TRUMP WORKING OVERTIME TO DESTROY THE GLOBAL ORDER
The postwar global order and the post-1989 world order in particular have hinged largely on two things: NATO and free trade. TRUMPISTAN WATCH has chronicled how our fake Russian bullshit president has worked to erode NATO, now, “President Donald Trump’s move to slap penalties on imports from U.S. allies and China is moving the country to the brink of a global trade war — with U.S. consumers, farmers and manufacturers caught in the middle — as the White House tries to wrest concessions from reluctant trading partners.” Trade wars are easy to win, right? But remember these are some of our greatest allies in the world, why fight them? POLITICO adds, “The Trump administration will impose new duties on steel and aluminum imports from three key trading partners — the European Union, Canada and Mexico — after failing to reach deals with them to address national security concerns related to the imports, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.” POLITICO notes, “‘Today is a bad day for world trade,’ said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström”. POLITICO writes of the incredible uncertainty this adds as, “It also indicates that the administration has given up hope of finishing NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico in the near future. That raises the question whether Trump will have the patience to wait until later this year or possibly even 2019 to get a new agreement, or if he will make good on a campaign promise to pull out of the 24-year-old pact.” In exchange for the uncertainty and damage to alliances Americans can expect the price of food and other basic commodities to rise as, “Mexico condemned the move and provided a partial list of $3 billion worth of U.S. imports that it will hit with retaliatory duties. The items include manufactured goods like lamps as well as agricultural imports from its neighbor like pork, apples and various cheeses.” Canada is not having it either as, “‘Let me be clear: These tariffs are totally unacceptable,’ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. ‘For 150 years, Canada has been America’s most steadfast ally.’ His government also rolled out plans to retaliate with levies on dozens of imports from the United States of steel and aluminum products; agricultural goods like yogurt, coffee and condiments; and other items like dishwasher detergent, tablecloths, ballpoint pens and after-shave. The action will hit about $12.8 billion of U.S imports — equal to the dollar value of how much in Canadian goods will be slapped with the new tariffs by Trump.” Trump’s masters in Moscow must be so very, very thrilled. The American-backed world order is crumbling and they have an American in the role of fake Russian bullshit president to do it all for them.
COLLABORATOR VP PENCE IMPLODED NAFTA TALKS, TRUDEAU SAYS
The Washington Post reports, “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said months of intense negotiations between his country, the United States and Mexico imploded Tuesday when Vice President Pence demanded that any deal expire automatically in five years.” The Washington Post adds, “Trudeau said he was prepared to travel to Washington this week to try to finalize a rework of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but Pence, in the phone call, said a meeting would occur only if the ‘sunset’ provision was agreed to in advance.” America first: fuck over Canada, befriend the soulless regime of concentration camp guards in North Korea. Wait until it’s your turn, white folk who voted for Trump and Pence, just you wait until the economy implodes. They thought only the darkies across town and over the border would be damaged. Oh were they so very, very wrong.
From The Washington Post.
TRUMP SENDS CLEAR SIGNAL TO HIS CO-CONSPIRATORS WITH NEW PARDON
The Washington Post reports, “President Trump granted a full pardon Thursday to conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza,” sending a clear signal of “his willingness to exercise his unilateral power to reward friends and allies while undercutting the work of his nemeses in law enforcement.” Remember “law and order”? Say bye-bye to any such pretense. The Washington Post adds, “D’Souza is an author, filmmaker and provocateur who became a cult figure on the right in part because of his conspiratorial polemics about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.” POLITICO notes Trump also expressed “interest in commuting the sentence of disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and even floating a pardon for TV personality Martha Stewart.” POLITICO adds, “the president framed his clemency decisions as aiming to right wrongs wrought by the justice system. Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to unveil his intent to pardon D’Souza, who pleaded guilty to a felony in 2014 over his use of straw donors to make illegal contributions in a 2012 Senate race. Trump lamented that the filmmaker ‘was treated very unfairly by our government!’” POLITICO notes in the Blagojevich instance, “Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that the former Illinois governor ‘shouldn’t have been put in jail’ and that ‘what he did does not justify’ his sentence. Blagojevich, who served as governor of Illinois from 2003 until 2009, was impeached and removed from office and convicted of corruption charges over allegations he solicited bribes for political appointments.” TRUMPISTAN WATCH was with Blagojevich his final day in office for The New York Times and unfortunately tends to agree given the context of the horse trades that are the bread and butter of Chicago politics. Lastly Stewart, “in March 2004 was convicted on felony charges of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding and making false statements to federal investigators”. The message could not be more clear to Trump’s co-conspirators and collaborators: cheating will have no consequences, nor will the use of straw men, selling political office for political favors and insider trading. These pardons and discussion of them should all count as strikes towards obstruction of justice charges against our fake Russian bullshit president, if we ever get to a day of justice or if, as always, no one is above the law except of course those who are.
