—–ON THE AGENDA—–
TRUMP TO DINE WITH THE DEATH CULT “LEADERS”
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump will host Republican leaders for dinner at the White House on Wednesday night,” as, “The dinner has been in the works for several days and was being planned before Trump attacked special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday and his press secretary said on Tuesday that the president has the power to fire the special counsel.” Like the death cult GOP care about that! They are just thrilled to have an accomplice in whom they can dispose of all responsibility for how badly they are fucking over the American people at present time. Cute of POLITICO to pretend for them, though, in that horrifying this is how our country got to be so exculpatory of fascists and racists and deranged souls sort of way. POLITICO notes, “House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn are all expected to attend”. POLITICO notes, “McConnell said Tuesday that he was almost certain Mueller wouldn’t be fired and that the special counsel did not need any special protections from Congress, though the Kentucky Republican wouldn’t say how he could be so sure.” Maybe they will have a champagne toast or perhaps just cyanide Kool Aid à la Jonestown as these death cult leaders bring us into World War III (see more in “BREAKING”).
ZUCK AMERICA, DAY TWO
FARAbook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has his second day of Congressional hearings today (more below on how yesterday went in “BREAKING”).
GOOD MORNING, TRUMPISTAN! TWITLER FIRES OFF MISSILE THREATS
POLITICO reports, “President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that he intends to launch missiles against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, warning Russia that the strike will come even though it has threatened to shoot down any American missiles launched at Syria. ‘Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!”’ Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. ‘You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!’” So his plan, after careful consideration of his own troubles, is World War III. Good morning, Trumpistan! Welcome to World War III! What did TRUMPISTAN WATCH say last week about phony missile tests in the Baltic Sea being the equivalent to 2014’s little green men in Crimea? Meanwhile Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, “urged the United States not to conduct a missile strike on Syria, saying that such an attack could ‘substantially destabilize’ the Middle East.”
WH CANCELS TRUMP’S SOUTH AMERICA TRIP THIS WEEK; SYRIA ON HORIZON
The Guardian reports, “The White House announced on Tuesday that Donald Trump will not travel to South America this week as planned.” The Guardian adds, “The president had been due to attend the Summit of the Americas in Lima and travel to Bogotá, Colombia, as well. Vice-president Mike Pence will make the trip in his stead. It would been Trump’s first visit to Latin America as president.” Ominous. At the same time, The Guardian adds, “Russian officials and analysts have warned of the dangers of a military clash with the United States if Donald Trump orders a military strike in Syria”.
TRUMP WANTS TO FIRE BALLERS ROSENSTEIN + MUELLER
CNN reports, “President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein,” which, “could potentially further Trump’s goal of trying to put greater limits on special counsel Robert Mueller.” In response, “Senate Democrats are preparing for that possibility and huddled Tuesday to talk about what would happen if Trump fired Rosenstein or Sessions. The Democrats discussed immediately calling for document preservation and how to press Republicans to join them,” CNN adds. As The New York Times reports this is not the first time as, “In early December, President Trump, furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas from the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, told advisers in no uncertain terms that Mr. Mueller’s investigation had to be shut down.” CNN adds, “President Donald Trump and his aides have discussed firing special counsel Robert Mueller for months, and the prevailing wisdom inside the administration is that the President has the authority to do so”. CNN notes, “The legality of firing Mueller has been a topic of conversation inside the White House since the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates last fall.” As NBC News notes, most of the death cult GOP members of Congress are filled with hot air and hogwash on the matter but planning to do nothing because they do not care about America, only themselves.
TUESDAY WAS STORMY WITH MORE THAN A CHANCE OF SLEAZE BY DUSK
The New York Times reports, “The F.B.I. agents who raided the office of President Trump’s personal lawyer on Monday were looking for records about payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump, and information related to the publisher of The National Enquirer’s role in silencing one of the women”. The New York Times notes, “The search warrant carried out by the public corruption unit of the Manhattan federal attorney’s office seeks information about Karen McDougal, an ex-Playboy model who claims she carried on a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump shortly after the birth of his son in 2006. Ms. McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company, whose chief executive is a friend of Mr. Trump’s.” The New York Times just piles on the delicious as, “Agents were also searching Michael D. Cohen’s office for information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, who says she also had sex with Mr. Trump while he was married. Mr. Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence just days before the 2016 presidential election.” Go Stormy, go! Go, girl! Go get yours! The New York Times notes, “The episode has deeply unsettled White House aides, Justice Department officials and lawmakers from both parties, who believe the president may use it as a pretext to purge the team leading the investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.” The New York Times observes, “The involvement of Mr. Rosenstein and top prosecutors in New York in the raid of Mr. Cohen’s office makes it harder for Mr. Trump to argue that his legal problems are the result of a witch hunt led by Mr. Mueller. In addition to Mr. Rosenstein, all of the top law enforcement officials involved in the raid are Republicans: Mr. Mueller, Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. Director, and Geoffrey Berman, the interim United States attorney in New York.”
