Fractured Fairy Tale Friday Reads: Russians Hiding under the White House Beds

Wassily Kandinsky artwork

Two riders before the red, 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re beginning to see just how wrapped up Republicans are with Russians.  I ran across this from bellingcat this morning by Casey Michel.  And we thought only the NRA was awash in Russian money and influence!!!   “Money Talks: Len Blavatnik And The Council On Foreign Relations”.

Last month, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), one of America’s leading think tanks, announced that it had received a substantial donation that would help round out the organization’s upcoming budget. As a statement on the CFR’s website detailed, a CFR member had graciously decided to help facilitate funding for CFR’s intern program. The donation, as CFR’s statement detailed, would provide “paid internships to over one hundred interns each year,” and would help “cultivat[e] the next generation of leaders in government, academia, and the private sector.” CFR President Richard Haass, as he wrote on Twitter, was “[g]rateful” for the “generous gift.”

It’s easy to see why CFR’s brass would express gratitude for the gift. After all, issues surrounding paying interns have circulated among any number of American institutions over the past decade, from media to civil society to, as CFR’s announcement noted, think tanks. A CFR spokesperson told Bellingcat that the donation totaled $12 million.

There was one problem, though. As CFR noted, the donation had come from the Blavatnik Family Foundation — and was specifically facilitated by CFR member Len Blavatnik.

Blavatnik may not be a household name in the United States and has not been sanctioned by any Western governments, but the involvement of Blavatnik, born in the USSR in what is now southern Ukraine, has already sparked a firestorm of internal controversy at CFR.

CFR’s willingness to accept the donation from Blavatnik’s foundation has been a case study in the “soft enabling of kleptocracy,” Sarah Chayes, one of the leading anti-corruption voices in the U.S., told Bellingcat. It also fits into Blavatnik’s previous history of working with what she described as “image launderers,” all of whom have helped Blavatnik — who has worked closely over the years with figures now sanctioned specifically by the U.S. for their role in spreading the Kremlin’s kleptocracy — in shaping the reputation of someone who accrued substantial wealth in the mad scramble for post-Soviet resource and industry.

The pushback over the previous weeks has culminated in an unprecedented protest against CFR’s move to accept and publicize the donation from Blavatnik’s foundation. One letter, addressed to Haass and signed by dozens of the most prominent anti-corruption activists in the U.S. and Ukraine, leading experts on post-Soviet kleptocracy, and former members of the Treasury Department, State Department, and National Security Council, condemned the move as a means of helping “Blavatnik [export] Russian kleptocratic practices to the West.”

Haass and CFR, however, haven’t expressed any concern about the donation, nor about the fact that the U.S.’s leading anti-kleptocracy voices have condemned the move. There’s no indication that CFR will walk back the donation, despite the unprecedented pushback they’ve received.

Three Riders in red, blue and black 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

Blavatnik’s donations to US institutions run a lot deeper than you’d think and the article is worth your time to read.  Follow this author.  He’s part of the Kleptocracy Initiative and keeps track of these sorts of things.

Along the way, Blavatnik kept a relatively low profile politically, and made efforts — both personal and financial in nature — to retain friends all across the political spectrum, especially in the U.S. Having gained U.S. citizenship, Blavatnik has made a concerted effort to financially back both Democratic and Republican candidates over the years. In 2016, though, Blavatnik split with his prior precedent, and poured some $6 million into Republican coffers, as well as donating  $1 million directly to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. Over the past year, Blavatnik has returned to his old habits, and begun donating across the aisle, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

But in the aftermath of Russia’s 2016 interference efforts, new questions began to swirl about Blavatnik’s funding. Not only did the U.S. sanction individuals like Vekselberg, figures with whom Blavatnik had previously been close, but last year it emerged that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office had specifically investigated Blavatnik’s donations to Trump’s inauguration. Vekselberg also told the Financial Times that he attended Trump’s inauguration at a table Blavatnik paid for, although Blavatnik’s spokesperson denied this.

Mikhail Vrubel. Pearl.
1904. Cardboard, pastel, gouache, coal.

Kenneth Vogel–writing for the NYT–has the byline for this important read Giuliani’s Ukraine Team: In Search of Influence, Dirt and MoneyThe president’s lawyer was paid by Lev Parnas, who with Igor Fruman worked on behalf of President Trump in Ukraine.”

When Rudolph W. Giuliani set out to dredge up damaging information on President Trump’s rivals in Ukraine, he turned to a native of the former Soviet republic with whom he already had a lucrative business relationship.

Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman with a trail of debts and lawsuits, had known Mr. Giuliani casually for years through Republican political circles. Last year, their relationship deepened when a company he helped found retained Mr. Giuliani — associates of Mr. Parnas said he told them he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars — for what Mr. Giuliani said on Thursday was business and legal advice.

