The 11 most eye-opening lines in James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ ranked

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The 11 most eye-opening lines in James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ ranked

(CNN)Days before its official release, excerpts of James Comey’s memoir about his time as FBI Director under President Donald Trump have leaked. Actually, flooded.

There’s a lot of pieces of the Comey book — “A Higher Loyalty” — kicking around the media world at the moment. Some are salacious, others are stunning and some are just plain surreal.
I scanned through all of the available excerpts and plucked out the lines that are most devastating for Trump. Then I ranked them by level of damage they are likely to cause. Here they are, ranked from least to most problematic for the President of the United States.

11. “His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his…..As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”

This is, in a word, dumb. Or, in another word, petty. If Comey wanted to build the narrative with this book that he is truly committed to the good of the country rather than in selling books or scoring partisan points, he’d have been better served to leave this stuff out. Noting the size of Trump’s hands or the fact that he tans feels beneath the broader stated mission of the book: To reveal why Trump is simply not fit for the office he currently holds. Comey also mentions that Trump was shorter than he looked on TV. First off, everyone is short to the 6’8″ Comey. Second, who cares?

10. “I stared at the soft white pouches under his expressionless blue eyes. I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.”

Again, the fact that Trump has “soft white pouches” under his “expressionless blue eyes” feels more like an unnecessary jab than an essential insight. BUT, Comey’s next sentence is important — because he’s right. Trump has demonstrated time and time again that he simply doesn’t understand — or doesn’t care about — the unique role the Justice Department plays within the federal government. Yes, they work under him. But they don’t exactly work for him. He’s never seemed to get that.

9. “I had often wondered why, when given numerous opportunities to condemn the Russian government’s invasions of its neighbors and repression — even murder — of its own citizens, Trump refused to just state the plain facts…Maybe it was a contrarian streak or maybe it was something more complicated that explained his constant equivocation and apologies for Vladimir Putin.”

There’s no question that prior to the last week or so, Trump has been largely unwilling to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country as a whole. (The Syrian chemical attack and Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to have changed how Trump thinks about Putin.)
But, we already knew that. And everything else in this excerpt is pure speculation. “Maybe it was something more complicated” isn’t exactly hard and fast evidence.

8. “Another reason you know this isn’t true: I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me, no way.”

This one is more salacious than anything else. But, that Trump feels the need to convince Comey that he never watched two prostitutes pee on one another is, um, something else.

7. “He brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing’ . . . adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a 1 percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true….In what kind of marriage, to what kind of man, does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn’t do that?”

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this as simply salacious. Yes, there is that. But it is absolutely telling about the state of Trump’s marriage that he was asking the FBI director to prove the falsehood of the “pee tape” to his wife — almost certainly because she wouldn’t believe him.
Then there’s the fact that Trump seems to believe that proving the tape doesn’t exist to Melania Trump is a worthy use of the FBI’s time. Which is, um, something.

6. “It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check.”

Comey here is echoing people like Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake who have castigated their fellow Republicans for refusing to condemn Trump when he attacks the Justice Department or the Intelligence Community. The argument is that silence is essentially assent. Only by saying, “No, what Trump is doing is wrong and should stop immediately” can Republicans hope to have a party in the post-Trump era.
Amid Trump’s ramped-up rhetoric on deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller, it will be interesting to see what Republican reaction will be if the president decides to fire either (or both) of those men. Will Republicans speak out?

5. “Asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

Two things are at work here — one not terribly problematic for Trump, the other potential more so. The first is that he demonstrates he has a massive ego and believes that he is so appealing to women that any story about him frequenting prostitutes simply can’t be believed.
The second is that he is intimately familiar with the details of the bevy of accusations made against him by a number of women during the 2016 campaign. That level of interest/obsession belies the public face of dismissal and unconcern Trump and his people have presented when confronted with the allegations.

4. “Now it was pretty clear to me what was happening. The setup of the dinner, both the physical layout of a private meal and Trump’s pretense that he had not already asked me to stay on multiple occasions, convinced me this was an effort to establish a patronage relationship.”

This is very important. What Comey is alleging here is that Trump, from the start, saw his relationship with Comey as entirely transactional. I’ll let you stay in your job as FBI director but I want something for it. That something, as we now now, was a loyalty pledge that Comey refused to give.
Trump’s approach to every encounter appears to be similar to what Comey describes here. Let’s make a deal where you get something but, far more importantly, I get something.

