Trump’s Russia Admission Is No Mere Scandal. It’s a Betrayal.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BLOOMBERG NEWS AGENCY)

 

Trump’s Russia Admission Is No Mere Scandal. It’s a Betrayal.

Accepting help “to get information on an opponent” was an ugly and unpatriotic act.

So much for national loyalty.

Photographer: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

During a presidential campaign, accepting help from Russia “to get information on an opponent” is an ugly and unpatriotic act. It casts contempt on the countless people who have put their lives on the line for our republic and the principles for which it stands.

In 2007 and 2008, I was honored to work with the campaign of Senator Barack Obama as an occasional, informal adviser. I received plenty of ideas from friends, acquaintances and strangers about how to win the presidency.

No offers of help came from anyone associated with a foreign government. But if they had, my only question would have been this: Do I go directly to the FBI, or do I go to people in a higher position in the campaign, and ask them to go directly to the FBI?

Like many millions of Americans (Republicans and Democrats alike), I had long been hoping that the 2016 meeting at the Trump Tower, including Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer connected with the Kremlin, involved issues of adoption policy (as the White House previously told us).

Last weekend, President Donald Trump disclosed, “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent.”

Americans should never forget that the Soviet Union played a heroic and indispensable role in winning World War II. And Trump is right to insist that the United States has a keen interest in maintaining a peaceful, cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Russia.

But it should go without saying that the highest loyalty of any candidate, and any president, is to his nation, not to electoral victory. The Russian government has been working to weaken, undermine and destabilize our country.

No candidate for high office, and no presidential campaign, should even think about accepting Russia’s help “to get information on an opponent.”

This conclusion is not merely a matter of common sense. It is linked with the deepest fears of those who founded our nation. Many people are puzzled by the constitutional provision limiting eligibility for the presidency to “natural born” citizens. But it attests to the founders’ desire to ensure something they prized perhaps above all: loyalty.

In the decisive debates over the impeachment clause, James Madison pointed to the risk that a president “might betray his trust to foreign powers.” Focusing on the electoral process itself, George Mason asked, “Shall the man who has practised corruption & by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment?”

As far as I am aware, there is as yet no evidence that the meeting at Trump Tower had any effect on the 2016 election, or that the president knew about the meeting at the time. But here is a general principle: Successfully enlisting Russia’s help to procure the presidency would count as a high crime or misdemeanor within the meaning of the impeachment clause – whether or not it’s technically a crime within federal law.

But is it a federal crime? Federal law makes it unlawful “to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation . . . from a foreign national.” A contribution includes “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” Lawyers are now discussing, and disputing, whether “information on an opponent” counts as “anything of value.”

Let’s put the legal niceties to one side. In my view, it was reasonable for President Trump to say that as a matter of principle, professional athletes ought to show respect for the American flag and the national anthem. “E pluribus unum” is the motto on the nation’s seal. It dates from the period of the Revolutionary War.

Seeking Russia’s help, to get “information on an opponent,” is worse than a scandal. It is a betrayal.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Cass Sunstein at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at [email protected]

Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

CONGRESS

Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia

The South Carolina Republican chastised Trump for inviting Putin to Washington this fall.

Updated 

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy chastised Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that some members of the president’s administration should consider quitting if Trump won’t listen to their advice.

“The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday” of the Putin invitation, which the White House confirmed last week would be extended for the fall. “Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.”

The South Carolina Republican suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if Trump continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia.

That concern has dominated discourse in Washington since Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki last week, at which he spoke more harshly of the FBI than of Russia.

“It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy told host Bret Baier. “So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.”

Political commentators and Democratic lawmakers said after Trump’s news conference with Putin — in which he refused to side with the U.S. intelligence community on the issue of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and said he held both countries responsible for tensions — that advisers including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and national security adviser John Bolton should quit their posts.

But Republican lawmakers have been more hesitant to call for such a response from the president’s team.

Earlier this weekend, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman penned an op-ed for a Utah newspaper in which he said he would not resign, saying he felt he is very much needed in the role. And Coats said during a Thursday interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that the question of resigning was “a place I don’t really go to publicly.”

“As long as I’m able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I’m on board,” Coats said. After Trump indicated Monday that he did not believe Russia was responsible for hacking Democratic Party computers and other wrongdoing during the 2016 election, Coats defended American spies’ assessment that Moscow was to blame.

Gowdy struck a tone of admonishment Sunday on Trump’s refusal to side with the U.S. intelligence community — comments that the president later partially walked back.

“I’m glad he corrected it,” Gowdy said, “but when you’re the leader of the free world, every syllable matters.”

Still, Gowdy urged Trump to separate concerns about Russian interference from his frustration with the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that this president colluded, conspired, confederated with Russia,” he said. “And neither has anyone else, or you may rest assured Adam Schiff would have leaked it,” he said, referring to the Democratic congressman from California.

Congressional Democrats continued Sunday to be skeptical of the response of their Republican colleagues on the Russia issue.

“When it comes to defending the country, they’re not willing to follow through,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Others were just rather startled at the week’s whole turn of events.

