Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Trump-Ukraine suspicions raise specters of collusion and impeachment

Presidential impeachment looms, and perhaps even removal, because Donald Trump may have colluded after all.

Or, to use the correct legal terminology, maybe the president tried to engage in a “conspiracy” with a foreign government, to wit, an effort to use American assets in a quid pro quo arrangement to directly affect a national election and both nations’ systems of criminal justice.

This is what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and other Democrats suspect with regard to a whistleblower’s complaint that reportedly was “prompted by President Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader.”

The evidence already indicates a significant likelihood that the suspicions are correct. If — repeat, only if — the reports do prove true, then Trump is in massive trouble.

Granted, Schiff himself is hardly a reliable interpreter of events. He’s a far-left ideological enemy of Trump’s, a publicity hound prone to grandstandinggullibility, and prevarication. Still, even political hacks sometimes stumble upon important information.

What’s known is this: First, former Vice President Joe Biden is suspected by many in Trump world of having used undue influence to kill a Ukrainian investigation into potential illegalities by his son, Hunter. If Biden did so, that would almost surely be illegal and would by all reasonable standards make him unfit for the presidency.

It is not, however, obvious that Biden did what is suspected. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, though, obviously want Ukraine to r-open the investigation into Biden. It long has been evident that Trump world believes that among the current Democratic presidential candidates, Biden would be his most serious challenger. If Ukraine finds Biden actually did something wrong, or even if they publicly are investigating him, Trump’s reelection prospects surely would improve.

Hence, Giuliani’s now-admitted efforts to ask Ukraine’s current regime to ensnare Biden in a major investigation. If Giuliani did so at Trump’s request, which is certainly not far-fetched, that alone would be dicey behavior. As the United States is a key ally for Ukraine’s very survival, any implied pressure on it from someone acting for the president, on behalf of the president’s political interests, would be ethically questionable.

Yet Trump is now suspected of doing even worse, than that. A whistle blower filed a report to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community — a complaint the White House is withholding from Congress, but whose existence if not exact details are known — alleging an “urgent” matter arose from a “promise” Trump made in a phone call with a foreign leader. Available evidence makes it almost certain that the complaint involved July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at a time when Trump was delaying a $250 million military assistance package for Ukraine already approved by U.S. law.

Trump subsequently allowed the aid to go forward.

In sum, Democrats suspect Trump conditioned the aid delivery on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate Biden.

Every bit of circumstantial evidence so far, including Giuliani’s similar mission and including a Ukrainian official summary of that July 25 phone call, makes that suspicion entirely plausible. If so, it would be a serious conspiracy indeed.

Substitute “Ukraine” for “Russia,” in this sentence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s explanation (p. 66) as to what potential crime he was investigating: “coordination or conspiracy … with respect to Russia providing assistance to the campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future.” In the new Ukraine case, the suspected quid pro quo is obvious and far worse than what Mueller investigated. If the president uses U.S. taxpayer-financed military supplies as, in effect, a bribe to induce a foreign government to harass the president’s domestic opponent, it’s a horrible crime.

If it is true, this is a scandal much worse than Watergate. If it’s true, Trump must be removed from office.

It Is The Option And Duty Of The Saudi’s To Answer Iran, Not The U.S. To Do It

It Is The Option And Duty Of The Saudi’s To Answer Iran, Not The U.S. To Do It

 

The U.S. has been selling weapons to the Saudi government for decades now and training their military since at least the mid 1970’s, these things are recorded facts. I just reblogged an article from the New York Times on this same subject matter. If the Saudi’s wish to answer Iran’s acts of war against them it is now up to the Saudi Royal Family to do so. As the NYT said, we are not the Saudi’s mercenaries. The Saudi’s and Iran have been fighting a proxy war in Yemen for several years now and the US has been supplying the Saudi’s with Intel, bombs, missiles, jets and training during this whole time. This war that is going on between these two nations is in fact really an Islamic civil war that has been raging for almost 1,400 years now between the Sunni and the Shia factions of Islam. Russia has been supplying Iran with newer bigger better weapons just as the US has been doing with Saudi Arabia. If we attack Iran are we not risking also starting a direct war with Russia? It is my humble opinion that the best situation for the US military is to stand down unless Iran directly attacks us. At this point in time it is up to the Saudi’s to decide what their next actions will be and getting the US directly involved in another shooting war in another Islamic country should not be ‘on the table’ for the American government or our people, not yet, not at this time.