3. “[Kelly] said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”

This anecdote is going to make chief of staff John Kelly’s life even harder than it already is. Rumors of him clashing with Trump and/or being on the way out are everywhere. Now, he’ll have to face a barrage of questions over whether Comey’s recounting of the moments right after Trump fired him are accurate. And if Kelly says they are, how can he stay in his job? If he says Comey got it wrong, will Trump even believe him?

2. “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

In this excerpt, Comey is comparing Trump to a mob boss. Which is a tough comparison to make when you are dealing with the President of the United States. But, Comey is right in the main when it comes to how Trump sees himself and how he leads his team. Trump must always be the strongest and toughest one in any room. He expects total loyalty from those who work for him — and works to rid his inner circle of those he believes have shown even a speck of disloyalty to him. He doesn’t tell the truth about things that are easily and provably false — largest inauguration crowd ever, millions of illegal votes cast — and then dares those around him to question him.
I don’t know any mob bosses personally but there’s not question that Comey nails Trump here.

1. “This President is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

These two sentences are the most damaging thing to Trump so far in the Comey excerpts because they speak to a number of demonstrated truths. We know that Trump said more than 2,000 things in his first year in office that were either partially or entirely untrue. We know he looks at every situation as a chance to extract something for himself. That he is immensely self focused to the point of a blindness as to how his actions might be perceived by people who aren’t him. We know that he either misunderstands or chooses to ignore traditional norms for how a president acts, what he says and how he treats those who work for him.

Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

James Comey book: Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth’

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Police are investigating a “prior relationship” between the gunman who wounded two students inside his Maryland high school Tuesday morning and a female victim. The shooter died during a confrontation with a school resource officer. (March 20)AP, AP

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James Comey’s tell-all book details his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and private interactions he had with President Trump, a man he blasts as “untethered to truth,” according to multiple reports.

Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, is set to hit shelves on Tuesday but copies were obtained by several media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Washington Post and New York Times. 

Comey likens Trump to a mob boss while writing about his career as a prosecutor and highlights “loyalty oaths,” one of which he claims Trump asked of him. The former FBI director describes Trump as creating a “cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us,” according to The Washington Post.

The book is filled with vivid details of his encounters with many of Washington, D.C,’s elite — both Democrats and Republicans, including members of Trump’s Cabinet. It details Comey’s career and “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency” that he says led to the end of it.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes in the book, according to The New York Times. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

In one of the more salacious tidbits, the book alleges Trump asked Comey for an investigation of the alleged “golden shower” tape to reassure his wife that it was fake, according to a report by the New York Post.

The unsubstantiated allegations, which were described in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, say that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate in front of him in a hotel room in Moscow.

“He brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing’ … adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true,” Comey wrote, according to the Post.

Trump continued unprompted, Comey said, “explaining why it couldn’t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. I said it was up to him.”

More: Comey’s book promises ‘truth’ about troubled FBI tenure

Related: Comey: ‘Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon’

Comey cautioned the president that any probe might “create a narrative” that the FBI was investigating him, the Post reported.

Privately, Comey wrote, he wondered why there would even be a 1 percent chance Melania Trump would believe the allegations.

“In what kind of marriage, to what kind of man, does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn’t do that?” he wrote in the book.

Comey also talks about his inner battle with how he handled the Clinton email investigation, even talks he had with President Obama and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view,” Obama told Comey in a private Oval Office meeting, according to The Washington Post. 

Comey describes Lynch as having a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the Clinton investigation and that she had asked him to refer to the probe as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(Is The ‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?)

Right Turn

Trump melts down after Cohen raid — and only hurts himself

  
 April 10 at 9:00 AM 
 2:01
Trump fumes ‘attorney-client privilege is dead’ after FBI raid

President Trump tweeted his outrage at an FBI raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and offices, calling it a “witch hunt.”

