—–ON THE AGENDA—–
TRUMP’S LONGTIME PA RHONA GRAFF HOUSE INTEL INTERVIEW
NBC News reports, “The House Intelligence Committee will question longtime Donald Trump associate Rhona Graff on Friday”. NBC News adds, “The committee’s closed-door meeting with Graff, who for over three decades was Trump’s gatekeeper at Trump Tower in Manhattan and ultimately a senior vice president of the Trump Organization, will be the second this week to take place at an undisclosed location in New York — over the objection of Democrats.”
From NBC News.
U.S. SANCTIONS 52 INDIVIDUALS IN GLOBAL MAGNITSKY ACT LIST
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “The United States has imposed financial and travel restrictions on 52 government-linked people from Uzbekistan, Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, under a U.S. law aimed at human rights abusers and corrupt officials worldwide. The list, released December 21, included the eldest daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov; the son of Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika; a Ukrainian riot police commander; a Burmese Army general; and others.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “The sanctions were the first to be imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, a 2016 law that was modeled on another law passed four years earlier that specifically targeted Russians.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “The announcement comes one day after the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned five Russian individuals under the earlier law, also called the Magnitsky Act, including the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Artyom Chaika, the son of Russia’s prosecutor-general, is the most prominent Russian to be targeted. He has long been dogged by accusations of influence-peddling stemming from his father’s prominence. Chaika ‘leveraged his father’s position and ability to award his subordinates to unfairly win state-owned assets and contracts and put pressure on business competitors,’ the Treasury Department said.” Also of note, “Sergei Kusyuk, identified as a commander of an elite Ukrainian police unit, the Berkut,” was sanctioned as well, noting, “Kusyuk has been named by the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office as taking part in the February 2014 killings of activists on Kyiv’s Maidan square. The violence led to President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country to Russia.” Also sanctioned, The Times of Israel reports Dan Gertler, an Israeli involved in the diamond trade in Congo who has close ties to President Joseph Kabila. TRUMPISTAN WATCH has one question: any connection to Lev Leviev, a Russian-Israeli who is a business associate of princeling Jared?
FINALLY PRIVATE RUSSIAN SESSIONS ORDERS HILLARY URANIUM PROBE
Finally because you always knew it was inevitable when Trump floundered like a floater in a Lubyanka toilet and the Russia investigation – as American newscasters call it – got too close, they would pull investigating Hillary out, so here goes… NBC News reports, “On the orders of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Justice Department prosecutors have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton”. About goddamn time! What took these fools so long? What took these fools so goddamn long is that they are not as powerful as they imagine beyond their authoritarian whimsy and whatever it is their Russian handlers whisper gently in their ears to coo at their egos. NBC News adds, “The interviews with FBI agents are part of the Justice Department’s effort to fulfill a promise an assistant attorney general made to Congress last month to examine whether a special counsel was warranted to look into what has become known as the Uranium One deal”. Remember Private Russian Sessions last appearance on this Hill when he seemed so disappointed that there was insufficient evidence to investigate Hillary? Well, he is doing it anyways, because why not? Fuck everything! Screw democracy, it is dying anyways, why not grab a bat like the one Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gifted Trump with the other day and beat it too? As a Japanese proverb TRUMPISTAN WATCH may have just made up says, a protruding nail gets pounded. NBC News adds, “At issue is a 2010 transaction in which the Obama Administration allowed the sale of U.S. uranium mining facilities to Russia’s state atomic energy company. Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time, and the State Department was one of nine agencies that agreed to approve the deal after finding no threat to U.S. national security.” Now it would be foolish to suggest Russia only tried buying influence in one direction however, a gentle reminder: Hillary is not our president. Fair game if she was, and she would expect nothing less, but she is not. You do not have to like this deal, and TRUMPISTAN WATCH does not, to also smell authoritarian bullshit. Generally the protocol in our democracy or at one of the fine corporations in our country, when a bad decision is collectively taken no one ever has responsibility – why is this changing now?
From NBC News.
