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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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?
I’m not sure what’s worse. I’ve got one eye on a developing Hurricane Nate and the other on the ongoing chaos in what is not passing as a functional administration of a developed nation. I’ve been attending cyber conferences too as well as grading econ homework. I keep looking at homes in Washington State and I’m focused on the area around Olympia now and the Sound. I feel overwhelmed and trapped.
Nate has killed 22 in Central American and is near Cancun, Mexico right now. We’re expecting it late Saturday. The photos on the post are various locations in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Tropical Storm Nate is winding up to wallop the Gulf Coast this weekend.
The latest NBC News forecast has the storm making landfall somewhere on the Mississippi or Alabama coasts sometime around 1 a.m. Sunday, possibly as a Category 1 hurricane.
With Nate expected to drench the region with anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rain, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has declared a statewide emergency and a dozen or so members of the National Guard were dispatched to New Orleans to help monitor the low-lying city’s fragile pumping and drainage system.
The big guns from the Weather Channel are around Gulf Port so I’m feeling a little better than last night about Nate. But still, there’s a blue tarp on the roof over my bed. The pumps are still busted in New Orleans. Our infrastructure never holds up in anything any more so I’m expecting outages. Hence, my first two hurricane supplies have been laid in. Basically, it’s Perrier and a box of wine.
Here’s the Daily Drumpf Dump. This one totally creeped me out last night around dinner time. Trump, during photo shoot, talks of ‘calm before the storm’. Did we mention he was surrounded by lots and lots of military brass?
President Donald Trump delivered a foreboding message Thursday night, telling reporters as he posed for photos with his senior military leaders that this might be “the calm before the storm.”
White House reporters were summoned suddenly Thursday evening and told the president had decided he wanted the press to document a dinner he was holding with the military leaders and their wives.
Reporters were led hastily to the grand State Dining Room, where they walked into a scene of the president, his highest-ranking military aides and their wives posing for a group photo. The cameras clicked and they smiled. A joke was made about someone’s face being tired. Live classical music played.
Dear Leader wanted to impress us. He doesn’t know how to do that. He just gives us all agita and nightmares. What would today’s propaganda be like without some selective site erasure? No bad news for the peons of Drumpfistan. “FEMA removes statistics about drinking water access and electricity in Puerto Rico from website.”
As of Wednesday, half of Puerto Ricans had access to drinking water and 5 percent of the island had electricity, according to statistics published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its Web page documenting the federal response to Hurricane Maria.
By Thursday morning, both of those key metrics were no longer on the Web page.
FEMA spokesman William Booher noted that both measures are still being reported on a website maintained by the office of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, www.status.pr. According to that website, which is in Spanish, 9.2 percent of the island now has power and 54.2 percent of residents have access to drinking water. Booher said that these measures are also shared in news conferences and media calls that happen twice a day, but he didn’t elaborate on why they are no longer on the main FEMA page.
“Our mission is to support the governor and his response priorities through the unified command structure to help Puerto Ricans recover and return to routines. Information on the stats you are specifically looking for are readily available” on the website maintained by the governor’s office, Booher said.
Nobody calls dear leader a ‘fucking moron’ in Drumpfistan. Tillerson is bad but Pompeo in charge of State and 4th in line to BLOTUS? Good Wisdom Beings help us! Help the world!
- We’re told that President Trump is quite comfortable with Pompeo, asking his advice on topics from immigration to the inner workings of Congress.
- Pompeo personally delivers the President’s Daily Brief, making him one of the few people Trump spends a great deal of time with on a daily basis.
- Pompeo is one of the few in the administration who knows how to convey tough news to the president, and how to push back without turning DJT off. (SecDef Jim Mattis is good at that, too.)
- Trump doesn’t see Pompeo as a showboat.
- Pompeo would take the job, as the cap to a career that included being a U.S. House member from Kansas.
- Pompeo would have credibility with world leaders, who’d know he was a legit part of the president’s inner circle — something no one thinks about Tillerson.
Sources tell us Trump recognizes that a Cabinet shuffle would bring bad press. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants stability, and so is discouraging high-level departures before next year.
And yet, insiders say Trump’s relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair. We’re told Trump was furious that Tillerson didn’t try to blunt the story about him calling the president a “moron,” by just going out and denying it (whether or not it actually occurred).