TWITLER CAN’T KEEP HIS STORY STRAIGHT ON COMEY FIRING – SURPRISE!
CNN reports, “On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted this: ‘Not that it matters but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!’” But CNN wants to “take you back to early May 2017. In the early afternoon of May 9, Trump fires then-FBI Director James Comey. The following day — May 10 — Trump meets with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. In that Oval Office huddle, Trump tells the two Russians this, according to The New York Times: ‘I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.’” CNN adds, “Then on May 11, Trump sits down with NBC News’ Lester Holt for a prescheduled interview. Holt asks Trump whether his justification for firing Comey came from the memo on the FBI director penned by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Trump says this: ‘And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” He has not spoken with a non-Fox News outlet since. Imagine! Imagine our fake Russian bullshit president falling as well as his state sponsor in Moscow. Remember TRUMPISTAN WATCH is half Latvian: hope never dies!
TRUMP REPEATEDLY PRESSURED PRIVATE RUSSIAN SESSIONS TO RESIGN
Axios reports, “President Trump pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reclaim control of the Russia investigation on at least four separate occasions, three times in person and once over the phone”. Charge the fake Russian bullshit president with obstruction of justice already!
PRINCELING JARED PAL RICK GERSON IN SEYCHELLES MUELLER IMBROGLIO
NBC News reports, “A close friend of Jared Kushner has come under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his proximity to some key meetings between Trump associates and foreign officials,” adding, “Richard Gerson, a hedge-fund manager in New York, was in the Seychelles in January 2017, less than two weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration and around the time Trump associate Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and United Arab Emirates officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi,” citing four sources. NBC News adds, “While in the remote Indian Ocean island nation, Gerson met with Prince Mohammed — also known by his initials as MBZ — and communicated with a Lebanese-American businessman with close ties to the UAE, George Nader, who had organized the Erik Prince meeting, according to text messages Gerson sent at the time and a person familiar with the meeting.” NBC News notes, “Gerson had met Nader just weeks earlier when Trump officials, including Kushner, gathered for a secret meeting with MBZ at a Four Seasons hotel in New York”. NBC News adds Gerson’s “spokesman said Gerson’s involvement in the December meeting at the Four Seasons in New York was limited to escorting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the meeting, so he could give the participants a presentation on Israeli-Palestinian peace.” NBC News reports, “On Jan. 10, 2017, Nader and Gerson exchanged messages on WhatsApp,” addng, “Nader sent Gerson a photo of himself and MBZ that he said was taken in December 2016 while they were in Morocco”. NBC News notes, “They said Gerson replied that he was unable to make it to Morocco because he was with his children in Anguilla and because of that he came to Seychelles instead. In another message exchange a few days later, Nader sent Gerson an article about Jared Kushner and his brother, Josh. Gerson replied that he’s good friends with both of them”. NBC News adds, “Gerson and Nader’s relationship expanded after Trump’s inauguration, when they began discussing business and policy”.
From NBC News.
