrades to the facility, according to documents reviewed for this article. Eventually, in 2015, Falwell had a university executive draft a proposal for Liberty to sell the property to Crosswhite at a discount, paying him up front for Liberty’s use of the facility for the next seven years.
“We raised his rent some to cover the investment. LU then sold it to Ben,” one senior university official said. “Nobody else was allowed to bid on it.”
In a Dec. 10, 2013, Instagram post, Becki Falwell and Michael Cohen pose for a photograph during a visit to New York City. "Wonderful seeing my great friend @michaelcohen84 in NY," Falwell wrote. "He's the best."
In a Dec. 10, 2013, Instagram post, Becki Falwell and Michael Cohen pose for a photograph during a visit to New York City. "Wonderful seeing my great friend @michaelcohen84 in NY," Falwell wrote. "He's the best." | Instagram
In a September 2015 email, Liberty University Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Randy Smith wrote Crosswhite to let him know the terms of the deal. The university would sell Crosswhite “the club and all real estate associated with it” for $1,216,000. Liberty employees would be allowed to use the facility, Crosswhite could decide what the value of that was—roughly $82,000 per year, he decided—and the school would pay in advance for seven years of use.
At closing, per Falwell’s approval, Liberty would pay Crosswhite approximately $575,000, which effectively cut Crosswhite’s total cost for the $1.2 million property in half. “The net amount that you would need at closing is $641,062 more or less,” Smith wrote. “After reviewing, if the terms are acceptable to you, then I will get final approval from Jerry to proceed,” Smith wrote Crosswhite.
“Hell of a deal,” a former high-ranking Liberty official told me. “We gave Ben everything he asked for.”
In emails obtained for this article, David Corry, lead counsel for Liberty University, expressed concerns about the appearance of the deal. “Please note, though, that Ben Crosswhite enjoys a close working relationship with several LU administrators, including the President, so I suggest whatever course of action is taken, it is done cordially and professionally with knowledge ahead of time that it may be second guessed,” Corry wrote in a September 2017 email to top Liberty staff.
When asked for comment on August 22, Corry four times asked me to turn over to him the email thread. When Corry was provided the exact wording along with the date he sent the email, he replied that he wasn’t shown his “signature block,” perhaps suggesting he had not sent the email in question. When Corry was presented with a screen shot of his email, including his signature block, he said his comment was taken out of context and alleged the sources for this article “are intentionally feeding you partial facts in hopes you will do their dirty work in a very public way.” On August 27, Reuters broke the news of Liberty’s property sale to Crosswhite.
In a statement for this article, Falwell wrote that the athletic facility had been donated to Liberty University and was “a drain on University resources that was disproportionate to its value.” “I wanted to reverse that and allow the University to get what it needed from the facility but eliminate the annual costs of maintenance, staffing and operations,” Falwell said. “Since Ben Crosswhite would not be receiving full use of the entire property” given the university’s continued use of the facility, Liberty decided “Crosswhite never received full value of the whole property and thus should not pay full price.”
“Unless you are approaching this with some sort of pre-determined outcome, the transaction is very easy to understand,” Liberty COO Smith wrote in an email responding to questions for this article. “It is VERY common practice for the university to dispose of an asset that is in financial and operational distress … especially if it can do it in a fashion that is advantageous to the university. To accomplish that while still making the facility available for the university to use is what most would consider to be a win-win situation.”
Smith said the idea for the financial arrangement used to sell the athletic facility to Crosswhite was his. “I proposed that the university commit to renting … from him for a number of years and we could pay that in the form of a credit at closing,” Smith wrote. “To answer your question, yes, creative deals are commonplace at Liberty University.”
“When I hear the laundry list of interested transactions and the questionable use of Liberty University’s assets … I hear a nonprofit that is not well-governed in a sense that I would hope and expect from a sizable nonprofit,” Pitt Law’s Hackney said. “It has the sense of being managed for a charismatic leader and his family and friends rather than for the mission of Liberty.”
Liberty University graduates celebrate after the school's May 2007 commencement ceremony.
PART III: The Power and the glory
It will surprise no one that Jerry Falwell Jr. is a Republican. He has that in common with the vast majority of people connected to Liberty. But sometimes his partisan allegiances manifest in ways that directly influence the governance of the school—which, as a nonprofit, must not endorse or oppose candidates for public office.
Just days after the 2008 election of Barack Obama, top university officials were already considering ways to ensure that Liberty students voted in 2010 local elections in Lynchburg. Falwell and university officials weren’t simply talking about the sort of voter-registration drives common at many college campuses; they wanted students to tilt the balance of the election.
In emails obtained for this article, top school officials shared a local newspaper article documenting “concerns in some quarters [of Lynchburg] about the overwhelmingly conservative LU students and the possibility they could alter the balance of power on council and change the course of the city.”
“FYI - The challenge we will have in 2010 is [Lynchburg’s local Election Day] is finals week,” a top Liberty official wrote in a November 9, 2008, email to Falwell and other school leaders. “We would either need to get a polling station at LU or try and make this a reading day to get the kids out to vote.”
Falwell responded to the message just under four hours later, announcing that the problem was now solved: “We changed the calendar by one week. School will now let out on May 14 instead of" May 7.
This wasn’t a fluke. According to a former high-ranking university official who participated in some of these discussions, Falwell often takes “aggressive efforts … to register students in an effort to gain political influence.”
Similarly, in a 2014 email exchange, Falwell complained that Liberty’s commencement date meant that most students would be gone for the summer by the time voting began for Lynchburg’s local elections. “Why did we schedule commencement a week earlier this year?” he wrote in an email to several school executives. When one replied that commencement usually happened during the same weekend each year, Falwell pushed back. “We need to get that corrected for the 2018 graduation or else we will have no students in town to vote in local elections again,” Falwell wrote. “Let’s work on it.”
In the past, Falwell has defended any political actions he’s made as personal stances disconnected from his leadership of Liberty University. “I think our community is mature enough that they understand that all the administrators and faculty have their own personal political views,” he told the Washington Post after endorsing Trump. But it is as the president and chancellor of Liberty that Falwell changed the academic calendar to influence local politics.
In a statement, Falwell admitted to amending the academic calendar “so that students would not be prevented from voting in local municipal elections that used to be scheduled after their spring term exams.”
“They and their parents pay some of the highest taxes in the nation when it comes to the City meal and hotel taxes,” Falwell said. “It’s only fair that they have some say about who is elected to represent them.”
When I shared my reporting on the school’s date changes, legal experts reached different conclusions as to its propriety.
“This paints a picture of an organization that is intervening on campaigns more than it should,” said Pitt Law’s Hackney, although he added that other universities have “presumably” taken student voting into consideration when creating their schedules.
“Doing anything with the resources of a 501(c)(3) organization to promote or oppose candidates for elective public office is not a permitted operation by a 501(c)(3)-qualified organization under federal tax law,” Borenstein, the tax attorney specializing in nonprofit organizations, wrote in an email.
Still, Falwell’s actions here are “likely fine,” said Torres-Spelliscy, the law professor at Stetson University. “Many schools try to cancel classes or hold no classes on Election Day to encourage students to vote or be poll workers or engage in election protection activities. Though the IRS might consider Falwell’s stated partisan motivation if the IRS investigated Liberty to challenge its 501(c)(3) status, this type of investigation is highly unlikely.” In fact, according to Ellen April, a professor of tax law at Loyola Law School, a very small number of 990 Forms are ever investigated. “The IRS is able to do very little enforcement of the rules applicable to 501(c)(3) because of their limited" resources.
President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr. onstage during Liberty's May 2017 commencement ceremony. | Getty Images
Observers snickered when Donald Trump visited Liberty’s campus in 2016, veered off script and infamously referred to the Bible's Second Corinthians as “two Corinthians”—making it appear as if he were learning of the biblical book for the first time. But his promises to religious conservatives—chief among them, his guarantee that he would fill Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court empty seat with a justice who opposed abortion rights—and his choice of Mike Pence as his running mate mobilized evangelicals to support him in 2016. In CNN’s exit poll from that November, 26 percent of the electorate described themselves as white born-again or evangelical Christians; 80 percent of them voted for Trump.
In 2017, with Trump in office and evangelicals strongly supporting him, the Falwells saw a branding opportunity, according to emails obtained for this article.
That spring, after Trump was invited to deliver the school’s commencement address, Becki Falwell asked university counsel Corry to look into whether Liberty could “permit third-party vendors to sell t-shirts and hats [on campus] during commencement weekend.” Corry advised that because of a contract between the university and Barnes & Noble, which had the exclusive right to sell “clothing, including any and all such items bearing Liberty University emblem, logo, insignia, or other identifying mark” on campus, the answer “depends upon who is selling them and whether Barnes & Noble consents.”
“I want to make sure that we have a lot of options available to purchase,” Becki Falwell replied, adding additional Liberty officials to the email thread. “It’s great advertising for Liberty to be on products with Trumps name.”
In a follow-up email to the Liberty officials, Becki wrote, “I spoke to Michael Cohen and he said to make sure any shirts we buy are made in America! He loved the designs!”
The school ended up printing and selling Trump T-shirts and hats. The shirts, in MAGA red with white type, read “TRUMP” in large block letters and “Liberty University Commencement 2017” in a much smaller font size. Another design, used on both hats and T-shirts, borrowed Trump’s campaign slogan and signature style: an all-caps “Making America Great Again,” then in a script font: “One degree at a time.”
Mockups of merchandise proposed for Liberty University's commencement in 2017
Ahead of Trump’s speech at Liberty’s 2017 commencement, Becki Falwell wrote an email to several high-ranking Liberty officials: “It’s great advertising for Liberty to be on products with Trumps name.” The school ended up printing and selling Trump t-shirts and hats. The shirts, in MAGA red with white type, read “TRUMP” in large block letters, with “Liberty University Commencement 2017” in a much smaller typeface. Another design, used on both hats and t-shirts, borrowed Trump’s campaign slogan and signature style: an all-caps “Making America Great Again,” then in a script font: “One degree at a time.” | Obtained by Brandon Ambrosino
“Liberty University actually benefited by having President Donald Trump speak at commencement and by associating his brand with the University’s brand,” Jerry Falwell said in a statement, expressing his disappointment that the emails were shared. “Because Donald Trump is conservative, there is a benefit for a conservative Christian school to be associated with him, so long as the association does not cross the legal line set by the federal government.”
Told about the merchandise, experts suggested that the Trump-Liberty T-shirts might cross that line. “A 501(c)(3) organization cannot be selling those shirts or gifting space to someone selling t-shirts with a candidate’s name on it, since that is advertising for a candidate,” Borenstein said.
Ever since Falwell endorsed Trump ahead of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, political pundits have speculated that Trump was simply using Falwell to achieve his own political ends. That might be true: From his regular appearances at evangelical events to his claim that he single-handedly brought back the phrase “Merry Christmas,” Trump seems to be keen on shoring up his evangelical base. What better way to do that than to cultivate a very public relationship with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.’s son?
