—–ON THE AGENDA—–
STEVE BANNON ON THE HILL TO TESTIFY TO HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE
CNN reports, “Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist whose political fortunes have taken a roller-coaster fall in the wake of his comments in a scathing book on Trump, will be questioned on Tuesday by lawmakers about the Trump team and Russia.” CNN adds, “Bannon’s interview with the House Intelligence Committee will be his first appearance on Capitol Hill before any of the committees investigating Russian election meddling and possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russian officials during the 2016 election.” Of course, “Bannon’s testimony is highly anticipated thanks to the Michael Wolff book ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,’ in which Bannon is quoted disparaging Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, calling their June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton ‘treasonous.’”
TRUMP EXTENDS IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump is once again extending the Iran nuclear deal, but ‘this is the last such waiver he will issue’ unless the deal is strengthened by Congress and European allies, a senior administration official said Friday.” Additionally, “Trump is designating 14 Iranian individuals and entities with new sanctions unrelated to the nuclear deal, including the head of Iran’s judiciary”. Iran’s biggest backer and ally is of course Russia. CNBC adds, “Moscow will not accept any changes to the Iran nuclear pact made by the United States, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a press conference Monday”. According to CNBC, Lavrov said, “We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran”. Now we know why Trump extended the deal: not for our foreign policy, but for theirs. (More on the press conference below, see: “LAVROV’S AIRING OF GREIVANCES”)
FBI UNDER SIEGE BY FAKE POTUS + REPUBLICAN ALLIES
Bloomberg reports, “The Justice Department’s decision to give congressional Republicans access to documents about FBI investigations risks exposing sensitive sources or material and poses a critical early test for bureau Director Christopher Wray, current and former U.S. law enforcement officials say.” Bloomberg notes, “Some officials view the department as capitulating to a small group of Republicans who are intent on helping President Donald Trump undermine the integrity of the FBI and, by extension, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation”. Of course, “Trump has tweeted that the Federal Bureau of Investigations is ‘in Tatters — worst in history’ and has said a senior official committed ‘treason.’” Recall the Russian rules of disinformation that Trump often abides by: accuse your opponents of that which you are yourself guilty of. Bloomberg adds, “The controversy over giving Republicans access to sensitive investigative materials has struck a nerve because it comes after months of rare, intense political scrutiny of the FBI”. Bloomberg recalls, “Tensions between Republicans and the Justice Department deepened in recent weeks as lawmakers demanded sensitive documents and agency leaders resisted turning them over,” and although the Justice Department relented, “it’s unclear whether Republicans will get everything they want”. Bloomberg adds, “On Jan. 11, the Justice Department began giving two House committees what could amount to more than 1.2 million documents,” and, “Additional documents are expected to be provided in the coming days.” Bloomberg adds, “Current and former officials expressed a number of concerns. One agent said some officials working on Russian counterintelligence probes of any kind might now be hesitant to report their findings to superiors, given the political furor over the Mueller investigation.”
PRINCELING JARED WILL GO BEFORE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Newsweek reports, “The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Senator Chuck Grassley, “confirmed Friday that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will still be interviewed as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.” According to Newsweek, “Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, said at a town hall meeting in western Iowa,” that, “‘We’re getting some more documents, and that’s not done.’” Newsweek adds, “Grassley said Friday that the committee is just waiting on documents that Kushner has delayed in handing over before conducting the interview.”
U.S. SENATE IN RUSSIAN HACKERS CROSSHAIRS
The AP reports, “The same Russian government-aligned hackers who penetrated the Democratic Party have spent the past few months laying the groundwork for an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate, a cybersecurity firm said in a report Friday. The revelation suggests the group often nicknamed Fancy Bear, whose hacking campaign scrambled the 2016 U.S. electoral contest, is still busy trying to gather the emails of America’s political elite.” Russia has faced very little by way of repercussions for 2016 misdeeds, and they got what they sought: Trump squatting in the White House. The cybersecurity firm, “Trend Micro based its report on the discovery of a clutch of suspicious-looking websites dressed up to look like the U.S. Senate’s internal email system. The Tokyo-based firm then cross-referenced digital fingerprints associated with those sites to ones used almost exclusively by Fancy Bear,” a Russian state hacking outfit. The AP notes, “Fancy Bear’s interests aren’t limited to U.S. politics; the group also appears to have the Olympics in mind.”
