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

  1. #1061

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    President Trump is planning to grant new authority to troops to use military force against migrants if they determine the migrants pose a threat of violence to Border Patrol officers. The Pentagon had previously denied a request from Homeland Security to allow troops to perform law enforcement duties, which would constitute a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act
    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. #1062

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    Three Democratic Senators are suing to remove Matt Whitaker from his role as acting attorney general, saying the appointment is unconstitutional and aimed at derailing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In a statement, Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, “The stakes are too high to allow the president to install an unconfirmed lackey to lead the Department of Justice — a lackey whose stated purpose, apparently, is undermining a major investigation into the president.” Joining the lawsuit are Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
    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

  3. #1063

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    Are We About to Face Our Gravest Constitutional Crisis?


    Mr. Fish / Truthdi
    g
    Before this lame-duck Congress adjourns in December we could face the most serious constitutional crisis in the history of the republic if Donald Trump attempts to shut down the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
    A supine and pliant Republican Party, still in control of the House and the Senate, would probably not challenge Trump. The Supreme Court, which would be the final arbiter in any legal challenge to the president, would probably not rule against him. And his cultish followers, perhaps 40 million Americans, would respond enthusiastically to his trashing of democratic institutions and incitements of violence against the press, the Democratic Party leadership, his critics and all who take to the streets in protest. The United States by Christmas, if Trump plays this card, could become a full-blown authoritarian state where the rule of law no longer exists and the president is a despot.
    Trump has flouted the Constitution since taking office. He has obstructed justice by firing the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, replacing Sessions with the Trump partisan Matthew Whitaker. The president regularly ridicules the Mueller investigation and insults its leader. In a tweet last week he called the investigation a “witch hunt,” a “total mess” and “absolutely nuts,” and he went on to assert that Mueller and his investigators were “screaming and shouting at people” to make them provide “the answers they want.” He called those involved in the probe “a disgrace to our nation.”
    He has repeatedly delivered diatribes against the press as “the enemy of the people,” belittled, mocked and insulted reporters during press conferences and defended his revoking of the White House press credentials of a CNN reporter. He and his family openly use the presidency for self-enrichment, often by steering lobbyists and foreign officials to Trump’s hotels and golf courses. He has peddled numerous conspiracy theories to discredit U.S. elections and deployed military troops along the southern border to resist an “invasion” of migrants. However, an attempt to fire Mueller and shut down the investigation would obliterate the Constitution as a functional document. There would be one last gasp of democracy by those of us who protest. It is not certain we would succeed.

