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The Kazakhstan Connection: Trump, Bayrock And Plenty Of Questions

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.'Buffalo Springfield song, "For What It's Worth," 1967
By Richard Behar
Is a former Mob-connected hustlera real estate developer who in 2010 worked on the same floor as Donald Trump as his "Senior Advisor"threatening to spill some beans that could harm the President's reputation?
[Image: Felix-Sater-300x169.jpg]Felix Sater

Sure looks that way, based on an intriguing Wall Street Journal story that exposed aspects of a bitter feud between two of Trump's former key business associates. The newspaper revealed that the Russia-born Felix Satera twice-convicted one-time Mafia associateis demanding hush money from a former boss, Kazakhstan-born Tevfik Arif, whose Bayrock Group worked in a close partnership for nearly a decade with the Trump Organization.
Sater warned Arif, in writing, that news headlines will read: "The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump," unless Arif forks over $3.5 million to reimburse Sater for legal expenses he claims he's owed, the Journal reported. Specifically, Sater is threatening to reveal negative information about Arif's "past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan"as well as Arif's alleged connections to "organized crime figures and his business activities in Kazakhstan," which involve "dealings in the post-Soviet metals industry there."
Spokespeople for Bayrock and Arif have called the allegations "unsubstantiated falsehoods." The general counsel of Trump Organization didn't respond to calls and emails.

Why this story matters

I discovered some missing bricks in the murky Bayrock-Trump edifice as reported by Forbes in October. As for Kazakhstan, sorting out the bewildering tangle (what Russians call a zaputannyj klubok) could take years. But why should anyone even care about it?
[Image: Trump-Artif-Sater-NPO-image-300x181.jpg]Trump, Tevik Arif and Felix Sater (NPO screen shot)

Here are just a few reasons:
It's a good bet that the Trump-Bayrock relationship will receive scrutiny in Washington. It certainly should be front and center in any serious investigation. Two months ago, Sater burst onto the front-pages when it was revealed that he and one of Trump's top lawyers delivered a Ukraine peace proposal to the White House. In late March, then-FBI director James Comey was asked about Sater's relationship with the FBI when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee. (He declined to comment on it, likely because the twice-convicted Sater spent a decade as a secret government cooperator for both the FBI and at times, the CIA).
Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, just as the Senate Intelligence Committee's probe into Russia's interference in the presidential election has been shifting into a higher gear. Apart from that probe, Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday that he wants his committee to look into whether Trump has any business dealings in Russia. Near the start of a hearing that committee held on Monday, another Senator dropped the name "Sater."
Trump and Sater have been doing an odd dance around each other during the past few years, regarding how much they've interacted. In 2010, Sater was made a "Senior Advisor to Donald Trump" and given an office on Trump's floor in the Trump Tower, where he worked for roughly one year. Nevertheless, Trump consistently has testified in civil cases that he barely knew Sater, barely dealt with him and "wouldn't recognize him if he was sitting in this [deposition] room." However, Sater, in another civil case said he would often pop his head into Trump's office to give him updates on a Moscow hotel deal he had in the works. (It doesn't appear that the project came to fruition.) Last September, I half-joked to Sater that he must have a photo album filled with pictures of himself with Trump. "A photo album?" he responded. "How aboutsix!"
While it seems unlikely that the Bayrock real estate enterprise will be Trump's Waterloo, it is, without a doubt, a subject that reporters need to continue chipping away at. In part, because all the key playersfrom Sater and Arif to Trump and his aides, to tycoons in and from Kazakhstan and Russiarefuse to shed any real sunlight on it. And, as the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once famously said: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
Richard Behar

Sater, however, may not even need the dough. I've discovered that he and a former Trump Organization colleague, Daniel Ridloff, received roughly $20 millionin a settlement of a case that is linked to an alleged multi-billion-dollar global money laundering scheme originating in Kazakhstan, and stretching to Russia and the U.S.
[Image: Tri-County-Mall-Google-satellite-image-300x158.jpg]Tri-County Mall (Google satellite image)

Specifically, both men were accused in a 2013 complaint filed by a Swiss financier of absconding with nearly $43 million from the sale of an Ohio shopping mall (Tri-County Mall near Cincinnati) toAmerican Pacific International Capital (APIC). That company is based in San Francisco. One of the directors is businessman Neil Bushthe son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush.
In the shopping center complaint, the financier included an exhibita 2007 New York Times article that revealed numerous details about Sater's criminal past. The article said Sater had pled guilty and become a cooperating federal witness. Sater's cooperation agreement was unsealed by a federal judge in 2013, but many other documents in related cases are under court seal.
Five days after the Tri-County mall complaint was filed, the case was settled.
Neither Sater or Ridloff, whose LinkedIn bio says he worked in "Acquisitions & Finance" in 2010 for the Trump Organization, will comment about the subject. In his own LinkedIn bio, Sater describes himself as a former "Senior Advisor to Board of Directors" of one of Neil Bush's oil companies (TxOil) that once drilled in Turkmenistan, an oil-rich part of the former Soviet Union.
Bush tells me he's never heard of Sater. Bush also says that the mall was purchased for $43 million by APIC at a public auction, and then transferred to a Singapore publicly-held real estate company that he chairs called SingHaiyi Group. "I helped the group [SingHaiyi] find the property through a friend," he says. When told about the subsequent litigation against Sater and Ridloff, Bush says: "I don't remember anything like that. We bought it at a sheriff's auction. If the funds filtered through some undesignated [entity] or intermediary, I'm unaware of that."
A second lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal Court (Southern District of New York) may shed additional light on Sater and Ridloff's Kazakhstan-related business activity. In this case, the BTA Bank (once one of Kazakhstan's largest banks) and the government of Almaty (the country's largest city) are accusing three Kazakh mena former Almaty mayor, his son, and a former chairman of BTA Bankof absconding with billions of dollars and laundering the money.
The defendantsViktor and Ilyas Khrapunov, and Mukhtar Ablyazov, respectivelydeny the allegations and claim the charges are politically motivated.
That's not the view of Matthew L. Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, now in private practice at the prestigious law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, who represents the city of Almaty and the bank. "The international financial fraud perpetrated by Ablyazov, Viktor and Ilyas Khrapunov, and their associates is as large and far-flung as they come," Schwartz says. "It involves billions of dollars and has touched at least two dozen different countriesfrom Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine to the United States, England, and Franceand just about everyplace else."
Schwartz adds: "We'll follow the money stolen by these fugitives wherever they may try to hide it." (A Switzerland-based spokesperson for the family welcomed questions, but declined to respond to any.)
Needless to say, the sagaa saga within a sagais very complicated. A declaration in the Khrapunov case is by Nicolas Bourg, who happens to be the same Swiss financier who accused Sater and Ridloff of stealing the $43 million from the Ohio mall deal. In the declaration, he says that he was president of a real estate fund (named Swiss Development Group, or SDG) that was controlled by the Khrapunov family "and used to conceal the movement and investment of his family's money."
[Image: Trump-SoHo-Hotel-195x300.jpg]Trump SoHo Hotel (Google Streetview)