But multiple associates of Jerry Falwell Jr. said the popular narrative is backward: It’s not Trump who has the most to gain from the relationship, it’s Falwell. Trump just went along with the arrangement.
Falwell has become known as a Trump loyalist who is willing to put his—and his school’s—reputation on the line to defend the president from any critic. In Trump, Falwell said in 2017, “evangelicals have found their dream president.” When asked by the Washington Post late in 2018 if there were “anything President Trump could do that would endanger that support from you or other evangelical leaders,” Falwell said “No.” In a May 2019 tweet about the Mueller investigation, Falwell appropriated the language of reparations for descendants of slaves to argue Trump’s term should be lengthened: “I now support reparations. Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.”
In Trump, Falwell has found the opportunity to secure his own status as one of America’s preeminent Christian political leaders—the chance to finally obtain the national relevance of his father. Now, Falwell is a national figure—a friend to a president, a man prone to outspoken statements that rile critics and endear him to supporters, a major leader on the religious right despite not being a pastor. He is closer than ever before to the kind of status the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. wielded.
But for those at Liberty who know both Falwell Jr. and his late father, there’s no comparing the men.
"Jerry’s daddy was a respectable, honest, decent, hardworking man,” said a longtime Liberty official who worked for both father and son. “Big Jerry hired people that were smart and capable and put them around himself. He made sure you knew you were appreciated. There was never an ego involved. You knew you were working for a higher calling. Jerry’s father was very generous and promoted all of us in an enlightening way.”
With Falwell Sr., "you could feel his passion and love for the Lord and others. He knew everyone’s names, their stories and struggles. He was genuine and loving. And that love bled from the campus,” a former longtime university official said. “It’s a cold place now.”
“With [Jerry’s] dad, there were never questions about his business dealings or whether he was profiting from a business deal,” said still another former longtime high-ranking Liberty official who worked closely with both men. “There was never a hint or suspicion of that because Falwell Sr. was only doing things that were for the benefit of the university or church—not for himself.”
The feeling is different with Junior in charge.
One source pointed to a tweet Jerry Falwell Jr. sent out in June 2019 criticizing David Platt, an evangelical Virginia pastor who apologized for welcoming Trump to his church. “I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God,” Platt said. “Sorry to be crude,” wrote Falwell in a since-deleted tweet, “but pastors like [David Platt] need to grow a pair.”
After Falwell came under criticism for his tweet about Platt, he responded to critics with a two-part Twitter thread, which, in the words of one current high-ranking Liberty official, “a lot of people found troubling.”
“I have never been a minister,” Falwell tweeted. “UVA-trained lawyer and commercial real estate developer for 20 yrs. Univ president for last 12 years-student body tripled to 100000+/endowment from 0 to $2 billion and $1.6B new construction in those 12 years. The faculty, students and campus pastor @davidnasser of @LibertyU are the ones who keep LU strong spiritually as the best Christian univ in the world. While I am proud to be a conservative Christian, my job is to keep LU successful academically, financially and in athletics.”
To those who worked for Liberty under the late Rev. Falwell, the sentiment appeared to signal a serious departure from his father’s legacy. “Bragging about business success and washing his hands of any responsibility for spiritual life at the university—that was frankly a pretty Trumpian line of commentary,” said one former university official with longstanding ties to both Liberty and the Falwell family.
Under Falwell Jr., Liberty University is “a totally dysfunctional organization,” one board member wrote in an email reviewed for this article. “Very similar to Trump’s White House.”
https://www.politico.com/magazine/story ... ans-227914
For the last several years, I've been reporting on Liberty University and the #Falwell family. During that time, I've connected with many high-ranking Liberty officials (current and former) who have been more than willing to tell me what they know. /1
(202) 224-3121 CONGRESS
Wendy Siegelman added,
(202) 224-3121 CONGRESS
"We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying…
Wendy Siegelman added,
https://twitter.com/WendySiegelman/stat ... 2591904768
When Gauger traveled to Trump Tower to collect payment for online poll rigging from Cohen, he was joined by Trey Falwell, Liberty University VP. During that trip, Trey posted a photo to IG of around $12K in cash spread on a hotel bed.
The Pattern Leading To Michael Cohen Visiting Prague
Jan 30 · 6 min read
Prague, Czech Republic
Rigging Online Polls
Around January 17, 2019, it was revealed that Presidential candidate Donald Trump directed Trump Organization EVP Michael Cohen to pay evangelical christian Liberty University CIO John Gauger for computer software to rig online polls, via voting multiple times to boost Trump’s popularity before his campaign. The first online polls targeted for rigging by Donald Trump, (that are known of), were the CNBC online poll of the 100 best business persons in 2014, and a Drudge Report online poll of the most popular Republican candidates for President in early 2015.
These immoral attempts at rigging online polls emerged because Michael Cohen billed the Trump Organization for $50,000 for “tech services” for the computer scripts from Gauger. Then, Cohen only paid Gauger $12,000 — $13,000 of the $50,000, when Gauger visited Trump Tower to collect the payment for the illegal services. Cohen also included a boxing glove, (from a famous Mixed Martial Arts fighter), in the Walmart bag that contained the all-cash under-payment. Interestingly, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. was subsequently considered for the position of Secretary of Education by the Trump Transition Team.
Presidential Debate Online Poll Reliance
During the campaign, Trump frequently boasted about online polls and bashed any poll that showed him behind. After the CNBC poll in 2014 and the Drudge poll in 2015, Trump then proceeded through the Republican primary debates consistently bragging of winning online polls. For example, in August 2015 Trump said, “I have a lot of money and I’m not getting out. I’m going to win,” Trump said. “You watch, when this campaign is over, I win. As good as I’m doing, and I’m leading the polls, it’s just the start.”
Via only illegal online poll rigging, Trump, Cohen, & Gauger are guilty of Computer Fraud & Abuse (18 USC 1030), Defrauding the USA (18 USC 371), RICO (18 USC 1962), Money Laundering (18 USC 1956(h)), and Campaign Finance Violation (52 USC 30116).
Free Republic Freeping Polls
During the primary and presidential debates, unethical Republicans engaged in “freeping”, (for “Free Pinging”), online polls via coordinating with other unethical Republicans in the “Free Republic” online forum. The process of “freeping” involves accessing the online poll, voting once, then getting the latest poll results, then clearing the last hour of web browser history, hitting the back button, then getting a new online poll page that is available for voting again.
Free Republic’s Freeping Method
By 2016, online services like http://www.buycontestvotes.com offered computer scripts to manipulate online voting at the rate of $15,000 per 100,000 votes. Even though this would invalidate the online contests, buycontestvotes.com offered the unethical the opportunity to cheat in Facebook, Twitter, and other online polls in the same manner as Donald Trump had schemed in 2014 and 2015. buycontestvotes.com’s capabilities included online voting with thousands of authentic appearing social media accounts, and thousands of internet addresses to disguise the fake votes generated by a single computer script.
buycontestvotes.com home page
Rigging Online Business, Primaries, Presidential, And Approval Polls, then….
Free Republic forum participants engaging in freeping were a known liability of online polls during the 2016 Presidential election cycle. However, the Trump Campaign paying for computer scripts to vote in online polls multiple times for Donald Trump was not suspected.
List of 2016 Presidential Debate Online Polls
In addition to Michael Cohen paying for illegal poll rigging in 2014 and early 2015, (detected by tax fraud discrepancies within Cohen’s SDNY plea agreement), it is very possible Cohen continued to pay various operatives for further fraudulent poll rigging during the Republican primaries in late 2015 and early 2016, the Presidential Debates in 2016, and even after Donald Trump illegitimately became the USA’s President on November 8, 2016. If this existed, and Cohen accounted for the “tech services” legitimately, then the revealing of this practice will possibly only occur during a future indictment.
Paying For Election Hacking Software In Prague, Czech Republic
Therefore, in August 2016 did Michael Cohen visit Prague, Czech Republic in order to pay for voting machine, and Board of Elections, computer hacking malware to hack the USA Presidential Election, including Election Day hacking?
What has been determined, outside of secrecy by the Trump-Russia Special Counsel investigation, is that cellular network signals from Cohen’s cellphone were detected outside Prague around the time of the Russian hacker’s meeting purported by the Trump-Russia Dossier.
After the pre-dawn FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office and residence, Cohen has admitted then denied that he traveled to Prague in August, 2016. The reason for the changing story is possibly because of investigation secrecy demanded by the Special Counsel. Post-FBI raid Cohen admitted visiting Prague and Donald Trump knowing about the Trump Tower Meeting. Then, denied these admissions. Interestingly, George Papadopoulos admitted, then denied that Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump knew about his Russian contacts. Then finally re-admitted when those revelations were included in Papadopoulos’ Sentencing Memorandum.
With Michael Cohen possibly visiting Prague, MI6 Moscow bureau chief Christopher Steele’s Trump-Russia Dossier mentioned three associates that accompanied Cohen on the trip. The identity of these possible three associates is still not known. Are they possibly Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump travelling to Prague with Cohen in order to manage the invisibility of the Russian election hack, post-resignation of election hack planner Paul Manafort? Or were the three associates possibly Carter Page, and other lower level Trump operatives?
Several candidates for the Russian hackers that Cohen met in Prague have been arrested by Interpol and extradited to the USA from 2016 — Present. The possible authors/marketers of the 2016 election hacking software include Evgeny Nikulin, Pyotr Levashov, Alexander Vinnik, Yury Martyshev, and Stanislav Lisov.
Trump 2016 Black Ops Digital Roadmap
Paul Manafort might have planned the Trump 2016 Black Ops Digital Roadmap involving election rigging via computer hacking, however it is possible Michael Cohen’s duty was to use Donald Trump’s financial resources to pay for the software needed to meet the Digital Roadmap’s goals.
My analysis of Trump Campaign Hacking Ops Delegation
Incidentally, and suggesting further incrimination, the financial resources of Donald Trump applied to Manafort’s Black Ops Digital Roadmap could have traitorously originated in the Russian Federation’s Oligarchy.
My analysis of the origins of Donald Trump’s finances
Considering the pattern of Michael Cohen financing unethical activities committed by Donald Trump, and the proven involvement of the Trump Campaign in cheating online polls, it is only a matter of logical, linear deduction to presume the Trump Campaign also targeted the 2016 Presidential Elections itself for malware that would ensure the contest was decided in Donald Trump’s favor.
Thank you very much for reading this blog. The above analysis is a product of the author’s deductive reasoning only. The accuracy of the conclusions will be revealed as the final documents produced by the Trump-Russia Special Counsel, and Congressional investigations, are released.
Contributions: https://fundly.com/institute-of-societal-conditions or Ethereum to 0x8727d306494CfF418FD17Bf920f5ce5a5a784bAf.
https://medium.com/@j363j/the-pattern-l ... eed929a9ad
Exclusive: US extracted top spy from inside Russia in 2017
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018.
Washington (CNN) — In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.
A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.
