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Thread: USA under presidency of a know-nothing neo-fascist, racist, sexist mobbed-up narcissist!!

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    Default A lot of what is below is up to now being AVOIDED by all investigations!

    May 17, 2017 | Russ Baker, C. Collins and Jonathan Z. Larsen


    Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia

    Incomplete Investigation Would Jeopardize US Democracy

    Photo credit: James Hughes / NY Daily News via Getty Image
    As much as President Donald Trump would like to make the various investigations into Russia’s interference in the US election go away, it is still the biggest story of the year. WhoWhatWhy has done its part in advancing it by publishing several exclusives on the issue.
    The biggest one was undoubtedly our bombshell article on whether the FBI’s Russia investigation was compromised because it could interfere with the Bureau’s objective of fighting organized crime originating in the former Soviet Union. Part of that story details Trump’s various ties to organized crime and contacts associated with mobsters.
    A lot has happened since we published it 7 weeks ago, not the least of which was the firing of James Comey. Another recent development was the airing of an engaging Dutch documentary by the program Zembla, which highlights some of Trump’s most dubious connections (Part 1 & Part 2). Although there are some errors of fact, including miscasting a plaintiff’s attorney as a state prosecutor, it’s still worth watching.
    And you’ll definitely want to brush up on our original article (reprinted below) and our deep-digging followups, which we linked to above. Because this story isn’t going away. It’s just going to get bigger.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation cannot tell us what we need to know about Donald Trump’s contacts with Russia. Why? Because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.
    But the Feds’ stonewalling risks something far more dangerous: Failing to resolve a crisis of trust in America’s president. WhoWhatWhy provides the details of a two-month investigation in this 6,500-word exposé.
    The FBI apparently knew, directly or indirectly, based upon available facts, that prior to Election Day, Trump and his campaign had personal and business dealings with certain individuals and entities linked to criminal elements — including reputed Russian gangsters — connected to Putin.
    The same facts suggest that the FBI knew or should have known enough prior to the election to justify informing the public about its ongoing investigation of potentially compromising relationships between Trump, Putin, and Russian mobsters — even if it meant losing or exposing a valued informant.

    It will take an agency independent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to expose Donald Trump’s true relationship with Moscow and the role Russia may have played in getting him elected.
    Director James Comey recently revealed in a congressional hearing for the first time that the FBI “is investigating … the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
    However, a two-month WhoWhatWhy investigation has revealed an important reason the Bureau may be facing undisclosed obstacles to revealing what it knows to the public or to lawmakers.
    Our investigation also may explain why the FBI, which was very public about its probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails, never disclosed its investigation of the Trump campaign prior to the election, even though we now know that it commenced last July.
    Such publicity could have exposed a high-value, long-running FBI operation against an organized crime network headquartered in the former Soviet Union. That operation depended on a convicted criminal who for years was closely connected with Trump, working with him in Trump Tower — while constantly informing for the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and being legally protected by them.
    Some federal officials were so involved in protecting this source — despite his massive fraud and deep connections to organized crime — that they became his defense counsel after they left the government.
    In secret court proceedings that were later unsealed, both current and former government attorneys argued for extreme leniency toward the man when he was finally sentenced. An FBI agent who expressed his support for the informant later joined Trump’s private security force.
    In this way, the FBI’s dilemma about revealing valuable sources, assets and equities in its ongoing investigation of links between the Trump administration and Russian criminal elements harkens back to the embarrassing, now infamous Whitey Bulger episode. In that case, the Feds protected Bulger, a dangerous Boston-based mobster serving as their highly valued informant, even as the serial criminal continued to participate in heinous crimes. The FBI now apparently finds itself confronted with similar issues: Is its investigation of the mob so crucial to national security that it outweighs the public’s right to know about their president?
    Jack Blum, a former senior Senate investigator and one of America’s foremost experts on white-collar financial crime, sums up the complexity — and the urgency — of the situation:
    “What makes this investigation especially difficult is that it will lead into the complex relations between the counterintelligence operations of the FBI and its criminal investigative work,” says Blum.
    “Further, it is likely other elements of the intelligence community are involved and that they have ‘equities’ to protect. Much of the evidence, justifiably, will be highly classified to protect sources and methods and in particular to protect individuals who have helped one or another of the agencies involved.”
    Photo credit: FBI

    “I Can’t Go into Those Details Here”

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    In his March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey said that he could not go into detail about its probe into the Trump administration’s Russian connection.
    If he had, we might have learned that, for more than three decades the FBI has had Trump Tower in its sights. Many of its occupants have been targets of major investigations, others have been surveilled, and yet others have served as informants. One thing many of them have in common is deep ties to organized crime — including the Russian mafia.
    Felix Sater fits all of these categories. A convicted felon, Sater worked in Trump Tower, made business deals with Donald Trump through Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock, cooperated with the FBI and CIA and was subsequently protected by the DOJ from paying for his crimes. And the Moscow-born immigrant remains deeply linked to Russia and Ukraine.
    Based on documents examined by WhoWhatWhy, it is possible to draw certain conclusions that help connect the dots between Trump, the FBI, Russia and the mob.
    The resulting picture is not a pretty one for Donald Trump. However, because of its efforts to neutralize the organization of perhaps the world’s most powerful mobster — a man considered a serious national security threat — the Bureau might just have compromised its own ability to provide to Congress or inform the American public about all of the ties that exist between Trump, his presidential campaign and the regime of Vladimir Putin.
    Further, Trump’s business association with Sater and Bayrock may have put the president’s financial interests at substantial risk, including possibly millions of dollars in fines, penalties, or other damages, should civil or criminal misconduct be proven in court or otherwise resolved if claims were triggered. Anyone who knew of Trump’s jeopardy in this matter would have enormous leverage over the Trump operation.
    The government’s kid-glove treatment of Sater is partially explained in those long-suppressed legal documents, which reveal that the mobbed-up businessman was perceived by the authorities to be extraordinarily cooperative and useful. Legal filings on Sater’s behalf state that he “reported daily” to the FBI for many years.
    Sater agreed to assist the US government on issues of national security and organized crime. His activities were first revealed in a lawsuit brought by a former employee of Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock. While working with Trump, Sater’s name became “Satter” publicly — presumably with the knowledge if not the encouragement of the FBI. This distanced Satter the businessman, and his partners, from Sater the criminal.
    Attorneys representing the plaintiff spent years untangling the financial machinations of Bayrock — which they allege involve hundred of millions of dollars in claims arising from, among other things, money laundering and fraud.
    They also sought to expose the government’s awareness of — even complicity in — Sater’s activities.
    Their efforts to unseal court documents, including Sater’s legal history, have been met with a concerted pushback by DOJ lawyers, mischaracterizations of the case record, and even — according to the attorneys — anonymous death threats.
    Felix Sater could not be reached for comment.*(See Editor’s Note at bottom for update)

    A Stunning Discovery

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    The story of Donald Trump’s business dealings with a Russian mobster might never have come out were it not for a Bayrock employee stumbling upon Sater’s cooperation agreement with the FBI, among other sensitive information, that had inadvertently been left accessible.
    That employee sought out attorney Fred Oberlander, who combed through the documents. Over time, Oberlander — who was instructing undergraduates at Yale University in computational physics and computer science from age 18 — began to deconstruct the byzantine financial structure that was Bayrock, which allegedly hid a range of crimes, including massive-scale money laundering from sources in the former Soviet Union.
    On February 10, 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, instructed Oberlander, in a secret order, not to inform the legislative branch of the United States government what he knew about Felix Sater. (That order remains under seal, but a federal judge has unsealed a redacted version.)
    Apparently, the appellate court was persuaded that the unusually broad order was justified on the merits, but the lawyers opposing Sater found the imposed remedy extraordinary.
    “Our being ordered to not tell Congress what we know may well be the first and only hyper-injunction in American history,” asserts Oberlander’s own attorney, Richard Lerner. “If there are others who have been scared silent by judges who wish to nullify Congressional and public oversight, we may never know. That is frightening.”
    Photo credit: WhoWhatWhy

    Characters Out of a James Bond Movie

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    Preventing the Russian mafia from expanding its foothold in the United States has been one of the Bureau’s top priorities. In fact, it might be the FBI’s most important function apart from its role in the fight against terrorism.
    The Russian mob has a breathtaking and underappreciated reach. It is so powerful that FBI Agent Peter Kowenhoven told CNN in 2009 that Semion Mogilevich, its “boss of bosses,” is a strategic threat, and a man who “can, with a telephone call or order, affect the global economy.”

    US authorities came to see Mogilevich, who is described as close with Putin, as not only a danger to the financial system but a potential threat to world peace. He had access to stockpiles of military weapons and even fissionable material, snapped up as the Soviet Union fell apart.
    His rumored ability to deliver the makings of weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder — as well as his experience in smuggling opium from Afghanistan — would take on the very highest importance after 9/11, when European intelligence sources reported that al-Qaeda representatives had contacted Mogilevich in search of nuclear material.
    The Russian mob should also not be confused with a mere crime syndicate. It is an organization comprised of state actors, oligarchs, and specific groups of individuals working collectively with the authority of the Russian government — a “mafia state.” At times, it is difficult to tell where the mob ends and the government begins.
    To some, the Russian mob brings to mind the globalized villains of a James Bond movie, who want everything and will stop at nothing.
    Robert I. Friedman, a former colleague of the authors of this article at The Village Voice, drew the ire of Mogilevich for his reporting on the Russian mafia. The “boss of bosses” put a $100,000 price on Friedman’s head soon after the publication of one of his fearless exposés of Mogilevich, and the FBI suggested that he stop reporting on the topic. (Friedman died in 2002, at the age of 51, of a rare blood disease he was said to have contracted on a trip to India.)
    Enter Trump

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    Right from the earliest days of Trump Tower, in 1983, some of the choicest condominiums, including those in the 10 floors immediately below the future president’s own triplex apartment, went to a rogues gallery of criminals and their associates.
    Granted, the construction and gambling industries have long been bedeviled by connections to organized crime. It may have been impossible for Trump to have avoided those ties altogether. Nevertheless, according to many news stories and public records, Trump has repeatedly been linked to organized crime figures and their associates.
    Donald Trump and Roy Cohn, October 18, 1984.
    Photo credit: Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

    To be sure, nouveaux riches of all stripes were attracted to the Trump “glamour” and might well have had difficulty gaining approval of traditional condo or coop boards. Nonetheless, Trump must have known that many of his occupants were problematic — and likely to draw the attention of law enforcement.
    Tower occupants have included:
    Verina Hixon, a close friend of John A. Cody, New York’s concrete union boss, living in six units just below Trump’s triplex. Cody, with ties to the Gambino crime family, was later sentenced to five years in prison for racketeering. Trump and Cody reportedly helped Hixon with a loan so she could pay for the units.
    Robert Hopkins, who was arrested in his suite for ordering a mob murder of a gambling competitor. Hopkins would eventually be convicted of running a massive gambling ring, partly from Trump Tower, an operation that occasioned what was perhaps the first of many wiretaps in the building. Trump appeared in person at the closing on the apartment, where, according to our Village Voice colleague Wayne Barrett’s 1991 Trump biography, Hopkins sat at the end of a conference table counting out $200,000 in cash. (It was mob lawyer Roy Cohn who introduced Hopkins to Trump.)
    – Sheldon and Jay Weinberg, an enterprising father-son duo: The father was masterminding the biggest Medicaid fraud known at the time; the son was later indicted on grand larceny and insurance fraud. The Weinbergs rented directly from Trump three condominiums he had kept for himself.
    David Bogatin purchased five apartments on the 62nd floor while running a massive tax avoidance scandal involving commercial gasoline sales. Bogatin had ties with Italian and Russian mobsters. He would later flee to Poland and set up a highly successful chain of banks there before being extradited to the US, where he ended up in the maximum-security state prison in Attica, NY.
    Joseph Weichselbaum, Trump’s helicopter pilot, convicted of drug trafficking on three occasions.
    – Glamorous international art dealer Helly Nahmad, then 34, who lived in a sprawling apartment in Trump Tower (and according to some accounts owned the entire 51st floor), was later convicted and served five months of a one-year sentence for running an illegal gambling operation. He helped orchestrate super-high-stakes card games that sometimes were played in Trump Tower and “catered to billionaires, Russian oligarchs, Hollywood stars, and pro athletes,” including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, and Ben Affleck. Also convicted were Vadim Trincher and his sons Eugene and Ilya; the Trinchers had apartments in Trump Tower too.
    Of course, living in Trump Tower by no means suggests any sort of criminality or association between or among the residents. Still, the list is impressive.
    But even in this company, one man stands out. Not surprisingly, he is from the former Soviet Union.
    Spying on Trump Tower — Since 1983