“The fact that we have to question the integrity, the honesty and the loyalty of a commander in chief when it comes to dealing with Russia is a problem in and of itself,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) on CNN‘s “State of the Union.”

US cyber chief says Trump hasn’t told him to confront Russian cyber threat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

US cyber chief says Trump hasn’t told him to confront Russian cyber threat

NSA chief: Need authority to stop Russian cyber threat

NSA chief: Need authority to stop Russian cyber threat 01:45

Washington (CNN)US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers told lawmakers on Tuesday that he has not been granted the authority by President Donald Trump to disrupt Russian election hacking operations where they originate.

Asked by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed if he has been directed by the President, through the defense secretary, to confront Russian cyber operators at the source, Rogers said “no I have not” but noted that he has tried to work within the authority he maintains as a commander.
While he did not agree with Reed’s characterization that the US has been “sitting back and waiting,” Rogers admitted that it is fair to say that “we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors we are seeing” with regards to Russia.
“It has not changed the calculus or the behavior on behalf of the Russians,” Rogers said about the US response to Russia’s cyber threat to date.
“They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior,” he added.
Reed, D-Rhode Island, also asked FBI Director Christopher Wray, earlier this month whether the efforts to counter Russia’s election activities in 2018 had been directed by Trump.
“Not as specifically directed by the President,” Wray responded during a hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On Tuesday, Rogers reiterated that he still views Moscow as a threat to the 2018 elections, a stance that is consistent with what he and other top national security officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month.
“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats previously testified.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” he said.
But that conclusion appears at odds with Trump’s repeated dismissals of Russian election meddling.
Trump declared last week that “the facts” prove he’s been tougher on Russia than his predecessor, President Barack Obama but it is clear that is not the case — especially when it comes to punishing Russia for interfering in US elections.
Trump has yet to levy a single sanction to punish Russia for election interference, despite the fact that Congress almost unanimously passed legislation that took effect on January 29 requiring him to do so, and despite senior intelligence officials testifying that Russia is trying to disrupt the 2018 midterms.
Rogers clearly indicated on Tuesday that the US response to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election has been insufficient and has done little to deter ongoing attacks.
The NSA chief went on to tell lawmakers that the US is smart enough and strong enough to prevent Russian election hacking but admitted not enough is being done.
This article has been updated

Russians penetrated U.S. voter systems, says top U.S. official

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC)

(IT IS SIMPLE REALLY, ALL RUSSIA HAD TO DO WAS TO INFECT A FEW OF THE STATES THAT TRUMP WAS EXPECTED TO BE SOMEWHAT CLOSE IN THE VOTE TOTALS AND FLIP THE TOTALS, GIVING TRUMP THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTE, AND THE WIN THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DID NOT GIVE HIM, TIME IS GOING TO PROVE THIS CORRECT!)

Russians penetrated U.S. voter systems, says top U.S. official

The U.S. official in charge of protecting American elections from hacking says the Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, said she couldn’t talk about classified information publicly, but in 2016, “We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated.”

Jeh Johnson, who was DHS secretary during the Russian intrusions, said, “2016 was a wake-up call and now it’s incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again.”

Play

 DHS cybersecurity head: ‘No doubt’ Russians penetrated voter registration systems 0:26

Watch Cynthia McFadden on Nightly News tonight for more

“We were able to determine that the scanning and probing of voter registration databases was coming from the Russian government.”

NBC News reported in Sept. 2016 that more than 20 states had been targeted by the Russians.

There is no evidence that any of the registration rolls were altered in any fashion, according to U.S. officials.

In a new NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, 79 percent of the respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned that the country’s voting system might be vulnerable to computer hackers.

Image: Homeland Security Undersecretary Jeanette Manfra testifies

Homeland Security Undersecretary Jeanette Manfra testifies during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on June 21, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Alex Wong / Getty Images file

In January 2017, just weeks before leaving his post, Johnson declared the nation’s electoral systems part of the nation’s federally protected “critical infrastructure,” a designation that applies to entities like the power grid that could be attacked. It made protecting the electoral systems an official duty of DHS.

But Johnson told NBC News he is now worried that since the 2016 election a lot of states have done little to nothing “to actually harden their cybersecurity.”

Manfra said she didn’t agree with Johnson’s assessment. “I would say they have all taken it seriously.”

Play

 DHS cybersecurity head: ‘No doubt’ Russians penetrated voter registration systems 0:26

NBC News reached out to the 21 states that were targeted. Five states, including Texas and California, said they were never attacked.

Manfra said she stands by the list, but also called it a “snapshot in time with the visibility that the department had at that time.”

Image: Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson prepares to testify

Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, on June 30, 2016 in Washington. Allison Shelley / Getty Images file

Many of the states complained the federal government did not provide specific threat details, saying that information was classified and state officials did not have proper clearances. Manfra told us those clearances are now being processed

Other states that NBC contacted said they were still waiting for cybersecurity help from the federal government. Manfra said there was no waiting list and that DHS will get to everyone.