BREAKDOWN: PROSECUTORS INTEVIEW COMEY OVER MCCABE LEAKS
The Washington Post reports, “Investigators from the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office recently interviewed former FBI director James B. Comey as part of a probe into whether his deputy, Andrew McCabe, broke the law by lying to federal agents — an indication the office is seriously considering whether McCabe should be charged with a crime”. The Washington Post adds, “Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz accused McCabe in April of misleading investigators and Comey four times — three of them under oath — about authorizing a disclosure to the media. Horowitz referred the findings to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.” This would be stunning as normally in Washington, only low level individuals are charged over leaks. The Washington post notes, “Lying to federal investigators can carry a five-year prison sentence, though McCabe disputes that he intentionally misled anyone. Comey’s interview, while significant, does not indicate prosecutors have reached any conclusions, and people familiar with the process said it is not surprising given the allegations McCabe faces. A referral from the inspector general does not guarantee charges will be filed.”
From The Washington Post.
NEW RESEARCH ON PSY GROUP’S ROLE IN 2016 ELECTION COUP DISINFO
Just Security asks, “what role, if any, did PSY-Group play in the 2016 US election, and what was its relationship if any to other key players and firms participating in misinformation campaigns to elect Donald Trump?” And notes, “A startup in Texas may have unearthed new evidence in the matter.” Just Security notes, “The research comes from New Knowledge AI, an Austin-based company with a team of highly respected technologists that sells products and services to fight disinformation and to identify fake social media accounts and propaganda campaigns. The organization posted a Twitter thread that poses some serious questions about who is behind PSY-Group, and whether the company coordinated an election interference campaign similar to the Russian Internet Research Agency.” For those of you not on Twitter, a Twitter thread is essentially a short commentary or fragmentary components of research parsed out over many tweets, due to character limitations, that tends to come from experts or informed observers and often enough rivals or exceeds the garbage that actually passes muster in the so-called modern 21st century media ecosystem. Just Security notes, “First, New Knowledge points to job descriptions posted by PSY-Group employees in 2016 seeking to hire American English speakers with political science backgrounds. This suggests ‘they intended to target Americans for political objectives,’ the company asserts.” Just Security adds, “Such job posts continued into 2017, when one PSY-Group employee, Eitan Charnoff, posted an ad similar to those placed in 2016. According to LinkedIn and other sites, Charnoff was previously the IDF Commander of the Social Media Productions Desk, and is also the National Director of iVoteIsrael, a Republican-aligned Israeli-American voter registration group criticized for its ‘flimsy façade of non-partisanship.’” Related to this are “Alexander Nix’s claims in the Channel 4 expose on Cambridge Analytica,” where he said, “We use some British companies, we use some Israeli companies,” and adds they are “Very effective in intelligence gathering.” One Israeli Twitter bot, “As New Knowledge points out, ‘@Joe_America1776 is still active, and has posted over 563,000 times since the account was created in July of 2015. That’s an average of around 514 tweets *per day*, every day, for three years.’” Then, Just Security adds, “New Knowledge then searched for accounts regularly amplifying @Joe_America1776’s posts on other social media platforms, which led to a likely fake Facebook account created by an impostor.” And, “New Knowledge also looks closely at ‘Kris Crawford,’ another Facebook account PSY-Group used in the pitch material obtained by the Wall Street Journal,” and finds that, “While he appears to be an American man, Crawford’s URL suggests his Facebook page used to belong to a ‘Martina Jakimovska.’ ‘Looking through the ‘Kris Crawford’s’ account history it’s still possible to see when Martina updated her profile photo and used Facebook to check in at a location in Macedonia,’” Just Security adds.
From Just Security.