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    When the Soviet Union was breaking up in the early 1990s, Mogilevich (AKA “The Boss of Bosses,” AKA “The Brainy Don”) suborned a Russian judge to spring a ruthless and canny lifetime criminal from a Siberian prison. His name was Vyacheslav “Yaponchik” Ivankov.
    Vyacheslav Ivankov and Semion Mogilevich (inset)
    Photo credit: Alchetron (public domain) and FBI / Wikimedia

    Four months later, in March 1992, Ivankov arrived in the United States to organize a new criminal network. He would take the disparate elements of already-established Russian-speaking criminals and use them to create a sophisticated, well-managed operation that could launder funds and generate cash flow as part of a transnational network. But authorities had no idea where he was.
    “And then,” recounted a former FBI agent in Robert I. Friedman’s book Red Mafiya, “we found out he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower.”
    The moment the Feds spotted him, he vanished again, only to resurface later in an Atlantic City casino: Trump’s Taj Mahal.
    Thus, by the early 1990s, both the arrival of Russian organized crime in the US and the strange attraction of Trump properties for Russian mobsters were on the Bureau’s radar.
    FBI activity in Trump Tower dates back to soon after it was built, in 1983. Around that time, the Bureau put electronic surveillance in the building with a tap on the phone of the above-mentioned Trump Tower resident Robert Hopkins, a Lucchese crime family associate, who was eventually arrested in the Tower for ordering a murder.
    FBI interest in Trump Tower continued through the 1990s, when the Bureau, working closely with US prosecutors at the Eastern District (which includes Brooklyn), began to focus on the business operations of a man with ties to Mogilevich: the aforementioned Felix Sater.
    At about the same time, Trump found himself in a bind with his commercial lenders, who kept his public mystique alive while in essence secretly stripping him of control of his casinos and putting him on an “allowance,” as they tried to salvage what they could from the wreckage of his disastrous business decisions. They retained the Trump name on his most iconic properties, based on the cold calculation that his “brand” might still help draw customers.
    Трамп и его деньги (Trump and his Money)

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    As Trump lost access to traditional lines of credit, his desperate need for financing led to sources that are murky, at best, including monies traceable back to the former Soviet Union — a circumstance that may explain Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.
    According to two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax returns, purportedly sent anonymously to reporter David Cay Johnston, Trump appeared to make an enormous amount of money that year — earning more than $153 million, which put him into a tiny class of super-rich Americans, probably numbering in the dozens.
    Trump’s windfall seems to have developed around the same time that investors from countries of the former Soviet Union started opening the cash spigot.
    Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch with FBI Director James Comey (left), and US Attorney Preet Bharara at a press conference on March 24, 2016. Photo credit: FBI

    A 2013 indictment of the illegal high-stakes card games’ organizers, brought by US Attorney Preet Bharara, alleged not only high-stakes illegal gambling and the laundering of approximately $100 million dollars, but also extortion, as ring members used threats and force to strip ”money and property” from clients.
    One of the operation’s leaders, Alimzhan “Taiwanchik” Tokhtakhounov, an alleged international crime boss and admitted friend of top Mogilevich lieutenant Vyacheslav “Yaponchik” Ivankov (who, as noted, was found living in Trump Tower at one point), managed the ring from afar; he could not legally enter the US as he was already wanted on charges of trying to bribe ice-skating judges at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Tokhtakhounov has often been tied to Boss of Bosses Semion Mogilevich.
    Bharara, whom Trump recently fired — after accepting the resignations of other US attorneys left over from the Obama administration — is not the only big name who was involved in investigating the goings-on in Trump Tower. Former US Attorney General Loretta Lynch also played a part. Lynch, first a prosecutor and then the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would have had knowledge of an FBI operation that involved Sater, the Russian mobster-turned-cooperating-witness.
    “If he (Sater) were sitting in a room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” – Donald Trump, 2013 deposition
    While Sater has recently been the subject of some news coverage — his name came up during the March 20 House Intelligence Committee’s public hearing on Russia, when Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) asked FBI Director James Comey about him — no thorough exploration of the Bureau’s dealings with this key informant has been published.
    Until now.
    The information below is based on an extensive exploration of those dealings, and of previously unexamined and unpublished legal documents, which the government has sought to suppress.
    The picture that emerges goes to the heart of the many questions raised about Trump’s relationship to Putin’s Russia in the weeks before and after the presidential election.
    Efforts to try to get this information to the public appear to have been aggressively blocked by the DOJ because it would potentially expose their own operations — both those that have been effective and others that have not.

    Felix Sater had been on the Bureau’s radar since the mid-1990s, when they were investigating Russian mob–affiliated financial scams.
    Very soon after Semion Mogilevich associate “Yaponchik” Ivankov arrived in the US, in 1993, Sater, together with an Italian mob associate named Salvatore Lauria, and others, had taken over a firm called White Rock and created a criminal brokerage whose only purpose was to fleece investors and launder money.
    It excelled at “pump and dump” scams, a practice in which stock prices are artificially inflated, then sold to unsuspecting investors — especially targeting elderly and unsophisticated buyers with high-pressure cold-calling tactics. White Rock included members and associates of four of the five major New York City organized crime families, including the nephew of mobster Carmine “the Snake” Persico and the brother-in-law of Gambino hit man Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, as well as Russian criminal elements.
    The Art of the (Double) Deal

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    Although shuttering Sater’s operation was considered a great success, authorities soon decided they could leverage it to get even bigger fish. Thus, they cut a deal with Sater, seemingly to help them go after the Russian-speaking mob, and its “Brainy Don,” Semion Mogilevich.
    Instead of serving jail time, Sater became a highly valued FBI informant. Using unnamed connections, Sater arranged to locate some Stinger missiles that Osama bin Laden had supposedly placed on the market — an older model that could be used to shoot down commercial airliners.
    Immediately after September 11, 2001, Sater received a call from the chief of a new section in the FBI who wanted to talk to him about Stingers, according to Salvatore Lauria in The Scorpion and the Frog, co-authored with journalist David S. Barry. Months later, Sater joined Bayrock — the real estate development company with offices in Trump Tower — and he was soon partnering in business deals with Donald Trump himself. This raises some interesting questions: Did Sater take the job at Bayrock at the FBI’s direction? Indeed, was Sater’s business relationship with Trump at the FBI’s behest?
    One thing is certain: Bayrock became one of the most important links between Trump and big-money sources from the former Soviet Union.
    Donald Trump, Bayrock partner Tevfik Arif, and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on September 19, 2007 in New York.
    Photo credit: Mark Von Holden / WireImage

    The firm was founded by Tevfik Arif, a former Communist Party functionary in the Soviet republic of what is now Kazakhstan. Arif had formed another entity called Bayrock in Moscow in 1989, during the very last years of the Soviet Union.
    Many Soviet functionaries transitioned to successful careers in market capitalism with the help of friends in high places: those with access to resources could make enormous profits by pilfering the moribund Soviet state, and such funds were best laundered and moved abroad for safekeeping and investment. Real estate was generally seen as a stable investment.
    During the five years Sater worked at Bayrock, he traveled throughout the former Soviet Union, ostensibly looking for real estate sites to develop with the Trump Organization — while also allegedly laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit funds from mysterious sources in the former Soviet Union. And all the while he was working as an informant for the FBI.
    Soon after joining Bayrock (about late 2001 to early 2002), he effectively took control of it — while of necessity hiding that fact from its lenders and clients. Sater was the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, and according to assertions in a lawsuit filed by a former Bayrock employee, by 2006 he owned more than 63% of the firm.
    Sater’s dominant role came despite the fact that he was a felon. Because of the services he was providing to the US government, this information was withheld from banks and others with whom Bayrock signed contracts, including condominium buyers.
    The Trump organization lent its name to Bayrock projects in Toronto, Florida, Arizona, and in New York City, in the chic SoHo neighborhood; the SoHo project was the only Bayrock development into which the Trump Organization actually put up any equity. Most of the Bayrock-affiliated projects failed, though, leaving a trail of angry investors as well as a string of lawsuits and countersuits. According to legal depositions, most of the projects that Sater worked to develop overseas — necessitating trips to Russia, Poland, and Ukraine (including numerous trips to Crimea) — never seemed to get off the drawing board.
    Sater and Trump sometimes traveled together. In September 2005, Trump and apparently Sater flew along with his wife Melania to Colorado, where Sater talked to a local reporter about possible Trump-Bayrock development projects in Denver.
    The real estate tycoon and the undercover mobster were close enough that, according to his deposition testimony, Sater could simply walk up a flight of stairs to Trump’s office and stop in for an impromptu chat. Indeed, Sater and the Trump clan grew so close that in February 2006, at the personal request of Donald Trump, the mobster joined his children Ivanka, Donald Jr., and his son’s wife Vanessa in Moscow to show them around, according to his deposition testimony. While he was in Moscow he emailed a journalist about possible Trump-Bayrock developments in Denver, in which he indicated he was with Don Jr.; a few days later Sater is alleged to have called one of the partners at the Arizona project and threatened to have him “tortured and killed,” according to later court filings.
    Sater’s tenure at Bayrock might have lasted longer, had The New York Times not “outed” his criminal past in 2007.
    Yet a few years later, after Sater had left Bayrock, he could still be found in Trump Tower. But now he was apparently 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.”
    Today, Trump claims to have trouble remembering Sater.
    “Trump was asked about Sater in depositions related to other cases in 2011 and 2013. In the first, Trump acknowledged that he used to speak with Sater ‘for a period of time.’ Yet in the second, Trump said, ‘if he were sitting in a room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like,’” Mother Jones reported.
    In early December 2015, Trump still seemed unclear when asked by an Associated Press reporter about Sater. “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,” he said. “I’m not that familiar with him.” Ivanka and Don Jr. also later said that they had no memory of being with him in Moscow.

    FBI agent Leo Taddeo definitely did not “have to think about it.” Taddeo had worked in the Italian and Russian organized crimes sections of the New York FBI office and had directly witnessed the ramifications of the arrival of “Yaponchik” Ivankov in 1992 — and the influence of Mogilevich — in the Russian-speaking community, New York financial markets, and beyond. He rose to be the head of the Russian organized crime section — and was one of Sater’s FBI handlers. Taddeo testified on Sater’s behalf at his sentencing, praising his “extraordinary” cooperation and stressing how “capable,” “important,” and “effective” he was.
    During the years when Trump and Bayrock pursued their joint projects, the Trump SoHo was planned, designed and funded, and ground was broken for it.
    So Bayrock, of which Sater came to own a majority, and the Trump Organization, headed by the future president himself, did several high-profile deals together and had offices close by each other in Trump Tower, and yet the current president claims that he is “not that familiar with him.”
    There are a number of possible reasons why Trump has had to tread lightly around the issue of Sater. Aside from what Trump might have known about Sater’s back-channel connections to the Russian government or organized crime, their joint projects also pose enormous financial risk to Trump.
    If he or anyone around him — such as other Trump Organization executives, accountants and lawyers — had knowledge of Sater’s criminal past and yet entered into contracts with him and Bayrock, Trump and his company would then be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars — and possible jail time.
    Why?
    Because parties to bank loans and investment contracts must confirm that no owner or manager has been convicted of fraud, and if that confirmation is false, anyone who knew of the fraud is potentially liable. The same would be true even if someone learned about Sater’s criminal status after signing the contract but continued with it.
    Thus, if Trump knew Sater was a convicted felon but did business with him anyway, he, the Trump Organization, and anyone within the company who knew of it could face substantial penalties or fines. This might especially be true for the Trump-Bayrock projects, as so many of them ended terribly, with multiple lawsuits across many states.
    However, the information of Sater’s past financial criminality was officially hidden because his legal docket in the White Rock/State Street case was kept secret (owing to his continuing “cooperating witness” status). For this reason, even after performing due diligence, someone entering business agreements with Sater would find no evidence of his criminal past.
    Ukraine: The Big Prize

