Saudi Crown Prince MBS: A Partner We (No One) Can’t Depend On

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

A Partner We Can’t Depend On

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia long ago revealed his true character in impulsive and vicious actions.

Susan E. Rice

By Susan E. Rice

Ms. Rice was the national security adviser during President Barack Obama’s second term.

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A Yemeni child at the graves of schoolboys who were killed when their bus was hit by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in August. Credit  France Press — Getty Images

The crisis in United States-Saudi relations precipitated by the brazen murder of Jamal Khashoggi raises a critical question that the Trump administration plainly wants to avoid: Can the United States continue to cooperate with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The young prince’s almost certain culpability in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing underscores his extreme recklessness and immorality, while exposing him as a dangerous and unreliable partner for the United States.

No astute observer should be surprised to discover that Prince Mohammed is capable of such action. Yes, we may be shocked by how heinous Mr. Khashoggi’s murder was, and by how blatant the many lies told by the Saudis have been. Of course, many Americans, from Silicon Valley to the editorial pages of our leading papers, were snowed by the crown prince’s promises of reform and the deft marketing of his leadership. But, for those willing to see past his charm offensive, Prince Mohammed had already revealed his true character through numerous impulsive and vicious actions.

The deadliest exhibit is the war in Yemen, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and killed countless civilians, including children, because the Saudis arrogantly refuse to employ responsible targeting techniques. It has been a Prince Mohammed operation from the start.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen shares direct responsibility, along with the Houthi rebels and Iran, for the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, while the United States has continued shamelessly to provide support to their bloody war. Although the Obama administration initiated support to the coalition to help defend Saudi territory from Houthi incursions, it finally moved to curtail arms sales when the aims of the war expanded and the constraints we tried to impose were flouted.

At home, the crown prince has locked up civil society activists. He imprisoned for months hundreds of members of the royal family and other influential people in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton and demanded they surrender huge sums of money and valuable assets in exchange for release. He has forced out rivals and close relatives, including former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. And, as the Khashoggi case suggests, he has undertaken a global purge of Saudi dissidents wherever they reside.

The crown prince kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and denied it. He imposed a spiteful, full-blown blockade on neighboring Qatar, another important American partner, and has sought to goad the United States into conflict with Iran. Stung by two mildly critical tweets by the Canadian foreign minister, Prince Mohammed abruptly downgraded diplomatic ties with Ottawa, yanked 7,000 Saudi students out of Canadian universities and limited transport and trade links.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Credit Giuseppe Cacace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As this litany of lunacy shows, Prince Mohammed is not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable or rational partner of the United States and our allies. If we fail to punish him directly and target only those around him, the crown prince will be further emboldened to take extreme actions. If we do punish him, which we must, Prince Mohammed, petulant and proud, is equally likely to behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners. Either way, the Trump administration must assume that Prince Mohammed will continue to drive his country and our bilateral relationship over the proverbial cliff.

Unfortunately, King Salman seems unwilling or unable to rein in his rogue son. With critics cowed into submission and rivals pushed aside, there is no obvious alternative-in-waiting who might provide Saudi Arabia with sober, responsible leadership.

Absent a change at the top, we should brace ourselves for a future in which Saudi Arabia is less stable and more difficult to govern. In this scenario, the potential risks to American security and economic interests would be grave. The United States was wrong to hitch our wagon to Prince Mohammed, but we would be even more foolish to continue to do so.

Looking ahead, Washington must act to mitigate the risks to our own interests. We should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammed continues to wield unlimited power. It should be United States policy, in conjunction with our allies, to sideline the crown prince in order to increase pressure on the royal family to find a steadier replacement.

We should start by leading the push for an impartial international investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. We must be consistent and public in our judgment that the United States believes the killing could not have occurred without Prince Mohammed’s blessing or, more likely, his order.

Next, we should terminate all military support for the misbegotten Yemen campaign and pressure the Saudis to reach a negotiated settlement. We should immediately suspend all American arms sales to the kingdom and conduct a careful, comprehensive review of any future deliveries, halting all but those we determine, in close consultation with Congress, advance United States national security interests.

Finally, we should stop following Prince Mohammed down blind alleys and bring a healthy skepticism to our dealings with him, particularly any that require relying on his word or judgment.

We need to stop privileging Jared Kushner’s relationship with the crown prince, and finally fill the vacant ambassadorship to the kingdom, to engage with a broader range of senior Saudi officials. President Trump’s inexplicable infatuation with Prince Mohammed must end, and he must recalibrate American policy so that it serves our national interests — not his personal interests or those of the crown prince.

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Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017 and a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is a contributing opinion writer. @AmbassadorRice

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Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Used to Hearing ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ a Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

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Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, prayed not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue.CreditCreditJeff Swensen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill has for more than 100 years meant certain familiar rituals. The handing out of prayer books as latecomers quietly arrive at temple, the genial shouts of ‘Shabbat shalom’ across neighborhood streets as friends spot old friends after services.

This is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America. And on this Saturday morning, it was the site of what one of the city’s chief federal law enforcement officers called “the most horrific crime scene I have seen.”

Tree of Life, an understated temple on a rising street of tidy brick houses and pumpkin-decorated front porches, was a revered and historic Jewish institution in a neighborhood full of them.

After Saturday’s massacre, this meant a grief deep and wide. Everyone knew someone, or someone who did. The Jewish Community Center, a few blocks away from Tree of Life, became a command post of sorts, with grief counselors, law enforcement officials, Red Cross volunteers, extended families, members of various synagogues and food, lots and lots of food.

Down the street from the temple, a woman who belonged to Tree of Life was sobbing, surrounded by other women. A SWAT truck pulled down the street.

“It definitely brought everybody together in the way that really awful things do,” said Jess Nock, 38, a lawyer who has worshiped at Tree of Life for eight years.

[A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue where three congregations worshiped.]

She spent the morning at the center, where information was difficult to follow. People arrived looking for others — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One family learned of the shooting from their son, who was in Israel and saw it on the news. Some Orthodox Jews in the community, who do not use phones on the Sabbath, would surely not know about it for hours.

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Law enforcement officers secured the scene at the Pittsburgh temple.CreditAlexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

“Every time somebody would say “Do you know where…” Ms. Nock trailed off. She had heard the worst about at least one member. But she did not know what had happened to many others.

Squirrel Hill is an old neighborhood, beginning as the quiet and leafy retreat of the better-off, who chose to take the trolley home after work and leave the smog-choked streets of downtown Pittsburgh. Prosperous German Jews followed, moving their temples with them and creating a vibrant culture that, unlike in so many other American cities, never decamped for the suburbs.

“It’s one of the only Jewish communities in the country that has stayed within the city,” said Barbara S. Burstin, a history professor who has written several books on Jewish Pittsburgh.