    The potential crisis the nation faces is far more serious than the one that occurred when it was revealed that President Richard Nixon had funded and covered up the June 17, 1972, burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington. (Nixon’s lying about the secret bombing of Cambodia, which occurred from March 18, 1969, to May 26, 1970, and killed over half a million people, was, like all crimes of empire, never formally addressed and was not cited in the impeachment documents that were prepared.) The institutions tasked with defending democracy and the rule of law were far more robust during the Nixon constitutional crisis: There were Republicans in the Congress willing to hold the president accountable to the law; the courts were independent; the press had widespread credibility. In addition, the president met the onslaught of charges and revelations by retreating from the public. None of this is true now. Trump, with Fox News acting as a megaphone for his hate speech and conspiracy theories, has been holding Nuremberg-like rallies across the country to prepare the roughly 40 percent of the public who remain loyal to him to become shock troops. His followers are filled with hate and resentment for the elites who betrayed them. They are hungry for revenge. They do not live in a fact-based universe. And they are awash in weapons.
    “Trump knows once the Democrats control the House, they can subpoena the records of his administration,” Ralph Nader said when I reached him by phone in Connecticut. “He’s going to want to get this over with, even if it sparks a constitutional crisis, while the Republicans still control the Congress. There’s little doubt this will all come to a head before the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately for Mueller, he has not issued a subpoena to the president that would have protected him [Mueller]. If he had issued a subpoena, which he has every right to do, especially after being rebuffed in hours and hours of private negotiations for information from the president, he would be protected. Once you issue a subpoena, you have a lot of law on your side. If Trump defied a subpoena, he would get in legal hot water. But short of a subpoena, it’s just political back and forth. By not issuing a subpoena Mueller is more vulnerable to Whitaker and Trump.”
    So far, there have been no hints from the Mueller investigation’s criminal charges or the guilty pleas by Trump associates that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was found guilty on eight of the 18 counts that Mueller brought against him, but none of his crimes had anything to do with the presidential election or Russian influence. Manafort’s financial crimes included five counts of tax fraud, one of hiding foreign bank accounts and two of bank fraud. These crimes predated the Trump campaign. Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign chairman, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements. George Papadopoulos spent 14 days in jail for lying to the FBI. Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime lawyer, pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions by paying hush money to the porn actress Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, and Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen, due to be sentenced Dec. 12 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on charges of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and the two campaign contribution violations, appears to be cooperating with the investigation, like most of those who have been indicted.
    In February Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities on charges of interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections, indictments that would not, I suspect, have taken place without hard evidence, but these indictments still do not appear to link the Trump campaign directly to Russia in an act of collusion. Perhaps the expected indictments of Roger Stone, reportedly for his alleged contacts with WikiLeaks, and Jerome Corsi, who said he expects to be indicted for “giving false information to the special counsel or to one of the other grand [juries],” will connect Trump and Russia, but until now the Mueller investigation appears to be focused on financial crimes, which appear rampant within the Trump business organization and among Trump associates. It is questionable, however, whether financial crimes will be enough to justify impeachment proceedings. Trump says he has finished answering written questions submitted to him from Mueller’s team and has promised to turn them over this week.
    “Trump is in a dimension by himself,” said Nader. “He has inured the public to all kinds of scandals, bad language, accusations, admissions, harassment of women, boasting about it, lying about his business and keeping his tax returns a secret. You have to have an even higher level of damning materials in the [Mueller] report in order to breach that level of inurement that the public has become accustomed to.”
    Trump wields the power of the presidential pardon and has suggested he can use it to pardon relatives and himself. There is no legal precedent for such pardons, but the Supreme Court would probably uphold whatever novel legal interpretation the Trump White House would use. Trump might also try to divert attention away from the political meltdown by starting another war.
    “Trump may try to save himself by starting hostilities abroad,” Nader said. “He is especially inclined to do this because of his extraordinary psychological instabilities and impulsiveness. He also has a monumental ego that lets him live in a fantasy world. The signal that he is planning this kind of move, a move he would carry out if he loses all other options to stay in office and be re-elected, will be if he replaces chief of staff John Kelly with a war hawk and his secretary of defense, James Mattis, with another war hawk. He has two war hawks who would like to see this happen. One is John Bolton, his national security adviser, and the other is the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Bolton and Pompeo have similar views about using military might abroad and ignoring constitutional, statutory and treaty restraints. They would like to see Kelly and Mattis removed. Pompeo, a graduate of West Point, has ambitions to become secretary of defense. If you see Kelly and Mattis replaced with warmongers, this move might reveal his ultimate trump card. He can use a war to shut down political opposition and dissent in the name of supporting the troops.”
    Trump has a few weeks before the Democrats take control of the House. This may give him enough time to carry out his constitutional coup and consolidate power. Our decayed democratic institutions, including a corporate press that has rendered the working class and the poor invisible and serves as an apologist for corporate power, are detested by many Trump Republicans. Trump can rally his cultish supporters, hermetically sealed in their non-reality-based belief system, to attack and demolish the last of our democratic protections.
    “We have a tremendous dearth of readiness by major constituencies such as civic groups, the legal profession, the business community and academia to deal with someone who misuses his authority, power and resources,” Nader warned. “Nobody knows how to do it more precisely, relentlessly, strategically and tactically than the cunning Donald J. Trump.”
    Editor’s note: See an Oct. 17 column by Chris Hedges on Ralph Nader’s latest book, “How the Rats Re-Formed Congress.”






    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. #1064

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    NOVEMBER 29, 2018 | RUSS BAKER


    WHO IS MICHAEL COHEN?

    President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, leaves federal court after making a plea deal on August 21, 2018 in New York. Photo credit: © Bryan Smith/ZUMA Wire

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    President Donald Trump’s former in-house legal bulldog and top aide Michael Cohen has been on a rollercoaster ride the past couple of years. He started out by aggressively defending Trump, pumping his chest, and trying to clean up — or cover-up — the messes left by his former boss. Then he abruptly reversed himself in almost every respect, throwing himself at the mercy of prosecutors, even calling his old boss to task and saying he was voting Democratic in the last election.
    On Thursday, he pled guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s real estate deals with Russia.
    Of the hundreds of stories on Cohen from the major media, though, we have yet to see anyone really look at Cohen himself — how he came to Trump’s attention, why Trump hired him, what he did for Trump, and Cohen’s own murky ties to the former Soviet Union.
    WhoWhatWhy did take such a look. Here’s our original piece — as relevant as ever in the ongoing effort to understand the relationship between Trump and Russia.

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

    While Manafort and Flynn played only specific and short-lived roles with Trump, Cohen has served as confidant, spokesperson and liaison between his boss and powerful foreign agents over the past decade.
    Of all the people Trump could have tapped to function as his main man, the lawyer who is always around him, his legal rottweiler, why Michael Cohen?
    The story behind Cohen’s pre-Trump connections to an avalanche of dubiously sourced money from the FSU offers a possible explanation — and the tantalizing prospect of new insight into the president’s curious co-dependence with the Kremlin.
    The “art of the deal” seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.
    As WhoWhatWhy previously reported, the crux of Trump’s relationship with Moscow goes beyond the presidential campaign to prior dealings that were central to his business empire.
    Those dealings concern investors and business partners from various parts of the FSU. Tied into this network of influence are Russian President Vladimir Putin, wealthy FSU businessmen (“oligarchs”), and allied members of organized crime. And, improbably, Cohen, Trump’s own attorney.
    Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the 2017 G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo credit: President of Russia / Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)

    Enter Cohen, the Ultimate Groupie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cohen has a seemingly limitless appetite for real estate, and his younger brother Bryan, also a lawyer, entered the real estate trade and is now Chief Administrative Officer of DE Development Marketing, part of the prominent Douglas Elliman real estate brokerage.
    More Businesses, More Ukrainians

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

    To follow the Trump money trail further requires a brief dip into Ukraine’s recent history, which turns out to be crucial to Michael Cohen’s story.
    Ukraine in Tug of War Between East and West

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

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

    .

