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[Image: image2-17-700x470.jpg]Everyone should know I grant the best pardons. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy
On its surface, President Donald Trump's pardon of Joe Arpaio is many things: a slap in the face of Hispanics and an affront to the rule of law as well as a nod to Trump's alt-right base and, of course, a gift to a man who was supposed to enforce the law who instead decided to openly break it.
In reality, however, it is about much more than that. The main beneficiary here is not the man who got pardoned. After all, it was not likely that Arpaio would have ever gone to jail over his contempt of court charge.
No, as with so many things Trump does, this pardon primarily helps himself.
As special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to get to the bottom of the president's ties to Russia, one of the most important tools at his disposal is the ability to build cases against lesser members of Trump's campaign to get them to spill the beans on his inner circle.
As Martin Sheil, a retired branch chief of IRS Criminal Investigation division, has pointed out for WhoWhatWhy, retired general and Trump's first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is likely already in deep trouble over non-disclosure of payments from foreign governments.
The same is probably true for Paul Manafort, who managed the campaign for a few months and whose house was raided by the FBI three weeks ago.
Ordinarily, both of them would be great candidates to give up all they know about potential wrongdoing by Trump and his campaign in exchange for immunity or leniency for their own crimes. However, this "sticks and carrots" approach only works if the stick actually stings.
With the Arpaio pardon, however, Trump is clearly trying to remove the stick from the equation. The president has not only shown that he will reward his allies for their loyalty no matter how bad it makes him look but he didn't even wait until the process has played out (Arpaio had not been sentenced yet).
In addition, Trump showed a complete disregard for the regular pardoning process, i.e., an FBI background investigation for cases in which a pardon is being considered. While White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had assured reporters on Thursday that any Arpaio pardon would "go through the thorough and standard process," Trump proved her wrong a day later by forging ahead.
And that, too, sends a message. The president is willing to buck previous conventions and do as he pleases as long as it helps him.
So what's to stop Trump from issuing some sort of blanket pardon for Flynn and Manafort for any potential financial crimes they committed? Very little.
In effect, with the Arpaio pardon, Trump offers the opposite deal as Mueller. While the special counsel can say: "I can protect you from punishment if you spill the beans," Trump's message is: "If you keep quiet, I will wipe your record clean."
Needless to say that this is a perilous path for a country in which, theoretically, the rule of law should prevail. But maybe that's just one more thing that is different under Trump.
[FONT=&amp]Trump Reverses Obama Policy on Surplus Military Gear for Police



WASHINGTON Reversing an Obama-era policy, President Donald Trump Monday removed restrictions on the kinds of surplus military gear the Defense Department can turn over to local police departments.
The issue has been a sensitive one since the Justice Department concluded that tactics used by police during 2014's violent street protest in Ferguson, Missouri inflamed tensions and created fear among demonstrators.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the change, first reported by USA Today, in a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville on Monday.

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Sessions Announces Lifted Restrictions on Military Gear for Police 2:12

The executive order "will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal," he said.
The Obama limitations hurt law enforcement, Sessions added.
"One sheriff told me earlier this year about how, due to the prior administration's restrictions, the federal government made his department return an armored vehicle that can change the dynamics of an active shooter situation," he said.
Jim Pasco, the police organization's executive director, said the change "is President Trump making good on a campaign promise." Pasco said he and other police officials discussed the issue with the president and attorney general two times during meetings at the White House.
Related: Obama: U.S. Cracking Down on Militarization' of Local Police
The NAACP Legal Defense fund called the move "exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible."
Janai Nelson, the group's associate director counsel, said the policy change "puts more firepower in the hands of police departments that remain largely untrained on matters of racial bias and endangers the public. Inviting the use of military weaponry against our domestic population is nothing short of recasting the public as an enemy."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., laid out his opposition to Trump's move in series of tweets.
28 Aug
[URL=""][Image: _PrgDgFA_normal.jpg]Senator Rand Paul

Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. I disagree with AG Jeff Sessions on 1033...

[URL=""][Image: _PrgDgFA_normal.jpg]Senator Rand Paul

The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm.
5:04 PM - Aug 28, 2017
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    170170 Replies[/URL]
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    713713 Retweets[/URL]
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Kanya Bennett of the ACLU said: "We have an epidemic in the United States of police using excessive force, particularly against people of color, with injuries and deaths mounting. It defies logic to arm the police with weapons of war."
Related: Police are big recipients of military gear, weapons
Since 1990, the Defense Department has been allowed to transfer surplus military equipment and supplies to federal, state, and local law enforcement. Though the program was originally intended for counter-drug operations, it was later expanded to include all police missions.
Large-scale protests broke out in Ferguson in 2014 after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer. TV cameras and social media users documented the heavily armed response by law enforcement.
[Image: B3QdNvbCAAALLJT.jpg:large]

The striking images that resulted drew national attention to the program though the Pentagon said at the time little of the gear was military surplus.
[Image: 170828-ferguson-military-gear-se-1159a_a...00-480.jpg]A police tactical team moves in to disperse a group of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9, 2014. Jeff Roberson / AP file
After the Justice Department concluded that the use of military-style equipment made matters worse in Ferguson, President Obama put some equipment off limits including tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, and grenade launchers and required a showing of need for tactical vehicles with wheels.
Related: Students taunt police over 'bear cat' armored personnel carrier
Law enforcement officials said Monday that many police departments used the bayonets as utility knives and did not mount them on rifles. And grenade launching tubes were used to fire non-lethal projectiles such as tear gas and bean bags.
The Justice Department cited two studies by economists which concluded that the use of military-style equipment can have positive effects, reducing citizen complaints and assaults on officers.
A Justice Department official said the executive order would take effect immediately.


Herr Donald, Sheriff Joe, Hurricane Harvey, and the Fate of the Republic

Posted By Paul Street On August 30, 2017[Image: Screen-Shot-2017-08-29-at-8.00.28-PM.png]Photo by Caravan 4 Peace | CC BY 2.0

