Trumpublicons: Foreign Influence/Grifting in '16 US Election

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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:43 pm

Trump Tower shut down its Russia email server just before FISA warrant was allegedly granted
By Bill Palmer | March 5, 2017 | 0

Donald Trump has spent the weekend falsely insisting that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower shortly before the election. And while Trump appears to be too ignorant to understand that a President has no mechanism for doing so, there is evidence that a federal judge granted a FISA eavesdropping warrant to the FBI for Trump Tower’s Russian email server shortly before the election. And it appears Trump Tower knew that warrant was coming.

I reported back in November that there was evidence a FISA warrant had been granted for the Trump Tower Russian email server in October. But as it turns out, Daily Kos has determined that the email server had been shut off for good on September 23rd. This suggests that the operator of the email server was aware the FBI was onto it, and shut it off to prevent its data from being monitored. There is also a Carter Page connection.

As I pointed out earlier today, the Trump Tower Russian email server saw its biggest data spikes while Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was visiting Russia, suggesting it was used to communicate with him abroad. But three days after the email server was shut down, Page announced he had left the campaign amid increasing questions about his Russia ties.

This now paints a picture of Trump Tower realizing that the FBI was closing in on its Russia connections, quickly shutting down its Russia email server just before an eavesdropping warrant could be granted, and also abruptly ejecting Russian operative Carter Page from the campaign entirely because he had become too much of a liability. But now Page is asserting that Donald Trump himself was behind the Republican National Convention plot to change the party platform to benefit Russia. Trump might have done better to keep Page around, so he’d keep quiet. ... nted/1796/
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby Luther Blissett » Mon Mar 06, 2017 4:26 pm

Roger Stone granted a sprawling interview to a friend of mine.


THE HISTORY OF the 2016 election is up for grabs. Vying for posterity are two competing myths. One is the Russian conspiracy that elevated Donald Trump into the White House. The other is the “deep state” conspiracy that is laboring to bring him down. The first relies on secret evidence; the second on naked speculation and paranoid hand waving. Each myth has a few bits of fact dangling behind it; both are currently impossible to verify or refute.

Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and bon vivant, has dealt in this epistemological netherworld for decades. He now has a starring role in the Russia-Trump narrative, as one of four Trump associates reportedly under scrutiny for their ties to Russia, and the only one who spoke openly during the campaign about contact with WikiLeaks. Over the weekend, Trump attempted to seize the offensive, accusing Obama of tapping Trump Tower phone lines. After an Obama spokesperson issued a denial, Stone flew off the handle.

Roger Stone @RogerJStoneJr
Just nothing better than calling out liberal jerk offs on Twitter. We won, you lost. You're done!
11:23 AM - 5 Mar 2017

Roger Stone @RogerJStoneJr
Total horseshit from the CIA controlled Washington Post
10:43 PM - 4 Mar 2017

Stone had especially harsh words for two women, calling Republican commentator Ana Navarro “fat” and “stupid” and one of his online critics a “stupid, ignorant, ugly bitch.” The latter tweet, which Stone deleted, came after Stone said he had a “perfectly legal back channel to Assange.” (In a Monday email, Stone wrote that “My tweet re. Navarro is only the truth.” Regarding his links to Assange, “I didn’t admit it—I ANNOUNCED it. Assange does NOT work for the Russians and no one has proved otherwise.”) Indeed, Stone announced during a speech last August that he had “communicated with Assange.” “I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation,” he continued. “But there’s no telling what the October surprise might be.”

By that time, WikiLeaks had already released thousands of emails from inside the Democratic National Committee, sowing discord during the party’s convention in Philadelphia. Stone’s prediction turned out to be a pretty good one. In October, WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of additional emails from the account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

That Stone, a longtime associate of Trump, would brag about ties to WikiLeaks will come as no surprise to those who have followed his long career as a bridge between respectable politicians and the shady saboteurs (or “ratfuckers,” as they were once known) who can deliver campaign knockout blows. Stone began his political career in Washington on the less reputable margins of the Nixon administration. In 1980, he co-founded the lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, which advised several Republican presidential candidates as well as corporations and foreign states. An early profile of Stone by Jacob Weisberg from this period pokes fun at Stone’s “self-generated image as a kingmaker,” while noting that the 32-year-old was pulling down a salary of $450,000 a year.

As a policy adviser, Stone has set himself up as an emissary of the white working class, advising candidates to focus on fiscal conservatism and a strong, conflict-averse military, while avoiding strong stances on thorny social issues like gay marriage and abortion. As a tactician, Stone has deployed a variety of unorthodox methods, including disinformation and threats. Stone once undertook a paid smear campaign against Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, during which someone calling from Stone’s number left a message on the voicemail of Spitzer’s father threatening an official subpoena. “There’s not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-shit son can do about it,” said the voice, which “does sound eerily like me,” Stone later said, in an interview with the filmmaker Alex Gibney.

Stone’s lobbying partner Paul Manafort went on to serve as Donald Trump’s second campaign manager during the 2016 presidential race. Manafort resigned under a cloud following reports that he took millions of dollars from a pro-Putin party in Ukraine. Stone, by his own account, had been talking to Trump about a possible presidential run as early as 1988. Manafort, like Stone, is now among the four Trump advisers whose communications and finances are reportedly under scrutiny as part of a federal investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Stone’s new campaign book, “The Making of the President 2016,” rehashes the campaign season while gently reminding the reader how early, and how often, Roger Stone was in the room. The preface begins by attributing Trump’s victory to the talent, energy, and foresight of Donald Trump himself. It ends with a story of Stone claiming credit for inadvertently saving Trump’s life by delaying him from what turned out to be a fatal helicopter crash. Stone attributes this providential event to cosmic forces. “I know that his life was spared to save our Republic,” he writes.

Like Stone, Trump has a genius for controlling the narrative through repetition. Two appendices document the memes that Stone set into motion on Trump’s behalf. There is a chronology of the “Clinton Rape Tee,” a riff on the Obama/Hope poster, and an impressive list of online traffic statistics relating to Danney Williams, who has long insisted that he is Bill Clinton’s secret love child. The claim was proven to be false in 1999, but, as Stone writes about the Obama birth certificate controversy, one can keep “fanning the flames of uncertainty.” In the case of Williams, Stone has attacked the validity of an old DNA test and promised that a paternity suit would be filed sometime in the future. Stone claims that the Danny Williams meme, supported by a hip-hop video and a targeted Facebook campaign, suppressed the African-American vote in key battleground states. “Truth is not enough,” Stone writes. “It’d be nice if it were, but that’s not the world in which we live. People are busy and have a lot of distractions … attaching truth to something else, especially humor or shock, makes it stick.”

Truth, in other words, doesn’t stand a chance in a click-hungry traffic-driven media environment.

Stone and I spoke by phone twice, on February 26 and March 2. This interview is compiled from both conversations. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What is your current role in the Trump administration?

First and foremost, I am a Trump supporter. I am a Trump friend. I’m a writer, and I express myself best in a memo. I understand how to write a short, pithy, and topical memo. I prefer to share my advice that way. I have no official role whatsoever, other than Trump supporter and friend. And of course, I have to politically kibitz from time to time.

What does the kibitzing entail?

Generally, I think communications between the president and myself should remain private. But my views are well known. You can find them on Twitter. For example, one cannot oppose federal power and cite states’ rights on the transgender bathroom issue, and then turn around say that you support states’ rights to legalize medical marijuana, and then turn around and say that you’re going to crack down on states that legalize recreational marijuana. There’s an intellectual inconsistency there. It is also harmful to the Trump coalition. Although a lot of anti-marijuana conservatives voted for Donald Trump, it’s not their motivating issue. On the other hand, for a lot of young voters and libertarian voters in the Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Gary Johnson realm, this is the issue for them. They voted for Trump based on his assurances about states’ rights. Lastly, legal marijuana is a regulated, billion-dollar business. If you crack down on the three states that have passed recreational marijuana, you’ll lose roughly 200,000 jobs. States and counties will go bankrupt because they’ve already budgeted the tax revenue. So that’s an example of the kind of issue about which I’d be happy to share my opinion with the president.

How does Donald Trump consume information? How does he think through issues and make decisions?

Trump likes to be verbally briefed, after which he asks a number of very tough questions. And he doesn’t always make a decision. He takes it on the wing and says, “OK, I’ll think about it.” He does read. But if you’re writing for him, you need to get to the point — right to the basic facts. He is — at least during the period when I was involved on a daily basis — he was never particularly net-savvy. He would often have the top 10 news stories that were on the net printed out and put in a pile. Then he would read them first thing in the morning. Often, he will either write questions at the bottom of your memo, for you to respond to. Or he will say, “I have questions, call me on this.”

What do you make of his use of Twitter?

Let me back up to your question. As I say in the book, I think this was the first election in which finally the mainstream media lost their monopoly on the dissemination of political information. Now, they have to share the marketplace. This is largely based on a technological advance, as we move from television sets to handheld devices. You can still watch CBS on your handheld device, but you’ve got to go through the internet to get it. When you get to the internet, it doesn’t take you long to figure out that there are more, and better, news outlets. You have choice.

The cost of reaching a large audience has plummeted.

Exactly. Scoff at the politics of Infowars and Alex Jones if you wish. He’s reaching between 12 and 15 million people every week.

I wanted to ask about Alex Jones. You’ve become a regular guest on his show and a sort of emissary between him and the more traditional Republican Party. Now, you’re a familiar figure on the American scene. You were profiled by the New Yorker. You’ve advised presidents. Alex Jones has also been around for a while, and he’s put out a lot of wild stuff, conspiracy theories about Operation Jade Helm, FEMA Camps, crisis actors in Sandy Hook. Does any of that bother you?

First of all, I really like Alex Jones. I think he’s a patriot whose heart is in the right place. Because I appear on Infowars, that does not mean of course that I agree with him on every issue. Just as when I appear on CNN, that doesn’t mean I agree with Wolf Blitzer on everything. I do agree with him on many things. I have not written or read on all these issues. To this day, I don’t know what a chemtrail is. But he’s entitled to these views. Obviously, his audience, which is large, is not turned off by his alternative views. They’re turned on by them. On the issues of immigration and American sovereignty and personal freedom and civil liberties, I agree with him. Jones’s impact within the Republican primaries is very understated. Literally millions of people are watching him on multiple platforms.

I understand that as an audience-mover, he’s a phenomenon.

It’s a massive audience. And these people are Republican primary voters. More precisely, they are Republican activists. They go out and encourage other people to vote in Republican primaries. It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of the Alex Jones constituency when Alex Jones was up against the Republican establishment and he needed to attract new people.

But is there any risk if millions of people listen to one of these shows and decide that FEMA has a secret plan to put them into camps?

Is there any risk in people seeing the president of United States say that they can keep their health care plan if they like their health care plan? Is there any risk in the president of the United States saying, “Read my lips, no new taxes”? Those are disinformation. I don’t want to say disinformation as well, because I’m unfamiliar with the FEMA camp report that you’re talking about. I haven’t read it. Don’t know it. But, you know, caveat emptor. Let the consumer decide what they choose to believe and who they choose to believe.

That certainly seemed to be BuzzFeed’s attitude when they explained why they published the Trump dossier.

Exactly. And by the way, I never attacked them for publishing the dossier. I attacked John McCain for passing it on, when it was rife with typos and so obviously a fraud. I’ve seen this same exact memo four times. Somebody has always been peddling this since the beginning of the presidential campaign. They get no takers. Because anybody who thinks about this would understand that given Trump’s level of sophistication, if not paranoia, and his love of privacy, if for no other reason than to preserve the element of surprise, and his germophobia — the whole thing is absurd! Zero chance that he would party with a bunch of prostitutes involving urine.

What about these reports that you were in contact with Russian intelligence? Why are law enforcement sources risking their credibility with New York Times reporters and claiming that they have collected evidence under a FISA warrant showing that this is true?

If there is a FISA warrant and my emails and text messages and presumably phone calls have been under surveillance for over a year — all on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, as the FISA court is widely understood to be a rubber stamp for the government — then that is an outrageous violation of my civil liberties on the basis of no evidence. They may learn many, many things. Obviously my communications are private and intensely personal. But I’ll tell you what they’ll also learn. I have not been in touch with any Russians. There is nothing there, regarding the Russians, to see. So ultimately, it will prove my point. This meme begins at the instant Donald Trump said that if the Russians have Hillary Clinton’s missing emails, they should release them. From that point on, Trump-is-in-bed-with-Putin becomes a talking point of the Clinton campaign, and their allies in the Obama administration, who include the people in the intelligence agencies, who are, after all, political appointees at the top, second, and third levels.

In October, you made a couple of statements that seemed to predict future leaks coming out against Clinton from Julian Assange.

