Friday Reads: The End Game Cometh

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s been evident this week that the Mueller election silent period is over and that indictments are coming. (Yay for no more silent nights from him!!!) This week has been an internicine cage fight between all the creeps in the Trump Family Syndicate and raids. Cohen seems to have come clean in the “no collusion” thing. Manafort resorts to the thug form and gets dumped by Team USA. Trump is having such a meltdown he could barely flip that switch on the National Christmas tree. So, this post mostly follows up on BB’s news yesterday as we go further down the Russian Rabbit hole.

It’s illegal to bribe foreign officials to get business favors in foreign countries when you’re an American. So, what does it mean when you’re doing it big time to the guys that are going to help you win an election and you’re on the campaign trail for the presidency? We’ve had so many laws broken recently by the placeholder in the White House that it’s both horrifying and numbing. Buzz Feed broke this last night and it took the oxygen right out of the news cycle. “The Trump Organization Planned To Give Vladimir Putin The $50 Million Penthouse In Trump Tower Moscow. During the presidential campaign, Michael Cohen discussed the matter with a representative of Putin’s press secretary, according to two US sources.”

President Donald Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.

Two US law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer at the time, discussed the idea with a representative of Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary.

The Trump Tower Moscow plan is at the heart of a new plea agreement by Cohen, who led the negotiations to bring a gleaming, 100-story building to the Russian capital. Cohen acknowledged in court that he had lied to Congress about the plan in order to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.

The revelation that representatives of the Trump Organization planned to forge direct financial links with the leader of a hostile nation at the height of the campaign raises fresh questions about President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin. The plan never went anywhere because the tower deal ultimately fizzled, and it is not clear whether Trump knew of the intention to give away the penthouse. But Cohen said in court documents that he regularly briefed Trump and his family on the Moscow negotiations.

BuzzFeed News first reported in May on the secret dealings of Cohen and his business associate Felix Sater with political and business figures in Moscow.

The two men worked furiously behind the scenes into the summer of 2016 to get the Moscow deal finished — despite public claims that the development was canned in January, before Trump won the Republican nomination. Sater told BuzzFeed News today that he and Cohen thought giving the Trump Tower’s most luxurious apartment, a $50 million penthouse, to Putin would entice other wealthy buyers to purchase their own. “In Russia, the oligarchs would bend over backwards to live in the same building as Vladimir Putin,” Sater told BuzzFeed News. “My idea was to give a $50 million penthouse to Putin and charge $250 million more for the rest of the units. All the oligarchs would line up to live in the same building as Putin.” A second source confirmed the plan.

Dollar Bill Jefferson must be sitting in his federal jail cell in awe of such heights of bribing public officials. The amount in his fridge was no where near this. It’s a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and I have no idea if they charge him with it before or after he leaves office. This is just another one of those constitutional crises thingies we’re getting used to. It’s been in place since 1977 so it’s hardly a new thing.

The FCPA has two provisions- Anti-Bribery and Accounting. In essence, the Anti-Bribery Provisions make it a crime for any US individual, business entity or employee of a US business entity to offer or provide, directly or through a 3rd party, anything of value to a foreign government official with corrupt intent to influence an award or continuation of business or to gain an unfair advantage. The Accounting Provisions basically make it illegal for a company that reports to the SEC to have false or inaccurate books or records or to fail to maintain a system of internal accounting controls.

Which brings us to two raids that happened just yesterday. Law enforcement in Frankfurt stormed Duestche Bank which is the only bank that will fund the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. Today is the second day they’re on the scene.

Police have searched the offices of all the members of Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE) board as part of an investigation into money laundering allegations linked to the Panama Papers, a source told Reuters on Friday.

Investigators are looking into the activities of two unnamed Deutsche Bank employees alleged to have helped clients set up offshore firms to launder money, the prosecutor’s office has said. The inquiries focus on events from 2013 to this year.

Gerhard Schick, a member of parliament for the opposition Green party, said it was “particularly irritating” that the bank’s current board members oversaw operations during the time in question. “This is not about legacy issues,” he said in a statement to Reuters.

Bloomberg reports today that the raid goes straight to the top and is likely to snag some senior officials. The big question is where did the money come from and who benefited from the laundering and resulting funds? It’s likely the Russians are involved so that could lead us right back to Putin’s puppet.

