——ON THE AGENDA—–
The NATO-Russia Council meeting is taking place in Brussels today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO-Russia Council meeting would focus “on issues including the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the security situation in Afghanistan, and the ‘regional terrorist threat.’” For Russia’s part, “State-run Russian news agency TASS quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksei Meshkov as saying Moscow plans to discuss ‘NATO’s military buildup along our borders.’” And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in Brussels tomorrow, NBC News reports. Yesterday, Russia conducted military exercises in the Black Sea “where rival NATO forces, including the U.S., have also recently deployed for drills,” Newsweek reports.
STEELE DOSSIER AS INVESTIGATIVE ROAD MAP
Recall the Steele dossier, or as it known in American mass culture because we are porn-addicted nubes, “the golden showers” file? The Steele refers to Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent turned private security consultant who was hired to investigate the Trump campaign’s Russia ties. Now the BBC can confirm that the dossier is in fact a road map for the investigation and one of its key claims, that an economic officer at the Russian Embassy in DC named Mikhail Kalugin “had been withdrawn from Washington at short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in the US presidential election operation… would be exposed in the media there.” It’s a detail that doesn’t relate to “golden showers” so no one on this side of the pond would have paid it much notice until now. In the Steele dossier, his name was misspelled as “KULAGIN” and Trump advisor Roger Stone told the BBC’s Paul Wood, “If 007 wants to be taken seriously, he ought to learn how to spell.” Independent of the dossier, U.S. officials determined he was a spy by May 2016 and by August the Russian Foreign Ministry sent him packing after a six-year stint in Washington. One retired US intelligence officer said Kalugin was under surveillance before he left the U.S. and State Department officials confirm they never had contact with him in any diplomatic capacity, suggesting that being a diplomat was his cover. Lastly there are endless accusations the FBI did not see the big picture, which may have only been possible with the benefit of hindsight from an investigative standpoint. Then there is this splendid kicker: “Increasingly, the American people are being asked to choose between two unpalatable versions of events: abuse of power by one president or treason that put another in the White House. It cannot be both.” After long paragraphs of exposition, none of which implicate or even speak of unproven and to date unfounded allegations that Obama wiretapped Trump as Trump has alleged, let us say it is possible to surmise treason may be closer to the truth.
From the BBC.
COMEY WANTED TO REVEAL RUSSIAN TAMPERING LAST SUMMER
Newsweek reports “FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, but Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter tell Newsweek.” That’s like the worst deep state move ever! Deep state, what the hell? In June or July of last year “Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room”. Present at the meeting were “Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security director and the national security adviser,” but they did not like the idea “and White House officials thought the announcement should be a coordinated message backed by multiple agencies”. The op-ed, which ideally would have appeared in The New York Times, would not have mentioned whether Trump and his campaign were being investigated.
TRUMP’S RUSSIAN GODFATHERS
USA Today had a headline late Tuesday that did not catch TRUMPISTAN WATCH’s notice until Wednesday about all the “alleged Russian mobsters” in “Trump’s business network”. USA Today reviewed “court cases, government and legal documents and” conducted “an interview with a former federal prosecutor” to produce what is best described as a lengthy dossier of 3,500 words on these ties. According to USA Today, “The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.” This all stands in stark contrast to the lies Trump told reporters in February, namely, “I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all.” By contrast, “New York City real estate broker Dolly Lenz told USA TODAY she sold about 65 condos in Trump World at 845 U.N. Plaza in Manhattan to Russian investors, many of whom sought personal meetings with Trump”. U.S. authorities are concerned about deals with Russian and other post-Soviet Oligarchs as “interconnected relationships among Russia’s business elite, government security services and criminal gangs” mean “those super-wealthy people are generally suspected of corrupt practices”. Among the Trump ties to Russian Oligarchs USA Today highlights:
– Trump SoHo and Felix Sater: Sater spent a year in prison for a 1991 stabbing and “later cooperated with the FBI and the CIA for a reduced sentence after he was convicted in a $40 million stock manipulation and money-laundering scheme in New York state.” Sater was “a major player” in Trump SoHo developer Bayrock Group. As Sater “sought investment opportunities in Russia, he carried business cards identifying him as a senior adviser to the Trump Organization”. In February of this year, “Sater introduced a Ukrainian politician pushing a pro-Russian peace proposal to Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer”. USA Today reports, “One source of financing recruited by Bayrock for the SoHo project was Alexander Mashkevich,” according to a deposition by former Bayrock partner Jody Kriss in a federal lawsuit. For his part, Mashkevich, “a Kazakhstan mining billionaire, was accused in Belgium in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme,” the result of which was Mashkevich “paid a fine and admitted no wrongdoing”. Meanwhile, “In Los Angeles, the federal lawsuit filed in 2014 by lawyers for the Kazakh city of Almaty accuses former mayor Viktor Khrapunov of owning three Trump SoHo units through shell companies used to hide hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly looted by selling state-owned assets. Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic.”