I’ve addressed this ad nauseum, in the book and elsewhere. We have a mutual friend. My friend communicates with Assange and he communicates with me. He told me that WikiLeaks has devastating information on Hillary and they’ll start unloading it the first week in October. That’s it. In fact, early in October, Assange announced that he’d be releasing something in the beginning of the week for the next 10 weeks. And he does. And it’s devastating. And it’s all about Hillary. The implication that I had some role or some inside knowledge of precisely the timing and the substance of what Assange and WikiLeaks were going to do is false. Or that I had any input to it, that’s false. I merely said what I had learned, and I reported it at my own website. It’s a big jump from there to “Stone knew everything in advance.” And yes, I did in August say that Podesta’s time in the barrel would come. That was based on my own research into Podesta. None of that information came from WikiLeaks. The idea that I was foreshadowing the hacking of Podesta’s email is false.

Has anyone from federal law enforcement reached out to you as part of an investigation?

No. I would be happy to cooperate with any balanced and impartial investigation by the federal government. But just the disclosure of the FISA warrant is a felony. Just as the disclosure of the surveillance of Gen. Flynn is a felony. So, the leakers at the agency, presumably, beneath the director, are breaking the law. The president is justified in being angry about this.

People broke the law to tell the New York Times that there was an investigation into classified content in Hillary Clinton’s emails. Those were felonies as well, right?

Probably right. But let’s recognize that these agencies are not monolithic. At the top level, you have Obama appointees. At the bottom level, you have honest men and women who are trying to do their duty and have their own views. I suspect there is always an internal struggle and sometimes there are leaks against the leadership, when an agent feels that the agency is covering up a crime, he might leak that. But as Glenn Greenwald said recently in a headline, that’s a justifiable crime.

Greenwald was writing about leaking against Trump.

I understand why they’re doing it. That doesn’t make it less illegal. That’s all I’m saying.

When an issue like Russia becomes this politicized, how can a president come up with a policy? Is there any way to clear the water?

That’s the point of this exercise. There is an effort by those in the government who favor the status quo as far as Russia is concerned, with a continued Cold War, to put the president in a straightjacket so that he can’t make any change in policy if he wishes to. Anybody who thinks Trump is going to go limp about politics in the region doesn’t understand him. His position may be more nuanced, but I don’t think that he is going to roll back any punitive measures against Russia. He is not in Putin’s pocket.

Here’s what I don’t understand. You talk about the neocons who want war and make Trump sound like a Rand Paul-style isolationist, but then I hear him talk about totally obliterating ISIS and taking a much harder line.

He’s left with no choice. ISIS is a loose end. They have to be dealt with. The reason we have them is adventurism by previous administrations. Trump’s call to rebuild our strength and be a deterrent sounds to me like Barry Goldwater. Peace through strength is not a neocon slogan. I don’t think Trump is an isolationist. He’s a non-interventionist.

Earlier you said that Alex Jones has the right to say what he wants to say. Is there anything wrong with Trump using the bully pulpit to call the media “enemies of the people?”

Trump is a truth-teller. He calls it as he sees it. He’s not wrong. This is the politics of polarization, which got Nixon re-elected in 1972 with 49 states. This is pointing out to the people the difference between the regular people and the elites, and how they lie. How they push a false narrative. How big media is in bed with big government and the establishment in the two-party duopoly. They’re invested in the status quo. Yeah, I think that’s all fair commentary­, but —

— but is it different when the president says it?

I think the president is precisely the one who should say it. This is an example of leadership. To those who say this is divisive, well, we’re tired of polite. We’re tired of the phoniness of Washington in which politicians say things because they’re politically correct, things that they know are not true. Trump is not going to do that.

It’s not the divisiveness. It’s more like this guy takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and then sets about talking down most of the values enshrined in the First Amendment by attacking the notion that people can say whatever they want.

I don’t think he’s calling for them to be censored. It’s the left that is calling for the censorship of those who they decide are fake news.

But when the president calls someone an “enemy,” isn’t he calling for heavier sanctions than mere censorship? When the head of the largest military apparatus in the world calls someone an enemy of the people … that’s a military term, right?

That’s an unfair extrapolation of what he said. He didn’t mention censorship. He didn’t mention actions against them. He does have the right to say: “Don’t believe them.” And that’s really what he’s saying. “Don’t believe these people.”

So the military connotation was not his intent?

At the juncture that the president or his administration advocates censorship, that’s when they lose me. I’m outraged now by the attempts to censor my webpage, my YouTube feed, my Twitter feed. Twitter has me on some kind of logarithmic slowdown. The number of retweets has dropped. I have 150,000 followers, but I can’t get verified. There are other people passing themselves off as Roger Stone and I still can’t get verified. Not that I care, but this is just an example of the games being played. I’m against censorship, period. Let everybody have access to the market. I’m outraged by the attempts to censor me and my allies just as I would be outraged by any attempt to censor the president’s critics. [ed. — The Intercept has contacted Twitter regarding both of Stone’s claims and will update this post with any response.]

Do you have any predictions for how Trump’s coalition will evolve over the next election cycle?

It depends on whether the president is true to those who elected him. I would have to admit, candidly, when I see this many people from Goldman Sachs in the house, that I find it mildly disturbing. When I see all these quislings from the Republican National Committee on the staff and then people wonder why the place is leaking like a sieve. But in the end, I put my faith in the president.

You’ve talked about the “deep state.” Why is it that when the intelligence community is leaking about Flynn’s Russia contacts, that is the work of the deep state, but when the FBI leaks about Hillary’s emails, that isn’t the deep state? Is there a difference?

Because the people who I suspect are leaking against the president are running these agencies and have authority. The leaks that have come out against Hillary are coming from the middle and lower levels of the agencies from people who see a political cover-up and want to thwart it. They are not the deep state. They don’t run anything. They just have information. They may have a political view, but they are not running the agency. They have no influence beyond their obtaining, or having access to, information.

They had enough influence to get Comey to put out that letter before the election.

Comey had no choice. The NYPD had and has a copy of the 650,000 emails. Comey’s statement, days before the election, that there’s nothing in there, is a bald-faced lie. This is just supposition, but I think the FBI director looked at the content and said they’re going to hang me if I don’t do something.

My colleague Jon Schwarz has asked this question: Why doesn’t Trump just declassify everything we have about his supposed Russia contacts and those of members of his campaign, just to put the matter at rest?

Not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Perfectly OK with me.

How are you thinking about the controversy over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he didn’t meet with any Russians?

I think it’s conceivable that he misunderstood the question, that he thought he was being asked if he had spoken to any Russian contact about the campaign and therefore he thought a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador in which politics was not in any way the subject — he was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — would not pertain. That’s just a guess. It’s still immaterial. The Trump campaign didn’t have any contact with the Russians, wasn’t infiltrated with the Russians, didn’t get any help from the Russians. They call me a dirty trickster? This is the greatest Democratic dirty trick of all. This all dates to a Hillary Clinton campaign talking point. There’s no beef. There’s no proof. Because it didn’t happen.

It does seem like the Trump transition was in touch with the Russians at some point. Are there reasons for that that might be innocuous?

First of all, that would be after the election. Secondarily, I don’t know that that’s improper. The new administration is going to have to have some relationship and communication with the Russians. It looked to me like Gen. Flynn’s call was for the purposes of setting up a phone call between the presidents of the two countries. That appears to be perfectly appropriate and within his job description. I have no idea why he misled the vice president about it.

Could there be reasons for contact with the Russians, during the campaign, before the election, that would not necessarily be inappropriate?

None come to mind. There’s no reason. There just isn’t any reason. Why would you do that? Congresswoman Maxine Waters said the Russians fed Trump the line “Crooked Hillary.” Bullshit. Donald Trump came up with Crooked Hillary. As he did Lyin’ Ted. As he did Little Marco. [ed. — In fact, Waters questioned whether that had happened, and gave it as an example of collusion that would be an impeachable offense.]

So all these members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who say that the FBI does have evidence of contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — is that all made up?

Let’s see it. Yes. I’m calling them out. I say, it’s not true. Let’s see the proof. Again, they may have been told that by some of the intelligence agencies but where’s the beef? Where’s the proof? Again, the New York Times specifically says, emails, records of financial transactions, and transcripts of phone calls. Produce them! Where are they! Let’s settle this once and for all. [ed. — The Times reported that federal agencies had obtained “intercepted communications and financial transactions” from the Trump campaign as part of their investigation, and that “intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.”]

You said this intermediary with WikiLeaks was a mutual friend and an American journalist. Is there anything else you can share about that contact?

No. But given that it is true, if you reject the idea that WikiLeaks works for the Russians, what difference would it make? I would have every right to communicate directly or indirectly with WikiLeaks. I believe Assange when he says he doesn’t work for any nation-state. He doesn’t work for the Russians.

I guess it comes down to this: At what point does contact equal coordination? Or is it just meeting with people and talking?

You write for a website. I write for a website. Your job is to go out and ask questions. Seek information. That’s also my job. That’s what I do. I’m a best-selling author. I have a website with thousands of people reading it every day. And I have no official role in the Trump campaign. And I’m not on the Trump payroll.

Is it accurate that you did have an official role prior to August?

Yes. I was a consultant for three months — June, July, and August.

And you were paid for that period of time.


Given all that, why not just talk to Assange directly?

I never made any attempt to do so.

You said you heard that there might be leaks coming. But knowing everything about you, and the hard work that you’ve done to get clients elected in the past, wouldn’t it be reasonable for people to guess that if you were in touch with Assange, you would try to coordinate the timing of these releases? Why not do that?

But why would anyone believe that I had any reasonable ability to do so? Assange’s goal is not the election of Donald Trump. I would have no influence with him. Why would I have any reason to believe that he is interested in advice or coordination?

Actually, some have suggested that Assange’s goal was to elect Donald Trump, given the content of the WikiLeaks releases and their timing.

People are entitled to believe whatever they want. They’re certainly entitled to believe that I might try to do that. I just didn’t. Again, just like you don’t divulge the identity of your sources, I have no compulsion or requirement to divulge the identity of mine. A good source told me accurately that he had learned from WikiLeaks, that he had learned from Assange, that they had devastating political information on Hillary Clinton that they would begin to disclose in October. That’s the sum total of what I knew. I never sent any message back.

In the book’s appendix, you cite traffic figures for the propagation of the meme around Danney Williams, who continues to claim that he is Bill Clinton’s secret love child.

Frankly, I think anybody who has seen the multiple videos will say that Danney and his mother and his aunt make a pretty compelling argument. Remember, this isn’t a court of law. This is the court of public opinion. Obviously, many African-American voters believe that Danney is Bill’s son. As I show in the book, in the places targeted [with the Williams meme by the Trump campaign], African-American voter participation was down overall, and Clinton’s share was off from her national averages.

If those voters believe it’s true, does it matter whether it’s true?

The point is, it is true. I believe it’s true. And I believe it will be proven. For anybody who says “you are spreading disinformation,” I just don’t agree with that. I think I am spreading the truth.

In the book, you say that the truth gets lost with the car keys sometimes, that it doesn’t quite stick on its own. What is truth to you, given all this evidence flying back and forth and people’s beliefs being so malleable? How do you think of the truth?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? It’s a question that can’t be answered. Facts are, obviously, in the eye of the beholder. You have an obligation to make a compelling case. Caveat emptor. Let the consumer decide what he or she believes or doesn’t believe based on how compelling a case you put forward for your point of view.

That sounds like a relativist position.

But that’s what campaigns are about. Obama claims that he created jobs. His opponents claim that he didn’t.

It seems that with each subsequent election cycle, there is less political reality outside of the campaign.

The voters have always made the decision. Lyndon Johnson said we weren’t going any further into Vietnam. He got elected. What did he do? He went further into Vietnam. Franklin Roosevelt said he wasn’t going to send your sons or daughters into any foreign war. Except that he did, shortly after winning the election.

Jeff Sessions says that he didn’t meet with any Russians. Then it turns out that he did. You say you didn’t meet with any Russians. And you’re saying that we should trust you on that.

Well, I’m saying that it will ultimately be proven that I didn’t.

Again, couldn’t President Trump prove exactly that by ordering that these records be declassified?

I don’t think there’s anything to declassify. That’s the point. As we discussed earlier, if the FISA court really did issue a secret warrant for my communications over a year ago, that’s an outrageous violation of my right to privacy. But I can sleep at night because I know those records will show no contact with anybody or anything Russian.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:00 pm

thanks for that

I'm not really crazy about a guy who has a tattoo of Nixon on his back! :)


Welp, That Was Interesting

ByJOSH MARSHALLPublishedMARCH 6, 2017, 3:35 PM EDT
I've mentioned a few times that a big source on Felix Sater, his criminal background and his cooperation with the federal government is the memoir written by his longtime accomplice and coworker Salvatore Lauria. This is a book called The Scorpion and the Frog: High Times and High Crimes which was written by Lauria and a journalist named David S. Barry. I just talked to Barry about the book and Lauria and Sater. It was pretty fascinating.