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

    The money spigot was apparent to all. In a 2008 deposition, Sater even testified that, upon Trump’s request, he accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on business trips to the FSU. Donald Jr. would later declare that the region had become the family’s main source of investment.
    While Sater was moving up in the Trump orbit, Cohen’s status as a mysterious Trump real estate mega-investor of uncertain wealth and an undistinguished legal practice changed, seemingly overnight.
    In 2006, the year before he went to work fulltime for Trump, Cohen suddenly went big-time, becoming, briefly, a partner at a prominent New York firm, Phillips Nizer, where, according to a profile, “he counted [Trump] as one of his many high-profile wealthy clients.”
    He was then offered a job by the developer. The reason? “I suspect,” Cohen said, “he was impressed with both my handling of matters as well as the results.”
    According to cached images of the Phillips Nizer website found in the Internet Archive, he was first listed as partner in October 2006. By May 2007, about the time he was hired by Trump, Cohen’s title was changed from partner to counsel. He remained in the Phillips Nizer directory as counsel until some time in late 2008.
    What exactly did this obscure former personal injury lawyer bring to the firm? It has become increasingly common for law firms to bring on board anyone who can bring business with them. Interestingly, Cohen’s practice there was described as including distressed debt — which certainly could have described Trump’s frequently unstable situation. Mark Landis, managing partner at the firm, declined to comment, saying it is policy not to discuss current or former colleagues.
    But in an interview with WhoWhatWhy, Bryan Cohen said that both he and his brother came to Phillips Nizer as part of a merger between Nizer and their entity, the Cohen Law Firm. Asked why Nizer wanted to combine with the much smaller Cohen operation, Bryan Cohen declined to say, terming the question “irrelevant.”
    Photo credit: baba_1967 / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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

    .

    In September 2007, Trump, Sater and another partner posed for a photo at the opening of their Trump SoHo Hotel in New York.
    The celebration would be brief. In December, the Times revealed that Sater had a criminal past.
    Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on September 19, 2007 in New York. Photo credit: Mark Von Holden / WireImage

    This potentially put Trump in a very difficult spot. If Trump were to admit that he knew Sater was a convicted felon but did business with him nonetheless, he, the Trump Organization, and anyone within the company who knew of it would be potentially liable for sky-high sums. This was especially true for the Trump-Bayrock projects (as noted, many of them financed by FSU figures), as so many of them ended terribly, with multiple lawsuits across many states.
    Bayrock unraveled. Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2013, after just three years of operation, leaving a slew of unoccupied units in the hands of a new developer. It was the firm’s final deal. As is now well known,Trump, who would later claim to barely know Sater, kept him on in the building and, if anything, he and Sater grew even closer. Indeed, Sater was soon working directly for Trump himself, with an office, business cards, phone number and email address all provided by the Trump Organization. The cards identified him as a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.”
    In this period, Trump Organization activities in the countries of the former Soviet Union appear to have accelerated.
    In 2010 and 2012, while working for Trump, Cohen traveled to the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Georgia. It’s worth noting that Bayrock had earlier received large infusions of cash from the ultra-corrupt Kazakhstan, and other funds from Georgia, also awash in ill-gotten fortunes.
    In 2013, leading up to the Russian-hosted winter Olympics in Sochi, a close Putin ally reached out to Trump.
    Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani billionaire real estate developer with Russian citizenship who is known as the “Donald Trump of Russia,” paid Trump millions of dollars to bring Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow.
    Petrel@burevestnik3

    · Jul 12, 2017



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


    MD@mikeydoubled



    One better -- Pics of a private dinner in Las Vegas with Aras, Emin, Goldstone, and Trump sitting directly across / next to each other: pic.twitter.com/3g2Fj7MEEs

    34

    8:30 AM - Jul 12, 2017
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    23 people are talking about this

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

    .

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

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

    .

    To sum up, Trump’s financial fortunes seem — both by appearance and by statements from the Trumps themselves — to have been heavily dependent on money from the former Soviet Union. Besides the Cohen retinue buying at least 11 apartments in Trump buildings, the money that came in through Felix Sater was also from the FSU.
    How much of the funds that kept Trump’s shaky financial empire afloat in those lean years had its origins in the part of the world dominated by the Kremlin? Well, how much did not? Even Donald Trump, Jr. declared in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
    As for Trump, he has repeatedly tweeted and declared that he has no loans “from Russia” and no “deals” in Russia. While that may be technically true, what’s more important is that money that originated in the FSU has played a crucial role in his business career. The “art of the deal” seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.
    Felix Sater and Trump business card superimposed over FBI building. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Cliff / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), 591J / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) and Boing Boing (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).

