1:10 PM 9/29/2017 – Divisions Within the Global Jihad: A Primer by Daniel Byman | Kazakh clan had deep ties to Trump orbit

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Divisions Within the Global Jihad: A Primer 

Kazakh clan had deep ties to Trump orbit

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A powerful Kazakh family and a developer linked to Donald Trump enlisted the law firm of a high-profile Trump confidante to create a web of offshore companies designed to minimize taxes.

The firm: Bracewell & Giuliani, which carried the name of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani was a frequent surrogate for Trump during the 2016 campaign and was considered for a position in his Cabinet.

Bracewell & Giuliani had an office in Kazakhstan, and Giuliani even raised funds from expatriates there for his failed 2008 presidential bid.

An ongoing investigation by McClatchy and its reporting partners has shown that the developer, Bayrock Group, which partnered with the Trump Organization on at least three projects in the mid-2000s, was in business with the Khrapunov family.

Bayrock is believed to be under the microscope of Justice Department and congressional investigators looking at Russian meddling in the 2016 election, in part because of its foreign investors and buyers and in part because Bayrock’s Russian-born then-managing director Felix Sater, who served time in prison in the U.S. in the mid-1990s, became an adviser to Trump’s company.

Sater and Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen were seeking a hotel deal in Moscow even during the election, according to emails that recently surfaced and are now in the hands of investigators. The emails undercut Trump’s post-election claim that he had no business in Russia, showing he was actively trying to develop a luxury tower.

Kazakh connections

Documents obtained by McClatchy, Dutch broadcaster Zembla and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project show that the Khrapunovs — former Kazakh politician Viktor, his anchorwoman wife Leila and Geneva-based son Ilyas — joined forces with Bayrock and Sater during a period that Bayrock was developing the famed Trump Soho project in Manhattan, which Trump touted often on NBC’s hit show The Apprentice.

Together, the Khrapunovs and Bayrock Group created KazBay B.V. in the Netherlands in 2007, with the legal advice of Bracewell & Giuliani.

The Khrapunovs, with the help of a partner of Sater’s, later purchased and quickly flipped three condos in the Trump Soho hotel and condo complex. They are accused in Kazakhstan of embezzlement and money laundering. The Khrapunovs face civil lawsuits in New York and Los Angeles that seek to claw back what the Kazakh government says is stolen money. Some of the cash allegedly washed through U.S. real estate, including the Trump properties.

When Zembla readied to air a documentary this week (Sept. 27) about the relationship between the Khrapunovs and Sater, the Khrapunovs sued in the Netherlands to block it, accusing the Kazakh government of defamation.

Dutch courts rejected the argument and the program, which featured prior reporting by McClatchy, aired as scheduled. An English language version was shared widely on the Internet.

Internal records show KazBay B.V. was 50 percent owned by Bayrock B.V. and its owner Tevfik Arif, and 50 percent owned by Helvetic Capital S.A., a Swiss company whose true owner, according to the documents, was Leila Khrapunova. She’s the former TV anchor and back in 2007 was the wife of Viktor Khrapunov, the former mayor of Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, and an ex-energy minister.

This snippet of a document from September 2007 obtained by McClatchy and reporting partners shows the ownership structure of the joint venture KazBay B.V. between a now-fugitive Kazakh family and Trump-linked developer Bayrock Group.

Wieder, Ben

People familiar with KazBay describe the joint venture as a company operating on multiple tracks. Some documents show the ventures oil-drilling business, but it also planned open-mouth coal mining, where extracted coal would go to a nearby power plant.

How long the venture lasted and why it ended are unclear.

KazBay wasn’t the only project involving the Khrapunovs and Bayrock. They partnered on a luxury condominium project overlooking Lake Geneva, and established a Swiss corporation in early 2008 called Swiss Capital IB SA that listed two addresses on its website: Bayrock’s New York offices in Trump Tower, two floors down from Trump, and a Switzerland address used by Helvetic Capital.

A series of investigative reports by McClatchy earlier this year showed how Sater maintained a business relationship with Khrapunovs, including investing together in a shopping mall debt deal in Ohio that ended in litigation and a sealed settlement. They also worked together in Syracuse, N.Y, to purchase a former state institution, another deal mired in lawsuits.

Multiple people with knowledge of the KazBay deal describe Bracewell & Giuliani’s work as limited to creating a tax structure that worked to reduce tax exposure and benefit investors in Switzerland, the United States and Kazakhstan. It’s why Holland was chosen as the home base, on paper, for KazBay.

Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani was one of the few prominent U.S. firms in 2007 with an office in Kazakhstan, at once both a land of promise because of its rich natural resources and a “kleptocracy” run by President Nursultan Nazerbayev since 1989.

Giuliani joined the law firm as a partner in 2005, staying until 2016. It’s unclear how involved he was in Kazakhstan, but the head of the law firm’s Kazakh office at the time, Gregory Vojack, raised money there for Giuliani’s failed presidential bid in 2008.

Federal records show that Vojack and his wife donated about $4,400 in early 2007 to the campaign. Months later, a Wall Street Journal story spotlighted attempts to raise campaign money from Americans working there.

That was not illegal but raised eyebrows. Giuliani greeted the guests via video conference at a fundraiser held at Vojack’s home in Almaty.

