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[Image: image2-7-700x470.jpg]Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from NASA Goddard Space Flight / Flickr and Richard Nixon Presidential Library / Wikimedia.
A fortnight ago, Hurricane Harvey became the third "500-year" flood to wreck Houston in three years. Though wary of diagnosing any single storm as a consequence of climate change, climatologists argue that warmer air and oceans breed conditions in which storms can grow more powerful, damaging and frequent. The frequency of extreme precipitation events has consistently risen with atmospheric temperatures.
As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, however, so have GOP efforts to undermine its threat and existence.
Leading the charge is President Donald Trump, who has firmly rejected the overwhelming consensus among scientists since the early days of his campaign, and famously proclaimed climate change a hoax. Since assuming the presidency, he's insulated himself with a council of skeptics and mounted a succession of assaults on the environmental laws his predecessor enacted. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the most creative in a long line of skeptics, once brought a snowball to the Senate floor to debunk the "myth" of global warming.
The Republican Party hasn't always been so feverishly skeptical of human-caused temperature hikes.
In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made combating global warming a central issue of his presidential campaign, producing a bleak, now-iconic ad that features a blur of melting ice caps, congested highways and smokestack cities. Hardliners Chris Christie, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich all at one point acknowledged the reality of the phenomenon.
And it was President Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency, the office that Scott Pruitt, a fellow Republican, is now seeking to dismantle from within.
How a growing number of conservatives so drastically reversed their party's position on the most sizable crisis confronting the human race can be explained in equal parts by the power of interest groups and the partisan rift in Washington.
"Most Republicans still do not regard climate change as a hoax," Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist, told The New York Times in June. But they don't speak out because "it's become yet another of the long list of litmus-test issues that determine whether or not you're a good Republican."
Some GOP lawmakers, though, are beginning to find the increasingly frequent occurrences of supposedly infrequent natural disasters too disturbing and glaring to ignore.
In February, a coalition of senior Republican statesmen and economists on the Climate Leadership Council proposed a "repeal and replace" deal to address the threat of climate change: retract the regulations and enact a standard carbon tax. The plan, according to the group, would not only generate more household wealth in the form of dividends but also allow the US to meet the emissions reduction commitment set by the Paris Climate Accord, a groundbreaking international pact from which Trump has since withdrawn.
Two months ago, amid more partisan acrimony than ever before, the Republican-controlled House kept an amendment to the defense funding bill that acknowledged climate change as a national security threat.
Still, the party that started the debate on climate change 47 years ago can hardly be considered a reliable ally of the planet.
The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
Naomi Oreskes
Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science
is highly uncertain. Some have used this as an argument against adopting strong measures to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. For example, while discussing a major U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency report on the risks of climate change, then-EPA administrator Christine Whitman argued, "As
[the report] went through review, there was less consensus on the science and conclusions on climate
change."1 Some corporations whose revenues might be adversely affected by controls on carbon
dioxide emissions have also alleged major uncertainties in the science.2 Such statements suggest that
there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic
climate change. This is not the case.
The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC). Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United
Nations Environmental Programme, IPCC's purpose is to evaluate the state of climate science as a
basis for informed policy action, primarily on the basis of peer-reviewed and published scientific
literature.3 In its most recent assessment, IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific
opinion is that Earth's climate is being affected by human activities: "Human activities … are
modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy….
[M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in
greenhouse gas concentrations."4
IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States
whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. For example,
the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key
Questions, begins: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human
activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise."5 The report
explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and
answers yes: "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely
to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current
thinking of the scientific community on this issue."6
Others agree. The American Meteorological Society,7 the American Geophysical Union,8 and the
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent
years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling.9
The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism,
and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies'
members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was
tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003,
and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change."10
The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position,
evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the
consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or
implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position
on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the
consensus position.
Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change
might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.
This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the
National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians,
economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord
among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.
The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is
humility, and no one can be faulted for failing to act on what is not known. But our grandchildren will
surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed
to do anything about it.
Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for
continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of
what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of
anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time
for the rest of us to listen.
You Won't Like Mexico When It's Angry

PrePresident Trump's insults are pushing the Mexican political system into dangerous territory.
September 11, 2017

In his landmark 1985 book, Distant Neighbors, Alan Riding, then the New York Times' Mexico City correspondent, wrote that the Mexican president, in the days of the one-party state, was all powerful except for two things he could never do: 1) reelect himself (there's a constitutional one-term limit for Mexican presidents) and 2) bring Mexico closer to the United States.
Mexico has a long, fraught history with the United States that is evident to Mexicans, but seldom understood in Washington. For Mexicans, the United States is the country that invaded and stole half of our territory. Mexican children, to this day, are taught about the "Niños Heroes," the young cadets who defended the Castillo de Chapultepec, the 19th-century castle in Mexico City, one even wrapping himself in the Mexican flag and jumped to his death rather than be captured by the invading yanquis. Whether or not this tale is true, Mexicans learn from an early age that it is better to die with honor than suffer humiliation from our northern neighbor.

Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, this anti-U.S. sentiment has fadedgone dormant, even. Mexicans have grown used to trading with the U.S., and the Mexican government has managed to convince its people that cooperation with the U.S. is better than antagonism. Mexicans have gone along, reluctantly. Anyone who knows a Mexican national will see that, beyond all the niceties and friendship between neighbors, there's always a lingering suspicion of the United States.
Fast forward to two thousand and Trump. Mexico now wakes up to his tweets and humiliations. He doesn't even offer the usual routine condolences after an earthquake kills nearly 100 Mexicans, even though we offered that and more after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. All our old suspicions are confirmed: The United States is not a friend. The United States is out to get us, again. We're back to where we were before NAFTA.
In Washington, where I live, people tell me not to worry, not to pay attention to his tweets. "He's just pandering to his base," I am told. Perhaps. In Mexico, however, many believe Americans want to screw us, and Mexican politicians, like politicians everywhere, have to pander to voters if they want to win elections. No matter which of Mexico's three main political parties they support, the demand is the same: Don't submit us to humiliation from the United States. Not again. Not ever.
What U.S. observers see as a bargaining tactic for Trump, Mexicans see as a litmus test for our leaders. Any concession to him will be seen as cowering and politically unacceptable for any party, President Enrique Peña Nieto's included.
This dynamic paints the Mexican NAFTA negotiators into a corner. On the left, presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says negotiations should wait until after our 2018 elections because the current president is too weak to negotiate successfully. On the right, Senator Roberto Gil Zuarth of PAN, the rough equivalent of a Christian democratic party, calls for Mexico to leave the negotiating table unless we are shown respect by Trump, and PAN presidential contender Margarita Zavala demands our national dignity not be compromised. In the middle, the president's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) sits warily, hoping they can continue the negotiations without Trump blowing everything up. They know that if he continues to threaten and insult Mexico, they'd have no choice but to leave the negotiations and break the agreement. We would rather wrap ourselves in the flag and jump to our deaths than be humiliated.
So what would happen if Mexico were to break with the U.S. on NAFTA? I leave it to the economists to tally up the economic costs and to debate which country stands to lose more, though it seems clear there would be no winner in such a scenario. What is evident to me is that cooperation with the United States would become political poison in Mexico. Every candidate, from every party, would try to position him or herself (a woman leads in the presidential polls) as the most anti-U.S. They would all try to prove to the electorate that they would not let Trump trample all over us.
How bad could it get? The first item off the table would likely be cooperation on issues of migration. In the past decade, Mexico has worked to stem the flow of Central American immigrants into the United States by stopping them at our southern border. This has pitted us against our Latin American neighbors, who resent us for doing the U.S.'s dirty work. With an adversarial northern neighbor; we would have to halt this cooperation immediately.
Next up would be cooperation on the drug war. Mexicans harbor long-standing suspicions of armed Americans in our territory, be they invading forces or U.S. law-enforcement agents. In a post-NAFTA cold war with the United States, the Mexican government would be pressured to expel all U.S. agents currently stationed in Mexico to help in the fight against drug trafficking.
And it wouldn't stop there. In Mexico, drug trafficking has always been seen as a U.S. problem. Ask any Mexican, and she will be quick to say that the U.S. creates the demand, supplies the guns and launders the money; we suffer the deaths. The fight against drug trafficking is unpopular in Mexico because it is seen as a fight we're waging on another country's behalf. Whether or not such a view is correct, it would be politically unviable for the Mexican government to be seen as cooperating with an unfriendly neighbor on such a contentious issue. This is not a threat Mexican officials are making at the moment; it is a simple political reality.
The fight against terrorism would suffer. Since 9/11, Mexico has arguably been the biggest obstacle against terrorists trying to reach U.S. soil. Through deep collaboration with their U.S. counterparts, Mexican authorities have helped capture more than 200 suspected terrorists trying to enter the U.S., including a pair of Iranians who were planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. With an unraveling of U.S.-Mexico relations, there would be no political appetite for this cooperation to continue, be it in the general population or among the police and armed forces involved.
The list goes on: health, environment, transportation, water, disease control. No two countries in the world cooperate in as many areas as Mexico and the United States. Like a clean room, this extensive day-to-day cooperation is not noticed; it is taken for granted until something breaks down and the mess starts to show.