Time out. Where does Trump fit into all this? In October, the Financial Times revealed that three Trump Soho condos in Manhattan were bought in 2013 with $3.1 million that came from the alleged Khrapunov laundering caper. Trump Soho was 18% owned by Trump at the time. There is no evidence that Trump was involved or knowledgeable about the Khrapunovs. But he seems to have benefitted.
In addition, bank statements submitted by City of Almaty lawyers indicate that the ultimate beneficiary of the companies that bought the condos was Elvira Kudryashovathe California-based daughter of Viktor Khrapunov. The FT reported that correspondence and company documents seen by the newspaper showed that Sater and Ridloff worked closely with Kudryashova in 2012.
"They agreed to serve as directors of a company through which she would pour $3 million into a business venture as part of her efforts to secure a U.S. investor visa," wrote the newspaper.
Sater and Ridloff, my reporting shows, ran the U.S. arm of the Khrapunov's SDG entity at the time. Another connection is in the Linked-In bio of Ridloff's, where he refers to himself as the former vice president of SDG-Investment Fund.
Bourg, the Swiss financier alleging fraud in the Ohio mall sale, maintains in his declaration that a shell entity he created in LuxembourgTriadouwas an investment vehicle wholly-owned and controlled by SDG. Bourg states that Triadou was also the entity used to buy the Ohio shopping mall.
An exhibit with the declaration from Swiss financier Bourg includes emails to Felix Sater and others in 2014 with "swift code" details for an account at a now-defunct rogue bank that was headquartered in Dubai. Swift codes are used for international money transfers. In 2015, the bank, FBME, formerly Federal Bank of the Middle East, was banned from operating in the U.S. due to money laundering and terror financing allegations. The email to Sater cites an entity called Telford International, which was allegedly used to move the money toFBME.
Andclosing the circleTelford was used to fund Triadou, the entity that bought and sold the Ohio mall, according to Bourg. has obtained an audio recording in which three of Bayrock's top four executives can be heard discussing coal and oil projects involving Bayrock and Sater, in which the name "Khrapunov" and "his son" are mentioned. The recording was made in Bayrock's offices in the Trump Tower in 2008. In all likelihood, the references are to Viktor Khrapunov and his son Ilyas.
The recording was made just three months before Viktor reportedly fled Kazakhstan as a fugitive. Ilyas is also accused by Kazakh authorities of money laundering and is a fugitive. Excerpts from the audio are here, and emails penned by Sater in 2007 from Kazakhstan also talk about a coal deal he had just closedthree days after arriving in Kazakhstan without a visa. Whether the emails are referring specifically to a Khrapunov deal is unknown.
The Russian-born Sater spent a year in prison in 1993 after pleading guilty to assaulting a man with a broken glass during an argument with in a bar. (The victim required more than 100 facial stitches.) Next, he pled guilty in 1998 to racketeering. Specifically, he helped run a huge pump-and-dump stock fraud with members and associates from four of New York's five Italian mafia familiesincluding the brother-in-law of Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the Mafia hitman turned Gotti-informer.
In a press release two years later that cited Sater, New York's then-police commissioner dubbed the case "Goodfellas meets Boiler Room"a reference to both the classic film and to cold-calling operations where salespeople often peddle fraudulent securities. This time around, Sater avoided prison by becoming a government cooperator for more than a decade, ratting out mobsters.
MAY 15, 2017 | C. COLLINS


[Image: image3-3-700x470.jpg]Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifying during US Senate hearing on Global Threats, May 11, 2017. Photo credit: Watch the video on C-SPAN
President Donald Trump's own words link the firing of James Comey as FBI director to the Bureau's Russia probe. That move, however, might not have been well thought out because Andrew McCabe, Comey's deputy and temporary replacement, could have unique firsthand knowledge of potential ties between Trump and organized crime in the former Soviet Union.
This creates an intriguing if complex and nuanced situation that could influence Trump as he decides whether to replace McCabe as interim director.
How this important but overlooked factor discussed in no other reporting of the drama around the Comey firing, the search for an interim FBI director, McCabe, and Trump will play out is uncertain. But the importance of McCabe's prior history is part of the hidden backstory between the FBI and Trump.

First, a quick review.
In an exclusive WhoWhatWhy investigation published in March, we told the story of Felix Sater, the Russian-born financial criminal whose real estate development firm Bayrock partnered with Trump on numerous troubled projects while Sater was working as an FBI informant. Further, pending civil litigation alleges that Bayrock, whose offices were just a floor beneath Trump's in Trump Tower, served as a massive money laundering operation for funds from the former Soviet Union.
In the mid-1990s, Sater had been one of the chiefs of State Street, a mobbed-up financial brokerage that racked up tens of millions of dollars in profits in a few short years and fleeced thousands. Sater and 21 others were swept up in the high-profile FBI operation that targeted the brokerage, which included associates of both Italian crime families and the Russian mob which includes Sater. Sater then "flipped" and became an informant, after pleading guilty to a single count of racketeering. He was working at Bayrock a few short years later.

It turns out that the paths of Andrew McCabe and Felix Sater intersect.
McCabe worked for 20 years in the New York field office of the FBI. According to older FBI biographical information, he joined the New York office in 1996, when he worked on "organized crime matters." In 2003, "he became the supervisory special agent of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, a joint operation with the New York City Police Department."
"Eurasian organized crime" is the FBI designation for crime that originates from the former Soviet Union, including Russia and Ukraine.
Curiously, McCabe's most recent official biography does not include this aspect of his career, and recent press profiles also do not include this fact (although older press releases do so). (This reporter could find no discussion of this period of McCabe's career in previous press reporting.)
[Image: image1-3-1024x682.jpg]FBI Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe speaks at a press conference on July 20, 2016; with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Photo credit: FBI

It was the FBI's organized crime unit in New York that investigated State Street, the mobbed-up brokerage where Felix Sater held sway in the mid-1990s. Sater has been named in numerous press reports in connection with the Russian mob. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), during hearings into Russian interference in the US election, last week noted that Sater's family has links to organized crime and called Sater a "colorful character." Sater's father has been tied to the criminal organization of Semion Mogilevich, perhaps the most powerful of organized crime bosses in the former Soviet Union, and considered a national security threat by US law enforcement. (To WhoWhatWhy, Sater has denied knowledge of or connections to Eurasian mobsters.)
Whether McCabe worked specifically on the State Street case is unclear, but he certainly was in the organized crime section while that high-profile, multi-year investigation was ongoing.
State Street closed as the FBI got close in 1996, Sater signed his cooperation agreement in 1998, the State Street indictments were unsealed in 2000 and Sater was working at Bayrock in Trump Tower by early 2002.
Sater and Bayrock went on to partner on multiple deals with Trump, including the Trump SoHo. Most of the Bayrock projects failed very badly, leaving a string of lawsuits across multiple states.
While at Bayrock, Sater regularly traveled to Europe, including Poland, Russia, and Ukraine, with numerous trips to Crimea, ostensibly in search of possible development projects that could bear the Trump name projects that never seemed to reach the drawing board stage. To reiterate, Sater was working as an FBI informant throughout the years he was at Bayrock (until early 2008).
Thus McCabe, as supervisory special agent of the Eurasian organized crime unit in New York from 2003 to 2006, would seem likely to have known very well what Sater was up to and intelligence he had gathered. In addition, he would have been aware of Sater's relationship with Trump and possibly Trump's financial relationships in the former Soviet Union at a time when he was struggling to find funding in the US after his numerous bankruptcies.
McCabe also would likely be privy to information about goings-on at Trump Tower, which was a hive of wealthy Russians and others from the former Soviet Union, as well as people like Paul Manafort, who lived in Trump Tower and was actively engaged in supporting pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and business interests tied to organized crime including Mogilevich from 2005. (Manafort is Trump's long-time friend who served for a period as his campaign manager.)
As must be stressed, Trump's risk regarding Sater is enormous in multiple ways. While at Bayrock and serving as an FBI informant Sater was entering contracts with lenders and clients, and because of his past as a financial criminal, this was a crime. Indeed, Sater was forced to pull out of Bayrock after a New York Times articlein late 2007 outed him as a felon, making his position at Bayrock untenable.
If it could be proven that Trump knew that Sater was a financial criminal and did business with him anyway, it would expose Trump to massive financial liability. This is because parties to bank loans and investment contracts must confirm that no owner or manager has been convicted of fraud, and if that confirmation is false, anyone who knew of the fraud is potentially liable.
If Trump or anyone around him such as other Trump Organization executives, accountants, and lawyers had knowledge of Sater's criminal past and yet entered into contracts with Sater and Bayrock, Trump and his company would then be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars and possible jail time. The same would be true even if someone learned about Sater's criminal status aftersigning the contract but continued with it.
Yet what if that criminal was considered protected by his informant status with the FBI?
Revealing the criminality on the part of anyone who entered into contracts with Sater despite being aware of his criminal history would also reveal the role of the FBI and Department of Justice and what they knew about Sater's alleged shady deals and activities while using him as an informant.