Reached in China, Vojack declined comment, saying that although he no longer works for Bracewell (which last year parted ways with Giuliani), he is bound by rules that prevent him from discussing work for private clients.

Vojack’s bio shows he has worked in Kazakhstan since 1994, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In early 2007, Bracewell & Giuliani issued a news release, in which Vojack touted the law firm’s role as international counsel for the offering of $1 billion in corporate debt for Bank TuranAlem, or BTA.

“We are in the best position now that we’ve ever been,” he said at the time. “This is an exciting time for Kazakhstan, and we are thrilled to be a part of its expansion and wealth consolidation.”

But soon afterwards, the Nazerbayev government sought to claw back ownership of the fast-growing bank. BTA Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov refused, and a power struggle came to a head early in 2009 when Ablyazov fled to London and Kazakhstan seized the bank, alleging widespread embezzlement.

Bracewell & Giuliani was not accused of impropriety. However, the BTA debt issuance intersects with the KazBay venture in a curious way.

Numerous people familiar with the KazBay deal describe it as driven by Sater and Ilyas Khrapunov, who is married to Ablyazov’s daughter Madina.

The Kazakh government has accused Ablyazov of hiding massive theft through a complex web of offshore shell companies. U.S. lawyers representing the city of Almaty in civil lawsuits in Los Angeles and New York against the Khrapunovs allege that they comingled funds stolen by Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Attorneys for the Khrapunovs and Ablyazov have repeatedly countered that they are the targets of political persecution. President Nazerbayev and members of his extended family have also been accused of hiding fortunes in offshore havens.

This portion of a document from September 2007 obtained by McClatchy and reporting partners shows the true owners of Dutch companies created as a joint venture between a now-fugitive Kazakh family and Trump-linked developer Bayrock Group.

Wieder, Ben

Reasons for KazBay’s collapse vary based on who tells the story. Some blame a New York Times story in late 2007 that revealed the Russian-born Sater had a criminal past, forcing him to step down from his public role at Bayrock, later becoming a senior advisor to the Trump Organization. Others involved in KazBay assert the Khrapunovs were to blame.

None of the actors involved have publicly commented since initial reports earlier this year.

Numerous former Bayrock employees, now spread across the globe, declined to comment on the record for the story, wanting nothing to do with a company under scrutiny by investigators probing Trump’s businesses.

Bayrock spokeswoman Angela Pruitt declined to comment Thursday, providing a statement given earlier this month to partner Zembla.

“Bayrock B.V. and KazBay B.V. were entities formed with the advice of outside legal counsel as part of the structuring of an investment by Bayrock,” it read. “The investment was not successful, and the structure subsequently was abandoned.”

There’s no evidence that Trump or Giuliani participated in KazBay, or even knew of it.

Yet because the Khrapunovs worked with Sater over the course of a decade, were buyers in Trump Soho in 2013 and are involved in numerous legal disputes playing out in U.S. courts, investigators probing Russia’s 2016 election meddling may well consider the Khrapunovs and Sater as persons of interest.

This story involved collaboration between McClatchy , Dutch public broadcaster Zembla and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a global journalism network that investigates transnational corruption

SANDER RIETVELD OF ZEMBLA CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE, AS DID OCCRP’S AUBREY BELFORD, CHRIS BENEVENTO, LEJLA SARCEVIC AND BERMET TALANT.

PALUCH IS A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

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8:47 AM 9/29/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: Robert Muellers Russia investigation team loses 2nd FBI veteran, Lisa Page, after losing Peter Strzok earlier | Justice Department, FBI resist lawmaker demands for ‘Trump dossier’ files: officials – Reuters 

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Fugitive Kazakh clan has deep ties to Trump associates – McClatchy Washington Bureau

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McClatchy Washington Bureau
Fugitive Kazakh clan has deep ties to Trump associates
McClatchy Washington Bureau
Documents obtained by McClatchy, Dutch broadcaster Zembla and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project show that the Khrapunovs — former Kazakh politician Viktor, his anchorwoman wife Leila and Geneva-based son Ilyas — joined forces with 

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Divisions Within the Global Jihad: A Primer 

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Every unhappy terrorist movement is unhappy in its own way, and the global jihadist movement is no exception. Disagreements over targeting, tactics, organization and the fundamental question of what it means to be a good Muslim have plagued the movement since its inception and remain a source of weakness.

As the Islamic State declines, these differences become even more important. The Islamic State has lost the bulk of its territory in Iraq and Syria, but it is likely to endure there as some form of insurgency and, beyond that, as a terrorist movement. Still, playing the leadership role the movement claimed when it declared the Caliphate in 2014 will be harder. Al-Qaeda, for its part, has tried to play a longer game, but it too remains weak and may not be able to reclaim the leadership standard. Yet even as there is no clear leader, the broader movement remains robust. Jihadist groups, some of which have ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, are active in Yemen, the Maghreb, India, the Philippines and of course Syria, among many other locations. In Europe, the jihadist movement enjoys support from too many Muslims, enabling it to attract fighters and inspire terrorist attacks.

