—–ON THE AGENDA—–
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE SPOTLIGHT ON FUSION GPS
The Washington Post reports, “On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to finally hold the hearing that was derailed earlier this month by the unfolding scandal over a meeting between top Trump officials and a Russian lawyer.” The Washington Post adds, “When Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) gavels in the hearing, he will attempt to focus on its stated subject, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that paid former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.” However, “The hearing was set up to examine the firm’s separate work on a legal case involving the Magnitsky Act, a law to punish Russian human rights violators,” The Washington Post notes. Bill Browder, the head of Hermitage Capital Investment and formerly the largest foreign investor in Russia, will also testify. According to The Washington Post, “In his testimony, Browder will accuse Fusion GPS and its founder Glenn Simpson of running a smear campaign against Magnitsky, in conjunction with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. They were all allegedly working with the law firm Baker Hostetler to defend the Russian company Prevezon from charges it laundered funds stolen in the fraud Magnitsky uncovered.” Browder argues that “If Fusion GPS was lobbying on behalf of the Russian government without registering as a foreign agent, that would violate FARA,” and he “accuses Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin of setting up a nongovernmental organization called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation to lobby against the Magnitsky Act under the guise of discussing the issue of Russia’s ban on American adoptions.” Meanwhile Fusion GPS sent The Washington Post a message that read, “Let’s be clear about what’s happening: The President’s political allies are going after Fusion GPS because it was reported to be the first to raise the alarm about the Trump campaign’s links with Russia.” Browder hardly seems like a Trump or Russia ally; its possible Fusion GPS had its hands in many pots at once. You can read Browder’s statement, which TRUMPISTAN WATCH highly recommends.
From The Washington Post.
TRUMP REPEATS RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA ABOUT HILLARY + UKRAINE
Reuters reports, “U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday blasted the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election and raised questions, without offering evidence, about Ukrainian support for his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.” As this is literally lifted from Russian propaganda, “The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington denied Kiev had tried to influence the U.S. election.” You should have no doubts left who this guy works for: himself first, Russia second. America first? TRUMPISTAN WATCH thinks not.
TRUMP’S TWEET ON INVESTIGATING BARRON NOT SUCH A BAD IDEA
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump lauded his son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner for his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, repeating his assertion that the multiple ongoing Russia probes are a ‘witch hunt’ and joked that ruthless investigators might next ask to speak with his 11-year-old son.” The tweet read, “Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!” Now this might seem like an insane thought suggesting an overly aggressive investigation to those unfamiliar with the post-Soviet sphere or the tactics of the wealthy to conceal assets, but not TRUMPISTAN WATCH! TRUMPISTAN WATCH immediately recalled a seven-year old Washington Post report that illuminates why as the then 11 year-old son of Azerbaijan’s president, Heydar Aliyev Jr., invested $44 million in Dubai real estate. Oops. There is that precedent for why this might not be such a bad thought, Mr. “Unpresidented” Trump.
PRINCELING JARED’S SECOND DAY ON THE HILL GARNERS MIXED REVIEWS
Tuesday’s closed to the public House Intelligence Committee hearing with princeling Jared “appeared to be in the closed session for at least three hours,” it seems “The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, called the session ‘productive,’ though Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Democrats seemed to think Kushner wasn’t revealing everything he knew.” King said, “He was asked and re-asked the same questions over and over again”.
REPORT SAYS IVANKA LAWYERS UP – CONTRADICTED AFTER WH PUSHBACK
The Hill reports on a messy day of National Law Journal reports that initially stated Ivanka was not retaining Jared’s counsel but rather her own, which was later contradicted after strong pushback from the White House. Even the lede of The Hill story is a mess: “Ivanka Trump will has not [sic] retained husband Jared Kushner’s lawyer to advise her in the ongoing Russia investigation, and has a ‘confidential relationship’ with the attorney.” According to the updated National Law Journal’s report, “Abbe Lowell, who is head of the white-collar group at Norton Rose Fulbright in Washington, D.C.,” said, “I only have a confidential relationship with Ivanka Trump as part of my representation of Jared”. Let’s wait and see where the truth rests, shall we?
MANAFORT SUBPOENA DROPPED AS HE TESTIFES
POLITICO reports, “The Senate Judiciary Committee had initially issued a subpoena to compel Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, to testify in its Russia probe. But it has since dropped it,” as “now that there are plans for Manafort to meet with committee investigators.” POLITICO reports, “Manafort also spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.” “Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said before the subpoena was dropped Tuesday that she thought Manafort would ultimately agree to testify before her committee,” POLITICO notes. According to POLITICO, “Manafort had agreed to provide notes of the meeting at Trump Tower last year with the Russian-connected group”. While “The Tuesday Senate panel meeting was focused on that June 2016 gathering,” recall, “Manafort is also under investigation, however, for financial transactions by New York officials and is likely to face issues with disclosures for foreign lobbying.”