Mexico and the United States are at a breaking point. The political pressures in Mexico pushing our president away from the U.S. are becoming impossible to control. Trump's tweets, which in Washington are fodder for a good laugh, are no joke in Mexico. We've been a strong ally and a good neighbor to the United States. With his utter recklessness and racism, Trump may be bringing an end to all that.

Jorge Guajardo was Mexico's ambassador to China from 2007-2013 and currently lives in Washington, DC.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (left) is a longtime advocate for tighter voter identification laws and recently announced his candidacy for governor of Kansas. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ AP Photo

Critics get chance to hear Trump voter-fraud panel in N.H.

Many say the commission on election integrity is really trying to suppress minorities at the polls.

09/12/2017 05:22 AM EDT

President Donald Trump's commission on voter fraud will go face to face Tuesday with a group it hasn't met before: its critics.
The election-integrity panel, headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has been widely denounced by civil rights groups who contend it is a transparent effort to throw up obstacles to minority voters.

For the first time Tuesday, some of those opponents will have a chance to be in the room as the panel meets at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, N.H., although the exchange of views may be limited because the public is not scheduled to have any time at the microphone.
"One of the reasons I want to be there is to bear witness to what's going on, because they haven't been transparent," said Louise Spencer, an activist with the Concord-based Kent Street Coalition. "Since they're not taking public presentations, the most I can do is to comment with my presence. … I'm opposed to this commission and the fact that it's focused on voter fraud, and not focused on voter suppression and trying to protect people's right to vote."
The panel announced in July that it would take comments from the public at future meetings, but thus far it is accepting such input only in writing or via email.
It's not clear how much dialogue some of the commission's opponents are interested in, with some group organizing protests Tuesday aimed at ensuring that the commission is "dismantled."
"We're very concerned that [the panel] is aimed at undermining American confidence in our elections and that it will be used to justify voter suppression," said Devon Chaffee of the American Civil Liberties Union's New Hampshire chapter. "We're encouraging people throughout New Hampshire who are interested in protecting the right to vote to turn out and voice their concern. … It'll be interesting to see who turns out."
It appears only a few dozen pre-registered members of the public are likely to make it into the hall. Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Pence, said those seats were allocated on a first-come, first-served basis from among people who emailed to express interest in attending.
Lotter said that the room at St. Anselm's seats about 150 people and that some members of the media will be present throughout the session. He did not provide numbers for the number of press or public expected to be in the hall, but stressed that the session would be livestreamed.

An agenda for Tuesday's meeting indicates the first two panels are expected to focus on voter fraud and voter identification issues, with later presentations on electronic voting systems and on century-old voting machines still used in some New Hampshire polling places.
"I'm going to give a presentation on our voter fraud database," said the Heritage Foundation's Hans Von Spakovsky, a panel member. "I'm going to be talking about some of the problems we know have been experienced around the country, like problems with voter registration lists."
The panel's critics aren't impressed by the fraud-focused panels or the presentations posted online.
"This is obviously not a balanced set of panelists or presentations, and in fact it's by and large stacked with a group of people who've been trying to make the case that there's widespread voter fraud and have been repeatedly debunked," said Wendy Weiser, an election law expert with New York University's liberal Brennan Center.
One of the issues expected to be discussed at the session, allegations that out-of-state voters visiting New Hampshire used same-day registration to vote in the state last fall, is already triggering a backlash.
[Image: secondary-170911-trump-kobach-gty-1160.jpg]
President Donald Trump (center) speaks while flanked by Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on July 19. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A column that Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, posted on Breitbart News last week alleged that more than 5,000 voters may have voted illegally. He based the assertion on data showing those voters used out-of-state IDs to vote, but never sought a New Hampshire license. He said this made it "highly likely that voting by nonresidents" led to the defeat of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte by Democrat Maggie Hassan.
Critics slammed the claim, saying there are numerous innocent explanations for the voting, which was largely in college towns, not border areas. Many of the new registrants are likely students who have no need to drive on campus but have a legal right to register there.
"New Hampshire voters are not required to have a state driver's license in order to vote," Chaffee said. "We're appalled Mr. Kobach is making these allegations and innuendos in the press."
Even one of the panel members, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, pushed back against Kobach's contention.
"It's a phantom menace. There's nothing wrong with this," Dunlap said in an interview. There's no connection "between voter fraud and not updating a driver's license. It's like saying if you have money in your wallet, you probably robbed a bank. It's not relevant."

