TRUMP THINKS HE’S SMARTER THAN THE LAWYERS, TOO
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump’s lawyers have urged him not to discuss details of the unfolding Russia investigation with anyone outside his legal team, warning of a conversational ‘bright line’ that could put aides and associates in legal jeopardy,” which adds, “But Trump often ignores that legal advice in the presence of senior aides — including his departing confidante and White House communications director, Hope Hicks.” POLITICO notes, “Hicks is not alone. Current and former Trump aides describe a president who often fails to observe boundaries about the Russia probe and who calls staffers into his office and raises the subject without warning.” POLITICO adds that Hicks “met in December with special counsel Robert Mueller and spent nearly nine hours testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Hicks also has appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee.” She is 29 and has no previous experience of any kind at this level. What could go wrong as she departs the White House? Maybe she will soon join the cast and crew of INDICTMENT ROCK CITY?
FBI COUNTER-INTEL PROBING AN ARYAN PRINCESS IVANKA BUSINESS DEAL
CNN reports, “US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump’s international business deals”. Delicious! CNN adds, “The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver,” and teases, “The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.” CNN notes, “The FBI has been looking closely at the international business entanglements of both Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to determine whether any of those deals could leave them vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents, including China”. CNN adds, “The development — a 616-foot beacon dotting the Vancouver skyline and featuring a trademarked Ivanka Trump spa — opened in February 2017, just after Trump took office.” As for the details of the property, “The Trump Organization does not own the building. Instead, like other Trump projects, it receives licensing and marketing fees from the developer, Joo Kim Tiah. A scion of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest families, Tiah runs his family’s Canada-based development company Holborn Group. President Trump’s June financial disclosure form said the Trump Organization made more than $5 million in royalties and $21,500 in management fees from the Vancouver property. The $360 million project, which features 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, quickly became a magnet for foreign buyers.” CNN notes, “Ivanka Trump accompanied the President as two key events unfolded that Mueller is looking into as part of an obstruction of justice investigation: the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and the misleading statement about the Trump team’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016.”
FEEL THE FIRE + THE FURY NOW, RUSSIAN EMAIL THEIVES!
NBC News reports, “Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 election”. NBC News adds, “Much like the indictment Mueller filed last month charging a different group of Russians in a social media trolling and illegal-ad-buying scheme, the possible new charges are expected to rely heavily on secret intelligence gathered by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)”. The next round of indictments will speed everything up.
From NBC News.
SENATOR GRASSLEY PROBING MANAFORT-LINKED OLIGARCH DERIPASKA
The Hill reports, “Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is intensifying inquiries into Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who some Republicans suspect may have links to the former MI6 agent behind the controversial ‘Steele dossier.’” The Hill notes, “A series of text messages between Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and a D.C.-based lobbyist named Adam Waldman, published by Fox News earlier this month, revealed that Waldman was acting as an intermediary for both Deripaska and the former British spy, Christopher Steele, to negotiate for cooperation with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s election interference. Grassley this week sent a letter to Waldman requesting an interview and demanding information on Steele’s relationship to Deripaska.” The Hill adds, “Separately on Wednesday, Grassley also issued a letter to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security requesting visa records and immigration history details for Deripaska, writing that, ‘Notably, after Mr. Waldman began to advocate for him, Mr. Deripaska was apparently issued a diplomatic passport, and allowed entry into the United States.’”
From The Hill.
DARKNESS AT NUNES, PURVEYOR OF CONSTANT COVFEFE
The New York Times reports, “The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were behind the leak of private text messages between the Senate panel’s top Democrat and a Russian-connected lawyer”. The New York Times adds, “Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California”. Ryan of course did nothing. The New York Times notes, “The messages between Mr. Warner and Adam Waldman, a Washington lawyer, show that the senator tried for weeks to arrange a meeting with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who assembled a dossier of salacious claims about connections between Mr. Trump, his associates and Russia. The Senate committee has had difficulty making contact with Mr. Steele, whom it views as a key witness. And Mr. Waldman, who knew Mr. Steele, presented himself as a willing partner.” The New York Times adds, “Fox News published the texts, which were sent via a secure messaging application, in early February. President Trump and other Republicans loyal to him quickly jumped on the report to try to discredit Mr. Warner, suggesting that the senator was acting surreptitiously to try to talk to Mr. Steele,” adding, “The Fox News article made prominent mention of work by Mr. Waldman’s Washington lobbying firm on behalf of Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate who was once close to Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s indicted former campaign chairman.” The New York Times reports, “A lawyer for Mr. Waldman independently concluded that the House committee had probably shared the document and sent a letter to Mr. Nunes complaining about the leak”.
From The New York Times.