The police raid on Thursday and Friday was targeting two suspects identified by their age and an unspecified number of other suspects, the prosecutors said. One of the two suspects works in the bank’s anti-financial crime unit, a person familiar with the matter said. It was headed by Philippe Vollot until this summer and now is led by Stephan Wilken. The unit head ultimately reports to Matherat.

The other suspect identified by age works in the private wealth unit, according to the person. It’s led by Fabrizio Campelli and it’s part of Deutsche Bank’s private and commercial bank that is headed by management board member Frank Strauss. It was led by Sewing from 2015-2018 before he was appointed CEO.

Searches don’t necessarily mean that prosecutors have evidence against a person whose office is being raided. They can raid homes or offices of people who aren’t implicated if there’s reason to believe document or other evidence relevant to the case may be found there. In probes of corporate crimes, investigators generally check whether top managers knew about the alleged wrongdoing or did enough to prevent it

Of course, the bank is related to both the Trump and Kushner businesses so it’s likely to vex and jeopardize Trump’s already troubled business dealings. This analysis is from Timothy O’Brien of Bloomberg .

When Trump nearly went personally bankrupt in the early 1990s, he left a handful of major U.S. banks on the hook for about $3.4 billion in loans he couldn’t repay (and about $900 million of which he had personally guaranteed). Hotels, casinos, real estate, an airline and other parts of his debt-ridden portfolio went into bankruptcy protection. In the wake of that collapse, Trump became a pariah among major U.S. banks, and he had to find unique ways of lining up money for the infrequent and small-boredeals he pursued thereafter. That left him borrowing money from labor unions and small, local lenders. Deutsche, keen at the time to make a name for itself in U.S. investment banking and commercial lending, was less hesitant to do business with Trump.

Deutsche’s first transaction with Trump involved a modest renovation loan for 40 Wall Street, a Manhattan skyscraper Trump controls, in 1998. Trump did little to merit Deutsche’s involvement after that until the early 2000s, when it agreed to loan him as much as $640 million for a Chicago project — the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

I was working on a biography of Trump at the time, and he told me that one of things he learned from his financial collapse in the early ’90s was that he had ignored valuable business advice from his father, Fred: Never personally guarantee a loan. Yet he still went ahead and guaranteed $40 million of the Deutsche loan for the Chicago project. (Trump sued me for libel in 2006, claiming the biography, “TrumpNation,” had misrepresented his business history and finances; he lost the suit in 2011.)

Deutsche had a relatively intimate understanding of Trump’s finances. Although Trump told me in 2004 and 2005 that his net worth was anywhere from $1.7 billion to $6 billion (and suggested it might even be $9.5 billion), my sources at the time told me his wealth was closer to $150 million to $250 million. When Trump litigated the point with me, my lawyers produced a Deutsche assessment of his finances that pegged his wealth at $788 million in 2005.

Trump’s relationship with Deutsche briefly soured in a dispute over the Chicago project. When the financial crisis landed in 2008 and imperiled that development, Trump sued Deutsche to avoid paying the $40 million he had guaranteed (claiming, in part, that Deutsche was responsible for the global economic distress unleashed by the crisis). A clash like that can permanently unwind a real estate partnership, but Deutsche and Trump agreed to settle, with the bank extending a loan from its private banking division to allow Trump to pay back its real estate lending unit, according to the New York Times.

Deutsche’s private banking arm has hung in there ever since, with Rosemary Vrablic as the Deutsche banker serving as Trump’s primary liaison there. She also has helped Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House adviser, as well as his mother, arrange multimillion-dollar loans and lines of credit at Deutsche. In recent years, Deutsche’s private banking unit has loaned Trump money — about $300 million, according to Bloomberg News and Trump’s government financial disclosure forms — for such projects as his Washington hotel and the Trump National Doral golf course.

The Trump SoHo Hotel, which stripped Trump’s name from the property last year, was financed in the mid-2000s in part with loans channeled through Icelandic banks that collapsed during the financial crisis. I’ve written extensively about Trump’s involvement with the firm originally behind that project, Bayrock Group LLC, and about the murky funds from Europe used to build it. While Deutsche was closely involved with Icelandic banks at the time of the collapse, no information has surfaced that it played a direct role in the Trump SoHo.

What’s likely now, however, is that Trump’s dealings with Deutsche — which have represented, at a minimum, a serious and long-standing financial conflict for him given the influence he wields over law enforcement and financial regulation as president — are about to draw greater scrutiny.