The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.
The disclosure to the Russians by the President, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risk of exposure, according to the source directly involved in the matter.
At the time, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the covert source, known as an asset. An extraction, or "exfiltration" as such an operation is referred to by intelligence officials, is an extraordinary remedy when US intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger.
A US official said before the secret operation there was media speculation about the existence of such a covert source, and such coverage or public speculation poses risks to the safety of anyone a foreign government suspects may be involved. This official did not identify any public reporting to that effect at the time of this decision and CNN could not find any related reference in media reports.
Asked for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director of public affairs, told CNN: "CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life-or-death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false. Misguided speculation that the President's handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence—which he has access to each and every day—drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate."
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger."
Wide concerns about Trump in intelligence community
The removal happened at a time of wide concern in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration. Those concerns were described to CNN by five sources who served in the Trump administration, intelligence agencies and Congress.
Those concerns continued to grow in the period after Trump's Oval Office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Weeks after the decision to extract the spy, in July 2017, Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg and took the unusual step of confiscating the interpreter's notes. Afterward, intelligence officials again expressed concern that the President may have improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russia, according to an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community's response to the Trump-Putin meeting.
Knowledge of the Russian covert source's existence was highly restricted within the US government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was "no equal alternative" inside the Russian government, providing both insight and information on Putin.
CNN is withholding several details about the spy to reduce the risk of the person's identification.
The secret removal of the high-level Russian asset has left the US without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and the plans and thinking of the Russian president at a time when tensions between the two nations have been growing. The US intelligence community considers Russia one of the two greatest threats to US national security, along with China.
"The impact would be huge because it is so hard to develop sources like that in any denied area, particularly Russia, because the surveillance and security there is so stringent," a former senior intelligence official told CNN. "You can't reacquire a capability like that overnight."
Months of mounting fear
The decision to pull the asset out of Russia was the culmination of months of mounting fear within the intelligence community.
At the end of the Obama administration, US intelligence officials had already expressed concerns about the safety of this spy and other Russian assets, given the length of their cooperation with the US, according to a former senior intelligence official.
Those concerns grew in early 2017 after the US intelligence community released its public report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which said Putin himself ordered the operation. The intelligence community also shared a classified version of the report with the incoming Trump administration, and it included highly protected details on the sources behind the intelligence. Senior US intelligence officials considered extracting at least one Russian asset at the time but did not do so, according to the former senior intelligence official.
In the first months of his administration, Trump's handling of classified intelligence further concerned intelligence officials. Ultimately, they decided to launch the difficult operation to remove an asset who had been working for the US for years.
The President was informed in advance of the extraction, along with a small number of senior officials. Details of the extraction itself remain secret and the whereabouts of the asset today are unknown to CNN.
CNN's Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/09/politics ... index.html
Another Brick in Trump’s Wall
The administration’s latest move to divert funds from military programs to the border shows why the president’s “state of emergency” is so dangerous.
Fred KaplanSept 05, 20195:41 PM
A Border Patrol vehicle drives along a section of border fence near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 in Hidalgo, Texas.
Loren Elliott/AFP/Getty Images
The Pentagon’s transfer of $3.6 billion, from already-approved military programs to pay for a stretch of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, may seem like an obscure bureaucratic maneuver. But in fact, it’s a blatant test case of President Donald Trump flexing his “emergency powers” in an unprecedented way—which, if it’s allowed to stand, could inspire many more power grabs in the future.
Ordinarily, statutes bar the executive branch from “reprogramming” more than a few million dollars, from one set of projects to another, without congressional approval. Andrew Exum, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East affairs during the Obama administration, tweeted on Tuesday:
I once repurposed some excess funds we had earmarked for Ebola-related contingencies to buy blankets and cooking fuel for refugees fleeing the Islamic State and had to get four separate congressional committees to sign off on it before I could spend a dollar.
And that was for excess funds—money appropriated but no longer needed. To build a piece of his wall, Trump ordered his defense secretary to raid funds for projects that were still in the works. The canceled—or, as Pentagon officials prefer to call them, “deferred”—programs were for a vast array of construction projects on U.S. military bases at home and overseas: family housing, schools, firing ranges, a new cybersecurity training center. At a Sept. 3 news conference announcing the move, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman expressed the hope that, at some point soon, Congress would restore the deleted programs.
Trump has justified the transfer by invoking a rarely-used statute—Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 2808—which allows funds for military construction to be reshuffled, without restriction, in “the event of a declaration of war or the declaration by the President of a national emergency.” (All the deleted projects—127 of them—were in the defense budget’s “military construction” account.)
Back on Feb. 15, Trump declared the need for a border wall to be a “national emergency.” Lawsuits were filed at once, challenging the legitimacy of the emergency. One point made in these suits was that Trump didn’t declare an emergency until after Congress turned down his request—made through normal budgetary channels—to fund the wall. Another was that, on the same day that he declared the emergency, Trump admitted there really wasn’t one, telling reporters, “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this”—that is, he didn’t need to declare an emergency.
This point was, perhaps unwittingly, bolstered at this week’s Pentagon press conference, when Elaine McKusker, the Pentagon’s comptroller, said that construction of the wall couldn’t begin for 100 to 140 days. In other words, a full year might lapse between the time of Trump’s declaration and the beginning of fence construction—hardly an emergency, in the everyday sense of the word.
Officials at the press conference said that the $3.6 billion would pay for a 175-mile stretch of wall. That would cover a mere 8 percent of the 1,954-mile border between the United States and Mexico. Some of that stretch would consist of new wall, while some would be reinforcement of existing fencing; the officials didn’t quantify the distinction.
In the initial court case on Trump’s announcement of an emergency, the judge sided with a motion by the Sierra Club to bar spending on the wall, citing the rejection by Congress and the harm that might be done to the environment and privately held land. (The Washington Post reported last month that, in a rush to complete 500 miles of wall by Election Day, Trump told aides that if the necessary land grab were deemed illegal, he would pardon the lawbreakers.)
However, on July 26, in a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court lifted the lower court’s stay and allowed Trump to proceed with his plans for the wall—though the lawsuits challenging his policy will also proceed, meaning the court might reconsider the issue at a later date. Still, the Court has almost always granted presidents wide leeway in carrying out their Article II powers, as they see fit.
In his dissent, Justice Steven Breyer wrote, “This case raises novel and important questions about the ability of private parties to enforce Congress’s appropriations power.” Indeed. The questions are particularly important, given that Congress itself seems less than eager to assert this power—or at least that’s the case with the Republican-controlled Senate.
Rep. Adam Smith, Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement on Tuesday condemning the Trump administration’s move to divert Pentagon funds. But the House alone can do little to block the move, especially if the Supreme Court upholds its legality.
All told, military construction projects are crucial to the readiness of U.S. military forces and the comfort of their families. It’s hard to say, just from reading the list of deleted projects, how many of them are in fact needed, how many can safely be deferred, and how many amount to pork-barrel for the districts of powerful members of Congress. In that sense, messing with “Mil Con” does carry political risks. The projects Trump is messing with are spread out across 23 states, including such potential 2020 battlegrounds as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Trump probably will win this battle in the courts, but he may lose at the ballot box.
Donald Trump Immigration Military
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/201 ... funds.html
The Real Donald Trump Is a Character on TV
Understand that, and you’ll understand what he’s doing in the White House.
On Sept. 1, with a Category 5 hurricane off the Atlantic coast, an angry wind was issuing from the direction of President Trump’s Twitter account. The apparent emergency: Debra Messing, the co-star of “Will & Grace,” had tweeted that “the public has a right to know” who is attending a Beverly Hills fund-raiser for Mr. Trump’s re-election.
“I have not forgotten that when it was announced that I was going to do The Apprentice, and when it then became a big hit, Helping NBC’s failed lineup greatly, @DebraMessing came up to me at an Upfront & profusely thanked me, even calling me ‘Sir,’ ” wrote the 45th president of the United States.
It was a classic Trumpian ragetweet: aggrieved over a minor slight, possibly prompted by a Fox News segment, unverifiable — he has a long history of questionable tales involving someone calling him “Sir” — and nostalgic for his primetime-TV heyday. (By Thursday he was lashing Ms. Messing again, as Hurricane Dorian was lashing the Carolinas.)
This sort of outburst, almost three years into his presidency, has kept people puzzling over who the “real” Mr. Trump is and how he actually thinks. Should we take him, to quote the famous precept of Trumpology, literally or seriously? Are his attacks impulsive tantrums or strategic distractions from his other woes? Is he playing 3-D chess or Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots?
This is a futile effort. Try to understand Donald Trump as a person with psychology and strategy and motivation, and you will inevitably spiral into confusion and covfefe. The key is to remember that Donald Trump is not a person. He’s a TV character.
I mean, O.K., there is an actual person named Donald John Trump, with a human body and a childhood and formative experiences that theoretically a biographer or therapist might usefully delve into someday. (We can only speculate about the latter; Mr. Trump has boasted on Twitter of never having seen a psychiatrist, preferring the therapeutic effects of “hit[ting] ‘sleazebags’ back.”)
But that Donald Trump is of limited significance to America and the world. The “Donald Trump” who got elected president, who has strutted and fretted across the small screen since the 1980s, is a decades-long media performance. To understand him, you need to approach him less like a psychologist and more like a TV critic.
He was born in 1946, at the same time that American broadcast TV was being born. He grew up with it. His father, Fred, had one of the first color TV sets in Jamaica Estates. In “The Art of the Deal” Donald Trump recalls his mother, Mary Anne, spending a day in front of the tube, enraptured by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. (“For Christ’s sake, Mary,” he remembers his father saying, “Enough is enough, turn it off. They’re all a bunch of con artists.”)
TV was his soul mate. It was like him. It was packed with the razzle-dazzle and action and violence that captivated him. He dreamed of going to Hollywood, then he shelved those dreams in favor of his father’s business and vowed, according to the book “TrumpNation” by Timothy O’Brien, to “put show business into real estate.”
As TV evolved from the homogeneous three-network mass medium of the mid-20th century to the polarized zillion-channel era of cable-news fisticuffs and reality shocker-tainment, he evolved with it. In the 1980s, he built a media profile as an insouciant, high-living apex predator. In 1990, he described his yacht and gilded buildings to Playboy as “Props for the show … The show is ‘Trump’ and it is sold-out performances everywhere.”
He syndicated that show to Oprah, Letterman, NBC, WrestleMania and Fox News. Everything he achieved, he achieved by using TV as a magnifying glass, to make himself appear bigger than he was.
He was able to do this because he thought like a TV camera. He knew what TV wanted, what stimulated its nerve endings. In his campaign rallies, he would tell The Washington Post, he knew just what to say “to keep the red light on”: that is, the light on a TV camera that showed that it was running, that you mattered. Bomb the [redacted] out of them! I’d like to punch him in the face! The red light radiated its approval. Cable news aired the rallies start to finish. For all practical purposes, he and the camera shared the same brain.