NOT ON OUR WATCH: HATE GROUP FELLOW FOR STATE REFUGEES POST
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports, “On Thursday, President Trump nominated Ronald W. Mortensen, a fellow with the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.” The Southern Poverty Law Center adds, “If approved by the Senate, Mortensen would be the fourth individual from an anti-immigrant hate group to join the Trump administration,” which adds, “CIS was founded by white nationalist John Tanton”. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes, “Despite this, CIS advised the Trump campaign on immigration issues and is routinely cited by Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, who serves as the bridge between nativist hate groups and the White House. In 2015, Miller gave the keynote address at a CIS awards ceremony, where he sang the praises of the group’s leadership.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has a long list of the litanies of why this individual and this organization meet all the requisite criteria for being labeled a hate group, including how, “Just last year, Mortensen wrote a piece in The Hill titled, ‘Most illegal aliens routinely commit felonies.’ In it he states bluntly, ‘The myth of the law abiding illegal alien is just that: a myth.’” Wrong!
MOSCOW MOVING FLOTILLA TO AZOV SEA, NEW OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY
The Jamestown Foundation reports, “In the last two weeks of May, Moscow has quietly shifted five naval vessels from the Caspian Flotilla to the Sea of Azov, a move the Russian authorities have cast as a step needed to defend against a Ukrainian attack on occupied Crimea. But both rising tensions with Kyiv over shipping in the sea and through the Kerch Strait as well as the nature of the Russian ships that were redeployed instead suggest that this move is intended to give Moscow a new offensive capability. At a minimum, Kyiv will need to expend additional resources to protect itself”. The Jamestown Foundation notes, “Moscow could choose to exploit these additional military assets to try to seize more Ukrainian territory, including to finally secure a land bridge to Crimea.” The Jamestown Foundation adds, “This latest Russian move not only extends the trend of Russian military activities around the Sea of Azov (see EDM, April 12, May 8, 22) but significantly expands them.” The Jamestown Foundation notes, “it is unclear why these extra five navy ships are needed,” as, “The FSB’s ships are quite capable of stopping, boarding or even seizing and impounding Ukrainian fishing vessels, as repeatedly demonstrated in the last month.” The Jamestown Foundation adds, “the five new navy ships Moscow has introduced into the sea, its smaller vessels and electronic monitoring devices are far better designed to protect the bridge infrastructure. The new Russian naval vessels could defend the bridge if it faced a full-scale naval attack, but that is one of the least likely threat scenarios at the present time.” So what is this about? Well, “Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in the wake of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics,” and, “some Russian analysts have suggested it (Sobesednik.ru, May 30)—that he will launch a new attack on Ukraine after the World Cup later this month. If so, the new Russian Azov flotilla likely will be a key part of that effort.”
From The Jamestown Foundation.
ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT SAYS J-ASS CAN STAY PUT WITH SOME CONDITIONS
The Guardian reports, “Lenín Moreno, the president of Ecuador, has said Julian Assange’s asylum status in the country’s London embassy is not under threat – provided he complies with the conditions of his stay and avoids voicing his political opinions on Twitter.” The Guardian adds, “However, in an interview with Deutsche Welle on Wednesday, Moreno said his government would ‘take a decision’ if Assange didn’t comply with the restrictions.” The Guardian notes, “Moreno has previously described Assange’s situation as ‘a stone in his shoe’ and repeatedly hinted that he wants to remove the Australian from the country’s London embassy.”
From The Guardian.
ABRAMOVICH DOESN’T GET A VISA, CHELSEA DOESN’T GET A NEW STADIUM
POLITICO reports, “Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich scrapped plans for a major revamp of Chelsea Football Club’s stadium, days after the renewal of his U.K. visa was delayed. Abramovich had planned to turn Stamford Bridge into a 60,000-seat stadium, at a cost believed to be close to £1 billion, the Guardian reported. But the West London club said Thursday that the plans had been put on hold, citing the ‘current unfavourable investment climate.’” The price of liberty it seems is not whoring. POLITICO notes, “The announcement comes after the club’s Russian owner ran afoul of the U.K. Home Office. Abramovich held an entrepreneurial visa that expired several weeks ago. He applied for a new one, but it was not granted.” To repeat: Abramovich was NOT granted a visa. POLITICO adds, “Although he would be able to visit the U.K. without a visa for up to six months at a time on an Israeli passport, Abramovich would not be permitted to work in Britain.”
