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Meet the obscure German magnates who actually own Trump's most valuable building

President-elect pays Deutschland-based aristocrats and titans of industry $1.6M a year in rent for 40 Wall Street
January 06, 2017 01:00PM
By Konrad Putzier

[Image: Screen-Shot-2017-01-06-at-11.38.24-AM.png]From left: Walter Hinneberg, Donald Trump, 40 Wall Street and Otto von Bismarck (Credit: Getty Images)

The skyscraper at 40 Wall Street occupies a special place in Donald Trump's tale of business success. It is, in all likelihood, the most valuable single real estate asset he controls, worth hundreds of millions. And he never gets tired of saying that he bought it for a mere $1 million in 1995. "On occasion, I am asked what my favorite deals have been," he wrote in his book "Never Give Up." "I have a lot to choose from, but there is something about the acquisition of 40 Wall Street that will always stand apart."
What's often left unsaid is that Trump doesn't actually own the building. He merely leased it for a term of up to 200 years. The building's actual owners are a group of obscure, wealthy Germans.
That suddenly matters a great deal. Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States on Jan. 20. The commander-in-chief owing regular lease payments to a bunch of foreign businessmen might not be concerning if it weren't for the fact that no one seems to know exactly who they are.
Some articles on the property have mentioned in passing that the Hinneberg family owns the land under 40 Wall Street. Others mention the name Joachim Ferdinand von Grumme-Douglas. But there has been no serious effort to shed some light on the owners and the source of their wealth.
The ownership web of 40 Wall
On December 7, 1982, five Germans bought the land under the tower from its long-term owner, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The buyers: Stephanie von Bismarck, Joachim Ferdinand von Grumme-Douglas and siblings Anita, Christian, and Walter Hinneberg (more on these people below).
Anita and Walter Hinneberg each owned 25 percent of the property and Christian Hinneberg owned 30 percent. Bismarck and Grumme-Douglas each owned 10 percent.
In 1992, the three Hinneberg siblings transferred their combined 80 percent interest to an entity called 40 Wall Limited Partnership. In December 2014, that entity in turn transferred its interest in the property to another entity, 40 Wall Street Holdings Corp. The beneficial owners of that latest entity aren't public, but Christian Hinneberg signed the deed as the buyer on behalf of 40 Wall Street Holdings Corp.
Meanwhile, in 1992, Bismarck and Grumme-Douglas transferred their combined 20 percent interest to an entity called Scandic Wall Limited Partnership. In 2004, that entity in turn transferred it to another entity, called New Scandic Wall Limited Partnership, which still owns a 20-percent stake in the building. The beneficial owners of that entity aren't public, but the 2004 deed document lists Joachim Ferdinand von Grumme-Douglas as its president. Reached by phone, Stephanie von Bismarck confirmed that she invested in the property but declined to say whether she still holds a stake. Grumme-Douglas could not be reached.
To sum up: the Hinnebergs still appear to control the entity that owns 80 percent of 40 Wall Street. Joachim von Grumme-Douglas is the president of the entity that owns the remaining 20 percent, and Stephanie von Bismarck may or may not still be a part of it.
Here's where it gets complicated: While the Germans technically bought the property in 1982, they didn't have full control. Since 1966, the building had been leased to investors George Comfort, Henry Loeb and Clifford Michel.
While the land stayed under German ownership the following decades, the leasehold changed hands several times. Three weeks after the property sold to the Germans, Comfort and his partners transferred the leasehold to an entity that was later found to hide the wealth of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Following Marcos' exile in 1986, the tower became embroiled in several lawsuits. In 1989, New York-based Resnick family took over, but amid a market downturn, they couldn't make the building lucrative. In 1993, Hong Kong-based Kinson Properties took control of the leasehold in a foreclosure sale, but it too struggled to make the building a cash cow. In 1995, Trump took over the leasehold and restructured it.
Under the new terms, the lease runs through April 30, 2059, with two tenant's options to extend it by 67.5 years each. Bloomberg valued the leasehold at about $550 million in 2015. Though it's unclear how much the Trump Organization receives in annual rent, Donald Trump Jr. last year said the building was 97 percent leased. With an estimated average $36 per square foot, Trump could receive more than $30 million a year from tenants at 40 Wall Street.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization declined to comment.
Trump, who took out a $160 million loan against his leasehold in 2015 from Ladder Capital, pays the owners $1.6 million a year under the terms of the ground lease, according to SEC documents cited by the New York Times.
So, who are the people Donald Trump writes rent checks to every year?
The Hinnebergs