RUSSIAN TROLLS TRIED TO EFFECT US ENERGY POLICY
Fortune reports, “Russian operatives used inflammatory social media posts to disrupt U.S. energy policy, including inciting environmentalists to protest against pipeline projects, House Republicans said in a report released Thursday. The report, released by the majority staff of the House Science Committee, said it found evidence Russian-sponsored agents used Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to suppress the research and development of fossil fuels and stymie efforts to expand the use of natural gas.” Recall, the goal of active measures is to capture the state so foreign policy, defense and the economy – this one concerns all three.
JAVELIN ANTITANK MISSILE SALES TO UKRAINE GOING FORWARD
ABC News reports, “The U.S. has announced it will sell Ukraine 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 launchers, worth $47 million. The sale marks a significant increase in U.S. military support for Ukraine — the first lethal weapons sale of its kind since Russian-backed separatists launched a war against the central government in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.” ABC News adds, “U.S. personnel will travel to Ukraine to train their military on its use”.
From ABC News.
RUSSIAN CYBER ATTACK ON GERMANY’S SECURE SYSTEMS
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “A major cyberattack on the German government reported this week has been ‘serious,’ ‘damaging,’ and is still going on, German legislators and officials said. The comments at an emergency meeting of the Bundestag’s parliamentary control committee on March 1 in Berlin appeared to contradict earlier government assurances that the security breach had been ‘isolated and brought under control.’” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “German media, citing anonymous officials and documents, reported on March 1 that the hack appears to have originated from the Russian hacking group known as ‘Snake’ or ‘Turla,’ which has been active since 2005. Earlier reports had blamed the notorious Russian hacking group known as ‘Fancy Bear’ or ‘APT28,’ which some believe has connections to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency and was accused of attacks on U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.”
CNN reports, “Former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates told a federal court Thursday afternoon that he and his wife believe it’s ‘not prudent’ for them to take their four children on a trip to Boston, after feeling threatened by an online commenter who invoked the Russian mafia.” CNN adds, “A Boston Globe report on Gates’ scheduled trip, planned for next week and approved by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, ‘generated comments on the internet, some of which were of a threatening character,’ Gates’ attorney said in a court filing.” Gates is spooked. CNN recalls, “Following his guilty plea and agreement to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation last Friday, Gates had asked to take his family to Boston for spring break to learn about the Revolutionary War.” What an instructor he would have been too! Maybe it is better they did not go for other reasons. CNN notes, “Also on Thursday, a federal judge in Virginia formally dismissed criminal charges pending there against Gates. Prosecutors had sought the dismissal as part of Gates’ plea bargain.”
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
TRUMP PANAMA HOTEL DISPUTE ERUPTS IN VIOLENCE
ABC News reports, “Tensions escalated on Wednesday at the Trump International Hotel in Panama as the government dispatched police in riot gear to the luxury property amid an ongoing conflict between Trump’s company and one of its business partners. A legal dispute between the president’s firm and the building’s majority owner turned violent in recent days as the two sides vied for control of the property in a series of physical confrontations.” In other words, this is some real mafia shit happening down in Panama, a notorious location for shell companies as revealed in the Panama Papers that leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca. ABC News adds, “In one video obtained by ABC News, a man identified as a Trump Hotels employee can be seen hurling another man down a narrow hallway on Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, this latest scuffle marks at least the fourth time the police have been called to the property in the last week.” Very presidential, all of it –if you live in some shitty post-Soviet republic.
From ABC News.
CUE ACTIVE MEASURES ON THE ECONOMY, NOTE FREE MARKETEER SILENCE
POLITICO reports, “Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, has been rumored to be on the brink of leaving the White House for months but stayed for one main reason: to stop the president from imposing steep tariffs.” POLITICO adds, “In a meeting with steel industry executives, Trump announced plans for a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.” Naturally, “The Dow promptly tanked over 500 points, and Cohn’s allies began wondering if this would be the final insult sending the director of the National Economic Council to the exit.” POLITICO notes, “The tariff decision on Thursday capped several weeks of freewheeling and often caustic debates that one White House aide called ‘absolute chaos’ and featured loud disputes between Cohn and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, a leading advocate of tariffs.” This is as good of a time as any to recall that the goal of active measures is to capture the state, so foreign policy, defense and the economy.
ONLY HALF OF WH STAFF INITIALLY SWORN IN REMAINS
The Washington Post reports, “On Jan. 22, 2017, Vice President Pence, two days into that job, was given the honors of swearing in the White House senior staff. Some two dozen incoming staffers raised their right hands and, in front of a beaming President Trump and proud audience, pledged to serve faithfully. With the announcement on Wednesday of the imminent departure of Hope Hicks — then the administration’s director of strategic communications — 13 of the 23 people we identified as having taken that oath are no longer or will soon no longer be working at the White House.”
From The Washington Post.