Even as he worked with Mr. Parnas’s company, Fraud Guarantee, Mr. Giuliani increasingly relied on Mr. Parnas to carry out Mr. Trump’s quest for evidence in Ukraine that would undercut the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference on his behalf in the 2016 election and help him heading into his 2020 re-election campaign.

Mr. Giuliani dispatched Mr. Parnas and an associate, Igor Fruman, a Belarusian-American businessman, to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where, despite fending off creditors at home, BuzzFeed reported, they ran up big charges at a strip club and the Hilton International hotel. Their mission was to find people and information that could be used to undermine the special counsel’s investigation, and also to damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a prospective Democratic challenger to Mr. Trump.

 

Image result for Alexej von Jawlensky

Girl with Red Ribbon Alexej von Jawlensy

Here’s a brief take of the Josh Chafetz piece from Common Dreams: “Law Professor’s Advice to House Democrats: Arrest Rudy Giuliani.”

Faced with an intransigent White House unwilling to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s pressuring of the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden, the House should take aggressive action including arresting Rudy Giuliani, a law professor argues in a column for The New York Times Thursday.

“The answer is unlikely to be found in a courtroom,” writes law professor Josh Chafetz.

The White House has repeatedly refused to answer subpoenas and on Tuesday afternoon, as Common Dreams reported, announced in an eight page letter that the administration will flatly refuse to cooperate in the inquiry, a move that could set up a constitutional crisis.

“There is no legal basis for Trump’s position,” NBC analyst Katie Phang said on Twitter Tuesday. “Hard stop.”

House Democrats need to think outside the box, Chafetz argues.

“The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors—as the person in violation of the order is called—especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official,” Chaftez writes.

Chafetz acknowledges that the move was extreme, but said that the net benefits of taking things to that level would outweigh the possible negatives of such an action and allow for the House to open the door to other punitive actions seen as less radical.

“The House arresting someone would be explosive and clearly should not be undertaken lightly,” says Chafetz. “But the very explosiveness of it would be a way for the House to signal the seriousness of White House obstructionism to the public.”

The Demon Seated, Mikhail Vrubel 1890

The State Department is getting into the spotlight more and more on the entire Ukrainian situation as a Senior Advisor to Pompeo resigns. This is from WAPO. And an Ambassador removed by Trump speaks out.

Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo’s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy.

A senior officer who has held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, McKinley was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service.

Pompeo was expected to issue a statement Friday announcing the departure.

McKinley declined to comment Thursday evening.

Among the many issues in which he played a role, McKinley has been closely involved in administration policy on Venezuela, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, where last month President Trump abruptly canceled U.S. peace negotiations with the Taliban that both sides had said were near an agreement.

There seems to be a large number of career professionals in various departments ready to testify and go to Congress as well as the press. And it’s about time.

Which also means that Trump needed a hit from a Hatefest Bong.  This time the Orange Plague went to Minneapolis home of Minnesota Nice.

Musicians from Queen to Prince’s estate are suing Trumpto quit using their music.  It probably will do as much good as trying to bill the campaign for the public safety issues surrounding every Trump Rally where attendees are none to bully press and public alike and fights frequently break out with encouragement of the Orange Snot Blob.  More people protested the visit than attended the rally.

And, as usual Trump lied his fat ass off as well as spewed the usual racist, misogynistic, bigoted crap.  He made a point of attacking Somali Refugees in a place where they are an integral part of the community and recently sent Congresswoman Ilhan Abdullahi Omar to serve as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2019. The district includes all of Minneapolis and some of its suburbs.

Safe places from Trumpists in any place will always be bookstores, universities, and libraries were no Trumper dares go.  Facts and knowledge are to them what garlic and wooden stakes are to Vampires.

Image result for Alexej von Jawlensky

Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sakharov, 1909

Here’s the AP FactCheck.

Here’s a look at his claims at a Minneapolis rally, his first since Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry of Trump’s actions as president:

TRUMP: “If our opponent had won that election, you know what would have happened? Right now, China would be the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world. And right now, I can tell you, they’re not even close.”

THE FACTS: No matter who got elected in 2016 — Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton — China’s economy could not have caught up to America’s.

Even if the U.S. economy had not grown at all since 2016, China’s gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — would have had to have surged a fantastical 79% in three years to pull even with America’s. That comes to growth of more than 21% a year — something even China’s super-charged economy has never approached.

The Chinese economy continues to slowly narrow the gap because every year it grows much faster than America’s. In 2019, for example, the International Monetary Fund expects Chinese GDP to increase 6.2%, more than double the 2.6% growth it expects for the United States. But it’s got a long way to go to surpass the U.S.