There are kosher bakeries and delis along Murray Avenue, and three Jewish day schools of different denominations. On Saturday mornings, Orthodox men in black hats and overcoats walk the sidewalks. More than a dozen temples — Reform, Orthodox and Conservative — dot the neighborhood, “all bumping up within a few blocks of each other,” Professor Burstin said.

[Read more about the shooting suspect, who frequently reposted anti-Semitic content on social media.]

The population of the neighborhood might not be majority Jewish anymore — there are more Asian restaurants along the main drag now than Jewish ones — but it is home to more than a quarter of all Pittsburgh area Jewish households, according to a 2017 report.

The Tree of Life congregation, originally formed in 1864, moved to Squirrel Hill in 1952. It thrived in the heyday of American Conservative Judaism, but like many houses of worship in big cities, it has seen its membership dwindle.

In recent years, to make better use of the space, two other synagogues were invited to worship at the building. Now all three do, in different rooms on Saturdays, all getting together in the atrium afterward.

A former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, suspected that perhaps 25 or 30 people would have been there at the start of services, when the shooting broke out. Others would have arrived later, entering easily.

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People attended an interfaith vigil in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Credit Jared Wickerham for The New York Times

“It’s not the type of place where you’re going to walk in and people are going to look at you and say ‘Wait, I don’t know you,’” Ms. Nock said. “And locked doors: no way. There’s nothing less welcoming than inviting people to a door that’s locked.”

That the killer chose Tree of Life has baffled many in the community. There are much bigger temples in the area, and others with more visible congregations.

“This is not an obvious target in the Jewish community,” said Richard Brean, a retired general counsel for the steelworkers’ union and a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

[From a Texas church to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, houses of worship have become sites of mass shootings.]

But the members of Tree of Life had prepared for the possibility of violence, if only in theory, in the way so many schools and workplaces have in recent years. A year and a half ago, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh hired a former F.B.I. officer to serve as a security director; he had trained dozens of organizations on how to plan for active shooters. The members of Tree of Life had developed such a protocol last year.

Anti-Semitic incidents had happened in the neighborhood before, recalled Shlomo Perelman, 68, who was walking down a street not far from Tree of Life not long after the shooting. Mr. Perelman recalled a rabbinical student being shot some 25 years ago.

But this was not about Squirrel Hill. It was about the country that surrounded it. “It’s not about the neighborhood,” said Mr. Perelman. He added, “The times are really changing.”

On Saturday night, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in a light rain at the intersection of Murray and Forbes Avenue, where nearby restaurants — a Turkish kebab house, a ramen bar and a bohemian tea cafe — were a testament to the area’s diversity.

“I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” said Sophia Levin, 15, one of several teenagers who spoke. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, her voice breaking.

“Tree of Life used to be just a synagogue that my grandparents went to, that my Mom grew up in, that we would go to on high holidays,” she said. “And today I feel like it’s something different.”

Trip Gabriel contributed from Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Torrent of Gunshots Shifts Reality: ‘I Am a Different Jew Today’ . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

(BY JAMAL KHASHOGGI)

Why the Arab World Needs Democracy Now

In April Jamal Khashoggi gave this speech, saying the dangerous idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world.

By Jamal Khashoggi

Mr. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist.

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A Saudi flag at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Press — Getty Images

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, was the keynote speaker at a conference in April organized by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington. Excerpts from his speech, edited for clarity and length, are below.

I am from Saudi Arabia, where the issues of democracy and Islam are very much relevant. When a Saudi official wanted to brush away the question of democracy, in the past, he would always raise the question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam.

The debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy conclusively ended with the coming of the Arab Spring, when the people of the Arab world, — especially the youth, and even the Islamist, including some Salafis, who were always critical of democracy — supported the protests for democratic and political change. Other Salafis remained very critical of democracy, viewing it as “kufr,” or un-Islamic, based on the belief that democracy represents a rejection of religious values.

The long voting lines during the 2012 elections in Tunisia and Egypt clearly demonstrated that the people of the Arab world were ready for change. They enthusiastically participated in democratic elections, including Islamist parties that had often been the focus of the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy.

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Those images from Egypt and Tunisia of men, women, young, and old going to the polls should be contrasted with the sham elections we see today in Egypt and in other parts of the Arab world. This is an argument we can use against anyone who might claim that “Arabs are not ready for democracy.”

Today, Saudi Arabia is struggling with different aspects of modernity — with cinemas, art, entertainment, mixing of the sexes, opening up to the world, rejecting radicalism. The tight grip that the religious establishment has had on social life is gradually loosening.

But while we’re pursuing all these forms of modernity, the Saudi leaders are still not interested in democracy, They aren’t advancing the old, lame excuse that democracy is not compatible with Islam, however. Instead, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic they’re saying that absolute monarchy is our preferred form of government.

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Indeed, we are living in the age of authoritarianism. Some people believe that it is a better form of political rule. They argue that societies need a great leader and that democracy will undermine the ability of the great leader to guide his people to a better future.

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Today around a dinner table in Riyadh, Cairo or Amman, you are likely to hear intellectuals who were once considered liberals, who once supported liberty, political change and democracy, say, “Arabs are not ready for democracy.” If you push back against this argument, you would be told: “Even if Arabs are ready for democracy, they don’t know how to take advantage of it. They always make the wrong choice.”

A related argument is, “The Islamist and the Muslim Brotherhood have kidnapped the Arab Spring.” In my country, a variant of this argument is: “The Saudis don’t know how to choose. If we have democracy, they will not vote out of their conscience, they will vote based on their tribal loyalties.”

A popular argument in the Arab world is that we need a strong leader. You can hear it in Egypt from an Egyptian businessman who supports the ruling regime. You can hear it from a doubtful Jordanian, maybe even a doubtful Tunisian who seeks a return to the old order.

A Saudi friend of mine who was raised abroad openly defends the term “benevolent autocracy.” He is prepared to write about the value of benevolent autocracy in an American newspaper and thinks it is the best choice for Saudi Arabia.

It is the old notion of the “mustabidu al-adl,” or the just dictator, that died with the rise of Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a late-19th-century Arab-Muslim reformist of Syrian origin. The Arab and Muslim intellectuals who followed Kawakibi supported democracy or at least some variant of it.

Regrettably, though, the idea of the benevolent autocrat, the just dictator, is being revived in the Arab world. A chorus of anti-democratic Arab and non-Arab voices are using the media and the lobbyists to oppose democracy. I’m told that at the Riyadh International Book Fair in March, which I was not able to attend, one of the books on display was called “Against the Arab Spring.”

Democracy in the Arab world is also under attack from radical Islamists who are making a comeback as the so-called Islamic State or as the Salafis fighting in Libya alongside Khalifa Hifter (who was a general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army and is now backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt). They preach against democracy in the mosques — and through acts of violence.

We must reassure people in the Arab world who either have lost hope in democracy because of its perceived failures or because they fell victim to the concentrated propaganda about democracy coming from television networks run by states and the intellectuals aligned with them.