    Sater appears to have been an FBI asset for many years, including at least some of the years when Cohen was working with Trump.
    Sater denied to WhoWhatWhy that any of his reports to the FBI from Trump Tower concerned organized crime figures in Russia, and asserted that he had never even heard of Mogilevich, though his own father was said to be a Mogilevich underling.
    In any case, the FBI agents running Sater were extremely focused on the FSU underworld. It is likely that they would take an interest in the partner of Cohen’s in-law, and all the partner’s ties to organized crime. And they would surely have been interested in how Donald Trump fit into this underworld web all around him.
    The Ukraine “Peace Deal”

    .

    Yet Cohen remained mostly out of the public eye, even as myriad Trump associates (including Manafort) ended up in the hot seat for their business dealings in the FSU.
    That changed with the report of the January 27, 2017, meeting between Cohen, Sater and Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko at a luxury hotel in New York.
    The three men discussed a proposed Russia-Ukraine peace agreement that would result in the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia. Artemenko told The New York Times that Cohen delivered the proposal to Michael Flynn, who was then Trump’s national security advisor. Cohen has told different stories about his role, but in one interview he confirmed that he delivered a bundle of documents containing the proposal to Flynn’s office while Flynn was still part of the Trump administration. Cohen has insisted he was not aware of any Kremlin involvement.
    In bragging about his role in getting such material into the White House, Artemenko comes across as clumsy and artless, seemingly oblivious to how devastating the revelation could have been to Trump had the media and, say, influential congressmen made more of it. But was he naive? Or was this actually a House of Cards-type scenario, where the Russians were deliberately publicizing another bit of incriminating material on Trump in order to gain yet more leverage over him and control over his fate?
    The Artemenko “peace plan” was — importantly — accompanied by documents that purported to reveal corruption on the part of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, which could be used to weaken (and potentially topple) the Ukrainian regime led by an enemy of Putin.
    This of course made the current Ukrainian authorities go ballistic. No more has emerged on the document bundle, or what, if anything, resulted from its arrival in the White House. But the intent was clearly to advance Russia’s interests, and that of a pro-Russian Ukrainian politico with historic ties to Manafort.
    Andrii V. Artemenko superimposed photo of Michael Cohen. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from IowaPolitics.com / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and A. V. Artemenko / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

    Although Felix Sater was present at the meeting as a supposed intermediary, he wouldn’t have been needed for that. Artemenko had known Cohen for years. Cohen’s brother’s father-in-law was, as mentioned earlier, tied to Artemenko through business. Artemenko was also closely tied to Topolov, the allegedly money-laundering Ukrainian politician in business with Oronov, Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law. (Oronov died March 2 after suffering from what Bryan Cohen described to WhoWhatWhy as an “incredibly aggressive” cancer diagnosed three months earlier.)
    Artemenko said that his Russia-Ukraine sanctions proposal had been discussed with Cohen and Sater back during the primaries in early 2016, just as Trump was emerging as the frontrunner.
    Western sanctions have delivered some crushing blows to Russia’s economy, slashing both its GDP and ruble value by 50 percent in three years, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. Though the economy is expected to resume modest growth, getting out from under the stifling sanctions is for Putin still a national security concern of the highest possible priority. And the Trump camp had been all about lifting the sanctions.
    During the 2016 Republican Convention, the party surprisingly removed from its platform a condemnation of Russia over its incursion into Ukraine. Initially, both Donald Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort denied any knowledge of the platform change. Much later, though, we learned that Trump’s platform chairman, J. D. Gordon, had met with the Russian ambassador during the convention.
    In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Gordon said he had promoted the softening of the language on Ukraine — a softening that Trump himself had advocated earlier in the year, in a meeting with Gordon. Later still, Gordon would attempt to walk back the admission in a parsing reminiscent of Bill Clinton: “I mean, what’s the definition of pushed for the amendment, right? It’s an issue of semantics.”
    Semantics or no semantics, the platform was changed.

    Trump himself has been very kind to Russia. As a candidate, he worked strenuously to avoid criticizing Russia. He wouldn’t even acknowledge that Russia had seized Crimea, or that it had military units in eastern Ukraine. Even after he was nominated, he told a reporter,
    “Just so you understand: [Putin] is not going to go into Ukraine, all right?,” as if that had not already happened two years earlier.
    This seeming quid pro quo with Russia suggests the extent to which Russia has compromised the Trump White House.
    Having Cohen and Sater deliver the sanctions “peace proposal” to Flynn, a trusted figure with his own Russia connections, keeps Trump himself out of the loop, something Cohen would well understand — that’s one of the core things lawyers do understand, and a role they often play.
    We also know that Artemenko’s role in the meetings with Cohen and Sater led Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to open a treason investigation.
    Why would Cohen go to such a meeting? It seems crazy. But then the Trump team’s defining trait has been its reckless bravado, and a brash disregard for troubling appearances.
    As for Artemenko’s seemingly bumbling admission about the meeting, it is reminiscent of the “indiscretion” of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, who went to the Republican convention to meet with Manafort about softening the GOP’s stance toward Russia. Although Trump and Manafort vigorously denied it, Kislyak then went public with his own account of the meeting.
    In the complex game being played by Putin, with Russia’s (and Putin’s) future at stake, Trump seems to have been cornered into a precarious dependence on Russian “good will.” As we noted months ago, the FBI has long known much of this. What former FBI director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller will do about it remains to be seen.
    WhoWhatWhy sought an interview with Cohen, but he declined. When we offered to send him questions, he wrote back: “You can send questions but not committing to respond.” We did send questions. And he did not respond.
    Research assistance: Claire Wang
    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. #1065