From the AP.
U.S. TREASURY FINISHING UP LIST OF PUTIN’S OLIGARCHS FOR SANCTIONS
Bloomberg reports, “The U.S. Treasury Department is finishing its first official list of ‘oligarchs’ close to President Vladimir Putin’s government, setting off a flurry of moves by wealthy Russians to shield their fortunes and reputations.” Bloomberg reports, “Some people who think they’re likely to land on the list have stress-tested the potential impact on their investments,” and, “Others are liquidating holdings, according to their U.S. advisers.” Bloomberg adds, “Russian businessmen have approached former Treasury and State Department officials with experience in sanctions for help staying off the list, said Dan Fried, who previously worked at the State Department and said he turned down such offers. Some Russians sent proxies to Washington in an attempt to avoid lobbying disclosures, according to one person that was contacted. The report is expected to amount to a blacklist of Russia’s elite.” Bloomberg recalls, “President Donald Trump reluctantly signed in August intended to penalize the Kremlin for its alleged meddling in the 2016 election. A rare piece of legislation passed with a bipartisan veto-proof margin, the law gave Treasury, the State Department and intelligence agencies 180 days to identify people”. Bloomberg reports, “That deadline is Jan. 29.” Of course, this places pressure on Putin who, “warned of worsening U.S. sanctions last month and introduced a capital amnesty program to encourage wealthy nationals to repatriate some of their overseas assets. He also approved a plan to issue special bonds designed to give the wealthy a way to hold their dollar assets out of reach of the U.S. Treasury.” Now if the U.K., France, Spain and Italy could all follow suit.
TRUMP’S NOMINEE FOR THE FED ASKED NOT TO SHIELD DEUTSCHE BANK
Bloomberg reports, “President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Reserve is being asked to give assurance he would shield the central bank from any White House effort to influence its oversight of Deutsche Bank AG, a troubled lender that has been drawn into investigations of Russian meddling in U.S. politics.” Bloomberg adds, “Senate Banking Committee member Chris Van Hollen made the request in a letter to Fed Governor Jerome Powell ahead of the panel’s scheduled vote on Powell’s nomination to succeed Janet Yellen. The Maryland Democrat said his concerns stem from Trump’s ‘significant liabilities’ with the bank at a time when the Fed could be weighing supervisory and enforcement actions against the Frankfurt-based company.” Van Hollen wrote, “The American people deserve to know more about the relationship between President Trump and his businesses and Deutsche Bank,” adding, “If you are confirmed as the next chair of the Federal Reserve Board, this responsibility will rest squarely with you.”
CONGRESS TRIES TO DEFUSE PARTISAN TENSIONS
POLITICO reports, “Top Russia investigators in Congress are straining to salvage some bipartisan cooperation amid acrimony that has come to threaten the credibility of their probes.” POLITICO adds, “In a small but important example, the judiciary panel’s top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, offered an olive branch to an infuriated Republican colleague last week. Feinstein expressed ‘regret’ for failing to notify her GOP counterpart, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, in person before she released a committee interview transcript with a key witness that Republicans had wanted kept private. The move had upset Grassley, who called it a breach of trust. Blaming a ‘bad cold,’ Feinstein told reporters that she ‘should have spoken with Sen. Grassley before.’” The move “defused a perception that Feinstein,” that Feinstein, “had given up on working with Grassley.” Additionally, “Grassley defused the situation himself on Thursday, telling reporters that he saw no ‘breakdown in communication or cooperation’ between the duo. On the same day that Feinstein released the transcript, Grassley pointed out, the two senators’ aides worked together to help secure ‘testimony she wanted from two people’ as part of the investigation.” Additionally, “Rep. Adam Schiff, the top House intelligence Committee Democrat and a frequently harsh critic of his Republican colleagues, struck a notably conciliatory tone in a briefing with reporters last week,” POLITICO notes. In the briefing, “Noting that Republicans hadn’t yet shut down his committee’s 10-month-old probe — despite some reports that they might do so by now — the Californian praised his GOP counterpart, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, for striving to keep a spirit of collaboration alive.”