Elections to the Hamburg chamber of commerce's plenum don't typically make headlines, but this year marks the exception. A group called "We are the chamber" is running on a platform to shake up what they describe as a crusty elite, get rid of mandatory dues and increase transparency. Sound familiar? It seems that the global anti-establishment movement that swept Trump into the Oval Office and put the United Kingdom on a path to leave the E.U. has made it into the hallowed halls of one of the merchant city's most prestigious institutions.
But that's not the only connection between the so-called chamber rebels and Trump: one of its leaders is Walter Jr. Hinneberg. "How Donald Trump's friend is shaking up Hamburg," read a German-language headline in local paper Hamburger Abendblatt on Nov. 11.
Twin brothers Christian and Walter Jr. Hinneberg, 64 years old, are among the wealthiest and best-connected ship brokers in the world. They run their business, named Walter J. Hinneberg GmbH after their late father, from a small office in Hamburg's Ballindamm street. Like Trump, the Hinnebergs inherited a substantial business from their father and made it bigger. But in another sense they are the exact opposite of Trump: they are reserved, shy away from media coverage and live a relatively modest lifestyle considering their wealth, one family friend told TRD. "Their motto is discretion is our business,'" the friend said.
While many ship brokers field flashy, corporate offices, the Hinnebergs run their business from a couple of conservatively decorated rooms with a staff of less than a dozen, one shipping industry source who personally knows the Hinnebergs said.
The source suggested that the brothers likely had some sort of involvement with the majority of container ships that roam the oceans, and have particularly strong relationships with Korean shipyards.
Both brothers live in Hamburg, but Christian spends much of his time in Zurich. According to property records, a Christian Hinneberg with the company's address in Hamburg owns a co-op apartment at 2 Tudor Place in Manhattan. Christian is married to the daughter of the late Peter Tamm, who headed the Axel Springer publishing house between 1970 and 1991. (The firm is best known in the U.S. for buying Business Insider in 2015.)
It's not entirely clear what inspired the Hinnebergs to invest in New York real estate, but the family friend suggested they simply saw it as a "safe bank" to diversify their holdings.
In a rare interview, Christian told the maritime news company Lloyd's List in 2004 that with his father's traumatic experience of losing his savings during World War II in mind, the family eschewed stocks or currency investments in favor of property, "something solid," he said.
The Hinnebergs appear to have a good relationship with their ground tenant at 40 Wall. In a recent chat with the Hamburger Abendblatt, Walter Jr. described Trump as a "friendly and not at all arrogant person."
Trump, in turn, has heaped praise on the family. "I got along very well with the Hinnebergs, and they realized that after a string of losers who had owned the building, I had the integrity of their spectacular property first and foremost in my mind," he wrote in "Never Give Up." "They are a truly great family, and they knew I loved the building, that I would be doing everything possible to restore it to its inherent grandeur."
The friendship between the developer and the ship brokers appears to have lasted: two sources close to the family told TRD that the Hinnebergs spent the holidays with Trump at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago this year.
And on Jan. 4, Walter Hinneberg had a 25-minute meeting with Trump at Trump Tower. According to news reports, he also had lunch with Trump's son Eric.
Joachim von Grumme-Douglas and Stephanie von Bismarck
Stephanie Andrea Viveca Martita von Bismarck, nee Sedlmayr, married into the aristocratic dynasty most famous for producing Germany's first chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. Her husband, Gottfried von Bismarck, holds a master of science in electrical engineering degree from MIT and spent some time working in the U.S. According to his Linkedin page, he now works as an independent business consultant. (He is not to be confused with another Gottfried von Bismarck famous for hosting drug-fueled orgies in London who died of a cocaine overdose in 2007. ) The couple, both in their 70s, lives in Hamburg.
Little is known about Joachim Ferdinand von Grumme-Douglas, other than that he was born in 1933 and lived or still lives in Brussels. According to an online genealogy tracker of the sprawling Douglas family, he is a descendant of Scottish and German aristocrats and the grandson of an admiral in the imperial German navy.
Joachim von Grumme-Douglas and Stephanie von Bismarck appear to be closely related. When Grumme-Douglas' mother Annabel Sedlmayr (nee von Arnim, widowed von Grumme-Douglas) died in 2001, the death announcement listed Stephanie von Bismarck (nee Sedlmayr) at a spot typically reserved for immediate relatives of the deceased.
As the son of a born von Arnim, Grumme-Douglas is the scion of one of Germany's more famous aristocratic dynasties. Arguably the best-known von Arnim was Hans-Jurgen, a World War II general who led Nazi Germany's army in North Africa from 1942 until its capitulation in 1943.