China, Russia aim to double trade volume, intensify cooperation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘SHINE’ NEWS AGENCY OF SHANGHAI CHINA)

 

China, Russia aim to double trade volume, intensify cooperation

Xinhua
China, Russia aim to double trade volume, intensify cooperation

Xinhua

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev co-chair the 24th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government in St Petersburg, Russia, September 17.

China and Russia Tuesday agreed to further enhance cooperation in trade, energy and other areas, setting a goal to double bilateral trade volume.

The agreement came as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Russia and co-chaired the 24th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Li said China stands ready to better align the Belt and Road Initiative with the Eurasian Economic Union, maintain the growing momentum of China-Russia trade and improve the level of trade and investment facilitation.

He encouraged both sides to strive for the goal to double bilateral trade volume.

China has been Russia’s top trading partner for nine years running. Last year, two-way trade surged by 27.1 percent, breaking the US$100 billion mark for the first time.

Li called on China and Russia to jointly implement the major energy projects, further open up markets to each other and explore the cooperation mode of oil refining and chemical engineering.

He also called for enhanced cooperation in science and innovation, finance, agriculture, sub-national and people-to-people exchanges.

For his part, Medvedev said Russia is willing to further expand trade with China and will work hard to realize the goal of doubling the trade volume.

Besides bilateral cooperation in traditional areas such as energy, Russia will scale up cooperation on hi-tech and promote cooperation in areas including agriculture, industry, aviation and space, nuclear energy to yield more fruitful results, said Medvedev.

Russia attaches great importance to the sub-national cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, he said, adding that the country hopes to conduct more exchanges between young people, universities and local governments.

Li’s visit was made on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of China-Russia diplomatic relations. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia in June this year, China-Russia relationship was elevated to the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.

As each other’s biggest neighbors and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Russia boast healthy and stable ties, said Li.

Against the backdrop of growing uncertain and unstable factors in the international situation, it not only benefits both countries but also contributes to regional and world stability and prosperity that China and Russia enhance strategic coordination, reinforce political mutual trust, deepen pragmatic cooperation and intensify people-to-people and cultural exchanges, he said.

Medvedev said this year is of significance to Russia-China relations as it marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as well as the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Noting that bilateral ties are now at their best in history, Medvedev said it is Russia’s priority of foreign policy to develop ties with China as it accords with Russia’s own needs.

He said both countries have been coordinating on the international stage and advocating that multilateral international rules should be followed while unilateral sanctions should be opposed.

During the meeting, Li and Medvedev were briefed by vice premiers of China Sun Chunlan and Hu Chunhua, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anton Siluanov, and deputy prime ministers of Russia Dmitry Kozak, Tatyana Golikova and Maxim Akimov.

The two heads of government also had in-depth exchanges of views on international and regional issues of common concern.

After the meeting, Li and Medvedev signed a joint communique of the 24th regular meeting and witnessed the signing of a series of deals in areas including investment, economy and trade, agriculture, nuclear energy, aviation, science and technology, and digital economy.

Li arrived in St Petersburg Monday afternoon for a three-day official visit.

Chinese premier arrives in Russia for official visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Chinese premier arrives in Russia for official visit

Xinhua

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in St. Petersburg Monday for a three-day official visit to Russia.

The visit comes as the two countries are embracing the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties and ushering in a new era in their relations, according to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng.

During the visit, Li and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will co-chair the 24th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian heads of government.

The meeting will focus on two major objectives, according to Le. The first is to promote the implementation of the major consensus reached by the two countries’ heads of state, deepen the integration of interests, and consolidate the material basis of bilateral relations.

The second is to contribute the two countries’ wisdom to and voice their support for safeguarding multilateral-ism, open economy, and liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment.

