Putin orders cut of 755 personnel at U.S. missions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Putin orders cut of 755 personnel at U.S. missions

Why Russia is demanding the U.S. cut diplomatic staff
The Post’s Andrew Roth explains a statement the Russian Foreign Ministry issued July 28, seizing U.S. diplomatic properties and demanding the State Department reduce its staff in Russia. (Andrew Roth, Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
 July 30 at 4:41 PM
 Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. diplomatic missions in Moscow and elsewhere in the country will have to reduce their staffs by 755 people, signaling a significant escalation in the Russian response to American sanctions over the Kremlin’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election.The United States and Russia have expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats before – but Sunday’s statement, made by Putin in an interview with the Rossiya-1 television channel, indicated the single largest forced reduction in embassy staff, comparable only to the closing of the American diplomatic presence in the months following the Communist revolution in 1917.

In the interview, Putin said that the number of American diplomatic and technical personnel will be capped at 455 — equivalent to the number of their Russian counterparts working in the United States. Currently, close to 1,200 employees work at the United States’ embassy and consulates in Russia, according to U.S. and Russian data.

“More than a thousand employees — diplomats and technical employees — have worked and are still working in Russia these days,” Putin told journalist Vladimir Solovyov on a nationally televised news show Sunday evening. “Some 755 of them will have to terminate their activity.”

Putin’s remarks came during a three-and-half-day trip by Vice President Pence to Eastern Europe to show U.S. support for countries that have chafed at interference from Moscow – Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro.

Russian President Vladimir Putin watched a parade on the Neva River, followed by a short air show and gun salute to celebrate Navy Day on July 30. (Reuters)

“The president has made it very clear that Russia’s destabilizing activities, its support for rogue regimes, its activities in Ukraine, are unacceptable,” Pence said, when asked by reporters in Tallinn, Estonia, whether he expects Trump to sign the sanctions. “The president made very clear that very soon he will sign the sanctions from the Congress of the United States to reinforce that.”

“As we make our intentions clear, we expect Russian behavior to change,” Pence continued.

The Kremlin had said Friday, as the Senate voted to strengthen sanctions on Russia, that some American diplomats would be expelled, but the size of the reduction is dramatic. It covers the main embassy in Moscow, as well as missions in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

The U.S. Embassy in Russia has been unable to provide exact numbers on the number of staff it employs in Russia. But a 2013 review by the Department of State said that the American mission in Russia “employs 1,279 staff, including 301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed staff positions from 35 U.S. government agencies.” (A good breakdown of the numbers was posted on the blog Diplopundit).

“This is a landmark moment,” Andrei Kolesnikov, a journalist for the newspaper Kommersant who regularly travels with Putin and has interviewed him extensively over the past 17 years, told the Post in an interview on Friday. “His patience has seriously run out, and everything that he’s been putting off in this conflict, he’s now going to do.”

The Russian government is also seizing two diplomatic properties — a dacha, or country house, in a leafy neighborhood in Moscow, and a warehouse — following the decision by the Obama administration in December to take possession of two Russian mansions in the United States.

The move comes as it has become apparent that Russia has abandoned its hopes for better relations with the United States under a Trump administration.

“I think retaliation is long, long overdue,” deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“We have a very rich toolbox at our disposal,” Ryabkov said. “After the Senate . . . voted so overwhelmingly on a completely weird and unacceptable piece of legislation, it was the last drop.”

Hours later, Putin said during his evening interview that he expected relations between the United States and Russia to worsen, and that Russia would likely come up with other measures to counter American financial sanctions, which were passed by the House and Senate last week and which President Trump has said he will sign.

The reduction in U.S. diplomatic and technical staff is a response to President Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in December in response to the alleged Russian hacking of the mail servers of the Democratic National Committee. The United States also revoked access to two Russian diplomatic compounds on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island. American officials said they were used for intelligence collection.

It is not yet clear how the State Department will reduce its staff in Russia. Some of the local staff were hired to help with a significant expansion of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow.

The move increases the likelihood of new, perhaps asymmetrical reprisals by the United States in coming days.

Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, tweeted Sunday: “If these cuts are real, Russians should expect to wait weeks if not months to get visas to come to US.”

Ashley Parker , in Tallinn, Estonia, and Madhumita Murgia, in Washington, contributed.

Trump responds to N Korea with missile defense test and B-1 drills

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Trump responds to N Korea with missile defense test and B-1 drills

Media caption The US B-1 bombers were joined on Sunday by South Korean and Japanese planes

The US says it has carried out a successful test of its controversial anti-missile system and has flown B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula.

The exercises are a direct response to recent North Korean missile tests.

A projectile fired by the US Air Force was intercepted over the Pacific by a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) unit in Alaska.

US B-1 bombers also conducted exercises over the Korean peninsula with South Korean and Japanese planes.

On Friday, North Korea test-fired a second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which it said proved that the entire US was within striking range.

The launch came three weeks after the state’s first ICBM test.

Despite fierce objections from China, the US military has begun installing the Thaad system in South Korea with the aim of shooting down any North Korean missiles fired at the South.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful test, 29 July 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe US says it has successfully shot down a ballistic missile in a test of its Thaad system

On Saturday, US President Donald Trump criticized China for not doing enough to stop Pyongyang’s weapons program while making “billions of dollars” in trade with North Korea.

Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he was “very disappointed” with China, adding that he would not allow the country to “do nothing” about the isolated state.

But Victor Gao, a former diplomat and Chinese government adviser, said that Mr Trump’s comments were unhelpful, adding that the US was acting like a “spoiled child”.

China, which shares a land border with North Korea and is its closest economic ally, earlier condemned the North’s test launch and urged restraint on all sides.

The US exercises over the weekend were performed as a “direct response” to recent behavior from what is seen as an increasingly belligerent North Korea as it tries to realize its nuclear ambitions.

The show of strength formed “part of the continuing demonstration of ironclad US commitment to our allies”, the US Pacific Command said.

Mr Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed North Korea during talks earlier this year, after which US officials said the two countries were working on “a range of options” to rein in Pyongyang.

But Friday’s ICBM launch demonstrates a defiance from the North, which is showcasing “a significant advancement in technology”, South Korea said.

The North continues to test its missiles in breach of UN resolutions.

Pressure is expected to mount this week for a new UN Security Council resolution to push through tougher sanctions on North Korea.

Its success will depend not only on China’s co-operation but also on Russia, which is concerned by the balance of power in the region.

Map showing estimates of North Korean missile ranges

What is Thaad?

  • Shoots down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight
  • Uses hit-to-kill technology – where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead
  • Has a range of 200km and can reach an altitude of 150km
  • US has previously deployed it in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea
Thaad missile defence system graphic

1. The enemy launches a missile

2. The Thaad radar system detects the launch, which is relayed to command and control

3. Thaad command and control instructs the launch of an interceptor missile

4. The interceptor missile is fired at the enemy projectile

5. The enemy projectile is destroyed in the terminal phase of flight

The launcher trucks can hold up to eight interceptor missiles.

Thaad system launcher

The Gators In ‘The Swamp’ Are Being Drowned By Trump’s Sewage

 

During the Presidential campaign season of 2016 one of the many slogans that Donald Trump spoke of was about how he would ‘drain the swamp’ which were the politicians in Washington D.C.. We are now a little more than six months into this total disaster which is the Trump Presidency so I ask you the question, how is that promise of his coming along? I am a registered Independent voter who last November could not get my self to vote for Mr. Trump of for Mrs. Clinton so I voted for Mr. Johnson. The reason I could not vote for either of the ‘big two’ was because I knew that both are habitual liars and I believed that both were/are crooks. Personality wise I have long believed that both of these two candidates are hate filled egomaniacs and I did not want either of them to be our President even though I knew that one or the other would win the job. Now six months in I believe that I should have voted for Mrs. Clinton as sickening as that prospect sounds to me. I base this thought on the reality that I believe that Hillary is at least an intelligent person who does have basic knowledge of world events and realities. I knew that Mr. Trump was an idiot but he has proven himself to be the most ignorant person to sit in the Oval Office in my lifetime.