SCHIFF CALLS ON NUNES TO RELEASE FUSION GPS HOUSE TRANSCRIPT
The Hill reports, “The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is calling the panel Republicans to release the transcript of their interview with Glenn Simpson, the cofounder of the opposition research firm behind the controversial Trump dossier.” In a statement, Rep. Adam Schiff said, “In light of the selective leaks of Mr. Simpson’s testimony and the misleading manner in which Fusion GPS’ role has been characterized, I support releasing the transcript”. The Hill notes, “His statement comes after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the unilateral decision last week to release the panel’s transcript of Simpson’s Senate testimony.” Business Insider notes, “unlike Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein,” that, “Schiff does not have the unilateral authority to release interview transcripts under committee and House rules.”
KASPERSKY LAB TIED TO DEVASTATING NSA LEAKS
Yahoo! reports, “Three months after U.S. officials asserted that Russian intelligence used popular antivirus company Kaspersky to steal U.S. classified information, there are indications that the alleged espionage is related to a public campaign of highly damaging NSA leaks by a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers.” Yahoo! adds, “In August 2016, the Shadow Brokers began leaking classified NSA exploit code that amounted to hacking manuals. In October 2017, U.S. officials told major U.S. newspapers that Russian intelligence leveraged software sold by Kaspersky to exfiltrate classified documents from certain computers.” How naïve was our national security establishment to ever let Russian software near U.S. government hardware?
OF NATO’S NEED FOR A “MILITARY SCHENGEN” IN EUROPE
Business Insider reports, “A convoy of six US Army M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzers traveling from Poland was stopped by German border police on Wednesday because the Polish contractors transporting them had violated several transportation rules. The Paladins, from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, were in route to Germany for a multinational military exercise in Bavaria starting Monday, but the howitzers were too wide and too heavy for the vehicles the Polish contractors transporting them were using.” Additionally, Business Insider notes, “The contractors also did not have the right paperwork for transporting six heavy Paladins, US Army Europe said. Their driving time also exceeded regulations, which only allow such vehicles to use German roads between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. to reduce disruptions to traffic.” Business Insider adds, “While the movement of the Paladins was part of routine exercises, the bureaucratic complications that held them up does underscore logistical challenges that the US Army and other NATO members face when operating in Europe.”
From Business Insider.
RUSSIAN MILITARY HACKERS BEHIND “NOTPETYA” ATTACK IN UKRAINE
The Washington Post reports, “The CIA has attributed to Russian military hackers a cyberattack that crippled computers in Ukraine last year, an effort to disrupt that country’s financial system amid its ongoing war with separatists loyal to the Kremlin. The June 2017 attack, delivered through a mock ransomware virus dubbed NotPetya, wiped data from the computers of banks, energy firms, senior government officials and an airport.” The Washington Post adds, “The GRU military spy agency created NotPetya, the CIA concluded with ‘high confidence’ in November, according to classified reports cited by U.S. intelligence officials. The CIA declined to comment.” The Washington Post notes, “The virus also affected computer systems in Denmark, India and the United States, but more than half of those victimized were in Ukraine.”
From The Washington Post.
AMBASSADORS HUNTSMAN + ANTONOV MEET
Russian state-run TASS reports, “Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov and the U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman outlined joint steps to improve the relations between Moscow and Washington. On Saturday, the Russian ambassador hosted a reception at his residence, which was devoted to the Day of Russian Press,” which is not a deliberate laugh line. Russian state-run TASS reports Antonov “told reporters he considered good and constructive the meeting with Huntsman a few days earlier.” Russian state-run TASS adds, “Antonov met Huntsman, who was in Washington for planned consultations with the Administration and the Congress, on Thursday.”
