Thursday Reads: It’s a Baby Animals DayPosted: April 20, 2017
This is going to be another baby animals day for me. I’m having one of those *How much longer can we survive this* mornings.
Trump and the so-called “adults” in his administration seem dead set on getting us into another war, the Democratic Party is apparently going to allow Bernie Sanders to trash its chances to take back Congressional seats in 2018, and Trump’s “America First” policies are on the road toward destroying the economy that President Obama spent eight years rebuilding after the last disastrous Republican president tore it down.
The Trump-Russia investigation is our only hope; and, although it is moving much faster than the Watergate investigation, it may take too long to save us from complete disaster.
Here’s the latest:
The New York Times: Trump Adviser’s Visit to Moscow Got the F.B.I.’s Attention.
Ever since F.B.I. investigators discovered in 2013 that a Russian spy was trying to recruit an American businessman named Carter Page, the bureau maintained an occasional interest in Mr. Page. So when he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau’s attention.
That trip last July was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials.
It is unclear exactly what about Mr. Page’s visit drew the F.B.I.’s interest: meetings he had during his three days in Moscow, intercepted communications of Russian officials speaking about him, or something else.
After Mr. Page, 45 — a Navy veteran and businessman who had lived in Moscow for three years — stepped down from the Trump campaign in September, the F.B.I. obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing the authorities to monitor his communications on the suspicion that he was a Russian agent.
The article recaps much of what we already know about Page, but here’s a bit about how he got into the Trump campaign in the first place and what happened next.
In March of last year, Sam Clovis, an economics professor and Tea Party activist in Iowa, was asked by the Trump campaign to line up some foreign policy advisers. He produced the list that included Mr. Page.
After several tries, Mr. Page got the campaign’s permission to speak at the New Economic School, where Mr. Obama spoke in 2009. Denis Klimentov, a spokesman for the school, said some alumni knew of Mr. Page’s work at Merrill Lynch in Moscow. But his role as a Trump adviser also played into the decision to invite him, Mr. Klimentov said in an email….
In recent months, Mr. Page has often seemed to revel in the attention he has drawn. In December, he gave another speech at the New Economic School, complaining that “fake news” had hurt United States-Russia relations.
I’m not convinced that Page didn’t play a greater role in connections between Trump associates and Russian oil companies, but if all he did was spark the FBI investigation, that’s a good thing.
We also learned recently that the FBI has been using the so-called Trump dossier to guide it’s investigation.
The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.
The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.Officials familiar with the process say even if the application to monitor Page included information from the dossier, it would only be after the FBI had corroborated the information through its own investigation. The officials would not say what or how much was corroborated.
You’ve probably read that one, but I think it’s important. I hope one of the Congressional committees that are supposedly investigation can get Steele to testify.
Why, oh why, didn’t President Obama inform the country about this in no uncertain terms? Why did the media ignore the warnings he did issue? Why did James Comey destroy Hillary Clinton’s chances with his remarks in July and his pointless letters to Congress just before election day? Now we’re stuck with this corrupt, authoritarian no-nothing; and it may be too late to forestall global disaster. But that’s all water under the bridge; we are where we are . . . in deep sh**t.
Here’s the latest on the Trump-created North Korea crisis.
North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from sole major ally China and proceeded with nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.
“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.
Reclusive North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.
The New York Times: Activity Spotted at North Korea Nuclear Test Site: Volleyball.
Analysts who examine satellite images of North Korea reported on Wednesday that they had spotted some unexpected activity at the country’s nuclear test site: active volleyball games in three separate areas.
The surprising images were taken on Sunday as tensions between the United States and North Korea seemed to spike. The Korean Peninsula pulsed with news that the North was preparing for its sixth atomic detonation and that American warships had been ordered into the Sea of Japan as a deterrent, even though the ships turned out to have sailed in the opposite direction.
The volleyball games, played in the middle of that international crisis, were probably intended to send a message, analysts said, as the North Koreans are aware that the nuclear test site is under intense scrutiny. But what meaning the North wanted the games to convey is unclear.
“It suggests that the facility might be going into a standby mode,” Joseph Bermudez told reporters on a conference call organized by 38 North, a research institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “It also suggests that these volleyball games are being conducted with the North Koreans knowing that we’ll be looking and reporting on it.”