DERIPASKA’S EN+ ON VERGE OF LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE SUSPENSION
The Times of London reports, “Oleg Deripaska’s En+ company faces suspension from the London Stock Exchange tonight unless it secures another last-minute reprieve from US sanctions authorities.” Dear Moscow, put this in your pipe and suck on it! Feel what it is like to be at our mercy, bitches.
From The Times of London.
—–KNOW YOUR ENEMY—–
A NEW TRUMP BOOK, A NEW BOOK CHRONICLING WHAT SHIT THEY ARE
Vanity Fair has an excerpt from Emily Jane Fox’s forthcoming book, “Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family,” which can be added to the burgeoning cottage industry of the Trump bump in publishing comprised of titles about the garbage klan. Fox writes, “The Trumps have somewhat fancied themselves as a modern version of the Kennedys, but the inauguration brought to mind the dynamic of another sort of American first family: the Kardashians,” which is still much, much too polite as the Kardashians are far more tasteful, distinguished and not at all racist. Fox notes Aryan princess Ivanka “had a plan for breathing post-politics life back into her fashion line. The week before the election, she had submitted the manuscript for her book Women Who Work and anticipated the editing process. (Executives at Portfolio, her publisher, felt that the manuscript was largely devoid of emotion. They solicited her to add personal, engaging details about her relationship with her parents—‘to make her seem like she had a pulse,’ one person involved with the book explained. ‘Like she was a human.’)” Fox adds, “Ivanka Trump seemed particularly attuned to the stagecraft,” which is hilarious because she is not very good at it and the thing she probably actually wanted to pull off, namely statecraft, is so far from anything this unhinged cabal of traitors has proven capable of mustering together. Hilariously, “When Melania wavered over the idea of the customary parade down Pennsylvania Avenue after the swearing-in ceremony, citing security concerns, Ivanka dug in. ‘It’s happening,’ she told an organizer. She worked with a stylist and told friends that she wanted a ‘princess moment.’ ‘I told her it’s an inauguration, not a coronation,’ one friend recalled. ‘The sentiment was that Americans wanted a royal family,’” which we have now with Meghan Markle. The Trumps have only ever provided a sort of naked glimpse at a de-robed klan. Relevant gossipy highlights from the excerpt include princeling Jared’s predictable fury over the selection of Christ Christie to manage the transition, as Christie was responsible for shipping the princeling’s father off to the federal penitentiary. Interesting in the present context of Trump’s attacks on all manner of law enforcement, Fox writes, “Christie was incredulous, but Trump jumped to his defense. ‘The guy was just doing his job,’ Trump said, chastising his son-in-law, according to this person. ‘If you were there, you would have done the same thing. You really should be mad at your own family here. They are the ones who turned over all that information to Chris.’”
From Vanity Fair.
YOU CAN NOW HEAR AUDIO OF LOW LIFE MICHAEL COHEN’S THREATS
NPR has audio of Trump lawyer and FBI raid target Michael Cohen making needless and insane garbage threats at reporter Tim Mak when he worked for The Daily Beast and was writing about Trump ex-wife Ivana’s claim of marital rape. Cohen falsely claims in the audio, “by the very definition you can’t rape your spouse,” because obviously in their world the wife is just a fuckhole available at the man’s pleasure and discretion any time of the day or night. Of course in reality, by law, “Spousal rape has been illegal in the state of New York since 1984. Ivana Trump’s claim involved an incident in 1989.” NPR notes, “Cohen’s efforts to prevent the story from being written didn’t end with that false claim,” adding the low-life Cohen told Mak, “Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don’t have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know.” Mak very coolly responded, “Michael, besides the warning, do you have a substantive comment that I can include in the piece that reflects your views on this?” Of course this was not the end of it as Cohen is so small he had to make himself seem big, as NPR notes, “The legal threats continued,” adding Cohen told Mak in a follow up outburst, “So I’m warning you, tread very f***ing lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f***ing disgusting. Do you understand me? Don’t think you can hide behind your pen because it’s not going to happen”. Cohen added, “I’m more than happy to discuss it with your attorney and with your legal counsel because motherf***** you’re going to need it.” This is all so presidential if you live in a third world kleptocratic mafia state as to be completely underwhelming. Mak notes, “Cohen never filed a lawsuit against me or The Daily Beast,” because Cohen’s threats are as empty as the man he worked for. And it was Cohen who “later apologized publicly for his remarks about spousal rape.”