The other most interesting raid is still happening in Chicago. Salon calls the day a Trifecta of bad news for Trump family crime syndicate.

In another curious coincidence that may or may not be related, the law offices of Edward Burke, a Chicago alderman and former Trump tax attorney, were raided on Thursday. Burke’s law firm represented Trump’s businesses — including the same Chicago Trump Tower that secured funding from Deutsche Bank — for 12 years.

With Deutsche Bank hit with yet another money-laundering probe, one former Trump lawyer raided by the feds and another one apparently ready to spill the beans, Democrats — poised to take control of the House of Representatives in January — are already chomping at the bit to investigate.

“All these developments make clear the counterintelligence imperative for the House Intelligence Committee, in the new Congress, to continue to probe the Trump Organization’s financial links to Russia and determine whether the Russians sought financial leverage over Trump and his associates, or hold any such leverage today,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Again, no wonder Trump looked greener than the National Christmas tree at the ceremony and the quick exit was such that the White House Press Pool was abandoned there. It was a dark and bizarre event that usually leads into a charming White House Christmas season.

Reporters were briefly held at the Ellipse outside the White House without any immediate indication of where the president had gone. They were later notified that Trump had returned to the White House via motorcade without the press pool in tow.

Members of the press pool protested the situation on Twitter.

The funniest thing I’ve found in years is where Rod Rosenstein was speaking while all of this was going on, along with the topic of his speech. Straight from the DOJ website: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the American Conference Institute’s 35th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Oxon Hill, MD, Thursday, November 29, 2018, Irony is not lost on this guy. Neither is getting the last laugh.

The term “rule of law” describes the government’s obligation to follow neutral principles and fair processes. The ideal dates at least to the time of Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote, “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the law.”

The rule of law is indispensable to a thriving and vibrant society. It shields citizens from government overreach. It allows businesses to invest with confidence. It gives innovators protection for their discoveries. It keeps people safe from dangerous criminals. And it allows us to resolve differences peacefully through reason and logic.

When we follow the rule of law, it does not always yield the outcome we prefer. In fact, one indicator that we are following the law is when we respect a result that we do not agree with. We respect it because it is required by an objective analysis of the facts and a rational application of the rules.

The rule of law is not simply about words written on paper. The culture of a society and the character of the people who enforce the law determine whether the rule of law endures.

One of the ways that we uphold the rule of law is to fight bribery and corruption. Until a few decades ago, paying bribes was viewed as a necessary part of doing business abroad. Some American companies were unapologetic about corrupt payments.

Once again, Melania’s proclivatives for dystopian decorating overshadowed nearly all attempts to emphasize the next battle in the War on Christmas on Fox.

“In real life they look even more beautiful, and you are all very welcome to visit the White House — the ‘people’s house,’” she said.

I just refer to them as the Used Tampon Trees.

Trump is in Argentina as the national embarrassment continues on the international stage. The back and forth meeting on and off business with Russia is truly odd.

President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled his planned meeting with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina.

“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”

“The Kremlin regrets U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Argentina and said Moscow is ready for contact with Trump, RIA news agency cited spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday,” Reuters reported.

“This means that discussion of important issues on the international and bilateral agenda will be postponed indefinitely,” President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Now, the Kremlin announces there will be a meeting. Nothing stands between KGB and the need for a debrief from its agents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a brief impromptu meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Argentina just as he will with other leaders at the G20 summit, RIA news agency cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday.

So, it’s definitely a ‘red’ christmas and I’m beginning to wonder if we get somewhat the feel of the red wedding.

So, we’re on the agenda as being a destablizing force along with Russia. I’m not sure if this actually makes Trump proud of himself or not.

World leaders are meeting in Argentina for their annual G20 summit amid new tension with Russia over Ukraine and a US trade row with China.

US President Donald Trump has cancelled a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in protest at Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian naval boats.

But ahead of the summit’s official start Mr Trump signed a trade deal with the Mexican and Canadian leaders.

A massive security operation is under way for the summit in Buenos Aires.

A bank holiday has been declared for Friday and the city’s main business district has been shut down.

Speaking before the signing of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – to replace the Nafta free trade deal – Mr Trump described it as “probably the greatest trade deal ever”.

“All of our countries will benefit greatly,” he said.