Even when he adopted social media, he used it like TV. First, he used it like a celebrity, to broadcast himself, his first tweet in 2009 promoting a “Late Show With David Letterman” appearance. Then he used it like an instigator, tweeting his birther conspiracies before he would talk about them on Fox News, road-testing his call for a border wall during the cable-news fueled Ebola and border panics of the 2014 midterms.
When he was a candidate, and especially when he was president, his tweets programmed TV and were amplified by it. On CNBC, a “BREAKING NEWS: TRUMP TWEET” graphic would spin out onscreen as soon as the words left his thumbs. He would watch Fox News, or Lou Dobbs, or CNN or “Morning Joe” or “Saturday Night Live” (“I don’t watch”), and get mad, and tweet. Then the tweets would become TV, and he would watch it, and tweet again.
If you want to understand what President Trump will do in any situation, then, it’s more helpful to ask: What would TV do? What does TV want?
It wants conflict. It wants excitement. If there is something that can blow up, it should blow up. It wants a fight. It wants more. It is always eating and never full.
Some presidential figure-outers, trying to understand the celebrity president through a template that they were already familiar with, have compared him with Ronald Reagan: a “master showman” cannily playing a “role.”
The comparison is understandable, but it’s wrong. Presidents Reagan and Trump were both entertainers who applied their acts to politics. But there’s a crucial difference between what “playing a character” means in the movies and what it means on reality TV.
Ronald Reagan was an actor. Actors need to believe deeply in the authenticity and interiority of people besides themselves — so deeply that they can subordinate their personalities to “people” who are merely lines on a script. Acting, Reagan told his biographer Lou Cannon, had taught him “to understand the feelings and motivations of others.”
Being a reality star, on the other hand, as Donald Trump was on “The Apprentice,” is also a kind of performance, but one that’s antithetical to movie acting. Playing a character on reality TV means being yourself, but bigger and louder.
Reality TV, writ broadly, goes back to Allen Funt’s “Candid Camera,” the PBS documentary “An American Family,” and MTV’s “The Real World.” But the first mass-market reality TV star was Richard Hatch, the winner of the first season of “Survivor” — produced by Mark Burnett, the eventual impresario of “The Apprentice”— in the summer of 2000.
Mr. Hatch won that first season in much the way that Mr. Trump would run his 2016 campaign. He realized that the only rules were that there were no rules. He lied and backstabbed and took advantage of loopholes, and he argued — with a telegenic brashness — that this made him smart. This was a crooked game in a crooked world, he argued to a final jury of players he’d betrayed and deceived. But, hey: At least he was open about it!
While shooting that first season, the show’s crew was rooting for Rudy Boesch, a 72-year-old former Navy SEAL and model of hard work and fair play. “The only outcome nobody wanted was Richard Hatch winning,” the host, Jeff Probst, would say later. It “would be a disaster.” After all, decades of TV cop shows had taught executives the iron rule that the viewers needed the good guy to win.
But they didn’t. “Survivor” was addictively entertaining, and audiences loved-to-hate the wryly devious Richard the way they did Tony Soprano and, before him, J.R. Ewing. More than 50 million people watched the first-season finale, and “Survivor” has been on the air nearly two decades.
From Richard Hatch, we got a steady stream of Real Housewives, Kardashians, nasty judges, dating-show contestants who “didn’t come here to make friends” and, of course, Donald Trump.
Reality TV has often gotten a raw deal from critics. (Full disclosure: I still watch “Survivor.”) Its audiences, often dismissed as dupes, are just as capable of watching with a critical eye as the fans of prestige cable dramas. But when you apply its mind-set — the law of the TV jungle — to public life, things get ugly.
In reality TV — at least competition reality shows like “The Apprentice” — you do not attempt to understand other people, except as obstacles or objects. To try to imagine what it is like to be a person other than yourself (what, in ordinary, off-camera life, we call “empathy”) is a liability. It’s a distraction that you have to tune out in order to project your fullest you.
Reality TV instead encourages “getting real.” On MTV’s progressive, diverse “Real World,” the phrase implied that people in the show were more authentic than characters on scripted TV — or even than real people in your own life, who were socially conditioned to “be polite.” But “getting real” would also resonate with a rising conservative notion: that political correctness kept people from saying what was really on their minds.
Being real is not the same thing as being honest. To be real is to be the most entertaining, provocative form of yourself. It is to say what you want, without caring whether your words are kind or responsible — or true — but only whether you want to say them. It is to foreground the parts of your personality (aggression, cockiness, prejudice) that will focus the red light on you, and unleash them like weapons.
Mr. Trump has been playing himself instinctually as a character since the 1980s; it’s allowed him to maintain a profile even through bankruptcies and humiliations. But it’s also why, on the rare occasions he’s had to publicly attempt a role contrary to his nature — calling for healing from a script after a mass shooting, for instance — he sounds as stagey and inauthentic as an unrehearsed amateur doing a sitcom cameo.
His character shorthand is “Donald Trump, Fighter Guy Who Wins.” Plop him in front of a camera with an infant orphaned in a mass murder, and he does not have it in his performer’s tool kit to do anything other than smile unnervingly and give a fat thumbs-up.
This is what was lost on commentators who kept hoping wanly that this State of the Union or that tragedy would be the moment he finally became “presidential.” It was lost on journalists who felt obligated to act as though every modulated speech from a teleprompter might, this time, be sincere.
The institution of the office is not changing Donald Trump, because he is already in the sway of another institution. He is governed not by the truisms of past politics but by the imperative of reality TV: Never de-escalate and never turn the volume down.
This conveniently echoes the mantra he learned from his early mentor, Roy Cohn: Always attack and never apologize. He serves up one “most shocking episode ever” after another, mining uglier pieces of his core each time: progressing from profanity about Haiti and Africa in private to publicly telling four minority American congresswomen, only one of whom was born outside the United States, to “go back” to the countries they came from.
The taunting. The insults. The dog whistles. The dog bullhorns. The “Lock her up” and “Send her back.” All of it follows reality-TV rules. Every season has to top the last. Every fight is necessary, be it against Ilhan Omar or Debra Messing. Every twist must be more shocking, every conflict more vicious, lest the red light grow bored and wink off. The only difference: Now there’s no Mark Burnett to impose retroactive logic on the chaos, only press secretaries, pundits and Mike Pence.
To ask whether any of this is “instinct” or “strategy” is a parlor game. If you think like a TV camera — if thinking in those reflexive microbursts of adrenaline and testosterone has served you your whole life — then the instinct is the strategy.
And to ask who the “real” Donald Trump is, is to ignore the obvious. You already know who Donald Trump is. All the evidence you need is right there on your screen. He’s half-man, half-TV, with a camera for an eye that is constantly focused on itself. The red light is pulsing, 24/7, and it does not appear to have an off switch.
If you want to understand what President Trump will do in any situation, then, it’s more helpful to ask: What would TV do? What does TV want?
It wants conflict. It wants excitement. If there is something that can blow up, it should blow up. It wants a fight. It wants more. It is always eating and never full.
Hundreds of Bahamian evacuees are being turned away at the airport and are being asked for docs they’ve never had to provide prior to Hurricane Dorian. Here’s the notice they’re being given.
Passengers told us that CBP is separating people. If you’re from Abaco or Grand Bahama (devastated areas), prepare for lengthy screenings. People not from storm-ravaged cities aren’t going through this.
https://twitter.com/MoniqueOMadan/statu ... 0727928832
‘They’re asking me for the impossible’: Bahamians say feds keep them from flying to U.S.
September 11, 2019 08:21 PM, Updated 5 hours 13 minutes ago
New video shows total destruction in Marsh Harbour in aftermath of Hurricane Dorian
New video provided by Sky Aviation shows the total destruction left by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour. By Tom Conlon / Sky Aviation
New video shows total destruction in Marsh Harbour in aftermath of Hurricane Dorian
New video provided by Sky Aviation shows the total destruction left by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour. By Tom Conlon / Sky Aviation
Hundreds of Bahamian evacuees trying to fly to the United States have been turned away at the international airport in Nassau.
In addition to a passport, airline officials confirmed to the Miami Herald that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now requiring some Bahamians to have U.S. visas instead of clean police records as the agency has required previously.
Several passengers — some with visas, some without — who made it to Miami International Airport on Wednesday evening told the Herald that they are only allowed to stay in the country for two weeks. Travelers from Abaco and Grand Bahama are being subjected to extra screenings by U.S. immigration agents in Nassau, passengers and airline officials say.
‘They’re asking me for the impossible’: Bahamians say feds keep them from flying to U.S.
Other documents CBP agents are requesting include proof of income, property ownership, utility bills, employer contact information and proof of pre-purchased return flights.
The more in-depth screenings represent a dramatic departure from the fluid immigration relationship that existed between the U.S. and the Bahamas prior to Hurricane Dorian.
“I can’t prove I own property when all my documents were carried away by the storm. They are asking me for the impossible,” said Rachel Thomas from Abaco, who was rescued from her roof amid rising waters.
Thomas was turned away by CBP on Monday because she didn’t have proof of her earnings. “How am I supposed to provide copies of my light bills when all I have left is the clothes I’m wearing?”
Rachel Thomas’ entry to the United States was rejected on Sept. 9.
Before the storm, Bahamians could board U.S.-bound flights after presenting their passports and proof of a clean criminal record. Now, Bahamians hoping to evacuate to the U.S. from storm-ravaged areas, Grand Bahama and Abaco, face additional and lengthy screenings from U.S. officials, causing many to either be turned away or miss their flights Wednesday.
“Just because we were from Abaco we were separated. We missed our flight waiting in line,” said Jade Darling, 24, who arrived at MIA Wednesday on Bahamasair with her Bahamian passport and police record.
She noted that officials asked her for her boss’ name and contact information, as well as how much money she had in the bank. They also wanted to know how bad the damage had been to her house on Abaco, and noted that officials were telling passengers not to enroll their children in U.S. schools.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is handing out these letters to evacuees denied entry to the U.S. in Nassau, requiring them to return with more documents.
CBP would not comment on the situation but told the Herald the agency’s requirements for Bahamian citizens have “not changed.” How long the person is able to stay in the United States has always been at the discretion of the CBP officer and varies on a case-by-case basis, the agency said.
Typically, the default length of stay is about six months. However, CBP officers factor in several things when making their decision on how long the Bahamian citizen will get to stay.
“Each application is different and up to the officer’s discretion,” a CBP spokesperson said. “We always look at how many times the person has traveled to the U.S. and how much time they’ve spent here during the year. We factor in whether or not we believe their intent is to stay here or eventually go back.”
A CBP spokesperson referred the Herald to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which says agents can also consider a person’s assets, whether a traveler has certain communicable diseases, and criminal convictions.
The Trump administration announced it would not grant Temporary Protected Status to Bahamians, which would have allowed them to work and live in the U.S. until it’s safe to return.
