DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INDICTS YAHOO! HACKERS
The Department of Justice indicted two Russian spies, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, his boss, and two criminal hackers, Alexey Belan and Karim Baratov, for the massive breach of data at Yahoo! in 2014 that effected 500 million user accounts. The Department of Justice’s charges against the FSB agents and hackers include “hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage,” according to American officials. The New York Times reports the information gleaned from the hack was used “to spy on a range of targets, from White House and military officials to executives at banks, two American cloud computing companies, an airline and even a gambling regulator in Nevada”. According to The Washington Post, Dokuchaev, online alias “Forb,” was arrested in December on charges of passing information to the CIA. Baratov, the hacker, was arrested in Canada on Tuesday. Belan, the other hacker, “had been indicted twice before for three intrusions into American e-commerce companies,” The New York Times reports. The charges are not related to the Russian hacking of the 2016 election, more like a reminder of capabilities, methodology and agility. While hackers sought criminal enterprise in attacking nearly half a billion accounts, according to The Washington Post the FSB “allegedly sought the information for intelligence purposes, targeting journalists, dissidents and U.S. government officials,” just like the old KGB. The FBI long suspected collaboration between the Russian state and hackers, but “this case is among the first in which evidence is offered to show that,” according to The Washington Post. A Russian Embassy spokesman pointed a reporter from The New York Times to state-run propaganda outlet Sputnik for Moscow’s official response.
FLYNN INVESTIGATED BY FBI SINCE DECEMBER
BuzzFeed reports that ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has been under investigation by the FBI since December, citing a senior U.S. intelligence official. The FBI investigation was reportedly winding down and closing up when Flynn picked up the phone FIVE times to talk to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the same day Obama announced sanctions against Russia for hacking interference in the 2016 election.
FBI BRIEFS SENATORS ON INTEL COMMITTEE
FBI Director James Comey briefed senators on the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday. The closed-door session took place with Senators Chuck Grassley, Dianne Feinstein and Mark Warner. All three were “tightlipped leaving the meeting,” according to The Hill. “This briefing was all on sensitive matters and highly classified, and it’s really not anything that we can answer any questions about,” Feinstein said. U.S. News and World Report said the meeting lasted nearly an hour.
MONDAY MADNESS WITH FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY
FBI Director James Comey is set to testify publicly Monday on the Hill before the House intelligence committee concerning Russian hacking of the 2016 election.
SENATOR GRASSLEY ACCUSES DOJ OF “LYING OUTRIGHT”
Senator Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the Department of Justice of “lying outright when they promised to share information about ongoing department probes with lawmakers conducting oversight.” Grassley’s outrage was palpable as he told The Washington Post “screaming into the phone,” that ““Every time they come up here for their nomination hearing . . . I ask them: ‘Are you going to answer phone calls and our letters, and are you going to give us the documents we want?’ And every time we get a real positive ‘yes!’ And then they end up being liars!” In retaliation, he is threatening to block the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein, nominated to be Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ deputy. The problem with this strategy is “Delaying Rosenstein from starting his job could end up hurting those looking to get to the bottom of allegations about Russia.”
From The Washington Post.
KAINE EXPECTS INVESTIGATION ANNOUNCEMENT
Senator Tim Kaine (who was Hillary’s running mate for Vice-President) said Wednesday that he expects the FBI to announce “possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, transition and administration.” That would be the holy trinity for certain. According to The Hill, Kaine made the statements to CNN and “stressed that the investigation must look into whether the White House is connected to Russia.” During the campaign, Kaine was critical of Trump’s connections with Russia.