When I use the term “democracy” I mean it in the broader sense of the term that overlaps with values such as liberty, checks and balances, accountability and transparency. We were aiming for these goals in the form of good governance, equality, and justice in the Arab world. There is another reason we need democracy now in the Arab world: to stop mass violence.

Today, there are two kinds of Arab countries. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, need democracy for good governance and the checks and balances it brings.

But for war-torn countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen, democracy would lead to some form of power sharing. It can be along the lines of the Afghanistan arrangement, where you bring all of the factions in one huge room and force them into an agreement on how to share power. The chief reason the wars in these countries are continuing is the lack of a mechanism for power sharing.

The immediate need for Libya, Syria and Yemen is not good governance, but a mechanism to stop the killing. Inevitably, the question of good governance will emerge. There is great hope for democracy in other countries that have not been mired in civil or internal conflict, such as Tunisia, which is struggling toward a lasting democratic system.

Many of my Tunisian friends, despite the progress they have made, are also worried about democracy. They do not want to appear to be preaching to the rest of the Arab world. They simply want to be left alone. Yet I still think that Tunisians have an important responsibility.

News channels that are supportive of freedom and political change in the Middle East should spend a considerable amount of time covering even municipal elections in Tunisia. Every Saudi, every Egyptian and every Syrian should see what the Tunisians are enjoying. I hope it will inspire the rest of the Arab world to work for a similar form of government for themselves.

We need to defend the rights of the Arab people to have democracy in our own countries, in our own localities, but at the same time we must speak to foreign leaders, foreign powers and foreign parliamentarians. They have a role to play and many of them have begun to lose hope in the prospects of Arab democracy.

Some of them are now repeating the old racist statement, “Arabs are not ready for democracy [because they are Arabs].” The Trump administration has zero interest in supporting democracy in the Arab world. Even the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has suggested that there will be little political change in Egypt or in Saudi Arabia.

People are losing hope in democracy because of the failure of the Arab Spring revolts. They’re afraid of ending up like Syria. Many Arab regimes, their television networks, their writers, their commentators, are trying to scare people off democracy by actively promoting this idea.

Both Arab citizens and foreign leaders are affected by the limited reforms that Arab leaders are pursuing. In Saudi Arabia there are serious reforms that Prince Mohammed is leading. Many of my Saudi colleagues are saying I should support them. I do support them.

My position is that we should take what we have and build on it.

When Mr. Macron stood next to Prince Mohammed, he made this point and he was correct to do so. We need to support the crown prince in his effort to reform Saudi Arabia because if we let him down, he will come under pressure from radical elements who are not willing to reform.

These limited reforms and the general political condition of the Arab world today are adding strength to the argument of the anti-democracy forces. This unfortunate reality puts more responsibility on our shoulders to resume our work and to redouble our efforts to push for democracy in the Arab world as a realistic choice for people and a solution to the failure of many Arab states.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Donald Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes And Outright Tax Fraud

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes
as He Reaped Riches From His Father

The president has long sold himself as a self-made billionaire, but a Times investigation found that he received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges in the 1990s.

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances.

The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

The president declined repeated requests over several weeks to comment for this article. But a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Charles J. Harder, provided a written statement on Monday, one day after The Times sent a detailed description of its findings. “The New York Times’s allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100 percent false, and highly defamatory,” Mr. Harder said. “There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone. The facts upon which The Times bases its false allegations are extremely inaccurate.”

Mr. Harder sought to distance Mr. Trump from the tax strategies used by his family, saying the president had delegated those tasks to relatives and tax professionals. “President Trump had virtually no involvement whatsoever with these matters,” he said. “The affairs were handled by other Trump family members who were not experts themselves and therefore relied entirely upon the aforementioned licensed professionals to ensure full compliance with the law.”

[Read the full statement]

The president’s brother, Robert Trump, issued a statement on behalf of the Trump family:

“Our dear father, Fred C. Trump, passed away in June 1999. Our beloved mother, Mary Anne Trump, passed away in August 2000. All appropriate gift and estate tax returns were filed, and the required taxes were paid. Our father’s estate was closed in 2001 by both the Internal Revenue Service and the New York State tax authorities, and our mother’s estate was closed in 2004. Our family has no other comment on these matters that happened some 20 years ago, and would appreciate your respecting the privacy of our deceased parents, may God rest their souls.”

The Times’s findings raise new questions about Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. According to tax experts, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump would be vulnerable to criminal prosecution for helping his parents evade taxes, because the acts happened too long ago and are past the statute of limitations. There is no time limit, however, on civil fines for tax fraud.

The findings are based on interviews with Fred Trump’s former employees and advisers and more than 100,000 pages of documents describing the inner workings and immense profitability of his empire. They include documents culled from public sources — mortgages and deeds, probate records, financial disclosure reports, regulatory records and civil court files.

The investigation also draws on tens of thousands of pages of confidential records — bank statements, financial audits, accounting ledgers, cash disbursement reports, invoices and canceled checks. Most notably, the documents include more than 200 tax returns from Fred Trump, his companies and various Trump partnerships and trusts. While the records do not include the president’s personal tax returns and reveal little about his recent business dealings at home and abroad, dozens of corporate, partnership and trust tax returns offer the first public accounting of the income he received for decades from various family enterprises.

[11 takeaways from The Times’s investigation]

What emerges from this body of evidence is a financial biography of the 45th president fundamentally at odds with the story Mr. Trump has sold in his books, his TV shows and his political life. In Mr. Trump’s version of how he got rich, he was the master deal maker who broke free of his father’s “tiny” outer-borough operation and parlayed a single $1 million loan from his father (“I had to pay him back with interest!”) into a $10 billion empire that would slap the Trump name on hotels, high-rises, casinos, airlines and golf courses the world over. In Mr. Trump’s version, it was always his guts and gumption that overcame setbacks. Fred Trump was simply a cheerleader.

“I built what I built myself,” Mr. Trump has said, a narrative that was long amplified by often-credulous coverage from news organizations, including The Times.

Certainly a handful of journalists and biographers, notably Wayne Barrett, Gwenda Blair, David Cay Johnston and Timothy L. O’Brien, have challenged this story, especially the claim of being worth $10 billion. They described how Mr. Trump piggybacked off his father’s banking connections to gain a foothold in Manhattan real estate. They poked holes in his go-to talking point about the $1 million loan, citing evidence that he actually got $14 million. They told how Fred Trump once helped his son make a bond payment on an Atlantic City casino by buying $3.5 million in casino chips.

But The Times’s investigation of the Trump family’s finances is unprecedented in scope and precision, offering the first comprehensive look at the inherited fortune and tax dodges that guaranteed Donald J. Trump a gilded life. The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth.

Donald J. Trump accumulated wealth throughout his childhood thanks to his father, Fred C. Trump.