This broad movement, however, is divided over several key questions. A very basic one concerns who is a “true” Muslim. Every religion, even the most accepting, has a line that separates believers from non-believers. Islam is no exception: It would be hard to claim to be a Muslim if one did not believe in God and did not consider Mohammad his prophet. Jihadists are often much stricter. Although jihad is generally justified as defending Muslims or reclaiming Muslim land from unbelievers, in practice many jihadists condemn whole groups of nominally fellow Muslims to the status of unbeliever (kafir). This goes against the approach most Muslim scholars have historically taken with this issue, as they’ve heeded the Prophet Mohammad’s warning that being quick to accuse others of unbelief can lead to debilitating divisions among the faithful. Some jihadists contend that only observant Muslims truly are Muslims and that all others are apostates. Many would also say that only Sunni Muslims count: Shiite Muslims are the majority in Iraq, Bahrain and Iran, but under jihadists’ strict interpretation of monotheism, Shiites are not true Muslims because their veneration of Ali, the fourth caliph and the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, gives him semi-divine status. Alawites, who control the Syrian government; Houthis, Yemenis who follow a different form of Shiism; and other religious minorities such as the Ahmadis, Druze and Yazidis are also beyond the pale. Others would go further and draw the line between Salafis—a puritanical form of Sunnism that rejects traditional politics, man-made laws and anything that smacks of human innovation—and all others, rejecting non-Salafi Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood as insufficiently pure. Still, others would draw the line between those Salafis who embrace jihad and those who don’t—you’re either with us or against us.

Having drawn the line between true believers and others, the next question is what to do about those who fall short. The Islamic State and, before that, al-Qaeda in Iraq made their names targeting Shiites and Sunni Muslims who cooperated with enemy governments, arguing that both deserved death for their impious allegiances. In Algeria in the 1990s, some jihadist groups went so far as to slaughter ordinary Muslims who tried to stay out of the fray, arguing that their non-cooperation was tantamount to rejecting the faith. Al-Qaeda, by contrast, has usually called on its followers to ignore these groups and, ideally, proselytize to put them on the true path.

The movement is also divided over who is a legitimate target. More broadly, there are divisions over the concept of tatarrusor the killing of innocents as part of military operations (what the Pentagon would call collateral damage). Muslim scholars, like their Christian counterparts, have wrestled with how to balance the reality of war and its needs with their faith’s call to protect the innocent. Many jihadist groups have lost popular support when they killed innocents, especially innocent Muslims, in their operations. Two al-Qaeda attacks against residential compounds in Riyadh in 2003 killed almost 20 Saudis—far more than the number of Americans—and drew widespread condemnation among ordinary Saudis.The May 2003 bombings killed nearly as many Muslims as infidel Westerners; the attack that followed in November—during the holy month of Ramadan, as it happened—killed and injured almost exclusively Muslims. Some 36 children were wounded. Ordinary Saudis turned sharply against al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s decision to target hotels frequented by Westerners in Jordan, one of which was hosting a local couple’s wedding, had a similar effect there. Al-Qaeda has tried to learn its lesson from this. Especially with regard to Muslims, the group is far more discriminating in its targeting than it was 15 years ago. When the Islamic State captured and murdered Western aid workers in Syria, for example, al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra decried this as “wrong under Islamic law” and “counter-productive.” Abu Omar Aqidi, a senior Nusra militant, even tweeted to publicly call on ISIS to release Peter Kassig, an American aid worker (and convert to Islam) who had “performed a successful [medical] operation under bombardment by the regime” on Aqidi himself and treated other jihadists. After the infamous immolation of a Jordanian (Muslim) fighter pilot, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula denounced the video as “conclusive proof of ISIS deviance.”

These differences are obscure to many, but the movement also has a basic question regarding organization: Should it be strictly hierarchical or far more decentralized? Al-Qaeda in the 1990s and later the Islamic State along with its predecessor organizations usually pushed hierarchy: They have a top leader, senior lieutenants, committees to handle key issues such as security and media, and so on. The Islamic State also tried to replicate this at a local level to ensure order and control. The relentless counterterrorism campaigns of the United States and its allies, however, made hierarchies dangerous. The killing or capturing of key leaders could bring a group to a temporary halt or at least severely limit operations. In addition, the constant communication needed to run a large insurgency or global terrorist movement risked revealing the whereabouts of key figures. The Islamic State still favors some degree of hierarchy, but other groups have called for far more decentralized operations. These are harder to disrupt, but they run the risk of fragmentation. Even if the organization does set out clear instructions regarding tatarrus and other targeting concerns, it is hard to enforce order, running the risk that unauthorized actions of a local cell or foreign affiliate could discredit the broader group.

The jihadist movement is also profoundly divided on the question of the caliphate. The Islamic State has made its reputation in part on declaring its return. Al-Qaeda, however, has waffled in many public statements because of the concept’s popularity and the group’s long-term goal of establishing an Islamic state of its own. In private, though, it has often been scathing, arguing that the jihadist movement as a whole does not enjoy the popular support necessary for a caliphate to survive and that establishing state structures in a given area simply tells the United States and its allies where to bomb.

Even below the level of the caliphate, the groups disagree on whether to impose Islamic law in areas they control. The Islamic State contends that it is its religious duty to do so, and of course, a caliphate would not be a true caliphate if it did not govern according to Islamic law. In areas where al-Qaeda-linked groups have controlled territory, however, they have vacillated between strictly imposing Islamic law and taking a more lenient approach of educating the locals or even leaving it to local leaders to settle disputes and otherwise rule.