Good Timing

Let history record that the leading climate change-denier and eco-exterminist, arch-authoritarian petro-capitalist United States President Donald Trump threatened to shut-down the federal government as the capitalogenically cooked waters in the Gulf of Mexico swirled on their path to an epic tropical storm that would epically flood Houston and much of southeast Texas in a matter of days.
The president's moronic threat came at the peak of the hurricane season. It was made at a white-nationalist campaign-style rally in Phoenix. There Trump heaped praise on a former and recently federally convicted county sheriff who tortured and murdered a moderate Mexican village's worth of predominantly Latino jail inmates across a long reign of racist police-state terror in Arizona. At this noxious assembly, Trump strongly hinted that he would soon pardon the fascist sheriff. The Racist Dog Whistler-in-Chief also doubled down on his sickening defense of the frenzied racists who oppose the tearing down of statues honoring "heroes" of the Southern Confederacy (1861-1865), which waged a war on Washington a war that killed 750,000 Americans in order to defend the system of Black chattel slavery. Meanwhile. high-tech storm troopers charged, shooting rubber bullets and "pepper balls" at liberal and left protesters outside in the sweltering heat.
Trump's threat to collapse the federal government is presumably on hold in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which has white Texas Republican congressman demanding massive federal assistance for their stricken regions. Some of these Congressmen were against special federal assistance for the victims of Hurricane Sandy five years ago. This was for a very simple and sociopathic reason: that also giant and not-so "natural disaster" (an earlier attempt by Mother Nature to wake America up to the grave dangers posed by "anthropogenic climate change") befell the liberal New York City area enemy territory in their world view.
Republicans are not unaware that the openly moronic George W. Bush's glaringly ham-fisted (non-) response to Hurricane Katrina (an earlier educational effort on Mother Nature's part) was part of how even the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats swept into federal "power" in 2006 and 2008.
Why did Trump threaten a federal shut-down? To scare Congress into funding the construction his idiotic, criminally racist and unnecessary extension of the U.S. border wall between Mexico and the U.S.
You'd think His Royal Sociopathic Highness would lay off the threat with Houston and other Texas towns and cities underwater, but you'd be wrong. Just yesterday (I am writing on the morning of Tuesday, August 29[SUP]th[/SUP]), the orange-tinted beast doubled down on his Wall-warning even as news and images of the epic Texas deluge flooded the airwave and Internet. The wicked racist Asshole-in-Chief said he doubted that the Wall question would force a shutdown, but he still wouldn't swear off the bizarre and chilling tactic. "I hope that's not necessary. If it's necessary, we'll have to see," he vomited.
Ruling Class…Hello?
Isn't it about time for the United States "intelligence community" to show the aberrant ruling class idiot Donald Trump the latest digitally enhanced version of the Zapruder film again and ask for a second time if he has any questions? The blustering, Twitter-addicted dickhead in the White House is a demented megalomaniac and malignant narcissist who cannot be trusted with the remarkable powers of the U.S. presidency. Absurdly and chillingly enough, he sees himself as a genetically superior uber-being above normal bourgeois law, constitution, party, and morality. He should be nowhere near the nation's nuclear codes and civil emergency command. A recent Newsweekreflection on the Tyrant's widespread unpopularity reflects on developments in the two weeks leading up to Hurricane Harvey, which Trump probably welcomes for the partial news-cycle relief it grants to his unspeakable awfulness:
"There's the ongoing investigation into his ties to Russia, the failed Republican plan to gut Obamacare, his threats of nuclear war with North Korea and, most recently, Trump's insistence on equating Nazi marchers in Virginia to the people counter-protesting the event, even after a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many more. I think there is blame on both sides,' the president said to reporters. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I'll say it right now.'"
A serious question: what kind of self-respecting national bourgeoisie and "power elite" permits this kind of behavior in the White House?
"Try to Impeach Him, Just Try It"
It is not clear that this Insane Clown President will accept removal through electoral, legal, or parliamentary means. He is a strong candidate to find, provoke, and/or concoct pretexts for declaring a national emergency requiring the interruption of normal civil liberties. He might well try to holdup the 2018 and/or 2020 elections, figuring that he could find support for such actions from a significant part of his white nationalist base. A recent Washington Post poll shows that 56 percent of Republicans would back Trump's decision to suspend the 2020 elections if "necessary" to block alleged mythical immigrant vote fraud.
The Orange Ass-Face sends messages threatening violence to those who might contemplate using the U.S. Constitution to annul his horrific, knuckle-dragging presidency. One of Trump's good friends and political advisors, Roger Stone, recently told reporters that any Congresspersons who vote for Trump's impeachment will be "killed" by an outraged populace.
Stone is a long-time Trump confidant and former official in Richard Nixon's administration. He told the entertainment website, TMZ that impeachment (supported by an incredible 40% of Americans just eight months into Trump's reign) proceedings would lead to an armed uprising among the Orange Beast's supporters:
"Try to impeach him, just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you've never seen. The people will not stand for impeachment. A politician that votes for it would be endangering their own life."
Asked if he believed there would be "some sort of civil war" if Trump was impeached, Stone replied: "Yes, that's what I think will happen. Both sides are heavily armed… There would be violence on both sides."
Who would the vanguard of the "outraged populace" be? The neo-fascist militia sorts for whom Trump recently gave noxious cover and canine-whistle support in the wake of white-supremacist rallying and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Imagine Trump BFF Stone's fantastic scenario playing out. Would the nation's police forces intervene to stop Stone's threatened "insurrection like [we've] never seen"? That's not clear. In a Police Magazine poll conducted on the eve of the election last year, Donald Trump was the choice of 84% of working police officers surveyed. Trump won wide support from police unions across the country with his racist "law and order" campaign. The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 330,000 law enforcement officers, endorsed presidential candidate Trump, who insanely called for a "national stop-and-frisk law" to stop violence in the nation's unmentionably hyper-impoverished and badly oppressed, police-terrorized, and incarceration-ravaged Black ghettoes.
Stone's absurd claim that liberals and leftists are "well-armed" is another high-placed Republican dog whistle to the violent right within and beyond the police state. Along with Trump's ridiculous claim that the small left group Antifa was just as responsible as the white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville, it is an ominous green light for cops to crack down viciously on left and liberal protestors.
"Sheriff Joe"
Trump's absurd pardon of the former longtime Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio (announced just days after the Phoenix rally) sends a dangerous message of encouragement to racist cops and border patrol agents across the country. Arpaio was recently convicted by a federal judge in connection with his long record of illegally profiling and detaining Latinos. For many years, the diabolical ogre Arpaio headed a racist and fascistic police state that murdered hundreds of jail inmates. The "great American Sheriff Joe" (Trump's sickening words) killed his mostly Latino victims through heat exhaustion, dehydration, miserable nutrition, medical neglect, labor exploitation, isolation, and induced suicide. Behold to one Latino's recollection of a year he spent in Arpaio's infamous sweltering "tent-city" jail on a DUI charge:
I arrived at one of Arpaio's several tent cities,' outdoor jails where inmates shelter in army tents, mostly exposed to the Arizona elements. I was there on a work furlough program, meaning that I was allowed to leave to work during the day. Every day after work, I would return to the jail and spend the night in the tents. Each Sunday was spent entirely in the jail.
The rules of the tent city were strict, arbitrary and brutally enforced. There are no newspapers allowed; Arpaio hated newspapers. The only food allowed for those of us in the work furlough program was the food in the vending machines, which was grossly overpriced.
During the sweltering summer, the temperature could reach 115 or 120 degrees. I was in the tents when we hit 120. It was impossible to stay cool in the oppressive heat. Everyone would strip down to their underwear. There was no cold water, only water from vending machines; and eventually, the machines would run out. People would faint; some had heatstroke. That summer, ambulances came about three times. One man died in his bed."
But the winter was even worse. During the winter, there were no heaters. Most jackets and heavily insulated pants weren't allowed; they don't want you to be comfortable.
When the temperatures dropped, we were forced to come up with makeshift ways to keep ourselves warm. The showers were kept scalding hot during both summer and winter. We hated to shower, but we would fill our empty water bottles up with the nearly boiling water and put the bottles between our blankets when it was freezing outside. We also would save the plastic bags we found when we cleaned up the jail yard and wrap our feet with them, tucking hot water bottles inside to keep our feet warm while we slept.
Still, it was freezing, achingly cold. I was in so much pain that winter that now, when I'm cold, it reminds me of being there.
Arpaio saved worse abuse for others. Those who were in full detention had to wear pink socks, underwear and flip-flops. They ate peanut butter and bread, and the only other meal they received was baloney and bread. They also had the option of slob,' which was an unknown, disgusting substance that looked like some kind of thick stew and tasted like cardboard. (The poor people in the work furlough program who couldn't pay for vending-machine food had no choice but to eat it.)
This was Arpaio's fascist and racist Hell, fatal for dozens upon dozens of brown-skinned inmates. "Sheriff Joe" unabashedly called his murderous "tent-city" jails as "concentration camps." As NBC commentator and attorney Raul Reyes noted last Saturday:
What Arpaio did amounted to gross violations of human and civil rights…He denied medical attention to diabetics and people with HIV who were in his care. He had women working in chain gangs. He deliberately humiliated prisoners by making them wear pink underwear, keeping them in these tent cities, also parading them around in front of the news media for his own publicity purposes. He himself referred to these tent cities as a concentration camp.' Those are his own words…And as bad as this all sounds, these are only the tip of the iceberg.
In announcing Trump's pardon of the Maricopa Monster, the White House said that Fascist Joe gave "years of admirable service to our nation." The administration called him a "worthy candidate for a presidential pardon." Orange Ass-Face described the jackbooted racist Arpaio "an American patriot" in a tweet later last Friday. "He kept Arizona safe!" the president added.
The nation's many racist police-state operatives walked with a little more pep in their proto-fascistic steps after hearing that.
President don't generally pardon people until the end of their time in office. Trump decided to pardon a murderous racist and fascist prior even to sentencing (might that be more obstruction of justice?) in just the eighth month of his malicious presidency.
El Donito's Ugly Calculation
Herr Trump is plagued by the most consistently and epically low approval numbers (now at a pathetic 35% approval and a whopping 60% disapproval) of any first-year U.S. president in the history of modern polling. The majority of the populace likely now sees him as unfit for the presidency.
Trump has willfully alienated even many of the top Congressional Republicans who signed their name in the Black Book of the TrumpDevil in the hope that he would help pass their radically regressive and reactionary agenda.
Meanwhile, the nation awaits a special federal prosecutor's report on the Royal Brute's real and/or alleged Russian ties a report that could spark the beginning of impeachment proceedings.
A former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and a sitting top Republican U.S. Senator (Bob Corker of Tennessee) have publicly questioned whether Trump has the competence and stability required for his position something that raises the specter of 25[SUP]th[/SUP] Amendment removal.
What could possibly be going on El Donito's twisted brain? Certainly, one set of messages flickering around his malevolent neural pathways tells him that he can exploit or concoct some kind of national emergency/shock/crisis that will boost his popularity (remember the openly idiotic George W. Bush's skyrocketing public approval numbers after September 11[SUP]th[/SUP]) and/or allow him to put what's left of American democracy on police-state ice. In an authoritarian pinch, the Clockwork Orangutan likely calculates that he can count on muscle from the nation's vast gendarme class, including 431,600 prison guards, 766,000 police officers, 1 million plus military enlistees, 358,000 National Guardsmen, 1 million-plus private security guards, not to mention its untold tens of thousands of private mercenaries, and 500-plus militia groups
Exit pollsters reported that 60 percent of Americans with past military records backed NapoleDon BonaTrump in the 2016 election. Just 34 percent of the nation's veterans (92% of whom are male) voted for the "lying neoliberal warmonger" Hillary "My Turn" Clinton.
Military enlistees preferred Trump over Clinton by a nearly 3 to 1 margin in a Military Times poll last fall.
A Very Destructive Ideology
Again, and again, the population is told that going into a two-[capitalist-] party ballot box for two minutes once every four years is a great and glorious exercise in popular self-rule. As Howard Zinn reflected on the "the election madness" he saw "engulfing the entire society including the left" as fake-progressive Barack Obamania took hold in the spring of 2008: "the election frenzy…seizes the country every four years because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls."
Under the American religion of voting, Noam Chomsky told Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson last year, "Citizenship means every four years you put a mark somewhere and you go home and let other guys run the world. It's a very destructive ideology… basically, a way of making people passive, submissive objects…[we] ought to teach kids that elections take place but that's not politics."
What happens when the U.S. ruling-class let's one of "the other guys [who] run the world" be a vicious and quasi-fascistic, arch-narcissistic thug atop the most powerful and deadly office on Earth? We the People are then compelled like never before to transcend the deadening definition of democratic political participation as a once-every-1460 days 2-minute vote for one of two terrible major party candidates and to figure out how to form a durable popular insurgency beneath and beyond the nation's ever more absurd, populace-marginalizing, and time-staggered election spectacles.
Along with his perceived backing from the nation's giant police state and gendarme class, Trump is smart enough to sense that tens of millions of Americans have been turned like the proverbial slowly boiling frogs into the empty shell of an ex-citizenry: "passive, submissive objects."
Herr Donald is a sadist. He would relish an opportunity to beat up like no American tyrant before on the defenseless cripple that is "We the People" in today's "corporate-managed democracy" a simultaneously Huxlean and Orwellian nightmare zone of "inverted totalitarianism" and an Armed Madhouse to boot. Think of Trump as a Great White Shark, a big stupid brute who is sufficiently sentient to smell the blood in the murky waters of what's left of "really existing capitalist democracy" what Chomsky darkly and rightly calls "RECD, pronounced as wrecked.'"
Hurricane Harvey is yet another deadly reminder that Nature Bats Clean-Up and will not let homo sapiens off the hook for letting its capitalist "elite" drive global temperature to deadly extremes with excessive carbon emissions that are a direct consequence of modern capitalism's lethal addiction to endless accumulation, commodification, and quantitative "growth." It is darkly suggestive that the Earth Mother has now targeted Houston, a leading capital city of corporate and eco-cidal Big Carbon situated in the vanguard petro-capitalist state of Texas. But, of course, most of the Houstonians and Texans struggling to survive this catastrophe have never been consulted on the nation's energy policy and deserve our support in this time of need. We must demand that our "democratically elected" representatives provide essential federal assistance and reconstruction dollars and resist all efforts by corporate-capitalist America to use Harvey as an opportunity for more privatization and repression on the model of Katrina. In the meantime, as we are stuck with inadequate public services in this noxious neoliberal New Gilded Age and Koch Brother era, it is essential for those who can afford it to contribute to voluntary associations engaged in humanitarian relief in southeast Texas.
I have NOT been able to really come to terms with this absurd [on the surface] statement no one has yet challenged.

