THE STABLE GENIUS WHO CAN’T STAY ON MESSAGE WITH HIMSELF
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump on Thursday offered whiplash condemnation and then support for a White House-backed bill to renew controversial online surveillance efforts, sparking confusion just hours before the House approved the measure amid resistance from civil libertarians.” Of course, “The remarks, which came via two early morning tweets, were made as Republican House leaders scrambled on Capitol Hill to secure the last-minute support needed to pass legislation to retain powerful overseas spying tools that national security leaders say are vital to the country’s fight against terrorism.” The first tweet at 7:30 a.m. read, “‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.’ This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” Two hours later, Twitler followed up, “With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!” POLITICO notes, “The back-and-forth messaging undercut the administration’s own talking points on legislation to extend the digital spying tools authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which intelligence agencies use to hoover up the digital chatter of non-U.S. citizens located overseas.” The Washington Post notes Trump’s “pair of contradictory and seemingly misinformed tweets,” were, “posted after watching a segment about the bill on Fox News Channel,” because of course. Among the co-chief regime apologist in Congress, “After the House vote, Ryan insisted to reporters that Trump ‘knows what 702 is’ and simply ‘has concerns on FISA,’” The Washington Post adds. You can see the problem for a president who is himself a very bad guy and hangs out with many other very, very bad guys. So to be clear, Trump supports FISA when it applies to Islamic extremists but does not when it applies to the Russian mafia he calls friends.
TOP DEMOCRATS WANT TO INTERVIEW THE ARYAN PRINCESS IVANKA
The Washington Post reports, “The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says he wants to interview the president’s daughter as part of the panel’s Russia investigation, along with other witnesses who Republicans aren’t inviting. Rep. Adam Schiff said Thursday that Republicans have declined to invite many witnesses that would be valuable to the probe, including Ivanka Trump and several people who he says have additional information about a June 2016 meeting between Russians and the Trump campaign.” Lock her up!
From The Washington Post.
OVERSIGHT HOUSE DEMOCRATS WANT TO SUBPOENA TRUMP ORG
POLITICO reports, “The 17 Democratic members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said in a letter to the panel’s chairman that they were frustrated by Republicans for failing to dive deeper since Trump a year ago Thursday first rolled out plans to separate himself while in government from his hotel, real estate, golf and branding enterprises.” POLITICO adds, “Namely, the lawmakers argued, the president faces ‘numerous conflicts of interest’ and must be called to account for his compliance with a constitutional block on foreign government payments to presidents.”
VANQUISHED BANNON RETAINS ATTORNEY FOR HOUSE INTEL PROBE
CNN reports, “Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has retained a top Washington lawyer to represent him in his closed-door interview with the House Intelligence Committee expected next week”. CNN adds, “William Burck, a former White House special counsel during the George W. Bush administration and a former federal prosecutor, is helping Bannon prepare for questions from the House panel about the presidential campaign, this source said. Burck is not representing Bannon before special counsel Robert Mueller or inquiries relating to Bannon’s work during the transition or days in the White House”.
JULIAN ASSWIPE GETS ECUADOREAN CITIZENSHIP BUT NO DIPLOMAT STATUS
The New York Times reports, “Ecuador announced on Thursday that it had granted citizenship to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder who has been living in a tiny room in the South American country’s London embassy since seeking political asylum in 2012.” The New York Times notes news of Assange’s Ecuadorean citizenship “came only hours after Britain said it had rejected a request by Ecuador to grant Mr. Assange diplomatic immunity so he could leave the embassy.” Of course, “Mr. Assange has managed to wear out his welcome over the years, alienating many of his previous supporters, including Edward J. Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor who leaked documents about surveillance programs. He also offended potential supporters in the Democratic Party by allowing WikiLeaks to become the conduit for emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic National Committee and leaked to harm the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.” Yep, it literally had to happen to them before the American left could kind of wake up, maybe, sort of, maybe a little, ok, not really, Hillary’s fault! She is still a woman and that much won’t change!