We discussed the deal that Lauria and Sater allegedly made with the federal government to try to purchase stinger missiles from Osama bin Laden - missiles the CIA was the ultimate source of and which the CIA wanted back. This was not long before 9/11. The deal fell apart. According to the book Lauria and Barry co-wrote, after 9/11 the federal government got a lot more interested in what Lauria and Sater might have to offer, not surprisingly. That was at the start of roughly eight more years in which Sater worked simultaneously both as an FBI informant and - for most of the time - a key business associate of Donald Trump's. Here's a backgrounder on Sater. This post also goes into details about his background and his business relationship with the President.

Sater remains a very interesting person for Trump to have been in business with. ... nteresting
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:59 pm

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s flight patterns suggest he played role in Trump-Russia blackmail negotiations
By Bill Palmer | March 6, 2017 | 0

Palmer Report has been reporting on the curious flight patterns of the private jet belonging to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who tends to pop up in whatever U.S. city Donald Trump happens to be visiting at any given time. Rybolovlev also has ownership in a bank recently caught laundering Russian money. But research into his earlier flight patterns has him showing up at places and times corresponding with key events the Trump-Russia dossier.

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s private plane, which uses the call sign M-KATE and can be followed on any flight plan tracking website, has flown halfway around the world to arrive in cities ranging from Concord, North Carolina to West Palm Beach, Florida just as Donald Trump was also arriving in those cities. But his flight patterns from last summer paint an even more eye popping pattern.

According to his flight plans, Rybolovlev started off in the Hamptons in early August. It’s not a surprise to find a wealthy socialite in the Hamptons. According to the geotags on the tweets from Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, he was also in the Hamptons during that same time. From there, Rybolovlev traveled to Dubrovnik, Croatia at a time when Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner just happened to be vacationing in that same city (source). But it’s Rybolovlev’s next flight that sets off all the bells and whistles.

Days after surfacing in Dubrovnik at the same time as Ivanka and Kushner, the next destination for Dmitry Rybolovlev was Budapest, Hungary. That’s very close to Prague, Czech Republic (85 minutes via air). This was at the same precise timeframe in which former MI6 agent Michael Steele’s infamous Trump-Russia dossier claims Michael Cohen was meeting with a Russian envoy in Prague to discuss the terms of the blackmail which Russia is holding over Trump (Cohen denies he’s ever been in Prague, and apart from the dossier, there is no proof that any Prague meeting between Trump’s people and Russia took place).

The flight tracking website requires a subscription to access more than the past week’s worth of data, meaning you can’t view it on their website without paying. However we subscribed and took this screen capture of Rybolovlev’s flights:

This could all be one massive coincidence. But it also paints a picture of a two-week span in which 1) Dmitry Rybolovlev meets with Michael Cohen in the Hamptons to arrange or prepare for the Russia blackmail meeting, then 2) Rybolovlev travels to discuss the matter with Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, then 3) Rybolovlev travels to Prague to reunite with Cohen and meet with the Russian envoy. ... ions/1809/
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:16 pm


The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
By Adam Davidson

The Trump Tower Baku never opened. Trump partnered with an Azerbaijani family that U.S. officials called notoriously unethical.

Photograph by Davide Monteleone for The New Yorker

Heydar Aliyev Prospekti, a broad avenue in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, connects the airport to the city. The road is meant to highlight Baku’s recent modernization, and it is lined with sleek new buildings. The Heydar Aliyev Center, an undulating wave of concrete and glass, was designed by Zaha Hadid. The state oil company is housed in a twisting glass tower, and the headquarters of the state water company looks like a giant water droplet. “It’s like Potemkin,” my translator told me. “It’s only the buildings right next to the road.” Behind the gleaming structures stand decaying Soviet-era apartment blocks, with clothes hanging out of windows and wallboards exposed by fallen brickwork.

As you approach the city center, a tower at the end of the avenue looms in front of you. Thirty-three stories high and curved to resemble a sail, the building was clearly inspired by the Burj Al Arab Hotel, in Dubai, but it is boxier and less elegant. When I visited Baku, in December, five enormous white letters glowed at the top of the tower: T-R-U-M-P.

The building, a five-star hotel and residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku, has never opened, though from the road it looks ready to welcome the public. Reaching the property is surprisingly difficult; the tower stands amid a welter of on-ramps, off-ramps, and overpasses. During the nine days I was in town, I went to the site half a dozen times, and on each occasion I had a comical exchange with a taxi-driver who had no idea which combination of turns would lead to the building’s entrance.

The more time I spent in the neighborhood, the more I wondered how the hotel could have been imagined as a viable business. The development was conceived, in 2008, as a high-end apartment building. In 2012, after Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, signed multiple contracts with the Azerbaijani developers behind the project, plans were made to transform the tower into an “ultra-luxury property.” According to a Trump Organization press release, a hotel with “expansive guest rooms” would occupy the first thirteen floors; higher stories would feature residences with “spectacular views of the city and Caspian Sea.” For an expensive hotel, the Trump Tower Baku is in an oddly unglamorous location: the underdeveloped eastern end of downtown, which is dominated by train tracks and is miles from the main business district, on the west side of the city. Across the street from the hotel is a discount shopping center; the area is filled with narrow, dingy shops and hookah bars. Other hotels nearby are low-budget options: at the AYF Palace, most rooms are forty-two dollars a night. There are no upscale restaurants or shops. Any guests of the Trump Tower Baku would likely feel marooned.

The timing of the project was also curious. By 2014, when the Trump Organization publicly announced that it was helping to turn the tower into a hotel, a construction boom in Baku had ended, and the occupancy rate for luxury hotels in the city hovered around thirty-five per cent. Jan deRoos, of Cornell University, who is an expert in hotel finance, told me that the developer of a five-star hotel typically must demonstrate that the project will maintain an average occupancy rate of at least sixty per cent for ten years. There is a long-term master plan to develop the area around the Trump Tower Baku, but if it is implemented the hotel will be surrounded for years by noisy construction projects, making it even less appealing to travellers desiring a luxurious experience—especially considering that there are many established hotels on the city’s seaside promenade. There, an executive from ExxonMobil or the Israeli cell-phone industry can stay at the Four Seasons, which occupies a limestone building that evokes a French colonial palace, or at the J. W. Marriott Abershon Baku, which has an outdoor terrace overlooking the water. Tiffany, Ralph Lauren, and Armani are among the dozens of companies that have boutiques along the promenade.

A former top official in Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Tourism says that, when he learned of the Trump hotel project, he asked himself, “Why would someone put a luxury hotel there? Nobody who can afford to stay there would want to be in that neighborhood.”

The Azerbaijanis behind the project were close relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Azerbaijan is among the most corrupt nations in the world. Its President, Ilham Aliyev, the son of the former President Heydar Aliyev, recently appointed his wife to be Vice-President. Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time that the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. At the time of the hotel deal, Mammadov, a career government official, had a salary of about twelve thousand dollars, but he was a billionaire.

The Trump Tower Baku originally had a construction budget of a hundred and ninety-five million dollars, but it went through multiple revisions, and the cost ended up being much higher. The tower was designed by a local architect, and in its original incarnation it had an ungainly roof that suggested the spikes of a crown. A London-based architecture firm, Mixity, redesigned the building, softening its edges and eliminating the ornamental roof. By the time the Trump team officially joined the project, in May, 2012, many condominium residences had already been completed; at the insistence of Trump Organization staffers, most of the building’s interior was gutted and rebuilt, and several elevators were added.

After Donald Trump became a candidate for President, in 2015, Mother Jones, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and other publications ran articles that raised questions about his involvement in the Baku project. These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described Ziya Mammadov as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov.

According to Garten, Trump played a passive role in the development of the property: he was “merely a licensor” who allowed his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov’s son, Anar, a young entrepreneur. It’s not clear how much money Trump made from the licensing agreement, although in his limited public filings he has reported receiving $2.8 million. (The Trump Organization shared documents that showed an additional payment of two and a half million dollars, in 2012, but declined to disclose any other payments.) Trump also had signed a contract to manage the hotel once it opened, for an undisclosed fee tied to the hotel’s performance. The Washington Post published Garten’s description of the deal, and reported that Donald Trump had “invested virtually no money in the project while selling the rights to use his name and holding the contract to manage the property.”

A month after Trump was elected President, Garten announced that the Trump Organization had severed its ties with the hotel project, describing the decision to CNN as little more than “housecleaning.” I was in Baku at the time, and it had become clear that the Trump Organization’s story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate. Trump’s company had made the deal not just with Anar Mammadov but also with Ziya’s brother Elton—an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament. Elton signed the contracts, and in an interview he confirmed that he founded Baku XXI Century, the company that owns the Trump Tower Baku. When he was asked who owns Baku XXI Century, he called it a “commercial secret” but added that he “controlled all its operations” until 2015, when he cut ties to the company. Elton denied having used his political position for profit.

An Azerbaijani lawyer who worked on the project revealed to me that the Trump Organization had not just licensed the family name; it also had signed a technical-services agreement in which it promised to help its partner meet Trump design standards. Technical-services agreements are often nominal addenda to licensing deals. Major hospitality brands compile exhaustive specifications for licensed hotels, and tend to approve design elements remotely; a foreign site is visited only occasionally. But in the case of Trump Tower Baku the oversight appears to have been extensive. The Azerbaijani lawyer told me, “We were always following their instructions. We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details.” He said that Trump staff visited Baku at least monthly to give the go-ahead for the next round of work orders. Trump designers went to Turkey to vet the furniture and fabrics acquired there. The hotel’s main designer, Pierre Baillargeon, and several contractors told me that they had visited the Trump Organization headquarters, in New York, to secure approval for their plans.

Ivanka Trump was the most senior Trump Organization official on the Baku project. In October, 2014, she visited the city to tour the site and offer advice. An executive at Mace, the London-based construction firm that oversaw the tower’s conversion to a hotel, met with Ivanka in Baku and New York. He told me, “She had very strong feelings, not just about the design but about the back of the hotel—landscaping, everything.” The Azerbaijani lawyer said, “Ivanka personally approved everything.” A subcontractor noted that Ivanka’s team was particular about wood panelling: it chose an expensive Macassar ebony, from Indonesia, for the ceiling of the lobby. The ballroom doors were to be made of book-matched panels of walnut. On her Web site, Ivanka posted a photograph of herself wearing a hard hat inside the half-completed hotel. A caption reads, “Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city in Azerbaijan to check in on the project’s progress.” (Ivanka Trump declined requests to discuss the Baku project.)

Jan deRoos, the Cornell professor, developed branded-hotel properties before entering academia. He told me that the degree of the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Baku property was atypical. “That’s very, very intense,” he said.

The sustained back-and-forth between the Trump Organization and the Mammadovs has legal significance. If parties involved in the Trump Tower Baku project participated in any illegal financial conduct, and if the Trump Organization exerted a degree of control over the project, the company could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution. Tom Fox, a Houston lawyer who specializes in anti-corruption compliance, said, “It’s a problem if you’re making a profit off of someone else’s corrupt conduct.” Moreover, recent case law has established that licensors take on a greater legal burden when they assume roles normally reserved for developers. The Trump Organization’s unusually deep engagement with Baku XXI Century suggests that it had the opportunity and the responsibility to monitor it for corruption.

Before signing a deal with a foreign partner, American companies, including major hotel chains, conduct risk assessments and background checks that take a close look at the country, the prospective partner, and the people involved. Countless accounting and law firms perform this service, as do many specialized investigation companies; a baseline report normally costs between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand dollars. A senior executive at one of the largest American hotel chains, who asked for anonymity because he feared reprisal from the Trump Administration, said, “We wouldn’t look at due diligence as a burden. There certainly is a cost to doing it, especially in higher-risk places. But it’s as much an investment in the protection of that brand. It’s money well spent.”

Alan Garten told me that the Trump Organization had commissioned a risk assessment for the Baku deal, but declined to name the company that had performed it. The Washington Post article on the Baku project reported that, according to Garten, the Trump Organization had undertaken “extensive due diligence” before making the hotel deal and had not discovered “any red flags.”

But the Mammadov family, in addition to its reputation for corruption, has a troubling connection that any proper risk assessment should have unearthed: for years, it has been financially entangled with an Iranian family tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the ideologically driven military force. In 2008, the year that the tower was announced, Ziya Mammadov, in his role as Transportation Minister, awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts to Azarpassillo, an Iranian construction company. Keyumars Darvishi, its chairman, fought in the Iran-Iraq War. After the war, he became the head of Raman, an Iranian construction firm that is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The U.S. government has regularly accused the Guard of criminal activity, including drug trafficking, sponsoring terrorism abroad, and money laundering. Reuters recently reported that the Trump Administration was poised to officially condemn the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.