By age 3, Mr. Trump was earning $200,000 a year in today’s dollars from his father’s empire. He was a millionaire by age 8. By the time he was 17, his father had given him part ownership of a 52-unit apartment building. Soon after Mr. Trump graduated from college, he was receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year from his father. The money increased with the years, to more than $5 million annually in his 40s and 50s.

Fred Trump’s real estate empire was not just scores of apartment buildings. It was also a mountain of cash, tens of millions of dollars in profits building up inside his businesses, banking records show. In one six-year span, from 1988 through 1993, Fred Trump reported $109.7 million in total income, now equivalent to $210.7 million. It was not unusual for tens of millions in Treasury bills and certificates of deposit to flow through his personal bank accounts each month.

Fred Trump was relentless and creative in finding ways to channel this wealth to his children. He made Donald not just his salaried employee but also his property manager, landlord, banker and consultant. He gave him loan after loan, many never repaid. He provided money for his car, money for his employees, money to buy stocks, money for his first Manhattan offices and money to renovate those offices. He gave him three trust funds. He gave him shares in multiple partnerships. He gave him $10,000 Christmas checks. He gave him laundry revenue from his buildings.

Much of his giving was structured to sidestep gift and inheritance taxes using methods tax experts described to The Times as improper or possibly illegal. Although Fred Trump became wealthy with help from federal housing subsidies, he insisted that it was manifestly unfair for the government to tax his fortune as it passed to his children. When he was in his 80s and beginning to slide into dementia, evading gift and estate taxes became a family affair, with Donald Trump playing a crucial role, interviews and newly obtained documents show.

The line between legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion is often murky, and it is constantly being stretched by inventive tax lawyers. There is no shortage of clever tax avoidance tricks that have been blessed by either the courts or the I.R.S. itself. The richest Americans almost never pay anything close to full freight. But tax experts briefed on The Times’s findings said the Trumps appeared to have done more than exploit legal loopholes. They said the conduct described here represented a pattern of deception and obfuscation, particularly about the value of Fred Trump’s real estate, that repeatedly prevented the I.R.S. from taxing large transfers of wealth to his children.

“The theme I see here through all of this is valuations: They play around with valuations in extreme ways,” said Lee-Ford Tritt, a University of Florida law professor and a leading expert in gift and estate tax law. “There are dramatic fluctuations depending on their purpose.”

The manipulation of values to evade taxes was central to one of the most important financial events in Donald Trump’s life. In an episode never before revealed, Mr. Trump and his siblings gained ownership of most of their father’s empire on Nov. 22, 1997, a year and a half before Fred Trump’s death. Critical to the complex transaction was the value put on the real estate. The lower its value, the lower the gift taxes. The Trumps dodged hundreds of millions in gift taxes by submitting tax returns that grossly undervalued the properties, claiming they were worth just $41.4 million.

The same set of buildings would be sold off over the next decade for more than 16 times that amount.

The most overt fraud was All County Building Supply & Maintenance, a company formed by the Trump family in 1992. All County’s ostensible purpose was to be the purchasing agent for Fred Trump’s buildings, buying everything from boilers to cleaning supplies. It did no such thing, records and interviews show. Instead All County siphoned millions of dollars from Fred Trump’s empire by simply marking up purchases already made by his employees. Those millions, effectively untaxed gifts, then flowed to All County’s owners — Donald Trump, his siblings and a cousin. Fred Trump then used the padded All County receipts to justify bigger rent increases for thousands of tenants.

After this article was published on Tuesday, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said the agency was “reviewing the allegations” and “vigorously pursuing all appropriate areas of investigation.”

All told, The Times documented 295 streams of revenue that Fred Trump created over five decades to enrich his son. In most cases his four other children benefited equally. But over time, as Donald Trump careened from one financial disaster to the next, his father found ways to give him substantially more money, records show. Even so, in 1990, according to previously secret depositions, Mr. Trump tried to have his father’s will rewritten in a way that Fred Trump, alarmed and angered, feared could result in his empire’s being used to bail out his son’s failing businesses.

Of course, the story of how Donald Trump got rich cannot be reduced to handouts from his father. Before he became president, his singular achievement was building the brand of Donald J. Trump, Self-Made Billionaire, a brand so potent it generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through TV shows, books and licensing deals.

Constructing that image required more than Fred Trump’s money. Just as important were his son’s preternatural marketing skills and always-be-closing competitive hustle. While Fred Trump helped finance the accouterments of wealth, Donald Trump, master self-promoter, spun them into a seductive narrative. Fred Trump’s money, for example, helped build Trump Tower, the talisman of privilege that established his son as a major player in New York. But Donald Trump recognized and exploited the iconic power of Trump Tower as a primary stage for both “The Apprentice” and his presidential campaign.

The biggest payday he ever got from his father came long after Fred Trump’s death. It happened quietly, without the usual Trumpian news conference, on May 4, 2004, when Mr. Trump and his siblings sold off the empire their father had spent 70 years assembling with the dream that it would never leave his family.

Donald Trump’s cut: $177.3 million, or $236.2 million in today’s dollars.

U.S. Recalls Top Diplomats From Latin America as Worries Rise Over China’s Influence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

U.S. Recalls Top Diplomats From Latin America as Worries Rise Over China’s Influence

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Jean Manes, ambassador to El Salvador, is one of three diplomats in Latin America who have been recalled to Washington.CreditCreditSalvador Melendez/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The United States has recalled three chiefs of mission from Latin American nations that cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China.

The move comes as American officials have expressed growing unease over China’s rising influence in the region.

The diplomats, who represent the United States in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama, will meet with leaders in Washington “to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions throughout Central America and the Caribbean,” a spokeswoman for the State Department, Heather Nauert, said in a written statement on Friday.

For decades, Taiwan and China have competed for recognition. In 1979, the United States switched its support and officially established sovereign relations with China, and many other countries followed. But Washington has supported any decisions by nations to continue recognizing Taiwan, a self-governing island that China wants to bring under Communist Party rule.

In recent years, China has had success in courting Taiwan’s diplomatic partners. Only 17 nations recognize Taiwan; outside the Vatican and Swaziland, they are all islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean or countries in Latin America.

American officials have expressed growing concern over the shift. The United States sells arms to Taiwan and maintains a diplomatic presence there, called the American Institute in Taiwan, now housed in a new $250 million compound. American officials see Taiwan’s de facto independence as an important hedge against Chinese dominance in the Asia-Pacific region — what the United States now calls the Indo-Pacific as it tries to strengthen ties with South Asian nations to balance against China.

Last month, El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan, prompting the White House to accuse China of “apparent interference” in El Salvador’s domestic politics. American officials fear that the four nations in Central America that still recognize Taiwan — Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — could soon follow. Last May, Burkina Faso switched recognition to China, leaving Swaziland as the lone holdout in Africa.