From The New York Times.
JUDGE TO LOOK AT RELEASING THE COMEY MEMOS
CNN reports, “A federal judge Thursday said he would look at the memos former FBI Director James Comey wrote about his interactions with President Donald Trump before deciding whether the Justice Department can withhold them from the public. It’s a signal that the judge may be skeptical of Justice’s argument that the Comey memos should stay confidential because their release could compromise the Russia probe.” CNN adds, “Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia said the government would need to give the memos to the court by January 18. They’ll stay secret during that process and won’t be seen by the other side in the case.”
FBI WANTS TO CAREFULLY TACKLE SOCIAL MEDIA DISINFO
Bloomberg reports, “The FBI plans to alert U.S. companies and the public about efforts by Russia or other nations to use disinformation and social media manipulation to interfere in upcoming elections, while being careful not to upset free speech and constitutional rights, a top law enforcement official said.” As Bloomberg notes, “The direction that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ‘foreign influence’ task force is heading could dramatically reshape the relationship between government and social media companies in order to address vulnerabilities that enabled Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.” Jeffrey Tricoli who heads the FBI’s Task Force (that most Washington of terms which means simply people working together on something where they are given a task and forced to deal with it), said, “We’ve been reluctant in some instances to share the amount of information of what we know about what’s happening,” adding also, “going forward there’s going to be opportunities for us to share information in better ways.” As Bloomberg notes, “FBI Director Christopher Wray announced late last year that the task force had been created. But almost everything about it has been secretive to date.”
PUTIN SAYS U.S., RUSSIA HOLD TALKS ON NUCLEAR ARSENALS
The AP reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is holding negotiations with Washington regarding a pivotal nuclear arms pact. Putin said the U.S. plans to re-equip some of the nuclear capable aircraft and submarines to carry conventional weapons has drawn Russian concerns.” Putin believes, “while the U.S. plans don’t contradict the 2010 U.S.-Russian New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, Moscow is entitled to monitor the modifications to make sure there is no chance for a rollback to nuclear capability in the future,” the AP adds, noting, “The New START allows U.S. and Russia to have no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads each. It expires in 2021, but can be extended.”
From the AP.
LEWANDOWSKI TO GO BEFORE HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE
The Daily Beast reports, “Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to take questions next week from congressional investigators looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.” The Daily Beast adds, “Lewandowski indicated he will take questions, rather than pleading the fifth as other witnesses have done.”
From The Daily Beast.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
KLEPTOCRACY 101: LIKE FATHER LIKE SON ON PHONY CHARITY SCAMS
The Daily Beast reports, “Eric Trump’s controversial charitable foundation paid nearly $150,000 to Trump Organization companies in 2016, as donations to the group skyrocketed amid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.” The Daily Beast adds the charity, “Curetivity paid a total of $145,145 to four Trump companies in 2016, which was a significant decline from 2015, when it shelled out $322,000 to the family’s business empire. According to its 2016 tax filing, Curetivity paid $98,730 to Trump’s golf club in Westchester, $13,000 to another golf club in the Bronx, $10,759 to Mar-a-Lago, and $22,656 to the Trump SoHo hotel.” Think of the children, but only the ones named Trump! According to The Daily Beast, “None of the groups that received money could immediately be reached for comment, with the exception of Tikva Children’s Home, a rescue aid and educational organization focused on Jewish children. A spokesperson for the group quickly said goodbye and hung up after a Daily Beast reporter mentioned the Eric Trump Foundation.” And what sham charity would be complete without a sham board? The Daily Beast reports, “Members of the president’s political circle remained involved with Curetivity throughout 2016, the new tax filing shows. Eric Trump’s wife Lara, now a top consultant to the president’s reelection campaign, was a member of the board, as was Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney. Dan Scavino, a former Trump Organization employee who now runs social media for the White House, also sat on the group’s board, but did not disclose the position in a personal financial disclosure statement upon joining the administration.”