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    The FBI’s failure to fully expose Trump’s Russian connection before the election seemingly emboldened the entire Trump team — from the president to his former campaign manager to his “bulldog” personal lawyer — along with Sater, to take actions that can be seen to have benefited Putin. Nowhere is this more true than with Ukraine.
    This former Soviet republic is central to Putin’s dream of restoring Russia to its Cold War-era greatness and protecting its borders. Annexing Crimea from Ukraine was a huge victory for him. Holding on to that strategically important region and maintaining access to it by controlling eastern sections of Ukraine itself are vital to Putin’s ambitions.
    Other crucial strategic issues concerning Ukraine include its desire to join NATO, seen by Russia as a huge threat. There is also the matter of a pipeline that brings natural gas from Russia through Ukraine into fuel-hungry Europe, importantly Germany. Mogilevich was later named as the secret majority owner of the Ukrainian stake in a mysterious intermediary company, half-owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom. (Mogilevich, as well as Sater’s father, who has been identified as part of the Mogilevich organization in a Supreme Court petition, both hail from Ukraine. Mogilevich’s lawyer denied that his client had any connection to the company.) While questions swirled about the deal, Sater, then serving as an FBI informant, traveled to Ukraine and Russia — ostensibly searching for properties to develop with the Trump Organization. (For a post-publication response from Felix Sater on these points, see Editor’s Note at bottom.)
    For his part, candidate Trump didn’t even acknowledge that Russia had annexed Crimea or engaged its military in Eastern Ukraine, when the issue came up early in the presidential campaign.
    “Just so you understand. [Putin] is not going to go into Ukraine, all right?” Trump said in an interview shortly after he was nominated — before being corrected on the facts.
    Trump’s platform chairman J. D. Gordon reportedly had met with the Russian ambassador during the convention. In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Gordon said he had advocated the softening of the GOP platform language on Ukraine — a softening that Trump himself had advocated earlier in the year at a meeting with Gordon. Gordon’s later comments seem to walk that assertion back, but the GOP platform was changed.
    Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

    At that time, Trump Tower resident Paul Manafort was still running the campaign — until he was forced out because of his ties to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and other powerful forces sympathetic to Russia. But Manafort’s connections to Russia ran even deeper than suspected back then.
    On March 22, the Associated Press reported that Manafort had been paid the astonishing sum of more than $10 million a year in the 2000s by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally, to implement a plan that would “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”
    Stranger still, just last month, Trump associates Sater and Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, lobbied then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn with a scheme to lift sanctions on Russia, imposed after it seized Crimea. They delivered a proposed “peace plan” for Ukraine that infuriated the country’s current prime minister. The proposal would have advanced the ambitions of a pro-Russian politician whose movement Manafort helped shape
    It turns out that, like so many other figures in this story, Cohen has his own substantial Ukrainian ties. After graduating from what is considered by many to be a third-tier law school, Cohen became a personal injury lawyer. He married a woman whose parents are Ukrainian, and his brother, also a lawyer, married a woman whose father rose from humble Ukrainian roots to become a billionaire.
    Much Less Than Six Degrees of Separation

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    While all this high-stakes maneuvering between the US and Russia over Ukraine was unfolding, the DOJ and FBI were hard at work to prevent the Sater-Trump story from becoming widely known.
    WhoWhatWhy has learned that a number of key law-enforcement figures associated with Sater’s role as a government informant have continued protecting him — which has inevitably helped to keep under wraps the criminal goings-on in Trump Tower. One of these figures even went on to work for Trump.
    FBI Special Agent Gary Uher not only investigated (alongside fellow Agent Leo Taddeo) the early “pump and dump” case that originally snared Sater, he also apparently served as one of Sater’s handlers. After Uher retired from the Bureau’s New York office in 2011, he went into the private security business with another former FBI agent, in a firm named XMark — which became one of a small army of private security firms that guarded Trump during the presidential campaign. (Neither Uher nor Taddeo responded to requests for comment.)
    In fact, both XMark and Uher personally began receiving payments from the campaign as soon as Trump announced, in June 2015. Uher’s name surfaced in the press a handful of times, sometimes in allegations that he roughly handled protestors at Trump rallies. Yet until now, no one has pointed out that before he went to work for Trump, Uher ran Sater.
    It is not clear how Trump and Uher would have even known each other were it not for the man both knew in common — the man Trump was consistently vague about during the campaign — Felix Sater.
    As for Taddeo, in July 2016, as talk of possible efforts by the Kremlin to help Trump’s campaign continued to pick up steam, the Washington Post ran a story that downplayed the possibility and quoted the ex-agent, now in the private sector: “This is not Putin trying to help Trump,’’ he said. The article identified Taddeo as “a former FBI special agent in charge of cyber and special operations in New York”.; it did not tell readers he had been Sater’s former FBI handler when Sater worked with Trump.
    Left to right: XMark partners Ed Deck and Gary Uher accompany Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with his private security director, longtime Trump Organization employee Keith Schiller, after delivering an address in Birch Run, Michigan, August 11, 2015.
    Photo credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

    The paths of other central characters in the case are also curious.
    Two of Loretta Lynch’s colleagues at the Eastern District US Attorney’s office, Leslie Caldwell and Kelly Anne Moore, left government service to join the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and both represented Sater at his 2009 sentencing hearing. Caldwell returned to government work in late 2013 when she was tapped to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division — the number three position at the Justice Department.
    Moore is still at Morgan Lewis. That firm was hired post-election by Trump to sort out ethical issues concerning possible conflicts of interest — which considering this history takes on a whole new meaning. (Neither Caldwell nor Moore responded to requests for comment.)
    Trump’s announcement that he had retained Morgan Lewis as ethics counsel was clearly meant to blunt calls for disinvestment or use of a blind trust for the oversight of his businesses. Curiously, on the same day that Trump made the announcement, the Moscow office of Morgan Lewis was named “Russia Law Firm of the Year” for 2016 by an industry association.
    By entrusting Morgan Lewis with addressing his conflicts — and presumably demanding confidentiality agreements in the process, as is his practice — was Trump insulating himself from the release of information that would reveal the true nature of his financial relationship with Sater, Bayrock, and others?
    Such revelations — which could have exposed Sater’s criminal history, his interactions with Trump, the full scope of Bayrock’s financial arrangements with the Trump Organization, and perhaps the true source of Bayrock’s financing — all would be covered by attorney-client privilege.
    With so many players and so many layers of involvement, getting to the bottom of Trump’s Russian connection is a Herculean task. And there is one further complication.
    Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, July 21, 2016. Photo credit: The Justice Department / YouTube

    The Trump-Sater-Mogilevich-Putin saga, with its intertwining domestic and international threads, is almost certainly a battleground for powerful elements in the US intelligence complex. Even unravelling one thread — the FBI’s “running” of Felix Sater as an informant — is a challenge at every level. The FBI historically has been riven by internal battles over priorities and strategies — and the Bureau has waged fierce turf wars with other intelligence agencies, notably the CIA.
    Why We Need an Independent Investigation

    .

    To sum up, WhoWhatWhy’s investigation suggests that the FBI, in using an informant with a strong connection to Trump and alleged ties to Russian mobsters — including one deemed a national security threat by the US — has seemingly tied its own hands in investigating the president.
    This makes it difficult for the Bureau to pursue the president’s long-running proximity to mobsters, including gangsters from the former Soviet Union, and to those with close connections to the Russian president and oligarchic elite.
    This in part could explain the FBI’s odd behavior and the confusing back and forth on what the government knows about Russia’s interventions in the 2016 election.
    In this complex tale, it is sometimes hard to keep focused on the most important connections. The FBI used Sater in high-value projects; perhaps to help take down the Brainy Don Mogilevich, who takes us straight to Putin. That connection is so sensitive as to be deadly. Indeed after Ivankov, Mogilevich’s lieutenant and Trump Tower resident, publicly discussed Mogilevich’s close ties to Putin, he was gunned down by a sniper on a Moscow street.
    At the end of 2015, the Justice Department’s criminal division, headed by Leslie Caldwell — the former Eastern District prosecutor and later Sater’s attorney — removed Mogilevich from the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, an extremely rare occurrence. Suspects are usually removed from the list for only two reasons: arrest or death.
    FBI wanted poster for Semion Mogilevich, 2009.
    Photo credit: FBI and Zscout370 / Wikimedia

    Donald Trump has been a big Putin fan for years. This has been a subject of speculation and derision, but it has not gone further than that.
    Given how close Trump was with Sater, and Sater with the FBI, and the fact that the FBI was working to thwart Mogilevich (who was close to Putin), the big question is this: Why is this president’s unusual enthusiasm for the Russian leader, and Russia in general, not already a formal topic of urgent inquiry?
    Something doesn’t add up.
    Whatever it is, we need to know. And, as this article demonstrates, the FBI, for a variety of reasons, is not likely to tell us the whole story.
    And, it should be pointed out, what is vitally important to the public interest is not always what the Bureau considers a crime. That is why the role of independent investigators, including, notably, journalists, is so vital. Jack Blum, the former senior Senate investigator and leading expert on white-collar financial crime, stresses the gravity and urgency of the situation:
    “However complicated an investigation might become, it goes to the heart of our democracy and it must go forward. This time, unlike other investigations, including the Kennedy assassination, CIA-Chile, and Iran-Contra, it has to go to the heart of the matter no matter how long it takes and no matter how shocking the conclusions.”
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. Default

    On a general theme, I think the 'powers that be' wanted Artillery Clinton in the White House & they did what they could to achieve that, by which I mean an awful lot of thinking as to how the electroate could be influenced to vote the right way. (An extraordinary example of this influencing, is calling the people who intend or are inclined to vote contrary to the 'right' vote, "stupid", in plain language, & couched as "Experts are saying that the people who -"; this has happened to Trumpeters voluntary, & to Brexiteers - my guess is that they're finding that they can get away with more & more).

    I kiiinda suspect that the capabilities of direct influencing are becoming carnivorous in a "Civil War"-type way, that the first enemies of the, loosely, 'black state' (this is admittedly an inept handling of who I think I'm referring to). There are only two types of people, hunters & farmers.
    [SIZE=1]Martin Luther King - "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
    Albert Camus - "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion".
    Douglas MacArthur — "Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons."
    Albert Camus - "Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear."[/SIZE]

  3. #643

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    MAY 19, 2017 | SEAN STEINBERG


    ACLU SEEKS EVIDENCE OF ELECTION COMMISSION’S ‘PREORDAINED’ AGENDA

    Photo credit: ACLU
    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests Thursday aimed at President Donald Trump’s “Commission into Election Integrity.” The ACLU is seeking evidence that “the outcome of the commission’s investigation is preordained,” according to the group.
    The FOIA requests — calling for documents, notes, and communications concerning the commission, regulatory changes, and illegal and/or improper voting — were directed to commission members from Kansas, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Maine, as well as the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
    In addition, they call for factual evidence and policy proposals toward this end.
    Trump’s commission has drawn heavy criticism from opponents who claim it’s a sham designed to clear the way for restrictive voting laws under the pretense of countering voter fraud.
    The ACLU’s goal is “to shed light on whether any commission members were crafting policy recommendations before their investigation was launched or the commission was even formally announced,” the group said in a prepared statement.
    Since its inception, Trump’s commission has drawn heavy criticism from opponents who claim it’s a sham designed to clear the way for restrictive voting laws under the pretense of countering voter fraud.
    The ACLU laid bare this accusation in one of the FOIA requests, directed to the EAC:
    “For nearly 150 years…politicians have consistently perpetuated unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud to justify discriminatory restrictions on the right to vote. If, consistent with history, federal and state governments are planning to rely on the results of this Department of Justice investigation to justify voting discrimination, then the health of our democracy urgently demands that the public know the bases for such potential discrimination immediately.”
    The ACLU is not the only group alleging that the commission has an agenda. Brenda Wright of Demos toldWhoWhatWhy that “the highly partisan leadership of the commission tells us that, as in Alice in Wonderland, they started with the verdict and now want to hold the trial.”
    The commission’s leadership under chairman Mike Pence and vice-chairman/Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — whom the ACLU has “successfully sued numerous times over his voter suppression policies” — has not helped sway these concerns.
    Kobach’s office declined WhoWhatWhy’s request for comment.
    Based on various state legal requirements, we can expect to see responses to the FOIA requests shortly. Kansas is legally required to respond within three working days; Maine and New Hampshire within five; and Indiana within fifteen.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  4. #644

    Default Another Brilliant Essay by Hedges - and all too true, sadly!