WH CHIEF OF STAFF “JOKES” GOD IS PUNISHING HIM
NPR reports, “President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, who has attempted to bring order to a chaotic West Wing, joked Thursday that he is not sure what he did to wind up in his current position. At an event marking the 15th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kelly said, ‘The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of homeland security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess.’”
WATCH THE COVFEFE GET MADE: DOJ INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT INPUT
The New York Times reports, “A Justice Department review is expected to criticize the former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, for authorizing the disclosure of information about a continuing investigation to journalists”. The New York Times notes, “Such a damning report would give President Trump new ammunition to criticize Mr. McCabe, who is at the center of Mr. Trump’s theory that ‘deep state’ actors inside the F.B.I. have been working to sabotage his presidency. But Mr. McCabe’s disclosures to the news media do not fit neatly into that assumption: They contributed to a negative article about Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration’s Justice Department — not Mr. Trump.”
From The New York Times.
THE TRUMPISTANI ELITES ONLY RESPOND TO PUBLIC SHAME
The New York Times reports, “Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, is attempting to cancel a $31,000 order for a customized hardwood dining room table, chairs, sideboard and hutch the day after the chairman of the House Oversight Committee announced an investigation into the refurbishment of his HUD office. ‘At the request of the secretary, the agency is working to rescind the order for the dining room set,’ Armstrong Williams, Mr. Carson’s business manager and an informal adviser, said on Thursday. He added, however, that ‘it might not be possible.’”
From The New York Times.
ASSESSING PUTIN’S CRIMINAL MAFIA STATE OF THE UNION
Meduza speaks with several familiar experts in the aftermath of Putin’s cartoon-like State of the Union, which was spent selling the Russian people the phony nationalism of weapons rather than offer guarantees of real social and economic improvements:
– Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center: “as I understand it, he wants to say: if the West intends to squeeze Russia and change the military-strategic situation to its own benefit through NATO enlargement, then it’s pointless, because we have the means [to prevent this]. In my opinion, however, the West has no such intentions. I don’t think the West plans to use Ukrainian territory to deploy weapons capable of hitting Russian territory at point-blank range. Generally speaking, talk about expanding NATO eastward, toward Russia, has ceased to be relevant. At least within my lifetime, I don’t think Ukraine or Georgia will become NATO members. This is widely recognized, although not publicly.”
– Gleb Pavlovsky, former Putinist turned Putin critic: “the speech missed the mark, even from the perspective of Putin’s own interests… there was an attempt to balance the development bloc and the defense bloc, emphasizing the latter… At the same time, there was anger directed at the Americans for [the defeat of the private military company] ‘Wagner,’ which Putin understands perfectly well was a postcard addressed to him personally. Plus it was necessary to load the speech with social spending promises to voters and pensioners. It all came together in an unfortunate way. It ended up a mess, and Putin didn’t get the speech he wanted. The Americans certainly won’t be scared of a few cartoons, but they will gladly use these videos to talk about Russia’s intentions. Because what it looks like is preparations for a third world war. It will look like this for a mass audience, but the [American] elites saw a lot of cartoons [growing up], and they won’t be scared… From my point of view, the mistaken political signaling is due to an absence of serious criticism in Putin’s inner circle. Apparently, there’s just nobody who dares to say what’s good and what’s bad.”
– Andrei Soldatov, preeminent Russian journalist of intelligence matters: “The president’s speech is built on a contradiction. There is a wide array of ways to deter an enemy, from political and economic measures to military options. But an armed response is the last resort in national defense — you only use the military when you’ve already been attacked. Before this, it’s meaningless and useless. You can only use the military to frighten your adversaries, and it seems Putin sees no other options. In the modern world, however, it’s not possible to operate this way. We can assume that the president sees no political, economic, or diplomatic means of establishing a dialogue with the rest of the world. All these ballistic missiles only come into play when the dialogue has ended. And that’s the contradiction: you can’t call for a dialogue, when there’s already no dialogue.”