From The Daily Beast.
HOW DID CORRUPT POST-SOVIET RICHES END UP IN TRUMP REAL ESTATE?
Bloomberg reports, “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is digging into Trump’s business dealings, and the scramble for Kazakhstan’s chromium riches may fill in a piece of that puzzle.” According to Bloomberg, “Company records, court filings and interviews in Kazakhstan and London suggest millions of dollars from the Aktobe plant,” on the Russian-Kazakh border, “wound their way to the U.S. and a development company with which Trump partnered to build a controversial Trump SoHo hotel-condominium complex in Manhattan.” While Bloomberg adds, “the funds tell an important story of the future president’s insouciance toward due diligence and business partner choices at a time when unmonitored cash was flooding out of Russia and other former Soviet states.” Shock! Bloomberg notes, “on the 24th floor of Trump Tower that Kazakh businessman Tevfik Arif, a key figure in Aktobe chromium, established Bayrock Group LLC. The plant passed millions of dollars to Bayrock, which organized financing for the Trump SoHo high-rise.” Bloomberg reports, “A 2016 complaint for breach of contract against Arif said that in two years alone, at least $10 million arrived at Bayrock from the Kazakh plant. Jody Kriss, the Bayrock finance director who brought the suit, said in the complaint that he became convinced the company was a front for Russian and Kazakh money laundering.” That case is ongoing. Bloomberg adds, “Arif’s brother Refik has owned a controlling share of the plant since the early 1990s”. Using a series of shell companies in the Virgin Islands, including one connected to Tevfik Arif’s son, Polat Ali, “the chromium plant’s profits were then directed to Bayrock by issuing loans from a U.K. company registered in London as dormant.” Bloomberg adds, “By 2007, their holding company, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Plc, went public in London. It soon became embroiled in one of the biggest scandals the City had seen in years. Allegations ranged from corruption in Kazakhstan to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential bribes paid to acquire mines in Africa. A U.K. Serious Fraud Office investigation is still under way.”
THE DOSSIER DEATH FUSION GPS’ GLENN SIMPSON REFERRED TO
Fox News reports, “A bombshell revelation made public Tuesday that ‘somebody’s already been killed’ as a result of the publication of an unconfirmed anti-Trump dossier has sparked speculation that it was a reference to an ex-KGB agent mysteriously found dead in his car a year ago in Moscow.” Fox News notes, “The attorney for Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson told Senate investigators in a 300-page testimony transcript released Tuesday that a murder had been carried out as a result of the publication,” of the Steele dossier. Simpson’s attorney Joshua Levy said in that transcript, “Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work”. Fox News adds, “The cryptic reference spurred a guessing game about who the unlucky person was. The best guess, at least for now, seems to be a former KGB general, Oleg Erovinkin, who was found dead in the back of his car on a Moscow street in December 2016.” Fox News adds, “In the aftermath of his death, media reports speculated that Erovinkin was an unnamed informant for the dossier and Christo Grozev of Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria claimed in a January 2017 Haaretz article alluded to the former KGB general being the main source of information for the dossier.” At that time, Grozev told Haaretz, “Insiders have described Erovinkin to me alternately as ‘Sechin’s treasurer’ and ‘the go-between between Putin and Sechin,” adding, “Erovinkin was Sechin’s closest associate.”
From Fox News.