In an extraordinary series of events, the FBI executed a no-knock raid on President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel. The president, seated alongside his top military and civilian national security advisers to discuss a response to the Syrians’ use of chemical weapons, launched into a rant in which he did not rule out firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accused law enforcement of bias, whined that Hillary Clinton was not being prosecuted, suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had behaved improperly in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, railed again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself (and thereby allowing the investigation proceed) and deemed execution of a warrant signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, both of whom he appointed, to be an “attack” on the country.
Let’s start with the raid. The Post reports:

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.
FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to another person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the second person said.
In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Let us not understate how extraordinary a development this is. The standard of proof required to raid any attorney’s office is exceptionally high. To authorize a raid on the president’s lawyer’s office, a federal judge or magistrate must have seen highly credible evidence of serious crimes and/or evidence Cohen was hiding or destroying evidence, according to legal experts. “The FBI raid was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation *not* by Mueller but by the interim US Attorney personally interviewed and selected by Trump himself, pursuant to a warrant issued under strict standards by a federal judge, subject to approval by the head of the Criminal Division,” said constitutional scholar Larry Tribe. He warns that “firing Sessions or Rosenstein (or reining in Mueller) would trigger a crisis for the Constitution and our national security but wouldn’t even extricate Trump from criminal investigation of his innermost circle.” In short, Tribe concludes, “This is every bit as shattering as many have surmised.”

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What we don’t know is whether the suspected wrongdoing extends to Trump or is solely attributable to Cohen. (By referring the matter to the New York prosecutor, Mueller may have signaled this is not germane to the Russia investigation; however, any possible crimes concerning Stormy Daniels, for example, may or may not implicate Trump.) Whatever the FBI sweeps up may very well further enmesh Trump in an investigation in which what seemed like a series of separate topics — Trump’s personal finances, potential obstruction of justice, possible Russian collusion and hush money paid to a porn star — have begun to bleed into one another. Trump is as vulnerable as he has always been, in part because he plainly does not know what federal prosecutors now have in their possession and because intense pressure may be brought to bear on Cohen to “flip” on Trump.
Trump cannot take much comfort in the attorney-client privilege. For one thing, it applies to legal communications; if Cohen is acting as a businessman/”fixer,” no privilege may attach. Moreover, the attorney-client privilege cannot apply to communications that are part of a crime (e.g., a conspiracy to obstruct justice). Trump once said investigating his finances were a “red line” for Mueller; the latest move in raiding Cohen transgresses any limitation Trump could possibly have dreamed up. His reaction reflects his fury in not being able to fend off Mueller.
Trump’s response was disturbing on multiple levels.
First, Trump in essence declared war on the rule of law. “It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” said the president, who now equates the operation of the criminal-justice system under the rule of law to be an attack on the country. He is the country in his eyes. Those who challenge him are enemies of the country. There is no better formulation of his authoritarian, anti-democratic mindset than this.

 3:03
Opinion | Trump can fire Mueller, but that won’t get rid of the Russia investigation

Opinion | If President Trump fires the bane of his legal troubles, he could spark a legal and constitutional crisis.

Second, his tirade against Sessions should rekindle concerns that he is contemplating firing him and putting in a flunky to protect himself. “The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself,” Trump said. “Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.” That, too, is a picture-perfect distillation of his warped view of the presidency. He hands Mueller another admission that he thinks the DOJ should protect him from, instead of conducting investigations into criminal and counterintelligence matters.
Third, Trump’s attempts to discredit Mueller’s team and the FBI should highlight the necessity of Congress protecting the special counsel. (“This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.”) When he says the investigation is a “witch hunt,” he may be plowing the way to fire Mueller and/or Rosenstein or refuse to cooperate with an interview. In either event, we would face a constitutional crisis.
Fourth, Trump’s insistence that his campaign has been exonerated from “collusion” (“So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’”) is baseless. More than 70 different contacts between Trump team and Russian-related figures have been found. Multiple indictments and plea deals have been struck. The investigation continues. His false certainty that there is no evidence of collusion can now be seen as the motive for his attempts to discredit and derail the investigation, to obstruct justice, in other words.
Finally, Trump’s rambling, unhinged reaction — after his attorneys no doubt counseled him to keep quiet — should shake his supporters. The pressure of the investigation and vulnerability to prosecution and/or impeachment are not going to vanish. His family and his fix-it lawyer won’t stop Mueller. His TV friends cannot keep the FBI at bay. He lashes out like a cornered animal. The angrier and more panicked Trump becomes, the greater chance he will behave in extreme and destructive ways.
“The president cannot help himself,” former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen told me. “Instead of doing his job as our chief federal law enforcement official and allowing the rule of law to operate unimpeded, he lashes out when he feels personally threatened.” He adds, “The president’s words were more befitting a mob don when the feds are closing in. Given Michael Cohen’s role in Trump’s past, perhaps they are. The American people will not stand for any Trump attempt to match his hostile words with aggressive action against Mueller, Sessions, Rosenstein or other DOJ officials. If he does, it will be the beginning of the end for his presidency.”
Now would be a good time for Republicans to find their spines, remember their oaths and act to insulate Mueller and Rosenstein from Trump. A simple declaration that firing either would be an impeachable offense would, frankly, be a help to Trump. He could use some outside restraint.