Some state officials had opposed Johnson’s designation of electoral systems as critical infrastructure, viewing it a federal intrusion. Johnson said that any state officials who don’t believe the federal government should be providing help are being “naive” and “irresponsible to the people that [they’re] supposed to serve.”

‘Putin List’: Putin’s Mafia Who Are Financially Raping The Russian People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

It’s been dubbed the “Putin list” — the names of 210 prominent Russians, many with close ties to the Kremlin, released by the US Treasury Department.

The list, which the US administration had been required by law to release, includes 114 senior political figures and 96 oligarchs, all of whom rose to prominence under Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The administration was required to name the companies and individuals and consider whether to sanction them under legislation meant to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 US election, as well as its human rights violations, annexation of Crimea and ongoing military operations in eastern Ukraine.
The list, which includes senior members of Putin’s Cabinet and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, reads like the US has “simply rewritten Kremlin’s phone book,” said Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev in a Facebook Post.
Here it is in full. (Note: Names, spellings and titles are those provided by the US Treasury Department.)

Senior Political Figures

Presidential Administration
1. Anton Vayno: Head, Presidential Administration
2. Aleksey Gromov: First Deputy Head, Presidential Administration
3. Sergey Kiriyenko: First Deputy Head, Presidential Administration
4. Magomedsalam Magomedov: Deputy Head, Presidential Administration
5. Vladimir Ostrovenko: Deputy Head, Presidential Administration
6. Dmitriy Peskov: Deputy lead, Presidential Administration; Presidential Press Secretary
7. Vladislav Kitayev: Chief of Presidential Protocol
8. Andrey Belousov: Aide to the President
9. Larisa Brycheva: Aide to the President
10. Vladislav Surkov: Aide to the President
11. Igor Levitin: Aide to the President
12. Vladimir Kozhin: Aide to the President
13. Yuriy Ushakov: Aide to the President
14. Andrey Fursenko: Aide to the President
15. N ikolay Tsukanov: Aide to the President
16. Konstantin Chuychenko: Aide to the President
17. Yevgeniy Shkolov: Aide to the President
18. Igor Shchegolev: Aide to the President
19. Aleksandr Bedritskiy: Adviser to the President, Special Presidential Representative on Climate Issues
20. Sergey Glazyev: Adviser to the President
21. Sergey Grigorov: Adviser to the President
22. German Klimenko: Adviser to the President
23. Anton Kobyakov: Adviser to the President
24. Aleksandra Levitskaya: Adviser to the President
25. Vladimir Tolstoy: Adviser to the President
26. Mikhail Fedotov: Adviser to the President, Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
27. Venyamin Yakovlev: Adviser to the President
28. Artur Muravyev: Presidential Envoy to the Federation Council
29. Garry Minkh: Presidential Envoy to the State Duma
30. Mikhail Krotov: Presidential Envoy to the Constitutional Court
31. Anna Kuznetsova: Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights
32. Boris Titov: Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights
33. Mikhail Babich: Plenipotentiary Representative to the Volga Federal District
34. Aleksandr Beglov: Plenipotentiary Representative to the Northwestern Federal District
35. Oleg Belaventsev: Plenipotentiary Representative to the North Caucasus Federal District
36. Aleksey Gordeyev: Plenipotentiary Representative to the Central Federal District
37. Sergey Menyaylo: Plenipotentiary Representative to the Siberian Federal District
38. Yuriy Trutnev: Deputy Prime Minister, Plenipotentiary Representative to the Far Eastern Federal District
39. Vladimir Ustinov: Plenipotentiary Representative to the Southern Federal District
40. Igor Kholrnanskikh: Plenipotentiary Representative to the Urals Federal District
41. Aleksandr Manzhosin: Head, Foreign Policy Directorate
42. Vladimir Chemov: Head, Directorate for Interregional and Cultural Ties to Foreign Countries