From The New York Times.
COHEN PRAISES AGENTS WHO RAIDED HIS LIFE
CNN reports, “In his first comments since the FBI raid on his home and office, Michael Cohen said the FBI agents ‘were extremely professional, courteous and respectful.’” This is how you know he knows he is in deep shit and will not be taking the fake Russian bullshit president’s approach of screaming “WITCH HUNT” and “DEEP STATE” in all caps on Twitter to counter. Of course, CNN notes, “The comments contrast with President Donald Trump who complained Monday that agents ‘broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys.’” By phone, Cohen told CNN, “I am unhappy to have my personal residence and office raided. But I will tell you that members of the FBI that conducted the search and seizure were all extremely professional, courteous and respectful. And I thanked them at the conclusion”. Cohen added, “I would be lying to you if I told that I am not. Do I need this in my life? No. Do I want to be involved in this? No.” Cohen added “that he is very loyal to Trump but after what happened on Monday, he’d rethink how he handled the payments to Daniels because of the impact on his family.” Well it’s always nice to know that the damage that Trump and his Trumpistani elites have inflicted on families across America is starting to come back home to roost.
SEARCH WARRANT FOR MANAFORT SHOWS FOCUS ON TRUMP CAMPAIGN
CNN reports, “Search warrant documents used by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators reveal how agents zeroed in on potential criminal activity related to Paul Manafort’s time as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.” CNN adds, “The documents, used to obtain a search warrant in building the case against Manafort, were revealed in a court filing late Monday night. Manafort has pleaded not guilty in two federal cases, and the charges he faces do not include allegations about his time on the campaign.” This is significant as, “The search warrant makes clear that Mueller is also focused on Manafort’s actions connected to the campaign. The White House and others have repeatedly said that the investigation into Manafort concerns his activities before he joined Trump’s team in 2016.” Evidently not true. CNN notes, “Specifically, the investigators sought from Manafort’s apartment records ‘involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower’ and anything involving Aras and Emin Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire and his son tied to the meeting, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and to a possible earlier unsuccessful attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.”
STONE SAID MANY TIMES IN 2016 RUSSIA USED WIKILEAKS TO HELP TRUMP
CNN reports, “Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone said several times in July 2016 that Russia was most likely the source for hacked emails released during the Democratic National Convention and that it was not far-fetched to say the purpose was to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign”. In a “review of Stone’s interviews and appearances,” CNN found, “from late July through August 1, 2016,” that, “Stone stated at the time that Russia was the source of the emails — a sharp contrast to his more recent posture that Russia was not the source for hacked documents released by WikiLeaks throughout the campaign.” Oops. CNN notes, “‘The reason that the Russians are probably leaking this information is because they don’t want a nuclear war either. (Hillary Clinton) is bent on a war that benefits her donors and the multinational corporations and the defense contractors,’ Stone told [Alex] Jones on a July 27, 2016, edition of Jones’ program. Several days later, on July 31, 2016, Stone said again the Russians were the most likely source for the material.”