In June 2017, Panama cut ties with Taiwan, which surprised the United States government. The American ambassador to Panama at the time, John Feeley, said he learned about the switch from the president, Juan Carlos Varela, only an hour or so before Mr. Varela announced it, and only because he had called Mr. Varela to discuss an unrelated matter.

Mr. Feeley, who left his post in March and is now a consultant for Univision, said in an interview on Saturday that the recall of top American diplomats was significant.

The diplomats returning to Washington are Robin Bernstein, ambassador to the Dominican Republic; Jean Manes, ambassador to El Salvador; and Roxanne Cabral, the chargé d’affaires in Panama. A State Department official said they would return to their posts by Sept. 14.

Wang Yi, center, China’s foreign minister, and Hugo Martinez, right, El Salvador’s foreign minister, at a conference in Santiago, Chile. Last month, El Salvador severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China.CreditIvan Alvarado/Reuters

The move “is an appropriate and serious signal by the U.S. government to those three countries and to the Chinese government that it is now reviewing the implications of the diplomatic switch and is worried that U.S. interests could be jeopardized,” Mr. Feeley said.

“My sense is that they will be most focused on the issue of industrial and commercial espionage and the possibility of Beijing using its embassies to expand that activity in those countries and the Caribbean Basin,” he added.

China is now the world’s second-largest economy and is expected to overtake the United States as the largest one in 10 to 15 years.

It is difficult for any nation, especially a small one, to decide not to recognize the sovereignty of China.

China and Taiwan have long engaged in what some observers call “checkbook diplomacy” to woo countries by offering aid or other incentives. China’s financial packages have increased in recent years, especially as it has promoted infrastructure projects abroad and related loans and contracts as part of what it calls its Belt and Road Initiative.

Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China, said on Saturday that the recall was “heavy handed.” The United States should not be surprised as Latin American governments push back against American requests, he added, when President Trump has continued to alienate the people of Latin America.

“Trump has openly and systematically offended Latin American countries and their people,” Mr. Guajardo wrote in an email. “He labels us as rapists and criminals, has never traveled to the region as president, has deported and separated families, and threatened to cut all sort of aid. China comes with an offer of friendship and economic development (albeit one that I don’t think will pan out). Why the surprise?”

The United States has yet to fill some ambassador posts in the region, including those in Mexico and Panama, Mr. Guajardo noted, whereas China has assigned ambassadors in all Latin American nations with which it has diplomatic relations.

“Save a few countries in Latin America, the region as a whole has a historical preference for the U.S. as the main ally,” he said. “This changed when Trump assumed the presidency. It was his call, his choice, to turn away from the region.”

China has grown more strident over the issue of Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen, a strong critic of Beijing, became president of Taiwan in May 2016. Chinese officials have worked to erase any recognition by corporations of Taiwan’s sovereignty. For example, they successfully pressured international airlines this summer, including those in the United States, to list just “Taipei,” a city designation, in their booking systems rather than phrases that included “Taiwan,” as was the case for decades.

Last month, Ms. Tsai made state visits to Belize and Paraguay to try to strengthen ties with those nations.

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Former Sheriff Arpaio Rightfully Gets A Butt Whooping In Arizona Senate Race

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress

Arpaio’s loss in Arizona’s Senate Republican primary is a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man.

By Michelle Cottle

Ms. Cottle is a member of the editorial board.

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Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., campaigned in Tucson on Saturday.CreditCreditCaitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

Let us pause for a moment to mark the loss of a fierce and tireless public servant: Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who so robustly devoted himself to terrorizing immigrants that he was eventually convicted of contempt of court and would have lived out his twilight years with a well-deserved criminal record if President Trump, a staunch admirer of Mr. Arpaio’s bare-knuckle approach to law enforcement, had not granted him a pardon.

To clarify, Mr. Arpaio the man has not passed. As of Tuesday, he was still very much alive and kicking, the proto-Trumpian embodiment of fearmongering ethnonationalism. Mr. Arpaio’s dream of returning to elective office, however, has been dealt what is most likely a fatal blow by his loss in Arizona’s Republican primary for the Senate. Cast aside and left to wallow in the knowledge that his moment has passed, he has a fitting end to the public life of a true American villain.

This defeat came as a surprise to no one. In the closing weeks of the race, his campaign had begun melting down. His staff was in chaos, and polls showed him trailing both Representative Martha McSally, Tuesday’s victor, and Kelli Ward, an anti-immigration firebrand also courting the right wing of the party.

As “America’s toughest sheriff,” as Mr. Arpaio liked to call himself, prepares to ride off into the sunset, it bears recalling that he was so much more than a run-of-the-mill immigrant basher. His 24-year reign of terrorwas medieval in its brutality. In addition to conducting racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions, he oversaw a jail where mistreatment of inmates was the stuff of legend. Abuses ranged from the humiliating to the lethal. He brought back chain gangs. He forced prisoners to wear pink underwear. He set up an outdoor “tent city,” which he once referred to as a “concentration camp,” to hold the overflow of prisoners. Inmates were beaten, fed rancid food, denied medical care (this included pregnant women) and, in at least one case, left battered on the floor to die.

Indeed, many prisoners died in Mr. Arpaio’s jail — at an alarming clip. The number of inmates who hanged themselves in his facilities was far higher than in jails elsewhere in the country. More disturbing still, nearly half of all inmate deaths on his watch were never explained. Over the years, the county paid out tens of millions in wrongful death and injury settlements.

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At the same time, Mr. Arpaio’s department could not be bothered to uphold the laws in which it had little interest. From 2005 through 2007, the sheriff and his deputies failed to properly investigate, or in some cases to investigate at all, more than 400 sex-crime cases, including those involving the rape of young children.

Mr. Arpaio embraced the racist birther movement more energetically than most, starting an investigation aimed at exposing President Barack Obama’s American birth certificate as a forgery. The inquiry ran five years, with Mr. Arpaio announcing his “troubling” findings in December of 2016, just weeks after having been voted out of office. Even many of his own constituents, it seemed, had grown weary of the sheriff’s excesses. No matter, as of early this year, Mr. Arpaio was still claiming to have proved “100 percent” that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate had been faked — to be clear, he has not — and suggesting he would revive the issue if elected to the Senate.

It was no secret that Mr. Arpaio’s methods often crossed the line into the not-so-legal. In 2011, a federal district judge ordered the sheriff to end his practice of stopping and detaining people on no other grounds than suspecting them of being undocumented immigrants. Mr. Arpaio declined to oblige, secure in the rightness of his own judgment. The legal battle dragged on until last summer, when he was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for blatantly thumbing his nose at the law.

Such unwillingness to bow to an uppity judiciary surely impressed Mr. Trump, who sees his own judgment as superior to any moral or legal precept. In this way, Mr. Arpaio was arguably the perfect pick to be the very first person pardoned by this president. The two men are brothers in arms, fighting the good fight against the invading hordes of immigrants — and their liberal enablers, of course. And if that requires dismissing the Constitution and destroying the rule of law, so be it. What true patriot would object to a few tent cities or human rights violations when the American way of life is in mortal peril?