MORE ON BENCZKOWSKI, ALFA BANK LAWYER TURNED TRUMP APPOINTEE
Business Insider flushes out more details on, “Brian Benczkowski, who worked on Trump’s campaign and his transition team between September and January, represented Russia’s Alfa Bank until June 6 – the day he was formally nominated to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division. He disclosed that work in a letter to Congress dated July 19.” Business Insider notes, “Alfa Bank was discussed at length in the explosive but unverified dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, though it was misspelled as ‘Alpha’ throughout.” Now Business Insider reports, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat, said during Benczkowski’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Benczkowski reviewed the Steele dossier for Alfa Bank ‘to consider suing BuzzFeed for defamation over their online publication of the dossier.’” Feinstein notes, “Alfa Bank, in fact, did sue BuzzFeed on May 26 of this year”. Of course as denial is the order of the day, Business Insider reports, “Benczkowski said later that he only read two pages of the dossier and did not ‘independently investigate any of the facts.’” Do you believe that? You shouldn’t. Benczkowski claimed during his hearing that he “spent fewer than five hours on that matter while I was working for Alfa Bank”. That is less than five hours too many. Benczkowski said, “It was simply to review those facts, assume that they are false and then give the client preliminary advice whether they should move forward in thinking about a defamation action.” Business Insider then adds, “Feinstein further alleged however that Benczkowski’s work for Alfa Bank ‘went to the heart of the reported [FBI] investigations’ into the bank’s involvement in unusual computer server activity with the Trump Organization during the election.” Business Insider reports that “According to CNN, Alfa Bank’s server ‘repeatedly looked up the contact information for a computer server being used by the Trump Organization [during the election] – far more than other companies did, representing 80% of all lookups to the Trump server.’” While Business Insider cites an earlier New York Times report that “Investigators have so far found no evidence that Russian officials communicated with the Trump campaign via those servers,” that “ independent cybersecurity experts have still been unable to give the company a clean bill of health”. Feinstein then “added that, because it was ‘clear’ to her that Benczkowski had knowledge of issues related to the ongoing investigation, she asked him if he would commit to recusing himself,” however, “He would not commit to recusing himself,” Feinstein said. Everyone watch this guy and be very alarmed. And do read Feinstein’s full statement, it is well worth your time, promise, because it is totally insane.
From Businesss Insider.
PURGES: ANOTHER TOTALLY SOVIET THING
The Washington Post reports, “Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, threatened on Tuesday to fire his entire staff in an effort to stem the leaking that has plagued President Trump’s administration since almost the first day he took office.” Scaramucci said, “I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it,” adding, “You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to get fired.” According to The Washington Post, “The first to leave the West Wing on Tuesday was senior assistant press secretary Michael Short, who resigned after a report emerged in Politico hours earlier saying that he would be fired in Scaramucci’s quest to uproot leakers.” Recall, “Scaramucci entered the White House over the strenuous objections of both former White House press secretary Sean Spicer — who ultimately resigned in protest — and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus,” The Washington Post reports. Insanely, “Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said that in a meeting of White House communications staff, Scaramucci had promised all aides ‘a clean slate’ and ‘amnesty’ to prove that they are not leaking and working hard to defend the president and support his agenda.” Who knew you needed a clean slate or an amnesty for participating in a robust democratic system but evidently you do in this White House, which veers off the authoritarian edge. Critically, it’s important to note that “Typically, the job of firing staffers — even those in the press shop — would be left to the chief of staff, but Priebus has found himself increasingly isolated in recent days, with few areas of the White House reporting directly to him.” Also critical to note that they are going after the communications team first because it is one of the most public facets of this administration; consider this a preview of what they are salivating to do to the intelligence services. Purges: another totally Soviet thing.
From The Washington Post.
HOUSE APPROVES RUSSIA SANCTIONS
POLITICO reports, “The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, with the GOP-controlled chamber advancing a significant new constraint on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.” POLITICO notes, “The sanctions legislation, which allows lawmakers to block Trump from any attempt to roll back sanctions against Moscow, is expected to pass the Senate in similarly bipartisan fashion before next month’s recess.” Currently, “it appears the votes would be there for Congress to override any veto from Trump,” POLITICO reports. POLITICO adds, “The House’s 419-3 vote on the sanctions bill saw only three dissenters: GOP Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, John Duncan of Tennessee and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Even Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Russia’s staunchest defender on the Hill, revealed hours before the vote that he would support the measure out of support for its penalties against Tehran and Pyongyang.” Remember these three dissenters, let’s watch them over time and see what else they might prove capable of doing for Russia.