Four passengers who arrived in Miami from Nassau on Wednesday evening told the Herald they were only granted about two weeks in the U.S. On Tuesday, a mother looking to reunite with her 12-year-old daughter, who was separated from family at Palm Beach International Airport by CBP agents, said she was also restricted to a short stay.
“I was given until Sept. 26. How is that OK? I don’t even want to think about what I would do if I have to leave here before being able to claim my own daughter,” she said. Her daughter remains in U.S. government custody.
An attendant at MIA confirmed that around 60 people were aboard what was originally supposed to be a 120-person evening flight from Nassau on Wednesday.
“The flights that were fully booked are taking off with almost nobody on board,” a Bahamasair ticketing agent in Nassau told the Herald. She asked to not be identified for fear of being fired. “Many, many people are being turned away by CBP and we’re issuing refunds. ”
Woodrow Wilson, a senior consultant for sales at Bahamasair, confirmed that people from Abaco and Grand Bahama are facing tougher screenings.
“Normally Bahamians were able to travel without a visa once they had a police record in their possession,” Wilson told the Herald on Wednesday. Now, he said, “If they don’t meet the requirements from Border Patrol, they are being turned away.”
Thomas, who was turned away and left stranded in Nassau, is now staying with pastors she met at the airport. Her ailing mother, whom she was traveling with, was also rejected by CBP officers. Thomas’ mother, Shirley, has diabetes, Alzheimer’s and chronic vascular disease. She gets treated in the U.S. regularly.
“They asked for proof that we would be returning, yet we bought full round-trip tickets,” she said.
Her bags made it to Florida, even though she didn’t.
Donald J. Trump
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Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
Kevin M. Kruse
As everyone knows, Article I of the US Constitution clearly states that the power to declare war is vested with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Improbable Comeback of Erik Prince
When Erik Prince arrived at the Four Seasons resort in the Seychelles in January 2017 for his now-famous meetings with a Russian banker and UAE ruler Mohammed bin Zayed, he was in the middle of an unexpected comeback. The election of Donald Trump had given the disgraced Blackwater founder a new opportunity to prove himself. After years of trying and failing to peddle a sweeping vision of mercenary warfare around the world, Erik Prince was back in the game.
Bin Zayed had convened a group of close family members and advisers at the luxurious Indian Ocean resort for a grand strategy session in anticipation of the new American administration. On the agenda were discussions of new approaches for dealing with the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, the threat of the Islamic State, and the United Arab Emirates’ longstanding rivalry with Iran. Under bin Zayed’s leadership, the UAE had used its oil wealth to become one of the world’s largest arms purchasers and the third largest importer of U.S. weapons. A new American president meant new opportunities for the tiny Gulf nation to exert its outsized military and economic influence in the Gulf region and beyond.
Prince was no stranger to the Emiratis. He had known bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the UAE, since 2009, when he sold the sheikh on creating an elite counterterrorism unit. That deal ended badly for Prince, but Trump’s election had recalibrated his usefulness. As a prominent Trump supporter and close associate of Steve Bannon, not to mention the brother of incoming cabinet member Betsy DeVos, Prince was invited to the meeting as an unofficial adviser to the incoming administration.
Prince’s meeting with a Putin intimate shortly before Trump’s inauguration has drawn intense interest from Congress, the Mueller investigation, and the press.
When Prince joined the Emirati royals and other government officials on a deck overlooking the Indian Ocean, bin Zayed made it clear to everyone there that “Erik was his guy,” said a source close to the Emirati rulers, who was briefed by some of those in attendance. Prince, in bin Zayed’s view, had built and established an elite ground force that bin Zayed had deployed to wars in Syria and Yemen, the first foreign conflicts in his young country’s history. It was because of Prince, bin Zayed said, that the Emiratis had no terrorists in their country. Prince had solved their problem with Somali pirates. “He let his court know that they owed Erik a favor,” the source said.
Part of that favor apparently involved facilitating an introduction to Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of an $8 billion Russian sovereign wealth fund and a close associate of President Vladimir Putin. Prince repeatedly and under oath in testimony to Congress denied that his meeting with Dmitriev had anything to do with the Trump administration, describing it as no more than a chance encounter over a beer.
“We were talking about the endless war and carnage in Iraq and Syria,” Prince told the House Intelligence Committee. “If Franklin Roosevelt can work with Joseph Stalin after the Ukraine terror famine, after killing tens of millions of his own citizens, we can certainly at least cooperate with the Russians in a productive way to defeat the Islamic State.”
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 5, 2017: Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev (C) attends the Russian-Saudi Investment Forum at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow Hotel. Sergei Bobylev/TASS (Photo by Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images)
Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dmitriev, center, attends the Russian-Saudi Investment Forum at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow Hotel on Oct. 5, 2017.
Photo: Sergei Bobylev/TASS via Getty Images
Although the UAE has been a very good customer of U.S. arms dealers, bin Zayed had grown frustrated with the Obama administration’s refusal to work with Russia to end the war in Syria. Russia was actively courting the UAE, and from bin Zayed’s perspective Russia was a key player that couldn’t be ignored, according to a current and a former U.S. intelligence official. Trump’s public infatuation with Putin and his apparent eagerness to improve relations with Russia gave the UAE a chance to play dealmaker and diminish Iran’s position in the Middle East, starting with the war in Syria.
Prince’s 30-minute meeting with a Putin intimate shortly before Trump’s inauguration has drawn intense interest from Congress, the Mueller investigation, and the press. The Mueller report established that the meeting was a pre-arranged attempt to establish a backchannel between Russia and the incoming Trump administration and has led House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department for perjury. Yet the focus on Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election has deflected scrutiny from what the meeting reveals about Prince’s unique role in the world of covert services.
Blackwater made Prince an infamous symbol of U.S. foreign policy hubris, but America’s most famous mercenary has moved on. Although he continues to dream of deploying his military services in the world’s failed states, and persists in hawking a crackpot scheme of privatizing the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Prince has diversified his portfolio. No longer satisfied with contracting out former special forces operators to the State Department and Pentagon, Prince is now attempting to offer an entire supply chain of warfare and conflict. He wants to be able to skim a profitable cut from each stage of a hostile operation, whether it be overt or covert, foreign or domestic. His offerings range from the traditional mercenary toolkit, military hardware and manpower, to cellphone surveillance technology and malware, to psychological operations and social media manipulation in partnership with shadowy operations like James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas.
This account is based on interviews with more than a dozen of Prince’s former colleagues and peers, as well as court records, emails, and internal documents provided to The Intercept. An examination of Prince’s time working with the UAE in particular reveals suspicious financial transactions at a moment when his personal finances were under stress and his mercenary ventures were failing. The picture that emerges is one of a man desperately trying to avoid U.S. tax and weapons trafficking laws even as he offers military services, without a license, in no fewer than 15 countries around the world.
Prince’s former and current associates describe him as a visionary, a brilliant salesman with remarkable insight into the future of warfare, who is nonetheless so shady and incompetent that he fails at almost every enterprise he attempts. And yet he endures. Prince is thus, in many ways, an emblematic figure for the Trump era.
Suitcases Full of Cash
Prince’s partnership with bin Zayed got underway, fittingly, with a slapstick moment in early 2010, when two of Prince’s men, a veteran of the Canadian special forces and a Lebanese fixer, were ordered by Emirati security officials to meet at an Abu Dhabi intersection. There, a few government employees helped Prince’s men load the trunk of a Chevy Impala with more than half a dozen carry-on suitcases, most worn and with busted wheels. The two drove back to their hotel, Le Méridian, where they unloaded the bags, returned to their room, and summoned their immediate supervisor, a former Navy SEAL who had known Prince in the military, telling the American that they had a problem. Their new company, Reflex Responses, often called R2 for short, was so new it didn’t yet have a bank account or even an office with a safe.
When the former SEAL entered their hotel room, the contents of the suitcases had been largely removed, much of it dumped onto a bed: bricks of new, sequential $100 bills, in $10,000 stacks, each bound by a green and white band. The three men counted each stack, measuring the height to be sure that they all had 100 $100 bills, until they tallied it all: roughly $13 million. For the first two weeks of the program, the hotel room, always occupied by a security guard or a company employee, served as the Reflex Responses vault. Hotel staff were not allowed to clean the room, and by the time R2 opened a bank account and deposited the money, the room was covered in empty whiskey bottles and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts.
Prince had arrived in the UAE at a low moment. The Obama administration had made clear in its first months that it would not welcome new Blackwater contracts. The company had become infamous after Blackwater security contractors shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded dozens more in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007. By 2010, Prince had changed Blackwater’s name and sold the company, ceasing to work on any U.S. government contracts. As Prince negotiated a settlement with the Justice Department for a series of Blackwater arms trafficking violations, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta discovered a secret assassination program involving Blackwater operatives that former Vice President Dick Cheney had hidden from Congress. Prince was bitter, blaming the Obama administration for leaking his CIA role and comparing himself to exposed CIA operative Valerie Plame. Prince couldn’t understand why the American public viewed him as a villain. “He was genuinely upset,” said a former colleague who discussed the public scrutiny of Blackwater. “He kept asking, ‘Why do they hate me?’”
A converted Catholic raised by Christian fundamentalists and the scion of a Midwestern auto-parts fortune would seem to be an unlikely ally to the Muslim crown prince of a tiny, oil-rich Arab kingdom, but from their first meeting in 2009, Prince and bin Zayed hit it off. Almost immediately it was clear they shared common enemies: Islamic militants and, especially, Iran. Prince was introduced to bin Zayed after pitching a two-page schematic of a light attack airplane — an agricultural crop duster modified with surveillance and laser-guided munitions — to the Emirati government as the Blackwater sale to a private equity group was being negotiated. When the Emirati ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al Otaiba, learned that Prince’s legal problems with the Justice Department would mean that he wouldn’t be able to be involved in building, selling, or brokering armed aircraft, the Emirati government approached another aviation manufacturer to help establish an entire air wing of armored and weaponized crop dusters. In exchange for Prince bowing out of the deal quietly, Otaiba introduced him to bin Zayed explicitly in order to find another role in which he could assist the UAE government.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (known as MBS, not pictured in this photo) receives Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (known as MBZ) in Jeddah on June 6, 2018. Photo by Balkis Press/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Jeddah on June 6, 2018.
Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/Sipa via AP
Bin Zayed was determined to bolster the UAE’s sphere of influence and project power in the Middle East. Despite Prince’s tarnished reputation, bin Zayed saw in him a glimpse of the future. It didn’t hurt that “Erik could sell you your own hat,” according to one former associate. The former SEAL and self-described CIA “asset” saw in bin Zayed a willing buyer who shared his desire to play soldier. Prince sold bin Zayed on the idea of creating a half-billion-dollar program in which he would train, equip, and lead an elite cadre of foreign soldiers called the Security Support Group that would serve as a presidential guard for the Emirati monarchies and help quell any internal unrest. Bin Zayed insisted that Prince use non-Muslim ex-soldiers, according to two senior advisers who helped build the unit, telling him that he did not believe Muslim soldiers could be trusted to kill other Muslims. Eventually, Prince also sold bin Zayed on the creation of an armed aviation wing, a team to protect the Emirates from a weapons of mass destruction attack, and a separate force to combat Somali piracy.