NEW SEYCHELLES MEETING PROBED BY SPECIAL COUNSEL
NJ.com reports, “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is examining a series of previously unreported meetings that took place in 2017 in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, as part of its broader investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election”. NJ.com adds, “several of those meetings took place around the same time as another meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater, Kirill Dmitriev, the director of one of Russia’s sovereign wealth funds, and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the United Arab Emirates (also known as ‘MBZ’).” NJ.com notes, “The inquiry into the meetings in the Seychelles suggests there is growing interest on the Mueller team in whether foreign financing, specifically from Gulf states, has influenced President Trump and his administration.” Using “Flight records and financial documents,” NJ.com details how, “Wealthy and politically-connected individuals from across the globe — from Russia, France, Saudi Arabia and South Africa — land in the Seychelles for meetings that take place as a part of a larger gathering hosted by MBZ, according to an individual briefed on the matter, who also requested anonymity.” NJ.com reports, “Dmitriev flew into the Seychelles Jan. 11, 2017 with his wife Natalia Popova and another woman with the last name Boldovskaia. Six other Russian individuals flew to the island just a few days after Dmitriev,” as, “Others on the island included Alexander Mashkevitch, an alleged financier of Bayrock, an investment vehicle linked to Trump, and Sheikh Abdulrahman Khalid BinMahfouz, according to flight records.” Mueller investigation cooperating witness and convicted pedophile George “Nader travelled to Seychelles Jan. 7, 2017 and again on March 24 on an aircraft with the tail number VP-CZA, flight records show.”
FORMER ACTING AG DANA BOENTE, NOW FBI COUNSEL INTERVIEWED
The Washington Post reports, “Dana Boente, the former acting attorney general who now serves as general counsel at the FBI, has been interviewed by the special counsel’s office and turned over handwritten notes that could be a piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice”. The Washington Post adds, “Boente was interviewed some months ago by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on a wide range of topics, including his recollections of what former FBI director James B. Comey told him about troubling interactions with Trump”.
From The Washington Post.
DEPARTURES: BYE BYE BOSSERT
The Washington Post reports, “White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert is leaving the Trump administration”. The Washington Post adds, “Bossert, a favorite of Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, is leaving one day after national security adviser John Bolton began the job. Bossert, an ally of former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, was believed to be on shaky footing in the Bolton era and he resigned two days after Michael Anton, the National Security Council spokesman, also quit.” He also looks just like Rob Porter so maybe if Hope Hicks had dated him instead February would have been less of a clusterfuck for our fake Russian bullshit president? Maybe Bossert was not good and abusive enough to women for her taste?
From The Washington Post.
APOLOGY TOUR 2018: ZUCK ON THE HILL
The Washington Post reports, “Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg endured an hours-long grilling by dozens of U.S. senators Tuesday during which he repeatedly apologized and promised privacy reforms but also pointedly defended his company against the threat of new legislation.” The Washington Post notes, “for more than four hours, there was no flash point or loss of composure for Zuckerberg, who was appearing in his first congressional hearing after avoiding such scrutiny for years.” As this is theater, the rehearsals went well it seems as, “Zuckerberg, who traded his trademark T-shirt and hoodie for the standard Capitol Hill garb of a dark suit and tie, had holed up with advisers in Washington over the weekend to prepare for the hearing. His tone was one of practiced and patient contrition as he described the company’s recent failings and efforts to remedy them.” Adorably, “Zuckerberg singled out Facebook’s inability to identify and combat Russian disinformation efforts as one of his ‘biggest regrets’”. Oh ours too, kid, ours too. And as sometimes there are consequences coupled in with regret, “He also confirmed for the second time since February that Facebook officials have been interviewed by investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III”. The Washington Post notes, “In one sharp exchange, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) asked Zuckerberg whether he agreed with a 2016 memo written by Facebook Vice President Andrew Bosworth, a longtime Zuckerberg deputy. In the memo, Bosworth appeared to suggest that bad outcomes — including bullying and even death — were unfortunate but inevitable side effects of the company’s mission to connect the world. At first, Zuckerberg tried to sidestep the question, saying that most people at the company didn’t agree with the memo. Graham shot back, saying, ‘If somebody who said this worked for me, I’d fire him.’” Bosworth naturally is still with FARAbook. So there you have a real glimpse at Zuck’s humanity. Similarly, “when Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Zuckerberg what hotel he stayed at Monday night and the names of anyone he messaged this week. Zuckerberg, appearing amused by the question, declined to answer.” Why? As Durbin responded, “I think that may be what this is all about: your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy and how much you give away in modern America in the name of quote, ‘connecting people around the world.’” See: Zuck does not think he lives by the same rules as the rest of us because in the end, Zuck is no better than a Stasi clerk, whose role might have at least been somewhat noble as it was for the nation, captive as it was, not for personal financial enrichment.
From The Washington Post.
CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA GOT FARABOOK PRIVATE MESSAGES, TOO
The New York Times reports, “Facebook has said that political data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested the public profile data of up to 87 million of its users, including their political beliefs, interests and friends’ information. Now the social network has revealed that the extent of the harvesting went even further — it included people’s private messages, too.” The New York Times adds, “Facebook said that while the information harvested was largely limited to what was on people’s public profiles, ‘a small number of people’ also shared information from their Facebook timeline, posts and messages.” Why should anyone trust Zuck on anything at all ever again?
From The New York Times.
CLASS ACT: FARABOOK + CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA LAWSUIT FILED IN US + UK
The Guardian reports, “British and US lawyers have launched a joint class action against Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and two other companies for allegedly misusing the personal data of more than 71 million people. The lawsuit claims the firms obtained users’ private information from the social media network to develop ‘political propaganda campaigns’ in the UK and the US.” The Guardian notes, “As well as Cambridge Analytica, the two firms named in the legal writ are SCL Group Limited and Global Science Research Limited (GSR). Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former campaign and White House adviser, led Cambridge Analytica in 2014, when the data was collected and extracted, the legal papers state. The Cambridge University neuroscientist Aleksandr Kogan, a founding director of GSR, is also named.”
From The Guardian.
REBEKAH MERCER WANTS FARABOOK CAMBRIDGE FAKE INVESTIGATED
BuzzFeed reports, “A well-connected tech investor met with Facebook senior management late last month on behalf of billionaire Republican donor Rebekah Mercer to suggest an independent investigation into Cambridge Analytica, data collection, and the 2016 election”. BuzzFeed adds, “The investor, Matt Michelsen, and a Facebook source confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the meeting took place. According to Michelsen, Facebook leadership seemed open to the possibility of an outside inquiry — and to meeting in person with Mercer — during the hour-long, March 20 meeting, but changed its attitude suddenly later that week.” BuzzFeed notes, “According to his LinkedIn account, Michelsen is an adviser to venture funds and tech firms including 8VC and Palantir. He told BuzzFeed News he has close relationships with senior managers at Facebook”. As Institutional Investor notes some of the motivation for Mercer’s move, if not all of it, is financial as, “Mushrooming scandals at Cambridge Analytica, the embattled quantitatively driven consulting firm accused of misappropriating data and possible violations of U.S. election laws, are inexorably pushing pensions and other investors toward a decision: whether to pull their money from Renaissance Technologies, arguably the world’s most successful hedge fund firm.” Renaissance was Rebekah’s father Robert’s firm until he stepped down January 1 as the family name became embroiled in scandals around the racist, hateful garbage and lies they have helped fund being pumped into our information ecosystem. The best people.
REDDIT IDENTIFIES NEARLY 1,000 RUSSIAN TROLL ACCOUNTS
Ars Technica reports, “On Tuesday, Reddit released new data alongside its 2017 Transparency Report showing that it had identified 944 ‘suspicious accounts,’ a few of which ‘had a visible impact on the site.’” Ars Technica adds, “The site provided a full list of all of those accounts to Congress (and now the public), saying that the list would stay ‘visible for now,’ but it would be removed eventually.” NBC News adds, “A pornographic video that falsely claimed to show Hillary Clinton engaged in a sex act has been traced back to an account that Reddit acknowledged on Tuesday is linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency. The account, Rubinjer, was the Russia-linked agency’s most popular account on Reddit and received almost 100,000 upvotes, or Reddit’s version of Facebook’s ‘likes,’ in its lifecycle before it was shut down by the site.” NBC News notes, “The video was viewed more than 250,000 times on Pornhub.”
RUSSIA HAS FIGURED OUT HOW TO JAM US DRONES IN SYRIA
NBC News reports, “The Russian military has been jamming some U.S. military drones operating in the skies over Syria, seriously affecting American military operations.” NBC News adds, “The Russians began jamming some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago, the officials said, after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate for the attacks and began jamming the GPS systems of drones operating in the area”. NBC News notes, “U.S. analysts first caught the Russian military jamming drones in eastern Ukraine four years ago, after the invasion of Crimea”. NBC News adds, “The Defense Department will not say whether the jamming is causing drones to crash, citing operational security.”
From NBC News.
RUSSIA BLOCKS US RESOLUTION ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS IN SYRIA AT UN
The AP reports, “The U.N. Security Council has rejected a Russian resolution that would have created a new expert body to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The resolution needed at least nine ‘yes’ votes in the 15-member council for approval, but only six countries voted in favor. Seven council members, including the U.S., Britain and France, voted against the proposal and two abstained.”