I asked Garten how deeply the Trump Organization had looked into the Mammadov family’s political connections. Had it been concerned that Elton Mammadov, as a sitting member of parliament, might exploit his power to benefit the project? How much money had Ziya Mammadov invested in Elton’s company? Garten noted that he didn’t oversee the due-diligence process. “The people who did are no longer at the company,” he said. “I can’t tell you what was done in this situation.” He would not identify the former employees. When I asked him to provide documentation of due diligence, he said that he couldn’t share it with me, because “it’s confidential and privileged.”
A 2014 Instagram post of Ivanka Trump at the Baku tower.
Photo Illustration by The New Yorker
No evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump, or any of his employees involved in the Baku deal, actively participated in bribery, money laundering, or other illegal behavior. But the Trump Organization may have broken the law in its work with the Mammadov family. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1977, forbade American companies from participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment. The law even made it a crime for an American company to unknowingly benefit from a partner’s corruption if it could have discovered illicit activity but avoided doing so. This closed what was known as the “head in the sand” loophole.

As a result, American companies must examine potential foreign partners very carefully before making deals with them. I recently spoke with Alexandra Wrage, who runs Trace International, a consortium of three hundred corporations that do business overseas. Trace helps these firms avoid violating the F.C.P.A., and it has a division that can be hired by individual clients to assess potential foreign partners. To comply with the law, Wrage noted, an American company must remain vigilant even after a contract is signed, monitoring its foreign partner to be sure that nobody involved is engaging in bribery or other improprieties.

Wrage pointed out that corrupt government leaders often use their children or their siblings to distance themselves from illicit projects. Such an official creates a company in the relative’s name which appears to be independent but is controlled by the official. To lessen the likelihood of an F.C.P.A. violation when working with a company that is owned by a child or a sibling of a government minister, Wrage told me, “you’d need to show that the child has real expertise, real ability to do the work.” Otherwise, Wrage said, “the assumption is that they are a partner entirely because of their ability to use their parent’s power.” Before Elton Mammadov became a member of parliament, in 2000, he was a maintenance engineer who had no experience in real-estate development. When the Trump Organization joined the Baku project, it barred a Mammadov-owned company from doing construction work, because it was deemed incompetent.

Wrage said that a U.S. company looking to make a deal with a foreign partner should be confident that the partner has a reasonable likelihood of making a profit from the venture. If the project seems almost guaranteed to lose money, it could well be a bribery scheme or some other criminal operation. The partner also should uphold modern accounting standards.

“It’s simple,” she said. “Will money flow through this business because it offers a compelling product at a decent price, or will the money come because of an illicit relationship with someone who uses their power?”

Wrage told me that, in 2009, an American entrepreneur was successfully prosecuted for his part in a corruption conspiracy in Azerbaijan. Frederic Bourke, the co-founder of Dooney & Bourke, the handbag company, had invested in a project in which a foreign partner paid bribes to Azerbaijani government officials and their family members. Bourke was sentenced to a year in prison for violating the F.C.P.A.; he appealed the conviction, claiming ignorance of the corruption. Two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the conviction, saying that, regardless of whether he had known about the bribes, “the testimony at trial demonstrated that Bourke was aware of how pervasive corruption was in Azerbaijan.” The F.C.P.A., they said, also criminalized “conscious avoidance”—a deliberate effort to remain in the dark about any transgressions a foreign partner might be involved in. After Bourke’s conviction, Wrage said, U.S. companies were well aware of the dangers of making careless deals in Azerbaijan.

Even a cursory look at the Mammadovs suggests that they are not ideal partners for an American business. Four years before the Trump Organization announced the Baku deal, WikiLeaks released the U.S. diplomatic cables indicating that the family was corrupt; one cable mentioned the Mammadovs’ link to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In 2013, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project investigated the Mammadov family’s corruption and published well-documented exposés. Six months before the hotel announcement, Foreign Policy ran an article titled “The Corleones of the Caspian,” which suggested that the Mammadovs had exploited Ziya’s position as Transportation Minister to make their fortunes.

The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation revealed that Baku XXI Century, the company controlled by Elton, had at least two other stakeholders. One of them was a company called zqan, an acronym for the family members of the Transportation Minister: Ziya Mammadov; Qanira, his wife; Anar, his son; and Nigar, his daughter. Anar is the official head of zqan. Another stakeholder in Baku XXI Century was the Baghlan Group, a company run by an Azerbaijani businessman who is known to be close to Ziya Mammadov.

Baku XXI Century, zqan, and Baghlan have so many overlapping interests that they often seem to operate as a single concern. According to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation, the companies all prospered largely through contracts with the Transportation Ministry. The Trump Tower Baku complex was built partly on land controlled by the ministry. A Baghlan subsidiary received a contract from the ministry to import a thousand London-style cabs to Baku. Soon afterward, ministry inspectors began preventing competing taxi services from parking in the city center or at subway stops. Another new rule required all taxi owners to pay taxes and license fees at the Bank of Azerbaijan, a private entity that at the time was owned jointly by Anar Mammadov and Baghlan.

Anar’s net worth has been estimated at a billion dollars, but he is not a self-made man. According to the Associated Press, zqan was founded in 2000, when he was in his late teens. He began studying in England that year, and remained there until 2005; during that period, the company that he ostensibly ran experienced explosive growth. Trump Organization officials, as well as others familiar with the Baku project, told me that during the tower’s construction Anar was barely involved, and was often travelling abroad. (He flies on a Gulfstream G450 private jet.) An American who did business in Azerbaijan told me, “It’s common knowledge there that Ziya Mammadov controls zqan.”

One of the cables sent in 2010 by the U.S. Embassy in Baku noted that, “with so much of the nation’s oil wealth being poured into road construction,” the Mammadovs had become disproportionately powerful in Azerbaijan. Another cable suggested that Ziya controlled zqan, the country’s “largest commercial development company.” This cable described Ziya as being the object of “many allegations from Azerbaijani contacts of creative corrupt practices.”

Much of the land occupied by the Trump Tower Baku complex was once packed with houses. In 2011, residents received letters from the local government authority informing them that their homes were to be demolished to make way for a project of crucial government significance. Thirty families were evicted. One resident, Minaye Azizova, told me that the government gave her eighteen thousand dollars in compensation for a home that, by her estimation, was worth five times as much. After she discovered that her home had been condemned so that Baku XXI Century could build a luxury tower, she sued the government.

Construction of the building began in 2008. I have spoken with more than a dozen contractors who worked on it. Some of them described behavior that seemed nakedly corrupt. Frank McDonald, an Englishman who has had a long career doing construction jobs in developing countries, performed extensive work on the building’s interior. He told me that his firm was always paid in cash, and that he witnessed other contractors being paid in the same way. At the offices of Anar Mammadov’s company, he said, “they would give us a giant pile of cash,” adding, “I got a hundred and eighty thousand dollars one time, which I fit into my laptop bag, and two hundred thousand dollars another time.” Once, a colleague of his picked up a payment of two million dollars. “He needed to bring a big duffelbag,” McDonald recalled. The Azerbaijani lawyer confirmed that some contractors on the Baku tower were paid in cash.

Two people who worked on the Trump Tower Baku told me that bribes were paid. Much of the graft was routine: Azerbaijani tax officials, government inspectors, and customs officers showed up occasionally to pick up envelopes of cash.

The executive at Mace, the construction firm, told me that the Mammadovs handled payments and all interactions with the Azerbaijani government. “Were people bribed?” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe. We didn’t check.” (A spokesman for Mace said that the firm was “not involved” in any corruption.)

Pierre Baillargeon, the architect whom the Mammadovs hired to alter the tower’s original design, is a Canadian who runs a studio in London. He has often worked in parts of the world known for corruption, including Sudan and Syria, and has done several projects in Azerbaijan. In a phone interview, Baillargeon said that he knew nothing about corruption and was “just a designer.” I asked him why he thought the hotel had been built in such an inhospitable part of Baku. “Every project has detractors,” he said. When I asked him if he had seen large payments being made in cash, he hung up. (He did not respond to later calls.)

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization lawyer, did not deny that there was corruption involved in the project. “I’m not going to sit here and defend the Mammadovs,” he said. But, from a legal standpoint, he argued, the Trump Organization was blameless. In his opinion, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act doesn’t apply to the Baku deal, even if corruption occurred. “We didn’t own it,” he said of the hotel. “We had no equity. We didn’t control the project. The flow of funds is in the wrong direction.” He added, “We did not pay any money to anyone. Therefore, it could not be a violation of the F.C.P.A.”

“No, that’s just wrong,” Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, who specializes in the F.C.P.A., said. “You can’t go into business deals in Azerbaijan assuming that you are immune from the F.C.P.A.” She added, “Nor can you escape liability by looking the other way. The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag—the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.”

Tillipman explained that the F.C.P.A. defines corruption as “the payment of money or anything of value” to a foreign official. Last year, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay two hundred and sixty-four million dollars to settle charges that it had violated the F.C.P.A.; the bank had given jobs and internships to relatives and friends of government officials in Asia. Tillipman, along with several other F.C.P.A. experts, told me that the Trump Organization had clearly provided things of value in the Baku deal: its famous brand, its command of the luxury market, its extensive technical advice.

In May, 2012, the month the Baku deal was finalized, the F.C.P.A. was evidently on Donald Trump’s mind. In a phone-in appearance on CNBC, he expressed frustration with the law. “Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do,” he said. “It’s a horrible law and it should be changed.” If American companies refused to give bribes, he said, “you’ll do business nowhere.” He continued, “There is one answer—go to your room, close the door, go to sleep, and don’t do any deals, because that’s the only way. The only way you’re going to do it is the other way.”

It is unclear how the Trump Administration plans to approach F.C.P.A. enforcement. Jay Clayton, Trump’s choice to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, co-authored a paper in 2011 arguing that American companies were at a severe disadvantage because of the U.S. government’s “singular strategy of zealous enforcement.” But Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General, told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings that he will continue to uphold the F.C.P.A.

After 9/11, prosecuting financial corruption acquired new political importance. The C.I.A. and other intelligence services came to believe that preventing illicit money from flowing through the global financial system was a necessary tactic in preventing future terrorist attacks, and the U.S. led an international effort to enforce financial transparency. Banks and other financial entities were required to vet their clients aggressively and to report any suspicious activity. Prosecutions for money laundering, bribery, and other financial crimes rose significantly. In 2000, the government launched three prosecutions under the F.C.P.A. Last year, it initiated fifty-four.

Investigators of financial fraud like to say that government corruption, money laundering, and other illicit behavior often form a “nexus” with even more troubling activity, such as financing terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction. This appears to be true in the Baku deal. As the Mammadovs were preparing to build the tower, the family patriarch, Ziya, was cementing his financial relationship with the Darvishis, the Iranian family with ties to the country’s Revolutionary Guard.

At least three Darvishis—the brothers Habil, Kamal, and Keyumars—appear to be associates of the Guard. In Farsi press accounts, Habil, who runs the Tehran Metro Company, is referred to as a sardar, a term for a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guard. A cable sent on March 6, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Baku described Kamal as having formerly run “an alleged Revolutionary Guard-controlled business in Iran.” The company, called Nasr, developed and acquired instruments, guidance systems, and specialty metals needed to build ballistic missiles. In 2007, Nasr was sanctioned by the U.S. for its role in Iran’s effort to develop nuclear missiles.

The cable said that Kamal and Keyumars were frequent visitors to Azerbaijan; Kamal had recently established “a close business relationship/friendship” with Ziya Mammadov, and, with Mammadov’s assistance, had been awarded “at least eight major road construction and rehabilitation contracts, including contracts for construction of the Baku-Iranian Astara highway.” (Keyumars also seems to have been involved in these deals.) The cable added, “We assume Mammedov [sic] is a silent partner in these contracts.”

Iran has two militaries. The Iranian Army is a conventional force whose mission is to protect the country. The Revolutionary Guard is an independent force of about a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers, whose duty is to protect the country’s Islamic system and to preserve the power of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Revolutionary Guard has its own air force and navy, and it has a unit known as the Quds Force, which the United States has identified as a major supporter of Hezbollah and other international terrorist groups. The Guard has developed a shadow economy within Iran to fund its activities and expand its power. It controls all official border crossings and runs several unofficial ports, solely for its own use. The Revolutionary Guard smuggles into the country everything from consumer goods blocked by sanctions to drugs. It also owns seemingly legitimate companies in construction, energy, telecommunications, auto manufacturing, and banking. According to the United States Institute of Peace, the Guard is linked “to dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of companies that appear to be private in nature but are run by [Revolutionary Guard] veterans.”

J. Matthew McInnis, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, who served as a consultant to Michael Flynn when Flynn was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told me that owners of Revolutionary Guard-related businesses often become rich. But there is a catch: from time to time, they should expect to be asked to serve the needs of the Guard. “When the Revolutionary Guard says, ‘We need to move some illicit stuff,’ or ‘We need new parts for our missiles,’ they reach out to these guys,” McInnis explained. “It’s a soft network that can do all sorts of things that are very hard to trace.”