    Default

    To me, the connections between 'Team Trump' and the Saudis is more insidious that those they had with the Russians. In both cases, I think for Trump it is only 'business interests' that steer him - not geopolitics....however, for the Russians, Saudis and others it is geopolitics and not profit motivating them. Something is going to 'give' soon and I think the current President is going to have to resign and certainly will not run again in 2020. That said, Trump never was the problem per se, he is only a symptom of the rot of the Republic and if not seen and fixed [and MAJOR, M A J O R changes would need to be changed to even begin to fix it], this is the new normal we have been drifting toward after WWII and with big shifts on 11.22.63 and 09.11.01 etc......

    As to the below article, it is true that the Khashoggi mincemeat affair was horrible in the extreme, the USA and many other countries have secretly or more covertly done the same or similar to perceived opponents. Few big nations and even some small ones have clean hands on such things. However, that does not excuse the Saudis at all.....

    Kushner urged Saudi prince to ‘weather the storm’ after Khashoggi killing: New York Times

    A 'bromance' form of diplomacy.

    SAM FULWOOD III DEC 9, 2018, 12:03 PM




    WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER JARED KUSHNER ON THE LEFT AND SAUDI CROWN PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN CREDIT: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/GETTY IMAGESIn what can best be described as an unseemly cozy consultation, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor on the Middle East, reportedly advised the besieged Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to weather the storm” that followed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, was killed on October 2, and his body destroyed by Saudi agents, the newspaper reported following accounts given to it by two former senior American officials and two people brief by the Saudis.
    His murder set off an international firestorm after intelligence agencies in the United States and around the globe said mounting evidence pointed to the prince as the person who ordered the killing.
    Meanwhile, the newspaper said, Kushner became Salman’s most important defender inside the White House, helping to persuade the president to avoid criticizing the Saudis for any direct role in the murder.
    According to Saturday’s editions of The New York Times, citing former White House officials and others briefed by the Saudi royal court, Kushner exchanged private, first-name emails with Mohammed in the days before and after news broke of Khashoggi’s death.



    Kushner dodges questions about Saudi Arabia’s account of Khashoggi’s death


    The newspaper said Kushner “has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm” in the wake of the killing and to “resolve his conflicts around the [Mideast] region and avoid further embarrassments.”
    During the immediate aftermath of the Khashoggi murder, Kushner stood by Mohammed and declined to criticize Saudi officials for what increasingly appeared to be their involvement in the matter.
    “I’d say that right now, as an administration, we’re more in the fact-finding phase,” Kushner said at a CNN event after being told of Saudi admission that Khashoggi had been killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and 18 people had been arrested in connection with his death. “Once we have all the facts, we’ll make an assessment.”
    At the time, Kushner’s explanation didn’t conform with earlier reporting about the case, including alleged intelligence provided by Turkey that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered with a bone saw and removed from the consulate.
    In a detailed article, reporters David D. Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard, Mark Landler, and Mark Mazzetti, trace how Kushner and Mohammed developed their close ties, noting that Saudi Arabia saw Kushner as a viable, impressionable target to get close to the White House. The reporters describe the Saudi effort as the “courtship” of Kushner, going back to the early days of the Trump administration.
    Martin Indyk, a former Middle East envoy and current Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times that the “bromance” between the two men “constitutes the foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the” entire Middle East.”
    At the very least, the private conversations between the two represents an off-the-book, back-door form of diplomacy that is as furtive as it is secretive.




    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. #1066

    Default Trump

    Now we have multiple U S Attorneys and maybe even State prosecutors all starting to jump on a bizarre bandwagon to attempt to jail Trump, his family and almost all people associated with him or maybe anyone who contributed to him (or in theory anyone who even voted for him). Russian spies are now working with Mueller and are being put on a pedestal higher that our President in terms of credibility. These cooperating Russian spies may soon be effectively running the United States. And to say this is not an exaggeration.

    What does 2 plus 2 equal? Let's try that again.

    If you couple this with the chaotic Brexit situation in the UK, IMHO we are experiencing a near total threatening breakdown in national government.

    The problem for the anti-Trump chaotic crime-busters is that 2 + 2 still has to equal 4. This, along with the fact that the earth is round will likely cause great consternation to all of these types of people.

    In fact, the more they go off the deep end, the greater likelihood that our country and maybe France or other EU countries could experience a new FRENCH REVOLUTION OR RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. Hallelujah!!!! (sp?)