FBI Raids The Office Of Trumps Personal Lawyer

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen, a personal lawyer and confidant of President Donald Trump, Cohen’s attorney confirmed to CNN Monday.

One source familiar with the matter told CNN that included in the documents authorities seized was information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as porn actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 that the White House has denied.
Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, said in a statement that the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York had executed “a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications” between Cohen and his clients.
A White House official said Trump had been watching TV reports of the FBI raiding Cohen’s office, and that Trump knew about the raid before the news broke.
Ryan’s statement called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” and said federal prosecutors had told him it stemmed partially from a referral by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” Ryan said in the statement. “… It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
The New York Times first reported on news of Monday’s raid.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the searches Monday.
A person briefed on the search told the Times that the FBI also seized emails, tax documents and business records, including communications between Trump and Cohen.
The White House official said it is unclear if Trump has spoken to Cohen.
Cohen is a longtime ally of the President, and admitted earlier this year to setting up a limited liability company in 2016 to pay Daniels. She has alleged she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier, and that the payment was hush money. The White House has denied Daniels’ allegations of an affair with Trump.
Asked about the Daniels controversy last week, Trump said he did not know about the payment and declined to comment further, instead referring questions to Cohen.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen,” Trump said. “Michael is my attorney. You’ll have to ask Michael.”

China applies its own maximum pressure policy on Pyongyang

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

China applies its own maximum pressure policy on Pyongyang

  • Beijing appears to have gone well beyond U.N. sanctions on its unruly neighbor, reducing its total imports from North Korea in the first two months this year by 78.5 and 86.1 percent in value — a decline that began in late 2017, according to the latest trade data from China.
  • Trade with China is absolutely crucial to North Korea’s survival.
  • Estimates vary, but it is believed that roughly half of all transactions in the North Korean economy are made in foreign currencies, with the Chinese yuan being the most common.That gives Beijing tremendous leverage, though for political and national security reasons it has generally been reluctant to exert too much pressure on Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

STR | AFP | Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

As the U.S.-North Korea summit looms, President Donald Trump‘s maximum pressure policy on North Korea may be working — thanks to China.

Beijing appears to have gone well beyond U.N. sanctions on its unruly neighbor, reducing its total imports from North Korea in the first two months this year by 78.5 and 86.1 percent in value — a decline that began in late 2017, according to the latest trade data from China. Its exports to the North also dropped by 33 percent to 34 percent both months.

The figures suggest that instead of being sidelined while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his surprising diplomatic overtures to Seoul and Washington, China’s sustained game of hardball on trade with Pyongyang going back at least five months may have been the decisive factor in forcing Kim’s hand.

Trade with China is absolutely crucial to North Korea’s survival.

It accounts for the largest share of the North’s dealings with the outside world and provides a lifeline to many of the necessities Pyongyang relies on to keep its nation fed and its economy from breaking down. Estimates vary, but it is believed that roughly half of all transactions in the North Korean economy are made in foreign currencies, with the Chinese yuan being the most common.

That gives Beijing tremendous leverage, though for political and national security reasons it has generally been reluctant to exert too much pressure on Pyongyang.

That reluctance is clearly wearing thin.

The statistics need to be taken with a dose of caution. Neither country is known for its commitment to transparency. Even so, more specific data reveal an even tougher, targeted crackdown, according to Alex Wolf, a senior emerging markets economist with Aberdeen Standard Investments:

— China’s exports of refined petroleum have collapsed over the past five months — to an annual rate of less than 4 percent of what it exported last year. With the pace on a downward trend, he believes, total exports could actually fall further.