Li and Medvedev will hold talks and sign a joint communique of the 24th regular meeting in St. Petersburg. The Chinese premier is also scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Russian Envoy Insists on Forming Syria’s Constitutional Committee in September

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Russian Envoy Insists on Forming Syria’s Constitutional Committee in September

Wednesday, 11 September, 2019 – 11:30
Syrian refugee women stand in front of their homes at Azraq refugee camp, near Al Azraq city, Jordan (File photo: Reuters)
Moscow – Raed Jabr
Moscow hopes the formation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee will be completed by the end of September, announced Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and African countries and Deputy Foreign Minister.

Bogdanov said that Moscow discussed with a number of foreign ministers, including the Turkish FM, the committee’s formation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed confidence that forming the committee will be completed soon, noting that the disagreements were on a “name or two” in the third list that the UN should have submitted.

Lavrov noted that Russia was surprised that the formation of the 150-member committee would be disrupted because of differences on one or two names.

Meanwhile, Moscow announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in Sochi on Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last week, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov said Netanyahu’s visit to Russia could take place very soon. The visit is most likely to be held in Sochi, he said.

Russian and Israeli media sources agreed that the discussions will address security coordination in Syria, especially against the backdrop of warnings recently reported by Russian media, regarding Israel’s failure to comply with previous understandings in informing Moscow of the details of military operations in Syrian airspace.

Netanyahu affirmed that he intends to discuss the Iranian presence in Syria, an issue present on the agenda of all Russian-Israeli meetings.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry denied reports that Russian aircraft violated the ceasefire by attacking the Idlib de-escalation zone.

“Since the beginning of the cessation of fire regime on August 31 in the Idlib de-escalation zone, Russian Aerospace Forces and Syrian Air Force aircraft have not performed any combat missions to hit targets on the ground,” the Ministry said.

The statement comes after Reuters citing several sources that Russian planes had carried out two raids in the strategic Jabal al-Akrad mountain range near the western Latakia coast.

Russia’s Humanoid Skybot Robot in Space Commits Twitter Photo Faux-Pas Ahead of Landing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE.COM)

 

Russia’s Humanoid Skybot Robot in Space Commits Twitter Photo Faux-Pas Ahead of Landing

After launching to the International Space Station last month, Skybot F-850, everyone’s favorite, terrifying, humanoid Russian robot, tweeted out a picture of Earth that’s causing quite a commotion.

On Aug. 31, the bot, which is one of the latest versions of Russia’s FEDOR robots, tweeted out a picture of the Earth from the space station alongside the caption (roughly translated from Russian) “At the end of the working day, I admire our Earth from the porthole of the “Union MS-14.” She is beautiful. Studying and exploring space makes people smarter and makes them act together. And we, machines created by people, are ready to help our creators move on.” Union MS-14 is the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft that delivered Skybot F-850 to the station.

Video: Watch Russia’s Humanoid Skybot Use a Drill in Space
Related: 
Real-Life ‘Replicants’: 6 Humanoid Robots Used for Space Exploration

FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

В конце рабочего дня любуюсь нашей Землёй из иллюминатора “Союза МС-14”. Она прекрасна.
Изучение и освоение космоса делает людей более умными и заставляет действовать сообща.
А мы, созданные людьми машины, готовы помогать нашим создателям идти дальше

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But, while this seemed like a fairly innocuous post (and probably one of FEDOR’s least thrilling photos), it came to light that this wasn’t actually a photo from the space-bot. The image of Earth which shows the Strait of Gibraltar on Earth that FEDOR tweeted out was actually taken and originally shared by NASA Astronaut Doug Wheelock in September, 2010, just about 9 years ago.

Doug Wheelock

@Astro_Wheels

A view of the Iberian Peninsula, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, and northern Africa . A special ‘shou http://twitpic.com/2ndq3b

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Russia’s Skybot F-850 humanoid robot holds a Russian flag with cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin for a photo in the Zvezda service module of the International Space Station in this photo released Sept.

(Image credit: Roscosmos via Twitter)

People quickly noticed the mix-up, labeling the robot as a plagiarist. And yes, passing off someone else’s photo as your own fits that bill. But at least Skybot is safe from copyright infringement. The photo, while taken and shared by Wheelock, is not owned by the astronaut and would technically be credited to NASA, and NASA’s media library is public domain.