RICK PERRY IS AN AMERICAN TAXPAYER WELFARE TRAVEL DADDY, TOO
ABC News reports, “Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a dozen premium-class flights during his first seven months in office, spending extra on airfare for what he argued were security concerns”. For those of you familiar with what it means to fly as a government employee, you know what bullshit this is; for those of you who don’t, our diplomats routinely fly coach, even with their small children in tow as they relocate to far-flung corners of the world. It is more Grizwolds and less James Bond than you might imagine. ABC News notes, “The Energy Deparment records tracking premium travel for the 2017 fiscal year show that coach fares were available for the 12 flights disclosed but that the department approved the premium or first-class fares, adding approximately $51,000 to the cost, as compared to the listed coach prices.” Any chronicle of this era must note how peculiar of a form of rehabilitation “Dancing with the Stars” is at it allowed Perry to soar to such heights.
From ABC News.
DARKNESS AT NUNES WON’T COMMENT ON WINERY’S UNDERAGE SEX CRUISE
The Fresno Bee reports, “You are a congressman,” say DARKNESS AT NUNES, “whose friend has a business proposition: Invest in a Napa Valley winery that looks to be a good bet. You join more than 50 people who also invest in the business. Good wine is produced, and the winery even has a laudable fund-raising program for charity. Things are going great and the years roll by. Then something decidedly uncool happens: One of the winery’s employees says she was made to pour wine for rich men out for a charity cruise on the San Francisco Bay on the company yacht. Along with them were sex workers, some of whom looked to be underage. The employee heard sex acts and witnessed drug use.” The employee sues and “The matter gets settled and things quiet down. That is, until a newspaper reporter finds out about the suit, asks questions and writes a story.” Nunes has chosen “to be silent and offer no answers to The Bee’s questions.” The Fresno Bee notes, “Nunes’ winery investment was not like your mutual fund. The winery is one of the most significant investments he owns. For his assets, Nunes lists two wineries, a bank account and royalties from book publishing. That’s it.” The Fresno Bee adds, “Nunes is a limited partner in the winery and does not manage its daily affairs. But it would be hard to imagine he did not learn of this ill-fated cruise soon after it happened since Robin Baggett, the winery owner, is a good friend of the congressman’s who invited him to invest in the first place.” Hmmm.
From The Fresno Bee.