IGOR SECHIN, ROSNEFT CEO + ONE OF PUTIN’S LEADING MEN
The Finanical Times profiles Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, the 50.1% state owned Russian oil company that is now the largest in the world. The Financial Times calls Sechin, “Russia’s pre-eminent oligarch,” adding, “The oil baron is the epitome of the group of all-powerful businessmen whose deep political influence and control over the country’s national resources depend on their proximity to President Putin. They are widely perceived in Russian society to be above the law and answerable only to the Kremlin.” The Financial Times adds, “Sechin, 57, has marked himself out as first among equals in the president’s entourage, a loyalist who has risen from an early role as Putin’s secretary to head of the world’s biggest publicly listed oil company. As CEO of Rosneft, he controls an energy empire that pumps more crude per day than the whole of Iraq — and is thus guardian of the Kremlin’s most valuable corporate asset.” As for his personal background, Sechin was “sent to Angola and Mozambique in the 1980s — the African frontiers of the cold war — as a military translator. It was in this role that he began working with the KGB, the Soviet security service, according to diplomats.” The Financial Times notes, “When Putin, a former KGB officer and fellow St Petersburg local, became deputy mayor of his hometown in 1994, Sechin was made his secretary, marking himself out by fastidiously controlling access and making detailed notes on each visitor. He then followed Putin, bag in hand, to the Kremlin when Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin on the stroke of the new millennium. Sechin was appointed deputy head of the administration, with oversight of the security services and energy issues, a protective gatekeeper and confidant.” From there, The Financial Times continues, “In 2008 Putin switched jobs for a four-year term as prime minister, and Sechin became deputy premier, with control over energy policy, formalising his position as the ultimate arbiter of Russia’s oil and gas assets. Then, after Putin returned as president in 2012, Sechin took direct control of Rosneft as chief executive.” As a result of this closeness to the Kremlin, “he was hit with US sanctions after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea,” The Financial Times notes. In an earlier interview with The Financial Times, “ Sechin was keen to portray himself as a disciple of the market economy, despite a record of championing state control and public ownership.” Of course, the owners of Yukos and Bashneft whose companies have landed in Rosneft’s control after hostile, state-backed takeovers feel differently.
From The Financial Times.
GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, THE RUSSIAN MAFIA STATE KILLS PEOPLE
NPR reports, “Russian politician Alexander Torshin claimed his ties to the National Rifle Association provided him access to Donald Trump — and the opportunity to serve as a foreign election observer in the United States during the 2012 election.” NPR notes, “Torshin has written numerous times about his connections with the NRA, of which he’s a known paid lifetime member,” and so NPR has gone ahead and “translated a selection of” his 150,000 Tweets as it concerns the NRA. NPR notes, “Torshin’s use of NRA connections to open doors, and his 2015 claim to know Trump through the organization, raise new questions about the group’s connections with Russian officials”. NPR adds, “‘I saw him in Nashville’ in April 2015, Torshin,” wrote on Twitter on “the date and site of the NRA’s 2015 convention. Trump gave a speech at that convention, the outlines of which would become familiar as his stump speech throughout the 2016 presidential campaign”. NPR notes, “Torshin also documented his attendance at every NRA convention between 2012 and 2016, only some of which have been previously reported.” NPR adds Torshin “has personally met with every person who has been president of the NRA since 2012.” NPR reports, “His tweets suggest a longtime relationship with [David] Keene, who repeatedly appears in photos as Torshin documents his visits, suggesting that their meeting was not merely coincidental.” Meanwhile, “The heat is on the Russian politician, who was alleged by Spanish police to have directed financial transactions for the Russian mob.” The FBI and Congress are also investigating him or wish to speak to him.
WHEN TROLLS BLEED
The Daily Beast reports, “The Kremlin-backed troll farm at the center of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election has quietly suffered a catastrophic security breach”. The Daily Beast adds, “The Russian ‘information exchange’ Joker.Buzz, which auctions off often stolen or confidential information, advertised a leak for a large cache of the Internet Research Agency’s (IRA) internal documents. It includes names of Americans, activists in particular, whom the organization specifically targeted; American-based proxies used to access Reddit and the viral meme site 9Gag; and login information for troll farm accounts.” The Daily Beast notes, “Even the advertisement for the document dump provides a trove of previously unknown information about the breadth of Russia’s disinformation effort in the United States, including rallies pushed by IRA social media accounts that turned violent.” The Daily Beast notes, “The listing was titled ‘Savushkina 55,’ the physical address in St. Petersburg from which the troll farm used to operate. The date on the auction is listed as Feb. 10, 2017—seven months before Facebook and Twitter identified and pulled down Internet Research Agency accounts from Twitter. It received no bids. The seller, ‘AlexDA,’ has not posted any other listings, and was unable to be reached. In Russian, the listing promised ‘working data from the department focused on the United States.’” The Daily Beast reports, “While the date of the auction could not be independently confirmed, the authenticity of the leak can. The leaked documents list screen names connected to a number of American citizens who were used as unwitting proxies by the Russians. The Daily Beast was able to track down four of those citizens, whose names have not been previously revealed. The leak contains precise dates in 2016 in which the IRA-created account Blacktivist reached out to those U.S. citizens, plus a short description of the conversations. The Daily Beast spoke to those citizens, and confirmed they interacted with the Blacktivist account in the ways described by the IRA in the document. In one case, the American even provided screenshots of his interactions with the Russian troll trying to dupe him. The leaks also showed a “connection to two additional 2016 rallies, one outside Atlanta and another in western New York,” adding, “One of them turned violent,” The Daily Beast adds.
From The Daily Beast.
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