In announcing the pardon last August, Mr. Trump praised Mr. Arpaio as an “American patriot.” The official statement by the White House gushed: “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” To Mr. Trump’s fans, this was another welcome sign of the president’s commitment to keeping them safe from The Other.

Not everyone in the president’s party was pleased. Members of his administration reportedly advised against the pardon as too controversial. It was widely noted that the announcement was made in the hours right before Hurricane Harvey slammed the Gulf Coast, presumably with an eye toward minimizing the negative media coverage of the pardon while journalists were busy reporting on the storm. (For his part, Mr. Trump later claimed that the pardon actually had been timed to take advantage of the higher ratings generated by Harvey watchers.)

Even so, John McCain, the Arizona senator and frequent Trump critic who passed away on Saturday, made his dismay known. “The president has the authority to make this pardon,” he said in a statement, “but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law, as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

Certainly, Mr. Arpaio showed little sign of remorse on the campaign trail. In a recent interview with The Times, he rambled about all the Mexican rapists and murderers who filled his jails back in the day, and he said the answer to the debate over Dreamers was simple: Deport all 700,000 of them back to their home countries.

The former sheriff also made clear that, despite all the legal drama swirling around the president, his loyalty to Mr. Trump was steadfast. “You can’t support people just because they’re convicted?” he asked rhetorically. “No matter what he’s convicted of, I’m still going to call it a witch hunt, so of course I’ll stand by him.”

Some might consider it ungenerous to celebrate Mr. Arpaio’s electoral failure and continuing slide into irrelevance. But the man has a long and storied history of mistreating people in unfortunate circumstances, so it seems only appropriate to return the favor.

For nearly a quarter-century, Sheriff Joe Arpaio was a disgrace to law enforcement, a sadist masquerading as a public servant. In a just system, we would not see his like again. In the current political climate, it may be enough that Arizona Republicans solidly rejected him.

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The Full-Spectrum Corruption of Donald Trump: Everyone and everything he touches rots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

The Full-Spectrum Corruption of Donald Trump

Everyone and everything he touches rots.

Peter Wehner

By Peter Wehner

Mr. Wehner served in the previous three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer.

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President Trump speaking at the Ohio Republican Party state dinner in Columbus on Friday.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

There’s never been any confusion about the character defects of Donald Trump. The question has always been just how far he would go and whether other individuals and institutions would stand up to him or become complicit in his corruption.

When I first took to these pages three summers ago to write about Mr. Trump, I warned my fellow Republicans to just say no both to him and his candidacy. One of my concerns was that if Mr. Trump were to succeed, he would redefine the Republican Party in his image. That’s already happened in areas like free trade, free markets and the size of government; in attitudes toward ethnic nationalism and white identity politics; in America’s commitment to its traditional allies, in how Republicans view Russia and in their willingness to call out leaders of evil governments like North Korea rather than lavish praise on them. But in no area has Mr. Trump more fundamentally changed the Republican Party than in its attitude toward ethics and political leadership.

For decades, Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, insisted that character counted in public life. They were particularly vocal about this during the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, arguing against “compartmentalization” — by which they meant overlooking moral turpitude in the Oval Office because you agree with the president’s policy agenda or because the economy is strong.

Senator Lindsey Graham, then in the House, went so far as to argue that “impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”

All that has changed with Mr. Trump as president. For Republicans, honor and integrity are now passé. We saw it again last week when the president’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen — standing in court before a judge, under oath — implicated Mr. Trump in criminal activity, while his former campaign chairman was convicted in another courtroom on financial fraud charges. Most Republicans in Congress were either silent or came to Mr. Trump’s defense, which is how this tiresome drama now plays itself out.

It is a stunning turnabout. A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. Some of the men who have been elected president have been unscrupulous in certain areas — infidelity, lying, dirty tricks, financial misdeeds — but we’ve never before had the full-spectrum corruption we see in the life of Donald Trump.

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For many Republicans, this reality still hasn’t broken through. But facts that don’t penetrate the walls of an ideological silo are facts nonetheless. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life, in how he has treated his wives, in his business dealings and scams, in his pathological lying and cruelty, in his bullying and shamelessness, in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. (Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, refers to the president’s race-based comments as a “base stimulator.”) Mr. Trump’s corruptions are ingrained, the result of a lifetime of habits. It was delusional to think he would change for the better once he became president.

Some of us who have been lifelong Republicans and previously served in Republican administrations held out a faint hope that our party would at some point say “Enough!”; that there would be some line Mr. Trump would cross, some boundary he would transgress, some norm he would shatter, some civic guardrail he would uproot, some action he would take, some scheme or scandal he would be involved in that would cause large numbers of Republicans to break with the president. No such luck. Mr. Trump’s corruptions have therefore become theirs. So far there’s been no bottom, and there may never be. It’s quite possible this should have been obvious to me much sooner than it was, that I was blinded to certain realities I should have recognized.

In any case, the Republican Party’s as-yet unbreakable attachment to Mr. Trump is coming at quite a cost. There is the rank hypocrisy, the squandered ability to venerate public character or criticize Democrats who lack it, and the damage to the white Evangelical movement, which has for the most part enthusiastically rallied to Mr. Trump and as a result has been largely discredited. There is also likely to be an electoral price to pay in November.

But the greatest damage is being done to our civic culture and our politics. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party are right now the chief emblem of corruption and cynicism in American political life, of an ethic of might makes right. Dehumanizing others is fashionable and truth is relative. (“Truth isn’t truth,” in the infamous words of Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.) They are stripping politics of its high purpose and nobility.

That’s not all politics is; self-interest is always a factor. But if politics is only about power unbounded by morality — if it’s simply about rulers governing by the law of the jungle, about a prince acting like a beast, in the words of Machiavelli — then the whole enterprise will collapse. We have to distinguish between imperfect leaders and corrupt ones, and we need the vocabulary to do so.

A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.

Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this?

Peter Wehner (@Peter_Wehner), a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the previous three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer.

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A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR9 of the New York edition with the headline: Full-Spectrum Corruption. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash

That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him.

By John O. Brennan

Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2017.

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CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

When Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s internal security service, told me during an early August 2016 phone call that Russia wasn’t interfering in our presidential election, I knew he was lying. Over the previous several years I had grown weary of Mr. Bortnikov’s denials of Russia’s perfidy — about its mistreatment of American diplomats and citizens in Moscow, its repeated failure to adhere to cease-fire agreements in Syria and its paramilitary intervention in eastern Ukraine, to name just a few issues.

When I warned Mr. Bortnikov that Russian interference in our election was intolerable and would roil United States-Russia relations for many years, he denied Russian involvement in any election, in America or elsewhere, with a feigned sincerity that I had heard many times before. President Vladimir Putin of Russia reiterated those denials numerous times over the past two years, often to Donald Trump’s seeming approval.