43. Oleg Govorun: Head, Directorate for Social and Economic Relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia
Cabinet Ministers
44. Drnitriy Medvedev: Prime Minister
45. Igor Shuvalov: First Deputy Prime Minister
46. Sergey Prikhodko: Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Government Apparatus
47. Aleksandr Khloponin: Deputy Prime Minister
48. Vitaliy Mutko: Deputy Prime Minister
49. Arkadiy Dvorkovich: Deputy Prime Minister
50. Olga Golodets: Deputy Prime Minister
51. Dmitriy Kozak: Deputy Prime Minister
52. Drnitriy Rogozin: Deputy Prime Minister
53. Mikhail Abyzov: Minister for Liaison with Open Government
54. Aleksandr Tkachev: Minister of Agriculture
55. Vladimir Puchkov: Minister of Civil Defense, Emergencies, and Natural Disasters
56. Nikolay Nikiforov: Minister of Communications and Mass Media
57. Mikhail Men: Minister of Construction, Housing, and Public Utilities
58. Vladimir Medinskiy: Minister of Culture
59. Sergey Shoygu: Minister of Defense
60. Maksim Oreshkin: Minister of Economic Development
61. Olga Vasilyeva: Minister of Education and Science
62. Aleksandr Novak: Minister of Energy
63. Aleksandr Galushka: Minister of Far East Development
64. Anton Siluanov: Minister of Finance
65. Sergey Lavrov: Minister of Foreign Affairs
66. Veronika Skvortsova: Minister of Health
67. Denis Manturov: Minister of Industry and Trade
68. Vladimir Kolokoltsev: Minister of Internal Affairs
69. Aleksandr Konovalov: Minister of Justice
70. Maksim Topilin: Minister of Labor and Social Protection
71. Sergey Donskoy: Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology
72. Lev Kuznetsov: Minister of North Caucasus Affairs
73. Pavel Kolobkov: Minister of Sports
74. Maksim Sokolov: Minister of Transportation
Other senior political leaders
75. Valentina Matviyenko: Chairwoman, Federation Council
76. Sergey Naryshkin: Director, Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR)
77. Vyacheslav Volodin: Chairman, State Duma
78. Sergey Ivanov: Presidential Special Representative for the Environment, Ecology, and Transport
79. Nikolay Patrushev: Secretary, Security Council
80. Vladimir Bulavin: Head, Federal Customs Service
81. Valery Gerasimov: First Deputy Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff
82. Igor Korobov: Chief, Main Intelligence Directorate General Staff (GRU), Ministry of Defense
83. Rashid Nurgaliyev: Deputy Secretary, Security Council
84. Georgiy Poltavchenko: Governor of Saint Petersburg
85. Sergey Sobyanin: Mayor of Moscow
86. Yuriy Cbayka: Prosecutor General
87. Aleksandr Bastrykin: Head, Investigative Committee
88. Viktor Zolotov: Director, Federal National Guard Service
89. Dmitriy Kochnev: Director, Federal Protection Service
90. Aleksandr Bortnikov: Director, Federal Security Service (FSB)
91. Audrey Artizov: Head, Federal Archive Agency
92. Yuriy Chikhanchin: Head, Financial Monitoring Federal Service
93. Aleksandr Linets: Head, Presidential Main Directorate for Special Programs
94. Aleksandr Kolpakov: Head, Presidential Property Management Directorate
95. Valeriy Tikhonov: Head, State Courier Service
96. Aleksey Miller: Chief Executive Officer, Gazprom
97. Igor Sechin: Chief Executive Officer, Rosneft
98. German Gref: Chief Executive Officer, Sberbank
99. Oleg Belozerov: General Director, Russian Railways
100. Andrey Kostin: Chainnan Management Board, VTB
101. Sergey Chemezov: Chief Executive Officer, Rostec
102. Oleg Budargin: Chief Executive Officer, Rosseti
103. Boris Kovalchuk: Chief Executive Officer, Inter RAO
104. Aleksey Likhachcv: General Director, Rosatom
105. Nikolay Tokarev: Chief Executive Officer, Transneft
106. Andrey Akimov: Chief Executive Officer, Gazprombank
107. Nail Maganov: General Director, Tatneft
108. Vitaliy Savelyev: Chief Executive Officer, Aeroflot
109. Andrey Shishkin: Chief Executive Officer, ANK Bashneft
110. Ymiy Slyusar: Chief Executive Officer, United Aircraft Corporation
111. Nikolay Shulginov: Chief Executive Officer, RusHydro
112. Sergey Gorkov: Chief Executive Officer, Vneshekonombank
113. Sergey Ivanov (Jr): Chief Executive Officer, ALROSA
114. Roman Dashkov: Chief Executive Officer, Sakhalin Energy