– “Mashkevich and principal Bayrock partner Tevfik Arif were embroiled in a case in 2010, when Turkish police alleged prostitution and human trafficking after they raided a luxury yacht that Mashkevich chartered. After police boarded the Savarona — once owned by the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk — they arrested 10 wealthy men, including Arif, a former Kazakh official. They also found nine young women from Russia and Ukraine — two were 16 years old — and ‘a huge amount of contraceptives’”. Mashkevich was not present at the time but Arif was. “Mashkevich was not charged with a crime. Arif was charged but acquitted, and the court file was sealed.”
– “Federal indictments in New York, California and Illinois allege that people who bought Trump condos include felons and others accused of laundering money for Russian, Ukrainian or central Asian criminal organizations. One indictment describes Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, who own condos in Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and Vadim Trincher, who owns a unit in Trump Tower in Manhattan, as members of a Russian-American organized crime group that ran an illegal gambling and money-laundering operation.”
– “Money laundering was an issue for Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which was fined $10 million in 2015 for failing to report suspicious transactions.” According to a Wall Street Journal report cited by USA Today, “ It was the largest penalty the agency ever levied against a casino since reporting requirements began in 2003”.
– Paul Manafort was sued by “former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a 2011 lawsuit” that alleged Manafort “engaged in a racketeering and money-laundering scheme to hide $3.5 billion in stolen funds, much of it by buying U.S. real estate.” Now wait for it: “Manafort’s co-defendants were Dmitry Firtash, a Ukranian gas executive under federal indictment for bribery, and Semyon Mogelivich, identified by the Justice Department as head of a transnational criminal organization that posed a threat to U.S. national security.” For his part Firtash, “was indicted in 2013 by U.S. prosecutors in Chicago for allegedly paying officials in India $18.5 million in bribes for licenses to mine titanium ore.”
– Peter “Kiritchenko, a Ukrainian businessman who owned two condominiums with his daughter at Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., was named in a money-laundering scheme involving former Ukraine prime minister Pavlo Lazarenko.” According to federal prosecutors in California in 2009, “Kiritchenko was convicted of one count of receiving stolen property in California after he testified against the former prime minister. Lazarenko was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and fined $9 million after he was convicted on multiple counts of money laundering.”
– Viktor “Khrapunov, a former Kazakhstan energy minister and mayor of Almaty, owns three units in the Trump SoHo through shell companies, according to lawyers for the Kazakh city who filed a 2014 federal lawsuit against him in Los Angeles.” For his part, “Khrapunov, who lives in Switzerland, denies the claim” and says it is a political witchhunt being conductd by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
– Anatoly Golubchik, Vadim Trincher and Michael Sall who all own Trump condos in Florida and New York, “were convicted in 2013 in federal court in New York of participating in an illegal high-stakes sports betting ring for a Russian-American organized crime group. The betting ring operated illegal gambling websites and catered almost exclusively to wealthy oligarchs from the former Soviet Union”. It turns out “The godfather of the operation was identified as Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov,” according to federal prosecutors who allege he was involved in trying to fix figure skating in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. “Sall helped launder tens of millions of dollars from the gambling enterprise,” federal prosecutors charged and he plead “guilty to interstate travel in aid of an unlawful activity — illegal gambling.” For their parts, “Golubchik and Trincher pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. Tokhtakounov remains in Russia”.
That’s a whole lot of shady Russia ties! For its part, “the Trump Organization, denied any transactions with people named in this article.” Just like the president, it appears based on this info that there is a near certain probability both the president and his company are lying. Release those tax returns!
From USA Today.
KREMLIN CRITIC BEFORE LINDSEY GRAHAM’S SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE
Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza who was recently poisoned in Russia, was on the Hill Wednesday testifying before Senator Lindsey Graham’s Senate appropriations subcommittee and calling for “the United States to stay engaged with Russia’s civil society, including by maintaining public diplomacy programs and supporting the work of human rights groups,” according to Agence-France Presse. “For too many years, for too long, leaders of Western democracies have been just ignoring and moving on from what Mr Putin has been doing,” Kara-Murza said. Graham also took the opportunity to tear down Putin, “They will kill, they will steal, they will do whatever’s necessary to stay in power,” he said.
From Agence France Presse.