Quote:On Aug. 11 and 12 hundreds of people held a rally and marched on the University of Virginia in Charlottesville protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate icon Robert E. Lee. The marches had been organized by Jason Kessler. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Kessler had prior involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement and was a supporter of President Obama.

On the face of it is seems impossible unless Kessler was a mole in progressive causes. White Nationalism / neo-Nazi sympathies do not mix with being a supporter of Obama nor OWS! The Southern Poverty Law Center is pretty good at what they do...but I've not heard them try to explain it either. It is one of the strangest and least believable items I've seen in a long time. I smell a rat or an op somewhere - perhaps a psyop. Unless he was a mole, I simply can't believe this is truthful....but it is making its way into the MSM.



What Can Investigators Learn from Trump's Long-Time Confidant?

[Image: image6-700x470.jpg]Michael Cohen, attorney. Photo credit: / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Preston Kemp / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn … all members of President Donald Trump's inner circle past and present have been scrutinized by the media, and their various Russia ties are being investigated by the press and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. One figure, however, managed to fly largely under the radar until very recently: Michael Cohen, Trump's former right-hand man and in-house attorney.
Cohen, who came out of nowhere to occupy a prominent spot in Trump's orbit, has his own unique links to Russia and Ukraine. In fact, he might be one of the missing links that ties the president to shady figures and shady money from the former Soviet Union (familiarly known as FSU).
The following story, in documented detail, lays bare Cohen's dealings, his ties to the FSU, and how he could trigger a world of trouble for the president if he ever decided to reveal what he knows about Trump's business empire.
Among the points illustrated below:
Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, two key figures in Trump's businesses in recent years, both have backgrounds tied to the FSU
Both men knew each other; both began entering Trump's orbit around the same time with money that may have come from FSU sources and in a period when Trump came to increasingly depend on such monies
Putin appears to have launched a full-court press on the United States in this time frame through surrogates, and eventually took an interest in Trump as someone who could help advance Russian interests
Both Cohen and Sater showed up recently as intermediaries to Trump on behalf of pro-Putin policy initiatives
While Trump has a history of sticking with supporters, even controversial ones, his loyalty does not extend to Cohen, Sater, Manafort (who managed his campaign for a time) and Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Advisor. What do they all have in common? Ties to Russia. Ties that are part of the public record.
Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in early September; although Committee staff have not confirmed this, Cohen said in June that it will be on September 5.

While Manafort and Flynn played only specific and short-lived roles with Trump, Cohen has served as confidant, spokesperson and liaison between his boss and powerful foreign agents over the past decade.
Of all the people Trump could have tapped to function as his main man, the lawyer who is always around him, his legal rottweiler, why Michael Cohen?
The story behind Cohen's pre-Trump connections to an avalanche of dubiously sourced money from the FSU offers a possible explanation and the tantalizing prospect of new insight into the president's curious co-dependence with the Kremlin.
The "art of the deal" seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.
As WhoWhatWhy previously reported, the crux of Trump's relationship with Moscow goes beyond the presidential campaign to prior dealings that were central to his business empire.
Those dealings concern investors and business partners from various parts of the FSU. Tied into this network of influence are Russian President Vladimir Putin, wealthy FSU businessmen ("oligarchs"), and allied members of organized crime. And, improbably, Cohen, Trump's own attorney.
[Image: image8.jpg]

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the 2017 G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo credit: President of Russia / Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

Enter Cohen, the Ultimate Groupie

In 2007, the little-known Cohen, suddenly became visible in the Trump camp. Positioned close to the throne, he became executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump.
Cohen told a reporter that he first got hooked on Trump after reading his book, The Art of the Deal, twice, cover to cover. If so, he is the ultimate groupie.
"Over the years I have been offered very lucrative employment opportunities, which I summarily dismissed," he said. "To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch."
Indeed, Cohen has a reputation for being a kind of Trump Mini-Me. In July 2015, he vowed to [B]"mess up" [B]the life[B] of a [B]Daily Beast[B] reporter who brought up the decades-old allegation that Trump assaulted his first wife, Ivana. And he tweeted about his desire to "[B]gut" then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly[B] when she challenged Trump. Cohen's bravado has earned him comparisons from Trump Organization colleagues [B]to Tom Hagen[B], Vito Corleone's consigliere in the [B]Godfather [B]movies.[/B][/B][/B][/B][/B][/B][/B][/B][/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]Trump values fiercely protective loyalists, and none has proven more loyal than Michael Cohen.[/B][/B]
[B][B]With the exception of a quixotic run for New York City Council as a Republican in 2003, Cohen had been a lifelong Democrat, voting for Obama in 2008. So it was a quite a change when he decided to formally join the GOP after Trump's inauguration.[/B][/B]
[B][B]But neither that switch nor years of devoted service to the Trump Organization could win Cohen a post in the president's administration, though he had reportedly yearned for and expected to occupy one. And why was that?[/B][/B]
[B][B]Possibly because by the time Trump took office, Cohen's name had surfaced in headline-grabbing, Russia-related stories and that is the one kind of publicity from which Trump has tried to distance himself.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Cohen and the Dossier[/B][/B]