From Russian state-run TASS.
PUTIN DISPLEASED OVER STATE DEPARTMENT’S TRAVEL WARNING
The Los Angeles Times reports, “Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday accused the U.S. State Department of cultivating ‘blind fear of Russia among Americans’ after the department issued a travel warning this week urging U.S. citizens to reconsider visits to the country.” Naturally, “Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the travel warning, which included terrorism and harassment as serious concerns. She referred to it as an example of what the Kremlin has said repeatedly is a growing wave of Russophobia in Washington”.
From The Los Angeles Times.
LAVROV’S AIRING OF GREIVANCES
Happy belated Festivus all from Russia’s Foreign Ministry! CNN reports, “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the United States of destabilizing the world, airing a list of grievances over the Trump administration’s foreign policy.” Hey Russia, who toasted his win more than you guys? CNN adds, “Lavrov dedicated the opening of his annual press conference Monday to castigating the US, which is expected to soon issue a fresh round of sanctions against Russia over its interference in the 2016 US election.” CNN adds, “Lavrov criticized the US for issuing regular ‘threats’ in relation to events in North Korea and Iran, saying they had ‘further destabilized’ the global situation.”
NEW BILL AGAINST WESTERN MEDIA ADVANCES IN THE DUMA
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Russian lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a bill that would enable the government to brand some individual journalists and bloggers — not only media outlets — as foreign agents.” Of course, “Russia says its legislation, which has been criticized by Western governments and media rights groups, is a response to what it claims is pressure on Russian media outlets in the United States.”
RUSSIA SEEKS CLOSURE OF KEY OPPOSITION FOUNDATION FOR NAVALNY
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Russia’s Justice Ministry is seeking the closure of a foundation that is the bulwark of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s presidential election campaign. Lawyer Ivan Zhdanov said on January 15 that the ministry filed a lawsuit with Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court seeking to shutter the Fifth Season of the Year Foundation, and court spokeswoman Yulia Bocharova said a hearing will be held on January 22.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “Navalny’s campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, said in November that the Fifth Season of the Year Foundation is the legal entity that officially employs workers of Navalny’s campaign offices across Russia, receives financial contributions from supporters, and concludes lease agreements and other deals on behalf of Navalny’s campaign.” ABC News adds, “Navalny has urged a boycott of the election, and tweeted Monday that the ministry’s move reflects authorities’ fear of what he dubbed ‘voters’ strike.’”
RUSSIA DEPLOYS MORE SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILES IN CRIMEA
Reuters reports, “Russia deployed a new division of S-400 surface-to-air missiles in Crimea on Saturday, Russian news agencies reported, in an escalation of military tensions on the Crimean peninsula.” Reuters adds, “Moscow’s latest deployment represents the second division armed with S-400 air defense systems on the peninsula, after the first in the spring of 2017 near the port town of Fedosia. The new division will be based next to the town of Sevastopol and will control the airspace over the border with Ukraine, the RIA news agency reported.” According to Interfax quoting Viktor Sevostyanov, one of the commanders of the Russian air force, “The new air defense system, designed to defend Russia’s borders, can be turned into combat mode in less than five minutes”. But the Russians have nothing to do with Crimea, no sir.
RUSSIAN MERCENARIES TRAINING MILITIAS IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA, BOSNIA
The Guardian reports, “Russian-trained mercenaries are helping to establish a paramilitary unit serving the Serb separatist leader in Bosnia, it was reported in Sarajevo on Friday. The report on the Žurnal news site, which was confirmed by the Bosnian security minister, comes at a time of mounting western anxiety about Russian efforts to destabilise the Balkans and resist Nato enlargement in the region.” According to The Guardian, last “Tuesday, Milorad Dodik, the hardline leader of the Serb half of Bosnia, staged a military parade in Banja Luka in defiance of a ruling by the country’s constitutional court.” Citing the Žurnal report, The Guardian added “that a militia called ‘Serbian Honour’ – which it said had been trained in a Russian-funded ‘humanitarian centre’ in Serbia – was in the process of setting up a paramilitary group to be used against Dodik’s opponents.” Žurnal also “published photographs of the militia on the streets of Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the Republika Srpska, a semi-autonomous entity within Bosnia created by the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 war. The pictures show the paramilitaries posing in black sweaters and in combat gear.”