Russian denials are, in a word, hogwash.

Before, during and after its now infamous meddling in our last presidential election, Russia practiced the art of shaping political events abroad through its well-honed active measures program, which employs an array of technical capabilities, information operations and old-fashioned human intelligence spycraft. Electoral politics in Western democracies presents an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives. The very freedoms and liberties that liberal Western democracies cherish and that autocracies fear have been exploited by Russian intelligence services not only to collect sensitive information but also to distribute propaganda and disinformation, increasingly via the growing number of social media platforms.

Having worked closely with the F.B.I. over many years on counterintelligence investigations, I was well aware of Russia’s ability to work surreptitiously within the United States, cultivating relationships with individuals who wield actual or potential power. Like Mr. Bortnikov, these Russian operatives and agents are well trained in the art of deception. They troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters. Too often, those puppets are found.

In my many conversations with James Comey, the F.B.I. director, in the summer of 2016, we talked about the potential for American citizens, involved in partisan politics or not, to be pawns in Russian hands. We knew that Russian intelligence services would do all they could to achieve their objectives, which the United States intelligence community publicly assessed a few short months later were to undermine public faith in the American democratic process, harm the electability of the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and show preference for Mr. Trump. We also publicly assessed that Mr. Putin’s intelligence services were following his orders. Director Comey and I, along with the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers, pledged that our agencies would share, as appropriate, whatever information was collected, especially considering the proven ability of Russian intelligence services to suborn United States citizens.

The already challenging work of the American intelligence and law enforcement communities was made more difficult in late July 2016, however, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Mrs. Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.

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Donald Trump with his daughter Ivanka and campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in July 2016, hours before he accepted the Republican nomination for president. A few days later he called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails.CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr. Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do — and what they actually did — to win the election. While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press — of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services.

Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.

The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets. A jury is about to deliberate bank and tax fraud charges against one of those people, Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman. And the campaign’s former deputy chairman, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.

Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him. Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.

John O. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from March 2013 to January 2017.

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The Virtues of Catholic Anger

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

The Virtues of Catholic Anger

In the face of the Pennsylvania abuse scandal, Christians should use their rage to combat evil within the church.

By James Martin

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is the editor at large of America magazine.

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CreditDesign Pics, via Getty Images

Every American Catholic I know is angry — with good reason. The recent release of a grand jury investigation into 70 years of sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania is appalling in its breadth and detail.

One priest had his victim wash his mouth out with holy water after being forced to perform a sex act on the priest. Another arranged an abortion for a minor he impregnated. Compounding these appalling crimes were years of documented cover-ups by church officials.

That most of these stories are decades old does not diminish the abject horror among Catholics today who read them today.

These disgusting reports come on the heels of revelations that one of the church’s most powerful clerics, Theodore E. McCarrick, for many years the archbishop of Washington, D.C., was accused of multiple incidents of harassing seminarians and young priests and of the sexual abuse of a minor.

Catholic wrath burns hot. Chief among those enraged are victims and their families, several of whom I know, many whose lives have been destroyed by sexual violence. Catholics not directly affected by the abuse are furious at both abusive priests and the bishops who covered up their crimes, and many have had their faith in the church severely shaken. Many believed that after the sex abuse scandals of 2002, the church had “moved on” and so feel poleaxed by these new stories.

Pennsylvania Catholics (of whom I am one: I grew up in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) have shared their personal anger with me as they read about pastors they knew who had taken unforgiving stances with them on sexual matters while raping children. Some millennial Catholics, who were themselves children in 2002, are appalled as they read about sex abuse cases as adults for the first time.

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The Catholic clergy is furious as well. Like many priests, I have been deluged with emails from Catholics saying, “I don’t know how I can stay in the church.” To see a person’s faith shaken in the church is to know that they may be tempted to distance themselves from God, another tragedy.

And we are painfully aware that the financial settlements — justified, of course — mean slashing desperately needed programs at the diocesan and parish level: educational programs for the young, health care assistance for the aged, financial aid for the poor in the community.

Then there are more selfish reasons: These stories, even though they represent a fraction of the priesthood, cast every Catholic priest in the darkest light. During the 2002 crisis I was spat upon in the subway on two occasions and at times was embarrassed to wear my collar.

Lately, I have also been angry with the Catholic commentators who have been using these revelations to advance their own agendas, so that the suffering of children becomes an opportunity to stir up hatred, for example, of all gay priests, or L.G.B.T. people in general.

Or they use these stories to whip up what seems to be their boundless contempt for Pope Francis. One of the more absurd tropes has been far-right commentators blaming Francis for Archbishop McCarrick’s crimes, conveniently ignoring the fact that he was named a bishop by Pope Paul VI and rose in the ranks, and was named a cardinal, under St. John Paul II. Francis may be responsible for some failures in the church today, even when it comes to addressing sexual abuse, but Theodore McCarrick is not one of them.

All this anger may seem like an un-Christian scourge, tearing the church apart. In fact, it is good, healthy and clarifying.

In the Gospels, Jesus is described as angry many times, a stark contrast to the portrait many have of him as a doe-eyed man of peace. Jesus excoriates the disciples for their lack of faith (“You faithless and perverse generation!”). Most famously, he makes a “whip of cords” and chases the “money changers” out of the temple in Jerusalem, upending their tables in a dramatic act that helped to lead to his execution by Roman authorities.

Anger is an important part of the life and ministry of Jesus. And so anger should be part of the Catholic life — with Jesus as a guide.

Jesus’ anger is always a righteous anger, never on behalf of himself, but in reaction to how he sees others being treated. Even as he is dying on the cross, he refuses to be angry with the Roman soldiers who have crucified him, choosing instead to pray for them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus’ anger is, in a word, unselfish and constructive, intent on doing something, effecting a change.

Those Catholics who are feeling angry today are, in the Christian worldview, feeling God’s anger. This is, as I see it, God’s primary way of acting in the world: through our human emotions. How else would God act, how else would God intervene, how else would God move to change things, other than to rouse in us a burning desire to upend the tables of the clerical culture and chase out all those who have defamed and abused the trust placed in them?

What can Catholics do? Listen to your anger. Let it inform you. Let it move you to act in whatever way you think will most protect children and root out the clerical rot that gave rise to these crimes. I can only suggest a few specific actions: Speak to your pastor, write to your bishop, express your anger to the Vatican’s nuncio in this country. Most of all, work in any way that you can for real change, even at the cost of being seen as a troublemaker.

But more important than my suggestions is what each Catholic feels moved to do.

Buried within one of the central texts of the Second Vatican Council, “Lumen Gentium” (“The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”), a document of the highest teaching authority, promulgated in 1964, is a vivid call to arms, addressed to laypeople. The laity are, the Second Vatican Council said, “by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church.”