[B][B]To begin with, the name "Michael Cohen" showed up in the controversial "dossier" put together last year by a former UK foreign intelligence officer doing private research on Russia connections for Trump opponents. The 35-page collection of memos, published in its entirety by Buzzfeed, comprises precise but unverified documentation of continuous contact between Trump associates and Russian operatives during the presidential campaign.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Cohen's name appeared on page 18 of the dossier, which claimed that he met with Kremlin representatives in Prague last August to conduct damage control on a pair of "western media revelations": Manafort's "corrupt relationship" with Ukrainian President Yanukovych and campaign adviser Carter Page's meeting with "senior regime figures" in Moscow a month earlier.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Cohen has forcefully rejected the notion that he was the man referenced in the dossier. To prove this, he made public his own passport stamps, which indicate he could not have been in the Czech Republic last August.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Shortly after the inauguration, Cohen's name was in the news again, this time for meeting in late January with a Moscow-connected Ukrainian politician, and in this case his involvement is not in dispute. The Ukrainian had come bearing a "peace agreement" intended to lift punishing economic sanctions that had been imposed on Russia after Putin's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Cohen, Felix Sater, and the Russians[/B][/B]

[B][B]Cohen purportedly attended the meeting at the urging of Felix Sater, a one-time mob-connected businessman who went on to work with Trump, and about whom WhoWhatWhy has written extensively.[/B][/B]
[B][B]According to The New York Times, as a result of that meeting, Cohen joined other Trump associates already under scrutiny in the FBI's counterintelligence inquiry related to Russia.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Why was Cohen even in a meeting about US foreign policy at all? As Cohen himself noted, his role as "special counsel" with Trump was limited to representing Trump personally, not as president.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Since the January meeting, Cohen has become even more ghostlike, and his boss has remained conspicuously quiet as Cohen landed in the crosshairs of both the media and Mueller's investigative unit two entities Trump hasn't been shy about lambasting. Though he retains his official title as the president's personal advisor and attorney, Cohen appears to have been exiled from Trump's inner circle. Neither the White House Press Office nor the Trump Organization responded to WhoWhatWhy's inquiry about Cohen's current role in the Trump orbit.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Trump is not one to banish someone just because he or she is run-of-the-mill controversial. Witness such highly polarizing, risky figures as Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller who, though relative latecomers to the Trump camp, were kept on long after they were political liabilities, albeit popular with his ever-shrinking base. (And Miller is still on board.)[/B][/B]
[B][B]So why does Michael Cohen's fate resemble that of Manafort and Flynn, who were ditched when their Russia-related activities drew unwelcome national attention?[/B][/B]

[B][B]In the Spotlight[/B][/B]

[B][B]This spring, when it became apparent that members of Congress might wish to question him, the typically brash Cohen declared that he would only testify if he received a subpoena. Which is just what happened he is now slated to testify before the House Intelligence Committee right after Labor Day.
Compared to some others in Trump's entourage, he is largely unknown to the public. Notwithstanding those brief moments in the limelight, the media overall (with a few notable exceptions including Talking Points Memo and Buzzfeed) has devoted little attention to him.
But a new development thrust Cohen back into the limelight Monday, when the Washington Post reported that Cohen and Sater had worked together closely in the early months of Trump's presidential campaign on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
At Sater's suggestion, Cohen had emailed Dmitry Peskov, Putin's personal spokesperson, to solicit the Kremlin's approval of the lucrative project while Trump, stumping on the campaign trail, was lavishing the Russian president with praise at debates and rallies. The real estate deal, Sater suggested in a string of emails to Cohen, would be a win-win: Trump would look like a great negotiator, and Putin would be boosting the prospects of the candidate he preferred.
"Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it," Sater wrote to Cohen. "I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected."
The tower never materialized, but their "boy," of course, did ascend to the presidency. And the Trump Organization renewed ownership of the domain this July before the latest controversy, though it has since gone dark.

Cohen's Own Ukrainian Connections

The son of a Long Island physician, Michael Dean Cohen received his law degree from a low-ranked Michigan school, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School a "diploma mill" according to some, which later rebranded as Western Michigan University. The school, which, like Trump, doesn't hesitate to sue its critics, has highlighted Cohen as an illustrious alumnus.

Cohen was admitted to the New York Bar in 1992 and became a personal injury lawyer.
He soon began assembling a portfolio of businesses outside the legal profession, virtually all involving Ukrainian immigrants many of whom were, or became, immensely wealthy.
Perhaps the earliest was a taxi business in partnership with the Ukraine-born Simon Garber, who was at one time involved with a Moscow cab company, and now has huge stakes in cab ownership in New York, Chicago and New Orleans.
By 2003, Cohen and Garber were running more than 200 taxis in New York, allowing Cohen to pull in $90,000 a month in 2011. The partnership imploded in 2012 after a nasty legal dispute, after which Cohen went his own way and entrusted his 15 medallion companies to Evgeny Friedman, a Russian immigrant who holds the single largest collection of medallions in New York.
In partnership with two other Ukrainian immigrants, Cohen went into the casino boat business. His partners, Leonid Tatarchuk and Arkady Vaygensberg, were associated with a man who allegedly had FSU mob ties, and with a lawyer indirectly connected to the late mob legend Meyer Lansky.
The gambling venture was besieged by lawsuits from unhappy workers and investors. Cohen has had other legal problems. He could not explain what had become of $350,000 held in a trust account he managed, according to court documents obtained by Buzzfeed News.
[Image: image4-6.jpg]Victory Casino Cruises. Photo credit: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In 1998 Michael Cohen incorporated two entities: Ukrainian Capital Partners LP and Ukrainian Capital Growth Fund Corp. The Growth Fund was dissolved in 2002, but, according to New York Department of State records, Capital Partners is still active.

[B]Towering Trump Investments[/B]

[B]Shortly after the turn of the century, Cohen took a new direction. He began buying as did his relatives properties in buildings with the Trump name.[/B]
[B]He obtained his first in 2001: a unit in Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza. And he kept on buying.[/B]
[B]Some years later, the Trump-friendly New York Post profiled Cohen and his passion for Trump developments in a real-estate-porn article headlined "Upping the Ante."[/B]
[B]Once some buyers go Trump, they never go back. Take Michael Cohen, 40, an
attorney and partner at Phillips Nizer. He purchased his first Trump apartment at Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza in 2001. He was so impressed he convinced his parents, his in-laws and a business partner to buy there, too. Cohen's in-laws went on [to] purchase two more units there and one at Trump Grande in Sunny Isles, Fla.
Cohen then bought at Trump Palace at 200 E. 69th St., and Trump Park Avenue, where he currently resides. He's currently in the process of purchasing a two-bedroom unit at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard so, naturally, Cohen's next step is to purchase something at Trump Plaza Jersey City. He's now in negotiations for a two-bedroom unit there.
"Trump properties are solid investments," says Cohen, who's also looking at the new Trump SoHo project.
By the time he entered Trump's employ, Cohen, his relatives and his business partner had already purchased a combined 11 Trump properties.
Why did Cohen and company begin buying all those Trump properties? Where did the money come from? And did Cohen use this spending spree to gain an entrance into Trump's inner circle?
The answers to these questions may lie in what at first appears to be a mere coincidence: Around the time Cohen began buying these properties [B]2000-2001[B] the aforementioned Felix Sater apparently first approached Trump.[/B][/B]
[B][B]It is interesting to learn that when Cohen was growing up, he had known and run in the same circles as Sater when both lived on Long Island.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]Sater and Cohen would go on to play intriguingly interconnected roles in the saga linking Donald Trump to vast supplies of dubiously sourced money from the FSU.[/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]Sater's family immigrated to the US in the 1970s, landing in the Coney Island-Brighton Beach area, a part of Brooklyn heavily populated by Soviet emigres and an area where the Trump family owned lots of buildings.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In addition to the Trump units, Cohen owns entire buildings around New York City. In 2015, while working for Trump, he bought a $58 million apartment building on Manhattan's Upper East Side. According to the New York real estate news site The Real Deal, Cohen also holds multiple luxury apartment units and other buildings on the Lower East Side and in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image9.jpg]Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Rustycale / Wikipedia, Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), Americasroof (talk) / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0), Alex Proimos / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0) and Stepanstas / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
[B][B]Cohen has a seemingly limitless appetite for real estate, and his younger brother Bryan, also a lawyer, entered the real estate trade and is now Chief Administrative Officer of DE Development Marketing, part of the prominent Douglas Elliman real estate brokerage.[/B][/B]

[B][B]More Businesses, More Ukrainians[/B][/B]