— North Korean steel imports from China have also collapsed in 2018, and the same goes for cars. Wolf notes that it’s unclear if China is blocking such exports or North Korea simply can’t afford them. But either one, he wrote in a recent report for the company, would be a clear signal the North’s economy is “under a great deal of stress.”

“While China’s role over the past few months has often been overlooked or little understood, it appears a strategy could be emerging: China wants to play a central role in ‘resolving’ this crisis, but wants to do it on its own terms,” he wrote. “It’s increasingly clear that Chinese pressure is a driving force and China will play a central role in any future talks.”

Kim announced in his New Year’s address he would reach out to the South to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He then agreed to hold a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27 and with Trump after that. But to the surprise of many, Kim suddenly showed up in Beijing first for a summit with President Xi Jinping last month, underscoring the continued primacy of China in North Korea’s foreign relationships.

Lu Chao, director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, noted that China accounts for almost 80 percent of the North’s total trade, meaning the onus for implementing U.N. sanctions has been mainly borne by Beijing, whose enforcement has created “huge pressure on North Korea.”

“There is no doubt China is doing more than ever when it comes to sanctions,” he said, adding restrictions on sales of textile and seafood products to North Korea imposed by China last autumn “have dealt a huge blow to the country.”

“China has played a very important role in promoting the current change of the situation,” he said.

The decrease in trade isn’t just about politics.

China’s economy is also dealing with overproduction in many industries and its demand for North Korean imports is low. Efforts at joint development projects have languished and difficulties suffered by Chinese firms in North Korea — especially problems receiving payment — have soured enthusiasm for cross-border trade.

But the deficit presents an obvious dilemma for the Kim regime: the more it depletes its foreign reserves by buying in excess of what it sells, the less money it has to buy anything at all. Normally, that would lead to inflation — and even hyperinflation — as imported necessities become scarcer and people who can afford to do so dump their holdings in the local currency to buy safer U.S. dollars or Chinese yuan.

Georgetown University economist William Brown said he believes the North’s current account deficit has risen dramatically since the strengthening last November of sanctions on North Korean exports by China, which he said are by now “certainly biting.”

“Why is Kim venturing his offer now? My impression is he is feeling very strong pressure from China’s virtual embargo on North Korea’s exports, and what he must see as a gradual ratcheting down of needed imports, even petroleum,” Brown wrote in a recent blog post. “This is an enormous economic hit of a sort the country has never had to deal with on this scale.”

Brown believes an important indicator of the North’s economic health will be movement of the unofficial but widely used exchange rate for the North Korean currency, which has been surprisingly stable at around 8,000 to the U.S. dollar for years but should now be under intense inflationary pressure.

“China is giving us the chance, and (we should) use it cleverly to get what we want out of the nuclear program and systemic reform,” he added. “It’s not so impossible if you realize everyone, even young Kim, can benefit.”

Why Hamas is protesting in Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Monkey Cage

Why Hamas is protesting in Gaza — and why it will continue

 April 8 at 6:00 AM

Palestinians wave flags as smoke billows from burning tires at the Israeli-Gazan border Friday. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Large protests rocked the border between Gaza and Israel for the second consecutive Friday this past week.
A March 31 rally resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Palestinians, with hundreds injured, as Israeli forces used live ammunition and tear gas to push back protesters. On Friday, nine more people were fatally shot, including a journalist.
While much of the international attention has focused on the actions of the Israel Defense Forces, from inside Gaza, a different set of issues has taken priority. Hamas organized the protests, centered on the right of return for Gazan refugees and their descendants. This represents a new strategic initiative for Hamas, which has been attempting to fuel popular protest since 2015, but until recently had largely failed to generate much interest outside its own constituency.
Hamas is a socio-political and militant movement founded in 1987 to confront the Israeli occupation, periodically exchanging attacks with Israeli forces, and it is considered a terrorist organization by both Israel and the United States. It has been in control of Gaza since 2007.
The Friday protests were part of a season of weekly rallies organized by Hamas under the slogan the “Great March of Return.” Protests are scheduled to continue until May 15, a day traditionally commemorated by Palestinians for their displacement in 1948 and by Israel to celebrate its independence. Significantly, this is also the date the United States plans to officially move its embassy to Jerusalem.
How did Hamas manage to organize broad support for its protests, and why did it choose this form of collective action? Can Hamas sustain protests in the face of severe Israeli reprisals and international indifference? Its ability to do so will depend not only upon the Israeli and American response, but also upon whether its internal organizational structure provides sufficient support to ongoing mobilization and adherence to nonviolent action

What sparked the Gaza protests?