IN THE BANK
Official son-in-law Jared Kushner had a meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of the sanctioned Russian bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) during the Trump transition period, which was not disclosed before Monday of this week. The Senate intelligence committee wants to speak to him about this meeting. CNN reports that VEB paid the legal fees of Evgeny Buryakov, a Russian intelligence agent. Take note of this lede, “As federal prosecutors in New York prepared their case against a man accused of covertly working for Russian intelligence two years ago, they began raising questions about an unidentified ‘third party’ paying the defendant’s legal bills.” That third party was VEB! Why? Because this Russian intelligence agent Buryakov “was one of its employees, after all.” Complicating the picture for Jared is the fact that “Buryakov was charged with illegally gathering intelligence on behalf of the Russian government and the Russian government owned the bank that provided his cover.” Holy hell! Indeed, the man who Kushner met with, Sergey Gorkov, “is a graduate of the Russian academy of Federal Security Service, which trains people to work in Russia’s intelligence and security forces. He was appointed to his job at VEB by Russian President Vladimir Putin.” That’s not even good cover!
DEAR SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE
Reuters reports Senator Ron Wyden, who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, made “a formal written request” to “the leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee” stating “financial relationships between Trump, a real estate developer with properties around the world, and Russia are deserving of scrutiny because of resistance by Trump and some in his orbit have not been forthcoming about their finances.” The letter was addressed to Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, and Mark Warner, a Democrat. Despite the fact that the letter is “devoid of new details” it does represent “the latest piece of evidence suggesting Trump’s business dealings are attracting expanded interest”. Reuters notes Wyden “organized a two-sentence letter from seven senators to the White House last November asking the outgoing Obama administration to declassify additional information about Russia’s interference in the election” and shortly thereafter “Then-president Barack Obama announced a review of Russia’s activities”. Also in January, Wyden “asked Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey if his agency was investigating links between Russia and associates of Trump. Comey declined to answer, but last week confirmed the FBI was probing possible ties.”
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
WIKILEAKS ERODES DEMOCRACY
No, Julian is not your friend and WikiLeaks is not a whistleblowing entity but a front for a foreign adversary, according to Glenn Carle, a former intelligence officer who has been outspoken against torture in interrogation procedures in the past. Many Americans want to believe their dystopian fears it is like the FSB or its predecessor organizations KGB, NKVD and Cheka, most of all Russia, but the fact is there is no evidence of the CIA doing to U.S. citizens what these Russia’s intelligence organizations do to theirs. But if you wish to test this, TRUMPISTAN WATCH offers up the chance to submit proof of incidents to contradict this but as you think of what you might call “CIA crimes” in the vernacular popular of the left, before you send it with a rant, ask yourself: 1) was it conducted against U.S. citizens? If so, 2) did it occur within U.S. borders? Lastly 3) is it really a CIA operation or something someone on the internet who likes conspiracies alleges? “Wikileaks is eroding the ability of a state to protect itself and society, an act of sabotage that yet many view as heroic.” Carle is right, “one should view WikiLeaks as a public danger, not as the little guy’s hero.” Like all products, WikiLeaks is selling a mythology and in this case it is an outdated one favored by the old Left and the conspiracy-prone right about the CIA. “No, WikiLeaks is not your friend.”
Reuters reports that in the wake of the latest round of disclosures concerning the CIA’s hacking abilities by WikiLeaks, tech giant Cisco Systems “immediately reassigned staff from other projects to figure out how the CIA hacking tricks worked, so they could help customers patch their systems and prevent criminal hackers or spies from using the same methods, three employees told Reuters on condition of anonymity.” According to Reuters, WikiLeaks exposed “a security risk affecting more than 300 different products, said the employees” of Cisco. Here is the issue and no, it’s not what WikiLeaks would have you believe: “That a major U.S. company had to rely on WikiLeaks to learn about security problems well-known to U.S. intelligence agencies underscores concerns expressed by dozens of current and former U.S. intelligence and security officials about the government’s approach to cybersecurity. That policy overwhelmingly emphasizes offensive cyber-security capabilities over defensive measures, these people told Reuters, even as an increasing number of U.S. organizations have been hit by hacks attributed to foreign governments.” Indeed, the adult debate is over offensive and defensive capabilities not Julian or his increasingly cartoonish organization. “When the NSA or CIA find such flaws, under current policies they often choose to keep them for offensive attacks, rather than tell the companies.” The big issue in the Cisco case is “the company said the CIA did not inform the company after the agency learned late last year that information about the hacking tools had been leaked.” Should they have been notified? There is a case to be made that yes, that would have been the responsible thing to do to protect others.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO, PART I: CONGRESS
Science and technology website The Verge wanted to know, how much did it cost to buy Congress to sacrifice Americans’ internet privacy? Not that much it turns out! After a vote Tuesday to reverse landmark internet privacy legislation prohibiting internet service providers from selling your data to advertisers and any third party who wants it (hello, Russia! Hello, China!), The Verge went to the numbers to see how much telecom providers had donated to members of Congress this last election cycle. The editors are careful to note, “many have received total sums much larger than the figure reflected over the course of their career in Congress” as the numbers The Verge draws are only from the last cycle. If you have a Republican representative it might be worth your time to see how little it takes to pay them off to bend to one’s will. Senator Mitch McConnell went for a little bit more than a quarter of a million dollars making him the most high priced member for the telecoms industry last election and Rep. Clay Higgins vote was worth a mere $300 worth of campaign donations. On average, Senators took more to sweeten than members of the House.