From The Guardian.
—–INDICTMENT ROCK CITY—–
HAVE MERCY JUDGE
CNN reports, “Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates return to court Tuesday morning for a hearing that could give the clearest picture yet of how both sides are preparing for a trial related to the Russia probe.” CNN notes, “Prosecutors have turned over 590,000 items such as emails, financial records and other documents to the defense teams, a ‘substantial portion’ of the evidence in the case, according to an overview Mueller’s office filed Friday. About 2,200 of those are particularly relevant or important documents, according to the special counsel’s office.” Additionally, “Judge Amy Berman Jackson may address two other issues that have nagged Gates and Manafort: Their compliance with a gag order around the case, and their attempts to get out from house arrest,” CNN adds, noting, “Judge Berman Jackson is likely to address whether Gates violated the gag order when he taped a video that thanked potential donors to his legal defense fund. That video was shown online and at an event primarily for journalists in late December.” Then of course, “Manafort was in a similar predicament with the gag order earlier last month, after he worked on an op-ed that defended his political consulting work in Ukraine and was submitted to a Ukrainian newspaper.” (See the Paul Manafort Tracks Changes Tote and Manafort’s Changes Women’s Sweatshirt at the TRUMPISTAN WATCH merch shop.)
“I GOT THE MONTH OF MAY”
Bloomberg reports, “Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel, says he wants the conspiracy and money-laundering trial of former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and his one-time associate Richard Gates to start on May 14.”
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
Business Insider reports, “Contemporaneous notes taken by President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort at a meeting with a Russian lawyer and lobbyist at Trump Tower during the election reference Cyprus, ‘active sponsors of RNC,’ and ‘Russian adoptions by American families,’ according to an interview transcript released by Congress earlier this week. Senate Judiciary Committee investigators showed the notes to Glenn Simpson, the cofounder of the opposition research firm Fusion GPS, and asked him whether he recognised any of the terms or phrases Manafort wrote down during the June 9 meeting”. Business Insider adds, “The notes mentioned ‘active sponsors of RNC’ and referenced Juleanna Glover, a political strategist and lobbyist who served as Dick Cheney’s press secretary during the Iraq war, according to the transcript. There was also a reference to ‘133 million,’ according to Simpson.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH once went to a party at Juleanna Glover’s house, just like almost everybody who has passed through Washington at some point – ask about it sometime in person. Business Insider notes, “Glover confirmed on Friday that she served as the Ashcroft Group’s lead lobbyist pushing for the Magnitsky Act’s passage between 2011 and 2012, and had worked with Browder in that capacity.”
From Business Insider.
HOPE HICKS TO MEET HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE THIS WEEK
CNN reports, “White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as soon as this week, making her one of President Donald Trump’s closest confidantes to be privately interviewed in the panel’s Russia investigation”. CNN notes, “Hicks, a trusted Trump aide for years, was one of then-candidate Trump’s first hires as he put together an improbable run for the White House. During the campaign, she was often by Trump’s side and attended nearly every rally, while she was in frequent communication with other senior officials as they plotted their tactics to win the White House.” CNN adds, “The House panel plans to interview her about any knowledge she has of contacts that occurred between other Trump associates and Russians. And she is bound to be questioned about other controversies as well, namely the White House’s involvement in crafting a misleading response last summer once a June 2016 meeting between Russians and Donald Trump Jr. was revealed in the press.”