 

What is even more worrisome to me is that I now believe that Mr. Trump as well as almost all of his direct family and several of his appointees are actually traitors as far as their dealings with Russia’s President Putin is concerned. As we have all witnessed Mr. Trump lies to the American people, all of our Nations Allies and to the rest of the world daily. None of our Allies now trust anything that he says because he changes the BS he says everyday. Mr. Trump by no means has emptied any of the D.C. swamp, all he has done is to empty his toilet water into that swamp. Mr. Trump has proven that he does not give a damn about the American people or anyone else except himself. I believe that if the Congress somehow were able to force him to release his taxes for the past ten years that they would find that not only is he guilty of massive tax fraud but that he has deep financial roots in Russia and now he and his family are using his position to make more billions dealing with the Communist leaders in China. As bad as most of ‘we the people’ know that the Congress and the Senate have become all that this idiot and his group of traitors have done during this past six months is to make themselves richer at the expense of  the freedom of the people of Our Country. The only thing that Mr. Trump has done as far as cleaning out the D.C. swamp is if he is trying to do this by having all the Gators gag and die on all the feces he is daily dumping into that swamp.

Russia’s Parliament Went on a Censorship Binge Today

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

Russia’s Parliament Went on a Censorship Binge Today

The Kremlin is cracking down on online anonymity. Again. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a spate of censorship laws today, voting for legislation that will prohibit messaging services from allowing users to communicate anonymously, outlaw the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies, and other anonymizers, and require search engines to hide links to blocked sites.

In the last week before its summer recess, the State Duma passed an astonishing number of bills—69 in the last three days alone. Today’s legislation, which is being sold as an important contribution to Russian national security, is the latest attempt by the government to monitor online activity. Many elements of the bills correspond with Vladimir Putin’s Strategy for the Development of an Information Society and may presage more repressive regulatory measures.

The bill regulating messaging platforms requires services to provide a telephone number to verify a user’s identity. The bill will force popular local messaging services like Telegram, Viber and Whatsapp to deny access to users who do not provide information verifying their identity.

The law also will require companies to prevent illegal content from being distributed across their platforms, a nearly impossible task given the volume of user messages sent across such platforms each day. The bill includes a provision that allows courts to instruct messaging services to block individual users’ messages.

The law also requires companies to allow state authorities to use their networks to send mass messages to their entire Russian user base.

Companies that do not comply with the law risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state censor.

The Duma approved a separate bill that requires internet anonymizers, including VPNs, to restrict access to certain online online content or risk being blocked by Roskomnadzor. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) will be responsible for tracking the anonymizing services. This regulation also mandates that search engines prevent links to blocked websites from showing up in search results.

Both bills are already being criticized for their lack of precision, which will likely leave the door open for state abuse.

Worth saying the VPN bill & the messenger bill both vague on enforcement mechanisms. As always, this leaves room for both evasion & abuse.

On the same day, the Duma passed yet another bill mandating that SIM-card purchasers present a valid passport so that telecom providers are able to verify the identity of their subscribers.

The legislation must now be approved by Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, and then sent to the Kremlin to be signed by Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.

Some messaging services are already indicating that they will comply with the legislation, which would enter into force on January 1, 2018. The head of the messaging app Viber, which was one of the first companies to comply with a 2015 law mandating that internet companies store data belonging to Russian citizens on Russian soil, has announced that his company will comply fully with Russian legislation.

Telegram recently bowed to pressure from Russian authorities, agreeing to register the company but not to store user information in Russia or turn over any personal data to the government.

The Duma is likely to pass more restrictive regulations when it reconvenes in September: yesterday, at the NextM digital conference in Moscow, Leonid Levin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies, and Communication, announced that in the near future the government would have no choice but to pass more regulation on big data, the Internet of things, blockchain, and a number of other technologies.