McCabe, as a former supervisory special agent of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force in New York, would be especially well informed of the players and issues regarding the former Soviet Union.
These insights, gained over a 20-year career in New York, would provide him with a unique understanding while overseeing an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as Trump business connections to those in the former Soviet Union. New York is not only the unofficial headquarters of the Russian-speaking community in the US, it is also the center of much financial and other crime tied to the former Soviet Union.
McCabe would likely also have knowledge of potentially problematic issues, such as possible crimes committed by Sater at Bayrock while working as an informant (from which Trump could have profited), questions regarding Trump's previous relationship with the Bureau, as well as the current and former FBI agents who either are or may have been connected to Trump or his campaign.
This is something the president could be aware of: members of his private security detail during the campaign and after included former FBI agents, one of which Gary Uher not only worked in the organized crime section at the same time as McCabe, but investigated and then worked with Sater on the State Street case, as reported exclusively by WhoWhatWhy.
This information, completely overlooked by the rest of the media, adds another layer of complexity and intrigue to the unfolding drama of the Russia investigation that will overshadow everything Trump does until it is resolved one way or another. It also underscores how much we do not know or are not being told.
Quote:Well worth reading and thinking matter how much one hates Trumpf and what he stands for [as I do!!!!], to remove him or try to in any means other than legally and with good and real rationale, will further weaken the already nearly dead democracy of the USA. Personally, I think the Trumpf administration will go down in history as a marker - a turning point - after which the unraveling of what remained of US democracy came apart quickly and utterly.

Will Russiagate Hysteria Lead to an American Soft Coup'?

Posted on May 15, 2017
By Robert Parry / Consortiumnews
[Image: Donald_Trump_Sergey_Lavrov_590.jpg]
President Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second from left, at the White House last Wednesday. Lavrov is Vladimir Putin's top diplomat, and the meeting was Trump's highest-level face-to-face contact with a Russian government official since taking office. Fourth from right is the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Where is Stanley Kubrick when we need him? If he hadn't died in 1999, he would be the perfect director to transform today's hysteria over Russia into a theater-of-the-absurd movie reprising his Cold War classic, "Dr. Strangelove," which savagely satirized the madness of nuclear brinksmanship and the crazed ideology behind it.
To prove my point, The Washington Post on Thursday published a lengthy story entitled in the print editions "Alarm at Russian in White House" about a Russian photographer who was allowed into the Oval Office to photograph President Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The Post cited complaints from former U.S. intelligence officials who criticized the presence of the Russian photographer as "a potential security breach" because of "the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics."
To bolster this alarm, the Post cited a Twitter comment from President Obama's last deputy CIA director, David S. Cohen, stating, "No, it was not" a sound decision to admit the Russian photographer who also works for the Russian news agency, Tass, which published the photo.One could picture Boris and Natasha, the evil spies in the Bullwinkle cartoons, disguised as photographers slipping listening devices between the cushions of the sofas.
Or we could hear how Russians are again threatening to "impurify all of our precious bodily fluids," as "Dr. Strangelove" character, Gen. Jack D. Ripper, warned us in the 1964 movie.
Watching that brilliant dark comedy again might actually be a good idea to remind us how crazy Americans can get when they're pumped up with anti-Russian propaganda, as is happening again now.
Taking Down Trump
I realize that many Democrats, liberals and progressives hate Donald Trump so much that they believe that any pretext is justified in taking him down, even if that plays into the hands of the neoconservatives and other warmongers. Many people who detest Trump view Russiagate as the most likely path to achieve Trump's impeachment, so this desirable end justifies whatever means.
Some people have told me that they even believe that it is the responsibility of the major news media, the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and members of Congress to engage in a "soft coup" against Trump also known as a "constitutional coup" or "deep state coup" for the "good of the country."
The argument is that it sometimes falls to these establishment institutions to "correct" a mistake made by the American voters, in this case, the election of a largely unqualified individual as U.S. president. It is even viewed by some anti-Trump activists as a responsibility of "responsible" journalists, government officials and others to play this "guardian" role, to not simply "resist" Trump but to remove him.
There are obvious counter-arguments to this view, particularly that it makes something of a sham of American democracy. It also imposes on journalists a need to violate the ethical responsibility to provide objective reporting, not taking sides in political disputes.
But The New York Times and The Washington Post, in particular, have made it clear that they view Trump as a clear and present danger to the American system and thus have cast aside any pretense of neutrality.
The Times justifies its open hostility to the president as part of its duty to protect "the truth"; the Post has adopted a slogan aimed at Trump, "Democracy Dies in Darkness." In other words, America's two most influential political newspapers are effectively pushing for a "soft coup" under the guise of defending "democracy" and "truth."
But the obvious problem with a "soft coup" is that America's democratic process, as imperfect as it has been and still is, has held this diverse country together since 1788 with the notable exception of the Civil War.
If Americans believe that the Washington elites are removing an elected president even one as buffoonish as Donald Trump it could tear apart the fabric of national unity, which is already under extraordinary stress from intense partisanship.
That means that the "soft coup" would have to be carried out under the guise of a serious investigation into something grave enough to justify the president's removal, a removal that could be accomplished by congressional impeachment, his forced resignation, or the application of the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to judge a president incapable of continuing in office (although that could require two-thirds votes by both houses of Congress if the president fights the maneuver).
A Big Enough Scandal'
That is where Russiagate comes in. The gauzy allegation that Trump and/or his advisers somehow colluded with Russian intelligence officials to rig the 2016 election would probably clear the threshold for an extreme action like removing a president.
And, given the determination of many key figures in the establishment to get rid of Trump, it should come as no surprise that no one seems to care that no actual government-verified evidence has been revealed publicly to support any of the Russiagate allegations.
There's not even any public evidence from U.S. government agencies that Russia did "meddle" in the 2016 election oreven if Russia did slip Democratic emails to WikiLeaks (which WikiLeaks denies)there has been zero evidence that the scheme resulted from collusion with Trump's campaign.
The FBI has been investigating these suspicions for at least nine months, even reportedly securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page, an American whom Trump briefly claimed as a foreign policy adviser when Trump was under fire for not having any foreign policy advisers.
One of Page's alleged offenses was that he gave a speech to an academic conference in Moscow in July 2016 that was mildly critical of how the U.S. treated countries from the former Soviet Union. He also once lived in Russia and met with a Russian diplomat who apparently unbeknownst to Page had been identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.
It appears that is enough, in these days of our New McCarthyism, to get an American put under a powerful counter-intelligence investigation.
The FBI and the Department of Justice also reportedly are including as part of the Russiagate investigation Trump's stupid campaign joke calling on the Russians to help find the tens of thousands of emails that Hillary Clinton erased from the home server that she used while Secretary of State.
On July 27, 2016, Trump said, apparently in jest, "I will tell you this, Russia: If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."
The comment fit with Trump's puckish, provocative and often tasteless sense of humor, but was seized on by Democrats as if it were a serious suggestionas if anyone would use a news conference to seriously urge something like that. But it now appears that the FBI is grabbing at any straw that might support its investigation.
The (U.K.) Guardian reported this week that "Senior DoJ officials have declined to release the documents [about Trump's comment] on grounds that such disclosure could interfere with enforcement proceedings'. In a filing to a federal court in Washington DC, the DoJ states that because of the existence of an active, ongoing investigation, the FBI anticipates that it will … withhold all records'.
"The statement suggests that Trump's provocative comment last July is being seen by the FBI as relevant to its own ongoing investigation."
The NYT's Accusations
On Friday, in the wake of Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and the President's characterization of Russiagate as "a total hoax," The New York Times reprised what it called "The Trump-Russia Nexus" in a lead editorial trying to make the case of some fire behind the smoke.