So at least there’s that, Skybot.

Blastoff! Russian Humanoid Robot Launches to Space Station
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Skybot F-850 has spent the last few weeks completing experiments aboard the space station. The robot will start making its way home to Earth today (Sept. 6) as the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft undocks from the space station.

The uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft carrying Skybot F-850 and other gear will undock from the International Space Station at 2:13 p.m. EDT (1913 GMT). It is scheduled to land on the steppes of south-central Kazakhstan at 5:35 p.m. EDT (2135 GMT). It will be 3:35 p.m. local time at the landing site.

Here’s a look back at some of the memorable moments aboard the space station that Skybot F-850 tweeted about, from its first look around the Soyuz craft to when it wore mittens and the time it wielded a drill that happened to be pointed at a cosmonaut.

FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Всем привет! Я Skybot F-859. Для своих – просто Фёдор. Сейчас я знакомлюсь с системой управления корабля “Союз МС-14”, на котором планирую полететь к 22 августа 2019 года.

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

2 часа до пуска. Ракета заправлена. Телеметрические датчики и системы включены.

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142 people are talking about this

FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Прошу прощения за задержку. Застрял в пробке. Готов к продолжению работы.

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893 people are talking about this

FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

В соответствии с ранее утверждённым планом меня разместили в МИМ2. Это не самое комфортное место особенно с учётом того, что именно аппаратура МИМ2 дала сбой на ближнем участке стыковки август, 24, 2019. Провожу диагностику оборудования. Надеюсь, что именно мне доверят его ремонт

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Алексей Николаевич и Александр Александрович. Космонавты @roscosmos , герои России. Для них я просто Фёдор, для экипажа – я Skybot F-850.
Чувствую лёгкость в приводах. К работе готов. При подключении экзоскелета были проблемы с управлением кистью левой руки. Сейчас номинал

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534 people are talking about this

FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Сегодня космонавт Алексей Николаевич Овчинин при запуске моей операционной системы предложил использовать молоток и гаечный ключ. Пришлось произвести автозапуск во избежание возникновения дальнейший проблем в диалоге с Алексеем Николаевичем.

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Начали тренировки. При выполнении космонавтом технологических операций я помогал ему в выборе необходимого инструмента. Потом в режиме копирования успешно собрал электросоединители, имитируя ремонт кабелей на внешнем борту станции. Сейчас мирно беседую с Алексеем Николаевичем

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Здесь я работаю с различными инструментами.

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Так я пытался состыковать электросоединители. Эта операция входит в перечень операций в рамках внекорабельной деятельности. Зачёт

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Добрый вечер, друзья! Я Skybot F-850 приветствую вас с орбиты МКС!
Мы продолжаем эксперименты, открывающиеся возможности использования в космосе антропоморфных роботов. Работы много. А в свободное время любуюсь нашей планетой.
7 сентября запланировано моё возвращение на Землю.

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Добрый день! Сегодня провели серию работ с бортовыми инструментами, которые могут понадобиться для внекорабельной деятельности. Работа с электродрелью проходила под постоянным контролем Алексея Николаевича Овчинина

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Я снова в кресле командира “Союза”!
При спуске на Землю будет проведено ещё одно испытание: на корабле вместо аналоговой системы управления спуском на базе свободного гироскопа теперь стоит СУ на базе цифрового прибора БИУС с использованием оптоволоконных гироскопов.
Скоро домой!

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FEDOR@FEDOR37516789

Судя по радиообмену с ЦУПом, все, кто на Земле, уехали на космодром Восточный.
Тем временем наш экипаж продолжает укладку снаряжения в мой “Союз МС-14”, проводит диагностику аппаратуры.
До возвращения на Землю осталось совсем немного времени

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correctly note that Russia’s Skybot did, indeed, appear to plagiarize NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock’s photo of Earth from space.