Oligarchs

The US State Department defined oligarchs as individuals with an estimated net worth of $1 billion or more.
1. Aleksandr Abramov
2. Roman Abramovich
3. Aras Agalarov
4. Farkhad Akhmedov
5. Vagit Alekperov
6. Igor Altushkin
7. Aleksey Ananyev
8. Dmitry Ananyev
9. Vasiliy Anisimov
10. Roman Avdeyev
11. Petr Aven
12. Yelena Baturina
13. Aleksey Bogachev
14. Vladimir Bogdanov
15. Leonid Boguslavskiy
16. Audrey Bokarev
17. Oleg Boyko
18. Nikolay Buynov
19. Oleg Deripaska
20. Aleksandr Dzhaparidze
21. Leonid Fedun
22. Gleb Fetisov
23. Mikhail Fridman
24. Aleksandr Frolov
25. Filaret Galchev
26. Sergey Galitskiy
27. Valentin Gapontsev
28. Sergey Gordeyev
29. Andrey Guryev
30. Yuriy Gushchin
31. Mikhail Gutseriyev
32. Sait-Salam Gutseriyev
33. Zarakb Iliyev
34. Dmitriy Kamenshchik
35. Vyacheslav Kantor
36. Sanwel Karapetyan
37. Yevgeniy Kasperskiy
38. Sergey Katsiyev
39. Suleyman Kerimov
40. Igor Kesayev
41. Danil Khachatmov
42. German Khan
43. Viktor Kharitonin
44. Aleksandr Klyachin
45. Petr Kondrashev
46. Andrey Kosogov
47. Yuriy Kovalchuk
48. Andrey Kozitsyn
49. Aleksey Kuzmichev
50. Lev Kvetnoy
51. Vladimir Lisin
52. Anatoliy Lomakin
53. Ziyavudin Magornedov
54. Igor Makarov
55. Iskander Makhmudov
56. Aleksandr Mamut
57. Andrey Melnichenko
58. Leonid Mikhelson
59. Yuriy Milner
60. Boris Mints
61. Andrey Molchanov
62. Aleksey Mordashov
63. Vadim Moshkovich
64. Aleksandr Nesis
65. God Nisanov
66. Aleksandr Ponomarenko
67. Sergcy Popov
68. Vladimir Potanin
69. Mikhail Prokhorov
70. Dmitriy Pumpyanskiy
71. Megdet Rakhimkulov
72. Andrey Rappoport
73. Viktor Rashnikov
74. Arkadiy Rotenberg
75. Boris Rotenberg
76. Dmitriy Rybolovlev
77. Ayrat Shaymiyev
78. Radik Shaymiyev
79. Kirill Shamalov
80. Yuriy Sheller
81. Albert Shigabutdinov
82. Mikhail Shishkhanov
83. Leonid Simanovskiy
84. Audrey Skoch
85. Aleksandr Skorobogatko
86. Rustem Sulteyev
87. Aleksandr Svetakov
88. Gennadiy Timchenko
89. Oleg Tinkov
90. Roman Trotsenko
91. Alisher Usmanov
92. Viktor Vekselberg
93. Arkadiy Volozh
94. Vadim Yakunin
95. Vladimir Yevtushenkov
96. Gavril Yushvayev

Yes The Russian Threat To Your Freedom Is Real—And It Matters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)The Russians are coming! Except they aren’t. Though they already have a bit. And they might well be coming a bit more soon.

This is how very bad things happen.
The threat posed by Russia to Western interests is unlike anything seen since the 1990s. It has forces or proxies deployed in Syria, Ukraine and, don’t forget, parts of what’s still called Georgia. There is smoke, but there is also fire and daily there is a lot of fuel being added.
Dutch state media revealed this week that Dutch cyber spies — the Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU) — were able to hack into the closed-circuit television of the building where a Russian hacking organization known as Cozy Bear worked, and observe them coming and going from offices where they hacked the Democratic National Committee in the US. The Dutch told the Americans, touching off the US investigations. According to the Dutch, the Americans then helpfully told the media they were tipped off by a Western intelligence agency, prompting the Russians to turn off the Cozy Bear CCTV hack.

A Ukrainian serviceman shoots with a grenade launcher during fighting with pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Ukraine.

There was also a shrill warning from new UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson, who, amid a budget row and internal leadership posturing, chose Friday to unleash a barrage of concerns about “thousands and thousands and thousands” — yes, that many — deaths that Russia could cause in Britain, if it successfully hacked the electricity grid.
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Williamson told the Daily Telegraph: “Why would they [the Russians] keep photographing and looking at power stations, why are they looking at the interconnectors that bring so much electricity and so much energy into our country? They are looking at these things because they are saying, ‘These are the ways we can hurt Britain.'” His officials have also alleged Russia may target the transatlantic cables that ferry the internet to the UK.
These new claims were met with the now-predictable Russian derision. Russian defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Williamson had “lost understanding of what is reasonable in his fierce fight for the banknotes in the military budget,” and that his “phobia” belonged in “children’s comic books” or an episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov dubbed the Dutch report “anti-Russian hysteria,” saying “if the Dutch newspapers want to supply the coal to the furnace of anti-Russian hysteria which is currently takes place in America, well… let’s say it’s not the most noble thing to do.”

‘All decorum has been cast aside’

Russophobia is a familiar and disturbing theme. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently called it “unprecedented.”
“We never saw this during the Cold War. Back then, there were some rules, some decorum… Now, all decorum has been cast aside,” Lavrov told Russian daily Kommersant in an interview published on January 21.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives his annual press conference in Moscow on January 15, 2018.

Some Russian state rhetoric is designed to paint a picture of an outside world that hysterically harnesses fear of a resurgent Russia, when really the country means no harm. It is designed to try and distance Russians from an outside world they can increasingly see, even if only through the slanted prism of Russian state media.
The xenophobia, homophobia and sometimes outright racism that has grown in Russian society also stem from the idea of a people — a narod — under threat. Russophobia, that argument goes, happens because “they want us gone, but also because they fear us, as we refuse to lie down.” I saw it in the eyes and anger of many ethnic Russians embattled in eastern Ukraine. They felt abandoned, scorned, left outside the rest of Ukraine, and had to turn to Russia to protect their Russianness.
Some of Russia’s urban elite has seen too much of the outside world to buy this reductive message. But its nationalists and beholden state employees embrace it, and much of rural Russia hasn’t seen the glittering globe beyond. Life remains tough there, with even state figures accepting that just under 14% of Russians live below “the minimum cost of living,” according to Tass.
Into this narrative of “them and us” come these increasingly vociferous Western claims of the Russian threat. In the partisan fury of US or UK politics, it is hard to know at times whether Russia did ingeniously undermine the entire US electoral process and infiltrate Team Trump, or just ended up having clumsy hackers steal some emails, and allow some of its sympathizers to get too close to some of Trump’s less savvy or wholesome staff.
It is hard to know, with Russian-backed tanks still in Donetsk and jets in Syria, whether we are seeing an expansionist Moscow intent on soon probing the Baltic states or switching off the lights in London, or a nervous Russia that is just checking threats it sees in its near abroad.