CONGRESS AND SENATE PASS BILL PUTTING NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA–TRUMP HATES IT

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

CONGRESS AND SENATE PASS BILL PUTTING NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

 

(CNN) The House and Senate reached a deal Saturday to slap Russia with fresh sanctions and give Congress new veto power to block any easing of those sanctions — an agreement that could send a new bill to President Donald Trump’s desk before the end of the month.

House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement was reached Saturday morning for a bill that would include new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
Despite the White House lobbying for changes to the measure, the legislation will give Congress a new ability to block the administration from easing sanctions on Moscow. Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concerns that Trump is considering giving Russia back two compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized by the Obama administration in December.
“Given the many transgressions of Russia, and President Trump’s seeming inability to deal with them, a strong sanctions bill such as the one Democrats and Republicans have just agreed to is essential,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “I expect the House and Senate will act on this legislation promptly, on a broad bipartisan basis and send the bill to the President’s desk.”
The House will vote on the bill on Tuesday, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s schedule, and the Senate is likely to take it up after that, although Senate leaders haven’t said when they will bring it to the floor. Congressional aides say they expect Trump will sign the bill because it will likely pass both chambers with strong, veto-proof majorities.
In a text message to CNN, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he sees the agreement “quite negatively.”
The agreement on the sanctions was the result of an often contentious, month-long back-and-forth between the House and Senate after the Senate passed a bill for new sanctions against Russia and Iran 98 to 2 in June.
The bill faced a so-called blue slip constitutional problem that revenue generating legislation must originate in the House. That was fixed after a negotiation between the two chambers, but then House Democrats objected to another tweak that removed their ability to force a vote to stop the easing of sanctions.
McCarthy then said he wanted to add North Korean sanctions legislation that the House passed in May to the measure, prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of stalling the bill on behalf of the White House, which was lobbying against the congressional review provision.
Numerous US companies also wanted changes over concerns the bill could inadvertently impact their businesses.
“My preference over the last month had been for the House to take up and adopt the legislation that passed the Senate 98-2; however I welcome the House bill, which was the product of intense negotiations,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee. “I believe the proposed changes to the bill have helped to clarify the intent of members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities.”
CNN reported Friday that the deal addressed some of the concerns of US companies while keeping in the congressional review portion, besides making technical changes. To address House Democrats’ complaints, the bill gives any House member the ability to force a vote to disapprove of sanctions if the Senate passes it first.
“The legislation ensures that both the majority and minority are able to exercise our oversight role over the administration’s implementation of sanctions,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement Saturday. “I look forward to seeing this legislation on the Floor next week, where I’m confident it will receive strong, bipartisan support.”
The bill was also changed to ensure that it didn’t affect a major pipeline used to transport oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to Ukraine as well as a natural gas pipeline that goes between Russia and Germany.
The revised bill also clarifies that American companies cannot do business with already-sanctioned defense interests in Russia, as there were concerns US companies that want to finalize transportation deals could be barred from doing so under the initial bill’s restrictions.

Is It Past Time To Arrest AG Jeff Sessions For Obstruction Of Justice And For Lying To Congress?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

 Play Video 2:09
Sessions discussed Trump campaign matters with Russian ambassador, according to U.S. intercepts
The accounts from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to his superiors, intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, contradict public assertions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Post’s Greg Miller explains. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
 July 21 at 6:51 PM
Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous.

Trump, in an interview this week, expressed frustration with Sessions’s recusing himself from the Russia probe and indicated that he regretted his decision to make the lawmaker from Alabama the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Trump also faulted Sessions as giving “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing about his Russian contacts during the campaign.

Officials emphasized that the information contradicting Sessions comes from U.S. intelligence on Kislyak’s communications with the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Russian ambassador could have mischaracterized or exaggerated the nature of his interactions.

“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman in a statement. She reiterated that Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington.

Sessions removed himself from direct involvement in the Russia investigation after it was revealed in The Washington Post that he had met with Kislyak at least twice in 2016, contacts he failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing in January.

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions said when asked whether anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with representatives of the Russian government.