    The Death of the Republic

    Posted on May 21, 2017

    By Chris Hedges

    Mr. Fish / Truthdig
    The deep state’s decision in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States of 2017—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire.
    Commodus, like a number of other late Roman emperors, and like President Trump, was incompetent and consumed by his own vanity. He commissioned innumerable statues of himself as Hercules and had little interest in governance. He used his position as head of state to make himself the star of his own ongoing public show. He fought victoriously as a gladiator in the arena in fixed bouts. Power for Commodus, as it is for Trump, was primarily about catering to his bottomless narcissism, hedonism and lust for wealth. He sold public offices so the ancient equivalents of Betsy DeVosand Steve Mnuchin could orchestrate a vast kleptocracy.
    Commodus was replaced by the reformer Pertinax, the Bernie Sanders of his day, who attempted in vain to curb the power of the Praetorian Guards, the ancient version of the military-industrial complex. This effort saw the Praetorian Guards assassinate Pertinax after he was in power only three months. The Guards then auctioned off the office of emperor to the highest bidder. The next emperor, Didius Julianus, lasted 66 days. There would be five emperors in A.D. 193, the year after the assassination of Commodus. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents. If the deep state replaces Trump, whose ineptitude and imbecility are embarrassing to the empire, that action will not restore our democracy any more than replacing Commodus restored democracy in Rome. Our republic is dead.
    Societies that once were open and had democratic traditions are easy prey for the enemies of democracy. These demagogues pay deference to the patriotic ideals, rituals, practices and forms of the old democratic political system while dismantling it. When the Roman Emperor Augustus—he referred to himself as the “first citizen”—neutered the republic, he was careful to maintain the form of the old republic. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did the same when they seized and crushed the autonomous soviets. Even the Nazis and the Stalinists insisted they ruled democratic states. Thomas Paine wrote that despotic government is a fungus that grows out of a corrupt civil society. This is what happened to these older democracies. It is what happened to us.
    Our constitutional rights—due process, habeas corpus, privacy, a fair trial, freedom from exploitation, fair elections and dissent—have been taken from us by judicial fiat. These rights exist only in name. The vast disconnect between the purported values of the state and reality renders political discourse absurd.

    Corporations, cannibalizing the federal budget, legally empower themselves to exploit and pillage. It is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries can hold sick children hostage while their parents bankrupt themselves trying to save their sons or daughters. Those burdened by student loans can never wipe out the debt by declaring bankruptcy. In many states, those who attempt to publicize the conditions in the vast factory farms where diseased animals are warehoused for slaughter can be charged with a criminal offense. Corporations legally carry out tax boycotts. Companies have orchestrated free trade deals that destroy small farmers and businesses and deindustrialize the country. Labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders have been defanged. The Supreme Court, in an inversion of rights worthy of George Orwell, defines unlimited corporate contributions to electoral campaigns as a right to petition the government or a form of free speech. Much of the press, owned by large corporations, is an echo chamber for the elites. State and city enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations that hike rates and deny services to the poor. The educational system is being slowly privatized and turned into a species of vocational training.Wages are stagnant or have declined. Unemployment and underemployment—masked by falsified statistics—have thrust half the country into chronic poverty. Social services are abolished in the name of austerity. Culture and the arts have been replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. The infrastructure, neglected and underfunded, is collapsing. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, arrests, food shortages and untreated illnesses that lead to early death plague a harried underclass. The desperate flee into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. The state, rather than address the economic misery, militarizes police departments and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons with 2.3 million citizens, only a tiny percentage of whom had a trial. One million prisoners work for corporations inside prisons as modern-day slaves.
    The amendments of the Constitution, designed to protect the citizen from tyranny, are meaningless. The Fourth Amendment, for example, reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The reality is that our telephone calls, emails, texts and financial, judicial and medical records, along with every website we visit and our physical travels, are tracked, recorded and stored in perpetuity in government computer banks.

    The state tortures, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay, but also in supermax ADX [administrative maximum] facilities such as the one at Florence, Colo., where inmates suffer psychological breakdowns from prolonged solitary confinement. Prisoners, although they are citizens, endure around-the-clock electronic monitoring and 23-hour-a-day lockdowns. They undergo extreme sensory deprivation. They endure beatings. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. They can write only one letter a week to one relative and cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and take their one hour of daily recreation in a huge cage that resembles a treadmill for hamsters.
    The state uses “special administrative measures,” known as SAMs, to strip prisoners of their judicial rights. SAMs restrict prisoners’ communication with the outside world. They end calls, letters and visits with anyone except attorneys and sharply limit contact with family members. Prisoners under SAMs are not permitted to see most of the evidence against them because of a legal provision called the Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA. CIPA, begun under the Reagan administration, allows evidence in a trial to be classified and withheld from those being prosecuted. You can be tried and convicted, like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” without ever seeing the evidence used to find you guilty. Under SAMs, it is against the law for those who have contact with an inmate—including attorneys—to speak about his or her physical and psychological conditions.
    And when prisoners are released, they have lost the right to vote and receive public assistance and are burdened with fines that, if unpaid, will put them back behind bars. They are subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. They spend the rest of their lives marginalized as members of a vast criminal caste.
    The executive branch of government has empowered itself toassassinate U.S. citizens. It can call the Army into the streets to quell civil unrest under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which ended a prohibition on the military acting as a domestic police force. The executive branch can order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. This is called “extraordinary rendition.” Those taken into custody by the military can be denied due process and habeas corpus rights and held indefinitely in military facilities. Activists and dissidents, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can face indefinite incarceration.
    Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations are criminalized. The state assumed the power to detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are meaningless theater. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, who is powerless in the face of corporate exploitation, can be described as free. The relationship between the state and the citizen who is watched constantly is one of master and slave. And the shackles will not be removed if Trump disappears.





    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  5. #645

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    While none of the below raises Clinton's horrible political image, it does further show that very dirty business was afoot throughout the campaign and elections...... Campaigns and elections in the US have always been dirty and not played by the rules, but technology has made this even easier in many ways. While the Republicans certainly engage in these dirty tricks much more than the Democrats, both do. This year the incomplete list included: voter suppression of poor and minorities [read Democratic voters]; voter nullification [ditto]; black money; hit campaign ads with lies; release at the last minute of damning [apparently fake or partly fake information on Clinton]; DNC dirty work against Sanders; FBI involvement with last minute news of investigation of Clinton emails w/o mention of then ongoing investigations against Trump and his election team; electronic vote rigging, and more...here is yet another dirty trick now exposed....to manipulate the outcome of the election. Some dumbocracy we have!



    EXCLUSIVE: WEINER’S “UNDERAGE” SEXTING GIRL LIED TO DAMAGE CLINTON

    Shocking New Evidence on How Clinton Was Sandbagged in Last-Minute Email Scandal

    Photo credit: WhoWhatWhy
    Executive Summary:
    The North Carolina teen at the center of the infamous Anthony Weiner scandal that helped doom Hillary Clinton’s campaign lied to news outlets about her age, motives and political allegiances, a WhoWhatWhy investigation reveals.

    On Friday, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) accepted a plea deal in a Manhattan courtroom to a charge of “transfer of obscene material to a minor.” WhoWhatWhyhas learned that much of what we know about this crime — which played a major role in the outcome of the election — is a lie.
    The official narrative is that Weiner, husband of Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin, had exchanged explicit messages with a 15-year-old girl. The FBI got involved, seized Weiner’s laptop and discovered emails from Clinton on the hard drive. This caused FBI Director James Comey to inform Congress that new evidence had been unearthed in the investigation of Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.
    She never recovered from the revelation, which ended up yielding no new information in the case, but, with the scandal fresh in the minds of voters, Donald Trump went on to his astonishing come-from-behind victory.
    The North Carolina teenager at the center of the controversy was reported to be heartbroken. A self-described supporter of Clinton, she expressed regret over the role she had played in the election’s outcome.
    There is just one problem with this narrative: The girl’s story isn’t true.
    A WhoWhatWhy investigation has uncovered numerous substantive falsehoods and mischaracterizations — raising doubts about a case that changed the 2016 election and American history:
    The girl was presented in news accounts — and Weiner’s plea deal — as being 15 at the time, that is, under the age of consent in her state. She was not.
    Weiner’s victim and her family were not, as represented, Clinton fans — they actually were strong Trump enthusiasts. Her story was trusted in part because she was characterized as having no axe to grind with Clinton or the Democrats.
    Weiner’s “sexting” partner was not simply a victim. Contrary to tabloid accounts, she initiated the contact with Weiner. And she went out of her way to seek advice from a GOP-associated figure behind prior efforts to harm Weiner and other Democrats.
    To be clear, what Weiner did was morally indefensible. None of the evidence we provide is meant to excuse his behavior. But it is impossible to overstate the significance of the lies his teen sexting partner told in ensuring the story became a national sensation. The big question that remains is why.
    Our initial story on the Weiner case showed that various Trump supporters, prominent campaign surrogates and conservative journalists had teamed up to use the story to harm Clinton. However, it left several key questions unanswered.
    Anthony Weiner on subway platform.
    Photo credit: Azi Paybarah / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


    Since then, WhoWhatWhy has uncovered new information that shatters the commonly accepted narrative, which was first laid out by the pro-Trump, widely read British tabloidDaily Mail on September 21.
    A key break came when, utilizing an array of sophisticated forensic techniques, we uncovered the girl’s true identity. We verified that we had the right person with four individuals close to or connected to her — including her former teacher and her own mother. By identifying the girl, we were then able to learn a great deal about her and her family. And that in turn led to the discovery of the lies.
    The young woman has since turned 18, but because she was a minor at the time, we have decided not to publicly identify her.

    Here are some of the key issues our investigation raises — and the corresponding evidence:
    Issue #1: The girl wasn’t really 15

    .

    According to the media accounts of this story and Weiner’s plea deal, the girl “had not attained the age of 16 years.”
    However, our research shows that the girl was in fact not “15 and a sophomore” as the Daily Mail reported, when she initiated contact with Weiner. A court record shows that she was just shy of her 17th birthday at the time she approached him.
    In addition, her extensive social media footprint provides further evidence. For example, she posted a picture in 2014 on her 15th birthday after having been given a North Carolina learner’s permit.
    The lie that she was 15 years old when Weiner sent her obscene material seems clearly designed to produce the maximum public outrage and put Weiner in greater legal jeopardy — and the media-generated uproar may well have compelled the authorities to become involved and seize the computer with Clinton’s emails.
    It should be noted that prosecutors, judges and juries view interactions with minors differently, based on the precise age of the minor: 15 is worse than 16, which is worse than 17, the real age of the girl for much of the period during which she interacted with Weiner, and her age when she approached the media.
    Under North Carolina law, at 16, she was in fact above the age of consent. Ultimately, this would not matter because Weiner pled guilty to being under the impression that she was only 15, and she was still below the federal age of consent — the standard applicable in the case. Regardless of what he stipulated as part of his plea agreement, among the trove of incriminating messages it published, the Daily Mail provided no evidence that the girl actually told Weiner she was 15, only that she was in high school.
    To those primarily focused on Weiner’s illicit behavior with a teenager, these legal definitions may be beside the point. But any lies at all in a matter so crucial — especially ones that have gone unchecked for so long — must be treated as indicative of a larger, politically motivated deception.
    Plus, if this “lie,” misrepresentation of fact, or materialinaccuracy found its way into a government pleading in what became the United States v. Weiner case, it would have legal consequences. But we may never know, because the way Anthony Weiner’s plea deal is structured inhibits further inquiry by dispensing with the matter while revealing no details about the underlying history.
    Issue #2: The victim lied about political loyalties

    .

    She described herself as a “big fan” of the Clintons. She further stated that she so disliked Trump that if he were elected, she would move to Germany. Thus, she seemed to have no political agenda at all in “outing” Weiner.
    However, the girl actually celebrated Trump’s victory on social media. (It should be noted that her various accounts, such as Twitter and Instagram, were set to private after news of Weiner’s plea deal broke.WhoWhatWhy has preserved screenshots of the tweets and Instagram posts in question.)
    Her father is a registered Republican. She and her mother tweeted derisively about the Black Lives Matter movement. Her late grandmother was a Tea Party activist. These are not Hillary Clinton fans.
    James Comey and Hillary Clinton Photo credit: tua ulamac / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) and Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    The lie about the family’s political affiliations seems to be a clearcut case of deliberate misdirection — designed to prevent the public from recognizing what otherwise would have been seen as a particularly vicious and effective Republican dirty trick.
    Significantly, the father turns out to have connections to high-level local Republicans. Given the ultimate impact he and his daughter’s story would have on the nation’s political landscape, the importance of these links should not be disregarded.
    The father is friends with a longtime high-ranking local Republican official. The two played on the same sports team for an elite local fundraising event. That official was photographed arm-in-arm with Eric Trump at local party headquarters, and when he posted a photo of the two on Facebook, the father’s ex-wife gave it a “like.” (Readers of our last piece on this subject may recall that on October 24, Eric’s wife, Lara, a North Carolina native, appeared on Fox & Friends to predict an “October surprise” that would benefit the campaign.)
    The father, reached by phone, angrily declined to comment. The mother refused to put us in touch with the daughter, who is now an adult.
    Issue #3: How the story reached the media

    .