Red Square in Moscow. Russians see the West through the prism of state-run media.

The most troubling point is that the distinction doesn’t really matter. This perception of Russophobia (or a real Russian threat) is either what the Kremlin wants, to justify its more aggressive schemes, or it is what the Kremlin feels it has to respond to, as to not appear weak.
Vladimir Putin has long surrounded himself not with tech-age visionaries, but with men who stem from the same age as him, a period he called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” — the fall of the Soviet empire. He still feels it personally, wishes to see the shift in power partially redressed and must surely be bemused at how the US public has elected a president so capable of diminishing US influence the world over.
The Kremlin takes things personally. It may seem disproportionate to the slight, but not when compared with the extraordinary suffering of the Soviet era and the brutal collapse of the 1990s. But by recognizing Russia as the threat it increasingly shows itself to be, Western figures are also ensuring Moscow has little choice but to fulfill the prophecy.

Manafort indictment, Papadopoulos guilty plea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITIFACT)

 

What you need to know about Manafort indictment, Papadopoulos guilty plea

  
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The special counsel’s investigation into possible ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia escalated dramatically with news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate were indicted on a dozen felony counts, including money laundering.

Separately, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI about outreach efforts to Russian government officials.

These mark the most significant developments to date in special counsel Robert Mueller’s five-month-old investigation. Here’s what you need to know.

The charges against Manafort and Gates

The 12 charges against Manafort and Gates fall broadly into three categories: failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities, financial crimes and making false statements. (They pleaded not guilty to all charges.)

The first group of charges relates to their work on behalf of Ukraine, for which they’re charged with failing to fully and accurately disclose their activities as foreign agents.

Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates made tens of millions of dollars lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and the man who led it into power, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

But according to the indictment, from roughly 2008 through 2014, Manafort and Gates did not register with the U.S. attorney general as agents working on behalf of Ukrainian interests, as required by law. A separate count alleges they made false and misleading statements about their activities.

The second group of charges relates to financial crimes, including money laundering.

In order to hide the money from the U.S. government, the indictment states, Manafort and Gates “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and back accounts.” Manafort and Gates also stand accused of failing to report financial interests held overseas.

Finally, one count alleges that Manafort and Gates made false statements on their submissions to the U.S. Justice Department.

Why what they’re charged with is criminal

Manafort and Gates have been charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, for failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of foreign entities. Congress passed this law in 1938 amid worries that foreign governments would try to infiltrate the United States.

The law requires agents of foreign interests to register with the Justice Department and outline the terms of their agreement, as well as income and expenditures on behalf of the foreign interest, and updating their disclosure every six months.

“Lawmakers wanted to create barriers to infiltration and to expose hidden foreign lobbying on questionable positions that don’t focus on ‘patriotic purposes,’ ” said Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham Law School.

Shugerman said there are longstanding statutes on the books that outlaw money laundering and that require disclosure of foreign assets and bank accounts. He said money laundering laws have been rewritten through the years to create a new tool to combat organized crime and those who assist it.

Statutes that make it illegal to provide false statements date back to before the Civil War, he said.

Shugerman noted that a person does not need to be under oath when they make a false statement to the FBI in order to violate the law. That makes the law broader than perjury laws, which makes it illegal to tell untruths in a judicial proceeding after a witness has sworn an oath.

What Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to

In a separate development, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI.

Papadopoulos misled the bureau about the timing of his involvement with the campaign, as well as the significance of interactions he had with people he understood to be connected to Russian government officials.

According to the court filing, Papadopoulos falsely told the FBI that he was not part of the Trump campaign when a person described as an “overseas professor” told him that Russians possessed “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” In fact, Papadopoulos learned of the “dirt” in late April 2016, more than a month after signing on as a Trump adviser.

Papadopoulos also falsely downplayed the significance of his interactions with the professor. In his interview with the FBI, he dismissed the professor as “a nothing,” that he thought the professor was “just a guy talk(ing) up connections or something,” and believed he was “BS’ing to be completely honest with you.”

But according to the court filing, Papadopoulos “understood the professor to have substantial connections to high-level Russian government officials,” including officials in Moscow.