KREMLIN LAWYER GOES ON RUSSIAN-STATE RUN RT
Russian-state run RT reports, “Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has given an exclusive interview to RT, sharing her analysis of the recently-released transcript of Fusion GPS’ co-founder’s testimony in the US Senate and the infamous ‘Trump dossier.’” What fun! Look like they have abandoned all pretense that she is somehow not Kremlin linked and totally independent. Russian state-run RT reports that, “According to the lawyer, the questionable document appears to serve as a distraction from the actual problems facing the US: ‘Not only does this investigation distract politicians from real issues, but it is also wasting taxpayers’ money. It focuses on many different things, while failing to establish who actually said them,’ Veselnitskaya said, adding that she hopes ‘this hysteria will end with a victory for common sense.’” Yes Mother Russia, it is so hysterical to want our sovereignty back and our unwillingness to take Russian bullshit makes us all tremendous Russophobes. Hilariously, the same person who she now basically labels a chaos agent, Glenn Simpson, was once in her employ through the law firm BakerHostetler who she hired to go after Bill Browder and deal with allegations stemming from the Prevezon tax fraud scheme, part of the Magnitsky Act fallout. Oops.
From Russian state-run RT.
RUSSIA THREATENS U.S. MEDIA SOME MORE
Voice of America reports, “Russia’s government is threatening additional penalties against U.S. media operating in Russia. The threat is the latest in a back and forth dispute between Washington and Moscow”. The “additional penalties” are unspecified in the Voice of America report.
From Voice of America.
RUSSIA’S USE OF SCIENCE + THE ENVIRONMENT IN ITS DISINFO
Newsweek reports, “Dr. Alex Berezow of the American Council on Science and Health has described how RT subtly undermines the technology and economic growth of the United States.” Newsweek notes, “One example: The report released by the Director of National Intelligence on Russia’s interference in the U.S. election concluded that RT is spouting anti-fracking propaganda as a way to undermine the natural gas industry in the United States. Why? Because fracking lowers the prices of fossil fuels, which severely harms Russia’s economy.” Newsweek cites how, “last July the House Science Committee sent this statement from Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to the Wall Street Journal ’s ‘Best of the Web’ column: If you connect the dots, it is clear that Russia is funding U.S. environmental groups in an effort to suppress our domestic oil and gas industry, specifically hydraulic fracking. They have established an elaborate scheme that funnels money through shell companies in Bermuda. This scheme may violate federal law and certainly distorts the U.S. energy market.” Berezow notes, “how RT subtly undermines the technology and economic growth of the United States.” Newsweek writes, “Genetic engineering in agriculture is a sector that holds intense interest for the Russians. Harking back to the Lysenkoism catastrophe for Soviet agriculture in the Soviet Union, their research and development expertise in that area is virtually nil, and the government has a long-standing ban on genetically engineered organisms from abroad from entering the country, so the Russians have adopted a strategy of trying to inhibit its development elsewhere.” Newsweek notes, “The Russian agenda gets plenty of support from inside the United States. For decades the U.S. organic industry’s propaganda campaign has been trolling and dispensing the same sorts of disinformation to discredit the competition (that is, genetic engineering).” It is also helped along by the fact that our own industry is not entirely honest with us or concerned about the social and health costs of their own products, which creates a reservoir of mistrust Russia can contribute to.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
RUSSIAN ELITES PREFER ANYWHERE IN THE WEST TO PUTIN’S RUSSIA
Bloomberg reports, “The list of new citizens of Malta, published by the island nation’s government, has enough well-known Russian names to drive home an uncomfortable truth for the Kremlin: The Russian elite doesn’t feel attached to Putin’s besieged fortress project.” Shock! To Russia’s economic elite, Russia is merely where you go to pillage and acquire your keep but that keep should be diverted for maintenance of a Western lifestyle abroad where there are such things as rule of law, dignity, possibility. Bloomberg notes, “Malta’s so-called Individual Investor Program allows a non-resident foreigner to essentially buy citizenship in the European Union for a 650,000 euro ($779,000) payment to the state plus a 150,000 euro investment in government bonds. A property purchase or long-term rental contract and due diligence fees are also required. It’s a family-friendly offer: Spouses and children pay no more than 50,000 euros each. This deal is not offered by any other EU state.” Bloomberg notes, “demand is high, and in 2016, it allowed Malta to go from a budget deficit to a surplus. Citizenship sales contributed 163.5 million euros to government revenue in that year.” According to Bloomberg, “The 2016 list, out now, includes a Saudi sheikh arrested in the recent purge, Pakistani tycoons and an Azerbaijani banker. Also, dozens of Russians.” The Kremlin has to tread carefully on the issue as Bloomberg notes, “As Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s former deputy chief of staff and current point man on Ukraine, once remarked about Russia’s cautious business leaders, ‘even if we call these people an offshore aristocracy, we should by no means consider them enemies. All these Counts of Bermuda and Princes of the Isle of Man are our citizens who have many reasons to behave this way.’”