[B][B]That Cohen buys luxury Trump apartments like others buy shoes and that he has a seemingly inexhaustible budget could conceivably be explained, at least in part, by his ties to people who, as noted earlier, became extremely wealthy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.[/B][/B]
[B][B]There are any number of perfectly legitimate ways for Cohen to amass the funds necessary to purchase entire buildings. Usually, however, the source of such wealth can be ascertained. In Cohen's case, the source is unclear and Cohen refused to discuss the origin of those funds with WhoWhatWhy.[/B][/B]
[B][B]It should be noted that Russians and others from the former Soviet Union seeking to move funds West are among the biggest buyers of New York real estate.[/B][/B]
[B][B]But Cohen's Ukrainian ties run even deeper. His wife, Laura, is from the Ukraine. So is Bryan Cohen's wife, Oxana.[/B][/B]
[B][B]From here we follow a trail through a somewhat complicated cast of characters. At the end, you will see how all of these people are connected to one another as well as to Trump and to Russia.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The trail begins with Bryan Cohen's father-in-law, Alex Oronov, born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, who emigrated with his family to the United States in 1978. He ran a Manhattan art gallery, and eventually, and surprisingly, managed to convince the old-school communist government to partner with him to sell lithographs based on the collection of the State Russian Museum. His influence or skills of persuasion were so good that he even persuaded Kremlin authorities to permit him to open a gift shop at the museum, a rarity in the USSR.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Following Ukrainian independence in 1994, Oronov spotted a far more lucrative opportunity: Ukraine's privatized bounty of grain. Ukraine has some of Europe's largest acreage of arable land and it is highly fertile and productive, making it the "breadbasket of Europe."
He founded an agribusiness firm, Harvest Moon (later rebranded as Grain Alliance); Bryan Cohen notes in his own online biography that he served as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for Grain Alliance, Americas. It's not clear where the funding for the enterprise, which had more than 100,000 acres in production at one point, came from.
The firm seems to have benefited from the lack of strong central authorities in the Ukraine. According to a brochure from a Kiev-based law firm, "Foreign Investment in Ukrainian Agriculture," prepared for a 2010 seminar on investment, "Grain Alliance… expanded rapidly over the last five years when Ukraine had no control from any government officials."
In this and similar ventures Oronov, from a modest start, became wildly wealthy, working with a network of well-connected Ukrainian politicians and businessmen with alleged mob ties. One of his partners was Viktor Topolov, a wealthy Ukrainian closely associated with figures the FBI has identified as "well known" members of the Russian and Ukrainian underworld. A Ukrainian court document obtained by Buzzfeed reveals that Topolov ignored subpoenas and lied about his role in a money-laundering and fraud investigation in the late 1990s.
[Image: image12.jpg]FBI Wanted Poster for Semion Mogilevich. Photo credit: FBI

To follow the Trump money trail further requires a brief dip into Ukraine's recent history, which turns out to be crucial to Michael Cohen's story.

Ukraine in Tug of War Between East and West

Starting around 2000, Ukraine increasingly became the subject of a tug of war between the West and Russia. Ukraine was once one of the most valuable parts of the USSR. Since gaining independence in 1991, it has been drawn closer to the West, and has even toyed with the ultimate snub to Russia: joining NATO, the Western military alliance.
The struggle to control Ukraine, its political leaders and its resources, played a major role in Russia's decision to enter Ukraine militarily in the summer of 2014. This led the West to impose sanctions that have severely harmed Russia's economy. Putin has made no secret of his desire to get the sanctions lifted.
Also at stake for Russia in its relations with Ukraine is the future of the pipelines that pass through Ukraine, bringing Russian natural gas to Western Europe. Russia is not happy that its lucrative gas exports, the source of much of its foreign exchange, must be transported across the territory of its now-adversary.
Going head to head in the battles to control the future of this resource are sovereign nations, international corporations, shadowy public-private entities, and shady figures like the Ukrainian-born Semion Mogilevich. The reputed "boss of bosses" of organized crime in today's Russia is believed to be the most powerful mobster in the world. His sub-boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov, was sent to America, and discovered by the FBI living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower, and later, having fled Manhattan, in a Trump casino in Atlantic City.
Mogilevich was identified as the secret majority owner of the Ukrainian stake in a mysterious intermediary company, half-owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom. Ivankov later stated that Mogilevich and Putin were close; soon after, the man was gunned down on a Moscow street.
One beneficiary of the Ukrainian pipeline situation was future Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was paid millions of dollars by prominent players in the natural gas scramble.
While questions swirled about the international ramifications of the pipeline battle, Sater, then an FBI informant, traveled to Ukraine and Russia ostensibly searching for properties to develop with the Trump Organization.
[Image: image2-19.jpg]Alex Oronov. Photo credit: Facebook / TPM

In the past, Cohen has downplayed his connections to the FSU. In a January 2017 interview with Yahoo News, he averred that he had only been to Ukraine twice "either 2003 or 2004." The reason? His "brother's father-in-law [i.e., Oronov] lives in Kiev."
However, Cohen seemingly would not have to travel to see his relative. Oronov had homes in the US including one on Long Island and one at the Trump Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida; he was even registered to vote in Florida.
The Cohens said that they knew nothing about Topolov when they pitched the project. But if they didn't know the background of Bryan Cohen's father-in-law's famous longtime business partner, they're unusually ill-informed, and certainly failed to do due diligence in a situation well-known to be rife with financial criminals.

Cohen and Sater and Trump….Together

The Trumps themselves have stated that their company came to depend increasingly over the years on monies tied to the FSU. Thus, it would not be illogical to wonder whether Michael Cohen was brought into the Trump Organization because of his ability to help in that regard.
But there's more here. As mentioned above, Cohen dovetails in interesting ways with another FSU-tied figure who entered Trump's orbit in roughly the same period: Felix Sater, the one-time mob-connected businessman who worked with Trump in the past, and about whom, as noted earlier, WhoWhatWhy has written extensively. Both bring ostensible ties to people who themselves have links to organized crime, and to those whose interests coincide with those of Vladimir Putin and his oligarchic network.
Take Topolov, with whom Cohen and his brother have done business. Via a conglomerate of his, Topolov employed three executives the FBI have described as members of a violent Russian organized-crime network: one, a mob enforcer closely associated with Mogilevich, the powerful organized crime boss, was reportedly responsible for at least 20 murders.
We previously reported about Mogilevich's associates's ties to Trump Tower, dating back to the 1990s. We noted how, from its inception, Trump Tower was a popular place with people having organized crime connections. We noted the various people connected with the FSU, with FSU organized crime, and the ties between those organizations and the Putin regime.
We told the story of Sater, a USSR-born felon who had cut a deal to serve as a confidential source for the FBI in return for leniency after he was caught participating in a major financial fraud with a group of men including one with American organized crime ties.
We explained that tackling FSU influence in Wall Street had become one of the FBI's highest priorities.
We described how, circa 2001, Sater joined Bayrock, a real estate development company run by FSU emigres in Trump Tower, and eventually began working directly with Donald Trump. Sater and Bayrock were supplying Trump with income during a period when his other investments had been suffering.
[Image: image5-3.jpg]Trump Tower. Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The money spigot was apparent to all. In a 2008 deposition, Sater even testified that, upon Trump's request, he accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on business trips to the FSU. Donald Jr. would later declare that the region had become the family's main source of investment.
While Sater was moving up in the Trump orbit, Cohen's status as a mysterious Trump real estate mega-investor of uncertain wealth and an undistinguished legal practice changed, seemingly overnight.
In 2006, the year before he went to work fulltime for Trump, Cohen suddenly went big-time, becoming, briefly, a partner at a prominent New York firm, Phillips Nizer, where, according to a profile, "he counted [Trump] as one of his many high-profile wealthy clients."
He was then offered a job by the developer. The reason? "I suspect," Cohen said, "he was impressed with both my handling of matters as well as the results."
According to cached images of the Phillips Nizer website found in the Internet Archive, he was first listed as partner in October 2006. By May 2007, about the time he was hired by Trump, Cohen's title was changed from partner to counsel. He remained in the Phillips Nizer directory as counsel until some time in late 2008.
What exactly did this obscure former personal injury lawyer bring to the firm? It has become increasingly common for law firms to bring on board anyone who can bring business with them. Interestingly, Cohen's practice there was described as including distressed debt which certainly could have described Trump's frequently unstable situation. Mark Landis, managing partner at the firm, declined to comment, saying it is policy not to discuss current or former colleagues.
But in an interview with WhoWhatWhy, Bryan Cohen said that both he and his brother came to Phillips Nizer as part of a merger between Nizer and their entity, the Cohen Law Firm. Asked why Nizer wanted to combine with the much smaller Cohen operation, Bryan Cohen declined to say, terming the question "irrelevant."