Though the Times acknowledges that there are "many unknowns" in Russiagate and the Times can't seem to find any evidence of collusion, such as slipping a Russian data stick to WikiLeaks, the Times nevertheless treats a host of Trump advisers and family members as traitors because they've had some association with Russian officials, Russian businesses or Russian allies.
Regarding Carter Page, the Times wrote: "American officials believe that Mr. Page, a foreign policy adviser, had contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign. He also gave a pro-Russia speech in Moscow in July 2016. Mr. Page was once employed by Merrill Lynch's Moscow office, where he worked with Gazprom, a government-owned giant."
You might want to let some of those words sink in, especially the part about Page giving "a pro-Russia speech in Moscow," which has been cited as one of the principal reasons for Page and his communications being targeted under a FISA warrant.
I've actually read Page's speech and to call it "pro-Russia" is a wild exaggeration. It was a largely academic treatise that faulted the West's post-Cold War treatment of the nations formed from the old Soviet Union, saying the rush to a free-market system led to some negative consequences, such as the spread of corruption.
But even if the speech were "pro-Russia," doesn't The New York Times respect the quaint American notion of free speech? Apparently not. If your carefully crafted words can be twisted into something called "pro-Russia," the Times seems to think it's OK to have the National Security Agency bug your phones and read your emails.The Ukraine Case
Another Times' target was veteran political adviser Paul Manafort, who is accused of working as "a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and for Ukraine's former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Kremlin."
Left out of that Times formulation is the fact that the Ukrainian political party, which had strong backing from ethnic Russian Ukrainiansnot just Russiacompeted in a democratic process and that Yanukovych won an election that was recognized by international observers as free and fair.
Yanukovych was then ousted in February 2014 in a violent putsch that was backed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. The putsch, which was spearheaded by right-wing nationalists and even neo-Nazis, touched off Ukraine's civil war and the secession of Crimea, the key events in the escalation of today's New Cold War between NATO and Russia.
Though I'm no fan of U.S. political hired-guns selling their services in foreign elections, there was nothing illegal or even unusual about Manafort advising a Ukrainian political party. What arguably was much more offensive was the U.S. support for an unconstitutional coup that removed Yanukovych even after he agreed to a European plan for early elections so he could be voted out of office peacefully.
But the Times, the Post and virtually the entire Western mainstream media sided with the Ukrainian coup-makers and hailed Yanukovych's overthrow. That attitude has become such a groupthink that the Times has banished the thought that there was a coup.
Still, the larger political problem confronting the United States is that the neoconservatives and their junior partners, the liberal interventionists, now control nearly all the levers of U.S. foreign policy. That means they can essentially dictate how events around the world will be perceived by most Americans.
The neocons and the liberal hawks also want to continue their open-ended wars in the Middle East by arranging the commitment of additional U.S. military forces to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syriaand perhaps a new confrontation with Iran.
Early in Obama's second term, it became clear to the neocons that Russia was becoming the chief obstacles to their plans because President Barack Obama was working closely with President Vladimir Putin on a variety of projects that undermined neocon hopes for more war.
Particularly, Putin helped Obama secure an agreement from Syria to surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013 and to get Iran to accept tight constraints on its nuclear program in 2014. In both cases, the neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks were lusting for war.
Immediately after the Syria chemical-weapons deal in September 2013, key U.S. neocons began focusing on Ukraine as what National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman called "the biggest prize" and a first step toward unseating Putin in Moscow.
Gershman's grant-giving NED stepped up its operations inside Ukraine while Assistant Secretary Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan, began pushing for regime change in Kiev (along with other neocons, including Sen. John McCain).
The Ukraine coup in 2014 drove a geopolitical wedge between Obama and Putin, since the Russian president couldn't just stand by when a virulently anti-Russian regime took power violently in Ukraine, which was the well-worn route for invasions into Russia and housed Russia's Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol in Crimea.
Rather than defend the valuable cooperation provided by Putin, Obama went with the political flow and joined in the Russia-bashing as key neocons raised their sights and put Putin in the crosshairs.
An Unexpected Obstacle
For the neocons in 2016, there also was the excited expectation of a Hillary Clinton presidency to give more momentum to the expensive New Cold War. But then Trump, who had argued for a new détente with Russia, managed to eke out an Electoral College win.
Perhaps Trump could have diffused some of the hostility toward him, but his narcissistic personality stopped him from extending an olive branch to the tens of millions of Americans who opposed him. He further demonstrated his political incompetence by wasting his first days in office making ridiculous claims about the size of his inaugural crowds and disputing the fact that he had lost the popular vote.
Widespread public disgust over his behavior contributed to the determination of many Americans to "resist" his presidency at all junctures and at all costs.
Russiagate, the hazy suggestion that Putin put Trump in the White House and that Trump is a Putin "puppet" (as Clinton claimed), became the principal weapon to use in destroying Trump's presidency.
However, besides the risks to U.S. stability that would come from an establishment-driven "soft coup," there is the additional danger of ratcheting up tensions so high with nuclear-armed Russia that this extreme Russia-bashing takes on a lifeor arguably many, many deathsof its own.
Which is why America now might need a piercing satire of today's Russia-phobia or at least a revival of the Cold War classic, "Dr. Strangelove," subtitled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

Beyond the Madness of King Donald

Posted on May 15, 2017
By Paul Street
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Donald Trump has a 40 percent approval rating. (Pixabay)