    As many people know, the Chinese word for crisis also means opportunity. As we found out with J E Hoover and "deep throat", there is no guarantee that the Police State operatives are really that good at politics. After all, if Mueller was better at politics than Trump, then Mueller would be President and not vice versa.

    That's not to say that Mueller, the mentor of Whitey Bulger (along with his crew) are anything less than the personification of the devil himself come to the USA. I don't see how we could have any worse people doing anything worse than Mueller and company is doing at this point.

    It is bordering on the death-row inmates taking over (not just the jail) but the Courts and the Police Stations nationwide.

    Those who were in Illinois and witnessed the George Ryan/Patrick Fitzgerald/Rob Blagojevich situation know how much evil potential is out there in our current political morass. It is not beyond being a possibility that those FBI bad actors may march into the White House and slap Trump into handcuffs. Then they move into the Oval Office. Don't they????

    And then what will 2 + 2 equal? We'll have to ask Mueller.

    Many people have been badly mentally victimized by the collusion between the CIA (and other intel people) with CNN, MSNBC etc etc. And Amazon now owns the Washington Post. So more in the US population are mentally victimized. The mental victims are piling up pretty fast.

    In our local area the machinery of the Democratic Party has shifted abruptly from baby-boomers (aged 65 +/-) to a bunch of 20 somethings. This, to me, has the smell of Revolution. And it's about time. Man the barricades, folks!

    But that sad fact for these wierdo media people is that 2 + 2 still equals 4. That must make them really angry!!!!!!

    James Lateer

  7. #1067

    Default

    DECEMBER 16, 2018 | JONATHAN Z. LARSEN


    DONALD TRUMP AND HIS SHADY ENTOURAGE — A BRIEF HISTORY

    With Friends Like These...

    Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from The White House / Flickr , Dennis Amith / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0), and The White House / Wikimedia.

    It has often been observed that President Donald Trump behaves more like a mobster than an executive, let alone a statesman. Perhaps it is not so surprising.
    Both his grandfather and father were “rough customers.” During the Gold Rush, his grandfather Friedrich Trump allegedly operated hotels full of “sporting ladies” for the enjoyment of prospectors.
    To help him run his real estate business, Trump’s father, Fred, picked an associate of two prominent mob families as his partner. “Decades later,” writes David Cay Johnston, “Donald Trump would also do business with the heads of those same families, though at a remove, developing numerous business connections with an assortment of criminals.”
    And then there were the merely shady people with whom Trump surrounded himself throughout his life, and now as president.
    The media seemed perplexed when Trump picked the elegant dandy Paul Manafort as his campaign chair in the spring of 2016, but in truth Manafort was just as comfortable in a world of thugs as Trump himself — he had worked for so many of them. Before he got to Trump, Manafort had become infamous for putting lipstick on pigs — dictators, tyrants, and autocrats all, among them Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu of Zaire, Savimbi of Angola, and Yanukovych of Ukraine.
    Behind the face cards of Trump and Manafort stood a rogues’ gallery of operatives more than happy to serve in the shadows. As special counsel Robert Mueller files his papers in court, with each day it is becoming more and more obvious that Trump would probably not be president today were it not for the combined efforts of these chimerical figures. Almost all have a prior history in the darker recesses of Republican political campaigns stretching into the past century.
    Here are brief introductions and timelines for some of those who have emerged from the shadows to make their cameo appearances in the ongoing Mueller investigation.
    2000: Roger Stone and Bush v. Gore

    .

    A longtime friend of Trump, a lifelong political operative, and a former lobbying partner of Paul Manafort, Roger Stone began 2000 as head of Trump’s half-hearted presidential bid, and ended it playing a crucial role in getting George W. Bush elected.
    It was Stone who led the infamous “Brooks Brothers riot” on the ground, sending Republican congressional staffers to Florida to stage phony “grassroots” protests outside the offices of state election officials. These raucous manifestations of a supposed “public uprising” led to the suspension of a vote recount in crucial Miami-Dade county.
    When the Supreme Court stopped the recount midway in the case Bush v. Gore, the Republican majority on the court effectively supplanted the voters and appointed Bush president by fiat. As we will see, that may have not been the last time Stone affected a presidential outcome.
    2004: Jerome Corsi and the Reelection of George W. Bush

    .