FBI’S TOP LAWYER REASSIGNED
The Washington Post reports, “The FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, is being reassigned — one of the first moves by new director Christopher A. Wray to assemble his own team of senior advisers as he tries to fend off accusations of politicization within the bureau.” According to The Washington Post, “Baker told colleagues he will be taking on other duties at the FBI, according to people familiar with the matter. In recent months, Baker had been caught up in a strange interagency dispute that led to a leak probe and attracted the attention of senior lawmakers, but people familiar with the matter said the probe had recently ended with a decision not to charge anyone. The leak issue had not played a part in Baker’s reassignment, these people said.” The Washington Post notes, “Baker, one of the most trusted, longest-serving national security officials in the government, has served as the head of the FBI’s Office of General Counsel for several years, playing a key role in the agency’s handling of major cases and policy debates”. He was close to fired FBI Director James Comey, who asked for him to be the General Counsel. This is all against the backdrop of Russia and Trump-aligned Republicans calling for a house cleaning at the FBI to protect the fake Russian bullshit president, and perhaps their own careers as well.
From The Washington Post.
BUZZFEED DOESN’T HAVE TO REVEAL STEELE DOSSIER SOURCE, JUDGE RULES
POLITICO reports, “A federal magistrate judge in Florida has turned down a bid by a Russian internet mogul to force BuzzFeed to detail how it obtained the dossier it published in January containing a variety of salacious claims about President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.” BuzzFeed notes, “The ruling was issued Thursday in connection with a libel suit Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev filed in February alleging that he was defamed by BuzzFeed’s publication of assertions in the dossier that he and his businesses were involved in illicit support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his associates.” POLITICO adds, “a lawyer for Gubarev told POLITICO Thursday that the dispute is moot because the Russian’s legal team has figured out who the source is.” Who knows what the Russians know or if this is simply to menace the U.S. press, which they have been trying and failing to do through our courts all year.
RUSSIAN DRILLS FOR TWO-FRONT WAR
Newsweek reports, “Russia’s armed forces conducted two drills Thursday on opposite sides of the massive Eurasian nation’s territory, testing tense borders with U.S.-led military alliance NATO and the eastern armies of China and North Korea.” Newsweek notes, “Thursday’s twin live-fire drills came shortly after Russia criticized a new, ‘imperial’ National Security Strategy by President Donald Trump and coincided with Putin’s spokesperson slamming Washington for sanctions against Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and four other Russians over alleged human rights abuses.” Citing the Russian Defense Ministry, Newsweek reports, “On the westernmost stretch of Russian soil, grenadiers of Russia’s Baltic Fleet Marines fired RPG-7 anti-tank and AGS-17 automatic grenade launchers at a mock ‘illegal armed formation’ Thursday at the Khmelevka training ground in Kaliningrad”. Meanwhile, “More than 4,500 miles away, Russian warplanes bombarded imitation groups of soldiers and military equipment at a special training ground in Primorsky Krai, part of Russia’s Eastern Military District,” Newsweek writes, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
NAVALNY TARGETS KREMLIN SPOKESMAN’S FAMILY AGAIN
The Moscow Times reports, “Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny has targeted President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman yet again in a new report that claims his ex-wife bought a $2-million luxury apartment in Paris last year.” The Moscow Times notes, “Navalny has repeatedly singled out Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov for alleged corruption, releasing investigations into his luxury watches, an extravagant honeymoon vacation on a yacht in the Mediterranean and the lavish lifestyle of his alleged son.” The Moscow Times adds, “On Thursday, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation claimed that Yekaterina Solotsinskaya, Peskov’s ex-wife, had purchased a 180-square-meter apartment a few minutes’ stroll from the Eiffel Tower. The purchase agreement indicates that Solotsinskaya bought the residence for 1.7 million euros ($2 million) in September 2016, 1.2 million euros of which were paid in a down payment out of her personal account. Navlany questioned the origin of the money”.
From The Moscow Times.
CANADA’S CRYSTALLEX WANTS TO TAKE CITGO FROM PDVSA OVER DEBT
CNBC reports, “Mining company Crystallex International said on Thursday Venezuela failed to honor a settlement and urged a federal judge to allow it to seize control of U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum, which is owned by the country’s state oil company.” Recall, “Canada-based Crystallex won a 2016 international arbitration award of $1.2 billion against Venezuela, which has refused to pay. The company had been trying to collect by seizing shares of Citgo’s U.S. parent company, which is owned by Venezuelan state owned oil company PDVSA.” CNBC notes, “If Crystallex succeeds, the case could open the way for more than a dozen companies to pursue Citgo to collect on arbitration claims over assets that were nationalized under Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.” Recall Venezuela’s biggest creditor at the moment is Russia and its energy giant Rosneft.