[Image: image02-700x467.jpg]Donald and Melania Trump. Photo credit: WEBN-TV / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
President-elect Donald Trump's campaign finances are, in many ways, the mirror image of his personal wealth. The sums of money involved are huge, his personal statements often are demonstrably false, he is prone to steering money into his own pocket and he likes to see his name on things.
However, while Trump is doing all he can to obscure his personal finances he famously became the first candidate in decades not to release his taxes he is bound by law to account for the money his campaign took in and to document how it was spent.
That's why, in our search for clues, WhoWhatWhy closely examined every one of the campaign's Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. They show, among other things, that Trump fell well short of spending the $100 million that he said he would invest in his own campaign.
"I will have over $100 million in the campaign, and I'm prepared to go much more than that," Trump said with only two weeks to go in the campaign. At that point, he was $45 million short of reaching his stated goal. After putting in another $10 million that same week, his personal contribution for the entire campaign topped out at $66 million. Of that, $47.5 million are still classified as loans, even though Trump sent aletter to the FEC in June saying that he is forgiving all loans made to his campaign.
However, these numbers do not tell the entire story, because Trump's campaign spent an unprecedented amount of money on his own businesses.

From Their Pocket to Trump's Pocket

More than $8.7 million was doled out for the use of Trump's plane and $1.6 million to rent space in Trump Tower. In addition, the campaign spent about $250,000 on Trump golf courses, $368,000 on his hotels, $200,000 on Trump-owned restaurants and more than $400,000 for the use of his Florida Mar-A-Lago resort. In total, that means about one-fifth of the money Trump put into his own presidential run flowed right back into his businesses. His son Eric also benefitted in a small way as the campaign spent more than $30,000 on services from his vineyard.
[Image: image00-1-1024x682.jpg]Entrance to Trump Tower, New York. Photo credit:Ashley Ringrose / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As an indication of how Trump might conduct himself as president, the way he made "deals" to profit his own companies during his candidacy is particularly troubling. For example, once he became the Republican nominee and relied on donors to pay for his presidential run, he immediately hiked the rent that Trump Tower was charging his campaign. The campaign initially paid about $70,000 each month for the space but that amount ballooned to $169,758 once somebody else was footing the bill. According to Trump's latest filing, the rent has gone up even further, to $283,500.
However, even that does not tell the entire story because Trump also made money off the people meant to protect him. The Secret Service paid one of Trump's companies $1.6 million to fly on the candidate's plane.
That likely won't be the only taxpayer money flowing into Trump's pocket. With future First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron expected to stay in New York, the Secret Service will likely have to shell out big bucks to their new boss to rent a space in Trump Tower and protect his family. Trump, seeking to benefit in other ways from this arrangement, has also touted the Secret Service as an "amenity" in a pitch to potential residents.
That's where the hard numbers end and things get a little fuzzy because there are lots of warning signs that Trump will try to use his new job to line his own pockets. While his transition team announced that Trump sold his stocks in June, there is no proof that this actually happened.
[Image: image03-1024x682.jpg]Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump applauding at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo credit: Ashley Ringrose / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A press conference scheduled to explain how he would remove himself from his businesses was abruptly "postponed." Meanwhile, potential conflicts of interest are piling up. Trump apparently wants his kids to run the company, which would certainly not constitute a "blind trust," in particular as the same children have already sat in on meetings with world leaders and are expected to be key advisers to Trump when he takes office.
Unless the president-elect and his kids are completely divested from Trump's business empire, they will likely violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution,which Norman Eisen and Richard Painter describe here. Eisen and Painter served as chief ethics lawyers under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush respectively.
In the short time between Trump's election and the end of the year, there is already much to be concerned about. For example, the embassy of Kuwait reportedly moved an event from the Four Seasons in Washington to Trump's hotel after being contacted by the president-elect's staff.
Additionally, Trump has repeatedly blurred the line between official state business and his own business. Multiple reports indicate that in conversations with world leaders, he has brought up issues important to the Trump Organization but demonstrably not to the national interest. And as WhoWhatWhy reported during the campaign, then-candidate Trump in at least one instance openly flouted the law against soliciting contributions from non-US citizens.
None of this bodes well for a scandal-free presidency. Based on his track record thus far, the first jobs Trump creates might just be those of ethics lawyers.
A California high school teacher has been placed on paid leave after drawing comparisons between Adolf Hitler and President-elect Donald Trump in his classroom.