The claims have also put New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardiner, who serves on the commission, in an awkward spot. Gardiner, a registered Democrat, has defended the integrity of the state's election process, but did not respond to an interview request Monday.
"His election system has been unfairly and improperly tarnished, and he hasn't said anything significant in rebuttal," Weiser, of the Brennan Center, complained.
The 12-member election-integrity panel has been highly controversial since before its inception, when Trump promised a federal investigation into his unsubstantiated claim that three to five million people voted illegally in last fall's presidential election.
Many lawmakers urged him to drop the issue, but in May he announced plans for a bipartisan panel called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The panel's vice chairman, Kobach, quickly prompted an outcry and a flurry of lawsuits by asking states to turn over copies of their voter rolls, including such information as criminal convictions and partial Social Security numbers.
Leaders of several states said they wouldn't comply, citing privacy concerns and fears about how the commission would use the data, but Kobach stressed that the request was only for information already available to the public upon request.

Kobach, a longtime advocate for tighter voter identification laws and for regular purges of the voter rolls, recently announced his candidacy for governor of Kansas. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Pence and Trump both turned out for the commission's first official meeting, on July 19, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex.
While the session was closed to the public, it was webcast on the White House website. Under precedents set during the Obama administration, authorities have deemed a video livestream sufficient to meet the requirements of open-government laws like the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Nevertheless, the voter fraud panel is facing at least five lawsuits charging that it is failing to comply with that law and others, including rules for handling sensitive personal data. None of the suits have gotten much traction in the courts thus far, although the litigation seems to have spurred the commission to make more information about presentations at upcoming meetings available to the public in a more timely fashion.
While Pence is officially the chairman of the panel, the White House announced last month that he would not attend Tuesday's session, meaning Kobach will run it.


[Image: image2-14-700x470.jpg]Blackwater employee Jamie Smith at Afghanistan's border with Pakistan in 2002. Photo credit: Jamie Smith / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
It all started with a single gunshot from a Blackwater Security Company guard. A young man who was driving with his mother to pick up his dad from work was killed. His foot wedged against the accelerator causing his car to roll towards a Blackwater vehicle. Then, as one eyewitness recalled, "the shooting started like rain." The young man's car burst into flames after a direct hit by a grenade.
This was the scene when a Blackwater private security convoy opened fire in a busy square in Baghdad in the middle of the day, exactly 10 years ago, for no reason other than nervous trigger fingers.
Seventeen innocent Iraqis were killed and 24 injured in what came to be known as the Nisour Square Massacre. It contributed to the negative Iraqi public opinion toward the allied forces' presence in their country, and to increased backlash and bloodshed.
Now the founder and ex-CEO of Blackwater (renamed twice currently Academi Services) has the ear of the president of the United States.
Erik Prince is the brother of billionaire secretary of state for education Betsy DeVos. He and his family donated more than $10 million to GOP candidates and super PACs in 2016.
Prince was present at an August meeting of military specialists at Camp David to finalize President Donald Trump's strategy on Afghanistan. He had been making the rounds in Washington with a binder containing his proposal to embed advisors in Afghani forces and provide them with a private air force. All of this would be overseen by a commander, known as a "Viceroy," reporting to Prince's company.
"The privatization of security is not unusual," says Robert Young Pelton author, adventurer and war journalist whose coverage includes Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq. "But the privatization and provision of military level violence in conflict zones has proven to be a root cause of anger and distrust…The worst-case scenario is the self-financing of private armies so there is always skepticism of private plans to fight wars."
There is nothing wrong with Prince's strategic plan, says Pelton. "[It] was written by people with experience in the fundamentals of counterinsurgency concepts: air support, training of small commando groups and logistics."
[Image: image1-17.jpg]Erik Prince. Photo credit: Miller Center / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The problems began, says Pelton, "when Prince adds a level of bad history reading by integrating inflammatory concepts such as Viceroy,' East India Company' and of course the unsaid assumption that he seeks to profit from war."
Despite a seeming inability to grasp how terms from the colonial past might upset present-day Afghans, Prince had clearly done his homework on President Trump's fondness for flattery. He likened his master-plan for Afghanistan to Trump's "turnaround" of a stalled ice rink in New York. Prince was so keen for this sycophantic reference to be highlighted in an interview he gave to the Atlantic that he told the writer: "Make sure to get the Wollman Ice Rink…Please be sure to use that in the article."
Meanwhile, on August 4, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the only murder conviction of a Blackwater employee involved in the massacre; the Court also ordered the resentencing of three other Blackwater employees currently serving 30 years each on lesser manslaughter and firearms charges ruling that these sentences constituted "cruel and unusual punishment."
Pelton does not fault the Appeals Court on this decision: "The State Department created the high-profile violent operating style of Blackwater, and events like Nisour Square were just the most egregious of many. But the trial was deliberately vindictive, [it] wrongly applied laws and was fraught with procedural problems."
"Full focus should be on the US Government's use of rented perpetrators of violence in order to conduct business in hostile regions," Pelton says. "It was only a matter of time before an event of this type would occur in Iraq using these operating methods condoned by the State Department."