    When the family reached out to Buzzfeed in what now seems like an attempt to keep the story in the news, the father came across as indignant toward the FBI, in effect blaming the Bureau for “media scrutiny” directed at his daughter.
    But in fact it appears that it was he, the father, who, in concert with others, promoted the story of his supposedly troubled daughter to the Daily Mail. According to the mother, this all took place without her knowledge. It’s not yet clear whether the motive was primarily money, a plot to smear Clinton, or both.
    While according to her angry open letter to Comeypublished by BuzzFeed, the girl was in therapy after the scandal broke, the mother told WhoWhatWhy that her daughter never saw a therapist.
    The false claim that her father was a lawyer came from this message.
    Photo credit: Daily Mail screen capture


    Incidentally, another falsehood that emanated directly from the original Daily Mail article — that her father is an attorney — found its way into a May 9, 2017, New Yorkerpiece. The source for this inaccuracy was Sydney Leathers, a woman who had similarly wooed Weiner toward self destructive online behavior, back in 2013. Leathers, who last year helped arrange for press coverage of the younger girl’s allegations, claimed that the girl’s father helped negotiate a fee from the Daily Mail, which reputedly occasionally pays for interviews. The notion that the father was an attorney seemed to give the account greater legitimacy.
    Beyond the fact that the father is not a lawyer, it may be relevant that he has been arrested numerous times for crimes, including assault by strangulation — according to court records.

    So what do these lies mean?
    Seeing that Weiner is both a repeat offender — his sexting addiction cost him his job in Congress as well as a shot at becoming mayor of New York — and associated with one of the most important people in Clinton’s inner circle, it is conceivable that this was a set-up from the beginning, with the objective of embarrassing the Clinton campaign.
    There is little downside to getting an attractive teenager to reach out to Weiner and wait for him to take the bait. If that is the case, then those involved were successful beyond their wildest imaginations.
    It was Leathers, and another curious figure, Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, an infamous alt-right cyber provocateur, who teamed up to put the girl in contact with the Daily Mail. (Johnson would later claim in an interview with WhoWhatWhy that he was also responsible for a group of Bill Clinton sexual accusers appearing at the October 9 debate — which was intended to rattle Hillary Clinton and generated enthusiastic coverage by pro-Trump media.)
    Johnson is wired into a network of high-ranking Trump confidantes, including Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel and Blackwater Mercenary Group founder Erik Prince, and Steve Bannon. He is especially close to Prince, who has allies across law enforcement including the FBI, tellingWhoWhatWhy that the two are “friends” who speak “once a week.”
    We asked Johnson about the possibility that unnamed others were involved in setting Weiner up, or “catfishing” him, to harm Clinton. Johnson replied, perhaps self-servingly, that he himself had some doubts about the story as reported by the media, but had relied on Daily Mailreporter Alana Goodman to vet the information:
    “It did seem kind of strange that a 15-year old would have this level of, yeah, wherewithal, so I will say I somewhat suspected that there was something else going on at the time. But it was sort of like in the fog of war, you know, in the fog of the election, and so when I flipped it to Alana, you know, Alana was convinced that the girl was legit, everything was legit. I told her ‘I think you should look a little harder at this because it’s kind of a big deal. Weiner had been catfished before’.”
    (For more on Johnson’s and Leathers’ role in the Weiner story, see our initial article.)
    At the very least, in light of the impact that the teen’s role in the election had, a great deal is riding on her explanation of what occurred, and why. WhoWhatWhy has attempted repeatedly to reach out to her but was rebuffed and even threatened by her family; she did not reply to a message left on a voicemail we believe to be hers. We will keep trying. Although the evidence WhoWhatWhy has compiled could actually mitigate Weiner’s case, he has not responded to requests for comment either.
    Clearly, those privy to the Weiner drama recognized the potentially huge impact it could have — well beyond the fate of Weiner himself. Speaking from her limited knowledge of the matter, and without breaking teacher-student confidences, the girl’s teacher recalled how when the story broke, she confided to a colleague that she hoped her student had not just affected the presidential election.
    WhoWhatWhy will stay on the case.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 05-23-2017 at 05:53 AM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  6. #646

    Default

    Trump’s Speech on Islam Is Just as Bizarre as Everything Else He Does

    Posted on May 22, 2017

    By Juan Cole / Informed Comment
    Trump’s speech on Islam, written by notorious Islamophobe Stephen Miller, who used to organize Orwellian “Two Minutes Hate” sessions against Muslims at Duke, is just as bizarre as everything else Trump does.
    Miller-Trump imply, as has become common in right wing American discourse, that Muslims have a peculiar problem inasmuch as they produce terrorists. What do they think the Ku Klux Klan is? Iestimate that people of European Christian heritage polished off as many as 100 million persons in the 20th century and that Muslims may have killed 2-3 million.
    Trump seems to think that pumping $110 bn in new shiny weapons into a volatile Middle East will lead to peace! If there is any sure correlate of war, it is massive purchases by one regional power of new armaments. You have to use them while you have the advantage or your rivals also acquire them.
    Trump managed to insult Islamic civilization by implying that the pre-Islamic civilizations in the region were better:
    “Egypt was a thriving center of learning and achievement thousands of years before other parts of the world. The wonders of Giza, Luxor and Alexandria are proud monuments to that ancient heritage. All over the world, people dream of walking through the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Iraq was the cradle of civilization and is a land of natural beauty.”
    This is sheer Orientalism, an allegation that Pharaonic Egypt, Nabatean Jordan and Sumerian and Babylonian Iraq were great civilizations but that once Islam came, they went downhill. Miller-Trump do not know about al-Azhar University in Egypt being among the oldest in the world (George Makdisi argued it was *the* oldest). They don’t know about Harun al-Rashid’s House of Wisdom where Greek philosophy was debated in Arabic by the Abbasid caliph and his court sages at a time when Charlemagne was trying to learn to scratch out his name. They don’t know about the Abbasid invention of algebra or of Omar Khayyam’s use of geometry to solve algebraic equations. The only compliment they give Islamic civilization is that Dubai and Riyadh have skyscrapers, which is surely the blind spot of a Realtor.Miller-Trump sweep up national resistance movements like Hamas and Hezbollah with al-Qaeda! Neither of these would exist if the Israelis hadn’t a) expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and then come after millions of their descendants and militarily occupied them in 1967 and b) if the Israelis had not launched a brutal war of aggression on Lebanon in 1982 and attempted to occupy permanently 10% of Lebanese territory. The Shiites of south Lebanon *liked* the Israelis before 1978. The 1982 invasion killed 10,000-20,000 people and involved indiscriminate artillery barrages and aerial bombing of Beirut, which Usama bin Laden alleged helped inspire him to destroy some American skyscrapers.
    Designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization but not doing so to the armed Israeli squatters who routinely attack Palestinians in their own homes is typical of everything that is wrong with US policy in the region. Attacking civilians is always wrong (and is cowardly). But Hezbollah in 1984-2000 mainly attacked other soldiers, who were illegally occupying Lebanese Shiite land.
    As for Yemen’s Houthis, they are not a creature of Iran, which has relatively little to do with them. They are rural Zaydi Shiites who resented Saudi attempts to proselytize them, marginalize them, and make them Wahhabis. You’ll never have peace in Yemen as long as you don’t recognize legitimate Zaydi interests.
    For Trump to attack Iran, which just had a popular election where the electorate bucked the choice of the Leader, from Saudi Arabia,an absolute monarchy where the populace have no rights, is weird.
    The American Right is deeply implicated in radicalizing Muslims. Afghan Islam was radicalized by the Reagan jihad against the Soviet Union. Eisenhower and Reagan both attempted to enlist Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism against Communism. Most Palestinians were secular or mainstream until the Israelis cultivated Hamas as an alternative to the PLO.
    Trump wants to site a center for combating extremist ideology in Saudi Arabia! The Wahhabi form of Islam practiced in that country encourages extremist ideology! The Saudis took the practice of takfir or excommunicating Sunnis and Shiites to the next level. In the 19th century they even excommunicated the Ottoman Emperor!
    If the Saudis want to combat extremism, they have to formally abjure this unfortunate heritage of Wahhabism and roundly condemn the unilateral branding of people as non-Muslim when they maintain that they are Muslims. (In the Sunni and Shiite mainstream, takfir or excommunication of a Muslim is rare and disapproved).
    Contemporary radical extremism in the Muslim world is founded on a few basic principles:
    1. Takfir, or the excommunication of other Muslims for being insufficiently puritanical, anti-democratic, anti-Western, etc.
    2. Exalting holy war or “jihad” as they understand the word (it does not mean holy war but merely struggle for the faith in the Qur’an) to a basic pillar of the religion.
    3. Willingness to commit suicide to blow other people up. Suicide is forbidden in mainstream Islam just as it is in Catholicism.
    Saudi Arabia has to condemn all three—excommunication, the militarization of jihad and homicidal self-sacrifice.
    So Miller-Trump are barking up entirely the wrong tree here, as you would expect from completely ignorant people sticking their bare hands into about 50 bee hives.
    Then they condemn Iranian intervention in Syria but don’t mention that Saudi Arabia backed the radical terrorist group Jaysh al-Islam that had genocide against Syria’s Shiites on their minds. Nor do they admit that without Hezbollah, Homs would have fallen to al-Qaeda in Syria (which the US has tacitly supported; yes) and could have been used to cut off Damascus to resupply.
    Any fair-minded and knowledgeable person in the Middle East would read this speech as a farrago of Orientalist prejudice against Muslims, coddling of Wahhabis, slamming of Shiites, and continued rank unfairness toward the Palestinians in favor of holding the Israelis completely blameless for their massive ethnic cleansing campaigns, which are ongoing.
    That terrorism can be addressed by vague words and by failing to address the underlying social causes is a non-starter. That war and violence can be tamped down by unfairly taking one side in a sectarian struggle or by flooding massive new arsenals into the region are the pipedreams of bigots who cannot face their own bigotry.