RUSSIA HACKS THE OLYMPICS IN ACT OF REVENGE
Wired reports, “On Wednesday, in the wake of Russia’s December ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics, a Russia-linked group calling itself ‘Fancy Bears’ published a set of apparently stolen emails. They purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organizations.”
RUSSIAN GULAG HISTORIAN FACES FORCED PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT
The New York Times reports, “A Russian historian of the Soviet-era system of forced labor camps known as the Gulag is scheduled to undergo enforced psychiatric testing this week”. The New York Times adds, “The historian, Yuri A. Dmitriev, 61, who seemingly ran afoul of the Kremlin’s new emphasis on taking pride in Russia’s past, was arrested in December 2016 on charges of child pornography after taking nine naked photographs of his adoptive daughter, Natalya, then 11. Mr. Dmitriev denied the photographs had anything to do with pornography, saying that he took them in case social care services accused him of beating her. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. At the end of December, an expert group found no pornographic content in the pictures, and the court, in Karelia, a region in northwestern Russia, refused to extend his detention beyond Jan. 28. But at the same time, the court took a chapter from the Stalinist past, ordering that Mr. Dmitriev be sent to Moscow for psychiatric tests while also asking for a new review of the photographs by other experts.” The New York Times notes, “Mr. Dmitriev has devoted the past 30 years to a search for mass graves of victims of Stalin’s purges. Together with his colleagues from Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most respected human rights organizations, in 1997 he discovered Sandormokh, where the remains of more than 9,000 victims were buried in communal pits.”
From The New York Times.
NEMSTOV MEMORIAL DISMANTLED YET AGAIN
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Moscow authorities have once again removed an improvised memorial near the Kremlin where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in 2015.” Citing the website OVD-Info which tracks arrests in Russia, “on January 11 that representatives of Moscow’s directorate for bridges, Gormost, and several men in civilian clothes took flowers and posters commemorating Nemtsov away from the bridge overnight.” The report added, “the men also seized backpacks containing documents, cash, and credit cards from two activists, Dmitry Kosachyov and Olga Avilonova, who were guarding the makeshift memorial. Avilonova said she was physically assaulted by the men.”
STOP DRINKING STOLI AS RUSSIA TRIES TO RECLAIM THE BRAND
CNN reports, “A court in The Netherlands said Tuesday that FKP Sojuzplodoimport, a Russian state-owned company, is the rightful owner of the trademarks in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The Dutch court has jurisdiction over the vodka brand in the region — known as the Benelux — due to unified trademark rules. SPI Group — which sells Stoli and Stolichnaya vodka around the world — has been ordered to stop selling the vodka in the three countries, and pay Russia a heap of money, court documents show.” According to the ruling, CNN reports, “It must pay Russia all the profits it made since 1999 from selling Stoli, Stolichnaya and a third vodka brand, Moskovskaya, in the Benelux”. However, “SPI had halted sales of these products in the region in 2015 in response to an order from a lower court,” CNN adds. “Founded by Russian billionaire Yuri Shefler in 1997, SPI is facing similar legal challenges from Russia over the trademarks in several other European countries, the United States and Australia. SPI asserts that it owns the Stoli, Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya trademarks in more than 180 nations,” CNN notes, adding, “Russia disputes this claim.”
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