[Image: image3-9.jpg]Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA

Whatever one is to make of Cohen's sudden affiliation with Phillips Nizer, just as abruptly as he appeared, he moved on. So did Bryan Cohen, who joined the real estate firm, Douglas Elliman.
Michael Cohen officially joined Trump's organization in a top position as Executive Vice President and Special Counsel.
With Sater already working with Trump, this meant that for much of 2007, two of Trump's key people were decidedly unusual fellows with major ties to the FSU.
Thus we see a fascinating pattern in which two childhood acquaintances began entering the Trump orbit at the same time, circa 2000-2001 (with Cohen making his extraordinary string of Trump property purchases and Sater moving into business in Trump Tower) and, by 2007, both were working near each other inside the Trump empire itself.
In this period, we see a third figure who would later become highly controversial for his links into the FSU: Paul Manafort.
It was in 2006 that the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, long a close Putin associate, signed a [B]whopping $10 million a year contract[B] with Manafort based on what Manafort had presented as efforts inside the United States that would "greatly benefit the Putin government." (As the [B]Daily Beast reported[B], few have noted that Deripaska soon partnered with Manafort and the Ukrainian alleged gangster Dmytro Firtash in acquiring New York's Drake Hotel.)[/B][/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]That same year, Manafort himself bought an apartment…. In Trump Tower.[/B][/B]

[B][B]A Whirlwind in the Former Soviet Union[/B][/B]

[B][B]In September 2007, Trump, Sater and another partner posed for a photo at the opening of their Trump SoHo Hotel in New York.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The celebration would be brief. In December, the Times revealed that Sater had a criminal past.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image1-17.jpg]Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on September 19, 2007 in New York. Photo credit: Mark Von Holden / WireImage
[B][B]This potentially put Trump in a very difficult spot. If Trump were to admit that he knew Sater was a convicted felon but did business with him nonetheless, he, the Trump Organization, and anyone within the company who knew of it would be potentially liable for sky-high sums. This was especially true for the Trump-Bayrock projects (as noted, many of them financed by FSU figures), as so many of them ended terribly, with multiple lawsuits across many states.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Bayrock unraveled. Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2013, after just three years of operation, leaving a slew of unoccupied units in the hands of a new developer. It was the firm's final deal. As is now well known,Trump, who would later claim to barely know Sater, kept him on in the building and, if anything, he and Sater grew even closer. Indeed, Sater was soon working directly for Trump himself, with an office, business cards, phone number and email address all provided by the Trump Organization. The cards identified him as a "Senior Advisor to Donald Trump."[/B][/B]
[B][B]In this period, Trump Organization activities in the countries of the former Soviet Union appear to have accelerated.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In 2010 and 2012, while working for Trump, Cohen traveled to the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Georgia. It's worth noting that Bayrock had earlier received large infusions of cash from the ultra-corrupt Kazakhstan, and other funds from Georgia, also awash in ill-gotten fortunes.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In 2013, leading up to the Russian-hosted winter Olympics in Sochi, a close Putin ally reached out to Trump.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani billionaire real estate developer with Russian citizenship who is known as the "Donald Trump of Russia," paid Trump millions of dollars to bring Trump's Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow.[/B][/B]
12 Jul
[Image: aHXYEv2Z_bigger.jpg]Bernard Losev @bernielosev

Replying to @maxseddon @DonaldJTrumpJr
There are also photos with Aras, Goldstone, and Trump ffs at Miss Universe

[Image: fCzJ7o5C_bigger.jpg]MD @mikeydoubled

One better -- Pics of a private dinner in Las Vegas with Aras, Emin, Goldstone, and Trump sitting directly across / next to each other:
9:30 AM - Jul 12, 2017
[Image: DEhJcrdXYAATywm.jpg:small][Image: DEhJqtyXsAEGUPr.jpg:small][Image: DEhJ4jRXkAAIIsO.jpg:small]

  • [URL=""]
    66 Replies[/URL]
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    1515 Retweets[/URL]
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    3636 likes[/URL]

Twitter Ads info and privacy

An Instagram post by Agalarov's son shows Cohen with Trump and Agalarov at the Trump Vegas around the time the deal was inked.
Right around this time, Putin awarded Agalarov a state medal for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic contributions to Russia.

The Third American Political Party: Russia

As Trump's relationship to the former Soviet Union intensified, so, seemingly, did Russian interest in the American political system and the presidency.
In 2014, we now know, US intelligence secretly identified what it determined was a Russian effort to sow doubt and chaos in the US elections system.
By then, Trump was widely recognized for his long-standing presidential ambitions he ran for the office as a Reform Party candidate in 2000, garnering more than 15,000 votes in the California primary before abruptly dropping out. The Russians understood that he also had mass appeal, and a personality, temperament and history associated with provoking strong and divisive reactions.
Also, in a GOP primary field with a crowd of lackluster candidates, Trump was guaranteed to draw considerable public and media interest. At a time when Hillary Clinton, an antagonist of Putin, was viewed as virtually a shoo-in, Trump was a dark horse and a wild card, but one with plenty of outside potential to shake things up.
By February, 2015, Trump had already recruited staff in early voting states; a month later, he formed a presidential exploratory committee and delayed the production of "The Apprentice," the still-running reality television show that established Trump as a pop culture icon in the mid-2000s. Trump officially announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015.
The date of the first campaign-related contacts between Trump's people and the Russians is not clear, though as time passes, we are learning of earlier and earlier interactions.
Matters seem to have come to a head in June 2016, when, at the request of Russians, Donald Trump Jr. convened a meeting in his office.
[Image: image13.jpg]Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Photo credit: Watch the video on C-SPAN, Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs / Flickr.

When the meeting was revealed in July 2017, a panicked Donald Trump Jr. sought to downplay it, claiming it was to discuss policy toward adoptions of Russian children. Further revelations forced him to gradually disclose bits of information that cumulatively make clear the meeting was in response to Russian offers to help Trump's candidacy by providing intelligence on Clinton that could be used against her.
Among those attending were Manafort, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and publicist Rob Goldstone who works for the son of the previously mentioned Russian real estate mogul Aras Agalarov and who brokered the meeting. Also present was Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a fervent opponent of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on certain Russian officials following the imprisonment, and subsequent death, of a Russian tax accountant investigating fraud. Veselnitskaya claimed to hold incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
Another participant was Rinat Akhmetshin[B], whose past activities and associations led some to wonder whether he was or is a spy. Sen. Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, a Republican, speculated that the meeting itself was a classic ploy of Russian intelligence, intended to draw the Trump people into a potentially incriminating relationship. That, perhaps paradoxically, would likely make Trump even more vulnerable and beholden to Putin.[/B]
[B]And of course the meeting was arranged via Goldstone, who works for the Agalarovs who performed such valuable services to Russia that, as noted, Putin gave Aras Agalarov a medal.[/B]

[B]Cozier and Cozier[/B]

[B]To sum up, Trump's financial fortunes seem both by appearance and by statements from the Trumps themselves to have been heavily dependent on money from the former Soviet Union. Besides the Cohen retinue buying at least 11 apartments in Trump buildings, the money that came in through Felix Sater was also from the FSU.[/B]
[B]How much of the funds that kept Trump's shaky financial empire afloat in those lean years had its origins in the part of the world dominated by the Kremlin? Well, how much did not? Even Donald Trump, Jr. declared in 2008 that "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."[/B]
[B]As for Trump, he has repeatedly tweeted and declared that he has no loans "from Russia" and no "deals" in Russia. While that may be technically true, what's more important is that money that originated in the FSU has played a crucial role in his business career. The "art of the deal" seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.[/B]
[B][Image: image14.jpg]Felix Sater and Trump business card superimposed over FBI building. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Cliff / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), 591J / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) and Boing Boing (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).
[B]Sater appears to have been an FBI asset for many years, including at least some of the years when Cohen was working with Trump.[/B]
[B]Sater denied to WhoWhatWhy that any of his reports to the FBI from Trump Tower concerned organized crime figures in Russia, and asserted that he had never even heard of Mogilevich, though his own father was said to be a Mogilevich underling.[/B]
[B]In any case, the FBI agents running Sater were extremely focused on the FSU underworld. It is likely that they would take an interest in the partner of Cohen's in-law, and all the partner's ties to organized crime. And they would surely have been interested in how Donald Trump fit into this underworld web all around him.[/B]

[B]The Ukraine "Peace Deal"[/B]