History teacher Frank Navarro was asked to leave Mountain View High School midday Thursday after a parent wrote an email to the school complaining about his lecture, he told the Monterey Herald.

Navarro, who is a Holocaust scholar, said his lesson was based on facts. Both Trump and Hitler, during their rise to power, vowed to deport foreigners and make their country "great again," he noted.

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Mountain View High School history teacher Frank Navarro was placed on paid leave after comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler during a class lecture."This feels like we're trying to squash free speech," he told the paper. "Everything I talk about is factually based. They can go and check it out. It's not propaganda or bias if it's based on hard facts."

Navarro, who has taught at the school for the last 40 years, told The Mercury News that he was not allowed to read the parent's email and that school officials declined his offer to review his lesson plan with him.

A petition to reverse Navarro's administrative leave received more than 6,500 signatures as of Sunday morning.

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Navarro has maintained that he delivered facts to his students, not opinions. Others around the world have drawn similarities between the president-elect and the fascist dictator.The petition quotes Navarro as saying: "To stand quiet in the face of bigotry and to turn your eyes away from it is to back up the bigotry, and that's not what I, or any history teacher, should be doing in our work."

In addition to revoking his suspension, the petition seeks an apology to the teacher from the school, "for attempting to intimidate a respected educator. We will not stand for censorship and respectability politics."

Navarro, speaking to The Mercury News, said he was initially told he could return on Wednesday, but the school district's Superintendent Jeff Harding has since told him he can come back as early as Monday.

"We are interested in getting Frank back in the classroom … we're just trying to maintain our due diligence," Harding told the paper. "We have a heightened emotional environment right now with the election. It's always a challenge to maintain a line in a classroom."

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Another thing Hitler did was have his party members remove teachers who opposed him.

Wasn't there an ex-president or such of Germany who said Bush was like Hitler?


[Image: image01-4-700x467.jpg]Attorney General nominee, Jeff Sessions, was an early supporter of Donald J. Trump's campaign for president. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A man named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard may soon be in a position to sound the death knell for the Voting Rights Act. Some in the South might call this poetic justice. Others, however, are worried that they will get no justice from Jefferson Beauregard Sessions poetic or otherwise.
That's a problem because, pending the outcome of his nomination process, which begins January 10, Sessions will head the Department of Justice (DOJ) as attorney general.
Much has been written about his checkered civil rights record and his positions on race, which ultimately cost him a position as federal judge, after the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to confirm him in 1986. The people of Alabama, however, sent him to the Senate 10 years later.
A lot less has been said about his position on voting rights, an area in which Sessions could have an outsized impact. Following the Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holderdecision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, the attorney general has often been the last line of defense against states seeking to institute various voter suppression schemes. DOJ joined civil rights groups in taking on state laws across the country that it deemed to be discriminatory, prevailing in many cases.
"While the NAACP could gain the assistance of the Justice Department in fighting back against voter suppression, a Sessions-led DOJ would likely lead to the exact opposite," the civil rights group said last week.
Sessions's rhetoric and actions back up that concern. He strongly approved of the Shelby County decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that states with a history of racism no longer had to get their voting laws cleared by DOJ, because there was no reason to assume they were still motivated by racism.
"Now if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren't being denied the vote because of the color of their skin," Sessions said after the ruling in 2013.
But what happened ahead of the 2016 election belied that statement.
In North Carolina, a federal court found that new provisions in the state's voting law "target African Americans with almost surgical precision" and address "problems that did not exist."
In Sessions's home state of Alabama, a more stringent Voter ID law was passed after the federal court's decision. In parts of the state with the highest percentage of minorities, the state then closed the DMV offices where such IDs could be obtained.
Finally, a federal court in 2016 blocked an effort in Georgia, the last state Sessions mentioned, and ruled it discriminated against minorities.
The NAACP, which strongly opposes the senator's nomination, noted that Sessions has consistently supported strict Voter ID laws, and once called the Voting Rights Act a "piece of intrusive legislation."
"Rather than enforcing voting rights protections, Senator Sessions has instead made a career of seeking to dismantle them," the group said. "For decades, he has pursued the rare and mystical unicorn of voter fraud, while turning a blind eye to the ever-growing issue of voter suppression."
The American Civil Liberties Union has also expressed its concerns over Sessions, noting that he would oversee the Voting Section of DOJ's Civil Rights Divisions and be responsible for enforcing federal laws protecting the right to vote.
"It is an awesome responsibility, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should determine whether Sessions will act vigorously to protect voting rights when he has a track record of eyeing such protections with suspicion," the group said ahead of the Judiciary Committee hearing.