President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem generated widespread anger among Palestinians, many of whom were already disillusioned with the Oslo peace process. Gaza in particular has suffered for years from seemingly endless economic blockade, political isolation and cyclical violence. The Trump administration’s talk of “the deal of the century” did nothing to ease uncertainty among Palestinians, who have been largely left out of the discussions and have been unsettled by leaked details of the deal.
The economic toll of years of blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt because of Hamas’s militant actions have put the Gazan population on edge, and popular discontent with Hamas’s authoritarian rule has been growing for years.
Rapidly shifting regional politics and ongoing political battles with the rival Palestinian Authority have also left Hamas with few sources of external support.
Hamas has frequently sought to generate protest focused on lifting the siege on Gaza, with little real success, but with this protest movement, Hamas has skillfully rechanneled popular grievances toward the Israeli occupation.

Can Hamas sustain nonviolent protest?

Protest demands coordination, discipline and broad participation, which in turn requires a strong level of organization. Last week’s rallies showed that Hamas was able to act as the organizational backbone of an entire season of protest. Yet the question remains as to whether Hamas can continue to function in a cohesive and organized manner in the face of potentially severe repression.
Israel’s forceful response to the recent rallies and the seemingly indiscriminate killings led to international outrage, generating unusual levels of critical attention to Israel and galvanizing greater Palestinian enthusiasm for confrontation. Further Israeli escalationagainst protesters will likely have similar effects, strengthening support and fueling conflict.
What if Israel targeted Hamas’s leadership in Gaza? My research in Gaza suggests that the distinctive organizational structure of Hamas would probably allow it absorb such a response and to sustain protest. Two organizational and mobilizational forms in particular distinguish Hamas from other Palestinian factions and allow it to thrive in conditions of extreme adversity. Inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Hamas organizes itself in small groups referred to as “families.” These are its cadre incubators, where the education and training of its budding members take place.
These activities feed into channels of upward mobility within the movement. To rise through Hamas’s hierarchy, candidates go through exams and evaluations to prove their mobilizing qualifications and loyalty to the movement over stages. This means that the death or arrest of a high-ranking member does not necessarily create a leadership vacuum that throws the organization into disarray. The removal of a leader simply activates a process at the horizontal level that rapidly elevates a proven member to the suddenly vacant position.
On one hand, Hamas depends on local activism to form potential leaders and maintain the integrity of its structure. But on the other, this resilience is precisely what allows Hamas to continue to play a consequential role in sustaining popular mobilization. Hamas’s muqawama is a type of resistance that is formed from unarmed protests, virtually empowered with and by the civilian population. According to my findings, muqawma — as opposed to militancy — is the strategy that best corresponds to Hamas’s internal organizational structure.

Looking ahead to May 15

Each week of protest leading up to May 15 holds out the prospect for the escalation of violence. Will Hamas be able to sustain a nonviolent campaign despite the primacy of militants in its leadership? Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza who has organized and led the popular protests, hails from the military wing. Israel has justified the killing of protesters in part by identifying several participants as members of its armed wing.
Given the strong presence of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, will the “success” of the wave of protest develop into a kind of internal referendum on Hamas’s choices of popular muqawama at the expense of its militancy?

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For now, at least, turning its armed wing into nonviolent protesters serves Hamas’s strategy. Hamas is redirecting part of its human capital to serve its political objectives and find a way out of its Gaza straitjacket, while gaining a popular stance as defenders of the Palestinian national interest. It is aware that its major rivals — Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) — are vulnerable to popular muqawama. It believes Israel’s repressive measures will serve only to bolster Hamas’s internal popularity and will invite international support for Palestinians. The PA seems to agree because it has rushed to gain legitimacy from the protests, announcing mourning days for the dead.
Israel and the PA will work to prevent further protests, while Hamas aims to expand them to the West Bank. There is a key precedent; the First Intifada originated in Gaza but expanded to the West Bank in 1987. If muqawama indeed takes on larger proportions, Israel will push hard to militarize it. What remains to be seen with Hamas’s turn toward popular muqawama, however, is whether Hamas will be able and willing to sustain nonviolent protest as tensions and conflicts mount.
Imad Alsoos is a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. His research focuses on a comparative study of Hamas and an-Nahda’s forms of internal and external mobilization.