Keyumars Darvishi once ran Raman, a construction firm that is owned by the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation. According to the United Nations, the foundation is a major financial arm of the Revolutionary Guard. Keyumars left Raman to run Azarpassillo, the putatively independent construction company that received multiple road contracts in Azerbaijan. According to Azarpassillo’s Web site, it was incorporated in 2008. In recent years, Keyumars has also served as the acting director of the Tehran Metro Company, filling in for his brother Habil.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a political scientist at Syracuse University, who studies the political, economic, and military élite of Iran, said, “It looks like Azarpassillo is a front organization for the Revolutionary Guard.” He found it inconceivable that Keyumars Darvishi, after working for years in a company controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, would quit, raise large amounts of capital on his own, and then become the head of a fully independent company that competed against Revolutionary Guard fronts for contracts. Khatam Al-Anbia, an Iranian construction giant that is controlled by the Guard and is under U.S. sanctions, has subcontracted Azarpassillo on at least two major infrastructure projects in Iran. The Tehran Metro Company is also involved in both projects. McInnis told me, “If you see a connection with Khatam Al-Anbia, you would assume the connections to the Revolutionary Guard are there. The suspicion of Azarpassillo being a front company is certainly worth investigating. It would fit a normal pattern.”

Alan Garten told me that the Trump Organization checks to see if potential Trump partners are on “watch lists and sanctions lists,” and that the company knew nothing of Ziya Mammadov’s relationship to the Darvishis until 2015, when it learned that “certain principals associated with the developer may have had some association with some problematic entities.” And yet, by that point, the U.S. Embassy cables had been online for four years. Garten insisted that the Trump Organization still has no idea if the association between the Mammadovs and the Darvishis is real, or if it’s simply an allegation “spread by the media.” I recently spoke with Allison Melia, who until 2015 was one of the C.I.A.’s lead analysts of Iran’s economy; she now works for the Crumpton Group, a strategic advisory firm whose services include conducting due diligence for companies. She told me that her team could have compiled a dossier on the Mammadovs and their connection to the Revolutionary Guard in “a couple of days.” She said that any reputable investigative firm conducting a risk assessment would have advised a U.S. company to avoid a deal with a family connected to the Revolutionary Guard.

The U.S. has imposed various sanctions on Iran since the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. In recent years, U.S. and international efforts have focussed on isolating Iran from the global financial system, in order to prevent it from funding terrorist groups and contributing to worldwide instability. In 2015, the U.N., spurred by the Obama Administration, reached an agreement with Iran, and lifted some sanctions in return for a slowdown of the country’s nuclear program. However, according to the Congressional Research Service, many sanctions against Iran remain in effect, because of the country’s “support for terrorism, its human-rights abuses, its interference in specified countries in the region, and its missile and advanced-conventional-weapons programs.” In December, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives imposed additional sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard and its associated businesses.

American companies must insure that they are not receiving funds that originated with any sanctioned entity. Ignorance is not a defense, especially if there is ample warning that a foreign partner could have a link to such an entity. Most firms, upon hearing of even a slight chance of Iranian involvement, conduct due diligence that is much more extensive than what is typical for F.C.P.A. compliance. Erich Ferrari, an attorney who specializes in sanctions-related legal cases, said that before the Trump Organization cashed any checks it should have been certain of “the source of the funds”—“not only the bank it was remitted from but how the Mammadovs actually earned the money they paid.” He said of the Baku deal, “It takes a lot to shock a lawyer, but I’ve had very few clients do so little due diligence.”

The nexus between the Mammadovs and the Darvishis suggests both opportunism and desperation. Ziya Mammadov is sixty-four, and in recent years the family’s position in Azerbaijan has begun to weaken. President Aliyev has systematically isolated, and then fired, longtime members of the regime in order to make way for his own cronies. From 2008 to 2014, Ziya Mammadov, perhaps fearing his ejection from political office, vastly increased his personal wealth.

During the same period, mounting international sanctions made it far more difficult for Iran to sell oil abroad, receive foreign funds, and import products. International banks became increasingly reluctant to accept funds from businesses owned by the Revolutionary Guard, severely limiting its ability to support allies such as Hezbollah and the Syrian government. At a moment when Iran was struggling to find ways to send money outside the country, Keyumars Darvishi joined Azarpassillo and began making one deal after another in Azerbaijan.

Ziya Mammadov apparently had complete discretion with regard to Azarpassillo’s projects. On April 6, 2007, Anne Derse, then the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, wrote in a cable that Charles Redman, at the time a senior vice-president for the American construction firm Bechtel, had recently met with Ziya Mammadov. Redman was looking for business, and knew that Azerbaijan was planning several major new roads. Bechtel could build them, he said, at an average cost of six million dollars per kilometre. Mammadov complained to him that this was too expensive. Bechtel ended up building nothing. Instead, much of the roadwork was done by Azarpassillo—at a much higher cost. According to a 2012 report by Azerbaijan’s Center for Economic and Social Development, an independent think tank, road construction during Mammadov’s tenure was “the most expensive in the world,” costing an average of eighteen million dollars per kilometre. (Derse declined to comment; Redman did not respond to e-mails.)

The available evidence strongly suggests that Ziya Mammadov conspired with an agent of the Revolutionary Guard to make overpriced deals that would enrich them both while allowing them to flout prohibitions against money laundering and to circumvent sanctions against Iran. Based on Ziya Mammadov’s past, it seems reasonable to assume that his main motive was profit. Like most Azerbaijanis, he is a secular Shiite Muslim, and he has no known ties to hard-line factions in Iran. Why did the Darvishis want to work with the Mammadovs? It might have caught their attention that the Mammadovs had their own private bank—one that had unfettered access to the global financial system.

While Azarpassillo was making deals with the Transportation Ministry, the Mammadovs were investing heavily in a series of large construction projects. Money launderers love construction projects. They attract legitimate funds from governments and private investors, and they require frequent payouts to legitimate subcontractors: cement factories, lumberyards, glass manufacturers, craftsmen. In the Trump Tower Baku project, money was going in and out of the U.S., the United Kingdom, Turkey, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, and several other countries. With such projects, it can be exceedingly difficult to detect the spread of illicit funds.

At the same time, the Mammadovs’ money was flowing through holding companies in offshore banking centers. According to leaked documents in the Panama Papers, companies controlled by the family have opened accounts in such places as the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Panama. The shell companies that list Mammadovs as beneficiaries or officers have bland names such as Trans-European Leasing Group and 1st Rate Investment, and many of them are owned by other shell companies.

In 2009, a year after Baku XXI Century began building the tower, the company opened the Baku International Bus Terminal, an enormous station that includes a shopping mall and a hotel. During this period, the Mammadov family also began building a hotel, a golf course, and a spa in the mountains north of Baku.

Meanwhile, the Mammadovs spent lavishly on themselves. Ziya built a mansion in one of the most expensive neighborhoods of Baku, and, on the beach, a villa whose walls are decorated to resemble ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs. Elton’s son, Aynar, became famous for having a collection of expensive cars, including a Ferrari, a Maserati, and a Lamborghini. Anar began using the Gulfstream G450, which typically costs forty-one million dollars, and bought a seven-bedroom home in London. He also spent millions of dollars on an effort to promote Azerbaijan in Washington, D.C., hosting galas for members of Congress and other powerful figures. A former associate of the Trump Organization told me that in 2012, on one of Anar’s trips to America, he visited Trump Tower, in New York, to meet with Donald Trump and company executives. (The Trump Organization would not confirm the visit.) Around this time, the contracts for the Baku project were issued.

Between 2004 and 2014, Mammadov family businesses spent more than half a billion dollars on large construction projects. They also poured money into a major construction-materials company, an insurance firm, and a new headquarters. It’s not clear how the Mammadovs funded such enormous investments while spending so much on themselves. They may have received loans, or secretly owned profitable businesses that supported the flurry of spending. Another explanation is that some of the investment money came from the Revolutionary Guard, through Azarpassillo.

Calls and e-mails to Azarpassillo, the Iranian Mission to the U.N., and the Azerbaijani government were not returned. Ziya and Anar Mammadov did not respond to requests for comment. Donald Trump has not addressed the Baku deal since becoming President. A Department of Justice spokesperson would not comment on the possibility of its investigating the Trump Tower Baku deal. The White House declined to comment.

If, as Alan Garten told me, the Trump Organization learned in 2015 about “the possibility” that the Mammadovs had ties to the Revolutionary Guard, it is striking that the company did not end the Baku deal until December, 2016. During this period, Garten told me, the Trump Organization never asked its Azerbaijani partners about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, but it did send several default notices for late payments.

Throughout the Presidential campaign, Trump was in business with someone that his company knew was likely a partner with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In a March, 2016, speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said that his “No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” Calling Iran the “biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world,” he promised, “We will work to dismantle that reach—believe me, believe me.” In the speech, Trump lamented that Iran had been allowed to develop new long-range ballistic missiles. According to Iran Watch, an organization that monitors Iran’s military capabilities, much of the technology to make the missiles was provided by Nasr, the company once run by Kamal Darvishi.

I asked Garten why the Trump Organization hadn’t cancelled the Baku contract in 2015. He said that there was “no rush,” because “the project had already stalled and was showing no signs of moving forward.” The Azerbaijani lawyer who worked on the project has seen the hotel’s interior, and told me that it is almost finished. In an interview with the magazine Baku, published in April, 2015, Ivanka Trump said that she was eager to enjoy the hotel’s “huge spa area,” and promised that the hotel would open “in June.”

Moreover, Garten said, the Trump Organization had signed binding contracts with the Mammadovs and couldn’t simply abandon its agreements. But Jessica Tillipman, the law-school assistant dean, told me, “You can’t violate sanctions just because you have a contract with someone.” According to Erich Ferrari, the lawyer who specializes in sanctions, companies that learn of a possible sanctions violation typically commission a “look-back” investigation that “reviews all payments you received, to make sure they didn’t originate with a sanctioned entity.” He added, “All the big four accounting companies do them routinely.” The Trump Organization did not commission a look-back.

The Baku deal appears to be the second time that the Trump Organization has turned a blind eye to U.S. efforts to sanction Iran. In 1998, when Donald Trump purchased the General Motors Building, in Manhattan, he inherited as a tenant Iran’s Bank Melli. The following year, the Treasury Department listed Bank Melli as an institution that was “owned or controlled” by the government of Iran and that was covered by U.S. sanctions. (The department later labelled Bank Melli one of the primary financial institutions through which Iran was funnelling money to finance terrorism and to develop weapons of mass destruction.) The Trump Organization kept Bank Melli as a tenant for four more years before terminating the lease.

The Baku project is hardly the only instance in which the Trump Organization has been associated with a controversial deal. The Trump Taj Mahal casino, which opened in Atlantic City in 1990, was repeatedly fined for violating anti-money-laundering laws, up until its collapse, late last year. According to ProPublica, Trump projects in India, Uruguay, Georgia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have involved government officials or people with close ties to powerful political figures. A few years ago, the Trump Organization abandoned a project in Beijing after its Chinese partner became embroiled in a corruption scandal. In December, the Trump Organization withdrew from a hotel project in Rio de Janeiro after it was revealed to be part of a major bribery investigation. Ricardo Ayres, a Brazilian state legislator, told Bloomberg, “It’s curious that the Trumps didn’t seem to know that their biggest deal in Brazil was bankrolled by shady investors.” But, given the Trump Organization’s track record, it seems reasonable to ask whether one of the things it was selling to foreign partners was a willingness to ignore signs of corruption.

To this day, the Trump Organization has not provided satisfying answers to the most basic questions about the Baku deal: who owns Baku XXI Century, the company with which they signed the contracts; the origin of the funds with which Baku XXI Century paid the Trump Organization; whether the Mammadovs used their political power to benefit themselves and the Trump Organization; and whether the Mammadovs used money obtained from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to fund the Trump Tower Baku.

At one point, Garten allowed me to review the Trump Organization’s original contract with the Mammadovs. It authorizes the company to order an independent audit of Baku XXI Century’s financial records at any time—a provision likely included to insure that the Mammadovs didn’t hide profits that were supposed to be shared with the Trump Organization. Such an audit could well have exposed illicit activity. Garten refused to say if an audit had been conducted.

In dealing with the Mammadovs, the Trump Organization seems to have taken them entirely at their word. Garten pointed me to a provision in one contract in which Anar Mammadov represented himself as the sole owner of Baku XXI Century. Given that Elton Mammadov told me that he controlled the company, and that its ownership was a “commercial secret,” what proof did the Trump Organization have that Anar’s claim was true? Garten could not say.

Garten has been the company’s chief legal officer only since January. His predecessor was Jason Greenblatt, whose name appeared on the contract I reviewed. Greenblatt was in charge of the Trump Organization’s due diligence and contracting work. He is now employed at the White House, as the President’s special representative for international negotiations. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In recent months, American officials have expressed concern that Trump Administration figures might be blackmailed by foreign entities. U.S. law-enforcement investigators and congressional staffers have probed claims that Russian government officials possess compromising information about President Trump, which might be used to blackmail him. (The President maintains that there is no such information.) In January, the Department of Justice informed the White House that Michael Flynn—then the national-security adviser—was vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians because he had lied about having spoken with the Russian Ambassador. Flynn subsequently resigned.