___

TRUMP: “We have totally defeated the ISIS caliphate.”

THE FACTS: His claim of a 100% defeat is misleading as the Islamic State still poses a threat.

IS was defeated in Iraq in 2017, then lost the last of its land holdings in Syria in March, marking the end of the extremists’ self-declared caliphate.

Still, extremist sleeper cells have continued to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria and are believed to be responsible for targeted killings against local officials and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

IS controlled large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, where they declared a caliphate in 2014 along with large parts of neighboring Iraq.

U.N. experts warned in August that IS leaders are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands.”

Mädchen mit Zopf

Mädchen mit Zopf,Alexei Jawlensky (1864-1941)

But, most importantly, Congress heard from Marie Yovanovich today.  This is from WAPO “Ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch tells Congress Trump pressured State Dept. to remove her.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine whose abrupt ouster in May has become a topic of interest for House impeachment investigators said Friday that her departure came as a direct result of pressure President Trump placed on the State Department to remove her, according to her prepared remarks before Congress obtained by The Washington Post.

Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was forced to leave Kiev on “the next plane” this spring and subsequently removed from her post, with the State Department’s No. 2 official telling her that, though she had done nothing wrong, the president had lost confidence in her and the State Department had been under significant pressure to remove her since the summer of 2018.

In explaining her departure, she acknowledged months of criticisms by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had accused her of privately badmouthing the president and seeking to protect the interests of former vice president Joe Biden and his son who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Yovanovitch denied those allegations and said she was “incredulous” that her superiors decided to remove her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” She also took direct aim at Giuliani’s associates whom she said could’ve been financially threatened by her anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine.

“Contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” she said.

The sweeping criticisms by a diplomat with more than 30 years in the foreign service came amid rising dissatisfaction inside the State Department at what is seen as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s failure to defend his subordinates who became targets in the Ukraine controversy. Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Pompeo, resigned from his post this week as resentment in the building has grown.

Alexej von Jawlensky - Selbstportrait - Self Portrait

Alexej von Jawlensky, self portrait, 1905

We’ve definitely gotten to a watershed here.   I’ll end with this from Jonathan Lemire  of the Associated Press: “Analysis: In impeachment fight, it’s Trump vs. Constitution

 Donald Trump has spent his time in office trying to bend the conventions of the American presidency to his will. Now he appears to be trying to override a core principle of democracy: that no one is above the law.

Faced with an impeachment inquiry, Trump has openly defied the core constructs of the Constitution. He chafes at the idea of co-equal branches of government and rejects the House’s right to investigate him.

He has deployed a convoluted logic in which he has declared that the courts can’t investigate him because as president he cannot be charged with a crime but also that Congress cannot impeach him because its inquiry is politically illegitimate.

It’s a “heads he wins, tails you lose” formulation.

“It’s anathema to his character and his life story to be checked and balanced by anything,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham, a professor at Vanderbilt University. “The Constitution was formed to contain appetite. And we now have the president who is driven entirely by appetite.”

In a scathing eight-page letter this week, the Republican president’s lawyers served notice there will be no cooperation with the impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s White House has ignored document requests and subpoenas. It readily invokes executive privilege — going so far as to argue that the privilege extends to informal presidential advisers who never held White House jobs. And his team all but dares Democrats to hold them in contempt.

The impeachment standoff follows a pattern Trump has established throughout his presidency as he has jettisoned experienced advisers and flouted conventions.

The fact that he survived the special counsel’s Russia investigation without paying much of a political penalty left him all the more emboldened.

One day after Robert Mueller’s faltering testimony brought an end to that threat, Trump unleashed a new one by asking Ukraine’s president to investigate his political foe Joe Biden. That prompted the fast-moving impeachment inquiry that Trump now resists.

After two weeks of a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week was a declaration of war.

While it was filled with dubious legal arguments, its intent was clear: Trump would not play ball, claiming that the game was rigged against him.

It’s time to shut the Trump Circus down and send him and the monkeys to jail.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


32 Comments on “Fractured Fairy Tale Friday Reads: Russians Hiding under the White House Beds”

  1. dakinikat says:

    And with that … the orange jumpsuit is coming …

    Rudy Giuliani’s relationship with arrested men is subject of criminal investigation: Sources

    https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/rudy-giulianis-relationship-arrested-men-subject-criminal-investigation/story?id=66212654&cid=share_facebook_widget&fbclid=IwAR0SVCA9gCfm7YglnRaP05DoGZoC-VzXWwT04pz_qrXQERZbEYQBELN9tuU

    The investigation became public after the FBI had to quickly move to arrest Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman before they boarded a flight out of the country from Washington Dulles Airport with one-way tickets. They have been named as witnesses in the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

    The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s New York field office and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, the same U.S. Attorney’s office Giuliani ran before he became mayor of New York.