WASHINGTON Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, just tapped to be Donald Trump’s new CIA director, has had a lot to say about torture, Muslims, terrorism, the Iranian nuclear deal and NSA spying. Here’s a sample:
Pompeo on the release of the 2014 Senate torture report:
“Our men and women who were tasked to keep us safe in the aftermath of 9/11 — our military and our intelligence warriors — are heroes, not pawns in some liberal game being played by the ACLU and Senator Feinstein,” Pompeo said in a statement on Dec. 9, 2014. “These men and women are not torturers, they are patriots. The programs being used were within the law, within the constitution, and conducted with the full knowledge Senator Feinstein. If any individual did operate outside of the program’s legal framework, I would expect them to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Pompeo on American Muslims:
“It’s been just under two months since the attacks in Boston,” said in a speech on floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on June 11, 2013. “In those intervening weeks, the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening. And that is sad, but most importantly, it is dangerous. When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith, and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith. Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
Pompeo on the Iran deal:
“It’s not a question whether America can prevent a nuclear Iran or stop Russian aggression; it’s a question of whether (the Obama) administration has the backbone to use the tools and solutions available,” Pompeo said on Dec. 3, 2014. “Each of these nations poses real threats to America and the West – what is needed is not ambiguity, but clarity, forcefulness and commitments that do not exceed America’s willingness to fulfill them.
“Ayatollah Khamenei watches America allow Iran to expand its power while our President writes him missives ensuring we will protect Iran’s interests. This is dangerous. The Islamic Republic cannot even feed its own people without access to markets and our President rewards that nation, which has killed countless Americans, with sanctions relief. Congress should immediately act to stop all oil shipments out of Iran, reinstitute economic sanctions and demand that our allies do so as well. We should make clear that nuclear enrichment is not acceptable inside of Iran for any purpose and, as President Bush once said, those who harbor terrorists who kill Americans will be treated in the same manner as if they had committed the act of terror themselves.”
Ladies! Kiss your birth control coverage good bye! All things Obama must go in Drumpfistan. “Trump just officially made it easier for employers to stop covering birth control. The new rules let big companies end contraceptive coverage — and take effect immediately.”
The Trump administration is relaxing an Obama-era requirement that nearly all employers offer health insurance that covers a wide array of contraceptive methods.
New regulations released Friday significantly broaden the types of companies and organizations that can request an exemption from that rule. This could lead to many American women who currently receive no-cost contraception having to pay out of pocket for their medication.
The new rules take effect immediately. And they allow large, publicly traded companies to seek an exemption from the birth control requirement if they have a religious or moral objection to providing such coverage. The Obama administration barred these large businesses from such exemptions.
“This provides an exemption, a limited one, for those with religious or moral convictions implicated by the contraceptive mandate,” an HHS official said in a Friday morning briefing with reporters previewing the rule.
HHS projects that “99.9 percent of women” will be unaffected by these changes but gave little explanation of how it came to that data point. Officials did note that only a few hundred small businesses have so far raised religious or moral objections against the requirement by filing lawsuits.
But it is possible that larger publicly traded companies could join their ranks as the exemption gets widened. And the rule itself is blunt about the possible effect, noting that “These final rules will result in some enrollees in plans of exempt entities not receiving coverage or payments for contraceptive services.”
Women’s health groups, including the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have been preparing to file lawsuits against the regulation, based on an earlier draft that Vox obtained in late May.
Of course, you know how beneficent those “pro-lifers” can be when it comes to forced birth and supporting the living children. “Inside Tim Murphy’s reign of terror. The anti-abortion lawmaker’s abortion scandal was just the tipping point. Former aides say abuse inside his office was rampant.” Abortions are perfectly okay for mistresses of culture warring Congress Critters.
Rep. Tim Murphy, a staunch anti-abortion advocate, thought he could withstand the media furor that engulfed him after reports that he’d encouraged his extramarital lover to end her apparent pregnancy.
Just one day after announcing he would retire after the 2018 election, Murphy reversed course and told Speaker Paul Ryan he was resigning effective Oct. 21. Murphy’s abrupt decision ended a 15-year career on Capitol Hill in a shocking manner. The 65-year-old Pennsylvania Republican was so safe in his conservative district that Democrats hadn’t even fielded an opponent against him during the past two election cycles.
Ironically, Murphy’s swift collapse came not because of text messages he sent to a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair, encouraging her to have an abortion as first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday. In fact, fears among senior Republicans about a potential wave of negative stories on how Murphy ran his congressional office were what ultimately pushed him out the door.
Multiple top House Republicans during the past 24 hours pressured Murphy to resign once it became clear that the House Ethics Committee might have to investigate allegations tied to his reported mistreatment of staffers. Numerous GOP sources were aware of systemic problems in Murphy’s office, including high staff turnover, which had been the topic of gossip and speculation for years.
The Post-Gazette had reported on a June 2017 memo in which Murphy’s longtime chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, warned the Pennsylvania Republican that he was mistreating and “harassing” staff, causing 100 percent turnover.
So, I can’t wait until I get the opportunity to play fetch with Dear Leader. Paper towels work so well in place of functioning pumps, you know. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
And, JJ … hang in there. We’ll make it through this one too!!!