EU WORRIED ABOUT EFFECT OF RUSSIA SANCTIONS
The New York Times reports, “European Union officials are worried about a move to toughen United States sanctions against Russia, saying they may cause upheaval in Europe’s energy market.” And they have a lovely photo of Trump, Putin and… Jean Claude Juncker, the European Union Commission President at the G20 in Hamburg to top the story! Now, that’s a photo! The New York Times notes, “as usual, the 28-nation bloc is divided, with central European countries more willing to limit the bloc’s dependence on Russian oil and gas,” because they know what Russian purges, repression and mass atrocities, look, feel and sound like, and how Russia spoils everything. The New York Times reports, “the new sanctions have important implications for Europe because they target any company that contributes to the development, maintenance or modernization of Russia’s energy export pipelines.” So “That would almost surely affect a controversial pipeline project between Russia and Germany known as Nord Stream 2 which is owned by Gazprom but includes financial stakes from European companies. The project aims to carry Russian natural gas under the Baltic Sea, bypassing countries like Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic States.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH is willing to wager that Russia would sacrifice the pipeline to encourage Juncker and the European Commission to counter U.S. sanctions in the hopes of dividing the trans-Atlantic alliance and ultimately take back the Eastern bloc it sees as its own (which of course is not). This might sound paranoid but do not forget for a moment that Putin’s hero is Stalin and Stalin supported Hitler to divide Europe and conquer half of it. Now Putin supports Trump. Humanity is not so much a concern, only money and power. Juncker however is playing it more subtly than that (and arguably ignorantly, unwilling to see his role as a pawn in a much larger game), as he “has called for an urgent review of how the European Union should respond.” An EU official told CNBC, “The Commission could demand a formal U.S. promise to exclude EU energy companies; use EU laws to block U.S. measures against European entities; or impose outright bans on doing business with certain U.S. companies.” Putin is surely grinning as “It also raised concerns that unity could be broken between the United States and the European Union on how to deal with Russia over its annexation of Crimea and its sponsorship of warfare in eastern Ukraine,” The New York Times notes. Either way, Russia can win big league. How horrible.
US CONSIDERING ARMS TO UKRAINE
BBC reports, “The new US special representative for Ukraine,” Kurt Volker, “says Washington is actively reviewing whether to send weapons to help those fighting against Russian-backed rebels. Kurt Volker told the BBC that arming Ukrainian government forces could change Moscow’s approach.” The BBC adds, “he did not think the move would be provocative.” But it is and that’s ok, this should have happened a long time ago. Volker “said success in establishing peace in eastern Ukraine would require what he called a new strategic dialogue with Russia,” BBC reports. Recall the only thing Russia respects is strength.
GLENN SIMPSON OF FUSION GPS WILL TESTIFY
The Washington Examiner reports, “One of the co-founders of the company,” Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, “that assembled the infamous ‘Russian Dossier,’” also known as the “Steele dossier,” “on President Trump in 2016 has done an about-face and is now agreeing to give an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee.” The Washington Examiner notes, “By agreeing to an interview, the subpoena Simpson faced which previously demanded he attend a hearing this Wednesday has been waived.”
From The Washington Examiner.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
SATER + COHEN HAVE KNOW EACH OTHER SINCE HIGH SCHOOL
Talking Points Memo reports, “Felix Sater, Donald Trump’s former business partner and a convicted felon, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s brash, longtime personal attorney,” it turns out “know each other dating back to their teenage years, when they were acquaintances from nearby towns on Long Island.” Talking Points Memo learned this through “conversations with both Sater and Cohen”. Holy hell! Talking Points Memo notes, “Both went on to make their fortunes in real estate, eventually working with the same big-name businessman—although they insist that neither helped the other land his gig with the Trump Organization.” More coincidences! “It itsn’t [sic] a family atmosphere kind of thing,” Sater told Talking Points Memo, which is exactly how nobody ever has described the Trump Organization or even the Trump White House. Cohen claims he came into the Trumpworld orbit through purchasing condos from Donald “Uday” Trump Jr. while Talking Points Memo notes, “Sater’s tale is a little more dramatic and harder to confirm in its particulars.” Talking Points Memo reports, “In his telling, he began working with one of his neighbors, a Kazakh real estate developer named Tevfik Arif, at a new firm called Bayrock, the offices of which were downstairs from the Trumps.” Talking Points Memo reports, “Sater said he and Cohen still speak to each other, even if they seem a bit loath to speak about each other.”
From Talking Points Memo.
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