HOW PUTIN CORALLED THE LATEST PROTESTS OVER GARBAGE
Foreign Affairs carries an article by the journalist Andrei Soldatov whose books chronicle the transformation of the KGB into the modern security state under Putin. In Foreign Affairs, Soldatov writes, “In April, a series of protests hit the Moscow region. They were neither overtly political—citizens were protesting toxic landfills in their neighborhoods—nor very numerous”. Soldatov adds, “The protests, however, seemed well coordinated, and in some towns, the city authorities supported people and granted them permission to protest. Even for officials, it was difficult to ignore the awful smells emanating from the landfills, or the furious mothers and fathers of poisoned children. One of these cities was Serpukhov, some 60 miles south of Moscow.” Soldatov notes, “One week after the protests started, an official from the Serpukhov district, Alexander Shestun, was invited to the Kremlin. There, he met with Ivan Tkachev, a general from the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s powerful intelligence agency and the successor to the Soviet-era secret police, the KGB. Apprehensive about the meeting, Shestun decided to secretly record the conversation, which he later posted on YouTube.” Naturally Shestun was threatened and ordered to resign. Soldatov adds, “The FSB’s clumsy attempt to silence Shestun was not an isolated incident. Rather, in its intimidation and selective repression—directed by the Kremlin and carried out by the FSB—the episode was a revealing example of the new governing model developed by Russian President Vladimir Putin over the last three years, and the role of the intelligence services within it.” Soldatov, in his books has chronicled how “From Putin’s ascent to power in 2000 until quite recently, the FSB enjoyed the status of a ‘new nobility,’ in the words of its former director Nikolai Patrushev.” Just as with the old “red bourgeoisie” of the KGB, “for many of these newly empowered nobles, the temptations of power and lack of oversight were too strong to resist.” As Soldatov chronicles in this piece in Foreign Affairs, “Putin’s trust in the FSB, moreover, proved to be misplaced. The agency failed to predict the massive protests that struck Moscow in 2011, and once the protests started, it was powerless to respond to the demonstrators’ use of social media to mobilize and organize,” and, “During the initial stages of the 2013–2014 crisis in Ukraine, Moscow sent an FSB team to help its ally, President Viktor Yanukovych.” So, “Following these mounting failures, Putin began, around 2015, to change the scheme. He got rid of old friends who were proponents and beneficiaries of the enlarged role of the secret services.” This might explain friction and fissures we see developing now in the Russian system; the street is less likely to overthrow Putin than his own underlings. Soldatov writes, “The new model is familiar from the late Soviet Union, when the Politburo called the shots and kept the intelligence services on a short leash, with minimal room for independent action.” We know what happened next then: the walls came tumbling down.
From Foreign Affairs.
VTB BANK’S CAMPAIGN TO TRY + WOO OFFICIAL WASHINGTON
The Center for Public Integrity reports on VTB Bank’s campaign to woo official Washington, which included an invitation to “senior State Department official Daniel Fried… to a private gala featuring an exclusive performance by the Bolshoi Ballet and a post-event reception.” Fried politely declined the invite to the “VTB-sponsored gala at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.,” but these efforts are always multi-pronged. While the invite came just before the 2016 coup that installed Trump as our fake Russian bullshit president, the Center for Public Integrity notes VTB is “a state-owned Russian bank operating under U.S. sanctions limiting its activities since 2014,” yet such sanctions did not preclude the sponsorship of such affairs at such a marquee venue in our nation’s capital. FARA or the Foreign Agent Registration Act is clearly not working as the Center for Public Integrity points out, “The bank’s hired lobbyists failed to disclose a series of June 2016 meetings with government officials on behalf of the sanctioned bank until months after U.S. law required them to. One firm, Sidley Austin, which boasts more than 2,000 lawyers worldwide, made the disclosure last year only after being contacted by the Center for Public Integrity about the meetings. And FARA administrators, citing a technical glitch, failed for three years to publicly release a document disclosing VTB had hired the U.S. Treasury Department’s former general counsel to advocate on its behalf.” (Sidley Austin’s Chicago office is where Barack and Michelle met when he was a summer associate there during his time in law school.) The Center for Public Integrity notes, “VTB’s effort — a reaction to economic sanctions imposed on the bank by U.S. officials — coincided with escalating scrutiny of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.” The Center for Public Integrity adds, “Documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity paint a detailed picture of VTB’s charm offensive — starring [Andrei] Kostin,” the bank’s CEO, and involving a New York law firm Manatos and Manatos. The Center for Public Integrity notes, “In June 2016, Manatos emailed Fried — the State Department veteran and sanctions policy coordinator — about meeting with Kostin that month,” adding, “Fried immediately forwarded the request to colleagues at the State Department who worked on Russia. After some back and forth, he offered the meeting, writing colleagues, ‘Manatos may regret having set up by the time I’m through with VTB.’” The Center for Public Integrity adds, “Kostin and Paul Swigart, the head of VTB’s U.S. operations, also met with staff members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.” The lobbying efforts netted meetings but minimal results and “in April, the Treasury Department released new sanctions on a list of Russian officials in response to Russian government actions in Ukraine and Syria, as well as “attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.” The Center for Public Integrity notes, “Kostin’s name was on the list.”