So, maybe we’ll get some christmas cheer this year from some place other than the Red House with it’s used tampon alley, or commie car wash or whatever that was …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Friday Reads: Kompromat AmeriKKKan style

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I seriously do not know how much more of this bulldozing our way of life and our Constitutional Democracy that I can take. I watched Rachel Maddow unfurl the parade of Russian Oligarchs that attended the inauguration. I listened to how bad it’s going with North Korea after that summit which basically was a big splash by a fat orange ass cannonballing into a pool too deep for his bad swimming skills.  It was such a big show of nothingness but propaganda coups for the NK state and its worst human rights record on the planet. They didn’t take KKKremlin Caligula seriously at all.   From CNN: “Satellite images show North Korea upgrading nuclear facility”.  Yeah. Stopped him alright with the talk of a Trump Hotel on NK beaches.

I also watched Malcom Nance refer to him as a Spy Master’s wet dream while outlining all the things he could give away and blow up in Helsinki in a Putin tete a tete. Nance think he’s a willing Russian asset because all of his foreign policy statements or twitters or blurts at rallies are basically kremlin worded and sanctified.  I’ve pretty much accepted that Trump probably wants to dump NATO and start a Dictators club to replace it.

And, I now am of full belief that Trump and the Republican Party used Russian campaign donations and as much dirty tricks as the Russians could muster to stage a coup. Nance believes he’s stoking a civil war now.

This man is stoking civil war, he’s stoking violence

The retirement of Justice Kennedy is just too perfect.  Kennedy just wrote some bizarre narrative on the Muslim ban extolling executive power which was as odd and rambling as his statements the last few days.  He was fully staffed up to go in October.  It was weird even by Republican appointees to SCOTUS weird.

Then, I read this on the NYT: “Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening”.  Yeah, yeah, some of it is how things usually work. BUT, anything handled by this White House is always way outsides most boundaries of constitutionality, law, protocol, humanity, etc.  So, I got to this part and gulped.

One person who knows both men says there is an affinity between Mr Trump and Mr Kennedy. This is not obvious at first glance. Mr Kennedy is bookish and abstract, whereas Mr Trump is abrasively direct.

But they had a connection – one Mr Trump was quick to note in the moments after his first address to Congress in February 2017. As he made his way out of the chamber, Mr Trump paused to chat with the justice.

“Say hello to your boy,” Mr Trump said. “Special guy.”

Mr Trump was apparently referring to Mr Kennedy’s son, Justin. The younger Mr Kennedy spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, eventually rising to become the bank’s global head of real estate capital markets.

During Mr Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Mr Trump’s most important lender, dispensing well over $1bn (£761m) in loans to him for the renovation and construction of skyscrapers in New York and Chicago at a time when other mainstream banks were wary of doing business with him because of his troubled business history.

About a week before the presidential address, Ivanka Trump had paid a visit to the Supreme Court as a guest of the elder Mr Kennedy. The two had met at a lunch after the inauguration, and Ms Trump brought along her daughter, Arabella Kushner.

Deustche Bank was the only real bank outside Russian mobsters that would touch Trump and his toxic business deals associated with his proclivities to take the money and run via bankruptcies.  It’s also awash with the darkest of dark money.  This 2017 investigative report gives you the idea of the kinds of laundering services they offer. It’s a 2017 BuzzFeed article.

The German giant processed hundreds of millions of dollars of suspicious transactions into the US for a Cyprus bank awash with dirty money linked to the Kremlin, Syrian chemical weapons, organised crime, and ISIS.

You cannot find something Trump does without uncovering about a gazillion Kremlin connections at the same time.    A Josh Marshall writes “As many of you will remember, Deutsche Bank isn’t just any bank.”

As I noted in the first post I wrote about Trump’s ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin back on July 23rd, 2016, by the mid-90s, every major US bank had blackballed Donald Trump. as the Times put it in 2016, “Several bankers on Wall Street say they are simply not willing to take on what they almost uniformly referred to as ‘Donald risk.’” None would do business with him. With one big exception: Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank of course is not actually an American bank. But it has a major business in the US. And it was the bank’s effort to gain a bigger foothold in the US that seems to have been behind the special relationship with Trump.

As The Financial Times put it last year, in the middle 1990s, Deutsche was looking for a foothold in the US and “the bank saw a niche in serving rich developers who had hit a few bumps along the way, such as Harry Macklowe and Ian Bruce Eichner, both celebrated owners and losers of New York real estate.” Donald Trump fit the bill to a tee.