Today their strong emotions should encourage them to follow the call of their church. In fact, their anger obliges them to do so.

James Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” and, most recently, “Building a Bridge.”

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Catholic Church Covered Up Child Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania for Decades

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Catholic Church Covered Up Child Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania for Decades, Grand Jury Says

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Victims of clerical sex abuse and their relatives reacted as Attorney General Josh Shapiro discussed the grand jury report at a news conference in Harrisburg. Credit Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, but those examined single dioceses or counties.

The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse, including a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a 17-year-old girl, forging a signature on a marriage certificate and then divorcing the girl.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

The grand jury added that the church officials named in their report have been protected, and some have been promoted. “Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal,” the jury wrote.

The report said that church officials followed a “playbook for concealing the truth:” minimize the abuse using words like “inappropriate contact” instead of “rape”; assign priests untrained in sexual abuse cases to investigate their colleagues; when removing an accused priest, don’t inform the community of the real reasons.

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[Read more about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury and the Roman Catholic Church]

“Tell his parishioners that he is on ‘sick leave,’ or suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion.’ Or say nothing at all,” the report said.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office conducted the investigation, said in a news conference, “They protected their institution at all costs. As the grand jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims.”

Victims expressed relief that the Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his agents had conducted the investigation, after the victims’ efforts to get church officials to take action went nowhere.

“I had gone to two bishops with allegations over five years, and they ignored and downplayed my allegations,” said the Rev. James Faluszczak, an Erie priest on extended leave who was abused as a child and who testified before the grand jury. “It’s that very management of secrets that has given cover to predators.”

In statements released on Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops called for prayers for victims and for the church, promised greater openness and said that measures instituted in recent years were already making the church safer.

“The Diocese of Erie will not shroud abusers in secrecy — no matter who they are or how long ago the abuse occurred,” Bishop Lawrence Persico said in a statement. “We acknowledge the abuses of the past and are committed to being transparent with our decisions going forward.”

There has been no comprehensive measurement of the full scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States, though somehave tried. American abuse survivors have pushed for years for the government to undertake an nationwide inquiry similar to the one conducted in Australia, where a royal commission spent four years examining the sexual abuse of children by a variety of religious and civic institutions, including the Catholic Church.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report comes as the sex abuse scandal in the church has reached a new stage, with calls to discipline bishops who sexually abused younger priests and seminarians, or who have covered up for abusive colleagues.

Catholics are calling for independent investigations into why Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, was advanced up the hierarchy despite warnings to his superiors in Rome and fellow bishops that he had molested seminarians and young priests. Cardinal McCarrick resigned in July over allegations of sexually abusing minors, but since then priests in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and seminarians in Boston and elsewhere have publicly accused their superiors of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct.

The Pennsylvania grand jury met for two years, reviewed 500,000 documents from dioceses’ secret archives heard testimony from dozens of victims and the bishop of Erie. The report covers the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Two of the dioceses — Greensburg and Harrisburg — tried to quash the grand jury investigation last year, but later backed off that stance.

No other state has seen more grand jury investigations of abuses in the church than Pennsylvania, where about one of every four residents is Catholic and the local attorneys general have been particularly responsive to victims. Previous grand juries examined the dioceses of Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown; the new report covers the rest of the state.

Grand Jury Report on Catholic Church Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania

The grand jury report is the government’s broadest look yet in the United States at child sexual abuse in the church.

The report lists each of the accused priests and documents how they were sent from parish to parish, and even sometimes out of state. The grand jury said that while the list is long, “we don’t think we got them all.” The report added, “We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse.”

Only two of the cases in the report have led to criminal charges; in the others, the statute of limitations had expired. .

In the Greensburg diocese, the Rev. John Sweeney was charged by the Attorney General’s office with sexually abusing a boy in the early 1990s. Father Sweeney pleaded guilty this month and awaits sentencing. In the Erie diocese, the Rev. David Poulson was arrested in May and charged with sexually assaulting a boy for eight years, starting at age eight. Father Poulson has yet to enter a plea.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature has so far resisted calls to lift the statute of limitations, which has prevented childhood victims from filing civil lawsuits against the church after they turn 30. For many victims, it has taken decades to gain the courage to speak about the abuse, long past when the law would allow them to sue.

The grand jury strongly recommended that the statute of limitations be extended in criminal cases. For civil lawsuits, they recommended opening a temporary “window” that would permit older victims to file suits against perpetrators, and the church.

The church has lobbied against any change to the statute or to open such a window, with its effort led by Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. But abuse survivors and advocates say that in September they plan to begin a fresh campaign to press lawmakers and Bishop Gainer to drop their opposition.

“If this doesn’t start a serious debate on the elimination of the statute of limitation, there’s something seriously wrong with my fellow Pennsylvanians,” said Shaun Dougherty, now 48, who testified before the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury about being abused by a priest for three years starting at age 10.

[Read these 5 shocking excerpts from the Pennsylvania grand jury report]

About two dozen people named in the report petitioned the court to have their names redacted from it.

In the news conference, Mr. Shapiro, the attorney general, described the “intense legal battle” that played out over the last several months as some people named in the report appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to block its release.

“They wanted to cover up the cover-up,” he said.

Mr. Shapiro said his office would continue to fight for a full version of the report to be released with no redactions.

One example of a cover-up detailed in the report concerns the Rev. Ernest Paone, a priest who was caught molesting young boys and using guns with even younger children in Pittsburgh. A fellow pastor intervened in 1962 to stop the police from arresting him. The district attorney at the time, Robert Masters, wrote to the diocese in 1964 to say that he had halted his investigation of the case “in order to prevent unfavorable publicity” for the diocese.

In testimony before the grand jury, Mr. Masters said that he had wanted the church’s support for his political career.

Father Paone was relocated successively to Los Angeles, San Diego and Reno in the following years, with Pittsburgh’s bishops attesting to his fitness as a priest. Among the bishops was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington. He accepted Father Paone’s resignation from ministry in good standing in 2003, allowing him to collect his pension.

Cardinal Wuerl released a letter to his priests on Monday, saying that while the grand jury report would be “critical of some of my actions, I believe the report also confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the survivors and to prevent future acts of abuse.”

The dioceses of Allentown, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton have pledged that once the grand jury report was released, they would release the names of all priests in their dioceses who are accused of sexually abusing minors. The Erie and Harrisburg dioceses have already posted lists of accused priests on their websites.

Bishop Gainer in Harrisburg recently ordered that the names of accused priests and of bishops who mishandled abuse cases be taken down from all church buildings in the diocese.

The report says that one of the victims who had testified before the grand jury tried to commit suicide while they were deliberating.

“From her hospital bed, she asked for one thing,” the grand jury wrote in the report, “that we finish our work and tell the world what really happened.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a priest in the Erie diocese who was arrested in May. He is the Rev. David Poulson, not Poulsson.