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

 

The folks that read my articles know, I am not a fan of President Trump. Personally I believe that he is the biggest scumbag to set in Our Oval Office since Andrew Jackson, Our Nations 7th President back in the first half of the 1800’s. To me this is saying a lot since in my own lifetime we have had some very despicable men for Presidents, the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and the two Bush’s. Yet this clueless ego maniac we have now is such an idiot and habitual liar that he is a total disgrace to Our Country. Yet, even the most ignorant person in the world can upon a rare occasion get something right and I believe that he is correct concerning the U.S. getting our military out of Syria.

 

By what all the Generals had been saying up until this past week, ISIS has been at least 90% destroyed in Syria and ISIS is supposed to be the only reason that we went into Syria in the first place. Technically when a Nation sends their military into another country without the permission of the government of that country you have committed an act of war against that country. Yet even though the government of Syria has not declared an act of war against the United States for our actions in their country they have told us very plainly that we are not welcome there and that they want us out. Syria is and has been quite the ‘dance floor’ ever since the U.S. sent in troops and started bombings there. Syria’s government with the help of their allies Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah from Lebanon have won this Civil War there. Even though we may not like it President Assad is going to stay in power there and we have no right to be there. The only real allies that the United States has had there has been the Kurdish people whom we have used and betrayed over and over again. We have spent a lot of effort to not get into a direct fighting war with Syria or any of her allies and it is now past time to get our military out of Syria before we do get into a shooting war with Russia or Iran, or even with our supposed NATO ally Turkey. Honestly one has to wonder if a lot of the top military brass at the Pentagon as well as our Security Agencies like the CIA and the NSA are wanting a shooting war with these countries. Besides, you know that the Military Contractors that build the War Machines would love it, more billions of dollars for their bank accounts. Quite honestly, wars help a nation’s economy, it keeps people employed and off of the unemployment lines.

 

So, I believe that in this case President Trump is correct about getting our military out of Syria. We, our government, has committed an act of war against the nation of Syria simply by being there unasked and unwanted. We, the people of the United States are very fortunate that the government of Syria and all of her allies have not declared war on us yet. Though, if we continue to stay there this is going to happen, there is no way that it can be avoided. One of the issues that has irked me since George W was our President is the fact that Our Nations National Guard and even members of Our Coast Guard are off fighting in these foreign wars, this should never ever have happened. Right now on our southern border with the Nation of Mexico President Trump is talking about sending Our Military to the Border to ‘defend’ it from civilians crossing into Our Country. I have a couple of thoughts on this for you to consider. One, if the President is going to do this, it should be National Guard Units going there, not our regular military. Two, tell me, once we put thousands of Military Personnel on the Border, what are they going to do? Are they going to start shooting all of these unarmed men, women and children? I can’t tell you that I know the answer to every thing, I wish I could, but I can’t. This article is like most that I write, I am just trying to get you to think about the issue that I have brought up for your consideration. Thank you for your time folks, I appreciate you stopping in.

Immigrant ‘caravan’ heading to US-Mexico

( THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(Trump has never cared about facts, laws, or reality, he has spent a lifetime making up his own.)

Immigrant ‘caravan’ heading to US-Mexico border sparks Trump’s concern

Washington (CNN)On Sunday morning, President Donald Trump referenced an impending series of immigrant ‘caravans’ moving through Mexico to spark his call for Congress to pass strict border laws.