Prince's lack of regret or acceptance of blame for murderous mistakes by his employees is a matter of public record. In a congressional hearing less than a month after the Nisour Square massacre, he testified that his men had "acted appropriately at all times." When pressed further by Illinois Democrat Danny Davis, Prince denied the company had ever killed innocent civilians.
Davis: "You do admit that Blackwater personnel have shot and killed innocent civilians, don't you?"
Prince: "No, sir. I disagree with that, I think there's been times when guys are using defensive force to protect themselves, to protect the packages, trying to get away from danger. There would be ricochets, there are traffic accidents, yes. This is war."
Jeremy Scahill, in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is dismissive of Prince's unwaveringly defiant testimony.
"The assertion by Prince that no innocents had been killed by Blackwater was simply unbelievable. And not just according to the eyewitnesses and survivors of the Nisour Square shootings and other deadly Blackwater actions. According to a report prepared by [former Congressman Henry] Waxman's staff, from 2005 to the time of the hearing, Blackwater operatives in Iraq opened fire on at least 195 occasions. In more than 80 percent of these instances, Blackwater fired first. These statistics were based on Blackwater's own reporting. But some alleged the company was underreporting its statistics. A former Blackwater operative who spent nearly three years in Iraq told the Washington Post his 20-man team averaged four or five shootings a week, several times the rate of 1.4 incidents per week that Blackwater claimed."
Trump's announcement of his new strategy for Afghanistan was typically short on specifics. Whether Prince's private army will form part of or inform all of it is not yet known. But given the bloody history of what is now the longest war in US history, the question arises: Can the US afford to send for-profit mercenaries with views aligned to Prince's onto the streets of Afghanistan at the taxpayers' expense?


What Can Investigators Learn from Trump's Long-Time Confidant? Meets with Senate Intel 9/19

[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).
[B]After months of speculation, he's finally meeting, informally, with the Senate Intelligence Committee, i.e. not under oath, and in closed session. It's not clear how in-depth the conversation will be, or what we will learn about it.[/B]
[B]But the following story should help. It lays bare, in documented detail, 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.[/B]
[B]Among the points illustrated below:[/B]
[B] Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, two key figures in Trump's businesses in recent years, both have backgrounds tied to the FSU[/B]
[B] 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[/B]
[B] 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[/B]
[B] Both Cohen and Sater showed up recently as intermediaries to Trump on behalf of pro-Putin policy initiatives[/B]
[B] 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.[/B]
[B]Cohen will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee September 19. He will not be under oath.[/B]

[B]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.[/B]
[B]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?[/B]
[B]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.[/B]
[B]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]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.[/B]
[B]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.[/B]
[B][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)

[B]Enter Cohen, the Ultimate Groupie[/B]

[B]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.[/B]
[B]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.[/B]
[B]"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."[/B]
[B][B]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]
[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. Eventually he agreed to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee informally, i.e. not under oath (that's happening September 19).[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]"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."[/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]The tower never materialized, but their "boy," of course, did ascend to the presidency. And the Trump Organization renewed ownership of the TrumpTowerMoscow.comdomain this July before the latest controversy, though it has since gone dark.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Cohen's Own Ukrainian Connections[/B][/B]

[B][B]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.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Cohen was admitted to the New York Bar in 1992 and became a personal injury lawyer.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image4-6.jpg]Victory Casino Cruises. Photo credit: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
[B][B]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][/B]

[B][B]Towering Trump Investments[/B][/B]

[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]
[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]
[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]
[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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]"Trump properties are solid investments," says Cohen, who's also looking at the new Trump SoHo project.[/B][/B]
[B][B]By the time he entered Trump's employ, Cohen, his relatives and his business partner had already purchased a combined 11 Trump properties.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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?[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]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][/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."[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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."[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image12.jpg]FBI Wanted Poster for Semion Mogilevich. Photo credit: FBI
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Ukraine in Tug of War Between East and West[/B][/B]