He has since maintained that he misunderstood the scope of the question and that his meetings with Kislyak were strictly in his capacity as a U.S. senator. In a March appearance on Fox television, Sessions said, “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way.”

Sessions appeared to narrow that assertion further in extensive testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, saying that he “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

But when pressed for details, Sessions qualified many of his answers during that hearing by saying that he could “not recall” or did not have “any recollection.”

A former U.S. official who read the Kislyak reports said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.

Sessions had a third meeting with Kislyak in his Senate office in September. Officials declined to say whether U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted any Russian communications describing the third encounter.

As a result, the discrepancies center on two earlier Sessions-Kislyak conversations, including one that Sessions has acknowledged took place in July 2016 on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

By that point, Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to embark on a secret campaign to help Trump win the White House by leaking damaging emails about his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Although it remains unclear how involved Kislyak was in the covert Russian campaign to aid Trump, his superiors in Moscow were eager for updates about the candidate’s positions, particularly regarding U.S. sanctions on Russia and long-standing disputes with the Obama administration over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kislyak also reported having a conversation with Sessions in April at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where then-candidate Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address, according to the officials familiar with intelligence on Kislyak.

Sessions has said he does not remember any encounter with Kislyak at that event. In his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions said, “I do not recall any conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower Hotel.”

Later in that hearing, Sessions said that “it’s conceivable that that occurred. I just don’t remember it.”

Kislyak was also a key figure in the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to leave that job after The Post revealed that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak even while telling others in the Trump administration that he had not done so.

In that case, however, Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, providing irrefutable evidence. The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.

Former FBI director James B. Comey fueled speculation about the possibility of a Sessions-Kislyak meeting at the Mayflower when he told the same Senate committee on June 8 that the bureau had information about Sessions that would have made it “problematic” for him to be involved in the Russia probe.

Comey would not provide details of what information the FBI had, except to say that he could only discuss it privately with the senators. Current and former officials said he appeared to be alluding to intelligence on Kislyak’s account of an encounter with Sessions at the Mayflower.

Senate Democrats later called on the FBI to investigate the event in April at the Mayflower hotel.

Sessions’s role in removing Comey as FBI director angered many at the bureau and set in motion events that led to the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s harsh words toward the attorney general fueled speculation this week that Sessions would be fired or would resign. So far, he has resisted resigning, saying that he intends to stay in the job “as long as that is appropriate.”

Matt Zapotosky and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Mueller Is Investigating Trump Family Business Ties With Shady Russian’s

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trumpcampaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross and senior advisor Jared Kushner attend a meeting at the White House on Feb. 2, 2017.

Trump, Ross and Kushner attend a meeting at the White House on Feb. 2, 2017.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday that he was unaware of the inquiry into Trump’s businesses by the two-months-old investigation and considered it beyond the scope of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be examining.

“Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code,” he wrote in an email.

Markets Fall

Major U.S. stock indices, which had been trading higher in the morning, fell as traders worried that the probe could derail Trump’s growth agenda. The dollar fell against the euro and U.S. government bonds rose.

The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, however, making the boundaries fuzzy.

The Justice Department’s May 17 order to Mueller instructs him to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign” as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” suggesting a relatively broad mandate.

Agents are interested in dealings with the Bank of Cyprus, where Wilbur Ross served as vice chairman before he became commerce secretary. In addition, they are examining the efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real-estate properties. The information about the investigation was provided by someone familiar with the developing inquiry but not authorized to speak publicly.

The roots of Mueller’s follow-the-money investigation lie partly in a wide-ranging money-laundering probe launched by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last year, according to the person.

For more on the Trump-Russia investigations, see this Q&A

FBI agents already had been gathering information about Manafort, according to two people with knowledge of that probe. Prosecutors hadn’t yet begun presenting evidence to a grand jury. Trump fired Bharara in March.

The Manafort inquiry initially focused on actions involving a real-estate company he launched with money from Ukraine in 2008. By the time Bharara was fired, his office’s investigation of possible money laundering extended well beyond that, according to the person briefed on the Mueller probe.