One issue that will likely come up is Sessions's involvement in the so-called Marion Three case.
In 1985, three civil rights leaders Albert Turner, his wife Evelyn and Spencer Hogue Jr. were unanimously acquitted of election fraud charges brought by a prosecution led by Sessions, who then served as US Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (for a news report on the case from 1985, go here). The lawyers for the defendants claimed that the government pursued the case to intimidate black voters.
Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) represented Hogue in the trial and sent a scathing letter to the Judiciary Committee last week.
"Pursuing that case was an act of extraordinary quasi-judicial activism," Patrick wrote. "To use prosecutorial discretion to attempt to criminalize voter assistance is wrong and should be disqualifying for any aspirant to the Nation's highest law enforcement post."
The Marion Three case factored heavily into the committee's rejection of Sessions in 1986 and, although highly unlikely, it could once again derail the nomination this time around.
That makes the words of one of the defense attorneys from 1985 particularly prescient although possibly in a different way than he intended.
"This case has historic importance," Morton Stavis told the Marion Three jury in his closing arguments more than 30 years ago. "You will have a great deal of impact on our democracy in this area."
The first of a two-day confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's controversial attorney general nominee begins today. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama faces questions from his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, where he serves as chairman of the immigration subcommittee.
Trump's pick has drawn widespread outrage because of Sessions' opposition to the Voting Rights Act, support for anti-immigration legislation and history of making racist comments, which included reportedly saying he thought the Ku Klux Klan was, quote, "OK until I found out they smoked pot," unquote. He's also called the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Sessions, whose full name is Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, also called Jeff, is named after Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and Civil War General Pierre Beauregard. Those set to testify at Sessions' hearing Wednesday include civil rights era icon and Democratic Congressman John Lewis and Democratic Senator Cory Booker, marking the first time in Senate history a sitting senator will testify against another sitting senator for a Cabinet post during a confirmation hearing.
In 1986, Sessions was denied confirmation for a federal judgeship by a Republican-controlled Senate committee over his racist comments. This is the late Senator Ted Kennedy speaking at Sessions' 1986 confirmation hearing.
SEN. TED KENNEDY: Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era, which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It's inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a United States federal judge.
KEN BODDIE: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, he was brought face to face with things he personally had said. For example, that the NAACP and the Civil Liberties Union are un-American organizations.
JEFF SESSIONS: These comments that you could say about commie organizations or something, I may have said something like that in a general way, and that probably was wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: Ahead of today's hearing, The New York Times slammed Sessions for failing to turn over dozens, if not hundreds, of documents requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee's questionnaire. The Huffington Post reported in December Sessions' submitted questionnaire failed to disclose even the fact he'd been denied confirmation for the federal judgeship in 1986. And while the Office of Government Ethics has completed Sessions' ethics report, The Washington Post reports Sessions failed to disclose he owns oil interests in Alabamaa breach of federal ethics requirements.
For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we're joined by two guests. David Cole is the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is set to testify for the ACLU against Sessions in the Senate hearing on Wednesday. Cole is professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University. His most recent book , Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law. His piece for The New York Review of Books is headlined "Five Questions for Jeff Sessions." Also with us, Kyle Barry, policy counsel with NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the lead author of their report opposing Jeff Sessions' nomination.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! David Cole, what will you be saying on Wednesday in your testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee? What are your major concerns about Senator Sessions becoming attorney general?
DAVID COLE: So, first, Amy, we're not actually opposing Senator Sessions' confirmation, because, as a long-standing policy, the ACLU does not support or endorse nominations. And in fact, we rarely, as a result, testify in hearings. But we chose to testify in this hearing because we have concerns about his fidelity to the rights and interests of virtually all vulnerable groups in this country.