LITHUANIA BANS KASPERSKY SOFTWARE ON SENSITIVE MACHINES
Reuters reports, “Software from Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab is a threat to Lithuanian national security and its products will be banned on sensitive computers, Lithuania’s government said on Thursday. It is the latest setback for the software maker.” Recall, the U.S. government recently issued a blanket ban on the company’s software.
GOP WHACK JOBS IN CONGRESS SHILLING FOR THE WHITES ONLY HAUS
Business Insider reports, “A House Republican who has repeatedly characterised special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and the FBI more broadly, as biased and politically motivated indicated on Wednesday that he has spoken with the White House about Mueller’s probe.” Rep. Jim Jordan told CNN, “I talk with the White House about all kinds of things,” adding, “‘But my questions in those committees was driven by the evidence we’ve received in the last several weeks’ about FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.” But he isn’t alone! Business Insider adds, “Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, the first lawmaker to openly demand that Mueller be fired, discussed the special counsel probe with Trump aboard Air Force One earlier this month ahead of a rally in Florida.” Gaetz, “is friends with longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone and has alleged that Mueller is plotting a ‘coup d’etat’”. Business Insider notes, “Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, another House Judiciary Committee member who put forward a provision in August that would have severely limited the scope and funding of Mueller’s probe, was also on the flight with Gaetz and Trump.” Meanwhile DARKNESS AT NUNES, “has been meeting secretly with a group of House Intelligence Committee Republicans for weeks to build a case that senior leaders of the DOJ and FBI mishandled the contents of the Trump-Russia dossier”. You knew they were going to throw all the covfefe in the world at this so the Great Lunatic could remain in power for a 1,000 year Reich.
From Business Insider.
REP. SCHIFF CHARGES DARKNESS AT NUNES DOING WHITE HOUSE’S WORK
The Hill reports, “The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday evening blasted the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, accusing the California Republican of ‘doing the work of the White House.’” During an MSNBC appearance, The Hill notes, “Schiff tore into Nunes and other GOP lawmakers on Thursday, saying Republicans were wrong to cast doubt on the integrity of special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators looking into Trump campaign associates’ ties to Russia.” Reminder: “Schiff said members of the intel panel are ‘supposed to be investigating Russia, as well as the connections between Russia’s active measures campaign and Trump officials.’” Does not seem like the GOP gives a damn about that, now does it?
From The Hill.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
EVIL + HORRIFIC: SEPARATE PARENTS FROM KIDS FOR ENTERING ILLEGALLY
The New York Times reports, “The Trump administration is considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally”. The New York Times adds, “The forceful move is meant to discourage border crossings, but immigrant groups have denounced it as draconian and inhumane.” Also extremely frightening given the administration’s support for pedophilia and pedophiles from Putin to Roy Moore to accusations against the president, revived in a recent Vanity Fair interview with former Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, is accused of raping a child. The New York Times notes, “Under current policy, families are kept intact while awaiting a decision on whether they will be deported; they are either held in special family detention centers or released with a court date. The policy under discussion would send parents to adult detention facilities, while their children would be placed in shelters designed for juveniles or with a ‘sponsor,’ who could be a relative in the United States, though the administration may also tighten rules on sponsors.” The New York Times reports, “The officials said that the new Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, who has final approval power, has yet to sign off on the proposal.” If she does, she is one sick puppy.
From The New York Times.
FAKEBOOK’S ROLE IN THE MAKING OF GLOBAL AUTOCRACY
Bloomberg reports, “Facebook, it turns out, is no bystander in global politics,” as Zuckerberg “hasn’t said”. Turns out “that his company actively works with political parties and leaders including those who use the platform to stifle opposition—sometimes with the aid of ‘troll armies’ that spread misinformation and extremist ideologies.” Bloomberg reports, “The initiative is run by a little-known Facebook global government and politics team that’s neutral in that it works with nearly anyone seeking or securing power. The unit is led from Washington by Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist who worked on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Since Facebook hired Harbath three years later, her team has traveled the globe helping political clients use the company’s powerful digital tools.” What that touches Giuliani does not wreak of slime? Bloomberg notes, “the unit’s employees have become de facto campaign workers. And once a candidate is elected, the company in some instances goes on to train government employees or provide technical assistance for live streams at official state events.” So let’s romp through some of the autocratic assholes bolstered by Fakebook’s cash please approach to politics: besides our fake Russian bullshit president Donald Trump, there is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Alternative für Deutschland in Germany – to name but a few! They have banned Greece’s Golden Dawn however suggesting “some lines” exist. Argentina’s Mauricio Macri and Poland’s Andrzej Duda are also clients. Really a winning look for a company’s whose corporate bullshit is akin to kumbaya.