From The Hill.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
Bloomberg takes a long look at the post-Soviet condo owners who flocked to Trump Tower in the 1990s, looking for a safe place for their money given the chaos and upheaval of the time in the fragmenting empire. Their story begins with a simple list hinting at shady characters, “On the 78th floor: a Russian who once was accused of mob ties and extortion by an oligarch. On the 79th, an Uzbek jeweler investigated for money laundering who was eventually executed on the street in Manhattan. And four floors higher, a pro-Moscow Ukrainian politician whose party hired a Donald Trump adviser.” “Trump’s soft spot for Russia” is described as “an ongoing mystery,” but in following the money, we might get some clues. While the most expensive, top floors were not sold for many years, “a third of units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability companies connected to Russia and neighboring states,” according to Bloomberg. Both Kellyanne Conway and Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, bought units in the nineties, and Cohen even encouraged his Ukrainian in-laws to do the same. A Ukrainian immigrant named Sam Kislin “issued mortgages to buyers of multi-million dollar apartments” in Trump World Tower at 845 UN Plaza (distinct from Trump Tower which is on Fifth Avenue), which became “a prominent depository of Russian money.” Curiously, the Trump World Tower loans are the only such loans Kislin ever issued in New York, according to Bloomberg. In the eighties, Trump bought 200 TVs from Kislin for the Commodore Hotel, which he bought from the Hyatt Corporation. The TVs came from a store that Kislin had opened in Manhattan with Tamir Sapir, a Georgian immigrant, and the store became “famous among Soviets who would buy VHS players and tape recorders to take back home.” Sapir traded in Russian oil as well, growing rich in the process, investing in New York real estate and “eventually becoming one of Trump’s development partners in Trump SoHo” before dying in 2014. Kislin became a Giuliani fundraiser who dodged charges as he was investigated by the “FBI in the 1990s for allegations including mob ties and laundering money from Russia”; “he maintains his innocence.” Kislin provided a mortgage to “Vasily Salygin, a future official of the Ukrainian Party of Regions linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin” whose “time in office overlapped with Paul Manafort’s tenure as an adviser to the party.” Another interesting purchaser is “Eduard Nektalov, an Uzbekistan-born diamond dealer, purchased a 79th-floor unit directly below Conway’s for $1.6 million in July 2003.” He was investigated for money laundering around a Colombian gold smuggling operation. He sold his unit for a half a million dollars profit one month after his purchase and was later gunned down in Manhattan.
SMELLS LIKE SHIT
The New York Daily News gives us a potent lede: “He’s the tsar of fertilizer — and his relationship with President Trump doesn’t smell quite right.” He is Russian oligarch Dmitri Rybolovlev and the 12th richest man in Russia, even if he spends most of his time in Monaco these days. Trump’s ties to him “are drawing new attention amid speculation that the tycoons may have an undisclosed secret alliance.” Great! We needed more secrets involving Russians and their money in our politics! Just when you thought there was not enough we learn that Rybolovlev’s yacht was anchored near Trump and Cambridge Analytica financier Robert Mercer’s yacht in the British Virgins Islands last Friday, according to reports in The Palm Beach Post. Then there are those reports about Rybolovlev’s jet and Trump’s jet parked near each other in North Carolina while Trump was on the trail there during the election. There is the 2008 purchase of Trump’s Florida mansion for double what Trump paid for it. Then there is the colorful: in 1996, Rybolovlev was accused of trying to kill his former business partner and spent nearly a year in jail for it but the charges were later dropped, according to The New York Daily News. He was also the largest shareholder of the Bank of Cyprus but lost $600 million with the banking collapse there according to a New York Times report cited. In 2014, he settled with his ex-wife for $4.8 billion “one of the largest in history”. Yes, he’s a suitable character for Trumpworld and will help sell papers. We will keep him in our politics for now!
From The New York Daily News.
JOHN McCAIN SAYS RAND PAUL “WORKING FOR VLADIMIR PUTIN”
Senator John McCain has had it with quislings! CBS NEWS reports on Wednesday, McCain accused “the senator from Kentucky,” so Rand Paul, of “working for Vladimir Putin”. The accusation was leveled as McCain spoke in support of a “unanimous consent request” concerning Montenegro’s ascension to NATO, a move opposed by the non-interventionist Rand Paul. McCain accused Paul of, “trying to dismember this small country which has already been the subject of an attempted coup,” before asking for the resolution to be passed unanimously, which Paul also objected to before exiting the room. So McCain took the opportunity to repeat the loaded accusation. McCain said, “He has no justification for his objection”.
From CBS News.