Papadopoulos also failed to disclose to the FBI that the professor had introduced him to someone in Moscow with a purported connection to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also misled the FBI about the timing and significance of his meeting with a female Russian national who he mistakenly believed was related to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

How it affects or didn’t affect 2016 election

There’s no direct evidence of collusion or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in the Manafort and Gates indictment, Shugerman said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized this point during a briefing with reporters.

“We’ve been saying from day one, there’s been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all,” she said.

Sanders said of Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, “it has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign, it has to do with his failure to tell the truth. It doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign’s activities.”

But the revelations contained in the Papadopolous court filing are less easily dismissed.

Papadopoulos learned in early March 2016 that he would be an adviser to the Trump campaign on foreign policy, and that one of the campaign’s principal goals was to improve U.S.-Russian relations.

It was after joining the campaign that he cultivated relationships he would try to use to broker an overseas meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials. According to the court filing, the proposed trip never took place.

But Papadopolous’ repeated outreach efforts are sure to raise more questions of collusion, particularly in light of the fact that Donald Trump Jr. accepted a meetingduring the campaign that was predicated on the promise that a “Russian government attorney” would deliver damaging information to him about his father’s Democratic opponent as part of the Kremlin’s effort to tip the scales in Trump’s favor.

Papadopoulos’ guilty plea is the result of a negotiated resolution between the defendant and the Justice Department, said Andrew D. Leipold, law professor at University of Illinois College of Law.

But Leipold said it’s unclear what the terms of the agreement were, including the extent to which the deal was made in exchange for future or past cooperation.

While it’s not clear exactly what Papadopoulos’ guilty plea means, it contains “all kinds of tea leaves and hints about what’s coming next,” said Shugerman.

He believes it’s no coincidence that it was revealed just after Manafort’s indictment, and said it puts additional pressure on Manafort to cooperate with the special counsel.

“It triggers the isolation of Manafort, who realizes how much jeopardy he’s in,” Shugerman said.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders
White House Press Secretary
Sarah Huckabee Sanders said George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea “doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign’s activities.”

Cory Lewandowski Thinks If Paul Manafort Colluded With Russia He Should Go To Jail For Life

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWS)

Lewandowski: Manafort should go to jail for the rest of his life if he colluded

President Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said this week that, if anyone on Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election, they should “go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

“I think if anybody, and I’ve said this, if Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate – through collusion, coordination or cooperation – I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowski said at George Washington University on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.

“It’s very simple. Our election process is too serious, our democracy is too important to allow people to try and try and have influence from the outside for their own gain,” he added.

Lewandowski’s comments came after CNN reported Tuesday that investigators had wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, before and after the 2016 election.

According to the CNN report, the government obtained a warrant to wiretap Manafort in 2014. That warrant expired in 2016, but the FBI obtained a new one that ended in early 2017, during a period when Manafort was in contact with Trump.

Investigators were reportedly concerned that the intelligence included communications that Manafort may have encouraged the Russians to help influence the 2016 election, though two unnamed sources familiar with the matter cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

Manafort has emerged as a key figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Mueller’s team has taken a series of aggressive actions against Manafort in recent months. In July, for example, the FBI conducted an early-morning raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Va. home. Mueller has also subpoenaed the former campaign chairman’s personal spokesman and former attorney.

Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination between his campaign and Russian officials, and has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Lewandowski reportedly defended Trump during his appearance at GWU on Tuesday, saying that, while he was on the real estate mogul’s campaign, he never witnessed anything that would suggest coordination with the Russians.

“Never ever ever ever did I hear him say, utter, insinuate anything to do with Russia,” Lewandowski said, according to the Examiner. “He never instructed me or anybody in my immediate presence to ever be involved with Russia, never mentioned Russia collusion, coordination, cooperation, or anything of that nature ever.”

Russian politician: US spies slept while Russia elected Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Russian politician: US spies slept while Russia elected Trump

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian parliament, made the snarky comment
  • Nikonov’s tone suggests that the remarks were made in jest

Washington (CNN)A Russian politician appeared to mock the US intelligence community in a recent television appearance, saying American spies “slept through while Russia elected a new US president.”

Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, made the snarky reference to Russian interference in the 2016 US election on Sunday during a weekly political show called “Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov.”
“(To achieve world dominance) the US overextended themselves,” Nikonov said. “Because the most recent tendencies, economical, military, even tendencies in the intelligence (services) which slept through while Russia elected a new US president.”
“It’s just ridiculous, what kind of intelligence in the USA one can even talk about?” he added. “The US sagged in all these aspects for the past two decades. This superpower is losing its ability to define the world.”
The comments were first noticed by Julia Davis, who runs a website that is largely critical of Russian media called “Russia Lies.”
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While Nikonov’s tone suggests that the remarks were made in jest for the purpose of arguing the point that American power in the world was declining, his jab at US intelligence services comes amid several ongoing investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, including a probe into alleged collusion with members of the Trump campaign.
The US government publicly announced in October that it was “confident” Russia orchestrated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the lead-up to the election.
And in January, days before President Donald Trump took office, the US intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at hurting Trump’s rival, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump has branded the investigation the “single greatest witch hunt” in political history and consistently questioned the intelligence community’s findings well into his presidency.
Since the election, Trump has appeared to view suggestions of Russian meddling as a Democratic effort to de-legitimize his election win, even though the intelligence community did not conclude that Russian efforts made a difference in the election result.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in any attempts to influence last year’s US Presidential election.
When asked directly whether Russia interfered in the election, Putin said in March: “Read my lips: No.” He also described the allegations as “fictional, illusory, provocations and lies.”
At a June economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin compared accusations of Russian meddling in the US election to anti-Semitism and labeled the reports of then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s meetings with Trump associates as “hysteria,” saying the envoy was simply doing what he’s paid to do.
In March, CNN reported that Kislyak is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, citing senior US government officials. Russia’s Foreign Ministry strongly rejected the allegations.
Kislyak downplayed his contact with members of the Trump campaign in an exclusive interview with CNN last month, calling allegations that he worked as a spymaster and tried to recruit people within Trump’s orbit “nonsense.”