BANNON + LEWANDOWSKI TO TESTIFY TO HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE
Bloomberg reports, “Stephen Bannon and Corey Lewandowski are scheduled to testify in the coming week as the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election reaches a crescendo.” Bloomberg adds, “President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist and former campaign manager, respectively, are part of a hectic schedule that Democrats fear is being engineered by Republicans keen to end the probe as soon as possible. Their appearances are voluntary, and they’ll meet with the panel in private, said officials from both parties familiar with the committee’s schedule.” As noted in “ON THE AGENDA,” Bannon is on the Hill today appearing before the committee.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
HEY, BIG SPENDOR!
NBC News reports, “Four foreign governments, 16 special interest groups and 35 Republican congressional campaign committees spent money at Trump properties in 2017, according to data compiled by the government watchdog group Public Citizen.” NBC News adds, “The biggest spender was a key Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia. A public relations firm spent $270,000 on behalf of the Saudi government at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. on an undisclosed date, the report said, citing public documents and a USA Today article.” The President of Public Citizen Robert “Weissman said he believed that the Saudi effort to curry favor with the Trump administration ‘stands out above all.’” NBC News notes, “Republican politicians’ campaigns spending money at Trump properties included those of Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has feuded with Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, both of California.”
From NBC News.
Newsweek reports, “The price of the ‘Ivanka suite’ at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. has more than doubled since Donald Trump became president, and a watchdog group says this is just the latest evidence of the first family cashing in on its time in the White House.” Newsweek adds, “The suite, named after Trump’s oldest daughter and adviser, now goes for $2,134 per night, compared to just $914 at the same time in 2017, according to a new post by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which is led by former Obama ethics attorney Norm Eisen. A Newsweek review of the hotel’s listings on Sunday showed the room going for $2,054 for a one-night stay.” According to CREW, “the only thing that really seems to have changed with the price jumped was the removal of a Nespresso machine.”
INSIDE THE GLENN SIMPSON TRANSCRIPT RELEASED BY FEINSTEIN
CNBC reports, “The 312-page transcript, released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday over the reported objections of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, documents nearly 10 hours of testimony that delves into Trump’s purported wealth, the financial health of some of his properties, his business ties to disreputable figures and his public statements regarding his own finances. Simpson said his intelligence-gathering firm did not have access to Trump’s personal tax returns beyond what had already been leaked to the media. But the firm, Simpson said, did secure Trump’s ‘tax bills,’ from which it concluded ‘that his statements about what individual properties were worth were greatly exaggerated.’” In the testimony, Simpson added, “That exaggeration extended to the Trump Organization’s golf courses. Simpson said that his firm’s review of public financial statements showed that ‘they were not profitable entities.’” CNBC adds, “Simpson’s allegations about Trump’s business relationships, particularly with convicted felon Felix Sater, contradicted statements Trump had previously made under oath. Trump ‘testified under oath he wouldn’t know Felix if he ran into him in the street,’ Simpson said. ‘That was not true.’” Simpson told the Senate committee Trump “continued to associate with him long after he learned of Felix’s organized crime ties.”
EDWARD BAUMGARTNER, FUSION GPS’ OTHER RUSSIA GUY
Business Insider reports Fusion GPS’ Glenn “Simpson told investigators that Edward Baumgartner, who has a degree in Russian language and runs his own consulting firm similar to Fusion (but with a focus on Russia and Ukraine) worked on both projects,” the Prevezon/Magnitsky case and the Trump investigation, which became known as the Steele dossier. Baumgartner, who “cofounded the UK-based intelligence consultancy Edward Austin in 2010,” said, “What I do is not a particularly radical or novel skill in London”. According to Business Insider, “Baumgartner, a fluent Russian speaker, said he was hired by Fusion to serve as ‘an interface’ with Veselnitskaya, who does not speak much English. They worked ‘very closely’ together in Washington and Moscow, Baumgartner said, reviewing documents and finding witnesses who could bolster Prevezon’s case. He said he overheard Veselnitskaya speaking by phone to the Russian prosecutor, Yuri Chaika, several times in a way that struck him as being ‘friendly, like a family friend,’ rather than hierarchical.” Of course, “Chaika’s relationship with Veselnitskaya was heavily scrutinised last summer after Donald Trump Jr. released emails showing he had been promised incriminating information on his father’s opponent Hillary Clinton from the ‘crown prosecutor of Russia’ – an apparent reference to Chaika, Russia’s current prosecutor general.”