    Have a weekend full of hope!!!!

    xoxo

  2. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      I’ll never forget her being roasted as “shrill” when she protested the Vietnam war. Whether you agreed with her or not it was very misogynistic.

  3. NW Luna says:

    Sondland will testify!

    U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine controversy, bucked the State Department and announced he would appear before House investigators under subpoena next week.

    The State Department blocked Sondland last week from appearing before three panels focused on Trump’s efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry-live-updates/2019/10/11/457440b0-eb9c-11e9-9c6d-436a0df4f31d_story.html

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

    I was right about Dmytro Firtash. Giuliani and the two felons were going to Vienna to see him. Firtash is connected to Semion Mogilevich the boss of bosses. And

    Reuters: Indicted Giuliani associate worked on behalf of Ukrainian oligarch Firtash

    One of the two Florida businessmen who helped U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, also has been working for the legal team of a Ukrainian oligarch who faces bribery charges in the United States, according to attorneys for the businessmen and the oligarch.

    Lev Parnas, one of the two associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, served as a translator for lawyers representing oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Parnas was arrested on Thursday along with the other Florida businessman, Igor Fruman, on unrelated charges that included illegally funneling $325,000 to a political action committee supporting pro-Trump candidates.

    Both men had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team, according to a person familiar with the Florida men’s business dealings with Firtash.

    The Floridians’ connection to indicted oligarch Firtash injects an intriguing new character into the rapidly unfolding drama surrounding the effort to impeach Trump….

    Firtash, one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years.

    Federal prosecutors in Illinois said in court papers in 2017 that Firtash was an “upper-echelon” associate of Russian organized crime. He was indicted in 2013 and charged with bribing Indian officials for access to titanium mines. Firtash has denied any wrongdoing.

    Firtash was “financing” the activities of Parnas and Fruman, the source familiar with their business dealings said. The source did not detail their specific work for the oligarch or how much money he had paid them and over what period.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Parnas was acting as a translator for famed Fox News personalities Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who are representing Firtash! Unfuckingbelievable! Firtash is under house arrest in Vienna and fighting extradition to the U.S.

      In recent months, Parnas was working for Firtash’s legal team, Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing. The firm worked on Firtash’s criminal and extradition cases.

      “Mr. Parnas was retained by DiGenova & Toensing, LLP as an interpreter in order to communicate with their client Mr. Firtash, who does not speak English,” the Washington-based firm said in a statement.

      Please note that DeiGenova and Toensing also work for Trump.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yeah. Maybe they’ll be able to get his ass over here now.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    CNN: Shepard Smith makes shock announcement that he is leaving Fox News

    In a stunning announcement, Shepard Smith said on his Friday show that after more than two decades at Fox News, he was stepping down as chief news anchor, and leaving the network.

    “This is my last newscast here,” Smith said, adding that he was “eternally grateful” to Fox for the opportunities it has afforded him.

    Smith said that he recently asked Fox to allow him to leave and begin a “new chapter.”
    “After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged,” Smith said, adding that under the agreement reached he “won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future.”

    • quixote says:

      He makes it all sound very polite, but I saw somewhere that he was escorted out by security. ?? Not so polite. If that’s true, he was fired and supervised while cleaning out his desk.

      But since Barr talked to Murdoch beforehand, I’m sure it was all fine and aboveboard.

  8. NW Luna says:

    Rudy’s going to be thrown under the Trump bus!

    5:15 p.m.: Trump, when asked if Giuliani is still his attorney, says, ‘I don’t know’

    Trump told reporters Friday that he didn’t know whether Giuliani was still his personal attorney, adding that the two hadn’t spoken since Thursday.

    “Well, I don’t know,” Trump said, responding to a question about the lawyer as he prepared to leave the White House for a rally in Louisiana. “I haven’t spoken to Rudy. I spoke to him yesterday briefly. He’s a very good attorney, and he has been my attorney.” Trump then added, “Yeah, sure,” before moving on to another question.

    In a text message to The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey shortly after the president’s comments, Giuliani confirmed that he’s still representing Trump. “Yes,” Giuliani wrote. “I am still his attorney.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry-live-updates/2019/10/11/457440b0-eb9c-11e9-9c6d-436a0df4f31d_story.html

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. quixote says:

    Nothing to do with anything, but truly fun. Not that I’ve seen any fashion shows, but something tells me this was unique. Watch it. Wins the internet.

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. dakinikat says:

    So this happened this morning down town …