FARABOOK GETS EARFUL FROM INVESTORS NOT PESKY JOURNALISTS
The Financial Times reports, “Facebook board members faced a verbal barrage at the annual meeting on Thursday from shareholders concerned about the social network’s struggle with scandals from the massive data leak to Cambridge Analytica to interference in elections.” And, “Pushing for the Federal Trade Commission to break up the company, ‘Freedom from Facebook’ campaigners flew a plane over the meeting venue that towed a banner reading: ‘You Broke Democracy.’” In truth, human stupidity, laziness and complacency did, FARAbook just moved the needle along toward the demise of an American-backed world order based on free trade and joint cooperation on security through the NATO pact. The Financial Times notes, “Inside the Hotel Nia in Menlo Park, one heckler was removed from the room after she called for fellow shareholders to vote against the election of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and chief executive, to the board. ‘Shareholder democracy is lacking at Facebook,’ she shouted.” The Financial Times adds, “Christine Janz from NorthStar Asset Management said that if privacy was a human right, the leak of personal data from up to 87m Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that worked for the Trump campaign, was ‘tantamount to a human rights violation’.” Naturally because ultimately FARAbook is not a democracy indeed and they do not give a fuck about your privacy, only their’s, “All six proposals from shareholders were rejected, as Facebook management retains the majority of the voting rights. Mr Zuckerberg holds shares that give him the majority of the voting power despite only owning about 15 per cent of the shares of the company.”
From The Financial Times.
CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA HEARS FROM FARABOOK USERS IN BANKRUPTCY
Bloomberg reports, “Cambridge Analytica, the U.K. political consulting firm that closed its doors after a scandal over how it harvested data to influence the last U.S. presidential election, now faces a group of Facebook users in its bankruptcy.” Bloomber notes, “‘Data Breach Plaintiffs’ filed a notice on Tuesday to appear in the company’s New York bankruptcy. The group is involved in two lawsuits against both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica that seek class-action status on claims that about 87 million Facebook users had their personal information taken without permission.” Bloomberg adds, “The suits against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are among a flurry of lawsuits being filed across the U.S., with more than a dozen new cases over the past few months. Some plaintiffs say they face ongoing damages because their private data is in the hands of the company.”
—–TOWARDS A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR EXCHANGE—–
TRUMP + KIM MAY BE SUMMIT PROM DATES AFTER ALL
USA Today reports, “A top North Korean official will visit Washington on Friday with a letter to President Trump from Kim Jong Un about a prospective summit that looks increasingly likely, officials said Thursday.” USA Today notes, “A week after canceling a summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, Trump said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meetings with a North Korean delegation have gone ‘very well’ and negotiations for a rescheduled meeting ‘are in good hands.’” USA Today adds, “‘A letter is going to be delivered to me from Kim Jong Un,’ Trump said. ‘So I look forward to seeing what’s in the letter.’” Even though he is the one who cancelled, “Trump wants to keep the June 12 date, but the timing of a rescheduled summit is under discussion.”
From USA Today.
PUTIN SENDS MESSAGE TO KIM DURING LAVROV PYONGYANG VISIT
Bloomberg reports, “President Vladimir Putin passed a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit to Pyongyang by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov refused to say what was in the message during a conference call with reporters on Thursday, and declined to comment on the prospects for a possible meeting between Putin and Kim.”
LAVROV INVITES KIM TO MOSCOW; NO WAY IS HE GIVING UP NUKES NOW
Reuters reports, “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Thursday and invited him to visit, moving to raise Moscow’s profile in international efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.” Look at how important nukes have made Lil’ Kim on the world stage; no way is he giving them up, especially now.
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