President Frankenstein, Donald Trump, has been pretty much the bizarre "insane clown president" (Matt Taibbi's phrase) that I and many others expected. He's only shocked me twice: his weird Twitter meltdown alleging that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones and his appallingly timed firing of FBI Director James Comey on grounds that seemed to take us all for complete idiots.
Banana Republic' President
Does Trump's dismissal of Comey prove that the president is in cahoots with Russia? No, it shows that Trump was incensed with Comey for cooperating with the Senate investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, for ramping up the FBI's inquiry into the same matter, for drawing too much media attention and for contradicting Trump's wacky wiretapping charge.
Lack of outward devotion to the new commander in chief is what got Comey canned. His sin was insufficient fealty to Herr Donald. In a sharp New Yorker essay published one day before the Comey discharge, Evan Osnos reported on an instructive dialogue he had with Jerry Taylor, president of the libertarian Niskanen Center:
It is not a good sign for a beleaguered President when his party gets dragged down, too. From January to April, the number of Americans who had a favorable view of the Republican Party dropped seven points, to forty per cent, according to the Pew Research Center. I asked … Taylor … if he had ever seen so much skepticism so early in a Presidency. "No, nobody has," he said. "But we've never lived in a Third World banana republic. I don't mean that gratuitously. I mean the reality is he is governing as if he is the President of a Third World country: power is held by family and incompetent loyalists whose main calling card is the fact that Donald Trump can trust them, not whether they have any expertise." [emphasis added]
Comey was shown the door because he failed to obsequiously kiss the ring of the orange-haired beast, who shows great admiration for authoritarian strong men like Vladimir Putin (Russia), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (Egypt) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey).
Whatever his motives and intentions, Trump has, if anything, poured fuel on the Russiagate fire. Recall that it was the cover-up, not the Watergate burglary itself that undid Richard Nixonanother strange and paranoid authoritarian with a knack for cloistering himself off from reality and surrounding himself with frightened yes men.
The firing certainly looks like a Russia-related cover-up to many, especially to political and media actors who are locked into a neo-McCarthyite Russia witch-hunt. Many top Democrats and corporate news elites are fiercely determined to tar Trump with a Kremlin brush. Now they can probably enlist some key Republicans to join them in calling for an independent special committee or special prosecutor to investigate Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 election.
Fortress Trump: His Drug is Himself'
Trump fanned the flames further with his preposterous initial claim to have acted because of how Comey reignited the Hillary Clinton email scandal on the eve of the election. As anyone who pays remotely serious attention to U.S. politics knows, candidate Trump praised Comey's disturbing October surprise, which may have inflicted significant damage on the Clinton campaign. Now Trump is angry at how Comey helped undermine "Crooked Hillary"? It doesn't wash.
Did Trump really think that Democrats and others would fall for his pretext for firing Comey and not see Comey's removal as an effort to derail federal investigations into his real and/or alleged Russian connectionsand into whatever else might come up in the process? Is he really surprised, as he tells Fox News, that his move sparked a huge backlash? Could he really be that out of it? Seriously?
Yes, it's quite possible that he is that clueless. Look at what Osnos discovered from his in-depth research on the young Trump presidency:
By this point in George W. Bush's term, Bush had travelled to twenty-three states and a foreign country. Trump has visited just nine states and has never stayed the night. He inhabits a closed world that one adviser recently described to me as Fortress Trump.' Rarely venturing beyond the White House and Mar-a-Lago, he measures his fortunes through reports from friends, staff, and a feast of television coverage of himself. Media is Trump's drug of choice,' Sam Nunberg, an adviser on his campaign, told me recently. "He doesn't drink. He doesn't do drugs. His drug is himself."
It's not clear how fully Trump apprehends the threats to his Presidency. Unlike previous Republican Administrations, Fortress Trump contains no party elder with the stature to check the President's decisions. "There is no one around him who has the ability to restrain any of his impulses, on any issue ever, for any reason," Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican consultant, said, adding, "Where is the What the fuck' chorus?"
Trump's insulation from unwelcome information appears to be growing as his challenges mount. His longtime friend Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax Media, talked with him recently at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House. "He tends to not like a lot of negative feedback," Ruddy told me. Ruddy has noticed that some of Trump's associates are unwilling to give him news that will upset him. "I don't think he realizes how fully intimidating he is to many people, because he's such a large guy and he's so powerful," Ruddy went on. "I already sense that a lot of people don't want to give him bad news about things. I've already been approached by several people that'll say, He's got to hear this. Could you tell him?' "
The madness of would-be king Donald is no small matter. It's all very Czar Nicholas and Richard Nixon-like.
Malignant Dunning-Kruger Narcissism
It is the on-record opinion of many mental health professionals that Trump exhibits hallmark characteristics of the psychological condition known as "malignant narcissism … characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies," Osnos reported.
READ: The Psychopathology of Donald Trump
Malignant narcissists live in bizarre defiance of reality and of anything that doesn't fit their lavish sense of their own superiority and excellence. They delight in the humiliation and even the crippling and killing of others.
I would add another psychological dimension here: the "Dunning-Kruger effect." As Wikipedia explains: This is "a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately."
It's not just that Trump is stupid. It's that he thinks he's really, really smart, something the outside world has certainly been telling him for decades by showering him with absurdly undeserved riches and power. And he's got nobody around him with the standing or courage to tell him otherwise to check either his folly or his hubristic taste for ruling with sheer impunity.
On this last characteristic, recall Trump's "locker room" comment: "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything." Remember also his campaign statement that he could stand on New York's Fifth Avenue "and shoot somebody" and still not lose voters.
Removal Prior to 2020?
Could Trump be removed before the end of his first term either through a 25th Amendment ejection (on grounds of incapacitation) or impeachment (on criminal grounds)? Given Republican control of both the U.S. House and the Senate, I would have put the chances of that at less than 10 percent before the Comey firing.
Now, the chances have gone up significantly, especially if Democrats take back the House in 2018. Trump is counting on keeping enough of his base supporterspeople who would let him "do anything," even shoot somebody in broad daylightso Republican legislators will not feel compelled to abandon him.

The most likely scenario is that Trump will just limp through three-and-a-half more years as a badly damaged and epically ineffective president and not be put up again in 2020. Look for "deep state" actors from the intelligence agencies he so foolishly antagonized to undermine his waning legitimacy with a steady drumbeat of crippling revelations. The stress of the presidency (for which he is clearly not fit) may elicit a stroke, heart attack or some other health crisis that will finish him off as president. He already shows significant signs of dementia.
For A New Organizing of Institutions'
How excited should we on the left be at the possibility of Trump being removed prior to the next presidential election? It is certainly desirable that we not have a wicked moron and malicious narcissist with his fingers on the U.S. nuclear arsenal. From that perspective, Trump cannot be defenestrated from the Oval Office soon enough. Yes, Mike Pence is a dangerous white nationalist and Christian fascist, but he would be a very weak caretaker for whatever period he occupied the White House.
Of course, Nixon's forced resignation did nothing to change the dark and neoliberal trajectory of United States history after 1974. Jimmy Carter got four years to advance the corporate and Wall Street agenda and hand the ball off to the monstrous right-winger Ronald Reagan.
The real (democratic-socialist, environmentalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-imperialist) left is no great friend of the FBI and the CIA, the intelligence and police state agencies with which Trump has been tussling. It is not about to hit the streets in support of these repressive agencies or for the dismal dollar Democrats, who have been using the Russiagate ruse to deny their own responsibility for putting a neofascist in the White House and the white nationalist GOP in control of Congress, the Supreme Court and most of the state governments.For any left movement worthy of the label, Trump should be removed because of his racism, his ecocidalism, his fake-populist arch-plutocracy, his sexism, and his murderous militarism, not because he's a friend of Russia and has ticked off the FBI, the CIA and the neoliberal masters of the Democratic Party.
All this talk about how Russia supposedly intervened to undermine our supposed great "democracy" is quite childish. You don't have to be a Marxist to understand that U.S. politics and policy have been subject to an "unelected dictatorship of money" over the past three-plus decades. Six years into Obama's presidency, the liberal political scientists Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern) reported the U.S. political system has become "an oligarchy," where wealthy elites and their corporations "rule." Examining data from more than 1,800 different policy initiatives in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Gilens and Page found that wealthy and well-connected elites consistently steer the direction of the country, regardless of (or even against) the will of the U.S. majority, and regardless of which party holds the White House or Congress.
"The central point that emerges from our research," Gilens and Page wrote, "is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence." As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo, "ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States." (Maybe it's not "their government"?)
That would be no less true if the "lying neoliberal warmonger" Hillary Clinton (as Adolph Reed Jr. described the Democratic presidential nominee last summer) occupied the White House instead of Trump.
Such is the harsh reality of "really existing capitalist democracy" in the U.S.what Noam Chomsky calls "RECD, pronounced as wrecked.' "
I was very impressed by this comment from Yasser Louati, talking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about the election of the neoliberal investment banker Emmanuel Macron as president of France one week ago: "France does not need an umpteenth new president; it needs a new republic, a new constitution, a new organizing of institutions."
Much the same can be said about the United States. Political institutions that claim to be "democratic"offering voters a binary choice between regressive and dissembling neoliberal shills like the Clintons, Obama, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel, on one hand, and neofascist, white nationalists like Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Frauke Petry and Donald Trump, on the other handdo not deserve our respect.
Impeaching or otherwise removing the Clockwork Orangatun won't alter that basic reality. The United States doesn't need a new and 46th president as much as it needs a democracy, a new constitution, a new organizing of institutionsincluding its frankly absurd and plutocratic election and party systems.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to the end of his life with the belief that the real faults in American life lay not so much in men as in the oppressive institutions and social structures that reigned over them. He wrote that "the radical reconstruction of society itself" was "the real issue to be faced" beyond "superficial" matters. He had no interest, of course, in running for the White House.
There's also the matter of time, what King called the "fierce urgency of now." Impeachment or 25th Amendment removal will have to evolve over many months and even years. But we need to be building great social and political movements for King's project now and cannot be distracted from that endeavor by intra-ruling class power struggles.
The environmental clock telling us to undertake a radical and eco-socialist "reorganizing of institutions" is ticking with each new carbon-warmed day.
If Trump gets dumped, good riddance to him. He's a despicable ogre.
The ruling class is divided. Good. Let us build the organizations that might carry out the great popular and democratic revolution required to save the social and ecological commons and thus preserve chances for a decent and democratic future. Given capitalism's systemically inherent war on livable ecologyemerging now as the biggest issue of our or any timethe formation of such a new and united left-wing popular and institutional presence has become a matter of life and death for the species. "The uncomfortable truth," the Hungarian Marxist philosopher István Mészáros rightly argued 16 years ago, "is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself."