    By rights, President George W. Bush, by then highly unpopular as it became more and more clear that the justification for his Iraq intervention, weapons of mass destruction, was bogus, should have had no better chance of reelection than his father before him. But W. eventually beat John Kerry by some 3,000,000 votes or so, the same popular vote margin by which Hillary Clinton bested Trump in 2016 while losing in the Electoral College. One major reason for Kerry’s loss was an ad hoc group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that was heavily funded by Dallas friends of Karl Rove and the Bush family. Dallas oilman T. Boone Pickens alone threw in $4 million, adjusted for inflation.
    The man who helped put the Swift Boat fraud into the national conversation was Jerome Corsi, through his book Unfit For Command, co-authored with Swift Boat captain John O’Neill.
    Corsi’s book and an ad hoc group of Vietnam veterans would argue that Kerry did not deserve his three Purple Hearts, nor his Bronze Star, nor his Silver Star. Not only did they throw doubt over Kerry’s “specious” medals won during the Vietnam War — as a swift boat captain Kerry had one of the most dangerous assignments imaginable — they also called him a traitor for having testified to Congress in 1971 about atrocities committed by fellow service members; the story of the My Lai Massacre that killed more than 300 women and children had broken two years before.
    The irony of this campaign of vilification was that a bonafide hero of the Vietnam War would lose the election to a man who sat out the war stateside with the National Guard, and in fact never even completed his Guard obligations. (There are irresistible comparisons to be made to draft-dodger Trump trashing the heroism of Vietnam POW John McCain).
    2004–2008: Felix Sater, Donald Trump and Money Laundering

    .

    Felix Sater. Photo credit: Felix Sater / YouTube

    New York’s Trump Soho, finished in 2008, was built with virtually no money from Trump, but millions upon millions invested by shady operators brought to the deal by Felix Sater and his partners at the Bayrock Group.
    Much of the Trump Soho money came from countries that had been part of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Over the years, figurative freight trains full of freshly laundered FSU money had been invested in various Trump condos, real estate deals, and yachts, but the Trump Soho in particular seemed to be built as much with Russian rubles as it was with concrete and steel.
    Felix Sater’s role in the project was well hidden, as were his later efforts to build Trump Moscow (see below). This was in large part because Sater was a convicted criminal whom Trump publicly professed not to know.
    The New York Trump Soho was finally completed only by dint of serial lies about the state of its financing and the degree to which its condo units had been sold. Even Trump’s children were enlisted in this fraudulent sales campaign, to the point that the New York District Attorney considered bringing charges, but backed off at the last minute.
    2007: Erik Prince, Blackwater, and the Iraq War

    Erik Prince. Photo credit: C-SPAN

    So much went wrong with the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq, but high among the factors was the rogue behavior of a private mercenary force then called Blackwater USA.
    Founded by Erik Prince, a former Navy Seal from a wealthy Republican family with connections to the Bush administration, Blackwater eventually landed a $1 billion contract to protect American diplomats running the war effort.
    By 2007 Blackwater had become controversial enough that a government investigator traveled to Iraq and wrote in a memo that he had found an environment in which Prince’s security guards “saw themselves above the law.” Two weeks after that memo, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded 20 in the middle of a square in Baghdad. The horrific incident contributed much to the United States’ deteriorating relations with the Iraqi government.
    2008: David Bossie and the 2008 Election

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    David Bossie. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    David Bossie, a college dropout and former firefighter, has been a worker in the trenches for Republican issues for decades. He was one of the first to sign on to Trump’s winning presidential campaign; indeed it was Bossie who recruited Steve Bannon to the cause.
    Bossie has prided himself in particular on being a Clinton family “researcher,” and his most prominent book on the subject was produced in time for the 2008 election. Called Hillary and the Politics of Personal Destruction, this book, among others, would lay the seeds for one of Trump’s most insistent campaign themes in 2016: “LOCK HER UP!” Bossie’s attempts to bring out an anti-Hillary movie based on the book would eventually wind up before the Supreme Court (see below).
    Bossie’s name has recently been floated as a possible replacement for John Kelly as White House chief of staff.
    2008: Roger Stone and the Fall of Eliot Spitzer

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    Roger Stone. Photo credit: The Art of Charm / YouTube (Creative Commons Attribution license – reuse allowed)

    As attorney general of New York State, Eliot Spitzer had been a relentless prosecutor of local white-collar crime. Few people had better reasons to fear him than Trump, whose company, whose “University,” and whose “foundation” were all shot through with shady business practices, if not outright criminality. (The fraudulent university was eventually shut down by the feds — Trump had to pay $26 million in restitution at the end of the 2016 campaign — and the Trump Foundation is still being scrutinized by the New York attorney general’s office.)
    Once Spitzer was elected governor, a group of Republican-aligned power brokers went after him, tailing him with private detectives. They eventually caught him associating with a prostitute, a scandal that forced Spitzer to resign.
    In the thick of this effort was Stone, who may well have been tipped off by one of his own prostitute friends. Stone is a notorious swinger and philanderer who has bragged about the high-class escorts he knew. In a well-crafted documentary on the subject, Client 9, Stone winks at the role he might have played in Spitzer’s fall from grace.
    As the scandal was breaking, a phone call was made to Spitzer’s father’s house, threatening to bring his whole family down. The phone message was made public and the call was eventually traced to a telephone. It was Stone’s.
    2010: David Bossie and the Supreme Court