In Azerbaijan, the power and the influence of the Mammadovs has declined sharply. Elton lost his seat in parliament in 2015. In February, Ziya was abruptly removed from his ministry. Anar has settled in London, an associate of his told me, and is living on a fraction of his former wealth. Meanwhile, in Iran, government officials are likely facing additional sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. If the Mammadovs or powerful Iranians have evidence that the Trump Organization broke laws, they might be tempted to exploit it.

The best way to determine if a crime was committed in the Baku deal would be a federal investigation, which could use the power of subpoena and international legal tools to obtain access to the contracts, the due diligence, internal e-mails, and financial documents. The Department of Justice routinely sends investigators to other countries to pursue possible F.C.P.A. and sanctions violations.

Senator Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, who is the ranking Democratic member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, said, in an e-mail, that a federal investigation was warranted: “The Trump Organization’s Baku project shows the lack of ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump applied to his own business dealings in corruption-plagued regimes around the globe. . . . Congress—and the Trump Administration itself—has a duty to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections.”

More than a dozen lawyers with experience in F.C.P.A. prosecution expressed surprise at the Trump Organization’s seemingly lax approach to vetting its foreign partners. But, when I asked a former Trump Organization executive if the Baku deal had seemed unusual, he laughed. “No deal there seems unusual, as long as a check is attached,” he said. ♦ ... worst-deal



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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:08 am

But now Page is asserting that Donald Trump himself was behind the Republican National Convention plot to change the party platform to benefit Russia.

What the fuck? We going to condemn Trump for the one, for the only good thing he wants? Ukraine should not be getting any fucking aid from my fucking tax money, how do you like that? This is probably the only fucking plank in the 2016 Republican platform that I would approve, I expect. That does not "benefit Russia," it benefits me and sanity (even if Trump's motives are probably nothing like my own in thinking that).

Obama actually fought the Clintonist and neocon maniacs (although he should have had a goddamn fucking spine and fired the whole lot, or of course never appointed them in the first place) to prevent direct military aid and not to go further in on that insane shit. Was he part of a Russian plot, too?

And "Russia" does all kinds of bad shit but one thing they never did is HACKED, past tense, any fucking American elections. This is close to the all-time embarrassment in intelligence propaganda, seriously. A fucking phishing spam mail sent to hundreds of targets, and this is supposed to be evidence of the perfidious Russian state targeting of poor lil Podesta.

If you want to fight Trump, play to win: organize in the mass struggle. The goddamn FBI can decide what it's going to do, they are no friends of progressive politics or enemies of fascism, they have been the fucking political police fucking over the left for 90+ years now (that would be including Hoover's prior gig as the original Red Hunter).

This is one of five or six threads that are basically the dumping grounds for neo-McCarthy propaganda that distracts from the real struggle against Trump. They should all be consolidated. A bunch of us actually want to engage in this discussion, but that is rendered impossible by the constant thread proliferation. No way to make a case.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby Grizzly » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:00 am

A bunch of us actually want to engage in this discussion, but that is rendered impossible by the constant thread proliferation. No way to make a case.

If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby peartreed » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:24 am

The issue that is most relevant and central to the suspicions about Trump is identifying his true motivation for the obvious policy directive to change traditional policy to become more conciliatory and supportive in improving U.S. relations with Putin and Russia. It concerns how much he and his office have been compromised by as yet undisclosed coercion from Russia possibly holding damning evidence of his corruption.

Without a deeply personal reason to reverse U.S. foreign policy and punitive sanctions on Russia we have to assume Trump is just a fan of Putin and a deep admirer of his regime, to the point of sycophantic support of the enemy oligarchy.

Otherwise, Trump consistently displays his selfish, self-absorbed obsession with – and resentment of – “yuge” egos and empires he sees as competitive with his own.

The current unraveling of leaks and investigations and chronologies of contact between his inner circle and Russia illustrate there is a hidden agenda starting to surface, one likely connected to his former deals, debts and documented dalliances with the Eastern Bloc. By virtue of his current office as leader of the Free World, any compromise of his administrative autonomy also threatens all Western citizens.

While we all seek world peace, including better relations with Russia, that goal will only be achieved from a position of strength, independence, acumen and integrity. All the more reason to expose Trump for what he is and what his action is based on.

I couldn't care less how many threads that takes, I just appreciate the collection of compelling data from many valued sources.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:37 am

Donald and Ivanka Trump’s phony Baku Azerbaijan hotel was front for Iranian money laundering
By Bill Palmer | March 6, 2017 | 0

Shortly after taking office, Donald Trump abandoned a bizarre hotel project in Azerbaijan which never made any sense to begin with. It was built in an industrial part of town where a hotel wouldn’t be needed. The roads being built to the hotel didn’t even lead to it. And now it turns out the entire hotel project appears to have been little more than an excuse to illegally launder money coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku project was spearheaded by Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who repeatedly visited the property and posted photos of herself touring it, even though as best anyone can tell the hotel was never going to open or do any business. It appears in hindsight that Ivanka had merely been doing all of this in order to create the outward appearance that the hotel was a legitimate project.

But as it turns out, the hotel deal had been struck with Ziya Mammadov, the corrupt Transportation Minister of Azerbaijan, who has a history of arranging shady real estate projects as money laundering fronts. Mammadov and his family have deep financial connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, making it almost certain that the Trumps were knowingly and illegally doing business with Iran. It also seems likely that Trump shuttered the project upon taking office in the hope it wouldn’t be investigated.

Based on established precedent explained this evening on the Rachael Maddow show, the legal responsibility falls on U.S. citizens to be aware of which foreigners they’re doing business with. So even if Donald and Ivanka Trump try to claim ignorance in this instance, it wouldn’t legally get them off the hook. This new revelation comes from The New Yorker today. It may explain why Senator Sherrod Brown asked the U.S. Treasury late last week to investigate the legality of Trump’s foreign financial connections. ... iran/1812/

Other deals Trump has said he has ended, but are still noteworthy
Until recently, Trump had a deal with the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister

Trump Entities Foreign Entities Foreign Power
Trump Donald J. Trump has ownership in a holding company called THC Baku Services LLC, which was incorporated on December, 10, 2014 in Delaware.

That company has ownership in a holding company called THC Baku Services Member Corp. Tap icon which has a management deal with a company in Azerbaijan called Baku-XXI Century LLC. Mammadov That company is run by Anar Mammadov Z mammadov who is the son of Ziya Mammadov, the transportation minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Ivanka azerbaijan 420
In 2015, Trump brokered a licensing deal for a luxury hotel tower in Baku with the son of the Azerbaijan’s transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov. The younger Mammadov, Anar, is viewed by Western intelligence services and analysts as a proxy for his father and the Azerbaijani ruling elite.

Leaked State Department cables described the elder Mammadov as "notoriously corrupt, even for Azerbaijan" and accused him of involvement in highway contracts awarded to a former senior Iranian military official in the Republican Guard. "We assume Mammadov is a silent partner in these contracts," a cable said.

“If you did your due diligence, you’d learn that the minister of transport was one of the more corrupt public officials in Azerbaijan and his son was only in business because of his father,” Richard Kauzlarich, a former ambassador to Azerbaijan, told ProPublica.

The Baku-Trump hotel was not completed, but Trump earned more than $2.8 million in hotel management fees between 2015 and 2016, according to federal financial disclosures.

Trump Organization officials told ProPublica in a statement that the project was plagued with delays for more than a year, prompting Trump to end his “association with this project and reallocate our resources.” (Full statement here.) The Mammadovs did not respond to requests for comment.

(Photo: Trump Hotel Collection)

Trump Hotel in Baku Partnered With ‘Notoriously Corrupt’ Oligarch Family With Ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps

Trump Hotel in Baku Partnered With ‘Notoriously Corrupt’ Oligarch Family With Ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps

Conflicts of interest have been a permanent fixture of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency. But a new report from the New Yorker shines a damning spotlight on one of Trump’s most ethically hazy deals, and one that may leave the Trump Organization open to federal prosecution: The Trump Organization’s work to build and manage a hotel in Azerbaijan in partnership with corrupt oligarchs, themselves apparently linked to individuals tight with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

To build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku — a project conceived in 2008, and nearly finished, but never opened to the public — the Trump Organization worked with the family of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister and a powerful oligarch, Ziya Mammadov. The project has plenty of problems — it’s in the wrong part of town, and can’t compete with existing high-end hotels there — but seems likely to have fallen prey to the notoriously lax local ethics for business dealings.

Adam Davidson describes in great detail in his investigative report how Mammadov was known as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan,” in a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks years ago. He and his family also have close ties to a prominent Iranian business family, the Darvishis, whose members headed Revolutionary Guard-controlled firms that the U.S. government accused of sponsoring terrorism abroad and engaging in illicit activity including drug trafficking and money laundering.

With the Baku hotel deal, the Trump Organization may have violated federal corruption laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the New Yorker notes. The heart of the problem seems to be little due diligence before Trump jumped into the project, even though the country is known for being corrupt, his partners were billionaires on a $12,000-a-year-government salary, and corrupt practices were so commonly talked about they litter the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and featured prominently in a 2014 Foreign Policy piece, “The Corleones of the Caspian.”

“The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag — the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious,” Jessica Tillipman, an FCPA expert and assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, told the New Yorker.

“The Trump Organization’s Baku project shows the lack of ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump applied to his own business dealings in corruption-plagued regimes around the globe…. Congress — and the Trump Administration itself — has a duty to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in an email to New Yorker.

The Baku hotel isn’t of course the only conflict of interest Trump faces with his sprawling business empire that spans over 20 countries. He pledged to divest himself from his business, ceding oversight of day-to-day operations to his sons Don Jr. and Eric, but retains financial interest in the company. But ethics experts, including the Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, said Trump wasn’t doing enough to divest his business interests while serving as president. Critics fear Trump could weigh his company’s profits in making policy.

People pay a $200,000 initiation fee to join the Trump-owned Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, and rub elbows with top Trump officials and cabinet members as he installs the White House there every weekend thanks to taxpayer largesse. (Lucky club members can watch real-time national security briefings on an open-air terrace.)

Foreign diplomats are flocking to stay at Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Several administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, even live there during the week, feeding more money to the Trump brand. The Trump Organization pledged to scrap foreign business dealings in January, but it it’s already violating that deal. Eric Trump flew to Uruguay in January for a business trip that cost the taxpayers nearly $100,000 in security. And Don Jr. was likely paid at least $50,000 to speak at an event in France, an event organized by friends of the Russian government.

American taxpayers aren’t the only ones shouldering the cost of Trump’s business empire. According to the New Yorker, the Azerbaijani government forcibly evicted 30 families from their homes in 2011 to build a project of “crucial government significance.” That project was the still-never-opened Trump Hotel. ... -mammadov/
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby Iamwhomiam » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:25 am

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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 07, 2017 7:08 pm

CIA provides binders full of classified evidence on Donald Trump and Russia to Senate Intel Committee
By Bill Palmer | March 7, 2017 | 0

Even as various other committees in the House and Senate continue to play evolving and fuzzy roles in investigating Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, it’s been clear for some time that the Senate Intelligence Committee would lead the way in the Congressional investigation. Accordingly, the CIA has begun providing the members of that committee with binders full of classified Trump-Russia evidence today.

Senate Intel Committee members from both parties have now begun individually traveling to CIA headquarters in Langley to review what one Senator has described as “four large binders full of classified information.” Of course the Senators can’t publicly disclose what that evidence consists of, due to its nature. But it does reveal just how much intel the CIA has been amassing with regard to Donald Trump and Russia in private, even as the political scandal has played out in public — and the classified nature of it means this is serious evidence, not just a paper chase.

The turning point for the Senate Intelligence Committee appeared to have occurred two weeks ago when it held a secret meeting with FBI Director James Comey in a secure room in the Senate basement. Shortly after that meeting, Republican Senator Susan Collins began taking an aggressive public posture over the Trump-Russia investigation, including calling for the testimony of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and threatening to subpoena Donald Trump’s tax returns. With the support of Collins, the Democrats on the committee gained de facto majority control of the investigation.

As we reported at the time, Democratic Senator Mark Warner announced that the committee had taken steps to ensure that Donald Trump’s White House couldn’t destroy the relevant Trump-Russia evidence needed for the investigation. And based on today’s news that the CIA has that evidence, it appears that Trump has indeed failed to destroy it ... ttee/1816/

CIA providing raw intelligence to senators for Trump-Russia probe
By AUSTIN WRIGHT 03/07/17 01:50 PM EST

The CIA has begun providing raw intelligence documents to members of Congress who are investigating Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, two senators said Tuesday.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the majority whip, said he visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on Monday to view “four large binders full of classified information that’s been made available to the committee to conduct” its wide-ranging investigation.