From the AP.
RUSSIA BOASTS OF SHOOTING DOWN MISSILES
The Telegraph reports, “Russia has boasted it is practising shooting down missiles as the country’s parliamentary hardliners demanded a military response to any US air strike on Syria. The Russian defence ministry said that naval jets from its Pacific fleet had conducted exercises to ‘intercept and destroy a low-flying long-range cruise missile’.” The Telegraph notes, “Ruslan Leviev of the Conflict Intelligence Team, which monitors military developments Syria, said: ‘Even if they have the ability, we assume Russian forces won’t do this’.”
From The Telegraph.
NOVICHOK HAS ALREADY KILLED; IS MORE THAN ONE CHEMICAL AGENT
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) with Russia’s Novaya Gazeta reports, “new evidence unearthed in Russia shows not only that an entire group of substances called Novichok did indeed exist, but that some was obtained by criminals after being produced in a government lab as late as 1994 — and has since killed at least two people.” Of note, the two outlets “tracked down records from a sealed 1995 criminal case in which a Russian banker and his secretary were murdered using a poisonous substance. Two specialists who have worked with Novichok independently confirmed to reporters that the toxin described in the investigation was one of several varieties of the Novichok agent.” The OCCRP adds, “The case materials show that enough of the poison to create hundreds of potentially lethal doses had fallen into the hands of criminals. A separate criminal case against the man responsible for distributing the substance was labeled ‘top secret’ and never resolved.” The OCCRP continues, “according to documents from Russian criminal case 238709, work with a substance of this nature continued ‘in the period before 1994’ and the equivalent of hundreds of lethal doses was given or sold to violent criminals in 1994 and 1995.” As for the case of the banker and his secretary, it “began in August 1995, after the sudden death of Ivan Kivelidi — then head of a private bank called Rosbusinessbank — and his secretary, Zara Ismayilova. Both were found to have been poisoned. An investigation of Kivelidi’s workplace and of the objects in his office revealed that the poison had been placed beneath the rubber cap, just over five millimeters in size, that covered a screw in his telephone receiver. The substance was used in very small quantities and left a barely noticeable trace.” The OCCRP notes, “In the course of their investigation, they learned from the FSB Directorate of the Saratov Region that a senior employee at the State Institute of Organic Synthesis Technology (abbreviated GITOS in Russian), a facility in the closed city of Shikhany, had engaged in the ‘unsanctioned synthesis’ of a poisonous substance in 1994.” This leads investigators to “Leonid Rink, a chemist described in case files as a ‘head of a GITOS unit.’ Investigators pulled him into the Kivelidi murder investigation as a witness,” as, “In the spring of 1995, according to a file from the investigation, Rink sold another vial to Artur Talanov, who lived in Latvia at the time — as the document puts it, ‘for self-defense.’” Evidently, “the vial Talanov bought ended up in the hands of Vladimir Khutsishvili, a long-time acquaintance of the murdered banker and former board member of Rosbusinessbank. Khutsishvili was eventually convicted of Kivelidi’s murder in 2007”.
RUBLE PLUNGES FOR SECOND DAY
The AP reports, “The ruble plunged for the second day in a row on Tuesday following fresh U.S. sanctions against Russia.” The AP notes, “Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said planned government support for sanctions-hit companies will focus on stabilizing them to avoid job losses, rather than propping up share prices,” of sanctioned companies and entities. The AP adds, “The ruble fell sharply in morning trading to go above 63 to the dollar for the first time since December 2016, but later recovered to 62.5 as of mid-afternoon.”
From the AP.
US WARNS UK BANKS OVER DOING BUSINESS WITH SANCTIONED OLIGARCHS
The New York Times reports, “The United States on Tuesday ratcheted up its efforts to block Kremlin-linked industrialists from doing business in the West, warning that British banks will have to sever their relationships with the tycoons if they want continued access to American financial institutions.” The New York Times notes, “The list includes the industrialists Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg, along with Kirill Shamalov, who American officials have identified as President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law.” Boom.
From The New York Times.
OLIGARCHS LOOSE $16 BILLION SINCE FRIDAY
NBC News reports, “It was a black Monday for Russian oligarchs as up to $16 billion was wiped off the value of the country’s wealthiest tycoons’ holdings in the wake of U.S.-imposed sanctions.” Beautiful! Belated but beautiful. NBC News notes, “Even those companies not under sanctions took a financial hit.”