In general, al-Qaeda and associated groups favor a more “hearts and minds” approach of providing services, working with local leaders and partnering with other rebel groups. The Islamic State, however, wants to crush necks and spines, displacing local leaders, and ensuring its own power. It often puts foreigners in control of areas it conquers, while al-Qaeda groups prefer local leaders. In Syria and other places with many jihadist groups, the Islamic State demands their loyalty while al-Qaeda has called for partnering with, and often taking a back seat to, other Syrian rebel groups.

The movement also differs as to how much to focus locally and regionally vs. those who want to focus on the United States or other Western countries. Most groups try a mix of both: Al-Qaeda at the time of 9/11, for example, spent the bulk of its money and forces helping the Taliban and used its camps in Afghanistan to train fighters focused on fomenting insurgencies in the Muslim world; at the same time, it engineered a massive terrorist attack on the United States. Similarly, the Islamic State mostly pursued the consolidation and expansion of its caliphate, but it has also tried to encourage attacks on the West and used operatives to carry out bloody strikes such as the 2015 Paris attacks. Having it both ways, however, makes it harder for the groups to concentrate their resources and risks attracting new enemies, which more local rebel groups understandably hate. Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, for example, has declared that it will not attack the West and ostensibly separated from the al-Qaeda mothership to demonstrate to local allies that it would not stand in the way of their receiving military aid from the United States and its partners.

An important question is whether these are differences in objectives or simply differences in priorities. If jihadists disagree on fundamental outcomes, then any unity of purpose or organization will be much harder to achieve. If the question is simply one of priorities, then changes in circumstances can bring different factions together in the name of expediency.

Questions of tatarrus or the precise line where apostasy begins and ends mean little to most foot soldiers. Data from captured Islamic State records showed that 70 percent of recruits claimed they had only a basic knowledge of Islam. But some of these questions have a tremendous impact on the appeal of different groups. The revival of the caliphate, for example, proved compelling to many recruits and, regardless of its perceived legitimacy among purists, the temptation to play this popular card will be there in the future.

It’s always tempting to urge the United States to try to play up these divisions, and I’ve done so myself at times. The U.S. track record of influencing the jihadist dialogue, however, ranges from poor to nonexistent, and deliberately trying to generate ever more extreme factions isn’t wise. But these internal fissures do hamper U.S. enemies and do some of the work for us. At the very least, they expend precious time and energy trying to one-up rival groups in their propaganda. At most, the differences lead to actual shots fired or recruits and donors being turned off by infighting.

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Last Updated Sep 29, 2017 9:13 AM EDT

Lisa Page, an attorney who was part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has left, the special counsel’s office confirmed.

Page, who was an attorney with the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel, returned to the FBI in mid-July, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr confirmed to CBS News’ Andres Triay.

The news of Page’s depature was first reported by ABC News.

Page was one of nearly two dozen high-profile attorneys and investigators who Mueller assembled.

Prior to her position with the FBI, Page worked as a trial attorney in the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Page has prosecuted a number cases involving eastern European organized crime. In one case, she partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest that investigated a money-laundering case against Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s one-time business partner, Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch.

age is the second person to depart the team so far. Peter Strzok, who was chief of the FBI counterespionage unit that was involved in overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server last year, departed the team in August. It’s unclear why Strzok left.

The scope of Mueller’s investigation, individuals familiar with the matter have told CBS News, includes Russian interference in the election, Russian hacking, any other Russian influence and possible financial wrongdoing.

CBS News reported in August that Mueller is using a grand jury in the probe, which is an indication the probe is intensifying. The impaneling of a grand jury means Mueller’s team has the ability to seek indictments and subpoena records, although the special counsel already had broad investigative authority when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced he was naming Mueller special counsel. Shortly before the appointment, Mr. Trump abruptly fired then-FBI Director James Comey. And Rosenstein was given oversight of the investigation after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Mueller’s team recently obtained records from Facebook regarding $100,000 in ad buys Russians made during and immediately after the 2016 presidential election. Between June 2015 and May of this year, about 3,000 ads connected with 470 “inauthentic accounts” were posted on Facebook, according to the social media giant.

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Special counsel attorney departs for FBI – CBS News

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CBS News
Special counsel attorney departs for FBI
CBS News
Page has prosecuted a number cases involving eastern European organized crime. In one case, she partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest that investigated a money-laundering case … The scope of Mueller’s investigation, individuals familiar with 

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The ‘White Rat’ – The Weekly Standard

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The Weekly Standard
The ‘White Rat’
The Weekly Standard
Landesman had been aided by the late Craig L. Dotlo, an influential figure in the Society ofFormer Special Agents of the FBI. The society’s cooperation is not easy to come by because it carefully vets requests from authors and filmmakers, and it was 

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Senator Slams Twitter’s Disclosure On Russian Meddling As ‘Inadequate On Every Level’ – Forbes

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Forbes
Senator Slams Twitter’s Disclosure On Russian Meddling As ‘Inadequate On Every Level’
Forbes
Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia said in a tweet Thursday. Warner is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and had just finished a closed-door hearing where Twitter revealed information about Russian meddling in the election on its 