Sen. Mark Warner, the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said he planned to travel to Langley on Wednesday to view the raw intelligence documents, which formed the basis of the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia sought to sway the election in favor of President Donald Trump.

Warner emphasized that the documents were “not the extent of the information we'll need” to conduct the Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, which will include looking into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

The Virginia senator said he and Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) were in discussions about which people should be interviewed as part of the probe. He declined to say whether the committee would seek testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a top Trump backer, who during his January confirmation hearing did not disclose two meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador last year.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the Intelligence Committee had reached out to former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and that Page had responded to the panel that he would "provide any information" that might be needed.

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Warner also indicated Tuesday he was happy with the cooperation the Intelligence Committee has gotten so far from the FBI. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, has accused the FBI of withholding information from his panel.

“I have regular conversations with [FBI] Director [James] Comey,” Warner said Tuesday. “I am confident that we're going to get all the information we need to get to the bottom of this in a way that we can let the American people know what happened or didn't happen.” ... 4?cmpid=sf
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:29 pm

Donald Trump’s jet setting Russian pal Dmitry Rybolovlev hires spokesman from Breitbart

By Bill Palmer | March 7, 2017 | 0

For the past month Palmer Report has been reporting on the curious travel habits of Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who has a habit of flying halfway around the world on his private jet in order to arrive in whichever city Donald Trump happens to be visiting at the time. Now that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has picked up the story, Rybolovlev is finally denying parts of it. But he’s doing so through a spokesman who has inexplicable ties to Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

Rybolovlev’s private plane flew into the small town of Concord, North Carolina while Donald Trump just happened to be holding a campaign rally there. His spokesman is now acknowledging that this occurred, and there would be no point in denying it, as the flight plans for the plan can be tracked publicly via its M-KATE call sign. The spokesman is also refusing to deny that Rybolovlev was on the plane when it flew to Concord. But what stands out most is that Rybolovlev’s spokesman is Brian Cattell – a former writer for Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.

Why is Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev using someone from Breitbart as his official spokesman in issuing a public denial of his ties to Trump’s White House? Does he not realize the irony, or the new questions which it raises? How did Cattell of all people come to serve as Rybolovlev’s spokesman? Was Steve Bannon involved in connecting the two men? Was Donald Trump involved? McClatchy is reporting the bizarre quasi-denials from Cattell. Rybolovlev also massively overpaid Trump for a house in Florida a few years ago that neither of them ever lived in. Maddow also recently reported that Rybolovlev has financial connections to a Russian money laundering scheme run through Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus, the latter of which is also connected to Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

We’ve also tracked Dmitry Rybolovlev’s plane having flown ten thousand miles into South Florida while Donald Trump was visiting Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, further suggesting that their earlier Concord rendezvous wasn’t mere happenstance. And as we pointed out this week, Rybolovlev more recently flew across the continent to arrive at an island off the coast of Florida just as Trump was once again arriving in Mar-a-Lago, in a seeming attempt at disguising his true arrival point, after having previously used that same tactic by flying into Miami instead of West Palm Beach.

In addition we’ve matched up a two week period of Rybolovlev’s European travels last summer which closely aligns with key events and meetings alleged in the famous MI6 Trump-Russia dossier. Now that Rybolovlev is bizarrely using a Steve Bannon-connected spokesman to try to downplay the connections, that alone is a reason to keep digging further ... ssia/1821/

Donald Trump met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during campaign, greeted him warmly
By Bill Palmer | March 7, 2017 | 0

So much for Donald Trump’s ongoing insistence that he wasn’t aware of any contact between his campaign and the Russian government during the election. Not only have several of Trump’s campaign advisers admitted to having repeatedly met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak throughout the election cycle, it’s now confirmed that Trump himself met the Russian Ambassador early on in the process.

Trump’s strategy in fending off the Russia scandal appears to consist of positioning himself such that he can ultimately claim he didn’t know his entire campaign staff was colluding with Russia to rig the election. That way, even if his advisers all go down for it, Trump avoids prosecution. But that defense would require Trump being able to demonstrate his longtime claim that he had no campaign contact with the Russians himself. And at this point his claim is easily disproven by multiple sources.

The Trump campaign invited Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to attend Donald Trump’s very first foreign policy speech – the one in which he first laid out his ‘kiss Russia’s ass for no good reason’ doctrine – back in April of 2016. Before the speech there was a backstage reception which was attended by Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and Kislyak. Politico has confirmed as much. Further, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that both Trump and Sessions met Kislyak during that reception, and that Trump greeted the Ambassador “warmly.”

This blows apart Donald Trump’s premise that he wasn’t aware of any contact between his campaign and the Russian government, because he himself met and embraced the Russian Ambassador nearly a year ago. It also means Trump was present for at least one of the instances in which Jeff Sessions met the Russian Ambassador, destroying Trump’s assertion that he didn’t know Sessions had met with Kislyak. It’s still not known precisely what was discussed by the three men in April. But it is known that Sessions, along with Trump foreign policy advisers Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, met with the Ambassador again during the Republican National Convention.

Gordon and Page have both recently admitted that the convention with the Russian Ambassador meeting took place. And as we’ve reported, they’re now both pointing the finger at Donald Trump himself as having been behind the push for the Republican Party platform change from a pro-Ukraine to a de facto pro-Russia stance at the convention. Page is also expected to testify about it before the Senate Intel Committee. ... rmly/1817/
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They could still get him out of office.
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:11 pm

FBI, NSA called to testify on Trump-Russia investigation

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The directors of the FBI and National Security Agency, as well as top intelligence officials from the Obama administration, have been invited to testify to Congress in public later this month as all sides seek to get to the bottom of questions over Russia’s role in attempting to influence the U.S. election.
House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he’s scheduled a March 20 hearing.
FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers are invited, as are Mr. Obama’s CIA director, national intelligence director and deputy attorney general, each of whom has been critical of President Trump in recent weeks.
Top officials from CrowdStrike, the company that helped suss out Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computers, have also been invited, Mr. Nunes said. ... stigation/

Donald Trump campaign signed off on adviser Carter Page’s trip to Moscow during campaign
By Bill Palmer | March 7, 2017 | 0

Even as former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page comes further into focus as a key player in the Trump-Russia scandal, the campaign itself has increasingly tried to paint Page as a bit player who is overstating his role. The campaign is even now claiming that it’s been threatening legal action against Page. But now it turns out the Trump campaign approved Carter Page’s trip to Moscow during the election.

This development lends crucial credibility to Carter Page, who initially denied having met with any Russian government representatives during the campaign, but who has since admitted that he met with the Russian Ambassador (along with Jeff Sessions and J.D. Gordon) during the Republican National Convention. Page and Gordon are now asserting that it was Donald Trump himself who spearheaded the Republican Party platform change from a pro-Ukraine stance to a pro-Russia stance at the convention.

But even as Carter Page has begun pointing the finger at Donald Trump over Russia, and has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Trump campaign has begun trying to discredit him. On Friday, the campaign insisted that Page has been misrepresenting his role all along, and claimed that it’s been privately cease and desisting him for months.

And yet we now have confirmation that when Carter Page traveled to Moscow to give a pro-Russia speech in August of 2016, the Donald Trump campaign did sign off on it in advance, thanks to this new report from Politico. Gordon advised him not to go, but Corey Lewandowski – who was running the campaign at the time – approved the trip on the condition that he not officially do so as an adviser. And as we’ve previously reported, despite the campaign’s denials, it was Sessions who first introduced Page to Donald Trump.

These developments make the enigmatic Carter Page look incrementally more credible, and the Trump campaign look like it’s merely trying to scapegoat him, as he prepares to testify about the Trump-Russia scandal before the Senate Intel Committee. And crucially, J.D. Gordon is backing up Page’s assertion that Trump himself was behind the platform change. ... aign/1823/
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:19 pm

the trump folks were in on it and I will not shut up about this so tell it to the hand trump wordy repeaters

Christopher Steele is back :)


Russian diplomat under U.S. scrutiny in election meddling speaks

Mikhail Kalugin, the former head of the Economic Section at the Embassy of Russia in Washington, has been drawn into a furor over Russian tampering with last November’s U.S. election. Mikhail Kalugin, the former head of the Economic Section at the Embassy of Russia in Washington, has been drawn into a furor about Russian tampering with the U.S. election. Mikhail Kalugin, the former head of the Economic Section at the Embassy of Russia in Washington, has been drawn into a furor over Russian tampering with last November’s U.S. election.
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Mikhail Kalugin, the former head of the Economic Section at the Embassy of Russia in Washington, has been drawn into a furor over Russian tampering with last November’s U.S. election. Facebook
McClatchy Washington Bureau

A Russian diplomat who worked in the Washington embassy left the country last August while federal investigators examined whether he played a key covert role in the alleged Kremlin-directed plot to influence last fall’s U.S. elections.

Two people with knowledge of a multi-agency investigation into the Kremlin’s meddling have told McClatchy that Mikhail Kalugin was under scrutiny when he departed. He has been an important figure in the inquiry into how Russia bankrolled the email hacking of top Democrats and took other measures to defeat Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump capture the White House, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Kalugin’s name – albeit misspelled ‑ first surfaced publicly in January in a former British spy’s jarring but largely uncorroborated dossier of intelligence collected for Trump’s U.S. political opponents. The 35 pages of opposition research quoted Russian sources claiming that Trump campaign associates had colluded with the Kremlin, including in the public release of Democrats’ emails that proved embarrassing to Clinton at a time when polls found her leading Trump.

Kalugin was “withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation . . . would be exposed in the media,” the former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele reported. “ . . . His replacement, Andrei Bondarev however was clean.”

Now back in Moscow, an indignant Kalugin recently denied the allegations in an email to McClatchy, saying he wanted “to stop once and for all the continuous stream of lies and fake news about my person.”

Trump administration eases Russian sanctions to allow U.S. tech exports
Press Secretary Sean Spicer during a press conference on Thursday said the Treasury Department amended recent sanctions imposed by the Obama administration that prevented U.S. companies from exporting electronic products to Russia.
Kalugin was replaced by Andrey Bondarev, whose first name was spelled differently in the former spy’s dossier. Kalugin said in the email that his return to Russia had been planned and widely known for at least six months before he departed. He now occupies a senior position in the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Interviews with a half-dozen people who’ve met Kalugin elicited contrasting views about his activities and his character while in the United States.

McClatchy reported in January that several law enforcement and intelligence agencies, led by the FBI, are collaborating in the investigation of Russia’s influence on the election. Five congressional panels, including the House of Representatives and Senate Intelligence committees, are conducting their own inquiries.

Several members of Congress, both Democratic and Republican, said Monday’s resignation of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as Trump’s national security adviser reaffirmed the need for investigations into Russia’s meddling. In resigning Monday, Flynn acknowledged that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador before Trump’s inauguration and had misled others about the nature of the conversation.

Flynn was mentioned in Steele’s reports as one of several U.S. citizens Russia cultivated. In December 2015, Flynn was paid an undisclosed sum to speak at a Moscow gala, where he sat beside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Although Steele began sharing what he’d learned with the FBI last July, it is not clear whether he alerted U.S. investigators to Kalugin or they already were scrutinizing his activities.

Steele, who built a strong reputation in the intelligence world, spent much of his career spying on Moscow and tapped a longtime network of Russian sources. He spent months gathering research about Trump for a Washington consulting firm. Last fall, Mother Jones magazine quoted him, before he was publicly identified, as saying he was so alarmed by what he found that he began sharing information with the FBI.

His dossier, which purports to detail conversations among Kremlin officials between last June and early December, alleges that Trump aides colluded with the Russians in the release of the hacked emails and other parts of the operation. It includes salacious accusations about Trump and impugns some of his associates. Steele’s reports have drawn skepticism for their apparent inaccuracies, especially from Trump and the Russians, who have dismissed them as lies and fake news. However, CNN reported last week that U.S. investigators have verified that some of the Kremlin conversations did occur on the dates Steele described.

Information from the dossier began to seep into news reports before the election. On Jan. 9, days after FBI Director James Comey advised President-elect Trump that the dossier suggested the Russians may have compromising information about him, the Internet news site BuzzFeed posted the entire document. Trump called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage,” and the news site drew other criticism for publishing the unsubstantiated accusations from murky sources. A Russian-owned tech firm named in the dossier has since filed a defamation suit against BuzzFeed.

Steele has not been seen in public since he was identified as the author of the dossier in January.

A Steele report, dated Sept. 14, 2016, said Kalugin was involved in moving “tens of thousands of dollars” to cyber hackers and other operatives through a system that distributes pension benefits to Russian military veterans living in the United States.

One of the sources familiar with the federal investigation gave credence to parts of that statement, saying: “The Russian embassy was known to funnel payments and make contacts with current Russian citizens, former Russian citizens who are now American citizens, and American citizens.”

Steele quoted his sources as saying Russia had used its consulates in New York, Washington and Miami as conduits to disguise money flowing to its operatives as pension payments. Russia, however, doesn’t have a consulate in Miami.