Mr. Bermudez, a veteran North Korean analyst, emphasized the ambiguity of North Korean intentions. “They’re either sending us a message that they’ve put the facility on standby, or they’re trying to deceive us,” he said. “We really don’t know.”
Trump trolling? Possibly, but literally no one knows what’s happening in North Korea, not even the intelligence community, according John Schindler: Why North Korea Is a Black Hole for U.S. Intelligence.
This is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, after all, the weirdest country on earth—a deeply militarized Communist regime, almost hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world, and governed by a dynastic family in pre-1789 fashion. That the DPRK possesses nuclear weapons means there’s nothing to laugh about here, notwithstanding the fact that Pyongyang lacks the ability to accurately get those nukes anywhere very far from North Korea.
Then there’s the problem that nobody seems to understand what makes North Korea tick. Most Western “experts” on the regime have no idea what they’re talking about, as I’ve explained, and there’s a very good case that the DPRK actually may welcome confrontation with the United States—even nuclear confrontation. While Pyongyang’s bluster about preemptive nuclear strikes against friends of America (read: South Korea and Japan) sounds far-fetched, it’s best to side with caution and accept that the DPRK really might do exactly that.
Read the rest at the New York Observer link above.
South Korea wants to know where Trump got his information about their country, according to Bloomberg:
South Korea’s government wants to know whether Chinese gave alternative facts on the nation’s history to Donald Trump.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Trump said Xi told him during a recent summit that “Korea actually used to be a part of China.” The comments sparked outrage in Seoul and became an issue in South Korea’s presidential race, prompting the foreign ministry to seek to verify what Xi actually said.
“It’s a clear fact acknowledged by the international community that, for thousands of years in history, Korea has never been part of China,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said at a briefing in Seoul on Thursday.
Candidates for South Korea’s May 9 presidential election weighed in on the issue, which comes as the nation’s relations with China are already strained over moves to deploy a U.S. missile defense system on its soil.
“This is clearly a distortion of history and an invasion of the Republic of Korea’s sovereignty,” conservative Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo said through a spokesman.
Now we wait for “clarification” from President Xi Jinping. President Stupid probably misunderstood whatever Xi said.
As if the North Korea situation weren’t scary enough, the Trump administration has now begun attacking Iran and threatening to alter the agreement that has so far kept Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. You can read that one at BBC News. And from NBC News: Why Scrapping Nuclear Deal May Embolden Iran’s Hardliners: Analysis.
Donald Trump’s top diplomat is reviewing last year’s nuclear deal with Iran, saying the country remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism. But while ripping up the agreement would make good an election promise, it would also embolden Iran’s hardliners who believe President Hassan Rouhani has been too friendly to the West.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s announcement Wednesday will be seen within Rouhani’s moderate circles as an attempt by the Trump White House to try and undermine the landmark 2015 agreement.
Rouhani has invested much of his political capital in the agreement, promising that the lifting of sanctions in exchange for curtailing Tehran’s nuclear program would usher in economic prosperity and a better relationship with the world.
I’ll end with this piece on Bernie Sanders by Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Bernie Sanders’s strange behavior.
Bernie Sanders has embarked on a “Come Together and Fight Back” tour with with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. But he’s not really helping on that first part.
Over the last few days, Sanders’s has at times offered some odd comments for a guy pushing for Democratic unity.
- He said that he still isn’t actually a Democrat
- He repeated his line that President Trump “did not win the election; the Democrats lost the election” — drawing some angry responses from Hillary Clinton supporters who see this as either a shot at her or as something that Sanders’s primary campaign contributed to (or both)
- Sanders’s message has differed from Perez’s in a couple key ways
But the most puzzling development this week is Sanders’s decision to keep Georgia special election candidate Jon Ossoff at arms-length. Sanders hasn’t endorsed Ossoff, and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he seemed to suggest Ossoff’s progressive bona fides were in question.
“If you run as a Democrat, you’re a Democrat,” Sanders said. “Some Democrats are progressive, and some Democrats are not.”
Why is Tom Perez enabling this non-Democrat who lost in the primaries by 3 million votes? I’m sick to death of him and I’d guess the majority of actual Democrats are too.
What stories are you following today?