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White House to Review Trump Aides’ Use of Private Email – Bloomberg

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Bloomberg
White House to Review Trump Aides’ Use of Private Email
Bloomberg
The review is intended to ensure that any information in private emails responsive to congressional probes of Russia’s interference in the election is turned over to appropriate committees, the person said, adding that it should not be considered a 
Jared Kushner Voted As a Woman, According to His RegistrationWIRED
Jared Kushner actually is registered to vote as a male, despite database error saying otherwiseNew York Daily News

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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s Private Email Domains Under Investigation: Report – Newsweek

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Newsweek
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s Private Email Domains Under Investigation: Report
Newsweek
After reports that Jared Kushner and other senior members have used private accounts to carry out government business, the investigation pays special attention to Kushner and Ivanka Trump’sprivate email domain since they still work in the White House, …
White House Will Investigate Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner’s Use Of Private Email AccountsBustle
White House launches probe of private email accountsPolitico
White House starts probe of private email use by senior aides: PoliticoReuters
The Guardian –Business Insider –CNN
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Trump administration lawyers demand Facebook account info of anti-Trump activists – New York Post

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New York Post
Trump administration lawyers demand Facebook account info of anti-Trump activists
New York Post
The Trump administration has reportedly obtained search warrants that would allow them access the Facebook pages of thousands of anti-Trump protesters. The requested data — which targets all the information in three accounts — would include …

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Racism … Nazism … Trumpism … the Historical Role of Myths – City Watch

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Racism … Nazism … Trumpism … the Historical Role of Myths
City Watch
CORRUPTION WATCH-As one of my favorite actors-celebrities, the former Marky Mark, says, “Food, water, Internet, we need it to live.” Ah, yes, the Internet. In addition to streaming porn, it constantly feeds us our national myths. Indeed, man does not 

Trump’s Tax Plan Is An Act Of Political Domination By The Rich

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But at least we don’t have to pretend it isn’t.

North Korean companies ordered to close in China – Financial Times

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Financial Times
North Korean companies ordered to close in China
Financial Times
One Chinese businessman who runs a joint venture in Pyongyang told the Financial Times he would wait out the 120 days to see what the “specific situation” was before restructuring his company, hoping for a “glimmer of light”. 60 per cent of China-North 

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US election: Twitter blasted for inaction over Russia-linked accounts – FRANCE 24

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FRANCE 24
US election: Twitter blasted for inaction over Russia-linked accounts
FRANCE 24
The company said in a blog post that it found 22 accounts corresponding to about 450 Facebook accounts that were likely operated out of Russia and pushed divisive social and political issues during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Facebook has said …
Twitter reveals Russia-backed ads ahead of US electionEconomic Times
Twitter believes it was manipulated by Russian agents interfering in US electionsSiliconrepublic.com
Twitter bans 200 accounts, identified RT’s role in US electionsThe Hindu
The Sydney Morning Herald –The Tribune –Reuters –Washington Post
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‘Blacktivist’ social media accounts linked to Russian efforts to sow divisions in US – New York Daily News

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Fortune
‘Blacktivist’ social media accounts linked to Russian efforts to sow divisions in US
New York Daily News
The Russian government was linked to a “Blacktivist” account on both Twitter and Facebook that was intended to stoke racial tensions in the U.S. during the presidential elections. Fake accounts and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of social media 
Russia Election Investigation: Facebook Now, Is Reddit Next?Fortune
Another Social Media Giant Met With Lawmakers To Discuss RussiaNewsy
Twitter to talk to House, Senate in Russia election interference probePittsburgh Post-Gazette
McClatchy Washington Bureau
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Trump Lies About Taxes, Health Care Amid Cabinet Scandals: A Closer Look

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Former CIA station chief warns of ‘authoritarian internet’

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Story image for trump on cnn from CNN

Trump White House feels heat on Puerto Rico

CNN2 hours ago
Washington (CNN) Puerto Rico and Washington seem farther than 1,500 miles apart right now — in fact they’re experiencing a different version of reality.

The Trump White House is a really, really strange place

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But after eight months in office, that pledge has become a favorite punchline on the web. Rather than a home to efficient, skilled operators, the Trump White House has been marked by an eccentric swirl of office politics run amok and off-hours fits of pique.

Here’s a quick skip through the profound — and very real — weirdness that has colored much of the current administration.

close dialog

No one hides from the press (or the President) better than Trump’s people.

First there was former FBI director James Comey. Trump initially decided to keep Comey on in his job and, during a post-inaugural reception at the White House, singled him out for a handshake and slap on the back. But as Comey confidante Ben Wittes

told it on the Lawfare blog

, the lanky lawman tried to avoid the awkward interaction by blending in with the drapes, which matched his blazer.

Friend: James Comey tried to avoid Trump
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“So he stood in the back, right in front of the drapes,” Wittes wrote, “hoping Trump wouldn’t notice him camouflaged against the wall.”

Alas, the President caught a glimpse. “Oh, and there’s Jim,” Trump said. “He’s become more famous than me!”

That relationship would sour a bit, and on the occasion of Comey’s firing, in early May, Trump communications staffers tried to steer clear of the media. Most notable was Sean Spicer, the dissembling former press secretary, who hid in —

correction: among 

— some bushes on the White House grounds rather than confront a hungry pack of reporters.