STATE DEPARTMENT FACING INCREASED CYBER ATTACKS
The Hill reports, “A new directorate in the State Department’s law enforcement branch is working to combat cyber threats to the nation’s diplomats, in what officials describe as an increasingly perilous and dynamic threat landscape of criminal and state-sponsored hackers. The Cyber and Technology Security (CTS) directorate was quietly launched in late May, just as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came under scrutiny for a nascent plan to shutter a separate office charged with engaging other nations on cybersecurity policy.” Is it a real thing or a Russian parallel thing that does nothing it pretends to? According to The Hill, “Lonnie Price, who is leading the new directorate, describes the cyber threat as growing at ‘a worrisome rate.’” The Hill notes, “The State Department has weathered its own scrutiny for a 2014 breach of its unclassified email system that was reportedly carried out by Russian hackers.”
From The Hill.
DEFENSE INTEL AGENCY’S INSPECTOR GENERAL OFFICE IN CRISIS
Foreign Policy reports, “They were the names of people who’ve left their jobs at the Defense Intelligence Agency, or who have been trying to find new ones in the last two years. Almost everyone who once worked for Steele in the Office of the Inspector General has fled the agency, or is looking to leave, an exodus he attributes to the toxic atmosphere created by the official in charge.” Recall the Defense Intelligence Agency is General Michael Flynn’s old agency until Obama fired him in 2014. Two different former employees went on the record to say, “Kristi Waschull, the inspector general of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a former manager at the human resources department at the DIA, repeatedly asked him and his team to soften language in inspection and investigative reports about problems and crimes within the agency, lied, stanched the flow of published reports, and retaliated against them and several colleagues when they challenged her ability to conduct independent investigations of agency management.” Foreign Policy adds, “involuntarily reassigned, along with the staff director on the same day with no warning,” which has resulted in a work environment in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Inspector General’s office where, “Waschull’s employees live in perpetual fear that if they cross her, they could be next”. According to Foreign Policy, “Waschull has come up with different reasons, like career opportunity and poor performance, for why she forced,” the two willing to go on record to Foreign Policy about her but, “They have meticulously documented her allegations and why she is wrong, they said.” Note: “Yet their complaints have languished for over two years now, and in the meantime, no one is policing the Defense Intelligence Agency,” Foreign Policy adds. Meanwhile one of the fired employees, David Steele, asks, “What happens when your inspector general is a bad guy?”
From Foreign Policy.
TECH WILL FOLLOW THE RUSSIA PLAYBOOK, SENATOR WARNER WARNS
Axios reports, “Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) told Mike Allen at an Axios event on Thursday that he thinks that tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Youtube were too slow in recognizing the interference of Russian hackers”. The key quote is remarkable when contextualized with the fact that Google’s motto at its foundation was “Don’t be evil,” and Fakebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg routinely speaks of utopian degrees of human connectivity. Warner said, “I’ve been told about companies and individuals in the Valley that are basically going to copy the Russian playbook … and are going to start making American-based firms for corporate warfare using these exact tools.” Well, isn’t this the awakening the cynics always imagined?