Deutsche also had its own problems with money laundering, particularly money laundering tied to Russia. Days after Trump became President, New York State announced a $425 million fine Deutsche Bank had agreed to pay over a $10 billion Russian money laundering scheme, one of many investigations the bank is still embroiled in.

So, it gets more elucidating after the background.

When I first read the Times story I wasn’t sure whether the younger Kennedy, whose title was Managing Director and Global Head of Real Estate Capital Markets, would have been someone to actually make loans to someone like Trump as opposed to overseeing more complex or synthetic efforts like mortgage backed securities and such. But it turns out he definitely was. The FT says Kennedy was “one of Mr Trump’s most trusted associates over a 12-year spell at Deutsche.” A review of Kennedy’s bio suggests those twelve years were 1997 through 2009 – key years for Trump.

Kennedy was one of the few bankers to accurately predict the 2007/08 mortgage backed securities meltdown and made an astonishing amount of money for Deutsche Bank by shorting mortgages starting in 2006. As Crain’s New York put in 2010, “in just the first half of 2007, [Kennedy’s group’s] bet generated as much as $540 million in revenue for Deutsche Bank as subprime mortgages fell apart, according to Bloomberg News, and the wager proved even more lucrative as the rot spread.”

Kennedy left Deutsche Bank at the end of 2009, apparently because post-financial crisis regs on over-risky bets by banks were making it difficult for him to operate. He left to found LNR Property LLC with partner Toby Cobb, which would become a big player in the distressed-commercial-property space.

Alex Shephard writing for TNR believes “Trump’s relationship with Justice Kennedy sounds shady in this new report”.  I’ll say.

Last year, the Financial Times reported that Kennedy’s son was “one of Mr Trump’s most trusted associates over a 12-year spell at Deutsche.”

Oh, really.

Then, there’s this about a Trump-Kennedy “back channel” from Shane Goldmacher at Politico from a few months back.  Where ever Trump is there are Russians, shady, deals and likely Kompromat.  There’s another son.  Now read this knowing we had a spontaneous outburst the other day about a “Space Force” and reanimating NASA.

One back channel is the fact that Kennedy’s son, Justin, knows Donald Trump Jr. through New York real estate circles. Another is through Kennedy’s other son, Gregory, and Trump’s Silicon Valley adviser Peter Thiel. They went to Stanford Law School together and served as president of the Federalist Society in back-to-back years, according to school records. More recently, Kennedy’s firm, Disruptive Technology Advisers, has worked with Thiel’s company Palantir Technologies.

In fact, during the early months of the Trump administration, Gregory Kennedy has worked at NASA as a senior financial adviser as part of the so-called “beachhead” team. Both Kennedy boys were spotted at the White House last month for the administration’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration (Justice Kennedy is Irish Catholic). In February, Ivanka Trump attended oral arguments of the Supreme Court with her daughter. She was a guest of Justice Kennedy.

The White House has also closely monitored retirement chatter by tapping into the network of former Kennedy clerks, a group that includes Gorsuch himself. Some in the legal world viewed Gorsuch’s selection — he would be the first Supreme Court clerk to serve alongside a former boss — as an olive branch to Kennedy that, should he retire next, his seat would be in reliable presidential hands.

Those close to Trump’s judicial-selection process stress that they’re not pressuring Kennedy to hang up his robe, only seeking to put him at ease.

But as they wait for a decision they cannot control, White House officials have already set in motion plans to fill the more than 100 lower court vacancies, including more than 10 percent of the crucial seats on various U.S. Courts of Appeals, in a bid to tug America’s courts in a more conservative direction for decades to come.

Also, there’s my personal observation that Kennedy–during his announcement–didn’t look like he was all that excited. He looked resigned to it more than into the idea of spending time with the wife and fly fishing or what ever. Don’t forget that hearing yesterday when House Republicans appeared ready to tank Mueller and dump Rosenstein.

A battle has raged for weeks between President Donald Trump’s conservative allies in the House of Representatives and the Department of Justice over documents related to the Russia investigation — egged on by tweets from the president himself.

Now, on Thursday, that battle escalated with a vote by the full House of Representatives on a resolution to insist the DOJ comply with the House subpoenas and other document requests by July 6. The resolution passed along party lines, 226 to 183 votes.

Lawmakers put on hold a contentious House Judiciary hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray — where GOP lawmakers were grilling them about those subpoenas — to take the vote.