President Trump has appeared to confirm parts of a bombshell Washington Poststory that he disclosed highly classified intelligence last week to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last week during a meeting at the White House. Earlier this morning, Trump tweeted, quote, "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism," the president tweeted. Trump's comment appears to contradict statements from top administration officials last night who claimed The Washington Post report was false.
According to the paper, Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence, what's known as code-name information, about the possible threat of ISIS launching an attack on an airplane using a computer bomb. This is The Washington Post's Greg Miller, one of the co-authors of the article.
GREG MILLER: At some point, Trump starts talking about the great intelligence he gets. He's telling his visitors, 'I get the best briefings. I get the best intelligence,' and proceeds to talk about this threat that is underway that, you know, has been actually publicly talked about for some time. But he goes into details about the specifics of this plot and how it's coming together and what the Islamic State is doing to try to make thisto try to pull this off. And the problem is that the United States knows much of this information because of intelligence that came from a partner, another country.
And you have his own National Security Council staff members, senior officials, who see readouts of what happened. They call the CIA director, call the NSAchief, to warn them: "Look, look, something happened in this meeting with the Russians we need to tell you about." This is in part because they're alarmed and concerned about the blowback. These are agencies, the CIA, that would be directly communicating or dealing with this foreign partner, and they would be most concerned about that relationship going south.
AMY GOODMAN: Senior White House officials were apparently so alarmed by Trump's disclosures that they called the CIA and National Security Agency afterward to warn them of what had happened. Officials said they were concerned Trump's disclosure would jeopardize a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. There's been some speculation that the country of Jordan was the source of the classified intelligence. President Trump is reportedly scheduled to speak by phone this morning with Jordan's King Abdullah. One current U.S. official told BuzzFeed the situation is, quote, "far worse than what has already been reported."
To talk more about the story, we're joined now by two guests. In London, Scott Horton is with us, lecturer at Columbia Law School and contributing editor atHarper's magazine, author of Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare. Here at Stanford University, Larry Diamond is with us, from the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He has served as senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad at the invitation of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Back in 2004, he blasted the Bush administration's handling of the invasion and called for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to be fired and the entire Pentagon leadership to be changed. He's also author of the book Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Larry Diamond, let's begin with you. Your response to this explosive Washington Post exposé?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, good morning, Amy. It's nice to be with you again. And I would say I'm shocked. I ameven knowing that President Trump is new to national security matters, this is shocking. It's frightening. It's intolerable. And I think if we had a Democratic Congress, in itself, it would be grounds for an impeachment investigation.
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, because even though it is literally true, in this case, that the president can declassify any information, he has done, potentially, if the story is, I'd say, even substantially true, grave damage to U.S. national security by burning a major ally, by revealing, if the report is true, intelligence that was so sensitive, we wouldn't even share it with an ally.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by this is an ally's information and how the U.S. burned them.
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, according to the reports, there was someone that one of our allies, presumably in the Middle Eastyou're now, in your reporting, suggesting it may be Jordan, which would be logicalit's one of our closest allies in the region. And it's right there near the center of gravity of ISIS, which is in Syria and Iraq. And they probably had a plant inside ISIS that was revealing this information. So they may have shared that, their intelligence agency, with us, indicating, you know, that it was of the most sensitive nature. People's lives could be at risk from this covert operation. I'm speculating, but it's a logical projection. And to share this not only beyond what they asked, but with a major adversary, who is on the opposite side of this conflict in Syrianamely, Russiais, I think, breathtakingly irresponsible. And so, either he did this in cavalier disregard for the rules and standard procedures in the sensitivity of such highly classified information, or, if his tweet is correct and he decided that he should share this kind of information with Russia, without, it appears, even consulting with his top national security officialsI mean, what's worse? Gross incompetence, gross misjudgment, or possibly a confirmation of compromising ties with the Russians?
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to what happened last night. At an emergency news conference Monday, the national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, spoke for less than a minute and did not take any questions. He said The Washington Poststory, as reported, is false, but he did not deny Trump may have disclosed classified information.
H.R. McMASTER: I just have a brief statement for the record. There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no timeat no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn't happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So that's the national security adviser, General McMaster. He was a colleague of yours here at Stanford University. What do you make of what he's saying?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I think I can speak for my Hoover colleagues, at least the ones I know, in saying that, you know, he is widely respected and highly regarded by people at the Hoover Institution, who have interacted with him, I'd say, over the last 14 or 15 years, since he's spent a year now. He's a very loyal and dedicated servant of our national security. And it pains me that he's having to go through this torture of justifying in a statement here, that was, you will note, very carefully and specifically worded.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by that?
LARRY DIAMOND: He did not say that the president, as you just said, didn't reveal any sensitive information. He said he didn't reveal sources and methods. But what he revealed, if The Washington reportPost report is substantially accurate, what he revealed could enable a sophisticated adversary like Russia to deduce or infer sources and methods.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Professor Diamond, you come from a conservative institution here, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, with your colleague Condoleezza Rice, who you worked with back in the Iraq War. At the time, she sent you to Iraq. You called for Rumsfeld's resignation, a change of leadership, condemned Presidentwhat President Bush was doing in the Iraq War. What is the response of your colleagues at Hoover right now to President Trump?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I'm not going to speak for my colleagues at Hoover. First of all, I can't speak for them collectively. I will say, more generally, I know many Republicans and many conservatives who obviously said this man isn't fit to be president before he was elected and whose concerns, I think, are being vividly confirmed on an almost daily basis now. And I'll just speak for myself in saying that I think we now have increasingly abundant and urgent evidence that this man is not fit to be president, is not fit to handle the national security challenges of the office, doesn't want to read and be briefed with anything like the depth or discipline that a president must, doesn't understand the burdens and sensitivities of these national security issues. And that's just speaking to his incompetence. We don't even know about the extent to which he may be compromised or his campaign may have been compromised by explicit ties with the Russians. And we have, just last week, if you can believe it, the firing of the FBI director in what increasingly appears to have been an explicit effort to shut down the FBI investigation of his campaign's ties to the Russians. And I think it's only going to get worse.
I'm sure everyone by now has heard that Comey was in the habit of committing to memos what had transpired in meetings with politically powerful persons. It seems he also did so whenever he met with Trump or Trump associates. He then circulated a few copies he had initialed of these in the FBI upper-echelons. These have now been subpoenaed in some inquiries and no doubt soon will be in all, along with Comey himself. Trump is a buffoon of a man and has tried to use intimidation throughout his life. He now has cornered himself with [at minimum] obstruction of justice, and very likely more. It begins to look like we'll have a President Pence sooner than later [not a great prospect either]. I currently envisage Trump will put up a great fight, but when it looks as if he will not prevail, he will just resign his office and try to return to his businesses....which may well collapse along with his Presidency, leaving him a man without money. I won't cry. The hardest thing to understand is that 37% or so of the US voting population still have trust in him and his actions. While the Trump Presidency is undergoing a meltdown [as was always likely], I think this will further erode the entire false edifice of the US Political System.......and one can only hope so, and that some will wake up that business/politics/oligarchy as usual is NOT the way forward!...and that the Democrats or a more 'normal' Republican are NOT the solution...we need something completely different and to build a real bottom-up democracy - something we have never had. We also need real choices in the political spectrum...not just A to B on the right. Clinton was a horrible choice and Trump was worse, sadly all too many chose to either not vote, were not allowed to vote or chose the new devil over the old. There was NO sane choice and there hasn't been most of our recent history. If we can't break up the stranglehold of the two [almost one] party system, backed by the Secret Governmental structures, we are a failed Empire soon to end....and I stress soon!