    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  7. #647

    Default One thug leader admiring another for extra-judicial killings.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show looking at the Philippines, where Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has been overseeing a bloody war on drugs. Since last June, more than 7,000 people have been extrajudicially killed by police or vigilantes. Duterte has also suggested he might impose martial law across the country, after first declaring it this week in his native island of Mindanao. While human rights groups have condemned Duterte, he has received backing from President Trump, who recently invited him to visit the White House. Human Rights Watch slammed the invitation, saying, quote, "By effectively endorsing Duterte’s murderous 'war on drugs,' Trump has made himself morally complicit in future killings."
    Well, earlier this week, a transcript of the call of Trump inviting Duterte to the White House was leaked and published by The Intercept. According to the leaked transcript, Trump said, quote, "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that."
    Duterte responded, quote, "Thank you, Mr. President. This is the scourge of my nation now, and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation."
    Trump then responded, quote, "I understand that and fully understand that, and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that, but I understand that, and we have spoken about this before."
    On May 1, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s decision to invite Duterte to the White House.
    JOHN ROBERTS: Chris Coons said that the president is giving his stamp of approval to human rights abuses. Governor John Sununu, on the other hand, said this is part of the unpleasant things that presidents have to do. What’s the White House’s perspective on Duterte and him coming here?
    PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: I think it is an opportunity for us to work with countries in that region that can help play a role in diplomatically and economically isolating North Korea. And frankly, the national interests of the United States, the safety of our people and the safety of people in the region are the number one priorities of the president.
    AMY GOODMAN: The leaked transcript of the Trump-Duterte call does confirm North Korea came up, but only after Trump praised the Filipino president on waging his war on drugs. During the call, Trump said, quote, "We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines—the best in the world—we have two nuclear submarines—not that we want to use them at all." Trump went on to say, "I’ve never seen anything like they are, but we don’t have to use this, but he could be crazy, so we will see what happens," unquote.
    Well, to talk more about Presidents Trump and Duterte, we’re joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, host of the new weekly podcast, Intercepted. Jeremy recently co-wrote a three-part article on the leaked call for The Intercept.
    Jeremy, it’s great to have you with us here at the SkyDome, where the Blue Jays play, in Toronto, Canada, where we all participated in a forum on journalism last night. But talk about this really explosive exposé that you did for The Interceptaround Trump’s phone call with Duterte.
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, first of all, just to, you know, establish what this is that we published, this was a transcript from a phone call that took place on April 29th between Trump and Duterte. And Trump initiated the call. What we published was a Philippine government document, a classified Philippine government document. So this was the transcript that Duterte’s people made of his call with Trump.
    The reason I emphasize that is because after we published this, Matt Drudge put it at the top of Drudge Report, and so we had an enormous surge in traffic from many people who are supporters of Donald Trump. And we got bombarded, and Drudge got bombarded with a boycott campaign from Trump supporters, who were saying, "Whoever leaked this should be prosecuted for treason. And the journalists who published this should be put in prison," which echoes what we know Trump has sort of suggested in meetings, most recently to James Comey right before he fired him, the idea that journalists should be arrested. This was not a U.S. government document. Also, people were saying, "Oh, this is proof that Obama left the White House bugged." You know, it’s like they don’t understand the basic fact of when two foreign leaders are speaking, you know, there’s two sides of this conversation. So there we have it. We have the phone conversation between these two. So—
    AMY GOODMAN: How did you get it?
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, we’re not going to talk about sources or methods, as the U.S. government likes to talk about. All we’ll say is that we obtained it, and both the White House and the Philippines government—well, the Philippines government validated that it is a legitimate document. The White House said that the transcript was accurate.
    Now, what does that leave us with? Well, it leaves us with the fact that Donald Trump begins a phone call with Rodrigo Duterte, who is one of the most unrepentant, murderous heads of state in the world today, openly brags about how he’ll give a pardon or immunity to people who extrajudicially kill anyone involved with the drug war. And the dominant perception and the way that this is portrayed by Duterte’s people is that they’re just going after narcotraffickers. In reality, many drug users have been assassinated as part of this campaign. Duterte actually enjoys a pretty wide base of support in the Philippines, and he kind of mixes in anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist rhetoric with these very harsh policies. He also is one of the few heads of state in the world who will—you know, he regularly swears. I mean, he called Barack Obama things that I can’t even say on this program, "the son of a"—and then referenced his—as though Obama’s mother had been a sex worker. I mean, he’s, you know, calling the president of the United States and saying, "I’m going to divorce the United States and orient myself toward China and Russia." And he said that under Obama because Obama’s administration criticized the tactics that Duterte was using, the kind of paramilitary gangster tactics that they were using.
    And, you know, I think the most—not astonishing, but the most relevant part of this is that Trump knows all of that and, in fact, views that as a positive thing. So he calls Duterte and says to him, you know, "Rodrigo, I just want to congratulate you for the amazing job that you’re doing." And the reason that we know it’s not just kind of generic platitudes is because Trump himself references in this call the fact that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had said the obvious, which is, you know, this is not right, the way that this is being handled. And, you know, the Obama administration had a very hypocritical record on human rights, but, as Allan Nairn has pointed out before, hypocrisy has some virtue, in the sense that at least they—you’re able to call them out on it, because they say one thing but mean another. So the bottom line is, Trump calls Duterte and says, "Great job. Amazing job. Obama didn’t—you know, he didn’t get it. I get it. You have our full support. You’re a good man."
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeremy, I wanted to ask you—almost as shocking as the call and the congratulations from Trump was the other part of the discussion about North Korea and Trump revealing to Duterte and, obviously, to lots of folks in the Philippine government about nuclear submarines of the U.S. that are off the coast of North Korea.
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, well, first of all, we know that, you know, Trump still continues to use an insecure cellphone, that he tweets from, and has brought that cellphone to the table on classified discussions about North Korea. He did it when Shinzo Abe was at Mar-a-Lago with him, the Japanese leader. There were photos of Trump’s cellphone. His specific phone that he uses has been—already, that phone, for years, it’s been known to have been compromised by Chinese hackers. So Trump is bringing this insecure phone to meetings about North Korea. Then he’s on the phone with Duterte last month, and he says, "You know, we’ve got these two nuclear subs near North Korea." And he’s saying this to Duterte, who was most certainly under surveillance by both the North Koreans and the Chinese. So anyone who says, "Oh, well, you guys revealed this information," the most damaging revelation of classified information happened when Donald Trump told Duterte this. And Duterte also is a clever operator when it comes to China. And he has called Vladimir Putin his hero.
    But the most newsworthy aspect of that is that—and I felt bad for you, Amy, having to read those quotes from Trump, because when you actually read his words and you’re not Trump, it sounds like the garbled mess that it actually is, because you don’t have the inflection, and you’re not, you know, sniffling and all these things. But Trump tells Duterte about these submarines off the coast, and he says, you know, "We’ve got so much more firepower than North Korea. At least 20 times more." Twenty times? The United States is known to have more than 6,000 nuclear warheads. North Korea is believed to have around 10. So Trump’s math was way off in that equation.
    And some people were saying, "Oh, well, Trump keeps saying, 'We don't want to use it. We don’t want to use it.’" That’s not what’s significant. What’s significant is that Trump says, "This is a madman. We don’t know what he’s going to do. We’d prefer not to go to war. But who knows?" That’s really frightening to hear from someone who is in command of the most lethal and powerful military in the world. He also—and this is sort of sad, on one level, but also frightening—he says, "Rodrigo, let’s talk about Kim Jong-un. Is he stable or unstable?" Huh? I mean, why is the president of the United States asking Duterte about if Kim Jong-un is unstable?
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A man whose own stability is in question, Duterte.
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, right, of course. I mean, this is three madmen that are in this equation: Trump, Duterte and Kim Jong-un. And I really don’t know which of these three people is the sort of greater threat to civilization. I mean, it’s probably Trump, but it’s—you know, tough call.
    AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to some of the clips of Duterte in his own words. Last September, the Philippines president likened himself to Hitler.
    PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there is 3 million—what is it? Three million drug addicts, there are. I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me]. You know, my victims, I would like to be all criminals.
    AMY GOODMAN: Last fall, Duterte called then-President Obama "son of a whore" and warned him not to ask about his so-called drug war.
    PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: I am a president of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. [translated] Son of a whore, I will swear at you in that forum.
    AMY GOODMAN: Before he was elected, Duterte admitted he was linked to a death squad in Davao. He spoke on a local TV show in a mix of English and Visayan.
    MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: [translated] Me. They are saying I’m part of a death squad.
    HOST: So, how do you react to that?
    MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: [translated] True. That’s true. You know, when I become president, I warn you—I don’t covet the position, but if I become president, the 1,000 will become 50,000. [in English] I will kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable. [translated] I will really kill you. I won because of the breakdown in law and order.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, in December, Duterte boasted about having personally killed criminal suspects when he was mayor of Davao City. The Manila Times reported he told a group of business leaders in the Philippines capital, quote, "In Davao, I used to do it personally—just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you? And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill." Jeremy—
    JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean—
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: These comments from a president of the Philippines.
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, I mean, you know, those, of course, are of a more serious nature than the kinds of things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, but they do have that in common, where, you know, they’ll just sort of say what they’re thinking. And in a way, it’s refreshing, I guess, because most world leaders try to cover up the uncouth actions that they’re taking in their countries.
    What I think is really significant for people to understand is that in the Hitler quote, where Duterte is saying Germany had Hitler, and, you know, he underestimates the number of people that Hitler killed—you know, he says 3 million—but he doesn’t say, "We have 3 million narcotraffickers that I want to kill." He says, "We have 3 million addicts." And that is—that’s the point here, is that they are not going after the kind of, you know, "Chapo" of the Philippines. Many of the people that have been killed are rank-and-file victims of a drug culture. And that’s who’s paying the heaviest price for all of this.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about something else in those transcripts: the short discussion between Trump and Duterte toward the end about China and Xi Jinping, the president of China, that Trump said, "Oh, I met with him at Mar-a-Lago. He’s a really good guy."
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You know, this is after months and months of Trump’s China bashing here during the political campaign. All of a sudden he seems to indicate that he needs to rely on China, China is the critical country in being able to keep North Korea at bay.
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, and, you know, that has sort of—you know, under Obama, they called the policy on North Korea "strategic patience." And I think that all serious observers of Korea politics and the history of Korea know that the North Korean regime is largely dependent on China for basically its survival, in many ways, in addition to the smuggling and organized crime that the North Korean regime is involved with. But on a tactical level, Trump spends, you know, a couple of days with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, and then he’s saying to Duterte, "Oh, we’ve got to get the Chinese to solve the problem." And Duterte’s like, "Oh, yeah, I’ll give him a call." It really shows how out of his depth Trump is, as though he just heard, oh, maybe China could do something about this. I mean, it’s frightening when you’re talking about the presence of nuclear weapons. China plays the United States like a fiddle all the time in international relations.
    AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds before we go to break, and then we’ll also be joined by Glenn Greenwald, but—so, Duterte is coming to the White House? Is that clear?
    JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Donald Trump says to him, you know, "Anytime you’re in Washington, come by. I would love to have you in the White House." After we published this, Senator Lindsey Graham said that he may join with Democrats who are calling for Trump to postpone that trip, so that they can discuss these issues.
    And, I mean, I do think that what’s interesting, he just declared martial law in the south of the country, Duterte did, and he’s doing it in the name of fighting terrorism. That part of what Duterte is doing has long been aided by the United States, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA, military intelligence. The U.S. has poured resources into the Philippines in the name of fighting Islamist rebels. Duterte is now adopting that rhetoric, just like Bush and Trump—you know, Obama had different terms for it—are talking about this fight. In a way, it seems as though Duterte is outsmarting Trump in terms of how this is all playing.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  8. #648

    Default It is getting a bit strange and some intelligence sources are obviously trying to bring Trump down.

    This is all playing out now at almost light speed...every day brings a few blockbuster new facts and details. Some things don't yet make sense. There is ipso facto nothing wrong [in fact not a bad idea] to have better relationship with Russia and the USA. That said, while Kushner may not have known that secret back-channel communications or even talking about setting them up would involve NSA/CIA/FBI listening in and likely leaks [which seems to be what is happening]. Flynn as DIA director certainly would have known this and the dangers of this. I think much of the effort at Russian-Trump Team communication was only at the business level [to enrich Trump and his 'friends', not the USA], as many of them have already had extensive business ties with Russian banks, oligarchs and companies. Trying to do a back-channel communication with Russia was done [for all the right reasons, I think!] by JFK - and that is a large part of the reason he was targeted for assassination - but far from the only one. The USA and especially the intelligence community sees Russia as only an adversary and can not contemplate nor continence improving the relationship in any way nor for any reason - in fact, it would negatively effect their profits and those they work for. It is still unclear what exactly the Trumpers had in mind with the Russian contacts and desire for secret back-channel contacts, but it will play out in Congressional committees, in the MSM and in the D.C. establishment VERY negatively. Trump is finished in some months unless he starts a major war or goes the nuclear route - and that I think is the biggest danger. I think this will be uglier and more complex than Watergate and will further destroy the country along with destroying Trump - which may not be without its good consequences. Flynn, to me, seems to be the mystery man here...he would know better - know that what was attempted couldn't be gotten away with, no matter what the motive. No MSM media has brought up JFK's back-channel communication with the Soviets - and perhaps that is best - as they'd get it wrong. We live in strange times and Trump and his team are even stranger than I though possible.....in ways that go FAR beyond this story. My take is that if the Russians had anything to do with the way the elections went [far from proven to me], they likely did so on their own and not in collusion with Trump's team [but I could be wrong - but this is ASSUMED by the MSM without any proofs I can yet see. What I see is a LOT of business self-interest driving Trump's team from wanting and maintaining contacts with Russia. Again, if these were to further peace between the two biggest nuclear and military powers, the better; if they were just to enrich a few on either side - they do not benefit peace nor the peoples of Russia nor the USA....and are corrupt in a business and ethical sense. The secrecy 'bit' is the strange part: first that they thought it could be kept secret [especially Flynn with his intelligence background]; second that if ever found out it could be viewed through the MSM and intelligence/deep political spectrum as anything but treasonous. Trump and his team are obviously now in a LOT of heat and trouble and will be spending most of their time deflecting, avoiding, defending, testifying and trying various legal and illegal maneuvers to get out of the 'fire' - which will leave the country to drift without direction [maybe a good thing as the 'captain' was/is a neo-fascist horror]. Again, the really frightening thing in my mind is their realization that only a full scale war, declaration of martial law after another '911' or using nukes on Iran and/or N. Korea could move attention for a long time off of them! Whatever your views on this story, we are now in a horrible mess and constitutional crisis IMO well beyond Watergate or anything before...for the players are not just the President and his team, but the intelligence community and parts of the secret government trying to bring Trump down [with another part possibly behind him - due to his racist, neo-fascist, anti-immigrant, oligarchic ideas and actions, rather than about Russian].

    Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    By Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous and Greg Miller May 26 at 7:01 PM Washington Post
    Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
    Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
    The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
    The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.
    Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
    Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests VIEW GRAPHIC
    [Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation]
    Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.
    The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.
    Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts. But officials said that it’s unclear what Kislyak would have had to gain by falsely characterizing his contacts with Kushner to Moscow, particularly at a time when the Kremlin still saw the prospect of dramatically improved relations with Trump.
    Kushner’s apparent interest in establishing a secret channel with Moscow, rather than relying on U.S. government systems, has added to the intrigue surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia.
    [CIA director alerted FBI to pattern of contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates]
    To some officials, it also reflects a staggering naivete.
    The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.
    Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.
    “How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”
    The discussion of a secret channel adds to a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts. Trump’s first national security adviser, Flynn, was forced to resign after a series of false statements about his conversations with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from matters related to the Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose his own meetings with Kislyak when asked during congressional testimony about any contact with Russians.
    Kushner’s interactions with Russians — including Kislyak and an executive for a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions — were not acknowledged by the White House until they were exposed in media reports.
    It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials. But new administrations are generally cautious in their handling of interactions with Moscow, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of waging an unprecedented campaign to interfere in last year’s presidential race and help elect Trump.
    Obama administration officials say members of the Trump transition team never approached them about arranging a secure communications channel with their Russian contacts, possibly because of concerns about leaks.
    The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual.
    Trump’s advisers were similarly secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. The Obama White House only learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner, Flynn and Stephen K. Bannon, another top Trump adviser, because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest.
    Russia would also have had reasons of its own to reject such an overture from Kushner. Doing so would require Moscow to expose its most sophisticated communications capabilities — which are likely housed in highly secure locations at diplomatic compounds — to an American.
    The Post was first alerted in mid-December to the meeting by an anonymous letter, which said, among other things, that Kushner had talked to Kislyak about setting up the communications channel. This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence said the portion about the secret channel was consistent with their understanding of events.
    For instance, according to those officials and the letter, Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials.
    In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.
    The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 05-27-2017 at 08:31 AM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  9. #649

    Default Making America HATE Again

    While right-wing neo-Nazi types have always existed in the USA in numbers greater than many places, until recently [like the last election] they usually felt they were in the minority and had to keep a low profile. With Trump, that has all changed....expect more of things like this...there have already been several incidents like this and more are coming...

    ‘Final Act of Bravery’: Men Who Were Fatally Stabbed Trying to Stop Anti-Muslim Rants Identified

    Posted on May 28, 2017

    By Amy B Wang / The Washington Post

    A heart-shaped wreath covered with positive messages hangs on a traffic light pole at a memorial for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday.Gillian Flaccus / AP Photo


    Two men were stabbed to death and one injured Friday on a light-rail train in Portland, Oregon, after they tried to intervene when another passenger began “ranting and raving” and shouting anti-Muslim hate speech at two young women, police said.
    Police identified the suspect as Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, of North Portland. Christian is being held without bail on two counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of intimidation in the second degree and one count of possession of a restricted weapon as a felon.
    The two slain men were identified by Portland police as Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23.
    A third victim, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
    According to witnesses, a white male passenger riding an eastbound MAX train early Friday afternoon began yelling what “would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions,” police said. Some of the slurs were directed at two female passengers, one of whom was wearing a hijab, according to police.“This suspect was on the train, and he was yelling and ranting and raving a lot of different things, including what we characterized at hate speech or biased language,” Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said at a news conference Friday evening.
    At least two men tried to calm the ranting passenger down, but “they were attacked viciously by the suspect” when they did, Simpson said.
    Namkai Meche, of Southeast Portland, died at a hospital, while Best, a resident of Happy Valley, Ore., was pronounced dead at the scene.
    Simpson said that several passengers, including the two young women thought to be the target of the man’s anti-Muslim slurs, left the train after the stabbings. Simpson said that it did not appear that the suspect had a relationship with the victims.
    “We don’t know if [Christian] has mental-health issues or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or all of the above,” Simpson said. “With this incident, we’re obviously in early stages of the investigation.”
    According to the Associated Press, the FBI and U.S. attorney for Oregon will work with Portland police on the case. The FBI said it’s too early to say whether the killings qualify as a federal hate crime, but U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said Saturday, “There’s a day of reckoning coming, a day of accountability,” the AP reported.
    The attacks occurred just as Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, was set to commence at sunset Friday. Simpson said that Portland police had already reached out to Muslim organizations, mosques and imams in the community to talk about extra patrols during Ramadan - and that those extra patrols would continue.
    On Saturday, people mourned the victims and praised them as heroes for their actions. Namkai Meche’s sister, Vajra Alaya-Maitreya, emailed a statement to The Washington Post on behalf of their family, saying her brother lived “a joyous and full life” with an enthusiasm that was infectious.
    “We lost him in a senseless act that brought close to home the insidious rift of prejudice and intolerance that is too familiar, too common. He was resolute in his conduct [and] respect of all people,” she wrote. “In his final act of bravery, he held true to what he believed is the way forward.”
    The Portland Mercury newspaper reported that Christian was a “known right-wing extremist and white supremacist” who had attempted to assault protesters at local demonstrations in the past. Video from April 29, shot by Mercury reporter Doug Brown, showed Christian arriving at a “March for Free Speech” draped in an American flag and carrying a baseball bat. While there, Christian yelled to the crowd that he was a “nihilist,” shouted the n-word at people and gave Nazi salutes, Brown reported.
    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Facebook page they said belonged to Christian showed he held racist, white-supremacist and extremist beliefs. On that profile, the Facebook user said he supported creating a “White homeland” in the Pacific Northwest and declared on April 9 that he had “just Challenged Ben Ferencz (Last Living Nuremberg Persecutor) to a Debate in the Hague with Putin as our judge. I will defend the Nazis and he will defend the AshkeNAZIs.”
    On April 19, the anniversary of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the user praised bomber Timothy McVeigh.
    “May all the Gods Bless Timothy McVeigh a TRUE PATRIOT!!!” he wrote. McVeigh was executed for the 1995 bombing, which killed 168 and was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil before Sept. 11, 2001.
    Portland police confirmed to The Post that they believe the Facebook page belongs to Christian.

    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  10. #650

    Default

    WHY AMERICA IS THE EXCEPTION, BUT NOT EXACTLY EXCEPTIONAL

    What American Exceptionalism Really Means

    Photo credit: Cindy Mc / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
    When it comes to a whole basket of issues — abortion, gun rights, mass incarceration, and health care, to name just a few — the US is completely out of step with our Western European allies.
    And these are the very same issues that have created such polarization in America itself.
    Like Alexis de Tocqueville, Stanford law professor Mugambi Jouet grew up in Paris. As an outsider he looks at America with a unique point of view. He believes that the causes of our political backwardness have been deeply ingrained in the DNA of Americans from the nation’s founding. Among the most significant causes, he argues, are:
    Anti-intellectualism
    Anti-government paranoia
    Racial resentment
    Christian fundamentalism
    Taken together, these are largely to blame for America’s red/blue divide as well as the divide between America and the rest of the West.


    Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to Radio WhoWhatWhy, I’m Jeff Schechtman. Often, when trying to understand a story or a set of events, conventional wisdom says, “Go there.” In fact, with respect to some things, the opposite may be true. To understand America in the 21st Century it might, in fact, be best to look at it from afar to have a cultural understanding that is anything but American. To see America in the context of its place in the world changes our perspective in ways that make America not exceptional but an exception to many of what’s become the accepted norms of Western society.
    How did that happen? How did a nation that sees itself as exceptional become so out of step with the rest of the West? According to my guest, Stanford Law professor Mugambi Jouet, it is the very idea of exceptionalism that has made us the exception. Mugambi Jouet is the Thomas C. Grey fellow at Stanford Law School. He’s an author specializing in American Law, politics and culture. It is my pleasure to welcome Mugambi Jouet to the program. Mugambi, thanks so much for joining us.
    Mugambi Jouet: Thank you very much.
    Jeff Schechtman: I want to talk a little bit about the idea of American Exceptionalism and how you conceive of that, what you mean when you talk about that.
    Mugambi Jouet: Most people nowadays tend to think that American Exceptionalism means a phase in American superiority. It’s a notion that the country is exceptional in the sense of outstanding, phenomenal, or great and that this greatness was actually bestowed by God. Historically, American Exceptionalism has primarily meant something else. Which is that America is an exception objectively and descriptively compared to other Western countries in particular.
    For example, America today is the only Western nation to still have the death penalty and the only one to lack a universal health care system. These are dimensions of what the American Exceptionalism had historically meant. That America is different. That it’s an exception but they’re not inherently good or bad. It depends on what you think of the death penalty or universal health care.
    Jeff Schechtman: Has this always been the case? If we look at this historically, was there a turning point when America became the exception with respect to some of these Western norms?
    Mugambi Jouet: America has always been a unique country within the Western world for a broad range of reasons. They have culminated in many different factors that contributed to the extraordinary polarization of American society today. It’s important to understand that when Europeans came to North America, they believed that they had discovered a “New World” that they could mold into an ideal country. Also, the founding fathers believed that a providence was on their side as they would found a great Republican form of government. This idea that America was unique also was very influential in the 19th century with the concept of manifest destiny which was that the United States had essentially, a God given right to expand westwards and take over land from Mexico or Native American tribes in view of building a great nation.
    What’s interesting is that these ideas, even though they have … they evoke what people think about today in terms of American Exceptionalism, of American superiority, they were not called American Exceptionalists. The phrase American Exceptionalism is actually coined or promoted by American communists in the 1920s to refer to how America is different, how it’s a next exception within the Western world. Then that term was used by academics later on to analyze the ways in which America is very different. What we see today is that there are many different facets of American Exceptionalism that have contributed to the nation’s extraordinary polarization; very peculiar views of looking at the government. Especially among American Conservatives, their very distinctive approaches towards religion, towards education, towards human rights. These help explain the intense division of modern America.
    Jeff Schechtman: To what extent does all of this conflict, even going back to the idea of manifest destiny, conflict with the idea of America being this experiment that grew out … that really the first real experiment that grew out of the Enlightenment?
    Mugambi Jouet: What the distinctive aspect of American history is that America was the first modern democracy to emerge from the Enlightenment at the end of the 18th century. That many, actually, more troubling dimensions of modern America today such as the weight of anti-intellectualism or of religious radicalism, a stand from the birth of modern American society and actually positive dimensions of its history.
    When America emerged from the enlightenment, of course it was led by the founding fathers who were extremely well educated men, and very intellectually curious. Some like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin engaged in scientific experiments, for example. After the epic of the founding fathers, there was the development of much more populistic conception of democracy that started associating education with elitism. It fostered a mankind intellectual mindset based on an idea that basically common sense is just enough, people don’t really need to be educated to understand politics or to live profitably. This mindset really developed through parts of America. That’s just where the roots of much of the anti-intellectuals that we see today come from. The weight of conspiracy theories, of ignorance, of disinformation, which is a deliberate spread of false information. They have roots in long standing dimensions of American Exceptionalism, actually positive ones in the nation being a pioneer when it comes to democracy.
    By the same token for religion, it’s important to understand that when the United States was founded, there was a relatively more religious liberty down in Western Europe. In fact, there was no establishment of religion under the first amendment et cetera. Americans do not experience the same history of religious oppression as pre-modern European states because under the Absolute Monarchies of the path in Europe, the clergy was an ally of monarchs. Many Europeans became more suspicious of the weight of religion; but because Americans did not have that same history, not only did they have more religious liberty, they also did not have the same skepticism of religions as social institutions.
    From these positive aspects of American History, one can also see the roots of Christian fundamentalism which has become very influential in modern America. That’s also a very interesting dimension of American Exceptionalism with significant repetitions today.
    Jeff Schechtman: You talk about this almost nexus that exists between anti-intellectualism, the rise of fundamentalism, and a kind of anti-government attitude.
    Mugambi Jouet: Yes. There are four main factors behind the extraordinary polarization of modern America that I describe in my book, Exceptional America. These four factors have also heavily contributed to the rise of Trumpism.
    The first is the extraordinary weight of anti-intellectualism in parts of the American society. As I mentioned, it has long-standing roots based on the idea that basically people don’t feel a need to education because common sense is good enough. That fosters great receptiveness to conspiracy theories, gullibility or propaganda in general. Also, it precludes so many people from approaching things in a rational manner. For example, weights of conspiracy theories about climate change being a hoax are much more widespread in the United States and other Western democracies today. By the same token, the weight of ideas about the “Tyranny of Socialized Medicine” are much more widespread in modern America. They tend to defy objective, scientific and empirical evidence.
    Another really influential factor in that nexus is the extraordinary suspicion of government among certain Americans which is very peculiar also by international standards, also by U.S. historical standards. We all know that the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s Health Care Reform, also known as Obamacare was extraordinarily divisive in America. What’s interesting is that if you look at the roots of this policy, it actually was based on past Republican proposals from the Heritage Foundation, from Richard Nixon. The one implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts for relatively limited moderate health care reform that would be business friendly, but because the Republican party has moved drastically to the right in recent decades, the Affordable Care Act became perceived as the tyranny of socialized medicine.
    Simultaneously, if you look at what’s happening elsewhere in the Western world, that would be European nations, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and other parts of the developed world like Japan, universal health care is widely accepted by both Liberals and Conservatives. It’s understood to be the best public policy and the most cost-effective one. Americans tend to have much lower expenses, spending much more on healthcare with comparatively mediocre outcomes. That’s because a lot of citizens are extraordinarily suspicious of government programs like universal health care.
    Another factor within that nexus that also ties to anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism, and anti-governmentalism also is the weight of Christian fundamentalism in parts of America. A lot of people tend to think of Christian fundamentalism only as a religious mindset. Or the tendency to see … To interpret the Bible literally. For example, we know that belief in creationism, that is the view that human beings were created based on Genesis as opposed to … In their actual form as opposed to based on the theory of evolution, through biological evolution. That this idea is much more widespread in modern America than other Western nations. Approximately 1/3 to 40% of Americans today believe in creationism. That this source of fundamentalist voters’ attitudes, they don’t only influence how people think about religion or social issues like abortion or gay rights, also they shape a broader ideology and worldview that tends to be anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, anti-rational, authoritarian, black and white. If you are connected to anti-intellectualism, anti-governmentalism, it becomes part of a very strong nexus.
    The final point in my book is that racial resentment is, if you will, the lethal ingredient in that cocktail because it also exacerbates a lot of these attitudes. America has been much more historically divided by racial issues than other Western democracies and that helps <explain?> why many Americans will vote against their own self interest.
    Jeff Schechtman: One of the interesting things about these four things and you look at them in the context that you’re talking about, they become more social and cultural rather than political as evidenced, in part, by the fact that the Conservatism that represents them here in America is so fundamentally different from the way any kind of Conservatism has evolved anywhere else in the west.
    Mugambi Jouet: Yes. That’s indeed a really interesting dimension of American Exceptionalism today. This is not really Liberalism or Conservatism, rather a very peculiar conception of Conservatism by both U.S. historical standards and by international standards. That’s part of a broader phenomenon called Asymmetric Polarization by political scientists. Basically, over the last 30 years, the Republican party has moved drastically more to the right than other Western … Sorry, than the democratic party has moved to the left. That calls into question the idea of both side-ism, that today both sides; Liberals and Conservatives are equally radical. That is not supported by empirical evidence. Where we see that the Republican party is much more radicalized because of a very peculiar conception of Conservativism that you mentioned.
    Certain types of beliefs widespread in Conservative America today suggest the notion that universal healthcare is a tyranny of socialized medicine. Or that climate change is a hoax or a myth. Or that everyone should have an unbridled right to bear arms. These are considered articles of faith of modern American Conservatism. Historically, American Conservatives were much more moderate, say, in the age of Eisenhower or Nixon. Conservatives in other Western nations tend to be much more moderate. If you look at European Conservative leaders like Angela Merkel or David Cameron or Theresa May they probably would be Liberal in the United States.
    Jeff Schechtman: The other part of that is looking at Liberalism in America today which is really much closer to what we see as the prevailing Western attitudes in other countries.
    Mugambi Jouet: Yes. The big part of my book explains that the views of modern American Conservatives are those that really stand out in the United States. That they are outliers within the modern Western world and that when it comes to many fundamental issues, American Liberals are actually closer to other Westerners than to American Conservatives. American Conservatives tend to have very atypical or unusual views in the modern Western world. There’s fascinating data that I show … that I cite in the book. For example, in the 2012 U.S. presidential election opposing Obama and Mitt Romney, approximately 90% of Europeans would have voted for Obama over Romney according to polling data. That means that European Conservatives tend to identify much more with American Liberals and the Democratic party than with American Conservatives.
    By the same token in the last election, there’s a study that I cite covering 45 countries. It found overwhelming support for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump internationally. In fact, the only people who identified and said they would have voted for Trump were Russians.
    Jeff Schechtman: It’s interesting to note that we hear this argument made by Conservatives in this country all the time that Democrats and Liberals and Progressives want to make America more like Europe. In fact, that flips the reality on its head.
    Mugambi Jouet: Yes. It’s important to note that part of the reason why other Westerners and Liberal Americans are close on many issues is that America has made many significant contributions to the spread of progressive ideas throughout the world. For example, when modern Europeans think of how to resolve their social economic problems, many of them actually will point to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as a great model because it’s introduced in the Western world, a policy model that led to a much more equal society.
    By the same token, when it comes to cultural issues; actually, American feminists were among the pioneers of the development of modern women’s rights. A lot of these ideas have roots in America among other nations. That helps explain why there is a greater cultural connection between other Westerners and American Liberals today.
    Jeff Schechtman: How does this all fit together with what we’re seeing now in terms of these waves of European nationalism and populism as evidence by things like Brexit, the rise of Le Pen in France, even the oppositions in parties in Germany.
    Mugambi Jouet: There are many more sources and forces of polarization in America than in other modern Western nations. In Europe, as you know, there is a rise of far-right parties. Behind that, there are two main issues. One of them is a form of Nationalism, or Nativism, or anti-immigrant, Islamophobic sentiment, or a prejudice racist sentiment that has been at the heart of far-right European parties’ agenda for decades. They’ve become stronger in recent years because of the current crisis that’s been partly intensified by the influx of refugees from Syria and other parts of the developing world.
    The other main source of division in Europe is the European Union. The two aren’t intertwined because the EU is accused of opening up borders, enabling immigrants to circulate freely, and also of undermining the national sovereignty of European countries like France or the U.K. or The Netherlands. Therefore, far-right parties in these countries can’t scapegoat both the immigrants and the European Union. That helps explain the rise of Le Pen in France or Brexit.
    If we look at the U.S. political debate, yes, there’s also these factors in terms of anti-immigrant sentiments. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for banning Muslims from entering America. Driving out undocumented immigrants has been a major part of his agenda. That’s one of the reasons why European far-right parties were ecstatic about his election. It’s also a resentment in the U.S. towards the Washington establishment that’s a bit like resentment towards the EU across the Atlantic.
    In the U.S. there are many other issues that are really sources of polarization. If we look at the U.S. political debate, we see that Americans are routinely clashing over issues that are either not controversial or much less controversial elsewhere in the West such as whether people should have a basic right to health care; whether special interests should be allowed to spend unlimited money on political campaign and on lobbying; whether climate change is a hoax; whether women should have a right to abortion; whether contraception should be covered by people’s health insurance; whether to teach abstinence-only sexual education or comprehensive sex education; whether to have the death penalty; whether to have mass incarceration; whether it is appropriate to introduce torture into Western civilization as a way of fighting terrorism; whether apocalyptic Biblical prophesies help explain what happens in the Middle East and whether they should shape U.S. foreign policy; whether to teach creationism or the theory of evolution in public school.
    These types of issues are at the heart of the U.S. political, legal, and cultural debate. Again, they are either not controversial or much less controversial elsewhere in the West because overall, the center in America is much more to the right. That’s probably because the views of American Conservatives are much more hard line and ideologically radical by objective comparative standards.
    Jeff Schechtman: Given that that divide is so wide, and you touched on a lot of the issues but certainly not all of them; given that the divide is so wide, not only in America but between America and the rest of the world, does that in some ways make the argument that the divide is essentially unbridgeable at this point?
    Mugambi Jouet: Well, where there is life, there is hope. The great difficulty with bridging the divide within modern America is that there’s not only a tremendous divide in terms of people’s political and moral values, there’s also a huge divide over factual issues that has been intensified by the rise of Donald Trump because we see this looking at fact checking that his rhetoric is extraordinarily misleading. Much more misleading than those of many other politicians. Even though the phenomenon did not start with him, his conspiracy mongering, his facts fear [assertions? 23:49] tend to normalize a post-factual form of debate where people cannot find common ground at all because they can’t even agree over basic issues. It’s not possible to have a debate about how to resolve climate change, for example if a huge proportion of the population and political leaders think that climate change is a hoax and they promote conspiracy theories. It’s not possible to think about establishing a universal healthcare system that would be much more cost effective and cover everyone if so many people are prepared to believe fear-mongering and conspiracy theories about how other Westerners are not free because they live under a tyranny of socialized medicine.
    Even when modern Americans tend to agree that there is a problem; say, the economy being not dynamic enough, they have radically opposed views about how to resolve it. Usually, American Liberals will see the government taking a more active role in redistributing wealth, promoting social benefit programs, and leveling the playing field of [?25:09} promoting socio-economic mobility, that would also encompass financial regulations in the aftermath of the very grave financial crisis of 2008 that was, in good part, precipitated by recklessness by Wall Street. Republicans tend to have a very radically different idea which is that the way to resolve the nation’s economic issues is actually to obliterate the federal government, to completely slash taxes and almost all regulations. That this will supposedly be in the greater good. A lot of empirical data that suggest that actually nations that have more social-democratic economies enjoy greater equality and greater social-economic mobility; but because this belief that the federal government is at the heart of all of the country’s problems, that big government is the source of it all; it’s really hard to counter with facts or with objective evidence because it’s an ideology.
    Jeff Schechtman: Is there any role that the West in general, Western Europe in particular, that the West might play in, in some ways, impacting this debate here in America at this point?
    Mugambi Jouet: That is very hard to tell at the outset, when Donald Trump was campaigning, it was treated radically by other Western leaders. They also could be quite critical of him. Of course, after him being elected, they had to reconsider their positions and be more diplomatic. The thing is, that it’s very hard for other Western leaders to find common ground with the type of agenda that Mr. Trump is proposing and to find his rhetoric normal. Unless there is a real social shift, I don’t see that divide diminishing but, of course, the future is hard to predict. In 10 years, America might be very different. We might have different political leaders, different ways of perceiving issues, just like Europe might be very different.
    Jeff Schechtman: When you look at it historically, is there any reason to think that it might be fundamentally different in 10 years?
    Mugambi Jouet: At this stage, I don’t necessarily think so. What is also happening, in the US which is perhaps at the root of much of this, are these demographic shifts. Historically, America has been the Western nation with, by far, the highest proportion in the racial estimate of minorities. Today it still is much more than other Western nations. We have 38% of minorities in the United States. According to demographic data, whites might not longer be the majority of the American population by 2050. This shift might suggest that a form of very nationalistic bigoted form of politics might no longer be able to have the same political weight in a decade or two. That may redefine the way many people think about these issues.
    Jeff Schechtman: Of course there is also generational shift that could play a role as well.
    Mugambi Jouet: Yes, indeed. What’s interesting is that on some issues, younger Americans are much more moderate or liberal than their older peers. If we look especially at religion even though many young Americans are believers and identify with Christianity, they’re less likely to identify with fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. That the Bible was literally true word-for-word, or to take very hard-line views on gay rights; because of that generational shift, there might be an evolution.
    That being said, another possibility is that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is going to be normalized. We see in the cases that this is happening to an extent because today, even though there is much talk about his relatively low approval ratings, he still has, according to Gallup, an 87% approval rating among Republicans. That suggests that his rhetoric, the things that he said to get into the White House such as promoting birth or conspiracy theories about Obama having a forged U.S. birth certificate, or urging a ban on entry of Muslims into America, that this type of rhetoric is becoming normalized and that many people either support it or think that it’s acceptable generally.
    Jeff Schechtman: Mugambi Jouet. He’s recently written“Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other”. Mugambi, I thank you so much for spending time with us today.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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