Former chief of staff Reince Priebus’s departure from his job, ditched on the tarmac after a ride on Air Force One, was an uncomfortable affair. Perhaps it would have been less so if there was a large trash can there to obscure reporters’ view.

And then there is the curious case of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and their vacation schedule. The couple and their children

often seem to be away

 when the President starts lighting fires. Is it a coincidence? Are they keeping a lid on Oval Office shenanigans — only to see it pop off when they leave?

Or is it — as the critics have increasingly suggested — that they are actively trying to stay out of the less flattering headlines?

Starman Trump

To Trump, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is the

“Rocket Man.”

 That song, by Elton John, is from 1972. Another famous tune, from the same year, could be applied to Trump: David Bowie’s

“Starman.”

Trump has repeatedly found himself in odd situations with the biggest star of all: the sun.

He most recently took on a solar eclipse — training the presidential retinas directly on it.

According to the press pool on hand that afternoon, “White House aides standing beneath the Blue Room Balcony shouted ‘don’t look'” as Trump, well, looked.

President Donald Trump looks up toward the Solar Eclipse while joined by his wife first lady Melania Trump on the Truman Balcony at the White House on August 21, 2017.

President Donald Trump looks up toward the Solar Eclipse while joined by his wife first lady Melania Trump on the Truman Balcony at the White House on August 21, 2017.

Before that, there was the famous “orb.” During his first visit to the Gulf as President, Trump gathered with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to paw an odd-looking, glowing sphere.

As it turns out, this was less a star than some kind of incandescent globe, meant to signify, as noted in the Saudi embassy tweet, some kind of new joint effort to combat terrorism.

But Trump’s

most studied

 grappling with solar power came during a pair of visits to Europe earlier this year, when he repeatedly engaged in prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron. The young leader has an appreciation for both clean energy and

the power exercised by the Sun King, Louis XIV

.

Does it please the President?

If we know one thing about Trump, it’s that he prizes loyalty —

to Trump

. He tells us constantly. His subordinates know it and have, on occasion, gone to outsize lengths to prove their own.

One memorable example: Before his own wings were clipped,

The Washington Post reported

, Priebus was called on to ground a fly that infiltrated an Oval Office meeting. It had been buzzing, and annoying Trump, who duly “summoned his chief of staff and tasked him with killing the insect.”

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Doing Trump’s bidding, however ridiculous, is a core competency in this White House. Spicer’s thirst for the job was tested on his first weekend, when he declared the audience for the previous day’s festivities the largest “to ever witness an inauguration, period.”

Spicer’s rant was a signal of things to come. The next day. Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway went on NBC to defend her colleague’s assertions, up to a point.

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood,” she told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary — gave alternative facts.”

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Trump's Cabinet showers boss with praise

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But there was no alternative, only love, when Trump formally introduced his Cabinet in June. As the group went up and down a long conference table, they hand-bathed the President in praise.

Here’s a taste:

  • Vice President Mike Pence: “Greatest privilege of my life to serve as your vice president.”
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “We are receiving, as you know — I’m not sure the rest of you fully understand — the support of law enforcement all over America.”
  • Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta: “I want to thank you for keeping your commitment to the American workers.”
  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry: My hat’s off to you for taking that stand (on the Paris climate deal), for sending a clear message around the world that America is gonna continue to lead in the area of energy.
  • UN envoy Nikki Haley: “It’s a new day at the United Nations. We now have a very strong voice. People know what the US is for, they know what we’re against, and they see us leading across the board.
  • White House budget director Mick Mulvaney: “With your direction we were able to also focus on the forgotten man and woman who are the folks who are paying those taxes, so I appreciate your support and your direction in pulling that budget together.”
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price: “I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”
  • Transportation secretary Elaine Chao: “I want to thank you for getting this country moving again and also working again.”
  • Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue: “I want to congratulate you on the men and women you’ve placed around this table. The holistic team of working for America is making results in each and every area.”

And then came Priebus for the topper:

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.”

Business dinners

Do a deal. Have a meal.

Trump has brought with him to the presidency some of the vestiges of the New York City real estate life. Among them, a desire to combine food with business.

Earlier this month, that meant dinner with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi included Chinese food, but no Republicans. They walked out of the meeting with some conflicting reviews, though not of the cuisine. The questions centered on whether Trump had agreed to a deal that would protect DACA recipients in exchange for a bump in border security (but no money for the wall).

That last bit is still a mystery. What’s not is the President’s preference for a chocolate dessert. At the Pelosi-Schumer get-together, it was pie. But back in April, there was a different order. Two of them, actually. First for cake, then for airstrikes on Syria.

How do we know — and why do we care — what Trump had for dessert before making the decision? Because he told us. In an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, the President turned his recollection of the strikes into an advertisement for his Mar-a-Lago resort.

“We had finished dinner,” he said of himself and visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We’re now having dessert — and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen, and President Xi was enjoying it — and I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded.”

And then?

“We made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.”