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at [email protected]

8 of the Largest Man-Made Lakes in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

8 of the Largest Man-Made Lakes in the World

Humans (and beavers) have been manipulating water flow for millennia, but it wasn’t until recently that we developed the materials we’d need to create enormous bodies of water. Once we did, we created some of the largest lakes and inland seas the Earth’s ever held. Here are eight of the largest man-made lakes in the world.

Williston Lake | British Columbia, Canada

Credit: WildLivingArts/iStock

70 Billion Cubic Meters

Williston Lake was formed in 1968 with the completion of W.A.C. Bennet Dam, blocking the Peace River and creating the largest body of freshwater in British Columbia. Besides being a huge source of electricity, the lake’s nice to look at. It’s bordered by the Cassiar Mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east, both being striking natural features. In fact, Williston Lake comes close to a fjord in some respects.

Krasnoyarsk Reservoir | Divnogorsk, Russia

Credit: Evgeny Vorobyev/Shutterstock

73.3 Billion Cubic Meters

Besides its massive size (a size that’s earned it the informal name of the Krasnoyarsk Sea), the Krasnoyarsk Reservoir’s claim to fame is being the world’s largest power plant from 1971 to 1983. In 1983, it was unseated by the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. The reservoir and the dam also appear on the 10 ruble bill, meaning most Russians have at least seen the thing in a picture, if not in person. A final note on the dam is the fact that a substantial section of the river below it doesn’t freeze over, even though it’s in frigid Siberia. This is because the water’s moving much too fast coming out of the dam and for miles downstream.

Manicouagan Reservoir | Quebec, Canada

Credit: Elena11/Shutterstock

138 Billion Cubic Meters

The Manicouagan Reservoir is a perfect intersection of human engineering and natural phenomena. Human engineering produced the reservoir when the Daniel-Johnson Dam was built in the 1960s. The natural aspect concerns the reservoir’s unique ring shape. The shape was created by an asteroid impact roughly 214 million years ago. That means Manicouagan Reservoir is actually a flooded crater, similar to Crater Lake (except Crater Lake is far younger and a volcano). There’s a theory that the Manicouagan crater is actually part of a multiple impact event spanning modern day North America and Europe.

Guri Reservoir | Bolivar, Venezuela

Credit: CarmeloGil/iStock

138 Billion Cubic Meters

It doesn’t look like the publicity around the Guri Reservoir is entirely good. For one, apparently the Guri Dam generates more carbon emissions than the fossil fuel alternative, which is about as hard to do as you’d think. There have also been some substantial blackouts in the 21st century, and the reservoir has a tendency to fall below optimum levels for electrical production. Still, it’s a big lake, right?

Lake Volta | Ajena, Ghana

Credit: Robert_Ford/iStock

153 Billion Cubic Meters

Just like all the other lakes on this list, Lake Volta wouldn’t be around without a dam to fill it up. In this case, it’s Akosombo Dam, built between 1961 and 1965. Interesting to note about Lake Volta, before the dam was built, the Black Volta and White Volta rivers used to meet, but once the lake started filling in, that confluence was wiped away. It’s a navigable lake, which was probably part of the point of building the dam. With it, the trip from the savanna to the coast and vice versa got a lot easier.

Bratsk Reservoir | Bratsk, Russia

Credit: fibPhoto/Shutterstock

169 Billion Cubic Meters

As much as we hate to play into stereotypes, it seems like Russians really know how to handle the cold. The Bratsk Dam was built through Siberian winters, far away from the things needed to build it, including supplies, laborers and construction support. But they did it anyway and ended up with the Bratsk Reservoir to show for it. The reservoir is on the Angara River and just to show it’s not a one-off, there are four other power-producing facilities on the same river, with stations in Irkutsk, Ust-Ilim and Boguchany.

Lake Nasser | Egypt and Sudan

Credit: Shootdiem/Shutterstock

169 Billion Cubic Meters

The construction of the Aswan High Dam, and by extension the formation of Lake Nasser, came with some uniquely Egyptian challenges. Namely, the fact that a large number of historical sites would be submerged by the filling lake, with the tombs and temples of Philae and Abu Simbel at the greatest risk. Luckily, the Egyptian government didn’t plow ahead the way other countries have been known to. The Egyptians worked with UNESCO to move the sites to higher ground.