“Russia Has Never Denied Israels Rights To Jerusalem, The Temple Mount Or The Western Wall”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JERUSALEM POST)    (THIS IS A RE-POST FROM 11-06-2016 HAS ANYTHING REALLY CHANGED)

Moscow has never denied Israel’s rights to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said in advance of his visit to the Jewish state later this week.

“These rights are clear and it would be absurd to deny them,” he told Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levy.

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He spoke warmly of Russia’s ties with Israel, despite Moscow’s votes against the Jewish state at the United Nations and its delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran.


Benjamin Netanyahu Dimitry Medvedev. (Photo credit: RIA NOVOSTI / REUTERS)

Levy quizzed him about those controversial issues as well as his support for Syrian President Basher Assad and charges that his country had intervened in the US elections.

How does Russia explain its support of the UNESCO vote “to disregard the historic connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” Levy asked Medvedev.

The issue had been blown out of proportion, he responded speaking in Russian, with a Hebrew translation by Channel 2.

There have been some ten votes by UNESCO Boards and Committees on such Jerusalem resolutions, Medvedev said.

“There is nothing new here,” he said, as he dismissed the significance of UNESCO texts that refer to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al Haram Al Sharif.

“Our country has never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall,” Medvedev said.

“Therefore there is no need to politicize this decision,” Medvedev said, adding that such resolutions, were “not directed against Israel.”

Similarly, he said, there was nothing contradictory in Russia’s sale and shipment of the advanced S-300 advanced surface to air missile defense system to Iran.

Israel had opposed such sales because they significantly upgrade Iran’s ability to defend its nuclear sites against any attacks. It is particularly concerned because it does not believe that the Iran deal, put in place in 2015, will limit Tehran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

Medvedev told Channel 2 that prior to the Iran deal, Russia respected the sanctions against Tehran and refrained from delivering the S-300. Now that the deal is in place and the sanctions were lifted, there was no reason not to complete the sale, he said.

Moving over to Syria, he referred to President Bashar Assad as the country’s only legitimate leader and added that Israel’s leadership preferred his rule to the prospect of a divided country under terrorist leadership.

“I know him (Assad) personally. There are those who love him and those who don’t. At present Assad is the only legitimate authority operating in Syria. Any regime change would have to occur legitimately,” Medvedev said.

“I remember that during my meetings with Israeli leaders, they told me they were not completely for Assad, but that there has to be someone in charge of the situation, rather than an uncontrolled break up of the country into enclaves ruled by terrorists,” Medvedev said.

Middle East terrorism, he said, is threatening his country from within.

“There are thousands of Russians fighting on behalf of ISIS and other Islamic Jihadist groups,” Medvedev said. “When they return they are experienced murders and terrorists. After their time fighting in Syria we don’t want them to organize something similar [within Russia],” he said.

Levy asked how the presence of the Russian air force in Syria impacted Israel’s ability to prevent the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

Medvedev said that it was operating from the assumption that “all sides would not take steps to aggravate the conflict.”

With regard to the United States, he charged that it had not kept its commitments in Syria and that the relationship between Washington and Moscow was at a very low point.

Medvedev chuckled when Levy asked him if Russia had interfered with the US elections.

He quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he stated that “the United States is not a banana republic.”

The US, he said, was a large and strong country and could not be influenced in that way. “It doesn’t matter who will be elected, but what policy they will execute,” he said.

“Its clear [that either candidate] will act in the best national interest of the US,” Medvedev said.

He called Republican candidate Donald Trump brilliant and said he had never met him. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said, was professional and known to him from the times he met with her when she was US Secretary of State from 2009-2012.

Russia expects to have a “normal” and “productive” relationship with whichever of the two candidates wins the White House, Medvedev said.

With regard to the Russian initiative to hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Presdient Mahmoud Abbas, Medvedev said that Moscow was not looking to replace the United States or anyone else when it comes to the peace process.

On the other hand, he said, there are very discouraging signs with regard to that conflict and there have been no advancements to speak of on the Israeli-Palestinian track over the last few years.

“It’s very sad,” he said.

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