The resolution is nonbinding, but it will effectively put every House member on record on where they stand in this feud — with the Justice Department, or with the president and his congressional allies who have tried to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

It could also set up a showdown over the fate of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s investigation, and who Trump has reportedly considered firing.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the House Freedom Caucus chair leading the charge against the DOJ, said Wednesday that “contempt and impeachment” of Rosenstein “will be in order” if he continues to refuse to hand over documents congressional Republicans want. Republican committee chairs like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) are also on board, and so far, they’ve been backed by Speaker Paul Ryan too.

The DOJ maintains it is complying with subpoenas, but that it also has an obligation to protectthe ongoing investigation and its confidential sources. That response hasn’t satisfied House leaders — and it plays into the main gist of their allegation, which is that the DOJ and FBI are trying to protect themselves and prevent oversight into potential misconduct.

It was ugly all over.  Democrats have a lot of fronts that have been opened in the war to stop this nasty blend of theocracy and fascism.  HuffPo outlines the current strategy in the Senate to stop Trump’s vile SCOTUS plans.  While the religious nutter base wants to outlaw abortion and stop any more rights headed towards any one but white straight christians, Trump wants a justice that will block any attempts to oust him or jail him. Remember what Roy Cohn taught Trump:  “I don’t want to know what the law is, I want to know who the judge is”.

During a judiciary committee hearing Thursday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) noted that a challenge to the investigation could very well end up before the Supreme Court at some point ― potentially creating a conflict of interest for a president who has asked nonpartisan officials for their loyalty.

“If we’re not going to thoroughly discuss what it means to have a president with this ongoing investigation happening, who is now going to interview Supreme Court justices, and potentially continue with his tradition of doing litmus tests, loyalty tests, for that person, we could be participating in a process that could undermine that criminal investigation,” Booker said. “I do not believe this committee should or can in good conscience consider a nominee put forward by this president until that investigation is concluded.”

Trump is moving us closer to his ideas and Putin’s goals of a US Tinpot dictatorship including rewriting the mission statement at the Pentagon.  It’s not so much “to deter” as  “to employ lethal force”.  Trump’s limp dick sure needs  some help thinking it’s strong.

Life in Trump’s American continues to be disheartening.  We know no that they actually started grabbing kids at the border earlier but it was not fully ramped up until recently.

The government was separating migrant parents from their kids for months prior to the official introduction of zero tolerance, running what a U.S. official called a “pilot program” for widespread prosecutions in Texas, but apparently did not create a clear system for parents to track or reunite with their kids.

Officials have said that at least 2,342 children were separated from their parents after being apprehended crossing the border unlawfully since May 5, when the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards migrants went into effect.

But numbers provided to NBC News by the Department of Homeland Security show that another 1,768 were separated from their parents between October 2016 and February 2018, bringing the total number of separated kids to more than 4,100.

More than 1,000 children were separated between October 2016 and September 2017, and 703 were separated between October 2017 and February 2018, according to DHS.

It’s unclear how many of those 1,768 children were separated after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. NBC repeatedly asked DHS for comprehensive data, but the agency declined to provide month-by-month figures, did not provide data prior to October 2016 and did not supply any numbers for March and April 2018.

This is truly outrageous!

You can add crimes against humanity to that list too.  The more you crack the eggs open, the more Russians, dark money, and crimes you find.  I want my country out of this now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: The Spy War

thrilling_spy_stories_1939fal_v1_n1

Good Morning!!

Week four of the tRump presidency has been even wilder than the previous three weeks, and it’s not over yet. How much more crazy and chaotic can thing get in the U.S. government?

Two days ago, the top special ops commander warned that the government is “in unbelievable turmoil,” according to CNN–and this was before the Flynn resignation!

The head of US Special Operations Command said Tuesday that the US government is in “unbelievable turmoil,” a situation that he suggested could undermine US efforts to fight adversaries such as ISIS.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” Army Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas told a symposium in Maryland….
Thomas oversees America’s elite Special Operations troops, including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, which have played a large role in carrying out the nation’s conflicts since 9/11.
Asked later about his comments, Thomas, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said: “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

Since Flynn resigned/was fired, the media has been focusing on ties between tRump and his “associates” and the Russian government and intelligence agencies, including CNN’s report that “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.” This scandal has already gone way beyond Watergate, and we still don’t have a serious investigation in Congress. It’s difficult to see how much longer Republicans can avoid the inevitable. Yesterday, Malcolm Nance warned on MSNBC that tRump staffers should seriously consider lawyering up.