One more side note. Michael Moore has been quietly working on a film designed to bring down Trump and it is about half done and the rights for distribution have been signed and sealed. In a few months when it is released, if Trump is still battling his impeachment and daily scandals, word has it this film will go a long way to sealing his fate with the public - or at least that part of it that still can think for themselves.

I predict that Trump will do the only thing he can in the next weeks - and that will be to get deeply involved in military events and war to rally the folks at home around the flag and what remains of his administration. So more will die needlessly to prop up a failing authoritarian and clown President.

Quote:Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

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James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this month. CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York TimesWASHINGTON President Trump asked the F.B.I.director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
"I hope you can let this go," the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
The documentation of Mr. Trump's request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump's associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all "memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings" of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.
Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would "raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede" the F.B.I.

Michael S. Schmidt, a New York Times reporter, explains new revelations from a memo written by James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director. The memo showed that President Trump may have tried to halt the agency's investigation into Michael T. Flynn.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president's improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent's contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

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Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey's associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.
"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
[URL=""][Image: image-Chaffetz-FBI-Letter-master180.gif]

Document: Representative Jason Chaffetz's Letter to the F.B.I.

[/URL]Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: "I agree he is a good guy."
In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.
"While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn," the statement said. "The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey."
Mr. Chaffetz's letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he

But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.
In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, "There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date." Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.
Mr. Comey created similar memos including some that are classified about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

MAY 16, 2017 | JIMMY FALLS


[Image: image4-2-700x470.jpg]President Ronald Reagan speaking at "Baptist Fundamentalism '84," led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Donald Trump listening to Jerry Falwell Jr. Jerry Falwell. Photo credit: US Air Force / Wikimedia, CSPAN and Liberty University / Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0)
To an objective observer, it might seem odd that President Donald Trump received a hero's welcome at Liberty University Saturday. However, the religious right's idol-worship of the president is only the latest chapter in a long history of conservative Christians selling their souls for 30 pieces of silver, which, in American politics, is a seat at the table.
President Trump was invited to deliver the commencement speech for the graduating class of 2017, the second time a sitting president has done so since George H.W. Bush gave the address there in 1990.
Jerry Falwell, the legendary televangelist and conservative leader who died ten years ago yesterday, founded the university in 1971. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is well known as a bastion of conservative, fundamentalist evangelicalism.
For nearly four decades, evangelicals and the GOP have maintained a strong alliance, the seeds of which were planted by the late Falwell. They shared policy positions and goals such as wanting small government, a strong military, pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-Second Amendment, favoring supply-side economics, and being suspicious of multiculturalism.
Over the years, Falwell helped grow Liberty into thelargest Christian university in the world, with over 80,000 online students, a $1.1 billion endowment, sprawling 7,000 acre campus, and a soon-to-open campus gun range.
The school has become a mandatory campaign stop for would-be Republican politicians. Texas Senator Ted Cruz chose Liberty as the place to announce his presidential candidacy in March 2015. And Trump's May 13 commencement address was the third visit for the president. Last January, he made a campaign stop on the campus right before the Iowa caucuses.
On the occasion of his first visit in 2012, the university conferred on him an honorary doctorate in business. Trump seemed eager to demonstrate his faith credentials, declaring, "But the truth is I went to Sunday school, and I loved going to Sunday school, and I did for years."
You could forgive those who had a hard time picturing the reality TV star as the embodiment of piety.
During his speech on Saturday, he made a point of expressing his gratitude to his local supporters. With good reason. "And I want to thank you, because boy did you come out and vote," said the president, speaking to LIberty's packed football stadium.
On Election Day, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump, a slightly higher percentage than their previously overwhelming votes for the past three Republican presidential candidates.
Pundits were not entirely sure how the evangelical vote would turn out, considering Trump's known baggage: twice divorced, previously pro-choice and in favor of universal healthcare, and feeling the heat from the recently leaked Access Hollywood "grab them by the pussy" remarks. (Jerry Falwell, Jr., the current president of Liberty, blamed the leak on a conspiracy of GOP establishment leaders.)
Indeed, some evangelical leaders, such as Southern Baptist president Al Mohler, expressed grave concern: "But I could not possibly be consistent and somehow vote for someone whose character I believe eclipses Bill Clinton on so many of those very same concerns." He later referred to Trump as a sexual predator.
"Donald Trump is a deeply ambivalent hero for any religious movement, whose only explicit religious beliefs seem to be impulses rather than a deeply-held worldview and whose spiritual loyalties seem malleable," Professor Kate Bowler, who teaches church history at Duke Divinity school, told WhoWhatWhy.
But by and large evangelical leaders got behind the billionaire tycoon, including Franklin Graham Jr., the son of Billy Graham; Focus on the Family's James Dobson; 700 Club founder Pat Robertson; theologian Wayne Grudem; and of course, Jerry Falwell, Jr.
At the Liberty commencement, after prayers, the pledge of allegiance, and the singing of the national anthem, Jerry Falwell Jr. introduced the president: "I do not believe that any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefitted the Christian community in such a short time span than Donald Trump."
For his part, the president reminisced about Reverend Falwell, Sr.:"I used to love watching him on television, hearing him preach. He was a very special man."
Outsiders may have trouble understanding the evangelicals' embrace of Donald Trump. Yet the symbiotic relationship between evangelicals and the GOP stretches back to the 1970's, just before Ronald Reagan's election.
[Image: image2-7-1024x682.jpg]President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony, May 13, 2017 Photo credit: The White House / YouTube

A Georgia Peanut Farmer and "The Moral Majority"