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    David Bossie has long been associated with an organization called Citizens United, and it was this enterprise that would give the name to one of the most ill-considered decisions ever made in the history of the Supreme Court.
    The case that Bossie’s company brought before the court was its right to distribute its highly partisan Hillary: The Movie in the midst of the 2008 election, in conjunction with Bossie’s book Hillary and the Politics of Personal Destruction.
    A lower court had ruled no. In its Citizens United v. FEC decision, the Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that corporations are “people too” and thus have First Amendment rights like the rest of us, thus allowing corporate executives to spend as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted, to effect political outcomes.
    As one can well imagine, this has proved to be a game changer for democracy going forward. At the same time Citizens United narrowed the legal concept of corruption down to an absurdity — an observable exchange of goods or money for political acts. The court’s decision not only opened elections to a flood of dark money from hidden sources, but made prosecutions for buying political influence all but impossible.
    2011: Jerome Corsi and the So-Called ‘Birther Movement’

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    Just as he had defamed Kerry in 2004, Corsi, through a new book entitled Where’s the Birth Certificate?, sought to throw similar shade on Barack Obama, the sitting president of the United States, claiming he was not a US citizen and therefore his election had not been legitimate.
    Donald Trump immediately picked up on this flimflam, beat it to death for years on national television — why did the media give him that air time? — and eventually rode it into the 2016 presidential primaries.
    By the time he had disavowed Corsi’s Birther Movement — ever so reluctantly — he was the Republican nominee, running on a campaign of racial division and white nationalism, the very issues that had been greatly inflamed by Corsi’s book.
    2016: Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, and WikiLeaks

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    Some close observers of the 2016 presidential election believe that the dump of hacked Democratic Party emails in the summer of 2016, and, later, the Chinese-water-torture release of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s hacked emails, played a vital role in the election’s outcome.
    The very word “email” conjured up the now old scandal over Hillary Clinton’s private email server — the subject of congressional and FBI investigations — and the new hacked emails now served to further inflame Bernie Sanders supporters and sow further doubt among potential Clinton voters.
    During the campaign, Trump would claim it was impossible to know who leaked the emails — perhaps the Chinese, perhaps a “four-hundred pound man sitting on his bed.”
    It now appears likely that the Trump campaign knew all along that Russia had indeed hacked them, and had moved swiftly to seize them and deploy them.
    Campaign chair Manafort, his old friend and lobbying partner Stone, and Swift-Boater and Birther Movement’s Corsi may have all played key roles in this effort, not just to find out everything they could from WikiLeaks about its email trove — but to enlist Julian Assange as a silent partner in Trump’s election.
    The first tranche of Podesta emails, in fact, would drop just hours after Trump’s Access Hollywood tape became public. If that was not a beautifully orchestrated dump — like dropping balloons that had been long held suspended in a giant net at the end of a victorious election — then it was a mighty odd as well as a convenient coincidence.
    2016: Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and the Moscow Tower

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    Through the fall of 2015 and until June of 2016, these two men would try to arrange for the building of a Trump Tower “East” in the middle of Moscow.
    Trump had been trying to build in Russia for 30 years without success. Now his organization sought not only permission from the Russian government but also financing through Russia’s state bank to build Trump Moscow.
    To further Trump’s cause, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater allegedly dangled the notion that Putin might be given the penthouse, worth an estimated $50 million. All of these efforts were hidden from the public once Trump’s presidential campaign started in earnest.
    Interestingly, during the Trump transition, Cohen and Sater would prepare for future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn a plan to lift US sanctions on Russia.
    Without the lifting of sanctions, no Trump project in Moscow would have been possible. Were sanctions all along the quid pro quo at the heart of the alleged Russia-Trump collusion?
    2016: Erik Prince, Hillary Conspiracies, and the Seychelles Meeting

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    Erik Prince and Seychelle Islands (inset). Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Miller Center / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) and Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0).

    After selling Blackwater USA in 2010, Erik Prince established other mercenary ventures. Both he and his sister, Betsy DeVos, the future secretary of education, were major donors to the 2016 Trump campaign — but Erik was otherwise all but invisible.
    He could be heard on Breitbart, angrily spouting wild, unsubstantiated allegations about the Clintons, including sex slaves being held on remote islands, but that just made him another right-wing kook.
    Then it slowly emerged that Prince had been playing a role behind the scenes. The one-time intern to California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher — he of extreme pro-Russian views — Prince had met privately during the 2016 transition in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, a Putin ally and the head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund.
    People mostly go to the Seychelles islands to watch birds. Was Prince serving as Trump’s bagman? Was he establishing a Russian back channel for the White House? Had he lied to Congress when he told the House Permanent Select Committee of Intelligence “I didn’t fly there to meet any Russian guy”?
    George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and a former Blackwater agent, told Mueller that he had indeed set up a meeting between Prince and Dmitriev, and had even met with Prince in New York the week before to brief him on the get-together.
    This spring the New York Times revealed that Prince, at the height of the presidential campaign, met with Don Junior and an emissary for “two wealthy Arab princes” from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to discuss their help in winning the election.
    All the while, Prince has been trying to convince Trump officials that the war in Afghanistan should be turned over to a private security force. He has one in mind — a new mercenary firm he would lead.
    If Prince had been doing special favors for the Trump campaign behind the scenes, could his sister’s cabinet appointment have been the payoff?
    So many shadowy characters. So many questions. Mr. Mueller?


    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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