Nance, a former NSA employee and current MSNBC counterterrorism and intel analyst, warned that this is “very, very, serious stuff” and that because the FISA warrant “authorized the NSA to turn on the full collection power of the United States…there is nothing that will escape that.”

Given what intelligence agencies know – and this is in direct contradiction of Republican claims that no such evidence exists – he said,

“These people need to start getting lawyers and cutting deals because when we have both sides of the conversation, you are gonna get caught.”

Today former NSA analyst John Schindler has a new opinion piece at the NY Observer: KremlinGate Enters Uncharted Waters as Russian Links Overwhelm DC. Here’s what he had to say about former tRump campaign manager Paul Manafort:

One of the Trump associates named in both reports (from the NYT and at CNN, linked above) is Paul Manafort, the shady veteran political operative who left the campaign last August when his unsavory ties to the Kremlin hit the newspapers. In response to the latest allegations, Manafort replied, “I don’t remember talking to any Russian officials,” last year, memorably adding that he had no recollection of ever being in contact with Kremlin spies: “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”

That appears to be yet another untruth, since as I reported back in August, Manafort’s longtime friend in Kyiv, Konstantin Kilimnik, who served as his translator and sidekick during Manafort’s years as a political fixer for Ukraine’s then-ruling party, was remarkably open about his longstanding affiliation with GRU, that is Russian military intelligence. Kilimnik boasted of his GRU ties, which he didn’t discuss in the past tense only. For Manafort to say he’s never been in contact with Russian spies is therefore unconvincing.

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And on tRump:

The president seems to be increasingly flabbergasted by the exposure of his clandestine relationship with Moscow. As is his wont, he took to Twitter to lambaste the Intelligence Community and the mainstream media some more, denouncing “fake news” and IC leaks, while asserting that American spies are acting “just like Russia”—a puzzling statement that may be more revealing than the president intended—and to top it off they’re “very un-American.” Perhaps this is progress of a sort, since it was only a few weeks ago that Trump compared the IC to Nazi Germany on Twitter.

All the same, presidential mania on social media isn’t a pretty picture and will do nothing to stop the coming investigations by Congress into what exactly was going on between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin last year. Trump’s bluster and deflections on the campaign trail sufficed to push aside some of those troubling questions, but things have reached a point that the full story, no matter how unpleasant it may be, will come out, eventually.

At a minimum, the House and Senate intelligence committees will be conducting investigations which ought to worry the White House, whose political future will likely depend on how many Republicans are willing to back Trump—and by extension the Kremlin—over fellow Americans. Since several prominent Republican senators, including Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, have indicated that investigations are going forward, the White House can’t depend on partisan loyalty to protect them for much longer.

Read the whole thing at the NY Observer.

At Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald reported that our allies have been spying on tRump and “associates” in order to protect themselves.

As part of intelligence operations being conducted against the United States for the last seven months, at least one Western European ally intercepted a series of communications before the inauguration between advisers associated with President Donald Trump and Russian government officials, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The sources said the interceptions include at least one contact between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian official based in the United States. It could not be confirmed whether this involved the telephone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that has led to Flynn’s resignation, or additional communications. The sources said the intercepted communications are not just limited to telephone calls: The foreign agency is also gathering electronic and human source information on Trump’s overseas business partners, at least some of whom the intelligence services now consider to be agents of their respective governments. These operations are being conducted out of concerns that Russia is seeking to manipulate its relationships with Trump administration officials as part of a long-term plan to destabilize the NATO alliance.

Moreover, a Baltic nation is gathering intelligence on officials in the Trump White House and executives with the president’s company, the Trump Organization, out of concern that an American policy shift toward Russia could endanger its sovereignty, according to a third person with direct ties to that nation’s government.

Head over to Newsweek to read the rest.

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The Guardian has a scoop involving Deutsche Bank, which holds a great deal of tRump’s debt: Deutsche Bank examined Trump’s account for Russia links.

The scandal-hit bank that loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to Donald Trumphas conducted a close internal examination of the US president’s personal account to gauge whether there are any suspicious connections to Russia, the Guardian has learned.

Deutsche Bank, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and is facing intense regulatory scrutiny, was looking for evidence of whether recent loans to Trump, which were struck in highly unusual circumstances, may have been underpinned by financial guarantees from Moscow.