From NBC News.
MERKEL CHANGES HER TUNE ON NORDSTREAM2
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that a new natural-gas pipeline linking Russia with Germany cannot go ahead without clarity on Ukraine’s role as a gas transit route. ‘I made very clear that a Nord Stream 2 project is impossible without clarity on the future transit role of Ukraine,’ Merkel said at a news conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin on April 10. She said that ‘it is not just an economic issue but there are also political considerations.’” Beautiful! Until now, Germany and Merkel specifically has always characterized this massive threat to European security as purely an economic, private sector affair, something it never was. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “Poland and the Baltics oppose Nord Stream 2, and U.S. officials have spoken out against it.”
FREEDOM HOUSE SEES FREEDOM ECLIPSED IN POST-SOCIALIST COUNTRIES
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports, “Contempt shown by governments for independent institutions and civil society, attacks on the political opposition and independent media, as well as an incessant push to blend the ruling party with the state, are becoming the new normal in postcommunist Europe and Eurasia, U.S.-based democracy monitor Freedom House warns in its latest report.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty adds, “The spread of illiberal politics across the region in countries such as Hungary and Poland has been eroding the region’s foundations and prospects for democracy, the group says in its latest annual Nations In Transit report, titled Confronting Illiberalism.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes, “the democratic regress is most striking in two countries that were most adept at parting with totalitarian regimes in the 1980s — Poland and Hungary”. Additionally, the report “also mentions Romania’s regress, where the new government reversed a positive trend, with an all-out assault against the judiciary in general and against the country’s anticorruption agency in particular.” Also, “In the Balkans, Serbia’s standing declined for the fourth year in a row, threatening its status as a ‘semiconsolidated democracy,’” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes. By contrast, “Positive developments of the past year have been taking place in Macedonia and Uzbekistan.”
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
MORE ON MICHAEL COHEN
Rolling Stone reports, “two former federal investigators who told me Cohen was introduced to Donald Trump by his father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ukraine who arrived in the U.S. in 1975. Shusterman was in the garment business and owned a fleet of taxicabs with his partners, Shalva Botier and Edward Zubok – all three men were convicted of a money-laundering related offense in 1993.” Rolling Stone adds, “Shusterman, who owned at least four New York taxi companies, also set his son-in-law up in the yellow cab business. Cohen once ran 260 yellow cabs with his Ukrainian-born partner, the ‘taxi king’ Simon V. Garber, until their partnership ended acrimoniously in 2012. Glenn Simpson, the private investigator who was independently hired to examine Trump’s Russia connections during the real estate mogul’s presidential run, testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Cohen ‘had a lot of connections to the former Soviet Union, and that he seemed to have associations with organized crime figures in New York and Florida – Russian organized crime figures,’ including Garber.” Rolling Stone notes, “A curious episode in Cohen’s life came in 1999 when he received a $350,000 check from a professional hockey player named Vladimir Malakhov, who was then playing for the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. According to Malakhov, the check was a loan to a friend. The friend, however, swore in an affidavit that she never received the money and never even knew the check had been written until it was discovered years later in a Florida lawsuit. So what happened to the money?” Well Malakhov “was approached in Brighton Beach and shaken down for money by a man who worked for the Russian crime boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov.” Most curiously, Rolling Stone adds, “During Trump’s presidential run, reporters noticed a curious thing about Cohen. Questions about Trump’s business or his taxes went to his chief legal officer or another staffer, but Cohen handled questions about Russia.” Rolling Stone continues, “In the 1990s, there was an informal group of federal and local law enforcement agents investigating the Russian Mafiya in New York that called themselves ‘Red Star.’ They shared information they learned from informants. It was well known among the members of Red Star that Cohen’s father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures.”
From Rolling Stone.
A NEW, OLD WAY FOR THE AUTHORITARIANISM TO WASH OVER US
The Guardian reports, “The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met Donald Trump at the White House during a visit to pitch a potentially lucrative new product to administration officials”. The Guardian adds, “David D Smith, whose company has been criticised for making its anchors read a script echoing Trump’s attacks on the media, said he briefed officials last year on a system that would enable authorities to broadcast direct to any American’s phone.”
From The Guardian.
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