[B]Yet Cohen remained mostly out of the public eye, even as myriad Trump associates (including Manafort) ended up in the hot seat for their business dealings in the FSU[B].[/B][/B]
[B][B]That changed with the report of the January 27, 2017, meeting between Cohen, Sater and Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko at a luxury hotel in New York.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The three men discussed a proposed Russia-Ukraine peace agreement that would result in the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia. Artemenko told The New York Times that Cohen delivered the proposal to Michael Flynn, who was then Trump's national security advisor. Cohen has told different stories about his role, but in one interview he confirmed that he delivered a bundle of documents containing the proposal to Flynn's office while Flynn was still part of the Trump administration. Cohen has insisted he was not aware of any Kremlin involvement.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In bragging about his role in getting such material into the White House, Artemenko comes across as clumsy and artless, seemingly oblivious to how devastating the revelation could have been to Trump had the media and, say, influential congressmen made more of it. But was he naive? Or was this actually a House of Cards-type scenario, where the Russians were deliberately publicizing another bit of incriminating material on Trump in order to gain yet more leverage over him and control over his fate?[/B][/B]
[B][B]The Artemenko "peace plan" was importantly accompanied by documents that purported to reveal corruption on the part of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, which could be used to weaken (and potentially topple) the Ukrainian regime led by an enemy of Putin.[/B][/B]
[B][B]This of course made the current Ukrainian authorities go ballistic. No more has emerged on the document bundle, or what, if anything, resulted from its arrival in the White House. But the intent was clearly to advance Russia's interests, and that of a pro-Russian Ukrainian politico with historic ties to Manafort.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image10.jpg]Andrii V. Artemenko superimposed photo of Michael Cohen. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and A. V. Artemenko / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).
[B][B]Although Felix Sater was present at the meeting as a supposed intermediary, he wouldn't have been needed for that. Artemenko had known Cohen for years. Cohen's brother's father-in-law was, as mentioned earlier, tied to Artemenko through business. Artemenko was also closely tied to Topolov, the allegedly money-laundering Ukrainian politician in business with Oronov, Bryan Cohen's father-in-law. (Oronov died March 2 after suffering from what Bryan Cohen described to WhoWhatWhy as an "incredibly aggressive" cancer diagnosed three months earlier.)[/B][/B]
[B][B]Artemenko said that his Russia-Ukraine sanctions proposal had been discussed with Cohen and Sater back during the primaries in early 2016, just as Trump was emerging as the frontrunner.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Western sanctions have delivered some crushing blows to Russia's economy, slashing both its GDP and ruble value by 50 percent in three years, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. Though the economy is expected to resume modest growth, getting out from under the stifling sanctions is for Putin still a national security concern of the highest possible priority. And the Trump camp had been all about lifting the sanctions.[/B][/B]
[B][B]During the 2016 Republican Convention, the party surprisingly removed from its platform a condemnation of Russia over its incursion into Ukraine. Initially, both Donald Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort denied any knowledge of the platform change. Much later, though, we learned that Trump's platform chairman, J. D. Gordon, had met with the Russian ambassador during the convention.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In an interview with CNN's Jim Acosta, Gordon said he had promoted the softening of the language on Ukraine a softening that Trump himself had advocated earlier in the year, in a meeting with Gordon. Later still, Gordon would attempt to walk back the admission in a parsing reminiscent of Bill Clinton: "I mean, what's the definition of pushed for the amendment, right? It's an issue of semantics."[/B][/B]
[B][B]Semantics or no semantics, the platform was changed.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Trump himself has been very kind to Russia. As a candidate, he worked strenuously to avoid criticizing Russia. He wouldn't even acknowledge that Russia had seized Crimea, or that it had military units in eastern Ukraine. Even after he was nominated, he told a reporter,[/B][/B]
[B][B]"Just so you understand: [Putin] is not going to go into Ukraine, all right?," as if that had not already happened two years earlier.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]This seeming quid pro quo with Russia suggests the extent to which Russia has compromised the Trump White House.[/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]Having Cohen and Sater deliver the sanctions "peace proposal" to Flynn, a trusted figure with his own Russia connections, keeps Trump himself out of the loop, something Cohen would well understand that's one of the core things lawyers do understand, and a role they often play.[/B][/B]
[B][B]We also know that Artemenko's role in the meetings with Cohen and Sater led Ukraine's chief prosecutor to open a treason investigation.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Why would Cohen go to such a meeting? It seems crazy. But then the Trump team's defining trait has been its reckless bravado, and a brash disregard for troubling appearances.[/B][/B]
[B][B]As for Artemenko's seemingly bumbling admission about the meeting, it is reminiscent of the "indiscretion" of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, who went to the Republican convention to meet with Manafort about softening the GOP's stance toward Russia. Although Trump and Manafort vigorously denied it, Kislyak then went public with his own account of the meeting.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In the complex game being played by Putin, with Russia's (and Putin's) future at stake, Trump seems to have been cornered into a precarious dependence on Russian "good will." As we noted months ago, the FBI has long known much of this. What former FBI director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller will do about it remains to be seen.[/B][/B]
[B][B]WhoWhatWhy sought an interview with Cohen, but he declined. When we offered to send him questions, he wrote back: "You can send questions but not committing to respond." We did send questions. And he did not respond.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Research assistance: Claire Wang[/B][/B]

Trump's Insubordination Problem

August 30, 2017

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Donald Trump told us that he'd hire the best people. He didn't mention that he'd be unable to fire them.
The president is experiencing a bout of insubordination from his top officials the likes of which we haven't witnessed in the modern era. It's not unusual to have powerful officials at war among themselves, or in the presidential doghouse. It's downright bizarre to have them publicly undercut the president, without fear of consequence.

The new measure of power in Washington is how far you can go criticizing the president at whose pleasure you serve. The hangers-on and junior players must do it furtively and anonymously. Only a principal like Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson or James Mattis can do it out in the open and get away with it.
First, it was chief economic adviser Cohn saying in an interview that the administrationi.e., Donald J. Trumpmust do a better job denouncing hate groups. Then, it was Secretary of State Tillerson suggesting in a stunning interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News that the rest of the government speaks for American values, but not necessarily the president. Finally, Secretary of Defense Mattis contradicted without a moment's hesitation a Trump tweet saying we are done talking with North Korea.
In a more normal time, in a more normal administration, any of these would be a firing offense (although, in Mattis' defense, he more accurately stated official U.S. policy than the president did). Tillerson, in particular, should have been told before he was off the set of Fox News on Sunday that he was only going to be allowed to return to the seventh floor of the State Department to clean out his desk.
The fact that this hasn't happened is an advertisement of Trump's precarious standing, broadcast by officials he himself selected for positions of significant power and prestige. A more typical scenario is that a president loses credibility in a foreign crisis when an adversary defies him, or in a domestic political confrontation when the opposition deals him a stinging defeat. Not at the hands of his own team.
This isn't the work of the deep state, career bureaucrats maneuvering or leaking from somewhere deep within the agencies. This is the shallow state, the very top layer of the government, operating in broad daylight, in fact wanting to be seen and heard differentiating themselves from the president of the United States.
Trump, of course, largely brought this on himself. He is reaping the rewards of his foolish public spat with Jeff Sessions and of his woeful Charlottesville remarks.
By publicly humiliating his own attorney general, Trump seemed to want to make him quit. When Sessions stayed put, Trump didn't take the next logical step of firing him because he didn't want to deal with the fallout. In the implicit showdown, Sessions had won. Not only had Trump shown he was all bark and no bite, he had demonstrated his lack of loyalty to those working for him.
So why should those working for him fear him or be loyal to him? With his loss of moral legitimacy post-Charlottesville, the president is more dependent on the people around him than they are on him. Trump's debilitated state has a late-Nixon feelwhen he is only seven months in.
Globalist Gary, as his Trumpist enemies style him, is invested with considerable market power, more than any political official besides the president himself. Tillerson is eminently replaceable, but his immediate sacking would be too destabilizing at a fragile moment. If Mattis were to leave, it would cause a freak-out on Capitol Hill and around the world. Never has a president had so many un-fireable subordinates.
Mattis and Co. obviously consider themselves the president's minders more than his underlings. But the least they could do is not air this patronizing attitude. They are impressive and accomplished people, but no one elected any of them president of the United States. They don't do the country any favors by highlighting Trump's weakness and by making it obvious that the American government doesn't speak with one voice.
It should be up to chief of staff John Kelly to make it stop. What these officials are doing is much worse than a White House aide slipping into the Oval Office to leave a printed article from WorldNetDaily on a corner of the Resolute Desk. It's worse than Steve Bannon feverishly trying to undermine H.R. McMaster, which is simply staff-level intramural politics taken to another level.
This isn't "the system working," the cliché for how various other power centers have thwarted Trump in the early going. It's the system gone haywire and tottering on the brink of a more serious crisis.
Nothing good can come from top officials of the U.S. government making it obvious that they believe, to borrow Tillerson's phrase, that the president speaks for himselfand no one else.
Anyone a member is welcome to add their own posts of items, thoughts, objections, criticisms, seconding of motion, etc. While I will continue to do this on my own to document what I think is the path from WWII American fascists taking over, killing JFK, killing RFK, killing MLK and Malcolm, killing so many others, fomenting wars, selling arms and drugs, stealing from the poor to pay the rich, turning the USA into a police state internally and the World policeman externally, spying on everyone, propaganda up the yazoo, silencing dissent with murder and fear, infiltrating progressive groups, covert ops, government overthrows, false-flag ops, and more and more again...and it being somewhat 'natural' we'd eventually wind up with someone like a Trump. Yes, he himself is an evil bigoted hateful idiot, but I think he is not the problem, but a symptom of THE PROBLEM and getting rid of him [the sooner the better] will NOT solve THE PROBLEM...but understanding him and the forces that swirl around him [for and against] can enlighten what the real PROBLEM is and thus find a solution. Remember that if Donald is Impeached or resigns, Pence is likely even worse on most issues and while more sane and even keeled in the normal sense is perhaps even more insane in his worldview than Trump. They all have to go and the Democratic machine too. Both are beholden to the same hidden strings and money, the same Deep Political machinations. Yes, there are small differences, but we can do better than all of these clowns. This thread is about the current Clown in Chief and his downfall - as I do NOT expect he will even finish out his first term....or just. Re-election I doubt unless he pulls us into a major war - a possibility. To me it is still unclear if the main part of the Deep Political establishment is willing to put up with him or not. But that they let him get this far shows that some of them are willing to let a nasty snake oil salesman and circus barker pose as President in this Potemkin Village Government stage set and 'reality' show.