One indication of both Prince and R2’s growing value to bin Zayed was that Prince became a favored foreign policy and military adviser, joining bin Zayed’s inner sanctum. Prince told his colleagues at R2 that bin Zayed, whom Prince often referred to as “the boss,” gave him ownership of two side-by-side villas in Abu Dhabi, which were originally worth $10 million each. The wealthy enclave was built as a luxury community, each villa with a private beach, and quickly housed several foreign embassies. Prince’s neighboring houses sat at the end of a residential peninsula and had expansive views of central Abu Dhabi across a sea channel, a pool, and beachfront in the Persian Gulf. Prince built a dock for his sailboat, which has a Blackwater logo across the port side.
Despite Prince’s tarnished reputation, bin Zayed saw in him a glimpse of the future. The former SEAL and self-described CIA “asset” saw in bin Zayed a willing buyer who shared his desire to play soldier.
The $13 million in the suitcases was an advance on $110 million the UAE gave Prince to get Reflex Responses off the ground. The deal gave Prince and his team a guaranteed 15 percent profit margin on whatever the company spent in addition to salaries. Prince had long tried to own a piece of each part of the foreign conflict supply chain: planes, ships, vehicles, weapons, intelligence, men, and logistics. Reflex Responses gave him a blank check to do just that.
Structurally, Reflex Responses became a model for how Prince masks his involvement in selling or providing military services, which was a necessity given that he’s unlikely to obtain an arms trafficking license under the U.S. State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Officially, Prince was never an R2 employee. He officially worked for a company called Assurance Management Consultants, which shared a floor in an Abu Dhabi office tower with Reflex, where he oversaw the entire military program. It was Prince who hired and installed Reflex’s senior management, according to people directly involved in the effort. And it was Prince who recruited and hired the subcontractors who fulfilled Reflex’s contractual requirements. Prince flew to South America, where he helped oversee the recruitment of former Colombian soldiers who served as both hired guns and a training cadre for the fledgling Emirati security force.
Erik Prince’s residency visa for the UAE, showing that he was, at the time, employed by Assurance Management Consultancy. Some personal information has been redacted for privacy.
Photo: Provided to The Intercept
Prince’s approach to management created problems almost immediately, issues that would arise again and again in his various projects. In what would become a pattern, Prince’s American colleagues at Reflex were troubled by his directives about ITAR regulations. Prince argued to his lawyers that because Reflex was an Emirati company, working on an Emirati government contract, he was not required to have an ITAR license from the State Department to sell military services. “We’d tell him, ‘No, that’s not how it works. You’re an American,’” said one of Prince’s former colleagues involved in Reflex Responses. “It was stupid, honestly. There was a way to do it legally and make lots of money, but Erik didn’t care. When Erik wakes up in the morning, Erik does whatever he feels like doing. I always assumed that’s how it is when your father is a billionaire.”
In response to a request for comment, a Prince spokesperson stated: “Mr. Prince at all times relied upon the advice of counsel, including both in-house compliance counsel and outside experts, to ensure compliance with ITAR and other laws.”
Prince also hid his financial interest in subcontractors working with R2. Six months into the project, senior executives discovered that Prince had an arrangement with Thor Global, the company that he’d insisted Reflex use to hire the Colombian soldiers. On paper, Thor Global was wholly owned by Robert Owens, a former aide to Oliver North during the Iran-Contra affair, but Prince received a substantial amount of the money R2 paid Thor Global, according to court documents and two former Prince colleagues familiar with the arrangement. “I asked Erik if the crown prince knew he was self-dealing,” said one of the former colleagues. “Erik wouldn’t answer.”
Prince had long tried to own a piece of each part of the foreign conflict supply chain: planes, ships, vehicles, weapons, intelligence, men, and logistics. Reflex Responses gave him a blank check to do just that.
Owens’s involvement and connection to North is not incidental. Prince and North are friends, and Prince has told others over the years that he greatly admires the former Marine officer and Reagan National Security Council staffer, who was convicted on three felony counts during the Iran-Contra scandal. (The convictions were reversed in 1991.)
A former colleague said it took him some time to recognize that Prince generally works to control the entire supply chain of any mercenary or security contract. “Everything he does, he skims,” said the former colleague, who has known Prince for two decades and described how Prince generally operates as a military services provider. “He will run a contract through two companies and then dictate that those two companies have to subcontract out to another eight companies. What he doesn’t disclose is that he owns all or part of those eight companies and will take 25 percent from each company. Then, he can use those same eight entities to make the money disappear.”
After Prince’s first team of U.S. executives quit, he brought in another former SEAL and a former CIA officer. That team conducted audits and quickly discovered financial problems. “There was massive embezzlement going on inside R2,” said a third former employee with direct knowledge of the company’s finances. “Overbilling, false billing, missing cash — millions were gone.”
According to four former Reflex employees and consultants, the alleged graft and embezzlement ran through two of Prince’s lieutenants, who handled logistics and administration for R2. The first was a former Blackwater employee who told colleagues at Reflex that he’d done intelligence work in the Middle East for the Pentagon’s intelligence agency. Internal R2 documents list him as the first employee of the company. Several of Prince’s colleagues confronted him about the missing money and his lieutenants’ conduct, but Prince rebuffed any effort to remove them. Contacted by The Intercept for comment, Prince’s lieutenant denied that he had ever embezzled or stolen money and denied ever working for R2. He said that he had worked for Assurance Management and occasionally “consulted” for R2.
Prince did not respond on the record to questions about the financial improprieties.
While money was disappearing from Reflex Responses’s accounts as a result of these financial shenanigans, Somali pirates were engaging in a more traditional form of robbery off the Horn of Africa, harming UAE shipping interests. Prince had a solution: a sea, air, and land battalion to eradicate the pirates. He established a group for this purpose within Reflex Responses known as Special Projects and hired a former South African special forces officer named Lafras Luitingh, who also worked for Executive Outcomes, a private military company comprised mainly of apartheid-era South African soldiers.
Members of the Puntland Maritime Police Force on patrol for pirates near the village of Elayo, Somalia. The Puntland Maritime Police Force is a locally recruited, professional maritime security force. It is primarily aimed at preventing, detecting and eradicating piracy, illegal fishing, and other illicit activity off of the coast of Somalia, in addition to generally safeguarding the nation's marine resources.In addition, the Force provides logistics support to humanitarian efforts. (Photo by jason florio/Corbis via Getty Images)
Members of the Puntland Maritime Police Force on patrol for pirates near the village of Elayo, Somalia, on Sept. 18, 2011.
Photo: Jason Florio/Corbis via Getty Images
Together, Prince and Luitingh created the Puntland Maritime Police Force in northeastern Somalia, in a semiautonomous region home to the most active Somali pirates. A United Nations monitoring team subsequently documented extensive violations of the U.N. arms embargo of Somalia, including falsifying export paperwork for small arms and attacks that left civilian casualties by Luitingh’s company, Saracen, a subcontractor on the project. The two-year program resulted in “an elite force outside any legal framework … answerable only to the Puntland presidency,” according to a U.N. investigation into the PMPF. Both Prince and the UAE denied involvement, but one source with knowledge of the operation witnessed Emirati intelligence officers providing a suitcase with millions of dollars in $100 bills to Luitingh for his payroll. Citing Prince’s involvement in the police force, the U.N. report said, “This externally financed assistance programme has remained the most brazen violation of the arms embargo by a private security company.”
Although Prince and the UAE’s involvement was meant to be largely clandestine, Prince sought publicity for the program, according to a person with direct knowledge. Prince arranged for a February 2012 Fox News segment from North, then a military analyst for Fox News, who embedded with the PMPF in Puntland and explicitly reported that the UAE was behind the fledgling military unit. The media attention enraged the Emirati government, according to one of Prince’s former colleagues who worked with him at the time, and blamed him for the unwanted publicity.
The program’s lack of legal legitimacy was perhaps the least troubling legacy of Prince’s vision, however. The program shut down shortly after a South African mercenary was murdered by one of the local soldiers hired to fight the pirates during one of the first operations the Puntland force conducted. According to a contemporaneously filmed documentary of the anti-piracy effort, the killer was a relative of a pirate targeted by the unit. The unit had been infiltrated from the beginning, a failure of basic counterintelligence, which a former CIA officer, who was also involved, readily admitted in on-camera interviews. The U.N. would later report “credible” allegations of human rights violations stemming from corporal punishment, which led to severe injuries and a death at the South African-run PMPF camp.
Robert Young Pelton, an author who worked for Prince on the Somalia project and helped write Prince’s autobiography (and recently lost a civil suit against Prince over a contract dispute), said Prince’s efforts were “delusional. He operates with a 12-year-old’s mindset of war. He’s romanticized the South African mercenaries who fought those ugly wars.” Pelton said when Prince first showed him a map with plans for the security force, he realized that Prince had never been to Somalia. Pelton said Prince told him that the idea for an anti-piracy force came from reading “The Pirate Coast,” a book detailing a secret American operation in 1805 to end piracy off the coast of Libya.
As with the Security Support Group, the anti-piracy force suffered from mismanagement. According to two individuals who worked on the program, at least $50 million meant for the anti-piracy force had gone missing by the time the Emirates decided to stop funding the effort. Among the items that were never returned or accounted for were several aircraft, including at least one cargo plane and two helicopters, as well as several ships. Before he was asked by the Emirates to end his involvement in the program, Prince brought in a former intelligence operative to conduct an audit of the PMPF program. The American identified $38 million in cash that the UAE had delivered to Luitingh, for which the former South African mercenaries refused to provide accounting or receipts. “I told Erik, ‘[Luitingh] and the South Africans couldn’t account for $38 million,’” said a former Prince employee. “Erik wasn’t upset at all. He just said, ‘I’m sure they are just saving it for a rainy day.’” Luitingh did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“When Erik wakes up in the morning, Erik does whatever he feels like doing. I always assumed that’s how it is when your father is a billionaire.”
Over a six month period beginning in late 2011, after the New York Times exposed Prince’s involvement with the UAE’s Security Support Group and the deployment of the anti-piracy force, bin Zayed gradually removed Prince from his multiple projects for the government. The parting of ways came as a result of the unwanted media exposure, U.N. pressure, and ongoing financial audits. The UAE shut down Reflex Responses and rolled what they wanted to keep into new companies with new management.
As his private military ventures with the UAE stumbled, Prince shifted to private equity, establishing an investment fund focused on African natural resources called Frontier Resource Group. But Prince’s income dried up after the UAE stopped funding him and he began having cash-flow problems. One of his personal bankers grew alarmed as Prince cashed out Treasury bonds to fund Frontier Resource. According to tax, banking, and internal business documents obtained by The Intercept, Prince at the time was worth less than $100 million, and much of his wealth was tied up in real estate and fixed-income investments. One of Prince’s creditors, Michigan’s Huntington Bank, refused a request for a $6 million increase on a $17.5 million line of credit, according to emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. In turning Prince down, the bank reduced his line of credit by $2.5 million.