From Business Insider.
KLEPTOCRACY 101: APPOINTING INEXPERIENCED HACKS
The Washington Post reports, “In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families. Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House office responsible for coordinating the federal government’s multibillion dollar anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff.” How does that happen? Well surprise, “Weyeneth’s only professional experience after college and before becoming an appointee was working on Trump’s presidential campaign”! In addition to zero qualifications, there are also inconsistencies in his resumes, meaning he is a fraud who will fit right in! Then there is the steroid controversy. According to The Washington Post, “When he was in high school, Weyeneth was “Director of Production” for Nature’s Chemistry, a family firm in Skaneateles, N.Y., that specialized in processing chia seeds and other health products. One résumé said he served in that job from 2008 to 2013, and two others indicate he stopped working there in September 2011. In the summer and fall of 2011, the firm was secretly processing illegal steroids from China as part of a conspiracy involving people from Virginia, California and elsewhere in the United States and one person in China, federal court records show. Weyeneth’s stepfather, Matthew Greacen, pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge last year and received two years probation and a fine. Weyeneth was not charged in the investigation, known as Operation Grasshopper. His mother, Kim Weyeneth, said in an interview that neither she nor her son knew about the steroid production and that he provided information to help the federal prosecutors.” Maybe they can manufacture meth in the White House bathtub? That might be the last white trash accouterment missing from the whole cabal. He also lied about having a master’s from Fordham! Jeez, why not a doctorate? Go big or go home, kid.
From The Washington Post.
NEVER BELIEVE ANYTHING UNTIL THE KREMLIN DENIES IT
Russian state-run RT reports, “Anti-Russia conspiracy theorists have developed another outlandish claim, stating that Moscow is behind Chelsea Manning’s Senate bid, since she’s taking on an incumbent who is against so-called ‘Russian aggression.’” The treasonous Manning is seeking to challenge the outspoken over human rights in the post-Soviet sphere Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who will hopefully win handily despite the theater of the absurd. Of course Glenn Greenwald is all in for it and quoted extensively by the Russian propaganda site. Manning’s announcement comes after Cardin released a thorough report on Russia’s modus operandi for interference running abroad over two decades, a report that was largely ignored beyond the Kremlin’s walls by the American public because it was mature but not in the sex, genitals or shithole way that plunges the depths of the public’s intellectual maturity (or lack thereof). For his part, Greenwald, the great Kremlin proxy, said, “this is how deranged official Washington is,” not, you know, Russia, never Russia. Also, is it not a little bit deranged that someone convicted of treason is running for the Senate? Asking for a friend.
From Russian state-run RT.
SENATOR FLAKE COMPARES TRUMP’S TREATMENT OF PRESS TO STALIN
POLITICO reports, “Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s declaration that media is ‘the enemy of the people’ is a throwback to Josef Stalin that should have no place in political discourse.” Flake told MSNBC the phrase “was popularized by Josef Stalin, used by Mao as well — enemy of the people. It should be noted that Nikita Khrushchev who followed Stalin, forbade its use, saying that was too loaded and that it maligned a whole group or class of people, and it shouldn’t be done.”