There's been a lot of talk about his insensitivity to or hostility to voting rights for African Americans and his racially offensive statements and the like. But that's just the beginning. This man defended Donald Trump's Muslim ban and spoke out very strongly against a resolution that Senator Leahy introduced that would simply have underscored that it is not permissible to use religion as a litmus test for immigration. He has called the Muslim faith a "toxic ideology." It's a faith that millions of Americans abide by. He voted against extending the hate crimes law to women and to gays and lesbians, because, he said, "I just don't see that they're victims of discrimination." Now he's going to be put in charge of enforcing the hate crimes law. If you can't see discrimination, you're not going to do a very good job enforcing the laws against discrimination.
He's abused his office as a prosecutor. Not only did he prosecute voting rights activists for essentially getting out the black vote in Alabama, but he also worked with U.S. Steel, a contributor to his senatorial campaign, to prosecute one of their competitors in a case that was ultimately dismissed by the judge hearing the case as the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct that that judge had ever seen. And now we're going to put this man in charge of the most powerful prosecutor's office in the United States?
So we think the Senate has an obligation to investigate, to inquire, to get the many questions about Senator Sessions' record answered before they vote on the confirmation. I think the central question is, look, in 1986, he wasn't qualified to be a local federal judge; why is he qualified today for a much more powerful post, namely the attorney general of the United States?
AMY GOODMAN: That denial, the Senate Judiciary not approving him for that federal judgeshiphe was what? Nominated by President Reagan. Highly unusual. Wasn't it only two people, him one of them, in the previous half-century about, 48 years, that did not get through the Senate Judiciary Committee?
DAVID COLE: That's right, and from the party that controlled the presidency and controlled the Senate at the time, so, you know, very high threshold. And yet, you know, the kinds of statements he made and the kinds of actions he took, I mean, he essentiallywhen voting rights activists started getting people out to vote, using the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to get people to vote who weren't able to vote before, many people treated that as cause for celebration. Jeff Sessions treated it as cause for investigation. And he went out, and his people interviewed black voters throughout Alabama counties and asked them why they voted, how they voted, who brought them to vote, and then prosecuted three civil rights activists for doing nothing more than getting people to the polls and assisting them in their exercising of their constitutional rights. The case wasmany of the counts were dismissed outright by the judge as baseless even before trial. He continued nonetheless to go to trial, and all the defendants were acquitted. This, you knowso I think there's serious questions
AMY GOODMAN: That was the Marion Three in Alabama.
DAVID COLE: Exactly. And so, I think thoseyou know, those questions, serious questions, that were raised by those actionsit's not just statements, it's actions. I think unless those questions can be answered in a moreyou know, in a more understanding and understandable way today than they could back then, then I think the Senate has to take thisits obligation seriously. I know it's difficult because he's one of their colleagues, but at the end of the day, the question is: Can he be the attorney general for all the American people, and can he protect the rights of the most vulnerable that he is responsible for enforcing?
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of his colleagues, how rare, David Cole, is it that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker will now testify against Jeff Sessions becoming attorney general? Has this ever happened before in Senate history, a sitting senator testifying against the appointment of another sitting senator?
DAVID COLE: Well, not to my knowledge, although I'm not a historian of the Senate. But I do think it's extraordinary. But it reflects just how concerned many people are about the ability of Jeff Sessions to protect the rights of those he's being put in charge of protecting.
AMY GOODMAN: Kyle Barry, you're policy counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. You authored the report on Jeff Sessions. Why did you find it necessary to write a report on this nomination in particular?
KYLE BARRY: Thanks, Amy. I think one of the first things that people have to remember is that the attorney general is really the chief protector and enforcer of all of our nation's civil rights laws, including the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and a host of very important civil rights legislation. And in Jeff Sessions, you have someone who has spent over 40 years of his political and legal career opposing civil rights and opposing principles of equality. And we're now entering a time, in the current political climate, in particular, where civil rights will have such an important role really preserving the rule of law in our democracy and, of course, protecting the vulnerable communities that those laws are designed to protect. And so we have very grave concerns that Senator Sessions is someone who can live up to that solemn responsibility.