In late 2011, the Emirati government asked one of Prince’s former colleagues, Reno Alberto, if he would take over Prince’s aviation contract. Alberto was a former Navy SEAL who Prince originally hired to help save the Reflex Responses project. An Emirati general offered Alberto the job on two conditions: Reflex Responses needed to be shuttered so that a new corporate entity could take its place, and Prince could not be involved. Alberto agreed and created a new, temporary holding company called Vulcan Management. Vulcan would take the roughly $100 million resulting from the liquidation of R2 and hold it until a new entity could be established to create a wing of armed helicopters for the UAE air force.
Prince soon came calling on Alberto, however, claiming that a portion of the roughly $100 million left over from Reflex Responses was his and that any future contract for Alberto was a consequence of Prince’s efforts and therefore should result in him receiving a percentage. Prince claimed repeatedly to Alberto that bin Zayed had directed that some of the leftover R2 funding be paid to him. Prince and his business adviser Dorian Barak arranged to structure the payout as a loan from Alberto’s Vulcan Management to one of Prince’s holding companies in Bermuda. Barak, on behalf of Prince, requested that the loan be divided into 10 transactions, which Prince could then call on Vulcan to pay out as needed. Prince told several other colleagues that he felt he was owed upwards of $40 million for his effort in getting bin Zayed to create the SSG and establish R2. Alberto, who stood to make millions in his new venture, reluctantly agreed to pay his former boss through a loan.
On July 26, 2012, Barak emailed Prince, informing him that a wire transfer of approximately $5.9 million was sent by Vulcan, according to an email obtained by The Intercept. The money was wired to Prince’s Frontier Resource bank account in Abu Dhabi.
“That was fast. Well done,” Prince responded.
An email exchange between Dorian Barak and Erik Prince in July 2012. Some personal information has been redacted for privacy.
Screenshot: The Intercept
Prince pitched Frontier Resource to potential investors as a $500 million private equity fund. Fund documents state that Prince would provide 10 percent of the funding. In late 2011 and early 2012, as FRG tried to get off the ground, Prince had soft commitments from investors in the UAE, including bin Zayed’s brother Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, the Emirati national security adviser. But by the time he’d taken his first draw of the Vulcan loan, Prince was toxic, and the outside financial commitments had withered and disappeared. Sheikh Tahnoon, however, appears to have invested at least $5 million, according to internal Frontier Resource documents provided to The Intercept.
Then, in October 2012, Prince directed Alberto and Vulcan to make a second wire transfer. This one, however, was not sent to Prince or his companies. According to documents reviewed by The Intercept, and confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of the transaction, more than $9 million was wired to Zafra Group, the company Sheikh Tahnoon had originally created to invest in Prince’s Frontier Resource. It is unclear why Prince wanted the Vulcan money routed to Zafra Group, but he told Vulcan that the payment had been ordered by “the boss,” according to the person with direct knowledge of the transaction. In effect, Prince had steered UAE government money meant for an armed helicopter wing to one his fund’s investors, a senior member of the Emirati royal family.
When Prince asked for $10 million in the third installment, Alberto refused and subsequently told Prince that no more installments would be paid. According to a person with knowledge of the dispute, Alberto learned that no one in the Emirati royal family had ordered the payments to Prince.
The loan to Prince, which has not been previously reported, was not repaid to Vulcan, and the entire $15 million was written off as a loss by the company in subsequent years, according to a person with direct knowledge of the transaction. Prince did report the $5.9 million payment as a loan on his personal tax returns that year.
The Intercept sent Prince a detailed list of questions for this article. In response, a Prince spokesperson stated that “Vulcan Management’s loan, which was made in connection with FRG’s investment activity, was at all times fully disclosed to both FRG’s auditors and the IRS.” Prince would not comment for the record about the circumstances of the loan, or why he directed the $9 million payment to Zafra.
Erik Prince, center, in one of his first meetings in China with Chinese investors for Frontier Services Group in 2013. At the far right is Johnson Ko, a Hong Kong tycoon.
Photo: Obtained by The Intercept
A New Frontier
Over the next several years, as his speculations in African natural resources turned into losers time and again, Prince looked to China for new funds, creating Frontier Services Group with an investment banker and former Marine named Gregg Smith. For Smith, the business model seemed simple enough: Frontier Resource would find undervalued, distressed assets, and Frontier Services would transport the materials out of Africa. Smith says he saw the potential of a logistics company to move freight and natural resources across Africa, where the Chinese were increasingly active. “We wanted to start a straightforward logistics company,” Smith said recently. “Trucks and planes and that’s it.”
Prince had other ideas, as did some Chinese investors, who made it clear that they wanted a “Blackwater China.” Although Frontier Services attracted a $110 million investment from a Hong Kong tycoon named Johnson Ko and the China International Trust Investment Corporation, a state-owned investment company, Prince’s investment fund lost money, and several projects ended in a total loss, according to three people with knowledge of Prince’s investment portfolio. Instead, Prince would end up directing FSG to purchase companies that Prince had a financial interest in — as well as services from such companies — in an effort to salvage his private-equity fund’s investment. In total, according to documents, FSG spent $8.5 million on Prince-connected businesses. And as he had with Thor Global and Reflex Responses, Prince failed to disclose his financial interest to the FSG board prior to most of the transactions. The board eventually passed a resolution prohibiting undisclosed self-dealing.
For two years, beginning in 2013, while Frontier Services executives ran a legitimate logistics and aviation company, Prince was traveling around Africa pitching paramilitary services under the Frontier Services banner. As reported by The Intercept, Prince proposed creating counterterrorism forces, a private air force, and a “black ops” program for Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram. He made a similar pitch to President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan to help him defeat rebels there. There were meetings and proposals for Libya, Cameroon, and Kurdish Iraq, none of which found a buyer. Although Prince failed to sell an entire paramilitary force, he did make money across the continent and the Middle East “advising” countries on how to fight wars. According to one of his closest colleagues, over a roughly five-year period, including his time as chair of the board of FSG, Prince earned as much as $10 million from his meetings. Prince’s efforts were nothing if not ambitious. “Erik was trying to create a private JSOC,” said a former senior military officer who discussed many of Prince’s ideas with him. Since he left Blackwater, Prince has sold or pitched his war supply chain in no fewer than 15 countries, nearly all of them with majority Muslim populations.
Since he left Blackwater, Prince has sold or pitched his war supply chain in no fewer than 15 countries, nearly all of them in countries with majority Muslim populations.
Prince tried to hawk surveillance products and services as well. In 2014, he demonstrated for some of his Frontier Services colleagues cellphone geolocation software that he said he had licensed from an Israeli company. At a strip mall diner in Washington, D.C., Prince pulled out a laptop and punched in a cellphone number. The program identified the most recent cell tower the phone had connected with, allowing the user to locate the target within 300 meters and revealing the last 10 calls the targeted user made. Prince, according to one person who discussed the software with him, believed his time at Frontier Services had “cleaned” his image up with the U.S. government enough that he approached both the CIA and the Pentagon, offering to run the software in counterterrorism operations. He was rebuffed. Later, he and one of his deputies claimed that they sold the program to the Saudi and Emirati air forces to locate bombing targets in Yemen.
In 2015, Prince became involved in the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan spent hundreds of millions of dollars equipping and training their small military. Prince was brought in by a former Russian weapons supplier to help create a training force. Prince would ultimately be kicked off the contract after his business partners accused him of wildly padding the proposed contract by adding a series of unnecessary expenditures that would have been provided by companies to which Prince had financial ties. In an effort to smooth over Prince’s anger at being fired, the Russian weapons supplier offered him $5 million, according to three people with direct knowledge of the offer. Prince agreed to take the money but insisted the payment be made through a complex series of loans between companies that Barak would set up. When his Russian colleague refused the terms and offered a simple check made out to Prince for the total amount, Prince walked away from the deal, according to a person with direct knowledge of the incident.
In response to questions from The Intercept, a Prince spokesperson stated: “FSG contemplated a logistics, construction, and aviation support project in Azerbaijan, but neither FSG nor Erik Prince ever moved forward with it, and neither FSG nor Mr. Prince was ever offered money to abandon the project.”
As The Intercept has reported previously, when Frontier Services Group discovered that Prince had secretly modified two crop dusters to be used as light attack aircraft, and had used an Austrian company he’d secretly purchased a stake in, FSG hired the law firm King & Spalding to conduct an investigation to determine whether Prince had violated arms trafficking laws. (Prince attempted to sell the two weaponized aircraft to Azerbaijan as part of their buildup — another potential violation of ITAR). The attorneys, supervised by current FBI Director Christopher Wray, concluded that Prince had likely violated U.S. law in his effort to sell the crop dusters. In 2016, FSG disclosed the ITAR violations to the Justice Department, which opened an investigation.
Then-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Then-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on cybersecurity at the White House on Jan. 31, 2017.
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP
The Rise of Trump
Although Prince’s turn in Africa as a mercenary was a bust, he was somewhat successful at recasting himself as a globetrotting businessman through Frontier Services Group. The 2016 presidential election and the rise of Donald Trump now promised a full-scale rehabilitation. The potential for a Republican administration would be an opportunity for new U.S. government contracts and, possibly, something even more lucrative. After Trump had clinched the Republican nomination, Prince told his Chinese business and government contacts that if Trump won, he would be the next secretary of defense.
Prince’s family has a history of supporting right-wing and conservative causes. Edgar Prince, Erik’s father, was a major financial contributor to former President Gerald Ford, and in recent years, the family has supported Mike Pence, first as a member of Congress and later as Indiana governor. While in Congress, Pence helped Prince navigate Capitol Hill in the aftermath of the killing of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in 2004. Prince became an enthusiastic Trump supporter. By Election Day, Prince had donated $250,000 to Trump’s 2016 election effort.
During the campaign, Prince solidified his relationship with Steve Bannon, appearing on his Breitbart radio show on SiriusXM less than a month before Bannon formally joined the Trump campaign. Four days before the 2016 election, Prince went on Bannon’s show and smeared Hillary Clinton, claiming without evidence that a New York City police investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner had uncovered extensive criminal activity by the Democratic presidential candidate. Prince claimed that the Obama administration had suppressed the investigation implicating Clinton using “Stalinist tactics.”
In apparent coordination with Trump’s advisers, Prince had also begun exploring the world of domestic information warfare. In August 2016, according to the New York Times, Prince brokered a meeting at Trump Tower between George Nader, an aide to bin Zayed, Donald Trump Jr., and Joel Zamel, the owner of Psy-Group, an Israeli private intelligence company that specialized in manipulating elections using social media accounts and untraceable websites. The Trump campaign apparently passed on the offer. Prince already had familiarity with private Israeli intelligence companies through Dorian Barak. Several years earlier, Prince had been offered a financial stake in what was then a fledgling company called Black Cube, run by former Mossad officers. The company gained notoriety during the #MeToo movement when a firm representing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein hired Black Cube to help stop publication of an account of his abuses. Black Cube hired an operative who used false identities to approach actress Rose McGowan, as well as a reporter looking into the multitude of sexual misconduct and assault allegations against Weinstein.