NOW WE KNOW HOW CHEAP IT IS TO BUY PRESS: $130
The Daily Beast reports, “An unknown client paid a Pakistani national to place an article at the HuffPost defending a controversial associate of President Donald Trump. HuffPost scrubbed the article, written in December, from its website after a blogger in Northern Ireland, Dean Sterling Jones, inquired about the piece, which hailed the dismissal last year of a $250 million tax fraud case against Felix Sater, a Russian-born former Trump Organization executive.” How much did it cost? According to The Daily Beast, “The article’s author, listed on HuffPost’s website under the name Waqas KH, runs a Pakistani company called Steve SEO Services. That company offers to ghostwrite articles and organize internet commenting campaigns for paying clients. On the freelancer website Fiverr, Waqas goes by the username “nico_seo” and offers to place articles on HuffPost for an $80 fee. For an extra $50, he will write the article himself.” So cheap! So that’s the starting price and presumably it is more for Putin to place an op-ed in The New York Times. So what if the fees do not go to the publication but an intermediary? The results are almost the same, perhaps worse because the publication cannot remove offenders or change policies as there is plausible deniability, that most Russian of things. The fake journalism for sale is peddled onto a public that is largely unaware of the market for paid fake journalistic content but already has plenty of reasons to mistrust a press that has peddled racist, sexist, classist nonsense including fascism, Nazis and white nationalism for years now. Oh let us not forget normalizing the lunatic in the White House. For his part, “Waqas confirmed to The Daily Beast that he placed the article hailing the dismissal of tax charges against Sater, and said that his client had written the actual text. He said Sater himself did not pay to place the article, but would not say who had compensated him for it.”
From The Daily Beast.
—–TOWARDS A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXCHANGE—–
THE NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW, THE END, + YOU!
The Washington Post reports, “The Trump administration’s wizards of Armageddon have locked down their vision of the nuclear future. It is, by and large, a rehash of old thinking from previous administrations, but its one key departure is a doozy: It declares a newfound readiness to use U.S. nuclear weapons first and early in a confrontation with Russia and possibly others.” The Washington Post adds, “Alarmingly, the wizards have uprooted the nuclear taboo and deluded themselves into believing that nuclear weapons are far more usable than previous presidents held. In a single ill-conceived stroke, they have expressed a readiness to go nuclear first in a conflict with Russia or others that had not yet crossed the nuclear Rubicon.” While, “The new Nuclear Posture Review mostly reiterates previous commitments,” however, “Where the review goes ballistic is its assignment of U.S. nuclear weapons to deter — and if deterrence fails, to attack Russia if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders a non-nuclear strategic attack against the United States and its NATO allies.” The Washington Post asks, “What is the feared scenario of Russia aggression that would warrant such escalation? The document points to what it calls non-nuclear strategic attacks against civilian populations and infrastructure”. The Washington Post notes, “Bizarre as it may seem, the Russians appear to believe that paralyzing or even just severely disrupting ‘normal life’ in the West would so inconvenience the populaces that they would demand their governments end the conflict. Depriving civilians of their iPhones and other amenities is viewed as key to coercing the West to stand down. Of course, some of this disruption — say, electrical blackouts — would cause more than inconvenience; it could mean life or death for thousands.” So as an act of deterrence or madness, depending on one’s perspective, “the Trump administration’s document leaves the door ajar for possible U.S. nuclear first strikes against non-nuclear countries if they wreck our critical civilian infrastructure,” The Washington Post reports. Don’t tread on our iPhones!
From The Washington Post.
—–RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS—–
RUSSIA IS BACK IN RECESSION
Bloomberg reports, “After suffering its longest economic contraction this century, Russia may just have had the shortest recovery.” Sad! According to Bloomberg, “JPMorgan Chase & Co. says the world’s biggest energy exporter probably capped last year with two consecutive quarters of contraction — or a technical recession”. Sad!
RESISTANCE ADVICE: PROJECT THAT SHIT BACK AT TRUMP
The Hill reports, “The word ‘shithole” was projected onto President Trump’s D.C. hotel Saturday. Video shows the word, along with the ‘poop’ emoji, being projected onto the property.” Of course, “Trump has faced intense backlash for calling Haiti, El Salvador and African nations ‘shithole countries’ during an Oval Office meeting on immigration this week,” but not from his base which revels in open racism. As Human Rights Watch’s Andrew Stroehlein pointed out on Twitter, “‘Shithole’ is an anagram for ‘his hotel’….”
From The Hill.
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