[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]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.[/B][/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image2-19.jpg]Alex Oronov. Photo credit: Facebook / TPM
[B][B]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."[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]

[B][B]Cohen and Sater and Trump….Together[/B][/B]

[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]We explained that tackling FSU influence in Wall Street had become one of the FBI's highest priorities.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image5-3.jpg]Trump Tower. Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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."[/B][/B]
[B][B]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."[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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."[/B][/B]
[B][B][Image: image3-9.jpg]Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]Michael Cohen officially joined Trump's organization in a top position as Executive Vice President and Special Counsel.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]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.[/B][/B]
[B][B]In this period, we see a third figure who would later become highly controversial for his links into the FSU: Paul Manafort.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]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][/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_normal.jpg]Bernard Losev @bernielosev

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

[Image: fCzJ7o5C_normal.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]

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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[B], 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 Timesthat 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]


[Image: JohnKelly-1.jpg]

Chief Of Staff John Kelly's Reaction To Trump's UN Speech Just Said It ALL



Watching Donald Trump conduct himself on the world stage is watching the erosion of American power in real time. The president is utterly ignorant, utterly incompetent, and utterly ill-intentioned. He talks like a child and today's address to the United Nations General Assembly was no different.
Trump stood up in front of the world and threatened to wipe out 25 million North Koreans, and referred to their leader as "rocket man," a juvenile turn of phrase that shows he is not taking the situation seriously enough.

[Image: xsU0vUOtnmJaBJqZ.jpg][/URL]

[URL=""][Image: yv-YqI5w_normal.jpg]Judd Legum

Trump calls Kim Jung Un "Rocket Man" in a speech to the United Nations.

This is real life.
4:22 PM - Sep 19, 2017
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The faces of the world leaders watching told the story clearly enough: they no longer respect America. One face in particular though told a different tale.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was photographed with his face in his hand, seemingly disgusted or shocked into disbelief by Trump's disgraceful performance.
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Kelly was originally touted as the no-nonsense military man who would get Trump's White House in order and push for that "pivot" that inane punditry keeps insisting Trump will make.
The truth is, the pivot is not coming. The idiotic reality television star who became president is not going to suddenly flip a switch and develop compassion or responsibility.

[FONT=&amp]A blunt, fearful rant: Trump's UN speech left presidential norms in the dust
[FONT=&amp]His maiden address was unlike any delivered by a US president, and when it was over a sense of incoherence and menace hung in the air
Julian Borger at the United Nations
[FONT=&amp]Tuesday 19 September 2017 19.30 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 20 September 2017 07.31 BST[/FONT]