Lake Kariba | Zambia and Zimbabwe

Credit: Lynn Yeh/Shutterstock

180 Billion Cubic Meters

The impressive Lake Kariba is an excellent example of lake creation done right. The dam produces plenty of electricity for the surrounding area, and its existence has given rise to a thriving tourism industry and also increased biodiversity. There was a short five-year period when the rate of earthquakes increased, but that hasn’t stuck around. What has is the tiger fish, tilapia, catfish and vundu, all supporting a strong fishing industry. And the water. A truly awesome amount of water has stuck around. It’s closer to an inland sea than anything else.

Trump’s G7 performance suggests he’s either a ‘Russian asset’ or a ‘useful idiot’ for Putin

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON INSIDER NEWS)

 

US spies say Trump’s G7 performance suggests he’s either a ‘Russian asset’ or a ‘useful idiot’ for Putin

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump returns after travelling to the AMVETS convention in Kentucky, at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Tasos Katopodis
President Donald Trump.
 Reuters

Analysis banner

  • Current and former spies are floored by President Donald Trump’s fervent defense of Russia at this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France.
  • “It’s hard to see the bar anymore since it’s been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump’s behavior over the weekend was a new low,” one FBI agent who works in counterintelligence told Insider.
  • At the summit, Trump aggressively lobbied for Russia to be readmitted into the G7, refused to hold it accountable for violating international law, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • One former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was the FBI director, told Insider Trump’s behavior was “directly out of the Putin playbook. We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.”
  • A former CIA operative told Insider the evidence is “overwhelming” that Trump is a Russian agent, but another CIA and NSA veteran said it was more likely Trump was currying favor with Putin for future business deals.
  • Meanwhile, a recently retired FBI special agent told Insider that Trump’s freewheeling and often unfounded statements make it more likely that he’s a “useful idiot” for the Russians. But “it would not surprise me in the least if the Russians had at least one asset in Trump’s inner circle.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“It’s hard to see the bar anymore since it’s been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump’s behavior over the weekend was a new low.”

That was the assessment an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence gave Insider of President Donald Trump’s performance at this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France. The agent requested anonymity because they feared that speaking publicly on the matter would jeopardize their job.

Trump’s attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia’s military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.

Trump repeatedly refused to hold Russia accountable for annexing Crimea in 2014, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia’s move to annex it, expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and castigated other G7 members for not giving the country a seat at the table.

Since being booted from the G8 after annexing Crimea, Russia’s done little to make up for its actions. In fact, by many accounts, it’s stepped up its aggression.

In addition to continuing to encroach on Ukraine, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 US election and was behind the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in the UK. US officials also warn that as the 2020 election looms, the Russians are stepping up their cyberactivities against the US and have repeatedly tried to attack US power grids.

“What in God’s name made Trump think it would be a good idea to ask to bring Russia back to the table?” the FBI agent told Insider. “How does this serve US national-security interests?”

Trump’s advocacy for Russia is renewing concerns among intelligence veterans that Trump may be a Russian “asset” who can be manipulated or influenced to serve Russian interests, although some also speculate that Trump could just be currying favor for future business deals.

Read more: DOJ watchdog finds James Comey violated FBI policy by sharing memo with The New York Times

‘We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office’

Donald Trump Sergey Lavrov Sergey Kislyak
Trump with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Russian Foreign Ministry Photo via AP

A former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, didn’t mince words when reacting to Trump’s performance at the G7 summit: “We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.”

“There is no fathomable explanation for why the president said these things,” the former official said. “Letting Russia off the hook for bullying smaller countries and then blaming Obama for it? It’s directly out of the Putin playbook.”

While arguing for Russia to be invited back into the G7, Trump said the country would be helpful in addressing hot-button issues like Iran, Syria, and North Korea and that the alliance was better off with Russia “inside rather than outside.”

But Russia is a staunch ally of Syria’s Assad regime, and it’s also cozied up to Iran in recent years. US military and intelligence officials view Russia as one of the US’s foremost rivals and believe it generally stands in opposition to American interests.