Prince declined to invest in Black Cube, but appears to have liked the idea of selling a service that provided undercover operatives. During the 2016 election, he became involved with James O’Keefe and Project Veritas, a group of conservative provocateurs who specialize in using hidden-camera footage and secret recordings. O’Keefe, a protégé of the conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart, describes himself as a “guerrilla journalist” and has used undercover cameras in an effort to expose purported liberal bias in political groups and the media. Trump often promoted O’Keefe’s videos and met with O’Keefe just days after he declared his candidacy. (A few weeks before that, Trump had donated $10,000 to Project Veritas through his foundation.) It is unclear if Trump’s support of Project Veritas spurred Prince’s interest in the group, but in late 2015 or early 2016, Prince arranged for O’Keefe and Project Veritas to receive training in intelligence and elicitation techniques from a retired military intelligence operative named Euripides Rubio Jr. According to a former Trump White House official who discussed the Veritas training with Rubio, the former special operative quit after several weeks of training, complaining that the Veritas group wasn’t capable of learning. Rubio did not respond to requests for comment.
“Erik was weaponizing a group that had close ties to the Trump White House.”
In the winter of 2017, Prince arranged for a former British MI6 officer to provide more surveillance and elicitation training for Veritas at his family’s Wyoming ranch, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. Prince was trying to turn O’Keefe and his group into domestic spies. For his part, O’Keefe posted photos on Instagram and Twitter from the Prince family ranch of himself holding a handgun with a silencer attached and wearing pseudo-military clothing. He described the ranch as a “classified location” where he was learning “spying and self-defense,” in an effort to make Project Veritas “the next great intelligence agency.”
“Erik was weaponizing a group that had close ties to the Trump White House,” said the former White House official familiar with Prince’s relationship with O’Keefe and Project Veritas.
In February 2017, O’Keefe and another Project Veritas associate, Seijah Drake, posted photos on their individual Twitter accounts of them training at Prince’s family ranch in Wyoming.Screenshots: The Intercept
It is unclear how much involvement Prince has with the selection of targets for O’Keefe’s stings and undercover operations, but several months after the organization received training in Wyoming, a Project Veritas operative was exposed by the Washington Post after she posed as a sexual assault victim of Roy Moore, who was then a Senate candidate in Alabama.
After Trump won the election, Prince began sending defense and intelligence policy proposals to the Trump team via Bannon, including his plan for privatizing the war in Afghanistan. The plan called for removing all U.S. troops and replacing them with a small cadre of security trainers, a small fleet of light attack aircraft, and a surge of covert CIA operations. In an attempt to appeal to Trump, Prince tweaked his proposal with a plan to secure mining concessions for Afghanistan’s vast untapped mineral resources, an idea with obvious parallels to his failed efforts in Africa. But the national security establishment was uniformly opposed and it failed to gain traction.
Armed with his beliefs about reshaping the Middle East and Afghanistan, and enjoying his new status as an unofficial adviser to the next U.S. president, Prince was invited back to Mohammed bin Zayed’s royal court.
Prince later testified before the House Intelligence Committee that his invitation was linked directly to Trump’s victory. “I think the Obama administration went out of their way to tarnish my ability to do business in the Middle East, and, with a different administration in town, [the Emiratis] probably figured that that downdraft wasn’t present anymore … so it was not a surprise that the meeting happened. And those are the kind of things we talked about, whether it’s Somalia and terrorism there or Libya, Nigeria, and of course all the places that are even closer to the UAE.”
Meanwhile, Prince’s relationship with Bannon has gone from fellow ideological traveler to business partner. According to a former Trump White House official and the former U.S. official close to the UAE royal family, Prince has teamed up with Bannon to offer a newer version of the armed crop duster to the Emirati air force. The pitch includes Israeli-made avionics and surveillance software for geolocating targets on the ground. Prince and Bannon are also offering a different package to the Emirate’s despised rival, Qatar. According to a former senior U.S. official who reviewed the proposal, Prince is currently hawking proposals for preventing social and political unrest from Qatar’s foreign laborers before and during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The proposal specifically names Project Veritas as a partner and offers the Qatari government an ability to infiltrate the community of foreign laborers, who make up almost 90 percent of the country’s population of roughly 2.3 million. The pitch is designed to appeal to Qatari fears of a popular uprising and to fend off and neuter political dissent leading up to the soccer tournament. The proposal also offers social media monitoring and messaging — something Bannon would be familiar with from his past work for Cambridge Analytica.
In response to questions from The Intercept, Prince’s spokesperson said, “Mr. Prince supports Project Veritas’s mission of uncovering government largesse and corruption, and has allowed Project Veritas to use his family’s ranch in Wyoming. Mr. Prince has no business relationship with Steve Bannon, James O’Keefe, or Project Veritas, and has never pitched a project with Mr. Bannon to the Qatari or any other government.” Bannon would not comment.
To those who know him best, Prince’s latest proposals suggest that he sees business opportunities in services that are closer to political skullduggery than outright conflict. By marrying the two capabilities — social media manipulation and undercover surveillance by trained operatives — Prince has moved further along the spectrum of contemporary warfare. If a government won’t pay him for a heavily armed paramilitary force in a hot conflict, he appears prepared to offer services that utilize a less obvious, but perhaps more insidious, kind of weaponry.
Given his wealth and political ties, it may be that the Department of Justice will never have the political fortitude to thoroughly investigate Prince for defense brokering and trafficking violations, or to challenge his questionable ties to China’s intelligence service. But he does face legal scrutiny. The FBI is currently probing Prince’s work at Frontier Services Group, with a team assigned from the Washington field office. It is unclear whether the investigation is a continuation of the 2016 probe or stems from the Mueller investigation. Three different congressional committees are also investigating Prince, including his relationship with the Chinese government. The FBI declined to comment and would not confirm the existence of an investigation. Prince’s spokesperson stated that “other than his well-documented cooperation with the Special Counsel’s Office, Mr. Prince has had no interaction, directly or through counsel, with the FBI in years.”
Erik Prince, chairman and executive director of Frontier Services Group Ltd., walks to a closed-door House Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Prince, best known for running the Blackwater private security firm whose employees were convicted of killing Iraqi citizens, was a presence during Donald Trump's presidential transition and worked in part with Michael Flynn. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Erik Prince walks to a closed-door House Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 30, 2017.
Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Prince’s role in the Trump-Russia affair perfectly encapsulates his latest effort to refashion himself, this time as a self-appointed warrior diplomat. According to the Mueller report, Prince flew to the Seychelles a week before the inauguration, at least in part to meet with Kirill Dmitriev, who was acting as Putin’s emissary and sought a backchannel to the incoming Trump administration. But Prince repeatedly denied in his testimony that he flew to the Seychelles to meet Dmitriev. Prince also failed to disclose that he met with Dmitriev twice during his stay at the Four Seasons.
The Mueller investigation relied on the cooperation and testimony of George Nader, who arranged the meeting at bin Zayed’s behest. Nader testified that Dmitriev was “not enthusiastic” about meeting Prince. To help sell the meeting, Nader described Prince to Dmitriev as Bannon’s chosen representative for the Kremlin-directed meeting: “this guy [Prince] is designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you!” Which suggests that Prince presented himself to Nader as an influential member of Trump’s circle. Testimony from both Bannon and Prince cast doubt on whether Prince flew to the Seychelles with Bannon’s knowledge or approval. If Bannon’s testimony is accurate, it’s quite possible that Prince oversold his influence with Trump and Trump’s inner circle to get the meeting with Dmitriev.
Although in his congressional testimony Prince described only a single interaction with Dmitriev at the resort bar, there was an earlier, longer private meeting in Nader’s villa. After the first meeting, Prince learned that an Russian aircraft carrier was moving off the coast of Libya, according to the Mueller report. Prince, who has spent years offering his paramilitary services in Libya, was incensed at the news, calling Nader to demand a second meeting with Dmitriev. Prince told Nader that he’d just checked with his “associates” and needed to convey an important message to Putin’s emissary. Prince told Mueller that he was speaking only for himself, based on his three years as a Navy SEAL. In the second meeting, Prince went off-script and warned Dmitriev that the U.S. could not accept Russian involvement in Libya.
As the report describes Dmitriev’s complaints to Nader after meeting Prince, he expected to meet a member of the Trump team who had more authority and substance: “Dmitriev told Nader that [redacted] Prince’s comments [redacted] were insulting [redacted].” As in so many other episodes involving Prince over the last decade, his involvement in the Trump-Russia political scandal is a result of his relentless ambition, combined with his snake-oil salesmanship and his ability to gain entry to rooms with genuine power, even if it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn’t belong there.
https://theintercept.com/2019/05/03/eri ... t-veritas/
The Domestic Conspiracy Is Hiding In Plain Sight Erik Prince
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Just gonna inject this into the discourse:
1. ESPIONAGE IS NOT WHISTLE-BLOWING.
2. FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE FRONTS that distribute fruits of espionage ARE NOT PUBLISHERS.
3. Repeat 1 & 2.
Director of National Intelligence Tells Congress to Fuck Off
Stefani Reynolds/CNP via ZUMA
A few days ago the inspector general for the intelligence community notified Congress of a whistleblower complaint that was both credible and a matter of “urgent concern.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, naturally asked the Director of National Intelligence to provide a copy of the complaint, as required by law. The DNI told him to pound sand. Now Schiff is pissed off:
As Acting Director of National Intelligence, you have neither the legal authority nor the discretion to overrule a determination by the IC IG. Moreover, you do not possess the authority to withhold from the Committee a whistleblower disclosure from within the Intelligence Community that is intended for Congress.
….Your office, moreover, has refused to affirm or deny that officials or lawyers at the White House have been involved in your decision to withhold the complaint from the Committee….The Committee can only conclude, based on this remarkable confluence of factors, that the serious misconduct at issue involves the President of the United States and/or other senior White House or Administration officials. This raises grave concerns that your office, together with the Department of Justice and possibly the White House, are engaged in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible “serious or flagrant” misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law.
Accordingly, due to the urgency of the matter and the unlawful decision by your office to withhold from the Committee an Intelligence Community individual’s credible “urgent concern” whistleblower disclosure, the Committee hereby issues the attached subpoena compelling you to transmit immediately to the Committee the disclosure, in complete and unaltered form, as well as to produce other related materials.
The acting DNI, unsurprisingly, is claiming that the whistleblower complaint contains confidential and privileged information, which means he’s not required to turn it over. This has become the Trump administration’s go-to move, despite the fact that, almost by definition, everything the intelligence community deals with is confidential and privileged.
https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/ ... -fuck-off/
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