Donald Trump's maiden address to the UN general assembly was unlike any ever delivered in the chamber by a US president.
There are precedents for such fulminations, but not from US leaders. In tone, the speech was more reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez.
It did echo George W Bush's 2002 "axis of evil" speech. That was delivered to a domestic audience, and there was little doubt that in his mind Trump was looking beyond the stony foreign faces looking up at him from the hall where his customary pauses for applause were filled with uneasy silence to the cheering crowds of supporters that carried to him to his stunning electoral victory, and to the centre of the world stage.
He did not even bother to mention climate change, generally seen as the greatest threat to the planet at the UN, but viewed as a liberal hoax by much of Trump's political base a view he has encouraged over the years.
The speech struck some of the darker notes of Trump's earlier rhetoric, like the "American carnage" he described at his inauguration in January, and his evocation of an embattled western civilisation in his speech in Poland in July.
All three used fear as their major key. All three bore the combative hallmark of his chief speechwriter, Stephen Miller, a nativist acolyte of Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist who has left the White House but clearly still wields formidable influence.
Like Bush, Trump offered the world a black-and-white choice between the "righteous many" against the "wicked few" but his choice of language was far blunter than his predecessor. There can not have been many, if any, threats to "totally destroy" another nation at a UN general assembly. He did not even direct the threat at the regime, making it clear it was North Korea as a country that was at peril.
Trump issued the warning just minutes after the UN secretary general, António Guterres, had appealed for calmer rhetoric. "Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings," Guterres had said in his own first general assembly address, and it was clear who those remarks were directed towards.
Trump's rhetoric was aimed at a jumpy and defensive regime at a time of high tension. In the aftermath of North Korea's sixth nuclear weapons test and second launch of a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific, the US has resumed overflights of the Korean peninsula by heavy bombers, even carrying out practice runs with real bombs near the demilitarized zone.
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The day before Trump's address, the US defence secretary James Mattis claimed that there were "many military options" for dealing with Pyongyang, even suggesting, cryptically, that some of those options did not put Seoul at risk.
Kim Jong-un and his regime expect to be targeted by a "decapitation strike" and have shaped their military strategy accordingly, threatening annihilation of Seoul and other targets within reach of its nuclear missiles and artillery.
Trump warns US may have to 'totally destroy North Korea' videoLike Bush 15 years ago, Trump concentrated on trio of enemies: although the current president removed Iraq and added Venezuela alongside North Korea and Iran. Iran was included for being its regional role, such as its backing for the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, and also because of the nuclear deal that Tehran sealed with six global powers in 2015, including the US.
Trump used the green marble UN podium to pour scorn on the agreement, the signature foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama, the predecessor he so blatantly despises.
Venezuela was targeted for the socialist policies of the Nicolás Maduro government and the erosion of its democracy, but Trump did not attempt to distinguish Venezuela's faults from other autocratic regimes with whom Trump has sought to cultivate.
Saudi Arabia was not mentioned. Nor was Russia, although there was, early on in the speech, a rare public expression of support for Ukrainian sovereignty.
Nor was there any explanation of how the castigation of these "rogue regimes" dovetailed with the dominant theme of the first half of Trump's speech, which was devoted to the assertion of the undiluted sovereignty of the nation state.
Seeking to draw a sharp line between his view of international relations and those of his predecessors in the Oval Office, Trump stressed that diverse nations had the right to their own "values" and "culture" without the interference of outsiders. The UN was there as a forum for cooperation between strong and independent nations, not to impose "global governance" from on high.
In a briefing on the eve of the speech, a senior White House official had insisted that Trump had pondered long and hard over this "deeply philosophical" segment of his address, as it marked an important exposition of his approach to foreign policy, labelled "principled realism".
Trump and his administration have frequently invoked such ideas to justify the absence of criticism for Saudi Arabia, Russia and other perceived partners for their appalling human rights records.
With Tuesday's address, however, Trump punched yawning holes in his own would-be doctrine, singling out enemies, expressing horror at their treatment of their people and threatening interference to the point of annihilation.
What was left, when the muted applause died down in the UN chamber, was a sense of incoherence and a capricious menace hanging in the air.


President Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, boasting about the size of the U.S. military, threatening to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, hinting at an intervention in Venezuela and threatening to "totally destroy" North Korea. The 40-minute speech was reportedly written by Trump's senior adviser, Stephen Miller, and did not call out other authoritarian countries that are U.S. allies, including Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In his sharpest of many threats, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man" and said the U.S. was prepared to destroy an entire nation of 25 million people.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
AMY GOODMAN: North Korea's ambassador walked out of the U.N. General Assembly just as Trump took the podium. Iran's government condemned Trump's remarks as "shameless and ignorant," while the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, said from Caracas Trump is the "new Hitler" of international politics. This is Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela's chancellor to the United Nations.
JORGE ARREAZA: This is supposed to be the house and the headquarters of the peace and the international law. And what we heard was the opposite of that. It's a president who comes for the first time and speaks about war, about destroying countries, about blockades against countries.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Venezuela's foreign minister.
For more, we're joined by Jeffrey Sachs, university professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. Professor Sachs is a leading economist, author of many books, including Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable. The book's foreword is by Bernie Sanders.
Professor Sachs, welcome back to Democracy Now!
JEFFREY SACHS: Thanks a lot.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you were there at the time that President Trump gave his first U.N. address before the General Assembly. Start with North Korea and take it from there.
JEFFREY SACHS: Horrifying. Of course, there was a shudder in the room. No president of the United States has declared from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly that the U.S. is ready to totally destroy a country. It was absolutely shocking. And the whole speech was grotesque, in my view.
JEFFREY SACHS: Because it was militaristic. It was filled with grievance, with bias, with ignorance. Trump is a very dangerous man. There's no question about it. He individually a very dangerous man, and the United States right now is a very dangerous country.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what was the response amongst other member states and other people present in the General Assembly when he spoke?
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, you could hear shuffling, chuckles, amazement, gasps, a few applause. There was Netanyahu enthusiastically applauding. It was a very odd scene. I am still a bit shaken by it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And Secretary of State Tillerson was there, as was Ambassador Nikki Haley. Did you have the sense that there was somethat they were in agreement with what he was saying?
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, I suppose that they are, or they should get out of the administration. This is policy. And it is grotesque. And it is extraordinarily dangerous.
AMY GOODMAN: When Trump called the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man" and said the U.S. is prepared to destroy this entire nation of 25 million people, North Korea's foreign minister issued the country's first response to Trump's remarks on Thursday.
RI YONG-HO: [translated] If Trump was thinking about surprising us with the sound of a dog barking, then he is clearly dreaming.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the North Korean representative.
JEFFREY SACHS: I've been reminded often in these days of a statement by President John F. Kennedy, when he said in 1963 that in the nuclear age, to put an adversary at the choice of a nuclear war or a humiliating retreat, it would show the bankruptcy of our policy or a collective death wish for the world. President Kennedy was a great man. We have right now an administration which is endangering America and the world.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk, one by one, about the states that President Trump called out. North Korea, what do you think has to be done? I mean, in all these cases, it involves more than one country on that country. This involves more than the U.S. and North Korea, as does Iran, of course. What has to happen with North Korea?
JEFFREY SACHS: First, we have to avoid a nuclear war. And a nuclear war is a real threat. It's not some idle imagination right now. You have two leadersboth seem unstableyelling at each other. Both have nuclear arms. Seoul, South Korea, is a few minutesmoments away from the North Korean arms. We're
AMY GOODMAN: Well, President Trump has been attacking the North Korean president, the South Korean president, as well.
JEFFREY SACHS: I've heard people say, "Well, South Korea, that would be collateral damage." It's unbelievable the way people are talking right now and how close we are to disaster and how complacent we are, because it's unimaginable. Now, I'm not saying it's inevitable, but I am saying it is absolutely being pushed right now recklessly. And, of course, what first needs to happen is to tamp down this kind of absolutely dangerous, provocative rhetoric.
The North Koreans made a statement a few days ago that was not well covered, which said, "We are looking for a military equilibrium to avoid a military option," meaning "We don't want to be overthrown by the United States." The U.S., of course, is a serial regime changer. In fact, our foreign policy is based on covert and overt wars of overthrow of other countries: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assada disaster that has created absolute chaos, indeed all three of them. North Korea basically said a few days ago, "We don't want to be overthrown." Well, that is absolutely correct. We should have diplomacy politics, not a nuclear exchange.
AMY GOODMAN: And China's role in this, what they can do?
JEFFREY SACHS: Well, China also doesn't want chaos. China is calling every day for a diplomatic response. And we know that a diplomatic response is possible. Indeed, when the challenge was Iran, you had all five memberspermanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, making a historic agreement with Iran, precisely the one that Trump is attacking right now vis-à-vis Iran. So, we're just pushing for war. It's incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned that the whole investigation of Trump around Russian issues isas the prosecutor is breathing down his neck, that he will do something rash internationally to distract attention?
JEFFREY SACHS: I don't know if it's to distract attention or whether he is just psychologically profoundly unstableand he isor just ignorant, which he is, or vicious and biased and stereotyping and without historical knowledge, which he is all of those things. So I don't know what it will be. But I do know that the United States has a war tendency, and it is restrained only at the top, actually. And here you have a president who is egging on, provoking, himself unstable, without attention span. It's extraordinarily dangerous.
And where is the Congress? Not one word by our Congress. It's a disgrace, because under our Constitution, Congress has the only authority to declare war, and our Congress is useless, as we know, in this, because they've just ceded the authority to an imperial presidency. And now we have a president completely unfit and absolutely provocative every day.

Donald Trump spends Sunday watching his desperate NFL gambit backfire on him

Bill Palmer
Updated: 8:01 pm EDT Sun Sep 24, 2017

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Donald Trump thought he saw an opportunity. He thought he could criticize the black NFL players who have been kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of racism. He was expecting to score points with his own racist base and with white moderates, while only angering those who already despise him. But by the time Sunday afternoon's football games began playing out, it had become clear that the entire NFL was coming together in solidarity against him.

It started early this morning when New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has a close personal relationship with Donald Trump, released a statement condemning him for having profanely attacked NFL players and their civil rights. It continued when former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, who had campaigned for Trump during the election, used his TV commentary role to angrily rail against Trump for attacking NFL players. That was just the warm-up act.

As the first game of the day was kicking off, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had donated to Trump in the past, stood arm in arm with his players during the anthem, some of whom were kneeling. As the day went on, far more NFL players took a knee than ever before. As the day went on, the owner of the Miami Dolphins did the same. Several other owners released statements condemning Trump.

By the time the games were fully underway, the message couldn't have been more clear. The players were more inclined to protest than ever. The players who didn't want to protest were inclined to show solidarity with the players who were protesting. The owners and coaches made clear that they wanted Donald Trump to back off. By the end of it all, the NFL had simply kicked Trump's ass. If he thought he could turn the NFL against itself for his own gain, he misjudged things yet again.