HOW RUSSIA USES PRISON AS A POLITICAL TOOL
The Globe and Mail reports, “The Kremlin’s persecution of its political opponents might have proved an effective strategy for quashing dissent in the short term. But over time it has eroded the authority of the government and created martyrs who inspire increasing numbers of supporters. Mr. Navalny‘s stints in jail have only bolstered his credentials as a fearless opposition leader. Having undergone something of a moral transformation from oligarch to philanthropist in Siberia, Mr. Khodorkovsky now lives in Europe and heads a foundation dedicated to promoting civil society and reform in Russia. Pussy Riot, meanwhile, emerged from prison as an already global phenomenon whose criticisms of corruption and oppression in Russia have since gone viral.” The Globe and Mail notes, “This pattern of political crackdown diminishing the standing of the government while burnishing the credentials of its opponents has a long pedigree in Russia,” noting how, “In 1849, the great novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to four years of hard labour in a Siberian penal fort for membership in a radical reading group.” The Globe and Mail adds, “Even in the 1970s, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago was cementing the image of a state built upon the brutal suppression of political freedoms, the Soviet Union still continued to exile and incarcerate its critics. Dissidents such as the physicist Andrei Sakharov were sent into internal exile or imprisoned; others were diagnosed with mental disorders and forcibly committed to psychiatric institutions.” Recall, “Eventually, the glasnost-era revelations of repression and suffering on an industrial scale demolished what was left of the fading state’s credibility.”
From The Globe and Mail.
RUSSIAN MILITARY CONTRACTORS IN SYRIA
Reuters reports on “hundreds of military contractors secretly recruited by Moscow for combat operations in Syria since Russia’s military operation began there in 2015”. Reuters reports, “at least 28 private contractors have been killed in Syria this year, and Russian consular documents seen by Reuters suggest the figure may be much higher,” adding, “over two years, Reuters has spoken to dozens of family members, colleagues and friends of military contractors who have been killed in Syria.” Reuters notes, “Those familiar with the deployment say the contractors are under government command and have helped turn the tide of war in favor of Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while hiding the scale of its military involvement and losses.”
FAKEBOOK SCRAPS FAKE NEWS LABEL, BOWS TO ACTUAL RESEARCH
USA Today reports, “Facebook has scrapped an effort to crack down on misinformation on the giant social network by showing ‘disputed’ flags on articles that third-party fact checkers deemed false. The company made the change after academic research suggested that marking a story as false, or ‘disputed,’ can backfire ‘and further entrench someone’s beliefs,’ Facebook said in a Medium post.” A company in Silicon Valley paying attention to academic research instead of some naïf rich kids divine intuition is a remarkable thing. Not quite! USA Today adds that despite the corporate fancy talk, reality is more like, “Too few fact checkers to keep up with the flood of potentially fabricated content, too many clicks for Facebook users to determine why content was disputed and a range of ratings from third party fact checkers that muddied the waters also contributed to the decision”. Now, “Instead of the flagging system, which Facebook started earlier this year, it will show related articles to give Facebook users more context,” USA Today adds. How much fake news will slip in there? But as long as they make money, who needs democracy, journalism, information or for anyone else to get their precious advertising dollars they stole from the media industry?
From USA Today.
ALEX JONES + ROGER STONE JR. PREPARE FOR WHITE TRASH INTIFADA
Media Matters for America reports, “Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Roger Stone, a conservative pundit who has advised President Donald Trump for decades, visited a shooting range to fire weapons in preparation for a civil war in the event Trump is removed from office.” According to Media Matters, Stone had this to say to celebrity gossip site TMZ (the spot to go for all things insurrection): “We do not advocate violence or foment violence, but if there is a coup d’etat, if there is an illegitimate unconstitutional effort to remove Donald Trump on trumped-up charges by a biased and partisan prosecutors (sic) or an illegitimate takedown by the 25th Amendment, there will be a civil war in this country.”
MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY RUSSIAN MEDIA PROJECT ADAPTS
The Moscow Times reports, “Russia’s exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky has launched a new media website after authorities blocked access to the site of his blacklisted pro-democracy NGO. Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked access to the website of the Open Russia NGO earlier this month ‘for inciting protests and destabilizing the domestic political situation.’” The Moscow Times notes, “‘I regret to announce that Open Russia’s editorial team is beginning work on a new project — MBKh Media,’ Khodorkovsky wrote in a post on the new website on Wednesday.”
From The Moscow Times.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
WITH THE COLLAPSE OF THE USSR, LIFE EXPECTANCY HALVED
Reuters reports, “Life expectancy among Americans has fallen for the second year in a row as the opioid crisis continues to drive up overall death rates in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.” Reuters adds, “A total of 63,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 21 percent from 2015, according to the CDC report. Opioid-related overdoses surged 28 percent, killing 42,249 people, mostly in the 25-to-54 age group.” Heroin is probably preferable to reality right now if your prospects are as bleak – or bleaker – than the world at present.
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