It wasn’t the first time the President put on a show for the paying customers at Mar-a-Lago. In February, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were tucking into iceberg wedge salads when word came down that North Koreans had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

The leaders got down to business in full view of gawking guests. Some aides even

illuminated potentially sensitive briefing papers

 with the flashlights on their phones, which might or might not have been secure. (Spicer later told reporters the leaders had been “reviewing the logistics for the press conference,” not scouring classified documents.)

Waiters stayed on the scene too, swapping out the salads for a main course. But Trump and Abe soon moved to another room. It’s unclear if they ever made it to dessert.

Loose lips sink…

The Trump administration is still short of the quarter pole and it’s already staked a claim to being the leakiest in American history.

How bad is it? Well, when national security adviser H.R. McMaster authored a memo warning against the “unauthorized disclosure of classified information or controlled unclassified United States Government information,” it was promptly

shared with Buzzfeed

.

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Audio of Scaramucci's vulgar call released

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And while it’s not usually considered a leak when it comes from the President’s mouth, The Washington Post in May reported that Trump shared highly classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during an Oval Office meeting.

The list goes on. Short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci sealed his own fate when, in his zest for pursuing leakers, he called up the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza to chat — on the record — about his colleagues. Warning,

this link

 contains lots of graphic language.

And then there is new Trump lawyer Ty Cobb. He recently

gave The New York Times 

a look at the inner workings of a White House increasingly at odds with itself over how to manage special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

How so? By conducting the conversation, with a colleague, over lunch at a popular Washington steakhouse in the immediate vicinity of both the White House and the Times’ DC bureau.

How did the reporter spot him? Well, here’s a picture of Cobb.

Ty Cobb, the Trump lawyer and flamboyant mustache wearer.

Ty Cobb, the Trump lawyer and flamboyant mustache wearer.

And here’s what he looked like on that afternoon, dining and prattling on about all manner of internal intrigue.

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Trump’s Deadly Narcissism – The New York Times

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So have we seen the kind of full-court, all-out relief effort such a catastrophe demands? No.

Admittedly, it’s hard to quantify the federal response. But none of the extraordinary measures you’d expect to see have materialized.

The deployment of military resources seems to have been smaller and slower than it was in Texas after Harvey or Florida after Irma, even though Puerto Rico’s condition is far more dire. Until Thursday the Trump administration had refused to lift restrictions on foreign shipping to Puerto Rico, even though it had waived those rules for Texas and Florida.

Why? According to the president, “people who work in the shipping industry” don’t like the idea.

Furthermore, although it’s more than a week since Maria made landfall, the Trump administration has yet to submit a request for aid to Congress.

And where’s the leadership? There’s a reason we expect visible focus by the president on major national disasters, including a visit to the affected area as soon as possible (Trump doesn’t plan to visit Puerto Rico until next week). It’s not just theater; it’s a signal about urgent priorities to the rest of the government, and to some extent to the nation at large.

But Trump spent days after Maria’s strike tweeting about football players. When he finally got around to saying something about Puerto Rico, it was to blame the territory for its own problems.

The impression one gets is of a massively self-centered individual who can’t bring himself to focus on other people’s needs, even when that’s the core of his job.

And then there’s health care.

Obamacare repeal has failed again, for the simple reason that Graham-Cassidy, like all the other G.O.P. proposals, was a piece of meanspirited junk. But while the Affordable Care Act survives, the Trump administration is openly trying to sabotage the law’s functioning.

This sabotage is taking place on multiple levels. The administration has refused to confirm whether it will pay crucial subsidies to insurers that cover low-income customers. It has refused to clarify whether the requirement that healthy people buy insurance will be enforced. It has canceled or suspended outreach designed to get more people to sign up.

These actions translate directly into much higher premiums: Insurers don’t know if they’ll be compensated for major costs, and they have every reason to expect a smaller, sicker risk pool than before. And it’s too late to reverse the damage: Insurers are finalizing their 2018 rates as you read this.

Why are the Trumpists doing this? Is it a cynical calculation — make the A.C.A. fail, then claim that it was already doomed? I doubt it. For one thing, we’re not talking about people known for deep strategic calculations. For another, the A.C.A. won’t actually collapse; it will just become a program more focused on sicker, poorer Americans — and the political opposition to repeal won’t go away. Finally, when the bad news comes in, everyone will know whom to blame.

No, A.C.A. sabotage is best seen not as a strategy, but as a tantrum. We can’t repeal Obamacare? Well, then, we’ll screw it up. It’s not about achieving any clear goal, but about salving the president’s damaged self-esteem.

In short, Trump truly is unfit for this or any high office. And the damage caused by his unfitness will just keep growing.