Glenn Carle, a former CIA covert operative and frequent Trump critic, told Insider there’s been “no question” in his mind for years that the president is behaving like “a spy for the Russians.”

“The evidence is so overwhelming that in my 35 years in intelligence, I have never seen anything so certain,” Carle said, adding that he’s spoken with several intelligence veterans about the matter in the four years since Trump first launched his presidential campaign, many of whom believe Trump’s actions are a threat to national security.

Read more: Russia came out the winner of this year’s G7 summit despite being kicked out, and Trump looked like ‘Putin’s puppet’

“Intelligence assets become convinced to be spies for multiple reasons,” Carle, who specialized in getting foreign spies to become turncoats when he was at the CIA, said in an earlier interview with Insider. “It might start with kompromat or financial hooks, and the asset may be convinced he is acting as a patriot until he becomes accustomed to his role.”

“Trump clearly responds favorably to praise,” he said. “And over the years, the handling officer — Putin, in this case — realizes what the asset wants, and that’s what they provide. Trump wants to be told he’s the greatest, so that’s what you tell him, over and over again, until he comes to believe that is the motivation for his actions.”

‘A useful idiot’ or ‘currying favor’

trump putinReuters

Frank Montoya Jr., a recently retired FBI special agent, told Insider it’s “hard not to think the Russians have an asset in the White House.”

But he added that Trump’s freewheeling and often false statements imply he’s “not playing with a full deck on any matter of state these days. Still, those same delusions are what give me pause when conclusions are reached about the likelihood he is a Russian asset.”

“Useful idiot is more like it,” Montoya said. But he added that given the abundance of meetings and contacts between Trump associates and Russians before, during, and after the election, “it would not surprise me in the least if the Russians had at least one asset in Trump’s inner circle.”

Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the CIA and the National Security Agency, agreed that Trump was catering to Putin’s interests, but he disagreed on why.

“I think what’s going on right now is an Occam’s razor scenario,” he told Insider, referring to the philosophical theory that the simplest explanation for an event is often the correct one.

“Trump wants to do deals with Russia when he leaves the presidency,” Deitz said. “We already know he was interested in building a Trump Tower in Moscow before and during the election. The best way of doing a deal with Putin is to be nice to him, so I think what Trump is doing is currying favor.”

He emphasized, however, that regardless of Trump’s motives for being subservient to Putin, “it’s still harmful” to US interests.

“When Trump goes to bed each night, what do you think his last thoughts are: the welfare of the United States, or the size of his bank account?” Deitz added.

Trump’s defense of Putin at the G7 summit didn’t go unnoticed in Russia.

According to The Washington Post, one show on the state-run Rossiya-1 network played a celebratory soundtrack as it showed six video clips of Trump demanding that Putin be given a seat at the table.

The Russian media analyst Julia Davis said that Kremlin-controlled media reacted to Trump’s G7 performance with laughter and mockery.

One anchor rejoiced that “Trump is dancing to Putin’s tune,” while others were amused by the “maniacal persistence” with which Trump was lobbying for Russia.

Read more: Trump’s G7 performance shows how he’s living in a totally different reality and isolating the US from the rest of the world

A familiar pattern emerges

trump putin
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

This isn’t the first time the president has been accused of working to advance Russia’s interests ahead of the US’s.

Perhaps the sharpest example of this was when Trump and Putin held a bilateral summit in Helsinki last year. After the meeting, Trumpstunned the US national-security apparatus and foreign allies when he sided with Russia over the US intelligence community, blamed “both sides” for the deterioration of US-Russia relations, and praised Putin as being “extremely strong and powerful.”

In 2017, Trump refused to accept the US intelligence-community finding that Moscow meddled in the 2016 race to propel Trump to the presidency.

That May, he fired FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and cited “this Russia thing” as the reason. Two days after firing Comey, Trump shared classified intelligence with two Russian officials in the Oval Office and told them firing Comey had taken “great pressure” off of him.

Shortly after, the FBI began investigating whether Trump was a Russian agent.