Watch Next: Why Robert Mueller Is the Perfect Man for the Job

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Why Robert Mueller Is the Perfect Man for the Job

The Bharara investigation was consolidated into Mueller’s inquiry, showing that the special counsel is taking an overarching approach. The various financial examinations constitute one thread of Mueller’s inquiry, which encompasses computer hacking and the dissemination of stolen campaign and voter information as well as the actions of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Joshua Stueve, Mueller’s spokesman, declined to comment, as did a Manafort spokesman and Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner.

Spokesmen for the White House, Trump Organization and Ross didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Evade Taxes

Mueller’s team is looking at the Trump SoHo hotel condominium development, which was a licensing deal with Bayrock Capital LLC. In 2010, the former finance director of Bayrock filed a lawsuit claiming the firm structured transactions in fraudulent ways to evade taxes. Bayrock was a key source of capital for Trump projects, including Trump SoHo.

The 2013 Miss Universe pageant is of interest because a prominent Moscow developer, Aras Agalarov, paid $20 million to bring the beauty spectacle there. About a third of that sum went to Trump in the form of a licensing fee, according to Forbes magazine. At the event, Trump met Herman Gref, chief executive of Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank PJSC. Agalarov’s son, Emin, helped broker a meeting last year between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign.

Another significant financial transaction involved a Palm Beach, Florida, estate Trump purchased in 2004 for $41 million, after its previous owner lost it in bankruptcy. In March of 2008, after the real-estate bubble had begun losing air, Russian fertilizer magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev bought the property for $95 million.

As part of their investigation, Mueller’s team has issued subpoenas to banks and filed requests for bank records to foreign lenders under mutual legal-assistance treaties, according to two of the people familiar with the matter.

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Magnitude 7.8 quake between Russia and Alaska

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC AND REUTERS)

Magnitude 7.8 quake between Russia and Alaska to cause tsunami waves: US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

2 Hours Ago

A view of the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Yuri Smityuk | TASS | Getty Images
A view of the southern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said Monday evening that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake had occurred off the coast of Russia’sKamchatka Peninsula.

“Based on preliminary earthquake parameters… hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 km (186 miles) of the earthquake epicenter,” the center wrote in an official message.

Tsunami waves, however, were unlikely to reach Kamchatka’s eastern coast, some 500 km (310 miles) away.

The quake was followed by several aftershocks, including a couple above magnitude 5.0.

The earthquake was originally reported as a 7.4 magnitude, but it was subsequently upgraded to 7.8.

On Twitter, the center confirmed that it was not expecting tsunami conditions to impact North American coasts.

Tsunami Info Stmt: M7.4 140mi SE Bering I., Komandorski 1634PDT Jul 17: Tsunami NOT expected; CA,OR,WA,BC,and AK

7:43 PM – 17 Jul 2017

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

—Reuters contributed to this report.

Russia Points Missile at China While Holding Military Exercises With Beijing in Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

Russia Points Missile at China While Holding Military Exercises With Beijing in Europe

July 13, 2017, 5:44 pm

Russia and China are joining forces for historic exercises in the Baltic Sea this month, but recent missile deployments along the two countries’ mutual border in the far east may indicate that both powers hold reservations about the other’s military growth.

A fleet of Chinese warships conducted live-fire drills Wednesday in the Mediterranean Sea as they prepared to link up with Russian vessels to conduct joint military maneuvers in the Baltic Sea, according to the Associated Press. The Sino-Russian exercise, known as Joint Sea-2017, has regional countries concerned about the introduction of another major military power on behalf of Russia, which Baltic countries and other allies of U.S.-led NATO accuse of pursuing an aggressive foreign policy.