And, you know, you've been talking about the 1986 hearing and his nomination that was rejected, and what we found in looking at decades of his records since then, including time as state attorney general, time, 20 years, as a United States senator, is that the concerns from the 1980s have been borne out consistently over time. And issue by issue, whether it's voting rights or criminal justice or education equality, all these issues that DOJ has a central role in dealing with, Jeff Sessions has opposed civil rights and has opposed principles of equality at every step of the way.
AMY GOODMAN: Even recently, when Republicans were looking at prison reform, Senator Sessions worked against changes in mandatory minimums. Can you talk about this, also his support of the use of chain gangs?
KYLE BARRY: Sure. Yeah, we have very serious concerns about Jeff Sessions' record on criminal justice in particular. On sentencing reform, he was really an outlier, on the fringe of even his own party, in opposing commonsense reforms to federal sentencing rules, and particularly the use of mandatory minimums, which have shown to be not just discriminatory, particularly against African Americans and Latinos, but also entirely ineffective. And that reform package had the support of Republican leadership, including the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Chuck Grassley. And Jeff Sessions led opposition to that, to that reform.
And, you know, particularly horrifying, as you mentioned, when he was a state attorney general in Alabama, he was a very vocal supporter of the use of chain gangs, a practice that had been recently reinstated when he was state attorney general. And he, at the time, praised the use of chain gangs. He seemed to be completely, I think, at best, oblivious to the racial implications, the historical implications in a state like Alabama, with such a long and sordid history of racial discrimination. And to him, the image of chaining prisoners together on the side of public roadways was totally fine for him. And, in fact, he specifically stated that he thought that would not be embarrassing to Alabama, that that would not be an image problem to Alabama and that the practice was perfectly constitutional and proper. And for someone who was then a state attorney general to demonstrate that kind of extraordinary racial insensitivity, I think, to put it lightly, you know, imagine that on a nationwide scale, if he is promoted to the highest law enforcement position in the entire United States. I think that's very concerning.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, David Cole, you talked about his record 30 years ago, his prosecution, as the U.S. attorney in Alabama, of voting rights activist Albert Turner, his wife Evelyn. Albert Turner had marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, considered one of the greatest voting rights activists, got what? Alabama went from zero to something like 70,000 registered voters, when they were being then prosecuted. Some of his supporters, Sessions' supporters, say, "That was 30 years ago." So, in your final response, your overall concerns about today, David Cole?
DAVID COLE: So, yeah, that was 30 years ago. But since then, he has voted against lifting felon disenfranchisement, a practice that disproportionally affects African Americans. Since then, he has supported voter ID laws, which suppress the votes of African Americans. Since then, he called the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County, which gutted a central portion of the Voting Rights Act, a good day for the South. And what we know is that that led to the South engaging in racially motivated voter suppression across the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to
AMY GOODMAN: Yes? Last point.
DAVID COLE: And he's not just targeted African Americans. When he was asked whether Donald Trump's claim that, as a celebrity, he could grab women by the genitals, whether that constituted a description of sexual assault, he said no. So this is a man who is blind, at best, and hostile, at worst, to many of the rights that he is supposed to be enforcing if he becomes attorney general.
Sessions was just on TV saying the police don't get enough support in America.
It is laughable the news that 'Russia has assembled compromising information on Trumpf' compromising information on the man is widely and publicly available for anyone who cares to look. While it is likely yet another attempt to weaken Trumpf's hand from day one, I'm sure most every nation has or is assembling a dossier of compromising/embarrassing information on Trumpf and his cabinet, so they can have some leverage. This idea behind the report that Russia is or should be our natural enemy is insane. I know most Americans meet few Russians. Where I live, I meet several each and every day and I have also traveled there. I can assure those in the US and elsewhere that Russians, generally, are very nice and normal people [and all dog and Nature lovers] who do not want war nor to be aggressive. The Russian government now or in the past is no worse nor better than most governments, and has its good and bad points and figures.