From The Verge.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO, PART II: THE POLLS
Is everyone tired of #winning, yet? So is Donald Trump it seems as his poll numbers plunge to an ultra-low 35 percent in the latest Gallup Poll. White men all across America are telling themselves they want to be like Mr. 35% Trump and make big truck go honk honk! Business Insider bothers to check how long it took Trump’s predecessors to drag their poll numbers from the back of a truck as Trump has done and it turns out there is no bigger loser in recent U.S. history than Trump. In essence Trump has achieved in just 69 days what it took Nixon, one of U.S. history’s most vilified presidents before Trump, a whopping 1,659 days to achieve. Even George W. Bush, another maligned example, this time from the 21st century, took 1,926 days to get his numbers down so low. Obama never quite got there. Trump, in a class all his own, that is without any class.
RUSSIAN TROLLS BUZZFEED
The defamation law suit against BuzzFeed by Alexey Gubarev of XBT Holdings S.A., and Webzilla, Inc., companies that appear in the Steele dossier, which BuzzFeed published, is basically a giant troll job. While BuzzFeed is seeking to have the case dismissed and moved out of Florida’s jurisdiction, where the case was filed, to New York, Gubarev’s attorneys filed an opposition to BuzzFeed’s motion entitled, “ “SIX WAYS BUZZFEED HAS MISLED THE COURT (NUMBER TWO WILL AMAZE YOU) … AND A PICTURE OF A KITTEN.” Not bad, in fact one might even call this clever. Pity you could never do something like this in a Russian court because seriously, who files in court in Russia? Not if you can avoid it, not even Oligarchs! Too bad the effort is to silence a press outlet that brought us the first reporting on Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear and generally appears to be ahead of the curve on reporting the enormous scandal of Russian hacking of the 2016 election, which Gubarev and his companies allegedly have nothing to do with. LawNewz notes that, “For the record, Gubarev’s attorneys note that they did include a picture of a kitten as an appendix to their motion.” Aw, isn’t and effort at the suppression of a media outlet so cute when Russians do it? No, not really.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
VANITY FAIR STEELE DOSSIER PROFILE
Vanity Fair takes a long look at the most salacious bit of the Trump Russia scandal to date, namely the aforementioned Steele dossier. While it is a fun read, it is Vanity Fair so don’t expect too much beyond the human drama, of which there is plenty. The most important new details concern Steele’s previously little disclosed bio. He arrived in Moscow “in Moscow as a 26-year-old with his new wife and thin diplomatic cover in 1990” and worked there for three years. At the end of his MI6 career from 2004-2009 he headed the Russia desk.
From Vanity Fair.
Q+A WITH ALEXEY NAVALNY
Bloomberg’s Leonid Ragozin has a Q+A with Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny about what he would do if he had Putin’s job. TRUMPISTAN WATCH’s favorite section of the interview concerns the pecking order of officials in the Kremlin embedded in his response to a question as to whether his “participation in the election could help legitimize the Russian government.” He begins with an acknowledgement of Russian reality better known on this side of the pond as the law of unintended consequences: “Of course, any time I issue a corruption investigation, it plays into the hands of someone in the Kremlin, because the Kremlin is a bunch of bulldogs fighting under the carpet. Whenever we kick one bulldog, it helps another. Life is life.” But he concludes this point on an entirely different note, “This narrative about legitimization is also funny, because for now they are not even allowing me to run.”
“THAT WAS SOME WEIRD SHIT.”
What is you ask? Those are Bush’s words upon hearing Trump’s “American carnage” Inaugural address, according to New York Magazine citing three witnesses. I guess America is not accustomed to Milosevic with a combover-style rhetoric. “That was some werid shit.” Indeed! Bush is making his rehabilitation a little too easy for us, don’t you think? Also: recall he stayed near silent all those years under Obama.
From New York Magazine.
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