Russia and China have also taken steps toward aligning their positions toward their mutual neighbor, North Korea. Russia and China have politically backed the reclusive, militarized state since its establishment after World War Two and throughout the Korean War in the 1950s. North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ICBMs, however, have drawn condemnation from both Russia and China, among other countries. The U.S., which backs South Korea, has been the foremost opponent of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and, under President Donald Trump, has boosted its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, something that Russia and China deeply oppose.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russian President Vladimir Putin last week to discuss closer bilateral cooperation, including on security and regional affairs. After their meeting, Xi said relations between China and Russia were at their “best time in history,” according to Russian media cited by CNBC News. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Yi shared similar remarks, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

China and Russia aren’t entirely getting in bed together, however, As China fired away in the Mediterranean, Russia held electronic missile launches Wednesday night to test its nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander-M missile system in the far eastern Jewish Autonomous Region, which borders Heilongjiang province in China.

Related: Russian military bombs ‘enemy submarine’ in drills near new U.S. war games

“Upon arrival in the specified area, the squads completed the tasks of deploying the missile systems, determining the data for missile strikes and electronic missile launches,” the region’s press service said in a statement cited by Russia’s Defense Ministry and Interfax News Agency.

Chinese officers from the Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison speak to a crew member (2nd R) of the Russian guided missile cruiser Varyag (011), during a non-official port visit in Hong Kong on June 5, 2017. Russia and China’s armed forces have sought closer cooperation to counter U.S.-led NATO’s moves in Europe, but recent missile deployments may indicate mutual suspicions between the two in Asia. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Russia’s ground missile forces in the region received their fourth and latest Iskander-M missile system last month, replacing the aging 9K79-1 Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile system, according to The Diplomat. Iskander-M, known to NATO as SS-26 Stone, is a highly mobile, short-range missile platform that has already been deployed to Russia’s militarized, Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, near which this month’s Joint Sea-2017 takes place. The weapons’ appearance in the far east, however, suggests China is the most likely target as major U.S. installations in Japan and South Korea are reportedly out of range for the missiles, which are capable of accurately hitting targets between 250 and 310 miles away.

China, for its own part, has also reportedly brought missiles to the border. A Dongfeng-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was moved to China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, according to The Global Times, the nationalist outlet of China’s ruling Communist Party. Dongfeng-41 has a projected range of up to 9,320 miles, making it potentially the longest range missile in the world.

Gregory Kulacki, the China project manager and senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, disputed the claims, which were also carried by international media, that a Dongfeng-41 missile was spotted in northeastern China. He said the missile seen in the video that supposedly corroborated the initial reports, was actually a new, smaller missile that may have an even longer range than the Dongfeng-41. China’s foreign ministry dismissed the claims as baseless rumors.

“According to the information provided by the Ministry of Defense, reports of the so-called military deployment are nothing more than speculation circulated on the Internet,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said January 25 during a regular press briefing. “China highly values and commends the high-level performance of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.”

Russian servicemen equip an Iskander tactical missile system at the Army-2015 international military-technical forum in Kubinka, outside Moscow, Russia, June 17, 2015. Russia has deployed the highly mobile, nuclear-capable weapons on its far eastern border with China, indicating what may be residual distrust at a time of heightened military cooperation with its neighbor. Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

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The Trump Family: Are They Guilty Of Treason And Tax Evasion/Fraud?

 

This question unfortunately could be directed at the Clinton family or even the Bush family but today I am asking this question about the President and his family. I am not a fan of any of these families as they have all proven to be power-hungry, money hungry habitual liars. I believe that most Americans knew that Hillary Clinton has had real trouble in her life with finding out a way to not lie when she opens her mouth and I believe that this is one of the many reasons that people like myself could not vote for her last November. By what I hear from other folks they said that they were willing to give Donald Trump a chance to see if he would tell the truth on domestic and foreign agendas. I know that a lot of us are now very unhappy with his ability to ever tell the truth. Part of the Presidents issues are his King Kong size ego, and his peanut size brain. During the campaign he often spoke of how intelligent he was, how he knew more that most everyone on every thing, like how he knew more than the Generals concerning the Middle-East. Now that he has been in Office for about six months he has proven to the whole world that he is pretty much nothing but an idiot, and an ass. The whole world has learned that there is no way they can trust anything that he says. Another issue with our President is his constant lying and the fact that he tells so many lies each day that he can’t remember one line of BS he has told from one morning till the afternoon. Yet this article today isn’t about his massive ignorance of almost every issue on the planet, it is about if he and his family have committed treason concerning Russia and if he is guilty of massive tax evasion and tax fraud.