“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
Trump appears to be referring to a migrant caravan assembled by the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), which was discussed on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” shortly before he published his tweet. It’s not known if the President watched the specific segment, but he indirectly referenced claims mentioned in an on-air interview with a Border Patrol union representative.
While Trump said “no deal” for the DACA program, it is still operational. Federal courts have issued restraining orders keeping it active despite the expiration of the administration’s six-month deadline for Congress to push through a DACA deal.
It is not clear what the President was referring to when tweeting about “big flows” of individuals taking advantage of DACA, since the program is not accepting new applications right now.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The ‘caravan’

Alex Mensing, one of the US collaborators who works for Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a caravan of 1,100 people, started in the city of Tapachula, which is located in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, and borders Guatemala. The caravan is currently in Oaxaca, Mexico, about 420 miles from their starting point. Mensing said the migrants would turn themselves in and request asylum.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras said they would not respond to Trump’s tweet, but stated that the refugee caravan “is a movement made of people who were forced to flee their countries of origin due to persecution and violence.”
Mensing said the caravan’s primary goal is to “flee Central America” and seek asylum either within Mexico or the United States. About four or five different immigration rights groups are working with the asylum seekers, informing and preparing them on their journey to seek refuge.
This is the fifth year the group has done the caravan.
Two caravans were mobilized in 2017 with fewer people and many of their cases have yet to be resolved. Out of the 200 people who marched with the caravan, only 3 were successfully given asylum in the US.
Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, tweeted a response to today’s statements by President Trump.
“Every day Mexico and the US work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this,” he said. “An inaccurate news report should not serve to this question cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law. Happy Easter.”

Trump Spends Weekend With Don King Talking About Policies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Fourteen months into his presidency, Donald Trump is acting more defiant and independent as more and more senior-level aides and administration officials resign or are fired, according to a Washington Post report published Saturday.

The paper obtained the details of this new White House scene through interviews with 23 administration officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Noting that this type of defiance is typical for Trump, who for years ran the Trump Organization with a heavy hand, the paper reported that with both the President’s handful of advisers and his chief of staff John Kelly “nowhere to be seen,” Trump was left without a collection of “moderating forces eager to restrain the president from acting impulsively.”
As a result, the President made appearances and statements that many considered to be things over which his inner circle might have voiced disapproval. And by the end of the week, the President was at Mar-a-Lago with Don King, a boxing promoter who vented to Trump about the Stormy Daniels situation, according to the Post.
“It’s utterly ridiculous,” King said to Trump, according to the report. CNN has reached out to King for further comment.
On Friday, CNN reported that White House officials were starting to consider Dan Scavino to be the replacement for former communications director Hope Hicks, who finally left the White House this week. While Scavino, who is Trump’s current social media director, may not become the new communications director, many West Wing officials are expecting him to fill the confidant and conspirator role that Hicks’ resignation left open.
CNN also reported Thursday that Trump’s outside advisers have told him over the past week that neither a chief of staff nor a communications director may be necessary. So far, the President has given no indication as to whether or not he’s interested in taking the advice, and, on top of that, there are no signs that Trump is looking to dismiss Kelly.
As far as his “hasty” decisions go, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the Post: “The President is in an action mood and doesn’t want to slow-roll things, from trade to the border to staffing changes.”
“He wants to make things that he’s been discussing for a while happen,” she said. “He’s tired of the wait game.”

Former President Jimmy Carter dings Trump, says he prays for him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Former President Jimmy Carter dings Trump, says he prays for him

(CNN)In a late-night TV appearance Friday, former President Jimmy Carter appeared to ding President Donald Trump, suggesting the current commander-in-chief is “a jerk.”

“Does America want kind of a jerk as president?,” Stephen Colbert asked the 39th president on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” after inquiring whether Carter had been “too nice” to be commander-in-chief.
“Apparently, from this recent election, yes. I never knew it before,” Carter answered.
Asked by Colbert about what it takes to be president, Carter said he “used to think it was to tell the truth.”
“But I’ve changed my mind lately,” he continued.
Although the remarks seemed in jest, they marked a shift from some of the former president’s earlier statements about his successor. In an interview last October, Carter appeared to come to Trump’s defense, saying the “media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about.”
The 93-year-old former president told Colbert that he prays for Trump, but he wasn’t sure if his prayers would be answered.
“I pray that he’ll be a good president, and that he’ll keep our country at peace, and that he’ll refrain from using nuclear weapons, and that he will promote human rights. So, yeah, I pray for him,” Carter said.
Carter also offered his thoughts on North Korea, reiterating his opposition to sanctions. He told CBS News last week that he had received a briefing from the Trump administration on North Korea and that he’d be willing to travel to that nation on the current administration’s behalf.
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