The possibility of such an arrangement didn’t surprise Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University in Virginia.

“Russian pension funds historically are poorly monitored, and vulnerable to manipulations by individuals who have been associated with the government,” said Shelley, who has written extensively about Russian corruption and money laundering.

Spokespeople for the FBI and the CIA declined to comment about Kalugin.

Trump tweeted harsh responses Wednesday to a cascade of news about Russia, including a New York Times report that U.S. investigators had listened to electronic intercepts of frequent conversations between several Trump aides and Russian intelligence officials during the election campaign.

“Fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred,” he wrote.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announces Venezuela sanctions
New Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke at Tuesday's White House press briefing, opening by talking about the Venezuelan vice president Tareck El Aissami and sanctions. He also answered questions about sanctions on Russia.
The White House
U.S. intelligence agencies are in agreement that Putin ordered a broad operation to interfere with the election, including the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and those of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

In an email exchange with McClatchy, Kalugin declined to answer specific questions. But he wrote: “In my capacity as the head of the Economic Section of the Embassy in the U.S., I had nothing to do with the distribution of retirement payments to the Russian citizens in the United States. It is done by the Russian consular service and the whole system is very transparent.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said in a recent Facebook posting that the reports about Kalugin are “garbage” and “incredible crap.” Moscow especially disputes the allegation that Kalugin was whisked out of the United States quickly; Zakharova said it had been known “half a year in advance” that Kalugin would be departing in August, at the end of a six-year tour.

“We completed our assignment in the U.S. in August 2016 as it had been scheduled in advance,” Kalugin wrote. “Our plans were very well known to our American colleagues and friends.”

Like diplomats worldwide, Kalugin had immunity that would have protected him even if he had stayed in the United States. If a diplomat is caught spying, U.S. authorities usually have little recourse beyond expelling him. But by returning to Moscow, which has no extradition treaty with the United States, Kalugin is out of investigators’ grasp.

The Cold War ended long ago, but the spying game never did. A former U.S. intelligence official said it wouldn’t be unusual for an officer in a Russian intelligence agency, or even an American one, to hold an economic post such as Kalugin’s.

“Everyone does that, but the Russians do it more than anyone else,” said the official, who declined to be identified because the issue is sensitive.

Indeed, when President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats as intelligence operatives on Dec. 28, weeks before he left office, they held a range of embassy titles, including at least one cook, said a person with knowledge of the expulsions, who wouldn’t be identified because of the secret nature of the work.

Those acquainted with Kalugin, who was chief of the embassy’s economic section, described him in different ways, from shy to arrogant.

Earl Rasmussen, a vice president of the Eurasia Center, a group that promotes trade with Russia and its neighbors, said Kalugin “knew issues of concern to him and of concern to the other side.” He said the diplomat had spoken of his planned departure for months and the two men had lunch a week before Kalugin flew home.

“I knew of his departure a minimum of six months prior,” Rasmussen said. “He was planning on taking time off to get his family settled before going back to work in September in Moscow.”

But Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian crime and security issues, said he “heard from government sources that Kalugin seemed to take some interest in more than just economic issues” at the embassy. The Russians “have a substantial intelligence role within their embassy,” said Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.

Anders Aslund, a former adviser to Russia and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, described Kalugin as “young, arrogant and with a red beard like (Emperor) Alexander the Third.”

Aslund, a prominent Swedish economist, said the Russian “was very different from the three previous officeholders . . . not very interested in the substance of the economy. One got the impression that he had other interests.”

Any suggestion that Kalugin was involved in the election plot is “totally absurd,” said Alexey Khripunov, a finance executive and a self-described “good friend” who has known Kalugin for years.

Several present and former U.S. government officials and Russia observers said it was likely that Kalugin and his wife, Maria, who worked in the embassy press office and later in the political section, had lived at the Russian Embassy compound.

A former Obama administration official who knew Kalugin called his mention in the dossier “a head scratcher” because Kalugin was so capable in his economic job.

“He was certainly present at a lot of events with the Russian ambassador,” said the official, insisting on anonymity to avoid damaging relationships. “Normally you don’t want to put somebody in a position to embarrass your government in those public positions.”

Kalugin spoke at an event organized by the U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce of New England and to some other business councils. In a YouTube video, he was interviewed by China’s CCTV-America.

Kalugin’s LinkedIn profile says he began his service in Washington in the embassy’s U.S. political section. He later became economics chief. His four-year U.S. rotation was extended for two years.

The Kalugins have Facebook pages that show them in Washington but reveal little more. Maria Kalugin’s page displays a single photo of the couple posted on Nov. 8, 2013, at a Hawaiian beach in Maui wearing leis. Another photo, posted in May 2013, shows her smiling behind a White House podium and flashing a V for victory sign. Zakharova joked in a comment alongside the photo: “Well, finally the WH is in good hands.”

Kalugin said his activities in Washington weren’t a secret.

“I have no doubts that all my professional activities were well known to the relevant U.S. authorities,” he wrote. “They can prove my words.” ... rylink=cpy

or maybe

Donald and Ivanka Trump’s phony Baku Azerbaijan hotel was front for Iranian money laundering
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Re: NSA Chief Russia Hacked '16 Election Congress Must Inves

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:53 am


Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him

Foreign Policy Magazine
Max Boot
Foreign Policy MagazineMarch 6, 2017
Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him
The president’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish – they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience.

It didn’t last long.

Immediately before and after his well-received speech to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, President Trump curtailed his use of Twitter. “For precisely four days, eight hours and five minutes, Trump refrained from tweeting anything inflammatory,” the Washington Post noted. “That’s 6,245 consecutive minutes!”

That self-restraint began to break down on the evening of March 2, just two days after his big speech, when Trump accused Democrats of having “lost their grip on reality” and engaging in a “total ‘witch hunt.’” Just before 1 p.m. the next day, he tweeted a picture of Vladimir Putin and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) having coffee and donuts, lifted directly from the Drudge Report, accompanied by the mock demand for “an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!” Then a few hours later came a picture of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2010 underneath the caption: “I hereby demand a second investigation, after Schumer, of Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it.” (It took the president with the “very good brain” three tries to spell “hereby” correctly, having first tried “hear by” and “hearby.”)

The presumption behind those tweets was that there was some kind of ethical or legal equivalence between the public meetings that Democratic lawmakers held with Russian leaders and the lies — in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s case under oath — that Trump aides told about their own private meetings with Russian representatives while Putin was intervening in the presidential election to help Trump. This notion can only be credible to the most purblind Trump partisans — the same people who would take seriously Trump’s even more sensational allegations, soon to come..

At 6:35 a.m. on Saturday, March 4, the president of the United States tweeted from his weekend getaway, Mar-a-Lago: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” A few minutes later: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” Followed by: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” (“Tapp”? “Hearby”? Doesn’t Trump’s phone have a spell-checker?)

Having supposedly uncovered a scandal comparable to Watergate, what did the president do next? He took a respite from Twitter for more than an hour, until 8:19 a.m., when he sent out an insult against the actor who replaced him on The Celebrity Apprentice: “Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show.” (So much for Trump’s premature claim to Congress on Tuesday night that the “time for trivial fights is behind us.”) And then he headed out for a nice round of golf.

It was left to Trump’s aides, the news media, and members of Congress to answer the “Huh??? What???” questions. Had Trump actually gotten his hands on classified information that the FBI had wiretapped him during the Obama administration? There are only two ways this could have occurred: Either the FBI had presented a court with evidence that Trump was engaged in criminal activity or was an agent of a foreign power, or Obama had ordered an illegal wiretap. Either conclusion would be scandalous. But after a frantic weekend of fact-checking, no evidence whatsoever was presented by the White House to support Trump’s allegations, which were denied by everyone from Obama’s spokesman to James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, and FBI Director James Comey.

It’s possible that Trump aides were wiretapped as part of a broader FBI probe into the connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin or were simply recorded, as had been the case with former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, during the routine monitoring of Russian officials. But there is no reason to think that Trump himself had been a target of the wiretapping, nor that Obama interfered in the lawful workings of the FBI. It appears that Trump had gotten his information not from a top-secret briefing but from a Breitbart article long on innuendo and short on verifiable facts.

One would be tempted to say that the president’s reliance on “alternative facts” to smear his predecessor is the real scandal here were it not for the fact that an actual, honest-to-goodness scandal — one that may conceivably rival Watergate — is at the bottom of this ruckus. Why, after all, did Trump have a midweek meltdown that dashed pundits’ hopes that he would act in more sober fashion? The answer is as obvious as it is significant: On the evening of March 1, the day after his lauded speech, major new revelations emerged about the mysterious links between the Trump camp and the Kremlin.

The New York Times was first out of the gate that evening with a story reporting: “American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence. Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.”

The Times story would have been big news were it not almost immediately overshadowed by a Washington Post article with an even more alarming finding: “Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.”

Smaller but still significant revelations followed the next day. The Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump Jr. “was likely paid at least $50,000 for an appearance late last year before a French think tank whose founder and his wife are allies of the Russian government in efforts to end the war in Syria.” (What could Trump Jr. say that would possibly be worth $50,000?) J.D. Gordon, Trump’s national security advisor during the campaign, admitted that, contrary to his earlier denials, he had directly intervened at Trump’s instigation to remove the language in the 2016 Republican platform which had called on the United States to arm Ukraine against Russian aggression. And campaign advisor Carter Page admitted that, contrary to his earlier denials, he had met with the Russian ambassador at the Republican National Convention. It is hard to imagine why so many people would lie if they didn’t have something pretty significant to cover up.

Out of all of these revelations it was the news about Sessions — which may open him to perjury charges — that was the most significant. In response to the Post report, the attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Kremlingate inquiry, much to the fury of President Trump, who was not consulted about this decision. This is what led to Trump’s wild-eyed rants on Twitter, designed to distract from the real scandal and to convince his more credulous followers that he is the victim of a plot by his predecessor.

But why would Sessions’ recusal make Trump so unhinged? The president must have felt relatively confident that the “Kremlingate” probe would go nowhere as long as it was in the hands of Trump partisans such as Sessions, Rep. Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Richard Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But with Sessions out of the picture, the way is now clear for the deputy attorney general — either the current placeholder, career Justice Department attorney Dana Boente, or Trump’s nominee to replace him, Rod Rosenstein, another career government lawyer — to appoint a special counsel because of the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding this case.

A special counsel would not have the same degree of autonomy as the independent counsels who in the post-Watergate era probed executive-branch misconduct until the law authorizing such appointments expired in 1999. Independent counsels were appointed by, and answerable to, a three-judge panel; special counsels can be appointed, and fired, by the Justice Department. But a special counsel would be expected to investigate much more aggressively than the White House would like, and firing a special counsel would only aggravate the scandal. In addition to a special counsel, Congress could and should appoint a joint select committee to look into Kremlingate and issue a public report, but a special counsel would be likely to conduct a more professional investigation and, unlike lawmakers, would possess the power to indict, which may help loosen the tongues of suspects.

There is a good reason why Trump and his partisans are so apoplectic about the prospect of a special counsel, and it is precisely why it is imperative to appoint one: because otherwise we will never know the full story of the Kremlin’s tampering with our elections and of the Kremlin’s connections with the president of the United States. As evidenced by his desperate attempts to change the subject, Trump appears petrified of what such a probe would reveal. Wonder why? ... rc=fauxdal


Sally Yates is testifying about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal to House Intelligence Committee
By Bill Palmer | March 7, 2017 | 0

Even as it continues to appear that the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal will ultimately be spearheaded by the Senate Intelligence Committee, it turns out its counterpart in the House is the first to formalize a witness testimony list and schedule for its hearings. Two of the names which stand out on the House Intel Committee witness list: current FBI Director James Comey and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

The inclusion of Yates is notable in that when Donald Trump fired her five weeks ago, it was believed at the time to have been related solely to their differences over Trump’s Muslim ban. It was later revealed that Yates had alerted Trump’s White House that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was a potential blackmail risk due to the secret communications he’d been having with the Russian Ambassador. In hindsight it appears Trump may have fired Yates partly to try to protect Flynn, who ended up resigning over the matter anyway. And now Yates will get her say.

It’s customary for the initial round of testimony in Congressional hearings to consist of officials and witnesses who are willing to fully cooperate and who are not targets of the investigation, so as to establish the facts and circumstances, before moving on to witnesses who may be uncooperative or suspects.

So it’s not surprising to see that that the initial House Intelligence Committee witness roster includes Sally Yates, James Comey, recently retired director of national intelligence James Clapper, and recently retired CIA director John Brennan, who are all set to testify in hearings beginning on March 20th (source: Bloomberg). Any investigation targets, such as Michael Flynn or other Trump advisers, would presumably be called to testify afterward. But for those who have been waiting for Sally Yates to get her chance at exposing Donald Trump over Russia, that wait time is now less than two weeks. ... ntel/1828/
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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