“PUTIN’S FAVORITE CONGRESSMAN”
Many of you are certainly aware that it must be Rep. Dana Rohrbacher given all he has done to normalize, obfuscate and excuse Russian behavior of every variety. The former Reagan speechwriter may have been an early acquisition for the Kremlin. Rohrbacher has been “at odds with many in his own party for decades” because of “his fondness for Russia”. As Congress is “in the midst of a roiling investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 presidential election, he’s in sync with a least one very important person — the current president of the United States.” Rohrbacher’s story is a colorful one that allegedly involves the Afghan mujahideen, promises made and promises disrupted by the idea that he was “fighting communism all that time, but I wasn’t fighting Russians”. “Two decades ago, he got to know Vladimir Putin while drunkenly arm-wrestling the then-deputy-mayor of St. Petersburg over who actually won the Cold War. (Putin won the matchup, and quickly, Rohrabacher notes.)” Good grief! As Washington buzzes with talk of a ruski Benedict Arnold in the White House, “Rohrabacher dismisses it all as no big deal.” After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Rohrbacher “has spent the nearly three decades since meeting with Russian politicians, carrying Russian-related legislation and advocating for the country and against U.S. sanctions, moves that earned him the favorite congressman nickname from Politico.” Trump is described as a “kindred spirit” but probably safe to say Putin is as well. He also defends ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whom he sees a great patriot, no doubt, who has been wronged with his ouster due to concealing his relationship with Russia. There are “people waiting to beat this person up when he’s on the ground and kick his face in.” As for Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself, that one gets blamed on the Democrats and “elite media”. And Rohrbacher is not resting despite seeing the dominoes fall around him! Next month, Rohrbacher is leading a congressional delegation to Ukraine and Russia “to talk about working together.” On what planet? Make sure you watch the video to see how he grappled with a survivor of Soviet hell or if you will, “a Soviet-born Yahoo news reporter”. He compared Putin to former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the old man, by way of a stunning act of what about-ism considering the vastly different sizes of the fiefdom of Daley and Putin, to dismiss “concerns about Russian aggression from the former president of Estonia”.
From The Los Angeles Times.
THE TWO PERCENT CLUB TO INCLUDE LATVIA, LITHUANIA AND ROMANIA
You know who knows the enemy better than most anyone? Countries that spent nearly half a century or more under Soviet-style communism! NATO member states and ex-Soviet republics Latvia and Lithuania will be joined by Romania in reaching defense-spending equivalent to 2 percent of their nations’ GDPs by 2018.
From NATO/Atlantic Council.
BALTIC STRATCOM BATTLES
POLITICO profiles NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, or StratCom, located in a former Red Army recruitment center in the Latvian capital of Riga. “StratCom is on the front lines of the palpably intensifying information war in the Baltic region,” given that for years the Baltics have been bombarded by Russian propaganda, with disinformation causing concern among some Latvians “alarmed by the slow-motion Russian coup they say is taking place”. Russian propaganda has naturally volleyed back accusing StratCom of being a NATO “spy station”. Curiously, Antti Sillanpaa, the Finnish head of StratCom’s technical and scientific branch, tells POLITICO, “There was a feeling that this [strategic communications] was the coming thing, and that it could be Latvia’s way of contributing to NATO”. Curiously TRUMPISTAN WATCH is also the creation of a half-Latvian contributing strategic communications concerning Trump and Russia. The presidents of Latvia and Lithuania opened StratCom in August 2014, an event also attended by Senator John McCain. POLITICO dedicates a fair amount of space to discussing the issues around Latvia’s sizeable Russian minority and the asymmetric war being fought between the Baltic states and their much larger neighbor. So far, the major criticism of StratCom centers on its heavily academic approach and the desire of its critics to see it become a more aggressive front against the onslaught of Russian propaganda.
SENATOR CARDIN PENS TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY VALENTINE
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin had an opinion piece in the UK’s Guardian newspaper on Wednesday expressing concern over recent Russian violations of the Inter-mediate range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty saying it places “Europe in the shadow of a potential nuclear conflict.” Unlike Trump, Cardin believes we should work with our allies, build up NATO’s defenses and push back against Russian aggression.
From The Guardian.
—– RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
RAISING IDIOT KIDS
Ivana Trump, the first ex-wife of our great leader, is penning a book (more likely ghostwritten) about raising Trump’s idiot kids, since we know Trump kept his hands off all but maybe Ivanka. Evidently “there was no magic to their upbringing,” she was “tough and loving” and supposedly, allegedly “taught them the value of a dollar, not to lie, cheat or steal, respect for others, and other life lessons”. Simon & Schuster has scheduled a September release to troll us all.
GOODBYE LENIN WITH A RED BIKINI
Russian Beyond the Headlines brings us wonderful stories of wacky defections by Soviet citizens, including some Baltic brethren from Lithuania and Latvia, coupled with a “where are they now”. A girl in a red bikini was picked for asylum in Australia over less vivacious Vietnamese refugees, a couple of would-be hijackers saw their family story end in tragedy in California, and a Latvian who took enough sleeping pills in America waters to end up hospitalized in New York before defecting settled into a life as a New Jersey shopkeeper. Who knows how long before we see history repeat as bread and circuses dry up and Russia is left exposed as the police state it is, or our own people if the red caps begin some sort of murderous march?
From Russia Beyond the Headlines.
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