In 1976, Jimmy Carter seemed like the evangelicals' dream president. A peanut farmer from Georgia who taught Sunday school every week, he was widely seen as a person of integrity likely one of the reasons he was elected in the wake of the Nixon-Watergate scandals.
Carter was very open about his Christian faith, and many evangelical leaders had high hopes for him. Bailey Smith, a mega-church pastor from Oklahoma, said that the country needed a "born again man in the White House. And his initials are the same as our Lord!"
Jimmy Carter won the presidency as a Democrat, andNewsweek magazine declared 1976 the Year of the Evangelical.
An admirer of President John F. Kennedy, Carter was instrumental in the historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1978, known as the Camp David Accords, and he was a strong advocate for civil rights, a commitment that went back to his farming days in Georgia.
Carter posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1977.
But increasingly, evangelicals found themselves uncomfortable with Carter's politics and policies, especially his stand on civil rights. The history of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation in the south was intimately tied up with churches that condoned it for generations. The genesis of the Southern Baptist denomination itself was born out of a split over slavery, with the northern Baptists siding with the abolitionist movement.
It took the Southern Baptist church until 1995 to formally renounce slavery and segregation, and to issue an apology for their long-standing failure to support the civil rights movement.
Indeed, Jerry Falwell Sr. was a vocal opponent of Brown v. Board of Education, though he later repented of his sin.
"Falwell founded Lynchburg Christian Academy, a K-12 school in 1967, the same year that Lynchburg public schools desegregated, and it was a whites-only school for two years," Seth Dowland, associate Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University, told WhoWhatWhy.
Four years later, Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College, which was later to be renamed Liberty University.
While opposition to desegregation was common among evangelicals, it wasn't the only issue at play. Many evangelicals thought that public schools were forcing a kind of "secular humanism" on their children, indoctrinating them with belief systems antithetical to their own.
Other important factors in the evangelical disaffection with the Democratic Party were abortion, the Equal Rights amendment, and gay rights. But it was a dispute over money that sealed the political alliance between evangelicals and the GOP.
During the 1970s, the IRS attempted to take away the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, an ultra-conservative Christian college in Greenville, South Carolina, because of its history of racial discrimination, including the failure to admit African-American students, and later prohibition of interracial dating.
The possibility of losing their tax exempt status was a threat to many private Christian schools throughout the south and midwest, many of whom were on a tight budget. Jerry Falwell was incensed and used the collective outrage of southern evangelicals to organize vocal political opposition to what he saw as extreme government overreach.
Falwell's influence and power grew, and an alliance was forged between conservatives and evangelicals who were fed up with the federal government's intrusion into their "religious" affairs. Falwell managed to focus their frustration against Carter, even though the IRS actions predated his presidency.
The alliance between religious and political conservatives found its ultimate expression in Falwell's political organization known as "The Moral Majority."
Despite its origins in opposition to desegregation and concern for maintaining tax exemptions for religious institutions, the Moral Majority fashioned itself as a pro-America, pro-family values political organization.
Its adherents were strongly opposed to abortion, and though Carter was opposed to it personally on moral grounds, he did not waver from the Democratic party's support of the Supreme Court decision, in Roe v. Wade, permitting abortion under certain circumstances.
"Carter made a distinction between his private faith and what he would try to do in public policy that was hugely disappointing to evangelicals," explained Professor Dowland from Pacific Lutheran University. "The thing that Carter didn't do that these high-profile evangelical endorsers wanted him to do was to really champion an evangelical policy agenda in office."
Falwell and his organization actively campaigned for GOP candidate Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election, and raised money for TV and radio ads that targeted Carter.
"He [Falwell] showed himself to be more loyal to Republican politicians, particularly Reagan, than virtually any other evangelical leader," said Dowland.
Reagan won the presidency in a landslide, and the Moral Majority became a force to be reckoned with. No longer could any presidential candidate afford to ignore evangelicals as a political power.
[Image: image1-4-1024x682.jpg]President Jimmy Carter, Moral Majority membership card and Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute flyer, 1981. Photo credit: Children's Bureau Centennial / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), S B Rosencrans / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) andYale Law Library / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Fast forward to 2004. The US is in the midst of a bloody conflict against insurgents in Iraq, one year after President George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. Americans are tired of the war and coming to the realization that the case for invading Iraq was based on lies.
Despite the bloodshed and deceit perpetrated by the Bush administration, the incumbent president won re-election. The consensus of journalists and political scientists was that many Americans, despite any doubts they might have had about the war, voted for Bush over the Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry because of what they called "moral values." This translated into concern about abortion and gay rights, issues which divided Kerry from the evangelical voting bloc, who overwhelmingly rallied to Bush.
The disconnect between a "moral" vote for someone who initiated a pre-emptive war under false pretenses which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths remained inexplicable to many outside the faith.
But when evangelical zeal was translated into politics by the likes of Jerry Falwell, the result was a focus on maintaining traditional institutions and customs against what was perceived as a relentless assault by the forces of modernity .
As a consequence, the nearly 40-year alliance with the GOP has put evangelicals in the awkward position of supporting a president and political party whose policies would appear profoundly antithetical to many of their core principles.
They are preaching the Prince of Peace, who was a champion of outliers of all kinds, yet reluctant to denounce endless war and show concern for sexual minorities. They believe in God's good earth but appear unconcerned about its environmental degradation. They warn of the dangers of money while lauding billionaire oligarchs and tax breaks for the wealthy. They teach compassion and care for the poor and sick but aligned with politicians whose actions belie their claims of empathy.
But these apparent contradictions did not prevent an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals from casting their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. For many of them, "Make America Great Again" signified a cause they identified with, on the conviction that their economic duress and ever decreasing influence on popular culture were maladies that Trump could remedy, despite his not knowing the proper way to cite "2 Corinthians."
As Dowland explained, "that nostalgia is implicitly connected to an era when white Christians had more control, and the ideal was assimilation, not multiculturalism."
So evangelicals went to the voting booth in 2016 with their minds made up. Trump was on the right side of the issues they cared about the most.
"In the course of the campaign," said Bowler, the Duke University professor, "Trump became the unlikely advocate for hot-button evangelical issues a thrice-married man fighting for traditional families,' a sexual braggart at the helm of a purity-obsessed culture."
And the students at Liberty who enthusiastically cheered Trump were following in a long tradition of evangelicals who have learned to redefine "moral values" in ways that would be unrecognizable to the founder of their own religion.
Surprised that no one over here is posting about the new Seth Rich story that broke yesterday. According to a PI (and former DC homicide det.) Rod Wheeler he has been told by an sider that Rich WAS the wikileaks leaker and that the DC police were told to stand down, re Rich's murder. Many of us have been saying this for months.
It is interesting and noteworthy and needs to be confirmed. Wheeler is a VERY strange person who has not always been on the mark in the past. I am not passing judgement on this....but here is the outline of the story.

Dawn Meredith Wrote:Surprised that no one over here is posting about the new Seth Rich story that broke yesterday. According to a PI (and former DC homicide det.) Rod Wheeler he has been told by an insider that Rich WAS the wikileaks leaker and that the DC police were told to stand down, re Rich's murder. Many of us have been saying this for months.

Murdered DNC Staffer Seth Rich Shared 44,053 Democrat Emails With WikiLeaks: Report

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by Tyler Durden
May 16, 2017 7:31 PM

For the past several months, Democrats have based their "Resist 45" movement on unsubstantiated assertions that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian intelligence officials to undermine the 2016 Presidential Election thereby 'stealing' the White House from Hillary Clinton. Day after day we've all suffered through one anonymously sourced, "shock" story after another from the New York Times and/or The Washington Post with new allegations of the 'wrongdoing'.
But, new evidence surfacing in the Seth Rich murder investigation may just quash the "Russian hacking" conspiracy theory. According to a new report from Fox News, it was former DNC staffer Seth Rich who supplied 44,000 DNC emails to WikiLeaks and not some random Russian cyber terrorist, as we've all been led to believe.
According to Fox News, though admittedly via yet another anonymous FBI source, Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, an American investigative reporter and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time. According to Fox News sources, federal law enforcement investigators found 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments sent between DNC leaders from January 2015 to May 2016 that Rich shared with WikiLeaks before he was gunned down on July 10, 2016.

The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of DNC staffer Seth Rich's computer generated within 96 hours after his murder, said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time.

"I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks," the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.
Then, on July 22, just 12 days after Rich was killed, WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that appeared to show top party officials conspiring to stop Bernie Sanders from becoming the party's presidential nominee. As we've noted before, the DNC's efforts to block Sanders resulted in Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning as DNC chairperson.