Continue reading the main story

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Trump’s Deadly Narcissism – New York Times

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New York Times
Trump’s Deadly Narcissism
New York Times
According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans believe that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. That’s pretty remarkable. But you have to wonder how much higher the number would be if people really knew what’s going on. For the trouble 

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Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team loses 2nd FBI veteran, Lisa Page, after losing Peter Strzok earlier 

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peter strzok – Google Search Thursday September 28th, 2017 at 7:53 PM Peter Strzok – Google News 1 Share Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team loses 2nd FBI veteran ABC News–1 hour ago Peter Strzok had been tapped by Mueller just weeks earlier to help lead … It’s unclear why Strzok stepped away from Mueller’s team of nearly … Special … Continue reading “Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team loses 2nd FBI veteran, Lisa Page, after losing Peter Strzok earlier”
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Justice Department, FBI resist lawmaker demands for ‘Trump dossier’ files: officials – Reuters

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Justice Department, FBI resist lawmaker demands for ‘Trump dossier’ files: officials
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI are resisting demands from a Republican lawmaker to hand over documents about a former British spy’s dossier on purported Russian support for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, because 

The Republican Casualties of Trumpism – The New Yorker

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The New Yorker
The Republican Casualties of Trumpism
The New Yorker
Why is Trump so hostile to the leaders of his own party? Ryan Lizza joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have become among the most reviled figures in Washington, and what the war on the Republican establishment …

Rudy Giuliani – Google News: I’m a Female Pornographer and I’m Sad Hugh Hefner Is Dead – VICE en_us

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VICE en_us
I’m a Female Pornographer and I’m Sad Hugh Hefner Is Dead
VICE en_us
After Mayor Rudy Giuliani dug up the ancient decree in the 90s to coincide with his “Broken Windows” policing, some clubs were so scared that bouncers would walk over and stop patrons from breaking into any motion that resembled dancing. I was blown …

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 Rudy Giuliani – Google News

Jared Kushner’s Lawyer Forwarded An Email From The Senate Intelligence Committee To An Internet Prankster – BuzzFeed News

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BuzzFeed News
Jared Kushner’s Lawyer Forwarded An Email From The Senate Intelligence Committee To An Internet Prankster
BuzzFeed News
Jared Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell appears to have inadvertently sent a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee meant for his client to a fake email account set up by a prankster who tricked Lowell earlier this week. CNN first reported that 
Trump aides’ email details soughtArkansas Online
GOP faces charges of hypocrisy with Kushner emailsThe Hill
Jared Kushner, Inveterate Rule-Breaker, Is Treating the West Wing “Like an Extension of theTrump Organization”Vanity Fair
GQ Magazine
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Is This The Man The World Wants Solving Middle East Peace?

1 Share
He accidentally listed himself as a woman on his voter registration form.

The Trump-Russia Probe Made Things A Bit Awkward As The FBI Welcomed The New Boss

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FBI Director Christopher Wray, who replaced fired former Director James Comey, said the bureau must embrace change.

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The Trump-Russia Probe Made Things A Bit Awkward As The FBI Welcomed The New Boss – HuffPost

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HuffPost
The Trump-Russia Probe Made Things A Bit Awkward As The FBI Welcomed The New Boss
HuffPost
President Donald Trump unceremoniously fired Comey in May, about two months after the former FBI chief confirmed that the bureau was investigating ties between Russia and the Trumpcampaign, and a few days after Comey said the idea he swayed the …
Report: Trump skipping ceremony for FBI director amid Russia probeThe Hill (blog)
Trump skips ceremony for FBI director amid Russia investigationPolitico
Tainted Trump First President in History to Skip FBI Director Swearing-InIndependent Journal Review

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Senate approves Huntsman as Russia ambassador – The Hill (blog)

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The Hill (blog)
Senate approves Huntsman as Russia ambassador
The Hill (blog)
Huntsman, a former presidential candidate, also won praise from Democrats, including Sen. Ben Cardin · Benjamin (Ben) Louis CardinTrump officials brief lawmakers on North Korea Blackwater founder calls for … Moscow expelled more than 700 diplomats 
Senate confirms Jon Huntsman as Russia ambassadorWashington Post
Senate confirms Huntsman to be ambassador to RussiaPolitico

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Clapper: When I briefed Trump, he accepted DNC hacker wasn’t 400-pound man – The Hill

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The Hill
Clapper: When I briefed Trump, he accepted DNC hacker wasn’t 400-pound man
The Hill
Clapper was referring to comments about election hacking made by Trump during a July press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “I think it very well could be Russia, but I think it could very well have been other countries,” Trump said of 

Twitter finds 201 accounts linked to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election – Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles Times
Twitter finds 201 accounts linked to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election
Los Angeles Times
Like Facebook, Twitter has given its information to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading a criminal investigation into whether any of Trump’s aides coordinated with Russian authorities during or after the campaign. Trump has denied any …

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Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team loses 2nd FBI veteran – ABC News

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Politico
Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team loses 2nd FBI veteran
ABC News
Special counsel Robert Mueller has now lost a second official that he brought in from the FBI to help investigate Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election, ABC News has learned. The latest FBI veteran to leave, Lisa Page, was 
Pence sent lawyer to meet with Mueller over the summerPolitico

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6:41 PM 9/28/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: Twitter briefs US congressional investigators probing alleged Russia role in election – Reuters | Wray installed as FBI director, replaces fired Comey – Akron Beacon Journal 

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Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks Twitter briefs US congressional investigators probing alleged Russia role in election – Reuters Wray installed as FBI director, replaces fired Comey – Akron Beacon Journal Twitter briefs US congressional investigators probing alleged Russia role in election – Reuters Today’s Headlines and Commentary Our System Is Rigged – HuffPost Wray installed as … Continue reading“6:41 PM 9/28/2017 – Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks: Twitter briefs US congressional investigators probing alleged Russia role in election – Reuters | Wray installed as FBI director, replaces fired Comey – Akron Beacon Journal”

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