Syria/Russia Regime Presses on in NW Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Regime Presses on in Northwest Syria

Thursday, 29 August, 2019 – 11:15
FILE PHOTO: Road direction signs are pictured at the entrance to Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, Syria August 24, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Russian-backed regime forces seized a cluster of towns and villages in northwest Syria Thursday, as deadly air strikes hit the opposition-held bastion, a monitor said.

Seven civilians died in air strikes in the south of the bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, a day after regime air strikes killed 12 others, including six children in a single town.

Bashar al-Assad’s forces have been chipping away at the southern edge of the stronghold for three weeks, after months of deadly bombardment.

Last week, the regime took control of the town of Khan Sheikhoun on a key highway that runs through Idlib province, linking Damascus to second city Aleppo.

Overnight, pro-regime fighters “managed to advance in the southern Idlib countryside”, according to the head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman.

They took control of the towns of Al-Tamaanah and Al-Khuwayn, as well as nearby villages, east of Khan Sheikhoun, he said.

“The forces are trying to further extend their control in the area of Khan Sheikhoun before they advance north in the direction of the town of Maaret al-Noman,” he added.

Maaret al-Noman is the next stop northwards on the Damascus-Aleppo highway.

Regime air strikes killed 12 civilians — half of them children — in Maaret al-Noman on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, another four civilians, including one child, were killed in other parts of the bastion.

US, Russia gave Israel green light to strike Iran in Syria, Iraq

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Report: US, Russia gave Israel green light to strike Iran in Syria, Iraq

Under alleged agreement, Jerusalem allowed to conduct attacks against Iranian threats in Middle East, but can’t publicly acknowledge them

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Explosions at an arms depot of a Shiite militia group in Iraq, August 20, 2019 (video screenshot)

Israel has conducted several strikes on Iranian-controlled bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks with permission from the United States and Russia, a Western diplomatic source told a Saudi-owned newspaper Wednesday.

Moscow and Washington agreed that the Jewish state could conduct these attacks on Iranian targets in order to “ensure Israel’s security,” the source told the London-based Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat.

In recent weeks, a number of explosions have been reported in Iraqi military installations connected to pro-Iranian Shiite militias, including on Tuesday night in an arms depot north of Baghdad.

As part of the reported agreement, Israel would not publicly acknowledge carrying out the strikes. However, this has not prevented Israeli officials from hinting at their involvement in these attacks.

See someone🇸🇦‘s other Tweets

Asked about Tuesday night’s blast at the pro-Iranian militia base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli reporters, “Iran has no immunity, anywhere… We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary.”

The explosions have occurred in bases and warehouses belonging to militia groups under the umbrella of the mainly Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The state-sanctioned PMF militias have fought alongside Iraq’s regular armed forces against the Islamic State group.

Iraqi MP Karim Alaiwi told pro-Hezbollah Lebanese network al-Mayadeen on Wednesday that evidence pointed to Israel being behind recent attacks on Shiite militias, adding that the Jewish state was trying to weaken the PMF.

Alaiwi said American forces controlled Iraqi airspace and reasoned that no one could be conducting airstrikes without US knowledge.

The Iraqi Civil Defense said in a statement that Tuesday’s blast occurred near Balad air base, one of the country’s largest. A Shiite militia group is stationed nearby.

Iraqi security forces’ vehicles are seen at the delivery ceremony of four new US- made F-16 fighter jets at Balad air base, 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The officials who confirmed the explosion spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. They said the blast occurred in a depot belonging to the PMF and that an investigation was underway.

The mysterious blasts have given rise to a host of theories, including that Israel may have conducted airstrikes.

No one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blast or other recent explosions.

In July, an explosion took place at a PMF base in Amirli, in Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province, killing two Iranians and causing a huge fire.

Last week, a massive explosion was also reported at the al-Saqr military base.

Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, and there has been speculation that it might be expanding its campaign to target Iranian bases in  Iraq. However, neither the Iraqi government nor Israel has addressed the reports.

Satellite photo of a weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia that was hit in an alleged Israeli operation on August 12, 2019. (ImageSat International)

Israeli officials have identified Iraq as a likely growing base of operations for Iran-backed efforts against the Jewish state. But Israeli officials have so far neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the strikes.

Raphael Ahren, AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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