The Guardian has also learned that the president’s immediate family are Deutsche clients. The bank examined accounts held by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, her husband, Jared Kushner, who serves as a White House adviser, and Kushner’s mother.

The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link, but Deutsche Bank is coming under pressure to appoint an external and independent auditor to review its business relationship with Trump.

More at the link.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that tRump plans to ask New York billionaire Stephen A. Feinberg to conduct a “review” of U.S. intelligence agencies. He may be asking for more trouble than he can handle. NBC News First Read: Trump’s War With the Intelligence Community Is His Biggest Yet.

Less than a month in office, President Trump has engaged in plenty of fights already — with the courts, Mexico, the media, and even Nordstrom. But his emerging fight with the U.S. intelligence community (over Russia and leaks) might be his biggest fight yet. On the one hand, you have the New York Times reporting that Trump is planning to appoint an ally who has little experience in intelligence matters “to lead a broad review” of the intelligence agencies. “The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president,” the Times says. And on the other hand, you have the Wall Street Journal writing that U.S. intelligence officials “have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised.” (The White House and Director of National Intelligence have both disputed this account.)….

We get that Trump is trying to crack down on leaks; Barack Obama was frustrated by them, too. But what is the bigger story here — that Russians had contacts with Trump’s campaign, or the leaks about these contacts? Or that Russians interfered in the 2016 election, or that this interference was leaked to the press? It sure seems like Trump and his team are less bothered by the news than who’s leaking the news.

The Financial Times has an opinion piece on the Russia connections: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and a fatal attraction. After Flynn’s resignation, smiles are turning to scowls in Moscow.

The opening weeks of the presidency have been as disastrous as anyone could have feared. Mr Trump has behaved in office as he did on the campaign trail. Chaos and belligerence in the White House has been mirrored by the casual disarming of allies and the empowering of adversaries abroad. America’s standing in the world could scarcely be lower. All this as the fires continue to burn in the Middle East and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un tests a ballistic missile that may soon be tipped with a nuclear warhead.

Mr Trump’s hopes of some sort of grand bargain with Russia’s Vladimir Putin have dissolved. Firing Mr Flynn for lying to vice-president Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in Washington will not staunch the disquiet about the administration’s contacts with Moscow before inauguration day. Mr Trump and his aides face three sets of questions from legislators and law enforcement agencies about the ties.

The first asks how wide and deep were the exchanges: who exactly was involved, what were the subjects of conversations, and were there any bargains struck, implicit or explicit, about the direction of US policy once Mr Trump reached the White House? The second requires the examination of Mr Trump’s financial ties with Russia — the detailed investigation that should have happened during the campaign and now demands open access to the president’s tax returns. The third, made more urgent by the lengthy delay between the White House’s discovery of Mr Flynn’s mendacity and his sacking, asks the old Watergate question — just what did the president know and when?

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I hate to link to The Intercept, but there’s a weird story there you might want to look at: Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton.

Page provided the lengthy letter to The Intercept when asked whether he would support President Trump using his power as president to declassify any government material to disclose any intercepted conversations between Page and Russian officials. He did not say. Instead he forwarded the letter, which is well-formatted, heavily-footnoted, grammatically correct and has no spelling mistakes. However, its content is bizarre.

To begin with, it is addressed to the voting section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which is charged exclusively with enforcing federal laws that protect the right to vote.

It then makes the grandiose claim that “the actions by the Clinton regime and their associates may be among the most extreme examples of human rights violations observed during any election in U.S. history since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was similarly targeted for his anti-war views in the 1960’s.”

Page repeatedly describes as “outrageous” the news coverage claiming that he has significant connections to Russian officials, and what he says was the Clinton campaign’s hidden hand behind it.

The Clinton campaign, says Page, engaged in “human rights violations,” “illegal activities,” “unlawful deceptions,” “Obstruction of Justice – the charge upon which President Nixon was impeached,” spreading “False Evidence,” and “an obviously illegal attempt to silence me on an important issue of national and international consequence in violation of my Constitutional rights.”

Page also states that he was targeted by the Clinton campaign because he is Catholic, a military veteran and a man.

Keep in mind that Page was recommended as an adviser to tRump by none other than Jeff Sessions, who is now in charge of the DOJ. Page is also the guy who was personally in touch with Russian officials who were running the hacking operation against the DNC and the Clinton campaign in order to help tRump get elected.

That’s today’s installment of crazy. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of the news; so please post your own links in the comment thread and try to stay sane!