Quote:{Unnamed} Senior U.S. intelligence officials presented classified documents to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump alleging that Russia holds compromising personal and financial information on Trump, CNN and Buzzfeed reported Tuesday.
Pee is the new Hope.

Or, because the American people didn't buy the Russian hacking fake news they now get a golden shower.

The Real Purpose of the U.S. Government's Report on Alleged Hacking by Russia

Posted on Jan 8, 2017 at Truthdig
By Chris Hedges
[Image: russiahedgesreport_590.jpg]
A detail of a page in the declassified report. (Jon Elswick / AP)

Some thoughts on "Russia's Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election," the newly released declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
1. The primary purpose of the declassified report, which offers no evidence to support its assertions that Russia hacked the U.S. presidential election campaign, is to discredit Donald Trump. I am not saying there was no Russian hack of John Podesta's emails. I am saying we have yet to see any tangible proof to back up the accusation. This chargeSen. John McCain has likened the alleged effort by Russia to an act of waris the first salvo in what will be a relentless campaign by the Republican and Democratic establishment, along with its corporatist allies and the mass media, to destroy the credibility of the president-elect and prepare the way for impeachment.
The allegations in the report, amplified in breathtaking pronouncements by a compliant corporate media that operates in a non-fact-based universe every bit as pernicious as that inhabited by Trump, are designed to make Trump look like Vladimir Putin's useful idiot. An orchestrated and sustained campaign of innuendo and character assassination will be directed against Trump. When impeachment is finally proposed, Trump will have little public support and few allies and will have become a figure of open ridicule in the corporate media.
2. The second task of the report is to bolster the McCarthyist smear campaign against independent media, including Truthdig, as witting or unwitting agents of the Russian government. The demise of the English programming of Al-Jazeera and TeleSur, along with the collapse of the nation's public broadcasting, designed to give a voice to those not beholden to corporate or party interests, leaves RT America and Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! as the only two electronic outlets with a national reach that are willing to give a platform to critics of corporate power and imperialism such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Ralph Nader, Medea Benjamin, Cornel West, Kshama Sawant, myself and others.
Seven pages of the report were dedicated to RT America, on which I have a show called "On Contact." The report vastly inflated the cable network's reach and influence. It also included a few glaring errors, including the statement that "RT introduced two new showsBreaking the Set' on 4 September and Truthseeker' on 2 Novemberboth overwhelmingly focused on criticism of the US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent." "Breaking the Set," with Abby Martin, was taken off the air two years ago. It could hardly be tarred with costing Hillary Clinton the election.
The barely contained rage of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at the recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats was visible when he spat out that RT was "promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, et cetera." His anger was a glimpse into how the establishment seethes with hatred for dissidents. Clapper has lied in the past. He perjured himself in March 2013 when, three months before the revelations of wholesale state surveillance leaked by Snowden, he assured Congress that the National Security Agency was not collecting "any type of data" on the American public. After the corporate state shuts down RT, it will go after Democracy Now! and the handful of progressive sites, including this one, that give these dissidents space. The goal is censorship.
3. The third task of the report is to justify the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization beyond Germany, a violation of the promise Ronald Reagan made to the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Expanding NATO in Eastern Europe opened up an arms market for the war industry. It made those businesses billions of dollars. New NATO members must buy Western arms that can be integrated into the NATO arsenal. These sales, which are bleeding the strained budgets of countries such as Poland, are predicated on potential hostilities with Russia. If Russia is not a threat, the arms sales plummet. War is a racket.
4. The final task of the report is to give the Democratic Party plausible cover for the catastrophic election defeat it suffered. Clinton initially blamed FBI Director James Comey for her loss before switching to the more easily demonized Putin. The charge of Russian interference essentially boils down to the absurd premise that perhaps hundreds of thousands of Clinton supporters suddenly decided to switch their votes to Trump when they read the leaked emails of Podesta. Either that or they tuned in to RT America and decided to vote for the Green Party.
The Democratic Party leadership cannot face, and certainly cannot publicly admit, that its callous betrayal of the working and middle class triggered a nationwide revolt that resulted in the election of Trump. It has been pounded since President Barack Obama took office, losing 68 seats in the House, 12 seats in the Senate and 10 governorships. It lost more than 1,000 elected positions between 2008 and 2012 nationwide. Since 2010, Republicans have replaced 900 Democratic state legislators. If this was a real party, the entire leadership would be sacked. But it is not a real party. It is the shell of a party propped up by corporate money and hyperventilating media.
The Democratic Party must maintain the fiction of liberalism just as the Republican Party must maintain the fiction of conservatism. These two parties, however, belong to one partythe corporate party. They will work in concert, as seen by the alliance between Republican leaders such as McCain and Democratic leaders such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, to get rid of Trump, silence all dissent, enrich the war industry and promote the farce they call democracy.
Welcome to our annus horribilis.