Nearly Half of Trump Voters Think Whites, Christians Are Most Oppressed Groups

Friday, August 25, 2017By Mike Ludwig

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[Image: 2017_0825white.jpg](Photo: Giulio Fornasar / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
He has come for Mexicans, Muslims, Black people, trans people, Democrats, the news media, activists and even leading members of Congress from his own party. Few have been spared Donald Trump's scorn, but when it came time to condemn white supremacists for inciting deadly violence last week, the president was quick to argue that it wasn't entirely their fault.
A storm of media controversy followed, but Trump refused to back down, defending his initial remarks about the racist invasion of Charlottesville, Virginia. Then he held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona this week where he threatened to shut down the government over funding for his unpopular border wall and flirted with pardoning former Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a known racist who is facing jail time because he refused to stop racially profiling Latinos.
However, Trump's approval rating is not as low as some assume it is. It continues to hover just below 40 percent, even as calls for Congress to censure or impeach the president for capitalizing on racial animus and supporting white supremacy grow louder and louder. How can this be? White people, and particularly white Christians, are the group that Trump does not lash out against, and if you ask the Trump fans filling his ears with applause at rallies, they will likely to tell you that white Christians are the most oppressed people in the country.
A poll released after the rally in Phoenix found that a plurality of Trump voters -- 45 percent -- believe that white people in the US face more discrimination that any other racial group, and 54 percent said Christians are discriminated against more than the followers of any other religion, including Muslims and Jews.
Native Americans came in second place in the racial category, with a small slice -- 17 percent -- of Trump voters agreeing that the people who have long suffered a brutal genocide at the hands of white colonialists are the most discriminated against. Another 16 percent said Black people face more discrimination than other groups, including white people.
As white supremacists enjoy increasing visibility in the media and the nation suffers from an alarming spike in racist and anti-Muslim acts of violence, the poll numbers appear to affirm what progressive observers have feared since Trump surged into the political spotlight. A good chunk of Trump's core of support among Republican voters -- a core he solidified to win the GOP primaries by significant margins -- agree that white Christians are an oppressed group in the United States, a central tenet of the white supremacist movement.
When white nationalist and supremacist activists are given a platform in the media, they often repeat the same talking points, explaining that they are defending white culture and "white rights" from threats posed by immigrants, leftists and people of other races and religions. White supremacists such as David Duke also credit Trump with strengthening their movement.
As they marched in their now-infamous nighttime tiki-torch parade at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville last week, the mass of white men who made up the "Unite the Right" contingent chanted, "You will not replace us" and "Jews will not replace us."
Trump does face increasing backlash outside of his base of support. The same pollsters found that voters in general want Trump impeached by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin, and 53 percent wishes President Obama were still in the White House. Voters also tend to trust the news outlets that Trump routinely attacks more than they trust the president, with more than half of voters agreeing that ABC, CBS and the New York Times are more trustworthy than Trump.
Perhaps sensing that Trump is becoming a political black hole, Republican politicians lined up to criticize his milquetoast response to the racist violence in Charlottesville. Trump's growing unpopularity could weaken GOP candidates in the midterms (although this is not a certainty, given that mainstream Democrats still refuse to embrace the progressive causes, such as single-payer health care that energize their base, and face a notably difficult electoral map in 2018).
Just because some Republicans are modestly distancing themselves from Trump does not mean that they will do anything about the racism that is ingrained in the criminal legal system and other institutions. Bipartisan sentencing reform, which gained momentum during the Obama administration, has floundered in the Senate, and many Republicans continue to support the mass jailing and deportation of immigrants and the disenfranchisement of minority voters through voter suppression laws.
If the latest polls are any indication, embittered white voters in the GOP's base will reward them for these types of policies as they cling to the narrative of white victimhood that has served Trump so well.


[Image: image2-8-700x470.jpg]Our base expects a Spanish Inquisition. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0). See complete attribution below.
A picture says more than a thousand words and sometimes it speaks volumes. That was the case when photographers captured Donald Trump looking at the sun without protective glasses during the recent solar eclipse. It pretty much sums up the president's expressed dismissive attitude about science.
The vast majority of Americans don't share his sentiment. And for good reason. First, millions of them reveled in the spectacle of the eclipse making its way across the US. Most were smart enough to heed the advice of experts who urged people not to look directly at the sun. And why wouldn't they listen? After all, scientists had predicted the precise date of the eclipse decades ago.
Then, within a fortnight, the country's shores were hit by two powerful and unprecedentedly devastating hurricanes. Days in advance, scientists warned of the intensity of these storms and the destruction they would cause. Fortunately, most people paid attention. Though lives were lost, science saved many others.
Unfortunately, while Americans overwhelmingly trust experts when it comes to hurricanes and solar eclipses, a too-large percentage stops believing in science when it conflicts with their political views.
Climate change is Exhibit A, which is particularly ironic because climate-change deniers cast a skeptical eye on some of the same scientists who predicted the arrivals of Harvey and Irma with such accuracy. More than 95% of these experts believe that the planet is warming and that human activity is at least partially to blame. They also think that if something is not done quickly to reverse the warming trend, the consequences for humanity will be devastating.
One of the counter-arguments used by the deniers is that these scientists have to go along with what Trump calls a "hoax" because otherwise they would no longer get any funding for their research. Yet it is the fossil fuel industry that is spending incredible sums of money to fund the handful of studies that challenge the reality of human-caused global warming.
And no sane person would say climate scientists are making up major hurricanes only because they are in the pocket of the plywood industry. Oh, wait that's what Rush Limbaugh says.
On his show of September 5, Limbaugh asserted that meteorologists usually predictedthat hurricanes hit major population centers to scare people into believing in global warming, and made a connection to the home improvement and bottled water industries. Limbaugh later decided to evacuate his Florida home before the arrival of Hurricane Irma.
So on the one side of this "debate" you have the large majority of climate scientists and on the other you have a talk radio host and the very few scientists willing to take fossil-fuel money.
Unfortunately, under Trump, non-scientists are increasingly holding key positions in government; indeed, denying the existence of climate change seems to be a prime job qualification.
In July, the president nominated Sam Clovis to the top science job at the Department of Agriculture. Clovis does not hold a scientific degree but he was you guessed it a conservative talk radio host, who supported Trump during the Republican primary, and is a climate change sceptic.
He is not alone.
Earlier this week, Trump chose Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to run NASA. Bridenstine also forcefully backed the president during the campaign and is a climate change sceptic.
Sadly, it's not difficult to find Republican lawmakers in Congress who have no scientific background at all but are gladly substituting their political views for those of experts.
Perhaps the most egregious example is Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), a leading climate change sceptic who chairs the House Science Committee. Smith recently penned an op-ed in which he touted the benefits of a warming climate.
With people like Smith and, pending confirmation, Clovis and Bridenstine in key positions and with Trump at the helm, it's not surprising that the US is increasingly isolated on the issue of climate change. That might result in a short-term boon to the fossil fuel industry, but over the long run it's as foolish as looking into the sun for too long without protective glasses.