 

 

These are not accusations, they are questions, very important questions that ‘We The People’ absolutely need to know the whole truth about very, very soon. To me it appears there is no doubt about President Trump and several in his inner circle have lied many times about their connections with the Russian government which in Russia means President Putin. They have tried to hide many meetings with Russian officials, lying to the Congress and the American people about those meeting and connections. There are reasons that these people have collective memory loss when it concerns Russia. Even our Attorney General who is supposed to be Americas top ‘law enforcement’ officer lied to Congress and the people more than once on this issue. Folks, do you really think that all of these folks have Dementia? I don’t, there are reasons that these people are lying to us. Just like Attorney General Jeff Sessions who is such a hardliner about putting as many poor people as possible in prisons for as long as possible, is there another reason he is like this? Turns out that Mr. Sessions has a lot of stock in the two largest ‘Prison for Profit” companies in the Country. When Mr. Sessions was confirmed to be the new AG his own personal fortune in these two stocks skyrocketed. And to think, he is the ‘top Cop’ in our Country. As you most likely noticed I said putting poor people in jail, if he was really doing his job he would have to arrest the President and several of his personal staff then resign at once and put himself in one of his own prisons. I know that I am like most folks in that I am sick and tired of these crooked habitual lying “Leaders.”

 

In the years before Mr. Trump officially announced that he was going to run for President again and even early in the campaign he used to openly brag about all of his investments in Russia and business deals he had with well-connected Russians here in the States. Remember, he used to even brag on national television how he had met President Putin before but once elected denied that he ever said that. Maybe if he could learn to be truthful all of the time then maybe his peanut brain could at least remember events correctly then, but I personally doubt it. During these past couple of days there is news coming out from the New York Times about a meeting last June at the New York Trump Tower where Donald Trump Jr., Son-in-law Jarred Kushner, and then Campaign Manager Paul Manafort had an arranged meeting with a Russian lawyer who is well-connected to the Russian government. This meeting seemed to be ‘forgotten’ by all of the Trump ‘team’ that attended, what a coincidence. Paul Manafort is extremely well-connected to the deposed President of UKraine whom was nothing but a Putin proxy who now lives in Moscow. Since Mr. Manafort was forced to step down from being Trumps Campaign Manager he has since registered as a ‘Foreign Agent going all the way back to 2012’ because of his Russian ties just like their former Nation Security Director Michael Flynn had to step down because of lies about his financial ties with the Russian government and with the Dictator Erdogan of Turkey, Flynn has also now registered as a foreign agent.

 

Last fall Jared Kushner met with the Chief Executive of the Russian State owned (VNB) in Moscow. This Bank has been sanctioned by the U.S. and NATO and once this is done we are not supposed to inner act with Officials of sanctioned banks. O, also, Mr. Kushner forgot to mention this meeting too. To me I have an issue concerning Donald Trumps tax returns. With all of these secret meetings with Russian Officials that all these folks lied about under oath it is getting more difficult to believe any thing except this President and his family are simply doing what they have always done they are putting “the Trump Bank Accounts first”, not the American people. Mr. Trump used to brag about his Florida Golf Club being worth one hundred million dollars to his guests yet on his taxes he valued it as being worth one million dollars. Just to be a member there the cost was one hundred thousand dollars per year, when he became President he upped the fee to two hundred thousand per year. If an average citizen of this Country pulled something like that on our taxes we would quickly be convicted of tax evasion and thrown into a Federal Prison for the rest of our lives. I do believe that the Congress and the Senate should do what ever they have to do to make all of the Trump advisers and the President himself required to immediately be forced to release their tax returns for the past ten years. ‘We The People’ have the absolute right to know who our Leaders serve and to know if they are the criminals they appear to be. It does appear that Mr. Trumps slogan should not have been “putting America first” as it should have been “putting the Trump family first, and only.”

 

 

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